Nov 10, 2014

Last time McConnel, Boehner, McMorris-Rodgers and company had this opportunity this is what they did.

Why Your Medicare D is so Dang Dumb
© Arthur Ruger, 2006
Thinking that Congress had your best interests in mind when they legislated the new Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit?

Think again.

To understand why your new Med D prescription benefit is so complicated, confusing and expensive for your budget, you must understand one thing about the economic theory of the elected Republican majority at the national level.

"What's good for corporate capitalism is good for the country."

 They really believe that. They really believe that economically and socially the wisest plan is for  "pseudo conservative" legislation to force all of us to get out of the way while tax cuts to the rich and loopholes to business make our lives better.

Right ...

Medicare D is modeled on one of our classic corporate capitalist national failures: our commercial health insurance system. That's the vaunted one that under the most powerful economic force in the world has left us in 37th place globally in terms of effective and quality national health care.

That's the vaunted one that any system modeled after Britain or Canda or any other country where EVERYONE is covered would never exceed the profit-defined intent of corporate America's capitalist dream.

Here's how they did it ... and you must remember the power of lobbying in this country and how senators and congress persons can't decide how to vote until a corporate capitalist prompts their wisdom with cash.
These wise lawmakers chose some 260 private insurers (corporations who supported this scheme with lobby money given primarily to - you guessed it - Republican lawmakers. Republicans, you surely remember, are the majority in congress and therefore have the power to turn the scheme into law). These wise partisan lawmakers have forced you to choose one of those elite insurers.

Who are these chosen 260?

Why they're private pharmacy benefit insurers, HMO's, pharmacy organizations like Walgreen's, Long's and Wal Mart. You surely didn't think they are social-minded or populist organizations like the Grange did you? Naw, these aren't social minded do-gooders. They're the profit-minded self-interested.

Our economically "wise" lawmakers have now made it legal for our government to send YOUR medicare money - I mean it, the actual money that would be used as your individual medicare benefit - to the corporation you have to pick  from among the 260.

It's an automatic revenue the corporation will spend advertising or marketing costs for in order to out-muscle the competition which will then be passed on to you as part of the additional premiums you'll pay out of pocket for your medicines.

This is a free-market system run amok.

In some areas seniors have 40-50 choices of plans. The plans have confusing choices of options, many of which involve differing monthly premiums (ranging from $0 to $60).
There are combinations of deductibles.
There are combinations of co-insurance (your percentage/their percentage of the medicine's price).
There are options to try cheaper generic drugs.
There are "tiers" (levels of priority and/or allowability) based on copays, generics, preferred brands, non-preferred brands, specialty drugs ... and whether you buy from an "in-network" pharmacy with discounts or "out-of-network" pharmacy with no discounts.

There is no standardized nomenclature (no set of names, concepts, options and plan definitions that are standard among all of the 260 chosen corporate medical monopolists.) One uses the phrase "co-pay"; another calls it "deductible".

What if we folks have questions?

Well,  we can go on line to a web site with a complicated web answer-giver. If you're one of the 75% of seniors who have never gone on line - well, chin up! A whole new cyber adventure is out there just waiting for you to invest in another corporate hog-trough sector by buying a computer and joining the internet surfer society.

What's going to happen with this pick-your-pocket-because-you're-over-a-barrel scheme?

Remember, the Republicans got this doofus plan passed with a projected price tag of $400 billion - a little less than the current sub-total for war spending in Iraq and Afghanistan by the way.
But wait! We then learned that the Bush Administration told Medicare officials - in the tradition of Bill O'Reilly - to SHUT UP. They were told to keep the real cost which is in excess of $550 billion a secret.

What about the sacred chosen 260? All vendors are not expected to remain "competitive." That means that not all vendors are expected to survive in the free-market system.
No, the biggest sharks with the biggest teeth and the biggest lobby dollars will win the survival of the health insurance fittest. We'll  see the 260 reduced to perhaps 10 survivors; mega-innsurers who will slug it out for all the leavings of those other 250 who just couldn't make it.

And instead of free-market capitalism we'll have closed-market monopoly based on sending Medicare tax dollars to friends of the Republicans.

Who might that be?

Well, United Health Group is spending 75 million on marketing and operations for this new Republican give away.
Aetna= $50 million
Cigna: $40 million
Humana (a midwest regional insurer)= $80 million.
Pfizer's in there too. You know Pfizer ... Bob Dole sold his Viagra perspective for Pfizer.

But those investments are chump change compared to what happens when all the Medicare clients sign on to automatic directed payments to the chosen hog-trough recipient. This is the Republican American Way of course and whatever premium you pay to your chosen insurer will include recovery of that marketing money.
Then there's this: You'll hear words of wisdom from the Medicare RX Education Network and may receive mailings in envelopes bearing a return address of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. You are forgiven if you mistakenly assume these are official government communications to you.

They are not.

They have been allowed by Republican free-marketer politicians to use the government's official logos.
And if you run into something called "Medicare Today," you'll be seeing a creation of the Healthcare Leadership Council.

Who's that you ask?

Well, a group of hospitals, drug companies, medical equipment makers and academic medicate centers joined up some 300 members. They then raised millions of dollars for "outreach" to get seniors to sign up and authorize one of them to receive government Medicare dollars earmarked in your name.

The 37th best medical care system in the world is 37th because that system functions in the tradition of Exxon-Mobil's double-digit billions of dollars quarterly profits. However, the 37th best medical care system is #1 in what is the truest priority: Turning billion-dollar profits while at the same time failing to adequately treat and protect all of its citizens.

That's the linkage between corporate lobbyists and corrupt politicians. That linkage and system is more and more revealing itself as foundational to the failed economic politics of contemporary corporate conservative Republicanism.

Nov 6, 2014

Amber Waves of Grain Trampled by Corporate and Lobbied Crop Circles

Baseball, Mom, Apple Pie, Home of the Brave and Land of the Free ... the American Homestead of core values.

Although in reality such a homestead does not exist - we still talk of the American Dream - core values that have been the specific notions around which elections have been won and lost. As an internal visualization tool, The American mythical homestead has driven the grandest, most successful and most popular events, changes, adjustments, creations and repentances that we've seen in our history.

That idealized homestead never included a unanimous endorsement of supposed free-market economics dominated by naturally sociopathic corporate entities. It never included subordination of individual rights and freedoms to the priorities of corporate dominance and certainly did not include evolution of the government into a source of camouflaged corporate welfare.

In that regard, a pure and successful free-market society has never existed, has never proven itself a success nor proven itself a universally beneficial system for public well-being.

Chartering corporations in the 19th Century was a means of financing expensive public works for the common good and was never intended to create non-human "entities" with citizen status who would eventually pool vast amounts of cash for legislative bribery. The consequence of that action has been the current lopsided economic oligarchy in which combined financial assets beyond the means of individual citizens have overwhelmed equality - creating instead a vastly uneven field upon which life and subsistence in this country occurs.

Such could only be accomplished through political activism driven by cash offered to humans who could and would follow the money with those same votes they were elected to wield on behalf of individual human constituencies. When pondered and considered honestly; when valued for what they truly represent, our mythical core values reflect the undeniable rebuttal to politicians who declare that government should be run as a business.

At best, that notion reflects a very narrow view of economic reality in this country and is perhaps best exemplified by the foolish economic speeches of trying-to-get-in-or-stay-in-office politicians.
These have used an inappropriate logic from a prior time and circumstance that reveals a weak grasp of anything below the implied affluence of the consumer perception of life in this country. Most politicians consciously or unconsciously have come to equate their personal financial success as a blend of entrepreneurial wisdom and determination fortified by civic understanding of the laws of economics.

I seriously doubt that in his own mind Mitt Romney two years ago was speaking to anyone else besides the Republican financial support base. His opinions reeked of a condescending self-interest that suggested assumptions of economic ignorance at the level of working America. Most of these prominent megaphones want you to believe that justice for all is found on the back of a dollar bill more so than in any Constitution and for decades the Republican Party has portrayed itself as the home of the most fiscally wise and honest conservatives.

In reality, once unleashed by their political successes beginning in the 1990's, with great fanfare they put on the Sacred Miter of reform, picked up the Scepter of change and Vestments of political righteousness to affect a "fiscally responsible makeover " that in reality more than anything else set in motion today's most powerful contemporary economic embarrassments.

For example we saw a welfare reform in the 1990's that has only marginally resolved even half the problems of poverty in this country. We also saw an irresponsible and self-interested repudiation of the Clinton presidency's attempt to address national health care inadequacies. Resistance to the Clinton efforts was foolish, ideological, partisan and primarily greed-based.

We also have seen going back to the presidency of Reagan how the "fiscally responsible" party of change actually changed many American core value freedoms into unprotected vulnerabilities subject to the whims and greed of corporate capitalism. Somewhere along the line came the idea that government should be run primarily like a business.

Republicans have never satisfactorily explained at a national or state level how running the government as a business specifically benefits and protects the physical and economic well-being of the majority of citizens. While any business will look at its bottom line and look for ways to refuse to spend money such is not the principle priority of government. We do not need first and foremost a government that from the outset looks for ways to say No.

What would a government do with "greater profits" created from denials and refusals to spend on the social infrastructure that supports and protects all citizens? If not the citizens, then who are the shareholders to whom government business-runners owe their highest allegiance? We have already seen what they would do.

A simple examination of the Medicare D legislation reveals that the single most effective use of government surpluses is not unlike what Republicans did with Social Security dollars. By arm-twisting and with no eye single to what's best for Social Security recipients, they twisted so-called reform into a slop trough for business - forcing greater sums of tax dollars directly to businesses in the form of required choice of allotment of citizen-owned government cash.

You are now required to spend part of your social security dollars by legal allotment. The government will give it only to a corporation - all you get to do is choose which shark you want to pay.

It is obvious to those who are not blinded by partisan advocacies that neither party's failures will guarantee any movement for genuine reform unless among those victories a specific mandate is included. It must be a mandate that reflects the will of the people; a mandate opposed to bought-and-paid-for civic policies enacted at the behest of monied lobbyists. Voters must simultaneously have opportunity or means of formalizing a mandate to remove, severely restrict or equalize the playing field when it comes to lobbying our representatives for change.

We need to intervene and force corporate lobbyists out of our elected officials' waiting rooms.

We're losing our trust in whatever the Mythical American Core Values ever were. Nothing is taking the place of that trust except perhaps cynicism and an ever deepening self-absorbed behavioral pattern; a pattern that only underlines what historians will eventually describe as the reason for the collapse of the middle class and the slide into economic disaster of every low-income family and single citizen in this country.. A future mythology may be only a speculation about an American Dream once believed to exist.

Oct 24, 2014

To America's military sons and daughters: Jesus will never want you to kill anyone in His name.

It has come to my attention that there are religious fools, (which usually starts among the officers) currently serving with you.

These American pretend soldiers are not your typical noble American warriors who have sworn an oath to defend the country and Constitution.

Rather, they have taken it upon themselves to pretend that the old Testament God who gets mad enough to kill people is still in charge.

They believe that the same false god inspired the U.S. Constitution and formation of a military order of soldiers who are to be primarily warriors for His Son.

Do not be tempted to take their spiritual opinions, advice and counsel as gospel my child.

America is not God’s chosen weapon of vengeance nor enforcement of a freedom all over the world won with blood and at the point of a weapon.

America is not the home of modern versions of medieval crusaders who plundered, raped and killed while believing that God and Jesus wanted them to do so.

America is not the home of generals whom God has ordained nor has Jesus authorized to kill indiscriminately in His name.

Never should America be commanded to blow them away in the name of the Lord.

Never should you be legally authorized by any officer or non-com to commit murder or any atrocity as your duty to God and country.

If you commit such acts you will be guilty of shedding innocent blood and will not be able to blame it on the moral cowards who commanded you.

If you fall into that kind of pit I encourage you to make immediate contact with me so that we can try together in all our love and devotion to do whatever it takes to protect your life, your integrity and your soul.

Unlike those military liars, I cannot nor will I ever demand that you blindly accept my own moral judgments in place of your own.

Unlike those military liars I CAN promise you that you WILL be accountable for blindly accepting as some sort of duty and obligatory response to the foolish evangelizing they believe they have the power to force on you.

There ARE people in and close to the military who will back you up should you ever have to stand up to your officers and non-coms who want you to believe they can punish you for ignoring their religious attitudes and practices.

I can help put you in contact with them.

I praise you for your willingness to serve our country.

Oct 13, 2014

Next time someone threatens you with the Wrath of God, here's what they're talking about

Here's a version of the Authoritarian God (it's an excerpt from Victor Koman's The Jehovah Contract):
A giant hand darted out of infinity at an impossible speed to seize me between a thumb and finger of planetary dimensions. Crushing pain steamrolled across me. The immense digits rolled my body around like a ball of snot; after ages of grinding, twisting agony, the fingers separated.

Across a million-mile chasm, bridged by an arm thicker than worlds, I stared at my quarry face to face.

His hair had been styled in a crew cut. I had never imagined that God would look like Jack Webb.

"I love you," bellowed a voice that rumbled deeper than earthquakes.

He had some way of showing his affection, having smeared my body across a good portion of his index finger. Stinging anguish cried from every particle of ruined flesh.

"Knock off the displays, little boy," I said. "I've been worked over by professionals-L.A. cops."

"I love all of you, and you've all turned your backs on Me."

"According to Your supporters," I shouted across the gap, "You gave us the ability to do so!"

"You stole it from the Tree!"

"Why didn't you take it back, Omnipotent One?"

"You didn't have to use it!" He put the squeeze on again.

When the fingers released, I said, "You're supposed to be all-powerful, yet You didn't remove the knowledge of good and evil from us. You could have easily corrected the Original Sin, yet a third of the angels turned against You. Why are the creations of a perfect God so flawed? Is there something we've overlooked?"

"Mocking me. You've always mocked me. I created the world for your happiness-"

"Yeah," I said, seeing an opening, "and filled it with storms and earthquakes and famines and wars and suffering when you could have made it a paradise."

"I had!" His voice thundered like a thousand Hiroshimas. "You broke the rules, and I had to throw you out!"

"You gave us the ability to break the rules."

"I didn't want mindless automata, I wanted free minds-"

"Then why," I screamed, "do You threaten us with punishment in Hell for exercising that freedom? You could have turned us into robots, but You didn't. Why can't You accept the consequences of Your actions?"

"I wanted you to choose Me freely, out of love for Me."

"Freely? Under threat of eternal suffering? Out of love? For a God that obliterates civilizations, murders infants, punishes the slightest deviation with brimstone and hellfire? On earth we have a term for that-protection racketeering."

"It's your fault, not Mine. You were bad."

I gazed around at the blood and guts smeared across the mountainous ridges of His fingerprint. "We only questioned Your authority."

"You disobeyed a direct command! You became one-in-yourselves. You became divine in your own right and left Me with nothing. Nothing!"

Thunderclouds formed around His one visible eye. Lightning flashed in His gaze. A hot blue bolt of energy sizzled a few inches to my right.

"It was She," He said. It was the first acknowledgement He had made-I wouldn't let it be the last. "It was all the work of the Woman. She conspired with the Horned One to ruin My Paradise. I sent My Son to destroy Her works."

"That reminds me," I shouted, desperate to find some sort of leverage. 

"When a God such as Jove or Jehovah impregnates a human, is it rape, incest, or bestiality?"

"Your mockery damns you!"

"Then take away our power to mock! Don't keep killing and maiming, expecting to coerce us into loving You in self-defense. We're too tough to knuckle under!"

"Her doing. She tempts you back into sin, forcing Me to discipline you."

"Forget it, pal. I take the rap myself. As long as I have free will, I reject You. Don't pretend You're giving us a choice when the wrong choice results in eternal torture. You're giving us rules-rules for slaves."

He snarled. "You must obey your God!"

"Why?" I asked. It was an ancient child's game, but it just might work.

"Because I created you."


He stiffened up-millions of miles up. He towered over me until I shuddered from terror.

"Because I wanted to recreate My own image."


"So you would obey Me!" His voice rolled like the sea.

I wasn't going to get back into the whole free will contradiction again-He seemed rather impervious to logic. I gathered together all my resolve, half-expecting the result.

"Why?" I asked.


Oct 11, 2014

Around here we do things by the Book: Luke Skywalker & the Planet of the Lawgivers

Fundamentalist Biblical Literalism be damned. Our young'uns are smarter'n that.

Compared to my generation and those before me, our young at heart in America seem to have a much smaller span of mythical images with which to relate to contemporary society. Yet there are some images which, almost by contemporary definition, must be inseparably linked to the medium through which they are best absorbed.

One sample of 20th-century myth-making - received via dark, popcorn-&-pepsi theater settings - comes to us as famed entertainment.

One ponders that perhaps entertainment is the only venue from which can come any holistic view of human spirituality. It's is a holistic need that goes beyond the scientific and logical literalism that seems to focus our attention and learning span. This literalism permeates contemporary perception for all of us. Precisely through the logic and literal propaganda that modern spiritless corporate economics markets its products leads to dependence on outside sources to tell us what to think, how to belong, how/why to conform and thereby avoid any nuisance of personal independence and freedom.
"Trust the force, Luke!"
In the original Star Wars film the climactic scenes are defined only after that the spiritual prompting voice of Skywalker's mentor can be heard. Subsequent group salvation thru the hero's triumph is achieved only after the young prophet lets go of doing things by the Book.

I suspect that though perhaps not a conscious awareness, our youngest adult generation today has an internal grasp of that particular concept.

We need more of that and less spiritual literalism that looks mostly like the old Simian Prophet who asserts and flexes his authority based on long-term social programming in the film Planet of the Apes.

We have our own kind of old farts constantly quoting a historical lawgiver who no longer needs credibility proven because of long-term social programming. How heretical to question the validity of that lawgiver as told through contemporary old-fart-tales!

In knee-jerk fashion the lawgivers contemporary minions demand submission to the get-back-in-line social orthodoxy that authorizes those who are seemingly in charge to remain in the driver's seat.

"Luke, don't you ever turn off your scripture machine, you can't trust the force!" is the suggestion of those who worship the idol of inerrant scripture that was never the intent of Christ.

Jesus was never the "lawgiving" autocratic authoritarian described by those who historically and currently walk around dragging a leather-bound lawgiver's manual to justify one of those most fundamental, limited and useless letter-of-the law texts that plague us today. Such is not and was never Jesus' intended use of the Bible.

Why isn't that mythical image of letting go the biblical training wheels and trusting the spirit the integral part of raising children to become spiritual adults rather than future aged children afraid of deeper waters?

The Bible is not useful as a literalist construct of "shoulds, shouldn'ts" or rewards-&-punishments that gets dragged around in a knuckle-scratching manner by strutting simian/human demagogues who are afraid of deep waters.

"Stay here in the shallow end of the pool kids, where we're in charge and you can have fun splashing without ever having to risk deeper waters. Sure the shallow end of the pool doesn't have much room to explore, but you don't need to explore since your pulpit pounders will tell you - by the Book - all the important stuff you need to know.

Their Inerrant Biblical Life Jacket leaves them stuck in the shallow end of the pool.

When most literalist Christian evangelical preachers and politicos make their accusations and advocacies they do so based on a traditional assumption that is not traditional to the broad spectrum of American Christians:

This from the website of the American Family Association:

Philosophical Statement
The American Family Association believes that God has communicated absolute truth to man through the Bible, and that all men everywhere at all times are subject to the authority of God's Word. Therefore, a culture based on Biblical truth best serves the well-being of our country, in accordance with the vision of our founding fathers.

This is kindergarten religion at its most immature and adolescent.

This is also the shallow end of the pool, where splashing around without really getting wet is supposed to be the most fulfilling thing God desires for you.

This is the fear-based and limited view that remains terrified of any venture into deeper waters where the ultimate discovery is that the biblical water wings are absolutely unnecessary and in fact an encumbrance.

If a person bases their faith on an innerant Bible then let them be honest.
Let them stop calling themselves "Christians" as if all Christians were literalists and those of us who doubt innerancy are merely back-sliding literalists.

Let them admit that they are Biblicists and nothing more than Kindergarten Christians.
Let them admit that they have the Bible as their only basis of proof which is not the same faith in God. Literalists can only believe in canned answers - as if their life jackets automatically deflate if they venture out of shallow waters.

Concerning my own experience, I suppose one could use the word "deprogramming" in that my initial bout with innerancy had more to do with how scripture was quoted to motivate or coerce me into socially acceptable conformity within my church.

I confess that as a child and up into my 40's, scriptural meaning as interpreted by my church had an absoluteness about it that brooked little dissent.

When I discovered Joseph Campbell and his book entitled "The Power Of Myth," I was advised not to read that book. But since I was in dissent and had become a non-literalist doubter, I swallowed my religious guilt, girded up my intellectual loins and read it anyway.

When I read in Campbell about myths older than Hebrew Scripture referring to floods, arks, babies in baskets rescued from rivers by princesses, African stories about God asking man why fruit was eaten and the man blaming the woman who blamed a snake ...

... I realized that as a literalist with no appreciation for the blessings of myth, I was on a dead-end path.

But to reject the Bible and scripture because you've found them not to be innerant - not to be the literal and absolute "Word of God" as preached from many Christian pulpits - is a mistake in my opinion.

Once able to remove the limitation of literal interpretation, I learned how to bring Scripture to life. I learned about my own natural mystical bent as something all humanity possesses but only a minority actually trust to awaken.

I learned how scripture is best appreciated as a "living" document that speaks through spirit.

"Luke, don't you ever turn off your scripture machine, you can't trust the force!"


Aug 23, 2014

This weekend's required reading for those who are offended but who aren't afraid to look into the mirror.

Whether you sing in the choir, preach to the choir or cater to the choir ... there are many in the choir who are oblivious to the sour-sounding music the choir makes.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

 As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage. 
I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks. 
 1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. 
 6. When I am told about our national heritage or about civilization, I am shown that people of my color made it what it is. 
 17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.  
For this reason, the word privilege now seems to me misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work systematically to overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one's race or sex.