A Call From New Jersey

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Couple of days ago I got a call from New Jersey. At least, the caller ID said “New Jersey”. This was the most exciting call I have received in some time. Usually my calls are from “Anonymous”, or “Unknown Caller”, or “Invalid Number”, or “Customer Service”, or “ID Blocked”, or even sometimes “1″. These callers are different from the “New Jersey” caller of course. I don’t know any of the others, so I never even bother to pick up the phone. I do know New Jersey. I have no idea why New Jersey would be calling me. I did not answer the call. Thought maybe they would leave a message. Still, I am honored to have received the call and can not for the life of me figure out why New Jersey would be calling.

To receive attention from New Jersey out here in the boondocks is indeed an honor even if the attention is un-reciprocated and baffling. In the boondocks there is nothing to do but wait for calls from “Anonymous”, or “Unknown Caller”, or “Invalid Number”, or “Customer Service”, or “ID Blocked”, or even sometimes “1″. (I really hope the call from “1″ is not the–you know–the big One) . However, to be honest, I wish I did not get any of these calls: including the call from New Jersey.

After being on the national DO NOT CALL list since its inception, I once asked my phone company, who I thought knew everything Phone, whether there was anyway I could stop these calls from interrupting my otherwise not-too-busy, non-essential, boon-docks day. Sure, they said. I gave them a list of ten numbers for the aforementioned callers. Of course I am still getting calls from these very, very persistent callers.

Nationwide, there are reportedly 2.4 billion suspicious–as in robo– calls a month. If a phone company collects money from calls made AND calls answered, what is the incentive for the phone company to block any call? Good question but not the right question.

In order for a phone company to be a phone company, a phone company is required by the 1934 Telecommunications Act to make sure callers and callees are connected. In essence, phone companies are not allowed to block callers from callees unless the callee specifies specific callers to block. How is the phone company to know that “1″ really is not the big One. They could get sued for interference with supernatural communications. So. . .

The government (that would be your Federal Communication Commission–FCC) has apparently decided to let loose the telephone wizardry of the phone companies. Sometime this year phone companies will be allowed to do what they presumably are able to do best–block robo callers and the like. As the dismal failure of the DO NOT CALL LIST indicates, civilization is in the tank. A failure by the phone companies will simply be the flush. I do so hope the phone companies are able to save civilization. Really.

Boots in Democracy

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In the February 22 edition of online Washington Post, former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, who served under President Nixon, makes some fairly strong arguments for not bringing back a national military draft.  All the arguments Mr. Laird makes for not bringing back the military draft are valid. Our current military is heads above the conscripted military of the 1960s and 1970s (the period with which I am familiar). He rightly points out (reminiscent of an account examining the books) that the men and women of today’s military are better educated, better motivated and much more proficient in their jobs. So, why would anyone argue for a return to the draft? As he says, “the exceptional effectiveness and motivation may be an invitation to overuse and even abuse such resources.” Precisely. But the “pro” argument is even less tenuous than “possible abuse”. In a democracy, the military does not exist for the sake of the military, it exists to serve the democracy. Every citizen should be prepared to put aside their life-project and render service. It is an obligation, not an option. If a conscripted military degrades military effectiveness, larger problems are at work than the availability of a sub-standard citizen pool. As the World War II military demonstrated, a healthy democracy can quickly rise to its own defense. Going on a “conquest binge” is an entirely different matter.

Grit Your Teeth And Take a Pill

Restraint—severe, jaw-clenching restraint—in criticizing the  medical-industrial complex is probably justified based on  the effectiveness of public medicine in substantially extending average lifespans and in drastically reducing the desultory effects of communicable diseases.  Well, the logic chains imposing the restraint are turning to smoke.  First, we hear that this year’s flu shot is effective at a rate of 9% for people 65 years and older. Overall the effective rate is 56%:  So much of medicine and effective communicable disease defense.  But what really gets the restraint on criticism smoking re such vignettes as Steven Brill’s February 20, 2013 TIME magazine article, BITTER PILL: WHY MEDICAL BILLS ARE KILLING US.

 

Who pays $1.49 for an acetaminophen (Tylenol) pill that cost $1.49 for a bottle of 100s? A better question is why would anyone even consider the possibility of paying $1.49 for a acetaminophen pill? You do, by fiscal proxy, since you pay money into Medicare or you pay for health insurance.

 

Apparently if you examine a hospital bill, you will see itemized costs for everything from the cost of drawing your blood to blowing your nose. The upshot of all this detail is that you learn you are paying for everything done in a hospital except breathing. So, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act takes a step into getting everyone into the medical-industrial complex. It is, hopefully, the first step of a two-step journey that results in putting constraints on the medical-industrial complex open-greed gold fields.

The Collective Voice, Muffled But Heard

Sometimes a Republican conservative says something that really resonates. We know there are Republican conservatives out there who are not following the destroy-the-government, anti-Obama political script. These contrarians are out there and sometimes their ideas trickle into the media. Even some Republicans tightly in the grip of current Republican orthodoxy have flashing moments of common sense. When it happens, we must consider the chance that the development portends a possible road to recovery for the Republican Party.

On February 14, 2013, Republican conservative Congressman John J. Duncan, 2nd District of Tennessee, delivered a speech on the floor of the House in which he observed that whenever the government steps in to assist people, the price for whatever service the government assist with skyrockets.  Education, medical care, prescription drugs, eggs and milk—the government steps in to provide assistance and prices zoom toward the stratosphere. The American people, on a gut-level, already know this of course. The Republican orthodoxy is that the government should get out of the business of providing assistance or at least scale back the level of assistance to only the few. Privatize Social Security: send Medicaid administration to the States, yada, yada, yada.  Liberals and Democrats argue that assistance should be provided simply on the basis of need.

Is there no middle-ground in this?  Can’t we all just get along?  (This last question is for rhetorical purposes only.)  The way liberals and Democrats are handling the cost-service problem leads to a vicious circle.  The more assistance provided by the government, the more assistance is needed.  The middle-class, left to their own devices (income), is simply priced out of the market for medical services, education, and increasingly, even food: the price-spiral thing. The liberal approach leads to an America in which there is red-ink as far as the eyes can see and a flat-line economy awaiting the economic ascendancy of India, or China, or some other.

On the other hand, if current Republican orthodoxy has its way, America takes on the look, feel, and politics of a Banana Republic where anything and everything that is exportable, including jobs, is exported and there simply is no middle class, only the very rich and the humble, wide-eyed and uncomprehending poor.

Well, there is a middle ground.  The middle-ground involves going back to the basics.  But first, both Republicans and Democrats must recognize that there are basics to the economic life of the American republic. The recognition will occur: perhaps without a Republican Party. That little speech by Congressman Duncan is a sign that “the basics” are in the air. Even during the 2012 presidential campaign, President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” remark was a glimpse into the mysterious collective will of the People where common sense trumps ideology and orthodoxy.  Two remarks, one by a very, very conservative congressman, and the other by a liberal President. All that is needed to join the two and subdue the noise about America’s economy is an architect.  That architect is not, to date, President Obama and it certainly isn’t the panic-prone Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

Recess is for Wimps – Or Senators

In Washington Post 3 February article, Sally Katzen gave a legal opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling that President Obama’s recess appointments are blatantly unconstitutional.

Ms Katzen makes a very good and important point in this article but does not make it until the end of the article. Rather than give an overview of the travels and travails of the Senate being in session or not in session to explain recess appointments, she should have just came to the point.  Presidential recess appointments are a matter between the executive branch and the Senate. The court has no place in the process. The solution for the Senate in preventing or passing judgment on such appointments is clearly stated in the U. S. Constitution: vote, up or down.  If the Senate is unable or unwilling to make such a judgment then it is failing its constitutional responsibility. End of legal story. Where does the system turn when any two branches become dysfunctional? To the people. The people voted on November 6, 2013.  The Senate—did someone say Harry Reid–has not gotten the message. So we vote again in two years.  A never ending experiment in achieving the Will of the People.

Republicans Offer the Perfect Future – Redux

Frank Luntz , opinion writer in the WASHINGTON POST, wrote an article on January 11th in which he offered advice to the Republican Party.

What I take away from Mr. Luntz’s article is that if the Republicans simply craft their message better, they will have a better chance of connecting with the American people. It’s the communications thing, according to Luntz. Calling a cesspool the flower bed of the future still does not make it smell any better at the moment.  And this is the problem with Mr. Luntz’s advice to Republicans. Every solution offered by the Republicans for the nation’s problems are the ultimate, be-all-end-all solution. The world stops. Reduce the debt, reduce the size of government, shut-down the American-Mexican border, dismantle the social safety net and America’s problems will magically disappear. There is this wonderful, mysterious element of a democracy that keeps track of such pie-in-the-sky ideology and appropriately dismisses it. What the Republican Party needs to do is come back to America!  We’re waiting for you.

U.S. House Democrats Elected with More Votes than Republicans

About a million more people voted for Democrats in the U. S. House of Representative than voted for Republicans.  So what?

Why are we suddenly looking at the vote differences between congressional Democrats and Republicans?  It is amazing how a simple concept, democracy, can be turned on its head by ignorance. Well, maybe not so amazing. The Congress and Senate have evolved into parliamentary type governing bodies where everything is done along party lines. Democracies do not have parties. Democracies have as their expressed purpose the will of the people. Republicans and Democrats have usurped the will of the people in the way they function as representatives of the people. True, gerrymandering contributes to destroying the democratic intent of our constitution. But the rules under which the House and Senate operate reinforce the vulgarities of gerrymandering. In turn, House and Senate members can surrender to the most strident voices of their constituents than weigh the interests of the nation.

Guns Belong in War Zone

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Posted by fellow guest blogger, Leslie, at I Love Congee

Opinion_1The massive killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School drilled a dark hole in every parent’s heart. Beautiful little children were murdered in their classrooms in broad daylight. All twenty-six people were killed by assault rifle and handguns. Our hearts were broken for the lose of innocent lives and our prayers go out to their grieving families. The whole nation grieved with the people in Newtown.

Little caskets and toys, the week long funeral services saddened people across the country. The editorial sections flooded with comments about gun control and deadly assault weapons being in the hands of those with mental illness. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, everybody demands answers as to why these killings are happening in their own backyards. Why aren’t we being protected from gun violence? Instead of taking guns away from the street, more guns are being put into capable hands. What capable hands? Only devils have capable hands when it comes to guns. Haven’t we lost enough lives already?