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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

'Sicko' is boffo' -- Jack Mathews (NY Daily News, 6/19/07)

Vital signs strong for Moore's health care documentary--

MrKen is planning to view Michael Moore's film essay, "Sicko", which takes on America's
profoundly profitable and catastrophically inefficient health care system.

Some excerpts from Jack Mathews' review in the Daily News (6/19/07):

Anecdotal in nature, "Sicko" shows what's wrong with our health care system by comparing it with those in Canada, England and France, where universal health care is as ingrained in the social fabric as their national anthems.

Asked what would have happened in England if Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair had tried to dismantle the National Health Service, an elderly British statesman answers without pause, "There would have been a revolution."

In the U.S., politicians in the pockets of medical industry lobbyists respond to any universal health care movement by screaming, "Socialism!" And, as Hilary Clinton learned, it works...

...this is a picture about the big picture, showing that the U.S., while investing far more money in health care than any other country, ranks 38th in the world in effectiveness - far, far behind every other Western industrialized nation.

The reason for this poor return is that most of the money ends up in the bank accounts of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, both of which are driven to improve the financial health of their stockholders... company examiners ...find reasons not to approve claims, even if the patient is fatally ill...

...In England, where the motto is "Pay according to your means, get treated according to your needs," government-paid doctors receive bonuses for improving the health of their patients. What a concept.

Follow this link to read the full review:

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Monday, June 18, 2007

PAUL KRUGMAN: Authentic? Never Mind

Conservatives like Bill O'Reilly are fond of claiming that certain Democrats & liberals, such as John Edwards, are "inauthentic" because they are 'well-heeled' and live in a big house. Economist Paul Krugman gives us his perspective on this idea--

Excerpts from Paul Krugman's excellent Op-Ed piece in the Monday, June 11th edition of the
New York Times follow:

Rich liberals who claim they’ll help America’s less fortunate are phonies.

Let me give you one example — a Democrat who said he’d work on behalf of workers and the poor. He even said he’d take on Big Business. But the truth is that while he was saying those things, he was living in a big house and had a pretty lavish summer home too. His favorite recreation, sailing, was incredibly elitist. And he didn’t talk like a regular guy.

Clearly, this politician wasn’t authentic. His name? Franklin Delano Roosevelt...

What does authenticity mean? Supposedly it means not pretending to be who you aren’t. But that definition doesn’t seem to fit the way the term is actually used in political reporting.

For example, the case of F.D.R. shows that there’s nothing inauthentic, in the normal sense of the word, about calling for higher taxes on the rich while being rich yourself. If anything, it’s to your credit if you advocate policies that will hurt your own financial position. But the news media seem to find it deeply disturbing that John Edwards talks about fighting poverty while living in a big house.

On the other hand, consider the case of Fred Thompson. He spent 18 years working as a highly paid lobbyist, wore well-tailored suits and drove a black Lincoln Continental. When he ran for the Senate, however, his campaign reinvented him as a good old boy: it leased a used red pickup truck for him to drive, dressed up in jeans and a work shirt, with a can of Red Man chewing tobacco on the front seat.

But Mr. Thompson’s strength, says Lanny Davis in The Hill, is that he’s “authentic.”...

And where do you start with Rudy Giuliani? We keep being told that he has credibility on national security, because he seemed so reassuring on 9/11. (Some firefighters have condemned his actual performance that day, saying that rescue efforts were uncoordinated and that firemen died because he provided them with faulty radios. “All he did was give information on the TV,” said a deputy fire chief whose son died at the World Trade Center. “He did nothing.” And the nation’s largest firefighters’ union has condemned his handling of recovery efforts in the weeks following 9/11.)

But he’s spent the years since then cashing in on terrorism...

...The point is that questions about a candidate shouldn’t be whether he or she is “authentic.” They should be about motives: whose interests would the candidate serve if elected? And think how much better shape the nation would be in if enough people had asked that question seven years ago.

Here is the link to the full article:

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Soviet Empire -- A Retrospective of Spectacular Failure

The Soviet Union undoubtedly represents the most spectacular failure of empire-building in the twentieth century. MrKen notes that many "conservative/religious zealots" or "CRZ'ys" point to this failed empire as an example of the evils of "state-sponsored atheism" and a supposed indictment of where the "secular progressives" or "S-P's" are leading this country.

But this interpretation is to misread what the Communist State actually represented. The Communist party was both a criminal enterprise - not unlike the Mafia - and a priesthood! Martin Walker describes the system in his fascinating book, 'The Cold War' (1993):

"The corruption of privilege in the lifestyle of the Communist Party's nomenklatura, those who qualified for the state and party jobs for which Central Committee approval was required, was only one part of the social sickness at the heart of the state. At one level, the party operated as a system of extortion, a form of protection racket. On another, it sought to act as an ideological priesthood which established a firm body of doctrine to which all could adhere, or at least pay lip-service. The enforcement of this mental, and indeed spiritual discipline was the responsibility of ...the KGB..."

In the Brezhnev era, corruption had become legendary in many republics. Walker observes...

"...Brezhnev's own private collection of sports and vintage cars, including the armoured Lincoln limousine which Nixon had given to him, and in which he terrified the American President by driving at high speed around the hilly forest bends of Camp David, symbolized the way in which Soviet leadership enjoyed the fruits of power, The affairs and high life of Galina, Brezhnev's daughter, were so much the stuff of gossip that bitter jokes were widespread in Moscow. Perhaps the most characteristic was the tale of Brezhnev proudly showing his mother and daughters around his luxurious dachas, his hunting lodge at Zavidovo, his vast garage. 'It's wonderful, Leonid,' the mother is said to have muttered. 'But what happens if the Communists come back to power?'


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