A Matter of Life and Death

While House Majority Whip Steve Scalise fights for his life in a DC hospital ICU, you can bet that he and his family won’t be bankrupted by his many surgeries, treatments and care; members of the United States Congress have some of the best health care coverage in the world. Strange then, that our own beloved Senator Pat Toomey would state in his recent televised town hall meeting that because Obamacare is still the law, he is “stuck” with health care that he actually “hate[s].”

As if that’s what Obamacare was all about: “leveling” health care coverage; driving everyone’s care down to the lowest common denominator. We’re supposed to believe that poor Pat Toomey and the heartless, craven Republican cabal that have drafted in secret the Affordable Health Care Act’s replacement are stuck with ghetto health insurance!

You’ll recall that Scalise and some capitol area police officers were wounded on June 14th when James Hodgkinson, 66 years old and unemployed, opened fire on house Republicans during baseball practice for a charity game. Needless to say, Hodgkinson, later identified as a Sanders supporter and someone who was staunchly anti-Trump, was against Republican officeholders in general. Could the health care issue have been one of the reasons for his rage?

All the breezy, almost casual language tossed around by Republicans – and Democrats, too – about the number of people who will be affected by the GOP plan, distances us from the fact that access to quality health care is a matter of life and death. And forgotten in the bickering is the fact that even after Obamacare, tens of millions Americans remained uninsured and underinsured. How dare those who would increase that figure by even one person consider themselves civilized?

In his July 5th town hall meeting, Sen. Toomey said his policy priorities were “stronger economic growth” and “enhanced security.” When it comes to health care, Toomey’s strategy is to “stabilize the insurance market” first – and we know the kind of people who control the insurance industry and what “stability” means to them – and then worry about people’s needs. In his view, the federal government has little or no role to play in expanding guaranteed coverage to the poor, nor can it afford to: our enhanced-security state is being starved of funding!

The future battle over health care

People like Toomey can go on and on with their arguments which are quite frankly straight-up bullshit since they have little to do with the human condition and everything to do with human greed. The ruling political party in our nation even turns an issue like health care into a scheme for transferring wealth upward. There is now – and has been for a long time – a bill before Congress that would guarantee quality health coverage for all Americans. H.R. 676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act, would move the US into the late 20th century by creating a single-payer system of universal coverage.

Some people rejoice at the fact 113 members of the House of Representatives – more than half the Democratic delegation – are now cosponsors of H.R. 676. But most of these are converts, the very same mealy-mouthed mo-fo’s who found every “reasonable” excuse in the world to pooh-pooh single-payer in favor of Obama and Nancy Pelosi’s market-based plan a few years ago. Now that there’s no stopping the GOP from passing a backwards plan if they ever actually get their ducks in order, it’s easy to be for universal coverage. But when it’s time to replace the GOP plan (and that time will come in as little as four years) and powerful, “reasonable” (i.e., moneyed) interests speak up, how many of the 113 will remain for single-payer?

The battle-lines are drawn and we should never let those who say they support H.R. 676 now, forget that in 2021.

— Jim Collins

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Single-Payer Health Care Now!

Wake up, America, and wipe the sleep from your eyes.  You’re not dreaming but a nightmare is in the making.

It’s 17 years into the twenty-first century and our ruling – er, governing— Republican Party thinks there are currently just too many people with health insurance in this country.  While people living in all the other advanced nations of the world have the security of universal coverage and access to health care, the Republicans are divided only on just how many people should go without.

As one commentator put it, “Under the GOP’s bill, the more help you need, the less you get.”  They weren’t quite able to figure it out this time but rest assured that they’ll continue working until they get it “right.”  No matter the final outcome of the GOP plan, the bottom line is that more people will lose coverage – 10 million, 24 million, who knows? – and the cost of health care will continue to rise.

And the newly uninsured will be added to the current staggering figure of 25 million Americans who are without health care, even under the so-called Affordable Care Act.  Somehow, both Republicans and Democrats are able to sleep while knowing all this.

It’s time to end this madness.  It’s time to demand universal single-payer health care now!

Class war by other means

Obamacare and other recent attempts to reform the health care system have all fallen victim to the same forces: the powerful health insurance and pharmaceutical company lobbies and the ideological opposition of Republicans, yes, but of most Democrats too.  It’s almost a religious duty for mainstream politicians, liberal or conservative, to oppose the socialization of health care.  Health care is big business and, as such, it is run as part and parcel of the class war on working people, a war that transfers wealth and reserves the benefits of society for the well-to-do.

Health insurance companies are nothing more than huge bureaucratic middle men who collect fees and allocate a crucial service according to metrics that have nothing to do with true human need.  They keep the price of health care artificially high while “earning” huge profits for executives and shareholders.  And while pharmaceutical companies provide useful benefits, the experience of Canada and other advanced countries shows that they can provide those benefits at lower prices.

While the Republicans are licking their wounds and regrouping, we should not let the Democrats breathe a sigh of relief or celebrate.  If they really want to live up to the promise of Obamacare, let them support single-payer health care.  Rep. John Conyers (Mich.) has been introducing into Congress the National Health Care Act, or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, (H.R. 676) since 2003.  Bernie Sanders has just promised to introduce similar legislation in the Senate.

It’s time to demand that elected officials put up or shut up about health care.  We know that politics is war by other means; the health care aspect of the class war is literally killing people and that’s got to stop.

— James Collins

We Knew It All Along

Many of us are old enough to remember Public Enemy’s hit single, “Don’t Believe the Hype.”  That was 1988, when rap music was still considered a “black thing,” and Public Enemy’s unapologetic hardcore nationalism scared off a lot of white and black people.  But the essential truth behind the message was undeniable and the group went on to chalk up big crossover hits with other message songs, namely the self-explanatory “Fight the Power” and “911 is a Joke,” which hilariously yet ruthlessly mocked the standard wisdom of the day.

The messages at this blog site are all about fighting the power and exploding the hype of the power structure, locally and beyond. One of the so-called mainstream’s standard and reliable tropes is to report something that either happened a long time ago, or has been happening for a very long time, as an expose: “And now a breaking story – dog bites man.”

I still believe that most people really are too smart to not believe the things that we’re not supposed to believe until it’s picked up by the mainstream media in all its forms.  I mean, come on: we really didn’t know to be careful around strange dogs until we saw that sensational  pop-up headline on the Internet or the reporter on TV deadpan the “breaking” story?

Here are a few “revelations” that may insult your intelligence.

“Joe Pa” knew – for a long time

So, the sainted football coach (and apparently the only reason for Penn State to exist), Joe Paterno, knew that his brilliant defensive assistant Jerry Sandusky was sexually assaulting kids as far back as 1976. And so did a lot of other people.

From the locker-room point of view, this is a no-brainer. Anyone who has played any school-based team sport on any level, from junior high or middle school on up, knows that those kinds of things could not have been happening without the head coach’s knowledge.  And, of course, numerous assistant coaches over the years would have been aware, as well.  Most of their identities are being protected, just as the Paterno family and Penn State boosters struggle to maintain Joe Paterno’s image.

More troubling than the university and athletic department’s covering up, however, is that law enforcement also did nothing initially when people came to them. Hey, what’s more important: having a nationally ranked football program or the basic human rights of dozens (scores? more?) of young people?  The answer given by the establishment was clear in this case.  Law enforcement – or lack thereof – will figure prominently in the next outrage.

Priests molest children

I don’t know how anyone of reasonable intelligence can be “shocked,” “surprised,” or anything like that at the next revelation of a bunch of child-molesting Catholic priests being protected by their diocese. The most recent example in our area is the sickening revelation that from the 1950s through the 1990s, more than 50 priests in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese molested “hundreds” of children with impunity.

I grew up in Johnstown where there were few African-American Catholics, and my family was thankfully not among them.  My grandmother took jobs as a part-time, live-in maid for various area families.  I remember she once had a job working for a monsignor in Altoona and I would often accompany my parents when they drove up there on weekends to pick her up.  This was in the late 1960s.  I never knew the name of this monsignor and my grandmother and parents are all deceased, so I have no idea if he is one those named in the state grand jury’s report.

One time, I went up to Altoona to spend a week with my grandmother in the summer when she worked for this guy.  Now although she was not a Catholic, Grandma was a staunch Christian (so much so, that she nearly physically attacked me later when, as an adolescent, I began to question the existence of God).  Grandma was a small woman, but feisty and combative.  I believe – I know – that if the old boy had tried to touch me and I told her, she would have kicked his ass and/or laid him down.  Believe it!  In the unlikely event that she failed, my father would surely have shot him – if my mother didn’t beat him to it.  That’s what I call fighting the power!

Now, as with the Sandusky case, there is plenty of evidence in the grand jury report to implicate law enforcement officials – some of whom are now sitting judges – in the non-prosecution of these horrors. These people are just as guilty as the priests and church hierarchy, and deserve the prison cells built for others.

But most of these victims had families, just like I had my mine, and many of them told their families, only to not be believed or supported – and some parents actually punished their children for “lying” on the innocent, godly priests.

People, don’t believe the hype! Don’t send your kids to Catholic institutions. If you feel you really must expose them to the local parish, don’t leave them alone with priests. All of these scandals that we know about – and we now know about a lot – are merely the tip of the iceberg.  For Jah’s sake (my god), protect your children from these proven serial predators.

Our Government spies on us

Let’s never forget the debt of gratitude that we owe to Edward Snowden, who sacrificed his career and proved beyond a doubt, at great risk to his physical freedom, that which we already knew.

Back in the 1990s I subscribed to a wonderful journal called CovertAction Information Bulletin, and then CovertAction Quarterly, published by disaffected CIA officer Philip Agee.  I remember reading about the NSA’s electronic data collection program in 2000 or 2001.  Of course, that magazine no longer exists and I’ve misplaced all of those old issues I had stashed in a box somewhere.

Nowadays, the NSA doesn’t bother denying that it spies on Americans; they just say they’re not sure how many of us they spy on, reports Harper’s Weekly Review, on May 3rd.  I guess that’s progress.

Doctors say single-payer health care is best

A group of “prominent” and “respected” physicians and medical school profs have come out for single-payer health care. So doctors actually know and understand (in spite of the American Medical Association’s continued opposition) that a system of universal, single-payer coverage is best for the country. Who knew?  Oh yeah, the Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP), those doctors and medical students who have been on the case for almost 30 years now.  But I guess they aren’t prominent or “respected” enough.

Yes, friends, the people who man the machine and administer the system often know a thing or two. That was the idea behind the outdated notion of shop-floor power.  Doctors and nurses know the best way to run a hospital, if your main concern is patient care and not soaking consumers; teachers and educators know the best way to teach and run schools (I’ve heard that incessant standardized testing is not the best instrument in the pedagogical tool box).

Here are a few other things you probably know that our political representatives, “thought leaders” and opinion-shapers don’t want you to know: a corporation is not a person; money buys elections; money buys political influence; “clean coal” is an oxymoron; most Republican Party leaders are just plain morons.

What, dear readers, have I missed?

— James Collins