Archive for August 2017

Trump Haters Encourage Violence

Lost in all the hyperventilation over Trump’s response to Charlottesville is the ignorance, willful in many cases, that the anti-Nazi protesters were not all nonviolent. While I do not know whether victim Heather Heyer was acting violently or not, and even if she were she didn’t deserve to die, the media and even a good part of the GOP is rushing to whitewash the actions of the protesters in their zeal to attack Trump. The danger is that by failing to criticize the violent left, they embolden it, and in doing so make it more likely that someone else is going to die but this time at the hands of the alt-Left.

Trump wasn’t alone in equating the leftist violence with the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “Whether by #AltRight or #Antifa, no excuses for violence and, keep in mind, this is exactly the response that the bigots seek to provoke.” In the same article, a Jewish Antifa member Daniel Seiradski justifies confronting neo-Nazis with violence. “When Nazis are screaming epithets in our faces, should we just smile? They come into our towns and yell at us and threaten us and say they want to kill us. Should we take that sitting down because fascists deserve free speech, too? When someone is threatening you with an existential threat, you fight back. You don’t stand there and take it.”

The problem is that his justification of violence can be used by anybody including those he justifies attacking. Charlottesville rally organizer Jason Kessler, a former Occupy Wall Street and far left extremist who switched sides, has suggested the purpose of the rally was to unite the right to push back against the existential threat posed by the Left. Palestinians in the Middle East view Israel as an existential threat. Muslims view Jews as an existential threat. Israelis view the Arab nations surrounding them to be an existential threat.

While the Media has constructed a narrative around the counter-protesters in Charlottesville that places them on the moral high ground, the actual morality of the protesters is much more ambiguous.

If violence is okay, how much? Should it be proportional – fist to fist, gun to gun – or should it be overwhelming? Since civilians in democratic countries pay taxes and vote, are they not responsible for their governments policies which threaten Islam? If so it is morally correct to use violence, say driving a truck through a crowded street or a plane into a skyscraper?

Then there is the issue of who it is okay to attack. In Charlottesville the focus of Antifa was on the neo-Nazis but in the past the group has attacked anyone they disagreed with including gay provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos is – and has said – many things, but he’s not a Nazi, nor does he present an existential threat to the Left. Yet the group rioted when he attempted to appear in Berkley CA in February. They released personal information and harassed a Republican councilman. They’ve also called for the poisoning of pets.

Even leftists themselves are questioning the violent tactics of the alt-left. The LA Times reports, “Political scientist Jo Freeman, part of the radical student movement that forced UC Berkeley to permit political speech five decades ago, said she was dismayed at the effort that went into silencing opposition. She drew similarities between those who threatened her and other freedom marchers in the South in the 1960s, and those who bully the far right now. “It is not uncommon for societies to produce a hate squad,” Freeman said. “People who want to suppress the right to speak — they are everywhere.””

 

The US Healthcare System Woes: It’s Complicated

I participate at Quora where I answer questions about ancient Roman history and Japanese culture, two of the great loves of my life. Quora is a multi-national forum where people can ask questions and post answers about almost anything. Most of the users are Americans but there is also a strong Chinese presence, and quite a few people ask questions about American life, culture and politics. While I tend to ignore political questions, occasionally I’ll find a question about other topics that interests me, and today one came up about the American healthcare system.

Regarding Universal Healthcare, why is it not in America’s national interest to have a healthy population, even if it means they will pay less to have it?

I don’t think anyone is arguing that Americans don’t want better healthcare at a lower cost for everyone. What we are arguing about is what system we want and more importantly, how to get there from here.

 

(Detailed chart: healthcare_system_chart_1356×1049 ” Icosystem)


What non-Americans and many Americans don’t realize is just how screwed up our system is. Most don’t realize it’s not a single system. We have Medicaid for the poor, Medicare for the elderly*, VA health system for veterans, the Indian Health System on native American reservations and private group insurance for everyone else. Then each state has a say in how Medicaid and Medicare are administered with significant differences between each of them.


Then we have the stakeholders.

  • Employers which have an interest because private group insurance is tied to employment unlike most countries in the world.

  • State governments whose priorities are different than the federal government because unlike the feds the states must balance their budgets.

  • Federal government with its own priorities and oversight of the entire structure with specific control of the VA and IHS.

  • For profit and non-profit insurance companies which have to keep the lights on by taking in more in premiums than paying out in reimbursements.

  • Medical providers like doctors and nurses who have to balance care for their patients with paying their bills.

  • Medical device manufacturers whose profits depend on purchase of their output.

  • Pharmaceutical companies whose bottom line depends on the consumption of drugs in the US and the subsidy of US drugs abroad.

  • Malpractice attorneys who reap billions in fees in lawsuits against medical providers, device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.

  • For profit health systems whose bottom lines depend on maximizing payments from the insurance companies and minimizing expenses from the medical providers, device manufacturers and drug companies.

  • Healthy individuals who don’t see why they need to pay for services they don’t need.

  • Sick and elderly individuals who are consuming health care services.

That’s about all I can come up with. I’m sure there are more. Each one of these groups has a lobbying group that argues on their behalf to the other stakeholders, especially state and federal governments.


So pick any system you want and ask yourself, “How do I get to this system from the current one?” Any system you pick will require impacting one of the above stakeholders, and they are going to fight it, change it and make a hash of it to the point where your original ideas are all gone.



And that’s where we are today.


*Just to add to the complexity, note that the elderly will switch from Medicare to Medicaid once their benefits are exhausted. This commonly happens after seniors have been placed into nursing homes. The cost of these facilities is staggering – more than the cost of most 5 star hotels – and quickly exhaust an average senior’s Medicare benefits. At that point they have to switch to Medicaid. The problem is that many skilled nursing facilities have limited slots for Medicaid seniors, and there are usually waiting lists – meaning that most seniors have to return to the care of their loved ones who often lack the skills and resources necessary to care for them.


No one is happy about this system. But we feel as if we are trapped without hope for true change.