Friday, October 23, 2009

Episode 80: Politics Is Depressing =(

May God bless the souls of all those who have the strength, courage, and fortitude to make daily, more many days a weekly blog entries, newspaper, and magazine articles about politics. There was a time when talking about politics was kinda fun wasn’t it? The topic du jour would be something like health care reform, or clean air, or green tech. We used to debate about our ideological differences. If there is one thing about this blog that makes me proud, every single person (we... almost everyone) came to the debate with great ideas and expressed them in intelligent ways that got a really good dialogue going.

Part of what made these debates great was the having fresh topics to talk about. Topics that really get the brain juices a-flowing. When I read the paper or watch the news, nothing is really interesting. It is the same ol’ same ol’. Mission failed Mr. President. It’s not entirely your fault Mr. President. I mean, your own teammates on the left side of the aisle showed so much promise during the election. The way you united the democratic party is a feat that has never been accomplished in politics. Let’s face it, democrats are notorious for lacking a single cohesive message. However Mr. President, even your magnanimity isn’t enough to prevent the levies of democratic hodgepodgery™ (copyright TheLaw©2009) from breaking. And by the way, F Olympia Snow. Seriously. Her stance is basically “if you take this perfectly democratic bill, strip it of all its merit and benefits so it is basically a republican bill (lacking substance and almost completely ineffective), I will put my tentative signature on it that MAY change later.”

And the republicans? That party is a complete joke. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it a third time, a complete joke. Did you hear about the Minnesota senator who proposed that there be an amendment to a government contract to give women the right to sue if they have been raped? The victim in question was gang raped ladies and gentlemen. What should be an obvious no-brainer was met by opposition from… ding ding ding! the republicans! They’re a joke. Did you hear about the crowd of people who cheered because the United States was rejected from getting the 2016 games? They talk about patriotism, and then sneer at the most public display of national pride! A joke! Did you hear about Rush Limbaugh who is a closet racist who wanted to buy an NFL team in which 70% of its players black? LMAO. And this is news from the past month! The list is too long.

Politics is too depressing, especially during football season. Football makes me happy. I don’t feel like being sad and depressed anymore when thinking of the future of this nation, so I think for the time being I'll take the "ignorance is bliss route, and listen to ESPN radio lol. There is nothing to talk about anymore. All you get from republicans is “Obama sucks.” All you get from democrats is “republicans suck.” No matter how many stats and number people throw out there, we’re no longer having useful conversations about politics, because it’s not happening in the media, and most importantly in Washington. I suppose this is why most Americans don’t even bother trying to get this stuff. Maybe when our elected officials decide to act like grownups again, politics would be fun to talk about again?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Episode 79/Episode 2: Obama’s Peace Prize

Before I begin, I have a new format. For now on, when a post has a corresponding L Comment radio show topic, there will be two episodes posted. That way, when you leave comments, I will respond to them on the radio show! I’m figuring out how to do a live broadcast, but that’s still some time away, so this will have to do!

Now, moving on to the story, I will begin by saying, congratulations Mr. President! Look, the Nobel Peace Prize is not just an achievement award. It is also a political tool to promote peaceful agenda. Obama is the leader of the free world. No matter what our shortcomings are as a nation, we are the ones the world looks to first for answers. We have a president who is willing to listen to all sides of the argument, no matter who is delivering it. That kind of mentality goes a long way towards breaking down years of mistrust. We’re already seeing better cooperation in Russia and China.

Name calling is a bit out of my character, but I have to say, the Republican Party is a joke. Why is every single thing in this political landscape about scoring political points? The right wing in this party is so far out of touch with the way the world works it’s incredible. Forget Rush Limbaugh, as far as I’m concerned, if Obama ended world hunger, he’d spin it as a leftist big government controlling the food supply. I’m talking about the Boehners and the Steeles of the party who fail to recognize the challenge the Nobel committee bestowed upon the country. In fact, the republican game ball goes to John McCain when he said "we're proud when our President receives an award of that prestigious category… but I think part of their decision making was expectations, and I’m sure the President understands that he now has even more to live up to.”

Way to go McCain. That’s really being a maverick. A damn shame, when being a maverick means doing the right thing. Of course the right wingers will say “well John McCain isn’t a real republican… he sold out.”

This peace prize in my eyes is the world asking America to step in and take charge of the global peace initiative. What better icon than arguably the most popular man in the world to lead the charge. Can we for once, as Obama said in his inauguration, set aside childish things, and come together as one nation and help our president lead the way to a safer America and safer world? Or would you rather bicker and argue until it’s too late to get things done?

Agree with me? Think I’m full of crap? Leave your comments below, and they will be addressed on tomorrow’s show.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Episode 78: Sanction This: Political Chess Games

Before I begin, I have an announcement: The L Comment is 1 year old today!! This blog is my 5th try at blogging and this is the first one to bear fruit. I want to thank all the readers of this blog for reading!! This blog has accomplished my main goal of having civilized political discourse with people from many political persuasions. And may I say, the kind of dialogue has FAR exceeded expectations. You guys are awesome, and I thank you very much for coming back for more debates!

Onto the news of the day, it seems Iran has come clean with a new nuclear facility being built. Now if Bush said Iran was developing a nuclear program and not Iraq, we’d have to re-evaluate history because he’d be right. I’m not surprised by this, and I doubt anyone in Washington is either, because all the candidates of the election brought up this possibility during the 2008 campaign. Furthermore, we already knew about one facility and its location, information that Obama has shared with Russia and China to get them on board to place sanctions on Iran.

From the same CNN article linked above, this passage is key:
"It is not at all surprising that Iran would want this news to come out now," Ingram said. "It strengthens their hand."

The fact that Iran has proactively informed the world helps Iran diplomatically in conducting nuclear negotiations, Ingram said, adding that to characterize this second facility as a covert operation is misleading. The Iranians have yet to start production at Qom and are revealing it before that happens.

"It will be seen as an indication that they are willing to play by the rules, and this will make it more difficult to persuade them to abandon enrichment," Ingram said.

I’m not a doomsday conspiracy theorist by any means, but we have to read between the lines here. Iran’s aggressive approach has failed every single time they’ve tried it. Now with the US, China, and Russia in the fledgling stages of a alliance here, Iran is backed against the corner. Typically when the enemy is backed against a corner, they fight harder than ever before. As Muhammad Ali proved, the rope-a-dope strategy works pretty well…

This is how I see this playing out. Iran pretends to cooperate. They follow all the rules, abide by the sanctions, and the world let’s go of the leash a bit. Meanwhile, in a cave somewhere, weapons are being developed. Now if they attack, their target will likely be Israel. If this happens, we have to defend our allies. If our relations hold up, we’ll have Russia and China, as well as England, France, and Canada as allied nations. Iran will have Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq as allies. That’s going be a really tough fight.

This development has made me revisit my previous post. Afghanistan is no longer about the Taliban. If this impending war happens, Afghanistan is going to be a very important piece. The equivalent of the center squares of a chess board. Having Afghanistan as an ally gives the US Allies a strong position on the battlefield. If the Taliban take over the region, a war with the Middle East will prove to be very difficult. Thus, in light of this story, I think it may not be a bad idea to fight the Afghan war because all of a sudden, we have a very good reason for winning that war. The objective is simple: eradicate the Taliban.

I hope to God that I’m wrong and this is all gross over analysis. However, if I’m right, or even 50% right, it is very possible the 2,000 year struggle in the Middle East may be over in my lifetime. WWIII may very well be called Jihad for real, perhaps Crusade II. The main advantage would be that this war is against countries, not ideology. There are parameters for victory and failure and its nation vs. nation, rather than nation vs. terrorism.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Episode 77: P.S. We’re In a War

If you take a look at the news programs and blogs of late, the topic du jour is healthcare, and rightly so, as we are nearing a vote that could have a profound impact on the lives of Americans for several generations to come. Diving deeper into the subject, we find a lot of hyperbole from both sides of the isle, using buzzwords like “death panels” and “if we don’t reform healthcare, you’ll die faster” etc. Taking a glance at the blogosphere I took a hiatus from for a bit, it seems no one is talking about the fact we’re in a war. And generals want MORE troops!

I’m having a lot of trouble understanding what a victory in Afghanistan looks like. Does it mean we establish a free democracy there that the people don’t want? Do we secure an oil interest that doesn’t exist in that country? Do we capture a rugged, mountainous region, with awful weather (really, really hot or really, really cold), and surrounded by enemies in each direction to gain some kind of tactical advantage?

I’m of the opinion that we need to cut our losses and just bring our troops home. After eight years, a few blown opportunities to catch the true enemy Osama bin Laden, and the non-existent support from home and abroad, there is no victory to be had in Iraq. Let’s say we found Osama tomorrow and he caught him, hung him, and put his head on a rusty iron platter (because silver would be too good for him), then what? Is the War on Terror, sorry, the War on Al Qaeda, over at that point? Did we really spend $10 Billion to capture and kill one man? As far as I’m concerned, bin Laden is a target of opportunity at this point.

I have good news however. I know how to win the war on whatever you want to call it. The answer is so simple, you may kick yourself for not thinking of it sooner. The answer is to flat out leave Iraq. This is what happens when we do: The Taliban will declare our withdrawal as a victory. From an article from the NY TIMES, Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban was recently reported saying “Today we have strong determination, military training and effective weapons,” the message said. “Still more, we have preparedness for a long war, and the regional situation is in our favor. Therefore, we will continue to wage jihad until we gain independence and force the invaders to pull out.” Given Afghanistan’s nearly perfect track record of thwarting all forces that have invaded them for the past 2000 something years, I’m inclined to agree with him.

In response to our leaving, most of the “alliance” will also pull out. The Taliban will not attack America because they got what they want – the removal of western influence from their land. The Taliban will complete take over Afghanistan. Then one of two things will happen, their regime will be so suppressive, the world will have to rejoin the war effort under the banner of human rights (ie. WWII and Kosovo) or Afghans will spent about 5 years being miserable. If scenario 1 happens, the world will be dragged into another unwinnable war until a smart guy like me concludes we need to leave, and the process starts again and moves to scenario 2 – the Afghans will engage in a civil war against the Taliban. The people will rebel the oppression, and crush the Taliban forever. Then a coalition led by the U.S. will come back in a humanitarian mission to rebuild Afghanistan, establish a working democracy, and other nations in the region, empowered by Afghanistan’s success will follow suit.

The main point is, victory from oppressors have never been achieved from outside forces extinguishing the problem for the oppressed. From the Battle of Thermopylae, to the storming of the Bastille, to War of 1812, or from The American Revolution, Civil War, and Civil Rights movement, no struggle has been solved from the help of external powers. The same is true for Afghanistan. It has been said there’s no such thing as good wars, but there is such a thing as necessary ones. I think the only way to truly secure American security interests is to leave and let them fight their own battle. They will win, because the oppressor always loses in the end. We will win because we’ll have an ally and will be safer from terrorist attacks. The world will win because young people want to blog and twitter, and new governments in the region will rise that will allow their people to do those things.

Let’s refocus our lens back to the present day. We talk about how much money healthcare is going to cost, but I don’t hear those detractors talking about the budgetary black hole of the war in Afghanistan. The generals there want more troops which mean more money. We’re fighting an enemy that is damn near unbeatable with no real understanding of what victory means. It makes very little sense with respect to our domestic interests to continue to invest in a war with no end and no exit strategy. Wars cannot be fought unless the economy is in war mode. This means domestic production of tanks, armor, guns, bullets, etc. Wars shouldn’t be a part of the budget ledger like Medicare, Cash for Clunkers and office supplies. If we are unwilling to commit this economy into a war economy, then we should be equally unwilling to participate in this fruitless campaign. This doesn’t negate the tremendous work our soldiers do each and every day. It doesn’t make their deaths and injuries in vain. On the contrary, our missions have given us greater clarity on how to proceed. Perhaps this endless war in the Middle East may have a light at the end of the tunnel in our lifetime.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Episode 76: Mini Hiatus

Hello all! As you were probably well aware, I've been gone from the blogosphere for a bit. I've been on some business trips and have a final one this week to wrap things up. I just wanted to drop by quickly and write a quick note to let you, my dear readers, know there is TONS of new content soon!!

Upon my return Monday, I'll be getting back to the health care debate with my good friend and conservative blogger New Conservative Generation (I didn't forget about you!). I have lots of new ideas on health care, the war, energy, the economy (which finally seems to be recovering!) and plenty of political philosophy to write about. Also, The L Comment: Sunday Comment radio show will be launching two Sundays from now if all goes well! New Conservative Generation has already volunteered to be my first guest host, and I hope all of you will tune in!

Sit tight guys, I'll be back soon, and I greatly look forward to reading your blogs again as well!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Episode 75: Remembering That Day

At least once in a lifetime, a life changing, earth shattering event occurs that impacts us so greatly, every detail of the day is forever burned into our memory. For all Americans, 9/11 is that day. We all remember where we were that day. I was a senior in high school. Beautiful picturesque day. I was drum major of our marching band, running band practice when announcement informed us the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Instant silence. Then sobs. Several of my classmates had friends and relatives who worked and lived near there. We continued to the next period when we learned the second tower was hit. By this time, every TV and radio in school was on, and we witnessed live the collapse of a perhaps our most conspicuous symbols of American power. One of my teachers had a daughter who worked for the Pentagon. I remember him not even being able to complete one sentence of the lesson, his thoughts drifted to the safety of his daughter. We came to find out the plane that hit the pentagon was exactly where her office was, and because she had to retrieve a document from another room, she was out of her office at the time.

As I sit here, watching a real-time re-broadcast of the attacks, I remember so clearly all the emotions of the day. The chaos, confusion, the unanswered questions. I remember three days before the attacks, marching in the Labor Day parade in New York City. Manhattan was such a different place. It was around the time of an election, and I happened to be next to a politician’s float. Fake handshakes, insincere smiles, carefree blissful ignorance, as we were living in the height of our prosperity. Coming home from the parade, the sun was behind the World Trade Center casting a silhouette of the New York skyline that looked like it was taken from a postcard.

I remember the smoke cloud. Driving westbound on the Long Island expressway, when you get close to exit 33, a large mushroom cloud appears on the horizon. My heart shrank to the bottom of my stomach every time I saw it. It remained in the skies for many, many months. I remember ground zero. I didn’t have the courage to see it until a couple of years after the attack. Though the area was significantly cleaner, there was still a huge crater in the ground. My grandfather was on the construction crew that built the World Trade Center. He told me the basement was seven stories deep. Perhaps the impact made it a bit deeper.

What I remember the most about that day however, was the true spirit of America. The charities, the outpouring of support from every citizen, the scores of Long Island volunteer firemen, policemen, ambulance, and other emergency personnel heading to Manhattan to move sheet metal, find bodies and provide blankets, food and drink. I remember that for a short time, there was no democrat, no republican, independent, libertarian, green party, black, white, red, brown, yellow, purple – there was only The United States of America. We were one nation. As we head into the difficult debates ahead, let us put aside the conspiracies, the petty bickering, and the misinformation. Political dissention is the fabric of our great democracy. But we can do it in a way that brings us together, not divides us, that includes people into the debate, not dismisses points of view we don’t agree with, that values pragmatism over ideology. Let us be the America from that day, that banded together to tackle difficult issues. In doing so, we can turn the tragedy of that day into an unbreakable strength.

My thoughts and prayers, go out to all those affected directly or indirectly by that day.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Episode 74: Anime and Politics

I don’t know if many people who know me know about this, but I am a huge anime fan. One anime in particular, Rurouni Kenshin is my top five favorite anime shows. I just finished watching the entire series for a second time through. The first run is usually just plain exciting, but in the second time, since I know when all the action is coming, I look for the deeper meaning. In doing so, I found so many parallels between the struggles in that show and the current political landscape, it was staggering!

The story of Kenshin is fictitious, but based on real Japanese history. Kenshin was a samurai considered to be a legendary manslayer, which is basically an assassin. He was an imperialist trying to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate in what became a very bloody revolution. The Tokugawa Period may be described as similar to the Western middle ages – it was a monarchy ruled by a shogun, there was a class system (samurais would be like European Nobility), legalized prostitution, etc. After 10 years of bloody war and lots of lost lives (especially at the hands of Kenshin). The Shogunate was overthrown, and the Meiji government took its place (which is around the time of the American Civil War). The Meiji government is the beginning of the transformation (maybe integration) from Japanese to a more Western styled culture which employs a democratic system. This is where the anime starts; Kenshin, after succeeding in his mission to help bring about the Meiji government becomes a wanderer, swearing to never kill another human being again, and atones for his sins by using his sword to protect others. In doing so, he winds up on a grand adventure.

Throughout the series, Kenshin faces a series of enemies who are “shadows of the revolution” (let’s call this group the republicans). They hate the new Meiji government (let’s call them the democrats) because it is full of corrupt politicians who manipulate money, the times, and people for their own personal gain. Kenshin battles these foes throughout the series, but has the handicap of sticking to his vow to not kill. Of course he is victorious, but in each battle he is able to convince his opponent that the times have changed and they need to stop living in the past. All of his opponents to some extent buy that argument and make changes in their lives to adapt.

The interesting correlation between the anime and today’s political landscape is how resistant people are to change. I think it has to be human nature that our first instinct is to destroy things we don’t understand or don’t like, and our second instinct is maintain a status quo. In the anime, people went through incredible lengths to try and bring down the Meiji government, all of which included forming a massive amount of funds to start a new revolution and creating a new army of the people to violently overthrow the new system. The interesting thing is not one enemy in the show ever suggested anything to improve the system, they just wanted to destroy it outright. The irony, is many people from the Tokugawa era wound up becoming Meiji government officials, so the people the enemies hate are the same people of the old system. Also, ironic, is the number of bad apples in the system is far less than the number of people doing the right thing. The anime starts in the 10th year of the Meiji (the Tokugawa period lasted for 265 years) so before any change could really be made, the bad guys want the Meiji to crumble.

In today’s politics, We have a new president with new ideas, and he couldn’t even get into the get before people wanted to shut him down. We have bad guys like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney who use their influence to cut down the president with every shot they get. All the while, the opponents never seem to mention any of their faults: big business is just as corrupt as government, the wars we’re fighting are mistakes, water boarding is torture, and we’re too oil dependent, among others. So they would bring Obama down, only to put back in power the people who created the problems in the first place. There is, and has never been, any discussion of working together; in fact the republicans made a resolution on the very day Obama was inaugurated to say “NO” to the bailout without even hearing the ideas on the table from an official authority! (keep in mind Obama was technically powerless for two months). The republicans seem hell bent on ignoring (or worse, not believing) the problems many Americans face. Take healthcare for example. I’ve continually argued that maybe we’re not in position to provide 100% universal coverage. Maybe the government doesn’t have to participate in the program. I outlined a bill that has very minimal government involvement. But rather than provide ideas, the republicans are more concerned with tearing Obama down to build their image (which consequently and ironically makes them look worse). Take green cars. Hybrids and electric cars would significantly lower are carbon footprint, save money, and lessen our dependence on oil. There is even a hummer coming out that is alleged to get 100 miles per gallon! But the conservatives squabble over the $1,300 more for a car. First off, for buying a car, $1,300 really isn’t that much, and second as the technology is perfected the price comes down. But rather than argue about different ways we could achieve the same goal, maybe more investment in battery technology rather than hydrogen technology for example, they argue about price? How about that war you dragged us into for an introductory price of $8 billion?

The Japanese and American cultures are so different but the battle between liberal and conservative ideology is the same no matter where you go. It seems to be more than a coincidence that when liberals want to build, conservatives want to destroy. Then they put people back in power that necessitated liberal ideology in the first place. When conservatives are in power however, they never seem to make good use of their time. As it was depicted in the anime, so it is done in modern American politics.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Episode 73A: L Comment/NCG Healthcare Debate: Argument 1, Access (I'm Back!!)

Wow, it's good to be back! I just moved to a new house and haven't had internet for almost two weeks! Being a tech head, that's a tough pill to swallow haha. But alas, I'm back, and I'm happy to see the debate has been alive in my absence. Moving forward, the healthcare debate with New Conservative Generation will continue, and we'll be talking about a bunch of current events so stay tuned!


There is absolutely no doubt that healthcare reform will be an extremely expensive endeavor. No matter what course we take, be it 100% “socialist” or 100% “capitalist,” any major reform will cost more money than the current system because an entirely new infrastructure must be designed and implemented. Thus the debate in my opinion is a matter of prioritizing Americans over the American dollar. According to the National Coalition on Healthcare, approximately 46 million Americans do not have health insurance. Those who do have health insurance primarily receive their coverage through their place of employment. However, studies show that premiums have increase just shy of 120% since 1999, causing many employers to limit the coverage they offer or stop offering healthcare all together. With our standard of living steadily declining due to decreasing annual incomes, the number of uninsured will continue to increase. The worst-case doomsday scenario shows that up to 66 million Americans will be uninsured if we remain on our current trajectory.

One of the biggest problems with the healthcare debate is the notion of whether or not all Americans should have some kind of coverage, regardless of who is providing it. There are many people who truly think things are fine the way they are, and if you can’t afford insurance for any reason, tough luck. This is absolutely unacceptable. The fact is, more access to healthcare in time will decrease costs. This is because more people will address illnesses because they reach critical mass. It is an unrealistic notion to assume once universal healthcare is passed, the emergency rooms will be flooded the next day. In fact, it would be the opposite – the empty clinics will once again have customers! In border states, many people travel to Mexico to get significantly cheaper healthcare. When Americans have access to healthcare, they will see traditional clinic doctors. This will lessen the burden on emergency rooms and save money there. This will also decrease the burden on Free Health Clinics, who rely on donations and volunteers to stay in operation. Also, ER doctors are required by law to treat anyone who comes to the ER. The patient will still receive a bill, but they don’t always pay it. Those expenses are passed off to you, dear taxpayer. There are a lot of savings like these that cannot be included in the Congressional Budget Office report because they cannot include projected savings, only actual savings on the ledger lines.

When talking about access to healthcare, we must also talk about the converse – denial of healthcare. While my worthy opponent CGen has, to a certain extent, denounced the claim of “death panels,” there are still many others who believe a government option would decide when to “pull the plug.” My question is, does this not happen already to some extent with private insurance? Our president’s own mother fell victim to the denial of coverage due to a “pre-existing” condition. And while we’ll never know the truth behind the insurance company’s decision not to cover her medical costs, doesn’t it stand to reason that a cancer patient with limited window of life expectancy would cost money the insurance company doesn’t want to pay? Now we can’t be too presumptuous here, only President Obama, his mother, and the insurance company knows the facts of this story. Still, these kinds of things happen every day. It has happened to people I know. People who have insurance don’t get proper treatment because the insurance companies find any way to not pay your claim. The right talk about the fear of your claim going through endless review from bureaucracy, but how is that any different from calling your private insurer, and having your issue moved up to tier 1, then tier 2, only to find you have to call billing and support, who then send you to tier 1 support, then tier 2 before they send you to their manager who informs you have to call the first number you called…

Many opponents of universal healthcare are saying something to the tune of “I’d rather see no healthcare bill passed than this one.” I don’t understand why so few on the right is talking about making this bill better rather than question whether or not such a bill should exist. Again, it is all about priorities – The American, or the American Dollar. I know we have the intellectual brainpower in this country to develop a plan that reconciles the need to ensure all American citizens have some kind of insurance while finding a way to curb the cost over a decade. That’s not what are conservative counterparts are talking about however. They are talking about reforming a system that they still give significant tax breaks to, that will continue to jeopardize the well being of American citizens in order to line the pockets of those who really control access to the system – private enterprise. If conservatives argued that we were trading one kind of control (private enterprise) for another (the government), then there would be consistency in their argument. However, the primary deniers of healthcare come from the very industry they are standing up for – private insurance. That is why we need some sort of public option to a) offset the balance of power for big business and b) dissuade private enterprise from cheating Americans out of the coverage they paid for with a competitor that will provide at least the basic services without question. Access to healthcare is the short-term and long-term solution to the healthcare crisis.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Episode 72: The LC – NCG Healthcare Debate!!

Ladies and gentlemen, the next series of posts will be special ones. In my last post I argued that we needed to put the rhetoric aside and engage in real, healthy, and fruitful debate on healthcare. Frequent visitor, good friend, incredibly smart and excellent right wing blogger who argues with great points, not baseless rhetoric, New Conservative Generation asked if I’d be interested in debating with him on the subject of healthcare, and of course I accepted – nothing fires me up more than a great debate! The debate with New Conservative Generation, CGen for short, will span the next few episodes. We will post our opening statements, and then over the next few entries offer several arguments on the various aspects of the HR3200 bill. You will find my rebuttals of his arguments on his blog (also found on the blog roll), and his arguments against mine right here on The L Comment. Please comment often and bring all your friends to this one because I’m sure it will be good. The finale of the debate will kick off the new “The L Comment: Sunday Comment” web radio show. CGen will be my first guest on the show and I will read and respond to some great comments on the show! Without further ado, my opening argument.


It is my opinion that Healthcare reform may very well be the single most important piece of legislation for President Obama, and arguably the boldest legislation in the past quarter century. America has tried and failed to reform healthcare 2 administrations ago, and the results are clear as day. We were happy with the status quo and as a result, healthcare premiums have skyrocketed, coverage has decreased, deductibles have increased, and most importantly, more people than ever before – 45 – 50 million Americans – are uncovered, unprotected. We have heard the tragic stories: the relative who died from a preventable illness because she had no health insurance, the brother whose unexpected illness costs so much money, his parents had to file for bankruptcy, and the young couple who work and have private insurance, who suffered from an illness the insurance company won’t cover, whole or in part, for a myriad of reasons. The time is now to put an end to all this and enact legislation that will provide some kind of health coverage for all U.S. citizens.

The right has made the healthcare debate a battle to maintain the moral and constitutional fiber of our great nation. I don’t disagree with the sentiment. I think it is moral to tend to all of our sick. I think it is moral that a nation as intellectually, morally, spiritually, and yes, even financially wealthy as ours to make healthcare a top priority. I think it is constitutional to enact legislation that will help our citizens fulfill the true meaning of the creed penned in our Declaration of Independence: “…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Thus, it is my goal to show you that the HR3200 bill is a one we must pass for the following reasons:

1) All American citizens should have access to at least basic healthcare services to help diagnose preventable diseases
2) Though a significant amount of capital is necessary to build the foundation for lasting healthcare reform, its result, including fewer visits to the ER for non-emergency procedures, focus on preventative medicine and procedures, and more competition to drive down costs will ultimately save money in the long-term
3) A Medical IT network, designed and implemented with private enterprises, will just about eliminate the bureaucracy, which will significantly increase efficiency, and further drive down costs (which are by law, not calculated in Congressional Budget Office cost projections)
4) America is not the leader in many aspects of our healthcare system – many aspects that could be fixed with healthcare reform
5) Private insurance, when left unchecked, is not a reliable solution for the healthcare crisis because they do not have the citizen’s best interests at heart

The most important factor to consider in this bill is we are trying to design a bold system that is uniquely American. There are many lessons to be learned – good and bad – from universal healthcare systems practiced in other modern nations. I strongly believe the debate should not about whether or not we have a universal healthcare plan, but rather how to implement one in a fashion that does not compromise our strength in medical technology, skilled practitioners, high quality healthcare facilities, and world-class medical research, while still being affordable for every citizen. It times of peril, America has always risen to the occasion by working together and staring the status quo straight in the eyes. We have won every time we were serious about major reform. This issue should be no different.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Episode 71: Red vs. Blue: Healthcare

There is a war going on. The war I’m talking about is not thousands of miles of away. It is right here in our backyard – The war on The American Healthcare System.

Tom Brokaw asked Obama and McCain a question in the debate that is so relevant to the healthcare debate, he might have had a crystal ball. He asked if the candidates thought healthcare was a right, privilege, or responsibility. This question is the crux of the healthcare debate. Debating this question has caused the most divisive political environment we’ve seen since Operation Iraqi Freedom. Let’s try to dig into the question a bit and try to understand the ideologies of each side and try and separate facts from myth.

If you are Blue, you most likely believe access to health is a right

I will state at the onset I most definitely squarely in the Blue side of this debate. I believe access to healthcare is as much of a right to free access to water. Being in good health should be like drinking from a water fountain; if I’m thirsty, I should be able to quench my basic human need for free. I am not always thirsty, but I know that whenever I am, I can get a drink. Humans can survive weeks without food, but we can’t go longer than a few days without water. I realize I could pay for premium water (Aquafina is by far my favorite) and there may be times when I want or need to do so. I also expect to pay for some kind of maintenance – I pay a quarterly water bill like most Americans. However generally speaking, being thirsty is rarely a concern I ever have because I know I have access whenever I need it.

Analogies aside, the other critical issue from the Blue point of view is there needs to be more emphasis on preventative measures. Everything from regular checkups to wearing condoms, to having medicine to treat diseases before they become major problems is an important aspect of Blue agenda. Preventative measures will ultimately cost the system far less, and also serve to make the emergency rooms more efficient because they will be treating real emergencies, not a bad case of the sniffles.

If you are Red, you most likely believe access to health is a responsibly

You work hard. You earn a paycheck. You raise a family. The fruits of your labor should be yours to enjoy. If healthcare is important to you, then you will go shopping for different providers, make an informed decision, and buy your own plan with your own money. The problem with people is they want things for free, and people who want and get things for free are less likely to work. Thus your hard earned paycheck is going to help some loafer who doesn’t do anything to help his own situation. But you have a heart. There is a local hospital you donate money to. You run the 5K race for cancer to help raise awareness and to do your part to contribute to your local community.

The critical issue for you is the feeling of losing the moral fiber of this country. “Obamacare” is a socialist plan that will kick start a series of big legislation that will turn this country to the United States of Sweden. You are not just fighting for your paycheck, but also for your way of life. Moreover, you have an natured or nurtured distrust for the government. We’ve watched our last President squandered a surplus. We’ve watched governors send their states straight to financial ruin. And a quick look at C-Span reveals many of our elected officials are spineless nincompoops whose head would fall off if it weren’t attached to their neck. So if the government is largely ineffective, then how the hell can they run the healthcare system?

If you think access to healthcare is a privilege, you are (hopefully) wealthy and will likely have to fund this program

I say hopefully because the word privilege would imply some people deserve healthcare while others may not. Because I’m a blogger, I do not need to abide my rules of objectivity; if this is your stance I think you are pretty heartless, and I’m dying to hear how you could possibly defend that stance. Unless…

…you are rich. If you make over $250,000 per year, your increased taxes will go toward paying for this plan. If you are paying a significant amount of money to fund a program, I think it is understandable to not want to give away your hear earned dollars to just anybody. However, if you make $250,000 or more, then you should’ve been seeing this coming all long because Obama made no secret about coming after your tax dollars. Therefore, if you voted for Obama and you choose not to believe what Glen Beck says, then you probably fall into the Blue camp. Conversely, if you voted for McCain or have been completely turned off by the democrat’s lack of focus on the issue, you stand with team Red.

The only thing I think most people can agree on is the system needs reform. That’s a start, but the problem with this debate, more so than most debates is we’ve hit a political stalemate because there is no middle ground here. If you think healthcare is a responsibility, there is no midpoint; I have to convince you it is a right all Americans should enjoy. Likewise I believe access to health is a right, and there is nothing you can say to change my mind. I got high fives from the right in my last post when I stated my displeasure with Obama to seize control of the problem, using a fire extinguisher to put out the fire in the living room while the whole house is on fire. While I love high fives, let me be clear, I still very much think every American should have healthcare.

That’s why the healthcare fight is so dirty. It’s an all or nothing bill. Each side is pulling out all the stops to push their agendas, and each side is pulling dirty, low-blow tactics. Right wing media has Glen Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and O’Reily as their champions, controlling the message, feeding the lies, misinformation, and conspiracy theories to delegitimize our President and his plan. Left wing media has Keith Olbermann, Chris Mathews, broadcast news, and NPR as their champions, controlling the message, hiding the true costs, future implications, and asserting their omnipresence to paint the right wing as crazy (which I still the far right is legitimately crazy), using the President’s popularity and conservative’s unpopularity to propagandize the effectiveness of this bill.

What is missing from this debate is the debate on the ISSUES! Read the blogs, watch cable news, look at the Daily Show or Dennis Miller, listen to the radio, read the paper… there is no good news to be found. Neither side can argue their point without resorting to a shouting match. Even the calm, cool, collected Obama has raised his voice in frustration during town halls.

If you read my blog, I think it is a fair statement that I try very hard to find middle ground in all the 70 debates we’ve had here. I am going to break character here and not find middle ground on healthcare. I’m going to state my case on healthcare, not on the grounds of costs, effectiveness, or deficits, but rather on the philosophy that access to healthcare is a right. I’m going to devote the next couple of debates convincing you, dear reader that healthcare is indeed a right. Bring your A game, because I’m bringing mine. If I do convince you however, then the question should be not whether we should have free access to healthcare, but how do we do that in a cost effective and American way. Let the debate begin.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Episode 70: Change We Could Believe In

There is a problem in America. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to live these days. Food costs too much, money is hard to come by, if you’re sick and uninsured, you’re screwed, and every solution seems to be a short term fix. There is a lot of talk in the Obama administration about looking into the future, and I do believe they are doing that. However, their eyes are so far down the road sometimes, it seems they lose track of the short term goals that need to be accomplished in order to achieve the long term goals. Let’s look at some things that have happened in my short absence:

Cash for Clunkers
A government program to entice people to trade in their cars to buy fuel efficient ones by receiving a $4500 credit on a trade for an old car. The program cost $1 Billion dollars, and it ended a few days ago. Ford, Chrysler, and GM reported their inventory was, for the first time in a long time, very low which is great news. Is it likely those sales figures will sustain with the closing of the program? Probably not. If you give a mouse a cookie, it will eat it. In essence, we spent $1 Billion dollars to make far less than that on sales and fuel savings.

This debate is just about over. The democrats lost control of the message and never got it back. During the campaign, Obama made it personal. He told the story of his dying mother who was arguing with insurance providers on whether her treatment would be covered because of pre-existing conditions. That was a great place to start the debate. During the campaign, Obama weathered the accusations and slander storm by sticking to the personal matters – the single mother with 3 children who works three jobs and attends all the PTA meetings, the elderly couple who saw their life’s work vanish in the stock market crisis, the teacher who has to teach 45 children in a small classroom that is 60 years old and in terrible repair. Now, he is going on the attack, playing the blame game, pitting democrats against republicans, and pretty much abandoned the spirit of cooperation he promised.

While I’m thinking of it, wouldn’t make a lot of sense to give small businesses the money for healthcare? They could split the costs of healthcare to make it more affordable to small businesses, offer free healthcare to Americans 18 and under who have social security cards, and provide unemployment health insurance like we do with jobs. That way, every business HAS to have a healthcare plan (which would be private) so every working American has healthcare. Unemployed Americans file for free healthcare using the same conditions for unemployment – showing they are actively looking for work, make less than X amount of dollars, etc.

The Economy
Jobs are still being lost at alarming rates. He campaigned to create or save 3 million jobs by creating more jobs at home, reinvesting in our infrastructure, rebuilding our schools, paving the way for 21st century innovations, and getting broadband access to every American. Yet he wants to tax the rich, tax businesses (mostly the larger ones), and still hasn’t fully addressed the banking situation that makes it difficult for small business owners to operate their businesses. Let alone effectively tackling the healthcare issue to ease the burden off small business. There is no shame in a democrat lowering taxes for businesses, especially small businesses, as long as we make provisions to reform the system and close the loopholes that help people to unfairly and unjustly benefit from the system.

The War
I have a deep post coming up on the war very soon. I’d like to ask my readers, on a scale of 1 -10, 10 being the highest, how much do you care about catching Osama bin Laden at this point? Personally, he has been downgraded to a “Target of Opportunity.” We lost 76 of our brothers and sisters in arms since the new Afghanistan plan. The exit strategy is just as non-existent as it was with Bush. While I’d never suggest they are fighting this war for nothing, Obama is going the absolutely wrong way about this war. Oh yeah, we’re STILL in war aren’t we…

I’ll defer to Nate Silver and his bulls-eye-accurate polling abilities for the actual numbers, but living in New York again, I live amongst the richest and poorest in the country. Going strictly by unscientific observation, I have concluded:

There is an inverse relationship between those who favor Obama and those who don’t, such that the less money one makes the more they love Obama and conversely, the more money one makes the less the like Obama.

For the middle class, it depends on your region and socio-political philosophy. While I’m upset with Obama, I do think that with much fine tuning he can regain control of his agenda, because I personally believe in doing things for the common good. However if you are of the belief that one’s treasures are his own, and it is solely his choice to decide who to share with, you probably don’t like Obama. The good news is Obama’s policies are consistent with his actions for his whole political career. He has spent his political life as the defender of the little guy, trying to get them to a point where they can compete with those of higher socio-economic status. He was especially successful with this approach early in his career as a community organizer, and was able to translate those results in the Senate. However as president, he must realize that diminishing the socio-economic gap is not the way to long-term economic prosperity and longevity, it is instead a by-product of invigorating the middle class. We saw this in the 90s with Bill Clinton. Part of the reason why crime was so low in my city of New York was a lot of people had jobs! It wasn’t catering to the poor class that generate jobs, it was creating opportunities for lower-middle class people to create the jobs that employed the poor class, thus lifting them up into the middle class, and lifting the once lower-middle class up a bar as well!

Such government programs like clunkers for cash, or local city programs like Jobs Corps do stimulate movement in the lower echelon of the socio-economic chain, but government programs have never been a suitable way to garner long term improvement of unemployment. They were intended to be ways to train employees for better jobs in private enterprise. When a government program is not used as it was intended, it becomes a serious drain on the state, which is exactly the opposite of what we need right now. In order for Obama to achieve his vision, he needs to get the middle class in action and now! No more arguing, finger pointing, and partisan crap. I think we all want the same thing, so let’s put our heads together and make it happen, starting with getting private enterprise back in the fold.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Episode 69: Capitalism: The Double-Edged Sword

A comment in my last post about my opinion on capitalism drew a bit of fire in the commentary. And rightly so… it was a bold statement that I didn’t have time to support in that post. Allow me to do so here.

At the onset, I’d like you, loyal reader, to know that I am very much of the capitalist mind. I think our version of capitalism is what makes our country so powerful. If you have a great idea, you are greatly rewarded for your contributions to society by amassing more wealth than some countries are worth. For example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs took the idea of a computer in this massive warehouse to a device that could fit in your office (now they fit inside a cell phone!) Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized how we navigate through the internet when they made Google (my FAVORITE company). Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin created Def Jam Records in an NYU dorm room. Not to be outdone, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his dorm and turned what was originally an interactive student directory into the #1 social networking site. This is capitalism at its best – find a missing part of our life, dream up a great idea to fill the void, and if the stars align, get paid a hell of a lot to make an impact on the country and the world.

Let’s scale back a bit. Let’s say I’m an awesome cook who could whip up the best tacos in town. After doing a market analysis, I see there is a Taco Bell, Miguel’s Tacos, and El Dorado Restaurant. So when I open up The Law’s Taco Shack, I may do some things like undercut the competition’s prices and offer a taco that tastes so good that it becomes a local brand. Brand recognition is one of the most important assets a business could have, as in this scenario I crush the competition, even putting Miguel out of business.

Let us scale back even more to the personal level. In our free market system, When I get a pay check, I have obligations to make like bills, and loan payments, but other than that, I’m free to spend my money how I please. If I want to save or invest it, I can. If I want to soup up my car and buy aftermarket parts, there is very little a government body can do to stop me. As long as my car passes the emissions test, I’m free to make my roadster as fuel inefficient as I want. Our system allows me maximum selection to buy any of life’s creature comforts like 57” Plasma Screen TVs, leather couches, or a post-modern table that is ugly as hell for $4000 if I want to. There is no government body that could stop me from spending my money as I please so long as my obligations are met.

I like – no, love our system. All the examples above is capitalism at its finest, even Miguel losing his shop to my business. My idea is better than his which in turn made his business lose its solvency. But our version of capitalism even helps Miguel from going to the economic crapper just because his idea no longer appeals to the people. When a business fails, there are numerous ways to get rid of your debt with little impact to the business owner (as long as it is not a sole proprietorship – then it gets a little tricky) and Miguel can quit, or he can come up with a new recipe and try again. Our system of private enterprise employs 80% of our workforce, and is in most cases very honest and legitimate companies. These small, medium, and some big business are completely exempt from my criticism of capitalism. The aforementioned people are the heart of our economic engine and deserve our support and thanks.

With that said, let’s continue forward to my comment from episode 68 that drew much criticism:
“The problem with amassing personal wealth is capitalism. It is the nature of capitalism that for one person to amass wealth, someone also has to lose wealth. Also, many people become addicted to making money, and do so with little to no consideration for others.”

In this quote, I’m referring to big business, namely in the financial, banking, credit, and pharmaceutical sectors. See the problem with big business is they start out with a great and noble idea to help Americans live their lives a little better than it was the day before. As they climb up the ladder, something changes. It becomes less about helping the people they originally wanted to help, and more about increasing their portfolios. Then these established companies hire people who never cared for the “little people;” they got in the investment banking business from the start to make money.

Look at the financial crisis. There were many factors that contributed to the collapse, but arguably the biggest factor (or at the very least the factor that cause the pot to boil over) was the gamble made in the subprime lending market. It was the greed by a few in the upper echelon of the biggest of big business that didn’t care about the American dream, they cared about making more money for themselves. Those business people would rationale their actions by saying they helped to give more people a shot at the American Dream. If it requires so much workarounds and trickery and number manipulation to get these people into those houses, that should’ve been a clue those were risky mortgages to make. Conservative minds may ask “who’s more foolish, the fool or person who follows the fool?” Both. But if we left the system alone, the one that looked at your financial history and determined based on your earnings if you qualify for a loan, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.

How about the pharmaceutical industry? We are a nation of magical pill poppers. We create diseases to cure so we can sell more medicine. We break the backs of middle class and lower echelon with skyrocketing costs of treatment. We had a government that blocked access to cheaper generic drugs from Canada to appease the big Pharma companies. Conservative minded people may talk about long lines at the hospital under a “socialized” health system, but what’s the difference between that and people not being able to afford medicine? Either way, the middle class is hurt. Case in point, a passerby reader of this blog told me a story on my Facebook page that her friend (who has insurance) needs a surgery which the insurance requires he pays $1000 AND 20% of the costs. Using my own surgery to estimate the cost, he’d have to pay $10,000 out of pocket, plus medicine and other fees. The big business system could care less about the fact that this expense absolutely crushes these young professionals is college educated, working, and has insurance.

That is what my statement means. As capitalism pays in dividends for the individual, someone has to lose. The insurance company could afford to cover more of the cost of treatment, but that means less profit which is bad for its portfolio. So they will do anything in their power *not* to pay for your coverage. The banks could loan money to people who have money to pay it back, but fewer loans means less profit. Add to that the complicated terminology (like credit default swaps), in addition to wrecking the life of one trying to aspire toward a better life for their family, these bankers passed the liability to someone else. Credit card companies could issued limits based on ones credit score, but that would mean less credit equals less interest, so they surprise you with credit line increases. Now yes, we don’t have to spend it, but when you have been laid off and do not qualify for unemployment (another program that causes rifts in conservative ideology) you need to live, and Mr. Gold Card becomes your best friend. To add insult to injury, they even lowered credit lines on some people and charged them penalties after the recession began to worsen! Combine that with super high interest rates and now a bad situation becomes worse for Joe Six –Pack. Not for the credit card Fat Cat CEO however. In the end big business is about making more money, and nothing else. That includes companies I applauded earlier, like Microsoft. They once had a great idea to help Americans compute better, but now they outsource almost all of their manufacturing and customer services overseas which deprives Americans of jobs. Yes, high government taxes drive away big business, but with a $23 Billion profit, I’m sure they could afford to employ more American workers. Apple does… (which hurts for me to say since I’m a windows guy!)

So to amend my statement, I should say “The problem with amassing personal wealth is capitalism. It is the nature of capitalism that for one person to amass wealth, someone also has to lose wealth *** and that person is almost the middle class American.*** And this post is not meant to give a pass to the government, as they do a lot of funky counterproductive stuff as well. If I opened that can of worms, this post would easily be 6-7 pages long. I will instead stop at two and a quarter pages and devote that topic for a post another day.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Episode 68: The American Heathcare Act of 2009

Healthcare is the hot button issue in today’s politics. Both sides have very strong opinions on the topic. Those on the right say “if you want health care so bad, buy it! If you can’t afford it, tough nuggets! “ Those on the left however say “Access to health is a basic right, and a nation as powerful as ours should be able to provide that service to all citizens.” Both sides however, agree that a great deal of reform must be done.

So the argument really boils down to basic liberal vs. conservative principles – the constant need to ensure a high standard of living for all, vs. the constant need to ensure a high standard of living for those who’ve earned it. Both sides raise very valid points, as well as some… let’s say not so plausible ones. In the end it all boils down to money. Liberals tend to want to use money to serve as many people as possible (which is falsely interpreted as socialism) while conservatives want to maximize personal wealth (which is falsely interpreted as selfishness and greed.) The problem with using money to serve as many people as possible (especially during a recession/depression) is the finite amount of capital in the coffers, which can only be made up in tax increases (since we can’t cut too many programs because we “need” them). The problem with amassing personal wealth is capitalism. It is the nature of capitalism that for one person to amass wealth, someone also has to lose wealth. Also, many people become addicted to making money, and do so with little to no consideration for others. Outlined here is the crux of the problem.

But enough pandering to both sides of the argument… this is the L Comment! And here at the L Comment, I like to come up with solutions to big problems because we can point fingers at each other all day and not move an inch. So without further ado, I present my new bill (I believe my third) The American Healthcare Act of 2009! This is the ultimate healthcare plan that will make everyone happy.

To begin, why are republicans so disgusted with the idea of public health care? Two reasons – cost and quality. Any other argument is a subset of the aforementioned issues. Anything that involves increase a tax, republicans hate it. They also fear losing options because the government will swallow up big business. In my bill, government healthcare and private healthcare HAVE to coexist.

Article 1: All Americans are guaranteed $3,200 worth of medical services per year

By utilizing a healthcare information technology (IT) network, each American will be entered into a national healthcare database. (Put you Ayn Rand books away, if you have a social security card, then you are already in a database!) This database would include your healthcare chart, family history chart, other relevant healthcare info (such as current prescriptions) as well as a healthcare credit. Each citizen is guaranteed $3,200 in free medical costs per year (this number is derived from the $960 Billion dollars already allocated for healthcare - let us for argument’s sake take Obama at his word - divided by 300 million, the rounded up estimate of legal American citizens.) At the end of the year the debit would reset to $3,200. Thus, if a person used all the money, they’d get it all back on January 1st. Likewise if their debit was at $3,100, the system would only add $100 on January 1st.

This money would go towards paying for basic medical services. Without insurance today, it costs about $750 to get a checkup. Since most people go to the doctor twice a year, this essentially would give a person 2 checkups and two visits, with money left for free medicine (prescriptions and over the counter). The goal is to provide some kind of assurance that one could go to a clinic, not an emergency room, to treat an illness because they know they can see a doctor at a clinic if they need to. For people working in government jobs, they could qualify for a Public Premium Plan (PPP). With a PPP, An employer adds an additional $9000 per year on the premium, which would give that individual $12,200 of coverage per year. This saves businesses about $3000 a year per person in health insurance costs. For private enterprise, they can offer their workers a Private Enterprise Plan (PEP). A PEP works just like a PPP, except they cannot participate in both a PEP and private option. Also, a PEP can chose a from a few more packages - $5000, $9000, or $12,000. If a private enterprise wanted to go with an all public option, they could with the $12,000 PEP, but since the public package offers nothing but healthcare credit, it is not always advantageous for private enterprise to use a public plan. Smaller businesses could use the $5000 PEP to save money, while still adding a little more assurance.

Article 2: Credits can be reallocated between family members

Family members can pool their credits together. Divorced couples can only pool money together with written consent. Thus in a family of 4, a family has $12,800 worth of healthcare credits (which is the avg. price of healthcare per year.) Children who claim dependent status (or after they turn 25) can no longer be included in the pool. This allows a family without private insurance more flexibility with doctor appointments and access to medicine.

Article 3: Non basic healthcare is paid for through loans

For anything larger than basic coverage and medicine, such as a surgery, the public option would involve using a loan process nearly identical to student loans. With the Stafford student loan, the government subsidizes part of the interest and puts a cap on the maximum interest rate (as of July 1st 2009, it went from 6% to 5.6%!) If you have an injury that requires a surgery and do not have private insurance, you can pay for your operation by taking out a government loan, which will also cap the interest rate and subsidize a portion of the loan. Congress can debate on the actual cap %, though 5.6% seems fair to me. The person can choose from several payment options: a 6, 12, 24, 48, 60, or 90 or 120 month payment plan. Obviously one should pay as soon as possible to avoid paying a lot of interest, but a 120 month plan could bring a loan to a very small and manageable price per month. Like the Stafford loan, a person can change the payment schedule or pay the loan in full immediately without penalty.

Article 4: Private Healthcare still plays a big role

Notice that I use the term private healthcare quite a bit. I do think that it is important to maintain a vibrant private healthcare system, because our version of capitalism enforces high standards through competition. All citizens are guaranteed $3,200 from the government, but it is not enough in some cases, namely if you have a chronic condition or a major surgery. Thus, it is still necessary to buy private insurance. There will be a lot of private insurance reform, namely eliminating the denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions and usage of generic medicine to save costs to name a couple, but the majority of major healthcare use will still be through private insurance. Private insurance companies will be required to be in the same medical database, largely to maintain a uniform system of record keeping and medical chart updates. Unlike the public plan, private insurance could offer many perks, such as a deductible for surgeries rather than taking out a loan, discounts for brand name medicine, and coverage for special operations, such as gastric bypass surgeries. However, under the new system, the public plan is built to coexist with the private plan. By offering a guaranteed $3,200 for basic coverage, that is money that the private insurers don’t have to spend. This can bring premiums down by that much money, lowering monthly payments for those already on a private system. Or they can budget the same amount of money to offer more competitive packages.

Article 5: Americans can choose their own doctor, or keep the one they have

Because the public plan is only a credit, there are absolutely no restrictions on which doctor one can see. For people using a PPP or PEP, they have maximum choice in the doctor they see because of the amount of credit they have to spend. People on private insurance are bound by the rules of their contract. Because of the complication of being able to choose your doctor under the public system and then having restrictions with private enterprise, I think private insurance companies will allow one to see any doctor. Also, with medical records being stored in a database using a universal protocol, there is little reason not to let one chose their own doctor anyway.

How much does it cost?

The price tag of the plan is 960 Billion. This will cost the taxpayers no money and it will not add to the deficit. In fact, it is 40 Billion cheaper than the proposed plan. The money for this plan comes solely from the reallocation of the funds for the current healthcare budget. Given our population is under 300 Million (because illegal immigrants do not have social security cards, they do not qualify to receive any funds.) To pay for the loan subsidies, revenue from the rollback of the Bush tax cuts will be used, as well as accrued interest on healthcare loans (money gains from healthcare gets reinvested back into healthcare). Over time, the costs will start to decline, as most people will not use all of their credit in one year. We should see an all around reduction in price because government offers basic services that private companies do not need to spend, and the number of people using emergency rooms as clinics should sharply decrease.

If you are on the left, you like this bill because: it offers every American citizen a piece of mind. It seems impossible to fund a full blown healthcare program without raising taxes or cutting a significant number of programs. However, because all Americans can get basic needs met and essentially get free medicine which does include over the counter medicine too, this act is a foundation for a universal healthcare system that is uniquely American in operation. As we pull out of the recession and look forward to better economic days ahead, more tweaks can be made to the system, like increasing the amount of credits per person.

If you are on the right, you like this bill because: you have to admit the idea of a little piece of mind that doesn’t compromise the already budgeted monies and costs nothing for you is a good thing. Moreover, healthcare remains in the domain of the private insurance industry. There are far better perks to getting a private plan that using the public option for credits and loans. In time you can find ways to streamline the process further to save even more money, such as further reform to reduce operational costs to lower the annual healthcare budget. However, and most importantly, this is in no way a government healthcare plan. The government is limited by the extent to which they can pay for health services, so a “government takeover” is no possible in this proposal

I submit this bill to you, readers of the L Comment… what say ye?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Episode 67: Sarah Palin Resigns? What?!

Sarah Palin never ceases to entertain. In the early days of this blog, I’ve spent a good amount of time bashing Palin because she is the worst kind of leader this country could have (by which I mean she is ignorant, uninformed, lacks intellectual curiosity, and lacks the culture to thrive in a national or international stage.) My guy won, so I saw no reason to continue the Palin bashing, and I was getting bored ding so anyways.

I hop on Facebook today only to find a bunch of links about Palin’s resignation on my feeds. Was this some kind of joke? So I read NY Times, Fox News, WSJ, and a few other sources, and lo and behold it is indeed true. Her reason? Because she can have a larger positive impact if she could travel around, presumably to raise her stock in 2012.

Sarah Palin are you crazy?! Do you realize being a governor is like being the president of the state of Alaska?? You have the perfect forum to show America your leadership skills! Take a stand on the economy, and sign legislation that sticks it to Obama’s face! Enact trade deals with Canada for oil and generic medicine to save your citizens some money! Use your executive power to travel across the country and speak with other governors… see what works in other states and how you can apply what you learned in Alaska! There are so many ways you can innovate and prove your mettle in Alaska, that one could only assume that you either still think the far right is going to get you into office or you simply have no sense whatsoever. Either way, I want you nowhere near the oval office. I can’t respect a politician who would abandon her people in the middle of an economic crisis to raise her own political stock. Absolutely absurd.

So much for my preliminary thoughts on this… it could change after more info is released, but I strongly doubt it…

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Episode 66: A Tribute to the King of Pop

I wanted to wait until more facts came out before writing this, but it seems news surrounding Michael Jackson will take weeks, even months to decode. This is the first celebrity death that has really hurt me. Michael Jackson is unquestionably my favorite pop musician by far. As a composer and producer, I have dissected his songs to uncover exactly how he makes such sonic magic on almost every single track. He was a major inspiration for many of my productions, especially when I first started. Looking at all the documentaries and Jackson movie that has been on a constant loop since his tragic death, I can’t help but feel a big hole in my heart.

Michael Jackson literally is the father of modern pop music. Every single act following him from Madonna to Justin Timberlake and everyone in between is an iteration of a Michael Jackson innovation. Multi-million dollar music videos? Grandiose live concerts? Provocative dance moves? It all started with Jackson. While Will Smith tried to capture lighting in a bottle with is multi-million dollar videos, Britney Spears tried to create the entire pop package with her videos, catchy beats, and out of this world live concerts, and Chris Brown tried to captivate his audience with some of the best dancing ever seen, no single artist other than Michael Jackson was able to successfully do it all.

I offer to you Michael Jackson, my four song salute – of all the many tracks I have put on repeat countless times, these are the songs that I have played the most! (It was originally three but I almost forgot one that I played 1000 times when I as a teenager!)

#1 “In the Closet” (Dangerous album) – The dangerous album was my first favorite album. I was in… 7th or 8th grade at its release and that is the age kids start listening to music. The breakdown on the pre-chorus still gives me goose bumps, and his “ahhhhhh (there’s) something about you baybeh” is so smooth. It is not his most popular song (though the music video got a lot of people’s attention) but it is by a good margin, my favorite song.

#2 "Give in to Me” (Dangerous Album) – Though many people will mention their favorite songs from the Thriller or Off the Wall albums, I grew up with Dangerous, so these are the songs I sing in the shower all the time! But Give in to Me was so eerie; I love how he switches from a desperate moan in the verse to full unabated anger in the chorus. This is the first Jackson song I memorized the lyrics to, and also the first pop song I learned to play on the guitar.

#3 “Liberian Girl” (Bad Album) – This song has one of the smoothest melodies know to man. In fact the notes he sings in the line “Liberian Girl,” that musical structure has actually come to define my style of composing! (When he says girl, he doesn’t resolve the note… in music this is called “suspension.” This technique has become the cornerstone of my writing style.) It is also the song I used to practice singing harmonies. In the chorus “Liberian girl/You know THAT YOU came AND YOU changed my world” The capitalized notes is the same type of suspension, but he resolves right away on the word “you.” It is my FAVORITE musical motif ever. Thanks Michael =)

#4 “Dirty Diana” (Bad Album) – Man does this song bring back memories! In junior high school, a friend who was as big a MJ fan as me used to sing this song with me everywhere… waiting for the bus, kickin’ our game to the ladies, and most memorable, at a school field trip to Great Adventure where, using 20 oz. soda bottles for microphones, we sang this song, dances moves, air guitar, and all, to anyone who’d listen… and drew a sizable crowd! Michael Jackson has sings this song with such a perfect delivery and also wrote yet another great melody! Also, this song marries the song and lyrical structure of the Blues with 80s Rock n Roll in a way no other artist could do it.

I will miss you Michael Jackson. I have stuck by you from the good years and the bad, and as long as there is a device capable of playing music, your legacy will continued to be passed along through my speakers! I could not help but well up a bit writing this, but they are tears of sorrow for losing my favorite artist, and tears of joy and gratitude for bringing me years of memories and musical guidance.

Michael Jackson, you are the best… may you rest in peace.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Episode 65: The Scoop vol.5

Hello and welcome to the scoop, a recurring post where every 13 episodes, I write three mini posts on topics I find interesting in the news. Why every 13 episodes? Well The first scoop episode was written for episode 13, so I thought it’d be fun to have a recurring theme. We’ll be continuing with the “Road to the 21st Century” series in the next post.

Minding Your Own Beeswax

Obama has come under some heavy fire from the right and even from some on the left about his reaction to the Iranian government with regards to the protest on the recent election. I think Obama is 1000000000% correct on his approach to the situation. We are not the global police department, and the people of Iran should be free to exercise their revolt free of influence from any country. Who meddled with our affairs during the Civil Rights movement? No one. We were free to beat the crap out of each other, spray people down with fire hoses, boycott busses, shoot college students, assassinate the leader of the movement, and send out the attack dogs into big crowds, all in the sake of fighting for one’s civil liberties to recognized under law. And because we were free to do that, we were able to evolve to the point where we elected Barack Obama. The Middle East will NEVER be solved with militaries or political posturing, but with spirited revolt like we’re seeing now. The Iranian people need to fight this battle alone. Now of course, if this becomes a situation where they are putting citizens in gas chambers, well of course we have to step in. But it is Americans constantly sticking our noses in places where it doesn’t belong, all in the sake of moral superiority that really pisses off other nations. I’m glad Obama has the good sense to “see how it plays out.”

Yet Another Reason Why Public Health Options is a Good Idea

Brave Captain Sullenberger, used all the skills in his arsenal to safely land the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson river that fateful winter day. He is a true American hero, humble and incredible modest about his amazing feat. It was the feel good story to kick off 2009… until now. Some months after the event, it dawned on the people of that flight that “hey! Our luggage, wallets, laptops, important documents, and personal belongings were in that plane too and they are now at the bottom of the river!” In such a case, one would make a claim to the insurance company to reimburse their lost possessions. Not in this case. US Airways’ insurer AIG refuses to pay out insurance claims. Why? Because the insurance company claims that in order to pay claims, there has to be negligence on the part of the airlines. Captain Sullenberger was anything but negligent.

Here is a more relevant story, about how private health insurance companies screw over their customers. This is what big business does!!! It is not about your health, or providing you coverage, or insuring that an emergency surgery won’t send you to the poor house. It is 100% about making profit, using human life as commodities. It is absolutely disgusting. What big business does is horde money so they can increase the size of their wallets at other people’s expense. Insurance companies try like mad to pay as little money as they possibly can, your illness be damned. I am always up for debate on the particulars, but I stand firmly on my belief that there should be a national healthcare plan to avoid crap like this.

Proud to be an American!

USA beat the #1 ranked soccer (yes SOCCER!) team Spain to advance to the FIFA championship! I imagine that it must piss off countries when we win in sports Americans don’t even like that much! In America, soccer is one of those sports that’s awesome until senior year of high school. If you’re good, you play in college, but by then football and basketball is more fun to watch. So while I’m far removed from the sport now, I’m happy about the win because I played goalie on a championship team in 6th grade, and when I play the EA Sports FIFA 2010 demo for PlayStation 3, I can use USA as my team, since demos only give you the teams that go into the championship game. I have no reason to shell out $60 bucks for the game now!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Episode 64: Preliminary Thoughts on Healthcare


This one will be short and sweet as I just want to post a quick reaction to Obama’s speech on healthcare. Personally, I’m thrilled that he is making a serious commitment to a revamped healthcare policy. I am 100% for universal healthcare, and the plan he laid out today makes a heck of a lot of sense to me. I was keeping a rough tab on the spending cuts he wants to make in order to realize his bold plan. Isn’t this the very thing conservatives have been saying all along, that Medicare and Medicaid were crippling our healthcare system? Aren’t these the kind of cuts the exact kind of thing they wanted all along? Isn’t the conservative plan to create a system to end the inefficiencies in our current healthcare plan? Obama addressed these things in the speech and Republicans are still shaking their fists.

The problem here has nothing to do with the practicality of Obama’s plan and everything to do with conservative ideology. It doesn’t matter how useful or important a government program is, if Uncle Sam’s face is on the logo, they don’t want it. What most people fail to realize is the government programs is not the failure, it is the practitioners. Our schools don’t suck because it is a government program; they suck because the nation by and large is using an obsolete educational model. There are great teachers and great schools, but the great results are localized. The truth is the free market school system isn’t much better. Sure the quality of education may be better, but in terms of retention and comprehension, the numbers are about the same as public school education.

I’m personally sick and tired of the free market crapping all over people. If you are uninsured, going to the doctor for a simple checkup costs more than taking a college course, more than round trip airfare from New York to London, more than nice dress suit, and many other things. How is this right? Pre-existing conditions? Even if you are insured, you may not get the coverage you need because the insurance won’t cover it. I know of a few people who filed for bankruptcy because they had a major emergency surgery. Even an ambulance will hit you for a few grand. I like the framework, and I’m excited to see how it shapes up in the coming months after rigorous debate. So I will submit to you dear reader my thesis for the upcoming post on healthcare (probably Episode 66 or so): A nation’s wealth is not only determined by its GDP, but also by its standard of living, their health, their educated workforce and the gap between the richest and poorest. Healthcare in many ways ties all of the aforementioned elements together. Those are my thoughts… more to come soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Episode 63: Part 2


“Road to the 21st Century #1 – Reinvest in Human Capital”

The next few posts will be part of a series called “Road to the 21st Century” where I will outline my ideas on how to get our country back on track, mainly focusing on the long term strategies for building a successful economy that this “bubble and bust” proof. Because manpower is critical to any successful economy, I thought we’d start right at the source, education. Thus this post is a continuation of “Episode 54:” In that post I laid out my educational philosophies, so rather than rehash them, give that one a quick glance over, and fell free to add anymore thoughts to the comments.

Our Competition for the best minds

Let us begin by examining who we are up against for the best minds of the 21st century. In one corner, you have China. China’s success in becoming an emerging power is largely due to two factors: they are communist, so the government solely dictates the direction of the country without pesky things like individual freedoms, and second, they have historically embraced education, considering the military class as the low class. I’m sure the playing field is a bit even for the two groups these days, but China’s embracing scholastic endeavors makes them a step ahead of us on the road to the 21st century.

Our other competition is really the rest of Asia, whom we can lump in one big category. Japan will continue to be the electronics capital, Singapore the communications capital, and Taiwan is posing themselves to be the computer manufacturing capital. Where is America in this equation? Sadly, we are absent. Because we have become a nation of consumers, the spotlight shifts to the companies who are making things. Because we are not consuming these days, we inadvertently leveled the playing field in our favor. I do not consider Europe to be much of a threat right now. They are more our partners than competitors, and though they are leading on technologies in green tech and telecommunications (though Apple is giving them a run for their money), many of their inventions are only viable once they hit the US market. I suspect this is mainly due to Americans really being the best consumers in the world, and their more socialist tendencies make it harder to reward great innovation.

It Begins With the Babies

In order to rebuild the American workforce, we need to start with the babies. Yes, the babies. By which I mean pre-school education. Kids have a super incredible brain for the first 9-12 years of their life. Their neural pathways have not been set yet so they can pretty much learn the basics of anything you throw at them. I have seen 11yr olds who are completely trilingual (English, Spanish, and Chinese). I have seen 9 year olds with a great baseball swing. Any kind of repetitive task they do, they swallow it up until about age 12, when the neural pathways are set. Then, they spend the rest of their life refining their skills palette. In order to rebuild the new workforce, we need to invest in early childhood education. I believe that it should be a requirement for one year of preschool. In this year, they would learn the basics, shapes, colors, the alphabet, etc. That way they can start with grammar and phonics in kindergarten. This would essentially put the students a whole year ahead of our current system. I am in a minority of people who believe this, but we should teach both English and Spanish in preschool, and then a third optional elective in junior high school. Most every child in any other country can speak two languages; I believe we should do the same.
The free market can play a big role here. To alleviate the costs of preschool education, and make a transition to a required program, we can utilize the already numerous preschool institutions that exist rather than building new schools.

Obama’s Outline for Elementary, Secondary, and Higher Education

Once out of preschool, I believe education should largely remain in the public domain. Obama has budgeted $135 Billion for education. He hasn’t fully addressed this issue yet, so let’s talk about what he has said thus far. First let us remember that a lot of this money does go into teacher training. As I have argued, many teachers do not seem to be prepared to educate the new breed of student who is fully immersed in technology. Second, the money is going into increasing teacher salaries, which I believe is very fair, since it is one of the toughest jobs out there (bias placed aside here). Finally, a large portion of the money is going into rebuilding projects to repair and modernize schools with new computers, science labs, and learning centers. The rest of the money should be delegated by the states.

While states should have the say in how to run their school system so it is in line with their budgetary needs, there needs to be a national standard. The lack of a national standard makes it nearly impossible to benchmark states against states, and our country against the world. In music, we have national standards, but they are optional, and are not required in the lesson plans we submit to administration. This is a BIG problem. Without a standard, education is a free for all, and students from different states receive unequal education which defeats the purpose of a public school system. For example, I am a New York certified teacher. Because NY has some of the toughest education standards in the country, my certification is good in most every other state. Florida on the other hand has some of the weakest standards. By implementing national standards, all the students and teachers should be on the same page, ensuring the entire country is well prepared for higher learning.

Obama has stated his belief that all students should attend at least one year of technical school or higher education. While this shouldn’t be required, I also believe that it will become a prerequisite for most every job in the 21st century. I argued in the previous post that ideas are what will be most valuable in the new economy and manufacturing will largely be deferred to Asia. Thus a college degree or technical certificate would give the new workers of the future specialized skills to perform building tasks. I believe that instead of manufacturing goods, the workers of the new economy will be building lots of prototypes. Thus a failed auto industry scenario is impossible because a worker wouldn’t be manufacturing only one thing; any building project that requires special knowledge of photo-voltaic cells would have a worker trained for that task. The demand for specialists means they would earn a higher wage, and that there should be some kind of work awaiting students upon graduation.

Closing Remarks

Preparing our country to compete in the global economy requires investment in the American people. We need to increase the educational standard, and economically incentivize getting an education. It is becoming less and less of a choice as we progress anyway, as jobs that require no education need a high school diploma or GED. Jobs that needed a high school diploma need a bachelors, and so on. With a new teacher workforce, and employing the educational philosophy discussed in Episode 54, and following through with Obama’s vision for education, I have no doubt that the next generation of students will far surpass the output of the rest of the world. We have the brains, the motivation, and the competitive culture to make it work. All that is missing is a foundation commensurate with the 2sy century.

Stay tuned for the final part in the series “Free Market vs. Public Education”