Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Modern Medicine and Let Them Eat Cake Politicians

I finally received a bill for my open heart surgery in April.  See I’m back!

The bill for the initial surgeon’s visit and the operation is $20,280.50.  The five days of hospital stay are not included.  My bill for three-plus hours of surgery after Medicare and supplemental insurance: $50.50!!

What I pay monthly for insurance is $178.90 for Medicare and supplemental insurance plus $83.70 for prescription drugs.  This is deducted from my Social Security.  My wife pays the same amount.

According to, individual coverage averaged $321 per month and family plans averaged $833.  The annual deductibles were $4,358 and $7,983.

To pay the individual deductible, a person would have save about $84/week or two dollars an hour.  For the premiums, a person would have to save about $74/week.  Together that is $158/week or $3.95/hour.  At a minimum wage of $9/hour, that doesn’t leave much for food and rent.  Without insurance, a year’s wage of $9/hour would not even cover the above bill.

And lots of politicians and millionaires think these individuals should be happy with what they get.  I don’t wish Marie Antoinette’s fate on these “let them eat cake” thinkers, but someday there will be a widespread realization that the people at the bottom of the economic are being taken advantage of.  Let’s hope they find better “champions” than Donald Trump and his ilk.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Muslims Do Speak Out

I was listening to Swedish Radio’s weekly news podcast, “Good Morning World” when I heard a piece on “Arabs got talent” ( It has 100 million viewers, a figure many programs can only dream of.

I thought it strange that I had never heard about it.  Searching the New York Times, I found a recent article that mentioned “Arabs Got Talent”, only because a network official involved in an anti-ISIS program is a “Talent” judge.

The NYT article mentions a series “Black Crows”, a dramatization of some of the atrocities committed by ISIS.  It will be broadcast during Ramadan.  Many families will spend more time watching TV than usual.   Ramadan (in the U.S.) begins begins the evening to 26 May and ends the evening of 24 June.  During this time Muslims fast during daylight hours.

See "Arab TV Dramatizes Life under Isis", Ben Hubbard, New York Times, 2017-05-16,

The only other reference in the New York Times to "Arabs Got Talent” was about an American, Jennifer Grout, who plays the oud (an Arab lute) and has learned many Arabic songs.  At the time she didn’t understand much Arabic, but according to she now speaks fluent Arabic

A few other sources for Arabic news are

Interestingly, from Morocco World News I found out about a women-led mosque in California.

Muslims do speak out; are you listening?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Deliberate deception from “The Greatest Deliberative Body”

Speak up about the usurpation of legislation by the few.  See “It’s Time to Worry about Health Care in the Senate”, David Leonhard, New York Times, 2017-05-23.

My own letter to was
Just over two months ago, the Senate "listened" to Washington's "Farewell Address".  Have you already forgotten his warning about factions?

The Senate has been called "the world's greatest deliberative body".  It has now become the deliberate mouthpiece of the Koch brothers and their ilk.
Be sure to send a copy of your email to your own senators, regardless of their party.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Does the Senate really believe Washington's Farewell Address?

I posted the following to “Will the Presidency Survive This President”, Eric Posner and Emily Bazelon, New York Times, 2017-05-20

Dear Reader,

Every year on Washington's Birthday, the Senate has one of its members read George Washington's "Farewell Address".  You can find a copy at

Your homework assignment is to read George Washington's "Farewell Address" and send both your Senators a quote that you feel is appropriate to current events.

You probably can find many quotes that support what the Senate is doing and that chastise them for not following the advice Washington gave.

Two that stand out for me are his warning about factions and the danger of foreign entanglements, both with friend and foe.

Leader of the free world?

Please, let's stop calling the president of the U.S. "the leader of the free world". First, the president of the U.S. is historically elected by a minority of eligible voters in one country. Second, the "free world" includes plenty of dictatorships.

Comment posted to "4-year-Olds Don't Act Like Trump", Alison Gopnik, New York Times, 2017-05-20

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

When the World Is Led by a Child

Comment to New York Times article by David Brooks (note: Brooks is considered a conservative)

George Washington warned about the abject support of Trump by the Republicans:

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

Every year on Washington's birthday, a member of the Senate reads Washington's "Farewell Address". And every year the Senate ignores his advice by dividing itself along party lines. We now see almost lockstep support of Trump by Republicans and lockstep opposition to Trump by Democrats.

Maybe someday the the voters will grow up and elect grown-ups to political office.

Constitutional Amendments: Government Power Versus Personal Rights

Originally published in the
Reader Weekly
November 25, 2004

I don’t know how many constitutional amendments have historically been before Congress, but in the last two decades it almost seems Congress has been flooded with them.

I did a Google Search and a search of the House of Representatives web site for “constitutional amendment”; both yielded thousands and thousands of results.  I narrowed my search to the House Judiciary Committee and got a mere 6652 hits.  However, I had a hard time finding more descriptive material in them.  I went back to the Google search and looked into several of the first 80 items.  From various sources I succeeded in finding ten currently proposed amendments.

Marriage Protection Amendment (H. J. 106)
Constitutional Rights for Victims (S.J. Res. 1, H. R. Res. 10)
Desecration of Flag (S.J. Res. 4, H.J. Res. 4)
Balanced Budget (H.J. Res. 22)
Religious Freedom (H.J. Res. 46)
Abortion Ban
Continuity of Government (H.J.Res. 83)
Naturalized Citizens for President (H.J. Res. 104)
Natural Born Citizen Act (S.2128)
Direct Election of the President (H.J. Res. 109)

Some readers will think all these amendments should be adopted and some will think some of them are frivolous.  I put the relevant House or Senate bills after most of these.  You can find their text, current status, and related information by searching from The Library of Congress' Thomas by bill number or keywords.

I didn’t put a bill number by Abortion Ban because I could not find a bill that seemed to directly relate to it.  All the bills I scanned seemed either to limit it or limit its prohibition.

I think we should ask four questions about any proposed amendment to the Constitution.

1. Does it define the structure and purpose of government?

2. Does it preserve the checks and balances?

3. Does it extend the power of government or does it extend the rights of persons?

4. Will it really work?

If you read the original Constitution, you will find that it mostly defines how the government should work and defines broadly what functions each of the three branches has.  It doesn’t get into details of what people may or may not do; those are left to particular laws, their administration, and their judicial review.

We who were fortunate enough to take civics and American history learned repeatedly that the framers of the Constitution did not want one branch of the government to dominate the other.  They were especially wary of a king-like executive.  They were divided on how strong the federal government should be.

The first ten amendments (The Bill of Rights) were to correct a flaw many critics felt the original Constitution lacked – protection of the people from an all-powerful government.  Unfortunately, although Congress thought it had a clear vision of what those rights should be, many people have distorted them to either claim a greater right than Congress intended or claim a right does not cover certain situations.

Will an amendment really work?  History gives us mixed lessons on this.  The amendment that flopped the most was Prohibition – it really was interpreted by a large number of people as a restriction of their freedom. On the other hand, the Fifteenth Amendment, the right to vote regardless of race or color, took decades to be enforced.  Some feel that it is still not uniformly enforced in all States.

Let’s take a quick peek at some of the amendments I listed and see how they satisfy my four questions.

Marriage Protection Amendment

It could be argued that this defines a purpose of government, but that is a stretch.  It really is an extension of the power of the federal government at the expense of individuals and the states.

The best comment I found was by Rep. Jim Davis of Florida.  “Personally, I believe marriage should be a bond between a man and a woman; however, I voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment because I also believe the United States Constitution should protect rights, not deny them, and states should have the right to decide whether same sex marriages should be recognized within their borders.”

If it is to be considered an extension of people’s rights and a protection of marriage, then maybe the first sentence should read “Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman and they shall be considered equal partners.”

Will it work?  It certainly won’t prevent two men or two women living together.

Constitutional Rights for Victims

This amendment enjoys bi-partisan support.  It essentially guarantees that victims of violent crimes be informed of proceedings against the accused, be allowed to heard at public proceedings, and be protected from further injury.  It does have a loophole about restrictions “dictated … by compelling necessity.”

It definitely extends the rights of some people though others would say it limits the rights of the accused.

As to preserving checks and balances, the judiciary prefers a statutory approach to victims' rights over a constitutional amendment.

Religious Freedom

This is the wolf in sheep’s clothing of amendments.  In the guise of protecting freedom it extends the power of government to promote religion.  The catch is the use of “people” instead of persons, such as in “The people retain the right to pray…”  Does this mean that if the majority determines that a public gathering will have a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim prayer, then the minority must sit quietly by while a prayer that they find offensive is given?  Is the “people” a local government that will specify the prayers?  Would an evangelical Christian be happy if all local government functions began with a Muslim prayer?

Special Elections/Appointment (Continuity of Government)
Naturalized Citizens for President
Natural Born Citizen Act
Direct Election of the President

These are the only amendments in my list that I think really satisfy all of the questions I posed.  My only caveat is, will they work as intended or will they have some serious unintended consequences?  The Continuity of Government is opposed by many representatives because it doesn’t guarantee quick elections to replace representatives.  The Naturalized Citizen amendment is called the “Schwarzenegger Amendment” but it could apply equally to Jennifer Granholm, the Canadian-born, Democratic governor of Michigan.  The Natural Born act is more limiting in that applies to people whose citizen parents happened to be elsewhere at the time of their birth or to people who immigrated as children.  Direct Election essentially abolishes the Electoral College.

Let’s hope that these four get more attention than the others and that Congress and the State legislatures deliberate them openly and honestly.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Regulations are good: for our competition

So-called free-marketers are constantly complaining about regulations.  Donald Trump claimed he would get rid of two regulations for every new regulation,.  Gosh, do you think he would drop the regulation of concealed-carry in the White House?  But that is a whole ‘nother subject.

What triggered this little outburst of mine was an article in the Reader Weekly from Wisconsin Public Radio ("Trade Dispute May Have Mixed Results for Wisconsin”).  It contained a story “Wisconsin Lawmakers Consider Sales of Home-Baked Goods Once Again”.  You can find the original story at

“In previous sessions, food industry advocates have brought up concerns about food safety…”

It would be interesting to know who these “food industry advocates” are and if they have ever complained about government regulations for the safety of their own products.

To be fair, many recall articles do state how a company is working with the government to improve.  After all, good companies are always concerned about their reputation for quality.

All's fair in love and war...and politics too!

Republicans are complaining that Democrats are making some points of Trumpcare political.  Gosh, where were they in supporting President Obama with the Affordable Care Act.  Do you remember the charges of "death panels"?  Taking away our "freedom of choice"?

Friday, May 05, 2017

Guns allowed, giggles not

At the confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Desiree A. Fairooz said she merely giggled. Prosecutors gave a different account.


Trump Care for Congress and President

Suggested amendment to Trump Care in the Senate:

On passage of this bill, all government health insurance for members of Congress and for the President and members of his Cabinet shall cease.  If the “free market” is good enough for the people, it should be good enough for Congress and the President.

If it is good enough for us geese, then it is good enough for the ganders in Washington!

I sent the above to Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.  If you are a U.S. citizen, I hope you will send something similar to your senators.  You can find their email links via