Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We Need National Healthcare (And Dental Care) For All Citizens, Funded By Income Taxes.

We pretty much know the position of the right-wing on healthcare and every other issue. They want taxes paid by working people to be used for war and corporate subsidies, nothing else. They do not want any public services funded by taxes, which means get rid of public education, police, firefighters, transportation, airports, beaches. Sell off everything owned by the public, turn it over to hedge funds and private equity funds where the rich and the politicians they own amass their fortunes in secret, and let them charge citizens a dollar for a drink of water, fifty cents to drive on the freeway, a quarter to flush their toilets. We know this because we spend a lot of time looking at the right-wing.

What we should be doing is looking at the liberals, because that is the real problem. If they simply stood up for what is good and right, the right-wing would at least face a counter narrative. The refusal of democrats to stand up for the citizens is what caused this problem in the first place. Should we have a national healthcare (and dental care) for all citizens? Yes. How should it be funded? By a progressive system of taxation, just like all other basic services in a modern society. The failure of democrats to promote a system funded by our taxes is what has caused the current problems in the court.

Further, the democrats have failed to reform healthcare in the only way that was truly needed: cut the costs. Under the democrats' plan, people will still be sucked dry by the healthcare system while insurance companies, doctors, hospitals and drug companies make billions in obscene profits. The only thing the democrats did was force more impoverished citizens to turn their paychecks over to the Medical Industry, or face government-imposed fines.
If we had a national healthcare and dental care system for all citizens, funded like all social programs from our progressive income tax system, the government could then set prices and fees for medical care, eliminate much of the waste paid to the health insurance industry, and make healthcare reasonable and affordable. What is the effect of the individual mandate? 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured are ordered by the government to buy health insurance from a private supplier, in a for-profit market.

Let's say each pays $300/month, $3600/year. That is $180 Billion Dollars a year that the democrats have funneled into the Medical Industry to be divided up among the major players, some of the wealthiest people and businesses in our country: doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and insurance companies.

What would we say if Republicans passed a law to funnel $180 Billion into their pet industries every year, out of the pockets of already impoverished working people? Wouldn't we see that for what it is: a corrupt, disgusting misuse of power to further enrich private interests which presumably will pay enormous kick-backs to the democrats. Wouldn't you?

Why were these deals negotiated in secret, right from the outset? One of the first things Obama did was meet secretly with the leaders of the Medical Industry. He didn't meet with the citizens, didn't solicit our views. He met with the rich people, and asked them what they want.

We are told constantly that children with preexisting conditions can now buy insurance. The total number of people in the U.S. with preexisting conditions, from an insurance perspective, was estimated by the white house at around 12 million people. But not all of those are people who could not get insurance. Like me -- I had a back problem and had to pay 10% extra.

But even if all 12 million could not get insurance, 3% of the population, that is not a significant reform for the rest of us -- the 97%. It's just tinkering around the edges. "Allowing" parents to continue to pay for their kids' insurance once they're 21 is also not a big benefit, since kids don't cost much anyway, and the parents always could have just given the kids a check to buy their own insurance.

So instead of a true reform -- such as allowing people over 50 to buy into Medicare, people under 21, gradually embracing more groups -- instead we get a meaningless tiny reform which does not benefit most of us and, in any event, with respect to the individual mandate is unconstitutional. The federal government has no authority to order citizens to purchase goods or services from a private business. It's an absurd idea which should strike terror into the heart of anyone with a brain and I hope it is stricken.

If the individual mandate was upheld, the next government would order us to buy $1,000 worth of software for each kid in school (sold by a business which pays enormous bribes to the politicians), and anything else they want to force us to buy on the most absurd claims that the commerce clause allows it.

If the individual mandate is stricken, maybe the democrats will get real, or maybe not. But stop pretending they did something significant. My own premiums (self-employed) went from $340/month to $600/month in 2 years. Thanks for nothing Democrats.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Nato Protests: The World Says No To Nato

(Nato Protests - Oslo, Norway)

Nato is an "alliance" (or "conspiracy" as some would say) of twenty-eight countries, as follows: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Or, in other words, Nato is the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, England, and a few eastern European and otherwise tiny and/or bankrupt countries who presumably were given money in exchange for pretending to be part of the conspiracy.

(Nato protests Pakistan)

Nato was formed in 1949, after World War II and after the post-war anti-communist hysteria had taken hold in the U.S. Its stated goal is to promote peace but also provide for the "collective defense" of member nations. So if somebody attacks California, in other words, Slovenia will rush to our defense. Makes it easier to sleep nights knowing we have the mighty empire of Slovenia on our side. And, as a back-up, Slovakia is right there behind them.

(Nato protests Chicago)

The obvious truth is that Nato simply is a shell entity which gives the U.S. an excuse to intervene in Europe and other nations, to act as a roving military threat to Russia and China. We're everywhere. We have the open invitation of Europe to participate in their wars.

(Nato protests, Lisbon, Spain)

The organization of Nato is a great example of how democracy, and the right to have a voice in the nation, has been taken away from citizens and transferred to entities with silly names, which allegedly make the decisions. So the U.S. doesn't decide to attack Libya: Nato did. The citizens of the U.S. have no voice because our government did not make the decision -- Nato did. So they say. 

(Nato protests, Ukraine)

It's just like the citizens no longer have a voice in our economy, because the World Trade Organization makes all the decisions. Our government shrugs it shoulders and says: we can't do anything about it. That's what the WTO ruled. All of these groups need to be disbanded, and our involvement rescinded as nothing more than a fraud on the people.

What we do not have is the consent of the U.S. people to have our government voluntarily agree in advance to use our money and military in other nation's wars. The government has agreed that if any one of the member nations is attacked, the U.S. will "pretend" that we were attacked. But our constitution does not authorize war in response to pretend attacks. If we were not attacked, then any waging of war by the U.S. is a war of aggression, which is unconstitutional, illegal, and a war crime.

There is nothing in the constitution which authorizes our government to be the world's military, simply choosing to involve ourselves in any war, anywhere, if the president feels like it. If the government wants to involve the U.S. in somebody's else's war, since the constitution does not authorize the government to do that, they would have to hold a special election, and let the citizens decide whether to do so or not. Any war, or war activity carried out by the U.S. government pursuant to any alleged authority under Nato or other similar schemes, is unconstitutional and unlawful.

(Nato protest, Naples, Italy)

The supposed justification for the Nato attack on Libya was Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, below. It provides for mutual defense in the event of an "armed attack" against a member nation. And yes, you will be wondering: "what armed attack on a Nato country?" because there wasn't one, but let's not get tied down in trivia.  

Article 5   The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

(Nato protests, Afghanistan)

I know you're thinking the same thing I am: Where's Libya? Isn't Libya a part of Nato? Didn't Libya sign on to this conspiracy of nations? No, it's not a part. So exactly why was Nato attacking Libya? Which European nation did Libya attack? Or even threaten? The answer is none. Yet Article 5 clearly required an "armed attack" against a member nation in order for Nato to start dropping bombs.

Libya had an internal conflict between the existing government and a group of its own citizens who were trying to overthrow the government. Nobody attacked Europe, nobody did anything that would justify a Nato armed attack on Libya. Why is the U.S. invading Libya using this phony European "common defense" conspiracy and claiming that makes it legitimate?

(Nato protest, Strasbourg, France)

We need to get out of Nato, and start enforcing our own constitutional limits which prohibit wars of aggression. The military spending by Nato members represents 70% of the military spending in the world. It's not just a conspiracy, it's a well-armed one.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stagger Lee


Stagger Lee was a well-known song in the Mississippi Delta region at least by the early 1900s. The first known published version of the song was by folklorist John Lomax in 1910. The song is based on the murder of William "Billy" Lyons by Stagger Lee Shelton. The song was first recorded in 1924.

In 1959, Lloyd Price had a hit with the song. But Dick Clark decided that the lyrics were too controversial for his American Bandstand, so a second version was made in which there was no murder, just two men arguing. Lloyd Price's original version (with the murder) reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and is ranked #456 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The song has been recorded by over 400 artists. Among other artists who have recorded a version of the song are Mississippi John Hurt, the Grateful Dead, the Clash, Nick Cave, R.L. Burnside, Keb Mo, Pat Boone, James Brown, Neil Diamond, Fats Domino, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom Jones, Beck, and Elvis Presley.

Margaret Walker and James Brown wrote poems using the song. It has also been used as the basis for novels, short stories, and a stage musical.

The story of Stagger Lee is of a murder which took place in a St. Louis saloon on Christmas Eve, 1895. Stag Lee Shelton was a black pimp, and he shot William "Billy" Lyons with a forty-four. Supposedly right before the killing, Williams had grabbed Shelton's hat from him, so Stagger Lee shot him dead.

The night was clear,
and the moon was yellow
And the leaves came tumblin' down.

I was standin' on the corner
When I heard my bull dog bark
He was barkin' at the two men
Who were gamblin' in the dark

It was Stagger Lee and Billy
Two men who gambled late
Stagger Lee threw a seven
Billy swore that he threw eight

"Stagger Lee," said Billy
"I can't let you go with that
"You have won all my money
And my brand-new Stetson hat

Stagger Lee went home
And he got his .44
He said, "I'm goin' to the ballroom
Just to pay that debt I owe

Go, Stagger Lee

Stagger Lee went to the ballroom
And he strolled across the ballroom floor
He said "You did me wrong, Billy
And he pulled his .44

"Stagger Lee," said Billy
"Oh, please don't take my life
"I've got three hungry children
And a very sickly wife"

Stagger Lee shot Billy
Oh, he shot that poor boy so hard
That a bullet went through Billy
And broke the bartender's bar Go, Stagger Lee,

Go, Stagger Lee. Go, Stagger Lee. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Brendan Behan (1923-1964)

Brendan Behan (1923-1964) was an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist and playwright who was also a member of the Irish Republican Army. He was born in Dublin to a working class family. His father was a house painter who had been active in the Irish War of Independence, and was himself an educated man and a fan of literature and history. His mother was even more political, and had been a personal friend of Michael Collins. Brendan Behan had a brother, Brian, who was also a well known playwright and radical political activist, and two of his uncles were political and known songwriters. Behan left school at the age of 13, and already was reported to be heavily using alcohol, a demon that would curse him his entire life. At the age of 14, Behan joined the Fianna Eireann, the IRA youth movement, and began publishing some of his works in the IRA magazine.

Behan joined the IRA when he was 16 years old, and was sent to England to blow up the docks in Liverpool. He was arrested in possession of explosives, and imprisoned in a reform school (Borstal school), which he later wrote about in his autobiography "Borstal Boy." In 1942, Behan was again tried, this time for the attempted murder of two detectives in Dublin. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, incarcerated at the Mountjoy prison. He wrote about his prison life in "Confessions of an Irish Rebel."

He was released in 1946 under an amnesty. He was imprisoned again in 1947 for trying to break out a fellow prisoner from jail. He later left the IRA, although he remained good friends with many of the members throughout his life. Brendan Behan learned the Irish language while in prison, and after that wrote in both English and Irish.

In Easter Week, 1916, there was a revolutionary uprising in Ireland in an effort to overthrow the English.  Most of the Irish who stood against the English were immediately slaughtered, but Ireland soon gained its freedom.  One of Brendan Behan's famous poems was titled "Who Fears To Speak Of Easter Week," calling on Irish people to continue their struggle for complete independence from England.   

Behan left Ireland for a time in the 1950s, and went to live in Paris where he reportedly earned a living writing pornography. When he returned to Ireland, he had developed a discipline to make sure that he continued his writing, instead of just wasting his life sitting in pubs drinking. He would get up early in the morning, and write steadily until noon when the pubs opened.  Then he went to drink.

In 1954 his play "The Quare Fellow" was produced.  It is about his experience in prison, and about an inmate who is going to be hung. The play brought attention to Behan and to the issue of capital punishment. Soon the play was being shown in a West End theatre in London. Behan was becoming a minor celebrity, and was invited on a popular television show, where he appeared quite drunk. Jackie Gleason was also a guest on the show, took a liking to Behan, and the two become good friends.

At the end of The Quare Fellow, the song "The Auld Triangle" is sung. The Auld Triangle (sometimes called The Banks of the Royal Canal) was written by Brendan's brother, Dominic Behan. This has since become a popular song, performed by many Irish artists, considered by many to be a modern Irish anthem. The triangle in the song is a reference to a triangle which hung in the prison where Brendan Behan served time. The song takes place on the day one of the prisoners is to be executed. Among the artists who have performed or recorded The Auld Triangle are The Dubliners, The Pogues, The Dropkick Murphys, U2, Bob Dylan and the Band, Eric Burdon, and Glen Hansard.

Soon the play was also showing on Broadway, and Behan gained an international following. He spent much of the rest of his very short life drunk, and turning out well-respected work, widely hailed as one of the most important Irish writers of his generation. Unfortunately his heavy use of alcohol caused serious health problems including diabetic comas and seizures. Finally, in March of 1964, at the young age of 41, Behan collapsed in a bar, and was taken to a nearby hospital where he died.  He had an Irish Republican Army funeral. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, Behan was a major influence in the writings of Shane MacGowan. He is the subject of a song by the Pogues titled "Streams of Whiskey," and is mentioned in "Thousands Are Sailing." The Clancy Brothers recorded their own version of "Lament for Brendan Behan." The Lament for Brendan Behan by Fred Geis has also become a standard for many Irish singers.