Monday, May 27, 2013

Our "Christian" Legacy

I could take a lot of time and page through the Bible to find quotations where the founders of the Christian religion advocate helping the poor.  I grew up hearing some constant homely advice about helping others who are not so fortunate; “It’s the Christian thing to do.” In support of that advice, my parents (not particularly a religious sort) taught me the Golden Rule.  I know I don’t need to repeat that Rule here, but just for sake of completeness for those “Christians” who seem unaware of its existence, I will; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  For the past few years I have frankly grown tired of pious politicians and right wing red-necks claiming our country was founded on Christian (and only Christian) principles and, by God, our children ought to be forced to pray in school, at athletic events, on the streets, whenever anyone meets or gets together.  These are the same people who constantly bemoan the decline of our American way of life because creationism (a two or three sentence concept mentioned early in the Bible’s Genesis) is not taught in our public schools. 

It is with all this background that this Sunday morning blog is written with a heavy heart (and more than a little anger) after reading about what is being done  (literally in the name of Christianity) to the poor people of our country.  As reported in this morning’s newspaper, “The refusal by about half the states to expand Medicaid will leave millions of poor people ineligible for government-subsidized health insurance under President Obama’s health care law even as many others with higher incomes receive federal subsidies to buy insurance  (Underlining mine).  Starting next month, the administration and its allies will conduct a nationwide campaign encouraging Americans to take advantage of new high-quality affordable insurance options. But those options will be unavailable to some of the neediest people in states like Texas, Florida, Kansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, which are refusing to expand Medicaid.  More than half of all people without health insurance live in states that are not planning to expand Medicaid.  People in those states who have incomes from the poverty level up to four times that amount ($11,490 to $45,960 a year for an individual) can get federal tax credits to subsidize the purchase of private health insurance. But many people below the poverty line will be unable to get tax credits, Medicaid or other help with health insurance.” 

This era in American history will go down as the time when our national slogan became “Do as I say, not as I do.” What a Christian legacy!

Just saying . . .

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Detroit Leads the Way . . . Again

Detroit has a substantial history of leading our country in various endeavors.  The work ethic of its inhabitants combined to produce tanks and airplanes, among others, that led to a great victory over fascism in World War II.  The factories of Detroit for years upon end led the world in automobile production.  More recently, the city has led the country in murder rates and has developed an ill-founded perception among the American public that it is a wasteland of boarded up houses and defunct industrial buildings long abandoned by corporations who moved to non-union states in the south.   This is only partially true.  Detroit is now leading the way in the accumulation of massive amounts of petroleum coke residue.  The beautiful Detroit waterfront now has an exciting new tourist attraction; a three-story high block-long pile of coal-black residue which began accumulating only last November when the Koch brothers-controlled Marathon Petroleum’s plant in Detroit started processing 28,000 barrels a day of oil sands by-product.  As reported in the New York Times, Lorne Stockman, who recently published a study on petroleum coke for the environmental group Oil Change International, says, “It’s really the dirtiest residue from the dirtiest oil on earth.”  However, while Detroit is the first U.S. city to lead the way in this massive accumulation of “the dirtiest residue,” it will not be the last. Canada’s efforts to sell more products derived from oil sands to the United States, which include transporting it through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, will bring more coking south to American refineries, creating more waste product here, there and everywhere.   The old saying to “be careful about what you ask for” seems to be a great fit for this newly emerging process. 

Just saying . . .

Friday, May 17, 2013

Medical Malpractice Claims Improve Medical Care

Joanna C. Schwartz, Assistant Professor of Law at UCLA, reported the findings of a large study she conducted in an op-ed in the New York Times this morning.  She found (in part):

"The assumed negative effects of malpractice litigation on patient safety have been used to justify numerous proposals for reform, including damages caps and “health courts,” administrative bodies that adjudicate malpractice claims outside the tort system. Politicians, patient safety advocates and medical providers argue that such reforms will encourage more open discussions of medical error by removing the specter of liability.

"My study suggests, however, that hospitals can — and have — found ways to increase openness and transparency without these dramatic interventions. Moreover, because lawsuits help to identify incidents and details of medical error, limitations on lawsuits may actually impede patient safety efforts."

Just saying . . .

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Pig is Not a Dog

What I don’t hear among the thousands upon thousands of words generated in this so-called Tea Party IRS scandal is somebody saying that the likelihood of an organization bearing the name Tea Party or its equivalent is undertaking some charitable cause, a requirement of a 501(c) 4 certification for tax purposes, is zero.   In other words, calling a pig a dog doesn‘t make it a dog.  To say it another way, one doesn’t have to be too smart to know that a Tea Party organization is not a charity.

What is happening currently is not a scandal – it is a controversy  stirred up by the equivalent of bad used car salesmen trying to flim-flam the American people into buying once again a Koch Brother's old lemon under the name of IRS tax exempt audits.  IRS employees, tasked with separating political groups not allowed to claim tax-exempt status, from bona fide social welfare organizations were given almost no official guidance on how to do that, so they went after Tea Party groups because those seemed like they might be political. Keep in mind that the commissioner of the IRS at the time was a Bush appointee.  He was fired yesterday by Obama.  This should end the controversy.

The big question remaining is should the 501(c)(4) status even exist? Should nonprofits be allowed any political activity?  The problem with the (c)(4) designation is that it is essentially a charity that is permitted to engage in unlimited lobbying and some significant amount of political campaign activity (as long as that activity isn’t the organization’s “primary purpose”) in exchange for denying the organization the ability to receive deductible charitable contributions.  The best solution to the problems with 501(c)(4) organizations is to eliminate them completely.  An alternative solution would be to continue to allow these so-called self-designated “charities” to function, but require that their donors and the amounts donated be disclosed to the public.

Just saying . . .

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mothers' Day

With a little help (make that a lot) from Joyce Kilmer, I drafted a poem for Mary Ellen this morning to reflect the awe I feel with regard to her mothering skills.  Upon reflection, I thought it might be nice to share this poem with each of you and wish all of the mothers in our lives a Happy Mothers’ Day.

         To a Wonderful Mother

I THINK that I shall never read a
poem as lovely as a mother.
A mother whose gentle lips are prest
Against the head of sweet and helpless child
A mother that looks at God all day,
And lifts her hands to pray;
A mother that may in summer hear
The joy of children laughing near;
Upon whose bosom tears have lain;
Who intimately lives with other’s pain.

That is who you are,
One can plainly see
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a mother like thee.