Tuesday, December 29, 2009


China to execute a British drug smuggler

That was the big news this morning (December 28, 2009) on the radio. European countries that no longer use the death penalty, including England, have denounced the Chinese for the death sentence and have urged the Chinese not to carry it out. The convict is a British subject. There is general outrage in Europe. (I have not heard any outrage from Americans, who still favor the death penalty for particularly heinous or disgusting crimes.)

I believe the Chinese are motivated in part by a desire for pay-back or revenge. The offence is the Opium Wars, conducted by the English against the Chinese in the early 19th century to force China to permit the importing of opium and the creation of addicts to use it. The opium was a solution to a commercial problem. China was a source of many fine and desirable products, from tea to exquisite porcelain. China was happy to sell the British traders these products, but the government wasn't willing to open China to imported goods from Europe. The traders, and consequently the British, would have to use money to buy the Chinese products but would have no source of revenue to replenish the money. The solution was opium. The plan was to get part of the population of China hooked. Then it would be possible, with or without the permission of the Emperor, to export opium to China and sell it to the addicts.

The Chinese, naturally, didn't like this arrangement and tried to stop the trade in opium. That led to war. The Chinese lost. Eventually the Chinese government became too weak to enforce the no-import rule and the British and other Europeans were able to sell other goods to China.

It seems to be a rule that the winners of a war tend to have short memories. After a generation or two they have forgotten what the war was all about and in another generation or two they have forgotten the war itself. The losers have long memories. For generations they mark time for the moment when they can take revenge and get even for having suffered a disgraceful defeat. China remembers the Opium Wars. I doubt that one Brit in ten knows that they occurred or what they were all about.

In our own country, the losing South remembered for a century the loss of the "war between the States." We Northerners did not have such a long memory. To this day we don't understand the "states' rights" argument that Southern politicians drag out to vote against proposed laws that we think are fair, beneficial, and just. In Iran, people remember the shame of letting a foreign power (the U.S.) dictate that the democratically elected leader, Mossadegh, should leave the country and that the Shah should be imposed as the leader in his place. Since it was a CIA operation, many Americans do not know about it to this day. We wonder why many Iranian leaders seem to hate us.

Blowback occurs. China's execution of a British subject is just an example.

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Monday, December 21, 2009


I am Torn ...

between denouncing the health care reform bill in its likely form and rejoicing that at least something was passed that can be modified and improved. I am also torn between denouncing President Obama for stretching the truth until it is ready to tear and announcing that in spite of everything he's better for the country than any Republican who is likely to get the nomination in 2012 and that I intend to vote again for Obama, assuming that I am still alive and he decides to run for a second term.

What truth did Mr. Obama stretch that offends me? On the radio this afternoon I heard a sound bite. It was Mr. Obama praising the Democrats for enacting a health care reform bill and for standing up to (and inferentially not caving to) the "special interests." After cursing Mr. Obama for being rather inaccurate in his praise (I must admit that I was safely inside my car with the doors and windows closed) I wondered to myself, what special interests was he talking about? Certainly not the Insurance Industry. At the very start, his administration decided not to take on the Insurance Industry lobby. There would be no "Harry and Louise" ads on TV opposing this bill. Insurance companies were even to be provided with new customers because the bill would require that all Americans buy health insurance. That requirement would reduce the number of uninsured and also provide new customers for insurers.

Certainly not the religious fundamentalists. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill have absolute proscriptions against even one penny of taxpayer money to be spent on an abortion. The proscription is so tight that private insurers selling plans to private customers must provide abortion insurance in plans completely separate from their other plans and make sure that consumers who buy these separate plans do not receive any subsidy from the government. The likely consequence is that most insurers simply will not bother to provide abortion insurance. Of course, that's what the fundies want, isn't it?

If you can tell me what special interests the Administration and the Democrats have stood up to in getting this bill enacted, please let me know. I welcome your comments to the blog.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009


The New Health Care System

There is a saying "The mountain labored and brought forth a mouse." I feel like that about the health care bill in the Senate. In my view, the bill is a "mouse." It provides no escape from the health insurance industry in the form of a "public option" or a chance for younger people to enroll in Medicare. These ideas are anathema to the Insurance industry, to the Republican Party, and to a few Democrats. What we are offered instead are new rules that state that health insurers can not deny insurance coverage to individuals because of a preexisting condition, change of employment, contracting some new and horribly expensive condition, and the like. In other words, the insurance companies are going to be told to behave like the "public option" or lime Medicare if the one existed and the other were available to younger individuals.

Some politicians are cheering the result. At last the insurance industry will be prevented from denying health insurance to anyone for any reason.

Do you believe this? If so, I have some shares in a bridge between two populous islands in New York State that I'm willing to sell to you for a very low price.

The insurance companies are not objecting about requirements to insure everyone, regardless of present or past illnesses. I figure that their lawyers already know how to get around these requirements as soon as they appear to be hurting the business. We Americans abhor a government requiring a private company to operate at a loss. The Supreme Court will declare the laws requiring the insurance companies to operate at a loss to be unconstitutional. After that happens, we will be right back where we were before the Administration and Congress decided to reform the health care system.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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