Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sorry folks: U.S.A. is not "Number one!"

I am watching the whole health care debate that is now raging in this country with what could best be characterized as disgust. And for some reason it is not the inept politicians or the greedy insurance companies who are in my sights today. (I'll save that for another day). No, today it's your average flag waving, patriotic American that is making me sick. And this whole health care debate has underscored it for me. Here's why:

In general, I have always been I deeply suspicious of flag waving, patriotic types who like to loudly proclaim how much they love this country. Why? Because in my experience, these sorts also tend to be narrow-minded and often bigoted in their personal lives. I am talking about the folks you might see on TV who like to chant "U.S.A, U.S.A. U.S.A.". This will often be followed by "We're Number One !" or "This is the greatest country on Earth!".

Really? We are number one? Well, in relation to health care, we are certainly not number one. Not even close. We are not number one in education either. In education we rank #18 (with South Korea coming in on top). But back to health care... here are the stats.

1. Preventable deaths- rank #14 (France -that country with Socialized medicine- is #1)

2. Life Expectancy- U.S. rank #24 (Japan in #1)

3. Health Care System in general (as determined by the World Heath Organization) U.S #37 (again those French are number #1!)

So I watch these outraged Americans on TV at these Town Hall meetings and I see them shouting down anyone who wants to have a real discussion about health care reform, and why are they angry? A. Because our system is just fine and we don't want government screwing it up. (Again... France whose health care system is "socialized" and government run is number one in the world, but don't tell them this because facts make them angry). Anyway...I see these people disrupting these meetings and I just know in my gut these are the same folks waving all the flags and cheering on the troops, and telling people not to criticize the president (oops, that's okay now that a Democrat is in the White House) and it just pisses me off. Maybe we used to be a great country, but right now, by the yardstick I use to measure such things (Yardstick: How well do we take care of our own people?) we are struggling to be just a good country. Forget about great. Now don't get me wrong. This country, as envisioned by it's founders, and even practiced from time to time, is most definitely a fine nation. At times it has even been the finest. I love my country. I just need to report the facts here: We have slipped. And more than just a little bit.

But, to be fair, we do have our areas of excellence. We are number one in military expenditures (coming in at twice as much of all of Europe combined). So we are good at fighting.

That's something I guess.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A personal note: Turning 50

Well, tomorrow I turn 50 years old. Whoo Hoo...I made it! With my undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder I think smart money was against it (insert joke here). My first thoughts are to say thank you to my Mom and Dad who have been such a great support through the years. And to my sweetheart Lori for the same reasons. I also want to thank all my family and friends. I think Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed it best when he said: "I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new". That's what I feel today: Thanksgiving.

To celebrate tomorrow I am going to climb Cascade Mountain in the Adirondack High Peaks region with Lori and three other friends (with a capital F for those of you who know what that means).

Last night I enjoyed seeing one of my all time favorite musicians and activists, Billy Bragg. Got to meet him and was pleased to see he was selling union made T-shirts for the reasonable price of $15. I don't know if you have been to concerts lately but the standard t-shirt price these days is about $35 bucks. Anyway...had a great time.

So what is the central thought I would like to share regarding my milestone B-Day? Take your pick, only one please:

1. Time goes fast so enjoy your family, friends, and all that life has to offer.

2. Alright! Made it to 50. Now I can just put it in neutral and coast to the finish line.

3. Have I always been in neutral?

4. Send me your credit card number and I promise not to charge any gift for myself that costs more that $25 and may ever consider supporting various charities other than myself.

5. We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time - T.S.Eliot