Thursday, April 10, 2014

Books Read Thus Far 2014

  • Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War by Pepe Escobar
  • Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge by Pepe Escobar
  • Obama does Globalistan by Pepe Escobar
  • How the Economy Was Lost: The War of the Worlds by Paul Craig Roberts
  • The New Color Line: How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy by Paul Craig Roberts
  • The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis
  •  No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad by Daniel S. Markey
  • The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth by Mark Mazzetti
  • Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding by Husain Haqqani
  • The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics by Andrew Small
  • Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
  • German Colonialism: A Short History by Sebastian Conrad
  • The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China by Jay Taylor
  • The Negro In Illinois:The WPA Papers edited by Brian Dolinar
  • The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi
  • Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East  by Scott Anderson
  • The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind – and Changed the History of Free Speech in  America by Thomas Healy
  • All the Presidents' Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power by Nomi Prins
  • Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
  • The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap by Matt Taibbi
  • Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism by David Harvey
  • Utopia or Bust: A Guide to the Present Crisis (Jacobin) by Benjamin Kunkel
  • To Catch A Thief by David Dodge
  • Death and Taxes by David Dodge
  • Bullets For The Bridegroom by David Dodge
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
  • The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor by William Easterly

7.1 Million Sign-ups Don’t Say Nothing

Unlike most folk of my ilk (poverty stricken African Americans), I find it troubling that we have given our Federal government the ability to make us buy a flawed product, or any product regardless if we want to or not. But putting that aside, I want to briefly discuss How I view the metrics of the Affordable Care Act or what is frequently called Obamacare (actual law in picture).

It seems as if many of its supporters are hooping and a hollering that the program has proven to be a success just because it had 7 million plus sign up. I on the other hand, can’t even understand how anyone can use this as an indication of success. Personally, to use this number I would have to know how many who signed up actually had insurance before but lost it due to the law itself. Next, I would have to know how many of those that signed up actually will be receiving Medicare. For example, currently, more than half the states and the District of Columbia are proceeding with a Medicaid expansion which allows them to extend medical coverage to single and childless adults, of which has encouraged jail operators in many of those states to use this criteria to enroll and provide coverage to inmates under ACA.

Last, I won’t be able to see the law in action until all the exemptions and waivers the President unilaterally awarded to businesses and other entities go into effect. Just looking at Maryland for example, we know that only 60,000 people have signed up for Obamacare through the state’s exchange although more than 70,000 in the state lost their health insurance. Is this a marker of success (I know more than 250,000 in total but I am not including Medicare).  But I digress.

Yet still, even without such, that I can see where the Affordable Care Act is going and all I have to do is look at the only other major health delivery operation the government runs is functioning, and that is the Veterans Administration Hospitals.

Everywhere you look the VA is having problems, both with patient enrollment and service delivery. In South Carolina recently, it was noted that problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Columbia covered everything but the kitchen sink including but not limited to problems with surgical procedures, operating rooms not always being stocked with backup surgical instruments and equipment and not monitoring patient care close enough. More importantly, problems associated with infection control and rarely following up to ensure problems are solved adequately. And this is after reports of six deaths due to delayed screenings for colorectal cancer at the Hospital.

At the Buffalo Veterans Administration, New York, more than 700 patients at the Center may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C because of accidental reuse of insulin pens, between Oct. 19, 2010 and November 2012.  Then there are the, three deaths that occurred at the Memphis VA, of which one of the deaths occurred because the patient was given a drug despite a documented allergy to that medication and another due to receiving a lethal dose of a painkiller. The last because VA staff did not give the patient the proper medication.

A drug abuse rehabilitation program at Miami’s Veterans Affairs hospital failed to monitor patients, provide sufficient staff, control access to the facility or even curb illicit drug use among patients because Staff members were frequently absent or in a back room instead of monitoring patients in the drug abuse rehabilitation unit. As expected numerous deaths have resulted as a consequence, specifically due to cocaine and heroin overdoses. The Miami VA is part of a network which also saw five cancer patients die because of long waits and delayed care. Not to mention that in 2009, the Miami VA revealed that nearly 2,500 veterans might have been exposed to HIV and other illnesses during colonoscopies performed with improperly cleaned equipment. In 2010, the St. Louis VA hospital may have exposed more than 1,800 patients to HIV and hepatitis in 2010 as a result of contaminated dental equipment. At the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center a 47-year-old Air Force veteran had the wrongtesticle removed during surgically which left him without any functioning testes.

I could go on and on but the fact remains that what we see with the government run VA is what we can expect from the government run Affordable Care Act. The delays that new veterans facebefore receiving disability compensation and other benefits often is way way longer than the private sector, with an average wait time of 273 days. Even worse are those veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan filing their first claim, wait nearly two months longer.  And don’t live in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago because that time is doubled.

Across the VA system we observe benefits claims taking longer than ever to process according to a recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting. Before 2009, the number of veterans waiting more than a year for their benefits was 11,000. Since 2009 that figure grew to 245,000. And all the Federal Government does is asking for and gives more money as if that is the solution.  It is not. The problem with the VA, which is indicative of how the federal government manages health systems. It is one of management, administration, lack of understanding about health care delivery and oversight.  And this is the case for other VA hospitals around the nation in places like Dayton, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Jackson,Mississippi.

All of the aforementioned is happening even after five years ago the president made a pledge to repair the VA bureaucracy. There should be no way in the world that a dysfunctional systemlike the VA top brass keep getting millions and gain capacity in only by underserving the millions veterans. Yet VA network directors get tens of thousands of bonuses every year on top of six figure salaries.
Rica Lewis-Payton, the network director of the South Central Health Care Network, which includes Jackson, got almost $36,000 in bonuses last year: Washington, D.C., Diana Rubens, the VA executive in charge of the nearly 60 offices that process disability benefits compensation claims, collected almost $60,000 in bonuses. Rima Ann Nelson, the former director of the St. Louis VA (where HIV and hepatitis exposure is believed to have occurred),  had received close to $25,000 in bonuses since 2009; At the  Atlanta VA Medical Center, three of which VA’s inspector general linked to widespread mismanagement, former director James Clark received $65,000 in bonuses over four years.

Again, the issue is management. If we do take the 7.1 or 10 million as a metric of success, we must acknowledge that less than a million of that number did not have insurance, meaning folks who had private insurance were forced to purchase government insurance, allowing the federal government to run and control 16 percent of the U.S. economy. If this isn’t a corporate takeover or monopoly, nothing is.  Second, the ACA to reduce the cost of CARE and or better management. Insurance is based on math and the actuarial sciences. 

Fact is that comparatively speaking, young men use very little health care when compared to young women use more than young men. No way in the world would folk stand for young men saying they should pay the same rates of women, when the fact is that young men driving habits dictate they should pay more than young women.

But like I said, numbers won’t tell the story, but if you look at how the government currently runs health care from filing claims to service delivery, we need only look at the VA and the disproportionately negative health outcomes occurring compared to the private sector. And if Obamacare is managed in the same inept manner, as long as hospitals and insurance companies raking in the loot, money will go to huge profits before health care is provided. And as a result, all the regular folk gonna see is higher co-pay, higher deductibles, higher premiums, folk losing their doctors, not having access to the hospitals in their community and the same old federal mismanagement practices. I mean, is it feasible to expect that people who never read the ACA prior to voting to pass it as law, actually know what it does to manage it even modestly? The real issue is not having coverage but lowering cost and improving service delivery. Unfortunately politicians have people equating health insurance to improved health care or even just health care when it is not. Having health insurance makes you no healthier than having auto insurance makes you a safer driver.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Cosmic Microwave Background and U.S. Sanctions on Russia

Amidst the searching for a foreign 777 aircraft and the shooting at Fort Hood, there has been limited discussion if any regarding the response of Putin to the announcement on the pinprick sanctions Obama has levied against the former Soviet Union.

Though it is not often that I can take concepts of physics and apply them to the maladaptive reasoning and practices of U.S. foreign policy, when I do I try and take complete advantage of it. To start with in Physics, there is a concept called cosmic microwave background and it refers to the radiation in the universe that is around as a consequence of the Big Bang, assuming you accept the Big Bang. Also known as relic radiation, it is the oldest light in the Universe and for our purpose keeps in mind the word ‘relic.”

Now traditionally, the manner in which the U.S. and the west have approached international diplomacy and foreign policy can be compared to as a form of cosmic microwave background. Namely because the manner of our foreign policy and the way in which we practice it is not associated with any give nation (star), yet still it maintains the same background glow and radiation. Applying this to Russia one can assume that Russia is a star like no other, albeit we approach it as if what we enact with respect to Iran, Cuba and Syria for example, and worse, even think it will be just as effective and that as a nation (star) we are sagacious in doing such.

Since President Obama announced he would be attempting to pressure Russia via economic sanctions, one would hope he has observed that the practice of saying and doing the same thing regardless of if the light being targeted is from the star, or some other background manifestation is troubling and we all should be able to see such based on Putin’s response. Since Obama’s announcement several things have happened since then.  Not in any particular order, the first is that Russia has indicated that it may counter sanctions with a foreign real estateban for officials in their government. A high level Russian official has asked that the United Russia parliamentary caucus Lower House Committee for Security and Countering Corruption to complete an amendment to an earlier bill that will forbid top level Russian officials, both elected and appointed, to hold foreign bank accounts and possess shares in foreign companies.

In addition to this, after U.S. “to big to fail” bank J.P. Morgan Chase blocked a remittance from the Russian Embassy in Kazakhstan to an insurance agency, Putin ordered the Russian Central Bank (RCB) to start producing a 5 Ruble gold coins “containing .1244 Troy ounces of .900 pure gold” which Russia anticipates would become an alternative (and even worse the standard) for pursuing energy over the dollar and the Euro. This plan also includes the creation of a national payment settlement system completely new and outside of western oligarchical banks that could rival the Society for Worldwide Interbank financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) transactions, of which it is more than plausible that the other BRIC nations will join and applaud. Plus, none of the aforementioned includes the recent oil deal Russia inked with China for an estimated $85 billion or the multi-billion dollar oil for food deal they recently negotiated with Iran

Although I suspect President Obama knew that any mention of economic fiats against Russia would be bring back some push from Russia, I don’t know if he realizes that it will be impossible for him to get complete corporations with the world leaders of the largest national economies. Especially nations such as China, India and Brazil.

First India and Brazil are not interested in helping Washington punish a fellow BRIC member, especially given that India is mad about that little thang with their diplomat in New York and Brazil still fuming about the NSA spying allegations. Not to mention that historically, neither supported the U.S. actions in Libya (albeit they did not vote against it) and despises U.S. actions in Syria. Again, assuming all actions to light are the same, as if we expect other nations to take the same political position of the U.S. on all foreign policy matters.

Even at home, there are a few problems, mainly the fact that ExxonMobil and Russian Energy giant Rosneft are exploring for oil together as part of a $500 billion joint venture in the Artic. Of which Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson to let Russia be and not try and isolate them with sanctions. Then there is the difficulty the U.S. government finds itself in trying to get Europe to support even tougher sanctions.

Regardless of the prior fact, the point is that the laws of Physics always will defeat man made laws, views, beliefs and policies because they are natural laws and not contrived, Obama need to recognize, his sanctions don’t mean jack, even if he had Germany, Switzerland and Brittan with him, because there will always be a Cosmic Microwave Background in the Universe of international politics and foreign policy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Doo-Doo Chasers

Now I may not be able to tell you what happened on some cable television program or pontificate of what I think may happen on some contrived artificial reality show, but I am in a position to conjure and offer perspectives on other contrived non-events such as what is frequently called politics. More specifically issues of somewhat basic precepts of democratic centralism and constitutional republics.
I have been told by the brain trust in the vicinity of the Beltway that self-determination means nothing anymore, unless it is decided upon by individuals who have no stake on such self-determination. I say this because from the President down, seems that the SEO meter is running on a simple phrase that the referendum in Crimea is illegitimate and illegal, and even that as such, the United States will not (never ever ever ever even) recognize its right to self-determination.

This is not only sociopathic but also inconsistent with the plurality evinced in our own constitution, but even more so in the articles of confederation, the bill of rights as ascribed via the Treaty of Paris.  It is as if just by saying such, it makes it a fact or truism.

Since the PEOPLE of Crimea voted over-whelming for their independence from the Ukraine, every nut and bolt politician in the United States has been saying the same thing, which can be summed up by the statement made by Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, who openly informed the world that the Obama Administration would not recognize the results of the referendum in Crimea calling what Russia did as being “dangerous and destabilizing”. Thus by fiat extending the assertion that the population of Crimea has no right to conduct a democratic referendum via the ballot, to decide if it wants to remain with the Ukraine or join Russia.

Fascinating, I mean a constitutional scholar (in theory) asserting anti-constitutional beliefs. This when, if it wasn’t for Washington, and even the EU helping to overthrow a democratically elected leader of another sovereign nation (Ukraine), we wouldn’t even be in this mess. Moreover, what makes even more absurd in the logic offered for this position by the Obama administration, which for the record asserts that the referendum cannot be valid unless the entire population of Ukraine votes and agrees with the decision by Crimean’s. A funny and strange position to take when you study past U.S. history with respect to the South Sudan (all of Sudan didn’t vote) and Kosovo from Serbia (no Serbians were allowed to vote via U.S. dictate). 

Then we have the audacity (like hope) to ridicule Putin for what Bill Clinton did in in Serbia, Bush in Iraq, and by Obama in Afghanistan, Libya, and trying to do currently in Syria. Were we this up set in 1967 when Israel committed a real act of war when it took Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Jordanian-administered West Bank, or in 1981 when the same nation, Israel took the Golan Heights.  

The simple fact of the matter is that we, America, should mind our own business and tend to the home front where we have real interest and not just the plutocratic interest of the ultra-wealthy. From a historical perspective WE KNOW that the two elephants in the room that no one is really discussing are: (1) the historical US/NATO desire to be able to surround Russia militarily and (2) access to the Artic, in particular since all these international bodies being so concerned with ‘global warming”, have green lighted more drilling there. These folks have to contain the Russian military because it will be the only way they can try and get all of the natural gas it has as well as access the infinite northern border Russia has with the Arctic.
Again, the United States has no interest that is national in the Ukraine when compared to Russia. Not only do the Russians have a large naval facility in Crimea, the folk there do speak Russian and it was conquered originally by Catherine the Great. Moreover, Moscow is not about to invade Ukraine and we all know this, it just sounds good to make folk believe that should be a reason for us to be upset. Outside of that, what is our national interest in the Ukraine? Is it to spread democracy like we did in Libya and Somalia? I mean fact is where ever we try to spread democracy all we get is a lot of dead Americans, a destabilized nation, and large Blackwater contracts.

We should just stay out of this and admit our only goal is really western control of oil and gas in the region. The Crimean Supreme Council is already on record saying Crimea wants Gazprom to develop the peninsula's oil and natural gas deposits and not any western (US company).

This time we have messed with the wrong cat, a cat from a nation with conviction, who has very strong leadership skills, and even more than this REAL national interest in the region.  This is aint no doo doo chaser, this is Putin.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Beyoncé Effect and the Re-Negrofication of Black America

Recently I have been thinking, that I am glad South African apartheid was gone before Alicia Keyes, Rihanna & Beyoncé were born because I really believe that they would have performed there just to get a check.  Now I am not holding the aforementioned to the platitudes of others like Stevie Wonder or an AliceWalker or MayaAngelou, who in their youth and currently were more conscious and global than the three cited previously, but I am questioning how lost one has to be to take a stance against nations and regimes that treat people like cattle?

Recently I just learned that Beyoncé has just informed the world that she will be performing in Israel in this year on June 15. Now I am certain that many who have been hammered and for lack of a better word Beyonceified, do not see this as a big deal.  But I would also speculate that the same folk were not even around let alone born when Apartheid was alive and well in South Africa.

We should all be aware of the issues that presently and historically confront Palestinians, in particular children whom are frequently used as targets while walking to school by West Bank settlers and the Israeli military.  This I hope is a given, but what I am more concerned with, which is rarely addressed, is the manner in which Blacks and Africans are treated in Israel.

Over the past few years, the Israel government, under the panoply of Zionism and the desire for a pure Jewish state, have been rounding up Africans and placing them in detention camps they way Hitler rounded up Jews and placed them in concentration camps. The only reason why, is because they are black and Africa and politicians openly state this to the public. The official policy is to treat them as animals in the exact same fashion South African Whites treated blacks during apartheid and this is not an over statement. This short film can show you in images what my words will never be able to convey.

Africans in Israel are frequently attacked violently in the streets of Israel and there homes, apartments and businesses are often the targets of arson and fire bombings, just like blacks were targeted in the South in the United States during the 1960s. But the Israel government even takes it back to the way in which the United States treated many black women and force sterilize African women in Israel today without their knowledge or permission. Just a few weeks ago, CCTV recorded an Assailant caught beating an African refugee at Tel Aviv port for no apparent reason.

I would go on, but my goal is not to belabor but rather question how could a person not realize that playing in Israel is giving tacit support and approval to an apartheid regime, the same way such was during Apartheid in South Africa?  I really do wonder what many of the entertainers of this generation think (if they think at all) about what they do and what their actions represent. Whether it is Nicki Minaj defacing Malcom X or Lil Wayne denigrating Emmett Till, or Yo Gotti taking the classic ‘I AM A MAN” sign used in the Memphis garbage strikes in which Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and changing it to “I AM A GANGSTER.”

Albeit consequential, I have decided to call this the Beyoncé effect. She is no different than any of the other examples have mentioned, it just so happen she is the latest to show her ignorance regarding how blacks outside of New York and Houston are being treated today. It is this Beyoncé effect, in my opinion that is causing the re-Negrofication of Black America. And by re-Negrofication I mean the dumbing down of a community to the extent where being informed, well read and supportive of proactive self-determination is a worthless morality when compared to the dollar bill. Re-negrofication takes effort because as Benjamin Franklin said, "We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid."