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Individual Freedom vs. Government Control?

Individual Freedom vs. Government Control

Congress faces a critical question this week: Will U.S. health care be government-run, or will Americans be given the freedom to obtain their insurance plans and medical care from private firms? The next U.S. president will likely answer this question, but the resolution to the current debate about SCHIP — the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a state and federal government partnership for insuring poor children — that is roiling Washington, D.C., will preview the answer.

Although health care is a crucial issue for the electorate; traditionally, presidential candidates have avoided any but the blandest generalities. Health care is the third rail of politics. Its complexity, size, and multiple, committed stakeholders scare away most would-be saviors.

Yet, the underlying debate is simple: It is all about who will manage and control the health-care sector that comprises one-seventh of our economy. Will individual Americans have the freedom to make their own choices? Or, will we trust government bureaucrats, lawyers, and politicians to make those decisions for them? Our future health-care system will be shaped by how we answer these simple questions.

Let’s be clear: The SCHIP battle is not about whether to insure poor children. The debate is about how to insure them: Via the government or private insurers? This debate has not only pitted Democrats against Republicans but has also sundered the Republican coalition. Some Democrats wanted SCHIP expanded by $50 billion dollars so that even families earning about $81,000 a year who have eligible children were included. (The 2005 U.S. median household income was $46,000.) A resolution with the Republicans who hold minority leadership roles led to a compromise, costing only $35 billion, which allowed coverage for those earning up to $60,000.

A fundamental problem with this compromise is that the same amount of coverage for children within SCHIP costs $1,000 more per child than under private insurance. A group of forward-thinking Republicans led by U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and others has an entirely different idea of how to provide insurance: they want to cash out eligible people and enable them to use this money to buy health insurance from private insurers in a tax-protected way. Count the president in too. He has pledged to veto legislation that permits expansion of the present program.

None of the combatants’ are supported by an unblemished array of evidence. The Democrats support the expansion of SCHIP by lauding the universal coverage and substantially lower costs of single-payer, government-run systems, like the U.K.’s and Canada’s. Yes; but costs are controlled by rationing health care to the sick. More than 20,000 Brits would not have died from cancer in the U.S. Onerous waiting lists have caused illegal, for-profit health-service centers to proliferate in Canada. These rogue establishments are so well-accepted that the head of one became the president of the Canadian Medical Association. Nor do single-payer systems achieve equality of access or health status — the powerful, assertive, litigious, and connected go to the head of the line.

In the U.S., the government-controlled Medicaid program has achieved its low costs per person by stringent limits on provider prices. As many as 40 percent of doctors refuse to see Medicaid enrollees, leading to reduced health care quality. Physicians who accept Medicaid often shift their un-reimbursed costs to the privately insured. A system totally paid by the government would shut down this escape hatch, exacerbating the current shortage of primary care doctors.

But the group of Republicans who support private insurance acknowledge that they cannot laud health insurance as a model industry. The massive bureaucracies patients all-too-often encounter when they attempt to obtain the medical services they paid for are not merely frustrating, they sometimes kill. Free-market Republicans claim that the problem with the U.S. insurance firms arises from their lack of accountability. Agents, such as governments and employers, use our money to buy health plans. The agents’ incentives — simplicity and cost control — are not well aligned with our needs for responsiveness.

Senators Richard Burr (R., N.C.), Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and others want to refigure the tax code so that we could buy health insurance with tax-sheltered money, a right currently reserved solely for our employers. If we purchased our own health insurance with tax-protected funds, we could keep these arrogant behemoths in check, just as we do in the other sectors of the American economy. The Swiss universal-coverage, consumer-driven system requires people, not employers or governments, to buy health insurance. (The poor primarily receive funds to purchase insurance just like everybody else.) This consumer control enables the Swiss to enjoy an excellent quality of care without the social inequality of single-payer countries at costs that are a third lower than ours.

SCHIP is not merely a debate about yet another mystifying government program. It is all about free-market principles versus government mandates. Giving taxpayers the freedom to choose and buy their own health care would unleash powerful market forces that have been subdued by third-party bureaucracies for the last 60 years. In every area of our economy, market forces have transformed rare, costly products and services like cars and computers into common products and services. We can make health care cheaper, better, and more widely available, if Congress can muster the vision and courage to act.

Barney Fife and the Preamble to the Constitution

Classic Comedy bit where Don Knotts as Barney Fife demonstrates his masterful memorization of the Preamble the US Constitution

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National Security – Training scene

Martin Lawrence as Earl Montgomery in National Security.

Obama Leaves Church

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Obama leaves his Church

By Peter Menkin


Considered a man of faith, Barack Obama, the American running for nomination for President of the United States, has left his Church. For reasons of political controversy due to its pastor, The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Senator Obama left membership in Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC), Chicago, Illinois after 20 years. (The church website proclaims: “We are a congregation which is unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian…”)

Trinity United Church of Christ occupies a tan brick building on West 95th Street across railroad tracks from a public housing project, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

The Senator said about leaving, “Too much press harassment, people couldn’t’ worship in peace.” That wasn’t his reason for leaving, but a complaint on the news media attention. The reason were politically controversial remarks by Trinity’s pastor, Reverend Wright.

Wright’s comments contradicted one of Obama’s campaign’s central messages — that the candidate can transcend past divisions such as those involving race.

The impediment to the African-American’s campaign is highlighted by Wright’s widely reported sermon remark: “God Damn America” (for its racism}, and blaming the September 11 terrorist attacks on US foreign policy. He has also blamed the U.S. government for the spread of the AIDS virus. Mostly, Wright is seen as anti-white and a racist.

On Bill Moyers Journal, Wright says we are unashamedly Black. His philosophy embodies, “Use the culture of which we are a part.” He preaches there is hope, that life has meaning, and that God is still in control. “We can change. We can do better.” Black Liberation theology is Wright’s UCC message. It is a UCC message he offers, since he is a UCC minister who studied under Martin Marty. Martin E. Marty, distinguished Lutheran Pastor, teacher, and writer who has been on the University of Chicago faculty since 1963.

Grounded in the history of the African-American, Black theology is powerful stuff. He is little sorry about his comments, but in Bill Moyer’s interview, Reverend Wright does appear sorry he made the comment “God damn America” in the Pulpit—if only for a few moments. But it wasn’t one remark, but a string of them that caused the significant distancing between the candidate’s spiritual advisor and candidate.

The press in the United States spends a lot of time and space talking about Senator Obama’s faith, his church, and how he is a Christian—the Senator says he is Christian himself, and that is also news. Religion in the campaign makes news, despite separation of Church and State. Time magazine says more voters see Senator Obama as a strongly religious person than they do every major presidential hopeful but Mitt Romney, the Republican former governor of Massachusetts. Romney’s Mormonism drew extensive news coverage.

U.S. Senator Obama was married in Trinity church. His children were baptized in the church, and also like the wedding, Reverend Wright performed the solemnizations. The Senator said on leaving the church, “Trinity was where I found Jesus Christ, where we were married, where our children were baptized. We have many friends among the 8,000 members…” It is a church where he was moved many times. When Wright preached one Sunday about the sustaining power of hope in the face of poverty and despair, Obama says he found himself in tears.

He says in one speech:

“For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change… Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope.”

It is the claim of Reverend Jeremiah Wright that Trinity is a church of Black theology. The Reverend Doctor John Cone, the Harvard Professor and African-American theologian interviewed on American Public Broadcasting System (PBS) by commentator Bill Moyers says on the PBS website:

“As we examine what contemporary theologians are saying, we find that they are silent about the enslaved condition of black people. Evidently they see no relationship between black slavery and the Christian gospel. Consequently there has been no sharp confrontation of the gospel with white racism. There is, then, a desperate need for a black theology, a

theology whose sole purpose is to apply the freeing power of the gospel to black people under white oppression.”

Cone says:

The Cross is the same as the lynching tree for the Black American in a Harvard Speech. The Christian Reverend Cone wants to start a conversation on this subject. He offers that lynching was terrorism that “worked to a certain degree.” This includes spectacle lynchings where 5,000 would gather to watch.
Religion is one place where you have an imagination that no one can control.” Black Churches are a place of the spirit… (even though you are living under the shadow of the lynching tree).” … There were 246 years of slavery, and 100 years of segregation and lynching.
America does not see itself as “not innocent,” according to Cone. “No human being is innocent.”

Reverend Cone is ordained in the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago. which is one of the city’s largest black churches and not far from Obama’s home in the South Side neighborhood of Hyde Park.

Apparently the Democratic candidate for his party’s nomination is not turning his back on Black theology, per se, since Sunday, June 15, 2008 he spoke from the pulpit at that same mega-church in Chicago, which has 20,000 members and is also considered a Black American church.

It is the history of the African American church in the United States that it is a center of Black community life speaking to the needs of the church and larger community in social and political ways. But not in so partisan a manner as was recently ascribed to the theology and preaching of the Reverend Wright. So the perception became. But he still associates himself with the African American church in general.

Senator Obama spoke of the role of Black fathers and their responsibilities, perhaps more a campaign speech than sermon from a “religious” man whose campaign motto is “Change That Works for You.” After all, he is running for President of the United States—or its Democratic Party nomination more accurately. He gave his talk from the pulpit of the “20,000-member Apostolic Church of God…a short walk from the Obamas’ home. The church’s pastor, Byron Brazier, is an Obama supporter,” reports The New York Times.

It is from the Black Church that Senator Obama learned many things about hope. Can he really take himself out of the African-American church ethos, as he has known it? Perhaps the Reverend Wright thinks not, though he is not saying. His official press release remark on Senator Obama and his family’s leaving was, “…We are saddened by the news …”


(Appx. 1100 words)

Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA (north of San Francisco).

New Constitution for Kenya

Why quest for a new constitution
may yet prove exercise in futility

By John Nyaosi

The seismic and nightmarish convulsions Kenya went through in January and February this year may probably have been avoided had Kenyans collectively a couple of years earlier acceded to the enactment of a new constitution. The post-election chaos that killed over 1,000 Kenyans and displaced 300,000 besides the setting aflame property with billions would never have happened if the country had a foolproof, time tested , solid mechanism for resolving the disputed presidential election.
Remember the explanation given by the aggrieved parties for not seeking recourse in the courts was that the wheels of justice were pitifully slow, and their impartiality ,rightly or wrongly, perceived as not being as beyond reproach as Ceasar’s wife. What with lawsuits and petitions contesting disputed constituency elections often lasting a whole parliamentary term thereby defeating the reason for petitioning poll results!

The conflagration came as a shock to many and when it lasted, it put Kenya on the same league as ‘failed states’ like Somalia and others where the general rule is survival of the fittest, ‘might is righ’ and law and order an alien thing. As we dithered on the brink even as the political protagonists Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga stood their grounds, the world watched with consternation, the orgy of violence flashed on the screens of world television networks including CNN. It was the intervention of the Africa’s eminent personalities led by former United Nation’s secretary-general Kofi Annan that managed to save the country from total annihilation by brokering a peace deal that saw the crafting of a Grand Coalition Government.

A darling of the west at Independence and at par with the so called tiger economies like Hong Kong and the rest, Kenya under Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was particulary in good books for choosing the mixed ecomomy model as opposed to Tanzania’s Socialism or Vijiji vya Ujamaa under Julius Kambarage Nyerere. Kenya which had set off well with high expectations on it development path was nevertheless sadly later to be beset by political rivalry that led to problems of governance, graft and accountability in running of state. affairs. From the Kenyatta era, through Daniel arap Moi’s autocratic era during which the one-party de facto state morphed into a de jure one party veritable dictatorship,and Kibaki’s first one term, the Independence constitution fared badly. Through amendments the Independence document was rendered a pale shadow of that bequeathed to us at independence.
To perpetuate themselves a leader will do anything. Despots like Marcia Nguema of Equitoral Geania, Jean Bedel Bokassa of Central African Republic , Mobutu Sese Seko wa Ngibendu of Zaire, Sani Abacha and the like just to mention, a few, trampled underfoot their countries’ constitutions and rode roughshod on largely docile citizens. Multiparty euphoria later emboldened citizens enough to challenge the tin gods. with demands for constitutional reforms.
As Niccol Machaivelli points out for any politician to guarantee success he or she must live by the dictum: The end justifies the means. You use any means-lies, cajoling , repression, blackmail , demagoguery, doublespeak and obfuscation, to achieve the end. Our politicians have at one time or the other been guilty of all or some of these vices. Machiavelli further counsels that the politician must besides have three important qualities viz: (a)Selfishness, (b) selfishness, and (c) selfishness. For them selfishness takes precedent over the common or national good. If destroying the Mau Catchment will endear a few voters to them , then so be it.
Ideally , a country’s constitution be one able to the see it overcome any crisis however shattering even including the demise of a leader in office. It should spell out to the finest detail how to handle a regime change , at it were , it has a list of dos and donts that safeguard the nation or national good. It should preferably be fail safe.
Even as far back as the monolithic Kenya African National Union .(Kanu ) days, now with hindsight the seeds of what befell Kenya early in the year are discernible.

Reintroduction of multipartyism through repeal of Section 2a of the constitution to allow for competitive politics, saw a proliferation of political parties make a vain bid to unseat Moi since 1992. It was only in 2002 after the opposition big guns united under National Rainbow Coaliiton (Narc) that they vanquished Moi’s Kanu.
It will be recalled that in the run-up to 2002 gereral election, the main contending parties had each promised a new constitution after 100 days in office. But when Narc took power although under its watch there was a spirited attempt to give the country a new constitution, the whole process was stillborn largely due to protracted wrangles on various issues including power Devolution at Bomas. .Then there were the Bomas Draft and Wako draft and even other quasi-official drafts. The most shocking thing was that although the opposing interest groups guzzled close to Shs 4 billion on debates, arguments and counter arguments they couldn’t agree on various issues. Even when it emerged that they were in agreement on 80 per cent of the constitution, vested interests , selfishness, bigotry, sheer greed denied the country a new constitution fours years down the line even when the matter was subjected to a referendum that the government side lost miserably. Disgruntled elements ensured they threw a spanner into the works every time the nation appeared closer to a breakthrough.
It is often said that a people get the type of government they deserve. In other words the pathetic plight of Kenya’s hoi polloi, the poorest of the poor who make up a majority of the 36 million Kenyans-and who live on less than one dollar a day and sometimes nothing- are culpable in some way for the cadre of leaders running the country at any given time as they chose them. So as they groan under the weight of a 26.5 inflation rate, food scarcity and unemployment , they should know they are as much are responsible for the status quo. Through the ballot they picked the pampered Members of Parliament who can afford Shs 3.3 m loans for Prados, and other sleek limousines even as large sections of the country’s citizenry sleep on empty stomachs, have no health insurance, and no tap water and other fairly basic needs like schools and good motorable tracks to transport farm produce. During the Bomas meetings, delegates most of them sitting MPs conspired to shoot down the recall clause that would have ensured that MPs are kept on their toes by the electorate. Granted, the recall clause may be misused by mischievous busy bodies to unnecessarily harass an elected representative, but by and large it is a useful recourse tool for a neglected constituency and can be used to eject those politicians who only go to their constituencies on election day and return their only after the five-year term.
Currently there is worrying talk to the effect that the one year timeframe for the Grand Coalition Government to deliver a new constitution is not enough. One hopes that perusal of the Waki and Kriegler reports will sober up our politicians to see the need for a new constitution before the 2012 general election. Let all patriotic leaders eschew parochial and narrow considerations to fast-track the quest for a new constitution

For as long as we are blinded by bigotry, chauvinistic tendencies to sacrifice the motherland’s national interest in favour of the selfish narrow considerations of clan , tribe or region , so long will we grope in the dark in search of a panacea that will heal the tattered and wounded national fabric.

Training Managers for Freedom of Information

Go inside a Freedom Of Information (FOI) training session to see how government’s information managers are gearing up for January 2009.

21 Good Reasons to Think About Alternative or Second Citizenship and Passport

21 Good Reasons to Think About Alternative or Second Citizenship and Passport

Our world is changing dramatically and holding a passport of specific nation or country can be challenging if not dangerous nowadays and is definitely connected to some restrictions. Here is a brief list of such exposures:

1. Political or economic situation in your home country makes travel on your current passport difficult.

2. Your assets are the target of litigation or you are burdened by taxation.

3. Your basic human rights or travel is restricted by your citizenship.

4. You are not allowed to work, do business, buy property or land overseas or settle in another country.

5. Your assets, freedom of movement and even life are threatened by your country’s economical or political situation.

6. You are subject to persecution for your religious or political beliefs or for pursuing certain harmless activities.

7. Your current citizenship and passport can make you exposed for hijackers and terrorists.

8. Your current passport could be revoked, confiscated or suspended for some reasons.

9. You can be a subject to tax on your worldwide income, currency controls or other confiscation measures.

10. Your state controls, restricts or monitors your travels or private or business activities.

11. Your present passport causes you delays, harassment or denies at any border.

12. You need visas to visit places where you want to go or stay.

13. Your citizenship forces you into unwanted military or other burden obligations.

14. You are identified as a citizen of an unpopular, immoral, aggressive or despotic state.

15. Your passport needs to be renewed or validated frequently.

16. Limited freedom to invest your money when and where you please.

17. You belong to the “wrong” country, like ex-Yugoslavia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea etc.

18. You cannot invest in the foreign stock markets or offshore mutual funds without restriction or hindrance.

19. You would like to insure a freedom of movement, residence, business of choice for yourself, your dependants etc.

20. You simply would like to open a new opportunities and guarantee a certain freedom and choice for yourself or your dependants.

21. You just would like to have a right for employment in another country which is not available now or permission is difficult to obtain.

There, of course, can be other reasons to gain another passport. You may possibly have a passport from a country that has travel restrictions imposed upon it, and this can be frustrating to say the least. For example:

* Many Chinese are desperately looking for a way to get out of their country, and/or to ease travel restrictions.

* Many US citizens do not like the idea of being enslaved to the IRS worldwide, regardless where they may choose to live. Also they may not like being targeted by terrorists because of irresponsible actions by their immature government.

* Many Western Europeans feel that during these turbulent times, it may be a good idea to nurture their plans for an additional insurance policy against difficult times ahead.

* Many Russians and Eastern Europeans are tired of having to queue to get visas all the time, and being treated as second class individuals by many, just because of their nationality.

* Many Africans and Latin Americans have tasted a bit of freedom but it doesn’t seem like they are free all the time as crazy governments and extreme travel restrictions make it very hard to get around.

With passport from one of the EU countries you are free to work, live and do business in any of the 27 member states of the European Union.

You may qualify to obtain your documents free through ethnic background, ancestry or religion in Brazil, China, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America etc.

Another way is to get an alternative passport by registration, by descent, via marriage or naturalization. In some countries you can be eligible for your 2nd passport in just 6 months after residence application and there is no need to spend this time in the country! There is an option for a 2nd passport and citizenship virtually for everyone who is seriously interested.



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International entrepreneur. Europe – Americas

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Freedom of Religion, Press and Assembly as moderated by Jerry Michalski

Freedom of Religion
Image taken on 2005-03-29 23:06:25 by mary hodder.