Wednesday, March 29, 2017

269. Our health is too important for political football

In illustrating his ignorance, President Donald Trump asked the question, “Who knew health care could be so complicated?”

I have two responses. The first is that everyone, literally everyone, knows health care is complicated. The second is, who elects someone who doesn’t understand that?

Trump said he was going to repeal the Affordable Care Act “immediately,” and “replace it with something terrific.” He and the Republicans failed to do so, despite having full control of the Senate, House of Representative and the White House and despite having obsessed about its repeal for seven years. They finally got in the game and choked — they looked like deer in the headlights. They were clueless and reports of their negotiations indicated they were willing to sell out the essentials of health care to avoid political embarrassment.

Health care affects everyone and almost always in multiple ways. It not only affects ourselves, it affects our family and friends. Most of us have seen someone we love fall ill, or become addicted to drugs, or suffer from mental health issues. It affects our finances and sometimes where and how long we work. Without health care coverage, people risk bankruptcy each and every day. Many also work in the health care field, directly or indirectly. Large complex medical corporations, hospital networks, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies employ millions.

And it affects everyone differently in terms of affordability and coverage. Health care is different for poor people and rich people. For individual and for families. For older people and younger people. For men and women. For people in different states. And for the employed, self-employed, and unemployed.

In that respect, that mostly white, wealthy men are making all the decisions is neglecting the challenges of diversity.

I have long advocated for national health care. Everyone pays, everyone is covered. Employers wouldn’t have to worry about providing insurance for their employees and people could work (or retire) without considering medical benefits. The large profits would be removed from the health care system — no longer would skyrocketing costs be associated with insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. Government health care is nonprofit, with reasonable costs and modest salaries.

In that respect, I have no emotional or political ties to Obamacare. It is better than nothing, for sure, but falls short of what national health care could offer. I don’t know if health care is necessarily a right, but it is the right thing to do. It’s about human compassion and human decency. It seems for Republicans, health care is more about money than about people. It also seems driven by politics and not by the heart.

I will not gloat at the president’s loss. And I am disturbed by anyone who would take pleasure in letting Obamacare fail. If it fails, people get hurt. And if you are the president and have full control of Congress, and you think the lives of American citizens are at risk, then you have an obligation to improve health care. It is about the people, not your damaged ego.

Health care is hard work, there are lots of interests at stake, it impacts everyone, and is one-sixth of our economy. That unprepared Republicans attempted to make changes to health care in 64 days, and that the president abruptly ended negotiations, displays ignorance and arrogance.

For many Republicans, this was a political promise; for Trump, in a world lacking specifics, where things are either a “disaster” or terrific,” it was way too complicated to hold his attention.

The country should be offended with the effort made by Republicans. Health care is too important. It needs to be a bipartisan effort, considering both the financial and health aspects of this enormous industry. And in doing so, it should be carefully researched in all its complexity. There is a reason Obamacare was thousands of pages long.

However, I can save them some work. The simple answer, embraced by many other countries, continues to be national health care

Friday, March 17, 2017

268. We can’t let this happen to the women we love

I am embarrassed to admit that there was a time when I would roll my eyes when feminists spoke of living in a “rape culture.”

Of course, I knew it happened, it was horrible, and even once was too often, but I just didn’t consider it rampant and felt that the use of the word “culture” was exaggerated for effect. I thought it was isolated to hardened criminals.

I have been in plenty of locker rooms and heard all the crude and degrading comments made about women. I never heard anyone bragging about assaulting or raping a woman, but I heard them being treated as sexual objects. Of course, for some men, it was banter, and often exaggeration, in trying to keep up or blend in with other teammates. Most could tell the difference, and it wasn’t my view of women and it wasn’t the view of my friends. That kind of talk never appealed to me.

A rape culture is not just about how often it happens, it includes society’s attitude about it. And I would include all forms of sexual misconduct, such as sexual assault, stalking, sexual harassment, and revenge porn or photo sharing. It becomes a “culture” when it is prevalent, accepted, or normalized in society. The acceptance in society is directly related to the consequences of the action — namely how severely it is viewed as a crime and the degree of punishment.

Sexual crimes, in all their varying degrees, are everywhere. They are in the home, where there are many heartbreaking reports of children being raped by family members. We see them in high school, in everyday sharing of sexting photos and in well-publicized cases such as the Steubenville football team and the .

If you are not familiar with the Steubenville case, it resulted in convictions of two players who raped involved a high school girl; bystanders snapped pictures and spread them on social media. Steubenville officials were also charged with obstruction of justice for trying to cover up the crime. It’s disturbing that the Steubenville case divided the town — primarily because the accused were players in a football-crazed town. There was a segment of the town willing to blame the victim and support the coach.

Rape culture is prevalent in college, where recently institutions of higher education, such as Penn State and Baylor, have been forced to deal with very serious allegations of sexual misconduct and cover-ups. At Penn State, coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted for sexually molesting young boys and two other administrators pleaded guilty for mishandling the issue. At Baylor University, Marc Tracy and Dan Barry of the New York Times reported that “the allegations of sexual assault by Baylor football players have multiplied, causing incalculable damage to the university’s reputation and leading to resignations and firings, including those of the president, the football coach, and the athletic director.” After one of the victims reported the rape, she alleged in a lawsuit that “she encountered an indifference on campus — even a callousness — that baffled and wounded her.”

Sexual harassment in the workplace uses power and fear to solicit sexual activity. Recently, hundreds of employees at Sterling Jewelers have sued the company for “fostering rampant sexual harassment and discrimination.”

In politics, sexual misconduct allegations surround President Donald Trump for his admission on a hot microphone of sexual assault. Even though he admitted the inappropriate touching of women, on tape and unprovoked, almost 63 million Americans still voted for him. In entertainment, many were stunned when Bill Cosby was accused of a multitude of drug-related rapes.

And recently, the military has come under investigation for the posting of nude female service members. Marine veteran Thomas Brennan, who runs a nonprofit news organization called The War Horse, wrote that a Facebook group called Marines United had around 30,000 members and shared the nude photos while also encouraging the sexual assault of the women who had been photographed.

The effect of the crimes range from violence to humiliation. The physical and mental scars can last a lifetime, and personal and professional relationships can be permanently destroyed.

The statistics also support the claim of a rape culture. Because of under-reporting and definition discrepancies, actual numbers can be difficult to positively assert. But some claims are as high as one in five women will be raped or face an attempted rape in their lifetime and one in two women will face some sort of sexual crime.

Even if these numbers are significantly lower, they are way too high.

To be fair, there are false accusations, such as the Duke lacrosse team, which equally traumatized the athletes that were accused. And there are some arguments for personal responsibility — especially with the accessibility to social media. Each allegation is different and it is often “he said-she said.”

It appears, based on the reported prevalence of sexual assaults and the dismissive attitudes of not only authoritative figures but oftentimes public opinion, that the undercurrent of a rape culture does seem to exist. For men who would act with fury if their mother, wife, sisters, or daughters were sexually assaulted, it is unacceptable and disturbing how dismissive they can be toward other women.

267. Far more fear than there is terror

The steak on your dinner plate is significantly more dangerous and much more likely to cause your death than a terror attack by immigrants or refugees.

According to the National Safety Council, the odds of dying from heart disease and cancer is 1 in 7. Reporting from Business Insider, the odds of dying from all forms of terrorism is 1 in 45,808. And the odds from dying from a terrorist attack from a refugee is 1 in over 46 million and from an illegal immigrant is 1 in over 138 million.

Eight years later and here we are again forced to deal with fear being propagated by the White House. Trump is obsessed, and seemingly terrified, by immigration and refugees seeking to relocate. His constant tweeting about the overturn of his travel ban called it, “SO DANGEROUS” and “THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!” If fact, the Trump administration is so dedicated to scaring Americans that it created a fake terrorist attack, The Bowling Green Massacre, to instill fear of the unknown and unreported.

Terrorism is scary. People fear terrorism because it is random, unpredictable and people are often left feeling powerless. I have had more than one nightmare that entails me running from a shooter. Terrorism works precisely because of the emotion it creates drives irrational responses. Patrick Kennedy said, “Terrorism is a psychological warfare. Terrorists try to manipulate us and change our behavior by creating fear, uncertainty, and division in society.”

Terrorists succeed when countries turn on themselves and manipulate its politics through fear.

I’m not being dismissive. A terrorist attack could occur, and it could be horrible. It is unsettling to know that at any time, in any venue, something terrible could happen. There is also the difference from a coordinated terrorist attack that kills hundreds and lone wolf spree shootings that attack dozens. Either way, we should do everything we reasonably can do to prevent mass killings or shooting by anyone or any organization.

The thing is, at least in regards to refugees and illegal immigrants, the process works. To declare that drastic measures, like a Muslim ban, is necessary for the safety of our country is, statistically and frankly ridiculous. It is even more ridiculous when you factor that the last major terrorist attack was the result of individuals primarily from Saudi Arabia, one country that was not included in the travel ban.

Refugees, in particular, are well vetted over a couple of years and generally have no say as to which country they will be sent. These are people fleeing their country because of tragedy—war or fear of persecution. As many have said, the refugee program would be a poor route for a terrorist.

Recently in the news, a 14-year-old Cleveland girl was taken and killed on her way to school. In Columbus, a 21-year-old college student was found murdered in a park. In Lorain, a man was killed while going through a fast food restaurant drive thru.

Of preventable deaths, last year over 3,000 people died from drug overdoses in Ohio alone. In 2015, there were over 38,000 motor vehicle deaths across the country. Death by suicide numbers over 45,000 annually.

The point is that statistics do not provide a rational argument for changing our travel security procedures. There are many more things that people can do, individually, and without increased government intervention, to make our country safer. And if that government money was spent on treatment and prevention drug programs, for example, many thousands of lives could be saved—compared to the near non-existent crimes committed by illegal immigration and refugees.

We just need to keep things in perspective. I think everyone supports reasonable efforts to keep our country and its citizens safe. It’s just not ever acceptable to create artificial fears to justify the political discrimination of racial, ethnic or religious groups.

Less steak, more kale.

266. Trump is acting like a spoiled child

For President Donald Trump, it’s not just about power, it is the lack of absolute power.

As most know, Trump grew up in privilege. He had a head start in life that most people can only dream about. While his father showed him the ropes, I doubt that Trump has ever really had a boss. Even when his businesses fell into deep financial trouble, he was bailed out by the banks, which included a ridiculous monthly salary.

When other troubles arose, Trump was able to use his power, influence, and extensive network of business owners and politicians to get his way. He was able to manipulate the laws, political system, and the threat of legal action to get people to do what he wanted.

Trump’s remarkable run to the White House has also been without consequence. His transgressions were unprecedented not only for a presidential candidate, but really any politician. There have been many crooked politicians, but rarely one that began their political career with so much baggage. The more people criticized him, made fun of him, the more his supporters rewarded him.

There are only a few areas of his life that Trump doesn’t have total control. Sure, occasionally, a deal falls through or someone won’t sell him the land he wants. Companies don’t always do as he says, such as Nordstrom, who recently dumped his daughter’s clothing line.

But the one entity that has total control over Trump is the court system. It was like that in business and it is like that now, as it serves as a check and balance on the legislative and executive branches of the government.

Kids become spoiled because they too often get what they want, rather than what is right or what they deserve. Often parents give in to children to prevent a temper tantrum and other bad behaviors. It carries, of course, into adulthood and many of us know people that we have decided that it is far easier to give in to him or her than to deal with consequences of a childish battle.

What are the consequences? For the most vengeful, it means nothing is off the table. It is a personal or professional war that includes derogatory comments, personal and professional threats, name-calling and the threat of lawsuits. If they can’t beat you, they will belittle you, embarrass you, minimalize you, and attack your credibility.

Most people don’t want that — most times it is not worth it.

But the courts are different. Yes, they have become politicized in some instances. And yes, they have been influenced by society and difficult social moral issues. However, in the end, their decisions are final—at least for a time. Judges, like many professions, have a brotherhood and an unfair criticism to one is an attack on all.

When Trump lost a ruling regarding his fake university, he personally attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel for being a Mexican and a “hater.” Trump later responded, “Even though I have a very biased and unfair judge in the Trump U civil case in San Diego, I have thousands of great reviews & will win case!” In the end, Trump didn’t win and settled the case, although he claims to “never settle.”

Trump then said, in response to the stay on a federal travel ban, “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

Then after losing again in appeals court, Trump wrote in all caps, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

Trump can’t just disagree with a decision, he has to personally attack those who rendered it. When they agree with him, they are “very smart.” When they disagree, he attacks them with the worst thing that they have ever done or may have done.

Trump has also transferred responsibility of the safety of the country — which is his job — to what he feels is a bad decision. Now, if something does happen, it’s the court’s fault, not his and his unconstitutional ban. Trump could simply rewrite the ban, but he would rather have a scapegoat and an adversary. He loves life in the gutter.

Nothing is his fault and for someone so privileged, he is often treated “so unfairly.” These are traits of a spoiled brat, not an American president. His temper tantrums are quite unbecoming for the leader of the free world. His lack of consideration for others in unacceptable and any delay of immediate gratification is the product of a lack of preparation and the inability to take the time to understand the complexity of a situation.

Trump is unable to see the world in color. All he ever sees is his own reflection.