Drastic Times

Weird, Interesting or Disturbing News and Current Events along with some unsolicited opinions. Pretty much anything that I believe to be of interest, including politics, religion, conspiracies, values, corruption, etc.

Although America is a great country, in my opinion it's not quite as great as it could be. This doesn't mean that I don't love the country where I was born and raised - on the contrary. If I didn't love it I'd just move abroad and forget about it. But because I do love it, there are some things that I'd like to see changed to make it better.

Below are just a few of my thoughts as to some of the things wrong with America today. These are just my personal opinions, and I'll probably be adding more later. Please feel free to comment, even if you strongly disagree with me.

Thanks for reading.

1. Lack of a health care system in the USA that covers everyone.

For Congress and the wealthy, health care is not a problem. For the average individual however, health care is usually tied to employment. If the employee loses or changes his or her job, unless the partner is covered, health care for the entire family ends. Even if the new employment offers group insurance, there is a waiting period before it becomes effective and pre-existing conditions are not covered even then, for up to 12 months.

If someone is self-employed or works for a small company which doesn't offer group insurance, private insurance must be purchased. But most private insurance companies won't cover pre-existing conditions, and many policies are too expensive, resulting in the poor having no coverage at all.

Even with insurance, insurance companies can refuse to pay for procedures or medications that doctors deem necessary. The price of deductibles and co-pays can prevent some people with insurance from seeking medical care, not to mention out-of-network charges should an in-network hospital not be available for the care needed. Many Americans are just one medical emergency away from financial ruin.

The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee access to health care as a right of citizenship. After World War II, the systems of Europe were equalized and modernized, with the resources being more fairly distributed and everyone having access to health care and other programs necessary to a decent standard of living. Consequently most European countries have a better standard of living that does the USA. In America we hold on to our system which causes gross disparities in wealth, and those gross disparities enable those in control of the capital to keep the system in play. In America we still hold to the philosophy that the few have the right to profit from the labors of the many.

Many Americans consider social programs stealing. I however consider unchecked Capitalism stealing. Capitalism when allowed to run wild creates a winner take all situation, with those on the losing end winding up with nothing.

2. The Right To Bear Arms

This Right was written into the American Constitution over 200 years ago to allow citizens to stand up to a tyrannical government. It does not specify limits nor types of weapons that one can bear.

Considering the modern weaponry in the hands of today's military, citizens have no chance of defending themselves in the highly unlikely event that a tyrannical government should use the military for purposes of oppression. This in itself is cause to amend the Constitution. But the fact that no type of weapons was specified has led to the ownership of assault weapons being legal.

While I can see no harm in owning guns for hunting, there is no need for allowing the types and amounts of weapons that are in private hands today. The Constitution, as written, could be construed to allow private ownership of tanks and missiles. And there should be restrictions in place as to where they can be carried. The Texas Senate recently passed legislation allowing guns on university campuses. In my opinion, in addition to guns for hunting, handguns should only be legal for use in clubs or for protection of homes. They should not be allowed to be carried everywhere.

3. Idol Worship

America has an obsession with the lives of the rich and famous. Supermarket checkouts have dozens of magazines which keep us up to date on the lives of our celebrities, informing us of the current status of Brad and Angelina's relationship, or whether or not Paris took her dog to the opening of a new Hollywood Club where she wore her $25,000 dress, or whether Britney or Lindsay was pulled over for drunk driving. All while half of our population is living from paycheck to paycheck.

It seems that as the social fabric of America unwinds, we develop childish fantasies of immortality or ageless beauty, which we see in our celebrities. Americans would do far better to focus on their own lives than a select group of superficial individuals. If parents spent more time worrying about guiding the lives of their own children than following the lives of Brad and Angelina, some of our social problems may start to diminish.

4. Christian Fanaticism

Although most Christians are good and kind people, many have what I would consider fanatical beliefs when it comes to their religion. I'm not only talking about the belief that most Christian have in the words of the Bible, which a large number consider to be an accurate historical account of the world, but also some misguided beliefs such as "a good Christian home will ensure children with good moral values," or that "faith can fix anything," or that "God has a plan for all of our lives. "

Frightening too, is the dedication that many have for their church, even at the expense of their own families. While working as a manager for a large firm in one of the Southern States, I had the opportunity to offer five of my employees a chance to work one Sunday at triple pay. I had one employee who was in financial hardship and was having trouble feeding his family, so I saved one of the positions for him, thinking that he would jump at the chance at extra income. But to my surprise he turned it down, saying that he could not miss church. And on top of this, he "tithed," giving ten percent of his meager income to the church while his children did without. Another time one of my employees told me that his wife was angry at him because he had left her no money at home, and she had lost a chance to buy a blessing from their church.

I know that such extremes are more prevalent in the South, but they do exist elsewhere too, and in my opinion they're disturbing. I believe that those who believe in God would do better to try to form a more personal relationship with him from within their own hearts, then rely solely on the church and its interpretation of the Bible.

Please take some time to check out The Irate Dog, a blog which is "Trying desperately to become the meeting place of opinion and current events," - and in my opinion, is doing a damn good job of it.

Something for everyone. Anything from the environment, through religion to politics - on both sides of "The Pond" and beyond.

Thanks :)

An article in Live Science published this month (August 2009), claims that life expectancy in America is behind 30 other nations. The article goes on to say that US life expectancy gains may be pretty much over.

According to findings published in the online medical journal PLoS Medicine last year, life expectancy rates for a sizeable portion of the population leveled off and even reversed starting in the 1980s.

In a previous article published by Live Science, researchers claim the findings are troublesome, because life expectancy, along with infant mortality, is a major indicator of the health of a nation. A decline in life expectancy, as is seen during turmoil such as war and famine, is a sign that health and social systems are failing.

The worst hit regions are the Deep South, Appalachia and also the southern part of the Midwest reaching into Texas. The reasons, largely preventable with better diet and access to medical services, are diabetes, cancers and heart disease caused by smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

Researchers warn that this failing trend could easily spread to the rest of the nation, meaning that for the first time in the history of this country, parents will have lived longer than their children.

As of the writing of the article, the United States, despite being the wealthiest country on earth, had a life expectancy behind that of Bosnia and Cuba. Although it has by far the highest level of health spending per capita in the world, the United States fails its poorest citizens, with about 36 million of them living below the poverty line. As a result, the U.S. healthcare system ranked 37th on a list of 191 systems compiled by the World Health Organization.

Nonetheless, millions of Americans, even the poor without access to medical care, fight any attempt by the government to change the health care system and better their lives.

An article from last year has reappeared on the BBC News page this week, describing the dismissal of an American lawsuit against God. The article refers to a lawsuit brought against God by a Nebraska Senator by the name of Ernie Chambers.

The lawsuit, originally filed on September 14, 2007, is described in an article from KETV News in Omaha. It states that Senator Chambers filed the lawsuit to prove a point about frivolous lawsuits, saying that anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody -- even God. According to KETV, "the lawsuit admits God goes by all sorts of alias, names, titles and designations and it also recognizes the fact that the defendant is omnipresent."

The lawsuit went on to say that God had caused "calamitous catastrophes resulting in the wide-spread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants including innocent babes, infants, children, the aged and infirm without mercy or distinction."

The lawsuit asked the court to enter a permanent injunction enjoining God from engaging in the types of deleterious actions and the making of terroristic threats described in the lawsuit.

In my opinion, it's kind of sad that a Senator can waste time (and possibly tax dollars) in filing a lawsuit which he knew would produce no tangible results, save for getting his name in the newspapers. The court, in its defense of accepting the suit, claims that it had no choice, as the Constitution requires that all cases be accepted. However, a few days later, the court showed that it was by no means above acts of stupidity of its own.

According to Action 3 News of Omaha, God, or someone claiming to be God, responded to the lawsuit three days after its filing, saying that as he wasn't served by a deputy, the case should be thrown out.

"A one-page document showed up rather mysteriously at the Douglas County Courthouse yesterday. Everyone there knows about it...no one knows where it came from...and nobody knows what to make of it. At the bottom, the so-called defendant printed his name--God."

This in itself wouldn't be bad, for it shows that someone in the courthouse has a sense of humor. What's frightening here is that some people apparently took it seriously and alerted the media. Action 3 News's article states that Gordon Rieber in the Clerk of the District Court's office told a reporter, "It was on the counter in legal filing yesterday. No one saw it come in. She (an employee) turned her back and there it was. It could have been a miraculous situation."

Defense attorney James Martin Davis volunteered to be a witness. Referring to a heart attack he survived the previous year, he said, "He (God) hasn't called me yet! I knew there was a special reason I was saved. I didn't know it might be to represent God Almighty!" The article made no mention of how Davis could attest on God's behalf that God caused no fear through his numerous killings.

The lawsuit was finally dismissed in February 2008 after sitting on the books for five months. According to the aforementioned BBC News article, A US judge threw the case out, ruling that because God has no address, legal papers cannot be served. Chambers had been considering appealing on the grounds that the court had acknowledged the existence of God and a consequence of that acknowledgement is a recognition of God's omniscience. Said Chambers, "Since God knows everything, God has notice of this lawsuit."

So this brings up the question of what evidence did the court use to acknowledge the existence of God? The fact that his existence cannot be disproved should not be sufficient, just as an inability to disprove guilt does not necessarily prove it. Another question that arises is whether or not it is Nebraska policy to dismiss all cases in which the defendant has no address. Should this be the case, it would open the door for the homeless to go on sprees of raping, pillaging, or whatever suited their fancy.

On the evening of March 1, 2008, Gary Diego had to rush his wife to the hospital for an abrupt medical emergency. Insured, Diego rushed her to his insurance company’s in-network hospital. Unable to handle what was determined to be bleeding in the brain, the hospital quickly transferred her to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Neveda, where she spent 17 days in intensive care. While recovering, she caught pneumonia and died.

As the Reno hospital was not in his insurer's approved network, Diego learned from his insurer, Health Net, that he owed $75,462.77 in out of network charges. Further bills continued to arrive as Diego discovered that he also owed money to out-of-network doctors and testing laboratories for services not covered by insurance. All of this was on top of a $14,000 deductible he had chosen to keep his premiums down.

The article describing Diego's plight (which can be read in its entirety here), explains that in a practice known as balance billing, insurers pay a portion of the out-of-network charges, and the balance owed to hospitals and doctors is dumped on patients.

The article states as follows:

Until recently, the problems associated with out-of-network emergency care had received little attention. But now they’re being attacked on multiple fronts, with insurers, hospitals and doctors pointing fingers at each other, and patients stranded in the middle.

On Aug. 12, an insurance industry trade group released a
report saying some out-of-network doctors and charge much more than the negotiated fee they would collect in a network.

The group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, noted that out-of-network fees are not regulated and asked Congress to investigate the issue. None of the leading reform bills addresses the issue now

As stated in the article, Diego's case is an extreme example. As also stated in the article, consumers who are careful to choose in-network doctors and hospitals for their routine medical care often cannot choose where or how they are treated in an emergency. Even non-life-threatening emergencies when vacationing or visiting out of state can cause financial ruin, even for those with insurance.

And sometimes, even if patients are careful to remain within the network of their insurance provider, they can still incur additional costs. According to Dr. Richard Duszak, a radiologist in private practice in Memphis, Tenn., and an official with the American College of Radiology. “They (hospitals) tell you that they are an in-network provider, but they don’t tell you that the emergency room physicians are not in the network.”

With the current system that we have in America, unless we are extremely well off financially, we find ourselves dependent upon and at the mercy of our insurance providers. Yet despite being only a medical emergency away from financial disaster, opponents of universal health care continue to oppose it for fear of government takeover or lack of independence.

What universal health care would offer is peace of mind that we and our families could receive necessary treatment and care without the worry of how we could afford it. Having lived for years in the UK, where such a system is in place (NHS), I can report firsthand that I was free to choose my own doctor, discuss my treatment and medications with my doctor, see a specialist within a week, and have preventive procedures preformed at the local hospital with a wait of no more than a month. The taxes that I paid for access to the system were less than my group insurance premiums here in the USA. And all without hidden or additional costs such as co-pays, deductibles and out-of-network fees. If I or a family member fell ill on the other end of the country, our medical coverage was still in force, as it was if we became unemployed or retired. And our children remained covered, regardless of their age or student status.

And most of all, no one told me how to run my life. My standard of living was equal to or higher than in America, and I enjoyed the same freedoms that we have here (barring a "right" to carry handguns).

The bottom line is that universal health care would benefit not only the uninsured, but all who have to depend on insurance companies for their medical expenses.

According to an article posted in Live Science, the debate over President Obama's health care plan has more to do with illogical thought processes than reality. The article (which can be read in its entirety here), claims that people often work backward from firm conclusions to find supporting facts, rather than letting evidence play any part in their views.

Steve Hoffman, a professor of sociology at the University of Buffalo, claims that people get very attached to their beliefs, forming emotional attachments that get wrapped up in personal identities and senses of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter. He believes that in an attempt to keep our sense of personal and social identity, we tend to use a backward type of reasoning in order to justify our beliefs. Hoffman goes on to say that just about everybody is vulnerable to the phenomenon of holding onto our beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Despite Hoffman's claim that anyone can be effected, his idea is based on a study of nearly 50 participants, who were all Republican and reported believing in the link between the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and Saddam Hussein. Although given mounting evidence that no link existed, all but one participant held on to the belief. According to Hoffman, "For these voters, the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war. People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war."

Although I find this study interesting, I find it equally interesting that a study had to be done to learn what was already evident. Over 6 years after the war started, despite overwhelming evidence that it was unjustified, a large percentage of the population continues to support it with reasoning that rational people simply cannot understand. What's sad is that, assuming that this study is true, a large portion of the masses will continue to believe that universal health care means takeover and dependency on the government. Despite the evidence otherwise, any attempt to sway their opinion will be futile.

The article also says that past research by Dolores Albarracin, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has shown that people who are less confident in their beliefs are more reluctant to consider opposing perspectives. Therefore, these people avoid counter evidence all together. In another article (which can be read here), Albarracin says, "Close-minded people are very certain and dogmatic in their views, and generally believe that there is a single correct point of view." The article goes on to say that these people are more reluctant to look at different viewpoints regarding political, religious or ethical values.

As with Hoffman's study, Albarracin's study of close-minded people is interesting but was quite unnecessary. A five minute conversation with most Christians would bring anyone to the same conclusion.