Thursday, November 3, 2016

Election 2016 - Thoughts and Reflections

We've finally reached election week for 2016.  It seems like this campaigning has been going on forever.  I make no apology for being a progressive liberal in my political leanings, quite the opposite of my upbringing...but always hearing the echoes of lessons taught by my somewhat rigid, though fair and objective father.  Likewise, I'm not exactly naive when it comes to politics.  Long ago, I managed two state level political campaigns and as a retired journalist, I've observed election practices both in and outside the U.S.  This year is my fiftieth year of voting eligibility (21 was the required voting age when I began voting) and I've not missed an election in that time.  I'm not a newbie.  My memory circuits still function quite well and this has to the be strangest election cycle I've seen in my lifetime.  While certainly just my "opinion," not fact...I've been reflecting on the events of today and of past elections and thought I would share some of them with readers.

Without a doubt, Internet access, social media, mainstream media and the independent media have a significant impact....this election cycle more than I have observed before.  When I say "impact," I'm not attempting to attach a positive nor negative label, but merely noting it is influence.  People are influenced by what they read and hear, usually without actually validating the source of the material.  Even vote counting on election day can influence those yet to cast a vote, as noted since running results cannot be published until after the polls close.

There are many important issues at stake, this election, as always.  State and local issues, as well as candidates at a state and federal level.  Here we sit, preparing to vote....facing two presidential candidates, both of whom are probably the most disliked candidates the nation could have.  How in the world did we get here?  My only conclusion is that they were selected for us by powers greater than the voice of the people.  And, once again we are going to vote for members of Congress.  A Congress which has a current approval rating of barely 20% of Americans.  That rating has been even worse in recent cycles, yet we keep reelecting these individuals, or they would not be spending twenty to thirty years in the same office.  What are we doing?  Why are we doing it?  Have we just become mindless partisan lemmings ready to follow them off the cliff?  It seems so.

I look at the two presidential candidates and wonder.  I watch their commercials, I read the emotionally charged attacks and endorsements for both.  We have one candidate currently facing court charges for running a scam university fraud and sex charges against a minor...not to mention countless other sexually deviant accusations.  I look at the other candidate who has had a lifelong history of questionable ethical behavior.  And, I'm supposed to be consoled by the fact that neither has been convicted of anything....yet.  We sit here in a nation which most of us realize has been taken over by corporations...power, money and influence...those interests ahead of the interests of the people.  Yet, one candidate is a corporation, while the other one is owned by corporations.  Any candidate who attempts to represent the people is quickly dispatched to obscurity.

I observe conscientious voters who see their vote as representing their beliefs being attacked for finding themselves unable to vote, in good conscience, for either candidate.  Demands are made that they vote for the "lesser of the two evils," lest they are otherwise voting for the "most evil."  What??

Next, we have the charges of "rigged elections," and "voter fraud."  These allegations are made as though they are something brand new and just this election cycle.  Wow!  Does anyone realize that "rigged elections" began in the 1700's with a process called, "Gerrymandering?"  Partisan remapping of voting districts within a state, based on demographics which gives one party or the other unfair advantage in an election.  Why have we just started complaining?  Voter fraud?  We've been fine with it since 2000 when we began using electronic voting machines which are so vulnerable that a kid can hack them.  The technology used in them is disgusting, yet nothing has been done to correct the problem.  We're still using them and adding even more questionable machines to the system.

No matter which side of the aisle you're on, it seems everyone wants "change."  "Change" seems to include endorsements by groups such as the KKK and the Aryan Nation.  Change seems to include churches, preaching politics from the pulpit and influencing their a nation where we are supposed to have division of church and state...the very reason these religious organizations avoid paying taxes like the rest of us.  The other side wants change in the reform for issues such as education, employment, infrastructure and social programs.  Sounds good to me, but what do we really get?  Let's look at the past eight years.

We were promised that Guantanamo Bay would be closed.  It's still open.  We were promised an end to the war in Iraq...the longest war in U.S. history.  We are still there...more U.S. troops and money going in...and we've now added another four or five "war fronts" to the package.  There is no profit in peace.....and so long as we are controlled by corporations and a military industrial complex demanding more and more profits, we will continue with a growing defense greater than the seven biggest budget nations below us.  And we're still told that our "defense department is weak."  Compared to what?

I look at some of the events going on in this country right now.  We have American soldiers attacking American citizens in North Dakota...literally a "war."  Why?  Because this country refuses to honor a treaty they signed with these people and now, these people are interfering with the profits of a corporation.  I'm watching legitimate journalists being arrested and their cameras seized as "evidence" when they attempt to tell the a nation which claims to have "freedom of the press."

Frustration with lack of transparency by this government and in this country has given rise to "whistleblowers" and "leaks," more often that not from within our own agencies.  People, many of whom have put ethics above the safety of their jobs and families...and certainly no way to profit financially.  Is every "leak" legitimate?  Probably not.  Neither is it automatically false.  We go so far as to try to blame anyone we can for leaks....including the Russians.  Even claiming the Russians are trying to influence our election.  Really?  And we've never attempted to influence a Russian election, nor the elections in any other nation?  Nor attempted to destabilize a government we did not like?  Think C.I.A.  if you're having a problem with that one.  If in fact, it is the Russians.....give us the proof.  I haven't seen any proof of anything, regarding for me, the jury is still out.

There are so many issues today in this country I could address...there is not a column long enough to discuss them all.  Private prisons demanding more "product" to fill their a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world.  No useful national healthcare scheme in a nation with the highest medical costs in the world, yet killing more than 200,000 Americans every year from "medical errors and misdiagnosis."  I watch higher education being placed further and further out of reach of the average American...and reserved for the elite.  Forty years ago, I was able to attend university in California for a total of $90.00 tuition per semester....since the state had the insight to "invest in education for the people."  A far cry from today.  We paid it back through higher taxes paid from higher was a long term investment.

I've watched our mainstream media be taken over by some six corporations.  There is no independence in media anymore, yet we blame the media rather than the cause.  Truth and transparency have been silenced.  Government classifies everything....we have no need to know.  And when someone does speak up, they are silenced, either by discrediting the individual or source....or with criminal charges.

We're on a long and strange road in this country.  We are being divided and directed to fight each other rather than fight the source of the problem.  We are entertained with celebrity stories and fluff to cover legitimate concerns.  It's a propaganda war.  I think back to my younger the 1950's and 1960's....and all the stories we were told about the tactics of the old Soviet Union and how we must fight this kind of enemy of freedom and the people.  We were told about their massive military build up and their desire for confrontation and influence in the international community.  We were told that the only information the Russian people received...or the rest of the world...was propaganda.
And you know what?  Today, we are them.  I recall the Soviet government saying they would not have to attack the U.S., as we would crumble from within.  I'm beginning to realize they understood us well.

Anyway, this is just my view...and that doesn't make it fact, but it's the way this many years of life has shown me we are heading.  Can we pull back from the brink?  Yes, I believe we can, but it won't be through the election of either presidential candidate we have today.  It will happen when we the people decide to drop the partisan fighting and realize that we are all in this together and we aren't the enemy.

© 2016  Stan G. Kain

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Rigged" Elections - Just One View

As a retired journalist and former Opinion Editorial writer, I remember the days when I woke up every morning with some ideas for a column racing around in my head, as my mind seemed to keep working while I slept.  Not so much, anymore.  Apparently, last night was an exception.  Too much reading about "Rigged Elections," must have put my brain back into editorial mode, as morning has come with a short column in mind.

At 71 years of age, I've witnessed and participated in more than a few elections.  Elections both within the U.S. as well as some third world elections in southern Africa, where I lived and worked for several years.  Likewise, many years ago, I was active in U.S. elections, serving as a campaign manager in two state level races.  I have to say, this year's U.S. election is like none I've ever seen.

Right now, we're being bombarded with many unsubstantiated charges of "Rigged Elections Coming!"  Donald Trump, sensing his coming defeat in a presidential bid, thanks to his own self inflicted injuries and in typical Trump fashion, is busy trying to place blame for his pending loss on anyone but himself.  Personal responsibility isn't in his vocabulary nor style.  Totally unsubstantiated, unfounded claims, but like all propaganda, repeated often enough, there are believers.

On the other side of the coin, the Clinton campaign argues, "The Russians Are Coming!"  Again, unsubstantiated allegations, based on flimsy arguments that some leaks have been traced back "to Russian I.P. addresses."  An obvious lack of technical expertise, as I.P. addresses are easily manipulated by skilled technical people.  As anyone who uses TOR or other anonymous software.  Of course, some of these claims are supported by the F.B.I. and "official sources."  That's right...the F.B.I.  That high tech government agency which is so advanced that they still are using Microsoft Windows 98 on some of their own systems and believe it's "secure" in this day and age.

But, back to the question about "Rigged Elections."  Could such a scenario play out right here in the good old U.S. of A.?  Perpetrated by some outside foreign government?  From inside a national political party?  Is this a "breaking news revelation?"  Or, is it just recycled news with a new spin?

Personally, I believe this is all nothing new.  We have known the potential for such abuse for a long, long time.....and ignored it.  Further, some facets of manipulation have been built into our system, willingly and knowingly and "we the people" have remained complacent.  We have not demanded reform.

Let's take a look at some of the potential aspects of a "rigged election."  In doing so, we have to go back to the early 1990's.  At least as far as technology goes.  That's the time when were were first introduced to electronic voting machines.  While many of the electronic voting devices have a "paper trail," allowing for a manual audit of votes...many do not.  Therein lies the potential for abuse.  Anyone remember the name, "Diebold?  Back in 2011, a group of scientists proved that they could hack the Diebold voting machines with a physical attack, in a matter of seven minutes!  SEVEN MINUTES!  And that was with no prior knowledge nor experience with the machines nor their software.  Then, there is the Sequoia machine.  Scientists showed that the outcome of an election could be changed without ever leaving a trace of the intrusion into the system.  Yet, the system is still being used in some states.  ES&S sells their used voting machines on eBay, certainly a big help for hackers wanting to learn more about how to hack their current systems.  Likewise, scientists found passwords in use to protect many of these machines, using difficult phrases, such as "Admin," "Password" and "User."  Wow!  Does it get any better?

What has been done to secure these vulnerable systems?  Absolutely nothing!  I wonder how many corporate lobbyists for these manufacturing corporations stuff the pockets in Congress to ensure profits continue to grow?

What about access to these machines at voting precinct locations?  Are the machines under continual physical surveillance?  I doubt it.  But even if they are.....what about the precinct employees?  Trusting these precincts and the system means that you trust each and every person employed by them.  Not me.  I've used this same argument with proponents of proprietary is used in these systems...and even the Microsoft operating system and software.  If you tell me that you have full trust in Microsoft..or other proprietary software companies...what you are really telling me is that you have full trust in each and every employee of those companies.  Really?  Just one more reason I only use open source software in my own computer systems.  I have a right to know what's embedded in their products.

For reference, you might want to look at some brief information about currently used electronic voting machines in this country.  Research it yourself....don't just accept what you are told.  Electronic Voting Machines

Then, there is the political aspect of "Vote Rigging."  We built it into our electoral system, starting back in the 1700's.  Nothing new.  It was finally given an official name in the early 1800's.  "Gerrymandering."  This is nothing more than vote manipulation, giving preference to one or the other political party, depending upon who is in power at the time and redraws the districts.  Gerrymandering
Yet, as long as this questionable practice has been employed, "We the People," sit here and complacently accept it.  We have not demanded reform.

Now, the practice of "lobbying," or as it's known in most other nations...."bribery."  This all began back in 1785 when Ben Franklin was given a gift from the King of France for his service representing the United States.  Our more honest government went into a tailspin over the act!  They weren't sure how to handle it, as it was in violation of the Articles of Confederation.  When Lobbying Was Illegal

Fast forward to today and our U.S. Supreme Court decisions have granted corporations and even foreign governments the "right" to push their agendas into our system.  And to finance our elections.  Not exactly "hacking" in a technical sense, but certainly a means of manipulating an election and the outcome.

Okay...I've attempted to just hit on a few of the high points of whether an election can be "rigged" or stolen.  It's my opinion....and the key words here is "opinion," and "only mine."  But I'm sick of listening to all the unfounded, unsubstantiated charges of "rigged elections" from the both Presidential candidates.  Both of whom have their own shady records they are unable to address.  They have to spend their time trying to point out the failures of the other.  If they are REALLY concerned about the potential for "stolen elections," why don't they address the REAL issues and possibilities?  Why aren't they demanding reform?  Even better...what is wrong with the American people?  Why have we allowed these practices to continually grow and fester since the 1700's and not demanded an end to the practices?

Just one old guy's opinion and you're entitled to yours, as well.  While I'm just a liberal and not very big on the "nationalism" thing, one thing I've always done is, "while I may disagree with you, I will defend your right to your opinion, as well."

© Copyright 2016 Stan G. Kain

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Death Panels" In America More Die From Medical Incompetence And Arrogance

I'm angry this morning.  Generally, my Op-Ed rants aren't personal in nature, but address the direction of policies repeated over and over....with the same catastrophic results.  But, today is different.  This one has touched very close to home for me.  I'm talking about the American, "most expensive and far from best medical care industry in the world."  I've had to process this one for a few days, wishing to stay as objective as possible, so during my usual "morning creative writing time," here goes.

Out of respect for medical confidentiality for people I know, I'm not going to give specifics, but will my own story, not because this is about me, but because of the ironic parallel of the story to my own.  I will just say that the individual involved was a former in-law of mine, whom I liked a lot.  And I will mention that the story takes place in a major metropolitan area of the U.S., at a well known and respected hospital, where it's claimed the doctors are some of the best available in the region.  I will also point out that this individual is not one of "America's poor and uninsured."  Quite to the contrary.  He owned his own very successful small business for over 45 years and had some of the best medical insurance available....the "gold card," so to speak.  I must also say that this is not an "isolated incident," but I've heard the story repeated many times by many other people.

A few months ago, I learned that this man was experiencing some significant medical issues.  Among those issues, was a significant respiratory problem.  Yes, he has a long history of tobacco use.  He began routine bouts with and out of the hospital quite often.  He was assigned a pulmonary specialist...a team of them, actually and was diagnosed with C.O.P.D.  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.  Not uncommon for smokers.  Treatments were initiated and repeated, with little to no relief.  Other symptoms were present and overlooked or attributed to the C.O.P.D. and repeated attacks.  Weight loss, inability to eat, issues with speech and ultimately, resulting on his being placed on a feeding tube for a few months.  He was not responding to treatment, but treatment continued...various tests and scans were performed...negative results and the condition worsened.

His family, concerned and observing the symptoms and his condition on a daily basis, began to recognize something in his case which looked very familiar to them.  They recognized that he was having symptoms very similar to what they watched me go through for several years.  I had not reached the "feeding tube" stage, but as more and more symptoms appeared in him, they saw a parallel more every day.  Finally, they contacted me and explained his symptoms and the progression and lack of progress with treatment.  The more I listened, the more familiar the story sounded.  Yes, I had been through the same experiences.  I sent them some information about my own disease and urged them to read it and see if they saw a pattern with him.  They called to tell me the symptoms were identical to what he was encountering.

I must admit, I found it difficult to believe, as my condition is extremely uncommon, but there was no denying that even a layman could see the similarities.  My advice to the family was to ask the pulmonary specialist for a referral to a Neurologist.  The family immediately made the request to the primary physician and the pulmonary specialist.  They explained the similarities to my situation and were ignored.  The medical providers insisted he had C.O.P.D. and did not require any testing nor a Neurologist.  My advice to them was to become more assertive...move from a "request," to a "demand."  Again, they were denied.  After nearly two months of repeated demands, they were finally granted a referral to a Neurologist.  They waited another three weeks to have a Neurologist examine the man...all the while, his condition continued to worsen with pulmonary treatment and physical therapy.

A Neurologist finally arrived to do an examination.  A cursory examination by the Neurologist....taking a total of about five minutes....validated our concerns.  Whatever the man suffered, it was NOT C.O.P.D.  He had a neurological disorder...narrowed down by the brief most likely be either  ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis....or a relative of that disease....the one I have....Myasthenia Gravis.  Since Myasthenia Gravis has several variations, one of three different tests would be necessary for confirmation.  The first is a simple blood test...rarely run in a blood test panel...for reasons I don't understand.  In any event, certainly less expensive that the barrage of CT scans and MRI scans which had already been done.  Now, wait another two weeks to get the result of the his condition worsened.

Ultimately, the test results validated that he had Myasthenia Gravis, rather than ALS.  A good thing, since neither have a cure, but MG is treatable, while ALS is progressive, no matter what.  Under the orders from the Neurologist, medication began for treatment of Mysathenia Gravis.  And as is the case with the medication, there was improvement within a matter of hours.  Unfortunately, "too little, too late."  On August 27th, the MG hit the group of chest muscles, which ceases the ability to breathe...and he died.  Damned!!  Anger and flashbacks for me, as to my own treatment by this wonderful medical system we have.

This was a case of needless suffering and death.  Not because of a lack of medical insurance coverage nor an non-treatable condition.  This death is attributable to the arrogance bred into those entering the medical profession in this country.  This death came about because doctors are not taught to listen to patients nor family.  The insurance industry allocates "time slots," for patients....the doctor is going to devote however many minutes of examination the system dictates and in that time, there is no allocation to listen to anyone.  My own doctor is very good and we have many conversations...often he will tell me stories about his time in medical school.  This case reminded me of a story he told me about a professor he had in school.  The professor had told him that the school could make a doctor out of anyone.  What they could not teach was the ability to "diagnose using intuition and the senses."  That gift comes from inside the person....the ability to be a good detective.  Not to rely solely on all the electronic gadgets and printouts....but to listen to the patient....with an open mind.  "The devil is often in the details."  Those overlooked, often elusive clues.  That ability is what makes a "real doctor."

I realize that this story is longer by far than one of my usual editorials...but there is a long and potential life saving story to tell.  It's not about "me," but rather about the need for people to be aggressive with medical matters.  To question and challenge "medical authority."  Something we are programmed not to do....question authority.  But, your life may depend on doing so.

I'm not going to go into extensive detail about Myasthenia Gravis...anyone can research that for themselves.  I am going to give a brief description, however, as there is a need for the disease to be recognized and more public awareness.  Too many people die needlessly from it.  Essentially, it is an autoimmune/neurological disease.  Very uncommon...little is known about it and little research has been done.  What is known, is that there are no common elements related to the disease.  It strikes people of all backgrounds...more women than men....normally, women in their 30's and men over 60.  There is no cure, however there is treatment, if diagnosed in time.  The only initial symptom is usually one eyelid that will slightly "droop" for a short time.  The disease can mimic several other conditions and in the early stages, can go in and out of remission, almost daily....and with no warning.  In my case, it's due to an extremely strong immune system, which I've always had...and has saved my life a time or two.  The immune system becomes so strong, it begins attacking your own body.  Myasthenia gravis is caused by a defect in the transmission of nerve impulses to muscles. It occurs when normal communication between the nerve and muscle is interrupted at the neuromuscular junction—the place where nerve cells connect with the muscles they control. Normally when impulses travel down the nerve, the nerve endings release a neurotransmitter substance called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine travels from the neuromuscular junction and binds to acetylcholine receptors which are activated and generate a muscle contraction.

In Myasthenia Gravis, antibodies block, alter, or destroy the receptors for acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction, which prevents the muscle contraction from occurring. These antibodies are produced by the body's own immune system. Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease because the immune system—which normally protects the body from foreign organisms—mistakenly attacks itself.  Simply put....the brain signals cannot communicate with the muscle receptors, so the muscles do not function.  Two or three repetitions of a muscle feels like you have been using the muscle all day.  The muscle tires and must rest.  Commonly, the muscles are attacked in groups.  Facial muscles usually are attacked first...making it difficult to chew, swallow, speak and double vision is common.  It will progress...affecting muscle movement in the arms and hands.  Next, it may affect the leg and lower body muscles.  Eventually, untreated, it will take the muscles in the chest so one cannot happened to the man in this story.

My case was a bit complicated, due to other neurological issues.  At first, I was having issues with my arms and hands.  My own physician, without tests, determined it was an orthopedic issue and referred me to an orthopedic specialist.  He, without performing any tests at all began physical therapy and wanted to put me in traction.  I refused and demanded that an MRI scan must be done before I would agree to any treatment.  An MRI was done and showed that the discs were gone in six of the seven vertebra in my neck and that two vertebra were pinching the spinal cord in half.  I was immediately transferred to a Neurosurgeon.  Six of the seven vertebra in my neck had to be fused and the two vertebra drilled out to decompress the spinal cord.  The condition was serious enough that the surgery was done on an emergency wait time and the Neurosurgeon said if I had agreed to the traction treatment, most likely it would have severed the spinal cord, leaving me totally paralyzed.  So much for the orthopedic "specialist" and his diagnosis.  The assumption was that this surgery would "cure" the problem with my hands and arms, given time for the nerves to recover.  It did not.

Back to my regular physician...and I began going into pneumonia...hospitalized two to three times a year...often quite serious, requiring Intensive Care Unit treatment.  Pulmonary specialist brought in and I was diagnosed with C.O.P.D., just as the man in this story.  Muscle degeneration continued to worsen until I lost all use of my arms and hands and much of the time, lost my speech ability.  A frustrating situation for someone with a sound mind, as the ability to communicate was often lost.  Doctors would treat me as if I were mentally incompetent, since I couldn't communicate.  This generated a lot of anger inside me.  I would lose muscle function...make an appointment with my doctor and by the time I saw him, I would have some function back.  My own physician had little interest and ultimately, I gave him a brief synopsis as to my thoughts on his medical skills.  Not in a very diplomatic manner, but I had been going through this with him for nearly five years.

In that final battle, my primary physician decided he had the answer.  He once more admitted me to the hospital...not telling me exactly what he planned to do.  Fortunately for me, thanks to my many trips to the hospital, I had gotten to know two or three of the registered nurses there who liked me quite well.  Always said I was an excellent and easy going patient.  Not one...but two of those nurses had slipped into my room, once they had read the doctor's instructions.  He had determined my condition was psychological and planned to have me put in a psychological ward lock down.  BUT, they advised me that it could not be done without my consent...and they assured me there was nothing wrong with my mental state.  Well, that's a relief!  Both advised me to refuse the treatment plan...and both brought me a list with names of a couple of other doctors on it.  Confidentially, they both advised me that my physician was a very serious alcoholic and was no longer allowed to perform medical procedures in the hospital.....nor even make hospital rounds.  And, he is a doctor attached to the medical group of that very hospital!  The "suggestion" was that I fire the doctor and choose one from the list I was given, as they knew those doctors to be good.  I contacted a doctor from their Internal Medicine specialist who agreed to take me as a patient.  I then called my doctor and gave him the "Donald Trump" treatment...."You're fired!"  Naturally, I refused the mental ward admittance and likewise, refused to give up the sources of my decision.

Going over my medical history and symptoms, the new doctor told me there was one test which had never been done and he would like to do a simple blood test, if I would agree.  He was so confident of my condition, he said he was almost willing to try some medication even before the test results were confirmed.  I've always been a bit of a medical anomaly, even to the old doctor. At 71 years of age, I've never been sick in my life and all of the tests run have shown that my vitals and organs are like someone about 30 years of age.  Even brain scans indicated there was less than normal aging.  Again, attributed to a very potent immune system.

Tests confirmed the Myasthenia Gravis disease within a couple of days.  Tests were then run to determine the cause of the repeated pulmonary problems.  Results showed that the weakened muscles in the throat had affected chewing and I had been aspirating food into my lungs for all these years, bringing on pneumonia, further weakening my system.  Medication was administered and within hours, I began to recover use of my hands and arms, as well as speech.  Not one incidence of pneumonia now in over two years.  Once more, I can drive, cook and do much to care for myself, although there is a lot of muscle weakness and fatigue.  Currently, we are looking at beginning Immunoglobulin infusions, as by replacing healthy Immunoglobulin with the diseased Immunoglobulin, where the disease resides...I should recover more functioning and less muscle fatigue.

The cost of this experience has been great...both physically and emotionally.  Like many other patients I have met, life changes drastically.  There is a lot of frustration, not being able to accomplish all I want to do.  Some loss of independence and even a destroyed marriage, due to not knowing what was wrong with me.  I have participated in many conferences and seminars related to Myasthenia Gravis and listened to the experiences of others and I consider myself quite fortunate.  It's heartbreaking to talk with young people....a lot of young women who had careers, have young families to care for and suddenly find themselves with no income, unable to care for their children and often with lost marriages.  And looking at a lifetime ahead of them with apprehension and anxiety.  On the other side of the coin, they are being treated and are still breathing....unlike the man in my story today.

My message in this editorial story is simple.  The "most expensive medical system in the world" is far from perfect.  It's a business and we are not people, but products.  We are a twenty minute allocated time slot for doctors, thanks to insurance company rules.  You may think that the A.C.A. program...."Obamacare" for you conservatives....isn't working.  Well, it's not perfect, but neither is the system we have.  We need a complete overhaul of the system, beginning with the teaching in medical schools.  New doctors need to be taught to listen to become good detectives....or find some other field of work where they can be the "ultimate authority."  We have a RIGHT to question doctors....we have a RIGHT to demand a second opinion and we must exercise that authority or risk our lives.

I've received medical treatment both in this profit based American medical system and in countries with socialized medicine.  My own personal experiences have taught me that people who go into the medical profession in those other countries are there because they want to practice medicine.....not merely be there for the "profit" and be told how to practice medicine in the most financially satisfying manner.

I'm always open to questions or comments.
© Copyright Stan G. Kain

Monday, August 22, 2016

Blame It On The "Liberal Media"

Well, today I received a rather funny joke...with the "Conservative Flair," as I call it.  I had to chuckle, but not because of the punch line of the story.  I began a memorable journey in the journalistic profession, back in the mid-1960' which took me to life in three different foreign countries....interaction with some of the most amazing people I've ever met.  I was inspired by men like Edward R. Murrow.  Pride in my profession grew, as my fellow truth seekers exposed Watergate, the My Lai Massacre, Gulf of Tonkin debacle...."The Killing Fields" of Cambodia....activities in Laos and so much more.  A time before "news" fell into the "entertainment" arena, ruled by perky women with low cut tops and large cup sizes....clueless "eye candy" for the masses.  Ah, those were the days.  But before I ramble on and put you to sleep, here's the bit of Conservative, "liberal media" humor for the day.

A Harley Biker is riding by the zoo in Washington, DC when he sees a little girl leaning into the lion's cage. Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the collar of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the eyes of her screaming parents. The biker jumps off his Harley, runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch. 

Whimpering from the pain the lion jumps back letting go of the girl, and the biker brings the girl to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly. 

A reporter has watched the whole event. The reporter addressing the Harley rider says, “Sir, this was the most gallant and bravest thing I've seen a man do in my whole life.”

The Harley rider replies, “Why, it was nothing, really. The lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger, and acted as I felt right.”

The reporter says, “Well, I'll make sure this won't go unnoticed. I'm a journalist, you know, and tomorrow's paper will have this story on the front page. So, what do you do for a living, and what political affiliation do you have?”

The biker replies "I'm a U.S. Marine, a Republican and I’m voting for Trump."

The journalist leaves.

The following morning the biker buys the paper to see if it indeed brings news of his actions, and reads, on the front page:


And that pretty much sums up the media's approach to the news these days!

Ah yes, a chuckle, even from this cranky old retired guy's side of the writer's desk.  More importantly, it set me to thinking about the history of a once honorable profession....and how we came this far.

It seems that many Conservatives today only know of ONE Constitutional Amendment...The Second Amendment....but there was an amendment the Founding Fathers apparently viewed with an even greater urgency....or at least, they called it the "First Amendment."  And that First Amendment dealt with two uncomfortable issues for Conservatives.  In case you missed it in grade school, here's what it says."

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Naturally, this would be glossed over by a group of individuals trying to demand a "Christian nation."  A group who bully political candidates to be grilled by "Christian leaders."  A group who fail to recognize that freedom to exercise religion includes a right to live without religion of any kind being imposed in their personal lives and decisions.  It seems that the First Amendment grants the same rights and expression to people of ALL if we are going to give one religion the stage in a public arena....then all others have the same right.

But for the point of my opinion editorial here, I'm looking at, ""or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."  In fact, many states took this statement even further, with states legislating "Shield Laws" for journalists.  Journalists had to be able to protect their confidential sources of information, if they are to expect cooperation in obtaining information.  But, our politicians began to fear "truth," as they manipulated and wrangled illegal deals behind the scenes.

Since we're blaming "liberals" for the destruction of "news," let's take a look back in time.  Here's a statement by David Burnham of the New York Times in 1982.  “In its first 21 months in office, the Reagan administration has taken several actions that reduce the information available to the public about the operation of the Government, the economy, the environment, and public health."  In response to the charge and to the value of the Freedom of Information Act, the Reagan Administration replied.  “I believe, however, that there is an effort to balance the value of collecting and disseminating information against other values we think are important. Freedom of information is not cost free, it is not an absolute good.”  Really?  I wonder how that falls with "abridging" the freedom of the press?  Here's some interesting history on the pros and cons of the Reagan Administration policies.

Then, this same Conservative administration enacted the hypocrisy into law.  On December 3, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 99-494 proclaiming 1987 “The Year of the Reader.” The blatant hypocrisy of that act was clear throughout 1987 as the Reagan administration outdid itself in its efforts to control, interpret, manipulate, disinform, and censor all forms of information.  Read on:

Now, let's fast forward to another Conservative administration....that of President G.W. Bush.  Ah yes, the infamous "Patriot Act," which was going to keep us all "safe."  Even the name of the act is repulsive....seemingly implying that if you aren't okay with warrantless surveillance of your life, you aren't "patriotic."  Something like that, anyway.  Once more, journalists became a target of wiretapping, surveillance and scrutiny.  "Secret FISA Courts" were used and even "secret prisons" in third party countries were born.  Journalists grew more fearful for themselves and their sources....and with good reason.  Reliable sources began to fade.

While government has eroded the rights and privileges afforded to journalists, there since the day of the founding of this nation, an even greater threat has come into play.  And again, one can hardly accuse "liberals" of being "corporate friendly."  Independent news agencies, once the mainstay of free reporting, began falling to the power of corporate money.  Journalists, like everyone else, rely on a paycheck to support their families.  And as corporations began swallowing the independent media, any semblance of "independence" began to disappear.  Today, some 90% of all mainstream media is owned by a total of six corporations.  As occurs with all business, corporations consume the little guy, or force him out of the arena, using the power of money.  At this point, "news" became the mouthpiece of the corporations.  One more domino falls.  These are the same corporations which buy independent laboratories that come up with findings contrary to the goal of the corporation.  They merely buy the labs and the scientists...again, people who need a paycheck to survive...and make them rewrite results to their benefit.  So, what do we expect from the media today?  "Facts?"  Not a chance!!!  As we are seeing with our elections now, it's all illusion.  An illusion of choice.

While some of the names and ownership are a bit out of date today, the basics remain the same.  Do you really think that the "liberal media" is the problem?  Corporations, for the most part, aren't "liberal," to begin with....but they will feed the public whatever propaganda they see fit, so the blame is placed somewhere other than where it belongs.  In this case, on the very corporations that own what you see, read and hear.

So, for all these Conservatives who dismiss facts, figures and data, even when supported by citations, where do they turn for the "truth?"  Where else....the beloved "News Corp" and their reliable "Fox News."  Apparently, if you want "fact," here in the U.S., you turn to an Australian, a Saudi Arabian prince and a handful of corporate owners, none of which appear to have any sort of "liberal bias."

So, you want "free and fair," this is what you get in "corporate owned America."

I thank the Conservatives for today's good laugh!

©Stan G. Kain

Friday, August 19, 2016

"War Is Peace"

This offering is not one of my usual Opinion Editorials, but rather, a more informally written response to a pro-right, pro-war email I had received. The outright lies we tell so we are always the "heroes and saviors" in conflicts really infuriates me.  War is for profit and empire building, pure and simple and we dress it up with freedom and liberty for public parades.  Then, in a very short time, the few truths which leak through are lost in faded memories and only the "glory" is left to fill history books and in the minds of the majority.

The Conservative to whom I am responding, made a point that the dividends he receives on his stock is what matters to him.  How the corporations profit, whether through war, deception or whatever excusable, so long has he gets his.

This is a little lesson about Syria.....but it has been repeated over and over and least since 1900 by us in Central and South America, Asia and the Middle East.  I think the reason it's so difficult for the conservative mind to grasp is because that mind can see no further than "ME!"  Empathy doesn't exist....they cannot put themselves "in the shoes of another."  And when "ME" (this country or it's corporations) want something in another country...from natural resources to strategic presence to a more "U.S. friendly government," the feeling is that we should have our way without resistance.  We set up puppet governments and impose them on those people....against their will.  We make statements which impact policies around the world.  And when we want change of rule, we will finance, arm and train rebel groups within the that country to do our bidding.  We use our intelligence community to stir strife and contention. 

We see that as all well and good...until you "put the shoe on the other foot."  How about if China or Russia sent their intelligence people into THIS country....and started arming, training and financing the "Black Lives Matter" extremists?  Oh yeah, that got your attention, didn't it?  Same difference, but your myopic vision won't allow you to see that far.

Anyway, let's just take a quick look at Syria, since it's in the main news right now.  No need to look at everything, but let's at least look at key factors and roles.  "Facts," we call them...without the nationalism and other propaganda tossed in to make us feel good about ourselves.

First, we have conflict between the Syrian government and the Syrian rebels.  How did that escalate?  Well, as always, it escalated because of statements and interference of the same major nations which always generate conflict in poorer countries.  Here's a bit about the major players and their roles.
Liking to keep our homeland soil clean, as do the Russians and other major players, we use poor countries to fight our "proxy wars."  Just as we did with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.....China in Vietnam...Iraq in Iran....and on and on.  And yes, we are "profiteers."

We have no clue as to the devastation we inflict from our high flying drones, bombers and other high tech delivery systems of death.  We don't see faces....we merely paint the people in these countries as "terrorists," trying to make the destruction we do more palatable.  We don't see the innocent children, women, workers and small businessmen we destroy.  We blow up hospitals, schools, wedding parties and neighborhoods...killing and maiming many to get a few.  For justification, we are given trite explanations, as per former President G.W. Bush...."They hate us for our freedom."  Newsflash!!!  We don't have much freedom left here.  But, they hate us for the destruction we inflict upon their families, businesses and homes.  Look at some examples....try...just for a picture YOUR kids and families being subjected to this by outside invaders.  How would YOU feel?  What would be YOUR reaction?  I know what mine would be....To retaliate...even if it meant the only means I had was to tie some dynamite to myself and walk into one of your strongholds.
I dare you to try to tell me this kid in the picture is a "dangerous terrorist."  I dare you!!!

Let me take you on a trip down memory case you think this is just some "staged event."  I remember being a young guy just starting in the news business at that this time...and having three small kids of my own, when this picture was released.  It became the most famous photograph of the Vietnam WAS the Vietnam war.  It began to turn the tide of thinking in this country...and the world.  These kids...and this little girl had been hit with American napalm....a weapon against all humanity.

The same thing goes on today, as we give cluster bombs to Israel....weapons banned by most every nation....and Israel delivers them in Lebanon, Yemen and other nations.  They fail to detonate...leaving colored balls around civilian areas...picked up by children, thinking they are toys....only to be mutilated, killed and dismembered.  What do the people see?  "Made in U.S.A." on these killing machines.

I listen to all the bitching about "refugees."  You hate them, don't want to take them, don't want to take responsibility for them....on and on.  Right!  Okay...well, here's a solution for you.  STOP DESTROYING PEOPLE'S HOMES AND BUSINESSES AND THEY WON'T BE REFUGEES SEEKING SHELTER AFTER YOU DESTROYED EVERYTHING THEY HAD!
Pretty simple, isn't it?  But, if you're going to create your empire building efforts continue to create're going to have to deal with the consequences.  "For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction."  Bingo!

So long as never ending war is your are going to live with the consequences of ongoing war.  There is nothing "peaceful" about the United States.  We have been at war for 93% of the time we have been a nation....most of that time, our homeland was not under attack by anyone.  We love war...and the profits of war....the sale of arms...we are the world's largest manufacturer and exporter of weapons of destruction....we love the taking of natural resources....the cheap labor our corporations enjoy in subdued areas  and the strategic locations we gain for our spreading military presence.  It isn't free.  There's a high price to be paid...both by the people of these places....and by us......The very least we could do is stop being hypocrites and trying to put the blame everywhere else.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Hate Is The Theme Of This Election...But Some Attacks Demand A Response

It's not often I'm really driven to anger...generally, I just look at ignorance for what it is and let it go.  While there are distortions on the Left and the Right this cycle, some of these attacks leave me speechless.  Well, I exaggerate....ALMOST speechless.  I spent too many years writing Opinion Editorials to be at a total loss for words.

As often happens, someone forwards me a repulsive, distortion and ask me to please write some rebuttal they can use.  Today, perhaps it's the hot weather, but this one deserved both barrels.  I would never use names, however, let me say that this email came from an individual who is often the source for material which disparages anyone who is poor, non-Christian or non-Caucasian.  People of Italian descent...who forget...or never learned about the day in America when Italians were NOT considered "white," but rather in a class with African-Americans.  Likewise, their "patriotism" overflows, however like many Conservatives, they never served a single day in military service to this country.  No, they were too busy acquiring wealth in business for such details.

Now, with a bit of background for the messengers, here is the message they offered for today.......

Now isn't this the height of deceit ??????

This was Barack Obama with Khizr Khan's wife in 2009. She was not in her Muslim garb. And if you think they accidentally ended up at the DNC convention, think again. Khan is a Dem CON man, and prop of the Left. He's Muslim Brotherhood affiliated, and a professor who teaches and practices Sharia. (see photo attached)

Well, folks, there you have it.  All you need from the right to put the Khan family into perspective for you.  I could not let this outright rubbish pass without a response....and in no way did I feel my lack of diplomacy was out of line, considering the source and the information.  A response will probably cause a fair amount of "Conservative Butthurt," so if you're tender, you may wish to stop here.  Otherwise, please proceed.

First off, let's address the picture attached to the hate mail.  The haters are unable to even identify Mrs. Khan, although well able to attack her.

Now that we have this out of the way....I continue..........

Let's learn a little history...Okay???

Now, how about if he were Catholic and a member and practitioner of Opus Dei?  Would you still have a problem?

He is an American educated, Harvard educated guess what??  He practices U.S. law, based in English Common Law in his professional life.  He could be a Jewish lawyer and do the same thing....yet practice Jewish law...Kosher his personal life and that's his business.  Not yours...not that of anyone else.  He's able to keep his personal life and his professional life separate, as should be done.  Too bad a lot of Christians can't do that...or...even though a lot do.  I've not heard any yelling about the Catholic lawyer who goes to Mass on Sunday and consumes the "body and blood of his Savior," like a cannibal.....but lives normally the rest of the week...eating beef, chicken and pork.  Like everyone else in this country, he's entitled to his religious practices, so long as he keeps them in his home...which he does.  It's the freedom to practice one's religious beliefs in the manner they choose.  He does not impose them on anyone else.

"Con man," and "Prop."  What a joke!!!  They are a mother and father who lost a son in a worthless war....a son who was an American Army OFFICER...educated and dedicated to serving his country.  I wonder how many people with names signed onto this email, gave one damned minute of their lives in uniform, serving this nation?  I'd be willing to bet not a one.  Nor, donated a child to serve, either.  My own family has served in every conflict in this nation since service days in the Colonial Militia...and we look down on all of you who shirked your duty, too!

As for his wife, wearing a head what?  Many Muslim women do...and don't...on different occasions.  Contrary to your distorted view of Islam...this is often the case.  She was in mourning for her son...and thus could been part of her expression.  I remember my Irish Catholic grandmother....going to church, or following a family death...never going outside without a hat and veil.  It doesn't make it anymore more than custom.  I often wear my Irish kilt and attire of my Irish clan for formal occasions.  That certainly doesn't mean I wear a kilt everywhere I go.  And, it says nothing about "religion," as I'm Buddhist.

Give it a rest.  Donald Trump knew nothing about this family...nor the loss of their son.  What he did do was to insult them for their loss.  Mrs. Khan is a "Gold Star Mother," something none of your mothers had to worry about...right?  And Mr. Trump insulted each and every American...and foreign born family who lost a child or a spouse during combat for this country.  In fact, he insulted all veterans and Gold Star families and they know it.

So, get off the racist/religious crap....and recognize that this country has been made strong by immigrants...of all religious backgrounds.  Maybe read what it written on the Statue of Liberty.  The Khan family came here with absolutely nothing...and stand as a symbol of what an immigrant can do.  You don't like the illegal immigrants...claim they are destroying the country....and don't like legal immigrants who come here and reach the American dream....yet each and every one of you come from immigrant families...I would imagine...unless you're Native Americans, which I doubt.

Nuff said!

Questions or comments?  I'm always happy to address them!
©Stan G. Kain 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

A View On Voting.....From My Side Of The Desk

By Stan G. Kain
June 24, 2016

I've been watching the U.S. Election Primaries this year with great interest.  Without a doubt, it's the most interesting I recall in my 70 plus years on the planet.  Certainly like no other I've seen and more of an exercise in futility than in democracy.  This morning, the United Kingdom "Brexit Vote" news overshadows most all the headlines...along with the unexpected "Exit" majority, in spite of projections that the "Stay" vote would prevail.

The United States touts herself on being the shining beacon of democracy, thanks to a voting system where "the voice of the people" decide.  Looking at the Brexit voting this morning, I'm left asking myself a lot of questions.  Right at the top of that list of questions, I have to ask if that beacon is still burning so brightly.  Perhaps it's time to take an honest look at "one man, one vote."

"One man, one vote."  How simple can a system of democracy be?  Here in America, apparently it's too simple.  Historically, it's been a long, uphill struggle, continuing to this day.  We've struggled with questions where we had to ask if that philosophy included the right for women to have that vote.  We've wrestled with the right of Blacks and other minorities...and whether they should have a voice in our voting system.  We've imposed "literacy tests" before allowing the right to vote.  We're still a checkerboard of voting rules.  In some states, a convicted felon is forever barred from having a voice in the voting process.  Other states allow a convicted felon to vote under certain conditions...completion of sentence, time period following conviction and completion of sentence...while in other states, a convicted felon has a voice even while incarcerated.  All the while, each and every one of these citizens....felon or not....are citizens of the same nation, voting on the same issues.

Even our highest courts fail to agree on a principle so simple as each individual having a right to cast a single vote.  We argue that "people who exist on paper only," corporations..."are people, too."  We are so tuned to this influence that we recognize that the candidate with the largest campaign war chest has an advantage over those with lesser funding.  Corporate money molds and shapes our candidates and the outcome of our elections.  We even go so far as to have a system called, "Gerrymandering."  A means of manipulating voting districts, so as to give an edge to one party or another in an election.  The party with the greatest influence at the time has the advantage of "moving" district lines so as to maintain an advantage.  The very term, "Gerrymandering" comes from the appearance of these districts, appearing to many as looking like the outline of a "salamander," wandering aimlessly about a map, when drawing the district borders.

Not satisfied with this manipulating of the vote, we come up with the concept of, "Superdeletates."  Chosen individuals who cast a vote worth far more than the vote of the individual citizen.  What?  This is "one man, one vote democracy?"  Even further, we Americans embrace "1776" and the communication technology of the day.  While we no longer appoint a rider to travel by voice our vote because of the vast distances between voters and the government....we still embrace the :"Electoral College" system.  Today, technology gives us the ability to count individual votes and tally them at light speed, but heaven forbid that we don't honor "tradition."  After all, we're Americans!

So far, this Primary Election year, we've witnessed millions of people being given incorrect ballots at voting locations, we've seen polling stations closed for no apparent reason.  We have countless reports of people being denied the right to vote for vague and ambiguous reasons when they arrive to cast their vote.  We've watched as "exit polls" are conducted....something of a "checks and balances" on the trend of votes cast...yet when the count is complete, it fails to agree with agree with the vote tally.  We've even observed numerous challenges in respect to voter fraud....and states such as California, where nearly two million votes sit around in plastic bins....uncounted., yet winners are declared.  We even continue to use electronic voting machines, shown to be vulnerable to hacking and do not have a paper trail for validation in many states.

Now, this morning, I'm reading about the "Brexit" vote in the United Kingdom.  I'm looking at a system where each person in the U.K. had the opportunity to cast their vote.  Reports indicate that the heaviest voting has come from areas with the highest concentration of working class voters.  Perhaps the most telling elements I see missing are that votes have not been the greatest in Gerrymandered districts, nothing about the "corporate financial influence" impact on voting results, nor complaints about individuals being excluded from voting for one reason or another.  I've seen very little in respect to concern about the quality of electronic voting machines, either.  I've not read reports of poll worker impropriety nor closed polling locations.

I have read that after 17 million votes were counted in favor of "Exit," the result was obvious, since this was a majority.  Quite different than reading about some 2 million votes sitting around uncounted as we've seen in California.  I've not read where we have to wait and see what the "Superdelegates" will decide is best for voters.  What's going on in the United Kingdom?  Have they learned nothing about the shining example of democracy as defined by "the greatest and most free nation on earth?"  Where are their corporate influence peddlers?  Their mud-slinging television political commercials?  Their circus atmosphere debates?  I'm confused!

By all appearance, the "Brexit Vote," appears to be a simple democratic exercise in people casting a "one man, one vote" voice in the future direction of the United Kingdom.  How blatantly simple can democracy be?  The only missing element I would have liked to have seen was for the media to conduct exit polls....but at this point, I'm not complaining.  It appears that the citizens of the United Kingdom have spoken...each individual having an equal voice in their future.  A shining example of democracy in action....not just in rhetoric.  Wake up, America!  It's well past time for us to go back to the core principles of democracy....each member of our nation having the same voice...whether rich, poor, minority or not....and deciding the direction of their future.  Naturally, just one man's opinion.

Copyright 2016 Stan G. Kain