General: August 2009 Archives


In a functioning community, "I've got mine" is not the beginning and the end of civic responsibility.

When did the discussion of promoting public health degenerate into a discussion about promoting the health of private insurance companies?

I'm hoping that we're going to find out soon that there aren't enough votes to pass a health-care bill either with or without the "pubic option", and that Congress will then have the courage and good sense to produce the only solution which would serve people rather than corporations: Single payer. I know it sounds crazy, but it could actually happen, and the insane mechanisms being tossed around right now really are crazy.

Medicare for all: It's the only rational and ethical solution, both for delivering health care and for controlling its costs. It's our selfishness which has always been behind our horror of "socialism" (and from our beginnings as a people, our distrust of any government). It's time to just get over it. Were it not for those fears, fanned on the subject of health care by the insurance corporations which have owned the discussion for longer than anyone alive today can remember, we'd have already been living with its benefits and its savings for half a century, perhaps longer.

ADDENDUM: Obama doesn't seem to be a part of the process these days, and perhaps he never was, but for what it's worth, the man we now address as Mr. President once favored a single-payer system. In his post on, "Health Care's Enigma-In-Chief", David Sirota reminds us of a speech Obama delivered at the AFL-CIO Civil, Human and Women's Rights Conference in 2003:

[He] declared himself "a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program" -- i.e., one eliminating private insurers and their overhead costs by having government finance health care. Obama's position was as controversial then as today -- which is to say, controversial among political elites, but not among the general public. ABC's 2003 poll showed almost two thirds of Americans desiring a single-payer system "run by the government and financed by taxpayers," just like CBS's 2009 poll shows roughly the same percentage today.

In that speech six years ago, Obama said the only reason single-payer proponents should tolerate delay is "because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House."

[image from education-portal]

we can't do it with bake sales

Gordon Marino's short piece, "The real US healthcare issue: compassion deficiency", should be the first and the last word on the subject of health care. These are just excerpts:

The healthcare debate has revealed that Americans suffer from a compassion deficiency. Many of us would prefer that our fellow citizens go without medical care rather than make even the slightest of sacrifices.

. . . . Apparently, there are a lot of folks who would choose to have young mothers with cancer go without chemotherapy, instead of giving up a bit of that disposable income that is our badge of freedom and individualism.

Sure, we all like to think that as Americans we care, but normally we'll only bother to help when someone's tragedy manages to really touch us - a loved one perhaps, or a subject in a media drama - but it's not enough, and it's not about ethics. Marino continues:

I reside in a small town and every week there is some kind of raffle or spaghetti dinner to scrounge together the funds to meet the medical expenses of a child with leukemia or a teenager with a brain tumor. We're trying to pay for brain surgery with bake sales!

"The real US healthcare issue" had been published in the Christian Science Monitor exactly one week back, but I first saw it a few minutes ago when Barry sent me an IM pointing to what I have to describe as a pretty exciting new social bookmarking site for philosophers*, "Sympose". It describes itself as "a fast and easy way for professional philosophers to find online philosophy content that they might enjoy". While content can be supplied only by philosophers who have earned their Ph.D. or persons who are enrolled in a graduate program in philosophy, at least the rest of us can swim around in all that heady wisdom.

Gordon Marino is a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf's College, and the item was "scooped" onto Sympose by Preston Werner.

Disclosure, or confession: Back in the early dark ages (way before the internet), one of my undergraduate minors was philosophy. Okay, the other was German, but my history major was supposed to be the practical subject.

[image from trinityhawaii]


I'd love to find some excuse to continue shopping at Whole Foods, but I just couldn't live with myself if I went with anything I can come up with.

I am a serious cook, I make a real dinner for Barry and myself virtually every night, sometimes including friends as well, and I take my food sources very seriously. I was delighted to learn around nine years ago that a branch of Whole Foods was going to be opening at the end of our block. We already had Garden of Eden on 23rd Street, about the same distance away, and I could easily visit the Union Square Greenmarket, Citarella in the VIllage, Balducci's on 14th Street and Buon Italia and the other shops in Chelsea Market. I could reach just as many more good food outlets if I ventured a little further, and I often did.

I immediately found Whole Foods very convenient, and I had a certain amount of confidence in the quality of what they sold, perhaps buying too much into its own hype and the excitement of its fans. The store became a very big part of my hunting and gathering activities. I soon began to think of the store as almost indispensable. It didn't hurt that since it was only a few hundred feet from our apartment I could walk out my door at 9 in the evening or even later, having no idea of what I was going to buy, and still get back in time to make a proper dinner for the two of us.

But Whole Foods has been out of my life since last Thursday (except in the telling of this story). I'm going to have to make some adjustments and I'm definitely going to be planning ahead from now on. I regret having to make the adjustment, but I may be more disturbed about the fact that it took me too long to get to this point.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that for a long time I found it convenient to ignore what I began to hear early on about the Whole Foods management preventing its employees from unionizing (I did not then know the extent of its larger political involvement fighting the union movement, including opposing the Employee Free Choice Act). And then late last week the news broke about co-founder, Chairman and CEO John Mackey's Thursday Wall Street Journal op-ed on health care, "The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare". I could no longer ignore the fact that my money was supporting reactionary politics (the agent of the transaction was boldly broadcasting it to the world). Mackey opened his odd, obsessional piece with an ignorant, plainly specious quote* from scary Margaret Thatcher, and went on to argue against President Obama's health reform proposals. In fact he railed against any government involvement in the regulation of health care, positing instead eight of his own ideas for reform.

My favorite:

Revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren't covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

From its beginnings this food chain, anointed (with some justification) as more wholesome than any of its competitors, has assiduously cultivated an image of social responsibility. But it's an image which is, at the very least, at odds with much of its social and political conduct, especially because of the activities of the increasingly-eccentric John Mackey. The long arm (money, power, influence) of this very successful, wealthy corporation now manages to touch the lives of everyone, even those who have never entered one of its stores.

Even if the expected (and already dramatic) negative reaction of Whole Foods customers to the revelation of Mr. Mackey's Right-wing adventures isn't enough to frighten the corporation's investors, I would be surprised if they haven't already started to question his judgment, his ability to perform his job. Any competent CEO is well-advised to avoid political activities which offend and damage the best interests of his firm's clients and customers - or at least avoid being discovered or outed as an extremist nut.

I'm not going to pretend that my decision to no longer darken the threshold of the Chelsea Whole Foods outlet is of much consequence in the grand scheme of things, but I know I'm not alone in wanting to see John Mackey relieved of his duties. Stranger things have happened, and corporations are not known for courage, or preferring stupidity over the bottom line.

Should he be removed, John Mackey, the free market libertarian, should be able to appreciate the irony of the marketplace deciding that it had to be.

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out
of other people's money."

[image from gezellig-girl's Flickr photostream]

This page is an archive of entries in the General category from August 2009.

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