Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who Does It Best?

The news is out this week that Toyota has fallen from its pinnacle of perfection in the eyes of those who test automobile safety. Seems theirs, and several other leading brands, failed to adequately meet a crucial – and common – test criteria, a partial head-on crash with another car or with a barrier. It was big news for one cycle of the evening news but is no longer a big deal. The Foxes are not yipping about it, demanding the resignation of the corporate executives.

Tylenol is quietly being returned to the shelves, even promoting itself again after a long hiatus caused by contaminated product nearly two years ago. NBC runs the new Tylenol ads but never mentions the corporate failure that caused the company to withhold its product from most pharmacies' shelves for so long. It is no big deal.

Apple released its new I-phone a year or so ago (now old already because a “new improved model is available) with faulty maps on its built in mapping software; a huge error on the part of its software-making partner. It was noted at the time that Apple had some egg on its face but Fox and NBC execs continued to buy I-phones and not once called for the firing of Apple’s CEO. It was treated as an opportunity to tweak a corporate giant – and corporate sponsor – gently and humorously.

What has gone wrong with our Media? Have they gone soft on public safety issues that affect the pocketbooks of millions of Americans and endanger the lives of millions more? Or is it favoritism toward this or that corporate sponsor that keeps the news muted, restricted to a mere nod before the story is shuffled to the bottom of the stack?

Ah no. They have saved their ire for the flaws in the government’s roll-out of “Obamacare”. They receive no advertising dollars from the government so they risk no loss of revenue – could conceivably even reap a lot of revenue if they can keep the story “hot” for several weeks – so they pour forth their astonishment, dismay, and contempt on those who are attempting to enroll millions of previously uninsured Americans in an affordable (with subsidies) health insurance program.

“How could you have not tested the program sooner?” “Who should be fired?” “Did the President know about the flaws in the system?” All good questions, questions that need to be asked, I suppose. And since it is a “government program” – we forget that it was private contractors that designed the flawed software that is causing all the problems, and it is private insurance companies that are frothing at the mouth awaiting the chance to charge higher premiums to those who do get the registration system to work – it is fair game to pile on, running critiques for news cycle after news cycle.

To hear the Foxes yipping, and the NBC peacocks squawking, you would think every insurance policy in the U.S. was in danger. Not so. Over eighty percent of U. S. citizens receive their health insurance from their employer or through a government run or supervised program like Medicare, Medicaid, or Veteran’s benefits. Most people on those programs are pleased with their benefits and with the smooth manner in which they are delivered. For all its clumsiness, even the Medicare Part D drug plan designed by the G.W. Bush administration – which by the way looks a lot like “Obamacare” – is clunking along, making billions of dollars for private enterprise, drug producers and pharmacies, and the News Anchors and Talking Heads never even take notice of it’s cumbersome design anymore.

So why all the surprise that there are some glitches in the design and roll-out of a program attempting to help millions of Americans improve their lives? Hey, it is private – for profit –corporations who designed – or mis-designed – the system. The same kind of private enterprise that makes Toyota’s that won’t pass safety tests. The same kind of private enterprise that takes two years or more to get its product back on the shelves after an embarrassing and hazardous contamination issue. The same kind of private enterprise that issues its latest and greatest I-phone with maps installed that get you nowhere, then corrects the problem by creating a newer, greater version to sell to you at full price. This clumsy roll-out of the Affordable Care Act wasn’t a government failure – it is a massive private enterprise failure on the part of those corporate software giants to provide to the government a workable product for the price initially quoted!

But we know why the media is expressing such angst. It has an easy target and an audience willing to join it in beating up on government bureaucrats. It is an old game like “Smack the Gopher” that Mitch McConnell loves so much. There is little to lose and much to be gained – from their profit driven perspective – by frothing over a “failed” government roll-out. But there is much to be lost if their daily ravings discourage those who desperately need insurance coverage from even attempting to get it. How much more good could our media accomplish by spending their time explaining the actual glitches and giving their viewers information about how to get around those glitches and get signed up for the affordable insurance the program is there to deliver?

Sadly our media are not about doing good. They are about doing whatever gives them a rating advantage over their competitor and thus increase their revenue stream. They regularly produce flawed data – especially at times of great crisis like the Boston bombing – even as they pose as judge and jury over the initiation of “Obamacare.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013


(A Haiku)
by Jim Rapp

true inspiration
weaves words the author dare not
claim to be his own

Saturday, October 19, 2013

It's Time to Write that Letter Today

Extending Love
by Jim Rapp

A thousand words
from friend to friend
are just a way
that friends extend
the saying of
what three will do -
each word conveying,
"I love you."

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Cold Assize

by Jim Rapp

Autumn air
awaits the day’s arising,
taunting as Geos tries to rouse
her stiff arthritic bones.
Even fiery Sol, with aching groans,
awakes with tentative apprizing.

Geos, scrounging,
seeks for something warm
to wrap her aged, shivering body in;
brews some “warm” and slowly takes it in,
and gazing through the haze sees
Autumn charm.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

When Compromise Makes Sense - And When It Doesn’t

There are two boys and two candy bars, a Babe Ruth and a Snickers bar. Both boys want the Babe Ruth candy bar and are about to come to blows over the issue when Mom steps in and works out a compromise allowing both boys to have half a Babe Ruth and half a Snickers bar. A perfect compromise! Well, nothing is perfect in these situations Neither boy got all that he wanted but both got some of what they wanted.

A terrorist is holding 20 hostages, demanding that 20 of his jihadist buddies who are rotting in Guantanamo be released in exchange for the 20 hostages. He has explosives attached to each of the hostages and will detonate them if any attempt is made to rescue them. Is there a “Mom” who can step into this situation and “split the difference”? Hardly. And pity the poor President who has to make the decision to either risk the lives of innocent hostages or turn loose on the world 20 dangerous jihadists.

The Congress of the United States has passed a health reform law, the President signed it, the Supreme Court upheld nearly every aspect of it, and the American people re-elected the President whose name has become synonymous with the law. But now a small group of radicals has taken the law hostage and is holding a gun to its head, saying, we will shoot if the President doesn’t agree to eviscerate the health reform law.

Of course the “gun” they are holding to the head of the “hostage health reform law” is really two guns, a government shutdown and a default on the nation’s debt.

When asked by the media, many Americans seem to be saying, “Why don’t the two sides just split the difference. They should quit acting like children fighting over a candy bar, split the difference and get on with things.” But what are the consequences of forcing a president to either scrap or delay a major piece of legislation in order to keep the “hostage holders” from pulling the trigger? How many more “hostage” situations will we have to deal with in the future. Will the other side (the Democrats in this situation) be forgiving when it is their turn to play “jihadist”? Not very likely.

There are compromises in which splitting the difference makes sense, no one is hurt very badly. But dismantling a law in the process of being implemented will have long and lasting implications for millions of Americans. This is not a situation in which compromise will improve the outcome. The Tea Party Republicans, and Speaker Boehner who is enabling them either through cowardice or conviction need to pass the budget bills needed to keep our government functioning and paying its bills. That is their job. We pay them $175,000 per year, plus benefits and retirement, to do that job. It is not their job to repeal laws at the point of a “gun.”

There will be time enough, at some point in the future, when Republicans hold the balance of power, to revisit the health reform act. And when that day comes Republicans had better hope that Democrats have forgotten the terrorist tactics used against them in the fall of 2013.

This dysfunction has been a long time coming. It began with Ronald Reagan’s depreciatory comments about government and has grown to the point that nearly a quarter of the electorate has decided that they can do without the government – until it is shut down. Then those who have trashed the government suddenly want to re-fund it piecemeal to make themselves look good to certain constituencies that they have hurt by their intransigence. It is impossible to know where are current crisis will end – or how. If we make it through without triggering another “Great Recession” or worse, we need to do a few urgent things as quickly as we can:

1.         Pass meaningful and effective campaign spending laws getting big money out of politics

2.         Pass laws requiring that Congressional Districts be drawn by impartial panels rather than state legislatures

3.         Pass effective laws guaranteeing the right of every citizen to uninhibited access to the ballot box

4.         Reform the rules under which the Senate and the House operate so that decisions are made by majority vote in all but very exceptional cases; ratification of treaties, etc.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Leaving Home

by Jim Rapp

The Leaves are falling,
tint-edged by Frost and Sun;
Mother Earth is calling
so their journey has begun.

The Air, too still today to tug them
from the Skeletons they leave,
calls on Gravity to pry away their stems
and guide them downward into growing sheaves

where they will lie in wait for Wind
to come and carry them away;
to blend them, where he sends,
with leaves that fell another place.