Month: August 2012

Rahm’s Chickago

By Kevin G. O’Leary

That was quite an amusing controversy a couple of weeks back in the USA over the comments made by the CEO of Chick-Fil-A regarding traditional marriage.   What was really ironic is that he never mentioned gay people at all.  But that did not stop ill-informed mayors from getting their panties all in a twist over it.  “Chik-Fil-A is not welcome here, ”  they proclaimed as if it was really a decision they had the authority to make.    I was pleased when the situation calmed down and the mayors were dining on crow instead of chicken.  Dan Cathy came out in support of traditional marriage.  A marriage between a man and a woman.  Dan Cathy believes this with all his heart and believes that the traditional family unit is core element of Christian beliefs.  I was not the slightest bit offended by his comments.   I was more offended by the self-appointed champions of the gay folks who caused all the uproar.  Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has demonstrated he will attempt to abuse his power by hook or crook for political gain.

America has come a long way and matured as a society of tolerance.  But our politically correct society has become intolerant of Christianity unless it has been sanitized to meet today’s liberal worldly views.  More and more genuine Christian beliefs of some of our citizens are wrongly equated with hate and intolerance.  It is perfectly acceptable to be in support of gay marriage and it is equally acceptable to oppose gay marriage and believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and only that.  What the hell is wrong with people nowadays?  Your own parents and grandparents likely held beliefs no different from Mr. Cathy.  Differences of passionately held opinions and peaceful and respectful discourse are at the center of a civilized society.   How each one of us selects the denomination of our places of worship and interprets the scriptures is as diverse as you can get.

In the 1980s, I myself believed that homosexuality was personal choice that people made and a very poor choice at that.  I believed that homosexuals were objectively disordered and thus I could be accurately categorized as vehemently anti-gay at that time.   It was my belief and it was shared by people around and the military I served in at the time.    It was a belief of the charismatic evangelical assembly I attended at the time.  Yet, being anti-gay at that time did not make me a bigot in my opinion.  If it did, I  guess I would have to be classified as a recovering bigot today.  If you meet an authentic bigot, do not shower him with reciprocal hate.  Allow some time and patience for growth and understanding.  Today’s bigot may become tomorrow’s fiercest defender of individual rights for all.

Today, after many years, reason and sensibility has altered my way of thinking.  In the past 30 years, I was able to develop many friendships with people from all over the world.  Many of my friends are gay although I only befriend gays with a sense of humor as a strict policy.  I had to stop and think at one point that this does not make sense.  Why would my intelligent friends decide one day that they wanted to become gay and lead a very inconvenient lifestyle?  Why would they be going with the flow one day and the next, say their life is so boring so they need a little hate directed toward them.  That would be preposterous.  I now subscribe to theory that one awakens to their orientation at a certain point in their life when they can take a self-inventory and understand how it defines who they really are.   Thus, it is not a choice and I do not condone discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in any form.

As an American with  libertarian leanings, I say it is no one’s business what the sexual orientation of their neighbors are.  Every citizen in this country is entitled to same basic individual rights.  Isn’t smallest minority group in the United States the individual.  It sure is, by golly.  I support legal unions between same-sex couples just like those between opposite sexes.  Where we got ourselves into trouble was when we introduced the word, “marriage” into out legal system hundreds of years ago.  Up until the 21st century, it was only recognized union.  It is natural that not every person is ready for it.  It is not hatred or bigotry.  The heterosexual traditional marriage model fails in 52 percent of unions.  As much as a quarter of newborn babies are born to unwed mothers.  People are not even bothering with the marriage route.

What fools we are in the shape our country and economy is to bully a self-made successful American company like Chick-Fil-A.   Is it good judgement to selfishly attempt to prevent the introduction of 90 wage earning jobs into a community because Dan Cathy is not on the side of supporting gay marriage?  He has earned tons of cash as a successful entrepreneur.  Good for him and with this cash on hand, he is free to contribute to any legal charity he wishes.  Any American is free to dine elsewhere and choose not to spend their money at Chick-Fil-A.  Vote with your pocketbooks.

Ironically, the liberal leaning ACLU came out against the threatened actions of the mayors.  Even openly gay former congressman Barney Frank said the mayors were not acting in their authority to threaten to ban and prevent approval of applications from Chick-Fil-A.    In response to the bullying tactics by several city mayors, Fox News Commentator Mike Huckabee suggested August 1 as a day of support for Chick-Fil-A.  Their restaurants from coast to coast were filled.  Those who opposed the Cathy family and the chain attempted to organize a counter protest the following Friday.  But the counter protest did not follow sensible displays of support like Governor Huckabee’s protest did.  Instead the counter-protesters organized a “kiss-in” spectacle.  It failed.  Very few kissers were seen.

Where were all the kissers?  Well, for one thing, it’s pretty darn hard to convince a straight dude to go find another dude and make out to make a political point.  So, what about all those gay men?   I think if the gay population has any similarity to the gay friends I have, they would not want to participate in something so crude and inappropriate as a public kiss in.  The gay people I know long to be accepted and assimilate into society and be treated like anyone else.  Homosexuals have long been branded unfairly as being promiscuous and being associated with pedophilia.  Public displays of affection like making out are not acceptable whether it is between a straight couple, two dudes, two chicks whatever.  Sensible gay people will be sensitive to presence of children and will want to show the public they are dignified people worthy of respect.  Promiscuous misbehavior and lack of regard for young children on the premises would perpetuate those negative homophobic reactions from the public that are the catalyst for non-acceptance in mainstream society.  I tip my hat to the great American Gay.  I offer a one pinkie salute to the members of the gay community that showed they were dignified and respectable members of society.

It was a victory for conservative Christians who demonstrated they will push back and push back hard when their beliefs are marginalized by elected officials.  It was a victory for homosexuals who deserve to have their concerns heard and considered.   They are deserving because they are productive responsible members of our society.  It was a colossal failure for the likes of Rahm Emmanuel who is now wishing for a fudge nut brownie and a large sweet tea to go with crow combo.

Gays are OK.  Christians are OK.   Both are part of who represents the values of what Chicago should be.   Rahm on the other hand is a fruitcake.

A Glimpse into How America Wrecked Health Care

By Kevin G. O’Leary

Looking from the outside in can give one a unique perspective on many of the ailments the United States is experiencing.   Having worked in the United States for 12 years and worked in Japan for 20 years, I can see in many sectors how the American society has spun out of control like unmanageable fireball.

Let’s look at the health care debate raging in this election year.  I am no expert on public health care or insurance other than being a consumer, an avid  reader and a careful observer.  Japan has stark contrasts to the United States.

First let’s look at litigation and liability in comparison.  The Japanese do not traditionally sue their mentors, educators, community leaders and healers.   And no, they do not sue their EMT or the fire departments often either.   Yes, it does still happen in certain cases, but far from commonplace.  Nevertheless, court litigation rates are a fraction of what they are in the United States.  Some years ago, there was  a case of  blood tainted by HIV and the Japanese courts and government held some health care providers and suppliers culpable, and monetary compensation was awarded.

Since the early 1960s, the Japanese have had universal national and social health insurance coverage.  There are still some people, often foreigners working in Japan that are not enrolled in the national or social health insurance program and must pay for their care up front in cash.  However, even in such an instance, medical care is significantly more affordable even without insurance.  An MRI would cost 200 dollars in Japan. The same MRI would cost as much as 1800 dollars in the United States.  Japan is not a third world country and has an extremely advanced medical system.  Is there any justification for care to cost 9 or 10 times more in the United States?

Several months ago, while surfing the internet, I ran across an excerpt from a doctor’s memoir written by a long-lost cousin I don’t remember ever meeting in person.  It was for her father, my uncle with whom I also share a name.  I contacted the publisher who got me in contact with her and got my hands on my own copy of one of the most informative books in my library.  My uncle was a general practitioner in a small town in Warren County, Illinois.  In other words, a typical small town house-call making family doctor of yesteryear.

Below, taken directly from the Wild Rides and Shiny Dimes book  are some informative insights how regulations, out of control lawsuits and general micromanagement of our medical professionals has chased people like this doctor out of the practice.

It was not common for people to have medical insurance to pay for their medical care 50 years ago.

“Farmers, sometimes paid their bill with sweet corn, tomatoes and other produce.”

What a coincidence!  It was 1961 when half-way around the world the national social insurance was established in Japan.  We were basically on the same street at this point in history.  His daughter, who went on to become a psychiatrist at the famed Mayo Clinic in Minnesota recalls instructions he gave her.  “A colored farmer would come to the back door of the clinic with produce.   Presumably, he was not literate and she was to write his name down on a piece of paper so her father could adjust his bill for his medical treatment.  As he was an older gentleman, it was assumed that was the way he was raised using the back doors although the front door was more accessible.”  Fortunately, there wasn’t any mention of livestock being brought to the back porch.

Uncle Glenn began his medical practice delivering babies, setting simple fractures, giving anesthesia,  performing minor surgery and assisting  in major surgery.   Some years later, he had to give up obstetrics when a specialist came to town.  The malpractice insurance rates made him drop fractures that had to be reduced.  If the fracture was on that a cast could be put on and did not need to be reduced, he could still do that.  He also decided to drop minor surgery for insurance reasons.  The final years he practiced, he did not even assist in surgery because of the insurance costs.

The final two years of practice they did so in arrangement with a hospital.  Up until that time, all the doctors were independent.

He did not really want to retire at age 65, but his malpractice insurance was due to run out. Things by that time had really begun to deteriorate with the new government regulations.  It became very frustrating to comply and to understand the regulations.  To ensure doctors complied, a very severe sounding penalty was attached.  So every time you do something wrong, it is $5000 and five years in prison.  Even if the nurse makes the error, it is hanging over their heads all the time.  There was always the fear of lawsuits.

After my uncle retired, his partner, another good doctor thought he would continue.  He only lasted six months.   The system had successfully removed two good doctors who just wanted to help people get well.

Today, the two countries could not be farther apart in serving their patients.  Although advances in medical technology have moved forward at rapid pace, making care accessible to all has not.  In the United States, the working poor are particularly excluded from affordable care.  The truly destitute can get free medical care through programs and charities.   Believe me, if you have ever visited Rockford, Illinois there are more than a few destitute people.   The rich can pay for the large insurance premiums.  The middle class and those who are working two jobs are increasingly left without affordable health care options.  Japan, on the other hand has maintained its system for universal coverage for all.  Even as a traditional fiscal conservative, I am thoroughly enjoying my “socialized” medical care in Japan.   I had mini-stroke in 2009.  Lucky for me I was in Japan and six months of blood-thinning medications and monitoring did not destroy my livelihood.  I paid less out-of-pocket for a damn stroke than I did in 2008  for a dental abscess with Aetna Insurance from my employer.  I had to pay my co-pay out-of-pocket insurance back to the hospital in installments.  Let’s face it.  We wrecked our system in the United States.  I have no choice but to support Obamacare after experiencing what I did.  They do have to remove stupid stuff from the Affordable Care Act, however.  I vehemently oppose provisions for birth control and abortions that may be funded with tax payer dollars.  As a practicing Catholic and an American, I expect my religious freedoms not to be trampled on.  After all even in Japan these provisions are not covered.   I hope both the conservatives and the liberals learn not to put polarizing items in something so important as basic health care.

A final point worth mention.  Today, America’s hospitals are increasingly being operated by health care corporations with obvious financial incentives to overcharge and over prescribe pharmaceuticals.  Across the ocean in Japan, hospitals remain firmly in control of doctors and only doctors.  I ask you which system is working better?

I will return to the United States, and assuming this debate won’t be settled, I have a plan.  Should I be catastrophically ill, I will pump myself up with whatever drugs I can get over the counter at the local Walgreens or CVS pharmacy.  Then, I will board a plane in a semiconscious state bound for Japan.

America, Let’s Git off Our Arses

By Kevin G. O’Leary

Government sponsored welfare in America has been a failure from the beginning.  It sucks.  We suck.  So stop it already.

It is a grossly unfair system.  It is unfair to those who do as the are able to and work for a living only to see their paychecks diminished as taxpayers to pay for those who do not work.  The taxes out of our paychecks subsidize a legacy of failures and incompetent administration going back to my birth in the 1960s.  I felt this intensely when I went back to United States in 2007 to work for Lowe’s and join the ranks of the working poor.   I felt the sting and zing and the zapping sound of dollars coming out of my paycheck.  My paycheck was smaller than most by my own choice because I was trying to max out on my 401k contribution and favorable employee stock purchase options.  I was looking a few years ahead.   I cannot think of any group in America that I respect more now than the working poor.   After a 12 hour shift, I would stop by Denny’s and chat with some of the regular patrons.  As incredible as it sounds, I was often the only working person sitting in a group of almost a half-dozen people.      Now, I don’t want to paint everyone with a wide brush and diss my coffee buddies.  Afterall, some had earned their keep in our society and legitimately retired after 40 years on the job.  But many of them only worked a fraction of that and were dependent on our government social programs to survive.   As someone who was raised in a Christian home, I grew up to be compassionate and be concerned about members of our community who were unable to help themselves due to poverty and physical handicaps.  In our home, Jesus came first, others came second and yourself came in last spelling the word JOY.  How do we reconcile our Christian beliefs of charity with the fact too many people are living off the backs of those who are working?  Where did those people who were unable to care for themselves turn prior to my generation?    Well, for one they sought help from their local community , their institutions of faith and the most solid institution on earth, the family.

Now, fast forward 50 years from the 1960s to 2012, our institutions of community are being marginalized in favor of big government programs from Washington.  Faith based charities still exist, but our big society government has made them to be a less desirable choice in favor of government funding.  Today, 52 percent of marriages end in divorce and as many of a third of new babies are born to unwed mothers.   In addition to frightening transformation of traditional family as our ancestors knew it, nuclear families are increasingly becoming bitterly estranged from their members over silly nonsense that our forefathers seemed to know how to work out within the walls of their log cabins.    But fear not, our nation, the greatest nation on earth, The United States of America has come to the rescue of the downtrodden.  

The government and many of our people say opportunities no longer exist.  There is no work out there.  There is no need for that outdated model of individual responsibility that previous generations had to use.  The government is here.  I think the “Great Society”  programs have been a huge success in one respect.  It has cemented the loyalty to the US Democratic Party by those will be dependent on government assistance.  Those democrats are pure geniuses, convince the population o be dependent instead of independent and in exchange gather up those voters at election time.  I am not anti-Democrat.  The GOP is no better.  They need to get a piece of the pie too and are taking pages from the democratic manual.  In fact, George W. Bush was more fiscally liberal than William Jefferson Clinton.  Other than that fact, the GOP has an additional perversion of not being able to keep their hands out of and off people’s genitalia and out of people’s bedrooms, there is barely a dime’s worth of difference between them.  I am proud to say I am no longer a member of either of the two major political parties.

In Kevin’s perfect world, welfare programs run by the US government would eventually cease.  Neither of two political parties knows how to do anything except to try to out tinker with a broken down vehicle better than the other tinkerer.  Not since Bill Clinton was president, did the government look like they were going to address ending welfare as we know it.  If our constitution permitted it and Slick Willy was on the ballot again, I would vote for him.  He couldn’t keep cigars and other things out of the bodies of a few women, that is true.  But our current GOP cannot keep their hands off anybody.  I wish Bill Clinton would not have gone on national TV and said, ” I did not have sex with that woman.”  He should have told the truth and said, “My fellow Americans, I did not screw you.”  I have come to belief that we lack the will, the leadership and the “Yes, we can” to reform our welfare system.   We need to stop depending on these lawyers who become politicians to solve this.  We need to elect more veterinarians to office.  At least they know what to do, put the ornery critter down.  Kill it.  If it cannot be cured end it.

Kev’s ideas for a starter since we cannot end entitlement programs tomorrow and revisit programs of yesterday.

First eliminate all those stupid acronyms that the government changes every year to confuse those who are funding it.  TANF=welfare.   WIC=food assistance.  EBT=Electronic Booze and Tobacco Purchases.  Whoops, I don’t remember what the EBT card stands for.

Retain and promote my favorite program of all commonly known as AJOB.

 If you cannot support yourself and your family through the a AJOB program, you must retrain yourself to turn to  supportive families for assistance, look to our faith-based institutions that have been around since Jesus Christ anointed St. Peter.  Look to your communities and be a part of them. 

But, but…… the church sponsored homeless shelter downtown has a curfew, rules for this and rules for that.  But…I don’t know what to do.  I have never really interacted with my community.  How can I ask them for help?  You are already getting financial help from you working neighbor next door.  Be part of your community and not part of the problem.  But…I don’t want to have this conversation with my brother or my parents.

YOU:  Hey Dad, can I borrow 100 dollars?

DAD:  Oh, what’s up?

YOU:  They are having a two for one sale on gin and Jack Daniels down at the Spunky’s Spirits Superstore.  Oh, and I need to grab a couple of tickets for the powerball lottery and a carton of Marlboros.

DAD:  Oh, I see.  Well, I think I’ll just hang on to my own money just the same.  You have fun with your search for cash, OK.

I have to run and teach a class of students that I am underpaid for now.  I sincerely hope I have given some people something to think about and most importantly successfully pissed some other people off big time.  Before I leave, I want to tell you where my radical thinking comes from.  Blame my roots I guess.  The O’Leary/Chamberlin clan.   Everyone in our family in spite of having a nearly 100 percent rate of university graduates among us has worked our lives in jobs that may not seem commensurate with our schooling, training and experience.  In spite of having postgraduate degrees, I earn part of my income processing food in a production facility as an entry-level worker.  Another sibling manages a GNC store for yuppies with supplemental income to buy those tasty healthy supplements.  I have worked in Japan for 20 years in a xenophobic environment where finding a variety of work is a challenge.  Neither myself of my siblings have ever been out of work for a long stretch since we were teens.  Our family has been raised to help ourselves so we may in turn help others.  In order to help ourselves, we have endeavored to take education seriously to prepare for our future.  We get this trait from our Grandad I think.  He once had several drug stores in towns like Mt. Morris, Rochelle and Oregon.  The depression took them all away.  Instead of taking handouts he got up and went to work selling drugs over the road and breaking the soil on his family farm.   Our father was cut from the public school system before his seniority cost them too much money and worked entry-level at Menards until retirement. 

The government does not owe you diddly squat.  Opportunity does not mean a guarantee.  Explore the AJOB program at your local Employment security office today.  You will be glad you did!