Monday, March 28, 2011

Digging Through the Trash

The weekend is typically the time when Americans turn away from their daily routine and allow the more pleasant aspects of life to distract them from their everyday drudgery.  Consequently the weekend is also the time when stories less flattering to the government are released to the press with the hope that their content will fly under the radar of a distracted public.  This practice is referred to as “putting it out with the trash”.  This past weekend the “trash” contained a number of stories that offer a telling tale of the state of our society and our country.
The first is a story about how our failing economy and the rising cost of health care has negatively impacted the health of Americans.  The story reports that that the number of adults that skipped going to the doctor or did not renew prescriptions so that they could buy food or pay for housing rose 2 ½ times from 2005 to 2010.  In 2005 6 % of adults reported that someone in their household went without doctor’s care because they needed the money to pay for basic necessities.  That number rose to 16% in 2010.  Overall 25% of adults reported having trouble paying their medical bills or are not paying them at all.  Only 4% of adults age 65 and over are having trouble paying for their health care because they are receiving Medicare or Medicaid assistance.  The lack of preventative care leads to more serious health care issues and the resulting increase in health care costs.  But Republicans want to slash Medicare and Medicaid benefits. In spite of the President’s Affordable Health Care bill the cost and availability of health care in this country is still a monumental problem that is threatening the very existence of a large percentage of Americans.
The next story concerns America’s policy in the Middle East.  Last week we wrote that the President’s intervention into Libya might set a dangerous precedent for future military action.  Basically we questioned that if our intervention into Libya was for humanitarian reasons; to stop Gadhafi from slaughtering thousands of his countrymen; would we then be compelled to intervene if other autocratic regimes committed similar atrocities.  Apparently we may not have to wait too long to find out.  Over the weekend Syrian Security Forces ramped up the violence firing on protestors and using a heavy hand to quiet the rebellion.  Senator Joe Lieberman, who has never met a war he didn’t like, said he would support military intervention into Syria.  As noted in the previous story; we do not seem to have the will or the money to provide affordable health care for over 42 million needy American citizens but we have no problem spending billions of borrowed funds to protect the security of citizens in foreign countries.
Then there is the story about the scarcity of the drugs used to execute death row inmates.  It seems that there is a shortage of sodium thiopental.  Sodium thiopental is a sedative that is part of the three drug cocktail used by nearly thirty four states to administer executions.  The shortage is so bad and the increasing numbers of scheduled executions raising at such a rapid rate that many states are illegally buying the drugs from overseas suppliers.  The DEA is investigating.  The concern is that the quality of the overseas drugs may be inferior and that the administration of these drugs “may be ineffective” or “may cause extreme pain in violation of the constitutional ban on cruel and inhuman punishment”.  Let’s set aside the fact that the death penalty itself is cruel and unusual punishment and has not proven to be an effective deterrent of violent crime.  The fact that our prison system, which is suppose to “rehabilitate and correct” the behavior of inmates, is now undertaking felonious behavior to procure illegal drugs to facilitate killing them is mind boggling.
The story of our increased usage of social media gives us pause.  It seems that the Oxford English Dictionary has approved the internet inspired expressions: OMG (O my God), LOL (Laugh Out Loud), BFF (Best Friends Forever) and IMHO (In My Humble Opinion).  They also approved the use of “Heart” as a verb and the equivalent of “to love” that is represented as a symbol in “I (Heart) you”.  Last but not least they approved our favorite, “Muffin Tops” as a phrase to denote an overweight individual whose belly fat overflows his or her belt line.  This causes us to wonder about the rapid evolution of the video aspects of social media, video conferencing, Skype etc.  If, as projected, telephones  become passé’ and we will have the ability to literally see everyone and anyone we are talking to; how will social media junkies be able to communicate when they are forced to look each other in the eye and express cogent thoughts using complete sentences.
Finally, the most shocking story was reported by Rolling Stone magazine on their website.  They report that there are “Killing Teams” operating in Afghanistan.  These are not sanctioned military operations but rogue patrols of American soldiers who murder innocent Afghan citizens and then mutilate and display the corpses for propaganda purposes.  The story details the questionable background of some of these troops and how the military is forced to reduce their recruiting standards to meet the needs of an overextended military.  Rolling Stone reports that the activities of the “Killing Teams” were well known throughout the Afghan theater and up through the command to at least the brigade level.  The report also includes several previously classified grisly photos taken by the “Killing Teams” themselves as they documented their handiwork.  Key to America’s success in Afghanistan is the political struggle war to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.  That very difficult job just became impossible.                           

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