Friday, February 22, 2008

Please deposit 50-cents for three more minutes

If you are like me (and let's face it, who is?), you spent a portion of your Thursday evening watching the CNN-Univision Democratic debate featuring Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I suspect, though, that most of you watching that debate paid little, if any, attention to the headlines scrolling across the bottom of your television screen. But I did.

And one of the tidbits that caught my attention was the one-line announcement that Southern Methodist University has been chosen as the future home for the George W. Bush Presidential Library. My first thought was what the heck are they going to put into it, a couple of comics and a Dick and Jane book? Then I thought, well they could put in all of the documents this administration never shared with the American people, such as the minutes from the closed-door meetings Dick Cheney had with representatives of the big energy companies or the details of the sweetheart deal that was given to Halliburton when America invaded Iraq. All heavily edited, of course.

It also occurred to me to wonder what Southern Methodist gets out of all of this. Then it hit me. The University must have a vacant and unused phone booth somewhere on campus and decided that, rather than remove it, why not make a few extra bucks from it? Maybe the University will even fix the phone.

If the library goes ahead, I think I can suggest the perfect design. First, it should somewhat resemble an inverted pyramid. This is to symbolize the concentration of wealth and tax breaks at the top that has occurred during the Bush years. Next, all the doors should only be on the right to signify Bush's conservative leanings.

There should be no windows, only stone walls to illustrate the lack of openness and honesty in this administration. Finally, all the hallways should lead to nowhere but a dead end in order to represent the policies and actions that have left America stuck in many respects in a corner or between a rock and a hard place.

Oh, it goes without saying that entire project should experience a 100-percent cost overrun in honor of the multi-trillion dollar debt incurred since Bush took office. I'm out of quarters, so that will do it for this call.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Declaration for 21st Century America

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
- From the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

Judging from some of the ongoing political discussion, these truths are not self-evident. All men (and women) are only created equal if the size of their bank account measures up. I don't begrudge a person getting rich, but how much is enough?

For one of the two political parties, it seems there is never enough. Nor does it seem that this party agrees with the Declaration of Independence's assertion regarding those pesky "unalienable rights." You know, those rights that are not to be taken away.

Each year, the gap between rich and poor widens and not only in terms of income. As the income gap grows, so, too, does the number of Americans with no health insurance: 47-million at last count. Yet only one political party seems ready to try something other than what the country is doing now.

The Democrats have proposed Universal Health Care while the Republicans say the marketplace should provide the solution. It hasn't done so yet; why think it will now? Private solutions, the G.O.P. insists. Those 47-million uninsured Americans are suddenly supposed to find the money they did not have before in order to pay for insurance?

Surely not even the Republicans believe all 47-million of these people are lazy deadbeats who could afford insurance if they would simply go out and get a job. Perhaps they would do well to remember those "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and to think about what they might actually mean.

The unalienable right to life as stated in the Declaration does not merely mean the right to keep breathing. In the context of the Declaration, it means something closer to the right to a decent quality of life. It seems to me that part of that quality of life should and must include health care.

Now to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Is a person truly free or free to pursue happiness if the threat of catastrophic illness and exorbitant health care costs is hanging over their head?

Yet the Republicans argue that Universal Health Care, in the hands of the government is a wasteful and inefficient idea. Inefficient? Perhaps. But it seems to me that health is too important and too basic to be a for-profit concern.So, pardon me if I prefer inefficient yet fair to efficient and exclusionary, based on income and/or health.

Perhaps the answer is something in-between private enterprise and government-sponsored health care. I do believe the government needs to step up and step in to provide health insurance for those people who could not otherwise afford it: small business employees, the self-employed, low-income workers, and so forth. Higher-paid employees and other professionals, as well as upper-income Americans, would be free to pursue other insurance options.

Only by ensuring that all Americans have equal access to affordable health care can we ensure that America lives up to the preamble of its founding document and truly gives each and everyone of us the unalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

God's Eyes Were Watching Them

First, my apologies to Zora Neale Hurston for playing off the title of her classic novel. But I am a happy man tonight.

I learned that sometimes cheaters do get what they deserve. I finished watching Super Bowl XLII (42 for you non-Romans), and the New England Patriots, instead of taking another step toward NFL immortality, go down as the greatest team to not win the championship. It's a bit like being named Miss Congeniality at the Miss America pageant.

However, the Patriots should never have been allowed to get that close to a perfect season. That possibility should have been eliminated after the first game of the year, when the Patriots were found to have videotaped defensive signals of their opponent. Instead of forfeiting that game, the Patriots were slapped on the wrist, fined a few bucks and a draft choice not quite as good as the one they got to keep.

Actually, the team gets to choose whether to give up a first-round choice or a second and third-round pick. That's a bit like asking a convicted felon if they would rather do five years at Leavenworth or a month at summer camp.

The league, in the guise of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, caved to the wishes of the networks and possibly the owners. It's apparently okay to punish individual players but not entire teams. Now there is talk that the Patriots may have done something similar, videotaping the final practice of the St. Louis Rams prior to those two teams meeting in Super Bowl 36. The talk may or may not be true, but there is an old saying that "where there's smoke there's fire."