Archive for February, 2017


sanders-cruz-485x261Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz went toe-to-toe over healthcare last night. In the CNN face-off, Canada made a surprise appearance when Cruz claimed Canadians leave their country in droves to seek out health care in the United States.

When I lived in Toronto, CA for a year-and-a-half, I worked on Canada’s Healthcare system. However, when I meet with focus group participants, critics of universal health care in both Canada and the United States claimed Canadians left Canada in groves to receive healthcare, especially elective healthcare in the United States.

However, the best-available research shows it’s simply not true. Canadians are not fleeing en-masse to US medical facilities. The most comprehensive look was a 2002 Health Affairs article, entitled “Phantoms in the Snow.” Researchers gathered data on Canadians’ use of US healthcare. In a nutshell, almost zippo. They found this happened rarely.

Personal experience of living and working in Canada found one true fact – even if Canadians wanted to escape, most could not afford US medical care.

The other cringe-worthy moment was Senator Ted Cruz congratulating a woman for dealing with MS.

“Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on dealing with MS,” Cruz said. “It’s a terrible disease and congratulations on your struggles dealing with it.”

If there’s a moment when someone can point to the GOP on being out-of-touch with regular Americans on healthcare, that was pretty damn close. In response, one blogger, penned:

Congratulations Ted Cruz on your struggle with being a human being.”

CNBC Jake Novak actually authored a noteworthy response.

But the best way to tackle a problem is to pinpoint what the problem is exactly. And Tuesday night’s debate helped anyone paying attention to zero in on the key problem in American health care, health insurance, and health legislation: The expense. Time and again, questions were fielded from audience members who are dealing with costly personal medical problems and challenges. They each served as crucial human examples that better showed what the colder statistics have told us for years. The hard truth is that people like those audience members, those 10 percent of Americans who are the sickest, are responsible for 64 percent of all health care costs in the country, according to research by the Department of Health and Human Services. That includes Medicare, Medicaid, and all the other forms of coverage and payment in America.

Some argue the Buddhist approach to health and healing emphasizes spiritual practice. Buddhism asserts that spiritual practice makes it possible for an individual not only to see opportunity for practice in the face of adversity, including sickness and injury, but use the opportunity for personal transformation and transcendence.

As a Buddhist having worked in the medical industry for quite some time, I see a deep awareness of cause and consequence, and insight into the nature of conditioned interdependence. Whether Buddhist, Catholic, Atheist or whatever, choice, practice and cost are factors many simply do not have control over. If you’re in pain, Buddhism, Christianity or transcendence means squat. Eventually, everyone will suffer equally. Almost everyone will become part of the 10% group absorbing 64 percent of all health care costs. So by my definition, there is a 90% chance each of us will become a class member.

In ancient days, Buddhists were healers. They cared for one another. Due to budget battles, lack of income, family resources and political partisanship, all us face or will face similar struggles as the woman Ted Cruz congratulated. I personally believe it’s up to the average joe citizen to care for one another. Why? Because our political leaders are too incompetent to help.

img_0015Protests erupted on campus of the University of California Berkeley late Wednesday that canceled a scheduled speech by conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, a self-proclaimed “troll” and editor for Breitbart News. The university blamed the violence on a group of 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise non-violent protest.

I worry about “the heckler’s veto” being used to shut down free speech. We live in a country where people of all faiths, politics and ethnic backgrounds should be allowed to freely speak.

What we find is one political party or president uses hate tinged speech to justify hatred versus policy. We’ve all seen it, “unethical and corrupt media,” “she’s sick,” “a senator’s father helped kill a former president,” “an attorney betrayed their staff,” “You’re a Republican, I’m a Democrat, so I can learn nothing from you.” “Screw you,” they say. “No. Screw you first,” we reply.

As a Buddhist, it’s important to understand everyone has a legitimate right to feel and think the way they do. No one is wrong simply because he or she has a different point of view. Factual observations and other evidence may lead either to disagree, but the person always remains honorable.

For example, I listen to far-right and alt-right perspectives. Not so much because I agree with their position, but rather to understand. Our 2016 Presidential candidates accused one another of racism and bigotry so often they forgot about the people. By stating falsehoods, we race-bait. Anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women ideas are key tenets of such racist ideology.

Lastly, few, if any, understand that if one person wins an argument, you both lose. This is problem most politicians, including our President, fails to understand. When winning becomes the number one goal, you’ll eventually fail. Need an example? Former “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault warned all Trump critics they will soon be bowing before him. I will leave it at that.

Lastly, unless you in a country with a dictator, free speech shouldn’t have to hide. Protesters argue hate speech isn’t free speech. Why not? If so, why do free speech protestors have to hide behind masks? And if so, why do many such protests devolve into destruction?

In response To Berkeley protests, one blogger posted:

“President Trump must take action. We must get our colleges back from these radical haters. Any university that accepts federal funds must provide a balanced education. For every leftist professor, there must be a conservative professor. American universities are out of control.”

In the wake of Black Lives Matter movement and other protests, we’ve seen a clamoring for “safe spaces” whereby affected parties can process pain. What we require are spaces by which we can discuss and exchange ideas.

America is a free speech country. However, we really need to relearn the ability to agree to disagree agreeably.

img_0014By simply turning on the news, one can hear Donald Trump talk about our great country.

“At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.”

If the last ten to twelve days represent our future, have we become a nation that serves its citizens? Are we righteous? And are we lifting up and enhancing schools?

Today, the U.S. “put Iran on notice,” whatever that means. I mean, you Iranians are on notice. Uh, ok. Today’s statement was in response to an Iran missile launch. However, we never laid out exactly what “notice” meant.

Buddhists notice during meditation. But I’m positive this is not the Buddhist version of “notice.” In a broader sense, are we going to take out a big stick and kick ass? Or are we going to just notice. “Ok. Kill as many as you want, but damn it, we’re going to notice.

We’ve also effectively singled out the Muslim faith for the entirety of atrocities committed on U.S. soil. Damn it, Muslims are responsible. The text of Trump’s original executive order noted the “crucial role” the visa-issuance process plays in “detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States.” Fear mongers often raise 9/11 to justify travel ban actions some 17 years later. However, if the public ever performed even some negligible research, they’ve might have found none of the countries impacted by the current administration travel ban was home to any hijackers from the 9/11 attacks. Those 19 came from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Egypt.

For those in the Bible Belt, do you seriously believe that an overseas terrorist is coming to a cornfield near you to detonate a couple hundred feet of corn via suicide bombing? Are you sure a terrorist will set off a shoe bomb as your family participates in a hayride on the Fourth of July? Oops, maybe they’ll blow up a pumpkin durning the fall harvest festival. Wait, that would be cool! Right? Pumpkin detonation is cool.

The coup de grace, has to be today’s speech with Black History Month participants.

We’re going to need better schools, and we need them soon. We need more jobs, we need better wages — a lot better wages. We’re going to work very hard on the inner city. Ben is going to be doing that big league. It’s one of his big things that we’re going to be looking at.

We need safer communities, and we’re going to do that with law enforcement. We’re going to make it safe. We’re going to make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really — you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show. I’m ready to do my part — it’s the only time I can see him. I’m ready to do my part, and I will say this: We’re going to work together.

Ramble. Ramble.

To align my thought of today’s speech with Black History Month participants, I am reminded of a cartoon seen some 20 years ago in the New Yorker about God talking to his Son. In the cartoon, God said, “Now tell me again. What did you you tell them?

I ponder this cartoon as I think of our current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and current nominee for Secretary of Education. Both are complete “dipsticks.” “Surely Mr. President, what are you telling me? This is the best we have?

Other stupid time-wasting executive orders included a plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days, lengthen ban for administrative staff working as lobbyist, authorization of U.S./Mexican Border Wall (otherwise known as the Great Rio Wall), a couple of oil pipelines, abortion ban, U.S. government hiring freeze (unless it’s your son-in-law) and repealing Obamacare.

So for the rest of us, there has been no discussion about bringing jobs to mid-America. No plans for infrastructure repair, healthcare for the poor or how to ensure students in middle America are just as competitive as those in the Ivy League.

We are a great country already, but for the past twenty years, solutions are few. And so far, we’re looking very unrighteousness and significantly shallow.

But look on the bright side, we’re protected from suicide pumpkin bombers.

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