Monday, January 28, 2008

10 Reasons To Universalize Health Care

In truth, I am interested in arguments for and against Universal Health Care. I have not made up my mind on the issue. So here's what I'm going to do: I am going to make a decent attempt at building a case in favor of Universal Health Care, and I want you to 1. create or cite arguments that undermine or rebut the components of my case in favor of Universal Health Care or 2. post about how much you agree with it. Other related musings are welcome, too; everyone can play!

How Can I Build a Case For Universal Health Care, When the Very Concept Eviscerates the Notion of a Free Market?

Claim: Eliminating competition in the arena of healthcare will result in a decline in quality, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and other desirable traits.

Status: False.

The reality is that Sweden is a living example of superior healthcare services, and it happens to be socialized with respect to health care. Look at the facts, and compare various facets of Swedish health care to those of US health care:

-Wikipedia (current article)

Still skeptical about how bad things really are in America? Read what CNN has to report about it.

Still skeptical about how much our current system is costing us compared to what we could save by socializing healthcare? Read this Libertarian's argument for socializing healthcare in today's America.

Still think competitive market forces always produce the best traits via the most efficient route? Then reflect on what competition has done to the pharmaceutical industry.

Free market forces are important in America, and I'm no Commie. But the reality is that while some things are best done at the individual level, and others at the state level, there remain others still, that may best be run by the federal government. For example: a centralized military, coinage, etc.

But think about how silly our jurisdictional categories are! What is a federal government? What is a "nation"? In ancient Greece we saw city-states, which were like sovereign nations the size of a city. Before the union of the states of America, each state functioned like its own nation. But then look at the UK - it functions very much like a cohesive nation, yet it is not. It is four nations (kingdoms?), united under a constitutional monarchy. But as you research the powers assigned to various levels of jurisdiction, you find that it is much more complicated than what I have described here. Is the EU a nation? 'Clearly not', we want to say, yet it regulates currency and to a certain degree transportation (military?), and there are other powers united under the EU, as well. What "is" the United Nations?

It seems to me that what a "nation" is, is arbitrarily determined by the papers and wills of the people constituting it. There is no God-given prescription for the powers that ought to be assigned to individuals, states (whatever those are...), "nations", international unions, etc. So what do people mean when they talk about how thus and such is "not the federal government's responsibility"? Perhaps they mean that the United States constitution reserves thus and such a power for the states. If this is the case, then so what? We can amend that bad boy! We shouldn't be after the answer to the question "what would the founding fathers do?".

What we should be after is the answer to questions like, "at what level of governmental jurisdiction can we get thus and such done most efficiently, with the best results, in the way that protects the most individual rights possible?".

And when it comes to healthcare in today's America, I here contend that the federal government seems the most fit to accomplish the ends that we all want. For example, Universal Health Care could,

1. Increase Competitiveness of American Businesses
The thought of having to shoulder the cost of employee healthcare motivates businesses to outsource their workforces to other countries. Paring down the overhead of businesses helps contribute to leaner business models, which will result in businesses competing more and more on the quality of their products and their prices. This will help companies to compete with each other inside the US, as well as with those outside the US that already do not have to shoulder the added overhead that employee healthcare brings.

2. Increase Health of American Workers and Citizens
When people are left uncovered by healthcare, they get sick. Sick people spread germs and thereby infringe on the health of others. Healthy people are more fit to get jobs and contribute to our economy. Whether we like it or not, our health is symbiotic. Let's democratically agree to take care of everybody and thereby protect ourselves. Let's enable ourselves to get preventative care, and thereby stay healthy more often, keeping ourselves in school and at work more often.

3. Balance the Use of Healthcare
Knowing I can get healthcare at any time might help me to relax and go in when I need to (and only when I need to). This would be better than never going to the doctor in order to avoid co-payments, or going all the time to try and get my money's worth from an expensive plan, or from a nice plan that my company pays for, which I know I will only have temporarily.

4. Keep Track of Medical History Records Across the Board
A nationwide healthcare system would allow us to centralize the database of medical records, cutting the volume of paperwork involved in changing doctors or getting help from specialists. Not to mention the fact that this would help us keep track of such information in the first place, so that doctors can have access to important information about you wherever you become sick or injured, or whether you go to a specialist you don't normally visit.

5. Mitigate Fraud
Centralizing our resources, including the database of medical records, could simplify a lot of processes and enable fraudulent cases to be systemically flagged immediately. People we agree ought not be part of the system, such as individuals present in our country by means forbidden by our laws, could be easily flagged when they turn up in emergency rooms. The level of care we give such individuals, and the protocol guiding how we handle such situations, could be topics of discussion.

6. Decrease Costs
Peoples who have decided to socialize their healthcare systems have wound up saving money because of the ability to cut overheads, centralize resources, provide preventative care, and... I could easily go on.

7. Increase the Freedom of Doctor's Treatment Plans
Insurance companies, being motivated by profit, impose severe restrictions on treatment plans. Giving doctors the freedom to be flexible with patient treatment plans would ignite innovation, motivate preventative measures, and increase the overall health of the country.

8. Mitigate the Various Ill Effects of Profit-Driven Medical Practices
The most profitable practices are not always the best ones. The free market has made it more profitable to create new, questionable drugs than to make continued use of trusted, generic drugs. Profit-hungry pharmaceutical companies bribe doctors to push their drugs rather than the best drugs for the job. Flashy marketing obfuscates drug-related information before it reaches the public eye, contributing to image-influenced decision-making, rather than information-driven decision-making.

Drug patent laws often mean that the best drugs are too expensive for the people who could benefit the most from them. Socializing health care would encourage medical professionals and researchers to share information in the name of social progress, rather than guard the findings of their research in order to profit from them.

The lobbying power of the insurance companies would be eradicated, freeing our politicians from the yoke of the obligations foisted on them by huge, profit-driven voting blocks. These same voters would naturally reorganize themselves into the categories that other citizens naturally fit into.

The giant bureaucracies housed by the insurance companies would be eradicated, reducing the number of workers whose jobs are spent administrating rather than generating.

I could easily go on.

9. Increase the Vocational Freedom of Individuals & Motivate Entrepreneurism
Socializing health care would contribute to the freedom of individuals to pursue careers they are passionate about, rather than those that happen to provide health care. For example, rather than feeling strapped for health care and therefore motivated to take a job as an employee at somewhere like Starbucks, individuals would be that much more motivated to start businesses of their own or pursue those jobs that don't always provide health care, increasing vocational freedom and entrepreneurism. This will be especially true for those with chronically, or terminally, ill family members. Such individuals will be free from feeling driven to find the job with the best health care.

10. Improve Responses to Regional Outbreaks, Natural Disasters, Rare Illnesses, and New Illnesses
Socialized health care would provide an ideal platform for coordinating the skills of various medical professionals with the medical needs of entire communities impacted by regional outbreaks or disasters. Those with rare diseases could be much more readily paired with the professionals whose specialty is well-suited to the problem. Medical information could be broadcast or spread by other means to those areas for which it is most relevant at a given time. Medical mentors and coaches could be utilized to promote general health practices and mitigate harmful ones. The livelihood of medical professionals wouldn't be tied to a specific set of patients, or to a geographic region, giving them the freedom to go where their skill is needed most.

• Socializing healthcare doesn't mean that the private sector is forbidden to attempt to produce superior plans (think of private schools).

Universal Health Care could be done poorly. And depending on who gets elected and what follows, that may end up happening in America. But, it doesn't have to be that way, and Sweden is living proof of that fact. Democratic forces could hold politicians accountable, and we could all rally with talented leaders, who could devise and implement a plan that works.

We have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, so let's agree to use this resource to accomplish something beautiful.

See also:
John R. Battista, M.D. and Justine McCabe, Ph.D. "The Case for Universal Health Care"
Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, "Hidden Costs, Value Lost"

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What hurts your feelings, that you are afraid to admit?

For me, it hurts my feelings when people mock Evangelical Christianity. When I type it out it sounds so... hypocritical. Sometimes I poke fun at some of the cheesy, disingenuous, syncretistic, chauvinistic, or otherwise a-Biblical practices clung to by many within my religious tradition. But for some ineffable reason, the context in which I do it, and the issues that I ridicule fit into a different category, or something... somehow it seems ok for me to do it. I don't know why. And sometimes other people can do it too, in certain circumstances - I can't explain it, which is probably why I NEVER speak up about it. I don't know. But there are times when other people mock Evangelical - or generally Protestant - practices or songs or culture, and it just gets to me. My feelings get genuinely hurt about it. Now you know one of my secrets.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Word Order Now Matters in Google Searches

Word order used to be irrelevant in Google queries, but now when I search for "reverse mortgage san clemente", some site with the URL comes up #1 for both the local business listings, and the organic web results. But if I search "san clemente reverse mortgage", that one reverse mortgage site comes up #3 in the organic web results (and #1 for the local business results). This could be the result of an attempt on Google's part to increase the relevance of their results, given that word order matters in English semantics. Or it could be Google's attempt at curbing spam, by ranking sites whose incoming links express some variety in word order.

Perpetually Donned Bluetooth Headsets

Combination #1

• This morning I discovered that when the garbage man emptied our trash, he first removed all of it that stuck up above the lip of the trash can, emptied the remainder, and placed the extra trash back into our can.
• Just now at Java a guy I have made small talk with a couple times approached me and asked what I was working on. I said I was just writing something for my job. He said that everybody knows what my job is. I asked him what that was and he said, "you are a church preacher". Not exactly how I had hoped he would answer.

I love those at Westboro Baptist, but I hate, I HATE, their sin.

I recently learned about Westboro Baptist Church's intent to picket Heath's funeral. I then discovered that they have been behind many such incidents, as well as the lovely and This is why I cringe to identify myself as a "Christian" (much less "Baptist"!). Nevertheless - I say "hey, go get your own name" to those at Westboro Baptist. These historical terms belong to those who affirm orthodoxy (e.g. "for God so loved the WORLD", "God IS LOVE", etc.) and have a passion to heal the sick, seek and save the lost, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, love orphans and widows, preach the good news, and not condemn or judge. So you hypocrites at Westboro Baptist, you who spread the lie that God hates, you who spread it in a pharisaical fashion repugnant to God and myself, why don't you go get a name besides "Christian", or better yet, stop hating and alienating in favor of humble submission to God's word.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Something Completely Irrelevant

Ever read one of my posts about technology and thought "I don't care"? Ever sit in front of a preacher and think "this has no relevance to me whatsoever"? Ever heard some punk kid philosophy major go off about something of no immediate consequence at a party?

I perceive two extremes when it comes to certain types of communication, especially those that preaching falls within. One is watery, human-selected and directed, topical, un-Biblical or simply a-Biblical, motivational speaking and the like.

The other is hard and slow, deep, technical, archaic, dry, boring, exegetical, hermeneutical, linguistic, scholastic, unconnected, judgmental, non-contextual homiletics.

You can ignore the Bible's agenda in an attempt to connect with your listeners and address the issues that they are going through, correct the errors that you personally perceive to be present, or motivate the behaviors you personally think ought to be motivated, or you can ignore the lives of your listeners and their slang and their hurts and their political issues in favor of loyalty to the Bible's agenda, clinging to old and bulky phrases and themes and traditions.

But the reality is that if you have anything of unchanging substance or transcendent truth, if there is any preconceived paradigm from which you come, if there is even one statement or truth claim you wish to convey in any capacity, and yet you desire to interact with, impact, change, motivate, be changed by, teach, suggest, or correct real humans in the physical universe we occupy, you have got to dance a delicate dance. There absolutely must be bi-directional, dynamic, interactive, back-and-forth, multi-person relational engagement and topical selection and presentation.

It just comes down to the fact that there is texture to human lives and cultures and subcultures and cities and schools and families. People are going through hurts and concerns and issues and they care about particular causes - humans are not blank slates, ready for information upload. And their language and use of it changes and varies and is higher or lower in clarity and has a larger or smaller lexicon than those of others.

But if we believe that the Bible contains information basically unavailable elsewhere, if we believe the Bible is God's Word, if we believe that the Bible is sufficient for what it intends to be sufficient for, if we believe the Bible is necessary, we absolutely positively simply and incontrovertibly cannot - cannot fail to do our utmost to get out of it everything it claims, teaches, portrays, conveys or asserts.

But if we do this and stop, we have failed. If all you do is reorganize the truths of scripture, repeat them, regurgitate them, and the like, then you have done no good at all whatsoever. You have added no value. You have accomplished nothing communicatively. Why even open your mouth? People can read the Bible for themselves.

But if all we do is learn about and interact with and submerge ourselves in our culture and become intimately acquainted with their daily lives and hurts and issues and shortcomings, we have also failed.

Obviously the boring preachers do add some value. Sometimes they illuminate ideas, sometimes they chance upon speaking aloud, and maybe even explaining, a passage which happens to be helpful or relevant to their audiences at the right time. I painted an extreme and stereotypical caricature of the Biblical theologians and academically-minded preachers and strict adherents to one or another Christian liturgical calendar. They are not literally pure wastes of human beings.

And obviously the mega-church pastors and topical preachers and artistically-minded pastors aren't all bad either. Often they happen to reach down into various parts of the Bible and perform some value-adding functions.

But the notion emerging in my mind is this: the ideal is smack-dab in the middle of the extremes, exhibiting the best of both and the shortcomings of neither. The ideal sermon is one that has a firm grasp on its audience and a firm grasp on scripture. The ideal sermon selects the correct passage of scripture for the situation at large. The ideal message is Biblically informed and fully honoring of God's agenda, yet 100% in touch with the needs, hurts, problems, fears, language, politics, and errors of its listeners.

May your communication exhibit the qualities of genuine and profound relevance and pure and good correctness. May mine too.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Night Before Last

I dreamt of a very large carne asada burrito.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Year's Resolution

Not a huge one: read the Bible through before 2009. I am trying to follow the Original Bible 365 schedule with a couple friends.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Brutal Honesty

Sometimes I go through the documents on my computer and delete some of them, worrying about what people might think of me if I were to die today and my friends and family were to go through my computer files. There is just a lot of poorly written, fragmented, unfinished, unpolished, and wrong-headed writing on here.

Whenever I get a friend request on MySpace or Facebook I first look over my profile to see if anything on there will offend them, and think about what I can add to it to make them think I am funny or cool. The latter effort is often fruitless.

From time to time I perform a "vanity search" on Google, trying to find everything on the internet with my name on it. I then try to either delete or edit the page, or do anything to maintain the landscape of my internet identity. To the person who only finds out about me online, whatever it is that exists online that has my name on it constitutes my identity. The same thing is true I suppose on MySpace and Facebook. And that bothers me.

I hate the thought of people judging me. My old blog is embarrassing to me. This blog is embarrassing to me. Dude, like future employers could find this stuff. I've hidden everything I know how to on my Amazon profile (except my wishlist - ha!).

I had the opportunity to deliver my first "sermon" or message or whatever in "big church" about a month ago at Thryve in downtown Coeur d'Alene. Afterwards I was afraid to go anywhere. I didn't want to be recognized. I didn't want people to look to the guest preacher as an example of a Christian, or worse - as an example of Christ. And it happened. A bunch of people recognized me in various coffee shops around town, and also at Papa Murphy's Take-and-Bake Pizza. I hate it. Don't look at me. Don't watch my computer screen. Don't ask me what I'm working on. Go away.

I am afraid of what my cousin Chris thinks of me, because I feel like we talk about religion too much, and I argue with him sometimes online. Like, he doesn't have a good sample of my beliefs or behaviors. Do you think I am a crazy wacko fundamentalist Evangelical? Wait - am I?

I still work hard to impress my wife, and I worry about whether she thinks I'm cool. Every time I write anything down or have the opportunity to teach something or anytime I feel like I have good advice or something funny to say I want her to perceive it and esteem it.

I try to impress my friends a lot, too.

I always make a fool of myself in front of new girls I meet. And the thing is - I both don't care at all because I am married and I don't even like other girls, and I care all too much because I want to be cool.

I worry about people seeing pictures of me with alcoholic beverages in my hand on MySpace or Facebook or Flickr (oh yeah, Flickr - another source of concern for me!) and judging me as a bad Christian, even though I have specific anthropological, Biblical, and theological reasons for drinking.

I don't have such reasons for smoking cigars, but I choose to do so anyway, and I worry about people judging me for it.

I could easily go on about the permanence of the internet, not to mention photographs, much less videos and audio recordings - and the fear of my shortcomings being immortalized. Moreover, every action anyone does will cause each person to eternally have the quality of having performed that action at that time. Profound. It demotivates me from writing blogs and broadcasting YouTube videos.

And from talking to people, trying new things, committing, being ambitious, being courageous...

Settling Accounts

Laura I have your "Mind of the Maker" by Dorothy Sayers.
Steve I owe you a new copy of "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell.
Corie I have your "On the Incarnation" by St. Athanasius.
Corie I also have our "Kalevala".
Daniel I have your "What St. Paul Really Said" by N. T. Wright.
Dad I have like most of your books, since you let me take them home from your office :). But I left the Old Testament books I was able to dig up at your house when I was down for Christmas.
Jon I gave you back your "Mr. Palomar" by Italo Calvino a long time ago.
Dane you still have my "Zero" by Charles Seif.
Laura you still have my "The Evidence for Christianity" by Josh McDowell.
Steve I think you gave me all my books back, except maybe "Out of Solitude" by Henri Nouwen, and perhaps "Playing With Fire" by Walt Russell, and did I let you borrow "Wasting Time With God" by Klaus Issler, too?
Zach you have my "Ministering Christ Cross Culturally" by Lingenfelter and Mayers.
Brooke you have my "Desiring God" by John Piper.

Am I borrowing anybody else's books?
Are any of my other books currently lent out?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Idahoan "Conservatives" at Work Again: Please just try and think straight for a while.

I said it before, and I'll say it again: in the case of tonight's issue, right wing methods are the best way to achieve even (shockingly) what conservatives say they want. This morning I found out about this, seemingly conservative effort:
BOISE – Idaho could enact a "covenant marriage" law to discourage divorce, encourage more premarital counseling, rethink domestic violence restraining order laws and require a "family impact statement" on every legislative bill, if the Legislature follows up on all the recommendations of its "Family Task Force."

...Divorce can be granted only for a few reasons, including adultery, abuse and felony incarceration.

-Spokesman Review, Jan. 2, 2008
Conservatives say they want to improve marriages and increase the stability of families, but using the blunt instrument of the law to legislate the world toward your preferences and hi-jacking religious institutions for political purposes is what liberals do, guys; not us.

I prefer the right-wing way: engage fellow Idahoans in viable relationships in order to change hearts and minds by convincing people that good marriages are worth working hard for. Work on your own marriage and offer it as a model (like my wife and I do). Get involved in charity work, counseling, community service, ministry, and community events in order to serve people and build relationships. We don't need more laws. Legalism is impotent to grow things that can only be sprouted from individual human wills.