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Truth About Israel

Lately people have been talking about Israel a lot what with the current war on terror and all, and not all of it has been positive. There are a lot of misconceptions about Israel and most people do not know its facts and history. In this article I hope to clear that up. The Story of modern Israel starts back at the beginning of the 1900’s. At the end of World War I the Ottoman Turk Empire was defeated and its territories were spilt up by the winning countries, primarily Britain and France. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 established the region of Palestine to be under British and French rule. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 promised to establish a Jewish homeland within the territory for Zionist settlers who had come to the region. However, this declaration never came to fruition and in 1920 the British Mandate of Palestine was passed. It established the name and borders for modern Palestine, which is now Israel. The Name Palestine comes from Philistines who lived in the region in ancient times. The White Paper of 1939 passed by the British Government limited the number of Jewish Immigrants to Israel. As a result many Jews escaping from Europe and the Nazis at the time were turned away and forced to return. The British continued to have control over the region until 1947 when they gave it over to the U.N. In 1947 the U.N. passed the U.N. Partition Plan which effectively divided the region into separate Jewish and Arab states. Under the plan Jerusalem would remain under international control. However, the surrounding Arab nations of Egypt, Syria and Jordan didn’t want the establishment of a Jewish State and the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 started. During this time many Palestinians fled their homes and became refugees. These refugee camps still exist today. The war was eventually ended and the region was divided between Israel, Egypt, Syria and Jordan, with Israel claiming the largest portion. Due to the war the original U.N. the plan for two separate states was abandoned. In 1967 further conflict erupted when Egypt took action against Israel and called for united Arab action for its destruction. The Six day war followed with Egypt and Jordan, at the end of which Israel was victorious. As a result of the war Israel gained the heavily Arab occupied regions of East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, West Bank and Golan Heights. The Gaza Strip and West Bank are the areas that are the most highly populated with Palestinians today. So as you can see prior to 1920 there was no such thing as Palestine or Palestinians. They were merely Arabs living in a region that where given a nationality by the British. The idea that Israel is an imperial nation who is supported by the United States to oppress Palestinians isn’t true. The plan was to have two states however, the Arabs did not want a Jewish state and in order to defend itself Israel took over the Palestinian areas during the conflict. There is a very disturbing trend now to support the Palestinians independence from Israel its oppressor. This trend also comes surprisingly from liberals who think of Israel as a puppet of the United States. Jews have fought long and hard to have their own sovereign state and although many would like to rewrite history to make it seem like Israel should not exist. Š

Movie Review: SiCKO

SiCKOAs a lefty liberal, I like Michael Moore. As a journalist (I have more creds than just a blog, I swear), not so much. Lucky for me he's making movies for the masses and not writing for The Washington Post. Otherwise, he'd have been shut down years ago. Instead, we can enjoy his films for what they are - films that while maybe not full of "truthiness" will make people talk and think. As Moore state in the film, SiCKO is not actually about people who don't have health care in America. It's more about people who DO have health insurance and get screwed by it. People who pay the premiums and deductibles and still get denied care. In America, we like to get what we pay for, but when it comes to insurance it doesn't seem to work that way. He tells the stories of an older couple who have gone bankrupt paying for medical treatment for heart attacks and cancer, even though they have good jobs with good insurance. The middle-aged woman who's brain tumor was considered not a medical emergency and died. The young woman who's surgery was paid for by her insurance and then payment was revoked when it was revealed that she had not disclosed a previous yeast infection when applying for insurance. Moore reports in the movie that he received over 2500 emails from people with stories about the horrors of health insurance - many of them from people who work in the insurance industry. The most stand-out story was that of Linda Peno, a former medical reviewer (the person in charge of deciding who gets what care) for the Humana HMO. Ms. Peno stated in a congressional review:
I wish to begin by making a public confession. In the spring of 1987, I caused the death of a man. Although this was known to many people, I have not been taken before any court of law or called to account for this in any professional or public forum. In fact, just the opposite occurred. I was rewarded for this. It brought me an improved reputation in my job and contributed to my advancement afterwards. Not only did I demonstrate that I could do what was asked, expected of me, I exemplified the good company employee. I saved a half a million dollars.
It may be no secret that insurance companies are for-profit businesses and saving money is their game. After all, we're a capitalist society. But is this the right way to go? Moore points out our socialized fire and police protection. Our free schools. Free libraries. Why not free, government-controlled health care? Most are quick to point out Canada's socialized medicine and how it's just...bad. Long wait times to see doctors and get procedures done. Sub-par professionals and facilities. In the movie, Moore visits some Canadians and speaks with them about their speed and quality of care. The Canadians he spoke with were happy with both. He also spoke with British and French people about their socialized medicine and American ex-pats in England and France about their care. All of those countries got glowing reviews. Of course, this is the sort of thing one sees in a Moore movie that one might need to take with a grain of salt. Is the Canadian health system really as good as Moore would have us believe? When every review is glowing one has got to assume there were several opinions left on the cutting-room floor. Two examples of rebuttals for this film come from The Associated Press and Kurt Loder of MTV News. The AP article is sort of rubbish - while it points out that Moore inflates numbers a bit in the film (reporting 50 million uninsured in the U.S. as opposed to 44.8 million, for example) when you're dealing in millions of lives the rebuttal is sort of moot. Whether it's 50 million or 44.8 million uninsured, or $800 million given to health insurance companies from a Medicare bill or $729 million...it's all still too much. Moore also points out that American is 37th in the world in terms of health care. The AP points out that Canada is 30th. Loder is quick to point out flaws in the Canadian and French systems. It doesn't matter what rank Canada has or how French is bungling their medicine. When it comes to actual health care resources, America is top-notch. Doctors come here to train and dignitaries come here for procedures. Unlike Ottowa's "one chemo machine," the American health care infrastructure is in place. Moreover, since we're the last modern western country to delve in to socialized medicine we're able to assess all other failed and successful systems and create one to meet our needs. But can we? Will we? Can we afford it? For my small company, it costs roughly $800/mo to insure one family of three and about $200/mo to insure a single person. This is before any out-of-pocket costs, of course (one employee reports having to pay about $5000 out-of-pocket in 2006 when his family of 2 became a family of 3). The auto industry is crumbling largely in part to the increasing cost of health care for current and retired employees. People are paying for health care in one form or another, so why not alleviate those personal and industry costs and put the money towards a more greater and fair use? One of the interviewees (from England) in Moore's movie makes a seriously strong point - if the government can find money to kill people, why can't it find money to help people? If it costs my company an extra $300 per month in taxes instead of $200 a month in premiums to keep me insured under a government plan and I am guaranteed never to be denied any health care, how could I argue with that? We've all got tales of being screwed by health insurance. I was lucky enough to be brought up under one of America's best health insurance plans as the child of a union auto worker. I never had to fight for any sort of care. But, when I was 18 (still under my dad's insurance as I was in college), I was diagnosed with Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder (TMJD). Before I got treatment, I was to the point where I had to drink my dinner through a straw because I couldn't open my mouth wide enough or have the power to chew. TMJD treatment, which can be long and expensive whether you have it surgically corrected or corrected through orthodontics, is not covered under most health insurance including mine. Lucky for me, my college fund was supplemented with scholarships and my folks were financially well-off to just bite the bullet and pay for treatment. I was extremely lucky to have been diagnosed at the right time in my life. Had it happened today, no matter what my health insurance status, I'd have been in serious, serious debt. As everyone grows and goes through the working world, we are all in fear of losing health care or losing health. This is our future and it seems hopeless. SiCKO points out that in other countries, government fears the people while in America the people fear the government. In America we're strapped by debt and fear of not being able to get or stay healthy. We're apathetic and scared and we don't vote. We don't discuss. We don't rebel. SiCKO will hopefully turn American thought and discussion back from a losing war in the Middle East to the very real and very domestic problem of American health care reform. Moore's ideas and presentations might not serve as a good template for what can or should be done but SiCKO is definitely a movie worth seeing and hopefully starts the ball rolling on discussions about what can be done.

United States of America VS the Metric System

What do we have against the metric system? Can anyone tell me why the good old US of A hates the metric system so much that it stands practically against the world in it's single minded "We're Number One" mantra? We stand alone with Myanmar (Burma) and Liberia. This doesn't bode well in the US's current stance in about any world wide political situation. I mean, when an argument could be won by almost any country by saying something school-ground childish around the lines of "well, we use the metric system, what do you use?" I think it becomes time to reconsider your standing point on the issue. Most people (except Americans, Liberians and Burmese) would agree that the metric system is much more useful and makes a lot more sense than a system that relies on body parts (length measurements such as feet and yards) and old fashioned carrying devices (peck, quart, pint). If you don't believe me that we stand alone in this war against reason, here is a pretty picture in which the red countries are the countries who do not use the metric system. Bottom line is, the metric system makes more sense, period. metric_system.png

Will Barack Obama be a Liar, too Inexperienced, or a Security Risk?

I'll say it: Barack Obama is a liar. Surprised? Secretly happy? Are you shocked, and demand to hear some evidence? Well, Stephen Colbert has the evidence, and it turns out to be pretty flimsy: Obama recalled reading an article when he was nine years old, and it turns out it wasn't in Life magazine, as he thought, but in Esquire. But it doesn't matter. As Al Gore found out in 2000 and John Kerry found out in 2004, complex positions on issues and factual reality is trumped by attack labeling. By "attack labels," I mean those wonderful soundbites, usually just a few words and never more than a sentence, that are used to turn a politician into a caricature. It's similar to the doublespeak that has given us wonderful phrases such as the "death tax" and "we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." The fact of the matter is, Americans get their news from a wide range of media and sources that are in constant competition with each other for audience. Detailed, subtle analysis is not the best way to win in that marketplace. So the only way to get a message out is to make it short, memorable, and catchy. If your message can't be repeated at the watercooler in the time it takes to fill a paper cup, you've already lost. Any time spent making sure the message matches reality is time wasted. They went after Kerry with "flip flopper," among others, and they went after Gore because he "said he invented the Internet." The Gore label, for example, was originally based on a poorly-worded statement that Gore made. A fake quote was spread by mainstream media in a clear failure of the marketplace of ideas. Meanwhile Gore did deserve some credit for understanding and promoting the Internet from the Senate before anybody else, according to Vint Cerf. This was so effective that years later we still get to hear "funny" comments about Gore inventing the Internet from people who've never even heard of Vint Cerf. So it is inevitable that they will go after Obama the same way. The only question is, what will the attack label be? I think it has to satisfy a few criteria:
  • It must be short, the shorter the better;
  • It must be memorable and catchy;
  • It does not have to accurately represent reality, but it must at least on the surface reflect some quote or action by the candidate; and
  • It must have truthiness, so it "feels" like the truth. For example, Al Gore's pride goething before a fall sounds like a great story. It should have the qualities of an urban legend.
I have already heard some candidates for the label we will no doubt see applied to Obama:
  • Barack Obama is a liar. This is the one I talk about at the beginning of this post. The truthiness here is that Obama is too good to be true. The emperor has no clothes, and everyone was afraid to point it out because of the race thing. He's written a couple books, so it's just a matter of breaking out the fine-toothed comb.
  • Barack Obama doesn't have enough experience. He certainly looks young, right? And, uh, he's never been a governor. The only way to dispel this one is to actually looking through his rather impressive resume, which takes time and effort and will therefore not happen. The truthiness here is style over substance.
  • Barack Obama is too much of a risk. Now I would never say it would be risky to vote for a black person because I'm not racist, but think of all the dangerous racists that are out there. Do you think the KKK will take this sitting down? We must keep him out of the white house for his own protection. My gut tells me that this is a sympathetic viewpoint... it's not like a white president has ever been shot.
We have a lot of time to kill between now and the elections, so it's quite possible the attack label will be something we haven't even heard of yet. There are still lots of opportunities for him to misspeak. But I figured I would include a poll to make it democratic: please vote on which of the attack labels you think is most likely to be used against Obama. If we get a good amount of votes, maybe we'll do one for Hilary Clinton too. I think Edwards has already found his in this $400 haircut business. Maybe we'll do some for the Republican candidates, but quite frankly the Democrats suck at this sort of thing so I'm not sure it would be very interesting. [survey_fly]

Can’t Touch Strippers with a 10 Foot Poll

The saga of the great Stripper debate continues. The bill is currently under review by the house due to several questions of constitutional legality and whether or not the language of the document actually makes sense or is just plain ridiculous. There is also question about the CCV and whether or not they told the truth about similar legislation in other states and legality of the bill. Recently on their site to bolster their failing support they published a poll that they had done saying how the majority of Ohioans support the bill. Of course if you look closer you will notice several fishy things about this poll, and realize that it is just another attempt by the CCV to propagate their own cause that the majority of the public does not support.

Firstly there is the whole issue of the inaccuracy of polls. Looking at the entry on Wikipedia there is an entire section on how and why they are inaccurate. First is the sampling error. This has to do with the size of sample being polled. The larger the sample, the more accurate the polls and the lower margin of error. You will notice that this poll only has a sample of 500 and a margin of error of 4.4%. The number of registered voters in Ohio for the 2004 election was 7,979,639. Is it just me or does 500 people seem like a really small sample of the total number of voters? The CCV would have you believe that the poll represents some overwhelming majority but you can clearly see it is barely a handful of people. Also with such a small sample of people the margin of error is quite high. So even this data might not be correct. Right off the bat the poll is rife with problems bringing its accuracy into question.

Secondly look at the people polled in the survey. 80% of those surveyed where white. 65% were married. Over half of them were over the age of 45. So out of those 500 people surveyed the vast majority are older married white people. Already this is an incredible biased sample. The CCV is trying to claim that this poll represents the majority of Ohioans, but obviously it is only a small percentage and not a large cross section. If I ran a poll and just sampled my constituents I’m sure I could come up with poll results so the exact opposite of these results.

Finally take a look at the company that did these polling results, The Polling Company Inc. They are a full service market research, public affairs and political consulting firm. Look at that last line, political consulting firm. They are obviously hired for political purposes to help with political issues like trying to get a bill passed. Their whole point was to design a survey that would support CCV platform and not create a non biased one that would actually show what people are thinking. Look at their list of other political clients: Massachusetts Republican Party, Mercer County Republican Committee (NJ), National Republican Congressional Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, Republican National Committee, Republicans for Environmental Protection. All of these are Republican organizations not one democratic. It looks like the CCV hired another right wing shill group to promote their conservative agenda.

What it really boils down to is we already have a method to decide what the public wants besides polling, it’s called voting. Put the issue to a vote and see what the people really want. Don’t interview 500 people and say this is what everybody wants. The CCV of course doesn’t want to do this because the majority of people do not support the bill and further more they would be disgusted that time and money has been spent on this when so many other issues like education and the economy need to be addressed by the government.