Saturday, March 28, 2015

What do Indiana and ISIS Have in Common?

   

    Lately I have refrained from writing any posts in regards to the escapades of the Tea Party and the
 right wing conservative Republican reprobates, settling instead for just watching them self destruct in the next election.  But the actions of the Christian right in the past few months and especially of Republican Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signing the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law has really got my blood boiling.  This so called religious freedom law actually makes if legal for any business to refuse service to anyone the business owner deems to be in violation of his or her religious beliefs. In other words if you don't fit their model of a "good Christian" you don't get any service. It is quite obvious that this law is actually an anti gay law since it is aimed at the LGBT community.  There are also states like Arkansas and others mainly in the deep South and "Bible belt" in the country that either have similar laws or are about to enact them.  Ordinarily I would not be this upset, as I cannot foresee a visit to such holes as Indiana or Arkansas, which I would akin to a trip back 500 years into the past. But their are are many more implications of these laws that are extremely dangerous to us as a democratic country.

    It is true that the main focus of these laws is to deny rights to the LGBT community and legalize discrimination in dealings with members of the community, but the discrimination will not stop here. The people pushing these laws, Right wing conservative Christian Republicans, argue that their "Christian faith is being attacked by gays and others who are trying to deny them their religious freedoms. They believe that the only religion is their brand of Christianity.  So after it is okay to deny service to gays it will be perfectly legal to do the same for Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and naturally Muslims. Once this is accepted practice they will further hone their discrimination to include Christian sects they do not particularly agree with, such as Catholics, Unitarians, Episcopalians etc.

    These laws are a blatant violation of the doctrine of separation of Church and State and must be addressed by Congress, if they have the guts to go against the religious right and the American people.  The proponents of such laws and a vast majority of Conservatives actually believe that the Constitution established Christianity as the state religion. They believe that our founding fathers intended that the United States be a Christian nation.  They totally refuse to believe any facts presented to them which prove otherwise and they totally deny the separation of Church and State.

    This country is spending millions of dollars a day and sacrificing the lives of our service men and women to fight religious fanatics overseas who are determined to force their religious beliefs of the rest of the world and deny rights to those who disagree or are of other faiths. The US is fighting the implementation of dreaded Sharia Law in societies of our allies in the Middle East, as our friends in the UK and Europe are faced with extremists trying to make Sharia the law of their land.  The most terrifying and dangerous thing that is happening is that the while we are fighting extremists abroad our own religious fanatics here at home are forcing their beliefs on everyone else.  There is absolutely no differences between members of ISIS, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram and members of the fanatic Christian right in the US.  Just as Islam has been hijacked by radicals in their religion, Christianity in this country has been hijacked by radicals promoting their brand of religion and bigotry. If we continue to look the other way or placate the Christian right, as most of our politicians tend to do, we are all in danger of losing our rights as Americans.

   How can we stop this attack on our democratic rights and freedoms?  Well the most important action is to vote? The percentage of the American public who vote in our elections is deplorable. The religious right and Conservative fanatics, such as the Tea Party are able to gain influence because they get out and vote while the rest of us sit on our butts and then complain when it's too late. Another thing that must be done is to take away the tax exempt status from churches. By giving this tax exemption we are enabling churches to preach bigotry and discrimination and the denial of rights to fellow Americans.  While our military is fighting hate abroad, our churches are preaching hate back home! This situation is not just a passing political phenomenon it is a dangerous trend leading to disaster.

   

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why is Dental Care in the US So Very Expensive?

 


 When we lived in Malaysia our home was right across the street from a dental clinic, which was one of many on the island. This clinic was as modern or probably more modern than most I have seen in the US. The equipment was state of the art and the dentists were all trained in Germany or other countries in Europe, as well as the highly rated dental schools in Malaysia. When I knew that we would be soon going to the US to live,  Kevin and I made a trip to our local dentist to get a check up and work done , if needed, as we knew dentistry in the US was expensive. Kevin had 2 wisdom teeth removed and I had a filling and a bridge made. The total cost for the two of us was about 500 US dollars for excellent work.

    Now we live in the US and of course I chipped a couple of teeth and I need a couple of fillings. I knew that it was inevitable that I had to visit the dentist.  I began the process of searching for a dentist, even though I knew there would probably not be too much of a difference in the cost. I asked around and discovered that no one dentist came highly recommended, so I randomly chose one near where we live.

    The dreaded day came when I made my initial visit to the dental office. I must say it was a pleasant experience, as the dentist and his staff were very cordial and explained everything to me. The first day I had an examination and x-rays, which were expected. I was told that a number of teeth would have to have work done on them at some time in the future. Again this was expected. The cost for this visit was a little over $300. The following week received a filling in one of my teeth which was chipped. The cost $495!!!!  At this rate it will cost me thousands to have my teeth taken care of.  In just 2 visits to the dentist in the US I have spend almost as much as 7 years of dental care for both Kevin and myself! As with most people we do not have any dental insurance, which also is quite costly and does not cover much of the dental care. The cost had to go on a credit card, which will probably max out after a few more of the procedures!

    I knew dental care would be expensive here, but I was still shocked to see the exorbitant rates that were charged.  Dental insurance can be much more expensive than medical insurance and it only  covers a certain percentage of the costs.  There are various dental plans which offer discounts on dental work and are more affordable, but the problem is finding a dentist who accepts these plans.
I am sure that there are millions of people, especially seniors and children who go without much needed dental care because they simply cannot afford the outlandish costs. Dental care in the US is more expensive than any other developed country in the world. In Europe no one is denied dental care because of their inability to pay and other countries offer assistance in paying for dental care. When is the US going to wise up and realize that dental health is inextricably linked to overall physical health?  Soon in this country we will be able to ascertain the financial status of a person by looking at their smile!

    Looking at the high cost of dental insurance and dental procedures I have come to the conclusion that it would be cheaper to buy a ticket to Malaysia  and stay a couple of weeks to have our dental work done than to have it done here!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I've Had the Flu Shot and the Flu!




    It seems like every fall the media is bombards uswith public service announcements urging Americans, especially senior citizens to get the flu shot. Like I have done every year, except for the 7 years I lived in Malaysia I got the flu shot. I touted the merits of the flu shot to Kevin, as he never had one in Malaysia, even though it was available, but quite expensive. As a result for first time in his life Kevin also received the flu shot.

    Shortly after we both received our vaccinations FDA announced that the flu shots for the current flu season were only 27% effective! So much for my bragging about American medical technology! Now we only had to hope we would fall within that 27% of the population who would enjoy coverage against the flu.

    Well to make a short story even shorter we both fell ill with the flu. In early February Kevin came down with full blown symptoms of fever, body aches, muscle pain, cough, sneezing and upper respiratory discomfort. Even though he was suffering quite a bit he still managed to make it to school every day. After a couple of weeks he began to recover, as I felt I had been able to fend it off. No such luck. On one Monday morning I woke up with nausea and diarrhea and a sever cough. It lasted 3 days and I felt great. The next Monday it came back  stronger and stayed longer. My cough didn't last but the GI problems lingered for 3 weeks.  I guess we were the unlucky 63% of Americans who did not receive any protection from the vaccination this year.

    Even though we were both quite sick this year, we will continue to receive the flu shots in hopes that they will be more effective. Who knows? Maybe we actually would have had the flu worse this year, if we hadn't got the shots.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's Time for Bill O'Reilly to Go!




    For the past few weeks the media have been abuzz with the revelations that Brian Williams of NBC News embellished some of his news stories regarding Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War. Facing the allegations of lying he did the manly thing and accepted responsibility for what he had done, apologized to his listeners and stepped down from his position as news anchor until there was a full investigation. This is what would be expected from a decent professional journalist.

    Shortly after these revelations it was discovered that Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly was accused of the same thing by a number of veterans groups.  Instead of acting as a professional journalist, as Williams did, O'Reilly acted as a typical Fox News employee. He attacked the veterans accusing him of the misdeeds, in a vitriol filled tirade of name calling and threats.  Unlike NBC news, which immediately launched an investigation into the accusations against Williams, Fox News offered wholehearted support for O"Reilly.

    This incident involving O'Reilly only strengthens the negative views of Fox News as an organization dedicated to right wings agenda of news fabrication and outright lies. If Fox allows O'Reilly to get out of this unscathed it loses any credibility that it may have had.