Restore your faith in humanity

This will restore your faith in humanity — watch the video all the way through. A high school basketball player intentionally passes the ball to a mentally-challenged player on the other team.

Does this sequester look infected to you?

The idea behind the sequester was to put into place budget cuts that were so unacceptable to both sides they’d be forced to come to a budget agreement. But alas one side would rather cut off their noses to spite their faces, so obviously that idea didn’t work. What they should have put into the sequester was cutting all congressional salaries and perks to zero. We would have had an agreement weeks ago.

What is the human adventure?

At the end of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the caption appears on screen in a blaze of hope: “The human adventure is just beginning.” The message is that the human adventure is the conquest of space and the expansion of the human spirit.

Yes. The human adventure certainly concerns the betterment of ourselves as a species, including growing out of our planetary cradle – because if we can survive to escape our nursery, then we will be well on our way to bettering ourselves.

But I think there’s more to the human adventure, things we can and should be working on right now, and things that certainly involve the betterment of ourselves, and that is the perfecting of our society.

Much as the founding fathers of America spoke of forming a more perfect union, with the full acknowledgment that we can never attain perfection, but that we should always be striving toward that ideal, we should set our eyes on the perfection of society as the means of the salvation of the human race.

I believe, with every fiber of my being, that the human adventure can and must include the perfection of our civilization, and that means, in practical terms, the eradication of poverty, the elimination of ignorance, the extermination of war, the strengthening of society’s stability, the feeding of every hungry person, the healing of every illness, the comforting of every sad soul, and the ever-growing realization that WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

Mark Vonnegut, the son of Kurt Vonnegut, once said, “We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.”

You know, that’s a real fine place to start the human adventure. And what if there were a religion that could grab hold of the imagination, the yearning, the dream of every human being on earth, and it held as its only dogma, its only truth, “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER”?

If there is nothing else, that acknowledgment, that realization, should be the starting gun, the first chapter of the continuing story of our human adventure.

Are we tired of division?


Is America tired of division and fragmentation?

In an article about why the ratings for last night’s Oscars were up, Richard Rushfield, writing for Buzzfeed, proposes that it’s partly because America, even though it seems hopelessly divided into two major camps and never the twain shall meet, might be getting a little tired of division, and perhaps there’s a hunger for a little less fragmentation.

While the general trend of the past decade has been the fragmentation and niche-ification of American culture, little noticed has been a counter-trend: a yearning again for community.

Even as the ratings for the traditional broadcast networks continue to plummet, in recent years (overall, if not year-to-year), ratings for the Super Bowl, presidential debates, and the Grammy Awards are all up.

As we break up into our separate lunch tables, there have been signs across the culture of a hunger for these national moments, of people wanting to be a part of the things that everyone is talking about. With Twitter and social media fanning the flames ever hotter, there seems to be an appetite to acknowledge and celebrate them more than ever.

Perhaps we all WANT that, but when it comes down to brass tacks, it seems to me we are still addicted to shields on full and phasers set to kill, especially seeing the rise of hardcore political and cultural extremists on one side condemning the very idea of compromise, and a reactionary response from the other side to therefore take all compromise off the table. Discussion of differing points of view usually consists of not much more than “F— you and the horse you rode in on.” The main tactic seems to be “We’re going to blow this up and blame you for it!”

What do you think? Are we getting tired of division, fragmentation and the nonstop cultural and political war?

Institutionalized barbarism

The irony here is that reading this article will likely make you sick enough to need a doctor…

Because my insurance company at the time has decided, after the fact, to NOT cover the routine surgery I needed last year, or the endoscopy, or the tests needed beforehand, I’m facing similar bills. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for people facing extraordinary medical procedures.

In America, the fact that health care — the life or death — of its citizens is for-profit business, chills me to the bone. It seems inconceivable that something so viciously cruel and inhumane is institutionalized the way it is. In the eyes of the health care industry (not the doctors & nurses, but the business people running it) we are pigs for slaughter, valuable only for how much bacon we can make. It is a barbaric system.

Future generations, if there are any, will condemn us for this just the same way we condemn past generations for condoning and institutionalizing human slavery.


Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

Sean RecchiWhen Sean Recchi, a 42-year-old from Lancaster, Ohio, was told last March that he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his wife Stephanie knew she had to get him to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Stephanie’s father had been treated there 10 years earlier, and she and her family credited the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson with extending his life by at least eight years.

Because Stephanie and her husband had recently started their own small technology business, they were unable to buy comprehensive health insurance. For $469 a month, or about 20% of their income, they had been able to get only a policy that covered just $2,000 per day of any hospital costs. “We don’t take that kind of discount insurance,” said the woman at MD Anderson when Stephanie called to make an appointment for Sean.

Stephanie was then told by a billing clerk that the estimated cost of Sean’s visit — just to be examined for six days so a treatment plan could be devised — would be $48,900, due in advance. Stephanie got her mother to write her a check. “You do anything you can in a situation like that,” she says. The Recchis flew to Houston, leaving Stephanie’s mother to care for their two teenage children.

About a week later, Stephanie had to ask her mother for $35,000 more so Sean could begin the treatment the doctors had decided was urgent. His condition had worsened rapidly since he had arrived in Houston. He was “sweating and shaking with chills and pains,” Stephanie recalls. “He had a large mass in his chest that was … growing. He was panicked.”

Nonetheless, Sean was held for about 90 minutes in a reception area, she says, because the hospital could not confirm that the check had cleared. Sean was allowed to see the doctor only after he advanced MD Anderson $7,500 from his credit card. The hospital says there was nothing unusual about how Sean was kept waiting. According to MD Anderson communications manager Julie Penne, “Asking for advance payment for services is a common, if unfortunate, situation that confronts hospitals all over the United States.”

Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 42. Total cost, in advance, for Sean’s treatment plan and initial doses of chemotherapy: $83,900. Charges for blood and lab tests amounted to more than $15,000; with Medicare, they would have cost a few hundred dollars

The total cost, in advance, for Sean to get his treatment plan and initial doses of chemotherapy was $83,900.

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