Thursday, September 24, 2009

Homelessness and health care

Holy crap:
A ground-breaking demonstration in Chicago showed that providing housing and supportive services to chronically ill homeless people could reduce health care use by one-third. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that housing and social services could more than pay for themselves in reduced medical costs.
The provision of housing and support for the homeless is in any case a moral imperative. Not that this matters. But now it turns out that it's also a good idea in narrower economic terms.

Then again, I recently saw a clip of a woman condemning health care reform on the grounds that it would help out illegal immigrants... and then revealing that her own husband works 4 jobs, but still lacks health care. There are not a few who would sooner withhold help from those whom they consider undeserving, than see things improved for everyone, including themselves. I suppose the homeless are just looking for a free ride--and what's more important than spiting them?

Friday, September 18, 2009

The LORD watches over the stranger (Ps. 146:9)

Slacktivist with another good post, on the topic of that form of trespassing more commonly known as illegal immigration, and why no one likes to call it "trespassing":
The main reason that none of these Very Angry, Very Scared people wants to use the word "trespass" is that it reminds them of church.

There's this prayer we Christians say in church, at every service, whenever we get together. We recite it in unison, usually, and we've all got it memorized. We call it "The Lord's Prayer," because Jesus himself taught it to us and told us to pray it. Sometimes we call it the "Our Father," since that's how it starts.

Most of this prayer is comforting and reassuring, like the 23rd Psalm. "Give us this day our daily bread," we pray. "And deliver us from evil." Daily bread and deliverance, that's nice.

But then there's this other phrase which, when we listen to ourselves saying it, is the scariest part of any given Sunday. "Forgive us our trespasses," we pray, "as we forgive those who trespass against us."


Think of Wilson and the rest of the "take back America" crowd praying this prayer in tens of thousands of nominally Christian churches across the country. Think of them praying this prayer on behalf of "their" country: "Forgive America its trespasses as America forgives those who trespass against it."

If those are the conditions -- and they are -- then we're screwed. Our own words, our own prayers, condemn us.
To which I would add a few brief addenda (perhaps also relevant to a certain other nation state that has quite the problem with "trespassing"):
You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exod. 22:20)

You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exod. 23:9)

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 19:33-34)

Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger. You shall not be partial in judgment (Deut. 1:16-17)

Cut away, therefore, the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more. For the LORD your God is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 10:16-19)

Cursed be he who subverts the rights of the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Deut. 27:21)

This land you shall divide for yourselves among the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as a heritage for yourselves and for the strangers who reside among you, who have begotten children among you. You shall treat them as Israelite citizens; they shall receive allotments along with you among the tribes of Israel. (Ezek. 47: 21-22)
Or, less fancifully:
The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the stranger without justice. (Ezekiel 22:29)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blasphemy at the 9/12 March

The Statue of Liberty is not Jesus. Aren't there supposed to be some Christians in that crowd? Hell, that guy probably thinks he's one.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Monday, September 07, 2009

Solidarity forever

In 2005, polls showed that 40 million non-union workers in America would unionize if they could.

40 million new union members would more than triple the number of unionized workers, which was 16 million in 2008, 12.4% of wage and salary workers. The percentage of the workforce composed of unionized labour has been dropping since the 50s (however, in 2008 it actually went up slightly from the 2007 figure of 12.1%).

Why unionize?

For example: A new survey of over 4000 workers in New York, LA, and Chicago, revealed that:
...the typical worker had lost $51 the previous week through wage violations, out of average weekly earnings of $339. That translates into a 15 percent loss in pay.

The researchers said one of the most surprising findings was how successful low-wage employers were in pressuring workers not to file for workers’ compensation. Only 8 percent of those who suffered serious injuries on the job filed for compensation to pay for medical care and missed days at work stemming from those injuries.
Never mind the fact that a full time job on minimum wage can, without any violation of the worker's legal rights, still be insufficient to live on. Hunter-gatherers can live comfortably on a 40-hour work week (or even a 20-hour work week, depending on who you ask), but this is not possible for many labourers in the civilized world of mechanization and automation and ever-increasing productivity.

What stands in the way of unionization, a right which is (on paper at least) legally protected?
One in five workers reported having lodged a complaint about wages to their employer or trying to form a union in the previous year, and 43 percent of them said they had experienced some form of illegal retaliation, like firing or suspension, the study said.
Happy Labour Day!

Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. (James 5:4)

On holiness

According to this BBC report, the assault on Gaza saw rabbis join front line fighters for the first time. What possible purpose could this serve?
"Our job was to boost the fighting spirit of the soldiers. The eternal Jewish spirit from Bible times to the coming of the Messiah."

Before his unit went in to Gaza, Rabbi Kaufman said their commander told him to blow the ram's horn: "Like (biblical) Joshua when he conquered the land of Israel. It makes the war holier."

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A health care post

Hello neglected blog. Most of my links just get thrown up on facebook nowadays. But here's one for you.

So many crazy things being said by the American right about the health care system in Canada. I wish I could sit down with all the Americans and explain to them what it's really like. Or at least get them to watch this video:

The guys who shot the interviews (they did them along the way while they were on vacation in Canada) said they didn't run across a single Canadian who disapproved of Canada's universal coverage. It should be said that they probably would have, had they increased their sample size enough. There are some dissenters: fully 8% of Canadians think the American system is better; the number jumps to 12% among Conservative voters. (To put that 8% in perspective, you could probably find about as many people saying that the moon landing was a hoax.)

By way of contrast, here are some interviews with American small business owners, describing how they've had to struggle with insurance companies (from a series of (so far) 4 videos, all worth watching):

The self-employed are hit very hard by America's health care mess: they don't benefit from the programs offered for the poor, or from the ability of bigger businesses to get insurers to cover their employees as a group. As Paul Krugman suggests, this may be one of the big reasons why the US is (contrary to popular American myth) nearly last among major OECD economies in terms of self-employment rates, according to this study (pdf). (Yes, Canada ranks higher.)