Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Paying for Medical Insurance and Paying for Military Protection"
Dec. 24, 2009

All Americans need military protection from our country's enemies and this protection costs many billions of dollars per year. To pay for what we get, individual citizens do not choose a defense plan that seems to suit their needs, and negociate individually with defense contractors for the premium.

Instead the government computes the total cost for the entire country, and with the income tax system charges each taxpayer his or her share of that cost. So individuals do not pay for the protection they receive individually; they each pay according to their income to make up the total.

All Americans also need medical care and insurance against catastrophic medical expenses. This should be paid for in the same way as our military protection: by taxing eveybody (according to their incomes) to raise the total amount needed.

There will surely be the objection that military and medical expenses are not comparable because we REALLY NEED the military! However, any family with a member who is very sick will agree that we REALLY NEED medical care also. There is no reason for these needs to be paid for in very diferent ways.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Humans originated in Africa, but many thousands of years ago some of them wandered out to other continents. Those who came to northern areas encountered something new to them: seasons of the year, and in particular fall and winter. It was alarming to see plants die, and leaves fall off the trees, as well as some animals and birds going into hibernation or migrating south.

Meanwhile the Sun was sinking lower and lower in the sky, with the daily temperature dropping. Would the Sun disappear forever, leaving us to freeze and starve? In that dark, cold time, it became the custom in some societies to bring a green branch or tree into the home or community center, to remind people of Spring and the next growing season that they hoped would come. Also, a fire or lamp, which were specially needed anyway when the nights were so long, symbolized the Sun that they hoped would once again rise high and warm.

Imagine how relieved our ancestors were when they were sure the Sun was really rising higher again! This realization was the cause for joyful celebration, and over the years several customs developed in various cultures, of which the Roman “Carnival” and Viennese “Fasching” are examples. After many thousands of years, people came to take for granted that the Sun would certainly come back, and they were no longer worried about it. But we never like to abandon a familiar ritual: that is, why give up a good party? So the customs continued even though there was no longer a reason for them.

Another detail was that the Sun doesn’t get lower and lower until it suddenly rises higher than the previous day. There is a period when the naked eye and primitive measuring methods can’t tell whether it is getting higher or lower. Therefore the people had to wait and see. Of course this waiting period was retained as a tradition, and different waiting periods became customary in various cultures. One tradition called for a 12 day wait, and this is preserved in the “12 Days of Christmas”. Another was for 8 days, and in the Hanukkah tradition the lamp burned for 8 days. Incidentally, both Carnival and Fasching began not at the Solstice but after the waiting period.

In the earliest centuries of the Christian religion nothing was said about the date of Jesus’ birth. (Since the shepherds were spending the night out in the fields with their flocks, it must have been between May and September.) But the Church later decreed that it be celebrated in December, at the time of the Solstice. Was this a coincidence? I suspect that the Church had tried unsuccessfully to stamp out pagan celebrations of the Solstice, but since the people would be celebrating anyway it told them the celebration was for the Birth of Jesus.

Judaism has a celebration of “Hanukkah” commemorating the rededication of the Temple in 165 BCE, after their victory over the Hellenist Syrians. At some point it was decided to set this festival at the period of the Solstice. So both Christianity and Judaism have placed important events in their calendars at this time that had been important for another reason for tens of thousands of years.

Through all the many traditions and rituals we should remember what are the basic essential elements: Something green and living to represent the world of nature, and a fire, lamp or candle whose light represents the Sun.

Notice the importance of candles in the Christian tradition, and the lamp that burned for 8 days in the Hanukkah story.

---Andrew Linn, 1010 Waltham St., Lexington, MA 02421
(781) 863-0954

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dear Editor, 3 August 2009
Our Armed Forces are risking their lives and limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect all of us from terrorism. However, citizens are not told that military protection for them is “available”, or that they are “eligible” for it; we do not choose the level of protection that we want and then pay for it individually. It has been decided that all Americans need this protection, so our Armed Forces provide it for all of us, and it is paid for by our income taxes. The amount that a certain person pays is determined not according to the protection he himself receives, but according to his income.
Similarly, all Americans need medical care. So it also should be provided for all and paid for by taxes just as military protection is. Of course, some people need a great deal more expensive medical care than others do. And it is also true that some people benefit much more than others from our military actions in the mid east.
For instance, a U. S. Navy fleet is permanently stationed in the Persian Gulf, to prevent any nation in that region from nationalizing its oil. It costs a great deal to maintain this fleet, and big stockholders in major oil companies benefit much more from it than the rest of us do. But the expense of the Persian Gulf fleet is paid for not just by those who benefit most, but by all of us in proportion to our incomes.
Protection from our enemies is not an optional luxury, it is something we all need and deserve to have. And protection of our health is not an optional luxury either. A civilized nation like the U. S. should provide both these things to all its citizens, and pay for both in the same way.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

We are told that the big car makers must be “bailed out” because otherwise millions of workers and their families would lose their incomes. Since it is the workers’ incomes that are in question I propose the following measures:
(1) Every worker who loses a job because the company has gone bankrupt should be given, by the government, the salary that was previously received, until he or she finds another job, or for at most one year.
(2) The government should take over some of the car factories and convert them to making trolley cars. And other factories could produce passenger cars for railroads. (Note that all this would require not only hiring assembly line workers, but administrative personnel at all levels.)
(3) In cities where trolley transportation is to be set up or enlarged, tracks must be laid and other facilities provided. These activities would require something like the Public Works Administration of the 1930’s and would provide many more jobs at all levels.
(4) Manufacturing facilities for such things as solar panels and wind-turbines should be set up, preferably in areas where there is much unemployment.
(5) These much-needed measures, most or all of which involve the use of electrical power, would require major improvements in our electrical transmission system. Here again, jobs would be created at all levels.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
All of this would require an enormous effort. But our country showed what it could do in the way we waged World War II and by the success, in just eight years, of the project to put a man on the moon. Those achievements did not involve simply handing $25 billion to three corporations.
Andrew Linn Dec. 1, 2008