Some news stories keep me awake nights because I understand them; others because I don’t

(May my readers in other countries pardon my use of the word "we." It just seemed too weird to write "the United States" over and over.)

Is it by accident that we are fighting “for freedom” (ours and theirs, presumably) in the oil-rich Middle East while ignoring slavery, starvation, and genocide in the jungles and deserts of Africa? What if those people had oil—or were even white? I mean, we did finally get it together to intervene in Bosnia, yet only thousands died there as opposed to over a million in Rwanda.

Why did conservatives continue to defend the War in Iraq after it became clear that George Bush invaded the wrong country on spurious grounds, yet they are now outraged by Obama’s efforts to insure that everyone has medical care? I could better understand their outrage over the one if they were also outraged over the other. As it is, what is the message here, that killing people by mistake is okay, but saving lives isn’t? Or that anything a conservative president does is acceptable, whereas everything a liberal president tries to do must be defeated?

Conservatives demand to know how Obama plans to pay for health care reform. It is a good question, but why have they never asked this about our two wars in the Middle East, wars that have been going on for seven years at a cost of $915.1 billion?

Residents of conservative states are the poorest and least educated people in America, and they are also the least able to afford medical insurance. Yet they are the very states in which opposition to healthcare reform is strongest. Why is this, do you think?

Pfizer was recently ordered to pay $2.3 billion in fines and penalties for fraudulent advertising. It was Pfizer’s fourth conviction in seven years, yet no one will go to prison, and the fine only represents three weeks of corporate profits. Every major pharmaceutical company has run into similar problems, but since the profits exceed the fines, they keep at it.

Ronald McDonald runs charitable residence houses near hospitals for the families of seriously ill children, yet Ronald doesn’t insure his own rank and file workers—or their children. This enables him to look like a philanthropist even while dumping sick children on the taxpayer’s doorstep.

The Supreme Court is expected to abolish corporate spending limits for political ads before the end of the year. Imagine how it would affect the current healthcare debate if those in favor of reform had to compete with the likes of Merck and WellPoint for attention. Through their lobbyists and political contributions, such firms already exert an undue influence on legislators. When the day comes that they persuade legislators to outlaw free speech on the Internet (to protect us from terrorists, no doubt) their control of information will be complete.

Another fairly recent Supreme Court decision that dispossessed the individual in favor of the corporation was allowing local municipalities to take away the homes and businesses of individuals and give them to corporations. A third was ruling that corporations have the same free speech rights as individual citizens.

The irony of such decisions is that the raison d'être of the Supreme Court is to interpret the Constitution, a document that was supposedly created to protect the rights of the individual.

Yet another example of our government working overtime to screw the individual is that lawmakers denied Medicare and Medicaid the right to negotiate drug costs as do private insurers. Drug companies were said to be exceedingly grateful.

Such things go almost un-noticed by the press, as if to imply that they’re not relevant to our lives. So, Michael Jackson’s death is relevant?

The problem is that the press provides us with the information we want rather than the information we need. For example, thousands of people—including 191 Americans—have been killed in Afghanistan since January, yet Michael Jackson’s death in June has gotten more press coverage this year than that entire country. Given our apathy toward the things that matter to our welfare, the question becomes one of what we, as a country, deserve.

When a person joins the military, it would be well to tell him or her that, oh, by the way, if you should die for your country, your country won’t even notice, and absolutely nothing good will come from your sacrifice. In fact, the war in which you die will probably just fizzle out eventually, and, like the war in Vietnam, be judged by historians as a waste of time and resources.

No one doubts the mass corruption of the governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the only reason for protecting them is that they’re on our side whereas their enemies are not on our side. It was the same with the Shah in Iran, Batista in Cuba, and the Contras in Nicaragua. I don’t remember a time when my government didn’t support evil regimes—even when those regimes overthrew elected governments—as long as we thought they wouldn’t turn on us.

Did you know that private charities hold fundraisers to pay for plastic surgery on disfigured veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan? If the government doesn’t care about the “heroes” who were supposedly injured while “fighting for our freedom,” why should we think it cares about us?

Conservatives say that we should support the troops even if we despise the war. The problem is that troops make wars possible. If those who will join the military today took the trouble to become informed beforehand, they probably wouldn’t join. The most that can be said for them is that they’re awfully young, terribly naïve, and woefully ignorant.

The thing that I find most distressing about my country is its smugness. Even though we are the most obese, the least fit, and one of the most debt ridden nations on earth, and even though our scores continue to drop in regard to education, longevity, vacation time, infant mortality, and other lifestyle standards; we still congratulate ourselves on being “the greatest nation on earth.” Greatest how? That’s what I would like to know.