Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why Should I Starve Just Because Clerical Workers Are?

For the first year since 1975 There will be no COLA or cost of living adjustment for beneficiaries of Social Security or Social Security Disability payments. Increases are evidently calculated based on the earnings of urban wage earners and clerical workers.

I am frankly miffed that just because they are starving I should? Economists do this song and dance about the fact that due to the economy there has been no raise in the cost of living ergo no raise for us to adjust to it. What world are they living in?

My property taxes went up because due to decline in sales of consumer goods the gross receipts proceeds went down and to make up for that property taxes must go up. Because of the houses that fell to hurricanes and fires insurance went up. When do we start telling people where not to build? And so I expected a raise in my escrow payments on my mortgage but $61 a month?

Seems there is a new federal law that either mandates or allows (banks read allows as mandates) our mortgage holders to hold "extra money" over and above what it takes to pay taxes and insurance annually. I can either give them $650 interest free before March 1st or pay the $61 more a month. BTW I also do not earn interest on that.

So then the current electric bill has that item called fuel adjustment on it. It appears in the winter when the providers of the power my coop resells raise their fees. That was almost $17 of my bill this month. The more I heat my house the more that raises. Because of energy bills last year I have decided to learn to live at under 60 degrees. And I get to that balmy level with the wood stove and the passive solar addition to my home. I no longer use my clothes dryer. If it is too cold to dry clothes outside they hang around in my hall. The good news there is KWH used has dropped from 716 last year at this time to 534 this. But cost per day only lowered by 7 cents which says ole government of mine that the cost of living has gone up. Or should I say the cost of not freezing to death.

I don't have to hire clerical workers. And I certainly cannot afford to hire anyone to do anything around my rural property. But it is still costing me much more to live this year than it did last or the year before. So much more that I am considering deleting Medicare Part B from my insurance coverage. I cannot afford to go to the doctor even if I have to only pay 20% so why pay for something I don't use. And it would net me $96 more a month which just might cover the increases in energy and escrow. Then if I stop eating. . .

Well, it is something to consider. If I starve to death (or freeze to death) my sister has to come up with the money for the cremation. Then I would be warm at least.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What Are They Thinking?

I used to teach skiing. And I was one of what seemed a dwindling group of people that argued about the ecological soundness of ski resorts. There really are some good points I will not clutter this blog up with today.

That those pluses for the environment are on the ever lighter end of the scale in relationship to the mega kilowatts spent every night to blow snow, and the diesel fuel used to groom that snow more and more finely to please the diminishing consumer (skiing is not a growth sport) is another matter for more in depth discussion. This blog was going to be about the Angel Fire Resort announcing night skiing beginning on this Saturday. And how very inappropriate that seemed in juxtaposition to the conference on global warming taking place.

We are tree huggers in New Mexico. Part of the reasons we are so in trouble every summer because of wild fires is groups like Carson Watch that worked to ban logging and also stopped harvesting of dead and down trees for firewood. Our various Chambers of Commerce and tourist bureaus headline our unpolluted night skies. Where I live five miles south of Angel Fire nothing competes with the stars at night but the moon. And by 9:30 at night in Angel Fire only the street lights are on and their have been movements to turn those off for star gazers.

And to this mix comes a corporation that will do anything for the all mighty tourist dollar. They have installed lights and will now begin night skiing. I have to feel sad for all the owners of ski-in/ski-in houses and condos along the trails. Many of them already bitch and moan about the noise the snow making machines make all night long. Not to mention the snow cats grooming the newly made snow all night. Now they need to contend with the glaring lights. I suppose there will be a rush on blackout shades.

That is what this was going to be about. Then I Googled an image for this blog. I knew that resorts very close to metropolitan areas did night skiing to capture the after work sports fan. But I was shocked to see the number of ski resorts that now tout night skiing from Arizona to Vermont. All those mega watts of candle power illuminating once pristine mountain skies, warming the night, wasting energy that so many of us are trying to save by turning off every spare light in the house and switching to those awful energy efficient florescent bulbs.

Am I working on tolerating 62 degrees over 72 in my house so they can warm of the atmosphere with all that candle power for a few people to ski after the sun goes down? I am sure night skiing is just the tip of the power wasting iceberg (all of which are melting away) but before Obama demands accountability from the Chinese maybe we need to show some here. It costs the average ski area between $3000 and $10,000 a night in electric power to blow snow. And we talk about the shortage of clean power in the US?

And there is night golf, and night tennis. And Phoenix that mists its walkways with water it steals from the Colorado Watershed. Not to mention watering it 150 golf course in an area that gets less than 6 inches of rain a year. This shit has got to stop. We need to align ourselves with the earth we live upon not try and force it to be what will generate money for the already extremely wealthy.

If God had wanted night skiing in New Mexico she would have  made the stars brighter.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

They Just Don't Get It!

I was having coffee with a friend yesterday and managed to catch a few minutes of President Obama's bashing of the banks. He singled out financial institutions for causing much of the economic tailspin and criticized their opposition to tighter federal oversight of their industry.

"It was, as some have put it, risk management without the management," he said.

The president also told CBS' "60 Minutes" that "the people on Wall Street still don't get it. ... They're still puzzled why it is that people are mad at the banks. Well, let's see. You guys are drawing down $10, $20 million bonuses after America went through the worst economic year ... in decades and you guys caused the problem," Obama said in an excerpt released in advance of Sunday night's broadcast of his interview.

Upon returning home I received an e-mail from the New York Times saying that Wells Fargo was selling 10.4 billion dollars in new stock to repay the $25 billion TARP loan. Citigroup had just repaid $20 billion but still owes us more. Surely this was not just to get the president off their butts? And it isn't. They are still the Scrooges in this story. By repaying these loans from the American taxpayer the restrictions on the practice of obscene end of the year bonus is lifted. Be prepared to hear about how much their CEO's will be getting as Christmas Presidents. 

Everyone is getting into the Christmas spirit. Bank of America paid back $45 billion on December 9th. And they sidestep the President's stated objective of forcing borrowing banks to make more loans to small businesses and homeowners bottom up in their mortgages.

But my question is where did Wells Fargo get the $10.4 billion in stock? And where were they hiding the other $35 billion. Weren't they about to go belly up when we bailed them out? It is possible it was hidden the same place G.W. Bush's 22 million missing e-mails were. But we found those. During his eight years in office lots of controversial electronic mail on iffy decisions went missing. Key here is to know merely pressing the delete button obviously does not work. Consider that bank CEO's. Your real financial balance sheets can be found.

As a side issue I was Googling an image for this blog on banking and Monopoly seemed appropriate. Parker Bros still has that smiley and lovable banker despite current polls that put people of that ilk up in the most hated list. And I found this image for the electronic version of the time honored game we all loved to fight over. No more paper money to dole out. You can do it all with plastic. And you can begin training your  children to just swipe that credit card as the tender age of eight. Merry Christmas.

Isn't this a large part of how we got into this mess in the first place? Everyone was not playing with real money. And obviously still aren't. But the good news is Christmas spending is down 50% from last year, which was not a banner one, plastic or no plastic.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

If the Shoe Fits Wear It

As we approach Christmas the news seems to get sillier and sillier. Angelina Jolie recently criticized President Barack Obama because he had not gotten around to her treasured issue. (Frankly, I did not even bother to look at what the issue was).  BTW, Angelina, I think he has been a bit busy. There have been two wars to fight, health care reform, and saving the US economy from the brink of a depression. Though I doubt you have noticed any of that.

And it seems that Bill O'Reilly of Fox News (I have put news in italics because I believe it is misused) feels he has been maligned in an episode of Law and Order: SVU. The episode deals with a serial killer of illegal immigrants. In one scene, a character named Randall Carver, played by veteran actor John Larroquette, is sitting on a park bench talking to Fin, the detective played by Ice-T. In defending the actions of the man who killed the immigrants’ children, Larroquette's character says, "Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, all of 'em, they are like a cancer spreading ignorance and hate...They've convinced folks that immigrants are the problem, not corporations that fail to pay a living wage or a broken health care system..."

Well, yes. So what is your point Bill? O'Reilly called the "far left" Wolf (creator of the show) a "despicable human being" whose show is "out of control." I wonder if it has yet occurred to Mr. O'Reilly that most of us viewers would have hardly noticed if he had not called it to our attention? But then that would require thinking. My father used to always say, "If the shoe fits, wear it." Obviously O'Reilly has chosen to wear this particular pair of shoes left hanging casually hanging around a television show. A fictional television show.

In the top news stories on Yahoo's News page the O'Reilly story was first. Lady Gaga's (who in the #@$@ is she?) reindeer hat was second, and the "shocking" news that Tiger Woods was taking a leave from golf to tend to home matters was fourth or third. There was a story about a ten year old iceberg drifting toward the Australian coast that merited a read.

Definitely the silly season! Except this is beginning to seem the norm on news shows and news internet sites. Maybe the word news needs to be in italics all the time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

One Bright Spot of Sanity

I noticed this morning that it had been a while since I had done a new post for Travels with Charley. So I went searching for something newsworthy that the talking heads had not masticated to death. And finally found myself totally out of the political realm.

Richard Wright, a 49 year old painter and muralist, has been awarded the Turner Prize. The Turner Prize is awarded annually to a body of work by an artist under 50, and born, living or working in Britain. I find it very hopeful that in an age of multiple wars, continuing threat of global nuclear anniliation, global warming, governors using jets to visit mistresses in a foreign country, wives taking after their mates with golf clubs, Barbie and Ken sneaking into the White House to get a reality tv show, and car bombs in Iraq that art is still being created and awards for it continue.

Why save the human race if there isn't art, music, literature, scientific discovery, higher callings, and thinking outside the box? If we are just squabbles on the Senate floor over health care, vain seeking of attention with potentially hazardous pranks, acquisition of wealth for the sake of acquisition only, murderous actions over differences in religion, power for the sake of seduction, and midnight fights over our mates indiscretions then set off the bombs. We are a waste of air.

I applaud Richard Wright. And the foundation that awards the Turner prize yearly. Let's follow their example and praise art and not war.

That said I think I am going to change the primary focus of this blog. No politics for the sake of politics. I will instead focus on news and issues that crave attention while the media runs endless retakes of Tiger Woods' predawn motor accident and Sarah Palin's electability in 2012. That isn't saying that I will not from time to time have something to say about Sarah (especially if she has an affair with Tiger) but I want to focus more on the positive in the news in 2010 and I might as well begin now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

War Weary

I didn't watch President Obama's prime time address last night. It was available on via live feed and I checked the web page for exact broadcast times.

Unlike GW, Obama is a good speaker and interesting to listen to. I managed to avoid all prime time addresses by GW for eight years. And I have managed to catch almost all of Obama's. But as the clock rolled to the time for the on-line broadcast I went instead to AARP's game site to play 3-Dimensional Mahjong.

This morning I got up and went back to to at a minimum catch excerpts. Instead I watched the analysis. And as I did so I came to a startling conclusion about myself. An epiphany. I don't like to watch anyone talk about war. Especially wars that have gone on for longer than WWI and WWII combined. Enough already!

Charlie Gibson used the term "war weary." I am war weary, the nation is war weary. If we are all so tired of war why don't we just stop it? It is certainly well past the time. It seems as if my lifetime has been defined by war. I was born in the closing days of WWII. Dad, a bomber pilot, was missing in action (and found) during Korea. Then there was Vietnam, my generation's war. So many of my friends went and did not come back. Then Iraq I and now Iraq II. And we are the third nation to try and win in Afghanistan. I think we have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that goal is impossible. Surge or no surge.

Obama did say one thing I can heartily back: The only nation I am interested in building is our own. So let's stop spending all those billions in countries that are not grateful and spend it here instead.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Too Much about Too Little?

My, my but I have neglected this blog! No new post since the 9th of November. My excuse is that it has been difficult to find a subject to sink my teeth into as it were.

Yes, there is health care reform. And the latest flap about cancer screens being done too soon and too often. I have to smile on that last one because I blogged about that already. And I have blogged about the health care debate until it has made me a bit sick.

My subject for the morning is polls. Remember where there used to be just one - the Gallup Poll? Now it seems every talking head has a poll to quote from their desk. Great! Especially since they don't all agree. Polls can have different results for a number of reasons (I actually took a class in this at college). The big variance can be in who you ask. Needless to say Fox News Network is not calling liberals about their feelings on our Democrat president.

Another variant can be how you phrase the question. "When did you stop beating your wife?" is not fairly stated because it assumes you beat her. So "What is the most upsetting part of the President's agenda?" is equally unfair for much the same reasons.

Then there is how you crunch the numbers you obtain. And that silly disclaimer nobody reads - plus or minus a statistical error of 3 percent.

All that aside what I find so absolutely stunning about this endless chatter that President Obama has fallen below 50% approval rating on the Gallup poll (see previous sentence about statistical error) is that the previous president hovered for months and months (maybe years) between 20 and 23% and nothing much was said.

When I worked in radio there was this phrase, "Must be a slow news day." Anything could be the lead off of the news at the top of the hour on a slow news day. Even the fire department rescuing a kitten in a tree though that is more a visual for the television media. So I think so much is being made about the poll numbers because all those talking heads with 24/7 to fill are making a lot about some silly polls. Just like I am here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This Would Be Funny if it Wasn't So Pathetic

The House of Representatives of the United States has at last passed a universal health care bill. It is only one step on a very long road to passage of a measure to be sent to President Obama for signature. But it is one step further than any president in the history of our country has gotten.

We have been trying to pass something for decades. We are the only developed nation in the world without universal health care. And we are the one with the highest medical costs in the world. I won't go into all the reasons why we should be writing our representatives and urging them to move forward with this. I have written lots of blogs on the subject. But just yesterday I was talking to a long time and very dear friend of mine. We have remained friends inspite of the fact she listens to and believes Rush Limbaugh. We just avoid the subject of politics. But every once in a while some subject we are discussing sidles into forbidden ground and it did so yesterday.

I have been busy (too busy to even keep up on this blog - mea culpa) and have not made myself check in on the extreme right. So rather than stop the conversation yesterday I just let her ramble on about what is being said in the dungeons about health care reform. Frankly, I was rather stunned. The AARP and the American Medical Medical Association have deserted the conservatives and endorsed this "socialistic plot." The end of the world as we know it is close. Oh, so close. Well, according to my extreme liberal friends (studiers of the Mayan Calendar) it is suppose to end in 2012 anyway. I think it would be nice to have good and cheap health care for the last couple of years.

I always rather wonder if my friend has it right - what she says they say. It always sounds so obsurd so I tripped off to various Internet sites after the conversation (why I did not get as much painting done as I wanted) and found out it is even worse then she reported. Being intelligent she naturally threw out a few extreme claims of the right.

I have an ex-husband who loves to reuse key phrases to skip over large sections of background information he knows I am aware of. It is one way to move the conversation forward rapidly. One of his favorite is: What are they thinking? To which I generally reply: Isn't it clear they are not thinking?

In fact, having exhausted all meaningful argments regardless of how innane, they have moved on to pure scare tactics. The dreaded monster in the closet approach of GW Bush. It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.

But the really, really, really scary part is there are people out there that believe in that monster.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

They Lie to Us All the Time

An interesting little blip of news of some import happened yesterday and the tap dancing has begun. It was such a little blip that it got about 30 seconds on the World News Webcast yesterday. Only about 10 seconds was the news item and the rest was the beginning shuffle.

Seems they (don't you always wonder how they is) now think that all this cancer screening is accomplishing nothing. This seems especially true for the dreaded manugram and prostrate cancer screening. First shuffle was by the American Cancer Society which rushed to assure us that such tests do find early stage cancers.

The problems seem to be in what doctors advise their patients do do about these little bumps that may be totally unnecessary and indeed harmful. This is one step closer to those of us that believe the tests themselves can be harmful if for no other reason than we turn control of our bodis over to alien lifeforms with strange apparatuses. And screening constantly for ovarian cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and now thyroid cancer develops a cancer consciousness that cannot be health. What we hold in mind we create in body.

Moreover while all these appointments for these annual tests obviously help pay the Mercedes payments it makes it very difficult to see a doctor if you really have a concern about your body. Gynocologists are scheduled months in advance just to cover the routine screenings. Try getting a quick appointment when your breast self-exam actually reveals a lump which concerns you.

And new research is questioning the advisibility of removing tumors. Seems many cancers generate a chemical which prevent the growth of others. And prostrate cancer is often so very slow growing the host would not know about it except for the test and would likely die of natural causes before it killed him. And even John Hopkins has questioned the common treatments of radiation and chemotherapy because they break down our immune systems when they need to most be built up.

So maybe it is time to kick the medical community out of our bodies and return control to the owners. Time to get back in touch with yourself and pay attention to your body and its workings and only see the doctor when you believe something just may be wrong. Tune into your Chakras from time to time. Exhibit some control over what you eat and drink. Take a walk on a regular basis and drink in the beauty around you.

Thought I would mention, since this is essentially a political blog, that this news about the excessive cancer screening followed by sometimes unnecessary and excessive treatments might have a profound effect on reducing the cost of universal health care reform. Might make it amazingly affordable if we all took some responsibility for our own health and wellbeing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

He does say it best

So I am going to let him say it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Nobel Peace Prize

It is been a longer period than usual between blogs here. And I have noticed on political blogs I follow that the same can be said.

It is hard to write another blog about the health care debate when it is just more about the spiteful lies of the opposition. What more can be said about Iran which has not been covered to ad nauseam for over two decades? Or Afghanistan for that matter. No country has ever been able to win a war there.

The economy is looking better but we all want the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and we want it now. We are adults and should know that is not going to happen. But now we blame Obama for the mess he inherited from his predecessor.

Poor President Obama. He took over the reins on a nest of worms from G.W. Bush and he has been expected to turn it into a bed of roses over night. But there are areas in which has made huge strides. The world loves us now. Or at least tolerates us. After eight years of being loathed that is quite nice frankly.

Today the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to him. The Nobel committee praised Obama's creation of "a new climate in international politics." Obama, they said, had returned multilateral diplomacy and institutions like the U.N. to the center of the world stage. The 2009 prize appeared intended to support initiatives that have yet to bear fruit: reducing the world stock of nuclear arms, easing American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthening the U.S. role in combating climate change.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee said. "In the past year Obama has been a key person for important initiatives in the U.N. for nuclear disarmament and to set a completely new agenda for the Muslim world and East-West relations."

I think it is wise to take a lesson from this. Now is the time for all of us to stop whining about what has not been achieved in this very young presidency and acknowledge the progress made at least on the world stage if not within our own borders. Stop yelling and pointing fingers. If you are not part of the solution to a kinder and gentler world you are part of the problem.

And as an example of what communications rather than cowboy diplomacy can accomplish we have our President, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. How about some peace here in the United States on issues like health care?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The New Economy - Funding in Schools

Today's blog is going to be all questions and probably no answers. I ran into these questions because I am a member of the board of Moreno Valley Arts Council and part of our stated purpose to provide art enrichment in the schools in our neck of the woods. We do this by paying professional artists to spend a day teaching in the three schools in our area.

The charter high school recently asked us to triple our "involvement" in their arts program by funding a "road trip" to a theater competition where not only will the school be vying for awards but the students participating have the chance of getting scholarships.

Needless to say the proposal garnered some spirited e-mails (vote was required before our next scheduled in person meeting). And in the course of that debate it became clear because of cuts in funds in the school (this always gets taken out of "elective" or art funds) we would be getting more such requests.

The gross receipts tax or "sales tax" was begun originally as a way to fund schools. People are buying less ergo less sales tax and ergo less funds for schools. Some counties and states also partly fund schools through property taxes and bond issues. With more foreclosures I can only imagine there are less taxes being paid. Less new houses means less new property taxes. And hard strapped citizens in these trying economic times are not voting for new bond issues.

I had the advantage or disadvantage of going to schools in multiple states because my father was in the military. And most schools were decidedly no frills. Physical ed teacher was lucky to have balls and bats, arts education was paper mache and construction paper (I believe even then we bought our own paste), and music was most often choir. Band and band instruments did not appear until high school and parents provided my brother's coronet. Dad was considered a band supporter because he had access through work to a copier and made copies of sheet music. Special projects generally required a note asking parents for contributions in money or materials.

It would appear we are going back to those times, but parents have become used to schools and non-profit organizations such as MVAC to assist in these matters. Are we going to be able to do that? Is it time for the students to participate more fully in raising extra funds through talent shows and bake sales? There is much to be learned through fund raising activities. It forms a sense of group with common purpose and gets you away from the television.

I think arts and music and theater are very important. And they are not as expensive as having a football team and a bus to take you all around the state to play a game. If funds are going to be cut maybe we need to ask how important is football? Only 11 people get to play at a time. You can involve a lot students more constructively by putting on a play, building a stage set, prowing the thrift stores for costumes, reviewing music and producing a tape for the sound effects, etc.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In a Just World the Bullies Wouldn't Win

Sticks and stones my break my bones but words will never hurt me. Mother taught me that when I came home crying from school after being teased mercilessly. She was wrong. She was also wrong about those teasing me secretly wanted to be my friends. She was right that I was too thin skinned.

I have never gone into politics other than in the background because of that thin skin. Who really wants to make themselves that miserable. I can get all emotional about my chosen candidate getting called names even.

I have not blogged here on my "political" blog of late because I have not even been able to objectively watch the news with all the unreasonable anger and name calling going on over the health care issue. Aren't adults suppose to be able to sit down at the table and talk in a reasoned tone of voice? Okay, maybe there are no adults in congress.

Yesterday, because my own personal life was going relatively well, I got on my objective observer hat and took a tour through the health care debate (actually my speech teacher would have never used the word debate for a shouting match) again. A couple truths (or as I see it) stood out: All Republicans are shouting these days, and they are not shouting logical arguments.

Republicans, be they on the floor of the house or in town halls or just in front of a Fox camera being egged on by a Fox reporter (did you by chance see that brief clip on CNN before it was pulled from the internet?), are bullies. They are the type of people that used to make me run home from the fifth grade (it reached an all time high that year) in tears and develop a tummy ache for the next week. I even knew the foods I was allergic to that I could eat and break out in hives. Just anything to not got to school and have to face their shouted names and cruel innuendos (none of them would have known what that word meant).

And so why I became a writer. It gives me distance. And here on blogland ultimate power. I can delete your abusive comments. But what I want is reasoned debate. An open forum for logic. The impossible. Republicans are bullies. Democrats know the meaning of words like innuendo. And most liberals I know are frightfully thinned skinned. I guess we are always going to lose in what my father (ever more truthful than Mom) would have called a pissing match.

Shut off the TV and the streaming videos and read only the reasoned articles on the subject and then write your congressman. We need health care reform and all the name calling led by Rush and Fox news won't change that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Seems Like Yesterday

Seems like just yesterday when the goose of government laid all those golden eggs for the financial institutions that got us to the brink of a greater depression than the Great Depression. In hind sight some economists have even battered around the term "total global economic collapse." But I was reminded by NPR this morning that it has only been a year.

At the time the Republican dominated congress approved the request of the Republican administration for $750 billion to bailout the people that brought us to the brink there was a lot of noise about a total make over of the financial system in the United States. The dream of GW and his cronies of a free market with no restrictions had failed.

Economists say the recession is over. Despite $750 billion being doled out with no records of where, and another like amount distributed with more care by the new Democratic administration the common man is yet to see the results of this back from the brinkmanship. It will be a long time before unemployment is no longer a concern. And we have yet to see one single piece of legislation dealing with regulation of those investment banks and insurance companies that brought us so low.

Now we are being warned that if an overhaul of our financial systems is not law by Christmas we may be in for an even bigger fall in our economy. The banks and financial institutions too big to fail are still too big. Nothing has been done to regulate their size or how they play with money on the global market place.

Congress is still debating the health insurance reform. Note insurance companies are involved with that like Lehman Brothers was involved with the financial collapse. So maybe Congress ought to be involved in the breakup of the big five insurance companies that handle all health insurance and are major players in the investment market. They are not the geese that laid the golden eggs. They are the geese that just laid eggs that almost brought us down. Nothing golden about them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What I Heard?

I watched President Obama's address to the joint session of congress last night on health care reform. Today all the talking heads and bloggers are taking apart his speech line by line. I read a few before tackling this blog. Yahoo News has one: What he said, what he meant. As if they know what he meant.

I am not going to discuss the pros and cons of his speech here. Nor am I again going to address the various health care plans. Been there and done that.

I have also attended more than one joint session of congress. As a spectator in the gallery when I lived in Washington, DC and worked for a US Senator. And quite frankly I was abhorred when Rep. Wilson (Republican of South Carolina) yelled out, "You Lie" in the middle of the President's speech. Bad manners. Democrats sat through eight years of GW Bush without once doing that. Admittedly his speaking style was so boring the opposition may have fallen asleep but nobody snored let alone heckled. For Shame!

I had fully intended to watch the Republican response but that little episode and the scowling faces of a handful of Republicans put quit to my interest to be bipartisan. Ram it through, Obama, I don't give a damn if they like it.

And would everyone please just grow up. Sarah Palin, GW Bush, and Cheney lowered the level in politics and nobody among the Republicans has been able to rise above it since. But please can't we at least have good manners?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Win One for Teddy

Lots of political pundits and talking heads (who have entirely too much air time to talk) are advancing the theory that the death of Senator Edward Kennedy will spur the congress on to victory on the health care issue.

Meanwhile it seems that those who are against health care are also those that hated Teddy (and probably most liberals). Statistics are being bantered about concerning the number of Americans opposed to health care reform. These all have to be taken with a grain of salt (or the whole shaker) given the lies also advanced by the loyal opposition.

If we go with those Americans that have ample health insurance as the core to those which what no reform we arrive at a 40% figure. This is by no means the majority of Americans as the Republicans would have us believe. And I am willing to advance some theories about that 40%: 1) they have never been seriously ill, 2) they have not lost their jobs and wound up paying for insurance on Cobra, 3) they have not had the company they work for change carriers or coverage or co-pays, 4) they have not had their insurance carrier changed by the company they work for or because they took another job, 5) they do not have a pre-existing condition which limits their freedom to change jobs.

Ten years ago those insured people that fit that parameter was a lot more. Now companies because of the cost of insurance coverage are cutting back on the "frills" or raising the amount their employees have to pay to be in the plan for themselves or their significant other. And during the current economic downturn in the US more companies went bankrupt and/or laid off workers. And a higher percentage of employees job hop.

Health care insurance coverage costs has risen 400% in that ten years. And medical costs have followed right along. Those costs are so above the rest of the civilized world that there is a huge boom in medical tourism. I can get my shoulder rebuilt in Thailand for less than the copay here in the US and that is with air fare.

What that 40% opposed to health care reform does not know yet is insurance and medical care reform is not necessary for just the "have nots" but in the not too distant future it will be necessary for them too. Time to get your heads out of the sand and see the writing on the wall. This is not about insuring the uninsured. This is about keeping America competitive with the rest of the world before we are left in the dust.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Passing of a Time

I had the opportunity in my life to meet all three of the Kennedy brothers: Jack, Robert and Ted. My mother was Democratic precinct chairwoman when Jack F Kennedy was first campaigning for President.

I met Robert when I was working on his political campaign for President.

And Ted I knew while putting together a symposium on defense spending when working for the National Council of Churches in Washington. DC.

In my two years of seeing if I could make the government work from the inside out (the anti-Vietnam-War era) I met and mingled with a lot of the Washington movers and shakers. I started on the staff of Senator Charles Goodell appointed to replace the assassinated Senator Robert Kennedy. A former Republican conservative congressman he became a liberal Senator and joined with Senator Jacob Javits on an amendment to end the conflict in Vietnam.

I got to see a lot of the inner workings of our government and to know that it certainly has the capacity to work correctly given men of high moral conviction and sense of service, and an involved populace that takes the time to become informed on the issues and write to let their representatives in Washington know their views.

I developed a yardstick by which to measure the elected: The devotion of their staffs. The staff people get to know them best. Senator Goodell had inherited Robert Kennedy's staff and they were devoted to his memory and to his successor. President Richard Nixon's staff was devoted but on the level of Hitler's inner circle: blind devotion. Ted Kennedy's staff was devoted. And they were good people. They did not cheat at soft ball (there was a capital hill league).

I came to respect the opinions of legislators who I felt were in government service for all the right reasons. And reporters that felt obligated to report the truth. There are a lot of good men I knew but briefly that are gone now: Goodell, Javits, Novak, Buckley, Cronkite, and Jack, Robert and Ted. And until President Obama I felt there is nobody to carry on properly and vote their conscious. And if that is the case we doomed.

But I like to think God abhors a vacuum and the leaders of this new era we so desperately need to survive as a nation and people have just yet to be identified.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Monster in the Closet

I had a little brother when I was growing up that delighted in building on all my fears. We don't talk anymore because I got tired of being belittled all the time but I think he must have grown up to be a Republican.

Hey, we are all scared of the unknown whether we admit it or not. When we are kids it is the beast under the bed or the monster in the closet at night. Hey, sometimes my closet still scares me. When we grow up and become adults we are scared of the unknown like where the money is coming for the car insurance payment. Or, heaven forbid, the car needing major repairs. Or needing major repairs ourselves.

And those opposed to medical insurance reform are praying on those fears like my brother did when I was a kid. They are telling us all sorts of horrible things about the monster in the closet. Stephen King in his non-fiction look at horror films and fiction - Danse Macabre - explains that the monster we cannot see is always more scary than the monster we can. And who can "see" all the details of their medical insurance or what horrible illness might lead to them confronting it.

We are told that the health care system we have at the moment is the best in the world. Wrong. We are actually about 49th or so. Though we lead in costs for that system. And only the haves can afford it. We are told that if Obama's system goes into effect there will be government panels telling the sick they cannot get coverage. And that is different from your HMO refusing to cover your latest bill how?

I just went through this with a friend. He ended up having half his foot amputated because the infection ran wild while his insurance company debated the costs of prescriptions doctors wanted to stem the spread of the bone eating bacteria he most likely picked up in a hospital being treated for pneumonia. And yet Republican Senators and Congressman with the best medical coverage in this country want you to believe Obama will ruin yours. Sarah Palin, who does not read any major papers, claims the plan includes "death panels" (tell me again why it is we listen to this woman to begin with).

The loyal opposition has us running scared like when we were kids cowering in the bed under the covers. But that is nothing new. They did that for the eight years of the Bush administration only then the monster was 9/11. They invoked its name everytime the polls showed lack of support for some new democracy crushing measure.

So get out from under the covers and turn on the light and open that closet door. Call your insurance company (if you have one) and ask if they approve hospice care. Ask if you need to purchase supplemental insurance to cover cancer treatment. Check on their "approval" process for "extreme" measures. And ask who owns them. (It could be the same people that have owned all your other insurance companies.) Hey, get a definition from them about what they consider extreme. I am betting you won't like their answers.

Could it be that our current health care system is the monster in the closet? The one we refuse to confront while whistling in the dark.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Fellowship of The Family

I caught an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night and happened to see his interview with Jeff Sharlet who wrote the book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

This book is, to quote publisher Harper Collins, "A journalist's penetrating look at the untold story of christian fundamentalism's most elite organization, a self-described invisible network dedicated to a religion of power for the powerful." And definitely reason to be scared. I know I was so I dashed home to Google this new group. ( Wikipedia has a good background article with history.)

My first surprise is that this powerful group is not new. In fact it has been around since 1935 and is responsible for the National Prayer Breakfast at which every United States president, including Barack Obama, must speak when asked. It has been known in the past as The Fellowship and The International Foundation and the C Street Group. It seems to eschew any one name in an effort to not be pinned down and examined. It has even officially changed its name from time to time. The Family generally eschews publicity. Core members and associates have denied that the Family exists. It has been caught in the spotlight lately because of South Carolina's governor Mark Sanford's affair and his declaration of the right to have that affair.

The Family's leader, Douglas Coe, has said that the group aims to create a worldwide "family of friends" by spreading the words of Jesus Christ to powerful men and women. Coe and his followers teach that these elite are chosen by God and must learn to wield power according to the divine plan. They are chosen by the Family and groomed and supported to positions of power.

All sounds rather nice and innocent into you look into their teachings in more depth which Jeff Sharlet did by going undercover in the group. First they believe that women should be subservient to men. And they believe that the New Testament does not speak to the poor and downtrodden but to the powerful. It is a message, they say, to the powerful to pick up the reins of leadership and rule. The tout Hitler, Stalin and Mao as the three world leaders that most understood the TRUE message of the New Testament of the Bible. Even the Christian Fundamentalists are becoming alarmed at this religious right group. And so should we all because they want to change America into a theocracy and control the world through the "teachings of Jesus" as they define them.

The only problems with the word of God is the use to which men put their less than divine interpretations.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Wizard of US

I have been doing what a lot of people do, researchers inform us, when times are tough; I have been escaping to fantasy. Yes, even watched again the Wizard of Oz.

Oh, and the entire Harry Potter DVD set to prepare myself for number six just released on the big screen.

I have avoided the health care debate and the beer summit, though I admit to watching William Shatner doing a dramatic reading of Sarah Palin's Farewell Alaska speech, later to be a major motion picture.

This morning I was lured into "hard news" with a time headline on MyYahoo! page informing me that Obama Drops Faster than Bush or Carter. To show you where my mind was I briefly wondered it he had been sky diving or mountain climbing. Seems we are talking polls. Mind you Obama is still over 50% approval reading. How far over depends upon who took the poll.

Both Obama and Carter began their presidencies with polling numbers in the 60's. Obama had a 60% approval rating after his inaugral speech. We thought he was the Wizard of Oz or Harry Potter. With a wave of his magic wand he was going to solve all our problems. And with a wave of his pen he did banish various executive orders which were unpopular.

Then he did not instantly close Gitmo. Nor slap Cheney in a cell there when he defended enhanced interragation techniques. He began the pull out in Iraq but did not silence Iran. He upped troup levels in Afganistan. And the Blue Dog Democrats have slowed his advance on the health care reform. The investment banks and firms are paying back TARP funds but people are still losing jobs, all be it slower than they were losing them before.

Shovel ready projects are being slowed by government red tape, and Fox News is making a lot of noise about "pork barrel" spending and putting our grandchildren in hock. We want him to banish all the naysayers like Potter dispensed of his dragon in Goblet of Fire. So some of us disappointed followers probably gave a negative response to the pollster calling. I know I said, mind still on the Potter movie I was watching, that I felt the economy was better but personally my finances still rather worried me. And no I could not see a time when I could reinvest in mutual funds. And yes, all my friends had withdrawn and spent theirs too.

No, Obama does not have a magic wand. If he did Rush Limbaugh would be in Never, Never Land. I think the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz holds our answer; it is within ourselves. We just need to believe in ourselves. We have looked too long for solutions from others. We need to argue for what we want and need. August recess is upon us. Talk to your Washington representatives.

As to Obama. We just need some patience. And turn off Fox News.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

I have been following the news with only one ear as it were. My sister has been here and we have been enjoying what I term the real world for four days.

Two items on my brief tour of Internet news have caught my attention: the possible manslaughter charges against Michael Jackson's doctor (more about that on a later blog) and the Gates/Crowley/Obama issue. I believe the New York Times gave a very fair evaluation of this and I refer the reader to it.

What I wish to communicate is my experience of things getting out of hand recently. And I did not have CNN to fan the flames. I went ballistic on an electric utility coop meter reader when she chose to drive across my property rather than exit my neighbor's driveway and then enter mine to read the meters. I caught this "trespass" over very dry grasses as I was heading to the market. I "over-reacted" like Professor Gates. And the meter reader "over-reacted" like Officer Crowley. She followed me five miles into Angel Fire to continue the "debate" in the parking lot of the market. She tried to defend her actions under the utility coop's easement which was bogus because she was not driving along the easement line.

My over-reaction was based on a history of my neighbor's visitors believing they could cross the corner of my property rather than stay on the Oliver's driveway or "heaven forbid" have to reverse. I seriously doubt they teach reversing in driver's ed anymore. Her over-reaction was due to an uprising of homeowners yelling at her for their high utility bills. I totally rejected her defense of the easement line because it was bogus but also because I had already had a 45 minute "conversation" with a bull headed male chauvinist, reverse racist of an employee at the electric utility.

As a white female I routinely feel put down by Hispanic males. They all seem to think we are just dumb! He would not listen to reason or see the truth of my arguments and "lied" to me about billing periods. And I could prove that lie. So when an Hispanic female "lied" to be about the reason she took the easy way out and did not reverse I went ballistic.

This was in the middle of the day. Not at night when I was frustrated that I had locked myself out of my house. Or angry as hell that some neighbor had reported me as a thief. The President did not make and all too brief "out of context" statement about it. And it did not appear on CNN or ABC, etc. making a mountain out of a molehill. Clare and I eventually communicated enough to difuse the situation and I found out she was as pissed off by the Kit Carson Electric meter department head as I was.

I think Officer Crowley's suggestion of all parties meeting for a beer is a good one. And CNN and the other talking heads should just butt out.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

War on Cancer Working for Whom?

Now we are suppose to be checking for thyroid cancer! The 40 year war on cancer has been pushing us all into a greater and greater consciousness of how we could die.

Self-screening takes up more and more of our time. And medical procedures to screen for breast, colon, prostrate and thyroid cancer now take up more and more of our medical dollars. Some estimates say $700 billion is spent on medical costs for these early warning cancer screenings. And under most insurance policies we pay for those because yearly exams fall under the annual deductible. Which would be fine I suppose if they work.

But in a recent Times editorial by Natasha Singer doubt is expressed:

An upshot of the decades-long war on cancer is the popular belief that healthy people should regularly examine their bodies or undergo screening because early detection saves lives. But in fact, except for a few types of cancer, routine screening has not been proven to reduce the death toll from cancer for people without specific symptoms or risk factors — like a breast lump or a family history of cancer — and could even lead to harm, many experts on health say.

I can certainly feel that way about exams that are intrusive like pap smears and colon exams. Or exams that squeeze your tits in vises or subject you to continued and regular doses of radiation or microwaves. But I think what bothers me most about this push for awareness of cancer is that they have us thinking constantly about it. Most of my friends are avid readers of books that tout ridding yourself of poverty consciousness or failure mindset. And yet they are constantly talking about their latest cancer screening being negative.

I think cancer awareness programs have created a cancer consciousness which over-estimates our risk of cancer. These programs, I argue, work only for the medical profession. It helps them make their Lexus payments.

I do think most Americans need better body awareness that goes beyond your jeans fitting too tight. And if you sense there is something wrong or don't feel well then see a doctor. But if you feel fine live life to the fullest. Tomorrow you could be hit by a truck.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weighing the Arguments

An interesting thing happens when you are away from the news for a while. And over three heavy news days with a lot of fast breaking stories it can be a bit overwhelming when you filling tune back in. Most of the talking heads don't spend a lot of time on what happened yesterday. You are suppose to be watching religiously.

My father, who was one of the 90 day wonder Air Force cadets during WWII said if you dropped a pencil you were 6 days behind by the time you picked it up. I felt a bit like that today.

Obama was out of the country and upsetting Kenya because he went to Ghana instead. North Korea's Kim is believed to be dying of cancer. The media obviously finally said goodbye to Michael Jackson but not to exploring his drug usage/abuse. And Congress wants a thorough investigation of former V-P Cheney and his secret ops with the CIA (doesn't that sound like a new dance step?). Thankfully the Internet offers many opportunities to delve into the back story. I frankly did not care about Kenya being miffed. I thought it was going to be a plus that Kim was soon not going to be an issue in N. Korea but some seem to think his son could be worse. Who cares how many drugs MJ took of if his dad is making an ass out of himself as per usual.

So that left me with the Cheney/CIA issue. I frankly was not surprised except that everyone seemed to be rather upset over something most of us theorized about on blogs eight years ago. What I found interesting was that the Republicans seem to think us Democrats make this stuff up to take the focus off of Obama's falling poll numbers (down a couple points) and failing agenda(nobody has rammed through health care yet). I think I asked this question during the campaign but it begs asking again: Does the GOP send out an e-mail every morning with the buzz phrases for the day? If they do they need some new writers.

You notice that the political pundits are all using the exact same words in the same cadence and inflection when you go through successive days of streaming video on a subject in a close timeframe. It has a sort of deju vu feel about it. They should have been investigating this when all the principals were still in office. So indict or drop it. This is boring.

Going through three or four days of back news you also realize what is missing: Nobody has figured out why Palin resigned. Does this mean nobody cares? I think so. And McCain has not rushed to the defense of his former running mate because nobody was attacking her. And GW has not rushed to the defense of his good bud, Dick. In fact has anyone seen the ex-president anywhere - even Kenya? Maybe he is there with Elvis and Michael.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Social Democracy?

I have been watching the opening episodes of the HBO docudrama John Adams. It won many awards and nominations among the Emmy 's and the Golden Globes. And they do seem well deserved. During parts I and II I was reminded that our founding fathers were making it up as they went along. The United States of America was a brave new experiment.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, while holding forth for the concept that all men are created equal (sidestepping the female issue) did not feel most men were capable of governing themselves. What they ended up creating was no so much a democracy as a representative republic. But they built into the constitution the ability to change it.

Throughout history, as we learn more let's hope, other ways to let free men govern themselves have emerged. In the late 19th century an ideology of the political left and center-left emerged called Social Democracy. The concept of social democracy has changed throughout the decades since its inception. The fundamental difference between social democratic thought and other forms of socialism such as orthodox Marxism is the belief in the primacy of political action as opposed to the primacy of economic determinism. In short they would be rather opposed to a free-market economy, and for regulation developed in a democratic or representative manner to control man's more basic instincts for the good of the many.

Democratic socialists reject social democrats because they are seen as too capitalistic. GW Bush and his cronies tried pure capitalism or as close to it as we have gotten here. And the current economic situation is proof it does not work. Man likes to acquire money for the sheer joy of the bottom line on the balance sheet. All religious movements have cautioned against man's greed and pride. The USSR never got close to pure socialism but close enough to prove that does not work. The argument then could be made that some place in the middle - a balance between the wants of the one or few and the needs of the many needs to be achieved.

The founding fathers were right - most men are not capable of governing themselves without firm guidelines as to how to do so. And what goes for governments should be applied to corporations. Especially banks and investment firms. Capitalists cannot be permitted to run riot any more than the masses can be allowed to riot in the streets. Both extremes are anarchy. The question then becomes where to draw the line in the sand. I propose we do not know.

Like the first congress of the colonies we are venturing into largely uncharted waters because we are no longer dealing with just 13 small colonies but a huge nation involved in a world economy. But having proved what John Adams and Thomas Jefferson knew more than two centuries ago, that men cannot govern themselves, we must now form a set of laws or regulations within free enterprise can exist without destorying itself and the people. It may take a few tries to get this right but at least we now know what is wrong.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Health Care?????

I mentioned I would likely write about this subject more than once. My friend, mentioned in the first article, lost half his foot. We do not know at this time if that is where it will stop.

The antibiotics the insurance company approved, as opposed to what the doctor recommended, did not work. The delay created, again by the health insurance company, in second guessing the doctor was not wise. The prescribed drug ordered from Canada did not arrive promptly due to directives to scrutinize all such orders at the US border.

This antibiotic resistant bone-eating bacteria is often picked up in hospitals and it can be fatal. Left untreated for too long it can reside in multiple places in the body other than the original site.

There is a great debate going on in Washington about health care. First I want to say health care insurance is a misnomer. It is medical insurance. They currently pay for nothing that can be called healthy. Even the routine exams they advocate we all have are not totally paid for. All deductibles are up front which, in this economy, deters people from going to the doctor to maintain health. Most insurance companies do not pay for things that would keep us healthy like exercise programs or vitamins or massage even when a prior health problem would advocate such maintenance programs.

Another total red herring in this whole medical insurance debate is that we would lose our freedom of choice. We have no choice currently. The insurance providers, as in my friend's case, call all the shots. Doctors and hospitals, to reduce administrative costs related to insurance, often hedge their bets on treatments from what they might think will work to what they know the insurance company will pay for.

And three, the United States no longer has the best medical care in the world. More and more people are opting for medical tourism. At some point in my future I may need shoulder surgery. I plan to go to Thailand. A $40,000 procedure here is only $8,000 there including the hotel before and after surgery. And they are considered cutting edge (no pun intended) with use of shark cartilage to replace damaged tissues. I want an insurance policy that will pay their 80% of that but then my co-pay on the cost here would be about the same. I only need to come up with the air fare if insurance will pick up post op physical therapy.

There is a lot of mud slinging going on around this whole issue. The waters have been muddied with half-truths and out right lies by he opponents. That if we go with any plan the government comes up with we will have to wait forever for treatment like Canadian and United Kingdom citizens do. In this day of Internet friendships around the world those lies can be easily put to bed if you are half-way computer literate.

Meanwhile a growing number of American citizens cannot afford medical insurance and their unpaid bills raise the costs of the treatments the rest receive. We have some of the highest medical costs in the world and they have risen way more than the standard rate of inflation. Something has to be done. We need health care which is based on what the doctor, and not the insurance company, feels is appropriate. And it needs to be at a price that does not lead us to bankruptcy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

OMG - Who Would Believe This?

If you wrote a novel with this plot your agent would send it back as "too unbelievable." You maybe could get a film maker interested. After all they come up with movies like Terminator.

Seems that rising GOP Presidential hopeful in 2012, Gov. Sanford, is not missing from a hike on the Appalachian Trail. He flew to Argentina to be with his new lover.
He has been having an extramarital affair with a "dear dear friend" in Argentina. The affair, he said, began "very innocently" but blossomed into "something much more than that."

Something much more than that is one of those phrases men use when they get caught with their pants down around their ankles. He admitted to lying to his staff and obviously lying to his wife today. He has promised to resign as chairman of the Republican Governor's Association and it does not look like Ensign, the Governor of Nevada, will be picked to fill the position.

I have just one question: Aren't the Republicans what we used to call the moral majority? Yes, they are a minority now, but I don't think the Christian Right can endorse this sort of behavior. Though frankly I have know a few Baptist ministers to screw around. And a couple leaders of the Promise Keepers in Colorado Springs have not kept promises.

My ex-husband and I used to have this catch phrase we would repeat about news like this: "What were they thinking?" Clearly he wasn't; Proving once again men, even Republican ones, can only think with one head at a time.

Sorry, adult content. But why do they call it adult when they are obviously acting like spoiled little boys?

Friday, June 19, 2009

And We Should Believe This Why?

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, angrily warned opposition leaders Friday to stay off the streets and denied opposition claims that last week’s disputed election was rigged.

Meanwhile on Twitter and Iran Blogs they are saying that the election was rigged and demonstrators are being jailed an abused. If this election was so fair and the opposition is being treated fairly why aren't legitimate western news sources allowed out of their hotel rooms to cover this victory for democracy?

Certainly if the Ayatollah is correct the election will stand the test of scrutiny the world will hold it to. I frankly have my doubts but then I have lived through two bogus elections of GW Bush. And I can understand the anger of the people of Iran to have a Supreme leader (in our case the Supreme Court) declare what we in our hearts and minds knew was wrong.

From the outside looking in obliquely, since they are allowing no direct viewing, they made a few huge mistakes. First was declaring victory within hours in a country that counts its votes by hand. Second was in underestimating the power of the "informal media" out there these days with their cellphones and text messages to Twitter.

And naturally the ousted formal press is upset and going with Twitter for its source on what is happening inside Iran. Who knows what we will see when the dust settles around this disputed democratic election. One thing we will know for sure: Never underestimate the power of the people to get their story out these days. They will even beg Twitter to not shut down for routine maintenance of their site.

Who would have believed this: Twitter is the new Radio Free Europe in the Middle East.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Power of Medical Insurance Companies

As some of you are aware a friend of mine has been dealing with a wound on his big toe that will not heal. In the last four months his doctors have been using every antibiotic by mouth and IV to stop the spread of a bone infection likely gotten because of a stay in the hospital.

In the last couple of weeks they have begun to discuss amputation of at least the big toe and possibly to below the knee. In a last ditch effort to save parts of himself he made an appointment with another specialist in Santa Fe. That doctor wants to try one more round of antibiotics before hacking.

The cocktail of three antibiotics (Marc is way beyond the using one at a time stage) includes Zyvox which is used primarily on diabetics with infections. Here in the states it costs $2220 without shipping (it is so pricey none of the local pharmacies carry it).

That it needed to be shipped got Marc's wife looking on the Internet and she found Zyvox made by the same company and in the same dose as prescribed at a Canadian on-line pharmacy for $220. Overnight shipping brings it to $250 which is less than the co-pay would be here in the United States if Marc's insurance company would approve the drug. No it is too expensive.

The interesting part of their argument that it is too expensive is that they have already approved the amputation. Which got me interested on what that would cost. I found an interesting website on Below the Knee Amputations. I warn you that it can be a bit graphic.

The main surgery is likely to be in the $100,000 to $200,000 category. Artificial limb in the $12,000 to $20,000 range without bells and whistles. Then there is the after surgery wound care and physical therapy and pain management and emotional counselling, etc. Yearly medical treatment costs for an amputee in 2003 prices is around $100,000. I won't go into the rise in medical costs since 2003 in detail. One estimate said almost 200%.

I have a nurse acquaintence that believes medical costs are supported by the insurance companies. Nobody thinks that these insane prices will have to be paid by an individual but almost 40% of our population here in the United States is uninsured these days. And the rising cost of insurance premiums means that less and less employers provide health insurance. And health care costs for major manufacturing companies here is seen as the single reason they cannot compete with companies abroad.

And yet the Republicans are opposed to any reform of health care here. And so is the insurance lobby. They, and not the medical professionals and facilities, are what is really endangered with a reform of our current system. Some 70% of the citizens in the United States want a single payer plan. And the statistic is higher among doctors that have to have staff simply to deal with our complex insurance system.

Taking just the example of my friend Marc I am appalled. A clerk at this doctor's office has been in persistent back and forth communication with his insurance company to try and get this prescription approved. The insurance company (the ones without a medical degree in this debate) have proposed an alternative cheaper drug chosen just because he has not been on it before. And while the debate has gone on this last ditch effort to save his leg has been delayed as the infection progressed.

If you do things outside what the insurance company recommends they can disallow everything past that. In other words they can get out of paying for the amputation if Marc goes against their advice (but within medical advice) and takes the Zyvox. Another horrid statistic is that one out of three below knee amputees die within in three years. I cannot wonder if that is what the insurance company is hoping for.

Note: I don't think this is going to be my last article on insurance companies and the "best in the world" US health care system. While doing my research I found out that circulation impairment can be the number one cause of wounds that don't heal and unless that is fixed the chances of a successful healing of the amputation is doubtful. Marc has yet to have a circulation test.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Can Get Fired Up on This Subject

In my last blog I mentioned an inability to find a topic I can really get fired up about in a blog since G. W. is no longer around to kick. Since then I have had two hot topics fall in my lap. One of them I am still researching. I was Googling articles on the FDA when this gem popped up from a New York Times headline:

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to impose federal
regulation on cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, passing a landmark bill to empower the Food and Drug Administration to control products that eventually kill half their regular users.

I will suppress all urges to say, "What took you so long?" because I know the strong tobacco lobby pays for a lot of congressional seats and junkets and campaigns, etc. And even this historic bill has the hand of big tobacco in the framing: The FDA can regulate but not ban.

And let us put this in realistic perspective. The FDA does not have budget or manpower to regulate those substances they are already put in control of. This is the agency that cannot stop fake protein of a poisonous nature showing up in your baby and pet food made in China.

Hopefully they will pay some attention to the additives that go into your cigarette and other tobacco products; additives that do not have to be listed on the packaging because they are trade secrets. Most are flavorings like chocolate and cherry syrup to give a normally sage tasting leaf flavor. But the industry commonly uses ingredients like ammonia to rush the nicotine in tobacco to your blood stream (also used in freebasing crack cocaine I am told) to increase craving. Or a drying agent that stops the breathing of new workers on the assembly line or visitors as the wet tobacco passes through the ovens. Maybe they can pay attention to the fact that to increase usage of their product big tobacco ups the nicotine content by 14%. Nicotine, by the way, is a metabolic poison not unlike that fake protein used by China in baby formula only deadlier.

What other product that kills 50% of its users, not to mention their families from second hand smoke, would be allowed to stay on the market with or without regulation. Sorry, Congress, I think this is too little and too late.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tripping Through the News Lightly

I did not think I would ever say it but I miss G.W. There was never a question about what to write about in this blog when he was around. And Cheney, currently making the rounds of talking heads, with his revisionist history just irritates me so much that I would not be able to write reasonably.

So this morning I was scanning articles of interest on several on line news outlets and being horridly bored. More Saturday night quarterbacking of President Obama's economic stimulus plan. Boring. Ever notice that nobody knows how to solve something until someone steps in and presents a plan? Hey, we have never been here before and it does not do to cry, "He's wrong." How do you know?

And I am bored with failing auto companies. Though it looks like ten banks are asking permission to pay back the tarp funds. Isn't that what they were suppose to do? They keep finding more Air France bodies but nobody has explained where from came the wreckage first discovered in the supposed crash site but later proved to not be from flight 447. Anyone missing another plane or ship?

I soon found myself on the BBC - Earth News site. Seems they have discovered that chimpanzees remember the exact location of their favorite fruit trees. Their spatial memory is so precise that they can find a single tree among more than 12,000 others within a patch of forest, and also recall how productive each tree is, and decide to travel further to eat from those they know will yield the most fruit. If researchers discover which gene in our DNA determines this ability I think it ought to be implanted into the human male brain.

Researchers now think that our growing dependence on GPS devices is handicapping our own ability to know where we are or even follow directions. The program them with female voices because more men rely on them than women. BTW the GPS devices installed in all new automobiles just off the lot these days are not just for the drivers. They also help the repossession crews locate and take back the car if you fall behind on payments

Another Brave New World sort of thing is that they have developed a microwave device that can scan people for guns from a distance. I assume it will replace those metal detectors we have to walk through or will they use it on the streets to just routinely microwave us? What, pray tell, will be the long term effects of repeated exposure to microwaves on the human body?

When I was a kid every shoe store or department had one of those xray machines to see if your toes were being cramped by the shoes. We loved them and abused them whileour siblings were getting fitted for their new shoes. One day the machines vanished. Seems they were melting kids foot bones or so the rumor had it. That was before CNN and inquiring minds must know.

Anyway I emerged from today's news with a new respect for Chimps and further doubts about the human race. If we kill ourselves off do you suppose evolution will begin anew? If it does lets not lose that mapping gene.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Black Boxes

My masthead here (old newspaper term) says this blog is about political issues. So maybe discussing black boxes, which are in fact orange, is not political and belongs on Sidetracked Charley instead.

But with the loss of an Air France passenger jet in extremely deep waters putting the recovery of the black boxes, which are in fact orange, in severe doubt it raised questions as to why they don't float? Or better yet given the technology and the many communication satellites circling our globe why they don't emergency up-link data when something significant happens like sudden lost of altitude.

There are two black boxes in every commercial aircraft. One records communications in the cockpit like, "oh, shit." And the other records key flight instruments and controls like flaps and hydraulics, etc. In this country the FAA mandates these devices to insure passenger safety by careful analysis of what went wrong in a crash. In the recent years there has been more and more question about the safety of an aging fleet of commercial aircraft and the degree to which the FAA has given passes to already financially strapped airlines.

And evidently the Federal Aviation Administration, its budget cut to the bone by 'smaller government' Republican administration, hasn't the manpower to perform all inspections required. Add to this the aviation lobby (right in there with the big boys of tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, NRA) which whines every time it has to fix or upgrade something to meet safety standards, and it is highly possible the technology for better recording and transmission of flight data in an emergency, or just ejector mechanisms and floatation devices does exist and airlines have fought it as too expense to upgrade their fleets.

Obama has promised to curtail the influence of lobbiests in the United States. I think he ought to look first at the lobby efforts that diminish the safety of the public. Prescription drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes need to be reined in. But also automotive companies, airlines, and communications. And after we are finished with the safety issues let us go on to rates and throw in utility companies.

But we should start with those black boxes. Why don't they float?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A World without Modifiers?

Let me begin the blog with a modifier. We are not all as alike as the golden rays in the picture here.
And thank goodness for that.

People are diverse and unique and I do think that is wonderful but I also dream of a world where certain things and individuals do not have to be singled out with a modifier. As in first Hispanic female Supreme Court nominee. Or gay marriage. Or first black president of the United States.

Though I hope I live to see the day we have the first lesbian woman president not because of any personal bias but it will mean that we have come a long way as unbiased voters.

Not using (or feeling we have to use modifiers) to identify certain individuals is singling them out and showing that we are not totally accepting of them in that office or action or our lives. When we can say simply Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor she will be free to be the best supreme she can be without regard to race or sex. And we will be free to not add conditions.

I especially am repulsed by the racial modifiers to American. I loathe the term Anglo American. Who picked that? The Hispanic Americans? In this age of increasing ethnic diversity it calls for arbitrary judgments and usually on the part of people that haven't a clue.

And while we are dropping modifiers how about Liberal Democrat and Conservative Republican. Your guess as to what is the modifier here - first word or last word? I like the term Centralist because it usually is not paired with anything to belittle it.

So here is to President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, and marriage between two individuals that want to share their lives together.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Slipped Under the Radar

It has been a busy week in the political news with President Obama taking hits for doing what he promised to do which was close Gitmo, and Cheney defending his right to torture. All juicy fodder for a political blog. But while the talking heads and OpEd pieces were covering these headliners another more worthy subject almost slipped under the radar: Yucca Mountain. Obama is not going forward with plans for it to receive all the nuclear waste in the United States.

For decades the sparsely populated mountain west has been seen by politicians as wasteland suitable only for depositing of nuclear waste. This goes back to Los Alamos and the making of the first atomic bomb and black barrels of questionable materials just flung into arroyos to drift down stream during our rare gully washers, to Rocky Flats where it is all kept in metal buildings on the edge of a now huge town like Boulder.

There have been some improvements. Now the government touts the employment opportunities of huge waste management places like WIPP near Carlsbad, New Mexico or Yucca Mountain. Yes, they are putting more thought into the internment of nuclear and toxic waste but in my opinion not nearly enough research. There are questionable earth stability issues in both places. And out of sight/out of mind always bothers me. WIPP lets the earth encase the dangerous materials in salt layers. Isn't salt corrosive? And once encased you cannot go back and check things out.

But my primary concern is transportation. I was at a town meeting in Tennessee once where they were closing down a nuclear facility. The local residents wanted all the "trash" moved. There were considerable problems with the route trucks would take as the towns on the way did not want it passing through. I lived in one of those towns. One citizen stood up and offered the suggestion that why didn't the military just fly it out in one of their C130's.

Well, if there is anything worse than a nuclear accident from a truck crash in a small town, or a train collusion going through Kansas city it is the crash of a C130 heavily loaded with nuclear waste say in Dallas, Texas.

Yes, maybe WIPP and Yucca mountain are totally safe, though those of us in the fallout zone might not think so, but getting it there is stupid in my opinion. There are no good options short of not moving it at all. You want a nuclear power plant then you get to keep the waste. Part of the expense of building the facility should be building the tomb for the byproducts. In short: Keep your shit.

And you might want to consider water at these remote entombment sites. It is mostly underground. Or it goes downhill to places like Phoenix that even built a special canal to take it all from the Colorado River. More and more desert areas with endless golf courses and retirement villages seem to want the mountain water. This could be the same water you are contaminating with your nuclear waste stored out of sight and out of mind under mountains over vast underground aquafers.

We won't know until we all glow in the dark.