Monday, September 28, 2009

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

beauty all around us if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear...

thanks to Fernando for pointing this out

Friday, September 25, 2009


Now, I don't think for a moment that everyone who went to the gathering in D.C. on 9/12 is ignorant, but this video is telling...

There are a lot of folk out there who have been riled up with misinformation or no information. I'm reminded of the book Whats the Matter with Kansas where Thomas Frank talked about an entire population of people being manipulated to vote against their own best interests.

I'm still waiting for an intelligent conversation regarding the health care crisis from a conservative. Here's a short video of a response from Representative Eric Cantor, I believe from Virginia.

So... notice his two solutions - government programs, which he is fighting against, and charity care, which of course, begs the question - who pays then? If a hospital provides charity care, paying customers pay via higher fees, the hospital does not and should not eat the costs. And if the care is provided by some charity organization, those fees are covered by folk who have donated or possibly by government funding. And in either case, care is limited.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Yesterday I had to take Hershey to the vet to be euthanized. He was 17 years old and had been sick off and on for the last month or so. He was obviously in pain and was growing weaker by the hour. It was a very hard thing for me to do and I cried (and felt a little embarrassed to be almost unable to speak to the nurse at the vets office).

Pets become part of the family and after 17 years, Hershey was certainly a part of ours. And he was my cat. When I sat at the table for a meal, he jumped into my lap and sat there through the meal. When watching television, he would sit on the back of the sofa, nuzzled up against the back of my neck. When I was at home, he would follow me from room to room, just to be nearby. The old man was my buddy and I miss him terribly.

He was a York Chocolate - a breed developed outside of Albany, NY and very rare in the US. They're evidently popular in Italy. We got him from the woman who developed the breed but she is no longer breeding them. They are smart, very agile, friendly, easy to care for, and like to be around people. Some have referred to them as the dogs of the cat world. We called Hershey a satellite cat because he was always orbiting around us.

I'm sure I'll get another pet in a few months... but for right now, I can't imagine another buddy like Hershey.

Friday, September 11, 2009

the problem with partisan politics

I live in California. Out state government is completely disfunctional. The state politicians are completely and absolutely partisan regardless of the impact it has on the citizens of the state. We see it particularly focused every year when they form a state budget. The Republicans come to the table with a single mantra - "no more taxes." The only option is to cut programs, and thanks to the state constitution, they can only cut funding on programs that have not come into being via the proposition process, mstly programs for the poor. There is nothing else to talk about. It doesn't matter whether those cuts will destroy lives of real people. No new taxes. Period. And the Democrats come to the table saying "we will not cut programs." There is no room for anyone to compromise and no room for discussion. The result is paralysis. And the ones who suffer are the people of the state.

I fear that is the direction we have gone in national politics as well. I agree with Keith Olbermann in his commentary on Joe Wilson below except that he misses the source of the stupidity... absolute partisanship that puts political ideology above the welfare of the people. My bias is that this is a trait much more common among those on the right than the left, but regardless of that, it is a characteristic that harbors the seeds of the destruction of our political system. When representatives forget the people they are supposed to be representing and put political ideology above the people's needs, we see stupid comments like this, hear outright lies regarding the ideas of the opposing party, and in general see our process break down.

Joe Wilson cannot look at any of the proposals honestly because to do so might require him to see things differently and perhaps even to compromise a bit. His ideology will not allow that. And we all suffer.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

a liberal's pledge to America

I don't know how I missed this after the election... but I could sign this letter

by Michael Moore
I know you are dismayed and disheartened at the results of last week's election. You're worried that the country is heading toward a very bad place you don't want it to go. Your 12-year Republican Revolution has ended with so much yet to do, so many promises left unfulfilled. You are in a funk, and I understand.
Well, cheer up, my friends! Do not despair. I have good news for you. I, and the millions of others who are now in charge with our Democratic Congress, have a pledge we would like to make to you, a list of promises that we offer you because we value you as our fellow Americans. You deserve to know what we plan to do with our newfound power -- and, to be specific, what we will do to you and for you.
Thus, here is our Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives:
Dear Conservatives and Republicans,
I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:
1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.
2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.
3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.
4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.
5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.
6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.
7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.
8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.
9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.
10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.
11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.
12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.
I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the rest of the world.

what might it look like...

first off, I didn't get to hear Obama's speech, haven't read it, and have only heard a little commentary about it.


OK... lot's of folk are afraid of "government interference" in their health care. I'll drop the arguments about Medicare, the VA, and government employee's health insurance... I still think the best solution is single payer like the Canadian system but it isn't the only way to do it. Let me just throw out some suggestions of what a private option might look like and actually work.

Let the insurance companies continue to run the system but put these brakes on it...

Everyone must be insured at the same price for the same coverage. Nobody gets excluded because of pre-existing conditions, nobody has to pay a higher premium, and nobody gets dropped. The company comes up with its plan, prices it, and anybody can purchase it at that price.

Right now, the average US insurance company pays out less than 80 cents for medical care from each dollar that comes in. Medicare is about 97 cents. The French system, that cultural model of efficiency, is about 96 cent. Let's put a cap here and heck I'll even compromise some... say93 cents out of every dollar must go out for medical care. That eaves 7% to cover administrative costs and if they choose, profit. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with making profits... except when people's lives are at stake. So why get into that business? Look at the European system where private insurance companies have not for profit sections for health insurance but use that to build their business in other for-profit sections such as home owners, auto, and life insurance.

No deductibles. Either no or very small co-pays.

a single billing structure across all of the companies. A person visits the doctor and a single reimbursement form goes out to whatever company it is and they all pay the same thing. If the company does not pay the physician's office within a certain number of days, the company is fined.

Everyone must be insured. Who pays or how is it paid for? That could go any number of ways, but it must be structured to be affordable for everyone whether that is through taxes (my reference), government subsidies for those who cannot afford it or some other scheme.

move to a new community and need insurance? You don't need to wait for an "enrollment" period. If your old company doesn't do business there, you get insurance from another, no problem, no hassles.

Are there other requirements? Maybe, but these are a good start. Or just go with a Canadian style single payer system.

Monday, September 07, 2009


On July 31, Investors' Business Daily had an editorial against health care reform in which they said that under a "socialized system" like the one in the UK, a brilliant man Like Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance. The system would judge him as too handicapped and essentially worthless and so would deny care to him and allow him to die. Unfortunately, the writer was a bit more concerned about making an argument than checking facts. Stephen Hawking lives in Great Britain and is alive because of the British system, the most socialized health delivery system in the world.

So, the very illustration they used proved their argument is wrong. So you'd expect an apology or a re-evaluation of their stand, right? Nope. Instead they removed Hawkings name and kept the exact same argument in spite of knowing they were wrong. Here is the current version of the editorial. So, what can you say about such folk except they are liars.

Now, I did run into a situation that proves the brokenness of our current US system. A friend of mine has a "daughter-in-law" (she and the son were never married but she is the mother of my friend's grandchildren. The son died two years ago). She found a lump in her breast. She went to the doctor who feels pretty confident that it is cancer and sent her off to see a surgeon. He agreed that it is likely cancer and that surgery needs to happen as quickly as possible... the problem is, she doesn't have health insurance. She works as a waitress n a chain restaurant and makes about $7 a hour to support herself and her two children. She was told that she would have to pay the bills - surgeon, hospital, anesthesiologist, etc. - up front before she could have the surgery. So while she is trying desperately to come up with the money, the cancer grows and her chances diminish. And this is the best we can do?

Many people who hear her story are incensed that the physician etc. don't just do the surgery and either swallow the costs or work out some kind of payment plan. Well, if they "swallow" the costs, we all end up paying anyhow, you can't reasonably expect the doctor to personally swallow the costs and the hospital would just pass the costs on to other patients... and she can't possibly afford even a small payment with her income and her situation. So, she is scrambling. You can play out the possibilities.

We need reform NOW

and we're back to health care

Thursday, September 03, 2009

I love it

Facebook Passion

for something completely different

I think the health care reform debate is he most important issue on the table right now... but sometimes, it just get's tiring. So...

I have really mixed feelings about this little video. On the one hand, the sheer joy and abandonment of the kids is wonderful. I wish I had that kind of freedom to just let it out. On the other hand, watching some of the moves the kids are trying to do, it is clear they've been watching videos and I can't help but think that most of those videos just aren't appropriate for children to be watching. And I don't know if it is challenging me to be more childlike or trying to make this children be more grown up than they should be.

So enjoy it, or be worried by it, or be inspired to be a little more childlike, or to be sure your children are children. And I'll be back on health care later on.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

start over

I'm more than a little frustrated at the way things have gone with the health care reform initiative. The bills are too complicated, they have left too many easy targets for the Republicans who have no reason at all to pass a positive reform bill, and the dems have allowed the discredited losers - ie the Republican Party - to set the terms of the discussion. They have done so in a way that is marked by misinformation and outright lies, aimed at frightening people and stopping needed reform. As things are, I don't see a way for the dems to change the discussion short of starting all over again.

I think Obama should sit down with the democratic leaders and say, "OK, scrap everything that was done and start over. Here are the non-negotiables: the bill must be simple. everyone must be covered and nobody can be excluded nor can conditions be excluded. whoever does insurance, it must be not-for-profit. The rules must be the same across the board, ie. there must be a simple system for reporting/billing/sharing information. Administration must be simple and cannot cost more than X% (something well under 10). Whoever pays, it must be affordable. Here's what it would look like if I was writing the bill (and he hands them an option). We must pass this or nothing. Any bill that doesn't meet these non-negotiables is not acceptable. If the right bill fails, so be it but as Bill Moyer said, 'a half a loaf of bread still doesn't feed the people.'"

"We need to frame this as a moral argument. It is immoral for this nation to have people who are uninsured or underinsured. It is immoral that some Americans do not carry their part of the load we must all bear as a society. It is un-american to allow a neighbor to suffer when we can do something about it. And we must remind people that even those with insurance under the current system are at incredible risk. Medical expenses are the #1 cause of bankruptcy. Lack of portability hurts our competitiveness as do the incredible costs of health care on responsible businesses that provide insurance to their employees. The current system is unacceptable to me and it should be unacceptable to everyone in our nation."

"As a second bill, we must address the need for physicians and deal with their concerns around malpractice insurance, cost of education, and job satisfaction. Then we need to do the same thing with other medical practitioners - nurses, technicians, etc."

My preference is for a govt. run single payer, but I can see other ways to accomplish the non-negotiables. Get this kind of a bill out there and then let the Republicans fight it if they want. Let them defeat a bill that this nation critically needs and then let them explain why they acted in an immoral way, but do not allow them to set the terms.

Start over. Define the terms. Present a simple bill. Get it done, President Obama. I voted for you, in part because I wanted to see this change take place.