Health care and the long drive

No, I didn't get sick on my drive back from Chicago today, but I did spend some time thinking about health care.

I heard two bits on the radio that got me going. The first was on some unidentified station over in western Michigan. It was some unidentified conservative Congress person. I wasn't in range of the station long enough to hear who was talking or even what station it was. But I did hear enough to get where the speaker was coming from.

He said (I'm paraphrasing) that the problem with universal health care is that there aren't enough doctors and hospitals to accommodate the 50 million uninsured people in the United States suddenly entering the system. He said that back when Harry Truman was trying to get universal health care, he included a provision to help educate new doctors and increase the number of doctors in the system. That isn't being done now.

"I'm afraid if we let the Democrats push through Cap and Trade, Health Care and Immigration Reform, we'll never be able to roll this stuff back," he said. "But I think that I and my Republican colleagues can stop it."

That was radio interview No. 1.

The second one was on NPR when I was about halfway across the state. The NPR piece was on increased wait times for doctor visits under the current system. The average person waits four weeks for a specialist appointment, and one week for a primary physician visit. The upshot of the piece was that reduced Medicare payments (under the current system) have caused shortages of practitioners in some specialties and in primary care (family practice and general practice). An unidentified Congress person (most likely a Democrat) said that measures were being added to the health care reform bill to make primary care and the scarce specialties more attractive to students coming out of medical school to deal with the shortages.

My reaction to the first interview was some disgust that the conservative seemed completely OK with 50 million people being locked out of the medical system, because that way, he has shorter wait times to see a doctor.

I wanted to ask him (and I'll never get a chance, because I don't know who he was), why he hadn't tried to offer an amendment to help students go to medical school and increase the number of doctors. It seems to me that the choice between "spend a little (very little in proportion to everything else) to have more doctors," and "let 50 million people face financial ruin or death because they don't have access to affordable health care" is pretty much a no-brainer.

Look at the cost. Let's say the average primary care physician sees four people an hour for eight hours a day, five days a week. (That's probably not accurate, but just an "out of my butt" estimate.) Let's say the average person (with insurance) sees a doctor four times a year. To add 50 million people to the system, you're going to need about 25,000 doctors. But let's be really wild and double that number. If we passed a bill that gave out 50,000 $100,000 scholarships to medical school, it would cost $5 billion. In comparison to the money we've doled out for bailouts in the past year, that's chump change. And since there aren't 50,000 extra spaces in medical schools for next fall, we'll need to roll this out over several years. So, we're looking at $1 billion a year for five years.

Is this such a big problem?

My reaction to the second interview is to point to my plan as laid out above. We need more doctors and nurses (we need a similar scholarship program for nursing school -- and some work rules to make a career in nursing more attractive than it is right now). So, lets include provisions in the health care reform bill to get more doctors and nurses into the field and see that they are paid fairly for their work.

If the American health care system can't handle Americans, it needs to be reformed so it can. It simply isn't acceptable to lock out 50 million people to keep from inconveniencing the other 250 million. I've got news for you, the other 250 million are already inconvenienced.

Affordable health care for everyone isn't a boondoggle. It's just common sense.


Why I support health care reform

I know... there are several people on my friends list who are saying right now "Because you're a liberal... duh..."

Well, yes, I am. My basic philosophy is that we're here to contribute to the common good. That's the kernel. I have a more picturesque way of describing it that's all about being a cog in the great cosmic machine. We turn on our own axis, but impart our energy to the cogs around us that we mesh with. Success in life is measured by how much energy you can contribute to keep all the gears around you going, and from one to the next, ultimately to the whole universe.

But that's neither here nor there. I support universal health care, not because I'm a liberal, but because I think it's the most efficient way to approach the problem of keeping people healthy. Yes, government subsidized and managed health care would be more efficient than leaving our health in the hands of market forces.

That's not just talk. The sad truth is, countries with socialized health care have, in general, better outcomes than we do with our business-managed health care.

That's right, folks. Our system, the most expensive per patient in the world, is way down there in the pack when it comes to quality. If you've been following the debate, you've probably seen the numbers. We lag in life expectancy, infant mortality, and any number of other statistical measures of health care success.

Why? The direct answer is, because our health care is so expensive, a lot of people avoid having to use it. So they don't see a doctor until they are in an acute stage of illness. They need more care at that point and their prognosis is poorer.

But I have a more general answer. There are some things that don't mesh well with free-market economics.

That's right. The "invisible hand of the market" may be a good way to run a retail business, but for some services, it just mucks things up.

Take, for example, water. We all need it. Without it, we'll be dead within days. So, do you want to be at the mercy of an entrepreneur when you're thirsty? Will that glass of water suddenly be $5,000 because you need it so badly?

To avoid that, and to spread the large cost of building a water and sewer system, we trust our need for water to the government.

There are two things about water that make it logical to entrust it's distribution to the government:
1. Building a water system is very expensive
2. Having water is not optional. If the price gets too high, we can't really say, "Forget it. I'll go back to having water when the price comes down or someone else offers it at a better price."

Those two principals apply to health care, as well. Building hospitals, training doctors and nurses, developing life saving drugs and treatments is very expensive. And at one time or another, we all need health care.

But why will government manage health care better than the private insurance companies?

Government and business do not work on the same principles. To be successful in business, you want to take in as much money as possible and give in return just as much goods and services as will keep your customers coming back -- not a bit more.

To be successful in government, the mandate is to give out as much goods and services as you possibly can, while taking in as little money as you can get by on. That's what will get people to vote for you.

It's the opposite.

So, logically, who's going to give us the most health care for our dollar? The insurance company whose responsibility is to its shareholders, to get as much money in premiums as possible, and pay out as little in claims as possible? Or the government, which is going to try to give out as much service as possible without raising taxes, which displeases the people it is responsible to: the voters.

There's an argument out there that the government screws up everything. $6,000 toilet seats! $300 bolts!

Yet, if you want to know how the government will run health care, just look at the health care systems it already runs, like Medicare. The truth is, surveys show that people on Medicare are more satisfied with the service they are getting that people covered by private insurance.

Also, people in Britain, Canada and France are much more satisfied with their health care system than people are in the United States. You hear of isolated cases where Canadians came to the U.S. because they had to wait too long at home. But I'm hearing from my Canadian friends that they are pretty pissed about the slander against their health care system -- something they think is pretty damn good.

You know which health care system generally gets called "best in the world?" France. Yup, those baguette eating Frogs have a government-run health care system second to none. So, can you really argue that the French are much better at government than we are?

But lets put all that aside for a moment. If we get government run health care, who will benefit the most?

The answer is: Business

Right now, our businesses have to compete on the world stage. But they're being held back by the ever expanding cost of providing health insurance for their employees. Japanese companies don't have that cost. We need to level the playing field.

You know who else will benefit? Small businesses. Right now, small businesses can seldom afford health insurance for the employees or even the boss.

You know who else will benefit? EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.

Look at me. I don't have any children. I've never had any children, and considering my age, I'll never have any children. Yet, I cheerfully pay my school taxes. Why? Because society at large benefits from educating our children. I don't have to have a child sitting in school to benefit from the public school system.

I think health care works pretty much the same way.

I'd rather have people appointed by people I elected managing my health care than an insurance company I have no power over whatsoever. I'll sleep better knowing that every pregnant woman has access to prenatal care, even though I'm never going to be pregnant. I'll work with a lighter heart knowing that my continued medical care for my heart condition is not dependent on staying at my job.

The most amazing thing about the health care battle is that we're waging it now, not thirty or forty years ago. We are lagging behind the industrialized world!

Health care reform will:
1. Boost the economy. We can stop pounding money down a rat hole.
2. Help business
3. Make us healthier
4. Save money

So, let's stop playing games and get the job done!


I think the recent racism kerfuffle on my FL is dying down now. But, as the waters calm, I feel the need to illuminate a single concept.

What is racism?

The simple view would be that racism is one group believing that they are better than another group or groups. The Nazis put forward the idea that the Aryan race (which was a fantasy, BTW) was the "master race," i.e., superior to all others. The Nazis were racists.

But that's not really what's going on. It's the rationalization, not the underlying belief.

Nazism grew out of the economic and cultural chaos that followed World War I in Europe. In Germany, the currency collapsed and middle class Germans, people who's lives had been secure and moderately wealthy, suddenly found themselves in poverty. They found themselves staring down hunger and homelessness. They needed a reason to understand their suddenly reduced circumstances. Since they perceived the banking sector to be controlled by Jews, it was obvious (to many) that Jews were to blame for their plight. Never mind that the vast majority of the Jews who were victims of the Holocaust were ordinary, middle class people -- not bankers by a long shot. Once the "find someone to blame" ball gets rolling, logic doesn't enter into it.

(Note: Everything has its roots: Why were Jews perceived to control banking? Because in the middle ages, the Biblical ban on lending money meant that Christians couldn't be bankers.)

(Note 2: Hmmm... the currency collapsed in Germany after WWI... does that sound familiar to anyone reading today's headlines?)

Anyway, my point is that racism is never about thinking you're better than someone else. Racism is about thinking that someone else is responsible for your lack of success, declining fortunes, whatever isn't right about your life.

The Ku Klux Klan grew out of the turmoil after the American Civil War. Southern culture collapsed. Who better to blame than all those former slaves who are suddenly free -- putting pressure on the formerly white-dominated economic system? A rational assessment of slavery in the United States would tell you that it had all but run its course by the time the Civil War began. The economic system was already shifting away from slavery. The industrial revolution took care of that. However, in the southern states after the Civil War there was suddenly a large population of unemployed former farm workers (black slaves) to be absorbed. This meant economic chaos, and one of the almost inevitable side effects of economic chaos is racism.

There is a huge difference between celebrating and being proud of your own heritage and racism. Racism is offensive. Cultural pride is not.

Culture pride expresses itself in wanting to share the good things about your heritage with others. I express my pride in my heritage by cooking family recipes, by bragging about my 82-year-old aunt who flies an airplane, by looking up my genealogy, by learning about the culture of my Jewish ancestors and my Christian ancestors.

Racism expresses itself by enumerating the outrages visited upon the racist by the "others."

Every ethnic, religious, like-minded group can find some outrage in its history. That's why anybody can be a racist if they want to go that route.

Racism is NOT exclusively a white institution. It never has been. That's the primary logical fallacy in the piece that set off this storm. Nobody is saying that only white people can be racists. Because that foundation premise is false the rest of the argument becomes specious. Yes, there are black racists, and Jewish racists, and even Hispanic racists. That doesn't make racism OK.

Racism is counterproductive. It may make the person who is out of work and wondering how they're going to put food on the table and make the mortgage payments feel better to blame his plight on "all those illegal immigrants, or "N-g-rs," or "the Jews." But it isn't going to put food on his table or help make the mortgage payment.

The conditions that spark racism can be overcome. But that requires that we put our instinctive fear of "others," aside and work together to alleviate the conditions that are buggering us up.

The basic fallacy of racism is that "races" somehow act as one -- saying "Jews," are responsible for the financial collapse of Europe after WWI, rather than looking the actions of individuals.

The differences between individuals within any racial/ethnic/philosophical group is greater than the aggregate differences between those groups. Or, to put it more simply: We're all responsible for who we are. Our ethnic background may influence us, but the choices we make define us.

Racism is on the rise today. That's not surprising considering the state of the world.

But this I know, the challenges of the 21st century will not be overcome by dividing ourselves into camps based on race, religion, or any other trivial sorting method.

In this century we must overcome global climate change or become extinct as a species -- a species that includes all the races. We must find a way to distribute the planet's resources equitably, that includes petroleum, food, water and air. In a world that is no longer divided by geography, we must find a way for all the different cultures to co-exist and flourish -- without vying for supremacy.

If the human race is going to make it out of the 21st century, we're going to have to overcome our instinctive fear of the "other," and our need to hoard resources (a vestige of our tribal "hunter and gatherer" past). The mandate for our future, if we're going to have a future, has to be "work together." That doesn't mean we have to discard our heritage. It never did. That's a false dichotomy.

It means we have to look at the people around us as individuals, not faceless members of a "race" or a religion. We have to stop looking for someone to blame for our problems, and look instead for solutions to our problems.

Remove "blame" from the equation, and racism isn't going to be the answer.

(For the benefit of anyone who just read this and said "Huh? What kerfuffle?" Here's a link to the "Snopes" reprint of the piece that set this off.)



This won't mean much unless you saw my comment on Rusty-Halo's wordpress blog. But it's a Doctor Who spoiler from "Forest of the Dead" Read more...Collapse )

Another step

They took Mom off the ventilator this morning and she's breathing on her own. Yay!

I really want to thank everyone who has sent supportive replies, but I probably won't be doing individual replies for the next few days. I'm very much in "run back and forth to the hospital" mode right now.

But thanks, everybody. It means a lot.


A little Tuesday morning politics

Cross posted at

Remember the racism flap after Bill Clinton said Obama's anti-war stance was a fairytale? (I'm still trying to figure out when "fairytale" became a racist term.) How about when Geraldine Ferraro said Obama was lucky to be black?

With a woman and a black man the only Democratic candidates left in the presidential race, accusations of race and gender baiting are unavoidable. Not every accusation makes sense. But please, as Obama supporters, don't fool yourselves that you can't offend.

I'm a solid Obama supporter, and I have been appalled at some of the tactics of the Clinton campaign in recent weeks. However, I'm also finding myself uncomfortable at some of the rhetoric coming from my side of the conflict these days.

Read more...Collapse )


Baaaa... or maybe, WHOOOOO

Gacked from pfeifferpack

Your Score: Owl

You scored 17 Ego, 12 Anxiety, and 13 Agency!

"Correct me if I am wrong," he said, "but am I right in
supposing that it is a very Blusterous day outside?"

"Very," said Piglet, who was quietly thawing his ears,
and wishing that he was safely back in his own house.

"I thought so," said O-wl. "It was on just such a
blusterous day as this that my Uncle Robert, a portrait of whom
you see upon the wall on your right, Piglet, while returning in
the late forenoon from a-- What's that?"

You scored as Owl!

ABOUT OWL: Owl is considered highly educated because he can spell his own name (WOL) and he can even spell Tuesday... although he doesn't always get it right. Owl is a good sort, really, although he can be a bit of a stuffed shirt, and he tends to overlook the smaller details in life - like the fact that his bellpull is actually someone's tail.

WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are confident and you feel capable of dealing with whatever life throws at you. You know that you can handle just about everything... mostly because you know how to delegate the job of actually handling things to the people around you. You aren't one of those Bisy Backsons, who rush around trying to do everything at once. You prefer to stay at home and reflect on life, rather than go out and live it.

Sometimes, you know, you need to stop waiting for things to come to you and go out and get them. You need to go enjoy the weather, smell the fresh air, and pay attention to the little people in your life. They may not be as great as you... but maybe they could use your help.

Link: The Deep and Meaningful Winnie-The-Pooh Character Test written by wolfcaroling on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(wolfcaroling)



Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

-- John F. Kennedy

OK, I'm writing this because I'm annoyed by the "flag lapel pin" non-controversy. Really... NON-controversy. If this is the best the opposition can come up with, Barack Obama is a shoo-in.

Obama doesn't wear a flag pin. So MSNBC and CNN start asking "Is he patriotic enough to be president?"

Stupid question.

There is no greater act of patriotism than to put yourself out there in public, suffer the political attacks and smears, give up all your privacy, separate yourself from your family, work day and night for more than a year -- to run for president. This applies as completely to John McCain and Hillary Clinton as it does to Barack Obama. Unpatriotic people don't give everything they have to try to make this country better.

All political ideas are not equal. All candidates are not equal. Some candidates, if they become our leaders, will lead us into disaster. But anyone who cares enough about America to make the enormous sacrifices that a presidential candidate makes deserves to be called a patriot.

John F. Kennedy said "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." That's the truth about democracy -- it is not a spectator sport. Wearing the right "team gear" does not make you patriotic. Registering to vote and going to the polls to cast your ballot makes you patriotic. Standing up for your rights under the Constitution makes you patriotic. Bringing more people into the political process makes you patriotic.

So, let's not be fooled by arguments that not wearing a pin on your lapel has any significance. It's a distraction.

Patriotism is determined by what you do, not what you wear.




Pretty... but I've got to get outside and shovel it now.

A couple moreCollapse )

ETA: Shoveling is done. There are two ways to get the snow off the walk. 1. Me and my shovel. 2. Kids come to the door. Today it was me and my shovel.


New camera

I got myself a new camera (on eBay) this week. It arrived yesterday afternoon.

I've been using a Kodak Easy Share camera for the past year. I think I'll still use it for some things. It has many nice features. However, it's always been inadequate for closeup photography. I've been frustrated with it as I tried to take pictures of the flowers in my garden, because it won't focus closer than about three feet.

I chose this new camera because it has a very good macro function. It focuses down to .75 inches. I didn't buy it for its 12x optical zoom with image stabilization, though I've already found that feature nice.

Some examples taken with the new cameraCollapse )

Winter is back

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, I was heralding the first sign of spring -- crocus shoots. Today ... Read more...Collapse )


Spring is coming

The rain today melted all the snow off my flower beds. It's supposed to turn cold again tonight, but it doesn't matter. It's still early February, and winter weather in Michigan generally persists through March (and sometimes into April), but it doesn't matter. I may have to drive home tonight in freezing rain on slick roads, but it doesn't matter.

The crocus I planted last fall are poking little green shoots through the ground out into the light. That's right, on Feb. 5, with at least six more weeks of winter on tap, something is growing.

Spring is coming, people. We're going to make it through the winter, just like we have every winter before.

Spring is coming. You heard it here first.

Offered just because it's cool

Full disclosure: I'm an Obama supporter, at the moment. I'm not totally committed -- that is, if Clinton gets the nomination I will switch over to her with very little problem. I think they both have strengths. But that's not what I wanted to talk about right now.

Most people have probably already seen this, but I'm going to link to it just because I think it's the best political video I've ever seen -- for ANY candidate. I'm told it has even been posted on Republican blogs (along with "Why can't our candidate do something like this?" comments).

It doesn't change anything, but it does demonstrate the one area that Obama excels at: Inspiration.

So, if you haven't seen the new Obama vid (which, BTW, his campaign had nothing to do with), click here.

If you're not an Obama supporter, you might still want to see it, just to marvel at a REALLY fantastic artistic achievement.

Animated films

I've seen several mainstream animated films recently that surprised me with their dramatic quality.

In 2006, I saw several animated films that convinced me that the leaps in animation technology were leaving storytelling behind. In particular, "Robots," which was really mediocre, and "Madagascar," which had some good ideas, but ran out of steam more than concluded. [I'm of the opinion that "Madagascar" would have been much better if they'd focused on the penguins.]

I saw "Shrek III" over the holidays, and while it wasn't horrible, it it wasn't up to the level of the first two Shrek films.

But then, on New Year's Eve, we rented "Cars." "Cars" came out just a little after "Robots." I remember seeing a trailer for it when we went to "Robots." The trailer didn't particularly engage my interest. It looked rather juvenile, as I remember.

After seeing it, though, I've got to say that the trailer really doesn't do it justice. "Cars," is a fairly mature, fully fleshed out comedy/drama. The characters are clearly realized, and the plot isn't entirely predictable. The gags are well crafted -- set up carefully, but not obviously, and played out for maximum impact.

It's a reworking, BTW, of the Michael J. Fox film "Doc Hollywood," if you can believe that.

Anyway, I give "Cars," at least a 9/10.

Another film I've seen recently was "Ratatouille," which was on the hospital video system. This is one I've been wanting to see, and once again, I was surprised at the dramatic depth they got out of the animated medium. This film did an outstanding job of melding the voice performances to the drawn characters. The film creates a just slightly surreal universe, where the rats can't actually talk to the humans, but the main character can communicate -- and has human intelligence. I mention this, because after you accept the intelligence of the rodents, the story works very hard to be "real-world" believable. (Just as "Cars" works very hard to be realistic, if you can accept that people are cars.) I thought the artwork of Ratatouille was the best I've seen lately.

The other film I saw was "The Ant Bully" which was not quite on the same level, but still amusing.

"Ratatouille," was different from most other "big" animated films I've seen lately. Peter O'Toole (playing Ego, the restaurant critic) was the only major star in the cast. Most animated films these days use a cast of big names: Paul Newman, Cliff Ratzenberger, Cameron Diaz, Nicholas Cage, etc. I can see why the stars would want to do it. It's really easy work for them. They go in for a day or two and record and that's it. No stunts, no costumes, not much work. But, I wonder why the producers want to use them. I have a hard time recognizing their voices! (I recognized Paul Newman in Cars, but none of the other voice performers.) "Ratatouille" was just as enjoyable without big name voices. (O'Toole was only in two scenes -- it was more of a cameo than a star turn.)

I can only conclude that the major value of the stars to these films is in the advertising campaigns.


Back home

I got home from the hospital yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon. But I didn't get back on the computer until this morning, because I'm sliding back into normal activities gradually. I don't want to sit here at the computer too long at a stretch.

So, here's a little more fleshed out story of my medical apocalypse. It's a lot easier to type here on my full-sized keyboard than it was on the little tiny screen of my PDA.

Warning: Long with lots of medical talkCollapse )

Thanks so much to everyone who sent wishes while I was laid up. It meant alot to me. I hope you'll forgive me if I don't reply individually. I've sat her at the computer about as long as I can right now. Even if I don't reply, please know that I really appreciated the thoughts and healing vibes.

State of me

Today is my third day of lying in a hospital bed. I'll be brief because I'm writing this on my PDA, and it's tedious.

I had a seriously irregular heartbeat at work on Thursday. It was V-tac, the bad kind. My heart has been regulated with drugs,and I'm waiting for test results to find out whether I have to have a cathaterization.

Not on LJ much, because it's hard on the PDA.

I'll be back.

Tomorrow is spinning day

I realize a good deal of this post will make very little sense to many on my friends list. But if you have any interest in hand spinning at all, there might be a tidbit here. I'm posting to brag on a neat piece of equipment I've got.

Spinning talkCollapse )



Someone gifted me with a virtual snow globe this morning. I suspect it has to do with More Joy Day, and I shall now endeavor to find a bit of joy to spread out in the real world sometime today.

It's me...

Haven't posted much lately.

Work is settling down -- for the moment. It's January, and that's a quiet time in our business. Very few people take vacation in January, so we're at full staff. So, I don't foresee much overtime in the next few weeks.

The weather is weirder than you know what. I had my patio door open most of the afternoon yesterday to let the dogs go in and out as they pleased. But it's supposed to start getting cold again tonight. (Not quite warm enough for open doors today, but still quite warm.)

Elsa witters on about politics a bitCollapse )

I watched The Daily Show last night. I think Jon Stewart was working very hard NOT to put on a great show last night. He's in complete sympathy with the writers (as am I) and I don't think he's really interested in hitting it out of the park solo. He's still a very funny guy, though, even when he doesn't have a stable of highly-talented writers supporting him. I really felt for him when he was all but BEGGING the WGA to come and make a separate deal with him, like they did with Letterman. Frankly, I think the WGA is being foolish if it doesn't.

ETA: Well, what do you know about that -- Clinton takes it. Close to be sure, but most of the conventional wisdom was handing it to Obama before the polls opened. Some pundits are saying that the nasty reaction to her near tears yesterday set up a backlash that put her over the top.

I'm still leaning Obama, but this certainly puts Clinton back in the running.


What Elsa Means

You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.
You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.
At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

Gacked from redeem147

You are relaxed, chill, and very likely to go with the flow.
You are light hearted and accepting. You don't get worked up easily.
Well adjusted and incredibly happy, many people wonder what your secret to life is.

You are the total package - suave, sexy, smart, and strong.
You have the whole world under your spell, and you can influence almost everyone you know.
You don't always resist your urges to crush the weak. Just remember, they don't have as much going for them as you do.

You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection.
You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive.
You have the classic "Type A" personality.

All I can say is ... I wish...



Elsa Frohman

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August 2009


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