Perfect Example

It’s the day after a big speech (along with a story that goes beyond the speech), but I have found something that has moved me more than any politician ever could.

NPR:  He’ll help you find your flight, and God.’

Chester Cook knows he can always find a lost soul at the re-ticketing counter in Terminal A at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. So he goes there each day, plants himself near the line and scans faces.

“I’m normally looking for someone who’s having a meltdown,” Cook says.

Soon enough, he spots a woman. She’s near tears, looks to be in her 60s and is lugging a heavy bag. Cook approaches her.

“I’ve been changed again to [gate] C57,” she says, gasping for breath. “I can’t walk any farther.”

“OK, I’m going to go check it out with you,” he says as he hails down a motorized cart and helps her on. “I’m going to ride with you back here, OK?”

“I thank you for your help,” she says. “Who are you?”

“I’m Chaplain Cook,” he says. “I’m your little angel today.”

This Methodist Minister is a perfect example of what a Christian should be:  caring, compassionate, and non-judgmental.

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Education and the President

OK, I don’t get it.

President Ronald Reagan addressed the classrooms of America in 1988, even taking questions from students and promoting his idea of lower taxes for all.

President George H. W. Bush had a televised address to students in October 1991, asking kids to write him to “tell him how to achieve his goals.”

President George W. Bush was reading to kids on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now President Barack Obama wants to do a televised address to the nation’s schools to promote staying in school and working hard… and the far right is outraged, OUTRAGED, that President Obama may be “indoctrinating” their kids into “socialism.”

Where was the outrage then?  Where were the angry parents threatening to pull their kids out of school instead of being “indoctrinated” into some political cause?  Where?

Nietzsche said, “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher
regard those who think alike than those who think differently.”  These people are afraid to open their minds, so they close their kids’ minds as well.

Here’s what I want to say to those people:  Instead of plugging your ears, how about listening as well, then engaging your child about what was said.  Discuss what the President said with your child.  Talk about the parts you disagree with, as well as the parts you agree with.

But that would assume these people want to engage their brains and participate in their child’s education.  All indications are currently otherwise.

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Losing it

I’ve been on corticosteroids (Prednisone and an inaler-based steroid) for about a year.  I have noticed my weight varying wildly since then, even ballooning up 25 lbs. from what I was when this all started.  I have since lost 12 of those lbs. by using the “Lose it!” iPhone application to keep track of my calorie intake.  I’ve leveled off of late, but that’s my own darn fault for not strictly adhering to my “Lose 2 pounds a week” calorie limit.

One behavior I tried to change long ago was eating late.  I told my wife (who is also trying to lose weight) that we shouldn’t eat after 9:00 p.m.   I find it easier to adhere to this because I can just have a glass of ice water and crunch on the ice to fool my body into thinking I’m “eating” something.  My wife, the sweet-tooth, has found this more difficult.

Now I have ammunition that backs up my point:

At the end of the six week study period, mice in both groups had consumed about the same amount of calories and performed the same amount of exercise. However, the mice who ate when they normally would have been sleeping hours posted an average 48 percent increase in body weight. The mice who ate on a regular schedule had an average increase of 20 percent of body weight. 

So, want that extra handful of M&M’s just before bed?  Wake up late and want a small scoop of ice cream?  Don’t do it!  Your waistline may thank you later.

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No place for a centrist

Brian Donohue of the New Jersey Star Ledger attended a town hall meeting with Rep. Frank Pallone (D) of New Jersey’s 6th district.  He filed this report:

Can there be any room for a centrist at a health care reform town hall meeting

Speaks for itself.

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A letter to the President

My wife has sent the following letter to President Obama:

 Dear Mr. President,

My name is Jennene and I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. RA can also cause inflammation of the tissue around the joints, as well as in other organs in the body. Autoimmune diseases are illnesses that occur when the body’s tissues are mistakenly attacked by their own immune system.  Patients with autoimmune diseases have antibodies in their blood that target their own body tissues, where they can be associated with inflammation.  This disease is chronic and make simple day to day functions difficult if not impossible.

I have lived with this disease for 43 of my 44 years. Growing up I had at least one operation every summer. Some summers I had more then one surgery. Normal summer activities such as swimming were curtailed because of the presence of holding pins and casts. Over the years, I have had approximately 25 surgeries. Most of these have been on my hands and face. I have artificial wrist and knuckle joints, several fusions and have had total facial reconstruction. I am sure there will be more surgery in my future. 

Although I have RA  I consider myself an “average” middle class American. I am married with a teenager, Curtis, who will be attending college in a few years. My husband of 16 years, Brad, works at the National Weather Center and I work part time as a Customer Service Agent at Southwest Airlines.  I graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in History with concentrations in Music History had Harp. I was a Artist-in-Residence with the State of Oklahoma Arts Council.  I enjoy costume history and am a glass artist

Coping with my disease has brought with it some recognition. I was chosen one of the National Arthritis Foundation’s “Heroes overcoming Arthritis” for the foundation’s 50th anniversary. That same year my story was included in the report that the National Arthritis Foundation submitted to Congress. Recently I was the “Star of the Month” for Southwest Airlines “Spirit Magazine”.

I am fortunate. Since I work part time for Southwest Airlines, I have good health insurance through my employer. My insurance is fully funded by Southwest Airlines who uses United HealthCare to administrate the policy.  However, even with my insurance plan, our out of pocket cost for my care is over $10,000 a year. That figure would go up if I would have to have any surgery. Every year during the re-enrollment period I hold my breath for fear that my physicians and medications would not be included under my coverage. 

But what would happen if I was unable to work? I would be forced to rely on my husband’s healthcare plan. He works for the University of Oklahoma which utilizes the “lowest bidder” system. Currently his insurance is with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. If I had to use that carrier our out of pocket cost for my care would increase about $1500 a month. If I am unable to bring in any income, our out of pocket cost for an entire year to take up about half of my husband’s gross salary.  This  figure would skyrocket if there is an catastrophic event.  That is very very frightening. I cannot imagine what we would do. My husband makes too much for me to qualify for public assistance. 

I am urging you to press forward towards Health Care reform. The system we have now is a very scary prospect for people like me. I am not asking for free hand outs. I want health care that will enable me to treat my disease without bankrupting my family. Recently I went to a town hall meeting. I was appalled at the level of misinformation and outright lies that a lot of people there believed.  I was saddened that people have chosen to believe that latest email chain and media lies.  I am concerned that their artificial anger will frighten the members of Congress and cause these members to de-rail much needed reform. I am also worried that there are members that know that something needs to be done and simply don’t care.

The healthcare system we have now must be fixed. We must break the insurance company monopolies be allowing them to compete over state lines. Something need to be done to limit frivolous malpractice lawsuits.  I also believe that allowing Pharmaceutical companies to advertise on TV is harmful and does little to help patients.  Overall, THERE MUST BE A PUBLIC OPTION! 

How we patent medications needs to be re-examined. For example, I take Embrel which is a very expensive medication for my RA. It has a price tag of over $1300 a month. Recently, it came to a point that it would be eligible to be a generic drug. At that point,  the drug company re-patented the drug for psoriasis and the the wait to become generic begins again. This needs to be reformed.

Please not back down on this issue.  This is too important There are too many Americans like myself and my family. If there is anything that I can do personally to aid the progress of Health Care Reform, please contact me. I have done much public speaking on the subject of my disability. Perhaps my story and I could add something to the debate at hand.



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Roger and “Death Panels”

I will assume everyone knows the film critic Roger Ebert.  He nearly died from bone cancer in his jaw.  He has two good articles reflecting his opinion of health care reform and those who oppose it.

His first, “Death Panels.” A most excellent term, expresses where the roots of this whole opposition appears to be planted:

 One result has been that our national life expectancy ranks 42nd among all developed nations. We spend more on medical care than any other nation, and get less than 41 of them. These figures are pretty clear.

I don’t pretend to know if this information is available to the angry people who have shouted down their representatives at town hall meetings. I think I do know where their anger is fed. The drumbeat of far-right commentators fuels it. Their agenda is not health care, but opposition to the Obama administration. It takes the form of demonizing Obama. It uses the tactic of the Big Lie to defame him. An example of this is the fiction, “he wants to kill your grandmother.” Another is the outrageous statement that he is a racist who hates white people. A person capable of saying that is clearly unhinged and in the grip of unconditional hatred.

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) stated as such when he said that defeating health care reform would be Obama’s “waterloo.”  It’s obvious Mr. DeMint isn’t against health care reform because he dislikes what is in the various proposals, he is just against it because Obama is for it.  Opposition for political purposes, not for the public good.   Who do these people work for?

Ebert’s second article, “I’m safe on board. Pull up the life rope,” cements his position on health care reform:

Having read through some 600 comments about universal health care, I now realize I took the wrong approach in my previous blog entry. I discussed the Obama health plan in political, literal, logical terms. Most of my readers replied in the same vein. The comments, as always, have been helpful, informative and for the most part civil. My mistake was writing from the pragmatic side. I should have followed my heart and gone with a more emotional approach. I believe universal health care is, quite simply, right.

It is a moral imperative. I cannot enjoy health coverage and turn to my neighbor and tell him he doesn’t deserve it. A nation is a mutual undertaking. In a democracy, we set out together to do what we believe is good for the commonwealth. That means voluntarily subjecting ourselves to the rule of law, taxation, military service, the guaranteeing of rights to minorities, and so on. That is a cheap price to pay.

Further down in the article, Mr. Ebert makes another point:

Every time you learn from the news about our latest jobless statistics, consider this: A newly jobless person who was insured through an employee health plan is about to become a newly uninsured person. It’s for our mutual good that we live in a healthier society. To provide universal coverage is the moral thing to do.

A friend of mine recently told me that the problems of others should not be paid for by everyone else.  He’s a pretty hard-core libertarian.  When it comes to, say, the Bill of Rights, I agree with him whole-heartedly.  Government should not be snooping on our conversations, selectively denying Habeus Corpus, taking our guns, or telling us who we can have in our bedrooms (or what we can do, for that matter), I completely agree with him.  But on this case, I completely disagree.

Let me make this clear:  I am against a huge, confusing bill that would do nothing but increase bureaucracy and create unnecessary government programs that run up our national debt.  I am also against anyone using the topic of health insurance reform as a political bludgeon by spreading lies and misinformation solely to score political points.  But I am absolutely for health insurance reform that would decrease insurance costs and allow for universal coverage.   If the “public option” is part of that, I would not be opposed to it provided it doesn’t contribute to the deficit, it pays doctors at rates that keep them in business, and doesn’t completely undercut current insurance plans (which I think it will do since current insurance rates are priced way to high, in my opinion).

The phrase “The problems of others are not our concern,” was used in an episode of Babylon 5: Severed Dreams (full episode available until Sept. 7, 2009).  It was used as a rallying cry to insist the opposite is true.  Jesus said we should care for others. Mr. Ebert points this out by quoting from Matthew 25: 31-46:

 31 When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,

33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.

34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;

35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?

38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?

39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?”

40 And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;

42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?”

45 Then he will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”

46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

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Farewell, Ted

For me this is a season of hope — new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few — new hope.

And this is the cause of my life — new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

Senator Ted Kennedy at  the 2008 Democratic National Convention

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Dying for affordable health care

From the UK Guardian:

In the furious debate gripping America over the future of its health system, one voice has been lost amid the shouting. It is that of a distinguished gynaecologist, aged 67, called Dr Joseph Manley.

For 35 years Manley had a thriving health clinic in Kansas. He lived in the most affluent neighbourhood of Kansas City and treated himself to a new Porsche every year. But this is not a story about doctors’ remuneration and their lavish lifestyles.

In the late 1980s he began to have trouble with his own health. He had involuntary muscle movements and difficulty swallowing. Fellow doctors failed to diagnose him, some guessing wrongly that he had post-traumatic stress from having served in the airforce in Vietnam.

Eventually his lack of motor control interfered with his work to the degree that he was forced to give up his practice. He fell instantly into a catch 22 that he had earlier seen entrap many of his own patients: no work, no health insurance, no treatment.

He remained uninsured and largely untreated for his progressively severe condition for the following 11 years. Blood tests that could have diagnosed him correctly were not done because he couldn’t afford the $200. Having lost his practice, he lost his mansion on the hill and now lives in a one-bedroom apartment in the suburbs. His Porsches have made way for bangers. Many times this erstwhile pillar of the medical establishment had to go without food in order to pay for basic medicines.

Even more to think about.

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Against the Public option? What about Medicare?

This Washington Post article highlights what I view as the big hypocrisy in this whole partisan effort to sink the “public option:”  We already have a big, government run health system:  Medicare. And most people, including Republicans, don’t want Medicare touched.

Opponents of health-care reform should be chanting “No more Medicare!” The arguments that have been made against the public option (a health insurance plan sold and administered by the federal government) apply with equal or greater force to Medicare.

Plan designed by the government? Check. Government bureaucracy? Check. Subsidized? Check. (Medicare does not have to fund itself solely by charging premiums to its members; instead, it is largely funded by a payroll tax levied on all workers.) Able to drive private insurers out of business? Check. Medicare dominates the over-65 market.

If you are against the public option, you should be deeply, fundamentally, bitterly against Medicare.

The public option is not exactly “Medicare for all” (since Medicare is a “single payer” system), but it is like Medicare in that it would be run by the government.

Would the public option lead to everyone hopping on board with the government plan?  Possibly, thus resulting in a huge burden on our government and reduced income for private health insurance providers.  That’s another issue to be debated.

But please stop with the hypocritical cry of “No government run health system!  But don’t touch Medicare! “

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Who’s behind the protests?

McClatchy News has an interesting article on who is behind all the protests against health care.  Here’s a sample:

Conservatives for Patients’ Rights is led by health care entrepreneur Rick Scott, the co-founder of Solantic urgent care walk-in centers, which he’s spread across Florida and is looking to expand. While 80 percent of its patients have at least some insurance, Solantic also bills itself as an alternative to emergency-room care and a resource for patients with no insurance.

Scott left his job as CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospitals during a federal Medicare fraud probe in 1997 that led to a historic $1.7 billion settlement. He wasn’t prosecuted and got a golden parachute.

I encourage everyone to read the article in full so they understand why some people are saying what they are saying.

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