Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The purpose of the blogswarm is to write anything at all about why there must be a separation of church and state in this country. I'm sure most of us, whether religious or not, can understand why it is best to keep religion out of government, if you want to keep government out of religion.
Will look forward to reading the many insightful posts that I expect will be written on this subject!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Baxter here. Many Apologies, over a Week has passed since the last Post here. My Female Human has been busily making Arrangements for her Mother, who came home from the Nursing Home yesterday. My Human's Mother is Very Happy to be back in her Own Apartment and seems to be doing Very Well, considering her Age and Condition. A Nurse's Aide comes in to watch her at Night, and during the Day my Female Human will be there helping her.
All this is All Very Well, and I have Nothing against the Female Human's Mother. But for Me it is NOT an improvement. I was just getting used to having more Company around Here, and whenever That Dog was out in the Yard or Asleep I got to cuddle up on the Couch with my Human. Now she is gone All Day again just as she was in the Old Days when she did what she called "Working." From what I understand, she says what she is doing NOW is Work too!
That Dog is probably not Happy either. She is stuck in the House. However, at 4 p.m. the Female Human's Aunt comes down to her Mother's Apartment and sits there while my Human comes home and walks That Dog. Still no help for Me, but what can you do.
But I digress! You don't come here to hear about my Female Human's Personal Issues. You expect More from an intelligent Feline like Myself. So without Further Ado I will launch into my usual News Summary.
Of course, the Big News is the Passage of the Landmark Healthcare Legislation. Or Historic Healthcare Legislation, however you want to put it. As Most of You are already Well Aware, on Sunday night the House passed the Senate Health Care bill that had already passed before the New Year. They then went ahead and passed a bunch of amendments to it, which the Senate then had to Approve. And, with a few changes, they did. The last step was that the House then approved the slightly changed Reconciliation Bill that will put those amendments into Effect.
The Best Moment before President Obama spoke at the Signing Ceremony was when Vice President Biden uttered the Now-Famous Phrase, "This is a Big F*cking Deal" in the President's ear just before he turned the mic over to him. T-shirts are being sold as we speak.
Right Now my Ears are twitching and my Whiskers are bristling, however, because MSNBC is televising the speech Sarah Palin is making at a big Rally for John McCain. I must say, that Woman's voice goes right through Me! "Send the Maverick back to the Senate!" she says. Ugh.
In Other News, the Radical Organization, PETA, has enlisted the So-Called OctoMom to support their cause of promoting Spaying and Neutering for Pets. It's Bad Enough that this Female Human had, via Artificial Means, eight babies at once when she already HAD six kids; now she's so desperate for Money, she's willing to let PETA put a sign on her lawn? Check it out:
In return, OctoMom gets $5000 a month and some veggie burgers and dogs to feed her "Litter." No, I am not being Crass. The word "litter" was on PETA's BLOG for Heaven's Sakes, with a line drawn through it. Go see for yourself.
In other Animal-Related News, a video is Making the Rounds on TV and the Internet that shows a Pitbull Mix (reported in varying ways by the Media, including calling it a Bulldog, a Pitbull, a Pitbull-Boxer mix and a Pitbull-Bulldog mix) attacking a Police Car and ripping off the Bumper and wrecking the Tires. Here is a news Clip with part of the video, if you have been Living Under a Rock and haven't seen it yet:
Now, as you All well know, as a Cat, I am not a Fan of Dogs, but would never wish them Harm. So I'd like to commend the Police in this situation for trying pepper spray and a Taser to stop the dog instead of just shooting him. The dog's name is Winston and he is actually very nice to People and didn't even attack the Officer who got out of the car to spray and Taser him. (Please note, the Taser hardly slowed him down at all - so don't expect one of those Electric Fences to ever work on your pet Pitbull.)
The story does have a Happy Ending because the Dog is just under probation and the Owner is to get him Obedience training to get his Canine Good Citizen certification.
As for the damage to the Squad Car: I would be Concerned, if I were the Police, that their Squad Cars are so fragile the front bumper can be totally removed by a Dog! Shouldn't vehicles be a little more Sturdy than THAT? I'll bet the Dog wouldn't have made a dent in my Humans' old 1955 DeSoto that they used to have! That was when Cars were Cars and were Meant to Last!
Speaking of Cars, there is Good News out of Trollhattan, the location of the Swedish Headquarters of the new Saab-Spyker company. They have started shipping their first Batch of New Cars under the new Ownership! Plus, they're cutting Prices! It just might be time for a New Car for my Humans. We'll see if they are Tempted.
So, that is the News for this Week. I know I haven't covered Every News Item but these were the Things I wanted to share with You personally.
Until Next Time, hang in there, try to ignore the Republicans, and keep your Catnip at the Ready!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Although he still prefers a single payer option, he has agreed to support the bill in its current form. I applaud the courageous stance he has taken to try to establish universal health care in this country. I also applaud his pragmatism in realizing that, in the current climate, that kind of health care bill would never pass this Congress. To quote his prepared remarks (from Common Dreams):
"In the past week it has become clear that the vote on the final health care bill will be very close. I take this vote with the utmost seriousness. I am quite aware of the historic fight that has lasted the better part of the last century to bring America in line with other modern democracies in providing single payer health care. I have seen the political pressure and the financial pressure being asserted to prevent a minimal recognition of this right, even within the context of a system dominated by private insurance companies.
I know I have to make a decision, not on the bill as I would like to see it, but the bill as it is. My criticisms of the legislation have been well reported. I do not retract them. I incorporate them in this statement. They still stand as legitimate and cautionary. I still have doubts about the bill. I do not think it is a first step toward anything I have supported in the past. This is not the bill I wanted to support, even as I continue efforts until the last minute to modify the bill.
However after careful discussions with the President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Elizabeth my wife and close friends, I have decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation. If my vote is to be counted, let it now count for passage of the bill, hopefully in the direction of comprehensive health care reform. We must include coverage for those excluded from this bill. We must free the states. We must have control over private insurance companies and the cost their very existence imposes on American families. We must strive to provide a significant place for alternative and complementary medicine, religious health science practice, and the personal responsibility aspects of health care which include diet, nutrition, and exercise.
The health care debate has been severely hampered by fear, myths, and by hyper-partisanship. The President clearly does not advocate socialism or a government takeover of health care. The fear that this legislation has engendered has deep roots, not in foreign ideology but in a lack of confidence, a timidity, mistrust and fear which post 911 America has been unable to shake.
This fear has so infected our politics, our economics and our international relations that as a nation we are losing sight of the expanded vision, the electrifying potential we caught a glimpse of with the election of Barack Obama. The transformational potential of his presidency, and of ourselves, can still be courageously summoned in ways that will reconnect America to our hopes for expanded opportunities for jobs, housing, education, peace, and yes, health care."
Thank you, Dennis. I know it wasn't easy for you to give up your ideals in order to vote for something you cannot fully support. Some may say you have caved to pressure, others may say you have sold out.
But I say you have done the right thing, the only thing you could do, in order to make sure more Americans receive the health care they deserve. It is not the end of the fight; it is only the beginning.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I read an opinion piece in yesterday's Star Ledger that was sourced from the Washington Post columnist, Robert J. Samuelson. In his column, which was entitled in the Ledger, "The Great Miseducation on Health Care," he debunks a number of arguments that are often made in support of health care reform. They include:
Uninsured people use the Emergency Rooms of hospitals for their medical care, which is more expensive. Thus, the idea goes, if everyone had health care, costs would decrease since there would be fewer people accessing the ER for their primary care.
However, according to Samuelson,
"A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the insured accounted for 83 percent of emergency-room visits, reflecting their share of the population. After Massachusetts adopted universal insurance, emergency-room use remained higher than the national average, an Urban Institute study found. More than two-fifths of visits represented non-emergencies. Of those, a majority of adult respondents to a survey said it was 'more convenient' to go to the emergency room or they couldn't 'get [a doctor's] appointment as soon as needed.' If universal coverage makes appointments harder to get, emergency-room use may increase."
Insuring the uninsured will improve the nation's health. Again, Samuelson denies this claim, citing a number of studies showing conflicting results from previous health care improvements such as Medicare. His explanation:
"How could this be? No one knows, but possible explanations include: (a) many uninsured are fairly healthy -- about two-fifths are age 18 to 34; (b) some are too sick to be helped or have problems rooted in personal behaviors -- smoking, diet, drinking or drug abuse; and (c) the uninsured already receive 50 to 70 percent of the care of the insured from hospitals, clinics and doctors, estimates the Congressional Budget Office."
He goes on to say that the real problem is cost and uncontrolled spending, and criticizes the current bill for not addressing this issue. He concludes:
"He's telling people what they want to hear, not what they need to know. Whatever their sins, insurers are mainly intermediaries; they pass along the costs of the delivery system. In 2009, the largest 14 insurers had profits of roughly $9 billion; that approached 0.4 percent of total health spending of $2.472 trillion. This hardly explains high health costs. What people need to know is that Obama's plan evades health care's major problems and would worsen the budget outlook. It's a big new spending program when government hasn't paid for the spending programs it already has."
Of course, the fallacy of his conclusion is that "Insurers are mainly intermediaries; they pass along the costs of the delivery system." No, the main problem with the insurers is they are geared toward making a profit, and they try to get out of covering anyone who really needs the insurance, such as, say, sick people. Maybe profit isn't that large a percentage of overall health care costs, but it is certainly the motivating factor behind insurance company policies which result in sick people being unable to become insured, or if insured, not being covered for their illnesses.
The other problem with the insurance industry when there isn't universal coverage is, that people who have the insurance get a much CHEAPER rate than those who don't. So uninsured people are hit from two sides: One, they have to pay out of their own pockets for medical care, and two: their medical care is much more expensive than that of people with insurance.
If anyone can show me this is not true, I welcome it. But I've seen my bills from medical procedures. They show one, very high, price, then the "adjusted" price accepted by the doctor from my insurance, and then what my insurance pays, leaving a small amount for me to pay. I can only assume the uninsured pay the first price. If everyone were insured, there would be only the "adjusted" price. And that alone would be a vast improvement.
OK, so where does that leave us with President Obama's arguments in favor of health care? Is he really lying to us and not telling us "what we need to know"? No. He is giving the arguments that will pass muster with the portion of the population who have drunk the Kool-Aid of the right wing and think the main problem is they will lose something in this bargain. They will get screwed somehow if their uninsured neighbor manages to get the same benefits they have. They will have to pay more. They will lose something they had. It's all about them.
So to reach those people, he has to give them cost-related, "them"-related arguments. The rest know that health care for all is the right thing to do and don't care as much about those arguments.
Think I'm being unkind to those opposed to the health care legislation on the right? Check out Nick Silver's post on fivethirtyeight.com on the two sides of the health care debate. In his post he analyzes the results of a recent Gallup poll that included the verbatims (what people actually said, for those who don't know market research-speak) from the survey. The results showed that the nation is almost equally divided on the current legislation, with a slight tip against the bill, 48% to 45%.
Among those who support the legislation, 29% say it is because "people need health insurance/too many are uninsured." In addition, 12% said it is "a moral responsibility." 12% also felt it would reduce costs and 10% said it would make health insurance more affordable. Several key reasons included the word "help" as in, "help senior citizens," "help the poor," and that they or a family member lacked insurance.
Among those against the legislation, the top reason was it would increase costs of insurance (20%) and another 5% said it would cost the government too much. 15% were opposed to government involvement in health care or "big government" in general. 7% mentioned being against "socialized medicine" -- even though Obama's plan is not socialized medicine -- or the "public option," even though the public option is not currently in the bill. 6% said that health care is a privilege, not an entitlement and 4% were worried it would affect their own insurance.
To be sure, some of the pro-health care people are concerned about costs and are thinking this would be a way to reduce them, and if this isn't true, they have perhaps been misled. However, that does not seem to be the most important issue to them.
When you look at the verbatims themselves, the pattern is more noticeable. FiveThirtyEight.com provided "word clouds" showing the prevalence of certain words in the actual comments the respondents made to the survey.
Pro-Health Care respondents focused mostly on words like "People," "Need," "Everyone" "Insurance."
Anti-Health Care respondents, in contrast, focused much more on words such as "Government," "Pay," and "Cost," as well as "People" and "Insurance."
When you look at some of the actual comments, which Silver posted a link to on his site, "Pro" people said things like:
"THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN OUR COUNTRY IS AN ABOMINATION. BECAUSE THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD HAS A DISMAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM. HEALTHCARE IS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE.
BECAUSE THIS COUNTRY IS TERRIBLE FOR US. THE BIGGEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD NOT TO HAVE HEALTHCARE FOR THEIR PEOPLE. I'M SET BUT MY CHILDREN WON'T BE. THEY NEED TO GIVE IT A START.
I THINK WE ARE IN A FIRST-WORLD COUNTRY THAT SHOULD HAVE HEALTHCARE INSURANCE. I AM FORTUNATE TO HAVE INSURANCE BUT I DON'T KNOW HOW OTHER PEOPLE MAKE IT WHO DO NOT HAVE INSURANCE. MEDICARE DOESN'T COVER EVERYTHING. MEDICARE ONLY PAYS 80 PERCENT AND SOMEONE HAS TO PAY THE DIFFERENCE.
IT'S OUR BASIC DUTY TO PROVIDE HEALTHCARE FOR THE POOR AND ELDERLY.
SO PEOPLE CAN GET HELP.
BECAUSE I THINK IT'S NEEDED TO CHANGE TO SAVE MONEY FOR SOME PEOPLE THAT DON'T HAVE IT BECAUSE EVERYBODY SHOULD HAVE HEALTHCARE.
I DON'T THINK IT'S FAIR FOR PEOPLE TO BE WITHOUT HEALTHCARE COVERAGE.
BECAUSE I FEEL EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE REGARDLESS OF INCOME, EMPLOYMENT, AND WHERE THEY LIVE."
Among the "Anti" respondents, comments skewed toward these:
"I BELIEVE IT'S GOING TO SCREW EVERYTHING UP WITH THE GOVERNMENT GETTING INVOLVED. YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO GET THE CARE YOU NEED. PEOPLE WILL BE TURNED AWAY.
I FEEL THAT THEY ARE TRYING TO LEAN TOWARDS WHAT EUROPEAN COUNTRIES. NONE OF IT WORKED. ALL FAILED. EVERYBODY THAT'S TRIED HAS FAILED. IT WILL HURT ME. I'M DIABETIC AND IT WOULD PUSH ME INTO SOMETHING. I HAVE A DOCTOR WHO TAKES CARE OF ME. IF THEY GO WITH THE REFORM, I CAN'T CHOOSE MY DOCTOR.
GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER AND INCREASED DEBT.
IT WILL BE SOCIALIZED MEDICINE.
THE COST TO ME, AND THAT PEOPLE WHO CHOOSE TO HAVE UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLES, LIKE DOING DRUGS AND SMOKING, I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY FOR.
I DON'T THINK PEOPLE SHOULD GET THINGS FOR NOTHING.
I DON'T WANNA HAVE TO PAY FOR SOMEONE ELSE'S HEALTHCARE, THAT'S WHAT WELFARE IS FOR. I CHOSE A CAREER THAT PAYS FOR MY HEALTHCARE.
I THINK EVERYONE SHOULD WORK AND SUPPLY THEIR OWN INSURANCE.
GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER AND INCREASED DEBT.
BECAUSE I DON'T WANNA HAVE MONEY TAKEN OUT OF MY CHECK TO PAY FOR PEOPLE WHO WON'T WORK"
Yes, I cherrypicked these comments. However, let me be clear, the "Pro" people had no verbatims that talked about "I don't want to pay for someone else" or "I don't want to pay for people who won't work."
If you want to look at the entire list, please go to FiveThirtyEight.com and click on "verbatim responses" in the first paragraph.
I felt this was a very telling survey result, and an example of how looking at the verbatims can really take you behind the numbers and understand the mindset of the people responding to the survey.
It is obvious that the "Anti" respondents are highly influenced by the right-wing talking points and have a much more egocentric outlook on the subject. The "Pro" respondents, while still concerned about costs in general, appear to be much more altruistic in their outlooks and talk much more about helping others.
So is it any wonder that, in order to convince people who are not currently on the health care bandwagon to support his initiative, President Obama has to appeal to the cost side of the equation and not the altruism side?
In reality, I don't know whether expanding health care coverage to the uninsured will increase or decrease overall costs. I think it remains to be seen. But that is not the real reason we should be increasing coverage of the uninsured. It's just the right thing to do.
As for the left-wing opponents of the bill, all I can say is what one pro-health care respondent said:
"THEY GOTTA MAKE ONE STEP AND THEN ANOTHER AND THEN ADJUST IT IF YOU NEED TO, BUT YOU CAN'T SIT ON YOUR THUMBS AND DO NOTHING."
Dennis Kucinich, I love you and think you are ideologically pure. But opposing this bill will not be helpful. The result, if it fails, is that nothing at all will be done; and in addition, President Obama will have a very difficult time getting anything else accomplished. The Republicans will feel they have won and have the upper hand. And that would be a disaster. I'm not saying the bill is perfect as it is, far from it. But it will help insure more people, and will accomplish part of what needs to be done. Rome is never built in a day.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
At last, birds are singing in the morning, and the Mockingbird and his mate have apparently staked out their territory. I saw him sitting on a high wire pouring out his usual torrent of mixed-up birdsong, effortlessly moving from the Cardinal to the Robin's song, followed by a few scraps of other birds' songs that weren't quite recognizable. The Mockingbird is the only bird I know of in this area that actually sings in the middle of the night. I've often heard him at 1 or 2 a.m. during the breeding season.
Another morning when we were walking the dog we heard, far overhead, the sounds of Canada Geese honking. No, they weren't the usual non-migrating New Jersey geese just going from one office park to another. These were serious geese. There were two big long lines of them, high above, which gradually managed to come together and start forming the requisite V. They were clearly headed north and in it for the long haul.
The snow has all melted except for a few lumps here and there where the plows had piled it up; now it has changed into that crunchy icy stuff, flecked with black. (I always wonder where the black comes from. The road? The air? The snow itself?).
I've seen buds on one or two of the early shrubs and trees. We even managed to sit outside on our deck on a couple of afternoons when the temperatures hovered around 60 degrees.
But the grass is still brown and the trees are still bare and the next four days are supposed to be chilly and rainy. We are still stuck in the house. That is one form of "cabin fever" from which we are suffering.
The other form of cabin fever we have is that urge to get away from it all and go to our cabin in the Adirondacks. Unfortunately spring up there is 2-3 weeks behind New Jersey. I'm sure there is still plenty of snow on the ground and it will still be cold enough at night to freeze pipes for a few weeks yet, so we are still stuck in New Jersey for another month or so.
In the meantime, my days are filled with errands and visits to my mother in the nursing home, where she is still getting rehabilitation. It's amazing how the days fly by when they are all so similar.
Unfortunately, my mother seems to be developing dementia as time goes by. At first I thought it was due to her lung condition, but as it turns out her blood gas levels are all normal, so it isn't due to that. Interestingly, I just read an article about nicotine containing compounds that may actually be beneficial in preventing or mitigating Alzheimer's Disease. There are a number of recent studies that back up this possible connection, although of course it is far from a cure.
My mother, a lifelong smoker, smoked until she went into the hospital. She has now been nicotine-free for over a month and her congition has declined markedly. I realize it could be the result of her recent illness, stress, or hospitalization, but I am wondering if she would have done better if she'd had the nicotine patch as she did the last time she was hospitalized. I wish I had asked for it, in retrospect. Hindsight is always 20-20, as the saying goes.
I hope to talk to the doctor about her condition and see if Aricept or another drug might have the same beneficial effects without her having to go on the nicotine patch. Of course, I know that it may be too late to bring her back to the way she was, and I may need to accept that and just enjoy the time we have left together in whatever condition she may be in.
Thinking of the migrating birds, and my mother's long life, now closing in on its end, reminds me of the Sandy Denny song, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." I first knew this song as it was sung by Judy Collins, and her bell-like voice is just unmatched by anyone. So I will post a video of her singing the song in concert in 2000.
Monday, March 08, 2010
Someone sent this via e-mail and I thought they were amusing enough to share. Certainly beats the incivility of the Rush Limbaughs of the world.
When Insults Had Class
These glorious insults are from an era before the English language got boiled down to 4-letter words.
The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said, "If you were my husband I'd poison your tea."
He said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."
A member of Parliament to Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."
"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr
"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill
"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." Clarence Darrow
"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).
"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." - Moses Hadas
"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain
"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.." - Oscar Wilde
"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.
"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." - Stephen Bishop
"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright
"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb
"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others." - Samuel Johnson
"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." - Paul Keating
"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyrand
"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." - Forrest Tucker
"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain
"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." - Mae West
"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." - Oscar Wilde
"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination." - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder
"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
It was particularly interesting to me that more than one dog howled when hearing the theme song for Empire Carpets - and one responded to the Colbert Report's theme song!
Interestingly, our dog Diva slept through the entire panoply of howling dogs. Apparently howling means nothing to a pit bull terrier.
Baxter, on the other hand, was seriously freaked out and after looking around in horror, had to leave the room.
You can watch them here.