Sunday, July 26, 2009

Of Rolls-Royces and Bicycles

Anyone listening to the health care debate might come to the conclusion that many members of Congress have the best interest of the American taxpayer at heart. These representatives of the masses claim they don't want to see the government intrude in the sacred bond we each have with our doctors. They are also, they tell us, acting as the diligent watchdogs of our tax dollars. The ladies and gentlemen of our Congress would like us all to be aware of their altruistic motives, their pure hearts, as many work overtime slowing change down to a crawl. In the meantime, we, the schlumpfs who pay taxes are providing them with some of the best health care available in this country today....the Rolls Royce of insurances.

These guardians of the public coffers have 75% of their health care premiums paid by us. In addition, they have doctors and nurses, x-ray technicians, and emergency health care providers on call at the Capitol at all times, in case anything should happen while they are working on our behalves. I don't know about you, but none of my past employers was ever able to provide those resources to me. If I had a fever, I might have to wait up to a week to get in to see my primary physician. If I fell down my steps, as I did last winter, I needed a relative to drive me to an emergency room, where I could wait hours to be seen, if more pressing emergencies have occurred.

In other words, I have normal health care in this country. These guys don't.

There are nearly 50 million adults in this country with no medical coverage, and many millions more behind them who have inadequate insurance. If they develop a fever, they just hope it isn't a strep infection or pneumonia. If they fall down a flight of stairs and split their heads open, they hope that those butterfly bandages they purchased can hold it all together so that they aren't scarred too badly.

Yet, our senators and representative, these "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" types, can piously sit on this important legislation and spout platitudes about their fears that the government will come between us and our doctors, when they are really keeping millions from seeing any physician at all. How many of those 50+ millions with no safety net would actually give a good damn about so-called interference, when they don't have the option of seeing any doctor at all?

On a recent visit to the oncologist my husband is seeing, I asked one of the clerks who helps us with our paperwork what happens to cancer patients who have no insurance. I know that the bills my husband has accumulated have been monstrous, over $150,000. Thank God, our insurance is very good and our costs have been minimal. But I wanted to know what happens to those with little insurance and those with no insurance. Does charity pay for them? She told me, in hushed tones, that it's pretty bad. There is limited charity available at hospitals, and treatment like ours probably couldn't happen. So, that would pretty much be a death sentence without good insurance. But hey, Congressmen, no hurry there.

I'll spare you my cynicism about all the fine representatives, the men and women who wear their religion on their sleeves every election cycle, yet don't seem to have an ounce of real charity and concern for the health of their constituents. What would Jesus do? I doubt that very many of them are asking themselves this very religious question. One of the insurance lobbyists might overhear.

I would, however, like to make a modest proposal. Let's all band together and write our representatives and ask them to opt out of the government health insurance coverage they now have. Ask, heck, let's demand that they do it. If health care similar to that which they and their families are receiving can't be available to all, then the fair thing for them all to do is settle for whatever health care coverage they can afford out of their own pockets.....the kind that most of us have. Seems fair to me. How many do you think would be willing to consider it?

My guess would be that if we tried to get them to discuss it, they'd all climb into their Rolls Royces and leave us there to peddle home on our bicycles....or walk.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Political Photo Album

As I get ready to cast my 12th vote for the presidency, I've been thinking in political snapshots. The scrapbook in my mind is a big one, because politics was always one of the really important subjects in our house when I was growing up. That was probably true in a lot of homes, but my family is Irish and you know how the Irish are. They love to fight, and really, what is a political campaign but a huge, knock down, drag out fight?

The first picture in that book is a rather tattered and yellowed one from the year 1948. It's of two girls in a noisy old iron bed, one six, the other twelve. It's the middle of the night, but voices from the other room keeping waking them up. The twelve-year old, Peggy, wants her Dad to come in to tell her who is winning. She's a pretty intense young lady, a lot like her father. The six-year old knows that she should be worried if Harry Truman doesn't win, if some guy named Dewey becomes president. When Daddy hasn't been to bed all night, it's pretty obvious that this is a very big deal. From the door, he tells Peggy that nothing is decided yet, and that she needs to say a prayer and go back to sleep. When the two girls wake up in the morning, all is right with the world. The man named Truman has surprised everyone and won.

The picture from 1952 is little different, of a dour looking family in the tiny kitchen of an apartment reading the Globe-Democrat's joyful announcement that Eisenhower has been elected president. The fact that the Globe-Democrat is happy about it is a definite clue that it's not good for us. Even at ten, I knew that the Globe was a "Republican rag", so, of course, that would be happy that the little man from Illinois, Adlai Stevenson, who spoke so beautifully, had been defeated. The paper seemed especially gleeful that twenty years of Democratic rule had come to an end. This all came as a big surprise to me at ten. From everything I'd heard the Democrats were the good guys and the Republicans were the bad guys.

The 1960s has so many little photos, one of the handsome Irishman running for office. God, he was beautiful and Catholic, just like me. There's another one of a really nasty flier stuffed under the doors in the very Jewish neighborhood where we lived. It said that John Kennedy's father, Joe, was a Nazi sympathizer who wanted to appease Hitler, thus helping to get millions of Jews killed. Daddy said it's what you'd expect from Nixon, who had run an especially nasty campaign against Helen Geohegan Douglas back in California years ago. He was a bastard, my Dad said. Even Eisenhower didn't seem to like him much. As usual, when it came to politics, my father turned out to be 110 percent correct. Nixon certainly was a bastard.

I need to take a good look at that photo; it's the very first piece of dirty tricks campaign literature I ever saw. Wasn't the last, though.

The pictures from the 1960s are interspersed with photos of a very nasty war being played out on our TV, of the tragic assassination of an inspirational leader By the time the 1968election came about, I could no longer even look at Lyndon Johnson because of all those pictures of death and dying. War, civil rights and more tragic assassinations. Martin Luther King shot... what an awful day that was. There's a picture of Eugene McCarthy, a senator who opposed the war and caused Lyndon Johnson to decide against another term. There's the very vivid picture of Bobby Kennedy leaving the ballroom in California and dying on the kitchen floor in the hotel where he was shot to death. Hubert Humphrey, the Happy Warrior when people were sick of war. Here's an older, "new" Nixon, with his hand held up in the V of Victory.....the "new" Nixon, who turned out to be exactly like the "old" Nixon.

The 70's pictures include one of George McGovern at a shopping center, my friend Ruth and I dragging six little kids to get a glimpse of "the next president of the United States", the one who would end the war in Vietnam. Alas, that was not to be. Just more of Nixon.
Tucked in among photos of the two major candidates is one of George Corley Wallace, an expecially nasty piece of humanity who got a lot of votes that year. Racism is not a pretty thing. The most heart-wrenching picture is of a little girl, also named Peggy, crying her eyes out on election night 1972 when McGovern lost. She was only seven and this was her first campaign loss. She took it very hard.

There are pictures from the Watergate hearings, very exciting pictures of democracy actually working. There's a shot of a disgraced Nixon stepping down, a picture of Gerald Ford taking the oath, a picture of Jimmy Carter riding right past us in a limo while campaigning in St.Louis. There are pictures of Ronald Reagan, one of George Herbert Walker Bush, one of Michael Dukakis, of course, one of Willie Horton, a black man who turned out to be the first Bush's very best friend. I see Bill Clinton, former Governor of Arkansas making a speech on C-Span. Five minutes into it, I knew that this was a guy that I could support. Great political photos from the 90s, if you are a Democrat.

The 21st century just shows one photo after another of a smirking, dim looking guy who is, astonishingly, the President of the United States of America. Here's a picture of him rousing the masses after a nasty, dishonorable attack on our country. This could be the only decent photo of the guy doing his job right. It's followed by a picture of me, my children, my friends, all marching against the invasion of Iraq. There's Ruth and her daughters, there's Mary Sue and her husband, my dear friend, Carol, and her daughter, there's my Peggy, my son, Dennis, and me. We are all walking down Delmar Boulevard in University City, peacefully protesting Iraq. It's one of my proudest pictures...shows I did my job well. Now,here's a funny one, Bush in a flight suit on a carrier declaring "Mission Accomplished", when, of course, it isn't.

So, now I am getting ready to cast my vote for president this twelfth time. I'm sure you can figure out who I'll be voting for. It's one of the proudest votes of my lifetime. It says a lot about where we are and where we may be going as a country. Not to be too corny, it speaks to HOPE. It's been one nasty campaign...the Democrats have run a clean and disciplined one, while the other side has been pretty much of a disgrace, sort of Nixon on steroids.

Here's hoping that the next photo I put into my political photo album is of a handsome young man smiling as he accepts his victory and takes on the huge task he has before him. May it be followed by photos of my country at peace, working with other countries to make the world a better place. My album is almost complete. I wouldn't be sad if these were a few of the last ones I'll ever add.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Where Do They Get These People?

Like so many others before me, I bitch about the media a lot. I am mystified as to how the people who are supposed to be covering the news are chosen. Most of the cable news readers seem to be attractive people, good readers, have nice capped teeth and terrific hair. Few offer much more.

When you look back at the history of American journalism, you see Woodward and Bernstein breaking the Watergate Scandal, The Boston Globe and the Catholic priest mess, the New York Times and the Pentagon Papers, just to name a few from the last 40years. There has been quality investigative reporting by local newspapers uncovering dangers to citizens' health, welfare and tax dollars. The press has been a positive force in American life that keeps government, business and people honest.

I've been doing my family's genealogy for the past 10 years or so. This type of research requires reading old newspapers looking for birth, death and marriage notices. In the course of this browsing, I've looked at newspapers going back 165 years in this country. The striking thing is that they actually reported real news. To be fair, they also reported lots of sensational stories about wives who drank acid to commit suicide, murders and mayhem in the streets. However, there was in-depth coverage of real stories about government, full texts of laws that had been enacted, stories on tariffs, legislative wrongdoing, what local governments were doing day-to-day. Editorials came with the political sympathies of the newspaper written there for all to read. None of this Mickey Mouse "balance" on the editorial page. If you didn't like the views of the management, then find another paper.

Since few subscribe to the newspaper anymore, we can only compare the in-depth coverage by yesterday's newspapers with today's cable outlets. The comparison is not one that should comfort anyone who actually wants to know what's going on in this country.

Let's see....there's the car chase on a California freeway. There's the lost child or the horrendous family murder or bus/train wreck. There's news about some Hollywood person that most of us couldn't name under penalty of death. Presently, this is followed by snippets from the various presidential and vice-presidential candidates on the road. The blurb chosen is almost always a personal attack on an opponent. This is moved to the lead story if it's really a new and truly nasty accusation.

Let's face it, though. When have you heard one of these nicely coiffed, surgically enhanced men and women give you the latest plan for the economy by either candidate? How about an update on a new educational policy? Do you think that what the candidates are saying about the Middle East and diplomacy could be helpful before you vote in three weeks? Well, you're not going to get that on CNN Headline News, MSNBC, or Fox, that' for sure.

The reasons for this are two-fold. First, reporters at these outlets would need to do some actual investigative work in order to procure the real stories. It can't just be Candy Crowley getting off the bus and spouting the McCain talking point of the day. It would mean doing some fact-checking to see if that talking point had merit. It would mean not reporting some Drudge Report rumor as truth, then supporting it with repeats of the same rumor picked up by more internet sights. Today's reporters seem too busy being mini-celebrities to go out and do any leg-work. Better to rely on some campaign insider with an agenda.

The second reason we get this type of desultory news coverage is that we deserve it.
Yes, indeedy, we do. We can't concentrate long enough to listen to something as boring as someone's foreign policy plan; that could cut into valuable reality-show viewing. This rather large failing is one reason that we are governed so poorly. We didn't ask for better coverage as W dismantled constitutional protections to privacy. Most of us didn't understand what this adminstration was doing...and didn't want to take the time to find out. The same goes for the sinkhole that we call the War in Iraq. No disturbing pictures of dead American soldiers or Iraqi civilians. We went right along with the plan to keep those nasty images out of sight.

So, the cable networks, after what was, undoubtedly, a marathon of focus groups, decided to give us what we want . Instead of knowing what was going on in our country for the past eight years, we've spent a lot of time on Anna Nichole Smith, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Brad and Angelina, John Edward's $400 haircut, whether Hillary is too pushy, inportant topics like these.

We're in a pickle now, but there is a way out. We can insist on better coverage, and complain when we don't get it. Every one of these networks has a website. We can start yelling until we get better coverage, or turn off the set and read. The newspapers and the internet are fine sources for the information we need as citizens. We can stop settling for a bunch of beatiful people reading us "quasi-news" and find the real answers ourselves. Who knows? The cable news stations might come to miss us and start doing the kind of jobs they should have been doing all along.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

And That Was The Week That Was

It was a wild and wooly ride, the week that was. It included a financial crisis that it's probably best so few of us understand. There were congressional all-nighters in an attempt to solve in a few days a problem that has been festering for months, possibly years. This was followed by the obligatory blame-game among governmental leaders that, as taxpayers, we pay our good money to hear during and after each crisis. There followed a resolution, of sorts. Finally, came the culmination of a week of political manuevering, The Vice-Presidential Debate.

Let's look at the financial crisis, as much as we would prefer not to. Like John McCain, I don't really understand economics much. I don't even balance the family checkbook, apparently also like McCain. The one thing I've always said about our nation's economy, though, is that most of us would cut back on buying big ticket items for our families if our salaries were cut. So, it seems crazy that we have attempted to cut taxes while waging a major and expensive war. Yet, that is what the Bush Administration chose to do. They cut taxes needed to pay for a war that they estimated would cost us about $80 billion. If the war had actually cost that much, cutting taxes may not have hurt the country. Since the real cost is probably somewhere between half a trillion and a trillion dollars, we'll never be able to calculate what effect a "measly" $80 billion dollar war would have had.
Oh well, easy come, easy go. So taxes were cut by that brilliant MBA that's been running the country for the past 8 years, and expenses for war escalated. In fact, we're looking for more places to wage war and spend money....brilliant stewardship there, George. Heckuva job, Georgie.

So, after hocking our children's futures to pay for mayhem, Washington managed to combine this folly with looking the other way while Congress and this administration allowed every lobbyist in Washington to earn a bonus by finding new ways to rip off the people. Whether on golf vacations, trips to the casinos, evening and weekends spent in luxury, we allowed lobbyists to bribe the people's representatives into giving away any and all protections we had against their greedy clients. This practice is called deregulation. Lobbyists talked legistlators and presidents into relaxing the only protections we had against thievery, and they robbed us blind. No one could have seen that coming, unless of course, he or she had ever read a history book.

If all of this sounds a little strong, it is merely the unvarnished truth. The gravest insult and injury to the American people is that now that these hyenas have stripped our carcasses, so to speak, we are now going to need to help them digest the meal they've made of the economy. We must now rescue them from their own gluttony and vices.

I am one of those who feel that the bailout/rescue is probably necessary...though it shouldn't have been. We have to go through with it because our personal financial futures and the future of the worldwide economy are so intertwined with the fate of the Wall Street thieves and their minions, that we'll all go down together. It shouldn've have been necessary because Wall Street investors assumed much risk to make maximum profit. They got the government to sanction the risks they were taking. Then when their bet didn't work out, they want a bailout. Casinos don't work that way, but it looks as if our government must. Hope it works, because it is the most expensive lesson this country will ever have to learn.

When all was accomplished, we had the spectacle of the finger-pointing. It was fun to watch the Republicans, the stewards of the country's economy low these many years, trying to blame this on poor people in general and an obscure loan program in particular. Hard to believe that could be the only cause of this mess, when you look at the expensive homes from coast-to-coast that sit in foreclosure next to little bungalows. If all the foreclosures were caused by poor people defaulting, we've got some pretty crafty poor folks out there.

Lastly, we were treated to more of The Palin Phenomenon. Pundits, who mere days before, were calling for her resignation are now singing her praises....not because she had a command of, or even an understanding of, major policies. Peggy Noonan, Pat Buchanan and others on the right are so proud of her because she was warm, cuddly and made a connection with the people. So does a warm puppy, but let's not elect one to the vice-presidency under a very sick old man. It certainly doesn't take much to impress the right...they loved Bush. Need I say more?

The Republicans have decided to take the gloves off and go after Obama's character for the next 30 days. I don't blame them at all. They have no programs to get us back on track, so why not make the opponent look like a terrorist or worse?

I'm done with the week that was. The next week doesn't appear to be any more restful...but it couldn't get worse. Could it?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain and the Fire Drill

John McCain is a decorated war hero. We all know that because we're told that every day. John McCain already has all the right tools needed to run this country. I've seen his ads, and they all indicate that he's the man with the plan. He may be a tad vague on the details, and on a lot of other things for that matter, but I've been listening to all that the maverick is sending my way. It's rather hard to take it all in, though, as we watch his entire campaign melt down faster than a mortgage-backed security. This campaign looks like the milling around of kids in a classroom when the teacher is out and the fire bell rings.

Let's talk about his campaign manager, Rick Davis. He is or, maybe, is not with a firm that gets thousands of dollars monthly from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for doing nothing. He quit in 2006....he quit last month. They have done no work for theses entities, yet are on a retainer. They are being paid for their access to John McCain. John tells one story....the New York Times tells another. John is on TV vouching for this man's integrity when he doesn't have the full story or just lies about the guy's involvement. Either way, this is not a good thing and indicates poor communication inside the campaign.

Then there's his running mate. I think we've all seen her. Perhaps we haven't any idea of what she's actually about, but we've seen her. Cute as a button she is, and incapable of making it through an interview with the likes of Charlie Gibson or Katie Couric, two former morning show hosts, without serious gaffes. I mean, unless I'm missing some inner intelligence that she's intentionally hiding, the lady is hopeless. It's not as if Katie and Charlie are playing Stump the Candidate in their interviews with any of these guys, and she failed to impress on any level. As with every other aspect of this campaign, what are they really trying to do to and with this woman? If they are trying to allay our fears about her leadership ability, it ain't workin'. If they are trying to make her look vice-presidential....dear God. My deepest suspicion is that there is no actual plan of how to use her....that she was and is a stunt. That doesn't speak well of this campaign.

Now we come to the Maverick's handling of serious issues. He cancels conventions because of bad weather a half-continent away. He reassures us about the economy that he told us only months ago he really doesn't understand. Several days later, he's the grim reaper on the same economy and he's back to cancelling things again. This time he's cancelling the debates that many voters use as serious tools to decide who should be running this country. His return to Washington seems to be designed to ease our worries about the economy, as John takes over and repairs things for us. Yet, no one seems very reassured by this bi-polar reaction to all the things that are frightening the American people today.
It seems to be another indication of a campaign that hasn't prepared the candidate well enough for a debate with a pretty impressive opponent. It also doesn't look very tough and presidential.

If all this weren't frenetic enough, today John, who suspended his campaign appearances to get back to Washington to solve our problem for us, is having a sit-down with George Bush, who is the author of all our turmoil. Should the campaign even be allowing McCain in the same building with Bush? Doesn't that merely remind everyone in the country which party has been minding the store horribly for the past eight years? Here's hoping they get a really good shot of him giving George a big wet one on the lips. John and George are even dragging Barack Obama into this useless photo-op that will solve nothing. The real work of trying to sort this mess out has already been done, or will be accomplished by folks who actually handle these things daily, for a living.

Watching all this I have come up with three alternatives as to why this campaign is so terribly screwed up. First, perhaps Karl Rove really is running this one, and McCain's people have some wonderfully nasty surprise left for us in October. Second, it could be that John McCain is running this himself and is such a stubborn old coot that he's going to screw it up all by himself. Lastly, and I suspect that this is really the case, everyone is running this campaign. It has that piece-meal, everything by the seat of the pants feel of desperate people throwing things up against the wall and hoping for something to just hang there for a day or two. People are running in all directions, accomplishing nothing, frightened and frightening....sort of like, well, a fire drill.

Hey, it may work. The low information voters are out there, and they don't analyze this stuff as much as we do. He might just pull this thing out.

But, God, this is terrible campaigning....and an even worse way to run a country.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Let's Run That By Todd

Sarah Palin's selling card is that she's a competent executive who has run a town and now, a state. Alaska isn't California, but still, it is a state she's running. Sarah and the GOP throw that word competent around as if they are trying to convince themselves that she's the real thing. Perhaps, she is the real thing; but there is a nagging concern in the back of my brain.

Why was Governor Palin carbon copying her husband on state e-mails? Is that something that is pretty common place? Did Mitt Romney cc his wife on state issues when he was governor of Massachusetts? Does Arnold run the e-mails about the California budget crisis past Maria Shriver to get her input and approval? I'm just a little bewildered about all this.

Todd Palin's a cutie and he races a mean snowmobile. However,shouldn't Alaskans be a little concerned whether Sarah feels all that comfortable in her position as the state's Chief Executive when she needs to see what Todd thinks about the day-to-day operations of their state?

For all of us, this could present a problem. Let's face it. John McCain just turned 72. His health is not the best, and his years of POW imprisonment can't have done him any good. Palin could be called upon to serve as our president sooner rather than later. Will she be able to make decisions without checking with her husband? What if he's out snowmobile racing or fishing or shooting moose? Will those decisions have to be put on hold until the Sercret Service can get him back, or until he's checked his e-mails, at least? Just curious.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin: Where Have I Met Her Before?

As I watched Sarah Palin work the crowd at the Republican Convention, I kept trying to remember where I had met her before. She looks and sounds so familiar to me. I'm getting older now, and can't always place all the people I've met over the years.

Then it dawned on me. She was the really cute and successful real estate agent I had a couple of transactions with during my career. Pretty and perky, she sold lots of houses, mostly to men who seemed very taken with her. As I remember, she was a big smiler, but beneath that smile was a really tough negotiator. In real estate, this can be a good thing, if you know what you are negotiating about. Unfortunately, Sarah was a little vague on contract law and time essences. She just did her own thing and made lots of bucks. Her manager answered all the lawsuit questions that came up later, and her malpractice insurance was frighteningly high.

Then I looked at her again and realized that isn't who she was. I kept trying to place her and came up with it, I thought. She was the area Tupperware Sales Manager, who got me, in a moment of weakness and some financial concern, to sign up as a distributor. I remembered her daily calls to see if I had been calling my Golden One Hundred closest friends trying to book some parties. I remember, too, how quickly I regretted my decision to try this. Well, she does look just like that lady, but I realized that, no, that wasn't her.

Then, I finally placed her for sure. She was the president of the Women's Service Club I joined when I was still a stay-at-home mom. She's the lady who talked us all into doing a Christmas Bazaar and making hundreds of hand-crafted items. We met every week from September until mid-November, making pine-cone wreaths, clothespin Santas, mongrammed tree skirts, sequin-coated ornaments. It was a shame that Sarah couldn't be there with us more, but she always seemed to have some other more pressing appointment on our workdays.
It's hard when you are such an involved person to do all the things you'd like to do.
As I remember, Sarah was able to make the thank-you luncheon where she received a plaque for organizing the bazaar.

Now, she's running for vice-president of the United States, a heartbeat away from the office being sought by a somewhat elderly and not terribly well-looking John McCain.

Sarah, here's hoping that unlike your look-alike friends you take the time to learn the contracts and legalities involved in the job you are undertaking, don't use your authority to push folks around, and make sure that you have the time to do the job you are up for as well as taking care of your personal obligations. And just keep on giving them all that perky smile.