Tuesday, September 29, 2009

There IS a Difference

Sometimes you just have to wonder why you were shown something. Was it God’s divine intervention, chance, or of your own doing?

I do not talk about my work in this Blog. This is done purposely so as to avoid upsetting those that are in control of my livelihood. Plus, it is a little bit unfair to criticize, even if one is right, without the ability for a rebuttal, which the entity I work for would be unable to do.

So let me talk in very general terms and lead with: I have a philosophical difference of opinion with the new guy they have put in charge, which we discussed yesterday. So we will leave it at that. Plus that is not the point of this blog today, it is about the first sentence, which needed explanation by way of this little blurb to allow it to make sense.

I do not watch TV on a regular basis. Most of the time it is with the wife as a form of “quality time” since that is something she likes to do. But last night, while eating a late dinner I turned the TV on and surfed till I came upon “King of the Hill” (it is strange that my favorite TV shows are mostly animated ones). Now remember the philosophical difference of opinion I spoke about? Ok, let me also add that I am an instructor and this should make sense.

Peggy Hill is substitute teaching and is standing at the chalkboard with a math book going over their homework. She copies the problem from the book to the board – a circle with “D=3” inside and a square with “3” inside – and asks the class “which is bigger?” Silence. She then opens the math book to the answer page and says, “the answer is D” at which time there is a pause, and then one of the kids asks “why?” Poor Peggy has no idea and embarrassingly solders on to the next question as the students lose respect for her as she loses credibility.

Anybody can be a substitute teacher but not everyone can teach. Any instructor, educator, or teacher worth his or her salt knows that you will never completely master your subject. There will always be something you understood incorrectly, something new you have not heard about, some little esoteric bit of trivia that escaped your hearing. Still you face the audience with the knowledge that you do understand your topic and, when you are at the top of your game, can put the information in context and answer or lead a discussion as to the question of “why?

There is a difference between a cook and a chef, between an artist and person who can paint, between a musician and person who can play a musical instrument. There is a difference between a person standing up in front of a class following an instructor guide and an instructor who knows the topic and can help students understand the “why.”

And that is all I have to say about this.

Thank you Peggy and Mike Judge, I needed to see that last night.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kind of - Sort of

How does one describe themselves or another person in a one sentence summary? The wife and I have always described out youngest son as “not suffering fools gladly” which describes and fits him to a tee. I am a little bit more forgiving of stupidity in action and thoughts then he is. The writer John Elson was described in Time as:
He had eclectic interests and a skepticism that had no patience for cant or showboating.
OK, that kind of – sort of – fits me, only a little more gruff then how I think of myself, plus I don’t know what the word “cant” means so that leaves me a bit unsure.

Now my wife, who knows (and reminds me) how poor my early education was, probably can give me the definition plus its proper use as well as its antonym (yea I know what that means – just did not know how to spell it). But for me, I had to look it up only to find there are a number of possibilities that could describe the behavior in question. So I settled on four:
  1. An affected, singsong mode of speaking.
  2. The idioms and peculiarities of speech in any sect, class, or occupation.
  3. The use of religious phraseology without understanding or sincerity; empty, solemn speech, implying what is not felt; hypocrisy.
  4. Vulgar jargon; slang; the secret language spoken by gypsies, thieves, tramps, or beggars.
Well because he wrote the Time article “Is God Dead” I am going to settle on the third one, since I seriously doubt he had much encounters with gypsies, tramps and thieves other than from Cher. So now that I know what “cant” means, I can really see if that fits me as well, and my answer is yes, yes it does, kind of - sort of.

I had a turn-around in my thinking not so long ago when I started asking myself the “why” behind the speech or action encountered. There is always a “why”, and if it what is being said is not done out of purity of thought, nobility, pursuit of a higher understanding, caring, or is not factual, then I have little patience for it.

I do not believe, as does Bill Maher, that people are stupid. I believe that they are manipulated into believing certain things as fact because they do not ask the “why” behind it. Stupid people, therefore, are those that have been shown the why or given credible information and still adhere to their old beliefs. Creationists can fall into this category, not because they believe God created life but because they refuse to accept how it came about.

I don’t know how I will have my persona summed up one day. Stupid people will call me a liberal socialist bleeding heart religion hater simply because I do not espouse their simpleminded take on what is good and virtuous and I blog about it. Am I any of those things? Well kind of –sort of – but not really. I am really just a person trying to understand my world and the other people who live in it with me. For me, at this point 50 years into the game, all I can say about myself is that I can’t accept things without knowledge of the “why.”

So why spend time writing this silly blog that no one reads? Well, why not!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Perfectly Good

I saw a great quote in Time from one of their long time writers, John Elson, who recently passed away:
Never let the perfect get in the way of the perfectly good

Wow. Wish I had heard that a while ago, adopted it and made it my own. I make my living now standing in front of environmental newcomers and professionals like myself, trying to explain the in’s and out’s, do’s and don’ts, of environmental regulation. I am what you call a creative type - always looking for a better way to convey an idea - and when representing not just myself, but my employer and the school it is associated with, I am pretty damn serious about the product I and my program offer. In this arena, you can see, perfection is what is expected.

It is difficult for folks like me to accept “perfectly good” when you know your performance, the materials, the venue, the conditions, or the timing, are not going to be perfect. I know what perfect is, and although I have never got there, I know when it is less than what it was the time before. The idea of “perfectly good” just sounds like a cop out, “it’s good enough for government work” which then leads to “no one will know the difference” which leads to mediocrity.

But Mr. Elson, I believe, understood this, understands guys like me, and understands the reality in play. At some point we have to deliver, we have to put the product out there, and if we let perfection (which can never be obtained) get in the way of this, then we have produced nothing. There is a happy median between the two.

So how does one keep traveling on the road to Nirvana when you know that no such place exists? For me it has been to set the lowest bar at the level where I am not embarrassed for myself or for those I represent. What I have to continually focus on is never to believe I have done my very best when I have not and to not beat myself up over producing only a "perfectly good" product. Which reminds another great little bit of advice from the Serenity prayer.
...….and the wisdom to know the difference.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Questions for Cal Thomas

OK, so let me sort this out. Obama states the proposed health plan will not cover illegal immigrants. This is a true statement. However, because illegal immigrants will still be able to receive emergency treatment at taxpayer expenses, Joe Wilson and his friends contend he lies.

Now I just wrote about that silly Jesus stuff about neighbors and Samaritans, so y’all know my take on this topic, but I am still perplexed at the cowardness of conservatives like Cal Thomas who dance around their true feelings on a particular topic. Now I know, I know, Mr. Thomas will state that’s not what he was implying, that he was only defending Joe Wilson’s use of the word liar. And therein lays the cowardness.

It can be left with no doubt that a certain percentage of Americans do not want illegal immigrants covered. Do you, Mr. Thomas share this view?

It is apparent that some Americans believe that continuing to allow emergency treatment to illegal immigrants is the same as covering them under Obama’s health plan. Do you, Mr. Thomas, share this view?

Now I am going to be bold here and speak for him (I just emailed him these questions and will change his reponse if he responds bak), I will say that his answer to both is “yes.”

So here is the conundrum for Mr. Thomas and his ilk…..

There are about 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. Regardless of how we feel about this - the why or how come - none of that detracts from the fact - there are 11 million here now. Of this 11 million some are children, let’s say 10%, or 1.1 million. It has been estimated (see note) that 50/100,000 children live with a life-threatening illness, so, about 550 of these illegal immigrants we could reasonably assume would require health care to save their lives.

Now the argument of the compassionate conservative will most likely be “go back to your own country so you child can receive care.” OK, fair enough. But what will be done for these children while they wait to return and/or if their parents do not choose to return? And what about those involved in an accident or striken with disease? What will be done for them if they are not covered by the health plan (as President Obama states) or they no longer receive emergency care (as Mr. Thomas would like to see)?

At this point, there are only two possible responses that can be rendered, or you can take the cowards way out and remain mute. So Mr. Thomas:

Do you deny care?


Do you provide care?

If you chose 1, then how will this be paid? Someone will get stuck with the bill, so who do you propose that someone be? I would really be interested in one conservative pundit finally mustering the courage to say what they all really feel, that is, that they value possessions over human life.

Note: Goldman, A. Care of the dying Child. Oxford University Press, 1999

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fix Fenders not People!

Matt Friedeman Show – 10. PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS President Obama has repeatedly said that “no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.” That sounds wonderful until you apply common sense, which is in short supply in Washington. What if we made a law that allowed you to buy car insurance after you got into an accident and that required the insurance company to pay for the damage? Wouldn’t many people just wait for an accident before buying insurance? Why wouldn’t many Americans wait until they were sick to buy health insurance?
Amanda Terresi of Liberty on the Rocks (which I wrote about last week)
The idea is that it is health insurance. The concept of insurance is that you get it before you become sick or before something happens to you. It is equivalent to not having any car insurance, hitting a tree, and calling Geico and saying you want to sign up.
OK, so same playbook, different voice. Both arguments against allowing pre-existing illness to be covered are based on these illnesses driving up the costs for everyone. OK, that is a fact, but should not be a concern. The idea behind health care reform is to have everyone covered. The viewpoint expressed by this little “c” christain and liberty only libertarian is that coverage should be denied for anyone that would drive up the cost for them.

So my question to these two individuals and anyone who shares their view, is this. If we do not include them, how will they receive care? This attitude of “well it sucks to be you” is not one that I find flattering, especially with all the horn tooting and drum banging about how much of a Christian nation we are. We have put our heads in the sand and ignored the elephant in the room for too long. Why? Because if it does not directly affect me, I can ignore it.

It is true, that no one dies in the gutter, so why all the fuss to change it? Because the way care is delivered is after the fact (people wait too long) or it is through emergency room which are mandated to provide care and either close or pass on the cost to the state and to us with health insurance. My point is – we already pay now for those not insured.

OK, my views are a bit biased because I am a public health graduate. I have bought into the idea that a healthy society is a more productive society and is better for my health and family overall. But health care is a business and those that now control it do not want to see any change in what is a pretty lucrative for them. In the mean time, lack of universal care causes treatable illnesses to go unchecked, decreases entrepreneurship, forces families into bankruptcy, or forces one to forgo care to provide for other members of the family.

Our current system sucks. Stop fighting it all out and require that it cover all (everyone in – everyone pays), is not dependent on an employer or having a job, and meets a level of care agreed upon by those in the know (based on science – not marketing or hype). Other countries do it and do it well. Why we don’t is based mainly on our greed, the “why should I give up and/or pay for those that have not secured it for themselves?” Which is then supported by the attitude of “It sucks to be you?”

Monday, September 14, 2009

But words will never hurt me?

I have concluded (way late in life) that my wife is right and that people are stupid. Now when you say this, it includes both her and I, so I guess it should really be stated that people will often believe something to be true based on perception rather than fact. In this case, words have power to sway and entrench. So lets do away with two of them in the health care debate.
Phrase 1: keep the insurance companies honest.
When President Obama said recently that it will give Americans “a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep the insurance companies honest.” he unfortunately concluded that these companies are not being honest now or will become dishonest in the future.

Insurance companies are not the bad guys in this fight. They are a business, and as such, put the interests of their shareholders primary over everyone and everything else. This is how business works in the USA. Unless there is a driving force to "not be evil" businesses will always behave in a way that benefits them. This has nothing to do with honesty, it is the nature of the beast and why, in my opinion, government is a necessary player in a free market.

Business is a lot like the Botulinum toxin - both a remedy and a deadly poison, all at the same time. To say that the toxin is bad because it can and will kill, is to ignore the good that comes with it. In the hands of a skilled physician (government) the toxin is free to do do the work it can do (capitalism) and provide the benefits wanted by the individual (market). Those that participate in the health insurance industry are no more dishonest in their labor than the physician is an administer of poison.
Phrase 2: socialized health care system.
When Chet Edwards was asked "Have you decided how you will vote on HR 3200?" his response of "I will not vote for any bill I believe would result in a Canadian–style, socialized health care system." fed into the notion that government involvement is socialism or leads to socialism. Government involvement is, and should, be kept in check by a strong healthy free market. Asking government to step in, make laws, provide services is no more an example of socialism then Google is an example of a monopoly.

When used willy-nilly or purposely, words have power. These two phrases must be stopped dead in their tracks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jesus and his stupid parables

All this fuss about providing health care to illegal - or undocumented - immigrants got me thinking about a situation that could arise based on a story I once heard.
An illegal immigrant man was traveling on a trip from San Antonio to Austin when he was attacked by a gang of anti-immigration thugs. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
So as Obama boasted in his recent speech to Congress "The reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally“to the catcall of “you lie!” I got to wondering about what course one would take if they came across the man in the situation described above. I could only come up with three possible scenarios (excluding take out your concealed weapon and put him out of his misery). Now if one was to come across this man would you:
A. Cross to the other side of the road and pass him by hoping someone else will take care of him.

B. Look at him lying there and pass him by telling yourself "he should not have been here in the first place (or "it sucks to be you")."

C. Feel compassion for him, sooth his wounds, and take him to a hospital, where you say "take care of this man. I’ll pay you what it costs.
If I recall, the story I based this on had a kind of Mr. Rogers take to it, something about "who is my neighbor" and I think the proper answer should be "C" or at least that's what that silly ol' Jesus fellow thought made a neighbor (Luke, chapter 10, verses 25-37).

So what does caring for someone when they need help have to do with anything? Could this have any relevance to the health care debate? Does Jesus think we owe our brothers and sisters health care, care only when they are beat up, or no care at all? Well at the end of this silly “Good Samaritan” story Jesus goes on to conclude that not only is “C”the correct answer but to:
“.. now go and do the same."
If not through the government than by whom? Jesus - a liberal, socialist, big-government, take away your property, kind of guy!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Scoring Points with Jesus

I was going to write a positive blog, really, I was. I went to find the story on our newspaper’s website, and gosh darn it, there was a response to it that begs for a comment. It’s too long to post here, but the article the comment can be found here. My response to Mr. Pampell is as follows:

This outrage Mr. Pampell feels has probably more to do with the pain he is experiencing as his greed beats into submission what is left of his humanity then the improper use of one of Jesus’ teachings by Pastor Idom.

If the stories and parables in the bible, especially in the new testament, are not to be used in our daily lives to better ourselves and thus bring us closer to God, then what possible reason is there for reading the bible or going to church? Apparently to some, when Jesus’ words run contrary to what they want then they either shoot the messenger or twist them to bring them in line. Pastor Idom used this story as a means of testing the validity of what we was thinking with how he should be thinking. When he was honest with himself, he concluded that his opposition was not in line with how he thinks God would expect him to behave.

The idea that God’s gifts to Mr. Pampell and his like - in the form of property - are being stolen to pay for health care shows exactly how high material possessions are placed in his obligation to his fellow man. Apparently all we need to do is pray harder for those that are not insured, and trust in our churches to come to the rescue. News flash, if “philanthropy, compassion, and consideration” were in abundant supply we would not be in this predicament. The fact that one can “walk into any emergency room in need of medical care, and you shall receive it, regardless of your ability to pay” is not a health care system. Who does Mr. Pampell think pays for this service? God?

It comes down to this. We have a system that does not provide equal health care to all. We have a health care system that will cause some people to go without, wait until it is too late, or cause financial ruin. So the question becomes do I have an obligation to them? And, if you include the Jesus element, are these not my neighbor he speaks about in the Good Samaritan parable? Its not robbing you to ask you to contribute to the same system you will access and use.

I, like Pastor Idom, believe I have an obligation to care for my fellow man. We are not talking about giving them access to power, or a bridge, or art, or a road. We are talking about health care for all – before you need it and when you need it, access that is not encumbered by fear of hurting ones family because of the cost. Whether the church will pay for it through my tithe, I pay for it out of philanthropy, or I pay for it in the form of a tax, one way or another all my fellow brothers and sisters must have the same care necessary to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And liberty for all, unless you have a pre-exsisting illness

I was going to take a different approach this month and write about positive people or people that lead an honest and humanistic life. But, nooooooooo, I gotta hear a comment that just begs for a response.

Amanda Terresi of Liberty on the Rocks, a libertarian social group, was interviewed regarding Obama’s health care speech last night on NPRs Morning Addition "Groups React To Obama's Health Care Speech"
The idea is that it is health insurance. The concept of insurance is that you get it before you become sick or before something happens to you. It is equivalent to not having any car insurance, hitting a tree, and calling Geico and saying you want to sign up.
Lady, you are an idiot.

To deny those with pre-existing illness the opportunity to receive care because they are asking to get into it late in the game shows a real lack of sensitivity let alone an ignorance of how insurance is supposed to work.

Pre-existing illness is not the equivalent of how car insurance works. I am supposed to have car insurance, and if I am denied, it becomes nothing more than an inconvenience or I can play the odds and go without. But if I have an illness and am denied coverage, my options are to be rich enough to take care of it myself, poor enough to have the government pay for it, find a generous benefactor, go without, or go bankrupt.

Our present system offers very little security to those that are dependent on the whims and humanity of their employer and health insurance provider. If I hit a tree without insurance I end up with a messed up car, but if I get a heart attack without insurance, my care will be paid for by someone – you in the form of higher premiums or by the government in the form of taxes. That is the bottom line. Or, I suppose you can say “it sucks being you” and just let me die.

At the beginning, the payouts will be greater than the take. After a while, it will balance out as the “healthy” pay more in then the sick. That is how insurance is supposed to work. I pay into a car insurance pot that I have never used in 30 years. I do this to protect myself in case I need it. All that money given is used to pay for others that because of bad luck, stupidity, or an act of God needed to use it.

We need a health insurance program that everyone pays into, that is guaranteed to provide the necessary health care one needs, and is affordable. This is doable, but as long as the Amanda’s of the world want to think about only themselves, we will continue to have piss-poor health and unnecessary bankruptcies.

You do not preserve liberty by denying life or the pursuit of happiness to those unfortunate enough to be sick. There is no choice but to include everyone into the fold. To do anything less is to say their life is not worth the cost. And that my good Amanda is unacceptable in the America I want to live in.