Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “health care”

I’m Tired – Tom Rossi

I’m tired of politics. I’m so tired. There are people (and more importantly money) out there that think that making sure all Americans can get health care is a bad thing. They say that curtailing Iran’s nuclear capabilities instead of just bombing them into oblivion is a bad thing. They think that helping needy people, including the veterans of our bullshit mercenary wars and their families, to get a little food is a bad thing.

How can we progress as a nation when so many people (and so much power) really want to go backwards? It’s depressing. But, there are so many good things in life. And for all the bad things that I’ve been through, I have to say that I’m one of the lucky ones. There is a whole lot of good in my life, and most of that good is the best kind of good – the people that are near and dear to me.

In fact (and this may come as a surprise) we, as a nation, have set aside a whole day to celebrate just what I’m talking about! It’s called (are you ready for this?) Thanksgiving.

Now the history of Thanksgiving has probably been just a tad distorted (ahem). But Thanksgiving, unlike Christmas, has actually improved over the past two-and-a-half centuries. Instead of becoming a commercial orgy of excess, it’s more about family and loved ones than ever. So, with this week’s post, I’m just going to relax and think about my favorite subject…

Food.

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realthanksgiving

thanksgivingcornucopia

simpsons

Hells+Angels+Volunteers+Prepare+Thanksgiving+0Kuy6KkLMiCl

If this were the "Restaurant at the End of the Universe", the sign would say, "Please Eat Me."

If this were the “Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, the sign would say, “Please Eat Me.”

Soup_Kitchen_013_full

poor-man-eating-in-soup-kitchen-1

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Happy Thanksgiving.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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What’s In A Name – Obamacare, Shutdown, Blackmail, Extortion.

Tom kind of stole my post with his excellent Whose Shutdown Is It Anyway. Here are two memorable quotes.

“John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Fox “News”, and just about every Republican politician out there is trying to pin this shutdown on President Obama. This is due to the fact that Obama stubbornly refuses to accept a Republican-crafted budget that takes away the funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Obama and other Democrats worked for years to make the law of the land.”

“It’s OK to disagree about this. It’s OK to hold the opinion that Obamacare is a bad thing. But don’t shut down the government and then claim it was the other guys’ doing. Though we can continue to debate health care, out here in the world, the law has passed. We supposedly have majority rule in this country, and the majority want serious health-care reform, and the majority made Obamacare the law.“ 

imagesI really want to hear from a coherent, thinking Republican (and there are plenty around to be fair), how s/he can justify shutting down the government to object to a democratically passed law? And how can our representatives have the audacity to deny government workers a salary, but continue to pay themselves? Leading by example? I think not.

But there was one thing that stood out for me and, as I listened to various radio stations, read a couple of articles, it occurred to me, that the President and the Democratic Party have lost the war on language.

Look again at the two exerts above. One talks about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while the other mentions Obamacare. One of the biggest mistakes this government made was to use and allow the use of the term Obamacare. I have yet to hear someone offer a coherent opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act without using the term Obamacare, and using it often. 

images-1It makes for a nice legacy and might flatter our leader, but democrats should refuse to use the word. Every time a Republican uses that term, they should stop him/her and ask that the correct term is used. It’s easy. Just ask what Obamacare is.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is not defined as only for democrats. It is an essential tool to offer what is a basic human right: healthcare without personal bankruptcy. 

If we are going to discuss language, how about ditching the Government Shutdown – if this was a union, we would be calling it a strike. So the Republicans have gone on strike. Good luck dealing with labor disputes in the future!

And while we are at it, perhaps there are a few other words we might want to begin using to describe the shutdown: how about blackmail and extortion? Maybe callousness and immunity to suffering?

Not that I’m in favor of inflammatory rhetoric or imagery. Who had the audacity to design this? Thankfully, let it be said, many Republicans have come out against the comparisons of President Obama to Hitler. 

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Bk 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

Whose Shutdown is it, Anyway? – Tom Rossi

The “debate” rages on. Are 1+1 really 2? Or are they 3? Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear sh… Oh, forget it.

Here’s the “debate”: I want to cut off your legs with a chainsaw. What’s that? You don’t want to talk it over? You don’t want to sit down and negotiate? Hmmm… Well, let’s try something less extreme. I want you to give me 25% of your paycheck… every month. Whaaaaat? You don’t want to talk about that either??? Well, YOU are obviously the problem.

tom-toles-obamacare

John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Fox “News”, and just about every Republican politician out there is trying to pin this shutdown on President Obama. This is due to the fact that Obama stubbornly refuses to accept a Republican-crafted budget that takes away the funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Obama and other Democrats worked for years to make the law of the land.

cryingboehner

The right-wing wants Obama to just turn around, let go of victory, and be defeated. And they want the same from the American people. Republicans (publicly, anyway) agree that health costs are out of control. But instead of making it cheaper for people, they want doctors and especially big medical businesses to be largely free from lawsuits, even when they do something terribly wrong.

Obamacare may only be a B- victory for the average citizen of the United States, but it’s all we’re going to get. We will not have “single payer” health care within the foreseeable future (unfortunately) so we have to hold on to our hard-won compromise like grim death.

obamacare card

It’s OK to disagree about this. It’s OK to hold the opinion that Obamacare is a bad thing. But don’t shut down the government and then claim it was the other guys’ doing. Though we can continue to debate health care, out here in the world, the law has passed. We supposedly have majority rule in this country, and the majority want serious health-care reform, and the majority made Obamacare the law.

Obamacare-face-full

As a nation, we badly need to grow up. Countries with nowhere near our natural resource base have thriving economies and universal health care. Obamacare is an imperfect compromise, but a reasonable one. Let’s get on with our lives… and our health.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Universal Healthcare – It Baffles Me

This is the third post in a series of fundamental changes we can and should make to have a lasting effect on our society. Last week I covered gun control and made many friends in the past week from the NRA. Now I want to turn my attention to healthcare.

I was born and bred in England, so please excuse me. You enjoy Downton Abbey, The Beatles, and got excited over young Prince George of Cambridge, so don’t pretend we don’t know what we’re doing.

images-3There seems to me that there are certain entitlements if you play the game. By playing the game, I mean work, pay your taxes, and don’t break the laws. In return, your country protects you from foreign invaders who want the rights to Downton Abbey and free season tickets to Manchester United games, give you a sound education so that you can step up in life, and take care of you when you are sick.

The protection and health care are part of what you invest in a social infrastructure as part of paying your taxes. Your soccer tickets are your own problem, but life isn’t perfect. As much as we complain about the National Health System (NHS), and it is far from perfect, there is no such thing as a person going without medical treatment, or losing all their savings to help a family member receive the treatment they need to stay alive.

How is this possible if Brits don’t pay more taxes than Americans? The answer is that the pharmaceutical companies and the medical supplies companies don’t make the astounding profits that are made in this country.

images-4It is greed that is preventing good-standing Americans from receiving what is theirs. Every American is entitled to access to healthcare. It baffles me how this is not accepted. There is no family in America (correct me if I’m wrong) wherein every family member is perfectly healthy and has no need of medical help.

It is a universal need and should therefore be universally accessible.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  For more about the author, check out his website.

No More Tears? – Tom Rossi

I was just watching a “news” special, that smacked of being paid for, like many, seemingly real, news segments are, about eye health. It featured a series of ophthalmologists and optometrists that offered advice on various issues of the eye.

Some of these issues were serious, like macular degeneration. But a somewhat lengthy segment was about “chronic dry eye syndrome.”

The doctors offered several solutions to this irritating, and sometimes painful, problem – pills, operations… the usual medical stuff. But let me tell you about when I went to see an ophthalmologist about this type of problem.

bloodshot

My eyes were dry, itchy, and actually painful, in a half-achy, half-sharp sort of way. I was having trouble focusing on written words, and reading was getting to be really difficult. The ophthalmologist I went to was very young… I’d say she had probably graduated from med school within the last five years, at the most. She examined me thoroughly, listened to my descriptions, and then uttered an utter blasphemy – “Go home and put a hot, damp washcloth on your forehead and eyes for 15 minutes, three times a day, for three weeks.”

What?!?!? No pills? No surgery? No scheduled return visit? Are you insane? OK, I didn’t ask her that last one, but I incredulously asked, “Are you sure?” She said, “Yes.” I told her that the pharmaceutical companies would have her head. She laughed and agreed.

pills1

My wife had been having similar symptoms, and so we tried the “treatment” together… and it worked. I was stunned, for several reasons. First, that such a simple regimen had fixed my problem. But most importantly, that my doctor had been willing to ignore what I call the “Pill Imperative.” She had also not even mentioned surgery at all.

My ophthalmologist’s treatment for this condition wasn’t supposed to be a one-time, permanent cure. It has to be repeated, every once in a while. But to tell the truth, neither my wife nor I followed the plan to the letter, and it still worked. We did about half the recommended hot washcloth treatments, and now do it about once every two months, or so.

I’ve decided not to give my doctor’s name, here, because I actually do think that it could bring negative attention to her from various medical regulatory bodies and/or pharmaceutical companies. But this episode illuminates a basic problem with our health care “system.”

Don't be a zombie.

Don’t be a zombie.

What’s wrong with our health care “system?” First, it’s not a “system” at all – it’s a bucket full of independent particles, more a gas than a fluid, each of which mainly exists to make money. There is a lot of good, of course. Many of those particles, while making money, do an excellent job and some of them actually care about people’s health. But what seems like a majority of doctors are all too ready to prescribe pills or surgery for almost any problem that a patient might have. Sometimes, this is due to an ignorant patient attitude, expecting pills and even, thanks to ridiculous advertizing on television, asking for medications by brand name.

Profits get sucked out of patients and insurance companies at several layers of the health care process, pushing the costs through the clouds, even while our bodies are increasingly assaulted by man-made toxins in the environment and in our food and water. These profits often leads to changes in the decision-making process concerning a patient’s care. Changes that are not based on the patient’s best interest.

The treatment prescribed by my ophthalmologist certainly won’t work for everyone. Sometimes pills and/or surgery are necessary or even urgent. There are many cases where an “alternative medicine” treatment just won’t get the job done, and could even cause a dangerous delay in getting the real medical attention that is needed.

But, in many cases, the first line of defense could be something simple and almost free. If you suffer from dry eyes, for example, you probably won’t die if you take a week or two to try this alternative treatment. Give it a shot, and if it doesn’t work, then you can go to a doctor and spend a bunch of money.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Doesn’t Shooting Osama bin Laden Deserve A Pension?

When I saw all the coverage regarding the U.S. Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden, I assumed we are in for some hyperbole. But I soon realized that what he is now experiencing what I have been writing about for some time, and what was the inspiration in writing Unwanted Heroes.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

The former SEAL who is identified as The Shooter’ claims in an interview with Esquire, that the U.S. government has abandoned him since he left the military last fall. His drive to spotlight how some of the U.S. military’s most accomplished soldiers are treated once they return to civilian life, is sad and a shame. He received no money for the interview.

But I wish to stress that whether you killed the world’s most-wanted terrorist or were any other cog in our huge military machine the issues of pension, health care, and protection for himself and his family, are the same. 

“…my health care for me and my family stopped. I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You’re out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your 16 years. Go f— yourself.”

It seems like the military did not appreciate “The Shooter” leaving the military four years  before the 20-year requirement for retirement benefits. They invested considerable time and money into training him and could have expected a few more missions as the return on investment.

Esquire understands that “the government provides 180 days of transitional health care benefits, but the Shooter was ineligible because he did not agree to remain on active duty in a support role or become a “reservist.” The magazine optimistically suggests that his weight will be at least eight months, though we know this can be much longer.

The hyperbole surrounding this SEAL is important. Leveraging his status to highlight the way we fail our soldiers when they return is an opportunity no activist would turn away from. As I mentioned, I hope he receives what he needs and in a timely fashion. But I also hope it will serve all army veterans and their need for swift help transitioning into civilian life.

When a young man or woman makes the decision to serve his/her country, s/he and their family need to understand that their country will stand by them and not discard them as a resource on a conveyor belt.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  

Is Justice Roberts a Friend to Health Care? – Tom Rossi

Writers, pundits, television reporters, everyone in any kind of media, even those thought of as “liberal,” have all taken Justice John Roberts’ apparent break from the conservative cabal on the Supreme Court at face value. I’m shocked at the lack of conspiracy theories on this and, frankly, I’m bored.

The term “conspiracy theory” is used to instantly discredit an idea by ridiculing it as crackpot-ish. America is in love with the image of the lone, crazed individual, just like it’s in love with rugged individualism.

Fiction, not reality!

And we would love to think that Justice Roberts somehow and suddenly saw the light of reason, that he realized the importance of health care availability or, as Robert Reich said, the importance of the court’s public image. But Citizens United and Justice Alito’s subsequent mouthed denial of any reversal of precedent (at President Obama’s State of the Union Address) make those explanations seem unlikely.

There has been plenty of evidence that Justice Roberts and the other, even more hard-line right-wing ideologues on the Supreme Court bench have taken their marching orders from conservative strategists. In the Citizens United decision, the conservative members of the court took the opportunity to form a new doctrine that far overreached the case that had been presented to it.

Let me be clear about Citizens United and the Supreme Court – the aggravating thing wasn’t so much that the court found for what I or “liberals” would consider the “wrong side.” It was that the conservative wing of the court took a very narrow case with specific issues, and generalized the ruling in an expansive and even illogical way. It was as if they were called upon to rule on whether a runner had beaten the throw to first base and was therefore safe, but they also ruled that umpires could fly kites during the game and that the fans could wear blue on Tuesdays but not Wednesdays.

There is really no explanation for this other than that these justices were granting an unpublished (but obvious) corporate “wish list.” And even though I’ve semi-conflated “conservatives” and corporations, this, along with the outrage of everyday, non-super-wealthy conservatives, showed exactly who or what was being served.

This leads me to wonder about this mysterious decision on so-called “Obamacare.” Could this have been a strategy by conservatives? Could this have been an attempt to tip the scales in favor of Mitt Romney and other conservatives (who all vow to eliminate Obamacare) running for congress in November, 2012?

The following method is somewhat teleological, but let’s try to figure out how such a strategy would best be implemented in this case. It wouldn’t be shrewd to have all the conservative justices side with the legitimacy of Obamacare, that would give it real credibility. Much better to have one wildcat, one rogue justice who split, leaving conservatives in their cherished victim role.

And, in fact, it was Justice Roberts who was to write the majority opinion for this case. How different might it have been if Justice Sotomayor had written it? Or Justice Breyer? Roberts allowed the central principle of Obamacare to stand, the individual mandate, by calling it that dirtiest of words… a tax. In fact, he implied that it was a tax used as a punishment.

Within minutes, the Republicans, Senators, Representatives, governors, and the rare Republican bathroom attendants were crying: “Tax!” “Tax on the middle class!” I can’t say if this was prepared before-hand, or if it was deliberately orchestrated, but it was like the freakin’ Mormon Tabernacle Choir – perfect unison.

I don’t know what really happened inside or outside Justice Roberts’ round little head, but given what he and his court have done so far – followed an astonishingly blatant, conservative activist agenda while decimating the rule of law, I’m suspicious.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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All I Want For Xmas Is To Reform Congress

Warren Buffet recently offered a great perspective regarding the debt ceiling:

“I could end the deficit in five minutes,” he told CNBC. “You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election. The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971…before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land…all because of
public pressure.”

Warren Buffet

Given the connections created through the Internet, it shouldn’t take long for everyone in the US to read and get behind this concept.

*Congressional Reform Act of 2011*

1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2.  Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should
serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

What this act would suggest is that congressmen and women are part of our society, not above it. How can they manage a health plan, pension or social security, when they do not participate in the model? How can you understand the fear and uncertainty regarding the job market when you sign on to a gravy train?

Probably a great guy to hang with in a cafe

My favorite line is: Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. It is an honor to be entrusted by the people with such responsibility. It is time Congress acknowledged and respected this honor.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

Bipartisan Rant: Thank You, I’m Not Alone (by Roger Ingalls)

Often, my head and heart burn with frustration when I can’t find the words or intensity to express myself. Like many people, I have complex thoughts, little spare time and no soapbox to pair vocal-passion with words.

Every once in awhile someone comes along and says exactly what I want to scream to the world. This gift was given to me on Tuesday. My eyes teared-up as I said to myself, “thank you…I’m not alone”.

In a rare bipartisan rant, Dylan Ratigan let all sides have it during his MSNBC show.

I implore you – the readers of this post – to watch this four minute video. It will make you smarter and hopefully move you.

This is the shortest post I’ve written, I can’t add anything to what Dylan Ratigan said. Every point he made was a homerun.

I take solace knowing others see the world as I do and, oddly, it’s comforting to see the growing frustration. Frustration will eventually lead to action.

A change is gonna come!

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Roger Ingalls is well travelled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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