Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gang of 6: dirty insurance money

I did not write the following, but I agree with every word of it and add my voice in urging you to take action.

Dear Friends,

Have you heard about the six senators who are out to kill health care reform? Of course, that's not how they'd phrase it. Sens. Baucus, Bingaman, Conrad, Enzi, Grassley and Snowe say they're striving for "bi-partisan compromise." But what they're actually doing is working to make sure reform won't include a public option or mandatory employer-based insurance - two key policies needed for effective reform.

My personal view is that best patient outcomes at lowest cost is logically incompatible with for-profit service delivery and for-profit health insurance. Without a strong public option to begin eroding the advantages of private health insurance, no meaningful change will occur.(PMG)

There are 100 members of the Senate, but these six, inexplicably, seem to be holding all the cards when it comes to health care. So you probably won't be surprised to learn that all six have taken a huge amount of money from the health insurance industry and pharma - more than $3 million between them.

These six senators -- who, by the way, represent only 2.74% of Americans between them -- are writing bad policy, and they're doing it while they take money from the very companies who stand to benefit the most.

I just signed a petition to tell the "Gang of 6" to give back every dime of their dirty insurance money. I hope you will, too. Please have a look and take action.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Our Nation's Feet of Iron and Clay

I'm overwhelmed with a mixture of nausea, pity, and horror when I read things like this (link below). The religious right -- the people who believe and distribute this kind of excrement -- is the faulty foundational substance that is poised to result in the collapse of our nation. The obstinate perseverence with which this segment of our population refuses to use their minds appalls me, as does their willingness to consume, unquestioned, the decaying refuse that is fed to them by their so-called spiritual leaders. If someone wants to argue against the currently proposed healthcare reform bill, there are plenty of reasonable, rational angles from which to attack it. It's so much easier, however, to be told that something is an absolute evil than to have to recognize and accept shades of grey. Absolutes are simple, elegant, easy... dilusions.


Here is the response that I posted on Facebook (I reigned myself in a bit and directed it towards the likely target audience. Maybe tomorrow I'll add more... without reserve):

I have nothing but respect for [the person that posted this link], but it would be irresponsible of me as a physician to hold my tongue. This article is an example of the worst kind of destructive and misleading rhetoric. It attempts to prey on the emotions and spiritual sensitivities of its target audience while ignoring the truly important facts of the matter. It talks of putting healthcare decisions in the hands of bureaucrats while ignoring the fact that in the current system, decisions regarding your medical care are made by private insurance companies. In the current system, physicians are NOT at liberty to treat you as they see fit, primarily due to the evils of the private health insurance companies. And I assure you, that if you're concerned that the government doesn't have your best interests at heart, the for-profit insurance are even less interested in your health; they are interested in your money and in NOT paying that money out when you're sick. Please DO NOT trust articles such as this just because they are coming from a pastor. If history has taught us anything about the church and its shepherds, it is that they are human and that they are as corruptible as any other human. Examine the facts. Look at the numbers. Look at the millions (46.6 million, approximately) of uninsuredAmericans who are suffering every day. If you have never lived in a poor city, such as New Orleans or Albuquerque (I've now lived in both) and seen the horrors wrought on the health and lives of the uninsured poor, do some research before you let a pastor's article on a website make up your minds about what is or isn't best for the country as a whole. Consider the amount of time Jesus spent promoting health for the poor and the words that he had for those who preyed upon them (think of today's insurance companies as vaguely equivalent to Judea's corrupt tax collectors). I know I can't convince anyone of anything. however, I do hope to remind people to use their minds... the minds that God gave them. Think critically. Look at the evidence. Our minds are equipped to examine issues in detail and it would be a slap in the face of the creator of these minds to just accept ANYTHING that is handed to us on a plate. Use that organ of consciousness andcreativity to dig deep, think hard, and make sure that what you're reading (regardless of where you're reading it -- including right here), jives with the common sense and skills of logic that are part of your legacy as members of the human race.

On a side note, I am personally very upset at Mr. Joyner's (mis)use of Tolkien's character Gandalf. Examination of Tolkien's writings make it clear that he did not want his works to be seen as spiritual allegories, and that the evil powers in his books are, if anything, representative of the military-industrial complex and the way in which it destroys the environment and oppresses the poor.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Listening to Lolita in Pittsburgh

Every morning I make my way from the little sub-leased apartment in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh to the Shadyside campus of the UPMC hospital system. There is a shuttle that stops in front of the UPMC medical school building (just a few blocks from my apartment) and after weaving a circuitous route through the streets of Oakland and Shadyside, leaves me within a few hundred feet of my temporary workplace. The shuttle is supposed to make the run (round-trip) once every thirty minutes. It is not entirely reliable. I often find myself waiting at one end of the route or the other for more than the theoretical maximum wait time of 30 minutes. This has led me, on numerous occasions, to forsake the hope of free transport and either take the city bus (at a cost of $2.00 per trip) or walk. The bus takes ten minutes and requires a seven-minute walk on the apartment end of the route. To walk from apartment to work (or vice versa) takes approximately thirty-two minutes (slightly longer when apartment-bound than when work-bound, as the route home is predominantly up-hill). Regardless of the means by which I achieve my destination, however, I have taken to spending the transit time listening to recorded books on my mp3 player—or rather (thus far), to one particular book: Vladimr Nabokov's Lolita. I had been listening to it at home before leaving Albuquerque, typically while cleaning the kitchen, cooking dinner, or preparing for work in the morning. When I arrived in Pittsburgh I had made it about half-way through the book. On my first morning in Pittsburgh I rode the shuttle to Shadyside and did not have my mp3 player along. The radio in the shuttle was tuned to a conservative right-wing AM radio talk show of the Limbaugh type and the volume was set to a very high level, such that it was almost impossible to ignore the nauseating inanities that were being broadcast. I suppose that it is good for me to be reminded, once in a while, that such horrific varieties of baseless propaganda are infecting the airwaves and being eagerly swallowed by a large number of people; it inspires a little more sympathy for the misguided listeners and a greater disgust for the promoters and propogators. Subsequent to that unpleasant exposure to one of the darker facets of American media, I was careful to carry my mp3 player and with the help of noise-isolating earbuds I am able to replace the amplitude modulated distribution of the worst of republican sentiments (forgive me Mr. Lincoln; I think that you, were you here now, would be quick to disown your grand old party) with a completely different strain of shocking spoken words: Professor Humbert Humbert's eloquent account of his own pedarastic misadventures and sincere, though ever so perverted, obsessive affections for the titular character. I have been aware of the general story of Lolita for probably at least fifteen years, and it was about ten years ago that I first saw the Kubrick's film of the story. Two years or so ago my mother suggested that I read Reading Lolita in Tehran. I told her that I didn't think I should do so without first reading Lolita, and she replied that she had not read Lolita and really had no interest in doing so, and that Azar Nafisi's book could be read and thoroughly appreciated independent of Nabokov's infamous novel. Still, I had my doubts and decided to postpone Reading Lolita in Tehran (perhaps I will do so some time soon). Knowing the story of Lolita in advance has eliminated any elements of surprise at the components of the story, and though I'm not surprised by the quality of the writing either, I am certainly impressed. I have seldom felt so entirely immersed in a character's psyche. To be able to feel incite so much sympathy--and even empathy--for a character whose appetites are so socially unacceptable and whose actions to fulfill those appetites are so abusive is, in my opinion, a mark of mastery in an author. The first time I can remember encountering such a well-crafted dispicable character was when I found myself contriving and manipulating along with Claude Frollo, the archdeacon in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. There have been many characters with whom I've felt bonds of similar strength, but it is rare that a character is so perfectly formed as to take possession of my mind in spite of overt idealogical or psychological traits that are in clear opposition to my own (or at least to those that I am able to recognize in myself). I still have a few chapters left to Lolita. When I have finished it I have another recorded book queued up and ready to help me pleasantly pass the travel time between apartment and work. It's another similarly light-hearted frolic, I expect: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next.