Category Archives: soap box

100 Years of Healthcare Debate

 

 

Although neither has been remembered kindly by history, Vietnam and Watergate forever tarnishing our memories of them, both Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon left very successful domestic legacies. Johnson’s War on Poverty helped millions, Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency, and both were instrumental in many of the civil rights gains and anti-discrimination laws of the time.

They also both understood the importance of healthcare, Johnson establishing Medicare in 1965 and Nixon expanding the program to those under 65 with long term disabilities in 1972.

They weren’t the first US Presidents to understand the need to help the uninsured. Republican Teddy Roosevelt called for a national health insurance system in 1912 but had almost all of his progressive policies blocked by an obstructionist congress. During his second term Democrat Harry Truman attempted the same, with the same result.

A smaller part of that bill signed by Johnson, mostly ignored at the time, was something called Medicaid, a program designed to provide federal funding help for state level assistance to those unable to obtain private health insurance. It goes by different names in each state, with different qualifying criteria and coverages, but the goal is the same – a means for unemployed, underemployed, disadvantaged and lower income people to have access to preventative and primary healthcare. It’s used in one form or another by one in five Americans at some point in their life and four out of ten children.  Under the Affordable Care Act, ( Obamacare ),  legislation influenced heavily by failed Republican proposals in the mid 1990s, eleven million people were added in the 32 states that chose to participate in the law’s expansion of eligibility.

Over a hundred  years of debate, entire political parties and even individual lawmakers repeatedly changing positions and unable to come to consensus on whether access to healthcare is a “right” or a “privilege”, failure to agree on what burden society as a whole should take on to ensure that access. Unable to fully decide whether or not they actually give a damn about the people they were elected to represent.

In the meantime we continue to get sicker.  The United States ranks dead last among the fifteen wealthiest nations when it comes to life expectancy, infant mortality rates and rates of chronic illness.

The good news, if you’re a stockholder that is, is that insurance companies continue to get richer. Sixty percent of Americans still receive their insurance through their employer but these costs and the amount expected to be contributed by employees towards these costs have increased every year for the past decade. Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and United Health Group, the five biggest for-profit insurers had a combined 4.5 billion dollars in net earnings for the first quarter of 2017.

Aetna, Humana and United Health are all leaving or have left the ACA exchanges now that sick people are actually going to the doctors and not being able to be denied for pesky things like pre-existing conditions. The other companies are making up for this lost money by raising premiums for Obamacare customers that don’t qualify for government subsidies by 25%, a number that was announced just prior to last year’s election.

It’s an absolute disgrace. I currently pay over $500.00 a month to insure my family of four and despite that, despite the fact that we are all blessedly healthy, outstanding healthcare bills now account for 30% of our total debt. When my daughter needed stitches in her chin the cost to me was significant enough to alter our summer plans. Seven stitches, placed not by a specialist but a physician’s assistant, at the hospital that I have worked at for almost twenty five years.

I cringe typing those words, aware of how incredibly fortunate I am to have that be our only sacrifice. It never occurred to me not to bring her in, but for a lot of families that would be a legitimate consideration. The number of yearly bankruptcies that are directly related to health care bills is impossible to verify and widely debated, but is accepted by most as being the highest precipitator.

We live in a country where millions remain uninsured, where those that have insurance are paying more and more while receiving less and less in return. Of those fifteen nations I referenced earlier, America is also dead last in doctor’s appointments made and kept. Those five insurance companies mentioned have spent 6.2 million dollars in government lobbying so far this year, pushing a new plan that seems to benefit absolutely nobody outside of their board rooms and a few mean old rich guys.

A hundred years after identifying the problem and we still can’t seem to get our act together, affordable or otherwise, and decide that taking care of sick people needs to be a national priority.

 

My Random Musings

Beaten For Helping

 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before : misunderstanding leads to a guy being falsely accused of something, his picture gets spread all over social media, and his life is ruined.

Chances are you’ve heard it several times. There was the guy in British Columbia that forgot his glasses and was holding his phone at arm’s length to try and read something. Several girls thought he was taking their picture, snapped his, and shared it all over the internet with warnings about the town pervert.

There was the guy in Melbourne that stopped to take a selfie with a Darth Vader cutout in Target and was accused of the same, a Frozen display and several young girls somewhere in the vicinity. Both men spending months subjected to harassment and death threats while trying to clear their names and reputations.

Add to that list a Lakeland, Florida man who’s name, picture, phone number, place of employment, and family have been going viral this week, warnings made to watch out for him and to keep him away from children all over the internet.

His crime was to pick up a two year old girl, lost and upset in the crowd of a busy sports complex, calm her down, and begin asking people in the vicinity if anybody knew who her parent’s were. Before finding them however, the girl’s father and two of his buddies found them. Besides having his name and reputation smeared to the point where he moved his family into hiding, the Good Samaritan, a father himself,  got a tooth knocked out, his face split open, and a half dozen punches to the head for his trouble.

The girl’s family and friends, originators of not only the physical assault but the online one, are not only ungrateful but unrepentant, still convinced there was foul play intended despite the overwhelming number of witnesses that dispute that claim. As much as I can relate to their original panic and join everybody else that is happy the girl was returned to them unharmed, I have issue with their claim that this end result is “all that really matters.”

Its not all that matters. The man’s face and reputation matter. The continual sharing of things seen on-line with no effort put into determining the truth matters. The fact that this would have never happened if it had been a woman helping the little girl matters. The insane idea that any man talking to a little girl he doesn’t know must have nefarious purposes matters. The fear that next time it might be my little girl that goes un-helped because male bystanders are afraid to get involved matters to me quite a bit.

We already feel it. A little girl asks for a push on the swing or a lift up a ladder at the park and we freeze, looking around frantically for the kid’s parents. My daughter is old enough to not really care all that much where I am at the park, but every so often I make sure to talk to her, not to reassure her, but to make sure others are aware that I have a child present.

I’ve said before that parenting is a terrifying experience, the world a very scary place. Vigilance is necessary.

Paranoia is not.  I will do everything in  my power to make sure that I am there every time that my little girl needs me, but I know that for all my good intentions this may not always be the case. If she is ever lost, scared or hurt, please guys. Help her.

 

 

Social Media and Teenage Stupidity

 

MGM/UA Entertainment

 

As sympathetic as I try to be towards the tribulations of other parents, I have no problem admitting to a preference that  my “teachable moments” originate from consequences suffered by other people’s children.

This past week offered just such an opportunity, a conversation with the teenager initiated by the news that Harvard had rescinded offers to at least ten potential new students for the crime of sharing memes that the Admissions Committee deemed too offensive. They had been posted in a private Facebook group called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” The university cited its right to withdraw offers “if an admitted student engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, morality, or moral character.”

I won’t share the memes here, but if you want to find them it’s not difficult. They’re pretty bad.

They’re pretty bad but to be honest, I’ve seen worse. They’re jokes. Horribly offensive ones that aren’t particularly funny, meant to shock and push back against political correctness.  They are purposefully cringe worthy, competitions  common where people vote on which are the most “dank”. I’m sure that it never crossed any of these kid’s minds that these actions could be considered bad enough to lose the right to attend a school that only accepted 5.2 % of applicants to the class of 2021.

It’s an important lesson, online presence something that more and more employers and universities are paying attention to. Whether fair or not, opinions about a person are being formed by what they post and share on social media. I asked the teenager who she would be more willing to hire if two applicants had similar qualifications, the one that posts pictures of her dog on Instagram or the one tweeting about how wasted they got the night before?

As important as it is for teens to use a little more common sense before hitting the “send’ button,  it’s equally important for those doing the judging to use it. Teenagers can be incredibly stupid and naive. It was true when I was one, when you were one, and when my youngest gets to be that age I have no doubt that she will have me shaking my head in consternation often.  What the people at Harvard missed was that these memes were being shared precisely because they were considered offensive. This is evidence of poor judgement but also shows that they are not indicative of the true feelings of the posters.

It’s a hard balance to find, as with all aspects of raising teenagers. Accountability must be taught but they also need to be allowed to make mistakes, to learn from them. Very few of us get to be be responsible adults without first spending time as stupid kids, doing stupid things.

Things become even more problematic when stupid adults try and legislate stupid teen behavior. With the intention of fighting child pornography, a laudable idea, the US House of Representatives has voted to mandate a fifteen year mandatory minimum sentence for anybody who shares sexually explicit photos of a minor.

Besides being against the idea of mandatory sentencing in general, I’m also unable to comprehend how it never occurred to any of these brilliant lawmakers that the law as currently written doesn’t exclude minors, the very people it is intended to protect.

That means a young girl who sends a picture of her boobs to her high school boyfriend could go to jail for fifteen years. If that boyfriend asks for a picture that is solicitation, fifteen years. If one of the boyfriend’s buddies told him to ask for the picture that’s conspiracy, fifteen years in federal jail.

Teenagers need to be talked to, constantly. They need to realize the consequences of their online actions and be taught to use as much common sense as we can instill. We need to use a little sometimes too.

 

 

 

 

Politicizing Tragedy

 

I spend much less time than I used to in “general population” Facebook, less time scrolling through my Timeline. Some of that is because of a migration to “groups”, smaller communities designed for actual discussion, some is due to a re-prioritization of my minimal moments with nothing more productive to be doing, and a lot of it is disillusionment. Since the election and its outcome more and more people seem to have become emboldened to share their opinions on all things societal and political, an irony that I recognize as I sit here and do exactly that.

Some of it’s my own fault. I refuse to unfriend anybody for reasons based on political or religious beliefs different from my own, no matter how tenuous my connection to them may be. I also purposefully follow and read sites and columns that I know advocate views antithetical to my own. Algorithms and partisan “news” media make it extremely easy to isolate oneself and never be exposed to opinion that doesn’t align with your own. I try and avoid falling into that habit.

Sometimes I’m disgusted by what I see. After the horrific suicide bombing earlier this week at a concert in Manchester, England there were some who felt that this was an example of karma, that twenty three year old pop singer Ariana Grande “got what was coming to her.”  The young singer had openly supported the campaign of Hillary Clinton, attended January’s Women’s March, and two years ago was quoted out of context while joking that she “hated America”  when presented with a tray of over sized fried donuts. Obviously this makes her a terrorist sympathizer who hopefully has now learned her lesson in the realities of the world. Excuse me while I go puke.

Less often are the times when I become absolutely fucking infuriated, as I did after coming across this bullshit:

 

 

I’ve never thought of myself as a liberal, preferring to cling to the belief that I am a centrist.

That doesn’t really matter, my beliefs besides the point. I’d be just as angry if I saw something from the left side blaming the President and his policies, anything that used this senseless tragedy to try and further an agenda or assign culpability. I not only pray that liberals never have to face anything like this happening to their children, I pray that conservatives, libertarians, socialists,  progressives, tea partiers and Knights of Ren never have to.

The Middle East is a complicated place, known as one of the birthplaces of civilization but also as a cradle of conflict. A region almost constantly at war since the rise of Sumer and the Early Dynastic Period of 3000 BC.  Sunni and Shiite battling for the soul of Islam since the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. From The Persian Constitutional Revolution in 1905 and its attempts at modernization to the creation of Israel in 1948 to the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, the last century nothing but shifting landscapes.

The Middle Eastern youth of today have known nothing but poverty and war. Their leaders promise them Paradise if they martyr themselves for ill defined causes and wars without borders, without care for who is targeted as long as it is done in the name of whatever group or ideology is being followed.

I don’t know what the answer is, or even if there is one. I know that only by working together, Democrat and Republican, with a combination of strategies, will we ever realize the goal that we all share – an end to the senseless violence and strategy.  Being dicks to each other and using dead children to try and build a case for your side being “right” accomplishes nothing.

 

 

 

Adrian Peterson? F That Guy

 

I’ll begin with full disclosure.  Not long after buying our house, myself, my wife and her daughter were grocery shopping and the trip wasn’t going very well.  K was around six at the time and was acting terribly, screaming at her mother for reasons that I honestly can’t recall.

Trying to get her attention, I “flicked” her ear, one of those thumb and index finger snaps that smarts for a second but isn’t intended to really hurt. She howled. She howled like I had just cut the entire lobe off. To this day I don’t know if it was pain or surprise, but my first attempt at establishing myself as a disciplinary figure was a complete failure.

Her sister was much younger when she got her surprise.  Old enough to know that she wasn’t supposed to bite, but young enough to not fully understand why.  She toddled over to me, clamped down on my forearm with more force than I’d have thought possible and seemed determined to remove a large portion.

She may have but for a reflexive smack across her bottom that surprised me as much as it did her.  She didn’t cry but her eyes and mouth both went wide.  A stern talk about not hurting others followed, the first but not last bit of hypocritical parenting that I’ve done.

 

I make these confessions because I’ve spent the last few days listening to people call into local sports talk radio and try and defend spanking as a legitimate disciplinary tool, to defend the actions of free agent running back  Adrian Peterson.  Peterson, if you aren’t aware, was suspended most of the 2014 season after accepting a plea deal with the state of Texas mandating counseling and dropping from a felony to a misdemeanor charges of child abuse.

The charges against Peterson originated because he beat his four year old son with a tree branch, causing cuts and bruises to his thighs, back, and testicles. The child told authorities that he had been previously punched in the face and that the leaves from the switch were shoved in his mouth to prevent any further crying out. This took place in Peterson’s “whooping room”, a dedicated area of the house just for punishment.

There have also been allegations of Peterson leaving a scar over another son’s eye for cursing.  His response was that he “never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.” He has yet to express any remorse of admission of wrongdoing. These are pictures of a four year old boy taken four days later.

 

AP = POS
Houston Police Department

 

I bring up a case from three years ago because Peterson is now unemployed after the Minnesota Vikings declined to pick up an $18 million option for the upcoming season, an absurd number for a 32 year old running back with a history of knee problems.

I bring up the case because over the past several days Peterson has been visiting with The New England Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl Champions. For various reasons the Patriots aren’t my team, but Boston is my city, home to my Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins. I recently wrote a piece defending it’s fans after they were generalized by several ESPN hosts as racist but I’m having a much harder time justifying  their defense of the team even taking a look at this guy. I understand wanting to win, wanting to have the best players on your team; any fan would.  I don’t understand selling your soul, rooting for an over the hill piece of garbage that should never see the field again.

 

I understand not wanting to judge another person’s parenting. We’ve all had days that we wouldn’t want paraded before the court of public opinion.

What we don’t all have, what no rational human being would have, is a “whooping room”, a collection of switches, or small children with dozens of lacerations across their legs and back. We don’t have a reason to welcome the sort of guy that does onto our favorite team.

As of this writing the Patriots haven’t signed Peterson, nor is there any real indication that they will.  I think that working him out was a bad look for a team that has a reputation, justified or not, of doing anything possible to win, but also understand that their job is to do precisely that.

That doesn’t mean that fans need to blindly accept everything done in that pursuit however.  Sports talk radio callers should never be considered a proper representation of a fan base but I’m still disgusted and saddened by what I’ve been hearing. I’m hoping that most in this area would echo the opinion of my wife, a true Patriots fan, administrator of multiple New England Sports Facebook pages, and voice of the people:

“Adrian Peterson? Fuck that guy.”

 

do the right thing pats
the true voice of Pats Nation