Dear Congress,

there’s a lot of sick people in this country. Millions, actually, are sick. I’m not sure if you were aware of this. I was shocked to find this out, myself.

No. I’m not going to be cheeky, I’m not going to go into this with sarcasm. Let’s do this full bore, in your face, with earnestness and sincerity. Let’s actually throw everything out on the ground, like a juvenile being frisked for weapons and drugs. Let us have some sense about this, for godssakes.

Let me start by saying that, first of all, nobody wants anyone to go without health care. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think there’s a single, emotionally and mentally competent member of Congress who would say “No, you can’t have healthcare because I don’t like you.” I think all can agree that healthcare is a right. But, more to the point, affordable healthcare is a right. It shouldn’t have to be a privilege. So why is it so hard to come together, and hammer something out? I’m so tired of people debating about how to do it. And I have a few thoughts on this. That’s kind of the point of me writing this blog about it, of course.

Let me mention first that there are already a few government agencies that monitor certain industries. I’m referring to the FAA, ATF, FCC, and other acronyms that escape my memory right now. Oh, well, there’s the FDA, but after frivolously banning clove cigarettes, my faith in that agency is somewhat shaken. But let’s not get into that. I’ll just start spouting profanity.

These government agencies are there to monitor large industries that have a huge effect on the population at large. To my knowledge, there isn’t an agency that is in place to monitor insurance companies, and specifically insurance companies that handle health insurance. Why not establish such an agency? The job of the government is, among other things, to protect the well-being of individual citizens, the recent supreme court decision notwithstanding. That is government’s first priority, to protect the people from Bad Things.

You could establish an agency whose job it is to make sure that companies aren’t raising premiums outrageously. This imaginary agency is an insurance watchdog. It does the kinds of things the FAA does, but with health insurance. If an insurance company has a crash and burn, the agency will be there looking for the black box to figure out what happened. I think it would be a noble venture. Kids are dying out there, Congress. The longer you screw around debating health care, the more kids will die. I’m not saying that a health insurance company isn’t within their rights to not provide coverage for experimental procedures. They are within their rights. That doesn’t make it ethical. It just makes it legal. Now, note carefully that I haven’t said a word yet about universal healthcare. I’m getting there. So, yes, an agency to monitor health insurance companies, to make sure they’re acting ethically and morally, not just legally. You folks get really moral when it comes to abortion, but once someone’s born, they’re on their own? Is that how it works? “Hey, we made sure you got born. Now go pay your taxes, young’un.”

If a regulatory agency weren’t established, it makes Universal Health Care that much more important. I know quite a few individuals in Congress are Christians. You think Jesus would turn somebody down because of a pre-existing condition? Would Jesus say “no, that’s an experimental procedure, and it won’t be covered by us.” I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I’m pretty sure the answer to that is no. Many people claim that this is a Christian nation, yet when it comes to the sick, when it comes to the infirm, the homeless….We don’t act like it. We’re awfully good at taking the Christian High Road, however, when we need rhetoric against terrorists. All blow, no wind here. It makes us look like hypocrites. More to the point, it makes all those good Christians in Congress into hypocrites when they’re more worried about the party line than about making sure children with leukemia have affordable health care and a good doctor; when mentally ill people are thrown out into the street because the mental institution they’re in isn’t getting paid to keep them, there’s something wrong with this Christian nation. This is not how Christians act. This is not what Christ would do. I’m not trying to speak for him, but I’m pretty sure he never said anything about dumping mentally disabled people out of hospitals and onto the street. Apologies for the quick tirade, but I’m tired of being CALM about this. The health care system in the United States works for a lot of people, but, and I’m going to use the airplane metaphor here again, sometimes it crashes and burns.

Here’s another thought I had, and this is regarding Universal Health Care. If you’re going to establish something like this, establish it in stages. Add it based on certain parameters of the population. You could base it on the severity of illness or physical capacity of the person. If a person is mentally ill, or has a potentially life threatening illness, they get it first. Personally, I’d recommend establishing universal health care in stages, based on age groups. Say, newborns to age 17, for starters. This would be year one of universal health care. Year two would involve establishing universal coverage for people above the retirement age. It would make sure that people past the mandatory retirement age had universal health care. After a few years of this, we could move on to everyone else.

I’m not saying we need to establish universal health care. I’m saying that it’s not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be. Just build a few less jet airplanes, a few less tanks…Manage the federal budget just a little bit better. You know? This is your basic “why can’t we do this?” issue. Of course we can do it. All this belligerent talk of it being socialism, and therefore bad, is a cop out; some people don’t want to work hard enough to make it a reality. And, as far as socialism goes…if this particular bit of socialism is to make sure kids can go to the doctor when their parents otherwise can’t afford it, how is this a bad, evil, terrible thing? The answer of course is that it’s not.

Alternately, you could establish Universal Health Care for children only, and then offer government medical loans to people once they’re of age. We do the same thing with public schools vs college.  The government could offer savings bonds; sell them to parents of children, and let them mature till the kids are 18. Let’s be creative about this, let’s really put some THOUGHT into this. It just seems that the main concern here is, how do we pay for it? Man, look at our MILITARY BUDGET. Do we really need all those planes?

At any rate, dear Congress, all that you need to get this done is to, first of all, not try to do too much too quickly. Work on health care reform in stages; this year, for example, deal with pre-existing conditions. Make it illegal for companies to not cover something because it is a pre-existing condition. Throw in a few other things as well. But that would be a good first step. Just do something, start doing something. Get off the pot already, and get moving. People are dying out there. It’s not melodramatic to say that, because it’s true.

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french roast

February 27, 2010

mmm....french roast.

mmm.....coffee...

I don’t read a great amount of news…Most of my news reading consists of reading CNN.com to make sure a nuclear weapon hasn’t gone off in a major city while I was either asleep or otherwise self-absorbed. But there’s a few things that are plainly clear to me from the various news stories I’ve read that don’t involve Tiger Woods, who in all honesty should be left alone, but that’s a rant for another time.

Firstly, the price of gasoline seems to be a major issue for people that need to find jobs. Therefore, it seems that it would be an intelligent thing to do repeal the national gas tax. I understand that there are consequences to this, with regards to the federal budget, but I’d say to this to those who would scream that it can’t be done: Nothing cannot be done unless you simply don’t want to try to make it happen. That is to say, if the status quo exists, and you do not like it, then do something about it. Do not wallow in your complacency while bad things continue to happen to good people. My thoughts are that the national gas tax was put in place at a time when gas was relatively cheap, even with inflation taken into account. Now, it is a hurtful thing that is hindering people from having the money to do things like drive to job interviews. People must choose between putting gas in their cars and buying other things with their money. The abolition of the national gas tax, and really, gas taxes in all states that have them, would go far to easing the money issues of people not fortunate enough to be in the upper echelons of a company that has recently been bailed out.

A logical question, and a sensible one, would be to ask where will the money come from then, that originally came from the national gas tax? I’d suggest cutting our huge military budget. That would not be a bad thing, as it would force the military to spend its money more wisely, and more sensibly. No more pork barrels for contractors.

See, I have an issue with the idea of these stimulus plans, because they don’t help everyone. They help some people. Repealing the national gas tax would allow people to drive more for less. Ideally, it would be nice if, in light of cheaper gas, companies rolled back the cost of items that went up because of the increase in the price of gas.  If you want things to improve in the economy you have to provide assistance in real time, for real situations. You don’t fix an ailing economy with stimulus plans designed to get companies to hire people. And, anyway, what good does it do for them to want to hire more people when some people have to choose between gas and diapers, or gas and food, or any other combination you want to try? What good does it do to have hiring incentives, when people can’t pay for gas to get to the job interviews? This is happening to people, right now. People are having to turn away from possible jobs because they can’t get to the job interviews. The national gas tax is a burden on the people that the government is trying to create jobs for. It is a burden that should be removed from the people by Congress, and the money that comes from it if it were repealed should be taken from the military budget. In all sincerity, I understand we need a strong military, but I think the country can cut military spending and put it elsewhere, and make this a stronger country overall.

At the very least, Congress should temporarily suspend the national gas tax. I know more than a few people that would be greatly relieved, and maybe it would be just what we need to get the economy rolling again.

Brain Case Part 6

February 2, 2010

I had days where hours would go by, and nothing would happen, and I was just thinking to myself. Nobody coming in to check on me at all, nothing going on outside my room, just pure quiet. Those were nice days.  There were times when I could picture my kids, and my ex wife, and my parents and sisters, all of whom I’d forbidden to see me. I think it was easier for me to deal with the idea of being a brain case than it would have been for them. Imagine seeing your loved one’s brain, floating in liquid, talking to you through speakers, and looking at you with a webcam. I don’t know, if I had to see someone like that, someone I cared about, I’d lose my shit, I think. I don’t think I’d be able to handle it, especially if it was one of my kids.

That reminds me of a story Dr Stevens told me, about this five year old that had been a brain case…It was one of her first cases. He’d been the victim of a vicious beating by his parents, severe internal injuries, the works. They took his head off his body, and connected it straight to the life support. That’s how bad his parents beat him. For some reason, they didn’t bash his head in, too. Or maybe the police just got there before they could get to it.

So this little boy survives a horrific beating, gets his head cut off and put in a suspension unit, and because they’d transferred the whole head, he couldn’t talk. So he’s suspended in solution, and after a few weeks with no body transplant, the doctors start trying to decide what to do. They’d been keeping him heavily sedated to keep him from flipping out, but you’d practically have to keep him sedated all the time, and you can’t really do that. There are ways of sedating what is essentially just a brain, but really you’re on your own. I mean, there’s no body to metabolize the sedatives or medicine or anything. They have artificial systems for that, but they only use them in the most dire of circumstances.

So, Dr Stevens is brought in to see the kid; he’d been non-responsive to visual stimuli. She goes in, and starts trying to talk to him, trying to get him to blink yes or no answers to her questions. Turns out the kid’s gone catatonic. Stevens made a point of sitting there with him, every day, for at least a few hours, until she finally got him to respond to her. She basically saved his mind. She told me that she was singing to him and all kinds of stuff, reading stories to him…The kinds of things a five year old would expect from an adult caregiver. No, there’s not going to be a kick in the nuts here like “the power at the hospital went out and he died three weeks later” or some horrible shit like that. Actually the kid got a new body, specially grown for him by a children’s foundation. Apparently it’s easier to clone a body for a kid than for an adult. Something about the growth rate, or something. A children’s body can be grown at an accelerated rate without damage, an adult body can’t be grown at an accelerated rate without consequence, not even an adolescent body.

There’s this episode of Star Trek, called Spock’s Brain, where this race of hot chicks steal Spock’s brain. Anyway, they use his brain to power a machine or something. I don’t know exactly what the hell it was. But they were using his brain as part of a computer or something.

That would suck, to be surrounded by a bunch of women who only liked you for your mind.