By A Healthy Margin of 7 Votes Reform Passes

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Much has been written and said about the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which now provides and/or mandates health care for 95% of all Americans. I’ve waited to listen to as many viewpoints as possible throughout the entire process before weighing in which is different from the way I’ve operated in the past. When looking back at previous years and causes, I would sometimes post many times in a single week about a given political topic, especially when it involved something idiotic Bush the Second or the Republican party (more on them in a bit) did or said. So, considering that health care reform is something that I care deeply about, my absence of comments on this issue up until now has been nothing less than the the model of restraint.
Part of my hesitancy to voice my opinion was due to my overall disgust of the public sausage making that passes for our government these days. Its an embarrassment and I feel like I’m being led by a nation of children.
The other part of it was that my relationship with the health care sector of this country has been so ridiculously involved in relation to the amount of medical issues I ave either known about or had to tangentially deal with that I am quite emotional about the issue. If I started to post on it, there would be no going back, this blog might have simply turned into a “health care reform all the time” blog. Over my lifetime, I’ve had constant access to and interaction with our country’s medical establishment: doctors and nurses, waiting rooms and offices, procedures and exams, infirmaries and hospitals, operations both out-patient and in-patient – you name it, I’ve experienced it, and most from an early age. At most points I was a care giver and observer. At others I was the patient. At most times I managed the bills and fought to ensure that I maximized my coverage options and benefits. Its a tricky business and you need to be quick on your feet – not easy to do any day and especially not when injured – but I’ve developed a specialty for it. I’ve known my entire life that our system needed to be improved. After Clinton tried and failed, and as our country descended into nonsense land (see both terms that Bush was in office and mostly everything that our nation’s government did during that time), I just put on the back burner of my hopeful mind that anything good would ever happen. But unbelievably and almost improbably, especially after Ted Kennedy’s seat was won by a Republican, it happened.
In the end, the final vote was 219 – 212; 7 votes separated the biggest piece of social net legislation in a generation from success or defeat. 7. That’s it. Razor thin but still wide enough.
For over a year now this legislation has been proposed, debated, revised, debated, rinse and repeat ad naseum. In the end, an unorthodox randomly used but legal procedural move was needed in order to get this legislation passed, again by the slimmest of margins. What did we pass? Something that will cost about a trillion dollars over 10 years – supposedly that is a good thing. I have yet to talk to my doctor cousin and friends about what it means to them and what they think. Its helpful to understand what a leader of a university hospital and two Harvard MDs think of this whole shebang because I haven’t been able to read the 2,000 pages of the act. Right now, I just feel that the high level provisions that the bill enforces, such as banning a company’s ability to drop coverage based on pre-existing conditions and keeping minors covered longer to name just two, are simply morally correct.
There are plenty of drawbacks and loopholes that still need to be closed and many of the provisions do not kick in for four long years, during which plenty of healthy people will get sick and sick people will getter sicker and/or die, so it is flawed and no by no means perfect. That being said, what the act does provide is far and away better than anything that is currently in place. It provides a foundation to build upon for further and future reforms.
Those that oppose this bill – mostly rapid Republicans and Tea Party folk – have been raucous in their dismissal and hatred towards it. “It reeks of Big Government, its socialist, its too costly, its dangerous” they cry. They support tacitly those that debase decorum and attempt to spit (literally) on the civil rights of black war veterans. Not a single Republican voted for the bill and thirty or so Democrats voted against it which boggles my mind, because again I feel that it is morally right and if they [the right wing nutters that so strongly opposed the bill] are so Christian, isn’t healing the sick something Jesus would do? As Bob Herbert has written in his piece “An Absence of Class”, he correctly points out that “For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness” and that it “is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.” I think this health care reform vote will go down in history as the day that America went both crazy and sane and then sadly crazy, crazy because not a single Republican went on record to support this obviously overall decently good bill and sane because it got passed but sadly crazy because the side of good needed the loopiest of ways to pass the darn bill.
Kudos POTUS, Pelosi and the others that strong armed this bill to the finish line.


Tuesdays Are Now Cover Days

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The Onion’s A.V. Club launched A.V. Undercover this past Tuesday and I’m stoked about the concept. The Undercover program will have 25 bands select from 25 songs to cover. Once a week (Tue) the songs will be covered one by one. Once a song has been played, it cannot be played again so the band next week has one less song to choose from. Therefore, there is a reason to get in early if you are picky. By my math, this will whole thing will last until August 31st.
The 25 songs that were selected are pretty diverse – running from Starship’s “We Built This City”? to Nirvana’s “Sliver” with lots of side trips in between. There are some inspired choices and Teo Leo and the Pharmacists led things off with their rendition of Tears for Fear’s “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and did a bang up job with it. I am now looking forward to Tuesdays specifically to see / hear who is going to bust out what. Fun stuff.


The True Nature of Our Economy

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The art imitating life imitating art quality of the Onion sometimes just leaves me breathless with the way they nail the absurdity of our lives head on. Their recent post U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion shines a bright spotlight on the man behind the curtain of our ATM. There is nothing backing up our money except our shared belief / delusion that its worth value. Period.

“It’s just an illusion,” a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. “Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless.”

By the time you get to the end of the article, you’ll be laughing too hard to want to get a gun and gold and run off into the woods.


On Depression's Upside

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Jonah Lehrer’s recent article in the Gray Lady about depression’s possible upside was provocative, insightful, intelligent, dangerous and a whole slew of other adjectives.
While some psychiatrists regard the theory that depression can be good for you “as little more than irresponsible speculation, a justification for human suffering,” others are buying into it.
The types of depressed people who do not bathe, neglect their kids, etc – those need real help and real medicine. But for a lot of others, the scientists that Lehrer centers on, Andy Thompson and Paul Andrews, basically are saying that “if depression didn’t exist — if we didn’t react to stress and trauma with endless ruminations — then we would be less likely to solve our predicaments. Wisdom isn’t cheap, and we pay for it with pain.” That line would make a great poster – I can see across a backdrop of a boxer getting clobbered right in the face (more on fighters later).
The passage below comes towards the end of the rather long article. The Andreasen mentioned in it is neuroscientist Nancy Andreasen who conducted a study of 30 writers from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop which found that eighty percent of the writers met the formal diagnostic criteria for some form of depression. Shocker! She never saw my 300 level creative writing class but it was the same story.

Why is mental illness so closely associated with creativity? Andreasen argues that depression is intertwined with a “cognitive style” that makes people more likely to produce successful works of art. In the creative process, Andreasen says, “one of the most important qualities is persistence.” Based on the Iowa sample, Andreasen found that “successful writers are like prizefighters who keep on getting hit but won’t go down. They’ll stick with it until it’s right.” While Andreasen acknowledges the burden of mental illness — she quotes Robert Lowell on depression not being a “gift of the Muse” and describes his reliance on lithium to escape the pain — she argues that many forms of creativity benefit from the relentless focus it makes possible. “Unfortunately, this type of thinking is often inseparable from the suffering,” she says. “If you’re at the cutting edge, then you’re going to bleed.”

Powerful stuff. This article had two bonafide great lines, the one earlier about wisdom and the one above about bleeding on the cutting edge. If you read the article, post a comment and I’ll be happy to respond. This is one of those topics that could engender a lot of conversation.