NomDebPlume's 2½ Cents

Because I have an opinion about everything…

Archive for the month “September, 2006”

What’s Bugging Me About American Healthcare Today…

Maybe I’m just in a cranky mood because I’m sick today and feel like picking on things, but there may actually be some truth to the claims I am about to make.  As always, it is for you to decide.

Two nights ago, my 5-year-old daughter began to run a fever out of nowhere.  One minute, she’s jumping around on a trampoline at a place called Tumbletown with boundless energy, and by the time she gets home, she’s got the chills and is feverish.  Apparently, the stuffy nose she’d had for several days was not due to allergies, but was actually a warning of something a little more sinister brewing.  So I give her some fever-reducing medicine and dress her warmly for bed, thinking (hoping) she will feel better by morning.  But, no.

A few hours later, I am greeted by an upset little girl who has just vomited all over her bed and herself.  She is feeling much worse and when I read the thermometer, I am alarmed.  Giving her more anti-fever medication only makes the vomiting start again, so I am at a loss as to what to do.  A call to the doctor sends us to the emergency room.

Despite the fact that the emergency room is empty, we are forced to wait.  I fill out a bunch of forms, and we wait some more.  I stand in front of the empty registration desk so someone way in the back might see me, and wait even longer.  Finally, we are taken back and the process begins.  A nurse takes vital signs at the registration desk, along with asking me for all the information I just filled out on the forms.  It’s after 1am and my daughter is crying and uncomfortable. 

When finished with this step, we are taken to a small room in the back and wait some more until another nurse comes in and asks what has brought us to the emergency room (for the third time).  I again explain the details of what my daughter has experienced and how we are there because our family doctor told us to come, and then she leaves.  And we wait some more.  She returns, finally, with a doctor and says, “Can you tell the doctor why you brought your daughter here tonight?”  I could hardly believe it!

The doctor examines my daughter and tells the nurse to give her a medication to combat the nausea.  During the examination, my daughter winces when her ear is touched and I comment that she made no mention of her ear hurting at home.  This is the only thing said by anyone about my daughter’s ear.

Over an hour later, the doctor comes back and says she will be prescribing an antibiotic before we leave.  Her father and I ask her what it will be for, what’s wrong with her?  “For her ear infection, of course.”  We look at each other in disbelief and nearly in unison say to the doctor, “You never told us she had an ear infection,” at which point, a polite disagreement ensues.  Ultimately, the doctor admitted she didn’t actually say it, she thought I already knew because of my comment. 

Puh-leeze… I’m lucky I understood any of her comments!  I’m sure her credentials are fine, or else she would not be allowed to practice in my local hospital with a fine reputation, and she was very pleasant to my daughter, but both her father and I had to struggle to understand her version of English.  We’re talking health issues here, I’d like to be able to understand the instructions she was giving me regarding the two different medications she prescribed and the timing, dosing, etc.  And knowing she had another ear infection was important because of my daughter’s history with ear infections and the possibility that she may have to have her adenoids removed if they continue.  No, she couldn’t have known this, but it seems like Doctor-Common-Sense 101 to make sure to tell the parents the diagnosis.

It took a total of 2½ hours on a quiet night in an emergency room to take care of something relatively minor (I think).  Every time I poked my head out of the room we were in, I could see the staff (including the doctor) congregating around the main desk, casually talking, moving around slowly. 

I know… Moms are biased when it comes to the treatment of their children and this whole story could be written with a slant.  But tell me this: why are prescription drugs so expensive?  Could it be because drug companies constantly advertise products that we cannot purchase without a doctor-written prescription?  Does this make any sense?  Don’t you think this promotes self-diagnosis?  Think about it – you watch the commercial, you decide, “Hey, I think I need that product and will ask my doctor about it like the commercial advises.”  Now, instead of your doctor deciding what is best for you, you have succumbed to marketing tactics just like every other product uses.  You can pick up your prescription right after that burger or new pair of shoes that the preceding commercials convinced you you needed, too.

And while we’re talking “Healthcare”, why isn’t Dental Care considered healthcare?  (Don’t stop me, the crank-o-meter is in high gear now :-)  It has always astounded me why teeth are not considered a part of the body like everything else.  They have their own separate system of care, one that is difficult for some to get – and a lot who actually have coverage don’t have enough.  Do you realize that chewing is the first stage of digestion?  And we chew with our……. TEETH.  If our teeth fail us, the entire digestive system is compromised, which now crosses over into the real healthcare world.  It’s not just cosmetic, it’s not a luxury.  In some cases, an infection in a tooth that is not cared for can spread to the brain, killing a person.  Under what system does that fall?  Mortuary?

Makes me crazy.  But it makes me feel a tad better writing about it. 

Of Blogs, Terrorism and Torture

As a new blogger, I have already amassed quite an education from reading others’ sites and mulling over the well thought-out opinions contained therein.  The passion with which some write can be startling and challenging, while others seem happy to continue spreading ignorance merely for the sake of hearing themselves talk.  I hope to be counted among the former as I research those things that are important to me before I venture to write one syllable about anything.  Always checking opposing opinions, no matter how unpleasant at times, I know it is a necessity in order to get a complete and honest outlook that may be worth a reader’s time. 

In my cyber-travels, these have been the best blogs of all – those that allow for alternative views and do not automatically dismiss readers and/or commentaries that disagree.  While a meeting of the minds may be too much to hope for, a robust discussion is always fun and can lead to a learning experience for both sides.  And that can never be a bad thing.

With that as a preface, I have encountered so much one-sided writing about the recent squabbling in Congress over the clarification of The Geneva Convention and how it pertains to terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.  At its core, it would almost seem to be an argument of semantics: “Torture” vs. “Harsh Measures” or “Coerced Interrogation”, “Clarification” vs. “nullification”.  And, sadly, the argument received much mislaid attention from Senator John McCain and General Colin Powell.

To the best of my understanding, no one was asking to back out of the Geneva Convention’s provisions against torture, only wanting the language of article 3 to be clarified so detainees could not claim torture, and CIA Agents could not be prosecuted for trying to ascertain information that would protect our country from further attacks.

Geneva Convention; Common Article 3, 1. (c) prohibits:
Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.

Exactly what is humiliating and degrading treatment?  Is it sleep deprivation?  Loud music?  Solitary confinement?  A cold room?  Water boarding?  According to Human Rights Watch it is.  But then, according to Executive Director, Kenneth Roth:

These abuses are wrong as a matter of fundamental rights. Though done in the name of protection from terrorism, they are also counterproductive. Fighting terrorism effectively requires not just stopping existing terrorists but also preventing the generation of new ones. By all accounts, U.S. abuses in the name of fighting terrorism have been a boon to terrorist recruiters. The loss of the moral high ground has made it harder to dissuade angry young men from resorting to the deliberate killing of civilians.

Many of the abuses also reflect a counterterrorism strategy that is too narrow. Most experts insist that, in comparison with other law enforcement methods such as surveillance or searches, information garnered from interrogation plays a relatively small role in cracking secretive criminal conspiracies. The most important source of all is tips from members of the general public—ordinary citizens, often from the same community as a would-be terrorist, who might report suspicious activity next door or the approach of a terrorist recruiter. Abusive interrogation can discourage such cooperation because many potential sources of information want nothing to do with “dirty war” tactics that may be used against their neighbors or even themselves. Cooperation from other governments can be similarly undermined.”

Who are these experts he mentions?  And is he suggesting we dance to the beat of a terrorist’s drum in order to appease them, in the hope of dissuading angry young men from resorting to killing civilians?  If we are “nice enough”, they will suddenly be nice to us?  They hate us, they hate what we stand for – that’s not going to change, regardless of how nice we are.

I hesitate to even take the time to respond to the ludicrous statement Mr. Roth makes concerning counterterrorism strategies.  Surveillance, searches and neighbors who garner information is as valuable as that collected from Khalid Shakh Mohammed using harsh measures?  According to ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross, Mohammed’s interrogation yielded “information that was very valuable regarding one plot which would have involved an airplane attack on the tallest building in Los Angeles”.  Ross spoke of 14 cases where coerced interrogation was used, and in all 14 cases they gave up important information. As a result, more than a dozen plots were stopped.   Works for me.

Now, I have my reservations about water boarding, I will admit.  It does seem to border on torture, but at the same time, it produces no permanent damage.  Contrast that with, say, the commission of a beheading on film for broadcast on the Internet or on Al Jazeera.  And with the question of defendants seeing evidence against them, I also take issue.  I believe it is an integral part of our justice system, yet also believe we cannot reveal CIA identities in the process or allow national security to be compromised.  It’s comforting that an agreement has been reached in Congress that apparently satisfies most on these key points.  

How ironic is it, by the way, that so many people got their undies in a knot over the revelation of Valerie Plame’s identity as a former CIA agent, and now there are those who don’t even blink at the idea of revealing the names of agents in the field to terrorists?  But I digress… :-/

Despite Senator McCain’s and General Powell’s claims of our administration failing to adhere to the higher standard that makes this country great and questioning the moral basis and conscience of those who dare attempt to define Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, I believe the treatment we provide to Gitmo prisoners speaks for itself.  The following can be found at the DOD website and is titled,

“Ten Facts About Guantanamo”

1. The detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility include bin Laden’s bodyguards, bomb makers, terrorist trainers and facilitators, and other suspected terrorists.

2. More money is spent on meals for detainees than on the U.S. troops stationed there.  Detainees are offered up to 4,200 calories a day.  The average weight gain per detainee is 20 pounds.

3. The Muslim call to prayer sounds five times a day.  Arrows point detainees toward the holy city of Mecca.

4. Detainees receive medical, dental, psychiatric, and optometric care at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.  In 2005, there were 35 teeth cleanings, 91 cavities filled, and 174 pairs of glasses issued.

5. The International Committee of the Red Cross visits detainees at the facility every few months.  More than 20,000 messages between detainees and their families have been exchanged.

6. Recreation activities include basketball, volleyball, soccer, pingpong, and board games. High-top sneakers are provided. 

7. Departing detainees receive a Koran, a jean jacket, a white T-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, high-top sneakers, a gym bag of toiletries, and a pillow and blanket for the flight home.

8. Entertainment includes Arabic language TV shows, including World Cup soccer games.  The library has 3,500 volumes available in 13 languages — the most requested book is “Harry Potter.”

9. Guantanamo is the most transparent detention facility in the history of warfare.  The Joint Task Force has hosted more than 1,000 journalists from more than 40 countries.

10. In 2005, Amnesty International stated that “the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has become the gulag of our times.”

I heard Laura Ingraham claim (on The O’Reilly Factor) that every prisoner over the age of 50 also gets a free colonoscopy, but I haven’t been able to substantiate that.  As someone who suffers from Crohn’s Disease, I decided this might not really help my argument anyway.  Laura was talking benefits, but the word torture came to my mind… :-/

Seriously, though, I would never condone torture – although, there are those who say, “Never say never”.  I consider myself a pacifist, for the most part.  I would not kill another person and, if serving in the military, I would have to do something other than hold a weapon.  I respect John McCain’s service to our country and what he endured as a prisoner of war.  This is part of the reason I can’t understand why he rejects seemingly benign methods of interrogation… certainly when compared with what he experienced.  The same is true for General Powell; I have always had great respect for him as well.  Their rationale for choosing this particular argument puzzles me and leads me to speculate as to their motivation.  It is difficult not to conclude that politics is a major contributor here.  Could Senator McCain be pandering for an upcoming presidential bid?  And could General Powell be thinking “running mate”?

If this is the case, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  While politicizing and jeopardizing the safety of the citizens one hopes to govern in an attempt to gain that position is reprehensible, unfortunately, there are those for whom it works.  As an average citizen, though, I feel humiliated and degraded.

Jon Stewart, A Compliant Clown of Ignorance for the Left

I had planned to write something more important today, a piece with the words “Geneva Convention” included in the text and everything. And then, a good friend of mine, someone I respect and admire, shared a seemingly harmless humorous email with me. It was meant to make me laugh, like all the other funny emails he sends me, but maybe it just hit me the wrong way. Or maybe it was the wrong day. Or maybe it’s because it was the subject matter… it just REALLY got under my skin because it just wasn’t funny to me.

Now, I’m not a stick-in-the-mud, I can laugh at satire as loud as the next guy. But there comes a point when satire becomes spin, and spin becomes propaganda thinly disguised as comedy. Jon Stewart is funny, I’ll give him that. He has chosen to use his gift to offend, and that is his choice, the right of everyone in this country. What is unfortunate is this country is full of sheep… a flock of mindless followers who need only be entertained to mimic anyone’s point of view. Make me laugh and I’ll follow you anywhere.

And how did Mr. Stewart choose to render his craft in the clip I was sent today? He felt obliged to explain what he calls the “Cavuto Mark”, belonging to Neil Cavuto of Fox News. It is merely a question mark used at the end of some upcoming segment titles, and Stewart illustrated his point with the following isolated examples: “Have the Democrats Forgotten the Lessons of 9/11?” “Is the Liberal Media Helping to Fuel Terror?” or “The Best President?”

What was conveniently left out is how the format of Neil Cavuto’s show justifies a question being asked; how, when a question is posed, there is a panel of both Democrats and Republicans present to answer that question. What was omitted was what the answer to those questions was. But then, how funny is that?

This morning, I watched Neil Cavuto on his weekend show, Cavuto on Business. In spite of Stewart’s claims, of the three subjects being covered, only one was advertised as a question (one was even listed with an exclamation point, Jon… and it wasn’t about Yanni!): “Lower Gas Prices: Give Oil Companies Bigger Tax Breaks?” Neil had a panel of six guests of mixed political backgrounds, and of the six, only two felt the oil companies should get a bigger tax break. So there goes Stewart’s theory that Cavuto frames his statement in the form of a question just to elicit the answer he wishes to receive. Plus, Cavuto, himself, was not in favor of the idea. In addition to the conversation concerning the subject at hand, there were jabs back and forth between the guests that gave the viewer an idea about who represented which party. I remember hearing something to the effect, “well, you’re just a mouthpiece for the Republicans, I would expect you to say that.” (It almost sounded “Fair and Balanced”, but I hesitate to go that far… :-/ )

Does any of this support Jon Stewart’s claim that Cavuto is a shoddy reporter, inventing a style of journalism with a punctuation mark to promote his conservative agenda as part of an entire network’s plan to further only the Republican party’s views? Wait, that’s only a rhetorical question because it is too absurd to actually answer.

Now might be a good time to visit the site I viewed that got me so riled up: “jon_stewart_explains_the_cavuto_mark”   

I can’t repeat, even in writing, what Stewart says at the end of the clip. Suffice to say, it is offensive, yet funny to the 68 people who left comments. Those comments are pretty much what one would expect from a Stewart cult following, yet I was still surprised by the level of vitriol, and the personal attacks on Neil Cavuto’s appearance – and his mother. Thankfully, my good and decent friend is not one of those followers, or sheep. He makes me laugh AND think. How else could he be a person I respect or admire? :-)

Cavuto has never been my favorite broadcaster or a personal hero of mine. I catch his weekday show only very rarely (for one reason, because it conflicts with one of my daughter’s Nickelodeon shows :-)), but I just have this pet peeve about injustice. Stewart called him out and I happened to catch wind of it. Because it just doesn’t sit well with me, I investigated his background a little, and you know what I found out?

Before joining Fox News, he hosted more than three hours of live daily programming at CNBC, including the network’s highest rated program, Market Wrap. He had also been a contributor to NBC’s Today Show as well as NBC News at Sunrise. Cavuto’s 20 years of financial reporting included time at PBS’ Nightly Business Report, where he served as a New York bureau chief. These networks are not known for being conservative in anyone’s book. Also according to his bio, he was cited as “CNBC’s toughest inquisitor,” and was ranked among the most influential business journalists in America by The Journalist and Financial Reporter. The Wall Street Journal recognized him as the best interviewer in business news. Additionally, he was nominated for 5 ACE awards and voted the best business TV interviewer for four years running.

I’m laughing so hard after reading all of that, I can hardly get up off the floor… :-/

The point I’m trying to make here is how easy it is to take a man with the record I’ve just provided, shake it up with some half-truths, show some well-chosen out-of-context statements (or ‘questions’, as the case may be), put your own slant on the topic, and voila… you’ve got a totally different animal. This time it was only done to a journalist, but our satirists do it to our politicians all the time, and we laugh, then we vote, then we live with the results.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear.”

2 Timothy 4:3

9/11, Five Years Later… one person’s memory

Growing up in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan, the Twin Towers were a fixture in the skyline from when I was very young. I don’t remember when they were built, to me, they were always there… kinda like the sun each day. There are only a few times I can remember being awe-inspired by their presence, looking up and thinking, “Man, those things are big!”

My clearest memory of just how impressive those structures were comes from the time my father took me to several of his accounts located in those buildings when I was young. When we were on one of the high floors, he took me over to a window that was bigger than I was and I saw clouds outside. I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t even in a plane (nor had I ever been in one at that time), but I was experiencing being in the clouds! My father told me that the building also had a little “give” built into it so it wouldn’t break when it got windy, saying you could feel it sway if you really pay attention. I don’t know if this is true, but at about 12 years old, I could swear I felt the building sway… :-)

Mostly though, the towers blended with the rest of the city, and the rest of my life. Because I once held a job on the Concourse Level of the Trade Center, they also came to represent a former place of employment. – not particularly awe-inspiring. And they were a backdrop, really, during the years I surfaced from the subway on my way to other jobs I held in the financial district.

But on September 11, 2001, watching The Twin Towers ravaged in such an appalling way was like watching the murder of an old friend. To watch the video clips again today, and every anniversary since, elicits sadness, anger and tears. I have no connection to that day that makes me “special”. I am no longer a New Yorker and was 160 miles away. My life was not in danger. There was no Trade Center dust on me. I did not lose anyone that day to the tragedy. Like millions of others, I merely watched on television.

Yet I watched while holding a newborn baby. I remember wondering what kind of world I had brought her into. Her father sat on the couch expressing his horror by repeating the words, “Jesus Christ” over and over, which has remained such a strong memory to this day because he considers himself an Atheist. As a Christian, his words only reminded me of the importance to pray.

My three older sons were already in school and I struggled with the idea of picking them up and bringing them home. There was this feeling that something bigger was happening, even before we were told our country was under attack. But ultimately, I felt they were safe at school (two blocks away) and did not want to frighten them, so I left them there. Later, I learned the teachers told them what had happened and they were worried and nervous, wondering why I hadn’t come to get them. Mom screws up again… :-/

Five years later, I try to focus on the good that has transpired since. This morning, my 5-year-old daughter left for kindergarten, asking first why the flag is hanging outside our house. It was a difficult idea to try to explain to her. Saying only that something happened five years ago today that is important to remember and I hang the flag because I feel patriotic, I think I dodged a bullet when her attention shifted to what she was wearing to school. I want her to know, but I don’t think she is capable of understanding without being terrified that it will happen again and that the next time, the planes will hit our house.

She is a well-adjusted little girl and I don’t wake each day wondering what kind of world I have brought her into – no more than I wonder about my sons. Probably the hardest thing with the boys is to teach them not to be prejudice against Arabs or Muslims. To teach that there is a peaceful Islam and a radical Islam is difficult, yet imperative. To be honest, at times, I think it’s difficult for all of us to remember.

The best thing that has happened in my life as a result of 9/11 is reconciling with my dearest friend. We have been friends since childhood, and somehow lost touch for the 3 years preceding 9/11. But within days of the attacks she called me, saying the event showed her that life can be short and unpredictable, and she didn’t want things to keep going on the way they were. So, for the last five years, I have enjoyed having my best friend back. I hope others realized this, as well.

This is not a political commentary, per se, but a personal commentary on something political. On this fifth anniversary, my fear is that time will lessen the impact of this event. Let’s pray that this doesn’t happen to our leaders, and that they figure out how to prevent an atrocity like this from ever happening again.

Bubba Blubbers over 9/11 Blunders Being Broadcast

Try saying that three times fast :-). Blunders… Hey, we’ve all got’em, but not everyone’s are laid bare for the world to see – and for no-names like me to blog about. And, I suppose, most of ours are not affiliated, directly or indirectly, with nearly 3000 American deaths. But hey, it’s not like we fought tooth and nail to become the Leader of the Free World – Twice – either. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory. Play a sad saxophone song about it.

In no way would I sit here comfortably at my keyboard and arbitrarily decide that the atrocities of 9/11 are the fault of former President Clinton, just as I would not ascribe the responsibility of all that currently ails our world to President Bush. This would be the practice of the shortsighted, inane and/or ignorant. Although, too often, a mob of well-dressed men and women unite and insist on being living, breathing synonyms for these adjectives. And, more often than not, these people have the distinction of having a (D) after their name. Why is that?

Like former President Clinton, I have not seen The Path to 9/11, set to air on ABC Sunday and Monday night. Promoted as a ‘Docudrama’ and admittedly based on a collection of information in addition to the 9/11 Commission Report, ABC Chief, Bob Iger, willingly admits to using dramatic license to tell an important story. While there are those who are confused as to what is being presented because of the seriousness of the subject, the fact remains, ABC has the right to present a docudrama and to embellish the plot where the writers, producers, etc. see fit to provide a coherent story. Ultimately, there are no boldface lies included in this presentation. There is no conspiracy to “rewrite history”. There is no right-wing agenda at work.

No, it wasn’t Madeleine Albright who made that particular phone call, it was someone else. No it wasn’t Sandy Berger who spoke those words, it was another member of the administration. Perhaps you or I would have chosen to do it differently. I can make a safe bet that former President Clinton and his gang would definitely have done it differently, but this becomes somewhat irrelevant when we remember that you, Clinton, Clintonistas and I are not in the TV Biz. And this brings me to another farcical thought: when was the last time anyone in the TV Biz, or Hollywood in general, even conceived of producing something unflattering toward a Clinton – or a Democrat, for that matter? Is this Twilight Zone material, or what?

From what I’ve read and heard reported (from both ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ sources), President Bush is bashed in the film as well (as are members of his administration). When one stops to remember the horror of September 11th, one realizes there is plenty of blame to go around for everyone. Yet, I don’t hear any moaning and complaining coming from the White House. And I don’t remember hearing this type of belly-aching recently when director, Gabriel Range’s film, Death of a President made a splash at the Toronto Film Festival for its controversial and realistic portrayal of President Bush’s assassination. THIS upsets none of the (D)-set, apparently? It’s only their stories that should be left pure and blameless? Their causes that should be censored if necessary?

This is what burns me the most, what always burns me the most. That double standard that keeps rearing its ugly head. At least be consistent – THAT I can respect a little. But the fluidity of morals? How can anyone find honor in that?

ABC is attempting to present a drama based on a collection of facts to illustrate an important lesson for us all. Period. Five years of relative safety, of no attacks on our homeland, have provided most of us with an overwhelming feeling of complacency. To me, this is one of our biggest enemies. I applaud anyone who tries to scare us back to a state of mind that is closer to how we felt in 2001, when we weren’t petty about legislation that would protect us and political about words that would make us unpopular abroad. Many people work hard in the face of constant criticism, ridicule and armchair decision making by popularity-seekers to preserve our safety and do what they think is right. Like the crazies who believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories, most detractors would have to believe that those in charge wake up each day planning how to best destroy our way of life to spew the rhetoric they do each day.

To quote Clinton, “I don’t want lies parading as truth.” Well, Mr. Clinton, I hate to rain on your parade, but you’ve invested your entire life in a business known as politics, and with you as the drum major, I would imagine your confusion stems from your definition of the word truth, or sex… or “is”.

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