Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Winding Down, But Still Very Grand

DAVIS, CALIFORNIA -- Spectacular is overused, and I refuse to use the word awesome as a matter of principle, but I must report that both Monument Valley and Arches National Park are ... well ... spectacular. Monument Valley is part of the Navajo nation and they run the place. And, from all we saw and experienced during our visit there, they run it very well indeed.

Arches is magnificent also, although what impressed us most were the towering rock formations, even more than the several arches we did see.

After leaving Moab, Utah, which had been our HQ for a few days, we headed back to the southeast and spent a night in Ouray, Colorado ... originally a small mining town that sprang up in the mid-1800s and which now caters to skiers, hikers, and sedentary tourists like me. And they do it very well indeed.

A highlight of our brief stay was a visit to the little museum there, which features wonderful displays depicting all aspects of life in Ouray through most of its history. The museum has justifiably been called "the best small museum in the west" by the Smithsonian.

We left Ouray yesterday morning and headed for Grand Junction where we connected with Amtrak's California Zephyr. Fortunately, we had some extra time and took a long-cut on the way which took us over Grand Mesa. Our timing was perfect because the Fall colors were at their height and dominated by the yellow of the aspens ... entire mountainsides splashed with dazzling color. I'm from New England originally and have never seen anything on such a grand scale.

We boarded the Zephyr and soon after departure headed to the dining car where we were seated with a delightful Irish couple ... world travelers with an almost endless repertoire of stories and anecdotes from their travels to Kathmandu and Cape Town and Eastern Europe ... among others. Just another typical evening in an Amtrak dining car!

Tomorrow we will catch the Coast Starlight just before 7:00 a.m. for our return to Los Angeles. As soon as we drop our bags in our roomette, we'll head off to the dining car for breakfast. Who knows whom our companions-at-table might be!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

As Willie Nelson says, "On The Road Again ..."

Another trip coming up. Leaving tomorrow for LA, then taking Amtrak to the Grand Canyon where we'll rent a car and spend several days seeing that and surrounding areas. We'll end our driving in Colorado, catching what is probably Amtrak's most scenic train, the California Zephyr, back to the West Coast for the flight back to Maui. I'll try to do some posting along the way ... but no guarantees. We'll be home again on Oct. 3rd.


Friday, September 18, 2009

These Aren't Statistics, They're Real People

One of the problems in the health car reform debate is that the dialog too often inbvolves only statistics: X number of people, Y number of dollars, etc. To fully understand what's at stake, we need to understand how the current system affects real people.

I wrote a while back about the young husband and wife who were forced for both economic and practical reasons to decided which one would get a needed surgery. What a choice! How would you like to be the husband who gets the surgery he needs, leaving his wife with her chronic gall bladder pain untreated?

Here’s another case history, sent to me today by a regular visitor to this page:

A little over three weeks ago, forgetting I'm no longer 16, I jumped off a harmless 4' wall, and my right knee gave out. Not a landing Nadia Comaneci would have applauded. Anyway, for 2 days I couldn't walk, but did improve a bit.

I went to our doctor here, and the decision was to wait two weeks and see if it got "good as new" on its own. Two weeks later I reported back and said it had indeed improved a lot, but it still didn't feel stable at all. No pain to speak of, but a sense of weakness and, specifically, a sensation it would bend the wrong way backwards. So my doctor ordered an MRI.

Aetna* refused to cover it. Seems I should have waited 6-8 weeks for “therapeutic effect”, and hadn’t had exercises to strengthen it, etc., etc. A consulting doctor for Aetna reviewed the case and gave that opinion.

I don't dare try to find another carrier. I pay Aetna $566 a month for a policy with a $3,000 deductible and am "lucky" to have that!

So much for having my doctor and me together decide what's the best treatment plan.

How can the people bragging about ours being “the greatest country in the world” allow its citizens to be treated this way?

*Remember the Aetna? Their CEO’s compensation was $25 million last year!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just asking …

The Republicans are quick to blame Obama for everything that goes wrong, even things that clearly had origins in the Bush years. Wouldn’t it seem fair, then, to give Obama credit for things that have gone right since he took office?

So how come we don’t hear anyone on the right noting that shortly after Obama’s inauguration, when the stock market was at bottom, it has come up by 2100 points?

I guess giving Obama credit is just not part of the right’s political game plan. Possibly it’s because the game plan is what’s good for the Party and not what’s good for the country.

This is probably why it bugs me so much when these clowns strut around with their American flag lapel pins.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Do We Know How Low They Can Go?

Goaded and encouraged by Fox News, thousands of people showed up in Washington over the weekend to protest … well, just about everything that has anything to do with Barack Obama.

But it was more than a protest; it was a hate-fest.

There were signs depicting Obama in whiteface. Signs showing him with Mao and Castro and saying “three of a kind.” There was the sign, recycled from the 2008 campaign, saying “Hitler gave good speeches, too.” And, of course, signs urging us to “Say NO to Socialized medicine.”

One guy brandished a sign that said “We’ve come unarmed … THIS TIME!”

And then there was the sign -- not hand drawn, but printed on glossy cardboard for mass distribution -- that said, “Bury Obamacare with Kennedy.”

Just when I think these people have gone as low as they can go, they manage to take it down yet another notch.

Ironically, they are trying the very same tactics the Nazi brown shirts used to shout down and bully and, yes, kill those who opposed their guy Adolf. Of course, most are so ignorant they don’t know that. A few do, but they don’t care. No matter, they are all disgracing the country they loudly profess to love so much.

But the real disgrace? Politicians like South Caroline Senator Jim DeMint. He showed up at this unholy gathering and took the microphone to praise and encourage these pathetic, frightened, angry fools.

And no one can go any lower than that.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Five Questions for Someone Who's Against Health Care Reform

1- When an illegal immigrant shows up at the emergency room with a life threatening illness, should he or she be treated or turned away?

2- Over the last three years, my co-pay for a routine doctor’s appointment has gone from $8 to $14 to $22. Do you see that as a problem?

3- One of the medications I take costs $218 a month. Coincidentally, the company that makes it was just fined $2.3 billion for illegally marketing one of their drugs … sending doctors on all-expense paid trips and paying kickbacks for prescribing it. Do you see any problems there?

4- Hospitals routinely double or triple charges to patients with insurance to cover the cost of treatment they provide to patients without insurance. Do you think something should be done about that?

5- A friend of mine broke his wrist last year. His insurance company renewed his policy, but told him they would cancel his health insurance if he had more than five visits to a doctor this year. Do you think that’s right?

Wait ... wait ... stop chanting "Liar! Liar!" for a minute and ...

Oh, nevermind.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Everyone Has a Different Reaction to "The Speech"

"President Obama' televised speech to the nation's students during school hours. Many Republicans kept their kids home from school in protest. As a result, those kids have voted Obama 'Best President Ever.' " -Conan O'Brien


Friday, September 4, 2009

There's Nothing Grand About the GOP These Days

Barack Obama is going to use a nationwide TV hook-up next week to speak to kids around the nation about the value of an education and the importance of finishing school. And that has brought the Republican loonies out in full force.

Typical is the chair of the Florida Republican Party, Jim Greer, who says he is “appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.”

Greer is either a liar or an idiot. There is no Door Number Three.

Surely, he knows that Obama is not a socialist … not even close ... in which case he is a shameless liar. If he truly believes Obama is a socialist, he is woefully ignorant and a fool. Personally, I’ll bet he’s a combination of the two, but with a big edge going to “liar”.

There have been any number of deliberate and contemptible Republican deceits in the past weeks, most having to do with spreading misinformation – lies – about health care reform. But nothing better exemplifies the blind, unreasoning, paranoid partisanship of the Republican right than their outraged howls over Obama’s speech to school children.

These are the same people who wear little American flags in their lapels and brag about how much they love their country. Bullshit! They’re more than willing to put the health of millions of their fellow Americans at risk for the chance to make Obama look bad. And they want to prevent school kids from hearing an inspirational message from their president, a message that could inspire many of them to overcome daunting personal obstacles and actually make something of their lives.

These hypocrites demand a bi-partisan approach to dealing with our country’s problems, when their real intent is to delay, obstruct, and prevent. It’s time to ignore them … time to go around them.

Or, better still, I say we go right over them.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The debate – if we can call it that – goes on. And on.

I continue to be astonished at the fabrications being spread about health care reform … spread by people who clearly know that what they are saying is not true. Ohio Republican John Boehner, for example, says the Democratic plan would amount to a government take-over of our health care system.

That’s poppycock and Boehner knows it! I see whichever private doctor I want … I get a blood test whenever my doctor recommends it … I have routine procedures whenever he and I decide they should be done. The only involvement by Medicare is to pay the damn bills!

But the Republicans keep howling that we don’t want to drive the insurance and pharmaceutical companies out of business.

You mean insurance companies like the Aetna, whose CEO gets $25 million a year in compensation?

Or pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, which has just agreed to pay a $2.3 billion fine -- yes, that's billion with a B -- for illegally promoting some of their nostrums?

Doesn’t it occur to any of those Republicans that if a drug company can afford to pay a several billion dollar fine, they’re making too damn much money? These are the people they're blathering about?

Will said it best: "… it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

OK ... so once in a while we may make a little mistake.

An excellent column by Bob Herbert in today's New York Times, brought to mind the following:

"Absolute proof of innocence does not necessarily undo a guilty verdict by a jury...!"
Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice
United State Supreme Court