Monday, April 23, 2012

In Nothing We Trust...

Despite tax breaks, some NC hospitals deny care to poor - Prognosis: Profits -

We've all heard it.

"No one goes untreated in the United States if they're sick. Everyone can get healthcare..."

In this second of a five part series by the Charlotte Observer, their team of investigative reporters explains how, despite some hospitals receiving generous tax breaks, they come up woefully short in terms of assisting the poorest members of the community they operate in.

Yes, if you're sick enough, you can be seen in an emergency room in the US, but no preventative care, no maintenance care, etc. will be found there. So, this "safety net" only activates once a person is sick enough to warrant emergency level care.

We wait until its an emergency to do something.

We wait until its an emergency to do something. 

In what other area of our lives do we use the existence of an emergency as the correct time to act? In what area do we instruct our children to wait, wait, wait until things are so far out of control, an emergency exists? I can't think of any.

Plus, for this low income population, this is the only place in the industrialized (civilized) world where society permits people's lives to be destroyed because of an inability to pay.


Best health care system in the world, my ass...

Click through to read the report below...

Despite tax breaks, some NC hospitals deny care to poor - Prognosis: Profits -

Thank You For Your Service: Scott Ostrom's Story

(From the Denver Post)

After serving four years as a reconnaissance man and deploying twice to Iraq, Brian Scott Ostrom, 27, returned home to the U.S. with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. “The most important part of my life already happened. The most devastating. The chance to come home in a box. Nothing is ever going to compare to what I’ve done, so I’m struggling to be at peace with that,” Scott said. He attributes his PTSD to his second deployment to Iraq, where he served seven months in Fallujah with the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion. “It was the most brutal time of my life,” he said. “I didn’t realize it because I was living it. It was a part of me.” Since his discharge, Scott has struggled with daily life, from finding and keeping employment to maintaining healthy relationships. But most of all, he’s struggled to overcome his brutal and haunting memories of Iraq. Nearly five years later, Scott remains conflicted by the war. Though he is proud of his service and cares greatly for his fellow Marines, he still carries guilt for things he did — and didn’t do — fighting a war he no longer believes in. 

(Click through for a moving pictorial of how Scott has dealt with being back in the States. This feature captures, far better than most, what too many of our returning vets have experienced upon being discharged from the service and coming home. Funding is improving, and programs like Wounded Warrior are great resources for these soldiers, but we need more money and programs, faster system response and better treatment options.)

Read and see the entire piece here...


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jon Huntsman Slams Republican Party...

Jon Huntsman Slams Republican Party...

"I don’t know what world these people are living in..."

Many of us moderates found a lot to like in Jon Huntsman. Smart, personable and unwilling in most instances to run away from his education-we saw a Conservative who didn't shun science-he embraced it.  Someone who used less rhetoric than most of his peers. Someone who possessed more actual intellectual substance than most of his rivals on those debate stages. It didn't seem to me that he tried all that hard to really fit in with the Michelle Bachmann's, Herman Cain's and Rick Santorum's of the conservative world. Naturally, the most likely to be an ally of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (for reasons/policies not to mention a shared faith), the connection really materialized. Maybe it never could've with the idea of not one but two Mormons on a national ticket being unsettling to too many voters. The ticket usually winds up with complimentary pieces, not similar ones. 

Well, this evening in an interview at the 92nd Street Y Cultural and Community Center in New York City, Mr. Huntsman took no prisoners. He was highly critical of the GOP, his own performance in the debates and even played the Reagan card. 

After Huntsman was un-invited from a Florida fundraiser in March for publicly saying we should have a third party, he commented, "This is what they do in China on party matters if you talk off script." With additional comments on feeling like an "oddball" after he said he believed in science regarding global warming. He also suggested that former President Ronald Reagan would "likely not" win a national GOP nomination at this time/ 

Read the entire article below. I found it a compelling look at what could have been. Yes, there was never any serious ground-game and his finances were pitifully small compared to the war chest of Romney, but still. If America is looking for a more conservative alternative to President Obama, there would have been a lot to like in Jon Hunstman. And, as I've suggested before, if the Republican Party loses to President Obama in the Fall, it will need to look in the mirror and ask itself why it pushed itself so far to the right, especially on social issues in the run up to election day. 

Read the article here...


OUR OPINION: We must stop bullying. It starts here. And it starts now.

From Sunday's Sioux City Journal's Front Page...

OUR OPINION: We must stop bullying. It starts here. And it starts now.: "Some in our community will say bullying is simply a part of life. If no one is physically hurt, they will say, what's the big deal? It's just boys being boys and girls being girls.
Those people are wrong, and they must be shouted down."

Friday, April 20, 2012

VA to hire 1,900 to meet mental health demands

(Editor's Note: Wait, I thought all government jobs were better handled by the private sector...what gives? Forgive my snarkiness-this is absolutely good news. I wonder if its enough?

DAYTON — The Department of Veteran Affairs is adding 1,900 psychologists, nurses and social workers, an acknowledgement that more mental health help is needed as troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The number of staff members the Dayton VA Medical Center will hire hasn’t yet been determined, according to the agency.
Veterans and congressional leaders said the move was necessary because some of those returning home from combat face issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
Nationwide, 1,600 clinical and 300 clerical workers will be hired.
The Dayton VA provided mental health services to 29,356 veterans in the Miami Valley in its most recent annual count. Nationwide, the VA treated 1.3 million people with mental health needs, a 37 percent hike since 2007. At the same time, the number of the federal agency’s mental health workers grew by 41 percent.

Read more here....


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When Are Wives Political "Fair-Game?"

When Are Wives Political "Fair-Game?"

There's been some discussion recently about the wives of politicians being "fair-game" in the media. Some politicians love to issue the directive "My wife and children are off limits..." which sounds great and correct, but its not that simple.

There seems to be two different groups of political wives. One group avoids the limelight at any cost and is usually seen and not heard. Most of the time, that is. Think Barbara Bush.

The other group is willing and almost eager to engage and participate in the political back and forth. They often speak on the President's behalf, and sometimes do it better than their husbands do. Think Hillary Clinton.

If someone avoids the process most of the time and stays away from critical or controversial statements, then I think they should be left, for the most part, alone. It's bad form, I say, to attack a person who isn't exerting whatever political force they possess in a aggressive fashion. If they're staying out of the fray, don't try and pull them in. If on the other hand, they always seem to be in the news and have taken to the campaign trail and are trying to benefit from the process, then within the limits of good journalism, have at them.

Kids are and should be off limits no matter how their parents use them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Coming Soon: Social Security Checks to Switch to Direct Deposit or Debit Cards...

Coming Soon: Social Security Checks to Switch to Direct Deposit or Debit Cards...

By March of  2013, almost all Social Security recipients will receive their monthly disbursements by either electronic deposit into a checking or savings account or a debit card. The switch began under a law signed in 2010 that aimed to reduce lost or stolen checks and reduce processing costs. According to the Treasury Department, 90% of those who receive Federal Benefits already have made the switch. The program is similar to the Food Stamp program which changed to debit cards back in 2004.

Those over 90 years of age will be exempt from the switch and other waivers may be granted in the cases where using a debit card would be a hardship, yet the Department describes those exceptions would only be granted in "extreme, rare circumstances."

The switch saves Social Security about 120 million dollars a year, with a savings of over a billion dollars projected over the following ten years. There's also potential for reducing lost or stolen checks, which numbered 540,000 benefit checks in 2010. 

The Treasury Department is trying to be especially helpful with its oldest recipients. "This will affect some very frail elderly people who are living by themselves, many of them, and doing well, but usually within the context of that old paper check that they deposit in the bank," said Web Phillips, a senior policy advisor for the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare. "The change has to be handled carefully and with a lot of sensitivity so that there aren't people who lose track of a payment or don't understand that they have a card that came in the mail that's the source of their payment," Phillips said. "That's our concern."

Another downside to this transition is the effect on the already struggling Post Office who has lost a substantial amount of its business to the use of email and electronic bill-paying.

There is a website that Treasury has developed to assist the public in making the change. Visit or phone 1-800-333-1795 for more information. 


Could We Elect an Atheist As President?

Could We Elect an Atheist As President?

Can you imagine the people of the United States of America electing someone President who was a non believer? Someone who openly admitted to NOT believe that Jesus Christ was Lord God Almighty?

Well, of course, they could, couldn't they?

Don't hold your breath...

Intellectually, I know an Atheist could fulfill the duties of the office of President of the United States. There are no requirements, such as "special" religious duties listed in the Constitution. In fact, Article Six expressly states that, " religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." That seems to take care of any official roadblock preventing an Atheist from at least running for office. The hurdle that remains, of course, is how the voting public feels about such an eventuality. Which at least for the first two-hundred plus years of our Country, isn't very keen on the idea.

There have been Presidents who were not devout worshipers. Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln claimed a belief in the Almighty, yet did not claim membership into a certain sect of Christianity. The same can be said of William Howard Taft and our current President, Barack Obama. All were accused of being Atheists during their campaigns. James Madison and James Monroe were hardly devout worshipers. Madison especially recorded his thoughts on the dangers of religion playing too prominent a role in the Federal Government. Madison said, "...Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which pervades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest."

While there seemed to be a tolerance for a lack of religious fervor in our early years as a Republic, in the last several decades, that tolerance has dwindled. Especially since the not so secret liaisons between the Evangelical movement and the Republican Party of the early 1980's, the matter of a candidates' faith has indeed become a required component of his credentials. Its not enough to possess advanced education. Its not enough to possess years of experience in the Military or business. At some point in the election process, the candidates faith is brought front and center for inspection.

With the advances in media and technology-the worthiness of a candidates faith is evaluated on a national scale. 24/7 cable news channels loop video clips of juicy quotes that have been enunciated in a stump speech, debate or press release. I have to think the very same Founding Fathers the recent GOP field loved to mention so often, would find many of these public displays of faith a bit unpleasant. A bit unseemly. A bit arranged for our benefit.

Suppose there are two men running for President. One a self described Christian who very publicly makes it known for all to see how MUCH he believes. The other candidate either says he's an Atheist or simply "no comment" to any question regarding his beliefs. If everything else is equal, its understood that the Christian would win in a landslide, yes? What if everything isn't equal? What if various past sins and misconduct are revealed of the Christian? Would that be enough to see a significant percentage of people change their votes and support the Atheist? Who knows?

If an Atheist won election, how would he be sworn into office, if not on a Bible? In the history of the United States, there's only been one President-Theodore Roosevelt-who was not sworn into office with the use of the Bible. The Atheist POTUS would follow the rest of the usual swearing in ceremony sans Bible. They could also avoid the use of the word I "swear" by substituting I " affirm" as Franklin Pierce did when he was sworn in. There's no official mandate that a newly elected president use a Bible or swear to "God" anywhere in the process. Article Two, Section One of the Constitution lays out the exact oath a new President is to be sworn into office with:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

You notice what isn't in there? The "so help me God" part that many Presidents have was their right to do. Or not to do.


Its difficult for me to conceive of a Non Christian candidate for President let alone one that denied the existence of a Creator. Since George Washington was sworn into office, there's been no Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist or Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Presidents elected. Mitt Romney appears on track to be the first Mormon to receive a major party nomination later this year in Tampa, Florida during the Republican Convention.


On the other hand, when polled, voters often indicate non religious factors as most important selecting their candidate. In a 2007 AP-IPSOS Poll found 55% of those surveyed said honesty, integrity and other character issues are most important compared to policy choices or other factors. Ironic, given how much time and money candidates spend trying to show off their faith bonafides, isn't it?

At the end of the day, I look for intelligence, character and policy direction when it comes to choosing who to vote for. I need to feel like the candidate has the mental capacity for the job. I look for character to see if he has the strength to go against the grain and sacrifice personal political power to help the Country. I also look heavily at policy choices.

Example: I think Mitt Romney is plenty intelligent to perform the duties of the POTUS. He loses me quickly when it comes to character as its been shown over and over again that he's changed his policy positions. Sometimes its just good sense to change direction when new information is made available. Too many times Romney has, in my opinion, switched how he felt on an issue based on how the political winds were blowing. Most political experts agree the next election will be mostly about the economy, which isn't going to be a slam dunk for Mr. Obama. That said, several years ago, Governor Romney pushed through landmark, pragmatic changes in how the citizens of Massachusetts were able to obtain health insurance. While no system is prefect and there are cost issues in Massachusetts, the program is a success. Almost every person in that State is covered. President Obama used Romney's plan as a blueprint for the Affordable Care Act in 2008. Romney has said he will repeal "Obamacare" as soon as he enters office. To the character question, I would've so respected Gov. Romney if, in spite of the hailstorm of criticism from his fellow GOP candidates, he'd stood up on day one and announced, "I must disagree with my fellow Republicans on the matter of the Affordable Care Act. While I may not agree with some of the details in the plan, the overall goal is a worthy one and one that I will continue to work hard to enhance and improve as we go along. A Country as great as the USA shouldn't see any of its citizens going without adequate health care. I disagree with President Obama on most other issues and will be voicing my differences with him for all to hear...but as far as health care reform goes...he's done the right things..."

I'll bet a large sum of money that such a posture would've served him quite well with the undecided independent voters. It shows honesty, character and a willingness to not follow the pack. Obviously, he's gone a different that he may regret come November.

Its a very small percent of voters who select their candidate based on mostly religion. More often its a pocket-book issue, the economy, their employment status, etc. But make no mistake, the religion thing is sort of a "pre-qualifier" to gain admittance into the fray. You might possess the character, integrity, honesty, etc. in large quantities but I fear that is such a person also indicated no belief in God, it would prevent them from any serious contention.

Which is a sin, if you ask me.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Santorum may end campaign today...

Some chatter about rick santorums 2 pm speech today in gettysburg pennsylvania. Santorums staff not commenting on reports he will end his presidential campaign this afternoon...

Poll: Independent Voters Like Barack Obama but Prefer Mitt Romney’s Message | At the Races

Poll: Independent Voters Like Barack Obama but Prefer Mitt Romney’s Message | At the Races: "Perhaps the poll’s most informative findings in terms of educating us on the direction of the 2012 presidential race and what might affect the outcome: Third Way reports in a memo discussing the survey that it has refined its data to identify the 38 percent of independent voters that are still “up for grabs” — voters it designates as “swing state independents” — and discovered that while this demographic has more positive feelings toward President Barack Obama than his presumptive Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, these voters are “closer ideologically” to the former Massachusetts governor."

Should Women Be Allowed to Play at Augusta National Golf Club?

Should Women Be Allowed to Play at Augusta National Golf Club?

They already are, as long as they are invited by a member. The annual fussfest that occurs during the playing of the Masters Tournament is a bit uncalled for. Every year the media gets its knickers in a wad reporting on the (non) story about how the Augusta National Golf Club doesn't permit women to join its club. We see pictures of groups of upset women with signs and bullhorns trying to draw awareness to this pressing national issue:

That's totally fine by me.

I suppose.

This is about women being able to join a private club. A private golf club. Let's not confuse this with an equal rights issue lest Martin Luther King, Jr. rise up and remind what his point really was about. The Club doesn't discriminate against some women. It discriminates against all women, so in my mind, its not offensive to me. If they only refused membership to black women or jewish women or women from Alabama or women with red hair, then we'd have something to talk about. Private clubs are allowed to set their own membership rules. They do it all the time. The ANGC doesn't even have a membership application process because no one is even allowed to apply for membership, its invitation only.

This Club isn't run on public dollars, grants or loans from the Government. Its not located on public lands. I'm guessing it does pay its share of taxes, which benefits a lot of people. It does quite a bit of charitable work in the community and elsewhere. It has learn to play programs for both boys and girls. (We'll let them decide how best to explain to the young ladies they train that they won't be welcomed as members any time soon.)

Augusta National is a throwback. They have shown a slow willingness to change over time as blacks like former Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann are now members. They've also dropped the "blacks only" caddy policy several years ago. They seem, by my eyes, to be moving in the right direction socially. I suspect someday a women will be invited to join. And then this annual business will fade away.

If I'm a women golfer, I'd be far more concerned with what some elected officials are attempting to legislate with my health care rights than I would be about membership at the local tight-ass club in Augusta, GA.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Another Affordable Care Act Lie Exposed...

It seems that one can't go for more than a week or so before running into yet another falsehood being spread around the internet about President Obama's Health care reform, the Affordable Care Act. Last week I heard the meme that buried within the pages of the Bill's text was the notion that anyone who sold a home would have to pay an additional 3.8% "health care tax" on the transaction. I'd heard it before, but sometimes these things have a life of their own. The claim is FALSE. Its de-bunked here, here and here...So, the next time you hear or see of someone spreading that misinformation around, please correct them.

Here's one I hadn't heard before.

This one focuses on an alleged increase in Medicare Insurance Premiums due to Obamacare. There is a viral email of course that claims the prices are about to skyrocket, mentions buzzwords like "mainstream media" and explains that this information is being kept quiet until the 2008 presidential elections are over. Sigh...

Here's a great write-up on it from John E. McDonough of the "Health Stew Blog" that I've referenced before:

Lots of folks ask me why I think the Affordable Care Act/ObamaCare is so unpopular. I first assert that it's not as unpopular as popularly characterized (see Kaiser Family Foundation monthly tracking polls) and then I refer to the deliberate and false claims about the law being widely circulated around the nation, particularly aimed at senior citizens. I wrote about one particular falsehood last month. Now, my newfound pals at the GE Retirees Association yesterday sent me another they have been receiving in their email inboxes:
Subject: Medicare Premiums ---FYI
Look clearly at the 2014 rate compared to the 2013 rate.
For those of you who are on Medicare, read the following. It's short, but important and you probably haven't heard about it in the Mainstream News:
"The per person Medicare Insurance Premium will increase from the present Monthly Fee of $96.40, rising to:
$104.20 in 2012
$120.20 in 2013
$247.00 in 2014."
These are Provisions incorporated in the Obamacare Legislation, purposely delayed so as not to confuse the 2012 Re-Election Campaigns. Send this to all Seniors that you know, so they will know who's throwing them under the bus.
Peggy Riehle
Internal Representative
Network Contracting
Blue Cross Blue Shield.jpg
Could I verify or contradict the message, my GE Retiree friends wanted to know. Didn't sound right to me, so I did some investigating. My contacts in the Obama Administration and the U.S. Senate said it's a viral email lie that has been going around for more than one year now. 

Needless to say, the email is a pure hoax, which the people at Blue Cross Blue Shield Alabama have been trying correct for a while now. Click here to continue reading McDonough's piece...


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Obama Stretches Truth on Health Care Vote...

Obama Stretches Truth on Health Care Vote...

Last Monday, President Barack Obama commented on the likelihood of the Supreme Court overturning his Health Care legislation, otherwise known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). President Obama's fundamental argument was that the Court would be venturing into into "unprecedented" waters should it deem all or part of the ACA un-constitutional. There's plenty of experts on both sides who have commented on what will happen. One side's basic argument is that its a massive over-reach by the Government which violates citizen's rights by compelling everyone to purchase health insurance. The other side's basic argument is that health care, as a huge part of our economy constitutes (no pun intended) commerce and is manageable by Congress as such. The Justices have voted and are now in the process of writing their decision, which will be released in late June.

Most of us have expected President Obama to defend his biggest legislative achievement of his administration, no shock here. To not would have been a surprise. This isn't news, nor is his gentle commentary on the SCOTUS. Not hardly.

What did bother me was a comment the President made during his remarks last Monday. Here they are: (Bold mine)

"Ultimately I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress," 

Huh? A "strong majority?"

Let's review...

In the Senate, the ACA passed by a 60-39 vote in favor of, which certainly is a majority, but I don't consider 60% on any up or down vote a strong outcome.

In the House, 219 voted yea, 212 voted against, which works out to be a 50.8% vote for passage. Since you need to have a majority, it passed with arguably the weakest of margins.

For the President to suggest in any way that the Bill passed with a strong majority is well, laughable.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Taking A Few Days to Ponder...

I'm taking a few days off from writing. I've done this before when the "well runs a bit low," so this is nothing new. Sometimes I need to let things settle a bit. The Republican Primary seems to be drawing to a close and depending on how Wisconsin and then Pennsylvania turn out, the end may be at hand for Rick Santorum. We'll see.

Same thing with the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act coming in late June. There's no question that our Country needs a major overhaul of how we handle the delivery healthcare and how the costs involved are. As the issue of income disparity is being discussed there's also a similarity in healthcare. If you have money, you have great chances of obtaining good quality healthcare. If you don't have money, its unclear what degree of access, let alone what level of quality you'll enjoy. How the Court rules will set  various things in motion. If upheld, its a bit of redemption for President Obama and the Democrats. If overturned, the Republicans will have received a rather large stick with which to beat Obama about the head from now until the November General Election.

I'll be back in a few days unless something unexpected happens, in which case I'll weigh in as needed...