Archive for the 'Current Events' Category

Quote of the Week (Maybe the Month)

“It’s like debating the difference between aspirin
and Tylenol for a cancer patient.”

— Dr. David Himmelstein, when asked about the health care reform bills in Congress

Dr. Himmelstein is an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who he helped write major studies finding that medical bills were a leading contributor to personal bankruptcies in the United States.

Read the whole article in the New York Times here.

And for more on health care, visit my client Dr. Gregory Jackson’s blog, “Reality Check: How to Live Better Longer.”

Real Voices for Change: Health Care Reform Rally

I started the day watching the funeral of Senator Ted Kennedy, the third of the brothers I witnessed being laid to rest. In honor of the Lion of the Senate, I decided to attend today’s Real Voices for Change Forum with Congressman Lloyd Doggett here in Austin.

On my way to meet my friends Nancy and Debi, I spotted a hulking black SUV loaded with bumper stickers, so many that the only ones I caught were “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” and “Where’s the Fence?” Go figure.

I thought it was a real possibility that we’d get yelled at by some angry teabaggers, so I briefly considered packing a few used teabags, just in case. (NOTE: THAT WAS A JOKE!) I also wondered if those who embrace the “teabagger” moniker so wholeheartedly even know of the salacious meaning of that particular term. But I suppose they don’t.

Anyway, around 2:15 p.m., Nancy, Debi, and I headed over to the First United Methodist Church, site of the forum. An orderly line snaked around the church with pro-reform signs. A small group of the opposition was camped out on the island on 12th Street, again orderly and relatively quiet. Instead of standing in line, we opted to go to the overflow room at the AFL-CIO building. We claimed chairs and were handed official signs. One thoughtful woman even handed out some snacks! By the time the event started, the room was full, probably around 200-250 people. The only squawking I heard was a baby out in the hall. Definitely a pro-reform crowd.

One woman who sat next to us said she’d been at the Capitol earlier for the rally and hung around afterward, watching the TV crews glom onto the teabaggers, even though they were hugely outnumbered. (Of course, the secessionists had a rally earlier in the day in which they claimed that Sam Houston supported secession — fact check, PUH-LEASE!). But our roomful of people was quite cheerful and supportive and quite enthusiastic when the show started.


  • Pastor Jim Rigby of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church: “If you talk about helping the poor, you’re called a Christian. If you actually try to help the poor, you’re called a socialist” and “Some people think your right to life ends when you’re born.” I’m going to go check out St. Andrew’s — love the Social Justice bent of that church!
  • Geoff Tudor: A former health-care industry attorney told his poignant personal story about losing his health care coverage after having a heart ailment and moving back to the Texas to take care of his family. The bottom line is he needs a procedure to replace the battery of his pacemaker in eight months and has no coverage and doesn’t know if he’ll be able to have the surgery. I wish I could find a transcript of that speech — it was stunning.
  • Lloyd Doggett arrived to a standing ovation:
    • “Doing nothing in a country as prosperous as ours is unconscionable.”
    • “If you try to listen to what these fears are expressing so strongly, it uncovers some truths. These claimed describe what’s wrong with health care today that we want to fix.”
    • “What the opponents are describing are not the dangers of reform but about doing nothing.”
    • He also pushed for the public option! Yippee!

At one point, one speaker asked all of the veterans to stand, and one of the men in our room stood, revealing a red “Faux News” T-shirt.

We decided to head back over to the church to check out the action. DPS troopers were patrolling 12th Street. The island had maybe 50 people on it, hollering and waving signs. I saw the Obama as Hitler poster at the LaRouche table  and the creepy Obama as the Joker T-shirts. That bugged me. Although they were standing out in the sun and heat, so… What surprised me the most was that they seemed to be mostly middle-aged and young white people. Very few older people.

Pro-reformers lined the north side of the street, offering good-natured back and forth. I found a shady spot and watched for a while, but aside from the occasional shouting, nothing much seemed to be happening.

Nancy announced, “I’m going over there,” and walked over to the island where she stood unaccosted. Then Debi and I walked across the street to get a picture of Nancy with the Baggers, and one woman accosted Debi, telling her that she was stupid for supporting reform! Debi just walked away.

Overall, it was quiet and relatively civil. And the numbers tell the story: The headcount  at the church and the overflow venues was estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 while I counted around  50 protesters. But of course that’s where the TV cameras were!

How to Take Back the Health Care Debate

Finally, a voice of reason emerges, but no one seems to be listening: George Lakoff has this short take on what Dems need to do to take back the “debate.” His points:

  • Name the villain: insurance companies that are doing exactly what the screamers are saying “reform” will do.
  • What has failed is insurance company health care.
  • Ask: Who’s had to wait for an authorization for care? Who’s been denied authorization by insurance companies? Who has lost their insurance?
  • Change “public option” to the “American plan” (Are you for the American plan or not?)
  • Insurance companies spend 20-30% of premiums to deny you care.

Hmmm, no talk of killing Grandma or my personal favorite: promoting “gender confusion” by pushing sex change operations!

Lakoff also had a interview on Minnesota Public Radio. The sad thing is that the truth does not seem to be an option.

Playing Catchup

Well, there’s been so much going on! Not only the Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference, but then we have the trifecta of John Ensign, Mark Sanford, and Sarah Palin! Oh yeah and all of the Michael Jackson stuff. So just thought I’d do a quick placeholder post to get back in the swing of things.

First, I vote that He of the Old Appalachian Trail just change his name to SINford and be done with us. Don’t cry for us, Argentina — you can HAVE him!

Then Sarah Palin retains her throne in the WTFWT?!?! Hall of Fame (translation: “What the F was THAT?!?!”) with that wacky resignation move. The transcript is even better than the video. My theory: She just couldn’t run the state of Alaska and write a book at the same time. And guess which one will make her few million?

But John Ensign, ah, now that’s a scandal we can all sink our teeth into. And it just gets weirder and weirder with Mummy and Daddy paying off the girlfriend.

Hmm, did SP try that with Levi? Maybe that’s why she needs to bring down the big bucks — to make Levi just go away!

History in the Making: Obama in Cairo

Obama ReutersHe does it every time, our president. He takes whatever troublesome bull is before him by the horns and refuses to let go. I caught the first half of his Cairo speech today, awed by its forthright magnificence and sheer ballsiness. Rachel Maddow has been going on about he grabbed the third rail, tallying eight third rails  in this single speech. I need to catch the rest of it.

The line that resonated strongly with me was this gem: “But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors.  There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.  As the Holy Koran tells us, ‘Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.’  [Applause.]  That is what I will try to do today –– to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.” That admonishment tracks beautifully to us as individuals and how we can be in our own relationships with others, no matter how cursory or intimate or global.

As I was listening  (while ironing my ensemble for the day, if you must know), the thought prickled at me that this could very well be President Obama’s Nixon-in-China watershed moment. Set aside the bold statements about Israel and Iran and extremists, etc.; it was his mastery of nuance and utter comfort in gray areas that also impressed me. He is blessed with an uncanny ability to weigh both sides (or even multiple sides) of an issue and then carve out the true line between.

I keep reverting to the utilitarian slangy metaphor “He blew me away”; unlike the president, I’m at a loss in devising a more eloquent translation of that particular sentiment. Bottom line: I  love our president and his audacity –– it’s our great hope. But remember, each of us can go there ourselves. “So come on, people, now / smile on each other / everybody get together, got to love one another right now” (Okay, I have NO idea where that came from — wait, I mean, I know the song, but I wasn’t expecting that to pop up, but it does sort of fit!).

May God’s peace be upon us, each and every one!

My Favorite Book Review of All Time

After reading more than my share of book reviews, I’ve rather given up on them. Then I stumbled on the best book review of all time: It’s our friend Helen reviewing Ann Coulter’s latest tree killer so her longtime pal Margaret won’t have to read the dang thing. You gotta love a reviewer who starts out buying a used copy of a book!

This excerpt from the post “Ann Coulter Is Just Not That Into Anyone” just slays me:

“This chapter is titled ‘When 95 Percent of World Domination Just Isn’t Enough…”’ which seems to have nothing to do with anything contained in the chapter.  It should have been titled ‘95% of Ann Coulter  is pure bullshit… and the other 5% is pure bullshit.’ It occurs to me that reading a Coulter book is like drinking the water in Mexico – eventually you find yourself wondering if the shit will ever stop.”

Then: “I can’t wait to move on to something more enjoyable than Ann Coulter – like irritable bowel syndrome.”

Hall of fame review, that alone! The fun starts here with Chapter 1.

Heck, Margaret and Helen have the most entertaining blog anywhere, especially when they blast off on Sarah Palin.

You GO, girls!!!

Today’s Bizarre Newsbits

1. Renegade billionaire Allen “Bernie Jr.” Stanford seems to have taken a cue from Carmen San Diego and vanished.

2. Wacko Michele Bachman is against the stimulus because we’re “running out of rich people”?!”! WTF? (Come ON, Minnesota, get the Al Franken thing right and then ditch her!)

3. Pretend journalist Ann Curry asked Bill Clinton if he was the 13th person responsible for the economic meltdown. Guess she has that peculiar amnesia about the last eight years (surely there were more than 12 people involved from 2001 to 2008!).

4. Finally, American Idol is really stinking it up tonight. What’s in that backstage Evian?! I‘m tweeting all about it. But I love that Danny Gokey! Just put him in the top four NOW!

Life After Ike

While it’s flooding in Wichita, Ike devastates the Texas coast. It was really strange watching it all on TV — while all hell is breaking loose not all that far away, we had sunny skies and a brief shower late Saturday. But that was it. Then today, when I approached the freeway, the big digital sign warned travelers to avoid traveling to Houston and Galveston. Eerie.

My friend Marianne stayed on the Island as part of her duty at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. I haven’t yet talked with her, when I tried her cell phone Saturday afternoon, she answered, but then we lost the signal. Friends in Houston report little damage, although they’re all dealing with power outages and the unreliability of getting gas. Friends Judy and Chris have a neighbor’s huge pecan in the back yard and a huge limb almost took out one window, but other than that — and the Houston swelter — they’re fine, thank goodness.

This is going to be one loooong recovery.

The Mighty WIDE Mississippi

My sister Cathy has been sending pix of the rising Mississippi as it takes over Burlington, Iowa. Her building and the family’s restaurant, La Tavola, are uphill by about two blocks from where all of this is happening. Apparently, the gas has been turned off in much of downtwon, but Cheryl and Carlo have switched to a “cold” menu with whatever they can do without the gas stove!

The river is supposed to crest on Thursday, but it has already burst through the levees on the other side of the bridge and flooded out Gulfport, Illinois. As weird as it all is, Cheryl says that the most eerie thing is not hearing the trains barrel through town.

Anyway, here are some links to Cathy’s pics:

Tuesday, June 17
Monday, June 16
Sunday, June 15

Look for the random shark fin; as dire as things are, someone in Burlington does have a sense of humor! So much of what is under water is where Cathy usually walks her dogs.

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