“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” ~Albert Camus

Another Angle

panicI think it’s the Boomers fault.

If like me, you grew up under the specter of the ATOM BOMB and “duck and cover” exercises in school, you can see that we are at fault.

Since us Boomers all feel that we grew up pretty much okay, except for the one quarter of us who are certifiably insane right wing ranters who think denial of the obvious will some how insulate them from extinction at the hands of an angry god, we figure that we best instill a large chunk of panic in the national diet so that upcoming generations will grow strong like us.

This explains, I think, why media grand viziers seem determined to make each and every “event” one in which we should all be checkin’ our survival rations and “bug out” plans.

It should be, therefore, clear why  ALL the media is in a panic about EBOLA. The fear of God requires it ya see, for only after learning to hold one’s bladder and sphincter in the face of impending death can we come out the other side as well-rounded happy and content people that most of us Boomers actually are.

Of course on the far-far-right in a galaxy too stupid to find it’s way in orbit, the media has all sorts of unusual if not predictable explanations. WorldnetDaily which is peopled by a class of subhumans intractable in their level of stupid, it’s all a deliberate plot by the dark guy Barack Hussain to rid the planet (Amerika that is) of white people. Secretly of course all black people have been issued hazmat suits. (The fist bump signals, “I got mine, you got yours?)

Every Republican running for office is pondering whether we should close the beaches or just nuke the hell out of the continent of Africa and make the world safe for white people. The media, meanwhile is busy asking questions like, ” are we prepared, should people fly, should they poop, and WHO THE HELL IS IN CHARGE?” Which is all quite funny since the Surgeon General would be the obvious person to be in charge but we don’t have one, because the NRA doesn’t like the choice, and the CDC functions with a slashed budget, again because the NRA is afraid that somebody might suggest that gun deaths are a national epidemic and where the hell are guns sales going then?

There is a story, but of course, not one that anybody bothers with, because gosh and darn it, one might have to think a bit, and actually go out in the FIELD and ask questions rather than simple vomit (yikes, where’s the HAZMAT suit?) out trite talking points?

A few days ago, just after the nurse was confirmed as a patient, a bunch of nurses representing some nurses association started talking. And at first it seemed weird and rather silly. Ya see, at first the only question was “how could this nurse contract EBOLA? After all, we had been assured that all them medical folks knew the “protocols” and so it must be this damn African thing was a lot more dangerous than we had been led to believe (enter cries of “it’s Obama’s fault”).

My first reaction was that this was just a bunch of nurses arguing that they were not to blame (the CDC insisting that for a caregiver to come down with the virus meant that there had been a break in established protocols). I kind of laughed it off.

But it was more than that. It turns out the National Nurses Union was giving the country information that was not forthcoming from the people in charge. Certainly nobody at Texas Health Presbyterian was making these admissions. The information the NNU was providing came directly (so they claim) from nursing personnel at THP, information that they were afraid to share openly out of fear.

Why you ask?

Because like most of the South, and increasingly almost everywhere, Texas is a right-to-work state, and the massive THP is not unionized. Nurses there had a story and they were afraid for their jobs to relate it. The NNU received their reports and relayed the information anonymously to protect them from retaliation from the corporate heads.

The reality is that the first patient with Ebola was left in a common area (with other patients and medical personnel) for “hours” after being brought in by ambulance before he was transferred to secure isolation. Senior nursing supervisors complained of this to no avail apparently. Further, nurses were not given proper hazmat suits but used fairly flimsy “contagious disease” coverings that left parts of their bodies exposed. Protocals were “not in place” and the required equipment was not there. Higher ups in the administration of the hospital apparently would not ask for help.

What does this all mean?

It’s hard to say, but surely it should be looked at. The fact is that it is hard to believe that in a unionized business, workers would be afraid to speak out against dangerous conditions. Unions are there for that reason, to protect them against being fired. Further, unions themselves put their foot down and insist on corrections or threaten a strike. It is entirely possible that the the secondary infections could have been avoided.  Of course it may not have been either, and we make no blanket assertion because it is an unknowable.

However, we do know that unions are in place for just these sorts of things–to give workers the ability and protection needed to speak out about issues that often they know much better than suits far removed from the scene do.

It continues to be appalling that our apparently poorly educated folks never learned how much their good life today was due to the unions that are quickly becoming a quaint history notation. Many of these people grew up in union homes and should know this without more. Yet, they have so readily been misdirected to blaming unions for their present financial woes whatever they might be. Surely unions are not perfect, but without them, the worker is left to the devices we see in play at DHP–proper actions being taken too late to be effective.

Just something to think about.







Taking Out the Trash

overfillIt’s the same old problem we all have to deal with. Too much in the brain, info leaking out all over the place, staining the carpet and being an utter embarrassment in a five-star restaurant. It’s time  once again to empty the overload, sifting through the flotsam,  using that awful “pile” system–this stays, that goes. I keep going to Containers R Us looking for a better filing storage system, but the fine folks there continue to look confused.

I only lay out my “garage sale” offerings in the hopes that you might find  something you need, or at least can assure me that you too suffer from the same sort of waste in your own life. Just call it my way of assessing periodically my own sanity.

So here goes:

1. There is nothing quite so gratifying and well just down right “mission accomplished” feeling than handing the husband his “honey do” list every morning. They all look so wide-eyed surprised like deer caught in the headlights. You can see that flicker of defiance, followed almost immediately by utter resignation and defeat. Priceless feeling isn’t it ?

2. There is, I am convinced nothing quite so sweet as that moment when you wake up in the morning, realize there is still time, stretch, roll over, and feel you are the perfect temperature, the bed is perfectly comfortable, the weight of the blankets is perfectly in balance and the feel of the sheets is silky soft. This must be akin to the womb I can only conclude. It lasts only a few moments and that is as it should be. You either fall back asleep or make you way up, since the feeling only lasts as I said for a few moments.  I have had great sex in my life, but I think this tops that for exquisiteness. But then, I’m 64 and perhaps I would have answered differently at say 27.  (Putting this back in the save pile, since it may have value if re-incarnation is true. I can ponder it again when I’m 27.)

3. Is anyone interested in a whole lot of random “facts” about the Green Bay Packers? Try as I might, my brain absorbs far too much of this crap every week during the season. I can assure you it is against my will, but the neurons keep firing and cartwheeling these bits of nonsense to storage areas. The big question of the week: Is Aaron Rodgers a great quarterback or the greatest quarterback? Seriously, I care? Anyway, I’m pretty much offering a whole box of trivia like this for free to any taker.

4. The moment when you realize that your pet runs the household. I struggle between fear and amusement. Who does he think he is after all? He generates no money, and neither cooks nor cleans. On the other hand, having failed to be “worth anything” he gets his way in most everything, commanding us to come out and “sit with him” even when it’s too cold, hot, windy, or whatever. He then promptly lays down and goes to sleep. He has figured out that sighing a lot and whining hits a nerve that is so irritating that it must be squelched by acceding to his wishes. I am still not sure how this turn about occurred. He started out so meek and mild and so utterly slobbery grateful to be rescued we feared he would never stop groveling. The good ole days alas.

5. Are you like me? Yeah, I know, that’s a pretty broad spectrum I guess. Okay, as in how you drink coffee. That narrows it down. I do not believe that I have drunk an entire cup of coffee since 1979, in March.  The 22, to be exact. Since then and before then, I sip. And then I forget, and then it’s cold. That used to be the end of it back before the microwave days. Pour it out, pour another, drink a bit, pour out, pour new. Today, we got us the microwave. And everyone knows that the main purpose of a microwave is to reheat your cup of coffee. Or make popcorn at work. Anybody done any study about how many times a single cup of coffee can be reheated before it’s carcinogenic? It keeps me up at night, and I gotta let it go.

Dagger of the mind

6. American television, unencumbered by censorship such as all the Amazon originals and HBO stuff, and whatever else, reminds me of barely pubescent boys who have secured a Playboy and are busy giggling behind the garage. I mean such things are undeniably better than almost anything on “regular” TeeVee, but the common denominator of why this is so seems to be the penchant for these not TV shows to show a lot of frontal nudity and an even bigger desire to show simulated sex. Maybe it’s not simulated, has anybody asked? It’s hard to find “integral to the plot” in most of it. I don’t mind it much. I’m too old to feign embarrassment. It’s just something to mostly get past to the guts of the real stuff.

7. Speaking of which, it now seems de rigueur to have blood erupt in great spurts when shooting people in the land of make-belief. Now doubt it appears more “authentic”. Some suggest that making it look “icky” helps to convince children that this is a bad thing to do as opposed to in the 50’s when Matt winged his enemy who then crumpled to the ground only to arise clutching said arm through which no hint of red appeared. That apparently “encouraged” kids to pick up guns and shoot people for real thinking that nothing all that bad would happen. Seeing blood spraying everywhere, even in your face, cuts against doing such nasty things. Ya think?

8. I’m never sure just how strict I should be with myself. Some folks actually make lists of what they want to do and then happily check them off as being “done” such as “put stamps on envelopes”–DONE! The really loony ones include (5 min). I’m told a few of our more intelligent folks actually set out how much time they would devote to each subject of study each day–philosophy of man, 3 hours, mathematics 1 1/2 hours of thinking and 1/2 hour in actual calculation. I can see doing this I guess when you are 33, have 3 kids, a job and a spouse. There is a lot to be worked out so that nobody is left in front of the library and there is actually some food in the fridge. But I’m thinkin’ that the less complicated one’s life is, the less one need do this. And then there is the thing of R E T I R E M E N T, which should mean retiring from all that WORK, and just doin’ what feels good at least most of the time. I think I am still too strict with myself. The inner mother needs to be kicked down the stairs. Slam that basement door on the old bat and party!

9. I’ve come to believe that the news is really not about learning about the world at all but rather in watching the comedy of a bunch of self-inflated idiots make fools of themselves. I mean, a very few weeks ago, it was all about how hoards of terrorist children were coming to Merika to subvert our way of life. Then it was ISIS. Then it was EBOLA. In the midst of all this is the circus that is known as the “midterms”. Not tests of course, though then test my patience. I see the nurses of America are up in arms. They feel “blamed” for EBOLA now, cause they forgot to wash their hands. Do you often feel that most of the people you know are crazy?

10. The Contrarian informed me that in Saturday’s paper, above the fold, was a story about ISIS, one about EBOLA, and then the biggest news story in our parts–a coyote attacked and killed a chihuahua in it’s own back yard. I can attest to the concern, since there were signs on the community mailboxes warning everyone to “keep your chihuahuas indoors”.  We have coyotes all over our neck of the woods. Diego and I have come upon more than a dozen in a year. They of course don’t consider Diego food, since he weighs more than they do. The trouble is, the dogs in our neighborhood bark a lot, and I can’t tell the difference between, “the meter reader is on my block” from “there’s a coyote! there’s a coyote!” I do know that a siren brings out the suprano in all the dogs, Diego having one of the best howls of all. It’s quite a group sing-a-long.

Well, I feel a bit more light and airy now.

Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day. Or is it the start of a new do over?


More Patriotic Bullshit

bullshitSeldom does there rise up an example of abject stupid of such gargantuan proportions as a fellow named Todd Kincannon. It is perhaps, should be we prone to speculating on God’s designs, His way of showing the rest of humanity how not to do it.

Todd was once upon a time executive something or other in the GOP of South Carolina, and grad-u-ate, of the law school of the University of South Carolina. That second part should give parents of graduating seniors pause. Somehow that university failed to weed out the chaff and gave this fool a degree.

By now, you no doubt have heard of Todd. He is an equal-opportunity coconut of the first order. In fact, as I said, he may well be the prototype of all nut jobs.

In response to Ebola, Todd suggests that we just “humanely” put them down. He has also tweeted that we need to deal with ISIS pretty much as Columbus dealt with the “filthy savages” he found in Merika–exterminate them. He suggests that African-Americans are good but Africans are savages with AIDS and Ebola, and our President is the latter. There is more, but who cares. The official GOP is pretty much disowning the guy who seems intent on encouraging the scorn.

I rail about stupid, but not stupid in general. Nobody can be faulted for being stupid if that is their fate based upon too few brain cells. I mean one can’t control such things and the most one can hope in such a case, is that the few that exist can get together and counsel their owner to keep his beak clamped firmly shut to notify as few as possible of the infirmity of being rock stupid.

What I rail at is stupid that is willful and deliberate (if there is a difference between willful and deliberate, otherwise I’m repeating myself). There is no excuse for it. Yet people hide behind “two things you don’t discuss in polite society are politics and religion” and other such trite phrases. Another is being “too busy”. Well aren’t we all? If you want to take that route, then you by definition leave the field to those who are so rich that they have nothing but leisure or so rich they have a vested interest in things being done their way. Neither is a good thing, yet this is what we find today.

Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, was recently interviewed by Stephen Colbert and had this rather profound remark to make:

“A thoughtless citizen of a democracy is a delinquent citizen of a democracy.”

Unlike other forms of government, we get the government we elect, we get the government we demand, we get the government that we choose. If we choose to opt out by our failure to learn the truth about all the issues that confront us, if we fail to vote, we are unworthy of the land in which we live. We are not patriotic, we are nothing but ignorant “feel-good” loafers who are so involved in our own lives that we can spare none for the country we claim to love so much. Patriotism is a good deal more than thanking veterans for their service, singing national anthems, and critiquing the correctness of Presidential salutes upon exiting Marine One.

Opinions don’t count, opinions based on actual facts do. And actual facts are discerned through a sifting process of reading and THINKING about a host of sources, determining what can and cannot be given credence. It does not involve looking for arguments that support what one really wants to be true because it suits one’s worldview, religious needs, or pocketbook.

We have to laugh at the likes of a Ted Cruz, who when confronted with the fact that SCOTUS was refusing to take up a number of circuit cases involving same-sex marriage laws, determined that this inaction constituted some gravest of all forms of judicial activism. We have to shake our heads at the continued doomsday reports from the hate groups like Family Research Council who beat the drums of impending Armageddon should people of the same sex be allowed to marry. Mike Huckabee has threatened to leave the GOP if crazier heads like himself don’t prevail and carry on the fight against this god-less movement.

The FACT is that this idiocy of fundamentalism is not something that can be traced to the apostles of our Lord. This brand of fundamentalism with all it’s “inerrancy, creationism,anti-climate change, and young-earth-ism” is of recent vintage, being born in the early 60’s, about the same time that a periodic Spiritual awakening was occurring among the Boomers. Most went the way of exploring an expansion of God, encompassing other faiths, and new approaches, but the reactionaries withdrew and made God smaller and easier to fit inside their tiny braincases.

The FACT is that homosexuality is not by any means “prohibited” in the bible, and anyone who suggests it is, is engaging in the same literalist interpretation that is  incorrect and utterly unsupported by biblical experts around the world. The literature is extensive and profound on the issue and only awaits the fundamentalist’s courage to actually read it. Contrary to their claims based on nothing, learning truth does not destroy God, but rather it makes God really God, and not some human caricature designed to make one feel okay about ones miserable self.

We are awash in a sea of stupid these days. And for reasons that should shock and astound us all, the stupidest of all seem to seek office. Like minded stupid people find solace across the Internet, finding compatriots of ignorance and losing what should be their isolated “otherness” mantle that used to keep them securely locked in their garrets tormented by a world that rejects their insanity. Such people don’t procreate, since in small town America their numbers are still so small that they seldom by chance run into someone as stupid as themselves and join forces. At least pre-Internet that was true.

Over sixty-percent of 18-20somethings in the GOP are okay with same-sex marriage. What does that tell ya? It should tell you that you need to rethink your stupid, but of course, being stupid you won’t. You’ll rail that this generation of kids just wasn’t properly disciplined with the belt as you were, and thus has grown up without real morals.

Real morality I hate to tell you, has to do with respecting other people and their rights. But you won’t learn that any time soon, since you protect your thin-skin by surrounding yourselves with others like yourselves and then telling the biggest lie of all–most people are like us. Well, they aren’t.

You have no guts, no integrity, no moral compass, and not a modicum of intelligence. You  are unable to hold up your end of a “debate” and are reduced to coded ad hominem attacks to replace the arguments you cannot make. You prefer to believe what makes your tiny simplistic world work for you, and damn the vast rest of humanity who must be wrong-headed, atheistic, commie, socialist, fascist, feminist, racist, lazy and dogs. Half of the above you couldn’t define if put to the test. You wave the flag and tout how “blessed” you are and “share if you love God too”. You question everyone else’s faith while not following a single dictate of the man you claim as your savior.

And still, and still when it all comes down to it, you have to try to cheat to win an election. So where are your hordes of followers? The two thousand who showed up for your “family values” annual lovefest? The three who showed up at your border protests? Or was it the 2 semis and 4 pickups who showed up for your Washington protest? You can try to suppress Democratic votes, but the result will be the same as last time. We will vote in greater numbers than ever before.

And you will lose, and lose and lose until finally you all retreat to your basements and your hoarded food and weapons while we continue to create a world that is fair for all. We have a long way to go, but at least we are moving forward, and you can only slow things down, never stop it.

Stew in that!



The New Black Man on the Block

Dr.BenAnybody who knows me knows a couple of things about me. One, I believe education is the only sound way to move humanity forward, and two, education need not necessarily be formal to produce an educated person. Plenty of folks have done it on their own, and while harder and somewhat precarious, one who is determined will be educated.

One of the things that was indelibly imprinted upon my cerebral cortex around the time I was in law school, or perhaps after that hellacious thing called “the bar exam”, was the realization that some people can matriculate fully through nearly the hardest subjects imaginable, and be dumb as the proverbial rock. When I got to know lawyers who were stupid, I immediately concluded that there were an equal number of stupid doctors, physicists, and psychiatrists. An important object lesson when you contemplate handing over your gotten gains to an investment counselor.

As everyone who is anyone knows, Ben Carson, neurosurgeon extraordinaire, and compelling story of rising out of poverty man supreme is the new darling of the excruciatingly insane right. When Alan Keyes, Allen West, and Hermie Cain have stumbled while carrying Confederate dreams, Ben has jumped forth willing to sacrifice his integrity and soul for a chance to be “somebody” nay, the only-body with dark skin in the white party of the GOP.

I read about Carson well more than twenty-five or thirty years ago when I was a fledgling lawyer in Detroit and indeed I was impressed with his story of being raised by a single mom in Detroit. He was indeed a stellar image in the tarnishing mirror of inner-city poverty. So I don’t come to the party late as it were and as so many of my rather uninformed, Patriotic platitudinous Tea Imbibing acquaintances  have.

To hear them talk, Ben discovered both sliced bread, the true Ark and by virtue of his status as real honest-to-goodness hero, he has the creds to talk with authority on any issue at all. Being smart means you can be an expert on everything.

But alas, our Ben is but what used to be referred to as an idiot savant–supremely gifted in one area (brain surgery) while he is at best equivalent to a seven-year-old on most any other subject.

This is a man who, given all his education part of that being in BIOLOGY FOR GOD’S SAKE, insists that evolution is false. This is a man who equates health care for the poor to being “next to slavery, the worst thing that has happened to the Black community.” This is a man who today attacks the AP standards in American History suggesting that they more likely train the next generation of ISIS fighters.

Proving that he has not read the material at all, he falsely claimed that there were two paragraphs about George Washington and none about Martin Luther King. What really incensed him is that the material devoted time discussing the behavior of Americans toward Native Peoples, the internment of the Japanese during WWII and the vileness of Jim Crow. I mean seriously folks, teaching truth is so wrong when you are trying to build a nation of sheep who will OBEY their betters.

The fact that Carson has learned so well to obey his, is apparently his proof that everyone should be like him, so that, should some poor person have a certain gift, they too can aspire to be the puppet paraded around the circus ring to “prove” the Good Old Party of white indeed is an equal opportunity exploiter.

All of this matters naught to the empty-headed faux patriots out there who say they are just itching to vote for Carson for President. He tells them what they want to hear after all, and that’s always much better than the truth. One can only hope that one dies the sweet death of delusion before the house comes crashing down.

Of course, Ben, like all the others who pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, forgets all that guv’mint help they got along the way, as they dance the NO SOUP FOR YOU tap for the pleasure of their white betters who coo at them like the house pets they are.

Ben won’t be going far, though he is part of the dream ticket, I’m told. With Cruz as President and he as VEEP, the GOP can probably get away with at least 60-1000 years of never having another candidate of color in their midst. Sarah had her chance, so that’s one bird down and two to go.

The kids at Jefferson County Colorado who are trying to prevent their school from dumbing down and patriotizing up their curriculum have no idea just how wonderful they are. They shame millions of adults who should know better.

Beating a Dead or Dying Horse

clinging to the past_thumb[2]I hear from people now and again that the time of individual blogging has peaked. I don’t know if that’s true, and have no particular desire to investigate it either. I know that people who have  blogged have come and gone but I don’t think that is meaningful. That’s a lot like saying that when the inline skating craze erupted, millions of people joined in only later to discard it when they didn’t find it so fun six months later.

People who might have something to say but don’t care much about being a writer will naturally not stick with blogging.

There may be other reasons. People are, I suspect, rather sure that what they have to say is meaningful to others. Bloggers find out just how fickle this is. I’ve been doing this since 2007 or so, and while I’m okay with those who seem to read me, I never “took off” and certainly only a few find anything to comment upon except in a rare instance. I don’t do it for the public applause surely since there often isn’t any.

People who are not really interested in writing per se find Facebook useful enough to get their point across. I use it quite a lot myself, but it cannot take the place of a substantial piece.

I keep changing the focus of my blog, and no doubt that is not helpful, but little do I care. While politics consumes me, I’m far from the best spokesman around. There are, honestly, hugely better sources than moi.

If I pride myself on anything when it comes to the pen it is my ability to blend in a certain snarkiness that some find amusing. I love to twist and turn a phrase and catch people off guard. I’m not nearly as good as say Driftglass or Uncle Charlie Pierce I must say, but I try. If you have no idea of whom I speak, well, so much the poorer are you.

It seems we are headed for another damn war, one that I seriously don’t support. There is entirely too much drumming going on on the far right and that suggests to me that more is being made of this ISIL danger than is real. Most people figure our men and women will be risking their lives once again, and apparently nearly half seem okay with that.

I find that odd given that our government (whether one includes down to local city councils or not) is chock full of seriously stupid and demented people. I’m not sure what it says that so many are so willing to put their lives in the hands of lunatics who believe the earth was created 6,562 years ago, that Jesus rode dinosaurs, that climate change is just a hoax as reported to them by big oil and gas, that giving more money to the rich will someone make middle class people rich, and that God created a whole segment of people gay just to make them live a life of celibacy as some kind of statement to the Catholic Church that they too can learn to keep it in their pants.

I mean if you are that crazy, well, swamp lands abound that are yours for a few grand. i have the deeds.

What this all suggests to me, wasn’t clear to me until a while back, when again, I wondered why I continue to find a whole lotta people continuously reliving their “high school” days as the “best” times of their lives.

oh-you-peaked-in-high-school-and-continue-to-judge-everyone-but-yourself-where-do-you-find-all-the-time-to-prepare-for-your-next-reunion-enlighten-me-please-thumbI mean seriously? Those were the best years?

Most people find the teen years tolerable at best, painful at worst. We were unsure of ourselves, unsure of the future, and subject to the incessant drum of peer pressure. I figure perhaps the truth of the matter is, is that those were the kings and queens, the quarterbacks and class presidents, are pretty much the Bricks of the day, relegated to drunken evenings reliving the glory days because life just has turned out as full of mendacity as Big Daddy suggested.

There is both irony in that and poetic justice, for to not live in that world of favored click drove us who lived on the outside to fear that our lives would never amount to anything, and that these pretty faces with their athletic prowess and perky breasts were destined to continue being “better” all our lives.

Perhaps that is why we rejects of the acceptable struck out to far-flung campuses and escaped the confines of the “scene of the crime” of our youth.

And when we returned figuratively or otherwise to “home” we were amazed at how small and provincial it all was, and how small and silly most of those lives lived then were.

While we found some of our old friends had weathered the years well, and were thinking and compassionate, all too many were shriveled and cold-hearted, predictably shallow in their thinking and unable to care about anyone but their own clan. Karma is a bitch as they say.

While all that “talking about the old days” was fun for the moment, soon we find ourselves with little else to say, and we stand around much as we did at those awful sock hops, starring at the floor, wishing we could disappear. When we turn and walk away, and survey the world we now inhabit, we take a deep breath, smile, and chuckle at our good fortune at having escaped. Forever after we watch from the sidelines, bemused as we watch the chitchat continue of “remember when. . . .”

Who says the zoo has to have visible bars? We know who is free and who is not don’t we? The exhibits of “how it could have turned out” are both object lessons and light amusement.

Yes, karma indeed is a bitch.

I ponder when I hit my peak. Mostly I conclude that I haven’t yet, and probably will still be reaching it when I breathe my last. But damn, it does seem to get better and better, and that’s a hell of a lot to be grateful for.

I Think Therefore I Suffer

devolutionI find the human condition dizzyingly complex. I’m not sure we’ll ever get it sorted out. I’m reasonable sure that you have to be slightly off (if you get my drift) to study the human mind, and I’m very sure that prolonged study causes intense breaks with reality meaning that research results become suspect the minute they are conceived.

I mean, I am one of your more ordinary types of “scheduled” persons. I do a whole host of things as part of a routine that can become quite rigid. I walk the dog at 6 a.m. If the weather does not cooperate, but it’s sunny and lovely at 9 a.m., well too bad dog, that window has closed until tomorrow.

If you have ever read a story whose main character is one of those routinized humans who eats the same lunch for twenty-five years while sitting on the same park bench across the street from their work location which is a tiny cubicle in a corner from which said subject does some routine mundane same-old-same-old day in and day out for forty-three glorious years returning home at precisely 5:47 p.m. to one of five carefully arranged TV dinners and then two hours of knitting before climbing into bed at the stroke of 10 p.m. to awaken precisely at 6 a.m. to do it all over again, and equate me as one of those persons, well, you would be mistaken.

You would be deeply mistaken.

I revel in setting up systems of order, but true order is nothing but neurotic obsession. I like knowing that there is a time for every purpose under heaven, but find it serves me best by allowing me to ignore the chores I wish to ignore if fate delivers me some altered time line. You see, I use order for the gifts of avoidance as much a for the gift of organization.

I never met a routine that couldn’t be tweeked.

I never met one that didn’t need major revisions at least twice a year.

Because my desire for orderly organization runs smack into my desire for something new.

It is why I struggle to have “a” hobby, rather than eight or so.

It is why I struggle to add yet another great recipe rather the fine grouping that I already have of tested and true.

It is why I sit puzzling for sometimes day as to “what to read next” because there is so much to choose from.

It is why new thoughts intrigue me rather than bore or frustrate me. Dazzle me with your ideas for my brain loves the challenge.

Why am I not satisfied with a job well done, repetitively? Why am I on this unrelenting quest to master yet another THING?

Who knows.

It may be part of what makes us human, or at least most of us? More than some of us at least, for I live by the theory that I am only original in my sum rather than my parts.

We are driven to conquer new things, we humans. It is what has taken us to the moon, Mars and beyond, which powers us to the Mariana Trench and to the North Pole. From this thing inside, we decided we should be able to fly like birds, and go faster than horses at a full gallop. It propels us ever onward, never satisfied with what is but rather focused on what might be.

I am not Einstein, nor Picasso; no Sophocles am I, no Hypatia, Gertrude Stein, or Curie. The drive to do something new is not limited to only the brightest and most noteworthy inventor or sophist  but resides somewhere beside that reptilian remnant in each braincase.

There is percolates a constant insistent demand or remains dormant throughout most of its life, or somewhere in between. What awakens it, or dampens it, whatever the case may be, is unknown to me for sure. It just surely is in me a sometimes annoying nagging that never ceases.

So I go along in my routines sometimes happily for weeks, until it’s just not enough, and I scrounge around seeking some new challenge. To read the book I’ve long avoided because it was too hard, to attempt a new hobby or take an old one up a notch. To master something new, to add to my resumé offered with the last breath to the only possibly interested entity who common sense (let alone great theologically pondering) tells me has no such interest.

Yet I am so compelled as are countless others, to do SOMETHING, to create, categorize, expand the realm of knowledge, point out the failings of planetary systems be they political or religious. We are all compelled to DO, for no very good reason at all. After all, I am by thinking said Réne. What more needs be said or done?

This is not something morose and melancholy. Whatever you believe about God and death, it accommodates all. What is is, what will be will be, and not much I do changes any of that. But still I do.  Do that is. And with a happy and challenged heart for the doing excites and exhilarates, giving satisfaction beyond the completion of the thing itself.

I should much like to ask a chimpanzee if they experience this sort of thing at all. Is it better not to? I sense not, but I know not either. Perhaps there is a peacefulness that comes from life being sorted out ahead of you and only to be followed with death’s appearance earlier if you slip off the path into the gaping jaws of someone higher up the food chain.

Anyway, I’m busily re-organizing and it’s all so exciting and thrilling to have new challenges. For me it’s biking instead of walking and cooking in a new way driven by a body who has said “enough of that” now nourish me properly. It fills the days with a new expectation, new roads to travel, new discoveries.

The Contrarian views this all from his perch. His “drive” is significantly subdued. He chuckles a lot at my fever pitch, supportive but in his own comical way. He loves this new biking craze I’m starting. “Oh, my, but ANOTHER thing you will grow to hate to do every day!” But as he says, you may hate it but you can be damned determined to do it anyhow.

I am a closet full of discarded crafts away from being the most productive person I know.

So how weird am I?

Really, you can tell me.


Journeying Through the Health Care Maze

ObamacareWe’ve been into the ACA now for some months and reports are coming in from any number of sectors. After all the dire warnings that economic disaster would ensue, millions of people would lose jobs and coverage, the facts tend to tell a quite different story.

The Congressional Budget Office CBO continues on a regularly basis to project that the costs associated with the law are dropping with each assessment. Further, uninsured rates are dropping significantly in those states that adopted the ACA and Medicaid expansion. Insurance carriers are expanding their services, and entering new markets.

Evidence is still scant, but there are reports that states are seeing more competition and some evidence at least that premium costs to consumers will reduce or at least not rise at nearly the rates they did before the law went into effect. Trips to emergency rooms has dropped significantly for participating states versus those who stubbornly refuse to help their most disadvantaged.

Those are the general facts. I’d be the first to tell you that anecdotal stories have little value in terms of proving a point, since truth is seldom an all or nothing proposition. It’s usually an “on balance” sort of thing for such things  that involve millions of people. Some people undoubtedly have suffered under the Act, but we have always asked more of our more wealthy citizens, and there are almost no verifiable stories of people grossly hurt by the law, although there are no end to horror stories that upon investigation turn out to be bogus.

My story is offered as one that, as far as I have learned from a dozen or so others, is not atypical of the average person.

Years ago, back in the mid-90’s, I was associated with the Sister’s of St. Joseph who ran St. Joseph’s Hospital in Flint, Michigan. As a potential novice, I began volunteering there. As part of that activity I had a general checkup. It was noted that my blood pressure was elevated and I was given a cuff and told to monitor my blood pressure several times a day for a week. The results suggested all was okay.

Fast forward several years, to 2000. I am newly married and my husband insists that I get some coverage. At 50, health is going to be more of a concern. I apply. I routinely inform them that I was last checked at the aforementioned hospital with the only concern being my blood pressure. The carrier was unable to obtain any records. I was denied coverage. That became my “pre-existing condition.”

So I was one of those unable to secure insurance.

Along comes the ACA.

I, like thousands of others, entered the Marketplace soon after the site opened. I too ran into trouble. I was not “verified” as to who I was. I was given a coded number and told to call Experion who would complete that process. When first called, Experion told me I had called too soon, and to wait a few days. Days turned into weeks, and I decided to wait a couple of months to let things get sorted out.

When I returned in December, things had not improved. Experion did not have my coded number. I called the exchanges to speak to a live person. They started my application over again. In about 30 minutes we were done. I was informed that I “might” qualify for Medicaid, so I could proceed no further until that was resolved. I was told this would be submitted automatically but that I could call them and speed up the process by giving them the information over the phone.

I called New Mexico Medicaid. In an automated message, I was given a laundry list of required information. It included prices for any cars, what was still owed, mortgage if any, stocks, savings accounts, utilities,  as well as the normal “income” requirements. We were most sure I could not qualify and hated getting all this crap together for nothing.

I had kept a newspaper which gave the names and numbers for some “facilitators” operating in our area. I called and made an appointment. My goal was to cut the tape, avoid the Medicaid issue and return to the Marketplace. Instead, my facilitator seemed to have little information regarding the ACA, but told me that the NM Medicaid had no business asking me for any of the information beyond what my income was.

She filed an application securing only our SS income and sent the application in. A couple of weeks before the closing of the open enrollment, I got a letter from NM Medicaid, along with two cards. The letter made little sense being full of acronyms which were not defined, but suggested that BOTH my husband and I had been approved for something, and denied something, none of which we could figure out.

My husband called, and sure enough, the cards were our new Medicaid cards and we both were covered. My husband politely declined, being entirely happy with his VA coverage locally and at Fort Bliss VA facility. I, after my usual “avoidance” as I awful-ized all the dire medical diagnoses I could imagine, made an appointment with my new doctor and proceeded to begin a series of referrals and tests to “bring my health records from non-existence to a reasonable state”.

That process began in late June and was in mid process in mid-August when I got a letter from NM Medicaid. Again, a letter that made little sense but suggested something was up. I called. I had been cancelled. They had “just learned” that my husband had started to receive SS. WRONG. My husband in one fashion or another (disability for PTSD to regular SS) had been receiving benefits since the late 90’s. Oh, so then I must have just started receiving SS. WRONG. I’d been receiving SS for two years. Both yearly totals had been included on my regular application.

The bottom line: I did not qualify for NM Medicaid, a thing we had both felt fairly certain of before we applied.

NM Medicaid indicated that my coverage would CONTINUE until Aug 31. Why that was so, is inexplicable. I was also informed that I had been graciously granted “family planning services” so my future pregnancies or contraceptive care was meant to offset my loss of general coverage. At 64 I was really happy to hear that.

Since I was taking several medications and scheduled for several more tests, I was in a bit of a pickle. Sure I could pay the bills myself, but they would be rather significant (the routine blood analysis and urinalysis alone was $1100).

I called the Marketplace in a serious funk, sure that they would tell me I had to wait until the open enrollment resumed in November, leaving my uninsured once again for the intervening months.

The Marketplace people were simply appalled at NM Medicaid’s error. All the information was indeed there on my still-filed application. They assured me that my circumstances allowed them to “reopen” my file as a “failed” Medicaid deferment, and I re-entered the Marketplace. They completed everything over the phone, gave me time to look at several plans with the promise that I could go to many others if I was not satisfied with those.

I chose my plan, and they scheduled it to start on September 1, so I would have no loss in coverage. I was given the phone number of my new insurance company. They apologized again and again for the error that was not theirs.

I called my new insurance carrier. They found me in their system immediately, and pointed me to their web site. I was able to pay my premium online well before the bill came in the mail.

I got all their material and my new health cards seamlessly.

I had to go to my doctor to get help with prescriptions that Walgreens was screwing up. I told them about my new insurance and that I was not sure that I could continue with her under my new plan. The women there took the information and got in touch with my carrier, worked it all out, and I was able to keep my doctor. Again it was all seamless. My previous carrier paid for everything up to August 31, and my new one took over on September 1.

While the ACA was a mess in terms of sign up at the beginning, they did everything else wonderfully as far as I am concerned. I am pleased with both my insurance coverage and my doctor and her care. My meds are amazingly affordable as are my copays.

I have the peace of mind that can only come from being checked and found in pretty good shape. My blood pressure is a bit high, and I have meds for that. I am at the entry level for type II diabetes, take a med for that, don’t monitor my blood sugar, but avoid “obvious” sugar. My eyes are fine, so was my mammography, gynecological exam, and bone density scans. I feel great, I’ve lost a few pounds, and I’m seeking to eat a better diet.

If it were not for the ACA, I’d still be rolling the dice. I am most grateful. Bureaucracy will always cost us time and trouble. That is not a good reason to grouse about a law that provides decent health care to millions who did not have it. My experience was annoying and frustrating to be sure, but very little of that had to do with the law. Most of the fault lies with the people who work at NM Medicaid in my case.

I am happy with my health care. I thank my President. My heart goes out to all those millions who still go without care because their Republican-controlled states refused to help them just to prove that hatred in their case is more powerful than doing their duty by their citizens.