Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dancing with Nonagenarians

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am sick to death of the never ending bullshit over the ACA website. Not a day goes by that I don’t get some sort of user alert warning that something in our computer system isn’t working.  A few months ago, when we switched to an entirely different platform, we would crash for hours at a time. Eventually the big stuff was fixed and we went on from there. So people, give this a rest. It’ll get fixed, people will register, and no one will remember any of this in a year.

Besides, I’m busy having new adventures in Heathcareland. And no, I am not having fun.

Right now, my father-in-law is in transitional care at Sholom East, the local Jewish eldercare center in St. Paul. Let’s just say I am more than thankful they had an available space for him. But more about that later.

When he was admitted to Woodwinds Hospital, things were seamless. From the emergency room to check in to the nurses and doctors, I have nothing but praise. They made a scary situation much less scary for this 92 year old guy who'd never been in a hospital before. When we had to transfer him to St. Elswhere because he had developed some bleeding issues, we were less successful at achieving seamlessness. From the moment we arrived at the hospital until we transferred him to Sholom, it was one communication issue after another.

I have to confess, I am not a fan of this new “hospitalist” system. The hospitalist is a rotating position. The hospitalist who admitted you on Monday might be going off shift, only to be replaced by another hospitalist guy. Neither the hospitalist who admitted Grandpa Sieg to St. Elsewhere on Monday, nor his replacement hospitalist on Tuesday had a significant command of English. Or if they did, their accents were so thick understanding them was a challenge. And if you’re just a little hard of hearing like Sieg is, it’s a BIG challenge. When the doctor was telling him about needed a certain procedure: an endo-skopee.

Sieg:   What’s he talking about????
Me:    I think he means an endoscopy.
Dr.:    Yes. An endo-skopee. That’s when they take the little tiny tube…..
Sieg:   I’m a doctor; I know what an endoscopy is. I just don’t understand what a skopee is.

The hospitalist thing is not like he’s getting this on Medicare or some other low cost program. Grandpa Sieg is a retired Fed. He has plenty of insurance. This is just they way they’re doing it now. I am not impressed. Seems like the hospitalist at St. Elsewhere had a whole lotta patients and not nearly enough time to thoroughly understand the needs of each patient. There were too many missed and miscommunication moments to make me comfortable with this process. Perhaps a doctor more comfortable with spoken English might have helped, but there is no guarantee if would’ve made a difference.  I’m guessing this is the new face of medicine, socialized or otherwise, and we’re going to have to get used to it.

What I cannot seem to get used to, however, is medicine with a profit motive. First do no harm has given way to first, see the insurance card.

That’s not to say specialists he did see weren’t terrific; they were. A special shout out goes to the cardiologist, Dr. Granrud. Dr. Granrud addressed Dr. Siegfried doctor to doctor. Sieg, despite his weakened conditioned asked a lot of rather technical questions and I kinda think he was enjoying the conversational answers. By the time Dr. Granrud left his side, Sieg was convinced the pacemaker was definitely worth a try.

So now, Grandpa is safely settled in at Sholom. The nurses tell me he's charming. Charming? Sieg? Not exactly a word I would use to describe him, but ...hey! the man did woo three wives.... With hard work and G-d willing, he should be home in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch….

Down south, in Bell-ray Beach, it’s a slightly different story. My other two nonagenarians are preparing for their 70th wedding anniversary. Mom decided on a small brunch to be held on Sunday, the actually date. She’s positively atwitter at the idea all of us will be down there. And if that’s not enough, two of the brunch guests were also at the wedding. It will be a lovely weekend, the folks will be happy, and everyone will have a good time.

Across the board, all three of my “nonas” are getting frail. I consider us all incredibly lucky that they’re here and in relatively good shape… even Grandpa Sieg. I am thankful for each day I get to hear their voices and laugh at their jokes, and even reprimand them for being unreasonable.

As long as they are all reasonably unreasonable, I’ll know they’re just fine. What more could I possible want?

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’ the Week
When visiting nonagenarians, locate the nearest closet with a shelf
so you have a place to  stash your head for the duration.

Monday, October 21, 2013

In Order to Form A More Perfect Union

New York Times’ columnist Tom Friedman,  had a particularly interesting op-ed piece in Sunday’s paper. Now, all things considered Mr. Friedman is from St. Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis….that city of the other side of the Mississippi that I try to avoid as much as possible. So that makes Tom Friedman a Minnesotan and Minnesotans sometimes allow the “nice” gene to get in the way of his own good judgment. Most of the time, however, he’s a pretty sane reporter, specializing in Middle East and good ol’ American politics. I often disagree with him, but sometimes he writes something that sticks with me. Sunday’s column is sticking, but maybe not for the reasons one might think.

He wrote:
Seriously, you’d get a much better feel for Washington politics today by reading “Lawrence of Arabia” than the Federalist Papers. This is not good news.

I think he’s on to something; business as usual is not what it used to be. And like the guy said, this is not good news.  So, humor me for a moment. Let’s go back to the beginning.

July 4th, 1776: The Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…:

September 17, 1787: Preamble to the Constitution of the United States:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

As a follow-up to the mission statement that is the Declaration, the Preamble is pretty good. In succinct language, it sorta tells the world who We, the People, are and what We, the people believe to be good governance. The problem is, however, that We, the People, have lost sight of the elegant truths we should be holding as self-evident.

In order to form that more perfect union, the colonists had to come together to form a union in the first place. This means that there needed to be some measure of agreement that would bind the thirteen individual colonies into  nation. Part of that process is the development of a sense of community…in the classic sense of the word.

Merriam-Webster defines community as:

a unified body of individuals: as in
a:  state, commonwealth
b: the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly :  the area itself <the problems of a large community>
c: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location
d:  a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society <a community of retired persons>
e:  a group linked by a common policy
f:  a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests <the international community>
g: a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society <the academic community>

That perfect union has to be the umbrella over the whole community of states. That community is the foundation for a government that will establish a system of justice for all, insure the domestic tranquility through actions designed to foster good communal relations between citizens as well as states, provide for the common defense against enemies of this burgeoning nation, promote the general welfare/wellbeing of the citizenry, and protect the liberty of the individual citizens…..all under that umbrella of the Constitution.

When the GOP shouts, “Defund Obamacare! Defund Obamacare!” but presents nothing in its place, I wonder why they would throw their own people under the bus. The rural South, so Republican, where grinding poverty is all too often the norm, where manufacturing jobs have evaporated, where un- and underemployment is rampant, their elected officials are fighting against the very systems that will provide access to affordable health care. How can that be? Who in their right mind would vote for someone who hates their very existence?

These are the same elected officials who work to defund SNAP and Head Start, programs that provide children in poverty with food and educational intervention. What happens to those kids? And what happens to the parents who rely on those programs to give the kids a place to be so they can go to work? Quit the job and go on the dole? Isn’t that exactly what they don’t want?

Just as having community is not Communism, having liberty is not Libertarianism. No one is advocating the government take over our bodies…unless, of course, you’re Republican and believe you have the G-d given right to control all women’s bodies and how we reproduce. And doing and saying whatever you please is not how one maintains a nation, it’s a recipe for anarchy. We have been waiting for the fruits of deregulation  for over 2 decades...but have learned, rather painfully, they do not exist. 

So here's the straight skinny:
We, the People are not interested in the Right Wing version of sharia law.
We, the People, are not interested in the Right Wing notion that they control all women’s bodies.  
We, the People, are not interested in economic terrorism waged by the Right Wing against middle and lower classes.
We, the People are not going to kowtow to Right Wing delusions.

We, the People, are interested in is a Congress that cooperates.
We, the People, are interested in access to health care for all citizens regardless of income. 
We, the People, are interested in a nation where all children have access to education.
We, the People, are interested in a government in which all socioeconomic classes are represented.

Which brings us back to the Preamble: to form that more perfect union, there needs to be community first… complete with great diversity and differences. There’s room for everyone under the umbrella of the Constitution.

This country is for We, ALL the People along with all 
our similarities, our differences, our follies and our foibles.
Not just the 2%.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Advocating for a hospitalized patient is a sacred duty. 
Stay the course....and don't let 'em bully you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

El Hombre Propone y Dios Dispone ~ Man Proposes, G-d Disposes

Room with a View
I'm sitting bedside at St. Joseph's Hospital in downtown St. Paul. Seems that Grandpa Sieg was having a bit congestive heart failure overnight on Friday, but didn't mention it until late Saturday morning. We ended up taking a little trip to the ER at Woodwinds where he was promptly admitted. One can certainly say life is never boring over at the Minnesota House of Blues, Bagels and occasionally Bialy. 

Yes, they were bought at Jack's
in Saratoga Springs
Knowing he was safe and in the best possible hands, I decided I could make it to the Misha Siegfried Band gig. Which woulda been just fine if, as I was walking out the patio area, I hadn’t caught the toe of my single-owner vintage 1973 Bass Weejuns on a piece of broken pavement and tripped. I did the windmill dance, propelling myself forward, heading for a table…missed the table and realized, in that split second, I was really goin’ down. I managed to arch up and turn, prepping for a slide. I saw people leaping up trying to get to me, but I was too fast. I hit the ground precisely right and skidded to a halt. Misha was yelling, “Do you have a concussion? Do you have a concussion?” and I’m like, “Just get me up.” He wants to examine my head, and I’m going, “I didn’t hit my head; I jammed my shoulder.” 

The “audience” applauded and a really cute guy (a touch too young for this old person) said, “That was the most graceful fall I’ve ever seen! You were brilliant! Your feet actually left the ground and pedaled, just like a cartoon character!” Unfortunately, I don’t think he meant Jessica Rabbit.

I took my bow, announced the floor show was over, but must confess I enjoyed the momentary adulation. It’s how real ballerinas feel…but without the roses.

The gig was terrific. The house was pretty full….with lots of strangers, not just our friends (which is nice) And they want the band to come back. With Grandpa in hospital, the band decided to crash at our house instead of at the junior son's...giving the kid a break. And I was happy for the company. Band Breakfast, however, was scaled back to Misha making scrambled eggs since they were all still sleeping when I left the house for the hospital.

Would that I had better things to report. Today, we had to move my father-in-law over to St. Joe's because that's where they keep the gastro guys, and FIL has developed some bleeding issues. He was transported via ambulance, me following close behind. The intake did not go as smoothly as I would've liked. After the seamless, wonderful experience at Woodwinds, this was a bit disconcerting. We're working on getting that fixed. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the government is still shut down and the CongressClowns are still carrying on about defunding the Affordable Care Act. Now, all things considered, I'm sitting here in a hospital worried about all sorts of things, including how much insurance covers. I have no idea but I suspect I'm about to find out. As a retired fed, my father-in-law should have good coverage, but.......

I keep thinking about what would've happened if he didn't have insurance. First off, I probably wouldn't be sitting here. Without all the telemetry, tests, meds, and adjustments, he wouldn't be snoring away on the bed behind me. There wouldn't be nurses coming in and out of his private room with ice chips, vital sign machines, and assorted moments of good humor. Without insurance, what would I have done? Would I have had to leave my job (which allows me to take Intermittent Family Medical Leave) in order to care for him because I would not have been able to afford to hire nursing care? Would I have sat by, holding his hand, unable to help? How would I live with myself if those were the choices? And I know there are people out there making exactly those choices. 

In today's NY Times, Bill Keller wrote a column titled, Obamacare: The Rest Of The Story. He's talking about the reality of having an affordable care act that isn't perfect, but it's better that what we currently have, which is nothing. His opening salvo:

Unless you’ve been bamboozled by the frantic fictions of the right wing, you know that the Affordable Care Act, familiarly known as Obamacare, has begun to accomplish its first goal: enrolling millions of uninsured Americans, many of whom have been living one medical emergency away from the poorhouse. 

This is the reality of life...and death... for way too many Americans. And there is nothing stopping a whole lot more of us from being in that queue but for a stroke of luck or karma or magic or G-d's good graces. Working hard is no longer the guarantee it once was. Pensions are pretty much gone, 401k's and IRA's are not guaranteed. One serious illness and you, too, can be facing bankruptcy. Lonegan, the clown running for the senate in New Jersey has come right out and said he sees no reason why he should pay for someone else's illness. At the Hudson Valley Debate Union, Mr Lonegan said,

“Well, I’ll go one step further. I’ll be as callous and uncaring as you can imagine. I have no interest in paying for your health care. I’d hate to see you get cancer, but that’s your problem not mine. I’m going to pay for my health care, I’m going to take care of my children’s health care and tend to my wife. And when I stand for charity care [inaudible], you no one else has the authority to infringe on my right [inaudible] dig into my pocket and my ability to pay to pay for your health care or anybody else’s.

His opinion is far from being the only one like this. Anyone who doesn't take this as a personal affront to the idea of We, the People, needs to move elsewhere. This is the total antithesis of the idea of UNITED States. Anyone who votes that line had better be prepared for the end of Social Security and Medicare because as entitlement programs, they are totally on the block. Has anyone ever heard a GOP plan for what would be replacing the ACA? I'd really like to hear what these guys are thinking!

Sitting in that darkened room, I thought a lot about the government shutdown. The number of people being denied essential services. The number of people who now hover on the cusp of having any sort of coverage (including my musician son.) The number of people who will die because medical services are not available. Do we have a responsibility to even provide health coverage? 

The concept of UNITED States seems to have disappeared from the common lexicon. If we are not united for the cause of public good and welfare, what's the point of being united? The House of Clowns done have more damage to the idea of UNITED States than the Civil War. At least in the Civil War there was a real-time ideology fight taken to the streets. Where is the compare and contrast part of the debate?  The House seems to be in possession of a collective conscious that believes it's free to do whatever it wants without regard to law, vox populi, or even common sense, when, in fact, it is not.

Speaking of COMMON SENSE, Thomas Paine wrote:

“Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.”

The GOP has made this fight personal in all the wrong ways. The only thing We, the People have left to decide is on which side we stand. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Just because a guy is  retired vet, 
it doesn't mean he cares a whit about cats. 
Ask him about chickens and cows, and you've got a new BFF.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lies and Whispers

When did we become a nation of liars?

October 3rd, 2013
Listening to Rand Paul on MEET THE PRESS on Sunday morning was an exercise in the art of deceit. As he so carefully pointed out in that open mic incident the other day, his utterances are all sound bite approved and poll tested. Telling the truth to the American people has nothing to do with it.

I just did CNN, and I go over and over again: "We're willing to compromise. We're willing to negotiate." I don't think they've poll-tested "We won't negotiate." I think it's awful for them to say that over and over again. [...] I think if we keep on saying we wanted to defund it, we fought for that, but now we're willing to compromise on this, I think—well, I know we don't want to be hear—but we're going to win this, I think.

To have the unmitigated gall to keep repeating, “We’re willing to compromise,” over and over and over when there has been no intent to compromise is a joke being laid over a lie, as if that will hide it. We, the People pretty much know when smoke is being blown up our collective butts. If you’re going to do the shifty eye thing on MEET THE PRESS like Rand Paul did, you can be sure most viewers will wonder what snake oil you’re selling.

So let's look at this another way.

The House of Representatives has 435 members.  Currently, there are 200 Democrats, 232 Republicans, and 3 vacancies. Of that number, 49 are Tea Party caucus members, but approximately a total of 80 congressclowns are aligned with the positions of the generic radical right. That translates to about 33% of the GOP House membership. Extend that out a few notches, and it means that about 18% of the population aligns themselves with that radical right.  Which, in turn, means over 82% of the population of this nation does not align themselves with the cabal currently holding our nation hostage.

82%. That’s a lotta percent. But here are the component parts of that  number for a moment: only 53% of the House is Republican, while 47% is Democrat; their majority isn’t totally lopsided. One would think there would be enough common ground on which they could tread toward some sort of compromise. Right?

Apparently not. That itty bitty 18% is directing the show, and Speaker Boehner is acting as their very own personal ventriloquist dummy. Lord knows, the man hasn’t had an original idea in his head since kindergarten, and even that’s questionable, but standing there with his hands in his pockets while Rand Paul runs roughshod over the House leadership is pathetic. And sad. The cabal doesn’t like how the last election turned out. They don’t like that Congress passed an Affordable Care Act, and they really don’t like that the Supremes adjudicated the act and it stands as settled law. So despite that these here United States are a democracy, these guys don’t want to play by them rules.

They are attempting to stage a coup.

The shutdown of this government coupled with the pending refusal to service the debt ceiling is not exactly a covert attempt to topple this nation. Just like in Libya and Egypt, the cabal is plotting to overthrow the president and not necessarily with an election. When the shutdown fails, they will attempt to impeach him. They will attempt to do whatever it takes to get President Obama out of office. They assume they will wrest power from whomever, but here’s the thing: once they have it, what are they gonna do with it?

If you wanna play scary for Halloween tricks, try thinking about this for a while. In all their talk of repealing Obamacare, did you ever hear them mention an alternative?

In all their talk about killing programs like SNAP and WIC, have you ever heard them propose what to do with low wage earners who can no longer afford a roof AND food?

In all their talk about illegal immigration, have you ever heard them discuss who is going to do the agricultural scutt work that Americans don’t wanna do?

And in all their talk about job creation, have you ever heard them mention what kind of jobs they’re creating while they’re shipping more and more manufacturing overseas?

If the Republicans want to negotiate, they’d better start showing up with plans in public. Let We, the People decide who has the better long range vision for this nation.

I don’t think I can stand another election where one side lays out plans and programs while the other side just rips everything to shreds. And quite frankly, gentle readers, I don’t think any of you should either.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Need something to do Saturday night?
If you're in the Cities, find your way to Harrier Brewing Company
Misha Siegfried and his band are playing The Taproom.
All the fun people will be there.