Monthly Archives: March, 2010

Valuing My Family

Two changes brought about by the health care reform bill will directly benefit my family. The option of keeping a child on the family health insurance plan until age 26 provides a security I did not have, because until now my family plan only covered an adult child who was a full-time student.

Student loan reform is long overdue and a great relief. It’s about time we brought some justice to college students, who are being overcharged for loans and lose their health insurance as soon as they graduate. What kind of country undermines young people ambitious and hard-working enough to sacrifice time and money to get an education?

The kids deserve a break, and now things are a little better. College graduates can start a business or work part-time without having to go uninsured. They can take a year out of school to work. This opens up an opportunity to earn tuition money and gain life experience without risking financial ruin or worse. And they won’t pay double interest to banks that serve no function in government guaranteed loans.

I hope Congress didn’t throw the Pell Grants overboard. What a place for the Republicans to draw the line!

I was born right in the middle of the baby boom. Boomers and youth are a big demographic. If reform works to benefit us it will be hard for the Party of No to scare us away from our own best interest.

Here’s a funny post from Crooks and Liars summarizing the last ten years in health.

Last Stand

Will the last hurdle to completing the health care bill be Republican opposition to Pell Grants for low-income college students? Is that where they want to draw their line? Will their theme song be Pink Floyd’s ‘We Don’t Need No Education’? The bill goes back to the House today.

Margaret and Helen

Two ladies of mature years give Bart Stupak some home truths.

Growing Collaboration

Over the past three years, I have dabbled in gardening, growing a modest assortment of vegetables and herbs in the modest yard surrounding my apartment. My initial foray into producing my own produce occurred in collaboration with my friend and next-door neighbor, Julie, whose thumbs are inherently much greener than my own. (Mine are more of an olive drab shade, for some reason.) That first summer, we grew a couple of varieties of tomatoes, which we planted in the sunny perimeter of Julie’s yard. The spot was chosen because it offered more light and better soil than my own slice of yard. We tended to the plants throughout the summer and into the fall and were rewarded with a bounty of tasty tomatoes. Though Julie has since relocated to a nearby town, I have continued to garden in some measure. Unfortunately, my tomatoes have been more crap than crop, as they stubbornly refuse to flourish in the less favorable conditions of my yard. Go figure…

The health of any organism is, in no small measure, dependent upon its environment. Favorable conditions promote good health. Adverse conditions hinder good health. Organisms that are young and still developing are more vulnerable to adverse conditions. By virtue of their reduced size and output, my tomato plants communicated their distress at having to spend their formative months in a shadier and sandier locale. Similarly, children raised in environments that are toxic or inadequately nurturing communicate their distress by manifesting developmental delays and physical/mental disorders. Often, when this occurs, the first person to take notice—perhaps besides the parent(s)—is the pediatrician. As a health care professional, he or she can assess the circumstances, advise the parent(s), and prescribe treatment, if any is available. However, in many cases, the environmental issues that are harming the child are beyond the doctor’s purview. For example, situations of family conflict, unsafe housing, community violence, or loss of income cannot be remedied by medical treatment. So what’s an M.D. to do? A referral to an outside provider (better suited to addressing such matters) can be made, but there is no guarantee that the family will follow through or gain access to the services they need. Frequently, these are the families that have the fewest resources and are the most disempowered. It is a significant dilemma and a very real public health issue.

All is not hopeless, though, as evidenced by the following article in today’s New York Times:

When Doctor Visits Lead to Legal Help

It was not the normal stuff of a pediatric exam. As a doctor checked the growth of Davon Cade’s 2-month-old son, he also probed about conditions at home, and what he heard raised red flags.

Ms. Cade’s apartment had leaky windows and plumbing and was infested with roaches and mold, but the city, she said, had not responded to her complaints. On top of that, the landlord was evicting her for falling behind on the rent.

Help came through an unexpected route. The doctor referred Ms. Cade to the legal aid office right inside the pediatric clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Within days, a paralegal had secured an inspection that finally forced the landlord to make repairs, and also got the rent reduced temporarily while Ms. Cade searched for less expensive housing.

“It got done when the lawyers got involved,” Ms. Cade said.

Doctors and social workers have long said that medical care alone is not enough to address the health woes of the poor, which are often related to diet, living conditions and stress.

The pediatric clinic in Cincinnati is one of 180 medical sites around the country that now seek to address at least some of these broader issues by bringing lawyers and doctors — so often foes in the courtroom — together into a close partnership. [full article]

Maybe it’s time I consult a horticulturist.

Defending Celibacy

Anyone remember the Providence Journal’s ‘Face of Religion’ page? A frequent contributor was Dale O’ Leary, who liked to rant against feminists. Just before the Catholic church sex-abuse scandals broke, she began writing columns about forgiveness. After the first pedophilia stories came out, she claimed that enemies of the Church were gloating.

Well, I’m not an enemy of any church, except maybe Fred Phelps’ band of lunatics. I can’t work up a snark about the pedophilia stories either. It’s sickening, and it’s frightening. As a parent, it worries me that trust can be betrayed like that. As a parent, you have to be able to send your children into the world and trust that adults in authority will act honorably. When they don’t, it’s not only an occasion for outrage, but for grief.

I can’t really get into it now, too heavy and sad.

But there is a Catholic scandal I can enjoy. I wish more priests had followed the example of Father Cutie. The popular priest made headlines when he was photographed kissing a pretty woman. Soon after he was outed, he married his girlfriend, who was 35 years old and single. Gloat, gloat.

Father Cutie said that he still defends priestly celibacy, but he thinks it should be optional.

This is a very humane and realistic view. Opinion writers are suggesting that celibacy is the reason for the troubles in the Catholic church.

I think that’s simple-minded.

Celibacy is a valid life choice, and the Catholic church has institutions and traditions that allow celibate people to live in community. The Church is one of the few organizations that celebrates and honors the celibate life. Blaming celibacy wrongs the nuns, brothers and priest who serve their communities with dedication.

Most people, if they are honest, will have to admit that there were times in their lives when they were celibate. It’s not something we like to talk about, it’s worse to be on the shelf than in the closet.

It’s this ex-Catholic’s opinion that the sex-abuse scandals in the Church are an extreme manifestation of a culture of child-abuse. The Pope’s brother, while denying knowledge of sex-offenders in his organization, apologized for slapping choir boys. A couple of years ago three denominations in Canada were implicated for decades of systematic child abuse– the Catholic church was the only one of them that refused to acknowledge wrongdoing. Physical punishment and humiliation of children was accepted in Catholic schools for decades after society had renounced these harsh methods. The indifference to children’s vulnerability and fear allowed predators to hide in plain sight. They knew that no one was listening to the children. The Church today is paying for denial and cover-up long past any excuse. Victims of abuse pay a higher price than money.

Is celibacy the cause? Don’t make me laugh. Abuse of power, a secretive hierarchy and a lack of honesty about human sexual feelings is where I would look first. The Church will scapegoat its homosexual priests and the World will blame celibacy.

I like the Unitarian church, where homosexual members and clergy are respected. Where celibacy is not disparaged and single people are not ignored in the rush to ‘family values’.

The Catholic church could certainly ease its priest shortage by making celibacy optional and ordaining women. Or it could pay more attention to the ethics and mental health of its clergy and identify and remove abusers of all kinds. Or it can cling to its power and blame the world for being worldly.

I just want to defend the good people I know who really do practice a celibate life, with a love that extends to the community, and with passion. Celibacy is a valid choice, and celibate people should not be stained with a scandal that is rooted in abuse of power and fear of change.

Culinary Science Advances

In a daring experiment, Ninjanurse discovered that french fries left in a styrofoam take-out container overnight could be restored almost to their original crispiness with just three minutes under the broiler.

Will this research benefit mankind? Or is this subject to mis-use, especially by those who preach health reform but have a bad habit of eating while blogging? Indeed, knowledge is a two-edged sword. Indeed, it is easier to inhale calories than to burn them off.

And Hope Street Pizza has the best french fries on the planet, even reheated.

In related news, studies show that middle-aged women need to exercise an hour a day to avoid gaining weight.

Middle-aged men need merely grow a beard, dress interestingly and cultivate some charm and they can still star in big-budget movies. I’ve started going to the gym.

Youth is a Pre-Existing Condition

Shawn Kennedy at American Journal of Nursing writes about fighting the system when her family insurance refused to cover her son’s accidental injury.

He had a pre-existing condition of being young and athletic, and dislocated his shoulder for the second time.

He should not have made that ‘bad choice’. If he ever has another accident, he’ll know now to dislocate the other shoulder. His insurance company would prefer it that way.

I hope their denying days are numbered. Keep vigilant, nurses, and anyone else who might ever get sick.

A Blog From my Minister

He blesses health care reform. He also posted the ‘Yes We Can’ video that played in the campaign, if you missed it, check it out. If you saw it, then watch it again.

Yes We Did.


You know, somehow you never get used to being called, ‘baby killer’. Funny little quirk of human nature, I guess.

Independent of Politics

The United States is one step closer to health care reform, with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the House of Representatives last night.  Not a single Republican voted for the bill.  Indeed, to hear many members of the Grand Old Party, the United States is one step closer to totalitarianism.  Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) described the legislation as a “trillion-dollar assault on our freedoms.”  His concern for freedom is evident, as indicated by his support for last year’s military coup in Honduras.

More and more, the arena of politics has come to resemble a middle-school assembly, with opposing cliques loudly vying for favor and attention.  In their selfish desire to assert their influence and dominance, they lose sight of their raison d’etre.  The students fail to gain an education.  The elected representatives fail to govern—or even represent.  It is an unacceptable state of affairs.

I have a strong dislike for politics.  It interferes with governance and wastes valuable time and resources.  Given the immense challenges with which this nation is confronted, you would think that those elected by the people and charged with working for the people would find a way to put aside their differences and come together to make things right.  You would be wrong.  We have become more divided instead of less so.  How can that be?

There is a reason I decline to affiliate with any political party.  I am a registered Independent and shall remain so.  I have no stomach for partisanship.  I know that I am not alone.  There are many who long for an antidote (not manufactured by any pharmaceutical company) to the toxic effects of partisan politics.  In today’s New York Times, Phil Keisling proposes a partial antidote that is worth considering:

To Reduce Partisanship, Get Rid Of Partisans

WANT to get serious about reducing the toxic levels of hyper-partisanship and legislative dysfunction now gripping American politics? Here’s a direct, simple fix: abolish party primary elections.

From now to September, virtually every state will hold primaries to select Democratic and Republican candidates for the November general election. At stake are 36 Senate and 435 Congressional seats, along with 37 governorships and more than 6,000 state legislative seats.

What can we likely expect? Abysmal voter turnout; incessant waves of shrill, partisan invective; and legions of pandering politicians making blatant appeals to party extremists. Once you understand the role that party primary elections really play, and who votes and doesn’t, the real question isn’t why our politics are so dysfunctional — it’s how could they not be?….

So what can be done? States should scrap this anachronistic system and replace it with a “fully open/top two” primary. All candidates would run in a first round, “qualifying” election, with the top two finalists earning the chance to compete head-to-head in November. Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, Tea-Partiers, even “None of the Above’s” could all run in the first round. Voters would certainly know candidates’ party affiliations, but no political party would automatically be entitled to a spot on the November ballot.

This would create far more races that were truly competitive, especially across the vast majority of lopsided districts where winning the party primary essentially guarantees election. In those districts, both finalists might be from the same party, but there could be genuine differences between the two that would give voters a meaningful choice. [full article]


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