All, save for one

A couple of weeks ago on Real Time with Bill Maher, the host commented that Thomas Jefferson did not think the U.S. Senate was necessary as a part of the legislative branch: the House of Representatives, whose number is determined by population, is enough. So Bill was for “getting rid.”

Agreed. Two senators per state, with no relationship to per capita, given the power to kill legislative reform that the House proposes in answer to constituents’ needs, is, certainly today, proving to be poisonous.

Thus I feel ready, nay, eager to flush them all down a large toilet, with just a split second to grab the collar of Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.

Of the people, by the people, you know the rest….

Near the end of the film The American President, the lobbyist (Annette Bening) shovels through dresser drawers in POTUS’ bedroom looking for the sweater she left behind that belongs to her sister. With no success, and still seething from her conclusion that the President had sold out her legislative bill to guarantee the passage of one he and his pride had thought more important, she turns a snake’s eye to him and shouts, “Oh, fuck the sweater. She’ll just have to learn to live with disappointment.

Today the Senate Finance Committee dismissed two versions offered on the Public Option, one by Rockefeller of West Virginia and one by  Schumer of New York. The village idiot would have expected a no from each Republican committee member, but on the public option even Democrats, under the Baucus umbrella, dealt fatal blows. Now Senator Baucus explained to his compadres that they would need 60 votes on the floor and a public option in his bill would guarantee a failure to get those 60 votes and his job was to get a bill passed.  Herein  the pragmatist steals his way into the martyr’s aura. And yet the proposal of a public option remains the core of reform, because nothing else will allow people to cut themselves loose from the insurance companies that ration their care, through premium or policy. Really, folks, who will play sheriff when an insurance company denies its customer coverage?

One of the arguments that captured bipartisan support was that the public option would mirror the reimbursement rate of Medicare, a WalMart level of appreciation for professional medicine the insurance companies could not sustain and survive.  This argument holds water and yet it is this argument against which I take personally painful issue.

For the last five years of my mother’s life, after her husband and only remaining son perished within six months of eachother, she abandoned all responsibilities for her existence save (until the last 18 months at least) personal hygiene. I paid the bills, I online-ordered the pills, and provided transportation. Since disenchantment had coupled with her dementia, my mother insisted I sit in on all medical visits to receive any new instructions. So my wristwatch told the story: for a twenty-minute appearance by her primary care physician, which included reviewing the vitals the assistant had pumped into the laptop, listening to my mother’s weakening heart and moderating a discussion between my mother’s stated disposition and my interpretation of such, should it suggest the need for new prescriptions, the medical recorders labeled this a Level 4 service and charged $222.00.  Keep the pace and that $666.00 an hour.

However, the statement I later received in the mail showed that Medicare paid $73.26.  The Medicare Adjustment was $130.43 and I owed the remaining $18.31, which brought the physician’s take on that twenty minutes to a sliver over $90.00. While many members of Congress are insulted by Medicare’s reimbursement rate, I am appalled a physician would charge so much for so little.

Want more? The last year of my mother’s life necessitated foster care and, as that primary care physican determined, Hospice.  Once a week a “skilled nurse” dropped in on my mother for vitals and conversational questions she mostly dismissed with silence. Hospice charged Medicare $245.00 per visit: but, also, Hospice charged Medicare $5,850.00 for the month. Now the foster caregiver had taken over my job of medications since state law require that the pills be on the premises, and the foster caregiver tended to all of my mother’s other needs. I merely paid the foster home $3,200.00 per month for this care, and footed the bill for diaper orders.

Medicare’s response to this was to label the nursing visits as non-covered charges but pay a total of $4,659.57 against the monthly charge of $5,850.00. This lacks sense, not benevolence. Had I or the foster caregiver received such compensation, we’d have tissue-wiped my mother’s bottom to a fine shine indeed.

How is a body to reconcile this? The primary care physician may lament the federal government’s uninspiring payment for her time and service, but note, Hospice received  funds that, leaning into metaphor, felt like an embrace into a big bosom with a home-cooked meal to boot. The clamor for health care overhaul is all about cost,  unsustainable cost. The medical world inflates the price of every service, instrument and pharmaceutical that passes under your nose, while insurance companies use premiums to feed and nourish that upward spiral of…cost. As long as we keep paying, cost will keep climbing.  The relationship between a service and its intrinsic value will disappear. The argument for a public option is so laden with logic that its dissipation physically hurts.

And ultimately disappoints. Because it forces the deduction that enough U.S. Senators leave your interests just outside their office doors.

So today I am announcing my candidacy…

Now the chatter out there, even between reliable analysts and journalists, is that financial reform of any real consequence will not happen because Wall Street has too much lobbying power on Capitol Hill. Are citizens to respond ala Walter Cronkite, “And that’s the way it is..”? Financial reform of any real consequence will not happen because Capitol Hill allows Wall Street too much lobbying power.

We have elections, we “throw the bums out”, and then simply replace them with new bums.

Has your life or the life of those most important to you lost value in the last 10 years?  Want to stop the hemorrhaging?

Smarten up.

Yes We Can.

Remembering Erin Brockovich

Never disciplined myself enough to seek an economics course in college and I  regret it now because I’ve got no direction for my anger except in the mirror. How naive to believe, all those years, that the role of the corporation in human society is to become an essential member by providing a product or service that will be purchased and render, hopefully, that member a profit so that it can give back to the community of patrons it created some individual livelihoods, maybe even a beneficient foundation or two.

What has slapped me in the face is PG&E in Hinckley, CA and Exxon Valdez, and Enron traders commenting on the California blackouts with “Burn, baby, burn”, and currently Citibank, AIG, skating the sidewalks on Wall Street, while cracking those on Main.

Totally unrelated to the issue at hand, but why do I keep remembering that phrase: First Do No Harm…

No Redemption Implied

The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that we are going to be really sorry that we did what we did-to ourselves, to other forms of life, to the earth.

Melting watches just make good art: either we will be lying on parched, cracked ground, lubricated only by our own sweat, or trembling on frozen tundra until juices crystallize, and both landscapes will be layered with dead plants and animals.  Interlacing fingers with another will prove inconsequential-there is nothing but great pain ahead.  The world as we have forced it to become is a place wherein gods and monsters render their difference  indistinguishable.

The World is Flat..busted, broke and ‘fucked’

Here it is: the truth.

I feel like I have been all over the www, dropping from one socio-economic expert’s blog into another’s, like Krugman or Friedman in the NYT or Simon Johnson’s Baseline Scenario and yet here it is.  Just witty, sometimes a tad caustic, young master Matt Taibbi from The Rolling Stone, a  man I enjoyed on Bill Maher’s Real Time during the election, getting it right.

So Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine surfaces again, which I referenced back in February 2007 in The Great Chayevsky.  But back then I blogged to argue against my own pessimism facing the increasingly positive force that was Candidate Obama.  Now I find that positive force neutered and I must return to the only intelligent choice-the futile, dismal truth that Taibbi spreads out here.

It’s the truth, it’s detailed, it’s a gift.  The jive that we just don’t understand, which Wall Street and Washington have used to ride this tsunami wave, won’t wash anymore.  Read it and weep.

And maybe protest.

When fog creeps back in

It’s so simple. All I do is activate Songbird and slip into this space and the fog creeps back in. I seem to possess great sadness, maybe I seek it, maybe I always have. I used to call it my cosmic melancholia, a poet’s dressing: it kept the albatross off my neck. But fancy always fades-it’s simply sadness. And I find it as fast as it finds me.

Not too long ago there was a medium blue, modest by current terms, SUV cruising along one of the US highways. Inside was a man, a woman-wife, and a dog. The little team looked quite content:in retrospect, it was. As for the married pair, once you pass the second decade, most discontents dilute.  Considering the age in which we struggled, like many of you, to meet deadlines of various nature, we both seemed to simply want the comfort, sometimes just presence, of the other. Add an incredibly animated canine and there was the package, and packages are wonderful because they surely come with insulation, in this instance, insulation against a increasingly disturbing world.  So although we each stood post at a point in that triangle, we always, always, faced towards the center. We could have met our final sunset that very way, had we only met it together.

The man died first. He had been playing poker with his body for some time, prone to corporeal appeasements, and a typical midlife screening brought cardio strugglings front stage. My husband, always the wit,  dipped disaster in a joke the same way he dipped  shrimp in sauce. Every night he swallowed a handful of medications so that every morning he could get on up and smoke another cigarette. He actually carried on like that for a time, until, until that horrible afternoon in a Northwestern November where gray sky trumps nothing but more of itself.  Death was instantaneous and God forgive me, mercifully overwhelming: there was no goodbye. He died in the driver’s seat of that modest, blue SUV, with his wife on the passenger side, watching. The pain has remained ulcerous to this day.

A little over a year later, dog and I rearranged the longstanding seating arrangement in that car and headed for a new home. A pressing anxiety became constant with both of us: I didn’t really want to be anywhere without her and she rushed any and all exits in hopes of going wherever with me. I grew more despondent towards the world whose interaction my betters said I sorely needed; she became more insistent on my exclusive attention. Again, facing towards the center, resisting a glance at the third angle, now broken open and leaking, leaking.

Together we worked our way through numerous rubber balls and even more bottles of wine.  Sometimes magically sunny days in that emerald backyard fooled me. I told her he’d have been pleased with us, saliva smothered toy, slurred speech and all. Then her cancer came. More pills, damn them all. She couldn’t really digest anything. I got on that tortuous tightrope balancing her pain against mine. But I was raised by compassionate people, and the vet came to the house to lay her down.

Now I am in the car alone. I talk to her: who’s surprised? She gets a regular washing, sometimes lead-plus fuel, and periodic visits to the dealer’s service unit, where the payout seems to consistently align with her increasing decline.  Someone or other mentions trade-in and I hiss.

The story of us has been under assault for too long. I hurt and I am beginning to recognize a tired, a what’s-the-use, but curiously, a quiet. I have been nagging at myself for months to pull words from my past and my pain so that the magic of what I had and what I lost would be somewhere in print. (May powers bless my kids for making this electronically possible.)

Ironically, but a little artistically, the irritation was high today. It’s Valentine’s Day, and I am not with them, out there, wherever, disengaged, disembowled, whatever. There is no weight to the memory of one.

Life is precious and there are many popping out of nothing to seize it. But some see a rhythm in an early letting go.

My sadness will cease when it finds the courage.

NOW is the time for all good men…

Shit,  I wish everyone and his dog read my little insignificant blog because everyone and his dog must see and listen carefully to this:

Hat tip? No, full bow this time: Bill Moyers

“[W]eakening the big banks and their bosses should not be seen as an unfortunate side effect of beneficial medicine. It is exactly what we need to do under these circumstances. Unless and until these banks’ economic and political influence declines, we are stuck with too many people who know exactly what they can get away with because their organizations are “too big to fail.”

And weakening these banks (or actually having some of them go out of business and be broken up) as part of a comprehensive system reboot – with asset revaluations at market prices and a complete recapitalization program – will help return the credit system to normal.

Simon Johnson, Professor of Economics, MIT


Keeping at it II


Remember when a big talking point of the stimulus propaganda was the creation of 3 to 4 million new jobs?

Now MSNBC is running the byline that the stimulus bill “would create or save 3.5 million jobs.”

So doesn’t the stimulus bill have the potential to result in a zero-sum endeavor?