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February 20, 2004

Health care crisis? What health care crisis?

Via TBogg, we learn of writer Evan Morris and his adventures with the American health care system:

A funny thing happened last week. Actually, it wasn't funny at all. A few months ago I started getting strange stomach upsets when I ate, sort of a weird bloating effect that hurt a lot and kept me up all night when it happened. Then it started to happen more and more frequently, eventually nearly every day, so I did what any rational person would do: I pretty much stopped eating. Bad idea. I lost 15 pounds over the course of two months or so and the pain just got much worse, until finally Mrs. Word Detective, who had been trying to get me to go to a doctor for quite a while, convinced me to go to the hospital.

This seems a good time to mention that The Great State of Ohio is one of those states that allows health insurance companies to refuse to offer you coverage, which they did to us several years ago. We had good coverage through the Authors Guild when we lived in NYC (where insurance companies can charge you out the wazoo but can't refuse coverage entirely), but since we moved out here we have had no insurance.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital, it developed that I had a severely inflamed gall bladder and needed immediate surgery. So they yanked the little sucker out in the nick of time (it was three times normal size and the surgeon said he didn't understand why I was still walking around and not, like, dead), leaving me with four incisions that look like bullet wounds, and sent me home six hours later. Total time in hospital = 22 hours. I wasn't in intensive care, and I didn't even get a real room, just a glorified closet with the bathroom 50 feet down the hall to which I would stagger trailing my IV pole behind me. But I seem to be all right now, although it still hurts when I cough or sneeze.

And then the other shoe dropped. Bills have begun to arrive. So far, they amount to (is everyone sitting down?) a little over $22,000. That's twenty-two thousand dollars. For 22 hours in the hospital. And we haven't received the surgeon's bill yet.

This strikes me as absolutely insane. Twenty-two thousand dollars? That's close to the advance on my last book, which took me most of a year to write. We don't have anywhere near that amount of money. But something tells me the hospital plans to get its money one way or another. As in take away our house.

I'm sure Evan would appreciate it if you dropped a buck or two in his tip jar.

San Francisco

The path of my life has led away from my old stomping grounds, but that town still makes me proud.


February 19, 2004

Updated Memphis Flyer AWOL article



February 18, 2004

Only 326 days left until Bush goes away

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

A positive thought for the day. It just dawned on me: today is February 18th.

With just a teeny bit of luck, there are only 258 days left until November 2nd, the day George W. Bush loses his second presidential election.

There are also only 326 days left until the next president is inaugurated, George W. Bush goes back to running private businesses into the ground, and this dangerous, deceitful, and woefully incompetent administration comes to a close.

Think of things that way, and suddenly you feel oxygen back in your lungs.

PS: hey -- anybody out there savvy enough to make an html "Days Left Until Bush Goes Away" counter suitable for posting? If you're up for it, email the code here and I'll post it on my own site for general distribution. (If Tom's cool with it, I'll post the code here, too.) I suspect this might become a popular item, and you'll probably get lots of thanks.

UPDATE: First things first -- I tried to do the math in my head and was off on the number of days by ten. I learned arithmetic from the Florida registrar.

Second things second -- holy crap. I just checked my inbox, and over sixty of you have sent me various strings of code. Thanks! I have no idea what some of it is or does, but that's good, since I'm hoping to find something that absolutely anyone can plug into their site. My 20-year-old engineering degree (qualifying me in this Internet era to use most standard electrical plugs and little else) has helped with some of the basics, and so a bit of beginner's code is now up and running on my own site. All suggestions welcome, and a blanket thanks here until I can get to everybody individually. Sometime soon I intend put up a page with a bunch of gleeful and encouraging Bush-Countdown counters and instructions. This will be before I finish mounting my own blog, which will happen some time between next week and the day the sun explodes, depending.

Third things third -- a few sites already have their own counters. Greg at The Talent Show even has a spiffy one all set to download and install.

It all depends on how you define the word "people"

(Note: this entry posted by Bob Harris)

Here's Bush on gay marriage today:

"I am watching very carefully, but I am troubled by what I've seen," Bush said.

-- snip --

"I am troubled by activist judges who are defining marriage. People need to be involved in this decision," Bush said. "Marriage ought to be defined by the people not by the courts."

This is wrong in so many ways... it's hard to know which specific idiotic idea AWOL had in mind.

For one, what's happening in San Francisco began with a decision by local elected officials, not by "activist judges."

Second, the judicial system has only responded so far by not immediately responding to screaming pleas for oh-my-god-make-it-stop-make-it-stop injunctive measures from freaked-out conservatives, whose cases haven't been thrown out but will simply be heard a little later, possibly by the end of the week. This is the opposite of judicial activism.

(Of course, impatience is as much a hallmark of reactionary thought as fear of people who are slightly different and willful insistence on known falsehoods. Combine this with a blinding terror of human sexuality -- that exposed breast is burning my eyes! It burns! It burrrrns! -- and you've got either the modern conservative movement or an emotionally-damaged six-year-old.)

Third, and most importantly, our dumbass-in-chief misses one of the primary purposes of judicial review, established from the very outset of our republic: in a just society, the civil and and constitutional rights of the few cannot be left merely to the whims of the many. Obviously. Jeebus. Bush's position flies in the face of common sense, any basic understanding of American history, and a large body of constitutional law. Maybe Bush was AWOL when they taught Marbury vs. Madison, too.

And finally, even taking Bush's multiple idiocies wrapped in a single statement at face value: um, aren't all those people getting married... people?


I've got family in town, so there probably won't be much here for the rest of the week (though Bob might be posting a little, I'm not sure).

And big congratulations to August, who just got a spiffy new job.


February 17, 2004

Believing what you see

While it's true that John Kerry once sat within several yards of Jane Fonda at an anti-war rally, the photo of him sharing a stage with her has been debunked, though not before fooling the paper of record. (Not that it should matter if he did share the stage with her, but that's another topic.)

But on an entirely unrelated note, one of the persistent, if lesser, rumors which dogged Bush during the campaign of 2000 concerned the existence of a photograph showing him dancing naked on a tabletop at some Yale party. Well, it's taken a great deal of time and effort, but the diligent staff here at thismodernworld.com has managed to uncover that photograph.

Do with it what you will, but just remember: if it's on the internet, it must be true.

Speaking of health-related matters

What could be more fun than a giant ebola virus plush toy? (Via August.)

Health care

Krugman brings up the issue this morning:

According to a recent Gallup poll, 82 percent of Americans rank health care among their top issues. People are happy with the quality of health care, if they can afford it, but they're afraid that they might not be able to afford it. Unlike other wealthy countries, America doesn't have universal health insurance, and it's all too easy to fall through the cracks in our system. When I saw that the president's economic report devoted a whole chapter to health care, I assumed that it would make some attempt to address these public concerns.

Instead, the report pooh-poohs the problem. Although more than 40 million people lack health insurance, this doesn't matter too much because "the uninsured are a diverse and perpetually changing group." This is good news? At any given time about one in seven Americans is uninsured, which is bad enough. Because the uninsured are a "perpetually changing group," however, a much larger fraction of the population suffers periodic, terrifying spells of being uninsured, and an even larger fraction lives with the fear of losing insurance if anything goes wrong at work or at home.

The report also seems to have missed the point of health insurance. It argues that it would be a good thing if insurance companies had more information about the health prospects of clients so "policies could be tailored to different types and priced accordingly." So if insurance companies develop a new way to identify people who are likely to have kidney problems later in life, and use this information to deny such people policies that cover dialysis, that's a positive step?


What would an answer to the growing health care crisis look like? It would surely involve extending coverage to those now uninsured. To keep costs down, it would crack down both on drug prices and on administrative costs. And it might well cut private insurance companies out of the loop for some, if not all, coverage.

But the administration can't offer such an answer, both because of its ideological blinders and because of its special interest ties. The Economic Report of the President has only negative things to say about efforts to hold down drug prices. It talks at length about insurance reform, but it mainly complains that we rely too much on insurance; it says nothing about either expanding coverage or reducing insurance-company overhead. Its main concrete policy suggestion is a plan for tax-deductible health savings accounts, which would be worth little or nothing to a vast majority of the uninsured.

I'll talk more about alternatives for health care in future columns. But for now, let's just note that this is an issue the public cares about an issue the administration can't address, but a bold Democrat can.

I hope the eventual Democratic nominee is wise enough to listen to him, but I'm not holding my breath.

I mean, yes, a bold Democrat could address the fact that here, in the wealthiest society in the world, a substantial portion of the population does not have access to one of the basic necessities of life. And I don't think it's excessively partisan to suggest that our Republican friends are largely responsible for this--it was, after all, Republican strategist Bill Kristol who authored the strategy memo which helped to derail health care reform in the early nineties, by putting forth the Orwellian argument that there is no health care crisis in this country. Republicans seized upon this and repeated it at every opportunity; bottom-feeders like Rush Limbaugh explained ad nauseam that no one was denied health care because you can always just go to the emergency room. And so on and so forth.


The collapse of Bill Clinton's incremental, insurer-friendly plan set the cause of health care reform back by at least a decade, and probably longer. Despite all the GOP propaganda to the contrary, his plan was anything but socialized medicine--it was more along the lines of a giant HMO. He actually met with the five largest insurers, and crafted a plan to their liking, probably hoping to innoculate himself against accusations of "socialized medicine."

And of course, this incremental, insurer-friendly plan was promptly denounced as "socialized medicine."

Add to this the Harry and Louise ads--which were produced by a coalition of smaller insurers afraid they were going to lose their piece of the pie--and the debate which followed had only the most tangential relation to reality.

My own take is that Clinton should have been a better negotiator. If you're selling a house, and you want $300,000 for it, you don't list it at $300,000--you list it at $325,000, or higher, and hope someone will make a bid for $300,000. Clinton was, to be fair, probably correct in thinking that his plan was the best he could realistically achieve at the time--but he should have started out asking for more. In my best of all possible worlds, he would have started out asking for a single payer system, and allowed himself to be bargained down as necessary. (Unlikely, I know, but it all boils down to semantics. Call it something else, call it "Medicare for Everyone," or "the Red-Blooded American Health Care Act," or whatever. But that's another rant.)

At any rate, here we are, still discussing the issue a decade later.

Don't get me wrong. None of this is to suggest that there's anything more important right now than handing George Bush his eviction papers in November. Bush suggests that 9/11 is the reason he should be "re-" elected, because it, you know, changed everything. Well, I would argue that he's right, that 9/11 really did change everything--and that's exactly why we don't have the luxury of risking a second Bush term. 9/11 gave his little cadre of neocons the excuse they needed to pursue a their wildest wet dreams of global hegemony, and we simply can't afford four more years of this. I approach this election with a sort of optimistic pessimism. While I suppose a bold Democrat could propose a bold health care reform--and I would certainly cheer him on--I'm just not going to base my vote on the possibility, or lack thereof. Our very political system is in triage at the moment. We have to staunch the bleeding, keep the patient alive--once we've succeeded there, we can get back to the chronic, long term problems.


February 16, 2004

What passes for thought, part fifteen billion and seven

David Frum is, of course, co-author of An End to Evil, the neocon stroke book guide to the next four years of American foreign policy if Bush somehow manages to either win a legitimate election or steal a second one. Which makes this post at Pandagon somewhat terrifying.

The mother of all President's Day posts

Read it. Memorize it. Email it to everyone you know.

I have so many interesting friends

Inquiry T. Kenton, Phasing Q. Parricide, Fishwives G. Levied, Spangle H. Pouts, Skippered P. Pausing, Codger I. Compensating, Autocrat J. Cleanliness, Flower I. Prompting, Nakedest C. Chickasaw, Mestizo K. Ubiquitos , Befouling S. Rebirths and Cuckolding L. Skunk, just to name a few.

Oh, and how could I overlook Urination H. Dreamless? Good old Uri, we called him, back in the day.

...whoops! Moments after I posted this, I got an email from one Wrongheaded B. Certifiable, which would be a pretty great nickname for the current occupant of the Oval Office, now that I think about it.

Welcoming Karl to NYC

I'm not really a street-theatre kind of guy myself, but if you enjoy taking part in that sort of thing, and you're in or near New York City, you might want to check out Billionaires for Bush. Karl Rove's going to be in town for a fundraiser this week, and they're planning a warm welcome.

More fun with college Republicans


Some campaigns of interest

As noted on various other sites, Mary Beth Williams of the Wampum blog is running for a seat in the Maine legislature.

And Brian Kelliher (former publisher of the Flush Rush Quarterly) is running for Congress against a Republican with a huge war chest.

Go say hello. Tell them Tom sent you.


February 15, 2004

National Guard, then and now

There's a deliberate effort right now to confuse the current National Guard with the draft-era version of which George Bush was a member. Looks like Colin Powell understands the difference between the two, or at least did back when he wrote his autobiography:

"I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed... managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units...Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country."


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