Monday, September 15, 2014

Amending

Those who know and/or follow me or my wife on Facebook, Twitter etc., know that we were opposed to the recent Amendment 1 or the so-called "Right-to-Farm" amendment to the Missouri Constitution.

It was extremely close. In fact so close that a recount was conducted. But as usually happens, the outcome did not change. The Amendment passed by a narrow 2,500 votes or so. This in a state of perhaps 4 million voters.

OK, we lost. Life doesn't always turn out like we want nor is it fair.

I hope in the future, our legislature (Bob Dixon, Eric Burlison?) can change the way these things are presented, proposed and passed. They need to set a higher bar. We amended our State Constitution with just under 25% of registered voters actually voting.

By comparison, our U.S. Constitution (Article 5) has a much tougher road to be amended. First it takes a 2/3rds majority in Congress OR 2/3rds of ALL State legislatures to call for a Constitutional Convention just to get an Amendment underway.

Then if it makes it through one of the above, 38 our of our 50 States must ratify the Amendment. I can't seem to find if this State ratification stage takes only a simple majority or more but regardless, this is a much more rigorous process than simply getting something on a ballot and voting for it.

Maybe next time.







Thursday, September 4, 2014

What's wrong with emergency care?

I had an all-night experience in a local emergency room with my daughter - nothing life-threatening and she's fine.

 We arrived at the ER at approximately 11 PM. The place was packed. It didn't take as long to get checked in but then another couple of hours before anyone was even able to take vital signs. These were  done in one of the so-called triage rooms with a nurse.

About six hours later I went to the front desk and ask where we might be because by then the emergency room had begun to clear out considerably and there wasn't a lot of activity

From my vantage point I could not tell if there were ambulances coming on a regular basis bringing additional patients. These would obviously have critical needs and folks arriving that I could not see.

I did hear one helicopter land on the roof above us.

I approached the desk around 5 AM after having sat for 6+ hours I was told, we were next in line once a room in the back became available.

90 minutes later we were finally taken to one of these rooms. 45 minutes after that a doctor finally arrives. At this point things moved fairly quickly, although the doctor did get called out very early to deal with another patient and it was a while before she came back. To her credit she took time with Anna and paid attention to her. I can't fault her in any way.

On a trip across the ER looking for a restroom I noticed a sign-in board labeled "East Team" where all the nurses and staff were listed and at the top, the names of two doctors. Since the ER was laid out in a certain way I assume there was an east and a west side. We were on the west.

There appeared to be at least 35 of these rooms (by their identifying numbers) with beds that patients were checked into. There could have been more but we were in 34. 35 was right next door to us.

Do the math and you realize that one doctor would be taking care of somewhere at least eight patients simultaneously on an ongoing basis.

I have no idea what traditional numbers are across the nation at ERs but this seems like a pretty high ratio. Given that we waited 7 1/2 hours before we even got to a room and another 45 minutes to see a doctor, I have to conclude that this is part of the reason for the long lengthy wait.

I realize they can't predict how many patients nor the severity and type of injuries etc. that will arrive on a given evening but I'll bet they have enough data to predict fairly well what is likely to happen.

We got a real doctor. She seemed 30-ish, professional. In the past we have sometimes been attended to by PAs and DOs (no offense to either of them!). But what ever they are, and whatever they cost, why just four doctors on a busy weekday evening? Cost-cutting? Cost-savings?

I'll admit a large portion of the ER crowd last night were probably using it as their primary care because they can. And they are willing to wait hours for whatever care they might receive. Another contingent looked like the typical homeless population. Every few minutes a young orderly or nurse would walk amongst us and call out a name or two. Often they got no response.

Patti shared a story today about someone she met who was in a similar situation but decided not to wait. His bill was still $800! Is that crazy, or what? I was tempted to leave many times but figured Anna's little plastic bracelet could be an expensive one. Probably still will be!

This is a large not-for-profit hospital. I can not imagine the scenarios when the ACA kicks in full-bore and even more folks show up at the ER. If, and this is an unproven and big if, IF having more folks insured, keeps them OUT of the ER and showing up during regular hours and regular clinics and offices so the truly critical and injured can more quickly receive trauma care, then one part of the ACA will be working right. But I fear we'll only see longer waits. If the hospital has only enough financial incentive now to put (by my count) 4 docs on the ER, what's going to happen when they lose some of that incentive? 

The ER was freezing. But at least the hospital had a stash of blankets. If this keeps up, they are going to need cots and beds for people to overnite. Let me tell you, spending 7 & 1/2 hours trying to make a chair comfortable, is a tall order! My comfy bed awaits!

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Syria(us) Strategy for ISIS

Much has been made about Obama's so-called "lack of strategy" for what we should do in northern Iraq, Syria, etc. about ISIS.

I am no foreign policy wonk but here's my simplistic idea in three parts:

1 - We DO make a deal with Assad but it involves him stepping aside, leaving the country, turning over every last shred of chemical or any other WMD he might have. War crimes trials are possible.

2 - IN EXCHANGE we promise to obliterate ISIS from Syria and Iraq. This could stop the civil war that has claimed way too many lives in Syria and allow the millions of refugees to return (to what's left of) home.

3 - We will work with our allies to help establish some type of valid representative government in Syria to avoid a vacuum etc. We have to realize this might not be a democracy as we know and love them. Use whatever lessons we learned from Iraq and apply to Syria.

Finally and this is a bonus part. We also help establish a Kurdish nation in exchange for their help with removing any vestiges of ISIS, protection and movement of refugees off ALL faiths, protecting Iraq's northern oil supplies etc.

This would mean a massive air strike and no doubt some ground troops. But we don't go it alone. I think other countries would get on board and most Americans would like to see the Syrian crisis end.


Friday, June 20, 2014

redraw the map?

Per usual doing a lot more reading again about what is happening to/in Iraq. Especially the historical perspective. Two things that stand out for me so far are columns by Fareed Zakaria (here) and a recent blog by Ross Douthat of the NY Times (here).

Some people say "you broke it, you bought it" about our involvement in Iraq. I think it was broke when we got there. Afghanistan too. And I don't think any amount of troops or "advisors" (anybody remember the first people we sent to Vietnam?) is going to make a difference.

If we can use drones to specifically target key ISIS folks before they do any more damage then maybe that could be the extent of our involvement. But then again maybe we don't need to do any more.

I had pretty much come to the conclusion we should just let the Iraqis sort it out and if Iran could somehow broker some sort of deal, to let them, but just today I read another chapter in a different book/different subject, "My Promised Land" by Ari Shavit. He spends an entire chapter talking about the nuclear threat posed by Iran (not just to Israel but to the entire Middle East and ultimately the world). Mr. Shavit is not just another Israeli hawk, he is a liberal columnist/writer and from my read, is often critical of many of the things done by his country in the name of Zionism.

But germaine to this topic, he feels the U.S. and others failed to stop Iran soon/early enough from developing into a nuclear nation (and in the process stalled attempts by Israel to intervene in Iran as well) so the point here is that while we should not send in troops or get heavily involved, this is like a chess game and while the ISIS people move players around, so is Iran. They are involved in Syria now and would probably love being on the world stage as being able to "fix" things in Iraq that the all-powerful United States could not.

As to the history, remember, the names and borders we see now are mostly about 100 years old. Many of them were drawn up by the French and Great Britain in the aftermath of WWI and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

I can't add much more (if anything) to the discussion but this one quote from Douthat sums it all up pretty well; "I wouldn’t want to be in the position of asking anyone, American or otherwise, to be the last man to die for the sake of a hundred-year-old map."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Life, Animated

the book is Life, Animated by Ron Susskind; a story of sidekicks heroes and autism. 

It is a decades-long chronicle: young boy regresses into autism and with the help of many people and the unlikely resource of animated Disney movies, begins ever so slowly to find himself and to learn how as an autistic boy to live and function with remarkable insights in our very complex world. 

It is a long book and not always an easy or entertaining read but as a parent of a child with Asperger's, I'm always drawn to resources that might help; especially with the scary thing we call being an adult.

The most difficult part of the book for me to fathom was actually that the Susskind family is very well-off. NOt tha they are well-off but that somehow they can afford schools and therapists and costs that would exceed the total normal income of most middle-class families. One school cost $85,000/year! What happens to those without the resources or income to get this kind of help?

Every book has some quotable moments or thoughts; here are a few:

Finding the "hidden ears" as in Dumbo or finding the thing that makes (allows) you fly.

"find beauty in yourself, then you will be able to really see it in others and everywhere."

And finally perhaps the most important thought is that children with autism,  "... like so many, they are different, not diminished. So many folks are exactly like the rest of us; only more so and less so.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Redeployment

I am not a huge short story fan nor am I of collections but for some reason this one caught my ear/eye so I got it. I just wrapped it up today and it's sort of like old vinyl albums; there's a great song or two, some pretty good ones and some that, if they didn't have to fill up two sides of a record, might not have made the cut.

Some of these stories are really good. There are a couple I didn't finish and one I wish I hadn't read. But I think in the future we will hear/read more from Mr. Klay.

Warning - he's a former Marine, been to Iraq so there are plenty of the f-words to go around.

But he is telling some stories that draw you into his characters and make you feel for what our servicemen and women have been through in service to our country.

It doesn't come across as a pro- or anti-war thing. Just some slices of life during and after the war. (It is over, isn't it?)

If you enjoy reading about our current situations and those that lived (or not) through it, this might be worth grabbing.

Friday, April 25, 2014

In the New World

Just wrapped up another book; this time In the New World by Lawrence Wright.

Wright is better known for his lengthy Looming Towers about Al Qaeda and 9/11.

I'm not even sure how I heard of this or what prompted me to request at the library - I do that for so many books I often lose track of the whys etc.

But quickly I realized this book was a lot about my growing up.

Wright lived his formative years in Dallas and they overlap with many of mine. He is older but writes of the 60s (Kennedy assassination) and Dallas politics and then as he grows up and moves around, puts his own take on the events and politics of his time up through the mid-80s when he concludes the book (published in 1987 I think)

This will not interest everybody but if you are from Dallas, grew up in the 60s, lived through Vietnam ... then you might find something to like about this.

Caution; it is long and a slow read and in parts he wanders a bit but when he is writing about history and not how he felt, it holds up pretty well and serves as a good reminder of some of the seminal events most of us boomers lived through.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Suicide is not Painless

The story from Ft. Hood is sad on so many levels; for the families of those killed or injured, those who witnessed the shootings, those soldiers who are thinking “there but for the grace of God…” and more.

I’ve really only listened to one media report in the days following the shootings and it seemed like all they were looking for was a villain, someone to blame.

It has been said the shooter was being treated for PTSD and struggling with depression. He was angry about being denied a leave request. I’m sure more will turn up.

I recall reading in “Thank You For Your Service” about high-level meetings with military brass on how to reduce the suicide levels of those returning from combat.

In 2013 the suicide rate for veterans exceeded the number killed in combat. It has been called an epidemic.

This (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/29/military-veteran-suicides-prevention_n_3791325.html) from the Huffington Post is a good summary of what is being done, the scope of the problem etc.

I did not start out for this to be about suicide. But based on what I’ve read, I am not surprised that the soldier ended up killing himself after his shooting rampage. A 2012 VA study showed that more than 20 veterans commit suicide every day! But those sad stories don’t make the front page or CNN; and we probably don’t want them to.

Is every veteran a ticking time bomb? Of course not. I hope the VA will re-double its efforts to remove the stigma of asking for help. It seems like they are trying but the problem is growing faster than they can do screenings, add hotlines, therapists and such.

I can’t offer any suggestions or solutions. Maybe a prayer or two is all I’ve got. I’ve been praying for a young man in Afghanistan for more than a year. Hopefully he is home safe by now and will find a way to adjust to this life we call normal. Maybe I just need to keep praying.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Artisan Soul

I heard about this from someone I follow on Twitter and was eager to read it.


I began it during my early morning devotional/reading time (a few chapters from the Bible - right now re-reading in Genesis from the Message version). It seemed like I was working too hard and not enjoying it much but I kept trying to give it a chance.

But I finally gave up. I almost felt guilty. I guess my soul is not artisanal enough.

No offense to Mr. McManus, a popular speaker and writer, but I found the writing to be simplistic and wooden or clunky. 

I would find a pithy nugget here or there but not enough breadcrumbs to keep me going down the road.

It may be just what some creative person needs to read right now but not for me.





Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Matterhorn

I've always had an unnatural interest in the Vietnam War; perhaps because I was fortunate enough to not have to go and fight. The luck of the lottery I guess.


Matterhorn is a sprawling book about a piece of the war. Time-line-wise it might only cover a few months in the lives of a group of soldiers, many of whom died perhaps needlessly.

It is a long book that requires patience. I had to try twice to work my way through it but then finally reached a point where I felt I knew some of the characters and began to care how they'd come through their ordeals.

The book has the usual trappings of any Vietnam story; fraggings, ineptness, language, drudgery, jungle and more.

I wouldn't rate this as a great book. The last novel I read of Vietnam, "The Things They Carried" will likely stay at the top of my favorites list.

But this is likely an important book. Told mostly through the experiences of a "butter-bar" Lieutenant on his first tour, it gives some insight into some of the reasons why we ended up leaving behind more than 57,000 dead soldiers without much to show for it. I was struck by the stubbornness of some of the higher-ups who were more concerned about body counts, meeting arbitrary schedules and the like than whether we might actually be making a difference and possibly winning the war.

I realize I'm speaking from a distance of more than 40 years and of one who has never worn a uniform so I have little right to say much at all. Perhaps it is summed up in something I saw today on either Facebook or Twitter and it went something like this: "How many Vietnam marines does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Answer: "You wouldn't understand, you weren't there."

If you enjoy reading about wars and the experiences of those who fought, give this a read but remember, be patient.

It is not about Vietnam but I just heard of a book called "Redeployment"
Looking forward to this one.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Obamacare and 2 million jobs!

For me the jury is still out on Obamacare as we know it today. Yes, thousands or more are now going to be without insurance because of a broken promise that Obama either lied about or just didn’t bother to read the finer details of his own proposed legislation.

I personally will be hoping for something better by 2015 when I too am likely to enter the marketplace for health insurance. As a soon-to-be-retired City employee, I am eligible to continue my current coverage but, at a price and Oh, what a price!

When 2015 comes though it has been said that we may not even have that option available to us as retirees.

But for now my question and comment is about the announcement this week that perhaps 2 million people might leave the work force because of Obamacare.

Opponents seem to be screaming that “See, Obamacare cost America 2 million jobs!”

Maybe I missed all the nuance, but what I heard was that approx. 2 million people might QUIT their jobs, since they could obtain health insurance coverage withOUT having to be employed. I’m not saying this is a good thing because once they quit working, income drops and they will likely join the ranks of the heavily subsidized insured under Obamacare.

What it doesn’t mean is that America lost 2 million jobs. No one can say whether those jobs people leave will be refilled immediately or at all; but you can’t accurately say those jobs go away. If they are needed, then those companies will likely and hopefully rehire someone to keep doing the work and that person would receive the insurance coverage just like the person who quit their job.

Seems to me this might allow people who’d like to retire or quit, to do so and open up some opportunity for someone else to take their place.


I may have missed some important details or stats here but this is what I was hearing on the radio earlier this week.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Celebration Day

I did not watch the Grammy’s and from what I hear, I didn’t miss much. But odd timing in that I just got Celebration Day from the library – Led Zeppelin’s Grammy winner for best rock album for a Live recording made in 2007. Huh?



Anyway I was looking forward to listening so this morn I popped it in the CD player on my way to work.

I like Led Zeppelin a lot; mostly their first two albums. But apart from the oddness of a 2007 recording getting a 2013 award … what gives?

For starters their timing is just way off. Plant starts singing too soon, leaves out entire sections of lyrics and well he just doesn’t have his old voice anymore. (His voice works just fine with Alison Kraus and I fully expect him to do something with his latest girl, Patty Griffin and I’m sure that will be good too) Mr. Page still has pretty good guitar chops and that kid, Jason Bonham is every bit the drummer his father was and more. But collectively they just don’t hold up.

If Led had never won a Grammy before or somebody just died I’d understand how this was needed. But they are in the Hall of Fame, nobody questions their impact on rock-and-roll and their standing as one of the top bands of all time, so why?



Heroes

I am still reading “Thank You For Your Service”; an excruciatingly painful and hard book to read but I feel like I owe it to somebody to finish it. The stories are sad and what makes it even sadder is that there are bound to be hundreds more than the ones told in the book.



This morning (after a brief listen to some Led Zeppelin) I popped Guy Clark in the CD player. Not much better than good ole Texas music. Somewhere in the middle I heard this:

"Heroes" by Guy Clark

He brought the war home with him.
Still got sand in his boots.
He's wrestling with the demons and the cold hard truth.
And something ain't right about him.
He came back different.
Something in his eyes said he'd seen too much,
Something in his leg said he'd had enough.

Heroes, everybody needs heroes.
Even heroes need a little help.
Heroes can't always be heroes.
Who's gonna save the hero from himself?

He had a picture from Baghdad, with him and his buddies.
They're just horsin' around, gettin' ready.
One by one, he watched them die.
Just scared kids and he don't know why.
He's the only one to make it out alive.

Heroes, everybody needs heroes.
Even heroes need a little help.
Heroes can't always be heroes.
Who's gonna save the hero from himself?

Ten thousand clicks away in his head
He could smell the smoke, he could smell the dead
A silver star and a pistol in a drawer
Morphine just ain't working no more.

Heroes, everybody needs heroes.
Even heroes need a little help.
Heroes can't always be heroes.
Who's gonna save the hero from himself?

When I was a kid, we knew some folks and occasionally the phrase “shell-shocked” would be used to describe one of the men in my family’s circle of friends. The problems have newer names and initials but I guess as long as we send men and women to war, some of them are going to come back damaged beyond repair.