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Archive for August, 2009

The following email msg was sent to President Obama, Sen Boxer and Feinstein and Rep Miller:
America needs health reform NOW!!
If you feel we cannot get a single payer, public option solution through Congress this year, I would propose the following (which will force the Republicans – and Democrats –  to vote against very specific bills that are clearly understandable to the American public):
Pass a separate bill specifically limited to just a single issue: make it illegal to have any form of “pre-existing condition” limitation or exclusionary clause in any health insurance contract or plan.
This will free the American worker from the shackles of their current employer’s health plan, which binds the employee to the employer.
Pass a separate bill specifically limited to just a single issue: make it illegal to have any form of “maximum liability amount” for any individual or family plan for any single year or the lifetime for any single (catastrophic) or multiple occurrence of any illness or injury.
This will remove the current fraudulent situation of people believing they are paying for adequate health care only to find when they really need it, it’s capped far below what they are expected to pay – and they are forced into bankruptcy.
Pass a separate bill specifically limited to just a single issue: make it illegal to have any form of “geographic” limitation or exclusionary clause in any health insurance contract or plan.
Pass a separate bill specifically limited to just a single issue: make it illegal to have any form of “prior-to-service notification” limitation or exclusionary clause in any health insurance contract or plan.
The reasoning for these two is to remove the “excuse” that the patient received care outside the covered area or without prior approval from the insurance provider.  Too often these are used to cover inflated prices in one area by forcing the patient to pay for prices beyond their control.  Patients are rarely in the position to “shop” for the best price when they are seeking treatment.
These four laws can each be passed separately and in any order and they have the added advantage of not requiring ANY additional funding by the government.
After that, you can go back and address the issues of a single payer system with a public option.
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Hil and I went to church today (it’s Sunday).  The first reading was from Joshua 24:15 and contained one of my favorite sayings – As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  I like it because it is a simple statement of faith.
Back in July of 2001, I got laid off from the company I was working for (Stockpoint).  I was unemployed until Jan ’02 when I got hired by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to answer their 800 line and respond to tax questions from the public.
That job was really just to get the health insurance.  When I got laid off I had a chance to continue my health insurance with “COBRA” – (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985) – the fake health reform of the Clinton Administration.  But, to continue my health coverage, I would have had to pay $600 for myself and $125 for my family.  Obviously, being unemployed, I had to drop my coverage, but I continued it for my wife and kids.
Anyway, with a new mortgage and no income (unemployment insurance is another joke) to speak of I was desperate for ANY work.  I took the job at the IRS for 1/3rd the pay I had been making at Stockpoint and it had nothing to do with computers, programming or business management.
Even though “marginally” employed, we were still burning through savings like nobody’s business and I was feeling desperate.  I had been under- and unemployed for almost a full year and we were rapidly approaching the point of having to put the house up on the market before we started to miss payments.
I had applied for over 700 jobs in the year and had a total of five (5!) written responses (acknowledgments of receipt) and only three (3!) interviews.
I was out jogging and started praying…  I said, “God, I don’t know what more I can do.  I’m preparing customized cover sheets for every application and REALLY making an effort to spend all day looking for jobs I can both do and companies I can contribute to – but no one is even acknowledging they’re getting my applications…  I’m looking everywhere west of the Mississippi and there just doesn’t seem to be any hope.
“I know I haven’t always been the best Catholic, but I promise you, if you just show me the way forward, you don’t have to DO anything for me, just show me the way, I promise to go back to church, get the kids baptized and raise them in the faith.  After that, I will remain your committed servant.  I place my faith in you and am in your hands.”
The following week (I believe it was Thursday), I got a call requesting an interview.  I said I’d be happy to interview and asked when.  The lady said, “Right now.”
I interviewed for about the next 45 minutes and was asked to a 2nd interview the following week.  I went to that and was offered the job to start the following week (8 Aug. 2002).  I was hired and have now been there seven years.
We started going to church the Sunday before my second interview.  I joined the Knights of Columbus and we got the kids enrolled in Baptism classes shortly thereafter.  The classes took two years and the kids were Baptized and rec’d their 1st Communion.  After that, they came with us for another three years.
About a year and a half ago, our oldest started having a lot of scheduling conflicts between Church and her volunteer job.  While I was not initially in favor of it, I agreed she no longer had to attend Mass with us.  Shortly after that, I told the other two that if I wasn’t requiring the oldest to go I wouldn’t require them to either.  For the most part they don’t attend anymore.
The kids sometimes join us for Christmas or Easter Mass but the only one I require them to attend with us is the first Sunday after Easter.  That’s the Sunday of “Doubting Thomas”.
Hilary and I still go every week.  About a year ago we started driving an elderly lady (who no longer drives) to Mass with us.
If true faith requires public testimony – then God has blessed me with with it.  I have told this story often enough (to family, friends and co-workers) for it to enter into the mythology of my family.
Now, I know a rational agnostic would say it was pure coincidence and the law of averages and a matter of time and blah, blah, blah…
But as for me and my faith, like Thomas, I no longer need to “see” to believe.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
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I went to visit Donny today.  We spent a couple of hours watching golf and just talking about this and that…
Hil went to SF to spend the day with Cindy.  They visited our old stompin’ grounds out in the Richmond District and Golden Gate Park.
I came home and went to see GI JOE: The Rise of Cobra at the movies.  It was a good summer-action flick.  Not great acting, but not too bad either.  The special effects were very good.
I had real reservations about going to see it when I first heard about it coming out.  I find it “troubling” that in a time of war, we are making movies about super-soldiers who never seem to bleed or die.
The movie didn’t end up particularly “glorifying” war – as much as the hero’s gung-ho machismo.  And, in the end, it’s just a summer action movie about toys.  The most spectacular special effect – heavily advertised, so this isn’t a spoiler – was the destruction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Earlier in the week, I watched the movie “The Core” where San Francisco and Rome both get destroyed.  It’s tough living in big, famous, photogenic cities which Hollywood constantly seems to want to blow up…
I admit I look forward to seeing it (GI Joe) again on DVD and give it two thumbs up!
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Today I had a long day working on modifying/updating an application I’ve had running at work for several years.  I work in Human Resources and we use a departmental database I developed several years ago to keep track of various things.  (How’s that for a description full of banal generalities?)
Generally, the project is interesting because it will tie another function into the application.  Specifically, it’s interesting because the main application is about four years old and this will be the first major modification.  It should allow me to review (and hopefully improve on) some of the things that got thrown together in the heat of the initial development.
On the drive home, I randomly remembered two poems from many years ago.  In Broken Images was a poem I first read as an introduction statement to a science book I had in high school.  Philosophically, it’s always been a guide post warning me to think for myself and question what I (and others) “know” to be absolutely true.  The Para’s Prayer was also an introduction statement in a book.  I don’t remember the book.  I believe it was called Devils In Baggy Pants, but I’m not sure.  I read it back while I was a young, gung-ho trooper in the Army.
I hope you enjoy them both.  In case you’re interested – I still have the courage to ask…
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I believe that true freedom is paid for with blood and sacrifice…  [Although I am a veteran, I have not – ever – served in an active war or combat zone.]
Given: The war in Iraq was a mistake from the start.
President Bush decided he wanted to take out Saddam Hussein and his government and so Bush used misinformation (unlawfully in my opinion), the post-9/11 public fear of terrorists, and our military to do this.  The “war” in Afghanistan, however, was not a “mistake” to start off.
Having said the above, I believe the continuing “war” in Afghanistan is a major political and economic mistake for the United States – now – and we need to set a timetable for immediate withdrawal of all troops.
Of course, we will have to reprise the Nixon/Kissinger  “Peace with Honor” two step to dance our way out with our usual embarrassing lack of grace, but the truth is we’ve done all we can there and the time is long past when we should leave.
The U.S. is not very good at nation-building.  Just look within our own borders.  We’ve been working on our own country for over 200 years.  We only ended segregation 50 years ago and we still can’t pass an equal rights for women amendment.  What hope do we seriously have in changing a mostly primitive (by our Western standards), but ancient tribal culture into something approximating our own.
I would argue very little…
This is not meant to imply we should not have gone to Afghanistan in the first place, after all, it was the base for Al Qaeda to train “terrorists”.  So, after 9/11, we were fully justified in going in and disrupting the then-ruling Taliban government and hunting down and destroying Al Queda.   We did the first and failed to do the second (so far).
It was obvious after the Tora Bora fiasco (Dec 2001), we lacked the will and political skill to finish off Al Queda, so the time to leave was then – not all these many years, and lives later.
…And we’re still counting (both years and lives).
There simply is no political solution to Afghanistan.  We can bleed our own military forces and economy for years to come and there will never be a political solution.  There is only one  when some one hurts you and you hurt them back, it serves very little good to try to “rehabilitate” them to be like you so they won’t hurt you again.  You hurt them (the political elite, not the average citizen); you make it clear that if they try it again, you’ll be back and it’ll be worse for them next time; and then you walk away.
What we need to do is finish getting out of Iraq while setting a short-term timetable for getting out of Afghanistan – and then do it.  Just leave!!!
We can still promise economic and humanitarian aid to either (or both), but we need to get our precious sons and daughters out of harm’s way.  Then we need to rebuild our forces based on the lessons learned from these two wasteful efforts – mainly, we need BOTH a main fighting force (that was so successful against Iraq – twice) AND a flexible fighting force capable of winning a future “quick punch in the nose”, fight and leave war (like Afghanistan should have been).
Rebuilding the military will not be inexpensive and we should not fool ourselves into believing we are going to get a “peace-time bonus/dividend”.  Rebuilding will be VERY costly.  But the alternative is to not be ready when the “bad-guys” out there misread our departure as failure of will instead of as basic American practicality and our love for the blood and lives of our sons and daughters.
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I believe we should have single-payer health care, with a public option and at a minimum all health insurance providers need to have “prior conditions” precluded by federal law.
I believe the greatest source of creative wealth is the small business and one of the largest costs every small business has is health care – even when it is only provided for the owner and his or her family.
I believe the cost of health insurance is growing so large and so fast that soon, only the wealthy will have it – or be able to afford it.  Like company pensions, employer provided health insurance will whither and die under the promise of “subsidized” health insurance.  The employee share will increase, the employer share will decrease and the cost will continue to escalate.
As a nation, we currently spend more money per person on health insurance and medical costs than any other nation on earth and have measurably worse general and preventative care.  In essence, we pay for the pound of cure because we don’t want to pay for the ounce of prevention.
The leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is NOT gambling / risk taking, extravagant living beyond one’s means, or moral failure (alcohol, drugs or sex) – the leading cause of personal bankruptcy IS the non-insured cost of catastrophic illness or injury.
Even if one does not believe we are each our brother’s keeper, we all face the same end if we live long enough to reach it — old age, incapacity, and ultimately long-term full-time personal care.  This issue (health care) – baby-boomers, is the future for ALL of us “lucky” enough to live long, full lives.
The only question is do we start to make a down payment on the costs now, by instituting fundamental change in how we pay for everyone’s health care or do we wait until the whole population is older and the costs are far, far more.
I vote for change now!
…And I commit to contact my local, state and federal representatives individually to tell them I will ONLY support them in their next election if they make their own position on health care public record.  Further, I will tell them I will support any legitimate candidate running against them in the next primary if they fail to support health care reform this year.  I will work against them by giving my time and my money.
I urge everyone reading this to make the same commitment.
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These are some photos taken on a business trip to Phoenix. I took advantage of the trip to spend time with my brother (Sean), nephew (Sean Jr.) and to visit my cousin (Michael Romero). We drove to Phoenix via the Grand Canyon and then came back through Yosemite.

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