How the Grinch Stole America

Inspired by Ted Cruz’s reading of “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor.

Every Who in America

Deserves healthcare,

But a faction of Republicans

Think that isn’t fair.

Boehner/Grinch

That faction hates Obama, his whole administration

They’ll be happy with nothing but psychic castration

of the Democratic party and all that they’ve worked for:

Especially entitlements that are aimed at the poor.

But healthcare, “Oh this comprehensive bill

That is the one thing we really must kill.

Even though it’s been watered down,

Negotiated and shredded,

And made into the law of the land where it’s headed!

No, we must stop it! And right in its tracks!

We’ll come up with a plan that’s light on the facts.

Fervent obstruction – that’s what we do!

Blatant destruction of all that is good.

And when it’s all over,

When the smoke clears,

When the Whos realize we’ve preyed on their fears,

We’ll make something up

And put it on Fox news.

We’ll all get behind Bachman and Cruz.”

It might be that Boehner’s head isn’t screwed on quite right.

Some say that his tan was sprayed on too bright

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his balls were two sizes too small.

But whatever the reason – his balls or his tan,

Boehner sat on the Hill without a plan.

And in came the Tea Party with crazy beliefs

To cave to the rich and to give no relief

To the people out there who got them elected

Who saw in Obama not Christ resurrected

But a man with dark skin who was their greatest threat

The biggest socialist that they’d ever met.

Whose father was Kenyan and who hid his college papers.

It was enough to give old Southern women the vapors.

But the worst part of all wasn’t the unprovable facts,

But the fact that this left-leaning commie was black.

That’s the one thing they hated – the blacks blacks blacks blacks.

They hated that more than corporate tax.

boehner

His legacy was healthcare, so they vowed to defeat it.

Personal responsibility was their idea! They felt so cheated.

So instead of supporting it as they had in the past

They vowed to kill it and with it, the middle class.

“Repeal it again!” they cried, (forty-two times)

And they took up their time, not preventing crimes,

By legislating the laws that focus on safety

Like restrictions on guns – no that would be crazy.

They took over the House and made it their business

To obstruct and destruct and to ask no forgiveness.

They were deaf to the voices of people who need it

Welfare recipients could all just go beat it.

No matter that the people, like Cindy Lou Who,

A girl without money, just like me and you.

Whose mother is sick and they aren’t insured.

Because if you’re poor in the US there isn’t a cure.

And Cindy Lou has been home all semester

Her Head Start program was lost in sequester.

Her mother can’t work because they can’t afford a sitter.

And the steady decline put her health in the shitter.

She always worked, paid her taxes, did her fair share,

And now, when she needs it, they wanna defund Obamacare?

“You have the right to pursue happiness –

Whatever that means.

But healthcare is not part of the American dream.”

But the law was held up by the highest court in the land,

And Ted Cruz, well he got up to take a stand,

A filibuster to defund it – and he was sober.

But it was all set to start in October.

His idea didn’t work, the wheels were in motion,

But Cruz is playing a long game, he wants his promotion.

They would take the whole government and shut it right down!

Boehner’s like, “This isn’t a game, I’m not fucking around.”

But it’s too little too late, it was out of his hands.

He was backed into a corner and gave into demands.

large

And Obamacare came,

And in all the confusion,

The Whos failed to see it was just a delusion

To keep them from seeing the hostile takeover

By those who wanted to give a makeover

To that old paper that started it all

That said that we should be governed for all

And not a small faction

That represents one percent

(A very small fraction)

And quiets dissent.

But when a small group plots against us

That’s called sedition.

Like a cancer, it’s a preexisting condition.

The tyrannical forces didn’t come from the left.

It was gotten in plain sight, it was a blatant theft.

It came without guns, it came without tanks,

It started when they deregulated the banks.

We opened the door for the Tea Party bigots

And now the current’s too strong to turn off the spigots.

We need is to issue some slips that are pink

To start over in Congress before the ship we’re on sinks.

What we need is what they call a market correction –

We need to remember in the midterm election.

The End

 

 

Over Our Dead Bodies

And while Congress busies itself by threatening to defund Obamacare at the risk of shutting down the government, we lay more Americans to rest.

Capital flag at halfmastIt was almost perfect. Or as perfect a mass shooting could be. The assailant was a black guy first of all, which helps the narrative that fuels the bottom line: Fear. If we could stay afraid of black guys, then we could feel justified in arming ourselves. And then it came out that the Navy Yard in DC where the shooting occurred was a “gun free” zone. Which plays even more perfectly into the hands of the NRA. “See that?” various right-wing news sources alleged. “The idea of a gun-free zone is a joke. It invites massacre. It is the opposite of a solution, which is, as we’ve been saying all along: More guns. Not less. Never less.”

Except there are some holes in that narrative. The first is that the Navy Yard was “protected” by gun-wielding guards. Just like Virginia Tech was. Just like Columbine.

The second was that the black guy obtained his gun legally. This throws a chink in the armor of one of the underlying threads of logic on the right that says that gun control is a fool’s errand because it only robs the good guys from getting the guns to protect the rest of us from bad guys with guns. Because we’re supposed to believe that black skin and bad are synonymous. This proved unfortunate when so many other American terrorists were white guys.

What the Navy Yard shooting actually does is to bring light to insufficient gun control laws. Because we have evidence – evidence that we don’t need time after time – that armed guards are not bullet proof. That they are not the lone answer. We know this, but we are not loud enough.

What we also know is that obtaining ridiculous multiple round assault weapons is too effing easy. That the background check safeguards are not enough. The assailant had multiple red flags including gun incidents and mental heath deficiencies that did not prevent him from obtaining a legal weapon. And while Congress busies itself by threatening to defund Obamacare at the risk of shutting down the government, we lay more Americans to rest.

So how about this? What if we go back to Congress with this equally off-the-wall idea that they can have Obamacare. They can dismantle it and defund it. They can rob the people of this country of their right to affordable healthcare. They can eliminate the right of Americans to be covered for pre-existing conditions. They can tell their twenty-five year old children that they are not eligible under their healthcare. We can continue to overpay in criminal capacity and max out our emergency rooms with non-emergencies. If they will do one thing: give up their guns. Australia-style. Turn them in. All of them. Rescind the second amendment, effective immediately.

Never happen, right? Pie in the sky?

Absolutely. And the left usually doesn’t work that way. We pass common-sense legislation through trickery and negotiation, through force and trial. And it comes in millimeters, and so watered down from its original form that it is unrecognizable. And the worst part? We’re grateful.

Enough.

Because the Tea-Partiers have gotten a stronghold on the Republican party not by making sense, but by being loud and insistent. So much that their ridiculous ideas get credence in the mainstream just by wearing everybody down. Vote to repeal Obamacare forty-two times? Threaten to shut down the government? Fine. Give up your guns.

Let’s meet them where they are. They are not meeting us up here in rationality. Let’s start at batshit nuts and get the conversation that needs to be had out there. Remember in Lethal Weapon where Mel Gibson’s
character outcrazies the criminals? We haven’t tried that yet. What if our Democratic congresspeople took on a new persona that said, “I’m surprised you haven’t heard of me, I got a bad reputation, like sometimes I just go nuts,” Mel Gibson-style (minus the anti-semitism.)

7143.0.570.359

Might we bring serious gun control discussion to the forefront of the American conversation? Might we scare the right into doing what they know is the right thing by intimidating them with our own brand of crazy? Because twenty children mowed down in Newtown didn’t do it. So I say we go extreme. We’ve been so careful to say, “No one is taking away your guns,” to the right. And it hasn’t worked. So let’s start there and maybe we’ll negotiate ourselves down to something that actually makes sense. At the very least, might we expose them for what they are: excruciatingly irresponsible. And nuts.

And then let’s consider this. Is the idea of gun confiscation as crazy as shutting down the government unless the Affordable Health Care Act is defunded?

The answer to that shows just how far off course this country has gotten.

 

Obamacare

On myriad levels, Obamacare is a good plan, and ultimately I am in favor of seeing it fully implemented. But if we eliminate emotion and politics, it’s fair to say Obamacare is only half of what is required.

Affordable? Maybe not. Necessary? Likely so.
Part 6 (of 8) of the Off The Reservation special election series in the Long Island Press

It has been said that death and taxes are the two irrefutable realities of our existence. By declaring the act that seeks to prolong death for every American to be a tax, the U.S. Supreme Court has neatly fused them together, making the debate surrounding Obamacare an inescapable reality unto itself.

My election series of columns has thus far made clear arguments in favor of re-electing Barack Obama with respect to the stimulus, deregulation, foreign policy and appointing justices to the Court, with Obama winning three of the four topics convincingly and a split decision on Wall Street regulation. When it comes to healthcare, I must admit that I am struggling a bit. Perhaps you can help.

Intellectually, I am a fan of a single-payer healthcare system. In America, this would essentially mean Medicare for all, with no option for private health insurance. The administrative cost and paperwork associated with patient care would be a fraction of what they are today and with the advent of electronic medical records an argument can be made that there are significant efficiencies to come. Practically, however, this is essentially the Canadian system and it is far from perfect.

My family is originally from Canada and most of my relatives still live there. While there is no question that general care is indeed more affordable, available and efficient, critical care is a problem. My aunt died prematurely due to the ridiculous lengths she had to go through to receive a proper and thorough diagnosis. But this painful anecdote belies statistics that suggest the mortality rate from disease in the US and Canada is nearly identical.

Doctors in the United States are compensated much higher than doctors in Canada; but this applies mostly to specialists and not general practitioners. Therefore, in Canada there are far more general practitioners per capita than in the United States. Perhaps this implies that although critical care is less available, greater access to preventive care mitigates the severity and incidence of diseases that require critical care. Frankly, I don’t know. But I do know, just looking at Long Island for example, that we have universal healthcare because the emergency room at Nassau University Medical Center is just about the busiest place on the Island. This is why I am in favor of an attempt to cover every individual in the United States and, for the most part, a proponent of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”


When I began working for my father 18 years ago, we covered 100 percent of healthcare costs for our employees. Now, we can only afford to cover half. Moreover, this “half” is far more expensive than the entire amount was almost two decades ago even on an adjusted basis. It’s why I find it insulting when people suggest that Obamacare is crushing small businesses already. The fact is, Obamacare hasn’t been fully implemented yet, but this is the first year that two very significant things happened to our business:

  1. We were reimbursed several thousand dollars by our insurance company because they had failed to meet the minimum standards under Obamacare for the amount of money that must be allocated to actual care, and not administrative costs.
  2. This is the first year the insurance company didn’t attempt to raise our premiums by double-digits.

So, as a small business owner, I have already benefitted from a plan that hasn’t even been fully implemented. Moreover, it puts my business on a level playing field with other small businesses I know that skirt the rules by paying their people as independent contractors simply to avoid offering them health insurance.

There are other great parts of this legislation such as extending dependent care, outlawing the practice of declining coverage for anyone with a pre-existing condition, closing the Medicare “donut” hole for seniors, mandating electronic records, and identifying best practices across the nation. But I have heard time and again that Obamacare will ultimately result in a massive decrease in reimbursements for physicians— forcing them to see more patients to sustain current income levels—thus jeopardizing the quality of care.

This is a practical sentiment that I can sympathize with, but many of my friends who are physicians have been complaining about this for years. This isn’t an “Obamacare” phenomenon; this is a “healthcare-as-it-currently-is” phenomenon. And while I agree that adding millions of additional people to the insurance pool is beneficial for insurance companies and detrimental to the earning potential of physicians, access to preventive care and wellness visits is undoubtedly a positive step for America. I’m hoping my physician friends weigh in on this to express their viewpoints because I know many of them are tired of being businesspeople and accountants and simply want to get back to caring for patients and growing as doctors.

The politics surrounding Obamacare have drowned out any and all reasonable debate surrounding this issue. The mere fact that the GOP vehemently opposes this plan that was originally crafted by a conservative think tank, touted by Republican legislators and actually adopted fully by a Republican governor now running for president should indicate how toxic our politics are. On myriad levels, Obamacare is a good plan, and ultimately I am in favor of seeing it fully implemented. But if we eliminate emotion and politics, it’s fair to say Obamacare is only half of what is required. The real drivers of cost in the system are the high-cost liability insurance, rampant pharmaceutical dependence encouraged by advertising that is unnecessary and unethical, an overly-litigious culture that forces physicians to order unnecessary tests simply to thwart potential claims, paying doctors and hospitals per procedure instead of paying for the care the patient requires, and the extraordinary cost of end-of-life care. If over the next decade, Obamacare is married with serious attempts to tackle these issues, then it has a shot at not just succeeding but being a model system. If not, it will likely lumber along as a quasi-failure but no worse than had we done nothing at all.

WEEK 6 goes once again to the POTUS.

PHOTO: Barack Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law, March 23rd, 2010. The act is the most sweeping healthcare reform since Medicare and based largely on initiatives created by conservative think tanks. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

You absolutely must be the primary sentinel of your own health. To be effective in that capacity, you have to be in touch with your body and deduce what is good or bad for it. Today’s given wisdom is often tomorrow’s discredited procedure and may even be hazardous to your health.

“You have to be responsible for yourself.” Paula Deen, Food Network host

The Hidden Hand of the Marketplace will cure all that ails you.  So say the Voodoo economists who tout that wondrous elixir – market-based healthcare – packaged, of late, as health-insurance ‘vouchers’.  In other words, my fellow Americans, you’re on your own.

The metastasizing American health care system is now devouring close to one-fifth of our economy.  That is nearly double other First World countries.   Our system delivers shorter lifespans than Third World Communist Cuba.  It is a budgetary hot potato that everyone is tossing to the other guy as it engorges to giant pumpkin proportions.  

Seemingly well-intentioned, Obamacare got the cart before the horse by first seeking to extend this bloated, underperforming system to the tens of uninsured millions.  What would have happened if they set about shaping up the system first then shipping out savings to cover those exposed?  

Murmurs of cost containment drew shrill, special-interest shills crying “Death Panels!”  Fingers wagged at government interference and social engineering.  Mess with tort reform and the Hidden Hand will witch-slap you upside the face.  Bulk purchase drugs to drive down prices and the Hidden Fist will cold-cock you. 

Keep ducking, fellow Americans, God helps those who help themselves.

Back in my halcyon days living close to the bone, I had a choice to make: health insurance or health club membership?  I figured an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and health club clientele look a lot better than patients at health clinics.  Fortunately the only tangible threats to my health during this period were the two hits I took from cabs as I bicycled around Manhattan.

Long-time neighbor Dr. Lyman Fussell passed away a couple of years ago at the age of 107.   Even into triple digits and functionally blind, he would motor around like the Eveready Rabbit.  He remained sharp as a tack, summoning up memories from nearly a century ago.  There was the time, studying at Physicians & Surgeons, he witnessed Columbia college sophomore and future Pride of the Yankees, Lou Gehrig, hammer a baseball out of the campus quadrangle on to 116th Street and Broadway.   

“To what do you attribute your longevity?” I asked Dr. Fussell.

“I stay away from doctors,” answered Dr. Fussell.  

Easy for the good doctor to say, some will argue.  He had the luck of the gene draw, right?  Fellow Columbia Lion, Lou Gehrig, wasn’t so lucky.  The Iron Horse, who went on to play 2,130 consecutive games for the Yankees, died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) just shy of his 38th birthday.  Dr. Fussell’s son, who also became a Dr. Fussell, did not inherit the longevity gene, succumbing to leukemia at sixty.

As traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has it, doctors only get paid when you’re well, not when you’re sick.  My experience with a principle TCM procedure is mixed.  A couple of years after my father’s major stroke, he would travel to Paris during summers for treatment by a Chinese acupuncturist.  Upon his return, impaired speech noticeably improved for a period.  Whether it was the acupuncture, good times with all things French, or the respite from his wife, Heddy the Hun, remains subject to speculation.

My one-time acupuncture treatment only exacerbated the debilitating pain emanating, as later revealed, from soft tissue catching on the splintered head of my femur.  A couple of months of prescribed physical therapy exacerbated even more.  It took an MRI to reveal a necrotic lesion the size of a golf ball on the ball of my hip.  How were such conclusions reached before MRIs, I asked the great doctor treating me?  Had to operate, he responded.  If a hip specialist is unable to pony up an educated guess based on a graphic description of symptoms, it’s time for a different orthopedist.  

You absolutely must be the primary sentinel of your own health.  To be effective in that capacity, you have to be in touch with your body and deduce what is good or bad for it.  Today’s given wisdom is often tomorrow’s discredited procedure and may even be hazardous to your health. 

When margarine was introduced forty years ago as the ‘healthy, low-fat’ alternative to butter, one look told me otherwise.  No way the human body could thoroughly digest and purge a tub of melted yellow plastic, the feel of WD-40.  Margarine was the gateway processed transfat that teamed with high-fructose corn syrup to super-size two-thirds of America.  Photos of Americans from the ‘50s and ‘60s show virtually none of the wide-loads of today.  These body-types aren’t anyone’s destiny.   They are Exhibits A-Z that the body burns whole foods and stores junk food.  Calories are not created equal.

Junk thought contends that children will only eat deep-fried industrial products offered on ‘children’s menus’.  Wrong.  Kids have been conditioned to ‘like’ the crap they’re fed.  My 15yrs-old twins, who have been conditioned otherwise, inhale well-prepared, balanced banquets daily.  They have only gone to a McDonald’s to use the bathroom and thought the restaurant odor gross.   Remember, parents, when you set your kids on a collision course with type-2 diabetes, very few will grow up to parlay their condition into shilling for diabetes injections like Paula Deen, Queen of the Fryolator.

Americans believe they can shovel toxins down their throats with one hand and neutralize by popping pills with the other.  ‘Eat the foods you love,’ then douse the heartburn, antacids advertise.  Maybe heartburn is your body’s way of telling you those foods don’t agree with it.  Listen to your body.  And let your immune system go on maneuvers against most bacteria so to it is prepared to take on the really big threats to health.  The ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’  squared my long-held premise that excessive use of antibacterial has been, paradoxically, a culprit in epidemic rates of asthma and allergies.

God bless the child that’s got good sense (and habits) to “stay away from doctors,” as 107yrs-old Dr. Fussell prescribed.