Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Selling of Obamacare

Stand firm, President Obama—don’t blink. You’re doing the right thing, but since you don’t have to fit negotiating into your busy schedule, this might be a good time to meet with your team, the Democratic National Committee, Democrats in the House and Senate and find out where you went wrong; because, if implementation of The Affordable Care Act was the goal, the Democratic Party dropped the ball and the Tea Party and fellow travelers were not only allowed to pick it up, but to run the field without interference.

For more than 3 years, hard right politicians have run ads, written opeds, given interviews, traveled the country spreading the gospel: Obamacare will not work; Obamacare is bad for you and your family; Obamacare will make your insurance rates go up; Obamacare will cause businesses to close; Obamacare will add to the deficit. In the last year alone, more than 100 million dollars have been spent in the campaign to overthrow the Affordable Care Act. In a Congress that has not passed any meaningful legislation since the current members were elected, representatives have been asked more than 40 times to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act to no avail. The law has been upheld.

In those same three years, the Democrats have been so busy rejoicing at having passed the most comprehensive  health care act since Medicare and Medicaid in 1965,  (and indeed it was worth celebrating) they seem to have forgotten there was a second act: describing the provisions of the bill to the people. This almost 2000 page Act was not easily accessible, either physically or intellectually, even to Members of the House and Senate, no less the average citizen trying to understand what this new historical law was going to mean to him/her. By not synthesizing, simplifying, explaining the new law,  Democrats allowed a huge information vacuum to develop—a void that Republicans were only too willing to fill with all the creative misinformation at their disposal--the health care law will ration care-- it provides for “death panels”-- you won’t be able to keep your own doctor. Republicans know how to “waterboard,” –turn positives to negatives without losing a drop of water. And “waterboard” they did, filling the minds of viewers, readers and audiences with doubt and misunderstanding.

This didn’t have to happen. While the radical right was waging war against Obamacare with the expressed purpose of destroying it before it began, the government, (after all, a law is administered by the government) might have issued a pamphlet similar to the one I receive very year from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; . “Medicare and You,” In this booklet is all the information a 65 or older person needs to understand the coverage provided under the Medicare/Medicaid Act of 1965. There is also a number to call for counseling and assistance, where the phone is manned by functioning human beings..

Workshops, town hall meetings, seminars should have been held in every state of the union instructing people about the actual choices they will have, how the registries will work,  and what coverage they can expect. Gratifying as it was to have millions of people jamming the lines and internet connections on October 1 to learn about the Affordable Health Care Act, wouldn’t it have been better to have millions of people calling to register because they were already informed about how the system would work?

If I am ever again to press the “Donate” button when asked by the Democratic National Committee, they are going to have to show me just where my money’s going—because, from what I’ve seen in the last four years, I’m thinking of asking for a refund.






Monday, January 21, 2013

Violence 101

While the country is apparently as divided over the issue of gun control and any legislation limiting the types of guns that can be sold and/or the oversized magazine clips that have been used in the recent massacre of innocents, even the NRA agrees, if we are to have any chance of identifying and treating those among us who are now, or have potential for becoming,  emotionally unstable, we have to have a much stronger mental health system in our country and particularly in our schools.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic there were 174,000 school psychologists in the U S in 2010, but the ratio of students to psychologists is 457-1,  twice the number recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists. Instead of the 22% increase previously predicted to take place in 2010 through 2020, the budget for mental health professionals has been cut or is in danger of being cut in almost every town and city in the country.

If we had early detection in our schools—grades K-12, teachers trained to better recognize signs of emotional distress among students, and a mechanism in place to keep psychologists or social workers actively involved with the follow up care and treatment, we might not only reduce the possibility of a known mentally disturbed individual committing the horrendous massacre of December 14, but also prevent at least some of the teenage suicides which have been increasing at an alarming rate. A teacher’s recorded observations could lead to uncovering cases of child molestation or abuse and timely intervention or treatment for the victims.

What we need is an emotional report card for every student with the information on it afforded the same importance as his/her academic progress. We need more  resources dedicated to identifying deeply troubled children including those with early and persistent tendencies toward violence.

Wouldn’t we rather have our children remember the important dates in the history of the United States, rather than the gruesome dates of the latest school massacres?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Voting Rites

On election day 1952, before I left home to cast my very first vote for President, I hung out a load of wash to dry, finished writing a letter on my manual Royal typewriter, used my rotary phone to call a friend in Cincinnati, and wrote a note to myself to remind me to clean my oven with “Easy Off”, a time-consuming job I dreaded. With my bare hands, I lifted the heavy garage door and pulled out my stick shift black Pontiac sedan to drive to my local polling place. .

There, I stepped inside a private curtained booth with one side open for entry. The voting machine inside was automatically activated when I closed the curtain using the big black handle. Alone, inside, I pulled down the levers underneath the names of the candidate I wished to support, and when I opened the curtain by pulling the handle back, my vote was automatically registered.

On Election Day, 2012, before I left home to perform my civic duty, I spent an hour on my computer skyping my granddaughter in Italy, im-ing a friend in San Francisco, and responding to an e-mail message from a company in Seattle. On the way out I tossed a load of wash in my energy-saving washing machine, set the timer on my self-cleaning oven to go on in two hours, then opened my garage door with the  electronic opener and drove my hybrid car to the polling place.

In the school auditorium/voting place, I cast my vote on a paper ballot by filling in a little oval (pen supplied by the state) to the left of the candidate’s name. I stood at a quasi lectern with sides barely preventing me from seeing my neighbor’s ovals and him from seeing mine. When I finished I took the unfolded sheet of paper, fed it into a box marked “Ballots”, and accepted my “I voted today” sticker.

What’s wrong with this picture? A society dedicated to saving the trees has no qualms about cutting down a forest when it comes to electing a President? The reason given for returning to the process so favored by our ancestors is:  paper ballots are more reliable; automatic machines have too many glitches—too many problems. If this is true, why is it we can trust electronic devices to transfer funds in and out of bank accounts around the world, but we can’t find one smart enough to accurately record our  biennial votes?  Apple where are you when we need you?

Isn’t it time every town in this country with a population of more than a thousand people be required to install electronic/mechanical  voting machines that meet the same high standards of performance as required in all other aspects of contemporary life--and enough of them, so that four, six or eight hour lines are a thing of the past?  Paper ballots have had a good run; let’s put them to rest and make sure that from now on, the only place they will be seen is at that venerable institution, The Smithsonian—where we store all our other American relics.






Monday, August 20, 2012

Fire and Brimstone

Fire and Brimstone

         Isn’t it time we stopped pussyfooting around the subject of gun control? Hiding behind the    2nd amendment ratified in 1791—a time when there were no assault weapons or 100 round magazines, but you could tie your horse up anywhere?

When are our lawmakers going to do the math? Yes, the NRA has 4 million members who want to keep their assault weapons for hunting, but take away 4 million from 313 million and that leaves 309 million people whose health and safety are being sacrificed so that 1.3 percent of the population can have the freedom to shoot the other 98.7 percent of their fellow citizens, with the weapon of their choice. .

Even reducing the argument to political terms if approximately 125 million people vote in a presidential election, and every NRA member voted, they would represent only 1% of the ballots cast. Yet enough members of Congress are so intimidated by this group they continue to ignore the disturbing statistics:

29,000 men, women and children a year-- 80 each and every day--die of gunshot wounds ( How many have we lost in Iraq and Afghanstan?) The United States has more deaths as a result of gunshot wounds than Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland or the UK combined; and has hosted more shooting massacres than any other developed country.  We also have the weakest laws among all these nations. The NRA would have us believe there is no correlation between the two. This is an insult to our collective intelligence.

We’re all proud to have the United States first in the world for any area of endeavor, but first in the Western World for the possession of guns? For the possession of assault weapons? For the number of mass murders?  These are distinctions we can live without.

 The time has come for a serious National Debate, town hall discussions throughout the country and a committee empowered to study, collate and report, in clear, understandable form, all the data and statistics available from government agencies and private institutes relating to death by gunfire: how many weapons are produced and sold to individuals; what kind of weapons; where are guns sold; what state laws exist; how many incidents are there, state by state; what kind of gun is involved in each case. Most of this information exists today—it only needs to be pulled together and published in one credible document, but a national debate has been thwarted over and over again: neither President Obama or Mitt Romney are willing to talk about what is, arguably, the most deadly problem facing the United States of America.

It would be hard to find anyone living in this world of war and terror, na├»ve enough to believe that any laws can be strict enough to totally prevent the kind of violence we have seen in this country. Vaccines don’t prevent 100% of the recipients from getting the disease, but we protect as many people as we can. If, by enforcing our existing laws and enacting new laws governing the sale and purchase of assault weapons we could save one person a day that would be 365  fewer families mourning a lost child or mother or father caught in the riptide of a random shooting. 

We can either go on, year after year, watching friends and neighbors weep as they build homemade memorials to victims of gunfire, or we can face up to the fact we have a national emergency. Whether it’s 3 months before an election or 3 months after—we cannot wait any longer. Now is the only time we have.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Insecurity Code

While the medical community..scientists, doctors, nurses have worked tirelessly to help us live longer, fuller lives, the internet community, technicians, innovators are working just as hard, nonstop, to find new ways of doing us in. Why else would they have developed the security code--a demonic means of keeping seniors from seeking help on the web under the pretense of preventing internet “abusers” from signing on to certain sites .

When I couldn’t access my e-mail today, an error message appeared recommending I take certain actions--press “Refresh”; if that didn’t work, press “Security”, and if those two failed, press “Yahoo.”

Once on Yahoo, I filled in my e-mail address--the ID was already filled in—and then came to the Security code. In front of me were eight or nine drunken letters I was supposed to identify and write in the box below. Unlike other codes I’ve encountered these letters didn’t seem to have had as much to drink, so I was confident and wrote them as I saw them..a small m, 2 capital AA’s, a 6, small p, small f, a zero,o and a capitol F. Sorry, the letters you have entered are incorrect—Please try again.

A new group of letters were already waiting for me in the box. This time I made them all lower case even though the capital H didn’t look the same as the sample. Qt5khcvrz. Sorry, the letters you have entered are incorrect—Please try again.

My third try failed as dismally as the other two, so not finding any number to call or e-mail to write, I turned to the audio, and heard what sounded like a faint shuffling of something against a backdrop of static. Not only couldn’t I identify anything, a letter or a word or whatever they thought they were saying, but now I had wasted forty five minutes trying to get help from an entity equally determined not to give it to me.

Feeling old and defeated—a complete internet failure, I gave up and tried my e-mail again. It worked.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Poll Cats

Poll Cats
by Lyla Blake Ward
Each morning when the results of ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬the Pew, New York Times/CBS, Zogby, Reuters, ABC News/Washington Post. Bloomberg polls come out, I thank my lucky stars I’m living in a country where my pulse and that of other Americans can be taken with such unremitting regularity. Where else in the world can you find out how many people approve of what a candidate had for breakfast that morning, almost before it’s left his spoon? (According to the latest polls, 35% of the people would not vote for a man who ate a Muslim cereal such as Kashi ; 25% said they would and 40% were undecided).
Assuming the fervor for Rick Santorum will fade just outside the borders of Pennsylvania, it will be Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in serious contest for the Republican nomination. What they wear, what they eat, whom they touch warmly on the shoulder will be determined on the basis of the latest poll results, which, incidentally have just come out. No doubt their PC’s (Poll Consultants) are busy deciphering these eagerly awaited numbers that form the basis of every candidate’s campaign. So without further ado, here is the new Pew.
Among Republican women, only 34% will vote for Gingrich, whereas 46% will vote for Romney. And of those 46%, 89% of African-American women favor Romney, while only 32% of the 34% will vote for Newt Gingrich. But of the 89% of the 46%, those who are single mothers account for 43% as opposed to 15% of the 32% of the 34% who favor Gingrich.
Figures about abortion and contraception are equally enlightening. 95% of women 75 and older who are prolife, favor Newt Gingrich, 3% Mitt Romney.And of the 95%, 30% had more than 2 ½ children, and 95% of the 3% had six ½ or more. But 85% of women 25-35 would vote for Romney as opposed to 5% for Gingrich. And 43% of the 85% were stay-at-home Moms, against 3% of the 5% who would vote for Gingrich.
Men polled on the major issues gave Newt Gingrich 65% and Mitt Romney 30%, and 85% of the 65% didn’t think marital fidelity was a qualification, whereas 20% of the 30% thought it was. 32% of the 85% of the 65% had been divorced from sick wives, as opposed to 3% of the 20% of the 30% who would vote for Mitt Romney.
Clearly, the value of polls is indisputable. It allows a candidate to find out what the thinking of the public is so he can adjust his own. Although the findings may be a little difficult to read, the results of these probing questionnaires are the best political tool we have until maybe at some future date, someone will come up with a cure for the common poll.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room
by Lyla Blake Ward

Am I the only one who thinks the Republicans are pulling a fast one here—that they don’t really want to put a Republican in the White House in 2012? Think about it for a minute--take a good look at the seven candidates we watched week after week on the Tuesday Night Show. Does anybody really think Michelle Bachman, who doesn’t seem to know which side we were on in the Revolutionary War, could be President? Or Herman Cain, who could pronounce Libya but wasn’t quite sure what their problem was? Or Newt Gingrich who carries more baggage than Samsonite? Or steady-in-the-polls, Mitt Romney, who could teach a chameleon how to change his colors?
No way. Those behind-the-scenes pols are well aware it’s the non- Presidents that can point the country in the right’s direction. The last thing they want is to have a Republican in the White House.
Look at history. Do you imagine for a minute these pros haven’t noticed even conservative Republican Presidents forget they are Republicans once they sit in the Oval Office; some going so far they almost begin to feel a kind of commitment to all the American people? Take Dwight Eisenhower, the unabashed father of the Interstate Highway System. Under his leadership Congress enacted the largest public works project in the country’s history, and funded it, sotto voce, by a tax on gasoline.
And then there was Nixon who had his Family Assistance Plan, a daring act predicated on the unRepublican belief that the Federal government has some responsibility toward impoverished families and should provide them with a minimum annual income; George Bush 1 who committed the cardinal sin of appealing to the deaf to read his lips : no new taxes, and then broke his promise because he was disloyal enough to think he had to act for the public i.e. national good. Even Ronald Reagan, that icon of conservatism, saw fit to ask Congress to raise taxes in 1982 in the midst of a recession; and George Bush 11, elected as a Republican, lost his creds when he initiated the Medicare Prescription Drug Act.
Can’t you see what they’re doing? Straw polls, shmaw polls--keep the cable news guys talking..Meanwhile Sarah Palin is free to ride around the country having Tea Parties and inciting angry Moms; Mike Huckabee can spread the Conservative gospel with impunity, from his cozy radio pulpit; Donald Trump, speaking from his golden headquarters, can expound on how government regulations have ruined business opportunities in this country.

A President, on the other hand, once he’s in office, has to adjust his principles. Remember 2009? Candidate Obama was strongly in favor of closing Guantanamo? News flash: it is still open. In that same campaign, Candidate Obama consistently took an antiwar stance. Was that the same guy who ordered 30,000 additional troops to be sent into Afghanistan? Candidate Obama called Wall Street CEO’s “fat cats.” Flash forward: 2011. Guess where the fundraisers are being held.
No, savvy Republicans know exactly which side their white bread is buttered on. They don’t want the White House back because they’re doing so much better without it. Earlier this year, they almost shut the government down by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. A President wouldn’t do that. As the Opposition Party they can be for repealing Roe versus Wade; the Healthcare Bill and Dodd-Frank; for privatizing Social Security; reducing Medicare and Medicaid; for eliminating the Department of Education, the EPA and Public television.
Once in office not many Presidents have been in favor of dismantling the government—it’s their meal ticket. The point is, you’re not going to see any plausible possible winner jump into the Republican primary race. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, or maybe it’s more shrewd Republican strategy that put the Republican candidates’ TV debates on Tuesday nights, because obviously they know on that night the biggest winner is none other than: The Biggest Loser.