Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tweaking The Health Care Bill

We all know that getting the Health Care Bill passed by the House of Representatives was not easy. However, it was a good civics lesson for children. They learned that if the minority is unhappy with what the majority decides, those who support the minority call the people in the majority offensive names and spit at them. Some make threatening phone calls.

This spitting might be the oddest reaction. As we learned during the swine flu panic, we should always cover our mouths when sneezing or coughing. Certainly, spitting directly at someone can be equally unsanitary. And to do it when the conversation involves health undermines the spitter's political position.

Some people feel the Health Bill went too far, and others feel it didn't go far enough. Therefore, it seems appropriate for me to discuss some of the things it does and does not cover as well as some of the ramifications of the bill.

Millions of parents were probably thrilled to learn that from now on, their children will be allowed to be covered by the family's insurance plan until the kids are 26. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, because of this bill, college graduates would be able to pursue their dreams instead of worrying about getting their own health insurance right away. They won't have to find jobs they have no interest in just to get health insurance. On the other hand, some parents might be less than thrilled about their kids not having to find jobs for a few more years.

The new bill will insure 32 million Americans who don't have insurance now. This might be the most significant and positive part of the Health Care bill. And to each of you who was opposed to insuring these people: "No, all 32 million people will not be in your doctor's waiting room at the same time, fighting over that three-year-old copy of "People."

Let's talk about a few important things the Health Care Bill doesn't cover. Currently, if you're five minutes late for a doctor's appointment, he or she gets angry with you. But if the doctor makes you wait for an hour, you don't even get an apology. I hope the Senate will be wise enough to address this in a Being Late In A Doctor's Office Bill. Here's my suggestion to them: If you're more than 15 minutes late for your appointment, you pay double. If the doctor's more than 15 minutes late, your visit is free. I guarantee this problem will go away.

Funds should be set aside for some necessary research. For example, it's about time medical science figured out why we get the sickest on weekends when our doctors aren't in their offices. And you know that pain that is so bad that we insist on seeing the doctor right away? Well, someone should discover why it disappears right when we walk into the doctor's office. And don't you think they can come up with something better than the paper we have to lie down on when we're being examined? Doctors used that same kind of paper when they used to bleed people.

What about those gowns? Put this arm in this hole, don't put that arm in that hole, wrap it around you, then tie it in the back. What are we, escape artists? I'm sure medical researchers can come up with a better robe. After all, these are the same people who found a solution for "restless leg syndrome."

One of the most frustrating things about being a patient is getting conflicting opinions from different doctors. I understand that sometimes professionals have different views about things, but there should be some consensus on the questions that trouble us the most. Let's invest some of that Health Care money to get a definitive answer to one of the oldest and most important questions in Health Care: Heat or ice?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Have Gun, WIll Latte

I've always been confused by Starbucks, the great American Institution and symbol of yuppies and carefree consumerism. This is the place where the smallest cup of coffee is called a "Tall." What's the biggest called, a "Giganto?" Depending on what you order, you can easily spend two or three dollars for a cup. They offer cappuccinos, tea, and scones. In other words, it's the sort of place with the kinds of products mocked by right wing opponents of vegetarians, elitism, and free-range chicken pot pies. That's why I was surprised to learn that some gun-toting, 2nd Amendment-loving customers were sitting in Starbucks, sipping green tea. So much for stereotypes.

At least 38 states allow people to walk around with unconcealed weapons. For the most part, those people I'm talking about have not qualified to get licenses to carry concealed weapons. These are people who actually have their guns visible in their holsters at some Starbucks, reminiscent of cowboys in Western movies sashaying into the town saloon.
Stop right there. Gun lovers don't need to send me angry emails. I'm not suggesting that those who walk into Starbucks or other places of business with their weapons in view don't have a right to do so. As I have asked in other similar instances, I'm just wondering why anyone would want to do so. It's hard for me to imagine a conversation between two friends like this: "Hey, Joe, you want to go to Starbucks and get a cup of coffee?" "Sounds good, Mike. Just let me grab my gun." There's a bit of a riff between those gun advocates who want to walk around with their firearms visible, and the more traditional NRA-ers who feel weapons can be carried more discreetly. The latter fear that if many people walk around with their guns so everyone can see them, people might get frightened. Uh, yeah. I don't even feel safe being next to someone who has had a triple espresso and is unarmed. In many states, people who carry their guns openly don't need a permit or any sort of training. That's right. No gun safety training at all. In other words, if you happen to be sitting next to someone who is wearing a gun while he spoons the whipped cream from his drink, you might want to move to another table. So why does Starbucks allow customers to come in armed? Starbucks has said that they aren't going to get involved in the politics of guns, and they will comply with the local laws. In other words, they don't want to turn away any customers as long as they're carrying cash as well as their weapons. Other restaurants and coffee places have simply banned guns. But not Starbucks. Why have those who like to have a gun in their belts chosen Starbucks as a place to hang out? It could just be that after a hard day of target practice, they have a hankerin' for decaf venti lattes. Or maybe the idea is to wear their guns in a place they know is filled with anti-gun people. That way, they can show that life coach and her yoga teacher who are stopping off for cappuccinos that it's not really dangerous to be in the same room with someone carrying a weapon that could blow a hole in your chest. Some of these gun-carrying people say they hope what they're doing will put pressure on the states to make it easier for a person to get a license to carry a concealed weapon. In other words, "the only reason we're carrying our guns in public like this is because you make it so hard for us to walk around, hiding our guns." It just seems weird to think of Starbucks being a hangout for urban cowboys and cowgirls. You've got to admit that it's odd to think of someone who spent the last few hours cleaning his gun standing in line patiently so he can say, "I'd like a decaf grande’ cappuccino, with a biscotti on the side." Being a fan of legend, I hope he'll add something from the tough cowboys of the Old West like, "And barista, you make that soy instead of milk... or else."

Friday, March 5, 2010

No More Regular Guy-ism

It was revealed recently that President Obama's bad cholesterol has gone up 42 points since 2007. Apparently, his diet is not as healthy as it was before. He's also still smoking. His Republican adversaries did not leak these revelations. His Press Secretary didn't begrudgingly admit them. On the contrary, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs implied that this proves that the President is not an effete eater, someone Republicans might describe as a latte-drinking, salad-grazing liberal. "You guys think he eats carrots and celery," said Gibbs. "There's more cheese burgers, fries, and pie than you previously knew." The subtext of that, of course, is that Obama isn't just this Harvard-educated lawyer who's a great orator. He is also a regular guy who likes unhealthy food and smokes even though he knows he shouldn't. Why is it so important for politicians to be thought of as regular guys?

Obama really went over the regular guy line when he sat down for a lunch in Savannah, Georgia with a plate piled high with fried chicken, beans, sweet potatoes, greens, and macaroni and cheese. The worst part wasn't what he was eating (the regular guy food). It was when he turned to the people there and said, "Don't tell Michelle." That's good old-fashioned wink-wink, nod-nod, scratch your belly, manly punch to the shoulder Regular Guyism. At least he didn't say, "Don't tell the old lady." Who does he think he's kidding? Does anyone believe that he and the First Lady really have that kind of "I'm the king of this castle" marriage?

Of course, he's not the first President or Presidential hopeful to try to cloak him- or herself in Regular Guyism. Dukakis in the Jeep and Hillary Clinton throwing back shots on the campaign are just two examples. George W. Bush was a master at Regular Guyism. Here was a man who was born into a wealthy, powerful, political family of the Northeast. He went to college at Yale, and got his Masters Degree at Harvard. But I never heard him allude to any of these things. He passed himself off as an outsider to politics and a "regular guy."

Those running for office don't put on airs, they take them off. Intellectualism and even intelligence are often mocked and rarely thought of as good qualities for a President. Some pundits feel that Scott Brown, the new Senator from Massachusetts, was aided in his election by the fact that he drove an old pickup truck – a "regular guy" vehicle.

I don't buy into Regular Guyism. I don't want a President who is just a regular guy (or gal). I want a President who is special. I want a President who is consumed by the unbelievably difficult job he has and not one who is consumed by the rumors that McDonalds will soon be bringing back the McRib. I know it's heresy in America, but forget a pickup truck. It wouldn't bother me if a President didn't even know how to drive, and majored in French in college -– as long as he was dedicated to keeping our country safe, turning around the economy, and keeping Americans free and equal. I'm not turned off by a President who is educated. I want a President who is smarter than the average guy on the street. Let's face it, would you want a President with my intelligence and personality? I wouldn't.

To many people, having the very traits that they might admire in others are things they reject in political candidates. They see those who are highly educated, who seem overly serious, and who love things like the arts as "phonies." And they don't want a phony for a President.

Ironically, what actually happens is that the candidate or President who doesn't want to appear to be a phony becomes a phony as he pretends to be a Regular Guy. The Republicans would be better off exposing Obama as a phony Regular Guy than wasting their time on things like insinuating that he's not really a citizen or that his wife's arms are too muscular. Let Mitch McConnell or one of those guys stand up and say, "I've got news for you, America. Obama is a phony. He might pretend to be a regular guy, but he's not. He's actually a brilliant, articulate, capable man who cares about our country's problems far more than he cares about who will win the next Super Bowl." Then just watch Obama's popularity drop like it's never dropped before.

New Bob Newhart Video

Check out Bob Newhart's first internet video by