Sunday, August 30, 2009

The creek in late summer


Although I call where I live a farm, in reality, it is a small ranch as it only raises livestock. Living on ranches has its ups and downs. You see life and death much closer than most. The work never takes a vacation and some of it is for no monetary reward. I like the life or wouldn't have lived this way most of my life. Pretty much my only years off a farm were spent trying to get back to one even though I know well that it has joy and heartbreak wrapped up together.


The creek, which winds along one border to our property, is, on the other hand, a constant delight. Oh it has some problems when it floods and it definitely is hard on fences, but I appreciate everything about it. It is a blessing to live on a creek.

There is that coolness which makes air conditioning generally not needed at night. I like wading in it, checking on its creatures through the signs they leave behind, like beaver gnawed trees, raccoon paw prints, checking the mussel and crawdad populations. Ours has been fished but mostly has only guppy-sized fish. The flow in it is constant year round but it's not very deep. It provides the irrigation water for our pastures.


Last week-end we waded it, planning a route to take us from one of our gates to another. the creek had other ideas. It turned out there was a big log jam blocking our passage. It was washed there in the last floods and will likely be moved downstream in the next ones.


To inspect the whole creek, we had to wade up, back down, then go to the upper gate, enter and wade both ways. Our survey took twice as long as usual.


Part of our motivation of doing a thorough inspection was to be sure the calf we lost this year hadn't drowned. If it had, the bones would have been in that log jam or along the bank. They weren't. Whatever got that calf took it clear off the place. Whether the predator was human or animal, we likely will never know for sure.


I am along the creek pretty often but only wade its length along our property a few times during the summer. I knew when we bought it that living on a creek would be a gift and it has been over and over.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Jane Austen as an antidote to today's craziness?

Sometimes things come along into my life and absolutely I can't figure out how it started, but with our recent Jane Austen film festival, I know exactly where it began with a DVD called The Jane Austen Bookclub.

The movie had a good cast and followed five women and one man as they met each month to discuss one of Jane Austen's six books. Through their problems and personalities they each illustrated one of the characters in each of the books.

To be honest I wasn't really a Jane Austen fan until I saw that film. Then I got curious. How much really was in those books? I had seen Pride and Prejudice when it was Sir Lawrence Olivier and Greer Garson but it didn't really impress me all that much. I was far more taken with Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights or Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre. Somehow Mr. Darcy didn't catch my interest until now.

When I began I really hadn't intended to watch that much Jane Austen. I had the A&E version in 1995 starring Colin Firth and from it an addiction grew.

The 1995 version was so compelling that we watched that all in one Sunday. Our plan was to break it up but neither of us wanted to do that once we started. Two 150 minute DVDs of Pride and Prejudice might seem a lot but not with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Frankly he has to be the standard by which any other Mr. Darcy will forever be compared. That scene where he strides up to Pemberley after swimming full clothed in his lake, oh my. The film was just too good to quit part way.

The BBC version was also quite good but not as mesmerizing as the 1995 one. It was probably a week or so later that we watched it over several days. I think I liked its Elizabeth Bennett the best. It also might be the most closely tied to the book. Many of the relationships seemed to me to be more clearly defined. It was, as they all were, very colorful, beautifully photographed, lovely little grace notes.

The 2005 movie, at 129 minutes had the biggest problem with that short of a time. How do you possibly get all of it in? the answer is you cannot which is bound to displease purists. Keira Knightly was a spirited Miss Bennett but really the time worked against it being my favorite version. Besides although its Mr. Darcy was very attractive, he wasn't Colin Firth!

Does that seem like too much Jane Austen? Well it didn't to me and surprisingly Farm Boss was as into it all as I was. We then ordered from Netflix Becoming Jane (supposedly biographical about Jane Austen herself and how she got started writing); Persuasion and have yet to see Mansfield Park but it's coming in a week or so.

During this time, by happenstance on cable, I stumbled across Lost in Austen about a young woman from modern England, a huge fan of the book, being time traveled back to Pride and Prejudice with all the characters except Elizabeth who had come to modern England. It was also several episodes but cable showed them all in a day. Yes, I watched them all.

Have I had enough Jane Austen? Actually not and am now reading the books. Some I never had read. I am not sure why her stories have suddenly been so good for me. I think there might be several reasons. Of course, the plots and characters are great. I mean the love story of Elizabeth and Darcy is a mix of mistaken ideas, duty, and love.

The Austen books all serve to remind me that things can and have been worse culturally. Yes, there was a grace in the England of the early 1800s but the opportunities were far less than we have today. To me, it was a reminder throughout of how few jobs people had, how little chance, particularly for women, to do other than marry appropriately. The last thing we should want to do is revert-- although it's fun for a short period of time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer of Oddities

Politics

Watch out for those emails that seem to be in all of our mailboxes. Sometimes I get them from a friend asking me what I think. Too often instead it's just passed it on as fact. My opinion is double check it all and from any blog site-- including this one. We are living in a time where more information can be disseminated faster than at any time in history. Frequently we have no idea where it originated and without a lot of research, cannot decide on its truth.

Worse once these emails circulate, the blogosphere picks them up and they begin to be presented as valid as any newspaper report. In ninety-nine out of one hundred, you have no idea who even wrote them although they often use a celebrity's name.

Once upon a time, you'd know what your local community knew and maybe not much more. Today you know what every local community knows and sometimes it is nothing but wishes.

One of the stranger things that happened this summer was comparing Obama to Hitler. The right wing spouted it out and the left was forced to deny-- always easier to say something than to prove it but proof is not required when people want to believe something.

Basically at first it seemed just strange but typical rhetoric until they began to add 'facts' to it. Like that Obama wanted to kill old people. That became that it would be like the Nazis where he would also kill anybody he deemed unfit like say retarded citizens. Since some right wingers said he hated whites, maybe all whites except those he turned into slaves. The talk was unbelievably crazy to most of us but to some it worked.

The most interesting part of all is when we began to find out from where these accusations had arisen.


Until this summer, who took Lyndon LaRouche seriously about anything? He had been pushed as far from the Democratic party as they could push, discredited by the mainstream media, and most citizens saw him as an extremist.

That's evidently no longer so for many Republicans as his accusation, about Obama's health care plan being like the Nazi's, was picked up by the media and with enthusiasm by some in the right wing, a party which, for far too often, the fear card has worked to extend their power.

So this summer, when Republicans would shake their head and deny comparing Obama to Hilter made sense, they'd add-- as far as I know.

How do you get from left wing nuts to right wing mainstream? Interesting question but the only possible answer is some in the Republican party don't care what they use, and extremists on either side have more in common with each other than any moderate of either party in the middle. For the moderate Republican politicians, like say John McCain, to say Obama respects our Constitution or is not a Nazi is to find themselves being booed in places like Sun City, Arizona (retirement community).

I hear the right wing has ideas for the problems we face, but has anyone heard what they are? Instead we are bombarded by birthers, tea-partiers, accusations of socialism, and on it goes. Anything to scare the American people-- even if it takes hooking up with Lyndon LaRouche. Amazing, isn't it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Keeping my eye on the ball

I don't know about you, but in my life, there are so many distractions that sometimes I lose track of where I am going-- long term-- or even where I want to go. I wrote this blog in January-- [Finding a Dream] and although it's been in the back of my mind, I haven't been working actively on it.

Then I got a comment to that blog from someone who had found their dream and wrote to encourage me on my own. Isn't that great that strangers can do that for each other in so many different ways but especially with blogs? Every so often I get a comment on an older blog and always appreciate knowing that the words are still out there and being found.

At the same time the comment came, I have been seeing other examples of people who have had dreams, temporarily them lost, but now are getting them. It has made me look at my own again (written down in January 2000) and see what it will take to get, if not all of it, at least some. I will say that over 9 years later, my dream hasn't changed for what I would want. Now is it really possible, that's more debatable-- still gotta think positive, right?

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine, Cynthia Tierra, whom I met in Tucson before she moved to Sedona, gifted a free rune reading to people on her email list. Cynthia, who taught me reiki, had done a rune reading for me at a Tucson psychic fair several years ago, but this one was of necessity over the phone.

Runes are symbols carved or written on wood or stone. They are an ancient alphabet but when used for intuitive readings, they have a contemporary meaning. Although I do have Tarot decks, I have never gotten into casting runes myself and that's partly because of my confusion regarding how you read them. There are 24 symbols and from what I have seen, they can vary in their meanings depending on the reader.

After this reading, I am thinking maybe I will try again with my own set of runes. I favor getting mine on stones but it would be possible on wood. I am guessing that like Tarot you have to find the ones that suit your inner voice. I could find stones and make my own and that has some appeal as the symbols are very cool.

From what I have seen of runes, and I am by far no expert, they are kept in a small sack. The reader will draw out one small stone at a time with several common patterns.

In the case of my reading, I hadn't asked a question. The reading followed Cynthia's format and basically was to help me with first an overview of my current situation-- which was to look at what brings me JOY.

The second stone was to define my challenge: WHOLENESS, getting to a place of self-reliance.

The third was what action must I take? Basically that one meant to figure out what my SELF wanted, needed, desired, and knew.

Finally came the overall view: STRENGTH. That I need to find strength and that might come through creativity.

I feel the rune reading, like most good psychic readings, fit pretty well with what I know about myself right now and was related to the blog commenter who reminded me to not give up on my dream.

Computer art is mine as are the footprints in the sand. The path above is the sheep's. They often (as you can tell) take the same path when going somewhere. In a way the solitary footprints and the path made by many going the same way illustrate two different ways to find our way. Follow the path of others or find our own-- that is the challenge.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Art of Aging

I really love books about using art to express what is meaningful in a life. One famous example of this was Frida Kahlo, who basically captured her emotions in very picturesque paintings. There are many lesser known artists who painted their experiences as a way of dealing with their lives.

The following video shows how two artists, husband and wife, Richard and Alice Matzkin, used their creativity to express where they were in their lives. Their paintings evolved into a book.

This video on their philosophy, The Art of Aging particularly was enjoyable to me. I found it on a site for elder women called Crones Net which is a private site but open to elder women (or those soon to be elders) through its creator, Marian Van Eyk McCain, who also has published books on the subject of growing old. If you are interested in more information on Crones Net, you will find it at: About Elder Women Space.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My gun and me

Politics with a mix of farm life

At the risk of losing my reputation as a card-carrying leftie, I always come up against a few issues where I side with conservatives-- mostly. One of them is the right to own a gun, the right, under certain circumstances (classes and background checks) to have a concealed weapon permit. I break with them on the right to own an assault rifle-- and really break with them on allowing guns to be carried on the hip into town. Didn't we decide in the Old West that that wasn't a wise thing to do?

As so often happens to me, I have a mix of beliefs that don't comfortably put me in either camp and gun rights is one of those. I am very comfortable knowing that when I go to town some people, who have been screened, might be carrying a gun in a shoulder holster or in their purse. I won't be one of them though.

To me concealed weapon permits make excellent sense, especially in an era where we have nutcases taking on a grudge against the world because they didn't get the date they wanted in high school and setting out to kill a lot of innocent people before they do themselves in. I am not sure where this all started but it's sure with us today. Having a few armed citizens who have taken training, know how to use a gun, and have it with them, could potentially be good. A concealed weapon is not a provocation and nobody should have one who isn't ready to use it.

My first gun came when I was 12 and I asked for it as a Christmas present. It kind of amazes me now when I realize my granddaughter will be 11 this year and would I see her having a .22 next year? Well her life situation is different than mine was.

I grew up on the edge of wilderness, last house on a dead-end road with 80 acres to play and enjoy. I think I have always sought to duplicate that life and never have as such places are harder to come by for ordinary folks today. When my parents bought that farm, Mom was stay-at-home mom (as I later was when I had my children) and Dad worked as a laboring man at various jobs that used muscle. You know there wasn't a lot of spare money, but the farm was their dream and they got it. When they had to sell it, it broke my heart.

They never found farming a money making proposition as they tried raising various livestock. The ones that led to my first gun were the sheep. I grew up seeing sheep torn apart by dogs but still alive with maggots in the wounds. I wanted to see those sheep protected, and a .22 was my contribution to doing that. I would walk around the property and feel that if I saw anything attacking the sheep, I'd shoot them. I do the same thing today.

My dad taught me to care for my gun, to handle it safely and even today I am cautious with it after all these many years of handling it. To me a gun is a tool to protect what I love. My gun happens to also have beautiful lines, but I don't carry it joyfully. Heck, since Farm Boss added the scope, my .22 is heavy. I have to admit scopes are handy to use in shooting but they do weigh enough that when I walk out to the barn with my gun, I switch which side I am carrying it on and how I carry it. The one thing I never do is point it at anybody; and when walking, even if it's ready to use, I don't keep my finger on the trigger.

This summer I have been carrying that rifle a lot more because of the coyote attacks. In the last few months, we have had three lambs killed by coyotes, one badly hurt (slashes to the neck) that might not make it.

One night Farm Boss had the spotlight, rifle, and his shoes ready. Luckily so as we were awakened about 1:30 with the cows making a racket. We have one cow who can bellow in a way that breaks your heart. It always sounds like something awful happened. That night she was loudly terrified and angry.

Farm Boss got out there as fast as he could to see a coyote trying to get into the inner sheep pasture where we keep them at night. He got off three shots but missed. Coyotes are very good at broken-field running. Bullets whizzing past might dissuade it for awhile, but you know it has pups to feed, sheep are easy kills, and it will be back.

One of the lambs it killed, it only removed the liver and what it could carry back to its pups. I understand its needs but I have some too, and it's to protect these sheep. Other than us, running is a sheep's only defense. One thing I will say is that generally coyotes kill fast and effectively unlike people's pet dogs. From the wounds, it's easy to tell which animal was the attacker.

Even though I have the concealed weapon permit, I rarely carry a gun off this place except for hiking in the hills above us. I have several reasons to not carry. One is a very small purse which I also don't carry more than I must (men have the right idea on how to carry wallets and keys).

I have another reason though. The class I took on using a gun made the point, don't pull a gun ever as a threat. Only show it if you are prepared to use it. In my house, I will know someone who wasn't invited, is a threat; but out in public, how would I know until they started shooting? I think in public it'd be easier to get myself in trouble with a gun than without it.

Some say if they took away all the guns, our country would be safer. They are usually people afraid of guns, and I don't blame them for the fear. A gun is definitely a weapon that can be misused or even turned against its owner if it is improperly used.

In my opinion, you will never see all citizens giving up their guns. The ones who want to obey the law, yes, but the others, no. So I'd rather see gun safety taught, people encouraged to learn to use a gun if they are comfortable with that; and if not, leave it to those who are.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Guns at Town Halls?

Clearly Politics


As a big adjunct to the health care debate, surprisingly another issue has arisen-- guns in public places. Why would someone wear a gun on their hip at a public meeting-- most especially an AK-47? They expect they might have to shoot someone? They fear someone might try to shoot them? They have a problem with self-worth and a gun makes them feel important? They want to intimidate others?

Our country was born in violence and the use of weapons has been a major part of its history with more than a few presidents shot at or even killed by a mad citizen with a gun. There is a kind of weird pride that many Americans feel at that violent history. Huge arguments arise regarding the exact meaning of the Second Amendment in our Constitution. Fear of sex in a television show trumps any fear of violence. Sometimes violent solutions to disagreements seem to be praised.

It is obvious nobody needs an assault rifle at a town hall meeting. A gun is not a toy. It's not an ego enhancer. It's a tool to kill, and it should never be carried or used lightly. Anyone who would swagger around with one has a problem that already has me worried.

This whole debate has revealed a nastiness in our people that, even at my age, has amazed me especially if it's really about medical care. Listening to Republican lawmakers justify the orneriness, the carrying of guns into public meetings, doesn't make me think they deserve leadership again ever. I don't know what has gone wrong in our country. Some people say it's the most rage they have ever seen.

Well, it's not if you are old enough. Trying to end segregation, trying to get Civil Rights for all Americans, that led to not only rage but murders, and my fear is this could also. The Vietnam War also led to violent demonstrations.

Whatever else our democracy should have learned from the many violent events in our past is you can't let mobs rule, but we are being threatened in this nation by a revolt of a physical nature because a certain group of citizens don't like who we elected president.


I am sure a few of you think, wow, great idea. Well think again. When Timothy McVey bombed the Oklahoma federal building, he didn't care who was inside or what political persuasion they had followed. He killed small children because he had a greater agenda. When militias turn violent, they are homegrown terrorists, the kind Homeland Security was forced to back down from warning were becoming a potential risk. If you read the above link and a lot more like it in the news, you see the warning was right-on.

Basically when the killer (and others like him) walked into the Omaha mall in 2007, he used an AK-47. I gather that those who defend gun rights feel he had every right to swagger around the mall up until the moment he would have opened fire?

On MSNBC, I heard a gun rights advocate defending just that. He was asked what about Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas. He said he would have shot him. He was asked how he would have known before Oswald opened fire. The guy had no answer because allowing people to walk around with weapons and wait until they fire is suicidal. If you openly allow them to carry the weapons in a state ready to use, then you can't do anything until they do fire. To me political gatherings of any sort are the kind where I think guns should be banned, and it looks like using metal detectors upon entering is needed.

As I have mentioned before in this blog, I have a concealed weapon permit which I keep up to date. As I type this, I know exactly where my .357 is located and make sure it's loaded except when the grandchildren come to visit. I also frequently carry a rifle out to the fields, but neither are part of some macho display. They are for self defense or a predator attack on my livestock.

What concerns me personally about this open carrying of AK-47s into Town Hall events, is the backlash to which it might lead from people already afraid of any gun use. Misuse of weapons could turn a right to carry into a lot of laws banning any ownership or carrying.

To me the disgusting swaggerers, who delighted in getting their photos taken at the town hall events, they don't care if the laws change. They will not give up their guns or be law-abiding if that should happen. It will only impact people who want to obey laws and who are not planning to use their guns against anyone who isn't invading their homes, businesses or otherwise threatening their property or lives.

My feeling is these gun-carrying men (and mostly they have been men), to deal with what appears to be their insecurity, should consider getting some of that product I see in emails and advertised on TV to increase the size of their-- you know what I mean.

I was at the beach last week. The sky and sea were rather gray but the coolness was welcome after the heat in the valley. Lighthouses make a great symbolism for this topic.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care Reform question for naysayers

Politics

Okay, so you are one of those who wants nothing done about health care reform. You aren't a Republican Representative or Senator because they say we do need to do something but they haven't yet said what that might be. Well actually they have said that no plan should pass today without 80% of the Senators voting for it. It's gone from needing 51% to 60% and now the bar got raised even farther (too bad they didn't follow that one when they signed up for the tax cuts on the richest or the Iraqi war which are both still causing our budget so much trouble) Anyway, you are however one who thinks the current medical system is just fine; so what do you think about:

Insurance companies wanting 35% profits?

62% of the bankruptcies that were filed in 2007 were health care related okay with you?

What about denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions like say cancer or high blood pressure?

Here's another one that was brought up in comments but I haven't heard much about in the public discussion. Too many physicians go into specialties that could make them big money, like say surgeons, but they don't want to go into general practice anymore or geriatric specialties because there isn't as much money in it. Should the government have a say in this since most doctors receive some help to get their education? Socialized medicine? When all you can pick from are specialists, will you consider that a problem?

If you think government intervention in health care is always bad, would you refuse to take the government's help if you lost your job and they offered (as they do under the Stimulus Bill) to pay 2/3 of the premium for Cobra? Is that socialized medicine?

Is the medical help Veterans receive socialized medicine? If not, why not? How about the elderly with Medicare?

Have you ever actually looked into how people feel about their coverage in those countries with medical care underwritten in some way by the government?

Where do you get most of your insurance reform information?

Those questions were to make you think, but my actual question is if you believe anything at all needs to be done, what would it be?

I know the Republican politicians have a plan. It's do nothing about this and cause Obama to lose popularity enough that they see our next president be Sarah Palin (their current favorite by a large margin to run for president) or maybe Tim Pawlenty who believes in creationism which means god has his finger in every pie. No problem is too big for his god.

These politicians in the Congress believe, egged on by the media, that there is blood on the water and like all good sharks, they are circling. The problems of American people with medical care isn't as important as making Obama lose the next election and getting a Republican majority in the House and Senate in 2010. They definitely have a plan all right. They want more of the eight glorious years they had under Bush the little.

Is that your plan also? Bring about Obama's loss as a way to get him out of office and forget the American people who are either under or un-insured? If that is so, I would bet you are currently insured and worried more about buying your next boat than how to pay for your kid's appendectomy. If I am wrong, please tell me what the country should be doing about the issues I raised above while keeping in mind that at the rate medical costs are rising, most Americans will have to pay 50% of their income for medical care. Most of you just don't know the true cost of what those costs are today because your employer has been paying it. When that stops, you will learn.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Writing about health care-- again

Politics Ahead

Writing about the health care bill has to be one of the more frustrating things I do around here. I know the facts are out there as to what is proposed but again and again hear people say that nobody knows what it is. Yes, a firm bill is not passed, but the proposed one is there to read. I hear lies repeated about what is in that, but you can't get many people to look beyond Fox News for their information.

In the spring, I favored government-run, universal health insurance which would cut out the for-profit insurance companies from primary care (stock market would drop like a rock), letting them offer supplemental packages (as with Medicare). I still believe that would be best. It'd take awhile to get it done right but in the end, it's the best hope for a fair and balanced program. Given the total paranoia expressed at the very thought of even a public option, it is dead in the water.

Yes, I have heard the arguments. The government couldn't work it right. How does the government manage for Medicare, Veterans and the Congressional health program?

I also thought we could afford to take time to form a health care package to be sure it was the best possible. I still think that would have been wisest, but it's also not how it's going to be-- because of politics.

On her MSNBC news program, Rachel Maddow did a cute analogy of what we face. She and a work friend decided to order pizzas for the group. Both agreed that they wanted pizza. She picked up the phone and asked, okay with sausage? No. With pepperoni? No. With mushrooms? No. No. No. You get the idea. He said he wanted it but every single thing, which goes with pizza, he refused.

That is what we are hearing from Republicans with health care. Democratic leadership needs to face the truth. On this issue, bipartisanship is dead in the water. No matter how the Democrats try to compromise, the Republicans will not vote for ANY health care reform. How do you compromise on insurance companies that need 35% profits?

And also from what I read, Democrats will have enough trouble getting all their Democrats to vote for it. So Obama and Democratic leadership needs to go for what they believe is best, put pressure on those in their party and forget Republicans. Republicans see this as a way to get back power.

Republicans and right wing Democrats might defeat the eventual proposals, but that is better than a worthless bill that passes and makes the whole situation worse through no cost controls and forcing everyone into the pot. When that fails, and it will based on rising costs, guess who will take the blame? Better we lose right now than to let something damaging get past us in the name of bipartisanship.

More time to get this exactly as we want it is not there. Much as I dislike the idea, if we don't get a bill out there in the fall, I am not sure we will get another chance. I believe this for several reasons.

First is because the next Congressional election is coming fast. If Obama loses his majority in the Senate or House, we can kiss off any change. I don't really know what the odds are for a Republican recovery, but I can see reason for concern given the history of voting in this country. Republicans think denying un- or under-insured Americans health care (except in ERs) is their ticket back to power. They are riding that horse as far as it'll take them.

Second, if the nutty right can build up this much rage over offering everyone a chance to be covered for basic health care, they won't let up and it will only get worse. So I favor getting what we can and getting it signed.

There are a lot of problems though with having that package not include a viable public option. It's not too late to make our voices heard on this issue. It is important to let Congress know how we feel.

Bob Herbert expressed my concerns well regarding the public option-- [This is Reform?] Without the public option, the 'reform' will be a bonanza for the insurance providers. (I had another term I intended to use here but fortunately looked up to be sure I had its meaning exactly right. Turns out its primary meaning had changed since I was a girl. Eek!)

A public option is one way to get control over costs. Without it, don't we have to trust the same companies whose profits have risen so astronomically. Do we expect the leopard to change its spots? Why?

Here is, however, another take on the public option-- [It's time to give up on the public option]. This whole thing is nothing if not confusing.

It's true, if we could get medical systems to control costs, it might be possible that the public option wouldn't be needed. Although, if this was only about run away medical costs, how do the insurance companies reap those huge profits? To me asking them to be more responsible is pie in the sky thinking. Drug companies say they need the higher prices to do research. If that was so, they also wouldn't have the profits as they'd all be plowed back into research. They are lying as usual.

So bottom-line, I favor health insurance reform now even if we can't get the whole package. I recognize (based on what I read from the Obama proposals) that might end up costing me, as a Medicare recipient, a bit more money, but it's what is fair and best for our whole nation that we get control of a run away health care system.

If we don't get a handle on health care costs, Medicare premiums or denial of care will go up anyway. The rising costs will require something happening with or without meaningful change in how we manage health care in this country. We cannot have the decision on health care decided by those who choose to be ignorant or are tools of the corporate interests( pharma and the multiple layers of insurance) who have been profiting mightily from things as they are.

Yes a lot of Americans are now afraid of health care reform, even those who worry about their insurance if they are laid off, but who are the loudest ones, the ones who have been instrumental in denying the rest of us meaningful reform?

Inside Stories on Town Hall Riots

Town Halls

The ones making it onto YouTube or on the news illustrate how ignorant they are of the facts, but boy are they loud. They don't like government care but warn don't touch their Medicare. They worry about government making choices on who gets help with medical expenses, but they don't worry that insurance companies already do that.

In any HMO today you cannot go to a specialist without prior approval unless you are paying for it yourself. You can only receive covered second opinions from those who are in the same insurance package. What makes some Americans believe that insurance companies care more about them than the government? Where is the evidence for that? Our current system? You jest.

This concept of fearing government intervention amazes me. Let's just think about what government is-- people. What was insurance-- that is before the profit motive took over? It was one person helping another. That's what people forget. We pay our premium which covers someone else's needs and someday it might be us needing it.
Government could let doctors make choices that today are made by insurance bean counters...maybe.

David Letterman (on many right wing blogger's enemy list) should do a Top Ten lies about health care reform. Maybe he has. Anyway here are some valuable links. It is important that as many people as possible be informed to tell others the truth about our current system and the proposed changes:

Questions and Answers from White House on health care changes

Nate Silver's take on Life After Death of Public Option

We have been given the opinion that elders are most afraid of health care reform. Ronni Bennett from Time Goes By decided to make August 20th a day for elders to write about it again and she would post their links on her blog. Here is the URL for their opinions on health care reform.

Okay, this last one is not exactly significant information about health care but what it is for me is a good smile after all the negativity this last week of people insulting Obama and generally acting totally ignorant about our country or the plan. Sometimes a laugh is as important as anything else in such a trying time. Some are saying the woman comes from a left wing, anti-Semitic, hate fringe group headed by Lyndon LaRouche; but from wherever these ignorant and insulting people are coming, it's good to see one put down and in a witty and very polite way.

Barney Frank saying what many of us have been thinking. Yeah, Barney!

(Photo is from Monday on the creek as I looked down on it from where Farm Boss was repairing a fence and I was helping-- a little.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Living Wills

Politics and an exploration of dying


One of the things that has been thrown against the Obama administration regarding health care reform has been euthanasia. The right throws up a lot-- health care changes will bankrupt us but also that Obama will kill all the old and sick. Can something bankrupt the federal treasury when it would actually be killing off or denying care to anybody who was sick?

As I have said before, the right wing doesn't use logic for its arguments. It is emotion driven and this is just another example.

Some do worry about euthanasia. We saw that as the right fought against Oregon's Death with Dignity law which is not an involuntary euthanasia bill but rather one that deals with end of life decisions. It empowers a dying person (6 months or less to live certified by doctors) by giving them the option of a prescription for pills (two psychologists have to attest they are in their right mind and understand their decision) that would end their life at a time of their choosing, not the disease's. It formalized what has happened for a long time, and it drove the right as nuts as the Terri Schiavo case.

The right wing doesn't like people to have control over their own lives. They claim to be the party of freedom while they would limit entertainment, education, sex, and how you die. A year ago they might have thought a living will was acceptable but today, if you would be talking to a doctor about it at all, it's not. Death panels was the accusation thrown out by Sarah Palin which of course was picked up by right and left media. Don't kid yourself. Left wing media loves these stories and milks them every bit as much as right wing media.

Since this all reminds me of our personal experience with end-of-life decision making with my mother-in-law, I thought I'd share it. The photo above was taken in 1998. It is of me, her granddaughter, her first great grandchild, and her son. She was 94. About a year later, she fell in her living room (she lived in an assisted living apartment) shattering her hip. Farm Boss raced to the hospital to find out what the situation was to be. The doctors recommended a hip replacement.

That took some real thinking on her part and ours. At that point she had about 5% kidney function and at almost 95, what would be the odds of her being able to withstand such major surgery? We knew how hard it would be on her body. Still she also had a spunky spirit and without that surgery would be doomed to stay in her bed the rest of her life.

The decision, from doctors and family, never for one minute revolved around the cost but instead quality of life. The decision was not impacted by the Oregon Death with Dignity law because she was not someone with a terminal illness. Although she had failing kidneys (Type II Diabetic), there was no end of life prognosis. The idea of her taking pills to end it more quickly never arose with anybody and I don't see that it would with the health care reforms that are being suggested as very few states offer the option anyway. It's been rarely used in Oregon although more have gotten the prescriptions to know they could if they wanted but died comforted by being in control.

My mother-in-law came through her surgery but suffered a lot. She never really recovered and although she had physical therapy, she died a little over three months later in a care facility that offered more services than her assisted living complex had been able to provide.

Was her surgery the right choice? It was expensive but who could know for sure that she might not have gotten up and made it back to being as mobile as she had been? I think it was the right thing to do but still know it was a hard choice which was made by her doctors, her, and her son as it should have been.

My mother-in-law is a prime example of the dire possibilities that the Republicans are trying to use to frighten the elderly. She is also a good example of someone who had a living will.

Anytime she had any surgical procedure she was required to once again sign a statement of what she wanted done should she be unable to respond in anyway other than as a vegetable. She did not want to live on tubes. This choice in her case, and my bet is in most all cases, is not about economics; and if any of you have faced it with a beloved family member, you know it's not. It's about quality of life. There is more chance it would be about economics with the current insurance (profit oriented) companies in control than with the government (Medicare).

Currently the Republican hysteria has led to taking from the bill the right for any Medicare patient to go in for an appointment (their choice not a requirement) to discuss end of life options in their current medical situation.

Thank you Congressional representatives and especial thanks to Sarah Palin for hypocrisy and once again taking from the ordinary person choice regarding their own lives.

The irony of the 'family based,' Republican party is they don't trust the family to make these decisions. They want rules in place that dictate the choices and we see that time and again. The irony of Democratic, so-called progressive party is their lack of courage to do anything they claim they want. Maybe they never wanted any of it to begin.

The right wing should be ashamed of itself but it isn't. Emotion driven as it is, shame is not one of those emotions. What it has done, in an attempt to destroy Obama's effectiveness, is what they did with Clinton. They go after things that have no real meaning (birth certificates, death panels). Yes, Democrats went after Bush but on policy regarding actual issues like fighting wars, torturing, spying on its own citizens, eliminating the right to trial when accused.

The right isn't attacking Obama on his ideas which is what they should be doing. It's on his race (if you don't believe me look at what even legislators are saying, the signs at these right wing hate rallies, the birther movement, the tea partiers ). The right also goes at it by throwing out a myriad of charges (in the case of Clinton it was the death of Vince Foster, mysterious deaths around the Clintons, sex scandals) and seeing what sticks. When the right finds a charge that works, they all jump on it and that's what happened with living wills.

I have to revise my will and make sure that I add the living will part to it. We do this with a computer program that we purchased. You have it notarized when you sign it at a bank, and it's very legal. I know I would not want to live as a vegetable and would not want extraordinary measures taken to keep me alive if something should happen. Temporarily on a feeding tube is one thing but permanently is not. Extending dying is not living.

Although I have told all my family members of my desires, I know from the experience with my mother-in-law that you have to sign such things again anytime you enter a hospital once you are a certain age-- or you used to before the party of death began raising such a stink. And stink is the only appropriate word for what I have been hearing. It's sickening and, as usual, doesn't help any real discussion on health care reform.

There should be a real discussion on how to fix what is a damaged program and not just based on those without insurance but the growing cost of having medical care period. If you start with protecting the profits of insurance companies, you aren't ever going to have meaningful help. If you don't know health care's true cost today, it's because you already have an employer or government paying most of yours. That's not free, you know!

[For those of you interested in astrology, check out: Rainy Day Extra for Lynda Hill's newsletter regarding August 20th]

Monday, August 17, 2009

The black, horned cow

In trying to get the cattle back from one of their walk-abouts, I saw something so beautiful that it made me very sorry I didn't have a camera with me. When chasing cows, you don't carry cameras but in this case there was a double reason I didn't have it. We had just finished moving irrigation pipe when we realized half the herd wasn't in the field. They had broken down a fence which meant instant action to keep them from going farther.

This horned cow stood on the opposite bank of the creek far below where I was standing. Behind her were brush and trees. She was in tall grass as she bent to drink from the creek, her head perfectly reflected in the water.

She was not supposed to be there. We could not let her stay there, but oh how lovely she was enjoying a moment of wildness. I would have loved to have a way to materialize the camera to my side but alas it was safely back at the house, and animals don't wait for cameras.
Later I took some photos of her feeding from hay and separately that spot along the creek thinking maybe someday I'd try painting what I had seen. It won't possibly match the beauty though of the actual sight. Those things we have to hold inside ourselves, and I will.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

How to ruin a photograph


Fortunately I bought a book last week-end-- Digital Photography Master Class by Tom Ang. It is beautifully put together, interesting segments, lots of photographs to illustrate the concepts, but also simple enough to help me understand the various technical aspects not only of getting a great photograph but also using Photoshop in such a way that the photo is enhanced, not ruined.

Although I take a lot of good photographs (my opinion), I also have ruined more than a few. In honor of buying this book but not yet having read it enough to claim any impact, I thought I'd share one of my recent photo attempts. Basically the hardest for me is often a photo of myself because of the skin tone problems and most especially when I had an idea of a concept and then try to make it happen.

This one began with the new fountain and my thinking how cool it would be with a woman in front of it, silver earrings, long silver hair, a black blouse, sandals, and jeans. Not too complicated. I had someone to use-- me. Slimmer choice would have been better but you work with what you have.

When we began taking the photos (Farm Boss got roped into the project because it wasn't a pose I could leap up from and quickly redo short of ruining my knees permanently), I saw fairly soon that my original idea wasn't so simple. For one thing, a gray background tends to impact the colors and the exterior of this house is gray. Then the lighting was complicated. If we took it in the morning, it would be mottled shadows from the oak leaves, then as the afternoon moved along, there would be very bright light right in front of shadows due to the house roof and angle of the sun.

Good way to ruin a photograph-- lighting with extremes.

Despite that, he took a few which came out pretty good for color. When I got them on the computer, I then saw the background. Too much stuff back there. Clutter in a situation like that tends to distract, make the eye travel around and never settle where the photographer wanted.

Good way to ruin a photograph-- don't take into account the background.

You'd think, since I am going to be the same person and can wear the same clothing, that repeating it without the background clutter would be easy. I knew that doesn't automatically work. Smiles aren't that easy to repeat and poses vary just a little to turn what might have been a good photo into so so. Then there's still the lighting problem.

Anyway, with Farm Boss's agreement to again play photographer, I cleared the background. We waited for what we thought would be the right light. The pictures once again looked fine in the camera but when I got them onto the computer, instead of the rich, glowing evening color I had hoped to see, these were grayed.

Since I was tired of having my picture taken, I thought maybe I could salvage them with one of my photo programs.

Good way to ruin a photograph-- photo shop.

My manipulation ruined one photo totally. I could have avoided that if I had saved it in its original format but I hadn't. What could go wrong? How about a highlighted look that wasn't realistic or good. There appeared to be no going back. The only consolation I had was knowing it is it is an example of what can go wrong. I also don't think there was any way to really get a good picture with that grayed tone to everything.

So I decided to use my favorite clone tool and see if I could take the clutter out of the first photo I had liked. That was kind of okay, but you know it never feels as good when I clone. It loses something in terms of satisfaction-- especially when removing something as large as a chaise lounge.

In a lot of ways this kind of thing doesn't matter for general snapshots. It's not always about the eye going to where you want. It's not about creating a message, but when it is trying to create that perfect photo, background matters as much as subject.

I am hopeful that when I take some time with Digital Photography Master Class (it has been a busy season on the farm) that I will gain more control over future results.

The following photos fall in order from grayed snapshot; to ruined by photoshop; then expression and lighting about right but cluttered background; finally to the cloned background. Nothing did what I had hoped. Maybe next time.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Health Care

Our health care debate today has been distracted into debating things like socialism and euthanasia, neither of which have any bearing on the problems in our medical system. It serves the purposes of those who hope to stop the process of serious exploration of health care today in the United States, the kind of thing that Andrew Weil was addressing.

Here's another article to consider seriously as we look at a system with few if any brakes and nobody outside monitoring much of anything thanks to lobbyists. How many times will we hear hands off doctors and hospitals? As things currently stand, how easy would it be for you to check out a doctor you were considering for surgery? Will you know what other patients have said about them, all their results, or only what they want you to hear?

If we are looking at health care, shouldn't we be looking at the whole package? Every bit of it impacts costs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

August looks like work


Since I have mentioned that late summer is a busy time on the farm, I thought I'd take a few photos showing why. One project is pretty much the usual for every summer-- moving irrigation pipe.

Because of having an irrigation system (admittedly aged), this farm can run the number of livestock it does. The first responsibility of any rancher has to be to the grass.

Water on grass when the temperatures are warm, especially at night, makes for good growth. We have first water rights that came with the property when we bought it and will go with it when we someday leave it. These water rights are good until the creek gets too low; then we have to stop irrigating. So far this year, flow is holding well.

After every time I help move pipe, I feel tired but satisfied when I see the grass underfoot and enjoy how lush it looks, or even when walking over the dry grass and knowing how soon it will have water to grow again.

Then there is the project that Farm Boss took on because of the road crew deciding to do ditches on our gravel road. They sent around a letter in the spring asking if landowners along the road wanted fill dirt.

Now if it was me, I'd have ignored the letter because I have this viewpoint that such things always lead to complications, but Farm Boss saw opportunity. I am not sure if this comes out of our astrological signs-- him being Cancer and me being Libra.

Anyway, he arranged for some (a lot) of the dirt to be dumped on our pastures and barnyard. Admittedly there are holes at the back due to drainage pipes breaking down, and the barnyard would be less muddy a bit higher; but still. Oh well, it's his project and not mine. He's the worker of the backhoe (big boy toy), and I might add enjoys such work.

Anyway between getting in the hay for winter, selling some livestock that was ready for the market (never goes easily whether considering the physical or emotional end), frequently checking the fields for coyotes (we lost two lambs to them so far), moving irrigation pipe, chasing cows home who decided grass was greener on other side of the fence; fixing said fence; and tending the family vegetable garden, August is a busy season, and it's not over yet.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The House in the Sand


When I ordered Pablo Neruda's The House in the Sand, I had read that a photographer had taken photos of his home for the book. I thought that would be fascinating as I love such photos, and then there would be the text which I hoped would be in English but wasn't sure.

The text was in English (actually in Spanish and English). I was mildly disappointed that there were not more photographs and that those there were not of higher quality. But when I began to read the prose poetry that Pablo Neruda had written about his home in Isla Negra, the objects he had chosen to bring to the house, objects that had the energy of the place, my disappointment lifted.

The House in the Sand is a simple, small book but describes so much of what I have felt about place. Words are powerful, often more so than pictures.

"There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song."
Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Unemployment

The unemployment situation has to be scary to anyone who isn't retired or holding a guaranteed job. Even the retired should worry as who will pay for their retirement if not the working population? What about our children? Where will they find jobs?


I hate to keep writing negative blogs here but we have to face reality even when it's unpleasant. Head in the sand doesn't work for long. Herbert wrote,
"Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute noted that the economy has fewer jobs now than it had in 2000, “even though the labor force has grown by around 12 million workers since then.”
The statistics are worse for young people than those who have been working for more years.
"Only 65 of every 100 men aged 20 through 24 years old were working on any given day in the first six months of this year. In the age group 25 through 34 years old, traditionally a prime age range for getting married and starting a family, just 81 of 100 men were employed.

"For male teenagers, the numbers were disastrous: only 28 of every 100 males were employed in the 16- through 19-year-old age group. For minority teenagers, forget about it. The numbers are beyond scary; they’re catastrophic."
For you who didn't like the Stimulus/Recovery program, who think government should not be involved in this problem, what solution did you have in mind? Wait it out? Let the young not be employed and see how that impacts our culture? How do we get back jobs that are now going to China or India? Can we sustain the kind of lifestyle that most of us today grew up experiencing?

I recognize that life is about change but there are some things that we really do need to think long and hard about. The loss of good jobs overseas has to be one of them, doesn't it?

The dragonfly and grasshopper photos weren't chosen for any deep philosophical purpose other than maybe they don't have to worry about economics,which would be nice for us also. Actually, they don't have much to worry about other than eating, not being eaten, and maybe breeding to sustain their species.

I am always interested in insects and sat in the pasture quite awhile, got a touch of sunburn, to get these photos.
I was fascinated by the differing colors of the grasshoppers within a few feet of each other. The dragonfly, who was less than cooperative on getting its picture taken, was a different color than what I had photographed there last year (bright red). I only saw the one dragonfly, but then the way it flitted in and out, maybe I did see more than one. Who would know?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

and our responsibility is...

Andrew Weil put up a great article on Huffington Post that should make all of us stop and give some thought: [The Wrong Diagnosis].

Weil's premise is that the analysis of the health care problem is wrong. What the government is currently proposing won't fix it. What the 'other' side is throwing up as a barrier to it also won't help.

Please read Weil's article. He is known for being a naturopathic doctor, but he is a real doctor who came to believe that traditional medicine wasn't solving all the problem. In fact, regular medicine wasn't even addressing the problem.

Oregon's health care plan for the poor ran into this problem in 2008. Basically it's that a poor woman (she isn't the only one but is the most well-known story) was denied treatment for her lung cancer based on assumption it could only extend her dying and not cure her, and instead offered a prescription for end of life. Mean Oregon! Heartless Oregon with its evil right to death with dignity law.

Of course, these accusations were coming from the bunch who want to deny any such insurance to anybody who can't buy it. Logic though wasn't coming into play as the right said this will happen to everyone. Let me see, so instead of having government insurance and being able to appeal the decision, she would have nothing and that would have been better?

Farm Boss heard the story on the radio. When I went digging for more information, all I could find were right wing sites expressing outrage at the poor lady's situation. Despite their only wanting to use this to prove we should have no government insurance (how exactly that would help her is beyond me), the situation does bring up an important point in this debate.

The most expensive treatment in medicine is end of life. IF a patient wants to extend their dying by 6 months or even less, the government (in this case the state of Oregon) should pay for their desire? Is health care to be about extending dying or living?

The thing is what he heard on the radio was that the lady in question had not quit smoking. I saw no such information on any online articles. But it does give us the issue--what if she hadn't? Should the state still continue to pay for this expensive drug? She thinks so: and her doctor thinks so .

The problem is that health care is rising in cost at an astronomical rate. There are some assumptions that not so many years in the future, it will cost half of a working families' income (that's if we do nothing and stay with the status quo).

If there is no recognition that we might be causing some of our own problems, if there is no responsibility for us to act upon that, then the costs can only go up-- or there will be rationing because at some point nobody can really afford those kind of costs.

What if she had been denied this state of the art treatment because she still smoked? Would the far right draw a line in the sand or still say she should get that treatment ($4000 a month for the pills) instead of say a small child get inoculations? Oh wait, the anti-government health care bunch wouldn't have given her any of this to begin thereby solving that problem.

In the case of this lady, her doctor wrote the company that made the drug and they gave it to her for a year with the right to renew her application at the end of that time. The argument he made, and it's a good one is maybe this wouldn't just extend her dying but save her life. He argued that medicine moves fast in its ability to treat such cancers. I couldn't find anything about her current situation or the prognosis, nor whether she finally did quit smoking.

Here is the problem from health care reform. How do we deal with people who are bringing on their own misery through lifestyle choices. There was a time if I had visited a doctor, he'd have said to me-- you need to lose weight-- because I do need to lose weight. Today a doctor is afraid to say that for fear of being sued and yet it's just as true today except we want to hold patients unaccountable for doing anything for themselves. Some of us can still realize we need to lose weight but others figure if the doctor didn't say it, they don't need to do it.

Coincidentally in Huffington was this other article which relates to something I believe and to what Dr. Weil was saying: [8 Ways to Read your Body's Warning Signs for Health].

This is not saying don't go to the doctor at all, but rather to look to your own body and wisdom also. There are some symptoms that require immediate visits to a clinic but how many visits are not that kind? Are there things we can and should be doing instead of reaching for the magic pill or a surgical solution?

I totally relate to the desire to not have to change my ways when I like how they have been but aren't liking the current results. It's a tough thing and the older I get the less I can escape consequences. When I don't exercise enough or do the right kind of exercise, my knees rebel. I noticed it's harder to lift straight off the ground without feeling rebellion in those knees. Whose fault is that? Can medical science address what I won't? Maybe it can but should it?

There is no way I think people should never visit doctors. I believe there are genetic factors that impact health as well as lifestyle choices. Sometimes it's an environmental thing we cannot fix.. I don't believe every problem can be solved by positive thinking, correct breathing, the right exercise and diet, but shouldn't we be responsible for doing what we do know?

Right now it's the insurance companies we are paying, but that means we all pay for people who live reckless lives. We pay through our insurance premiums and through our taxes whether it's insured or uninsured.

Nobody likes to hear talk of the health police but will that have to be part of a health care solution that won't bankrupt us all? What I wonder is how did we, as a culture, go so far off base on our health habits?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bobby and Frost/Nixon

Politics but about political philosophy rather than partisanship.


For quite awhile we had a copy of the DVD Bobby, bought from one of those sale bins, which I had held off on watching. Its reviews had been good; it had an excellent cast; but I think it was the pain of what inspired it that made me delay although I expected it to be an engrossing story. Then from Netflix, we watched Frost/Nixon about Nixon's series of David Frost post-resignation interviews. It was the obvious time to watch Bobby.

If Robert Kennedy hadn't been killed, he might have won the presidency in 1968. . Richard Nixon would not have been the same man who resigned in 1974 or did that fateful interview in 1977. Our country would not be the same nation it is today. A nation and lives were changed by one man's gun. It's what, besides the pain of them, that I hate most about assassinations.

If I was a believer in spiritual intervention, I'd believe that all such events happened for a reason and were meant to be. But if I was a believer in life evolving and our need to do what we can to make that be the right way, I'd not feel any such comfort.

Robert Kennedy had not been my choice of a candidate in 1968. I was in the McCarthy camp. These were not the days where that meant I walked house to house or donated money. McCarthy got my vote but not anywhere near the support I gave last year to Obama. Of course, with one small child and wanting a second, just starting out in the world, I wasn't in the same position to be heavily politically involved. Or so I thought at that time. Raising babies was my cause. Some mix both together. I hadn't even though it was certainly a critical turning point for our country. I see that even more clearly over 40 years later.

That year, I did see Kennedy speak but not planned. I happened to be in downtown Portland for a medical test. I saw the crowd and then him on a stand created on one corner right downtown. I rarely pass that street without remembering it. I doubt that kind of event could happen today. I stood at the back and listened to him talk. I still didn't vote for him.

Then came a morning, June 7th, where my Avon lady showed up early and told me that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. I was completely shocked. She and I both cried. I turned on the television to see more about it. It couldn't have happened again, but it had. JFK, King, and now Bobby. It was heartbreaking.

I painted a painting that morning with broad strokes of blacks and reds. It was of a man crouched in the foreground while in the background a city burned. It was about hopelessness and sorrow. I gave that painting to someone who liked it and wish I had not.

Frost/Nixon
was a reminder of something also-- of a time after Nixon had taken the reins of power, a time where I believed his administration was trying to take power from the people. I remember a friend of ours saying they would prefer competent dictatorship to incompetent democracy. I felt we were heading to that royal presidency and then Nixon also shocked me by resigning. Some thought he never should have done that. Doubtless Dick Cheney was one of those someones.

The year after Robert Kennedy had been killed, on that same day, coincidentally also D-Day, my son was born. I don't remember even thinking of it being the day Kennedy had been killed. Perhaps the pain of political assassination was something I didn't want to equate with birth.

After watching these films, I thought a lot more about the things Robert Kennedy had said, his dreams, what he had hoped to birth. They reminded me again how differently people see the world. Despite not voting for him in the primary, Kennedy would have had my vote if he had gotten the nomination. I wanted the war in Vietnam over. I felt it had been a huge mistake. Instead we got Richard Nixon who said he'd end it and waited years to do it; then was politically destroyed by believing he was above the law-- exactly what I feared he thought.

Today as then, there is a huge divide in this country, and it's not just whether someone believes war is a good solution. It's not even whether a president should be above the law. It's a bigger gulf.

Our gulf is whether we want to see government solve problems or do we think people can do it best without federal intervention-- health care, safe food, environment, programs for the disadvantaged, transportation, education, and pretty much anything except wars.

The question to ask, that goes beyond parties, is do we think the only wolves the government must protect us from are overseas or do we think there can be others, who operate more close to the line of legality, but where individuals must band together to protect themselves? Do we believe say monopolies are a bad thing or do we feel the blocking of them in the past was the bad thing? It takes government to prevent monopolies but if someone doesn't believe government should be involved, perhaps they see monopolies as a good thing.

Robert Kennedy believed in government and how united we could change things for the better, we could make this a better nation, and good place for all to live. He saw government as part of a solution. I am not going to get into whether he was the man to fix things but just this is about what he said, his philosophy that drew to him the crowds.

Today the argument is still between those who see government as the problem (Ronald Reagan followers) or those who want to make it be the solution (those who voted for Barack Obama). Can that kind of divide really be broached?

I recommend both films for political insights into their times. Frank Langella did an excellent job in making Richard Nixon both sympathetic and powerful. While the Ron Howard film didn't gloss over Nixon's problems, it also was fair. Nixon accomplished a lot using the tool of government-- some things others regretted even in his own party. I do think he followed his own star.

It is hard for me to think sympathetically about Richard Nixon-- and yet I twice saw him put his country ahead of his own ambitions. In 1960, when JFK won but probably by fraud and then in 1974, when the country was facing a potentially very divisive impeachment trial where the end result would be removal from office anyway.

(Incidentally to those who think the Clinton impeachment and Nixon's would have been comparable, I don't agree. I think what Clinton did was a personality flaw of a sexual nature. How many people involved in sexual immorality don't lie about it if they think they can get away with it? What Nixon did involved an imperial presidency, committing crimes in its name like burglary, and very much did matter and still does today.)

Bobby combines actual footage of Kennedy, his speeches, with imagining who might have been at the hotel that night. Predominantly the story is about those other people, names we never heard of and the impact of being there that night on who they were. It ended with one of his speeches and left me feeling sad for what was lost in terms of the promise.

Both films were about personalities more than politics. Anybody who can make me feel sympathy for Richard Nixon has made a good film.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Does anything really change?

Politics
the problem is politics
or politics is the problem?
This is about the question of political differences
*she says tongue in cheek*
between our two parties...
or are there any?

For part of George Bush's time in office, many Republicans had to wonder what had happened to their party. Fighting a war overseas when the United States had no national interests isn't exactly conservative. Adding a huge entitlement to Medicare for prescription drugs isn't exactly conservative. Oh that was for the seniors, beloved elders... except why block negotiating for drug prices to keep the costs down? What about allowing citizens to buy drugs online and get them from say Canada? Who really profited from that entitlement being added? Check where the money went and I think you will know.

Bank bailouts wasn't conservative either. The debt, for a war that wasn't on the books but had to be paid for someday, skyrocketed but only now do Republican politicians seem to be voting against it. Earlier they might have lamented but they voted for whatever their party wanted all the time some of them might privately have wondered who their party was.

Now it's our turn as Democrats. We have the power... or do we? Who actually runs things in Washington? Do we have two parties in name only and if that is the case, what can we do about it?

So let's see how we are doing with the goals we had... get out of Iraq... not yet. Close Gitmo... might take awhile. Logging in wilderness areas... need the logs or the jobs.

What about health care and things like allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices? *taking deep breaths to lower my blood pressure* It came out this week that Obama made a secret (well not too secret since it's out now) deal with big pharmaceutical to not bargain for drugs and not allow citizens to buy them in Canada in exchange for a supposed $90 billion cut in prices over 10 years and their support of the health care package. Does that $90 billion even cover inflation?

He needed their support, he would say. Really? He did? But at the price of making the deal into a disaster for costs? Right at the moment, it's beginning to look like what we have is a guarantee everyone has to buy insurance or have it bought for them but not sure exactly who will pay the cost.

Did you know that Cobra (government health insurance guarantees after loss of a job) is now affordable? Thanks to the Stimulus bill, it is 35% of what the actual cost is. Guess who pays the other 65%. You thought the government. Well, yes, they do eventually but in the short run, it's the business, who was employing the person when they had to either lay them off or fire them. The business will get it back at the end of the calendar year. That sounds good except a lot of small businesses are operating on a slim margin and if they had to lay someone off, they might barely be making it. So now they have to pay that Cobra cost which they will get back if their business lasts that long-- assuming the government then has the money to pay them.

It's the details like this that I feel we have to notice regarding health care and what comes out eventually. A lot of it never makes the newspapers and you only know it if you know people being impacted. Unless the health care industry is truly reined in for costs, this will be hugely profitable from them all.

Some say progressives are making too much over the public option. That it doesn't matter since prices will come down. Except how much will they really come down? Like the drug companies deal? So if everyone has to have insurance but the prices don't come down, it looks to me like it will be a continuation of the 400% increase in profits the health insurance companies made during the last 8 years-- you know while the rest of us were taking considerable cuts in our savings and our jobs.

So that's why I have to ask and think we all need to ask-- does anything really change when a new party takes power? Some say it's always been run by behind the scenes corporate masters. Is that the case? If it is, then you Republicans don't have the answer in your party and neither do we Democrats. Who does?

It's true that six months isn't enough to know about Obama. He has always said it's about the long run, but... Well, we need to keep track and not think that whatever our side does is okay because the other side is so bad! The other side has been so bad, but that won't automatically make us good. That comes out of real policy changes-- meaningful ones.

Frank Rich had a good column on this where he said the real question isn't whether Obama is a socialist, it's is he really walking any different path than George Bush: Frank Rich-- Is Obama punking us?.

I wanted a picture for this of the sheep at the big hay bale. It would have been perfect with their little butts pointed outward and heads down, but unfortunately they were taking their morning nap by the time I got the camera out. Maybe I can add it later...