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commentary on the passing parade

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

I have sympathy for syndicated columnists who are not confined to a single topic - politics for instance. When I sit down to comment on the passing parade - rarely nowadays, about which I may comment in a week or so - my problem is to pick one of the many current issues that have grabbed my attention and piqued my interest. So some days - and this is one - I’ve decided to simply make a few comments about a variety of issues.

First - in case anyone didn’t understand what I was talking about on October 2 - and there is an indication that this might be the case - it was parody. I was pointing out how ridiculous it is for national programs such as Social Security and Medicare to be funded only by a specific tax and not also funded from general revenues. Which is why people keep issuing dire warnings about Medicare being bankrupt in - you pick the year. Which is why we would soon be out of funds for the military if it were funded the same way. Which is ridiculous. As is the way we keep funding Medicare et al and keep issuing those dire predictions. Of course if we weren’t involved in wars for years on end and didn’t have military bases around the world - maybe we wouldn’t have to listen to all those dire predictions.

Speaking of Medicare, the big issue over the alleged healthcare "reform" bills floating around in Congress is whether or not the final bill will include a "public" option which some advocates seem to think will keep the health insurance companies in line and make it easier for the less fortunate among us to get health care at reasonable cost. No one knows exactly what a public option will look like - but it’s been described as something akin to Medicare. If that’s the case and that’s the kind of plan that advocates think of as some kind of panacea, they need to take a longer look at Medicare.

Practically everyone on Medicare loves it - according to the public option advocates. Well, I’m on Medicare and it seems to be a reasonably good program - as long as there’s cooperation from the medical profession - but when there isn’t - and non-cooperation is far from a rare event - Medicare doesn’t look quite as lovable. I need to have a procedure performed which is currently scheduled for tomorrow and to schedule it I called a specialist who has treated me in the past when my insurance was Blue Cross - albeit several years ago - only to discover that while he "accepts" Medicare patients , he doesn’t accept Medicare assignment. What this means, it was explained to me, is that his office will bill Medicare and my Medigap insurance - either that or Medicare sends the bill onto my Medigap insurance - and a check for whatever is covered will be sent to me. I will then be responsible for any part of his bill that Medicare doesn’t cover. And to give himself a little extra leeway, he requires a $125 "scheduling " fee before he will agree to perform the procedure. When I expressed surprise and consternation upon hearing this information, his scheduler said - tersely - more and more doctors won’t even take Medicare patients.

A "public option" may indeed do all that its advocates claim it will do, but unless there is some way to induce doctors to treat patients insured this way , it will be a program fraught with problems. We have to assume that the most vulnerable among us - those with limited funds - would be the ones most likely to end up on a public option plan - and if it’s anything like Medicare, they may find themselves in the same situation that I ran up against trying to schedule a medical procedure with a specialist. The idea of a "public option" - indeed the idea of a single payer program - a national health plan - is advocated by many doctors. But unless the reimbursements are close to what they are currently receiving from private insurance companies - it may not be that easy to find a doctor happy to take public option patients.

From medicine to guns - not that unusual a segue. There are those who consider trauma from gun shots a social as well as a neducal problem. I have nothing against limited gun ownership, though I think the recent Supreme Court interpretation of the second amendment to the constitution is little short of being ridiculous. That’s the problem with having a constitution written for the contemporaneous conditions of he United States in the late 1700’s and trying to apply it to the twenty first century. With the record number of annual gun deaths in our country, you would think that the greatest effort by out courts and our law enforcement officials and our states and municipalities, would be to limit gun ownership to responsible people who would be licensed and have their guns registered. Instead, the Supreme Court has given the green light for the entire country to become the wild west of the eighteen hundreds,

I bring up the subject of guns because of a news story I heard the other day - which, in a civilized society should have been on the front page of every newspaper in the nation. A Florida man, hearing the sounds of movement in his house in the night, got up to "investigate" - saw a shadowy figure in the hallway and FIRED at "it" - killing his live in fiancé who he was scheduled to marry the next day. He has not been charged with any crime. It was a "tragic accident" according to police who said that he appeared to display genuine remorse.

If I were prone to puking, I might easily have done so after hearing that story. An accident? No charges? No thought of reckless homicide? Like this sharpshooter, I live in a two person house. I don’t keep a loaded gun by my bedside, but if I happened to hear a "sound" in the night, I would assume it was my wife. But even if I did have a loaded gun handy and I had the slightest inkling that someone had broken into the house - causing no "break in" noise - but only the noise of someone moving about, the last thing I would do would be to fire at a "shadowy figure" in the hall. Not without asking "is that you honey?" Not without asking "who’s there?"

What kind of person’s first reaction to what may be an imagined threat is to fire a gun? I would think some kind of mad man. Someone without the slightest sense of responsibility. I don’t know anything about the guy but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was an NRA member - someone who believes that every American has a right not just to own a gun but to use it in self defense - to fire against any lurking shadow that may be a threat to one’s person or property. At the very least, the man’s actions were reckless and the fact that the law enforcement authorities aren’t even considering a charge of reckless homicide is astonishing. But perhaps I shouldn’t be astonished. I remember a case - not that long ago - of another gun owner who observed what appeared to be a robbery of his neighbor’s house. He called the police. He says "I’ve got a shotgun, you want me to stop him?" The police dispatcher says no way. The guy says - "I’m not going to them go. I’m going to kill him." The plice dispatcher says stay in your house. The guy ignores what the police are telling him. He goes outside and bang bang - he kills two people.

Like the wife/fiance "accidental" killer, he wasn’t charged with any crime either. The two stories aren’t exactly alike but they both say something pretty damned scary. When it comes to gun ownership and use, something is terribly wrong in this country.

Finally, I was pleased to learn that Rush Limbaugh will not be part of any group trying to buy the St. Louis Rams It’s truly astonishing that Don Imus was bounced off the air for calling a group of African American athletes "nappy headed ho’s" while we hear nothing about stations dropping Limbaugh for any of his racists comments over the years of which these are but a few. Six years ago, when I started this blog, I wrote a brief hello and then on the next day, April 3, 2003, I wrote a short piece entitled Shut Up Limbaugh. I called what he did on his radio show "dangerous free speech." I also said he was scary. That he continues to spew forth his daily garbage unabated this many years later is not only scary and dangerous but an insult to the constitutional protection behind which he continues to pollute the public airways.