Category Archives: Politics

Why is Health Political?

Poor Wifey is just sitting in her comfy chair, staring out the window. The stress of uncertainty has stolen the resilient upbeat attitude she’s known for and has replaced it with a tense heaviness, bordering on despair.

Every morning she listens to the news as she lays in bed, preparing her shots, doing her breathing treatments, the ever-present oxygen machine humming in the corner. “Do they know I will die if they get their way?” I shrug, trying not to think of the decisions being made, the bribes (I’m sorry, “campaign contributions”) being made. What can I say?

Every day about noon she starts to get anxious and will go sit in her comfy chair even though she can only sit up for a short time before the pain and cramping get too bad. She’ll listen to her Bible studies with her special Bible in her lap, her hands too weak and painful to hold it for more than a few seconds, gazing blankly out the window waiting for the mail ma’am to drive by. “It’s here,” she’ll say. I’ll put my shoes on, “I’ll be right back.” As I walk up the lane I can see her in the window, anticipation, resignation, fear, anger, all showing in her eyes, all overshadowed by sorrow as she watches me meander up to the mailbox. I can never make myself do this chore without childish attempts to stall; I’ll pause to pull a few weeds, maybe throw the frisbee for the dog to chase before making myself open the mailbox.

“Anything?” she’ll ask, her voice tense. “No, just bills, I’ll reply, setting the various envelopes on the table. She’ll painfully pull herself out of the chair and follow her walker back to her room, one foot slowly in front of the other. The doctor is proud that she can make the fifteen-foot trek without her wheelchair, but it costs her – she’ll be on oxygen, napping most of the afternoon. We won’t talk about the mailbox until evening.

“Do you think we’ll get it?” she’ll ask. “Of course,” I answer. But after two and a half years of waiting, two routine denials, and nearly three months after her hearing, I have to admit I’m not as sure as I once was.

If the judge rules that she’s disabled, she’ll be eligible for Social Security payments. That used to feel important to us, it was all we thought about after Lincoln Financial stopped her disability payments- that little bit of money she’d get each month to help with the bills. Not much – about enough each month to cover one day’s worth of medication if nothing else goes wrong – but enough to make her feel as though she’s contributing, as though the three degrees she earned and three decades of work mattered. But now our focus has changed.

If the judge rules she’s disabled AND backdates the ruling, she may be eligible for Medicare or Medicaid in a year. If those in our Senate succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act, or change the rules to include a lifetime cap on insurance benefits or allow insurance companies to use pre-existing conditions to deny coverage, she will, inevitably, die – unless the judge rules that she’s eligible for Medicare in time. The timing is excruciatingly critical, with the highest stakes.

“Do you think we’ll hear from the judge soon?” she asks. “Of course,” I answer. “I’m sure the letter will get here this week for sure.” I smile and kiss her on the forehead, careful to avoid bumping any needles or tubes that may be connected to her. “Probably tomorrow.”

I go to my room and lay down for the night and pretend I don’t hear her cry. She’s too strong to cry from the ever-present pain, and her faith is too strong for her to cry out of pity for herself. When she cries, she cries for the thousands, millions of other people who are in similar situations. And, I think, sometimes she cries in sorrow that our nation now values profit over compassion, that we allow private disability insurance companies to blatantly break their social contracts without fear of retribution as long as they show their shareholders a profit. She cries because she’s not the only one.

She cries because she can’t do anything else.

Facebook Addiction

The Facebook

Well, it’s been five weeks since I’ve really been active on Facebook. Every few days I stick my toe in to test the waters, but I’m not quite ready to dive back in just yet.

While I miss hearing what my friends are doing, I’ve learned a few things.

Over the years I’ve grown used to being able to snap a quick photo with my iPhone and post it on Facebook, or stopping for a moment to jot down a funny thought. I knew I’d miss the social connection of sharing, and I was fairly worried that my ego would miss the instant feedback I was used to getting. There’s nothing quite like getting seventy “likes” in an hour to make you feel loved — especially when life is difficult. And I did miss those things. As with any addiction, the first three or four days were startlingly difficult — I bet I absently reached for my phone fifty times a day to check in or to post some random thought, and each time I’d feel empty, isolated, and lonely when I’d see the FB icon wasn’t there any more.

But after a few days I stopped thinking about it so much. I quit feeling that I needed to share every thought. I grew used to the idea that I can actually survive on my own without the constant feedback. The addiction waned.

Beloved Wifey Dagmar quit the Facebook habit the same time as I, though she was able to completely disable her account, something I was unable to do (as odd as it sounds I occasionally need to search Facebook for photos to use in my customers’ ads, every few days I’ll see the instruction, “Just pull some of our photos off Facebook,”). After just a few days she commented, “You know, without Facebook I sleep so much better!” I asked her how that could be. She answered, “I alvays had a Facebook conversation on my mind. I’d vake myself up every half hour to check and see what people commented. Den I’d spend an hour looking at udder stuff and I’d get so mad at the politics that I couldn’t get back to sleep. Then vhen I did, I’d vake myself up again, all angry, to go look at it again.”

About a week ago Dagmar logged back into Facebook, automatically re-enabling her account. Within five minutes she was in tears. “I can’t handle it!” she cried. “Everything’s so split. I have so many notifications and messages from my friends I can never answer them all! It’s overwhelming! Und at the same time there’s so much hatred and ignorance – I don’t vant to see it! I’m so anxious!” She had me disable her account again and has never mentioned Facebook since.

I have to admit, my own mental health and well-being is MUCH better now than it was when I lived on Facebook. I had no idea how much the constant tension, the barrage of political animosity, the divided community, the lies, the sense of “us versus them,” etc. had bothered me. (My mother always said I was a very sensitive boy.) It’s easy to avoid the news if you choose — simply change the channel. It’s easy to stay out of divisive political conversations — simply change the subject or walk away. But on Facebook there’s no way to avoid what your friends post. If someone posts a political graphic, there’s no way to filter it out. So in order to see the good things my friends were doing I had to see the bad stuff as well…

I saw the other day on TV that Facebook, G+*, and other forms of social media are trying to find ways to sort out the fake news stories that were so prevalent this election season. Many political analysts feel that the blatant lies that were presented as true news stories had an impact on the outcome. Confirmation bias is hard to avoid — if you believe squirrels are responsible for climate change, you’re unlikely to fact-check an article that supports your belief. Political activists use that to their advantage, creating fictional news sites and writing articles with no basis in fact or truth — often designed to create anger and outrage — aware that those who already believe what they’re saying will accept their statements as truth without checking, and will likely repost the article, thus spreading the anger and outrage to those who lack the facility to understand the underlying principles. (One example of confirmation bias: A few years ago I reposted an article stating that FOX News was not allowed to air in Canada as Canada had laws against airing fiction unless the show was clearly labeled as such. I wanted to believe that was true and reposted without checking. It turns out that FOX does indeed play in Canada. I’d been duped by a fake article on the subject of fake articles.)

While I’m sure I’ll be back on The Facebooks someday fairly soon, I would be much, much more apt to rejoin my community if there were effective ways to filter content (I did use F.B. Purity, which helped a LOT and I highly recommend the software, but while it filtered out certain keywords it couldn’t filter graphics), and I’ll be much happier when the folks who do the coding at Facebook find ways to stop the fake news stories from propagating.

But in the meantime I’m enjoying my blog, I’m rediscovering how to write in complete sentences, I’m happy to have several more hours in each day, and I’ve got more peace of mind than I expected. I do miss my friends and the daily interactions, but people lived for sixty-gazillion years without Facebook just fine, and so am I.

 *Anyone remember that? Yeah, me neither.

Running Scared

It’s a scary world. Petitions probably don’t do much but… I signed this one. I really don’t relish having a leader who takes the word of a former KGB agent at face value while denying solid evidence provided by his own intelligence community, a leader who says he doesn’t need intelligence briefings, a leader who wants to put bankers and CEOs in charge of our government in order to deregulate business blatantly putting profits over public safety (the only thing between food poisoning and your child are federal regulations, regulations they want to roll back).

We’re caught firmly in the cogs of the machine, my wife and I. We really need to keep them from turning it on.

It’s sticky…

The problem with Facebook? It’s sticky.

With the current political upheavals and accordant wailing and gnashing of teeth on The Facebooks, both Dagmar and myself have decided to deactivate our accounts for a while in order to catch our breath a little, gird our loins, wait for the dust to settle, regroup, etc. What I wasn’t prepared for was how difficult it is to temporarily leave Facebook… Not because of the constant temptation to log in and peek at what’s happening, but because Facebook itself makes it hard to back away.

If a person chooses to, they can “deactivate” their account temporarily. That means they won’t show up on FB any longer, people won’t be able to see their timelines, etc. So it’s a good way to let people know, “Hey, I’m not here for a while, please don’t post anything on my timeline ’cause I won’t see it.” The moment you log back in, your account is automatically restored in all it’s glory and you’re back in business. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Except it’s not.

When I tried to deactivate my account it let me go through all the steps (“Why are you leaving? Have you considered just unfriending people? Maybe you can just log out for a day or two, have you thought of that?”), then gave me an error notice. “We can’t let you deactivate your account because you’re the Admin of these pages…” with a list of all the pages I’ve been party to over the years. I was quite surprised at how many different groups had made me an Admin to be honest. So I deleted some of the pages that I’d forgotten about and picked a friend to be Admin of a few other pages and tried to deactivate my account again.

And again, I had to go through all the steps, answer all the questions, and push all the buttons only to be presented with another error notice. “We can’t let you deactivate your account because you’re the sole developer of these Apps…” with a list of Apps that I’d been associated with.

This surprised me. I had no idea I’d been creating “Apps.” But whenever a customer would ask to have their Facebook feed listed on their website, you have to have a snippet of custom code, which they call an “App.” So if I deactivate my account, I have to delete all those little Apps, and all my web design customers who have FB feeds on their websites would be upset.


So I deleted a few Apps that weren’t active any longer and more-or-less randomly chose someone I trusted to be a contact on the Apps that were left, and tried once more to deactivate my account.

By this time I’ve got several hours time invested in this whole “deactivation” thing. So I was upset when once more I received an error message… Facebook STILL won’t let me go.

So as far as I know, my Facebook wall is still there, plugging away, and people are still there, commenting and leaving me messages I won’t see for days or weeks… And there’s not much I can do about it.

A reaction

…Hmmm… Sometimes you don’t get what you work for. Congress has defunded Social Security Disability to the point where we can’t get any help for my disabled wife even though we’ve paid into it for decades. And to make matters worse, the private long-term disability insurance company we’d been paying in to for years has used Congress’ deregulation to change the rules and has now stopped paying her monthly benefits as well. I’ve had to let my people go and sell off most of my business in order to stay home and care for her… We’ve given plenty of effort – we’re both college educated, we were both highly regarded professionals in our fields, I started my own company – then she gets ill and *poof* it’s all gone. We’ve worked. I’m still working 18 hour days. We’ve already lost so much, now we’re in danger of losing our home… We don’t want anything free, we just want to get what we’ve paid for.

And trust me, she WANTS to work! She’s trained her whole life to do her job, to be a professional. But she’s in so much pain, is so very ill there’s no way she could even get down the steps to the driveway let alone actually work.

If Americans don’t have government protection, if we don’t regulate the insurance industry, if Congress doesn’t fund Social Security, it’s people like Wifey and myself who get caught in the machinery and lose everything. The people on Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. aren’t scamming the system – they’re people who need help, who have paid into the system, who are depending on those programs to survive.

The Politics of Fear

A note: When Donald Trump tries to scare people by saying Hillary Clinton “will repeal the Second Amendment” he’s not only playing on people’s fears, but he’s showing his vast ignorance of the political system in general and the United States Constitution in specific. No one person, not even the President, can alter the Constitution or it’s Amendments. Any change must pass two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, and THEN must be passed by three-fourths of the states themselves in a separate vote. In today’s political climate absolutely nothing can pass such scrutiny, let alone such a divisive issue as repealing an Amendment.

So please, don’t let Mr. Trump frighten you. He’s simply trying to scare you into voting for him based on a single issue that, quite honestly, isn’t even an issue in today’s world of deadlocked partisan politics. No matter what our next President wants to do with this issue it has to pass Congress, and no legislation aiming to limit weapons violence will get through either house.

Article V: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”