The Supreme Court and the ACA: The Ultimate Death Panel?

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I started Extreme Thinkover in the fall of 2008.  The presidential race was in full swing.  Universal health care was one of the major topics that the candidates, media, and the public were debating.  One of my primary motivations for creating the blog was to have a forum in which to express my ideas about the health care debate.

I’ve worked in the health care industry for nearly 16 years and have daily contact with patients and families in the hospital.  I hear their stories, good and bad, about what these hospitalizations are doing to their lives.  Yes, what the hospitalization is doing to their lives.

Here in America, going to the hospital is not just about getting medical treatment; it’s also about entering a very broken and extremely expensive system. It nevertheless tries to limp along: In all fairness to the medical professionals who work very hard on behalf of their patients, in most cases, if you find yourself hospitalized, you get reasonably good medical care.

However, in the middle of this is an ongoing battle with the major health care players (hospital systems, health insurance, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment providers, etc.) all wanting to maximize their profits in an economic power race that too often is at the expense of the quality of care delivered to the patients who pay for their services, as well as forcing ever-increasing demands on their care givers to do more with less.  Admittedly, it doesn’t happen everywhere, but it is far too pervasive in Rube Goldberg “system” that passes for health care in America.

I wrote in fall 2008:

Here’s the question: What kind of treatment and medical care is needed so that all Americans can be healthy, or as healthy as possible?

That perhaps is not the question you expected to hear. The national conversation has focused on how much will it cost to provide all Americans with health insurance, how will the spiraling costs of health care be brought under control, will taxes have to be raised to pay for it, what will the roles of the health insurance industry, and the medical industries, and most of all the federal government be? Tough questions all around.

That question, “What kind of treatment and medical care is needed so that all Americans can be healthy, or as healthy as possible?” remains the key to a successful national health care program.  It also remains almost totally ignored by politicians, lobbyists, and, sadly the American public, none of whom have yet realized that without answering this question first, in my opinion, the debate about the cost cannot be resolved.  I contend this is why the health care law polls low for national support.

The current law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, nibbles at the edges of what I think is essential, but it, also, is far too focused on trying to control medical costs.  And in case you are wondering, yes, I’ve read the law cover to cover.

Beginning Monday, March 26, the Supreme Court of the United States is going to hear arguments for and against the PPACA.  The primary question before the Court is whether Congress overstepped its authority regarding the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution by mandating all Americans (sort of) be required to purchase health insurance.  The debate is guaranteed to be rancorous, even in the sedate and forcibly polite setting of the Supreme Court.  The debate, though, once again is all about the money.  A healthy America will likely never even come up. The pundits will have a field day with this, without question, but I doubt any will see the fundamental flaw in all the arguments, based on my point of view.

Will the justices see past the smoke screen of political ideology, special interest group pressure, and inflammatory rhetoric that is fueling these proceedings?  If they do, and declare the law constitutional, there is hope that the ACA can continue to be refined, actually moving toward being a mechanism to support a healthier America.  If they don’t, by striking down all or parts of it, the Supreme Court will, for all intents and purposes, become the Ultimate Death Panel, condemning tens of millions of Americans to poor health, premature, and in some cases, an agonizing death because they will have been denied the right to even the most basic level of health care.  And that, tragically, just months before a law already on the books would have given them the care snatched away by the Supreme Court Death Panel.

Now we wait to see how this court rules on the fate of Americans’ health for generations to come.

The Thinkover:  When Patrick Henry uttered those iconic words, “Give me liberty or give me death!”  he wasn’t suggesting that death was preferred outcome of that stand for patriotism.  So far, the opponents of the ACA have been clueless to this obvious distinction in demanding “liberty” from the ACA mandate.

Extreme Thinkover Reaches 40,000-View Milestone

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On March 7, 2012, Extreme Thinkover reached a great milestone by crossing the 40,000 views mark.  I want to express my appreciation to all my readers and subscribers, along with those who just happen to stop by and check out the blog.  Last year was an eventful year for me and I didn’t post as many articles as I have in past years.  But to those of you who have hung in there with me, I extend my special thanks!  So keep checking on the blog site.  There are some new plans in the offing that should not only generate more posts but also provide some great reading.

All my best,

David

P.S., Just for fun here are three photos of my vacation at Mt Wilson Observatory, near Pasadena, California.  And thanks to Bruce and Mimi for the invitation!

I'm standing next to the 60" Hale Telescope. It's over 30 feet tall. Photo Credit: John Bogen

When the Hale saw first light in December 1908, it was the largest telescope in the world. George Ellery Hale, who later financed the 200 inch Hale Telescope on Mt Palomar near Pasadena, named the telescope after himself.

This is the chair Albert Einstein sat in when he visited Mt Wilson on January 29, 1931. Note the hair. Photo Credit: John Bogen.

Einstein and the Senior Astronomers (Edwin Hubble is standing directly behind Einstein. Jan 29, 1931. Photo Courtesy of Mt Wilson Observatory.

A Memorial Tribute to My Mother

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In Memoriam

Pauline Ann Waggoner

October 16, 1928 – January 26, 2012

Pauline "Polly" Waggoner

Pauline Ann (Polly) Waggoner, a native of Boise, Idaho, beloved mother, grandmother and friend, died on January 26, 2012.

Mom with Her Parents, Carl and Lucile Vocu. Photo taken about 1929.

Mom was born on October 16, 1928 to Carl and Lucile Vocu, and lived in Boise most of her life. She met her life-long love, Earl, at Boise High School. After graduating in 1946, she High School Graduation, 1946attended the former Boise Junior College. On September 21, 1947, she married J. Earl Waggoner. In those early years, she worked for the Retail Credit Union Company in Boise and then also in San Francisco while dad attended mortuary college. He graduated in 1952 and they returned to Boise. They lived briefly in Twin Falls, Idaho. After they returned to Boise, dad went to work for McBratney-Alden Funeral Chapel, which later became Alden-Waggoner.

Polly and Earl, Married 21 September, 1947.

They were baptized together in 1956 at the former Boise First Christian Church, now University Christian Church. They remained active members until their deaths, dad having passed away on August 14, 2006.

Mom and dad had three children: David, Scott and Beth Ann.  She also has four grandchildren, with a fifth on the way.  It breaks our hearts that that child will never have the chance to know mom in person.

The Waggoners, Easter, Probably 1966.

When we were growing up, mom was a homemaker, but after dad had a heart attack, she went to work with him in 1967 where she served as the Chapel’s office manager and bookkeeper. Both of our parents were very service-oriented.  Her interest in giving back to the community led to volunteering for many years on the Idaho State Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Advisory Board. She worked alongside dad at the chapel until her retirement in 1990.

Polly & Earl at the Funeral Chapel, 1973

During our elementary school years, mom volunteered at church, our school and in the community. She was past president of the Franklin Elementary School P.T.A. and Boise Jay-C-Ettes. She worked with Cub and Boy Scouts while dad was pack leader, as well as a church youth sponsor and chaperone for choir trips. Later on, she also served as a Deaconess, Church Clerk, Membership Department Chair and more recently, part of the Welcome Committee.

One of mom’s life’s joys was her Birthday Club, which started in 1961.  This group of ten women, since then, have held a monthly lunch-time gathering sharing their birthdays. It was one of the most important activities in her life and she rarely missed meeting with them. This loyalty was so typical of her personality and we see it as a tribute to the value of life-long relationships.

Mom and Beth on the Great Wall of China.

Mom and dad loved to travel, especially road trips. They regularly drove to California, Utah, and Oregon to see relatives, and from those visits we have a lifetime of cherished family memories (and nearly as many pictures–Mom and her camera were rarely separated).   On her first international adventure she flew to China while Beth was teaching English at a university in Shanghai.  It was a dream come true; she had wanted to

Mom & David Mazatlan, 2008

visit China all of her life. Scott, and his wife, Brenda, accompanied her on that expedition. Her second big international trip was a cruise to the Mexican Riviera to celebrate her 80th birthday.  The cruise’s staff gave her a delightfully special birthday party. David, his wife, Lorette, and granddaughter, Bethany, sponsored that trip.

Polly, With Her Ubiquitous FILM Camera, in Mazatlan, 2008.

Once dad retired, they took advantage of their new-found freedom. They bought a 5thwheel RV and and hit the road.  No short day-trips for them! Over several years of three-month-long treks, they visited every state in the continental US as well as several provinces in Canada, documented in mom’s extensive photo albums.  It would be remiss not to note that mom firmly resisted making the transition to digital photography.  She liked film, and had a fairly good eye for getting nice shots (We have been bemused over the fact mom passed away and Kodak declared bankruptcy within a month of each other). During the winter, mom and dad escaped the cold and sometimes harsh climate in Boise at a sunny and warm RV park in Cathedral City, California.

Mom and Scott at the Mariners' Stadium in Seattle

Besides traveling, mom was a voracious reader and sports fan.  It has been an ongoing joke in the family that while some people read books, she consumed them.  It was nothing for her to read three books a week, and that is perhaps a conservative estimate.  Do the math on that for over 70 years!  She also loved sports, although there was not an athletic bone in her petite frame.  Some of the earliest memories Scott and David have is her watching Monday night boxing announced by the inimitable sportscaster, Howard Cosell. Later, her sports interests shifted to football, baseball and golf. This was not idle time for her, however.  She could multitask with ease.  While watching the games she would knit, tat, or make one of dozens of afghans using the Swedish weaving method, which then she gave away.

Mom’s death closes a chapter on an amazing life that touched countless others across many decades.  She was a lady in the truest sense: gracious, gentle and patient. As a friend, she offered commitment and caring to essentially all of those she encountered. (She was aptly suited for that Church Welcome Committee!).  We, her children, find it easy to sing her praises and can’t imagine a better mother – and her grandchildren join in the song.

It is as a wife, however, that mom shone brightest and in that light we can learn from her on so many levels.  Don’t, however, think she was anything close to “the little woman.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  She had a mind of her own and occasionally asserted what she called her “Bohemian stubborn streak.” (The Vocu family came to the United States from what was then Bohemia–now The Czech Republic–in the 1880s).

Polly & Earl...Really. About 1947.

Mom and dad, though, were a complete package when it came to their marriage.  To put it simply, they were crazy in love with each other for all 59 years they had together.  Through the storms of life, trials and triumphs, years of dad’s heart troubles, her own battle with breast cancer, and wherever the road might take them, their love remained strong and true.  On every anniversary or birthday, they signed cards to each other, “all my h.b.s.” (heart, body and soul).  Without question, her life and marriage stands as a testament to the epitome of what married life can be and model to all of us of what unwavering love can be–in all of our relationships.

Thanks, Polly—mother, grandmother, and friend—for  showing it is possible. We love you and miss you.

David, Scott, Beth Ann, and the rest of the Waggoner Clan.

∫ ∫ ∫

In Memoriam

This post was adapted from Polly’s obituary published in the Idaho Statesman.

Extreme Thinkover Protests SOPA/PIPA

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I invite all of my subscribers and readers to visit Extreme Thinkover today to read the special text and view the video prepared by WordPress protesting passage of the pending SOPA/PIPA legislation.

Extreme Thinkover, like Wikipedia and thousands of other web and blog sites worldwide, will be blacked-out January 18, 2012, between 8:00 a.m and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (that is 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m, or 05:00 and 17:00 Pacific Standard Time) as a part of the global protest to this egregious attack on the freedom of speech we enjoy through the Internet.

After you have looked at the material, I urge you to contact your legislators and ask them to defeat the SOPA/PIPA bill.  I will be contacting mine!

2011 In Review…And Thanks to All My Readers! Happy New Year!

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Longest Night—An Introit For the Winter Solstice

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Photo: Winter Country Road Mac Wallpapers

From eons past, upon the gathering gloom

And shade of this one evening, we tightly grasp

That three-strand cord held by our ancestors

From every shore and mount and plain

Upon this oceaned rock, who held in awe

The great fiery orb, which coursed above their heads;

Its light of such great concentration

No person dared stare into the brilliance

Of its face, for human eyes cannot bear

A moment’s glance into its searing countenance.

And yet…

From whose womb has come the ice?

And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?

Water becomes hard like a stone,

And the surface of the deep is imprisoned.

(Job 38:29-30, NAS)

 A battle eternal seemed waged in the heavenly sphere

For the chariot of light and warmth and life

Did not cross the sky each day unchallenged, inviolable.

Some unseen hand pulled at its reins, with what intent?

What mystery was at work as day cascaded into night,

Warmth dissolving to coldness, light extinguished

By the dark, new lights piercing the growing shade,

A pale swath spilt cross the arch of the heavens, with

Streaks flashing across the heavenly vault, or ominous wraiths

Appearing unbidden with tails stretching across the vastness of the night?

One great traveler of the night, too, its crescent visor

Ever revealing and concealing its expression immutable, but for

Those nights when shining bright, it darkened to a mask blood red

The mountain is dark, the shadows cast over it,

All the sunbeams of eventide are gone,

With head held high the Sun has gone

To the bosom of … his mother.

(From “Gilgamesh and Huwawa”, circa 18th Century BCE; Trans: A. George)

As twilight turned to dawn—and dawn to day—

Our ancestors saw the blessed light of their abundance

Ever southward creep lower into the sky as one condemned.

The hand upon the rein, invisible, pulling down its midday transit,

Held, too, unyielding through the night, with what intent?

Earth’s breath chilled, life’s too, and with it, the embers

Of the human heart dimming with each shortening day.

Very day and very life faltered, trudging in the darkening mists,

Forced march toward the valley of the shadow of death.

The darkest day of mortals has caught up with you,

The solitary place of every mortal has caught up with you.

(From “The Death of Gilgamesh”, circa 18th Century BCE; Trans: A. George)

 Those shadows, too, cast longer as the

Light of day growing ever shorter, while

Night’s mantle weaving on a heavenly loom

Impenetrable to any ray of light or hope of warmth

A veil sweeping away the final rays of light

Into the absolute darkness of our sepulchered fate.

“I will cover the heavens and darken their stars;

I will cover the sun with a cloud,

And the moon shall not give its light.

All the shining lights in the heavens

I will darken over you

And I will set the darkness on your land,”

Declares the LORD God.

(Ezekiel 32:7b-8, NAS)

From eons past, upon the gathering gloom

And shade of this one evening, we tightly grasp

That three-strand cord held by our ancestors

From every shore and mount and plain

Upon this oceaned rock, who held in awe

The great fiery orb, which coursed above their heads.

In their wisdom, charting those celestial journeys,

The shadows not the light divulged the hand’s loosing grip of the solstick reins.

Out of the mysteries of the Sky’s inconstancies there yet

Was a music of the spheres, a great symphony of the heavens:

The great darkness of this longest night is a singularity.

Light has not been quenched, its warmth’s ember ne’er burned out

By Death’s chill, unchallenged. For upon the Dawn of morrow

With warming hearts and upturned faces we greet the Light reborn!


The Nuclear Club Nobody Wants to Join

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For Video Credits, Click on the YouTube Link.

When I was born three nations had nuclear weapons: The United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union.  By the time I graduated from high school, that group of three had grown to only five, with the addition of France and the People’s Republic of China.  Since that time only four more nations have been added to that list, India, Pakistan, North Korea and (despite on-going denials) Israel.  Currently, through the NATO nuclear weapons sharing program, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey have U.S. nukes in their possession. None of these five countries however has the capability to build their own atomic weapons.

Building an atomic bomb is not easy.  In fact, it’s beyond really hard.  Most people think that is preferable.  Very preferable.  Except there are, of course, those who want one so bad, those meaning in this case, a country, they will go to any length to manufacture their own.

For years, we have worried about North Korea and its psychotic leadership, first in what appears to be a case of intra-genocide by starvation of the entire nation, with the notable exception of those in power, to spare no expense to build their nuke, and second, now they have it, the fact they only need to toss it over the DMZ and a substantial percentage of the South Korean population is annihilated.

To date, they have been contained, probably due to the North Korean autocrats needing to keep enough of the citizenry alive so as to provide the labor for their military and their personal extravagances, so the only bargaining chip they have with the world is to not act on their sabre-rattling rhetoric to procure enough essential supplies of food and oil to maintain their horrendous status quo.  It also is relevant that another source of their restraint, to date, is having the Great Chinese Fire Dragon on their northern border that could annihilate the entire country with their nuclear arsenal should the Kim boys misstep.

Actually, the Chinese know they wouldn’t even have to use any of their nuclear weapons. Simply amassing a few million Red Army soldiers on the line between the two countries would send a message even the highly deluded Despot in Pyongyang would understand.  Well, maybe.

Here’s my question: For how much longer will the United States be the only nation ever to use a nuclear weapon in an act of war continue?  Read More…

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