ACA Aftermath: Three Little Pigs & the Big Bad Wolf

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Three Little Pigs. Silly Symphony Original Release Poster, 1933. Courtesy Walt Disney Company.

Remember the story of the Three Little Pigs?  You know, one pig built a house out of straw and a second built a house out of sticks, while the third built a house out of bricks.  The antagonist is the iconic “Big Bad Wolf” whose ravenous appetite for pork knew no bounds.  Endowed with an impressive lung capacity he goes to each of the little pig’s houses and, as the story goes, “He huffed and he puffed and he blew the house down!”  (It’s more fun if you say it out loud with all the enthusiasm and glee a four year old would put into it.) The house of straw immediately collapses under this pneumatic assault, and the one made of sticks fares no better.  Their plump porcine owners scramble to find shelter in the house made of brick, which as we all know, survived the wolf’s hurricane-force winds, unscathed.  It is, of course a morality tale about being wise to the ways of the world and “building” the various parts of one’s life out of material that can withstand its big bad wolves, or storms, be they actual or virtual.  Either that or a clever publicity story concocted by the bricklayers union, but I prefer the former.

Now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) there has been non-stop huffing and puffing by the Republican opponents of the law, who thought they were going to be rewarded with a Health Care house that was made out of straw, or at the worst, of wood.  SCOTUS, they reasoned, would strike down all or part of it so that they could legislatively “huff and puff” and finish blowing the house down.

Big Bad Wolf: “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down!” Three Little Pigs, 1933. Courtesy Walt Disney Company.

But it turns out that the Court took the position of the third little pig and, in declaring the law constitutional, revealed a house made of bricks.  It’s rather like that moment on the television show, Extreme Makeover (Huh, something familiar about that…), where at the moment of climax as the family stands in nervous anticipation, the crowd yells in unison, “Driver, move that bus!”  Only in this scenario, the Republicans and their conservative wolf pack are not overcome with emotion at the fabulous new home standing before them, but rather are stunned, being confronted with an edifice made out of material largely impervious to their huffing and puffing.

Here’s the thing.  The story ends with the wolf leaving in abject defeat, his hunger unsated.  Conservatives, however, apparently lack the capacity to see they have lost this fight and therefore continue to huff and puff, launching into tirades to any convenient warm body holding a mic and a TV camera, insisting that they have actually won and it’s only a matter of four months until the General Election to prove that point.  Already, they have coined a new term to try to recapture their bluster: Obamatax.

We will be subjected in coming months to their incessantly chanting this new mantra as the justification for their huffing and puffing, but they fail to realize the American people just aren’t that stupid and soon it will become distracting background noise.  In fact, it already is.  Yes, the Supreme Court changed the word “penalty” to “tax” but despite the conservative’s vitriolic demonstrations of outrage and consternation over the ACA being declared “constitutional” there is nothing new here.  Nothing.

It is completely dishonest to claim that on June 28, 2012, President Obama imposed a new tax on Americans.  Completely dishonest.  And it only piles a huge mound of disingenuous, uh, bovine excrement, on top of that dishonesty to claim that President Obama lied to the country by promising there would be no new tax.  There wasn’t and isn’t.  Chief Justice Roberts bears the responsibility for substituting the words in his ruling.  The wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of the GOP and the hyper-cons is all for show, political theater at its most profane.  Over-played and badly acted, at that.

The inconvenient truth for the Republicans is that the statue of their graven idol, Antitaxus Ultimatum, has feet of clay.  The Supreme Court just took a sledge hammer to it.  It now teeters, susceptible to collapse from the tiniest puff of air from a butterfly’s wings.  Or a poorly aimed huff from one of their own, say, perhaps one Mitt Romney?

I see two important lessons that Democrats should learn (and avoid at all costs) from the Republicans: If you lie to the American public long enough on the theory that the one who shouts the loudest is telling the truth, it does not take long for you to start believing your own lies.  Second, once you begin believing your own lies, you lose all perspective regarding the reality that ultimately the Big Bad Wolf failed.  He could not blow down the house made of bricks. Ever.

Why?  The answer springs forth in the words of the man who neither succumbed to the lie nor lost his perspective of what it means to be an American:

“…that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863. The Gettysburg Address.

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VINDICATED! Today a New Dawn Rose for a Healthier America

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CONSTITUTIONAL!

It is a day that even I wondered would ever come.  I began Extreme Thinkover with posts on the topic of comprehensive health care for all Americans.  I wrote in September of 2008:

The typical arguments for or against universal health care always focus on what the government will have to spend, what taxes will have to be raised to finance it at any level, or providing health care to consumers, i.e., virtually the whole population, has been, from my perspective, approached from the wrong frame of reference.

I put forth the argument on numerous occasions.  The Affordable Care Act, from my perspective, is a just solution to a miserably broken health care non-system.  It is just in the sense that this law creates a new level of access to medical assistance that Americans have never enjoyed, but that virtually every other First World country (and a number of smaller nations) has offered its citizens for decades.

The Affordable Care Act is the cornerstone of an inalienable right that makes possible in a tangible manner the chance for every person in the country to be healthier, and consequently enjoy the Blessings of Liberty. Yes, I can imagine the eyes rolling over that assertion.  But though it will take a generation, maybe more, to make that difference, doing nothing, that is, to go back to the pre-ACA situation, Americans would continue to be less healthy, costing perhaps trillions of dollars in avoidable care.  Now, at least we have a law, a system, that can turn that trend around.

Having worked in a hospital for over a decade and a half with daily patient contact, I can attest to the misery and personal suffering that those who have no insurance are forced to bear.  Add to that, my hospital is Catholic, with a mission to serve the poor and uninsured, and I have seen the incredible stress this very broken way of providing medical care has placed on my organization, restricting our capacity to plan for the future because tens of millions of dollars annually are required to subsidize those with no insurance.

I fully realize that the success of this change depends on individuals taking personal responsibility for their health.  I would contend, however, based on my experience with chronically ill patients who are poor or unemployed, they are caught in a vicious circle that all too often results in their getting the short end of the stick economically, for which access to medical care for wellness simply does not exist.

I could also put it this way, with the Supreme Court’s decision today, health care in America has finally stepped into the 20th Century.  The challenge now to us living in the 21st Century is fend off those who would overturn the law and plant us firmly back into the 19th Century.

People.  Real, live people with real live medical needs.  That is what the ACA is really about.  That is why for nearly four years, I’ve objected to the argument put forth by the law’s opponents that it was all about money and government.  I rejected that argument on both moral and ethical grounds.  Those who grouse that they are only paying for others bad habits are short-sighted, and in my opinion, fundamentally selfish.  To me, that argument is both highly ironic and paradoxical, because my experience with my neighbors has uniformly been that Americans possess a natural selflessness and generosity to help anyone in need.  But somehow getting the connection tied between to the two has been an uphill battle and continues to be.

For example, I have no doubt that if Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. John Boehner, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, or Sarah Palin were in a setting in which total strangers were injured and needed immediate emergency medical care, that every one of them would step up and wade in to help.  But all of them today condemned this law, despite the fact it acts on their behalf as well, so that their fellow citizens will receive that care as a matter of course.  And those patients won’t be nearly as likely to end up bankrupt as a result of seeking out that care.

Simply put, I don’t get it why they don’t get it. (I’ve got a pretty good notion why they think they don’t want to get it, however). Because of that great contradiction, conservatives like those mentioned above still want to overturn it legislatively.  I will continue to write to defend it.

(Yee-haw!)

Is Health Care a Constitutional Right?

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A Constitutional Right to Health Care?

The assertion that we have a right to medical care is one of the pillars supporting the Affordable Care Act.  Not the sole pillar, but one of them.

Photo Courtesy Blue Ridge Community College, NC

As with all of our rights, it has to be built up from some source that is part of the foundation of the national edifice.  Being a democratic republic, as I understand it, we in the United States have two sources.  One is the Constitution, and the other is the statutory authority given the various levels of government both federal and state by the Constitution.

Do we have the Constitutional right to medical care?  Read More…

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!