Sitting Shiva for Hitch

17 Dec

With our shared Jewish heritage, and my former practice of religious same, I feel it would comfort me to sit shiva for Hitch in a style he might — and I certainly will — appreciate.  For seven days, I’ll be toasting him with Johnny Walker Black, blogging or commenting on blogs or watching videos and reading articles, sharing Hitch with whomever I can.  I think that pretty much covers the spirit of sitting shiva, if you’ll pardon the pun.

So, join me in another night of toasting, as we raise a glass to a giant of a man whom history, if it has any sense at all, will never forget.


Alan Grayson, Healthcare, and the Insurance Industry

13 Dec

A few years ago, I saw freshman Congressman Alan Grayson summarize the Republican counterplan to “Obamacare” on CNN (  It actually was in reference to his House presentation (  In short, it went like this:

#1:  Don’t get sick.

#2:  If you do get sick, die quickly.

As a physician whose training institutions all catered to the poorest people around.  I saw the uninsured and realized how close I was to being equally uninsured.  After training, I realized and used to demonstrate to others how health insurance works:

#1:  Okay, pretend I’m the insurance company.  You give me your money.

#2:  I put the money in my pocket.

(wait for it….)

That’s it!  I don’t want to take the money out of my pocket.  That would cut into my profits.  After all, insurance is a business.

You could practically see light bulbs brighten over peoples’ heads, at this.

Grayson’s point is even more accurate, clear, and succinct, implying the insurance companies’ follow-through, “and if you can’t give me the profits I so rightly deserve for being rich and profitable, then to hell with you, and the sooner the better.”

Four years ago, I attended a Texas medical conference in which I learned that for every $1 business owners pay for workers compensation — a legally mandated form of medical insurance which must be purchased from for-profit insurance companies — for every $1 paid in, half was pure profit, after medical care, insurance company business expenses, even lobbying expenses.

I would submit that this constitutes “taxation without representation.”  You could argue that legislators provided representation when writing the law and that insurance companies are not government.  In fact, however, the legislators legislated huge profits to the insurance industry, something none of their other constituents would have voted for, so it appears they were only representing the insurance companies.  The elephant-in-the-room question is, why?  That 50% profit does not even include insurance company taxes paid to government.  Legally mandating the insurance, however, legally mandates the profits, so I contend that these profits are a tax on employers, who then must pass the tax down to their employees in the form of lower pay.  After all, they can only sell their products and services for so much.  The money has to come from somewhere, or rather, someone.

In a real democracy, government-required insurance would not be for-profit.  Either the government would act as insurer or the for-profit insurance companies would use the nonprofit insurance categories as loss leaders to draw in customers to buy for-profit insurance, like pet health insurance or the supplemental car insurance rental cars don’t really need, when the renter/driver is already insured otherwise.

The republicans allowed Obamacare to pass when it was clear the American people would balk, otherwise.  Still, they protected their corporate “friends”, making sure all the business of such mandated insurance stayed in the for-profit sector.  They denied government-based health insurance, i.e., Medicare, even when citizens could have paid for it directly, as it was not for profit and would have undercut the cost of for profit insurance.

You get that, right?  The added cost of for profit insurance is the profit, and republicans didn’t want governmental competition to interfere with corporations making profit off sick and dying Americans.

Speaking of which, want to talk about death panels?  Why would any highly profitable business spend unlimited amounts of profit on a customer who’s dying, anyway?

Don’t get sick.  And if you do, die quickly.  The corporations, now recognized as “persons” by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, and their republican friends, will appreciate your kind and generous consideration.

Water conservation

11 Dec

Texas suffered a mighty drought, this past year, ended only after atheists joined in Houston for a mighty conference.  (Strangely enough, all Rick Perry‘s public prayers yielded was publicity, no rain, only some very unholy wildfires.  Hmm…)

NPR had a recent “article” on the technology of toilets, how recent they are, how much water they use, and long it’s been since the design was significantly changed, at least here in the States.

Meanwhile, horses and cats do quite well and quite cheaply leaving their waste in pelleted bits of pine sawdust.  Fast as pine trees grow, they’ve become an industry staple for mass produced furniture and construction lumber.  Shavings on the floor are used for paper and pellets.  The used pellets (which, when wet, break back down to shavings and sawdust) are so biodegradable as to be compostable.  Maybe we should market it for human litter.

When I was young, Lysol, the famous disinfectant/cleaner, had TV commercials competing with PineSol, a product that smelled about the same and claimed its disinfecting and cleaning strength actually came from Pine.  It leaves me wondering if pine pellets would better control fecal microbes than the drinking water our toilets fill with.

I imagine a day when pine is used, commodes are lined with bags that hold multiple uses and stay strong until sprayed with some activator, and the disposal system is a series of small, local landfills turned compost heaps.  Water is just too precious to waste.  And with all the vitamins and minerals some take, might as well sanitize the stuff and return it to good use.  It could at least fertilize new forest growth.

I doubt plumbers will miss dealing with clogged toilets.

An Informal Poll

10 Dec

I’ve a theory that atheists are predominantly cat people.  So, here it is:  If you are an atheist, please comment on whether you’ve a preference for cats or dogs.  If you’ve a preference for reptiles, I’ve a foster-tegu in need of a good home.  Living with me, he simply thinks he’s one of the cats.

Not quite James Bond

10 Dec

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people abdicate the brains they believe their god gave them, on religious grounds, no less, and then, having chosen ignorance over knowledge, made extremely self-defeating choices.

I coined a moniker for them:  double-0 stupid, licensed to die.  I actually spell it with zeros, though they look like lower-case o’s in this font:  st00pid.  And recently, it was accepted for publication by Urban Dictionary, which surrounded this definition with weaker wannabes.

Examples of st00pid range from those who submit exclusively to faith healing and prayer to those who refuse vaccinations for their children.  Children, in particular, should be protected from such guardians.

Don’t even get me started on Obama‘s backing of the denial of OTC Morning After/Plan B pill for rape victim minors for whom pregnancy, itself, is a mortal risk.

It makes me so angry, I sometimes imagine a world in which those who reject science are denied the benefits of scientific advancement.  Sounds fair, doesn’t it?  Don’t believe in vaccinations?  Then no hospitalization or medication when the preventable illness strikes.  Can’t have it both ways.  Could save a lot of money, though, having to decide.

And imagine if the young earth creationists and global warming deniers had to stop using cell phones, television, internet, motorized vehicles, groceries with any connection to mass production, all in addition to said medical care.  They wouldn’t last long.  Even their guns and ammo would be “left behind” — pardon the pun.

Perhaps then, we’d have a world of peace.

Just Getting Started, Folks

10 Dec

It’s about time I stood up and spoke out.  Oh, I’ve opined, here and there, on other blogs, but before actually starting my own, I wanted to feel certain there were enough original ideas in my head.  In some cases, it’s not even a matter of having an original idea, but rather of being able to present scientific and medical knowledge in a way others might understand.

For example, I commented on Dr. Jerry Coyne‘s blog to clear the air and dispel common myths about circumcision.  I’ll probably revisit the topic here, just to pull the points together into a cohesive, intelligible presentation, one of these days.  There is so much more I could have written.

For the record, I have two American medical degrees.  Minority students weren’t exactly welcome in medical schools, back when, and I had at least three strikes against me, so I got one medical degree in order to break the glass ceiling for the other.  When my heart is set on something, I don’t easily give up, and it was set on this since I was about five.  The back door bias and political targeting continue, with extreme fundamentalist Christianity (i.e., Dominionism) dealing the most severe blow, and yet, I survive.  It has taken my career and health, though, leaving me disabled, homeless, and destittue.  No kidding.

A hat tip to Mr. Christopher Hitchens, regarding his most recent article on Nietsche’s famous quote:  “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”  For years, now, everytime someone has tried to console me with it, adding instead aggrevation to my frustration, I’ve responded that if I could just get my hands around Nietsche’s throat, I’d show him just how strong it’s made me.

Questions are welcome.  Good ones, anyway.  I may not be as good at dishing out advice as Dan Savage, nor as eloquent as Christopher Hitchens, but I will do my best.