Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bragging Time

 If you have been following my blog you will remember a picture of my daughter, Lynne, taken on her recent visit to me.  Click on the link to see the You Tube picture of her great-grandson shooting baskets.  He is already quite the little athlete and I am sure he will make the Varsity.

I had a lot of trouble posting the link. I do hope it works.   You can go to You Tube and ask for "Donny, the 2 Year Old Basketball Star."

I think a little background will explain where Donny's ability comes from. 

When Lynne was in High School she was a cheerleader and her boyfriend was the star jock.  His name was Bobby Burns and he excelled at every sport he tried.  After graduation Lynne and Bobby married against the advice of both sets of parents.  Bob had an athletic scholarship and we felt the kids should wait until he completed his education.  

Of course, youth have seldom listened to their parents and our advice fell on deaf ears.  In spite of our fears,  Bob did go on to complete his education and he became a teacher and a High School coach.  As this was happening, three little Burns arrived in short order.  In fact, the young couple made me a grandmother one month after my last child was born.  

The three Burns offspring were all athletes and between them had a room full of trophies.  The girl, Pam, was a swimming star and the boys, Dave and Mike were both football and basketball stars.  No matter what sport they played, they were always the top guns.  Dave is the father to Donny's mother.

I am afraid they didn't get their athletic prowess from me because I inherited a built in family when I married Lynne's father.  I am probably the world's worst athlete.  I trip over my own feet.  My talent was along musical lines.

Now my daughter and oldest grandchild are 50 years old. How did that happen?  I remember being mother's together and it couldn't have been more than five or ten years ago.  I am sure any elder will attest to this phenomena.  Nonetheless, I think I am entitled to a few grandmother bragging rights so indulge me.   I am not surprised that Donny is following in his mother's, grandfather's and great grandfather's footsteps.   It really runs in the family.

He is such a cute little guy.  I have never seen him, but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and a moving picture must be worth a million.  I am so proud to be a great-great grandmother to a future Shaquille O'Neil. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Health Care Redux

The battle for quality and affordable health care continues.  I am so weary of fighting the Republicans who are determined to torpedo Obama's  health care reform, but "needs must".  While I am bitterly disappointed in the lack of a Public Option I think the Health Care Reform Act is a good beginning and can be improved on if it isn't destroyed by the radical right.

For any skeptics that still think we have the best health care system in the world I urge you to study the following graphic provided in the link below.  Please note that the figures speak for themselves.  We spend over twice as much per person on health care and get less bang for the buck than the next country.  And yet the ideologues continue to cry 'socialism' and bleat their lies about 'death panels' and a 'government takeover'.    Just another example of the know-nothings ignoring facts while lying about the true state of our broken health care system.   

It is disheartening that our great country is falling behind more progressive nations in so many ways.  We used to be the country to emulate.

If I were younger I would look into moving to the Netherlands where sanity in government is still possible.  Here's the link to charts that show just how terrible our health care system is compared to other industrialized countries.  They beat us hands down in cost per person and in quality of care.

Us versus the rest of the World

If you have absorbed the figures in the chart then read the following op-ed piece by Paul Krugman in the NYT.   

I assume I am not infringing on copy rights by publishing this because it can be shared. 

Patients Are Not Consumers 


Earlier this week, The Times reported on Congressional backlash against the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a key part of efforts to rein in health care costs. This backlash was predictable; it is also profoundly irresponsible, as I’ll explain in a minute. 
But something else struck me as I looked at Republican arguments against the board, which hinge on the notion that what we really need to do, as the House budget proposal put it, is to “make government health care programs more responsive to consumer choice.” 
Here’s my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough. 
What has gone wrong with us? 
About that advisory board: We have to do something about health care costs, which means that we have to find a way to start saying no. In particular, given continuing medical innovation, we can’t maintain a system in which Medicare essentially pays for anything a doctor recommends. And that’s especially true when that blank-check approach is combined with a system that gives doctors and hospitals — who aren’t saints — a strong financial incentive to engage in excessive care.
Hence the advisory board, whose creation was mandated by last year’s health reform. The board, composed of health-care experts, would be given a target rate of growth in Medicare spending. To keep spending at or below this target, the board would submit “fast-track” recommendations for cost control that would go into effect automatically unless overruled by Congress.
Before you start yelling about “rationing” and “death panels,” bear in mind that we’re not talking about limits on what health care you’re allowed to buy with your own (or your insurance company’s) money. We’re talking only about what will be paid for with taxpayers’ money. And the last time I looked at it, the Declaration of Independence didn’t declare that we had the right to life, liberty, and the all-expenses-paid pursuit of happiness.
And the point is that choices must be made; one way or another, government spending on health care must be limited. 
Now, what House Republicans propose is that the government simply push the problem of rising health care costs on to seniors; that is, that we replace Medicare with vouchers that can be applied to private insurance, and that we count on seniors and insurance companies to work it out somehow. This, they claim, would be superior to expert review because it would open health care to the wonders of “consumer choice.” 
What’s wrong with this idea (aside from the grossly inadequate value of the proposed vouchers)? One answer is that it wouldn’t work. “Consumer-based” medicine has been a bust everywhere it has been tried. To take the most directly relevant example, Medicare Advantage, which was originally called Medicare + Choice, was supposed to save money; it ended up costing substantially more than traditional Medicare. America has the most “consumer-driven” health care system in the advanced world. It also has by far the highest costs yet provides a quality of care no better than far cheaper systems in other countries. 
But the fact that Republicans are demanding that we literally stake our health, even our lives, on an already failed approach is only part of what’s wrong here. As I said earlier, there’s something terribly wrong with the whole notion of patients as “consumers” and health care as simply a financial transaction. 
Medical care, after all, is an area in which crucial decisions — life and death decisions — must be made. Yet making such decisions intelligently requires a vast amount of specialized knowledge. Furthermore, those decisions often must be made under conditions in which the patient is incapacitated, under severe stress, or needs action immediately, with no time for discussion, let alone comparison shopping. 

That’s why we have medical ethics. That’s why doctors have traditionally both been viewed as something special and been expected to behave according to higher standards than the average professional. There’s a reason we have TV series about heroic doctors, while we don’t have TV series about heroic middle managers. 
The idea that all this can be reduced to money — that doctors are just “providers” selling services to health care “consumers” — is, well, sickening. And the prevalence of this kind of language is a sign that something has gone very wrong not just with this discussion, but with our society’s values.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Are Liberals Just Suckers?

 I am glad that you are unable to see me right now.  Last week I had a procedure done on my face called Photodynamic Therapy.  For two weeks prior to the procedure I used Retin-A on my face at bedtime.  The therapy, commonly called the Blue Light Treatment, consisted of cleansing the skin followed by an Acetone wash after which a solution called Levulan was put on my face. 

I went into a waiting room for an hour while the solution did its thing and then came the fun part.  I was placed in a chair and sticky patches were placed over my closed eyes.  Then the half oval shaped blue light lamp was placed near my face.  I was given a hose with cold air blasting from the end and told to use it on my face. Let me tell you, it didn't take long for me to start moving that hose back and forth across my face as the burning sensation became serious.  This part lasted 30 minutes.  (Longest 30 minutes of my life. I swear, the technician was a sadist and stopped the clock).  I was then able to go home with instructions to sleep with an elevated head for 48 hours.  So it was back to the recliner for sleep. I was also told to stay inside for 48 hours and to avoid sun for a week.  Not a problem for me.  

The next morning I looked like a tomato.  Yesterday I resembled a strawberry as some of the red faded to pink and the Seborrheic Keratoses became more visible.  Today I look like an embarrassed spotted owl.   The object of this whole exercise in patience is to kill the keratoses cells so I will no longer have to have them frozen off. 

In the past 20 years I have had a dozen skin malignancies removed surgically.  I am suffering the consequences of being fair skinned and  blue eyed and trying to get that envied copper girl tan when I was a teenager.  

So much for the excitement in my life.  On to more serious things.

I found this article and it really hit me.  I have long wondered how some people can believe outright lies and can continue to believe in their ideology in the face of irrefutable facts to the contrary.  The following editorial by Sally Kohn in The Washington Post helped me to understand a puzzle that has bothered me for years.  Liberals and Conservatives are not only hard wired differently, but we play a different game by different rules.

I have edited the original article down for brevity.

Are Liberals Just Suckers?

By Sally Kohn, The Washington Post
16 April 11
he list of liberal laments about President Obama keeps getting longer: Wednesday, in response to conservatives' focus on the deficit, Obama said that we have to "put everything on the table."

What is the problem here? Is it a lack of leadership from the White House, a failure to out-mobilize the tea party or not enough long-term investment from liberal donors?
The real problem isn't a liberal weakness. It's something liberals have proudly seen as a strength - our deep-seated dedication to tolerance. In any given fight, tolerance is benevolent, while intolerance gets in the good punches. Tolerance plays by the rules, while intolerance fights dirty. The result is round after round of knockouts against liberals who think they're high and mighty for being open-minded but who, politically and ideologically, are simply suckers.

Social science research has long dissected the differences between liberals and conservatives. Liberals supposedly have better sex,  (I'm not going to touch this one) but conservatives are happier. Liberals are more creative; conservatives more trustworthy. And, since the 1930s, political psychologists have argued that liberals are more tolerant. Specifically, those who hold liberal political views are more likely to be open-minded, flexible and interested in new ideas and experiences, while those who hold conservative political views are more likely to be closed-minded, conformist and resistant to change. As recently as 2008, New York University political psychologist John Jost and his colleagues confirmed statistically significant personality differences connected to political leanings. Brain-imaging studies have even suggested that conservative brains are hard-wired for fear, while the part of the brain that tolerates uncertainty is bigger in liberal heads.

The Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of Republicans wanted their elected representatives to "stand by their principles," even if it meant causing the federal government to shut down. Among those who identified as tea party supporters, that figure was 68 percent. Conversely, 69 percent of Democrats wanted their representatives to avoid a shutdown, even if it meant compromising on principles. With supporters like that, who needs Rand Paul?

 Thomas Jefferson put it in his first inaugural address, those who might wish to dissolve the newly established union should be left "undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."

if liberals are not willing to defend against the rigid demands of their political opponents, who are emboldened by their own unwavering opinions, their full range of open-minded positions will be destroyed. Liberals are neutered by their own tolerance.

 Those who fight racism and sexism in society do so out of deep moral convictions. They would never say, "Oh, we can co-exist with Fred Phelps and the KKK and find a way to compromise." Creating a society that fully embraces gay people and people of color means creating a society that is intolerant of homophobia and racism.

: When fundamental rights and core values are on the table, just talking about negotiating means you've already lost.

Obama's defeat in 2012. Meanwhile, as they have for years, Republicans have openly shared their desire to shrink government so much that they can, as anti-tax activist Grover Norquist once promised, "drown it in a bathtub.

At times, Obama has used the bully pulpit to stand up to bullies. The president overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal ban on same-sex unions, and led the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. He instituted promising reforms of the financial sector, most notably creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and appointing Elizabeth Warren, known for her criticism of Wall Street abuse, to head it.

Yet for the most part, Obama tried to avoid public fights on these and other key issues. Taken as a whole, it would appear that Obama is intolerant of one thing: conflict.

Tolerant Democrats are not only capitulating to negotiations over how much to starve our economy of public capital but in some cases are bragging about how much they're giving in. During his remarks about the budget deal a week ago, Obama twice trumpeted achieving the biggest annual spending cuts in history. How can a basketball fanatic like Obama think that throwing the ball in the other team's hoop will somehow win the game?

Unfortunately, there are no points for playing nice.

It's as though Democrats think we're at a polite tea party, while Republicans are fighting an ideological war. The GOP's budget plan for 2012 would essentially dismantle Medicaid and Medicare, end social supports for poor families and give tax breaks to business and the wealthy. Realistically, Obama seems to understand that, at least in the short term, liberals have lost control of the conversation and have to play by the rules that the extreme right has made up. That means Democrats have to do something regarding the deficit and spending.

But Obama would win more - and actually win the future - if he would throw down the gauntlet before reaching across the aisle. He did this to an extent in his speech on the deficit on Wednesday, but while the rhetoric included fighting words, the details pointed to extreme concessions. A little more intolerance early on would serve Obama and the Democrats well in the end.

There is a time for tolerance and compromise, but if the GOP is always dictating when that time is, Democrats have already lost. Suckers.

Sally Kohn is a community organizer and political commentator. She is the founder and chief education officer of the Movement Vision Lab, a think tank.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

America's Shadow Budget

 Warning: if you follow the link and read the article your blood pressure will go through the roof.  The inmates are not only running the asylum, they are in the process of destroying it aided and abetted by the Federal Reserve.   This is beyond shocking and outrageous.  It is frightening in it's implications of how the very rich are the rulers now.  I suppose they have always been our shadow masters, but now it is almost a fait acompli.

America's Shadow Budget

For a change of pace, here is a follow-up on my travels with Lynne.  

Click on the picture to enlarge.  The first four were taken at the Visitor Center of Saguaro National Monument West.  The rest were taken as we wended our way through the monument.


Monday, April 11, 2011

The Wild West Of Yore

Play time is over and it's back to my normal boring routine.  It was fun getting out and seeing the tourist sights again.  Today I will take you on a tour of Trail Dust Town and Tombstone.  

Trail Dust Town is a tourist trap with a restaurant, Pinnacle Peak,  made famous by cutting off the neckties of any man innocent enough to wear one inside.   The ceiling is covered by hanging severed neckties.  Mercifully, they left the men's necks intact.  It is also a recreation of a Western town with a train that runs around the town.  Fun for the little kiddies.

Tombstone is the real McCoy.  It is known as "the town too tough to die" and is home to the infamous O.K. Corral where Doc Holliday and Sheriff Wyat Earp took on the McLaury boys and Billy Clanton.

Wikipedia has, in part, the following data on the town.  If you want to read more Google 'Tombstone/Wikipedia'.

Ed Shieffelin was a scout for the U. S. Army headquartered at Camp Huachuca. Ed frequently searched the wilderness looking for valuable ore samples. Soldiers from the camp told him the only stone he would find was his tombstone. In the summer of 1877 Ed was working the hills east of the San Pedro River when he struck a vein of silver ore in a high plateau called Goose Flats. Schieffelin filed his claim under the name "The Tombstone."
At the town's founding in March 1879, it took its name from the original mining claim. Comprised mostly of wooden shacks and tents, it had a population of 100. By 1881 there were fancy restaurants, a bowling ally, four churches, an ice house, a school, an opera house, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor, alongside 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls and numerous brothels all situated among a number of dirty, hardscrabble mines.  It had running water and telegraph and limited telephone service. Miners were paid $4.00 per day working 6, 10-hour shifts per week. By late 1881 it had more than 7,000 citizens, excluding all Chinese, Mexicans, women and children residents. The approximately 6,000 men working in Tombstone generating more than $168,000 a week (approximately $3,946,800 today) in income.  When Cochise County was formed from the eastern portion of Pima County on February 1, 1881, Tombstone became the new county seat. On December 25, 1881 the Bird Cage Theater opened, and in 1882 the New York Times reported that "the Bird Cage Theatre is the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin StreetBarbary Coast." 
Capitalists and businessmen moved in from the eastern U.S. Mining was carried out by immigrants from Europe, chiefly Cornwall, Ireland and Germany.  An extensive service industry including laundry, construction, restaurants, hotels, and so forth was mainly provided by Chinese and other immigrants.

Early conflicts

Fire insurance map of tombstone in 1888
The rural area was populated by Cowboys who were largely Confederate sympathizers from southern states, especially Texas, who viewed the city's business owners and lawmen who were largely from northern states as carpetbaggers. There was also the fundamental conflict over resources and land, of Northern-style capitalism contrasted with the traditional "small-government" agrarianism of the rural Cowboys.  In the early 1880s, illegal smuggling and theft of cattle, alcohol, and tobacco across the U.S./Mexico border about 30 miles (48 km) from Tombstone were common. The Mexican government taxed these items heavily and smugglers earned a handsome profit by sneaking these products across the border. The illegal cross-border smuggling contributed to the lawlessness of the region. Many of these crimes were carried out by Cowboys, a loosely organized band of friends and acquaintances who teamed up for various crimes and came to each other' aid. The San Francisco Examiner wrote in an editorial, "Cowboys [are] the most reckless class of outlaws in that wild country...infinitely worse than the ordinary robber." At that time during the 1880s in Cochise County it was an insult to call a legitimate cattleman a "Cowboy." Legitimate cowmen were referred to as cattle herders or ranchers. The Cowboys were nonetheless welcome in town because of their free-spending habits but shootings were common.
The city's business owners tried to impose order. They passed an ordinance that made it "unlawful for any person to carry deadly weapons, concealed or otherwise" within the city limits. The ordinance required weapons to be deposited at the first saloon, hotel, or livery stable visited, unless the individual was "immediately leaving or entering the city, who, with good faith, and within reasonable time are proceeding to deposit, or take from the place of deposit such deadly weapon."]

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Newspaper coverage of the fight at the O.K. Corral
On the evening of March 15, 1881, three Cowboys attempted to rob a Kinnear & Company stagecoach carrying USD$26,000 in silver bullion (about $589,752 in today's dollars) enroute from Tombstone to Benson, Arizona, the nearest railroad freight terminal.:180 Near Drew's Station, just outside of Contention City, the popular and well-known driver Eli 'Budd' Philpot and a passenger named Peter Roerig riding in the rear dickey seat were both shot and killed. Deputy U.S. Marshal Sheriff Virgil Earp and his temporary deputies and brothers Wyatt Earp and Morgan Earp pursued the Cowboys suspected of the murders. This set off a chain of events that came to be known as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (when a movie of that name was released in 1957).
The gunfight was the result of a personal, family, and political feud. Three months later on the evening of December 28, 1881 Virgil Earp was ambushed and seriously wounded on the streets of Tombstone by hidden assailants shooting from the second story of an unfinished building. Although identified, the suspects were not prosecuted. On March 18, 1882, Morgan Earp was killed by a shot that struck his spine while playing billiards at 10:00 p.m. Once again, the assailants were named but escaped arrest. Wyatt Earp, concluding that legal justice was out of reach, led a posse that pursued and killed four of the men they held responsible on what became known as the Earp Vendetta Ride.


Ed Schieffelin monument
Precise figures of the value of the gold and silver mined in Tombstone are not certain. In 1883, writer Patrick Hamilton estimated that the total value of gold and silver taken from Tombstone during the first four years of activity was $25,000,000 (approximately $587,321,429 today). In 1902, W. P. Blake estimated the total value as $3,000,000 (about $70,478,571 in today's dollars), a dollar amount that has come to be accepted as more accurate.


The 1900 census was a low point. Tombstone was saved from becoming a ghost town partly by its status as the Cochise County seat until 1929, when the county voted to move county offices to nearby Bisbee. The classic Cochise County Courthouse and adjacent gallows yard in Tombstone are preserved as a museum.
Tombstone is home to perhaps the most famous graveyard of the Old West, Boot Hill. Buried at the site are various victims of violence and disease in Tombstone's early years, including the three Cowboys killed by the Earps and Doc Holliday in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury, and Frank McLaury.

Saloon ladies on Allen Street in 2006
The open lot or alleyway where the historic Gunfight at the O.K. Corral started has been preserved, but has been surrounded by a wall. Mannequins are used to depict the location of the participants as recorded by Wyatt Earp. Visitors may pay to see a reenactment of the gunfight at 2:00 p.m. each day.  Fremont Street (modern Arizona Highway 80), where portions of the gunfight took place, is open to the public.
According to Guinness, the world's largest rosebush was planted in Tombstone in 1885 and still flourishes today in the city's sunny climate. This Lady Banksia rose now covers 8,000 sq ft (740 m2) of the roof on an inn, and has a 12 ft (3.7 m) circumference trunk. The rose bush is also walled off, and admission is charged.
Currently, tourism and western memorabilia are the main commercial enterprises; a July 2005 CNN article notes that Tombstone receives approximately 450,000 tourist visitors each year. This is about 300 tourists/year for each permanent resident. In contrast to its heyday, when it featured saloons open 24 hours and numerous houses of prostitution, Tombstone is now a staid community with few businesses open late.
Performance events help preserve the town's wild-west image and expose it to new visitors. Helldorado Days is Tombstone's oldest festival, and celebrates the community's wild days of the 1880s. Started in 1929 (coincidentally the year Wyatt Earp died), the festival is held on the third weekend of every October (loosely corresponding to the date of the O.K. Corral gunfight) and consists of gunfight reenactment shows, street entertainment, fashion shows and a family-oriented carnival. Tombstone's Main Event: A Tragedy At The OK Corral, a stage play by Stephen Keith, is presented inside the O.K. Corral. It depicts the Cowboys' version of events in which the Earps shot the Cowboys as they attempted to surrender.

Historic district

Allen Street

Daily reenactment of the famous fight
The Tombstone Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District. The town's focus on tourism has threatened the town's designation as a National Historic Landmark District, a designation it earned in 1961 as "one of the best preserved specimens of the rugged frontier town of the 1870s and '80s." In 2004, the National Park Service declared that the Tomb's historic designation was threatened, and asked the community to develop an appropriate stewardship program.

Climate data for Tombstone
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 60
Average low °F (°C) 34
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.8
[citation needed]

I have included a slide show of some of the photos I took while we shivered in the cold wind the day we visited.   Click on the photo to see the show.  Once you are directed to the Web Album page you can click on the 'slide show' above the photo and see it in full screen.  I hope you enjoy your digital tour.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Visitor

Well, kiddies. I have an announcement.  Unless I am mistaken you will not be seeing my name in your comment box for the next week.  I know, I know; you haven't been seeing it very often lately
anyhow.  So what else is new?

My oldest daughter, Lynne, will be arriving tomorrow and we are going to go off and play.  I will be a tourist in my own city.  It will be fun having wheels for a while and I intend to take good advantage of the opportunity.

I hope to make good use of my camera and will post some photos of our adventures.  To keep you amused while I am having fun I am adding a couple of things to look at.  

I will be publishing one post this week.  Please watch for it.