Strong suggestion for Democrats

I have a strong suggestion for Democrats who are not happy with the Roe v Wade verdict, watered down gun governance and restrictions on civil rights and are fearful of climate change inaction, environmental degradation and health care attacks, they need to vote. Know the rules that have been altered to keep you from voting and get out and vote. You could throw a few million people marches to get their attention as well.

There is a canary in the coal mine that is saying more voters are switching to the GOP (I read 1+ million), including the suburban educated women voters. To me, this tells me that people are listening to messaging coming out of more conservative channels that rakes Dems over the coals. I am not saying that messaging is correct, but people are listening to it.

Dems better crystalize key talking points that will appeal to all Americans and hammer them home. If they appeal to only progressive Dems, they will need to look up what happened to George McGovern in 1972. Watergate was in part related to Nixon wanting to run against McGovern and not Edmund Muskie. He knew he could beat McGovern but knew Muskie would be a tougher challenge. He ran against McGovern and won 49 states to 1.

Note, I am not saying progressive ideas are not good, but they need to be ideas that are saleable to all Americans and not offensive because of poor word choice. For example, “Defund the police” may have not meant exactly what it said, but the term was a gift to Republicans. My old party is bereft of good ideas in my view which is one reason conservative pundit Michael Gerson says the GOP is in “decay.” But, the GOP spin doctors do a better job, aided and abetted by Fox News, QAnon, and Infowars, et al, to focus on over-exaggerated issues where a label can be slapped on it and a bumper sticker created.

And, Dems please note, they are winning at this and expect to take the House and Senate majority. I have said before we need a viable Republican party, but this is not it. The best way to rid the country of this extreme party is not to vote for them.

Standing on one leg is a sign of good health

Whether it is the Yoga tree pose, a one leg lift pose or something similar, standing on one leg has been shown to improve one’s health. In an article from last fall, called “Standing on one leg is a sign of good health – and practising is good for you too” by Dawn Skelton of Glasgow Caledonia University, a few data based observations are noted. Here a few paragraphs:

“Research shows that people’s ability to stand on one leg is an indicator of health and that getting better at standing on one leg can add to fitness and potentially lifespan.

Being able to stand on one leg is linked to increased levels of physical activity and decreased risk of falls and is associated with both quality and length of life. Around 37.3 million falls per year worldwide are severe enough to require medical attention.

The inability to balance on one leg for 20 seconds or longer is linked in otherwise healthy people to an increased risk of small blood vessel damage in the brain and reduced ability to understand ideas. You are less likely to be able to stand on one leg without a wobble if you have a multitude of medical conditions such as Parkinson’s diseasestroke or Alzheimer’s disease). 

Pregnancy, menopause, the diagnosis of diseaseand retirement can also alter our strength and balance and ability to stay upright, mostly because of the way these affect our ability and motivation to engage in regular physical activity.

Sitting or reclining while awake is associated with lower muscle strength, risk of falls and physical function, sometimes irrespective of the amount of moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity you do. People who sit for prolonged periods are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, higher waist circumference and obesity.”

I have noted before a gerontologist said there are two key points in the life of older people that hasten their demise. One is the inability to drive, while the other is the inability to walk. If we can continue to walk on our own, the better off our health will be. The ability to maintain your weight on one leg will help in this regard. I would also argue the ability to push yourself off the floor will help when you do fall.

Standing on one leg for twenty seconds won’t occur immediately as there are balancing issues. So, start with a few seconds and stand near a wall or imbedded bookshelf where you can rebalance if you teeter a little. Even though I can stand for a count of thirty with various arm stretches in a tree pose per each leg, I still stand next to a set of shelves if I start to teeter. But, I built up to that number of counts.

So, best wishes on the one leg standing exercises. If you want to see options just google “one leg standing exercise” and see what pops up. There are a number of sites to choose from. One bit of caution on the Yoga tree pose, make sure you don’t place your foot to the side of your other knee as it will cause some undue pressure on the knee. Either go above or below the knee or cross the leg over the other.

Quiet resolve equals strength

The following poem is called “Strength in silence and sweetness: ROAR” by our blogging friend Cindy Georgakas. A link to her post is below. Following her poem, is an amended comment I made regarding my thoughts on its veracity.

“There is strength in silence, behind my sweetness;

Hear me Roar!

If you cross me, don’t be fooled
by my demure ensemble.

Cover your ears and run for the hills because I’ve hired my entourage to find you.

If you thought you could pull a fast one, think again.

Hear me Roar!

Life was made for making things right and putting an end to the injustices rendered.

Whipping cream is sweet it’s true, but if you’ve run amuck,
pucker up and deal with what life hands you, served on a silver platter.

Hear me Roar!

We gather in the name of God, where sweetness cuts to the chase.

That’s right…NEVER underestimate the silence and power of a woman,
wrapped in whipping cream clouds that smile.

We are woman;

Hear us roar!”

Copyright © 2022 Cindy Georgakas

Allow me to just focus on Cindy’s opening sentence – “There is strength in silence, behind my sweetness;” I have often quoted an old line “do not mistake kindness as weakness.” False bravado means fake bravery. Beating on one’s chest is usually reserved to someone who does not want to fight. The one to worry about most has always been the quiet, pensive one. Think Ukraine President Zelenskyy standing up to an untruthful bully in Putin.

To the point of Cindy’s poem, I am reminded of a true story from one of the most difficult books I have ever read, “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. It is about the maltreatment of women around the globe and the title is based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky.

The example is a tribe was left to defend itself with the women and children left in the village. They were housing some injured male warriors. When the enemy came to find them, the women who commanded a lot of respect told the enemy to go on about their business and let them be. And, the enemy did. They were so steadfast in their resolve it intimidated the enemy men.

We should never forget a huge example during the 2016 GOP presidential primary. When Meghan Kelly of Fox asked the future president some tough questions in one debate, he refused to do future debates if Ms. Kelly was one of the interviewers. He was scared of her. What we learned later, he was fed questions by someone at Fox and Ms. Kelly happened to ask him questions about his maltreatment of women that were not fed to him in advance and he did not like it one bit. And, this would not be the first or last time the former president quivered when faced with a female reporter armed with good questions.*

Finally, it should be noted the election in Australia last week where conservatives were swept out was said to be due to a large voting bloc of women who were concerned about climate change action, child care funding, Medicare strengthening and integrity, rather than contrived and overstated issues to cause fear. Women can make a difference and I hope they do. If we do not think this is so, remember what happened in the United States in 2018, when the Women’s March fueled many women winning elections and a changeover in the majority in the House.

*Per Robert Mackey of The Intercept om May 12, 2020: “WHEN AN ACTUAL press conference threatened to break out in the Rose Garden on Monday, as two White House correspondents refused to let Donald Trump silence them, and a third declined his request to change the subject by asking a new question, the president abruptly turned and walked away.” Note the first two reporters were female.

Two questions on gun deaths – a letter to the editor

The following is a letter I wrote to the editor of my local newspaper. It is necessarily brief but poses two questions that I want to ask certain politicians. Please feel free to adapt and use, if you like it.

Members of a political party are saying our gun death issues are not a gun problem, but a mental health one. Two questions. 1) If that is the only reason, then why does the US have more gun deaths than the next twenty-two first world nations combined? I presume these 22 countries have people with mental health issues as well.

2) If this is only a mental health issue, then why are members of this party against expanding Medicaid which provides mental health benefits? The number one cause of gun deaths in the US is suicides. Access to a weapon plays a role and saying it does not is naive and political. All it takes is one impulsive act and it is over.

As a result, any solution has to be multi-faceted to work including better gun governance and access to mental health services as only two of the components.

Letter to the editor – Australian election should be a wake up call for the US conservatives

I sent the following letter to the editor of my newspaper. It may not get printed, but I wanted others to see it and adapt and use it if they like it.

Seeing Australian voters sweep out conservatives after nine years and three prime ministers is telling. A large bloc of women voters grew tired of relative inaction on climate change, lack of assuring soundness of their Medicare and child care, and overall lack of integrity in its elected leaders.

Here in the states, my former Republican party is turning a blind eye to more action on climate change, better gun governance, growing fascism and shoring up the ACA and are attacking voting rights and civil rights. At the same time, overstated and even contrived issues are getting the air time to garner votes from their base.

As conservative pundit Michael Gerson says the “Republican Party is in decay.” I agree. We need a viable Conservative party, but what we have is not on the right path. The truth matters. And, a party that vilifies its truth tellers while glorifying its liars does not have the needed veritas to be considered seriously. I can disagree with the Democrats on policy, but with Republicans I find myself having to argue what is true. That is telling to this independent and former Republican and Democrat voter.

US is the only developed nation where rate of pregnant mother deaths is rising (a reprise from 2015)

The rise in maternal mortality in the United States has been hitting the headlines, especially as it relates to Louisiana leading the way. Senator Bill Cassidy is getting flak, rightfully so, for trying to minimize the problem focusing on taking the African-American mothers out of the equation. Their deaths are an important part of this, but they are only a part, but deserve due diligence as to why just like every other race, income group, ethnic group, etc. We should look to things like – lack of healthcare access, fewer rural hospitals, food deserts and poverty as several of the causes. Yet, this is not a new problem, as I wrote this post seven years ago.

Recently, a very powerful article was written by Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post entitled “Why pregnant women in Mississippi keep dying.” A link to the article follows: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/24/why-pregnant-women-in-mississippi-keep-dying/. While the article focuses its title on Mississippi, that is a metaphor for a national problem. The US is now the only developed nation where the rate of pregnant mother deaths is increasing. In 1987 only 7.2 pregnant women were dying per 100,000 births. That rate has more than doubled in 2013 to 18.5 deaths per 100,000 births. Our maternal death rate in childbirth is 3x the rate in Saudi Arabia and 2x the rate in the UK.

In Mississippi, it is far worse with 54.7 black mothers dying in childbirth out of 100,000 births and 29.3 white mothers dying per 100,000. There a number of reasons cited, but one of the key reasons is that Mississippi has not expanded Medicaid and have over 107,000 people who do not have access to healthcare coverage. Note, other reasons are cited, but not having health care coverage limits access to preventive visits that expectant mothers with care get.

As many know, I have been a broken record for the need to continue and improve the Affordable Care Act, which is working pretty well by a number of studies and has dampened cost increases with the Congressional Budget Office lowering health care projections three times due in part to the ACA. In fact, just yesterday at Congress’ request, the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation noted that repealing the ACA would increase the deficit by $353 Billion (or $137 Billion when a new dynamic scoring approach is used). This seems to run counter to rhetoric of how harmful the law is. Here is a link to the article: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/obamacare-repeal-would-boost-10-year-deficit-by-dollar353b-cbo/ar-AAbQa2S?ocid=DELLDHP

But, we need to finish the job and completely implement the ACA in about twenty states, such as North Carolina, that have not expanded Medicaid to cover a key tranche of people under the ACA. It is not surprising, these predominantly southern states are seeing the worst child and mother health results. Several reputable health-related foundations (The Commonwealth Fund, Kaiser Family Foundation) and economic think tanks (RAND and Economic Policy Institute) have noted that not expanding Medicaid is actually harmful to people and this is more evidence of that assertion.

Please read these articles and, if you concur these are problems worth doing something about, reach out to your state legislators and US representatives and senators. Ask them to support the continuation of the ACA as the majority of Americans wish to happen. Ask the states who have not expanded Medicaid to do so as they are hurting people, rural hospitals and their own economies in not so doing. These issues are that important as people are the pawns in these political chess games and they bear the brunt of these decisions with their health and lives.

Australia ousts conservatives after nine years, Albanese to be prime minister

In a Los Angeles Times article called “Australia swears in new center-left prime minister in major political shakeup” by Rod McGuirk, Australia has ousted the conservative party after nine years and three prime ministers. Here are a few excerpts:

“Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with President Biden while vote-counting continued to determine whether he will command a majority in a Parliament that is demanding tougher action on climate change.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s center-left Labor Party ousted predecessor Scott Morrison ’s conservative coalition in Saturday’s election. The coalition had been in power under three different prime ministers for nine years.

‘I want to lead a government that has the same sentiment of optimism and hope that I think defines the Australian people,’ Albanese said in his hometown of Sydney before flying to the capital, Canberra, to be sworn in.

Albanese, who describes himself as the first candidate for the office of prime minister with a ‘non-Anglo Celtic name,’ and Malaysian-born Penny Wong, Australia’s first foreign minister to be born overseas, were sworn into office by Governor-General David Hurley before the pair flew to Tokyo for Tuesday’s security summit with Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

‘We will return on Wednesday and set about implementing our agenda, our agenda that received the endorsement of the Australian people,’ Albanese said, highlighting items such as climate change, affordable child care and strengthening Medicare.

From another article, Albanese was elected due to a large bloc of women voting on two major issues – dealing with climate change and restoring integrity to leadership. For Americans, especially conservative voters, note the focus on the issues per Albanese – “climate change, affordable child care and strengthening Medicare.” There is nothing about critical race theory, replacement theory or banning books. It is about issues of concern to parents and their children.

Australia has an abundance of wildfires that have increased because of climate change. And, climate change and the fossil fuel industry have severely impacted the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, which is not only a place where sea life is nurtured and carbon sucking plant life is grown, it is a tourist attraction. So, climate change has already had a major economic impact on the country.

I applaud this election. One thing about Australia is their people are obligated to vote. In the US, we need to emulate what Australia does rather than restricting the right to vote as being done in places like Florida and Texas using the former president’s Big Lie as a reason to tighten the screws. Congratulations to Mr. Albanese.

Note: Our Australian friend Amanda has written an excellent post this morning on the election offering more context. Please take a few minutes to read her post under her blog “Something to Ponder About.”

Wednesday wanderings in mid-May

We should have another warm day here, so walking may make us “glisten,” a word my wife uses for perspiration. So, as we glisten on our walk about, let me share a few of my wandering thoughts.

The votes from yesterday’s mid-term primaries are being tallied, so I will save commentary for another day, with two exceptions. With almost 100% of the votes counted, it looks like Rep. Madison Cawthorn will be unseated in his first election as an incumbent. His failure to: realize on three occasions a driver needs a driver license, understand he cannot carry a weapon onto a plane on two occasions, appreciate claiming your Republican colleagues are having orgies and coke parties is not the way to make friends, and recognize that not doing much of anything other than abet the former president’s Big Lie and insurrection of Congress is not conducive to good governance. It should be noted Cawthorn lost in the middle of a heavy Republican district, which speaks volumes.

The other exception is Rep. Ted Budd, a non-apologetic Trump sycophant, won the Republican primary to fill the US Senate seat of retiring Richard Burr. That is unfortunate, as we may end up with another strident Senate member who is replacing a more moderate Republican in Burr. He will be running against a very good Democrat candidate in Judge Cheri Beasley’s whose commercials and record are exemplar. I am sure she will be attacked, but she is a far more credible candidate than Budd. I just hope the voters in North Carolina listen to her and what she is saying. And, that there are no termites in the woodwork like with the candidate who was about to beat the junior Senator in 2020 before he did something stupid.

I am certain there will be a mixed bag of results in the Republican primaries due to the support of the former president. When I see or hear the endorser on a TV ad, it truly makes me ill. A person who has divided our country further with his Big Lie because he is not man enough to accept defeat and who instigated an insurrection on a branch of government to stay in power is not someone whose opinion lends itself to credibility. But, with too few Republicans actually pushing back on the bullying and untruthful acting former president, coupled with troubling policies on climate change, gun governance, civil rights, health care access and making rich people richer, it makes it easier to not vote for any Republicans in the general election. The climate change and environmental issues alone are a reason to avoid putting more Republicans in place.

I know I will offend Republicans and conservatives, who will offer “what about” comments. As an Independent and former Republican of twenty plus years and Democrat of five plus years, I disagree on policies with both parties. Yet, I find myself arguing policy issues with Democrats and the truth with Republicans. With too many Republicans listening to sources who parrot disinformation and conspiracy stories makes it difficult to counter arguments that will be heard. And, Republicans are much better than Democrats at PR on focusing attention on issues that are not really as big a deal as portrayed. It is akin to creating an issue that can be carried around like a handbag and hit someone over the head with it.

People laugh when I say this, but in 2010-12 elections, the GOP candidates all spoke of the “failed stimulus” plan, with a mandate that both words be used together. Even Democrats believed it. The problem is the stimulus did not fail and was measured as accretive to GDP growth by six econometric firms. And, it should be noted both a Republican and Democrat president were involved in separate stimulus plans. Yet, the PR campaign was successful.

All I ask is to look at people’s stances on real issues, not contrived ones. What do you plan to do about climate change? What do you plan to do about gun governance? What do you plan to do about the growing white supremacy movement? What will you do to assure health care is available to people? What will you do to preserve the rights of women as the exist today? What do you plan to do about our US debt and deficit? What do you plan to do about inflation, other than just complain about it? And, so on.

Wednesday wanderings in early May

What a great day for a walk about. So, as I walk today my mind will wander on various and sundry topics. In no particular order.

A draft Supreme Court ruling has been leaked which appears Roe v Wade may get overturned. The fact it was leaked may be due to the justices wanting to gauge reaction, which politicians do often. If the justices did this it would be highly disappointing as they need to be above politics. Or, it may be a leak by someone who is troubled by the ruling.

If this draft turns out to be the eventual ruling, some Republicans who voted for the recent judges are feeling betrayed – notably two females in Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Yet, my first reaction was the Republicans who went along with this to garner the vote of evangelicals are now like the dog who caught the bus. My guess is women may rise up and squash them. While I personally would not advocate an abortion, I also support the right for a woman to determine what happens to her body and the limitations that exist provide sufficient governance.

What also frustrates me is measures that reduce abortions are also frowned on by the evangelical crowd. Holistic sex education (which includes abstinence and self-esteem discussions) with birth control approaches and tools being taught and made available, are proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies, reduce poverty and save healthcare costs. What also frustrates me is some people who are so against abortions also are in not in favor of helping people in time of need, not in favor of better gun laws and not in favor of doing something about climate change, water shortages or environmental degradation.

I realize this draft is not official, but I am curious how the justices may react to a groundswell of women who do not like this.

Are US hospitals in trouble?

Many hospitals, especially more rural ones, have been in trouble for some time. More on the rural hospitals later.

“More than 33% of all hospitals are operating on negative margins, according to the American Hospital Association,” per Michael Popke of Benefits Pro in a piece called “America’s hospitals facing ‘massive growth in expenses’.” Here are two select paragraphs from the piece that tell the gist of the story.

“Hospital employment is down approximately 100,000 from pre-pandemic levels, while hospital labor expenses per patient through 2021 were more than 19% higher than pre-pandemic levels. A new report from the American Hospital Association highlights the financial and operational toll the pandemic and inflation has taken on hospitals — concluding that more than one-third are operating on negative margins.

‘Hospitals and health systems have been nimble in responding to surges in COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic by expanding treatment capacity, hiring staff to meet demand, acquiring and maintaining adequate supplies and personal protective equipment to protect patients and staff, and ensuring that critical services and programs remain available to the patients and communities they serve,’ notes the nine-page report released this month. ‘However, these and other factors have led to billions of dollars in losses over the last two years for hospitals.’”

Per an article called “The South’s health care system is crumbling under Covid-19. Enter Tennessee” by Daniel Payne of Politico, the demise of heath care in more rural areas has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

“Rural hospital closures have been accelerating, with 181 since 2005 — and over half of those happening since 2015, according to data from the University of North Carolina. But that may be just the beginning. Over 450 rural hospitals are at risk of closure, according to an analysis by the Chartis Group, one of the nation’s largest independent health care advisory firms.”

The rural hospital concerns predate the advent of the Affordable Care Act. Too many hospitals had high percentages of indigent health care costs, meaning people without insurance. If they were not funded by a county, the hospital was at severe risk of closing. Since fourteen states have still not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, the opportunity for getting paid did not increase and many have closed. And, the patients, employees and communities suffer.

Yet, a major part of this cost dilemma existed before COVID-19. The US has the most expensive health care system in the world, but we rank around 38th in health care quality. That is a pretty poor rate of return on one’s spend. Hospitals spent too much on technologies that need to be used. There exists a correlation between the ownership of a technology and its higher frequency of use. Yet, with COVID-19 and its aftermath, fewer elective procedures and tests were done in hospitals.

These issues need to be evaluated outside of the political lens and with data. Yet, that is not bound to happen. It would at least be helpful to see more people covered with full Medicaid expansion, but that has been politicized for zero-sum game reasons, not to actually help people. It would be helpful to see Medicare expanded, at least down to age 62 from 65. As Medicare works reasonably well, I would like to see it go lower, but whatever we do, it should be evaluated on its results, not a politician’s beliefs.

If people think I am unfairly picking on politicians, it would not be a stretch to say most politicians do not know a whole lot about health care. We saw this with the atrocious “throw stuff against the wall” repeal and replace discussion in 2017 by the thirteen Republicans, which came within one vote from passing the Senate. That would have screwed about 20 million Americans. Senator John McCain gave it a thumbs down vote for its lack of veracity and its poor protocols on evaluation.

And, we saw it with the discussions and passing of the ACA, which Republicans refused to vote for which is strange since it has several Republican ideas in it from Romneycare in Massachusetts, when Mitt Romney was governor there. The ACA is not perfect, but at least we should fully implement it and shore up its deficiencies. It is only people’s lives.