Friday, September 14, 2012

Please Vote for Manatees!

Please Vote for Manatees!

Save the Manatee Club is a non-profit located in Central Florida.  The organization was founded 31 years ago for the purpose of saving manatees from extinction.  Please click on the link above to vote for Save the Manatee Club and help us win a grant in the Chase Giving Campaign.  The grants range from $10,000 to $250,000.  The more votes we get, the higher the grant awarded.  We need your vote.  It only takes a few minutes of your time and will make a big difference for manatees. 

Manatees are marine mammals found in Florida's waterways, in Central and South American waterways and off the coast of West Africa.  They even have a "relative", the dugong, in Australia's waters.  Manatees are vegetarians, eating seagrasses and other aquatic plants.  They have no natural predators.  Most of their injuries and deaths are human related, like strikes from speeding boats and other watercraft, entanglement in crab traps and discarded monofilament fishing lines.  Save the Manatee Club needs YOUR help to protect these wonderful animals. 

Please share this with your friends, family on Facebook, other social networks and with others you know.

Voting ends on September 19th - so time is short.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mitt Romney's World Vision

On the evening of September 11, 2012 protests occurred at the American embassies in both Egypt and Libya.  By the end of the evening four Americans had been killed at the embassy in Libya, one of whom was J. Christopher Stevens, America’s ambassador to Libya.  This tragedy, along with fears that further protests and/or attacks would breakout at other American embassies around the world.  Both Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, and our president, Barack Obama, spoke to Americans to ease their concerns and did their jobs to protect other foreign service members at many of our embassies.  Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, stepped up to the microphone to offer his point of view on these tragic events.  The main story soon became about Mr. Romney and not about the four Americans who had lost their lives and our other foreign service members who could, potentially, be in danger as well.

Romney leaving press event September 12, 2012

Below is the link to the full transcript of Mr. Romney’s presentation to the media yesterday, which occurred approximately 30 minutes before our president, the Commander in Chief, President Barack Obama addressed our nation.  I have posted the full transcript of Mr. Romney’s speech below, with my comments and interpretations of what he had to say.  My comments are italicized.  I believe that Mr. Romney’s action in this instance was presumptuous, at the very least, and, at its worst, an undermining of  the very core of our nation and disrespectful of those Americans who lost their lives.  His was a divisive speech, which is something that Mr. Romney continuously accuses President Obama of doing.  

Transcript of Romney's press event 

ROMNEY: Good morning. Americans woke up this morning with - with tragic news and felt heavy hearts as they considered that individuals who have served in our diplomatic corps were brutally murdered across the world.

This attack on American individuals and embassies is outrageous, it's disgusting, it - it breaks the hearts of all of us who think of these people who have served during their lives the cause of freedom and justice and honor.

We - we mourn their loss and join together in prayer that the spirit of the Almighty might comfort the families of those who have been so brutally slain.

Four diplomats lost their life, including the U.S. ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, in the attack on our embassy at Benghazi, Libya. And of course with these words I extend my condolences to the grieving loved ones who have left behind, as a result of these who have lost their lives in the service of our nation.

And I know that the people across America are grateful for their service. And we mourn their sacrifice.

Me:  This was a prepared speech, put together by Mr. Romney’s team of speech writers.  The grammar is horrendous.  That would be understandable he had been speaking extemporaneously, but it wasn’t.  For a speech of this importance this illustrates a lack of an attention to detail and lack of concern for the gravity of this tragedy. Mr. Romney was speaking to people around the world, not just the press corps assembled in Jacksonville, Florida.

ROMNEY: America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We'll defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion.

Me:  I cannot see this opening as anything but a threat followed by a completely ridiculous statement.  Tolerate is defined as to allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction.  The implication here is that our president was simply ignoring these attacks and failing to respond in any way.  By saying “We’ll defend it appears that Mr. Romney is threatening military action, something he has no power to do.  It also speaks to his ease in inciting further attacks around the world.  It brings to mind our former president, George W. Bush’s “bring it on” statement when sending our military off to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.  A nation’s leader should not consider sending that nation’s men and women into harm’s way capriciously.  Personally, I am not looking for a leader with an itchy trigger finger.  

For the rest of the sentence “defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion”, that simply makes no sense to me.  Yes, our Constitution guarantees those rights to Americans IN AMERICA!  The attacks Mr. Romney was talking about occurred on foreign soil and the only right under attack was a right to live.  Apparently neither Mr. Romney nor his speech writing staff is aware that once Americans leave America, our Constitution is no longer in effect in a foreign country.  

ROMNEY: We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution, because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.

Me:  And, here we go again.  What does this even have to do with the tragic events that occurred in Libya?  Is he saying that ALL other countries should enact the American Constitution as the law of their land?  Unless all countries of the world adopt our Constitution and its principles, how can those principles be “the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world”?  Is Mr. Romney’s ultimate goal to take over the world and rule over The United Nations of the American World?  All hail the conquering hero?  Or maybe someone with outsized delusions of worldwide power?  

ROMNEY: I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It's never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.

Me:  At the time the American embassy in Egypt released the statement to which Mr. Romney is referring there had been no attacks.  The embassy press person was trying to prevent attacks.  Keep in mind that the lives of the people in the embassy were the lives which were on the line.  They were attempting to deescalate the situation.  

ROMNEY: The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn't cleared by Washington. That reflects the mixed signals they're sending to the world.

Me:  The White House did not issue or approve the statement.  Personally, when faced with an angry mob of protesters, I would take action too – doing my best to calm down the situation.  If Mr. Romney had been in that embassy, I wonder just what his reaction would have been?  He isn’t notoriously fast on his feet.  I doubt his message would have been coherent.  It’s evident that even given time and the assistance of professional speech writers, coherence isn’t his strong suit, based upon this speech I’m commenting on.

ROMNEY: The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed. In the face of this violence, American cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead. American leadership is necessary to ensure that events in the region don't spin out of control. We cannot hesitate to use our influence in the region to support those who share our values and our interests.

Me:  Yes, the world is a dangerous place, not only in Egypt and Libya, but right here at home.  Women and children are raped and/or murdered daily.  Men with guns walk into movie theaters and churches and kill people.  Leadership does not prevent a person or people from going out of control.  Mr. Romney’s assessment is simply naïve.  Secondly, it’s apparent that Mr. Romney sees that it is America’s responsibility to LEAD THE WORLD.  Call me crazy, but I think that the leaders of each nation in the world see it as their own responsibility to lead their country.  Individual national sovereignty – is that a foreign concept to you, Mr. Romney.

ROMNEY: Over the last several years, we've stood witness to an Arab spring that presents an opportunity for a more peaceful and prosperous, but also poses the potential for peril if the forces of extremism and violence are allowed to control the course of events. We must strive to ensure that the Arab spring does not become an Arab winter. With that, I'm happy to take any questions you may have.

Me:  And so it ends.  All hail the Patriarch.  Yes, WE have stood witness to an Arab Spring.  The salient words here – STOOD WITNESS.  We watched while tens of thousands of people put their lives on the line, millions fled their countries for safety or faced off against well-armed military forces to fight for a country in which they could have a voice, a choice of how they would be governed.  Government, after all, is people and exists for its people.  Does any stable government in the world want countries ruled by extremists?  I don’t think so.  Does ANY country have the RIGHT to control how the people of another country CHOOSE their leaders or that nation’s destiny?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Colonialism has never worked.  It has caused more problems, far reaching problems with which we are now dealing (the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and African nations just to name a few).  America does not have the right to set up nor overthrow leaders of sovereign nations.  Should Mr. Romney become America’s next president I fear, not only for Americans, but for the people of the world.  America, if anything, should LEAD BY EXAMPLE, NOT BY FORCE!  T.H. White and King Arthur were correct – MIGHT DOES NOT MAKE RIGHT.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Real Meaning of Labor Day

No, it's not about picnics or barbecue.  It is about people who actually LABOR to make a living - people who work and make products or sell products.  It's not about people who invest their Wall Street "winnings" to reap more winnings and then pay a pittance on their capital gains.  Those of us who actually work for a paycheck are the only ones who pay our full taxes, don't have offshore accounts or holdings in non-existent companies or blind trusts.

I am going to refer you to two links that are worth reading.  They are tributes to the PEOPLE of America who know what it is to WORK for a living.  The people who have worked to improve working conditions, wages and benefits for every worker, whether or not those workers are unionized.

Workers' Rights are Human Rights

Skydancing - Labor Day: Celebrate the 99%

Trust me, both links are worth your time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Medicare – Just my Opinion

I am old enough to remember the time before Medicare.  Although my paternal grandmother lived with her daughter’s family (my dad’s half-sister) in Ohio, my father bought a catastrophic insurance policy for her.  You see back then pretty much most people could afford to go to a general practitioner.  Office visits, which included blood work or other tests when necessary, cost about $20 or $25.  Insurance provided by employers only covered catastrophic (hospitalization) costs.  I don’t remember a lot of specialists in my childhood.  There was the family doctor, the surgeon and the dentist……and the veterinarian.  There was no Medicare.

When my mother retired she was on Medicare and the insurance plan from her employer continued, with a monthly premium of $77.36.  The premium amount never changed during the nearly 20 years of her retirement.  There were no insurance industry supplemental plans at that time.  The employer insurance paid 80% of the amount not paid by Medicare.  After retirement my mother was hospitalized three times.  Our share of the remaining costs was minimal.  Of course, even hospital costs were much, much lower in the 1980s and 1990s than they are now.  My 23 days in the hospital at the end of 2010 was nearly $250,000.00.  I paid nothing because my deductible of $1000 had been paid when I had a hospital stay earlier that same year. 

My employer pays 80% of my medical insurance premium each month.  In the nearly 20 years I’ve worked at this job my monthly insurance premiums have gone up about 600%.  That’s due to increasing cost of insurance premiums and my increased age.  When I turned 60 my premium doubled (100% increase) from the previous year.  I am 62 now and will be going on Medicare in just a few years.  

My next door neighbor, Anne, will be 91 later this month.  She has Humana for her medical insurance.  She is relatively healthy, having been in the hospital twice for pneumonia in the 30 some years we’ve been neighbors.  Her medications are daily blood pressure meds.  She recently had to have radiation treatments for skin cancer.  All in all, she is miraculously healthy.  I, on the other hand, take two handfuls of meds each day, for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.  

My neighbor signed up for Humana when a nice young man came to her door and sold her the plan.  Frankly, she wasn’t capable of understanding just what she needed or what she was getting.  Once she changed to this supplemental plan she had to change her regular doctor.  He didn’t accept Humana.  Her salesman didn’t ask her what doctor(s) she used and, obviously, didn’t check to see if Dr. Moore was a participating physician in the plan.  If he had, then he would have probably lost a sale.  

I drove Anne to her first appointment with her new doctor.  Although we had an appointment, we sat in the waiting room for about 2 hours before we were able to see the doctor.  Now she has a patient woman from her church who takes her to her doctor appointments.  That is because Anne doesn’t drive any longer.  Either due to some mini-strokes or the onset of dementia, she would get lost or forget where she was going when she got in her car to go to church or the grocery store.  Another neighbor feeds her cats for her every day because Anne can’t remember to feed them or whether or not she has already fed them.  She’s been known to feed them cereal, bread and bird seed instead of cat food.  I take her to the grocery store and the pet store every week or two, as needed.  Her only relative is her nephew who lives in Colorado and has only visited her twice in all the time I’ve lived here.  

Due to my personal experience, I have a problem with Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system.  As it is, it’s already confusing and difficult for seniors to evaluate and choose a supplemental insurance plan.  As long as the insurance companies have few, if any, restrictions on how much they can increase premiums year after year after year, either the vouchers will cover a smaller and smaller percentage each year or the steadily increasing amount for the vouchers will cost the government more and more each year.  The vast majority of seniors are already struggling to survive on their meager Social Security benefits so an extra monthly expense for health insurance will add an additional financial burden.  If they can afford insurance, with vouchers they will have to shop around for the most affordable plan, as opposed to the most effective one that provides the type of coverage their health conditions require.  This will be at a time of their life when many will be less able to navigate the confusing world of insurance coverage.  Not all of them will have children, family or a spouse with whom to consult before making a decision.  It is tough enough during the years we are in the work force to compare and contrast the insurance plans available to us.  As we age, most of us face physical and mental impairments that affect our ability to make difficult choices.  Many of us have reached a point when we simply want fewer choices and fewer decisions to make.  We have become more set in our ways and prefer the routines we have established.  We don’t have the resources to consult that we once had.  Simply knowing that once you retire you will receive your Social Security check on the 3rd of the month and that you have Medicare provides, at least, some sense of security.  

The final point, for me, is that insurance companies exist to make a profit for their shareholders.  Insuring elderly people, who are more likely to have increased health problems, is less likely to return a profit than insuring younger, healthier people.  I fear choices will be limited, coverage will be minimal and premiums will increase each year, with even greater increases when you live into another decade.  The younger you die, the better chance of a profit for the insurance company.  Will they really want us to live to be 80, 90 or 100?  I doubt it.  Basically, privatizing Medicare is a losing proposition.  If there is little or no profit in providing insurance to the elderly, why even enter the market in the first place.  The providers who exist today are in it because they have a guaranteed payment………….from government administered Medicare.  Once that’s gone, will most of those insurance companies disappear from the elder care marketplace as well?  I’m betting the answer to that is a resounding YES.