Category Archives: Health Care

Hot Air: Freedom & Courage

A couple of thoughts, one each for the concepts of freedom and courage.

First, in this topsy-turvy 2020, the word freedom is bandied about almost exclusively by Right Wingers who want to carry semi-automatic weapons into Subway shops (where they can buy sandwiches made with a substance that at least one country has declared not to be bread) and more of them — Right Wingers, natch — who can’t bear the tyranny of having to wear face masks during a global pandemic.

This is a new paradigm inasmuch as, when I was a pup just coming into awareness of national and world events, the freedom heralders and carolers were almost exclusively on the Left. Republicans weren’t calling for freedom in the 1960s; no, hippies and anti-war protesters and civil rights activists and drug culture aficionados were shouting the word from every rooftop.

Again, in the now, those who agitate for, say, racial equality and marijuana decriminalization rarely, if ever, use the term. It has been snatched and owned by The Other Side.

What Does She Stand For?

The truth is, freedom means everything and anything and, as such, really means nothing. You realize, of course, that every single nation, today and in decades past, has crowed, in so many words, that it is the lone and most vigilant defender of freedom on the globe.

What do you think the architects of the Third Reich told their followers about their nation? That it was a crushing dictatorship? Hell no! Dr. Goebbels and the rest of the Nazi big shots all told their fellow Germans that they were free people, that if push came to shove and war broke out, good Germans would be putting their lives on the line for their own freedom. The government of Putin’s Russia tells its constituents they have freedom. Same with Kim’s North Korea. Everybody’s free in their own country; those who aren’t free, the poor slobs, live elsewhere. That’s a universal on this planet.

American Black people fought overseas in the Philippines, World Wars I & II, and on the Korean peninsula even as, at home, they were yoked under Jim Crow laws, legalized voter suppression, and the rotting, ancient remnants of Reconstruction-era apartheid. Those American Black people told themselves they were fighting for freedom. Perhaps, as I’ve written herein before, they actually believed they were fighting for some vague promise of freedom. No such promise seemed forthcoming for American women — Black or white — in the 1940s, though. They rolled up their sleeves and worked in factories for the cause of freedom (they would have gladly informed you) even though the vast majority of them couldn’t own homes under their own names and were compelled by law to submit to sex with their husbands even if the latter were stinking drunk and/or stinking, period.

So what does freedom mean?

I’ll be damned if I know.


Here’s the case of an Indiana woman who lost her job because she told a couple of newspaper reporters a truth.

Kimberley Jackson was a discharge planner for NeuroBehavioral Hospital in Crown Pointe. The New York Times was doing a piece on “patient dumping,” the practice of nursing homes to eject patients who are no longer “profitable.” These extended care facilities transport patients to hospital emergency rooms when, for instance, they need care above and beyond the absolute minimum a for-profit corporation is willing to provide or their extended care coverage is running low or even if their personal wealth is becoming, shall we say, insufficient.

The nursing facilities come up with any and all excuses to label such patients as as in need of immediate extraordinary care (they’re too often not) so they must send them to the ER. Once there, the patients are now the hospital’s problem. The extended care facility has effectively washed its hands of them.

Just Leave ’em There.

I suppose the practice makes good business sense but, in terms of human decency and health care, it sucks. The patients find themselves in a limbo, banned by the nursing home and not all all in need of emergency care. What would happen to them? Who knows? Worse, who cares?

Kimberley Jackson appears to have cared.

By the way, being a discharge planner does not imply that Jackson was responsible for people’s bowel, bladder, sputum, and bleeding schedules. Jackson’s job was to help patients who either stayed at her hospital or had visited its emergency room find proper care after they left the place. Hospitals these days run on an assembly line system: Get ’em in, fix ’em up, and get ’em the hell outta here as quickly as possible. That, hospital administrators have determined, is good business. As such there must be some professional in each hospital who helps patients and their families figure out how they’re going to be cared for, properly, once they’re shown the door.

So she’s quite familiar with the plight of people who been evicted from nursing homes and dumped on her hospital’s doorstep.

As such, she told NYT reporters Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Rachel Abrams how her particular hospital responded to the practice. I should say, her former hospital. She was fired for blabbing to the reporters.

Jackson says she didn’t know it was her hospital’s policy for unauthorized employees never to speak with the media about goings-on there. I don’t buy it; everybody who works in a hospital has it pounded into them from day one that they are to STFU when reporters come nosing around. That way, nobody’ll divulge any potentially embarrassing details. Hospitals, being for-profit businesses (even when they label themselves non-profits) have, after all, brands to protect. Those, my friends, too often are viewed as equally vital to a hospital’s interests as the public’s health.

More likely, Jackson was so repulsed by the patient dumping practice that she felt compelled to reveal all to the reporters and damn the torpedoes. Either way, Jackson showed real courage is speaking with Silver-Greenberg and Abrams.

Jackson was a whistleblower. For my dough, whistleblowers have 23 times more guts then a whole platoon-full of semi-automatic rifle-wielding militiamen.

He Can Learn A Thing Or Two About Courage.

Hot Air

Life Is Not Fair

Listening to my fave radio station in the world — Louisville’s WFPK — this morning, I learned that it’ll be pushing 60º in the River City today.

Sixty goddamned degrees.



Now L-ville is a mere 71.13 miles from B-ton as the crow flies. So why is it that they get March-like temps and we get freezing rain, sleet, and snow today?

I’m telling you, some rotten-to-the-core weather deity has it in for us.

Condolences; Here’s Your Bill

We all agree that there’s a crisis in health care in this holy land. It’s true even after the initiation of the Affordable Care Act under which some 12 million people are now covered.

Still, though, health care in America is a money game. If you’ve got the dough, you don’t have to worry all that much about fancy tests and ER visits and expensive prescriptions. If you’re poor, well, life is tough, isn’t it?

That is, human health care. What about critter doctorin’?

I know a guy — let’s call him Randy — who’s on the hook for a medical bill from a veterinarian that he can’t pay. He’s an Army veteran and he’s going to school right now, looking to earn his master’s degree in business.

Randy’s cat was injured a while back. Over the next couple of days, the cat’s wound became infected. Randy took the cat to a local veterinarian. The vet told Randy the cat would have to stay overnight. The next morning, the vet called Randy and gave him the bad news — the cat had died that night.

Randy cried his tears and got on with his life. Then the bill came. The veterinarian wanted $600 for treating the cat and boarding it overnight.

To a guy like Randy, $600 may as well be $60,000. He’d be hard pressed to pay if the vet had demanded $60. Randy told the vet he didn’t have the dough. The vet responded by hauling Randy into court.

The two parties have yet to meet before the judge. Randy says the vet is a villain, charging him, essentially, for services that did him and his cat no good. Why, Randy wonders, should he have to pay for them?

This one’s a poser, no?


A Live Cat

Even lawyers, a breed we like to stereotype as money-grubbing, offer services at contingency rates, meaning if they lose your case, you don’t pay them. Can’t doctors do something similar?

The argument can be made that doctors, their nurses, their receptionists, their record-keepers, and everyone else associated with running a well-oiled office still have performed for you whether or not your cat dies or the dot on your skin becomes cancer. Then again, lawyers can say the same thing. Doctors may counter that they actually use goods and products — hypodermic needles, catheters, medicines, and those paper slippers you have to slip on as you trudge down the hall to the MRI room. Somebody’s gotta pay for them.

All Randy knows is he brought his cat in for repair and was left only with an impossible bill.

I don’t know where I stand on this right now. I suppose if I were Randy’s confidant (we’re only acquaintances) I’d suggest he work out a payment deal with the vet or offer to fork over a percentage of the total at once. Of course, Randy would say he doesn’t even have a fraction of the $600.

The only conclusion that makes any sense is being poor sucks.

The Bell Of Bloomington

Our town’s Bell family is quite a high-minded bunch. Janet Cheatham Bell, who lives here, writes about being a black woman, touching on nearly all aspects of living in this holy land, what with our racism, sexism, poverty, materialism, our love of guns, our fear of The Other, and a myriad of different ills. Her kiddo is comedian and social commentator W. Kamau Bell who’s the equal of or better than 98 percent of the gabbers and muggers who appear nightly on television (and don’t ask me who the superior two percent are). He had his own show a while back, on an FX network, but that didn’t work out. He doesn’t look altar-boyish like Jimmy Fallon or innocuously clownish like Conan O’Brien. He looks like, well, a black man and that’s a bit scary for Ma & Pa Kettle.


Bell, Then & Now

Janet has been writing about her negotiations with America for years. Her tomes include:

  • Famous Black Quotations
  • Victory of the Spirit: Reflections on My Journey
  • The Time and Place that Gave Me Life
  • Not All Poor People Are Black

Nobody’s made a movie based on any of her works but I’ll tell you this: They’re a hell of a lot more compelling than some upper middle class white woman’s story about “finding herself” by hanging around with sub-continent mystics and shamans.

Bell (Janet Cheatham, that is) this past month did a series of radio and web interviews largely in celebration of Black History Month. Here are some highlights:

She hints she has a few more interviews coming up in March — Women’s History Month — so keep an ear and/or eye out for them. Perhaps it’s time we start seeing the likes of Janet Cheatham Bell as more than just token speakers for black people but as articulators of the entire human experience. She is one of us — all of us.

Sun Goddess

Ramsey Lewis and Earth, Wind & Fire collaborated on this gem in 1975. Don’t ever let anyone tell you the ’70s were a bad decade for music.

Hot Air


My best wishes to a sweet soul who is suffering mightily these days. Here’s hoping our mental health delivery system for the indigent helps this person in some way.

Real Medicine Vs. Phony-Baloney

We have a funny health care delivery system in this holy land. Countless numbers of people in dire need of help — be it physical or mental, acute or ongoing — are left to wallow in their pain and misery, frustrated and deteriorating. Too many pols and citizens alike wave them off, saying they’re lazy or opportunistic.

Meanwhile, some of the most capable among us — capable, as in possessing the ability to pay for health insurance or even visit medical specialists on their own dime — spend millions…, wait, billions of dollars on snake oil cures, quackery, fraudulent nutritional and medicinal regimes, and get-well/stay-well books written by scam-artists.

It’s as though the healthiest and most well-fed of our citizenry seem to be in a chronic pout about their great and good fortune. Perhaps they’re jealous of the occasional attention we as a society pay to the down-and-out. People are funny, indeed.

Food fanatics have been careening from one mystical, magical diet to another like pinball machine rollers since the days of John Henry Kellogg. The inventor of Corn Flakes was pathologically enamored of enemas and highly offended that the sane among the rest of his countrymen weren’t. Kellogg ran an spa for folks to eat meals according to his mixed-up philosophies and have their bowels scrubbed and scoured daily.

Kellogg was a joke but to this day scads of people don’t get it.

A great number of the world’s health- and food-fetishists for decades have been swallowing pills, powders, and liquids as well as having mini-fire hoses inserted up their anuses, all in an attempt to “detoxify.”

Folks who crave to see things in black and white believe certain foods are as poisonous as arsenic and other comestibles as curative as the waters of the Fountain of Youth. They also believe the things we put inside ourselves are leaving a patina of muck and mire on our innards that is as dangerous as a bullet to the head.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you gorge on Oscar Mayer bologna sandwiches morning, noon, and night your guts probably will be prone to functioning as well as a 12-year-old computer. But the gang who buys into detoxifying and pristine diets probably never did spend much dough on dirt-cheap lunch meats, Cool Whip, Bugles, Twinkies, and Spaghetti-Os in the first place.

Anyway, The Guardian this week ran a piece destroying the myth of “detoxification.”

It quotes Exeter University prof Edzard Ernst:

Let’s be clear, there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. [Drug abuse detox is “respectable,” acc’d’g to Ernst.] The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.

The article’s author, Dara Mohammadi, says any build-up of toxins in the human body’s organs, the likes of which described in terrifying detail by detox advocates, would result in a medical emergency. The body itself, she says, has a perfectly good trash and waste disposal system.

As for colonics, Mohammadi writes of the belief that a “plaque” of toxins accumulates in the bowels and must be washed out regularly, otherwise dire things can happen. Mohammadi asserts:

[N]o doctor has ever seen one of these mythical plaques, and many warn against having the procedure done, saying that it can perforate your bowel.

Mohammadi’s take away? This:

[T]he idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.

You know, the evil kind of practice that demonic corporations like Monsanto engage in.

Simple As Black And White

With yesterday’s runoff defeat of Senator Mary Landrieux in Louisiana, the Republicans’ advantage in the upper chamber will stand at 54-46 in January. The GOP will lead in the House 246-188.

No matter what Democratic pollyannas cry, the Republicans will hold those majorities for the foreseeable future. Some Dems might even be hoping that the recent spate of high-profile police killings of unarmed citizens and subsequent protests will stir the body politic out of its comfy sofa and even walk the half block to the polling place.

Maybe. But what’s far more likely is that Republican-leaning voters already have been stirred by the same thing and will continue to be so. And they will continue to vote for Republicans who talk tough, express racial hatreds in code, and promise to keep those unruly blacks in their goddamned place without actually saying so.

There are far more people frightened of a general black uprising than there are those who are outraged that police officers see young black men as monsters and Hulk Hogans and feel compelled to kill them.

Beginning with the Watts riots in August 1965 and down through the “long hot summer” two years later and even more civil disorders into the 1970s, Murrican voters have consistently cast their lot with white Republicans. The Republicans, Murricans believe, will protect the nation from the dark menace. Republican politicians even coined a catchphrase for this: law and order. That was Richard Nixon’s calling card in the chaotic summer of 1968 and it won him an unlikely presidency.

Republican presidents as well as innumerable lesser office holders since then have successfully run on the same platform even when their other positions were pooh-poohed by huge numbers of Americans.

The way the numbers worked nearly fifty years ago and still do to a large extent today, the more streets protests, the more enraged accusations against the police, the more civil disturbances, the more the real majority will vote for strongmen.

It’s a simple numbers game. And if you’re black, you still lose.

Hot Air

Urban Renewal In Bloomington

How can you not love the work that Derek Richey and Jennifer Sommer-Richey do over at Bloomington Fading? Here’s the latest vid they’ve put out, chronicling the demise and renaissance of downtown Bloomington from 1950 through the ’70s. Check it out:

It’s important to note that the federal government programs collectively known as “Urban Renewal” were the result of politicians and bureaucrats together developing plans to ease the suffering of poor people in this holy land. But, as happens far too often, when politicians and bureaucrats begin working with money men, the best of intentions go awry.

Make sure to visit Derek and Jennifer on Facebook and at their website.

Rubbing Salt In Their Wounds

Here’s hoping the struggles with family health issues and America’s far-from-perfect health care system don’t take too much of a toll on the Sandberg clan. Bloomington city council member Susan Sandberg long has been an advocate for streamlined, equitable, efficient health care. Now she and her kin must leap the hurdles the for-profit health rackets have erected before them.


Sandberg & County Prosecutor Chris Gaal At The Monroe County Fair

Good luck, Sandbergs, and hang in there!

What’s Different About America?

My pal the Big Shot Lawyer (who shall remain nameless lest he sue the pants off me for some reason or another) joins me regularly at The Pencil’s back office, aka Soma Coffee. We talk mainly about The Law, which is something — we both agree — that exists more in theory then actual practice.

Honestly, the law students who hang at the java joint ought to close their textbooks and put an ear in on our conversations. They’d learn a thing or two that might help them as they go out into that great professional world to rid clients of any spare cash they might have laying around.

And, the truth is, it’s not technically the conversation that’d educate them — my contributions are drips in an ocean compared to what the Big Shot Lawyer adds.

Anyway, now and again BSL and I veer off into talk about Bloomington, the Hoosier State, this holy land, and even the world at large. Health care, for instance, came up on Wednesday. The question arose, Why is health care so easily and efficiently meted out in places like, say, Sweden?

Crack barrister that he is, BSL went right to the heart of the issue. “Everybody’s the same in Sweden,” he said. “They all look alike, sound alike. So when someone says they need help, everybody’s willing to pitch in because, you know, “Hey, he’s just like me!”



As opposed to here in Murrica, where people of countless colors, speaking scads of languages, listening to tons of weird music, eating all sorts of exotic poisons including garlic and cumin, and worshipping all the wrong gods hold out their hats and say, “Can you help me out?”

To which the majority of us respond, “What? Using my tax money? Help you out when you don’t even realize who the one and only true god is and, almost worse, you eat garlic? Hell no!”

It’s the classic case of The Other. Murrica is chock-full of Others. It’s what made us great but, ironically, it’s what keeps us all at arms’ length in these divisive times.

Mood Is Wrong, Mood Is Wrong!

Yeah, I’ve been a downer the last few days, what with the dramatic tumbling of this great nation into the 13th Century, thanks to the spanking the Democrats got from the Republicans Tuesday. So let’s go all light and breezy for a bit, shall we?

How about this ditty from the summer of 1969, the first big AM radio hit for Crosby, Stills & Nash? Groove, babies!

BTW: The hed for this entry is a reference to Jerry Lewis’s Buddy Love taking a seat at the Purple Pit piano in the original The Nutty Professor.

Your Daily Hot Air


“I decided it was worth a life in prison to do it.” — Daniel Ellsberg


Problem Solved

Yale University has hit upon the magic solution to the problem of rape. Rape culture, at least within the confines of the ivy-covered halls of the institution that has given us Sinclair Lewis, John Hersey, Garry Troudeau, Aldo Leopold, Eero Saarinen, Meryl Streep, and…, and…, um, George W. Bush (nobody’s perfect), has been smashed to bits for good.


Fellow Elis: Sinclair Lewis & George W. Bush

Rape shall be no more at Yale!

That’s because the university has now eliminated the usage of the word from its official lexicon. A provost’s report released this week addressing the Campus Sexual Climate for the school year just past, makes rape disappear by simply not calling forcible sexual contact, well, rape.

It’s now the much more palatable nonconsensual sex. Isn’t that better?

And just in case any Elis still harbor any desire to attempt a bit of the good old violent penetration, why, they’ll be deterred, no doubt by the dreaded threat of the written reprimand.

Wow. That’s tough, man.

And if some male student happens to commit a particularly egregious form of nonconsensual sex, he just might be put on probation or even suspended for a year!

Thank god. The women of Yale can now feel free to walk the campus in the nude, making come-hither gestures without fear of having creepy guys try to force themselves upon them.

Because that’s how women usually become rape victims, isn’t it?

Get healthy — or else!

Let’s stay with academia.

Former football factory extraordinaire Penn State University also is getting tough, this time with employees who refuse to be healthy.

PSU Icon

The Nittany Lion (What The Hell Ever That Is)

See, professors, janitors, and clerks alike are being threatened with hefty — nay, borderline confiscatory — financial penalties for failing to submit to the U’s stringent wellness (a word I loathe) guidelines and reporting procedures.

Chief among those procedures is PSU’s mandatory “biometric screenings.” This means if you refuse to have your waist measured, step on a scale, have your blood sugar tested, and a raft of other peeks inside and around your holy temple, you’re going to have to pay a cool hundred bucks a month extra for your health insurance coverage.

Waist Measurement

Get ‘Em Up!

Say you’re a brand new PSU hiree making $15,792 a year. That comes out to about $850 per month after taxes. Should you consider the university’s health spies poking into your bloodstream or running a measuring tape around your heretofore pleasing girth to be intrusive, well, you’re going to have to pay a full 12 percent of your ready monthly cash flow for your silly little principle.

Which, I suppose, is the U’s intent. You’ll have to slash your grocery budget to next to nil. That’ll shrink your waistline.

British Model

See? Now You’re Healthier!

PSU, of course, is well known for its strict adherence to rules and law. Why, it took the less than a decade for the school to ban Jerry Sandusky from campus after he’d been seen sodomizing a ten-year-old in the shower.

Not My Fault

You know — don’t you? — that scary-looking San Diego Mayor Bob Filner squeezed all those women’s asses, groped their breasts, and pressured them to have sex with him (a nauseating prospect, to be sure) because he’d never gotten harassment training.



At least that’s what he and his lawyer say in an effort to get the city to pay his mounting legal bills in the harassment lawsuits brought about by a number of women whose ladyparts now bear his cooties.

Hell, this revelation ought to cause the judge or judges in those cases to dismiss them forthwith.

How in the world can we expect anyone to know that groping and forcibly kissing co-workers is frowned upon if we don’t have a mandatory training session telling them so?

Palin’s Payouts

Here’s what Sarah Palin’s squealer arm, SarahPAC, spends in a typical half-year, in case you give a good goddamn.

Palin created her PAC for the ostensible purpose of supporting candidates for office who share her (terrifying) views. So far in 2013, SarahPAC has spent a total of a half million dollars. Palin’s action faction in the same time has donated $5000, or 1 percent, to political candidates. That’s some overhead.

Sarah PAC FEC Filing

Click For Full Federal Election Commission Report

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