Monday, December 29, 2008

Caroline Kennedy and the Kennedy sense of entitlement

Caroline Kennedy and I are exactly one year apart in age. I remember being jealous of her because she had that adorable pony named Macaroni and I wanted a pony more than anything!

I am also blonde and female and of Irish American extraction. That is where our similarities end.

I was too young to really understand what it meant when her father was killed. I am sort of ashamed to admit my father was relieved JFK had died "before he messes up things more." (He was also relieved with RFK was shot, dad didn't like the fact that RFK was in bed with Cesar Chavez.) I remember thinking the riderless horse, Blackjack, was the coolest thing ever.

To this day I am still not sure of the implications of JFK's killing. Would we be better off today? Would we be worse off had he lived? Every night, watching Chet Huntley and David Brinkley bring the nation up-to-date with the carnage in Southeast Asia, my dad blamed JFK for the war in Vietnam. He was no fan of the Kennedys in any way, shape or form, despite being Irish Catholic himself. Dad was outraged Ted Kennedy got away with leaving Mary Jo Kopechne to drown at Chappaquiddick.

I watched, semi-amused, as one Kennedy after another in my generation "answered" the call to public service. Funny thing was the public they served wasn't me. Tax and spend, which is easy to do if you personally have all of the money in the world, lawyers to fight your having to pay taxes, and really, you have never worked for anything. When JFK, Jr. failed to pass the NY bar exam right away, I wondered if his family had bought his way through college. I was saddened when he died though, too young, and he'd barely found his direction in life.

I suppose one could argue that poor Caroline has finally found her calling in campaigning for Hilary Clinton's senate seat. Hey it's cheaper this way! No campaign funding; no buying expensive television time. She doesn't have to really reveal herself to the citizens of NY. What does Caroline stand for? I have a feeling she is like every other Kennedy before her... tax and spend. Redistribute the wealth, from working families to those sitting on their butts waiting for the checks in the mail. What are her qualifications? Oh yeah she's got an Ivy-league education and has been a fundraiser for NY schools. (Doesn't fundraiser sort of sound like "community organizer" to you?) She's never had to work a day in her life, has never wanted for anything (except perhaps her father, because no child deserves to grow up fatherless), and has no idea how real people like you and I live.

Congress and the Senate are a collection of out-of-touch well-to-do people who may have forgotten about worrying month-to-month how to pay their rent. They have forgotten that not everything in life is deductible or reimbursable. They don't worry about the consequences of not showing up to work every day or putting in an 8-hour day (or worse). They don't worry about their kids' educations because they are all in private school (or they can afford to live in a neighborhood that has the very best schools... another tangent here, why weren't the Washington, D.C. schools good enough for the Obama girls? Don't they live in a good neighborhood?).

Wouldn't NY state be better served by having a senator who has lived the real life, who has worried about paying tuition and rent or a house payment, one who doesn't get to jet off to exotic vacations at the drop of a hat, one who doesn't have a rural hideaway (what is she hiding from anyway?) and who worries about day-to-day living like you and I? I wish we could get someone like that as a representative for California, but with the stupidity that abounds here, how much longer are we stuck with Dianne Feinstein and her majesty Nancy "my plane's not big enough" Pelosi? (Yes, I know DiFi is contemplating a run for Cali governor ...)

I am *still* waiting for that damned worker's comp carrier to approve my facet neurotomies. I have been dealing with this since Halloween. What would have happened to me if I'd had a job outside the home and were unable to get to work for this long? The one thing I want in the worst way this coming year is gainful employment outside of the home, a writing/editing job where I get to work with adults and help promote something I believe in. The odds are against me though ... 50-something, disabled, and white.

I will try to be outraged on a more regular basis. I am scared for this nation. Anyone care to bet our incoming president faces impeachment proceedings during his 4-year "presidency?"

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I haven't written in this blog for nearly a week but it sure doesn't mean I'm not thinking abut things.

I am seriously concerned about the messiah's plans for health care and the claim that employer-based health care isn't working. Listen, I know that employers offer health care not because they really care about their employees, but rather it's a way to attract decent employees to the job. Nowadays few people care about other people because "it's the right thing to do." If the messiah wants to expand employer-provided health coverage he needs to speak the language employers understand—tax breaks.

I have a dear friend who is the political 180 of me. We do agree on a few things—leave the gays alone, allow a woman to make a choice about carrying a baby, and stem cell research is something that needs to be fast-tracked. But she feels business and its greed is evil and the only way to fix it is to have government regulate business practices and encourage unionization to ensure employees are treated humanely.

I hate unions. The two I was forced to belong to as an RN did nothing for me when I suffered my career-ending injury. At the first job, the union did nothing for me as far as assisting with modifying my job (in other words, it wasn't a good idea to have me to janitorial work or direct patient care. I was fine for treatments, assessments, teaching and documentation. Nope. Not even when a pair of utilization revue jobs came open did the union step forward and insist I get the job over someone who was not having on-the-job-injury problems.

I also hate unions because of the United Farm Workers, simply because those farm workers who marched alongside Cesar Chavez are still in the gutter while Chavez' family all live in palatial homes and live off of their dues. But I digress.

My friend also has multiple orthopedic problems that require frequent epidural steriod injections. We were commiserating one day and she told me that one of her spinal injections earlier this year was billed at $19,000. Yes, let me spell that out for you, nineteen thousand dollars. It was not a diagnostic procedure, the doctor knew exactly where he was going, and the procedure took 15 minutes. It was performed in a fluroscopy suite (real-time x-ray to guide the needles), and the doctor also had a couple of nurses and the x-ray tech in the room. She put $400 down as her co-pay and anticipated remaining balance.

When she saw the bill she went postal, but she went postal on the insurance company. Wrong organization to go postal on—the question is WHY did the doctor and facility bill that much? Anyway, four months later she needed a repeat of the injection and this time the bill was $6,000. Identical procedure, same place, same doctor.

She can't find out why the rates changed, so she likes to think it's because she negotiated. She's about to have another injection so we will see what this one costs.

I don't see my bills, I guess that is the advantage of worker's comp. At the time I was declared permanent and stationary (worker's comp term for "you are as good as you are going to be"), my attorney told me that my three surgeries had cost the State of California $250,000 (California Department of Corrections). I don't even want to think what that is in 2008 dollars (my last surgery was in 1994).

When I was still working as an RN in the small community hospital, there were several billing scales—MediCal/Medicare, private insurance and self-pay. At that time, self-pays were billed the highest amount (which I always thought was kind of strange; if you are in the position to have to self-pay, either you are Bill Gates rich or so poor you don't have a decent-paying job and make too much for MediCal/Medicare.). I'd imagine that now it's the insured who pay the highest rates ...

So who has the real answer as to why medical care is so expensive? Does the cost of working as a physician justify the rates? Is malpractice insurance eating up doctor's income? My friend tells me it's hard to get a case of malpractice into court. Is that true? Are the insurance companies misleading doctors and holding them hostages by scare tactics (you better pay or else you are going to be sued big time)? I do know that support staff have to be paid for out of the fees we pay our doctors. That charge of $300 for am uncomplicated 15-minute office visit isn't all going into the doctor's pockets. So just where do our health care dollars go and is this really a place for government intervention butting in?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

here's an idea

All this talk of the messiah's "job programs" in green technology is so laughable if it weren't so pathetic. Where will these workers come from? Ah, probably from the same pool of people who are looking for work already ... bet it's not going to get a single person off of welfare, because we do not have the infrastructure to train anyone. Will these jobs be of a livable wage? Or is this another excuse to open the southern border?

I do have an idea for the chosen one. There are plenty of perfectly good middle-aged people out of work, yet for some reason companies keep hiring younger people with less experience, or in the case of the high tech industry, cry about how they can't get qualified workers and import engineers and such from India and China. How about this: let's give employers a financial incentive to retain and hire older workers? We already know we can't trust American business to do the right thing by U.S. citizens, so how about offering those business some sort of tax break for every worker over 45 that they hire or retain? Even those green technology jobs? "Old" dogs can learn new tricks, and some probably learn a lot quicker than a 20-something!

Oh, I'm sorry, that would be a tax break and we don't want businesses to have anything like that during the messiah's hopefully short rule.

Friday, December 5, 2008

well, good news with the back doctor

When you've had back problems for as long as I have, it's just nice to know what is going on sometimes and that something can be done and that you are not crazy in the head or making things up.

I saw my back doctor today. His name is James Reynolds, and he's part of a group that does nothing but state-of-the-art spine stuff. Period. He's been my doctor since eight months after my on-the-job injury at the Soledad Prison. It took me that long to get to him because I was trying to stay local (a big mistake if you are living in a rural area and there are no hotshot doctors who care about publishing and teaching other doctors about the complexities of the spine), but had been released to return to work when I couldn't stand up straight or barely walk.

You see, my diagnostic tests were "normal" in the local doctor's mind. I did not have a big nasty herniated disc that would explain the severity of my symptoms. So, no disc herniation = no problem, and my inability to do anything was malingering. I was referred to the prison's "official" comp doctor who immediately referred me to Spinecare, two hours north of where I lived.

Spinecare's head doctor, Dr. White, had recently operated on the SF 49er's Joe Montana. We know how well that one went. The doctor I was assigned had assisted Dr. White with Joe's surgery, so I knew I was in good hands.

Right off the bat Dr. Reynolds knew why my back hurt. I had dessicated discs, and they were leaking disc fluid onto my nerves. So rather than the pain being due to compression it was due to a chemical reaction. As part of one special but very painful x-ray procedure, I could clearly see what he meant by dessicated—the disc itself looked as if it had been scratched by a cat.

Two months after I found this doctor, I had my first surgery, a two-level laminectomy, which worked beautifully. But I messed it up two years later cleaning horse poo out of a stall. I then had a two-level fusion, fused front and back (nasty surgery!) and then 18 months later, had the hardware removed (a normal thing for that kind of surgery).

So I have had a good 16 years that I wouldn't have had if I hadn't found a doctor willing to think somewhat outside what was then the conventional way of thinking.

So what's wrong with me? Normal for someone who has been fused where I am. The vertebra immediately above the fused area (I'm fused at L4-5 and L5-S1) are not designed to bear the load they now must deal with because the area below is one big fused bunch of bone. So last year I had only one level that was problematic, at L3-4, on the right side. Now I'm at two levels, L3-4 and L2-3, and both sides. But because I had great results last year, there will be no need for diagnostic blocks; they will be able to go right to the offending areas and electrocute the offending nerve. The procedure is called a median branch neurotomy or rhizotomy. It doesn't hurt to have it done; the doctors give conscious sedation medication and not only do I not remember the procedure, it doesn't hurt at the time. It does hurt for about a week, then I am good to go again.

The doctor told me I can have this procedure done as often as I need, and now that I have an established pattern, I can expect about 11 1/2 months of a decent functioning back. And I guess the best thing is I never see a bill! Worker's comp is a pain, but I suppose one could argue I am lucky in that I was hurt when I was, under the old law. I have fewer games I need to play, but worker's comp doesn't move quickly on back procedures anymore.

I sure hope this can be done by Christmas. I want my life back!

Monday, December 1, 2008

as good a day as any to whine ...

I think today is as good a day as any to whine about my employment situation.
As I've previously mentioned, I have a catastrophic back injury which prevented me from working as a registered nurse. Once my back situation was permanent and stationary (a worker's comp term for "you are as good as you are going to be"), I went back to college to earn a B.S. degree in public relations. You'd think that would be a job that someone with a bad back could do, and that a good writer would be in demand.
A couple of years later I returned to college to earn a B.A. in sport management, hoping to gain employment in the sports PR industry, and to add a bit of business and marketing knowledge.
Ha! Ha! Not in this area, especially if you are anglo.
I had been performing a the written PR needs of a community college district for over 2 1/2 years. At the time I was signed on as a contract worker, the chancellor and her assistant asked me to be patient, that they liked my work, and that once they were in a financial position to make the job full-time, it was mine. I'd have to interview of course, but that was a formality. The chancellor, a Latina, repeatedly said that I understood what that district needed and that she liked my work very much.
The full-time job was posted this time last year. I found out by accident. I applied and was granted an interview. I showed up for the interview with a 101-degree fever.
My references were never checked. Each person said they would have recommended me for the position, no doubt. It was one of those rare situations where a person—myself— could do every aspect of the job—writing, simple graphic design, and photography. I knew everyone at both colleges and would have been able to hit the ground running.
The job was given to a Latina who is not only less academically qualified, but who has been fired from several high-profile PR jobs because she cannot write.
Now this person is my "supervisor." And I am expected to help her transition into the job.
And I can prove no job discrimination happened at all.
Where are my rights? Do I expect the messiah to fix this? Heck no!
Anglo people had better watch their backsides during the messiah's rule. Unionization, affirmative action, and "politically-correct" hiring decisions will become the norm. And that sucks.

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