18 June 2009

Out To Lunch...

... and dinner and breakfast. I will be on the move for a few days, and so posts will be spotty and small. I'll try to make them fun. And as summer is truly here this weekend, solstices and all, a little relaxation seems to be in order. laisse les longtemps temps roulez!

17 June 2009

I Am A Simple Man

So I can only have simple thoughts.

All the talk about solving the heath care problem leaves me dizzy. The various sides all make some sense, the well trained tolerant and understanding liberal my parents reared finds merit in whoever is speaking at the time. And like our president, I keep looking for an inclusive solution, one that does not partake of the binary, win-lose, options that seem to be the only ones.

Here’s my simple thought – government funded medical school.

Training for medical care is expensive, and it takes a long time. No wonder physicians expect to make a solid income. They train hard and long. But what if the cost were removed from the picture? What if, like our military academies, those who qualified were given their education, through their initial residencies in fact? Sounds expensive, and it is. Why do it?

Because those who attend military academies then serve in the military. They give back in service what the received in training. We have done this before through the Public Health Service. Our physician years ago was a family practice resident whose education was funded by the PHS. She, in turn, served certain amount of time in a rural clinic and low pay.

Apply this nationally now. If you get into medical school, in return for having your education funded, you the new physician, would have to maintain a minimal but actual number of patients as a primary care physician. And basic primary services, like annual exams and immunizations, prenatal work, pediatric exams, screenings, and non diagnostic tests like blood work would be provided without fee so that everyone in the country had a primary doctor.

This would be the repayment required of physicians. I am guessing that, nationally, basic primary care - wellness care, screening, and health maintenance, costs less than the cost of medical school. A lot of health problems stem from people not seeing physicians routinely and getting care before a problem needs more extensive and expensive care.

Nationalize medical school education costs and require physicians to provide free primary care to everyone. Will it work? Who knows? Like I said, I am a simple man.

14 June 2009

Sic Semper Tyrannis!

It’s the motto of the State of Virginia. Comes from colonial times, and reeks of Patrick Henry of Harry Lee or Thomas Jefferson. Slave owners all, of course.

I just read a short essay called “The Tyranny of Excellence,” prepared for a conference of my colleagues and posted on the internet. You need to not read it as the subject is clergy preparation for Unitarian Universalists, which is a very select bunch. What struck me was the title, which set off bells in my head.

This morning, Sunday, as I prepare for worship, I am watching the news and listening to an interview with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who more than once speaks of how our children n must be able to compete in the world economy. Education is training, like an athlete, for a contest, a competition.

The economy itself is in competition with the other nations, even though we call it a global economy.

Politics is all about competition; we even call elections races and watch like race track touts as they ‘jockey’ for position and who is ahead in the ‘home stretch.’

Competition is the dominant word that describes reality now, and as the author of the essay I read notes, “Being committed to excellence doesn’t make excellence into tyranny, of course. But if these many different [religious] schools, with their very different capacities, visions of the world, and strategies for theological education, can all use “excellence” as the descriptor of their identity, then it must have a very plastic definition. That is the tyranny.”

We all talk about competition and excellence, and we all agree they are important, and yet only a few will ‘win,’ and only a few will ‘excel.’ Should we really adopt a world view that requires most people, institutions, nations, to lose?

I am not getting all ‘kum ba ya’ here, just asking whether we have been beguiled and even brainwashed by an idea, competition, so that we can see no other way? Has Spencerian thinking so pervaded us, that even those who loathe evolution are captivated by it?

I am off to church soon. Needless to say, I am standing in opposition to this dogmatic notion this morning, but when one is inside a world where one idea so shapes our many cultures and thoughts, creating a compelling alternative is hard. Wish me luck.

11 June 2009

A Few Interesting Thoughts…

... Inspired by recent commentary I have read while ellipticalizing at the Y.

Yes, Virginia, there is a deficit, and no it is not the current President’s fault. David Leonhardt parses the problem nicely. Economically, we’re asking the president to play the Pullman porter for the Texas good ol’ boy who left the train with a smile and the car littered with bottles and cheetos.

But hey, we were all at that party. As Joe Nocera shows us, talking to distaff economist Jeremey Grantham, we got into this mess with an evangelical faith in certain economic ideas that made us blind to reality the way biblical literalism blinds some to the reality of evolution. If you think you are not gullible, read it and think again.

One of my favorite voices, Nicholas Kristof, reminds us once again of the pernicious temptations of racism in explaining our problems and the simple if daunting solutions to a lot of our problems. We spend as much effort ignoring reality as it takes to face it. Dumb. So dumb.

Last December I lobbied our state senate about an anti-bullying bill that ultimately died. So it was cool to see something about the phenomenon, and a fresh analysis of how to approach it.

Just a bit of what passes under my ever older eyes. For those who may not have much experience, this is what lots of newspapers used to do. If you’ve wondered why America seems to have slipped somewhat from its high reputation, one reason is that we no longer read (or want to read) newspapers.

Sorry a bout the bunched up grafs. For some reason the post editor of Blogger will not not let add spaces between them today. Neither will it let me cut and paste. Argggh!

08 June 2009

Hold That Thought...

... as I find some time to think myself. In addition to all the mayhem of the world and the chaos of graduating a high-schooler, my internet service has been a crap shoot for over a month. Seven phone calls, three visits, and still it comes and goes willy-nilly. Needless to say this is roundly irritating, and as the time I can write a post is rarely when I can post a post, this little diary has gone begging.

Just to make it more interesting, my Facebook account was hijacked this last weekend, sending out lots of phony FB messages to replicate itself in an electronic retrovirus sort of thing. Have had to send lots of apologies, and yes there is an uncomfortable analogy to STIs in all this. Ick.

Better post this before I lose signal again. Stay tuned!