Better Late than Never

As thousands of women in “pussy hats” converge on Washington to protest Trump’s presidency, a critic might ask them, “Did you vote?”

For the shameful truth is that about half of America’s voters stayed home on November 8.

Do the women who  couldn’t be bothered to vote – or who left the presidential box blank – have a moral right to complain about the result?

Perhaps not. But I think the women’s march – and the other protests erupting throughout the civilized world – are encouraging. Not that Trump will heed the protests, of course He is too pigheaded for that. But the demonstrations show that democracy is not dead, that decency is not sleeping, that barbarous behavior still prompts outrage.

This was such a foul election. And the president elect is such a foul human being. But he was elected – some say illegally – because America took its democracy for granted, because millions of eligible voters did not exercise their franchise.

I hope this slap in democracy’s face will be a wakeup call for those delinquent American voters. I hope they learn from Trump’s victory. I hope they will have more respect for the blood that was shed to win them the right to vote.

So while the protesters may be marching in vain today, they may be signaling a better democracy tomorrow. As the old people say back in my Jamaican homeland,  the protests could be “better late than never.”

More on protests

More on the women’s march

 

An Illegitimate Presidency?

 

Civil rights icon John Lewis (above) says Trump’s presidency is illegitimate. He refuses to attend Friday’s inauguration ceremony. And he has some pundits shaking their heads in dismay.

But what if Lewis is right? And I think he might be.

Representative Lewis questions the legitimacy of Trump’s election because he is convinced it was the result of the Russian government’s interference.

I think Americans have a right to know just how big a part the Russians played in America’s presidential election. And if it turns out that Vladimir Putin’s  interference was a deciding factor, the election should be declared illegal.

There seems to be no doubt that the Russian government tried to  help Trump get elected. Did their meddling decide the outcome? Inquiring minds want to know.

Until an independent inquiry unearths the facts, a shadow hangs over Trump’s election.

I can see why Americans like John Lewis might question Trump’s authority as president until the legitimacy of his presidency is clarified.

Lewis observed in a recent tweet that:

Our nation has at times created & enforced unjust laws. It is up to people of conscience to expose such injustice through nonviolent means

If Trump’s election is shown to be “unjust,” it will be up to “the people” not only to “expose” it but also  to contest it.

If the Republicans, who now control both houses of Congress, drag their feet in ordering an independent – and expeditious – investigation, “the people” must take action.

If I were a political leader, I would call for a general strike across America if Congress doesn’t immediately oder an independent probe.

And I certainly would not attend those inauguration celebrations.

 

Government by Tweets

 

The sheer silliness of a president issuing policy statements via Twitter must be making America a global laughing stock.

I don’t ever go on Twitter. I delete the uninvited emails I get from Twitter. To me, Twitter is for kids and trolls, not me.

You know who uses tweets to communicate with the public, don’t you? And apparently he isn’t above using Twitter to hustle a stock or two.

According to Reuters, the US Office of Government Ethics issued a warning after the president-elect tweeted a suggestion to buy L.L. Bean.

Sadly, their warning also came via Twitter.

Am I embarrassed by having such a lowbrow president-elect? Do I think his lack of sophistication reflects badly on America and Americans?

Of course I do. And – even more horrifying – I fear his  lack of a moral compass endangers the world.

But I am embarrassed when others stoop to his level. And using Twitter for official announcements is doing just that. It’s not just undignified, it’s downright childish. And it strikes me as pandering to the worst aspects of American culture.

The US Office of Government Ethics should have sent President-elect Trump a letter  reminding him of the restrictions against using his office to hustle stocks – and of the people’s expectation that our president will display decency and decorum

Come on America! We’re not all a bunch of giggling teens, are we?

Click for the Reuters story

 

As the Horror Unfolds

The Trump-Assad-Putin team meme that is making the rounds of the Russian Internet. Retweeted by Yaroslav Trofimov, Greater Middle East columnist at The Wall Street Journal

The free world is recoiling in horror as the reality of a Trump presidency begins to unfold. His selection of a governing team, for example, leaves no doubt of the malignancy ahead.

A xenophobic, lifelong foe of civil rights for attorney general… A corrupt, pro-Putin oligarch for secretary of state… A climate change denier to run the Environmental Protection Agency… Wild-eyed conspiracy theorists as advisers… The world’s largest economy entrusted to Goldman Sachs…

By now, nobody could doubt the underlying philosophy of the next American President. No holds barred. Billionaires rule. You and I grovel.

And, as a nation, America grovels to Vladimir Putin, abetting his ambition to rebuild the old Soviet Union,  endangering US allies and undermining global democracy. .

Meanwhile, Trump cavalierly disregards accepted morality and refuses to give up a global business empire that will inevitably be impacted by his actions as President. And – like some Third World dictator – he is ignoring accepted rfules against nepotism and appointing  family members  to government positions. He even refuses to reveal his taxes.

Of course the public is alarmed. Trump’s approval ratings are plummeting. But is it too late?

What can we hope for?

My hope is that Trump’s Republican Party support will crumble. One of my senators – Marco Rubio – is openly protesting Rex Tillerson’s selection as secretary of state. But will Rubio actually vote against Tillerson and block.his confirmation? We’ll see.

The Republican Party has sold its soul to the Devil. In exchange for Trump’s showmanship, they have abandoned any pretense of morality. The first thing the new Congress did was try to demolish the department that oversees their ethics. That brazen display of corrupt intent was thwarted by a huge public outcry.

Now, they are taking away the poor’s health care and the old folks’ prescription subsidies in a massive assault on the progress of the past half century.

While I know that a misguided ideology drives this vendetta, I cannot believe the Republicans I know will continue to put up with the blatant abandonment of morality and decency they must accept in their party’s deal with Trump.

They are better than that, even if the disagree with me politically.

Trump’s cabinet

 

Goodbye, Direct TV

How long have Sandra and I had Direct TV? Fifteen years? More than 10, anyway. But we’ve decided to change to Spectrum. No, it’s not because we’ve finally had it with those “Searching for satellite signal” on-screen messages- every time it rained. Service has been reliable otherwise and Customer Support was very helpful once we got past the machine. But that was then and this is now. Today, when I called to adjust our lineup, I swear I talked to a robot!

I suspected something was awry when I heard the monotonously even tones. And after trying in vain to explain what I wanted – movies, golf and the news – I flat-out asked the voice if it was human. It hemmed and hawed and when I asked to speak to human being, it placed me on hold.

I listened to what seemed like an hour of elevator music, then hung up and called Spectrum.

I guess this horror is a result of AT&T’s recent purchase of Direct TV. My bill has suddenly soared since the takeover,too.

Changing to Spectrum might just be swapping black dog for monkey, as they say back home in Jamaica. Spectrum just bought out Brighthouse, so robots could well be next – and the mystifying increase in our bill.

I don’t see much hope for customer service in America as corporations continue to gobble up each  other.  In the Age of Trump, Big Business will be king and we customers will be serfs.

But Sandra and I  had Brighthouse for the Internet and our land line before the takeover, and we’re getting good service since. Besides, Spectrum is offering an attractive deal if we bundle our TV, too.

Maybe, just maybe, better days are ahead this time.

More on the impact of mergers

 

The President’s Speech

 

To those of us still reeling from Trump’s improbable victory, President Obama’s farewell speech last night was the tonic we needed.

He did not give in to bitterness and despair. He was upbeat and optimistic, expecting us to listen to our better angels after all. And he served notice that he would not abandon us, that he would be fighting by our side after leaving the White House.

It was an uplifting and inspiring speech. And it touchingly paid tribute to the contributions of others – Michelle, Joe and Jill, and the Obama girls, for example. But there was much more for those who listened carefully.

This was not mere oratory, not just an inspiring call to keep fighting for what’s good and decent in human nature.

This was a declaration of his personal commitment to rebuilding the Democratic Party, a promise that he would be applying his great talents to that job after his term as President ends next week.

And you know he means it.

Thank you, Mr. President,  for shaking me out of my miasma. I was defeated and despairing. I had lost my faith in humanity. I could see no hope for the triumph of decency in a tawdry world.

I was blind but now I see.

President Obama’s speech

More on the speech

 

Privatization: End of the Saga?

 

Could this be the final chapter in my adventure in privatized health care? Possibly. But the way things have been going, I wouldn’t bet on it.

I have spent the day on the phone, calling everyone I could think of. And it seems nobody in the federal or state government is responsible for enforcing Medicare Advantage agreements.

In the era of privatization, it seems, you’re on your own.

I still don’t understand what’s happening. Someone from my doctor’s office called me today to say One Home Care didn’t provide my antibiotic in Polk County. In the meantime, the caller said, there was a similar prescription – in pill form – waiting for me at Walgreen’s pharmacy. That would tide me over until things could be straightened out, they said.

But I also received a call from One Home Care’s pharmacy . They informed me they were preparing my IV medication and asked for a copayment of $40 and some cents.

They’re all set to deliver a week’s supply of the stuff at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. And a company called MS Supply in Tampa says they are sending a nurse to administer the IV. So perhaps I’ll be back on track.

So what about today? Mercifully, there’s Baycare. Jaimie just left after taking care of my daily IV.  Again.

Encouragingly, some companies are ethical, Baycare, for example. Throughout this entire mess, they have stood by me.

If they hadn’t decided to give me another day’s care – and then another and another – I would have been stranded. With whatever dire consequences that may have had.

If all companies were like Baycare, privatization might work. But they aren’t. Unfortunately, some – probably the majority – are like One Home Care Solutions.

 

Perils of Privatization 3

My privatized health care adventure continues to befuddle me. One Home Care Solutions told me (at the last minute) on Friday evening they were not coming to administer my IV infusion, and referred me to Integrated Home Care Services.

But Integrated now assures me One Home Care is responsible for my IV infusions under their contract with CarePlus.

Baycare’s Rhonda is coming to administer my antibiotic this afternoon – pro bono once again – and I am told that’s it for Baycare. As of 1:30 p.m. Monday, nobody else had agreed to pick up the ball.

I will have one dose of the antibiotic left in the fridge but nobody to administer it. The course of treatment is supposed to last two more weeks.

But at 2:15 p.m. I got a call from Gloria, a supervisor at CarePlus, informing me that she had straightened it all out. One Home Care Solutions would be sending a nurse to my home, starting tomorrow.

Will the nurse arrive as scheduled? Nobody came last time. And what will I do if they don’t?

My only recourse, I guess, will be to call Lakeland Regional Health Center as the antibiotics are part of my discharge order from that hospital.

You think if I can find nobody to fulfill the order, I will have to be readmitted to the hospital for the rest of the treatment?

Surely, there must be some more sensible – and cost effective – solution?

After all, isn’t saving money what privatized health care is all about?

 

Perils of Privatization 2

 

You probably won’t believe this but my adventures with privatized health care just got weirder.

CarePlus, my new health insurance provider, had told me they used a company named One Home Care Solutions to provide those antibiotic infusions I must have. And I had been calling One Home Care Solutions over the past couple of weeks as I tried to switch from Baycare, the home care company used by my previous insurance provider Coventry. But it turns out – at the last minute – that One Home Care Solutions doesn’t provide IV services for CarePlus in Polk County, where I live.

Amazingly, nobody at One Home Care Solutions had mentioned this in all the phone conversations I’d had with them. Indeed, some guy who said he represented One Home Care Solutions,  phoned me last night to set up the nurse’s visit today. And this morning when I called One Home Care Solutions, I was assured they had received my new doctor’s prescription (at last!) and the “ticket” was being processed.

Of course, by the time One Home Care Solutions discovered I wasn’t in their service area, the weekend was almost upon us and everything was closed or closing.

There was no way to get the doctor to send a referral to Integrated Home Care ( the agency that’s actually supposed to provide IV services for CarePlus in Polk County) before Monday,

Mercifully, after a flurry of phone calls involving my daughter Grace, who had come to my rescue, CarePlus, Baycare, Medicare, and the hospital that had ordered the IV infusions as part of my discharge order, I was told a nurse will be here later this evening. (It’s now after 7 p.m., and the IV was supposed to have been administered between 1 and 2 p.m.)

Good ol’ Baycare has stepped in to pick up the ball again – and they won’t get a cent for their trouble as they don’t do business with my new insurance provider.

Look, I don’t care how inefficient you think the government is, do you really believe they could mess things up any worse than this?

 

The Perils of Privatization

 

Now that the Republicans control Congress, you will be hearing a lot about privatization. You will hear that services usually supplied by the government should be turned over to private for-profit interests. The reason cited will be enhanced cost effectiveness.

But, for the past few years, I have had to deal with the privatization of my health care, and it has been anything but efficient.

Back in the Bush era, Congress passed a law to subsidize prescriptions for Medicare patients, and included a provision under which private companies could administer the prescription program. It’s called Medicare Advantage, and in many ways it has been a godsend.

But it has also been a nightmare.

I first joined a Medicare Advantage program provided by United Health Care, but that program didn’t last long before United canceled it. So I switched to Quality Health Care, which went bankrupt, causing a slew of bureaucratic problems. My next choice was Physicians United, and that went belly up, too.

I consulted Medicare.gov and they recommended Coventry, which was an excellent program – while it lasted. A few months ago, I received a letter telling me Aetna had bought Coventry and was canceling my program at year’s end.

I went back to Medicare.gov and came up with CarePlus, a Humana program, as my best bet.

Medicare.gov did not mention that few doctors in my area accept CarePlus. And that was just the beginning of my nightmare.

As the year drew to an end, I was in Lakeland Regional Medical Center undergoing treatment for a severe ear infection, I was discharged with a PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, illustration above) in my arm, so I could receive four weeks of daily antibiotic infusions.

But CarePlus doesn’t use the same home care agency as Coventry, and that created a scary dilemma.

I tried to get the new primary care physician assigned by CarePlus to arrange for a change in home care but for reasons that I cannot fathom, the new doctor ended up referring me to Hospice.

I contacted CarePlus and requested a new primary care physician. After numerous phone calls, back and forth between CarePLus, the new doctor’s office, the agency used by CarePlus and Coventry’s home care agency, I finally got a doctor’s appointment for today.

I can only hope that this will finally mean a seamless transfer from Baycare, the home care agency that has been giving me my antibiotic infusion every day – the past week and a half without getting paid – to a new agency that will get paid by CarePlus.

Otherwise, I will have to give myself the IV. And I can’t see very well. I have a cataract in one eye and the other eyelid is paralyzed (I hope temporarily) by the inner ear/mastoid inflammation.

I am not sure what my experience says about privatization. But it looks as if its success is based on a lot of private companies going broke in a dog-eat-dog competition for the government’s business.

And it doesn’t provide anything like efficient service to the taxpayer. Not to this taxpayer, anyway.

More on privatization