Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Blago Scandal

Yesterday our governor, Rod Blagojevich, who is currently both under indictment and in the process of being impeached, appeared on national television news programs to plead for his job.

He hammered the same message to every question his interviewers asked: He is innocent, the rules of impeachment prohibit him from calling witnesses, and he won’t resign because it would disgrace his family.

Yesterday several companies announced layoffs - firings if you will. Caterpillar Tractor, headquartered in Peoria, IL, the state Rod ‘governs,’ is letting 20,000 workers go. John Deere, another Illinois company, announced several thousand layoffs earlier. Others include 8,000 at Sprint, 7,000 at Home Depot, 3,400 at Texas Instruments, and 18,000 possible layoffs at Pfizer.

That’s 36,400 lay offs announced yesterday alone, in addition to the Deere cuts.

Not one of those 36,400 people was able to get on The View and argue that s/he should be able to keep his or her job. Not one was able to get on the Today Show and argue that s/he should be able to keep his or her job. Not one was able to get on Larry King Live - and preempt former President Carter in the process - and argue that s/he should be able to keep his or her job.

Our governor cries foul. He says he isn’t being given due process although he had the opportunity to present rebuttal. He refused to listen to his lawyers and failed thereby to meet deadlines to have due process.

I would wager that most of the 36,400 whose layoffs were announced yesterday were given less opportunity to fight for their jobs. No doubt some of them will rail at the economy, at former President Bush, at current President Obama, and whine just as loudly as Rod Blagojevich. But they’ll be just as out of a job, and if they don’t get a retirement package will be out pounding the pavement looking for one, adopting frugal measures as they find them necessary, and otherwise adapting. Some of them will do drastic things to survive, and a few of them will not survive.

But not one of them will have the opportunity to whine to a national audience on three different ‘news’ shows in one day.

It’s time for Rod Blagojevich to stand up straight, accept the destiny he has brought upon himself, and have some dignity. Stop whining for Pete’s sake!

Please feel free to comment below. And if you know of an interesting part time job, let me know about that too. I’ll pass it on.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Random Thoughts from this Curmudgeon

Happy Martin Luther King Day!

If I were in charge there would be NO mattress sales "honoring" Dr. King, which in fact trivialize the importance of his life. Rather, students would be in school to honor his commitment to education, and workers would be at work to honor his commitment to working people of all colors.

Our last hymn in church yesterday was "Lift Every Voice and Sing", which suddenly brought tears to my eyes. I thought at first it was in honor of the inauguration, but then I realized it was for Martin Luther King Day. I could hardly sing this hymn, also known as the Negro National Anthem. The words are amazing because despite the hardships, inequities, and injustices perpetrated upon people of color for the last 450 years or so, they are hopeful and downright patriotic.

When I asked my cousin Rochelle what people of color wish to be called, she told me that to her Negro is a term of high honor, reserved for those who worked hard through the civil rights struggle. Racial terms seem to me to go in cycles. When I was little, the polite term used was colored. It shifted to Negro, then to Afro-American, the to African-American, to black, is now people of color, and will eventually become, I believe, colored once again. The problem is that labels are meaningless, and as Dr. King said, what's important is the content of character, not the color of skin.

And there are many Caucasians who fled from South Africa and have become African-Americans, which is confusing at best.

Like "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the inauguration also brings tears to my eyes. I watch television coverage and read news reports in print and on line, and I have a hard time believing America has progressed to this place. We have actually elected a man of color to be president. Shezaam!

I am mentally arranging my day so nothing interferes with inauguration coverage. That may mean the dogs get walked much earlier or not at all. They may have to resort to romping in the back yard.

An article in the new Atlantic Magazine suggests we are post-racial. I certainly hope so. The thrust of the article, however, is that within most post-Baby Boomers' lifetimes, the United States will not be predominantly white. We are far more diverse a nation than our forefathers ever foresaw. And that's a good thing.

As always, I invite you to comment below.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago recently sent out a letter to its patients. Wait, can I anthropomorphize a hospital? I guess I can. Let me start over.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital recently sent out a letter to its patients informing them that because of a shortage of radiologists, women should make appointments for their mammograms ten months in advance.

I talked with Rich, a radiologist acquaintance, about this practice and he explained it to me. Reading a mammogram is fraught with difficulty. First, if there is no previous mammogram to compare it with, it is hard to tell if there are problems. Additionally, they are difficult to read and only well experienced radiologists are truly competent to read them. That means the radiologist ought to have read thousands in the past to truly understand what s/he is reading. Finally, if there is a misreading, the liability to the radiologist and his/her insurance company is great. Few radiologists want to read mammograms, and the ones who do make a living at it are flooded with them.

Doctor shopping is a cause of this problem. If a patient goes from one doctor to another, no previous, baseline mammogram exists, and the possibility of an error in the reading increases.

Denial, of course, is another huge problem, and it isn't confined to the people in my generation or older. No woman wants to lose her femininity. The way breasts are portrayed in movies, on television, in print media, and in 'fashion' objectifies them as sexual toys. This increases the fear of losing one.

Rich said that women should get their first mammogram at about age 35 to establish a baseline.

I think - this is my suggestion because he did not mention it although he may agree - once they have that baseline, they should get a copy of the X-ray so if they move, the doctor has a basis of comparison. And it probably wouldn't hurt to get copies of every mammogram just in case they change doctors or on the off chance that the originals are misplaced, damaged, destroyed or lost. I can't imagine that thousands of films every year are all safely stowed.

My mother-in-law died in hospice of breast cancer that metastasized, eventually to her brain. It was not pretty, and the main reason, I believe, is that she played Cleopatra, Queen of Denial. She refused to believe she had a lump, and rationalized it as a bruise from falling. She refused to believe her breast should have been removed after the first mastectomy and called the doctor a butcher. Her scar was not neat, and I don't believe her surgeon treated her with respect because of her age and gender. (Why would he be a surgeon if he felt that way? The money, of course.)

After her first mastectomy, she refused to believe, once again, that the huge lump in the lymph node under her arm was a portent of further cancer. She did not see a doctor until the lump became so big she could not put her arm down at her side. By then the cancer had spread, and it continued to spread, albeit slowly because of her advanced age.

The moral of this story is that all women should get baseline mammograms at age 35 and annually after the age of 40. And they should check for lumps monthly.

Finally, a piece of arcane knowledge: Mammograms are so distinct they can be used forensically, like fingerprints or dental records, although it isn't glamorous so the crime scene television shows haven't used this method of identification yet.

Please feel free to comment below.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I hardly ever make new year's resolutions because I seldom keep them and I hate to feel like a failure.

This year I am making some exceptions, however. In addition to making a couple resolutions for myself, I have resolutions other random people need to make. I'm sure I'm being hypocritical, but it's so much fun.

Rod Blagojevich: I will stop looking in the mirror at my hair, forget the special hairbrush that one of my aides keeps with me constantly, forgo the F-bomb in all its grammatical forms, and instead look into my soul, repent, admit my sins, and resign the office of Governor of Illinois immediately.

Fox News: 1. We pledge to report the news straight, with a conscious effort to omit bias. 2. We will report the news and forget about Lindsey Lohan, Madonna, Brittney Spears, and all the other celebrities that have absolutely no news value except the shock of their sex and drug lives.

All News Media: See Fox News above.

Dick Cheney: I pledge to develop compassion and lovingkindness. Then I will right some of the wrongs I have committed in the name of Haliburton by donating most of my fortune to aid a variety of worthy causes: Darfur refugees, AIDS research and medication for those who cannot afford it, the UN's Millennium Development Goals including donating mosquito nets, livestock to eradicate hunger, and a gazillion other worthy charities.

George Bush: I will read a book I book I have chosen all by myself from the library. I will read it all the way through and then think about it. When I am finished I will find another book. And then another and another. For guidance I will look at the list of authors on the right of these blog entries.

Wall Street: We will begin a life of frugality without excess, luxury, ostentation, and greed.

Congress: We pledge to develop our own legislation without the input of lobbyists. Further, we will read the legislation before we vote on it so that we know, for example, whether the Wall Street bailout plan has accountability or not, unlike the legislation we have passed in recent history.

Additonally, we will work together to improve the lives of the citizens of this country rather than push party interests and work to gain power.

That's probably a reasonable start. Now my resolutions:

I resolve to keep in touch with people I love by seeing them, writing them and calling them more often.

I will try to be kinder and more patient.

Happy New Year!

Feel free to comment on these resolutions or add your own by clicking comment below.