Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting Health Care Right

During a debate about health reform on a professional website, a colleague posted the following statement, which irked me for a number of reasons.

“In addition to such successes as NPR and PBS, neither of which have never managed to become self-sustaining in their entire existence, don't forget other fine government-run examples such as Amtrak, the Post Office, the DMV, Medicare, Social Security, and the VA system. Quite a track record for the folks who want to completely revamp the US health care system by August, is it not? These clowns can't even run the cafeteria in the Capitol Building, but we're gonna let them overhaul health care? No thanks.”

First of all, I think NPR and PBS have been incredibly successful at their mission-providing classy, non commercial programming for public consumption. They could easily survive without government support-the last breakdown I saw indicated the level of government support at 10%.

Amtrak? I don’t know. I don’t use it, so I can’t really say. But they do seem to be getting people from point A to point B, still, despite their issues.

The Post Office? Not perfect, but it gets my mail where I need it to go for less than 50 cents.

The DMV in my state is simply a joy to go into. A few years ago, the governor’s wife decided that was going to be a pet project of hers, and they made a few common sense changes, and now, in terms of a place you have to go to every once in a while, it’s just fine. The smartest thing they did was station someone by the door. The moment you walk in, they ask you what you are there for, and they tell you what forms you need, hand them to you, and they tell you what line to stand in. It’s gorgeous, frankly.

Medicare? An insurance carrier that provides care to everyone with vanishingly small administrative costs? Social Security? A program to keep old people from starving to death?

The VA system has issues, to be sure. But I think the very least we can do for the fighting men and women is take care of them after they have done the same for us. They do need a special system devoted to their particular needs.

Foes of health reform seem to want it both ways-the government can’t do anything right, yet they will destroy health care if they get involved. If the government is so lousy at providing health care, provide it better and you have nothing to worry about.

You might say government’s enormous influence will tilt the playing field and make it an unfair competition. Well, that hasn’t happened with, say, Amtrak, or the post office.

And the crowning glory of the argument, to me, is that the alternative is the status quo. There was a editorial in the Washington Post, which I wish I could look up right now, that began talking about how one of the options in the health reform debate is guaranteed to result in increased taxes, increased costs out of pocket, and increased health care deductions from your paycheck: doing nothing.

Personally, I don’t believe that anything significant is going to happen, not because the participants don’t mean well, but because, in John Edwards’ phrase, the camel’s nose is under the tent. The special interests are all over this bill, and they will not allow anything to come out of this process that hurts them. The fix is in. As George Carlin used to say, this country was bought and paid for years ago.


I read Ron Darling’s book, “The Complete Game”, and it was really good. It’s a baseball memoir, with several concrete examples about why he made certain tactical decisions during the course of his career. Well written, kind of baseball geeky, but enjoyable.


I also read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”, which was worth all the fuss people have made about it. It always pleases me to see people willing and able to cross disciplines and write engagingly about different fields.


I also read a pretty funny book about fantasy football, Mark St.Amant’s “Committed”. The author quit his job to devote himself full time to winning his fantasy football league, and it’s a pretty funny story. It’s no “Fantasyland”, Sam Walker’s book about fantasy baseball, but it’s good.


I am now in the midst of Grant Wahl’s “The Beckham Experiment”, about David Beckham’s adventures in US Soccer. It’s a loaner from my brother in law, and is proving to be a pretty good read, even for a soccer ignoramus like myself.


Game 95: OK. Breathe, everybody.

Your 2009 Baltimore Orioles: The cure for the common losing streak.

Boston took down these selfsame Orioles to the tune of a 3-1 win tonight, Brad Penny pitching 6 strong, handing off to Run MDC, the Okey Doke, and the good 'ol Lord of the Dance shutting it down.


Thursday, July 23, 2009


The Red Sox are off today, going home after an unmitigated disaster of a road trip to face the Orioles, followed by the Athletics.

Baseball Nation turns its lonely eyes to Chicago, where Mark Buehrle, a right handed veteran pitcher who is most often remembered for, well, being a right handed veteran pitcher, threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Naughty Fish.

That's not just a no hitter-Buehrle already had one of them. But this is, really, as the name implies-perfection. Nobody on base-no walks, no hits, no errors, no nothing. 27 guys come up to the plate, and every blinking one makes an out.

Hats off to Buehrle for doing something as well as it can possibly be done.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Game 94: Perhaps Messrs. Duncan and LaRoche can, y'know, HIT?

In Texas, the Walker Texas Rangers sent emergency starter Dustin Nippert to the mound tonight, with Vincente Padilla out due to illness. However, they may as well have sent Chuck Norris to the mound, because you, or I, or the Little Sisters of the Poor could shut down the Red Sox bats right now, and Nippert and company did so, 3-1.

In other news, Boston acquired a LaRoche from Pittsburgh (they have two-hopefully we got the good one) and Chris Duncan from St. Louis today in return for a couple of minor leaguers (LaRoche) and a pox ridden blanket of a shortstop, Julio Lugo (Duncan).

On the plus side, if there is a market somewhere for defensively challenged first basemen, we have about 17 of them.


For Whom The Bell Tolls

"Every man's death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind."

-John Donne

"You must go/
On with the show."

-Motley Crue

"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."

-Matthew 5:45

I haven't blogged about anything except the Red Sox since my father's death last Sunday. I'm not sure that I am exactly capable of it. It doesn't feel like I am able to be funny, or angry, or clever, any longer.

I think I will again, of course. I just don't know when, or how long,until I will be back to my old self again. I think, like F. Scott Fitzgerald's broken plate analogy, I will serve the same functions, while never being exactly the same again.

One thing that has been running through my mind is the utter ordinariness of what has happened. Not to me, surely-but this is an event that happens, or has happens, to a whole lot of people-the majority, probably, of people will bury their parents.

It is utterly ordinary, yet when it happens to you, of course, it is anything but.

I will be back in full form, I believe, at some point. I'm just not sure when that will be.

From Kurt Vonnegut's Palm Sunday, a selection from the funeral oration of the author's great grandfather, Clemens Vonnegut, which I read at my father's memorial service:

"To you, my next of kin:

Do not mourn! I have now arrived at the end of the course of life, as you will eventually arrive at yours. I am at rest and nothing will ever disturb my deep slumber.

I am disturbed by no worries, no grief, no fears, no wishes, no passions, no pains, no reproaches from others. All is infinitely well with me.

I departed from life with loving, affectionate feelings for all mankind; and I admonish you: Be aware of this truth that the people on this earth could be joyous, if only they would live rationally and if they would contribute mutually to each others' welfare."

RIP, Dad.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Game 93: Headed South With All Due Speed

I used to work with a gentleman, who, after the Red Sox lost to a no name pitcher, would proclaim loudly, "One of The True Greats!"

Well, Boston got beat by one of the True Greats, Texas' Tommy Hunter, 4-2 at Arlington tonight. Commander Kick A$$ went 8 innings for a complete game loss.

But Cowboy Clay Buchholz, the last Boston pitcher (gulp) to win a game, will step in for an ailing Tim Wakefield and take the hill tomorrow.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Ketchup Post: Games 89,90,91, and 92

Back on Friday, the Red Sox won 4-1 over the Blue Jays in Toronto, Cowboy Clay Buchholz making his 2009 debut, and unlike 2008, not sucking.

Saturday gave us a 6-2 loss, with Marc Rzepczynski, whose family was obviously a victim of the Great Vowel Shortage of 1987, beating good 'ol Brad Penny.

Sunday, the Red Sox got Roy Halladayed, as the Toronto righty rode them hard and put them away wet for a 3-1 triumph.

And tonight saw the Red Sox in Texas where the Rangers tapdanced all over John Smoltz' head, knocking three balls out of the park in the sixth inning on the way to a 6-3 loss. Boston has now fallen into a flat footed tie for first place in the AL East.