However, Ma (may a benevolent God rest her soul) truly loved the handle. It did the two things she wanted most, it allowed her to direct her words with specificity, but best of all in her eyes the handle kept me young and manageable. (Ha! So she thought.) Well, the years have frittered away, I may not be the original creature of habit, but I am certainly an early adopter and an archtype of the first degree. And over time I have finally come to accept the name. Each mention of it keeps the memory alive of that sweet and well meaning lady who once birthed me and then happily hurried off to go back to work. And so now, in my weekly blog, I decided to revert to the moniker I had while growing up. Little Eddy lives again.
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Our soon to be erstwhile president (just not soon enough for some of us) is trying to ride what he perceives to be a wave of public irritation at the audacity of MoveOn.Org for portraying General Petraeus as General Betray Us. How dare MoveOn indeed! It surely is one bad pun. And perhaps Betray is too strong a word. Perhaps Mislead would be more to the point. But you tell me what Presidential Pot is calling what MoveOn Kettle black over the word Mislead. I’m sorry, said Presidential Pot practically invented the word mislead. It certainly tuned it to a fine art. A pun on the General’s name may not be very funny, may even be in questionable taste, but it is not treason. It is not even defamation of character. This is a free country, or was until said Presidential Pot started monkeying around with our civil liberties. And in a free country the military are kept at arm’s length, with civilians put in charge of the locks. And anyone who has had occasion to serve in the military knows the importance of those locks. It is not that the military aren’t honorable men, I’m sure they are. But their expertise is in killing, and it is only in a dictatorship that military men are listened to as sages. And then it is only because the Military have taken over power and have forced the people to listen to their wisdom. So Democrats and other real Americans should not worry over whether MoveOn.Org pays a pot full of money to run an Ad in the N.Y.Times even if it is a bad pun. That is what we in America call freedom, it’s something we don’t get near enough of these days, but it’s the one thing we need to hang onto with all of our might.
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Sunday afternoon my computer spent several hours with Transmission's bit torrent engine downloading Michael Moore's new film "Sicko." It is by far Moore's most effective film, although I’m afraid the title might turn off some people who really would benefit from seeing the film. For lets face it, this is the one movie that everybody in America would benefit from seeing. Moore lets the people he was interviewing do their own talking. He has examples of people who lost their homes, their fortune, even their lives because of their H.M.O.'s denial of care. He had telling examples of the Canadian system, the English system, and the French system, all of whose hospitals are beautifully free even to non citizens of the country, unlike U. S. hospitals who practically want a complete credit history before they will admit you. He ended up taking a group of people who had worked at Ground Zero in N.Y.C. in the aftermath of 911 and who are subsequently suffering health problems to Cuba. After failing to get them treatment at the Guantanamo base, he wanted them to have the same medical help given the prisoners there, Moore took them to Cuba proper where they got medical treatment at no cost to them whatsoever. They ended their visit at a Cuban fire station, where the firemen saluted and praised them for assisting the firemen in N.Y.C. in the wake of 911. It seems firemen feel a common brotherhood all over the world, even in Cuba.
There are some really heavy ideas floated around in the film, particularly from Tony Benn, an ex-member of the English Parliament, who exposed our current system with unerring clarity. When Moore asked him how the British free health care system came about, he summed it up in a nut shell, "it all began with democracy. What democracy did was move the power from the market place to the polling station. From the wallet to the ballot." He talked about the unemployment in Britain in the thirties, and how the war later brought full employment. He reasoned, "if you can have full employment killing people, why can't you have full employment helping people? Building hospitals, schools, etc. If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people." Exactly what Franklin Roosevelt had put into practice during the depression here in the United States. Benn went on to explain how a society like ours keeps its people in line, first by getting them heavily in debt, then by keeping them that way. "A demoralized people don't vote, if the poor would vote and put in power people who truly represent their interests, then you would have true democracy."
But by far the most damning testimony to the commercial institutions who administer health care in this country was the repeated exposition of how the Health Maintenance Organizations used denial of care for patient after patient in order to make money for their companies and their stockholders. Moore even graphically shows how such a monstrously perverse system began, under the presidency of Richard Nixon, and thanks to those White House tapes, we hear it in the Trickster’s own voice. And after several stinging examples of testimony by people the industry hired to deny claims telling their stories, it climaxed with the testimony of one Linda Peeno, a former medical reviewer for Humana, who in a deathly quiet, tear streaked voice told a Congressional Committee:
“I am here primarily today to make a public confession. In the spring of 1997 as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation which would have saved his life, and thus caused his death. No person and no group has held me accountable for this, because in fact what I did, I saved the company a half a million dollars. And furthermore, this particular act secured my reputation as a good medical director and it insured my continued advancement in the health care field. I went from making $300 a week as a medical reviewer to an escalated six figure income as a physician consultant. And in all my work I had one primary duty, and that was to use my medical expertise for the financial benefit of the organization for which I worked. And I was told repeatedly that I was not denying care, I was denying payment. I know how managed care maims and kills patients, so I am here to tell you about the dirty work of managed care, and I’m haunted by the thousands of pieces of paper on which I had written that deadly word, denied.”
I am absolutely sure that the so-called Health Care industry will scream "anecdotal evidence" as if real stories are somehow tainted and not truly "scientific." Real people who see the film are likely for the first time to realize how out of control and basically wrong the health care industry in this country really is. As we said everybody should see this film. Then we should put the Democrats in power in 2008, and demand that they give us a truly universal system of affordable health care. I say Democrats because it is perfectly obvious that the Republicans won’t do it. They won’t consider a health care system unless the words “for profit” are grafted onto it, and that just doesn't cut it. You can’t run true health care for profit any more than you could run fire fighters for profit or police officers for profit. A for profit system can only make money by taking money in and not paying money out, in other words by denying care to patients, which is exactly what our present system has learned to do so well. And I retch every time that tv commercial comes on where Montel Williams touts about how, "the American Pharmaceutical Industry wants to help." Sure it wants to help, help keep those outrageous profits rolling in while giving lip service to helping a few needy persons pay for their grossly overpriced drugs.
My own case is miniscule compared to the stories in Michael Moore’s film. As a senior citizen I have for two years in a row drifted into what I call the Repugnacant Party's "doughnut hole" under which after a couple of thousand dollars of drug assistance your health care provider is free to cut your prescription assistance to zero. Type in "doughnut hole" into Google and see what you come up with.
Texas HealthSpring is my Medicare provider. During my first trip through the doughnut hole my physician was able to give me enough doctor’s samples of the Eli Lily’s Forteo Pen (treats osteoporosis) to get me through until the new year when my coverage would resume. But the Forteo pen is $700 a month, and after the three months of this year the pen had navigated me right back into that Bermuda Triangle of drug assistance programs, the infamous doughnut hole, and this time not only did I have to cancel the Forteo Pen, but my One Touch test strips which are used to measure blood sugar levels for my Type 2 diabetes have run out, and Edgepark, my supplier, has not renewed them, I’m sure because Texas HealthSpring will not pay for them thanks to that damned Repugnacant “doughnut hole”. And as a result my early warning system for excessive blood sugar levels is DOA.
Is this the kind of help a caring society really wants to give its citizenry, and particularly its elder citizenry? We have been listening to this private enterprise and hate the government crap from ardent Repugnacant loud mouths for the past seven years. As we approach the 2008 elections the American people really need to make an important decision. Do you really want your government to work exclusively for the benefit of the super rich and the giant corporations, and in the process elevate incompetence into a virtual state religion? Think about that for a minute. What kind of man would first relieve the super rich from paying their fair share of taxes and then start a major war? A Republican, who else!
The other choice would be to have your government return to working in the interests of you and me and to resume performing at the best level it can manage in the process? That is the real issue facing Americans. It's so simple a choice, really. But we Americans inevitably get sucked into that silly pipe dream that says, "let the rich make all the money they can, and maybe someday I'll be rich and get to enjoy the privilege." We never seem to learn. It failed under Coolidge and Hoover, in fact the country damn near went down the tubes after their respective reigns, and when a bunch of starry-eyed followers of Newt the Gingrich started mouthing off about the evils of government we fell for it all over again. I hate to be a disillusionist, but a health care system for profit just doesn't work. Never has, never will. In case you haven’t noticed the rich don't have a real good track record in benevolence department, in fact they have been known to get downright testy at the slightest mention of the word share, and so the result of our present system is: surprise, surprise? The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and middle class gets a royal screwing as they are left to pay society's bills. If America is to get true health care coverage for all it can only happen through the federal government. There is no other entity in our society that has the power or the will.
“But hey little Eddy, didn't you feel the least bit guilty downloading Mr. Moore's film and viewing it without giving the poor fellow a chance to earn a penny?” No I didn't. I don't have a car to go to the movies, nor could I go to a store to buy the dvd if it was out. These words are my contribution to Michael Moore’s film. And somehow of all the filmmakers out there, I think Michael Moore would be one to care the least about someone downloading his film. Like the folk musicians I talked about in Eddy Blog #1, the important thing for Michael is that people see his film and seriously consider his ideas. It reminds me of the yippie of years back, Abbie Hoffman, who once wrote a book he titled, "Steal This Book." I'm sure his publisher did a double take when Hoffman presented him with that title. I wouldn't know whether the book was interesting or worth stealing, I didn't steal books back then. Nowadays all he would have to do is put it up on the web and he would get his wish in spades.
I do have a suggestion for Michael Moore, and for all of you who have a broadband internet connection. A check with Amazon showed that the “Sicko” DVD is not out yet, so Michael get to work and release the DVD. In the meantime all you broadbanders out there fire up your web browsers and get on mininova, or Pirate Bay, or any one of the bit torrent search engines still working and download the film. Watch it yourself, then invite your friends over for a Sicko party, just like the Tupperware people do. Watch the movie as a group. Discuss it afterwards, sharing your individual experiences. Then try and arrange for each attendee to hold a Sicko party of his/her very own inviting their own circle of friends. If people can sell plastic doodads to their friends and neighbors, why not health care? If enough of us did this there is no telling how far we might be able to go towards fixing this broken health care system of ours. You might say, "I'm not sick, this doesn't effect me." But it will effect you, if not tomorrow, then next week or next year or somewhere down the line. Trust me. Getting sick is as inevitable as is our very mortality. You could call this suggestion for Sicko parties little Eddy's prescription for preventive medicine. Prevention from bankruptcy that is, for when you do get sick.
*A postscript. Every day since Tuesday I have trying to send the above piece to email@example.com which is the email address listed on his website, MichaelMoore.com, so that Michael could either dispatch his coterie of lawyers to shut me down, or if he likes what I suggested, give my blog a link on his website, but each day I got notification of delivery failure due to his aol email account being full. Michael, empty your aol box so that people can email you, or better yet, get yourself a Google account, which won’t fill up so damn easily.
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The true paint in a writer’s pallette is found in the words he uses. Each word has a very specific meaning, and the closer you can get to using the word most accurately expressing what you are trying to say, the more incisive your writing will be. Consequently the most useful tool in the hands of a writer is a dictionary. However, interrupting the flow of ideas to go to a printed dictionary to look up a word for its spelling or for the subtlety of its meaning is a painfully slow and distracting process. How did we ever manage to write at all in a world of only printed dictionaries?
For a writer one of the greatest blessings to come from using computers to write with is the ability to check the spelling and/or meaning of a word on the fly, quickly and painlessly. I write on an Apple iMac computer and I highlight the word I want to check using the mouse and the pointer and copy the word onto the clipboard pressing command-C, then call up the dictionary widget which comes on screen along with all of my other widgets when I press the button atop my mighty mouse. (For you non computer literati out there a widget is a small program which you can bring up in addition to whatever program you are working in.) Clicking the mouse at the left of the dictionary’s window and pressing command V puts the word I highlighted into the dictionary’s window, then hitting return brings up my word, providing, of course, that I spelled it correctly.
The dictionary widget makes a good first choice in checking spelling or meaning, but it will be of no use whatsoever if you didn’t spell the word correctly. Also its vocabulary is somewhat limited, a lot of perfectly good words are not there. In case the widget didn’t recognize your word fire up your web browser (I use either Camino or Safari, people trapped in the Windows world usually use Internet Explorer or Firefox), and go to the Merriam-Webster website
Another wonderful bonus for the person who uses a computer as a word processor is the ability to change your wording with ease. This is detailed in an article by Stephen Levy in Newsweek. He began: “So I (born 1951) told these twentysomethings (at Google) that there was a time when people wrote on machines called typewriters, beginning at the beginning and plowing through until the end, at which point they would mark up the manuscript with pen or pencil for the next run through the typewriter. If there was a need to recast a couple of sentences or even an entire paragraph, you would type on a new sheet of paper, cut the new text from the page with scissors and use Elmer's glue to paste it over the original not-so-hot lines. "Oh!" said one of the Googlers, of 1980s vintage. "So that's where 'cut-and-paste' came from!" The full article is here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20789352/site/newsweek/
Another blessing the web offers these days is Wikipedia, the massive online encyclopedia with over two million articles in English. There has never, ever been anything anywheres near it out here in the flesh and blood world of real life. It is like an almalgamation of dictionary, enclyclopedia and alamanac, all rolled into one. I am ever amazed at the abundance of topics which can be found there. In my first two blogs, and thanks to Google, I found Wikipedia references to Pete Seeger, Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, and Dave Garroway among other topics. What an abundant fountain of facts and knowledge. Some may question the value of a reference site that gives readers the ability to mess with the offerings. But I have found that the few references I have called up were right on target. That fellow who got the idea and oversees this project should get some kind of an online virtual sainthood.
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I am addicted to several things. One is butter. Real, unsalted butter. During the early days of World War II when butter first got displaced by margarine (the cow displaced by the vegetable), and with each margarine trying harder to taste like butter, my dear mother and the aunt who raised me had me take the butter/margarine test. Numerous times. They swore that I would not be able to tell the difference, and after blindfolding me they repeatedly gave me a taste of each. I picked the real butter every time.
The other thing I am a nut about is freshly ground peanut butter. Do you know what Peter Pan and all those other big processed food companies do to peanut butter? First they take the peanut oil out of it so they can sell it to fancy chefs in France, then they take some other oil, heaven knows what, and homogenize it with the oil less ground peanuts. And then they salt it heavily. Do yourself a treat. Go to the nearest Whole Foods or other grocer specializing in real foods, and go to the machine which grinds roasted peanuts into real peanut butter while you wait. But it isn't homogenized, you say, and the oil will rise to the top, making the last half dry? Simple solution, turn it upside down as you put it in the refrigerator. The oil will rise to the bottom, and will be with you until the very end. I guarantee.
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I really thought that radio was the ultimate medium for the artist, for it freed the imagination to bring to life any vision that a combination of words and sounds might create in the listeners mind. I got a taste of the power of radio when I was fourteen years old and snuck my radio under the bed covers one night, so that in the dark of the night I could surreptitiously listen to Arch Obler's radio program, Lights Out Everybody. I remember this one episode was about a college prank where a fraternity inductee was blindfolded and tied to a chair. At the end of the program he tips the chair over and crashes into a window, and most likely the sound effects man followed the sound of the breaking glass with that of a cocoanut falling on dirt to simulate the sound of the kid's head, as it was severed from his body and hit the ground below. Believe me, the picture these sounds planted in my fourteen year old mind has remained with me ever since.
A young flamboyant boy genius named Orson Welles demonstrated the unique power of the medium of radio as no one else has ever done before or since. In a halloween special on his Mercury Theatre radio program, he did an adaption of the H.G. Wells novel, War of the Worlds. It was a compelling performance, with a musical program being contantly broken into with remote broadcasts from the site of the invasion. Wikipedia has an excellent description of the event which can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_of_the_Worlds_(radio)
At 1805 Fairview St. we had our own conflict on that fateful Halloween night. I wanted to hear Orson's Mercury Theatre, my dear late aunt Offie (Ethel Forman, I gave her the name Offie when I was little and couldn't pronounce either Ethel or her other nickname, Effie. Poor thing, she was stuck with the name Offie for the rest of her life.) wanted to hear the Chase and Sanborn Hour starring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. She loved the weekly bit of romantic pap which starred Don Ameche and Alice Faye, who was married to the show's bandleader Phil Harris. That fateful night in deference to Offie's romantic desires I would turn back and forth between Welle's adaptation of Wells invasion of New Jersey, and Ameche's bit of romantic pap.
It was a little chopped going back and forth between the two programs, but the Welles’ drama itself was equally chopped with a studio orchestra playing what used to be called hotel music, but with frequent cutaways to the invasion that was supposedly happening at Grover's Mills, N.J., and which was being presented as if it was actually happening. By the time the program was half over all of the radio networks were announcing on every station break that the invasion of Grover Mills was fantasy, and wasn't really happening. And that went on the the rest of the night. My father read about the panic in the next morning's Houston Post, especially the panic in New Jersey where there was actually a town near the name Grover's Mills, and he regretted that we hadn't been able to hear the entire program. On the strength of the impact of that program Mr. Welles was lured to Hollywood where he was destined to film what is felt by many to be the greatest movie of all time, Citizen Kane. Most everybody agrees except William Randolph Hearst, upon whose life the film was based. He disliked it so strongly he would never allow his newspapers to print Orson Welles’ name again. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_Kane)
Ah radio. What a fine medium. What potential. Such a grand platform only to end up becoming an escape for drive time driving, or fodder for right wing fanatics, along with commercial loaded top forty stations playing the same songs ad nauseam. Television with its hypnotic moving images, killed the imaginative potential of radio. R.I.P. radio.
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A note about little Eddy’s picture at the top, page right. This picture was taken in Photo Booth, a program that comes with any Apple Mac computer these days. It was taken with the on board eye sight camera, using a distortion effect called light tunnel. That is one of nine optical effects you can get on page 2 of your options. Other distortion effects include, bulge, dent, twirl, squeeze, mirror, fisheye, stretch, and of all things, normal. Effects 1 give you a more organic level of effects, sepia, black and white, glow, comic book, colored pencil, thermal camera, x-ray camera, pop art, and again, normal. Each page shows you a small version of each effect, and clicking on any one of them brings that one to the fore. And clicking on the camera at bottom center brings on a three second countdown and SNAP – your picture is saved for posterity. I couldn’t resist captioning my picture recalling L.B.J.’s famous light at the end of the tunnel remark. Programs like Photo Booth horrify staid business types who only think in terms of bottom lines (the money making kind, not the fun kind) where anything unrelated to business is frivolous and somehow sinful, but built in extras like these help make owning a Mac a barrel of fun. The latest person to throw up his hands with Vista and defect to the Mac is Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and an H.D. tv channel. See: http://www.blogmaverick.com/2007/09/16/once-you-go-mac/
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For all fellow and would be ancients, check out Guy Kawasaki’s blog at: http://blog.guykawasaki.com/ and particularly note the slide show presentation “You Know You’re Old When . . .” I particularly like the one you know you're old when: “your bowel movements have more drama and excitement than your sex life.” Too Funny. Too True. Too much.
The Real Little Eddy