,Malaysia, Nicaragua,adultery

Sunday, November 29, 2009


John Brodniak of Yamhill County, OR. - A Victim of Our Health Care System


One American without Medical Insurance

Nicholas Kristof's column in NY Times 11-28-09:

Are We Going to Let John Die? 

If Joe Lieberman or other senators came across John Brodniak writhing in pain on the sidewalk, they presumably would jump to help him and rush him to a hospital.

Unfortunately, an emergency room won’t help — indeed, the closest E.R. has told him not to come back, he says. So, for those members of Congress who are wavering on health reform, listen to John’s story.

John is a sawmill worker from Yamhill County, Ore., where I grew up. He was a foreman at a mill, he felt strong and healthy, and he had very basic insurance coverage through his job. On April 18, he was married, at age 23, and life was looking up.

Ten days after the wedding, he was walking in his backyard carrying a neighbor’s dog — and he suddenly blacked out. That led, after rounds of CAT scans, M.R.I.’s and other tests, to the discovery that the left parietal lobe of his brain has a cavernous hemangioma. That’s an abnormal growth of blood vessels, and in John’s case it is chronically leaking blood into his brain.

John began to have trouble walking and would sometimes collapse. He developed spasms and restless leg syndrome, he began to use a cane, and his mind suffered.

“He forgets stuff a lot, he bumps into things,” said his new wife, Esther Brodniak. “But he keeps things light. He jokes about it.”

Perhaps the worst is the pain — blinding, incapacitating headaches that have left him able to sleep only in short intervals. He vomits daily when the pain surges.

“The pain is constant,” John said. “It’s a 7 or 8 on a scale of 10, and then it hits the high peaks and makes me vomit.”

With John unable to work, he lost his job — and his insurance coverage. Esther had insurance for herself and for her two children (from a previous marriage) through her job building manufactured homes. But she couldn’t add John to her plan because of his pre-existing condition.

Without insurance, John has been unable to get surgery or even help managing the pain. When he collapses or suffers particularly excruciating headaches, Esther rushes him to the emergency room of one hospital or another, but an E.R. can’t do much for him. One hospital has told them not to come back unless he gets insurance, they say.

Esther used up her family leave time to look after her new husband. “Then I went back to work, and he fell several times,” she said. “I told my boss that I had to quit. Taking care of John was more important than building someone else’s house.”

That meant that the couple had no income — and no insurance for anyone in the family, including the children. Neighbors have helped, and a community program has paid the rent so that they are not homeless. But bills are piling up, and John and Esther don’t know how they will cope.

The doctors warn that pressure from the growth could lead a major blood vessel nearby to burst, killing him. “They tell me I’m a time bomb,” John said. With a touch of bitterness, he adds, “It sort of feels as if they’re playing for time to see if it bursts, to save them from doing anything.”

I’m not a physician, and I certainly can’t speak to the medical issues here. But I have examined John’s medical records, and they appear to confirm his story.

John says the principal obstacle to treatment appears to be simply his lack of insurance. In August, he qualified for an Oregon Medicaid program, but he hasn’t been able to find a doctor who will accept him as a patient for surgery, apparently because the reimbursements are so low. Doctors tell him that his condition is operable — but that they can’t accept him without conventional insurance. He is increasingly frustrated as he watches his family crushed by the burden of his illness.

“The mill won’t let me go back to work until a doctor gives me a note saying I can go back,” he said. “I tried with several doctors. I said, ‘Just give me a note. ... I’ve got to do something for my family. But they won’t.” John and Esther agreed to tell me their story in hopes that somehow it would lead to medical help.

John’s story is not so unusual. A Harvard study, to be published next month in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests that almost 45,000 Americans die prematurely each year as a consequence of not having insurance. John may become one of them. 

If a senator strolled indifferently by as John retched in pain, we would think that person pitiless. But isn’t it just as monstrous for politicians to avert their eyes, make excuses and deny coverage to innumerable Americans just like John?

And Members of Congress

What kind of health insurance do they have ?  From U.S. News and World Report June 24, 2009:

Friday, November 27, 2009


Fall 2009 - Wild Mushrooms in the Bay Area


Death Caps and Others to Stay Away From

Reports about foragers getting sick and, in some cases, dying from eating wild mushrooms appear every fall.

Recently, a Central Valley Woman died after eating Death Caps (Amanita phalloids) which are found in this area during fall/winter.  Her husband and cousin survived but one required a liver transplant. The death caps resemble a type that is consumed in Asian countries but many foragers are unable to identify the difference between the edible varieties that grow in their native land and the poisonous ones that resemble them here.

© David Arora - Mushrooms Demystified

Death Caps are not the only ones emerging now.  In my walks in the neighborhood I have come across some others to stay away from.


Bitter, and hallucinogenic.  Found in clusters near base of trees.

Big Laughing Jim (Gymnopilus spectabilis)



Satan's Bolete (Boletus satanas)

There is a saying that "There are old mushroom pickers and there are bold mushroom pickers, but there are no old, bold mushroom pickers".  It is good to remember that.  After foraging for about 15 years I still check and double check before I think of eating unfamiliar specimens.

Then There Are Chanterelles 

My first chanterelles of the season.


Their distinctive color, shape, and smell make them easy to identify.    And they are delicious.  The 2008/9 season was not very bountiful because of low rainfall.  This season,too, we have had very little rain.  But they have begun to appear.  During a hike with friends on November 25th we found some; encouraging sign.  

Commercial sellers  send out teams of mushroom pickers.  Not only do they trample through the woods in their quest to make money, they leave a trail of beer cans, bottles, food containers and such trash.  Very annoying.  

Fall Colors
Thanksgiving Day, Mariposa Ave, Palo Alto, California





Thursday, November 26, 2009


Catholic Church and Pedophilia Back in the News

Powerful, Monolithic Bastion of Hypocrisy

The fact that we no longer find such news shocking is an indicator of how blasé we have become about the Catholic Church's shameful role in sexual abuse of children and adults.  Old hat?  Perhaps.  But the report about how the top hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland (no doubt with complicity of some government officials) refused to acknowledge and prevent 'sexual abuse of children by priests' exposes the magnitude of what went on for years.

Reuters News (in Washington Post, 11-26-09)

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Dublin obsessively covered up widespread sexual abuse of children by priests until the mid-1990s in a misuse of the Church's central role in Irish society, an official report said on Thursday.

The government-commissioned inquiry into abuse in the Irish capital from 1975 to 2004, which came six months after a similarly damning report about Church-run industrial and reform schools, also accused state officials of abetting the cover-up.

The report, designed to show how church and state responded to charges of abusing children, said a representative sample of 46 priests made "abundantly clear" that it was widespread.
"The Dublin Archdiocese's pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid-1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets," the report said.

"All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities," added the report, which was published by the justice ministry.

Similar abuse cover-up charges have dogged the Catholic Church in other countries, especially the United States. Seven dioceses there have filed for bankruptcy protection to shield themselves from law suits by abuse victims. 

It is the same Church that is now deeply involved in political meddling in health-care reform in our country.  What it opposes?  Women's right to choose and giving terminally ill people the option for a dignified death!

Bright Thanksgiving morning. Listening to Blues on Bach by the Modern Jazz Quartet.  The LP includes Tears from the Children based on Prelude No.8 from Bach's Well Tempered Clavier.


Monday, November 23, 2009


Insurance Reimbursement for Prayers


A Scam by Any Other Name 

Watching various scams. including tax breaks that various religious groups get away with, leaders of Church of Christ, Scientist came up with a new one.  They want a provision in the proposed health-care reform package to include reimbursement for professional prayer service!  The Washington Post reported:

The calls come in at all hours: patients reporting broken bones, violent coughs, deep depression.

Prue Lewis listens as they explain their symptoms. Then Lewis -- a thin, frail-looking woman from Columbia Heights -- simply says, "I'll go to work right away." She hangs up, organizes her thoughts and begins treating her clients' ailments the best way she knows how: She prays.

This is health care in the world of Christian Science, where the sick eschew conventional medicine and turn to God for healing. Christian Scientists call it "spiritual health care," and it is a practice they are battling to insert into the health-care legislation being hammered out in Congress.

Leaders of the Church of Christ, Scientist, are pushing a proposal that would help patients pay someone like Lewis for prayer by having insurers reimburse the $20 to $40 cost.

The provision was stripped from the bill the House passed this month, and church leaders are trying to get it inserted into the Senate version. And the church has powerful allies there, including Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who represents the state where the church is based, and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who said the provision would "ensure that health-care reform law does not discriminate against any religion." 

Trust the politicians to support such boondoggles.  Nothing new about that. One can understand Senator Hatch being a backer, but John Kerry!  Let's hope that they don't get away with it.

A friend commented: 

  • Hey, why stop at christian healers, bring on the faith healers of all stripes.  I see new industries popping up. Call your favorite faith-healer in Bangalore. There is a very large constituency of remote healers in the land of the snake charmers. These guys claim to have magical powers of remote diagnosis and cure. Hook up Pir Sahib or Baba Love to a VOIP and just watch them shake that money tree.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Vive Extremadura

Bill Clinton * Jocelyn Elders * Doomsday

Wonder if Bill Clinton, our retired president, reads The Guardian. If he does then  the article about officials of the Spanish region of Extremadura is sure to make him think of his cowardly surrender in 1994 to the Christian Right and other hypocrites, including some Democratic politicians, when he asked for resignation of his surgeon general, Jocelyn Elders, because she talked about the benefits of masturbation.

Pleasure is in your own hands

It is a subject that would make most governments blush, but officials in the Spanish region of Extremadura have launched a major programme to encourage what could be described as a more hands-on approach to sexuality.

The region's socialist government has launched a €14,000 (£12,600) campaign aimed at teaching young people how best to set about "sexual self-exploration and the discovery of self-pleasure" – or to put it less delicately: masturbation.

"Pleasure is in your own hands" is the slogan of a campaign that has sparked political controversy and challenges traditional Roman Catholic views on people having sex, even on their own, for non-reproductive reasons.

"This is an intimate subject that should be dealt with at home," complained local opposition leader Hernández Carrón of the rightwing People's party. "We have become the laughing stock of Spain."

"They are interfering with the right of parents to educate their own children about a matter as important as their sexuality," agreed the conservative Confederation of Fathers and Mothers of Schoolchildren.

Officials from the neighbouring region of Andalucia have expressed an interest in copying the programme.

The Mother of all Doomsday Movies

The newly released "2012" doing well at the box office.

The film is about December 21, 2012 -- the day when, according to the Mayan calendar, the world will cease to exists !  It would appear that many Christians believe in the Mayan calendar.  Or, perhaps, it is just another item to support their position on Armageddon.   Unlike some other scenarios supported by the Bible thumpers  in which faithful, born again Christians survive -- ascend to heaven, and all others suffer painful   deaths -- the film has a different ending.

From an essay by Dennis Overbye in The NY Times, Dec.17, 2009

In the movie, an alignment between the Sun and the center of the galaxy on Dec. 21, 2012, causes the Sun to go berserk with mighty storms on its surface that pour out huge numbers of the elusive subatomic particles known as neutrinos. Somehow the neutrinos transmute into other particles and heat up the Earth’s core. The Earth’s crust loses its moorings and begins to weaken and slide around. Los Angeles falls into the ocean; Yellowstone blows up, showering the continent with black ash. Tidal waves wash over the Himalayas, where the governments of the planet have secretly built a fleet of arks in which a select 400,000 people can ride out the storm.

But this is only one version of apocalypse out there. In other variations, a planet named Nibiru crashes into us or the Earth’s magnetic field flips.

There are hundreds of books devoted to 2012, and millions of Web sites, depending on what combination of “2012” and “doomsday” you type into Google.

All of it, astronomers say, is bunk.

“Most of what’s claimed for 2012 relies on wishful thinking, wild pseudoscientific folly, ignorance of astronomy and a level of paranoia worthy of ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ ” Ed Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory, in Los Angeles, and an expert on ancient astronomy, wrote in an article in the November issue of Sky & Telescope.

Many will flock to see the film.....and some of the moviegoers will believe in what they see.  The web site December 212012.com lists Mel Gibson and Shirley MacLaine among the believers.  Yes, 'usual suspects'. A lot of geegaws on sale -- coffee cups, tee shirts, books, pictures,etc. No doubt the promoters will make some money.  But December 21,2012 will come go just like any other day and the hucksters will move on to something else to dupe the gullible.


Sunday, November 15, 2009


On the road to 2010 - Shrinking Coattails of President Obama

Democrats and the GOP

Members of God's Own Party licking their chops. Energized by gains (in state houses) in recent elections, they are hoping to re-take some seats in Congress in 2010. There has been no change in their strategy. They  continue to do the usual fear-mongering; champion free-market policy; advocate total ban on women's right to choose, and talk about moral values (moral values!) despite the fact that a number of  their prominent members got caught in sleazy affairs.  Shameless hypocrites with very short, and selective, memory.

But they have some reasons to feel hopeful. Among them, the so called "Blue Dog Democrats" many of whom support the Republican agenda, and President Obama's failure to take a strong position on anything.  He talks the talk but the words no  longer  have the magic because nothing happens.  No wonder that a large block of voters who played a major role in his victory is disappointed, feels betrayed.

To some, "Liberal" is a dirty word. A liberal friend emailed:
A report in WSJ reads "Concerns Rise Around Obama's First Swing Through Asia"

SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--President Barack Obama headed to Shanghai on Sunday to press China on issues from climate change to economic restructuring, amid rising concerns that his first swing through Asia will yield more disappointment than progress on trade, human rights, national security and environmental concerns. 

A flurry of actions here this weekend raised more questions than they resolved on a broad sweep of issues confronting both sides of the Pacific. On Sunday, leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum dropped efforts to reach a binding international climate change agreement in Copenhagen next month, settling instead for what they called a political framework for future negotiations.

Thought I was reading about G.W. Bush!

The President can continue his policy of appeasement and take a chance on support from enough middle-of-the road voters to carry the Democrats in 2010.  A rebound in the economy and improvement in the unemployment numbers would help him and could make a difference. Right now,however, things don't look rosy.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Hands Across the Seas, Part III


Despite advancing march of the disease, Sarah continues to remain active in pursuing her projects and making arrangements to move to a hospice from her beloved cottage and the garden in which she takes so much pleasure.  In terms of physical distance the hospice is not far. If feasible, Sarah would rather spend her remaining days in the cottage, among familiar scenes, objects, and with her two dogs.  

Sarah took this photograph a few days ago.

© Sarah Meyer

"The falling leaves     
fall and pile up: the rain
beats on the rain."

--Gyodai, translated by Harold Henderson 

In a message, Sarah wrote on November 9th:
  • Stefan has been and cleared ALL the leaves, AND composed the front garden.  The earth becomes barer and barer, like me? Lucky to have him.  At first, no dialogue.  Now he tells lots of stories.  Like that.  So now, I, too, am spending a lot of time looking out the window, loving either the rain or the blue skies.  The owl hoots every night.  Love that, too.
Even among her friends, not everyone agrees with her decision. There are those who, for religious or other reasons, make use of all available resources that medical science offers  to live longer even when hooked up to tubes.   It is not about of being right or wrong.  It is a very personal issue -- what being 'alive' means to some people.

But, after all is said, we cannot really feel the depth of emotional pain and suffering of her children.  

Hemlock Society, America's oldest right-to-die organization, founded in 1980 in Santa Monica, CA, by Derek Humphrey, has splintered into different groups. Prominent among them is Compassion and Choices. Politics played a role in the demise of the Hemlock Society. A pity. The name was right, and so was its motto:  "Good Life, Good Death".

Sarah's account of her illness contains a wealth of data about cancer and mentions an article in The Guardian about "......the ethical fudge which permits the refusal of treatment and terminal sedation, but not assisted dying".   And an item from Dignity in Dying.org uk.

  • 8 October 2009: New research shows a third of deaths are hastened by doctors
  • Clive Seale's research into end of life practice, published this week in Social Science and Medicine, has found that over a third of doctors say they have given drugs to terminally ill patients, or withdrawn treatment, knowing that it would or intending to shorten their life."
This argument is not likely to come to a conclusion  anytime soon.  But that there are compassionate physicians who quietly play a role in assisting terminally ill patients  is no secret.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Obama's Election Victory Redux


Not Much Has Changed * Year of Dwindling Hopes

What now?  Nov 3rd election results clearly indicate the president's weakened position. Republican gubernatorial contender Bob McDonnell in Virginia defeated Democrat Craig Deeds by a wide margin despite Obama's efforts on behalf of Deeds. Polls were showing that McDonnell had a double-digit lead, so the result was not a suprise. In New Jersey, Democrat John Corzine (governor since 2006) lost to Republican Chris Christie. in a close race.  These victories have energized Republicans.The mid-term elections are a year away. The Obama wave is receding; blacks and young voters stayed away. 

The president has three more years in his first term.....a very long time in politics.  Think of G.W. Bush and his sky-high popularity which plummeted in the last years of his second term.  Obama's numbers could ascend or they  could go down below that of Bush.

There are those who say that it is too early to stop hoping that President Obama would live up to at least some of the things he talked about during his campaign, and that he deserves more time.

Perhaps they are right. One year is not enough to get a lot done, especially when you think of the mess he inherited.  Democrats have majority but not a veto-proof majority, and not all Democratic members of Congress are supportive of the president's goals.

That is not what is disheartening.  On a number of issues the president has either gone back on his words or retreated too quickly when he faced opposition.  It is almost as if all his decisions are based with an eye on second term; he wants to be all things to all men.  He is paying a price but no doubt Obama and his team have considered the cost-benefit factors in pursuing their strategy.

Torture of Prisoners - Extraordinary Rendition

Still following Bush administration's practices.


Backed away from opposition to retroactive immunity for telecom companies that assisted in warrantless wire tapping within the USA.

The Middle-East

After a strong statement calling for complete halt of settlement construction by the Israelis, the president quietly retreated.

Israel continues to be one of the primary recipients of financial and military aid
from the United States. The aid package is 'classified' . And no one talks about Israel's nuclear arsenal!

Reform of Wall Street

The hands-off policy that allowed giants of Wall Street to come up with creative
mortgage finance packages and exotic investment plans which eventually caused the markets to collapse began long before Obama became president.

However, it is now quite obvious that it is going to be 'business as usual'.  Eventually, when some of the proposed measures to curb abusive practices take shape they will be largely symbolic.....toothless. Prominent members of his staff were involved in creating, and benefiting from the actions that caused the crash.

Democratic members of Congress have turned out to be in the pockets of lobbyists just like the Republicans. The Democrats are not blatant about being in bed with special interest groups, but that is the most one can say about them. Barring a few exceptions, our elected representatives are creatures of a corrupt system.

Health Care Reform

The president quickly retreated from a strong public option provision. Loud reaction from his "liberal" supporters forced him to return to resurrect the issue. But let's not fool ourselves. The much vaunted plans for a health-care plan to cover all Americans are dead. When the final bill emerges it is not going to be anything close to universal health care available in Canada, Britain, and some European countries. And costs will keep going up.

Currently, it looks doubtful that a bill would clear Congress and submitted to the president before the end of the year.

With the huge deficit that now exists, lack of funding for health care is a major obstacle. As long as we continue to take part in wars and propping up dictators in various parts of the world money for social programs and domestic infrastructure would not be available.

Iraq and Afghanistan

The mess started under G.W. Bush's presidency. We don't know what kind of presence we shall have in Iraq a year from now but President Obama is maintaining plans for withdrawal.

A different story in Afghanistan where NATO's  UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is involved. But we have been running the war since 2001. The president is expected to announce his decision about increasing the number of soldiers. The military commander has asked for 40,000 more.  The number of attacks by drones has increased.  Afghan civilians continue to suffer deaths and injuries.

Hamid Karzai, the puppet installed by Bush administration as president of Afghanistan in 2004, won a technical victory in recent election when, after detection of wide-spread fraud and announcement of new election, his opponent decided to withdraw from the race.

Corruption is said to be rampant in Karzai's Afghanistan. According to recent reports, President Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is one of the major players in Afghanistan's drug trade, and he enjoys a cozy relationship with the CIA. The CIA has been paying him for years to assist in the war against the Taliban.

A year ago we believed in his message about 'change'; there was a feeling of excitement that  things would be different after eight dark years of Bush and the neocons. Not going to happen. Better than Bush is how I feel but there are days when it is hard to maintain that position.

A friend who contributed $1,000 to Obama's campaign in 2008, reveled in his victory:
  • My faith in our country and the belief that education and intelligence and smartness still has value in this country has been restored! at least for now.
  • On my next international trip I hope I don't have to fidget to disclose my country or origin anymore.
A few weeks back I emailed him:

"Almost a year since your message full of joy and high hopes. You were not the only one to feel good. But how do you feel a year later? "

His response:

"Ha ha.. Wonderfully ripped off."


Sunday, November 01, 2009


Hands Across the Seas, Part II

Surveillance in the Modern World * A Garden in Sussex, UK

Consultations with doctors; visits from friends and family members; taking care of the various mundane yet important tasks that must be dealt with, Sara M. continues to be active and energetic in pursuing her projects.

Her messages convey no sign of despair. Sarah recently completed and published her research about surveillance societies. A lot of work went into it. For Sarah, it is a labor of love. The post reflects her passionate position about injustice and the widening use of technological advances in weapons of war that only the major nations can afford and use them to achieve ends which rarely have anything to do with democracy and freedom for the people of the countries under attack.

A friend wrote to her that "prayers work". There is no argument about the fact that some people find solace, strength in prayers.

Our ex-president G.W. Bush spoke on October 26th at a Get Motivated seminar (ticket price $225.00) in Fort Worth,TX, about being helped by god in his decisions. And former prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair, talked about "divine impulses" during a video interview published by The Washington Post. Two men with blood on their hands. Sickening. No doubt the grand inquisitors felt empowered by god to burn the heretics. And the Crusaders went on their looting and pillaging expeditions blessed by god. In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, the Islamic fundamentalists are killing each other as if there is no tomorrow. They,too, believe in prayers and they blow up innocent people in the name of their god.

It was what Sarah wrote about her garden that made me feel good.

"Stefan is clearing the garden now, which is sort of a mirror ...
I love the garden with the bare earth and compost. The red roses
are still blooming,along with the winter jasmine."

A corner of Sarah's garden - June 2009


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Blogroll Me!