Friday, March 26, 2010

Say No to Socialism

Prairie Pondering blogs are automatically posted as Notes on my Facebook page and, particularly when politics are being pondered, generate quite a bit of discussion. This week's post of the "Yes We Can/Hell No You Can't" video generated quite a bit of discussion.

The following was submitted from the website by one of my more liberal friends, responding to concerns expressed by opponents of health care reform. It appeared on's site last August and, most likely, elsewhere beforehand. I think it is worth sharing as it reminds us that one of the reasons we like to believe we live in the greatest country in the world is that we receive, and take for granted, so many benefits only possible through the work of our local, state and Federal governments.

NO to Socialism!

"This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US department of energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provded by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the national weather service of the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the national aeronautics and space administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US department of agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the food and drug administration.

At the approrpiate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the national institute of standards and technology and the US naval observatory, I get into my national highway traffic safety administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads built by the local, state, and federal departments of transporation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the environmental protection agency. On my way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US postal service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After work, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all it's valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the defense advanced research projects administration and post on and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No You Can't (Featuring John Boehner)

This YouTube video expresses in a most succinct and eloquent fashion why we must rise to overcome the challenges of the mindless opposition to the will of the people proffered by Republicans in Congress.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pick Two

Sunday night I was privileged to attend a function at Bet Shalom Synagogue where NPR's Scott Simon was the featured speaker. Listening to Mr. Simon wax poetic about his experiences as a journalist, the people he has met, the places he has covered, and the success he has humbly achieved as a story-teller made me feel a little nostalgic for the days 40 years ago when I considered a career in journalism.

The consideration never rose to the level of a definite plan. But I was a vociferous reader and loved to write. I had spent three years under the tutelage of Hattie Steinberg, St. Louis Park High School's legendary journalism teacher who Tom Friedman of the New York Times eulogized as the only journalism teacher he ever had, "she was that good." I won a National Council of Teachers of English award, thereby cementing my acceptance at Carleton College. While, ultimately, I pursued a career where writing skills are important, there are times when I cannot help but reflect on the life I would have led if I had stuck to answering the who, what, why, where and when mysteries Miss Steinberg trained us to solve.

Prairie Pondering is a release for my writing. Few days pass where I don't think about writing another installment. Unfortunately, few days end where thoughts are committed to my Mac's hard-drive. Typically, the disconnect results from being overwhelmed by the choice of subjects and the desire to say something meaningful and defensible. Fluff pieces are easy, but a little too self-centered. If readers are going to take the time to allow me to share my thoughts, the takeback ought to include some modicum of enlightenment or, at least, a thoughtful discussion of an issue that matters. Writer's block ensues and my blog guilt blossoms.

Tonight is no exception. It is now after midnight and I should be sleeping. In fact, I am sleeping, from time to time as I write this. But the inspiration of Scott Simon, the historic nature of the passage of health care reform Sunday night, the addresses of Secretary of State Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to the American Israeli Political Action Committee, the passage of the jobs bill, yesterday's observation of a Facebook friend that Michele Bachmann is "a black eye for Minnesota", the flooding down the road, and the pending return of outdoor Major League Baseball to Minnesota leads me to force myself to generate another blog installment.

Since twenty minutes has passed since I started writing the last paragraph, I will be efficient with the remaining hours of consciousness this evening (morning) and offer some thoughts that apply to nearly every challenge facing us today. I offer the lesson of "Pick Two."

More than one business client, either engaged in manufacturing, in sales or in providing a service, has applied the lesson of Pick Two to their commercial practices. It is a rather straight forward concept. When shopping for a product or a service, consider (a) high quality, (b) low price and (c) quick delivery. Pick two.

Invariably, one of the three options suffers at the expense of the other two. Let's apply it to health care. If I want to see my highly qualified primary care physician for the low price of my c0-pay, I'll have to wait to get an appointment. If I merely need a quick flu shot, at a subsidized price, I can go to a clinic at the local Walmart and receive the services of a less experienced medical practitioner who will, hopefully, have some knowledge in the use of a syringe. Finally, if I need an immediate consult with a physician specializing in what ails me, I may have to go outside my insurer's network and pay retail.

On a broader scale, we ALL want high quality, affordable health care. Under the rule of Pick Two, and as a matter of common sense, we cannot expect everyone to have instant gratification in their health care needs if quality and reasonable pricing are to be maintained. If our society continues to insist that every major hospital make the latest high quality technology available for every conceivable medical contingency (e.g., burn units and brain injuries) in order to facilitate quicker treatments and notwithstanding the competition operating similar facilities at 50% of capacity, it is going to be expensive. Hopefully, newly passed reform legislation will address such wastefulness. If so it will not be a "government takeover of health care" as much as a reallocation of limited resources and imposing brakes on the medical equivalent of an arms race.

The lesson of Pick Two applies to government services as well. When my barn starts on fire, I want a fire truck and personnel capable of handling the emergency at Meadow Breeze Farm as quickly as possible. That being said, it is going to be expensive. Someone has to pay for the purchase and maintenance of the latest equipment. Someone has to pay to support emergency service personnel. We can save money by scrimping on replacing equipment and/or cutting back on the size of the fire and police departments. That will reduce costs and leave me with either a prompt inadequate response (and a smoldering barn) or a slow comprehensive response (and a smoldering barn).

In the days, weeks and months ahead, when friends who do not share my admiration for the president and his administration challenge me on the wisdom of his policies, I will fall back on the lesson of Pick Two. This country voted for a new direction in 20008. Loudly. We were promised a change in the way government serves its citizens. Absent the political vitriol, we should be smart enough to realize that quick fixes are the antithesis of well-reasoned, high quality approaches to problem solving.

We should remember that difficulties that have developed over decades cannot be quickly and magically made to disappear. That means, under the lesson of Pick Two, we are going to have to spend some money. Not coincidentally, Republicans have been focusing exclusively on the cost of health care reform and the cost of the economic stimulus and the cost of repairing our infrastructure and the cost of converting to renewable energy sources. What they forget, and what I will remind my more conservative friends, is that if you take your time and purchase a high quality solution, you save money over the long run. And, most importantly, there can
be a long run.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Health Care Reform

A friend posted this link to a slide show on the current health care reform proposal expected to come to a vote in the House of Representatives. It's a good starting point for discussion. It ignores arguing for (or against) the reform by relying on derisiveness which, for me, is a nice change of pace.

There's been a lot of frenzy whipping going on, by both sides of the aisle, but, as always, I tend to support the arguments that don't rely on emotional flash points (e.g., "death panels", "Obamacare") to convince me of the merits of the argument.

Thoughtful persons and others, especially persons bent out of shape over the perceived lack of transparency in the process and the willingness of Congress to vote on a bill they have not read, should click here and read the bill pending before the House. With respect to transparency, as I explained to a very close friend, long-time client and conservative businessman this week, there's never been a more transparent process. The very fact that the whole country is in a position to offer their opinion on how the process has worked, which constituencies received special consideration in return for their representatives' support, who is and who is not supporting the reform (and why or why not) demonstrates that absolute transparent manner in which the legislation has evolved. You want more transparency? Win an election and attend the meetings yourself.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Birthday Pondering

The clock is about to strike 12, at which point I will have reached 58 years of age. The congratulations have been pouring in from family and friends all over the world since last weekend when I posted a photograph online of my close friend Greg Kellenberger and me holding candlelit desserts at the end of our annual celebratory dinner.

I've heard from Nathaniel Davis in Beijing and from Bob Levine off the coast of Brazil on a cruise ship. I've heard from cousins in California, a former girlfriend in Denver, law school classmates in Washington, D.C., family in the Twin Cities, Connecticut and Arizona. Rabbi Cohen sent me an e-card, saying nice things about me that I don't deserve. Jessica Applebaum called today because she'll be out of town tomorrow. My "brother" Bruce Mandel and I will exchange greetings on Tuesday as we have on every March 16th, our mutual birthday, since we were 3 years old.

I am one lucky S.O.B.

I'm on the backside of the mountain and, like everyone else, have no idea how steep the descent that lays before me. Yet, strangely, the contentment I feel at having had the privilege of being part of so many disparate lives, and making enough of an impression to warrant a gesture of goodwill each year, overcomes any anxiousness inherent in the realization that there's a fairly large mound of sand at the bottom of the clock.

I picked the wrong Powerball number, again, on Saturday so I have no plans of early retirement. But as I hear from so many dear, dear friends and loving family members, I realize that a more robust bank account hardly matters. Each phone call, e-mail, text message and Facebook posting is a trip down memory lane and an opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary times I've shared all over the world.

Thanks to all for the gift of sharing yourselves with me. Thank you for making me more tolerant by showing me the good in you I might otherwise miss during our fervent political debates. Thank you for indulging my delusions of artistry as I impose my writing and my photography on you. Thank you for trusting me to find solutions to your challenges, whether on a
pro bono basis or at my regular obscene hourly rate. Thank you for caring enough to touch base and help me appreciate the magnificence of our connections and the shiny bow of memories yet to be made.

Here's an appropriate image for today's pondering. I was going to post it in my "Photo of the Day" Facebook album, but it seems better placed here. It's entitled "The Home Stretch" and was taken at the Little Everglades Steeplechase in Dade City, Florida two years ago. Significantly, they're not letting up.