Saturday, June 27, 2009

Letter to the President

Mr. President!

I elected you to do a hard job for me. If you can’t do the job of bringing our healthcare system into the 21st century, who can? Show me some backbone.

My son Erik who is wheelchair-bound and cannot talk demands it of you. In all his 38 years of his life he depended on strong leadership to bring a better life. He is suffering from stage-5 kidney failure. He has about 30 broken bones because it took five doctors, some of them “specialists?” In their fields more than 10 years before one of them finally acknowledged that his osteomalacia was connected to the kidney failure.

The fact that kidney failure causes Vitamin D deficiency is not common knowledge. It should be. I found out simply using Google. I harassed those doctors until they finally had no way out but acknowledge that I was right. If the system had served Erik better, he would still be walking. My guess is that his care now costs the American taxpayer at least twice as much as it would if he were still walking.

Our system is sick. Mr. President, I need you to serve as Erik’s backbone. He doesn’t have it. Some of his vertebrae are broken. He was abandoned by the medical profession, but nobody expected that Erik could hold on as long as he has. He fooled them. Unfortunately for him he got his medicine about 30 years too late.

What have we seen instead of a working healthcare system? We have seen a number of wars. We have seen companies side-step anti-trust laws or lobby to change them. We have seen lobbyist cater to greed only. We have seen our elected officials aid and abet their every wish because they have only their own future in mind.

We have seen our nest-eggs shrink to half of what it was just a year ago. I trusted that you would keep your promise of a healthcare system that would serve all Americans. Please, do that! I elected you because you are intelligent.

Unfortunately I have had to deal with my son’s healthcare more than I care to elaborate. By dealing with doctors and hospitals I have come to realize that the people who should know better are lacking in the basics of why health insurance should not be run by corporations.

I have recently written in a blog that healthcare is not a commodity. Healthcare needs to be free of corporate interference. The more fortunate among us need to see that it is for their own benefit when everyone is well. Does the average American ever think about the fact that all the hospitals and doctors’ education and health innovation can only happen with the help of the contributions of all Americans?

Expensive MRI machines and kidney dialysis machines only exist because there is a critical mass of tax payers that pay for those things. Vaccines can only be developed if a critical mass of tax payers is available to pay for them. When we pay taxes we pay for students to go to school starting with elementary school, high-school and college where they can become doctors and nurses. Even private universities would be up a creek if children came through the system only on the backs of their parents’ willingness to pay tuition. We all have to contribute so that pursuit of happiness can happen. It’s a no-brainer.

Surely everyone understands that having to pay for healthcare only when you are sick is like being self-insured. If one carries the concept of self-insurance to an extreme, it means that an individual would have to build a hospital and all its equipment and all its staff right at the time when he needs it the most; i.e. when he is sick.

Are we so far gone that collectively we are not bright enough to understand what other countries have done without hesitation. They still have compassion over there. Do we have to wonder if we are in another land “East of Eden?” Health cannot be a commodity. Health care is for the sick, not for those who never need to benefit from it. What we purchase with healthcare is a right to care. The security that comes with it is priceless.

Now Mr. President, I need you not to cave in to special interests. Special interests are on the wrong side of the track. Are you with me? Are you on the right side of all Americans?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Do women judge differently?

During my undergraduate years at UC Santa Cruz I took mostly language and linguistics classes. But among the most memorable in the area of language was a class called Language and Gender taught by Sociology Professor Candace West. She had written several books on the sociology of language, and she gave us some thoughtful commentary on how men use language differently from women.

We were told about how men are more likely to interrupt women and how women tend to show more frequently a style of uncertainty in their language by using tag questions. My final exam was an essay. The paper dealt with interactions between male and female doctors and patients. Part of the class was supposed to compare conversations between female doctors and their patients. Another part of the class was given transcripts of conversations between wardens and male and female prisoners. We were to use similar counting procedures for both population groups. By counting the frequency of tag questions and filler words in the transcripts, it became obvious that the male doctors or, as the case may be, the male wardens used fewer of those devices and interrupted more than the female doctors did. They aslo did not leave time for female interruption. This language behavior had varying effects on the patients/prisoners.

Using language this way, the female doctors came off more sympathetic and less authoritarian than their male counterparts which served them well in their roles as doctors.

The objective was to show how different population groups use language effectively in different ways. I came away from this experience understanding how men use a difference in language style to assert their power. They tended to appear more bossy than the women. This is not to say that they were more effective in the long run. It was mainly meant to show communication styles.

Whether this style leads women to judge differently from men, is a question that may never be answered. That they do have different styles became obvious in the transcripts.

It seems certain that various experiences shape a person's judgment. The language people use also reflects their experience. The more you learn, the more likely it is to have better judgment. Language is the expression of experience, and without the understanding and experience of language there is no judgment. Does it really matter whether a person is male or female, white Anglo-Saxon, African-American, Chinese or Indian? It does matter.

A person is shaped by the culture he or she grew up in. But to put more value into a man's judgment than a woman's ignores the fact that society is made up of all kinds of characters. If this were not so, we wouldn't need nine Judges on the Supreme Court. We would only need one.

The reason for the desirability of more than one judge is that we have diversity in the general population, and that includes women. The judgment in a court of law should reflect what the general population deems to be just.