Monday, August 26, 2013

"Just In Case" Healthcare

About three weeks ago, I was on my way home from a lengthy bike ride.  Prior to that day, my beat up old bike had been out of action.  A piece had fallen off on a previous bike ride two years ago, and I've had so many other priorities (Read: was procrastinating like a crazy person) that I'd only just fixed it the day before this ride.  A friend of mine asked me to go for a "quick ride", which apparently was her way of saying "a twenty mile endurance test, dodging traffic and weaving in and out of tourists.".

Anyway, as I neared my house, I made a slow left turn onto a side street.  I heard a little "clang" (Or was it a "ping"?  Could have been a "clunk". Whatever), and suddenly the front wheel locked up.  I discovered later that the bike lock popped loose and got jammed in the spokes.  At the time, I really didn't care because I was far too busy flying over the handle bars.  I managed to get my right foot down, but I couldn't keep my balance.  My knee came down hard, but I still kept going.  I tried to break my fall with a roll and came down on my right shoulder.  There was a sickening little "pop" sound.

My friend was naturally a tad concerned.  She said "Are you all right?"  I said, "Yeah, I'm fine, just give me a second.".  At least, that's what I tried to say.  It probably came out like "NnnAarghMmm!" or words to that effect.  She came over with a look of horror on her face, because my arm was hanging at an odd angle.  I couldn't lift it.  She tentatively tried to touch it.  I could see her turning green.  Then she burst out laughing.  "I can't believe you wiped out!".  I have strange friends.

We eventually called another friend to help us with the bikes and give me a ride to the hospital.  My arm was in pain, but I have to admit that wasn't what was on my mind.  I knew that my emergency room copay was $300.  I could handle that, but it was still a decent chunk of change.  I don't like spending money that I don't have to.  Unless I'm spending it on frivolous things.

I walked into the emergency room hunched over to the right.  This was the only way I could stand without pain shooting up my arm.  This earned me a few odd looks, since the way I was walking resembled Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's assistant.  Still, I was a little confused by the looks.  This was an emergency room. Shouldn't they be used to people coming in a little banged up?

I was ushered into a room and instructed to lie down on a gurney.  While I waited, the nurse took the normal vitals.  Then she asked me if I wanted to watch TV, and pulled down a TV attached to an arm next to the gurney.  It had all the cable channels, or so she told me.  I couldn't reach the channel changer, because my right arm was dislocated.  The nurse had already vanished by this point.  So I had to watch the channel it was on, which (of course) was one of those asinine shopping channels.

After about twenty minutes of watching second string actors try to sell me useless crap, the nurse came back and dragged me to the radiology department.  After hobbling there, standing up straight for ten minutes (which is surprisingly painful with a dislocated shoulder), then hobbling back, I collapsed back into the gurney.

The nurse promptly hooked me up to a monitor.  Because there's always a risk of heart attack when your arm is out of it's socket, apparently.  She put an IV in me, then took some blood.  "We probably won't need this, but's it's good to take some, just in case, " she assured me.  Then she brought over an oxygen tank and put that little nose tubey thingy in my nose.  Normally, this is the type of thing 90 year-olds with emphysema have.  I asked why this was necessary.  "Just a precaution," was the answer.

Finally, the doctor came in with a physician's assistant who was there to make there were no complications from the anesthesia.  First, they gave me some painkiller (which was nice), then a bit later some anesthesia.  It wasn't the kind that makes you unconscious, just the kind that makes you woozy and causes short term memory loss.  The next thing I remember, my arm was back in, and the doctor was trying to sell me drugs.  He suggested some double strength ibuprofen and another, stronger drug if the pain got bad.  I told him to save the strong stuff.  I didn't need to get hooked on Oxycodone because of a bike accident.

The doctor told me to check in with my regular doctor and an orthopedic surgeon.  I saw my regular doctor three days later.  He said to keep my arm in a sling for five weeks and charged me thirty bucks for an office visit.  I saw the surgeon three days after that.  He said to keep my arm in a sling for five weeks and charged me thirty bucks for an office visit.

A few days ago, I finally got the hospital bill.  My $300 co-pay was charged to my credit card.  But the total cost was not quite $3,000.  And that's the moral of this ignoble and slightly goofy chapter of my life.  I think I've figured out why healthcare is so damned expensive. undisclosed number of years ago, I broke my other arm.  It was in a splint overnight, then the next morning I was put under while the doctors set it.  They took no blood.  Apart from the time in the operating room, there was no heart monitor or oxygen tank.  They only did what was necessary.

The reason my bill is so outrageous is this "just in case" healthcare.  Whenever I hear a doctor or nurse say "just in case" or "just a precaution" I hear "so I don't get sued by some two-bit shyster".  The oxygen, the monitors, the blood work, the extra physician's assistant, the extra painkiller, the two post-op visits, these all appear to be medical butt-covering.  Some people say healthcare is expensive because of overpaid doctors, but this looked like the expenses were incurred to prevent overpaid personal injury lawyers from preying on the overpaid doctors.

All I needed was an x-ray, a sedative, and someone to jam my arm back into place.  All this other crap is excessive.  Even the TV.  That's nice, but I don't want to pay for it.  Especially if I'm stuck watching HSN.  So let's stop having every procedure and test known to man.  The chances of me croaking due to lack of oxygen when I have a dislocated shoulder are probably less than my chances of winning the lottery.  I'll risk it.  I'll even sign a consent to keep the lawyers away.  $3,000 is ridiculous.  I normally don't spend that much money on anything that doesn't come with air conditioning.  And I know I don't need to spend that much to have some doc slap my shoulder back into place.  

Naturally, I don't pay all of that, but now I know why the health insurance that employer's provide costs so much.  I think doctor's are smart enough to know which complications are likely and unlikely.  They can discuss this with patients, weigh the risks, and come to a decision.  Instead, they're doing anything and everything to prevent even highly unlikely scenarios.  I think if the lawyers backed off and let the doctors and patients use their judgment, healthcare costs wouldn't be so ridiculous.

The sling came off today, and now I can look forward to several weeks of physical therapy.  Naturally, each visit will set me back a little bit.  My arm feels fine.  I probably don't need it, said the doc, but I should do it "just in case".  Hopefully, the PT place will be staffed by young, single women.  That might make it worth the extra expense.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bradley is Chelsea, Upon Pain of Death

The Bradley Manning case just got weirder today.  Because apparently he (she?) is now Chelsea Manning.  He had been diagnosed with gender identity disorder back in Some Year I Don't Care To Spend Time Looking Up and admitted to a counselor that he wanted to be a woman in 2009, well before he started dumping classified documents.  Suddenly, old and new media blew up with stories about Bradley.  Or Chelsea.  Or whatever.

There was much speculation and debate.  Why did he wait until just now, if he thought about becoming a woman four years ago?  Is it because women don't serve in Leavenworth, only men?  Do taxpayers have to pay for his hormone treatment, (If his lawyer gets his way, we will) and should we have to?  In response to these questions, the PC Gestapo launched into action.  Merely asking these questions was bigotry.  Also, anyone failing to refer to "her" as "she" was immediately dubbed Hatey McRacist.  Members of the press who failed to comply were decried by lib/progs.

I, like many people, don't care what he does with his junk.  I don't care to know anything about his various personal habits.  He can take all of the hormones he wants, but we shouldn't have to pay for it.  Nor should he be able to use this to dodge Fort Leavenworth.  What I'm amazed by is just how upset the lib/progs of the world are that we haven't all decided to say "she" or "her".

Failing to adhere to the canons of sensitivity is apparently a crime against humanity.  Lib/progs finger wag and lecture about transgender rights and say that Manning claims to be a she, therefore she is.  This sounds surprisingly similar to someone screaming that "the science is settled!"  The science isn't settled.  Psychology is still more art than science, meaning there is a lot of judgment involved.  Issues such as transgender are not based solely on empirical evidence, but also on the opinions of various psychologists.

There is even such a thing as "transgender regret."  This is where someone undergoes sex change therapy, and then has second thoughts.  Don Ennis, a producer at ABC, is a recent example.  He went through the therapy, and changed his name to "Dawn".  Recently, he told the world he wants to be Don again.  Apparently, to mention that there might be this sort of regret is hateful to Manning supporters.  I think some dude regretting this seems like an entirely plausible reaction.  Especially if he went the whole way (Ennis didn't, apparently) and lopped off his unit.

No one I've spoken to (Read: gotten into a shouting match/twitter war) with on the left cares that don't care what Manning does to himself.  Failing to accept everything and use the right pronouns makes me automatically hateful and homophobic and blah blah blah.  Not that I'm bothered by this.  Recent experience with the extreme left suggests that when one calls me a bigot, it doesn't mean I am a bigot.  It just means they've run out of intelligent things to say.  But what does annoy me slightly is that it's fairly clear that lib/progs assume that their way is the only way, despite the fact that there's still plenty of unsettled science.  We must call Manning "her" or "she".  Bradley is now Chelsea.  Any who fail to accede to the wishes of the lib/progs does so on pain of death.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tale of Three Leakers

Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years today.  Supporters think he's a principled whistleblower being oppressed.  Detractors say he's a miserable traitor and think he got off light.  Based on the convictions, he's not technically a traitor, but he's certainly not principled either.  This verdict actually makes sense, because Manning went too far.  He deserves the time he'll get, as will Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, if we ever get our hands on him.  There's a way to leak in a principled and responsible way.  It's happened before.

Manning's supporters frequently liken him to Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers.  Ellsberg has been public in his support for Manning. But Ellsberg's story differs from Manning's in a few key aspects.  The short version of the Daniel Ellsberg story is that he found top secret documents that appeared to show that the Vietnam War was started under false pretenses and that the military no longer believed the war winnable.  Unable to accomplish anything through channels, he attempted to leak it to several senators, and ultimately leaked it to the New York Times.  He was tried for espionage, but cleared.

Ellsberg is generally remembered as a heroic figure.  He took a stand against a war he was convinced was wrong, and did not like the fact that we were still prosecuting the war after we thought it unwinnable.  His goal throughout the process was to stop the war.  Regardless if someone agrees or disagrees, he remained focused on this objective and everything he did was to bring it about.  So at the very least this shows it was a principled fight for him.  He didn't veer off course.

Bradley Manning was also on trial because he leaked documents.  Documents that were merely secret, not top secret like the Pentagon Papers.  He was also disillusioned with lengthy wars we had become involved in.  Initially, he only leaked video that showed American airstrikes that appeared to be at the very least careless, and possibly criminal.  The video shows an American gunship firing on a group of men in a war zone.  The men are not running or doing anything overtly aggressive, but this is not necessarily relevant in a war.  In a war zone, a soldier does not have to wait for an identified enemy to be an immediate threat to open fire.  The only problem is, at least some of the men weren't enemies.

Two of the men were reporters of Al Jazheera.  They were carrying cameras that the pilots mistakenly identified as rocket launchers.  The gunship firing on the men was a mistake.  This is a tragedy, but also the sort of mistake that happens in the fog of war.  However, the gunship also fired on a minivan that came up to assist the wounded.  There was no clear evidence that the occupants were enemies.  Later, the gunship fires on a building because the pilots claimed they saw enemies enter.  This was a civilian building, and God only knows who else was in there.  This video alone was a worthwhile leak.  If Manning had stopped there, he'd probably be okay.

But he didn't.  He later released a critical installation list, some information involving a flap in Iceland, and tons of diplomatic cables.  Most of this information had nothing to do with Iraq or Afghanistan.  The release of these documents could not be expected to affect these wars.  Unlike Ellsberg, who released documents with the sole intent of ending a war, Manning just dumped everything he had to Wikileaks.  This suggests that his intent was not really to end the wars (because these documents were unrelated), but merely to harm and embarrass the United States.  That's why he's been sentenced to 35 years.

This explains why NSA leaker Edward Snowden went from Superhero Leaker to International Man of Douchebaggery within a fairly short span of time.  He also is no Daniel Ellsberg.  When he first leaked, plenty of conservatives, liberals, and libertarians hailed him as a hero.  Now, they sort of...don't.

The information he initially leaked seemed to be something that showed the government clearly violating the fourth amendment.  I can think of few more principled stands than standing up for the Constitution.  That's how people from all over the political spectrum were able to support him.  He could have been the next Daniel Ellsberg.  But instead, he'll just be the next Bradley Manning.

Not long after his initial leak, he decided to leak the fact that the US and UK spied on a G20 (or G8 or G-whatever) meeting.  Then he decided to leak that we were hacking the Chinese.  The fact that we spy on other countries is not a revelation.  They do it to us too.  Spying may be an inherently shady business, but in a world with dangerous and unpredictable countries and shifting loyalties, it's necessary for our survival.  Revealing specifics of our spying damages our ability to do so.  This is what moved Snowden into Manning territory.  None of this is related to the initial fourth amendment concerns.  This can only hurt the United States.  He either intended this or didn't care, both of which are enough to convict someone in a court of law.

Both Manning and Snowden seem to think that revealing everything makes the world a better place.  This mindset is common amongst many young activists, particularly the Anonymous/Occupy types.  They seem to believe that if everyone knows everything, the world will be a better place.  This is naive utopianism. These absurdist and foolhardy ideas demonstrate a severe lack of understanding about how the world works; a lack of understanding that is common in these circles.  

For example, King of Leaky Net Nerds, Darling of Nutball Radicals, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange actually claimed he saw no irony that Snowden was hob-nobbing with China and Russia.  Two countries who are not known for their respect of personal privacy, free speech, and so forth.  This sort of willful ignorance is common among those who occupy the hackivist bubble.

Maybe this only happened because Manning and Snowden are young and foolish.  Maybe they got bamboozled by members of the press who wanted a scoop.  An older person might be sophisticated enough to know that intelligence gathering and operating in secret are frequently necessary, because many world governments do not lead free countries and are not trustworthy.  But being a naive kid doesn't grant absolution.  Stupidity is not an excuse.

Daniel Ellsberg walks free.  Manning will go to jail.  And Snowden will too, if we ever catch him.  A real leaker stays focused on principle.  Manning and Snowden revealed everything they knew, even things that were unrelated to their supposed goals of ending war or protecting the constitution.  Had they stopped with their initial leaks, they'd probably go free, and maybe be remembered as heroes.  Now they'll just be remembered as small, ignoble men who could have acted on principle, but just acted to hurt the country they swore to protect.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why AMPAC'S Million Muslim March is Actually a Great Idea

Lots of really loud yelling broke out on various cable news shows last week.  Not that that's unusual, but last week's subject of controversy was the Million Muslim March organized by AMPAC (American Muslim Political Action Committee) and planned for the twelfth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.  AMPAC is apparently chock full of Truthers and Anti-Semites.  A fringe, nut group.  In other words, they're like the Muslim equivalent of Occupy or Anonymous.

Conservatives are outraged.  I'm sure plenty of others are outraged too, but conservatives are less restrained by the shackles of political correctness, so they can be louder and get away with it.  And I understand the outrage.  But if AMPAC actually pulled this off, it would truly be fantastic.  No, really.  I realize this seems like madness (and most of the things I post on my blog are), but what I'm referring to is one of the silver linings of hate speech.

One adage that is often repeated in free speech arguments is that the first amendment doesn't protect speech we like, it protects speech we don't like.  I don't know who said that.  I also don't care, and don't feel like looking up.  But this is why even hateful ideas like the ones spewed forth by AMPAC nuts are protected.  And as infuriating as that can be, it is also comforting.  Because the advantage of letting extremists spew nonsense is that they marginalize themselves.  Silencing or censoring a nut can actually give him credibility, as he can claim he's being oppressed.  But if a nut is allowed to shout his wacky theories, people start seeing him for the loon that he is.  Nutty people ultimately will self destruct (See: Alex Jones), as long as we just let them.

It's important to keep in mind that the rest of us need to help nuts marginalize themselves.  The onus is on the sane among us to identify them, call them out when spout their lunacy, and expose their nuttiness to the world.  Since the number of people voicing opinions is ever increasing, we need convenient ways to identify the stupid and the screwy.  This way we can summarily ignore them.

There are several ways to identify nut groups already.  For example, any protester in America who burns the American flag can be dismissed as irrelevant.  Flag burners exercise their right to free speech by burning the symbol of their free speech.  This is probably not someone inclined to think things through rationally.  Also, anyone wearing a Guy Fawkes mask can be discounted.  Unless they were in "V for Vendetta."  Those people were just doing a job.  Guy Fawkes mask aficionados are frequently Occupiers and Anonymous members, two groups with more than their fair share of Truthers, False Flaggers, Anarchists, and Neo-Marxists.  None of these ideas is worth the time it takes to write this paragraph.

Like these two examples, the AMPAC march is a convenient mechanism for crazy identification.  Anyone who shows up will  be someone we can assume isn't worth including in a rational debate.  An attendee will not be the type of Muslim we should take seriously or expect any reasoned debate from.  Once we've identified them, we can disregard them and spend our time talking to those Muslims that aren't crazy.  And despite what some anti-Muslim extremists say, non-crazy Muslims do exist.  All someone needs to do is go have a beer in Turkey to see what I'm talking about.

A loon who spews hateful nonsense is offensive, but is also a labor saving device.  My making themselves readily identifiable, crazy people help the rest of us.  Those of us with brains and sanity can figure out who's not worth talking to.  Separating non-crazy Muslims from the crazy is worthwhile.  Non-Crazy Muslims want these nuts marginalized, because extremists make other Muslims look bad.

Sadly, though, the latest reports suggest that the turnout might be slightly less than a million (more like several dozen).  All of the outrage may have put a damper on the entire affair.  This isn't a good thing, I think.  I'd rather have all of the nutjobs out in the open.  Once I know who they are, I can make sure I don't waste my time on them.