Wednesday, August 17, 2011

HPV Vaccine: A Political Choice?

Looooongggg time since I've posted, but I saw a tweet today that someone indicated they had opted out of the HPV vaccine for their daughter and that it shouldn't even be a law. I thought about responding to this person, whom I respect and mostly agree with politically, but realized I couldn't do justice in just a few characters.

This is an issue that should never have been politicized. I am pro-life and I believe that young folks should abstain from sex prior to marriage. However, I am just as much in favor of having my child vaccinated against every infectious agent possible in this day and age. Yes, HPV is transmitted sexually. However, many cases of cervical cancer have been linked to HPV and is the reason the vaccine was developed. It is just downright silly for parents to have such hubris as to believe that their children will adhere to their values without fail throughout their teenage years. You know, those years where they have raging hormones and just do not consider the consequences before they do something. They can still be "good" kids and they get swept up in the moment and make a mistake. Hopefully, that will never happen, but you want to leave your child unprotected in order to make a false political point?? I simply do not believe that their vaccination status will either prevent them from having sex or encourage them to do so. There are other diseases that can be transmitted sexually as well that are much more dangerous than HPV and this hasn't stopped teenagers from having sex, so their vaccination status is unlikely to be an influencer one way or the other.

This is a public health issue NOT a "government is taking over parenting" issue. The government doesn't have an interest in promoting early sexual activity, it does have an interest in preventing disease. In fact, for those interested in government reducing spending, this is a very simple preventative step that will reduce future health care costs as cervical cancer rates drop and the expensive treatments necessary to treat this disease are also reduced. This is not the same as the school offering condoms or sexual education, this is a vaccine against an infectious agent. To deny your child this protection just make a point against "government control" is not just a false choice but could be deadly to your child in the right (or wrong) circumstances.

We need to recognize that despite all efforts either parental or governmental, sexual activity will occur, even amongst good kids. Putting your head in the sand and getting all snooty about your "parental rights" isn't going to change that. If you have parented in accordance with your values, then why would a vaccination status influence your teen daughter's decision whether or not to have sex? They'll probably have forgotten that they've even had the vaccine or even what it was for by the time they get to the point of making the decision whether to "go all the way" with their boyfriend. In fact, they likely will not be thinking at all if it gets to that point.

In another circumstance, suppose they get raped? They would have no choice in that at all, but they would be at real risk of contracting HPV and potentially cervical cancer years later because of a political position. HPV is much more common than HIV so this is a real risk. Is there anything more tragic?

With many diseases for which vaccines are available, opting out could endanger many other people if enough parents choose to do this. In this instance, the only person you are endangering is your own child. Is a political point worth putting your child at risk many years down the road because they may have made a stupid decision or had the misfortune to be raped?

I hope that all who read this consider these points carefully and put your politics and ego aside before deciding to opt your daughter out of a vaccine that could ultimately save their life.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What's wrong with the Health Care proposals?

There are lots of commentaries out there regarding health care and the various proposals that are being considered in Congress. All of them have one thing in common: They are trying to be all things to all people.

Health care is a really big problem. There are issues with people being dropped from coverage, being denied covered due to pre-existing conditions, etc. A single catastrophic illness can cause serious financial problems for individuals. I have no problem with something being done to help these issues.

On the provider side there are issues with the existing Medicare program not reimbursing in a fashion that encourages physicians to choose primary care, thus causing a shortage in first line physicians. In my particular area, laboratory, Congress has time and again tried to save money on reimbursing these services. This is because we do not have a real voice and we are the most politically expedient area to cut. We're virtually invisible to patients and our services aren't publicly valued even though the laboratory provides 80% of all data needed for medical decision making.

So, why do I have a problem with what's proposed?

As I said, too much is trying to be accomplished at one time. You can't try all solutions at once. As in any scientific experiment, it is important to change one variable at a time or else you don't know what caused any changes you observe. How do we know what has worked if we change multiple things at once?

My suggestion: Make changes to the insurance regulations. One big issue is that each state monitors their own insurance programs. If the insurance issues: Not able to get, dropped from are major problems, then regulate these issues. However, you need to realize that if you require insurance companies to take these insureds then the cost will go up. However, you could but a ceiling on the costs or determine a package of benefits that must be offered for a set price, but that many other packages could also be offered with additional services if people choose to take them. I am also in favor of the individual mandate. All adults should be responsible for making sure they are not a burden to society, therefore, they should be required to obtain a minimum package of services and most particularly catastrophic insurance. Perhaps, the catastrophic first and then the minimum later. This will help drive the cost down by having a larger pool of participants absorbing the risk. Insurance companies are in it for profits, but it has to react to the marketplace. More competition is better. But NOT government competition. That isn't real competition. I am open to some non-profit firms, but these exist now (e.g. USAA).

Bottom line: Insurance reforms should be tried first before the Government jumps into the pool. In the meantime, work on Medicare reforms that makes it better and reimburses more fairly. Examine changing the system from a procedure driven reimbursement model to some other model, because reimbursing procedures has been the downfall of primary care which utilizes medical knowledge (screenings/diagnosis/treatment) more frequently than they perform procedures.

Till next time...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Who is President Obama?

Seems like an odd question to ask as there has been wall to wall coverage on our President for years now. Maybe who isn't precisely the correct question, but rather what does he really believe and value? He sounds so reasonable and during the campaign his promises sounded so good. I even briefly considered voting for him because he said he wanted to be bipartisan and he sounded so moderate, like he wanted to compromise and make everything work well. Kumbayah and all that.

But I kept thinking about it and realized that he had always voted with the far left. He had essentially the same politics as John Kerry. But, he was playing the game differently. He was campaigning by staying away from specifics. It was the old "devils in the details." Without the details, you can say things that sound like they are great ideas, but when you get to the details they just aren't workable or even destructive.

Communism, in concept, and described generally sounds wonderful. Everyone will be equal all will be shared...the people will rule. Utopia is here. Unfortunately, in execution there are problems, some people will be, by necessity "more equal" than others because someone has to be the leader or representative of the people to other countries. So, this leads to corruption. Since it isn't a democracy, the party, supposedly looking out for the peoples interests becomes a clique or cabal of people who then feel they are "entitled" to more because they are doing more for the people and "protecting" them. In the meantime, at the worker level, if the government is going to provide the same to everyone, then what's the point of working hard? You're going to get your share anyway. Drops in productivity leads to poverty for all. Its just not sustainable. Human nature needs a goal to pursue and hard work deserves reward. That's what America has always offered. If you work hard, you can get ahead and improve your station in life. It doesn't matter where you started...all can rise with hard work.

What's happening now, is what I was afraid of. President Obama's ideas sound wonderful...all people will have health care, everyone will get a pay raise, those "rich" people will support everyone, evil corporations will not be allowed to "trick" their employees, we will rescue everyone from their bad decisions and there won't be anymore foreclosures. Again, details...all these promises and no money to fulfill them. Even if everyone who made more than $250,000 gave 100% of their income to the government, it wouldn't even start to cover the expenses already incurred by the stimulus package and the other bailouts. Not to mention the money budgeted for various programs including health care reform. He seems to not have any qualms about spending other peoples' money.

President Obama claimed again and again that people making under $250,000 would not see their taxes rise "even one penny" under his administration. Well, as smart as he is, he must not be very good at math since it just isn't possible to do what he has already laid out without raising taxes on virtually everyone or ransoming the country to the Chinese, which I don't think even he intends to do. And in spite of his claims to the contrary, he really is planning on stealth taxes. The Cap and Trade program, which seems to be helpful on the environmental front, is a back door tax. It will raise energy prices across the board and this will be a tax on everyone. There will likely be subsidies for the very poor, but it will still be a very regressive tax as it will affect those at the lower middle class the worst and potentially drive them back into poverty, making it harder for them to raise their standard of living.

Finally, (for this post) what then is the incentive to try to work hard and make more money? The government will just take it from you. Doesn't that mean that we will fall into the Communist conundrum? Now, don't take it that I think Pres. Obama is advocating Communism, as he most definitely is not, but he does appear to want to move the country into a Socialist direction, while not run by a dictatorship, still has a lot of the downfalls of Communism.

I truly hope that all Americans will examine President Obama's proposed plans and the subsequent legislation that would make them real and then voice their opinions to their elected representatives. There is not a more important time than now to get involved, since we are at a turning point as to the direction of the country over the next decades to come.

The most important thing is to make our points cogently and to develop alternatives that will solve the problems presented without bankrupting the country. The government CAN'T do everything or solve every problem. The gospel of Personal Responsibility needs to be preached...but without rancor or heat. We need to be as cool as the President is.

One final note, I do admire President Obama as a very intelligent, well meaning individual. I also think he is a great example that all Americans can aspire to the highest levels in the country. No one in this country is mired in poverty. There is always a way to improve your situation by hard work and/or study, if you really want.

Health care issues next time...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Warning: Politics

If you would rather not hear about politics...stop reading right now and go read someone else's blog. Just fair offense meant or taken.

First of all, I'm sorry I've neglected my blog for so long. I really need to make a concerted effort to post more frequently. Work has been hectic and I've had a lot of outside musical activities. But I could still make time to post short notes at least. Part of what has been keeping me from posting is that I can't think of what to post about. I've just realized that what I've been thinking a lot about is what is happening with the government and media right now and how unhappy I've been about it. So, while my personal life is either mundane or insane, I realized that what is more important is my view on the world rather than my activities in it.

Before you think that I'm about to go on a wild right rant, let me assure you I'm not going to. That's actually what I'm pretty upset about. I am a Republican...there I've said it. I believe in personal responsibility, limited government, maintenance of freedom including speech, religion, movement, personal property, etc., I am also lovingly pro-life and Catholic (that means all life, cradle to grave, not just the politicized portions thereof). I also believe that we should love one another and assist where we can with people who have had misfortune in life through no fault of their own. In other words, I'm pretty much a normal person, not a fanatic. I consider myself to be a moderate conservative. I strongly believe in common sense as being the way things ought to operate.

I am very concerned about what I see as government actions which will threaten many of the principles that I hold dear and which if go forward unopposed and unmodified will adversely affect all of us and particularly our children and grandchildren. However, what I am seeing from the GOP "opposition" is almost 100% garbage. I see rants and raves and namecalling. I see jokes at the expense of the Democrats. I see little nonsensical issues (e.g. Pres. Obama going on a date with his wife) being blown all out of proportion and taking center stage when much more important things need to be addressed. The "haters" need to sit down and shut up. If the GOP wants to bring its ideas back to the fore then we need to sit down and come up with solutions to the problems that face us.

I have FINALLY seen some sign of this because John Boehner and Eric Cantor have just presented a list of programs that can be cut or consolidated to help reduce government spending. I looked at the list and think that they look REASONABLE for the most part. Not just partisan, but actual things that are duplicative or things that are "nice to have" but when the country is in a time that we need to cut back, these are things that are not essential to our existence or vital for the federal government to do. We should be spending time promoting these things and hopefully this isn't just a list that is "all or nothing." Lets negotiate...lets talk about these things - A LOT. Lets make it uncomfortable for the Democrats not to come to the table and negotiate. We are not in a position of power, we NEED to get the non-partisan people behind our ideas. Polls count in this day and age. Lets talk about the issues and refuse to get sucked into discussing plane flyovers and dates and new puppies in the White House, and whether the President shows up at a local burger joint and teleprompters. WHO CARES?????

The rhetoric needs to stop. We are not impressing the public by acting like And the public IS who we need to impress - the wide majority of independent thinkers: GOP, Democratic, and Independent, if we ever want to have our ideas and values be the ones by which the country is governed. OK, so we can be just as snipe-y as the Democrats. We need to be better than that. We need to be adults and present our ideas in an adult manner and quit showing our butts just because we know how (this means YOU Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter). That's how Pres. Obama got elected. He sounds like a grown up and avoided name calling by and large. He did say some things, but he used that ability very judiciously. He almost always took the "high road" when he had the chance as it made him look more statesmanlike and gracious. People like humility and grace and he has these gifts in abundance and he used them - frequently. And he still is using them, being still in "campaign mode," in case you haven't noticed.

I will stop here. My next post will be on why Pres. Obama is so scary and what I think we need to do about it - politely.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dallas and Philadelphia

This is a high travel week. Last Friday we left for Dallas, Texas. The purpose of the trip was another Saint-Saens Organ Symphony excursion. The Dallas Symphony plays its concerts inthe Myerson Symphony Center, which contains the Lay Family Organ. The concert was wonderful and we also heard what is going to be a new favorite, the Guilmont Symphony #1.

While we were in Dallas we also visited the Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park. This is an area where buildings of historical significance, primarily from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries have been moved from all over Dallas. There are people in period costumes, in character, who interpret the times. It is very interesting. The day we were there was Girl Scout Day, so there were a lot of activities geared toward badge achievement for the girls ongoing. Unfortunately, it was also raining, pretty hard, on and off, so we ended up cutting our sightseeing short. But, we did get to see a gunfight in front of the Saloon, and also visited a small church on site that had a pump organ. We were also lucky that there was an organist playing that day, so we got to hear it. It really filled the space. The organist took a break while we were there and we chatted for awhile. All in all, it was a very nice day despite the weather. We also found a great barbeque place (Off the Bone), not too far from there and they even offered us samples when we answered that we hadn't been there before. Their ribs and chicken were wonderful and they definitely lived up to their name, the meat was so tender. They did use a vinegar based sauce (like NC barbecue) rather than the sweet sauce, but that worked out well for us, since that sauce is much lower calorie.

On Sunday, we attended church, visited Ft. Worth...had to make the obligatory pilgrimage to Cattleman's
and had lunch and then just wandered the stockyard area until it was time to head back to the airport. Arrived late Sunday evening. I repacked and after spending half a day at work on Monday, headed for Union Station (about a block from my work) and grabbed the Amtrak to Philadelphia. The ACP Services board meeting (I'm the EVP) was scheduled for early Tuesday morning. I attended that meeting, and later in the morning headed back to the train station for the trip back to DC. I arrived at my usual spot for pick up by hubby at about the usual time, so it was almost like a normal day.

Wednesday was spent preparing for the next Organ Symphony excursion this weekend in Cincinnati. I'll tell how that part of the trip went in my next post. We are getting ready to head out later this morning, taking our time driving over there and seeing a few things along the way. On the road again...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cycling and Music

Many good cycling races this past week, topped off by the ultimate Classic: Paris-Robaix, also known as the "Hell of the North." Once more, George Hincapie (Columbia-Highroad) had a spate of bad luck and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) won for the third time in his career. This race is just made for Tom AND he had luck on his side. The race could have been a little more exciting, but the weather was good, but there were plenty of crashes anyway. Paris-Robaix is a race that has many sections of cobblestones, which is what makes the race so epic. In the rain, these are mudslicked and usually cause lots of difficulties including flats and crashes. There were plenty of mechanicals and the above mentioned crashes anyway, despite the dry conditions. Most of the crashed riders came through relatively unscathed, despite some of them hitting the deck more than once.

One unexpected tragic episode happened when one of the race motorcycles (they lead the cyclists and/or carry television cameras or photographers) crashed into the crowd, a dozen or so people were injured, several seriously including at least one small child. It was reported that most of the injured were members of the same family as they had come out of their house to watch as the race went by. Please keep all these folks in your prayers. The racers know their risks when they step on their bike, but these folks were just enjoying their day and weren't expecting anything like what happened to them in their own yard.

Holy week was inspiring and, well, holy. The liturgies were beautiful and I hope that the music the choir provided helped enhance the congregation's ability to worship more fully. I know that there are times when I am singing that I am moved by the words and music and feel the true sentiment of the piece. I certainly can relate to the saying that "when you sing you pray twice." It certainly feels like that at times, especially when everything is falling into place, despite the focus required to get the mechanics and musicality to mesh. When all goes well, I experience such peace when the music is over. I know that I have given my best to the Lord.

Easter was spectacular. After taking part in Holy Thursday services, Good Friday services, and the Vigil Mass, we were all ready for some sustenance, so early Easter morning we had our traditional St. Andrew's choir breakfast at 8:30am (see picture above, right). Suitably caffeinated and sugared up, we tackled our last Mass of the week with gusto. This was our main Easter Mass with Organ, Brass, and Timpani. The music lineup was as follows:

Prelude: Toccata from Organ Symphony #5 - Widor
Entrance Procession: Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones - Lasst Uns Erfreuen
Mass: Missa Brevis in F Major - Gabrieli
Preparation of Gifts: Hallelujah from Messiah - Handel
Communion Hymn: Good Christian Men, Rejoice and Sing - Gelobt Sei Gott
Choir Anthem: Let All Creation Praise the Lord - Forsberg
Marian Meditation: Regina Caeli - chant mode vi
Closing Procession: Jesus Christ is Risen Today - Lyra Davidica
Postlude: Postlude on Lyra Davidica (brass and timpani)
And incidental music, such as responsorial psalm, alleluia, sequence hymn, and general responses

Quite a lot of music, but we enjoy all of it! The church was beautifully done up...check out the picture above. Sorry its a little fuzzy, I haven't quite mastered my phone camera yet.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Easter! Till next time...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Crazy Monday & Should We Want Obama to Fail?

Well, as alluded to in my last post, Monday wasn't much fun. My work laid off three people and reorganized their duties and the majority of the distribution was to my department. Its sad when you have to do what we did, but budget cuts had already been made and there wasn't much else to cut other than personnel. Some folks, honestly, weren't completely employed, so it made sense to reorganize those positions. But, of course, those who do the most are handed the tasking because its known that those tasks will get done. This is one of the truths in life, I'm afraid. If you do well, you get given more work. That's OK, my department's folks are all up to the challenge and they all took the news well.

I am convinced that a good portion of our economic woes are caused by the media. Even folks not in a bad position watch the nightly news and hear how "bad" it is and then they don't carry on as usual being afraid that something bad might happen to them. It rolls all through the economy as people stop spending. That's what caused ours...many physicians decided not to pay their membership dues and dues revenue dropped; educational product sales dropped and here we are...three more people living on the government via unemployment insurance. I'm not sure what is going to stop this vicious cycle. But I'm sure its not more giveaway programs. The ones already in place haven't worked and they didn't work back in FDR's day either. WWII is what saved us then but it appeared on the surface that the giveaway programs worked. As they say: "Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it." (Not sure where the quote is from.) I'm not advocating another World War, mind you, just illustrating that giveaway programs don't work for reversing an economic recession/depression.

On to my other topic...there has been a lot of talk this week about people saying they "Want Obama to fail" and a lot of backlash to that. I first read Meghan McCain's response. that of course she didn't want him to fail, he's our President. I tended to agree with her. Regardless of who our President is we should support him or her.

Then I saw the headline on CNN that said something like "Jindal defends people who want Obama to fail." My first thought was, "Oh no, not another Republican about to say stupid things...and I had such high hopes for him." It turns out that his point was that we don't want him to successfully install all these giveaway programs and other things that will cost us and our children trillions of dollars. Well, I agreed with that too.

So, I've come to the conclusion that there are two types of failure we're looking at here. The failure of the office and the failure of the policies. I have a big problem with letting the office fail. We should never let that happen and unless the President does something illegal, that we should always respect him or her and support them as the leader of our country, particularly in dealings with other countries. On the other hand, that doesn't mean we have to support or even like all (or even any) of the President's proposals. The President proposes, Congress disposes. I really oppose a lot of what President Obama is proposing because its just not smart. I am all for improving things, but not if that means that hard working people are asked to give up a substantial portion of their hard earned income and/or savings to give it to people who made stupid decisions or who are just plain lazy. What happened to personal responsibility?

In any event, I don't think that failed presidential policies = Obama failing as a president. I want him to succeed as our chief executive (he has made some reasonable moves with regard to foreign relations and organizing the government), but I want him to fail to get his policies passed (i.e. budget) the way it is now. Ideally, what I would like to see is that he really execute the bipartisanship that he promised prior to the election, but unfortunately I don't see him getting the rest of the Democratic party to go along with it. And to be fair, I don't think most of the Republicans will either. Whatever happened to statesmanship? I'm afraid its long gone in this town. So, I guess we're in for a long hard fight to try to prevent the worst from happening. And in the meantime, I'm doing everything I can think of to prepare to protect what I worked for from being conficated by the government and if that someday means I have to quit my job to lower our household income so we aren't considered "rich" than, so be it.

I'll write on cycling and music in my next post!