Friday, March 25, 2011

In the mean-time

I recently received a thick envelope from Medi-Cal. No doubt it cost more than a first-class stamp to send. It basically contained a multi-page letter, including a sheet in a number of languages, stating that, according to a new law, in order to remain on Medi-Cal for another year (this letter comes every year, I guess), I have to provide proof that I am an U.S citizen unless it is already proven that I am an U.S citizen. According to more than one of the criteria listed, it is very much established that I am an U.S citizen. As I threw out the letter, I wondered why I got it and how many others, for the same reason, were throwing out the letter.

In the meantime, the State of California is something like $26 billion in the red. I can’t even imagine $26 billion!

In the meantime, friends keep asking me if my attendant hours have been cut more than they have been. All I can say is not yet. Nearly every day, I read about new cuts in funding for schools, parks, roads and, yes, as always, the aged and disabled.

In the meantime, Medi-Cal no longer pays for nutritional supplements unless the patient is tube-fed. As Elizabeth Landsberg, a lobbyist for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, says, "Two years ago, we cut dental services for people on Medi-Cal. We won’t pay to save teeth, only to pull them. Now for people who can’t eat because they don’t have teeth, we won’t pay for nutrition they can ingest." I have written here about being thankful that my parents help me pay for dental check-ups and wondering what will happen if I need major work done.

In the meantime, Governor Jerry Brown is racing time and Republican legislators hell-bent against taxes to place measures on a June ballot, before the end of the year, to let voters decide, as he promised during his campaign last year, whether to extend certain taxes to prevent a complete services meltdown. He is now considering a citizens’ initiative for the November election - meaning the taxes will be "new" - or somehow doing an end-run around the GOP lawmakers in regards to the June ballot, both will be harder to pull off, and the latest poll shows that public support for the June measures has eroded.

In the meantime, one of my attendants says she is thinking of voting against the tax-extension measure. She has also said she wishes it was the 1950's. When I pointed out that if it was the 1950's, I’d be hidden in a back room, she said, "Oh, I hadn’t thought of that."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hunger wins

"I love working with hungry people."

So says Simon Cowell, who, according to an article last week on the Business page in the Los Angeles Times, is all but salivating over Pepsi sponsoring "X Factor," his new singing competition show which has been a smash hit in the U.K and will debut here in the U.S this Fall. It is widely thought that "X Factor" will give "American Idol," which is sponsored by Coke and has persistently topped the T.V ratings, a run for its money.

Cowell, who was arguably the most popular element of "American Idol" with his snide judging until he left last year to start the new show, loves this. Not only does he love it that Pepsi was the most aggressive, the most hungry sponsorship rival after passing up the chance to back "American Idol" when it launched. He loves it that the Coke-Pepsi rivalry, in which millions of dollars are at stake, will ratchet up the competition between the two shows.

"Bring it on," Cowell says. "I love it."

Never mind the stupidity and absurdity of artistic expression being in competition, on - more accurately - the chopping block. Or what it says when snide, humiliating judging is so popular. (I don’t think I need to say that I’m not one of the millions who watch the show.)

On the same page where this big, multi-million dollar soda story made a big splash, there were not only articles about the economic havoc caused by the earthquake in Japan but also an article saying that food prices are going up, probably permanently, and that there’ll no doubt be more hungry people in the world.

Friday, March 11, 2011

All fun and games (until someone shoots themselves - maybe)

I wonder if Dave Duerson will be heard. That is, if his shot will be heard.

Dave Duerson is a former NFL star who shot himself not long ago. His suicide - or, more accurately, his shooting himself or, even more accurately, the way he shot himself - was clearly meant to send a message.

We’ll see if anyone gets it.

Duerson shot himself in the heart and not in the head. He did this very carefully, with much thought, for a very specific reason: so that his brain can be examined. He was obviously sick of hearing about retired football players having brain damage - dementia, Parkinson’s disease, etc. - stemming from having their heads banged repeatedly during games.

He was no doubt sick about football players, including in high school, being allowed or even pressured to play after their "bell has been rung." (This practice has been more or less stopped.) He was no doubt sick of hearing about high school football players collapsing on the field and dying soon afterwards.

I always thought that boxing is bad enough. I have never understood people being encouraged to punch the living daylights out of each other, sometimes quite literally, and why this is a sport, much less a massively popular one. Look at Mohammad Ali, who is celebrated as all but a god even as he is a stumbling mess.

Now it turns out that football is just as bad. Bad enough for a man to kill himself to make the point.

But will the NFL get the message? We’ll see. As with boxing, football is big business, with billions of dollars at stake and fans not likely to settle for less excitement and, sure, danger. Even now, the NFL is floating the idea of adding two more games in its regular season. Two more chances for head banging and concussions.

Interestingly, Duerson’s suicide occurred at about the same time as the ten-year anniversary of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt being killed in a fiery crash during a race. Yes, NASCAR has made significant and commendable safety improvements, including a more secure, protective seats, in the accident’s afternoon. But it was also noted during the anniversary that Earnhardt surely would have laughed them off and refused to utilize them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Under lock and key - disabled or not

Too bad I can’t find the two books of cartoons by John Calahan that I had. I think one was stolen, which is perfectly understandable. John Calahan is a brilliant disabled cartoonist. I think he draws with his mouth, but he’s definitely no Joni (no doubt this would be a joke to him)! He has a wonderfully wicked, black sense of humor. One of his more well-known cartoons shows a desert scene with a man in a manual wheelchair and a sheriff and his deputy on horseback. The sheriff says to his deputy, "Don’t worry. He won’t get far."

Apparently, California officials didn’t get the joke. According to the Los Angeles Times last week, a law, adapted a couple years ago, saying that terminally ill prisoners are to be released isn’t being enforced. Instead, as described in the Times, inmates who are in the hospital and barely able to move or walk, if they can at all, are shackled to their beds. Not only that, but each is watched over 24/7 by at least two guards.

These guards, who are paid quite handsomely with taxpayers’ money, consider this to be a "plum assignment." One guard was quoted as saying that, unlike in the prisons, these hospitalized inmates can’t do much to talk or fight back.

Not only is this inane, as John Calahan would no doubt gleefully point out, it is a scandal in a state that is awash in debt and slashing services, including those for the disabled. Indeed, the day after the first Times story appeared, it was reported that the state will consider releasing the ten most terminally ill patients. (Don’t ask me why it’s ten. I guess it’s a nice, easy, people-pleasing round number.)

There are hard-line conservatives who are raising objections to this releasing, who are saying "not so fast." They are asking questions like: What if these people get well? Who will now pay for their care? These are problems that aren’t problems or are easily resolved.

Mostly, though, these are silly, stupid questions hiding the real issue. These right-wingers, even as they insist that costs be cut, even as they loudly profess to follow a loving and forgiving Jesus, can’t stand the idea of a crime going unpunished, of an eye not given for an eye, a tooth not given for a tooth.

And no matter that the criminal can’t get far. They’re worried.