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Thursday, November 19, 2009

All Emotional and Teary-Eyed

This morning came the news that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has brought forth the Senate's Health Care bill. Senator Reid also claims there are 60 votes needed for cloture. Ever since the House passed its own version of a health care bill by only 5 votes, there has been a great deal of speculation about the Senate's ability to come through with a bill not only acceptible enough to get through a Senate vote, but also to get through the reconciliation process that both houses of Congress must go through and vote on before it reaches the President's desk.

I believe the benefit of the reconciliation process is that it enables the Senate to limit debate on the bill and so avoid the dreaded filibuster. Reading that Reid believes he has the votes for cloture suddenly gave me hope that maybe after all my native land will have some form of health care with a public option -- well, it all made me feel very emotional and teary-eyed ...

But, I'm still holding my breath. Someone on the republican side said it will be a "holy war". I shake my head in wonder. Another article among today's offerings on the Internet reported that prescription drug prices have risen extortionately despite the recession. How fortunate I am to live in a country where all my prescriptions are paid for and have been since I was 60. Any American who thinks it's not a blessed relief to know that if you need a doctor or medication it's there for you, well any American who thinks that is not thinking. For sure, the NHS is not perfect and needs improvement, but few here would be without it you can be sure.

Well the tears have abated now. I'm holding my breath again as I have since medicare passed. I hope the spirit of Ted Kennedy is successfully haunting the halls of Congress and that somehow our legislators can think beyond the dollars of lobbyists and the political rhetoric to the public good and general well-being of our nation. So far the halls of the mighty have rung with sounds of apathy and injustice, with talk of 'holy wars' and so on and on.

Last November with the election of Barack Obama I felt a new hope for my long lost country. I felt that at last the people had woken up to a greater sense of nationhood than the selfish stand of the individual. But it will always be a battle to sustain a caring society; it will always be a battle for liberty and justice for all and not for the few. But it would behoove the 'few' to remember well that as distant from the 'many' as they deem themselves to be, wealth and success derives from those they would not be.

Apparently the Senate bill has pushed back the date for implementation of the legislation from 2013 to 2014. I worry about this ... what are so many uninsured people supposed to do until then? I worry this is a ploy by republicans and conservative democrats to be able to overturn the legislation before it takes effect should the re-election of President Obama fail. I wonder though, if it is possible to implement the change earlier if democrat numbers increase in 2010. What are the chances of that, though -- greater than electing a black man president do you think?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Hairdryer's behind the Chainsaw! Part 2

As usual our car was packed with lots of stuff -- In addition to the usual suitcases there were tools, food, wine, bags of sundries such as shoes, make-up and so on. When we left I had put my essentials where I could reach them -- taking care to stay clear of Neil's greasy tools. But in the course of taking out our overnight cases things got moved about. As I was about to drift off to sleep yet again in Sommieres, I suddenly realized that the bag with my hairdryer, was now behind the chainsaw. You realize, of course, that this piece of equipment is difficult to pack tidily. Not only does it hamper neat organization of a packed estate car/station wagon, but it is quite heavy, very dirty and not easily moved around -- at least by me!

in the morning, I gave up all thought of washing my hair, scrunched it up under my pink Route 66 baseball cap and we headed for Nimes, the first stop on our intinerary which had been terribly slashed as we realized that we were too short of time to be able to include either Avignon or the Grand Canyon of Verdon. And I had already given up going to Orange. In her book The Road from the Past, Ina Cato had written a wonderful account of seeing the Roman triumphal arch that had been built to commemorate the victory of Julius Caesar over the Gauls. Her poignant description on the enslaved Gauls in the carvings on the eastern wall meant that I really wanted to see them for myself. Alas! and Alack! this must wait for another day ...

I had briefly been to Nimes sometime in the mid 90's. It was in August and the traffic was so terrible that we gave up all thoughts of trying to park, let alone trying to find a hotel and slunk our way to the outskirts and one of the chain hotels found all over French outskirts -- It was a hot evening and our boys enjoyed far more the long dip in the swimming pool than they would have Roman ruins. And I learned the secret of serving Provencal Rose -- very cold and in frosted wine glasses! Now in the September of 2009 on a bright sunny Saturday we returned, sans boys! But first a quick stop in a supermarket bakery for some croissant and bread. Very good it was, too.

A quick reconnoitre around the center and we found the Maison Carre -- unfortunately trussed up in scaffolding, but nevertheless for this lover of Roman ruins a lovely sight. It was fairly early in the day and accordingly we benefited in being able to find a convenient parking place by the canal and a block or so away from our first destination. I climbed the steps onto the ancient portico thinking about the thousands of years that had passed since its construction by Agrippa in 19 BC. It is miraculous that it should have survived so intact. As magnificent as the building is in its present setting, I was disappointed to discover upon entering a modern cubicle and people selling tickets to a movie being shown inside the temple. I have since learned that the inside is very small and without decoration, so perhaps I'm happier not having paid my money to enter.

Nimes was very busy and around the temple a band was busily setting up and we got the impression that there might be some kind of festival brewing. As indeed there was ...

But our next destination was to find the Roman Ampitheatre, which I understood to be still in use. First, though we had to figure where it was and this is where navigational expertise broke down slightly. But the good thing was we had a nice tour around the old city as we wended our way away from our ultimate destination.

It became more and more apparent that there was something major going on in the city of Nimes that
day. In particular I remember a kind of jazz band dressed all in pink wandering around the streets singing their hearts out. In our search for the old Roman structure we kept coming upon them entertaining the growing throngs. Finally, in desperation we looked at our plan of the city and soon figured out we'd gone in the opposite direction and headed back down the street we had been going up. Aha! The market place and the market stalls were out.

More and more people and a real celebratory air was developing around us as the Amphitheatre came into view. Wow! It is huge. On the day we could hear the cheers and shouts of the crowd coming from within. It took several minutes before wound ourselves around to the entrance. We saw some horses and assumed, wrongly, that there was a horse show going on. Then I saw a butcher's van and assumed, again wrongly, that this was in case a horse had to be put down, the butcher was there to prepare it for the local super market ...

Sometimes I cannot fathom my own stupidity. I had read about Nimes many times. I knew that it was one of the few places in Europe outside of Spain that had bullfighting. The cheers we'd heard were for the kill! We did not get to go inside. I'll just have to go back there again some day! In the meantime, I have been to Verona to the opera! We left the bullfighting arena and made our way up another avenue with lots of cafes and special tables being set up for whatever Nimes was celebrating. There were lots of bands, lots of music -- a perfect day for a French festival. But we did not linger. Now it was time to leave and to head for the Pont du Gard.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Live in Hope, but I Despair ...

I despair. The news coming out of the Senate does not bode well for the Health Care bill. Democrats don't seem able to count on their own to support legislation. We shrink from our ideals and conform to fear. The battle is about survival to fight the next election.

It is impossible for me to understand how any intelligent and educated person can fail to see that the American people must have universal health care. The country is already sliding into lower and lower status when compared to other first world countries. My country's legislators or blindsided by rhetoric of big money and the agenda of insurance companies and pharmaceuticals. How can anyone in public office not comprehend the enormity of the problem facing so many Americans -- how can they consider themselves to be righteous, to be Christian, to be caring? How can they pursue this way?

I feel I am watching a struggle between the forces of good and evil and it looks as if evil is ... But I must not go there. Not yet. I don't have to worry about health care. I live in England. All my prescriptions are covered by the NHS. If I'm really too sick to go to the doctor, the doctor will come to me. I don't have to accept a $15,000 deductible. It's not perfect here ... but it is so much better. Anywhere in Europe is so much better. My son has had to leave the US and move to Korea. He couldn't get a job and couldn't get health insurance in Washington State. So he found a job in Korea and he is family now have health care.

I fear that not only will there not be a public option of any kind in the new legislation, but that the present situation will be made worse ... That somehow there is a hidden agenda that is being pushed behind the scenes. I can not believe that there are not some Republicans in body of the Senate that do understand the importance of health care for everyone. It depresses me no end that our politics is so sick, so marginalized that there can be such a lack of brave and forward seeking people that this legislation is even in the slightest danger of being passed.

And as far as Senator Liebermann and Senator Nelson are concerned: Shame on both of you. Shame on your cowardly selves.