Sunday, June 25

Wealth over health; 2 bills equal 2 fails

Like citizens from all other developed countries, US citizens need universal health care. Some would have people believe they have no right to health care. Some believe basic human rights should provide care for all people in a free society. Why is the wealthiest country the only developed country in the world where health care is not universal?  It's all about the dollar signs. 

Priority of wealth over health needs to change

  1. Health over wealth. That would require a new mentality in Congress. Instead of choosing wealth over health, they'd have to decide the value of dollars is not as great as the value of human life.
  2. Equality for all - even politicians. Then, everyone in Congress must have the same health insurance as the American public. No freebies. No perks. No coddling for a lifetime. When Congress tells Americans to tighten their belts and make sacrifices, the answer should be, "You first. Lead by example."
  3.  Stop the ads. Make laws limiting money spent on false advertising. Make laws banning publication of any ads containing lies, false statements, unrealistic promises, etc. Make laws with harsh penalties (not fines) for attempting to break these laws. The propaganda stops here.
  4. Stop the dirty money. Overturn Citizens United. Take away bribes given to Congressmen from lobbyists representing wealthy corporations. Make laws restricting lobbyists. Bar Congressmen from becoming lobbyists. Restrict the role of lobbyists, the number of lobbyists, and other criminal activity labeled as endorsements or campaign contributions. Restrict the amount of money candidates can receive. No more government based on the highest bidder. Remember Joni Ernst $ from Koch brothers? She followed the instructions of her buyers.
  5. Stop Corporate Welfare. It's almost unbelievable. Almost. Large companies often get by with paying no taxes. How about those benefiting from government subsidies. No, we're not talking about small companies struggling to survive. We're talking about some of the largest, wealthiest corporations. Marriott, Lockheed Martin, Walt Disney, Under Armour. And, we're talking about BIG BUCKS. Walt Disney's chunk is about $267 million. Under Armour CEO Kenneth Planks gift of $660 million dwarfs Disney's subsidies. 
  6. Make Congressmen represent constituents. Yes. When a politicians is elected to represent a certain group of people, many completely ignore their wishes. They vote by loyalty to their party, bribes from special interests, or simply playing power games with their peers. For example, The Pew Research Center recently posted results of a Pew Research 2017 health insurance poll showing 60% think government should insure health care coverage. That number is up from 51% from two years ago.
  7.  Enlighten the masses. Somehow citizens need to know enough to recognize the difference between fact and opinion. Many either can't or won't bother to look for the truth. Some parts of society seem almost like a cult obeying the cult leader. Special interest groups use fear mongering and other tactics to con members. Many proclaim to fight and die for a cause. Except the cause may not exist. Hmmm. Maybe tax refunds or some other perk could be tied to passing a quiz on distinguishing between fact and opinion. 

  •  Sarcastic? Yes.  True? Probably.




their pockets

New health care bills unveiled by the House and the Senate head the opposite direction of the people's choice.  Both plans are similar with the Senate's version extending benefits for a longer time period. Instead of insuring more Americans as the President promised during his campaign, both plans cover fewer people. It looks like the neediest patients end up with the least coverage. 

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates, Medicaid will take the biggest hit with immediate reductions in the budget followed by a per-patient limit paid to states starting in 2020. The matching payments will eventually be phased out.  A Medicaid cut of 
$880 billion is planned by 2026 by the House bill. Approximately 14 million Medicaid patients would be cut from the program. Enrollment would also be capped. 

The CBO estimates 52 million Americans will lose health insurance by 2026 with 21 million cut from insurance immediately after the bill is enacted. Other major changes aid insurance companies by allowing up to five times higher rates for older Americans beginning in 2018. The rates increase by age. By 2020 insurance companies offering plans to small groups will no longer be required to cover at least 60% of the cost of benefits. 

Although employers must still abide by rules to cover all employees, rates are not restricted. Companies will no longer be required to offer affordable rates. The House and the Senate bills send mixed messages concerning pre-existing conditions. Both state those conditions are covered but the fine print explains ways the state can wave off pre-existing conditions. Most likely mental health, drug rehabilitation and addiction services,  and women's health issues would be the first to go.                                                                                

Most likely, the House and Senate will go back and forth until they come up with a mutual plan. When that happens, Congress plans to put the new health care plan to a vote as soon as possible. Major changes could be made before each side agrees on the final plan. Considering either plan as written saves the upper tax bracket billions of dollars while premiums for those participating will initially pay higher premiums. 

New health care plans provide less and cut more people

The discussion about health care is getting to the point of ridiculous. I've heard naive explanations, excuses, and 'yes but'  and 'what if' and too many who’d rather be in denial than face reality.

Incredibly, many seem to think there are mysterious groups floating in like fairy Godmothers to hand out permission slips to see a doctor.  NOPE. Not true. Real people easily cured with health insurance die. By the 1000s. Results of a recent Harvard study showed 45,000 people have died due to no health insurance.

It is time for people to admit the US is consider a world leader with the some of the best medical equipment and best doctors in the world,  but we choose to prevent access to our own people. No insurance. No medical care. 

At the beginning of 2017 with results of the Affordable Care Act improving our score, the US  ranked15th in health care. Those with the power and money seem so value wealth over health.  People seem to be numbers and dollar signs. 
Yes, health care for all is expensive. So are loopholes allowing billionaires to pay no taxes.  So are subsidies we hand over to profitable companies like Walmart and oil companies. It is simply a matter of priority. 

Propaganda spread by biased TV 'news' show like Fox News brainwashed enough shallow thinkers into believing it can't be accomplished without the sky falling or they'll say the 'S' word (socialism). Then I guess we are socialists. We have all kinds of public programs funded by the govt. Schools, military, retirement, postal service, and many more.

US falls far behind other countries

Denmark's flag.
The Scandinavian countries always make the top ten happiest places to live.  They also have the best health care. While the US ranks 15th, Denmark is #1 in health care. The Danish people pay high taxes in exchange for quality public health care and other social benefits including free education (through university). In fact, according to the 2016 World Happiness Report, Denmark is the happiest country in the world. It is also #1 in health care followed by Sweden. 

While the majority of Americans want the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes Congress won't consider it because of their own selfish interests.  Look at Trump, for example.  He admitted to paying no taxes for the year his return was leaked. A billionaire. No taxes. Not right. There are so many loopholes to be closed and so many policies that need to be changed. But, none of it will happen with the greedy individuals we've elected. 

Denmark rated #1 for country with best health care.
It's sad to think the US values profit more than the health of all citizens. Unfortunately,  Greed seems to rule social services in the US. Besides health care, the US  offers less help to the poor. A notable difference between the US and other high-income nations is supporting children. While the other high-earning countries offer more benefits for children, the US does not.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed the US has the highest child poverty rate of any industrialized nation. Think about that one. The American Medical Association's Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine agreed with those findings. 
"American children face the highest levels of poverty and social deprivation of any children growing up in Western developed nations, and they have the flimsiest social safety net to fall back on."

Mixed up priorities go beyond health care.  Health is related to other aspects of life including social life.  Kids in poor health suffer more from social deprivation. The US spends less than any OECD country on social programs for those in poverty. Compared to other developed countries, the US  poverty rate is the highest. The following list shows other statistics related to US priorities.

Did you know?

  • While the US has the highest number per capita of billionaires in the world, it's also the highest in child poverty. 
  • Societies concerned about equality tend to have better health and well-being.
  • Wide income gaps between rich and poor often lead to a lower quality of life often destroying the social fabric.
  • The 'trickle down' theory has done the opposite of its intention.
  • When minimum wage is compared in real terms, in 2016 minimum wage buying power was lower than it was in 1968.
  • The poverty rate increased twice the rate of the population growth.
  • The highest poverty rate in the country is the District of Columbia. 
  • Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota claims startling facts. The life expectancy is 50.  Teen suicide is more likely at 8 times the national average,  while infant mortality is 5 times the national average. Over 85% of the population lives in poverty. 
  • An minimum wage employee doesn't earn enough to pay the average cost of rent in any state.
  • With the exception of Mexico and the US, the government is the main source of health funding in OECD countries.  

Considering the low scores in so many crucial areas, it appears the US needs to unite to achieve important goals.  Universal health care is one of the most important. While other developed countries offer health insurance for everyone, health care for all in the US seems to be far away. Special interest groups, greedy politicians, high cost for less service, affordability, corruption are some factors holding back universal health care.

The men and women representing us in Congress are out of touch with the needs of their constituents.  If that doesn't change, I hope the population can unite enough to make elect politicians interested in doing their job. 

If you have the time to read the wanna-be health care plans, give them a look. The House plan is called The American Health care Act  and the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pixabay, Flickr

Thursday, May 18

Midwest teams ignored by NCAA

Last spring another brouhaha related to NCAA sports cropped up.  It’s called the VIPs, the broadcasters, their staff, and big names not doing their cush jobs.  It’s not the first time. Their egos assure it will continue to happen. That doesn't mean we have to like it.

It doesn't seem to matter if  Mid-
west teams are impressive. Broad-
casters tend to focus on brand  name
teams on the coasts rather than take
the time and effort to investigate an
unfamiliar team west of Michigan.

The infamous ESPN basketball 'expert', Jay Bilas, inspired me to go all drama queen when the self-professed smart guy didn't know what he was talking about.

In previewing the NCAA tournament, Bilas said Nevada would beat Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA tournament because Nevada had a pro-level guard. Grrrrr.

He didn't know ISU had an all-American guard. He  never saw the Cyclones play. He never watched a tape. Not his fault, he doesn't do his own research. Whatever.

He focuses on the big names expected to win. Kentucky. North Carolina. Michigan types. If Jesus and his disciples played on a team located in Ames, Iowa, broadcasters wouldn't notice. Too much drama? You get the idea.

Minnesota Gophers softball not on NCAA radar

Here we go again. The latest brouhaha deals with the NCAA and college softball. When the committee seeded the top 16 out of 64 teams in the NCAA tournament, they snubbed a top-ten team with the best record in the country. The Minnesota Gophers.

The Gopher's softball team posted the best record of the season with 54 wins and 3 losses. In the latest NCAA poll, Minnesota ranked #3. The coaches' poll rated the Gophers #1.  Although Minnesota's dominance is questionable for legitimate reasons, the Gophers should be hosting a region. They definitely deserved one of the 16 seeds.

The NCAA looks way foolish on this one. They messed up. Big time. Actually, the Gophers should also thank their AD for being slighted.  MN needs to play in a highly regarded tournament or two before conference play starts. It's better to go 2-2 against ranked teams than to go 4-0 against nobody.

Four Five reasons the Gophers missed tourney spotlight

     Minnesota's strength of schedule is 114th
     Weak-really weak, non-conference schedule. More mediocre teams than
     you can shake a stick at
   Weak Big 10 Conference
       Big 10 consists of 14 teams with only 5 qualifying for tournament. 

 Not enough quality wins
     2-2 record against quality teams (Top 25). 
        Does that translate to winning half of games against quality teams?

    VIPs are not fans of location
         Not fact checked. Broadcasters, cameras, sports TV programs tend to avoid winter fun, 
         20 inches of snow and 6 inches of ice and 22 degrees below zero. Meh.
       Thumbs down on attire
          Uniforms. Is there a good way to strut down the runway in maroon and gold? 

      Photos byCBSi. SEC Network, NCAA creative commons, Flickr, 



Senior Sara Groenewegen, a Minnesota Gopher pitcher/utility player, 
At 50-3 Minnesota’s record is impressive.  When you take a closer look, it’s not quite so pretty. That’s a big WHOOPS.  You can’t play non-conference games against unknown schools and conferences and expect rewards. Even if you run rule them every game, it doesn’t mean much.

Minnesota played so many lower quality teams it’s difficult to measure how they’ll compete against the best conferences.   We’re talking the Summit League  and North Dakota State or Troy and the Sunbelt Conference or the Florida Atlantic Owls. Playing such teams helps rack up a record but it eventually it leaves some doubt about the Gophers competing against top teams. Does their record reflect their talent or is it because of collecting easy wins? Not saying MN's talent isn't at the level their record indicates, but how would you decide? Fans
seem to be overlooking the easy schedule and focusing on the record collected by playing that schedule. It's a huge discrepancy.

The NCAA released a statement regarding Minnesota's seeding situation. Here's part of it:

As a part of the selection criteria, the committee reviews each team’s body of work individually when selecting the field of 64 teams for the softball tournament.  When selecting the top 16 seeds, the committee emphasizes a team’s performance against Top 25 teams along with other variables including strength of schedule.

Several articles complaining about the seeding committee's choices reflect the anger of the community. Some are filled with emotion and lack objectivity. Stop and give it some thought. Minnesota’s strength of schedule is ranked 114 nationally. 114. There's a huge difference between the other Top Ten teams (strength of schedules rank 1-36).  That means there are 78 teams with a tougher schedule than MN. That's only counting up to #36.  

If  a team played quality teams with tough schedules, or if they play in a conference filled with ranked teams, how would they fare against MN's schedule? If Kentucky or Alabama or another team in the middle of the SEC standings faced teams like SD, ND State or a team like Troy University with a record of 20-34 (most of their games against Division 1-A- or AA teams) wouldn't those teams run up long winning streaks? Think about it.

Minnesota grabbed two quality wins. Total. The Gophers do not have a win against a Top 10 team but their quality wins were against decent teams. They beat LSU and Cal. LSU is 5th in the SEC and Cal is 8th (second to last) in the Pac 12.  Both teams are from power conferences but far from the top of their conference. When MN played against Top 25 teams they went 2-2. Does that mean they should win half of the games they plan against quality teams? Based on their schedule that's what it looks like. 

Through no fault of their own, Minnesota plays in a weak conference.  The Big 10 has 14 teams with only 5 advancing to the field of 64 teams in the NCAA tourney.  

If there are several conference teams ranked, beating those teams means more than simply winning against a conference foe.  Take a look at the top conferences. The Pac 12 is represented in the tourney by 8 teams, while the SEC breaks a record. All 13 teams are tournament bound.

Minnesota plays in the region at Tuscaloosa, AL.  The Gophers (54-3) will play Louisiana Tech (37-22). If they win, they’ll most likely face Alabama (42-16) as the Tide plays Albany, NY (27-16).

Alabama is about as bad as they’ve ever been. The Tide is at the middle of the pack in the SEC.  Teams playing in the SEC won’t go undefeated in conference play. They are too even.  That’s why you’ll see teams with mediocre records and high seeds. They play in a high quality conference constantly playing rated teams. 

That doesn’t take anything away from Minnesota. They can prove the NCAA wrong.  According to newspaper reports, the Gophers have moved on from the snub to focus on softball.  That shows 
Hometown girl Kendyl Lindamin (Ankeny Centennial High
School) is a catcher/utility player for the  Minnesota Gophers.
team  character. Whining or complaining about not getting seeded won’t help their cause.  The best way to remind the NCAA of making a huge mistake is to win and keep winning.  It can be done. None of the regions are easy and the super regions will be packed with top tier teams. Every team needs to focus on one game at a time.

Weak schedule, weak conference or whatever the excuse, it shouldn't have kept the Minnesota Gophers from earning a seed. The seeded teams host regions. Other than that, seeding doesn’t do much.

The #1 team plays the lowest rated team but any team will face the highest seeds sooner or later.  You need to win those games to move on. In other words, not hosting or thinking your region is tough gets a big, "So what?" If you got what it takes, it doesn’t matter who the other team is. The location shouldn't be an excuse to lose. You know what they say:  If you can't run with the big dogs stay out on the porch, right?

.As far as seeding is concerned, Gopher fans will probably call me bad names, but I think Minnesota should be seeded somewhere in the 11-14 range.

It's all about parity 

How do the Gophers compare with other rated teams? An example puts this dilemma in perspective. Take a look at the SEC, considered by most 'experts' as the best softball conference. My daughter played at Kentucky, an SEC school,  so I’ll use the Wildcats as an example.

 Kentucky is tied for 7th place in the SEC with a record of 36-17. Their conference record is 12-12. The SEC counts for 8 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Half of the Top 16 seeds. The Pac12 grabbed 5 seeds, the Big 12 got 2 seeds and the Atlantic Coast Conference earned 1 seed.

Even though KY's record isn’t great, they are rewarded by toppling Top 10 teams. Through conference and non-conference games UK has shown they can compete with the best teams in the nation. From their conference the Wildcats beat the Top 10's #1 Florida Gators (50-6) and they took a game from a rated team in the Pac12. UCLA (42-13).

In the NCAA tournament, Kentucky is the 14 seed while Alabama is seeded 16. Most of the complaints I hear are about records. How many wins. How many losses. How  can teams with more losses get a seed when Minnesota didn't? Does Minnesota’s record make the Gophers equal to or better than those middle of the conference SEC teams?  If an SEC team played the same weak schedule as the Gophers (#114) wouldn't those teams make some long undefeated runs and bump up their records? If MN plays AL we'll find out if the Gopher's record beats a team playing about half of their games against ranked opponents.  If MN's record reflects their ability, the Golden Gophers should stomp all over the Crimson Tide.

In any case, it should be a great game to watch. If you consider the difficulty of schedules, weigh the strength of the conference, look at Top 25 and Top 10 quality wins PLUS record of wins and losses, does that achieve parity? Obviously, the selection committee thought it was fair. With Alabama seeded 16 and Minnesota rated 17 out of the 64 team field, the committee considers those two teams to be almost even.

Nobody really knows who is right until the umpire hollers, Play ball!  If Minnesota gets out of the double elimination region and continues to super regionals, it's likely they'll face some tough
challenges. None of the other teams have a record like the Gophers. If MN is as good as their record, then the gophers should be able to find success in any region on the bracket. Beating Alabama would validate the credibility of their record and keep confidence strong.

The Gophers definitely have a strong combination of pitchers to catcher. One of the new stars for MN is freshman catcher Kendyl Lindamin from Ankeny. She graduated from Centennial High School (across the street from my address). If new recruits match her skills, MN will continue to be the team to beat.

Tournament notes
.*Depending on the source, Florida, Oregon,                      Minnesota each rated #1 in post season rankings.
*Ole Miss won its first ever SEC tournament
 by shocking  #1 Florida.
*Minnesota pitcher Sara Groenewgen tossed
 the first ever Big 10 no hitter against
 Northwestern in the Big 10 tourney.

The Pac12's Arizona Wildcats played in the NCAA Softball
Tournament for a record 31 consecutive years.
*The NCAA Tournament started in 1982 but
 only 12 teams have claimed championships.
*There are 291 Division 1 schools sponsoring
*Arizona has appeared in the tournament for
a record 31 years in a row.
*For the first time in history, all teams in the SEC
 qualified for the tournament.
*Florida sophomore Kelly Barnhill's ERA of
 .0.33 is the best in the country.
*2016 was first tournment when no Pac12
 wins in the World Series.
Click on tournament brackets to find game
times and locations.

Tuesday, May 9

Who advances in Season 12 Top Ten of The Voice? Who knows?

I can’t seem to listen to the Top 10 on The Voice without opening my big mouth. All of these singers are talented. A bit obvious. I just don’t see how America keeps helping some of the stragglers through to the next round.  

Coaches Adam Levine and Alicia Keys. 

Okay, I do know how.  But it is not fair. Yes, I know life isn’t far. Yes, Mama told me there would be 
days like this. I can still whine.

Coach Blake Shelton.                                                                         Host Carson Daley.

Doesn’t matter if they’re the best or the worst, if they represent a certain team-Team Blake, for example.  Blake appeals to country but several other ‘types’ claim him.  BS on that.  Do you think TSoul would be around without Blake? It’s the Blake factor.  He’s got what ‘they’re’ looking for.  Dimples. A touch of sexy gray in his hair.  I’ve got nothing against Blake. Actually, I find his dimples and hability to consume the drink quite admirable. 

Coach Gwen Stefani
Here’s my interpretation of who’s who in the top ten

#10 Lilli Passero Unforgettable

Coach Adam gushed on and on about this great performance. I realize it's a classic but it was forgettable for me. Lilli's style seems more classical than modern. Maybe that's my issue with her performances. They're good. She's good. The spark wasn't there. Technically, she has it all. Most of us are not so technical. 

#9 TSoul At This Moment

Blake, once again, was enamored with TSoul. While I see mediocre, Blake sees greatness. His song choices, like his voice, are all over the place.  Blake even did his in all the years I’ve done this show ... BS. The performance wasn't bad. The performance wasn't good. The word fairish pretty much nails it. No idea where he'll end up in the voting. I obviously do not have the connection with this guy. He's an old soul in a young man's body.

#8 Mark Isiah  Sign of the Times

I like Mark. He's got a great attitude. He's been at the bottom 4 times and got the save each time. Always smiling and kind. Although he was committed and believed in the song, it's just too soon to cover. Choosing a modern song was great. Just not THIS modern song.  It's top ten material with the original version still newish for some fans .

Season 12 Top 10 on The Voice
I was the first to make fun of the One Direction guy going solo. I thought tweens loved them for their dance moves and cuteness. But they didn't seriously sing, right? Then I listened to Styles' Sign of the Times. What? I gave it another listen. Sorry I stereotyped Styles. This song is one of my current faves. I was inspired to download the CD.
Mark is a good singer and entertainer and a great guy, but he ain’t no Harry Styles. That’s the problem. And, it’s a big one. I hope he doesn't end up at the bottom of the heap. I think he will.

#7 Vanessa Ferguson- Doo Wop (That Thing)

I don't even know the point of this performance. Okay. She likes to rap. IMO it certainly didn't improve her stakes in the competition. Based on tonight's song choice she blew it. Unless it reinforced her strengths, why go with another completely different genre? Kinda surprised Alicia didn't suggest a change. She had fun with it. But it wasn’t close to Top Ten material for The Voice

At one point she seemed like the one to beat. That didn't last. Vanessa's been headed downhill since the beginning of the live shows. For example, I was way flustered with her rendition of Diamonds. I thought she had the perfect voice for that song. Whoops. Not so much. Just my opinion. But, I can be fairly smart for an old lady.

#6 Jesse Larson Jungle Love 

Team Adam’s Jesse Larson opened the show with a funky version of Jungle Love.  Adam coaxed him into a Blue Brothers type of character.  It worked.  I gotta say I was surprised. He was in character, had a few good moves, caught details like the hanky wiping sweat from his brow. It added to the fun of the performance. I gotta say it surprised me.  Sometimes playing a character can get really cheesy and fake, but the character thing was okay. His superior skills on the guitar came through. Again. Definitely glimpses of his brilliance. 

Overall, his performance was entertaining.  If Jesse’s style is your thing.  That's not bad thing. He kinda reminds me of contestant Nicholas David from Minneapolis. He was also outstanding. Same kind of 'issue'. The genre needs to be popular enough for listeners to buy the music. Maybe not what today’s listeners want.

#5 Aliyah Moulden Jealous

When Aliyah sang Labyrinth’s Jealous I saw this one coming. When she told her back story even Blake got slightly emotional. Too much pain. Tears. Sobbing tears. Had to blow my nose. Her dad died when she was a baby so she has no memories of him. Her brothers and sisters do. She longs to have memories. She misses him. And, she is jealous of the relationship her sibling’s enjoyed with the man she’never knew. 

Aliyah broke down in tears during her performance. That would be okay – could be helpful to show her deep emotions, but it happened too soon.  One of the few times 15 years seemed a little too tender to handle such hard core competition.  Could go either way for her.  She’s very young. Cute. Innocent. And . . . her biggest advantage. Team BLAKE.

#4 Brennely Brown Anyway

Gwen has another winner with this youngest-in-the-group country singer. Martina McBride is a big voice to take on and she was a little shaky. When she got in the groove, she was flawless. She was stylin' in white cowboy boots. Brennely is playing up the role of sweet little girl.  She has that same appeal as the other 15 year old,  Aliyah Moulden. Such cuties. When they open their mouths and sing it's like where did that come from? The strong voices don't fit with the little girl look. Amazing. 

Brennley did a good job on the song but some weak spots. Seemed to miss a bit of the emotion due to her age. Hard to identify with the hardships in the song when you are a teen.
BTW, I suspect Gwen’s gotta be getting some country help from BF Shelton. Ironic. Brennely is on Team Gwen because she stole her from Blake. 

# 3 Hunter Plake Higher Love

Hunter Plake's version of Higher Love was more artistic than the original version. It didn't feature as much falsetto as usual but it was sweet. Still captivating and talented. Not in an obvious way. For Hunter it comes down to this:  Does a singer need to belt it out to win The Voice? We'll see. If style and artistry are equal to volume, he has a shot. His take on performing is refreshing. He's authentic.

IMO this wasn't his best work. I was more impressed with his earlier performances. He did improve big time on articulation. Hunter praised his coach, Gwen, for all her help. The thing is I get the sense he's always been this good. Nothing against Gwen, but Hunter seems like a pro. Alicia dropped Hunter allowing Gwen to steal her other finalist. 

#2 Lauren Duski Tell Me Why

Strong performance. Not my favorite Wynona song. It was a great song for showcasing Lauren's voice. When you take on a Winona song, you better be able to belt it out. She did. Nice contrast in tone. Her voice was impressive. The whole performance didn't do much for me but the singing was impressive. She sounded great but I didn't sense the emotion.

#1 Chris Blue 24K Magic

This is a guy who keeps heading to the top. Once on the outs ready to head home, he's close to the front of the pack. Last week was awesome and this week was even better. He combined dancing and singing to get the Bruno Mars vibe down. Hard to beat this one on this night. He's a natural entertainer and isn't restricted to to one genre. Alicia could hit the jackpot with this kid. Some old school fans won't like this. I am fairly sure one of the girls gets the win this season. 

Really, for me the top 5 could be in a different order and it would still make sense. Team to beat? Gwen. She has two of the best singers, Hunter and Brennely. Their first coaches, Alicia and Blake, possibly gave away the champion. Alicia has the late blooming, Chris Blue and the early favorite, Vanessa Ferguson. For sure, both women have the most talented teams. Just my opinion.

On Blake's behalf, teen Aliyah Moulden grabbed some hearts. Votes will come with it. Lauren is another possible contender on that team. Adam doesn't have many sparks on his team. I think he can take a nap during the finals.
Fans will need to make a decision about the 15-year-old contestants.  Are they mature enough to handle the pressure, the traveling, all the marketing, and on and on and on? It takes grit. Ya gotta be tough. Are they too young to run with the big dogs?

If age wasn't a factor, Brennely could win but she should be a pick for the finals anyway. Hunter and Lauren should be right there at the end as well. Chris could fit in the mix. Or not. Hunter and Brennely are both Team Gwen. Chris is Team Alicia. Lauren is Team Blake. Aliyah could get in the mix depending on the impact of her tears.
My bet is on both of Team Gwen's singers Brennely and Hunter for finalists. Then? Maybe Lauren. Maybe Chris? Maybe not. Tough competition with talented singers. 

Wednesday, April 12

A mother's miracle

A mother's memory of a miracle

As I grow older and just a little wiser, I realize wallowing in a pity party over life's hardships is a waste of precious time. Dealing with divorce, financial problems and a decade of raising three children on my own, hardly prepared me for my daughter's terminal cancer diagnosis. Her challenge pulled me through a dire journey.  I am thankful to share my memory of her story.

In a zombie-like state, I remember hearing the news from the oncologist.  I felt like I was somewhere outside the room.  I could hear the doctor but it didn't seem real. "Do you have any questions before we present to the tumor board?" The doctor's words dragged me back. Millions of questions spun around in my mind but I couldn't manage to get even one out of my mouth.

A few selfish tears slid down my stone face. I just sat stiff and still long after the doctors left. Maybe I thought if I didn't move nothing else would change either. Maybe it was all a mistake. I squeezed my eyes shut. With no time left for my own tears, I drew in one last sigh and left that helpless role to become my daughter's keeper.

Amy had already faced cruel battles with physical and emotional disabilities during her 24 years. None would be as ugly as her big 'C' battle.  From a day in November when I promised her I'd be there for her, until the next summer at the end of June, she faced pain and fear only those tortured by the disease could understand.

Tucked in on the couch during a brief holiday visit, Amy snuggled with her favorite cat.  Later when I checked her temperature she asked me a question I had to answer. "Mom. Is there any place you'd want to go if you knew you were going to die?"

Trying to smile, I struggled not to cry. I said there were lots of places I wanted to go. "None of it is all that important to me." The room seemed to fill up with an eerie silence.

Then, I asked the real question, "What about you Amy? Is there any place you want to go?"
We acted like it was just any other "what if" question we talked about a thousand times. Only this time it wasn't as easy as, "What if Santa isn't real, or what if some kids tease me?"

We both knew what she meant.  She talked about dreaming of going to Las Vegas sometime before she died. "If I had one wish, that's what I want to do."

I didn't say much. It didn't seem realistic or possible to consider a trip.  A few days later, a page from the nurse's station motivated me try to figure out a plan. For Amy's trip. For Amy's life. For Amy's death.

"If anyone in your family wants to see Amy, they should come now," an oncologist advised. She went on to explain that the chemo was maxed out and they would finish the radiation treatments but, "The team agrees her prognosis is terminal." 

She sounded  like a tour guide giving out useful information.

Amy had a brief  home visit prior to radiation treatment at the University
of Iowa in Iowa City.  The red marks are measurements for radiation.

When I asked about traveling, she said Amy should decide, "It's really about the quality of her life. She’s the only one who knows how she wants to live it."

We borrowed money. Arranged schedules. And, it happened. Amy got her wish to be a Vegas tourist. She saw the sights as a fragile girl in a wheelchair, but her weak smile of satisfaction made the trip worth all the debt and worries.

Then one bleak day in February a nurse tried several times to get a blood pressure reading. She failed to find it. That night, too weak to talk out loud, Amy's tormented eyes told me she was close to giving in. Somehow she found the strength to pull the feeding tube out of her nose shaking her head slightly when I reached to call the nurse.

I remember the grey tone of her face. The clammy coldness of her skin. But, most of all I remember the blank dead look in her eyes. After a favorite lullaby from better days, I held her hand, put my head close to her pillow and found some sleep. I knew it might be my daughter’s last night.

I thought I was dreaming when Amy seemed to squeeze my hand. The bright winter sun through the open shades helped me see a tiny spark jumping from her once lifeless eyes.

The next day when she was strong enough to speak, she shared what happened. "First, I saw orangish lights that glimmered around me. It didn't seem real. It didn't burn or feel cold but the light circled all around me.  Then I heard a man's voice. I could only see a blurry face when I hear, "I am your guardian angel. The man said his name was Cossy." Her excitement wore her out enough to take a break.

She went on to describe the shimmering orange and white lights. "It looked like sparkles but it didn't sting." She said the lights made her feel safe and peaceful.

She heard Cossy's voice comforting her with, "Amy, do not worry. Don't be afraid. You will be sick for a long time, but you are not doing to die. It's not your time to die."

The University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.
After that night Amy continued to gain strength. If I had not witnessed the event firsthand, I doubt I would believe it happened.  I still get chills thinking about that night. Cossy came to Amy's rescue a few more times until she no longer needed his help. Before he left he said they would meet again someday. That was ten years ago.

The reality of my daughter's battle with cancer made me realize several lessons about life. I am thankful that Amy defied the odds and beat Cancer. I am thankful I was given enough strength to help her through it. I am thankful for the love and support of family and for doctors and nurses.  Still, I am most thankful for the word I never really believed could happen. Miracle.  Miracles do happen. Ask Amy.

I am thankful to share Amy's story and to give the hope of a miracle to another special person waiting for her angel.

Monday, April 10

Will the real Trump please stand up?

Chalk one up for the Narcissistic Bully.  Using the tragic death of Syrian children to score political points is disgusting.  Acting like he cares so much about the suffering of Syrian children is even more disgusting.

Syrian refugees packed into an air raft survive the Mediterranean Sea.
He said, “Beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack." He said Assad’s actions were heinous and an affront to humanity. True.  All true.  But, he doesn’t deserve to talk about it. He certainly doesn’t have the right to imply he’s concerned about Syrian children.  His actions prove just the opposite.

When he banned Syrians from entering the US, his ban contributed to the death of many children.  The US turned away boats filled with refugees-the majority was women and children. Many were ill, most were hungry and thirsty.  Some drowned in overloaded boats crossing the sea.  Some froze. Others died due to lack of medical attention.  But, Trump ignored human suffering –including  ‘beautiful babies’ exposed to the elements, in desperate need of food and shelter.

So, which Donald is the REAL Donald?  Is it the fear mongering Donald banning people from 7 Middle East countries? When a man at a Connecticut town hall talked about the relocation of a previously vetted and approved Syrian family with children anxious to return to school, Trump told him it couldn’t happen.  

Two Syrian children walk through a refugee camp searching for family.
When the man challenged him by asking if he could tell child refugees he wouldn’t give them food or shelter, Trump said, “I can look in their faces and say, ‘You can’t come here’.”

The first line in his official ban read, “I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry…”
Trump told CNBC, “We have no idea who these people are . . . This could be one of the great Trojan horses. We cannot let them into this country, period.”

So first he says Syrian children can’t come here.  They could cause problems.  “We don’t know where their parents come from, they have no documentation whatsoever," Trump said. 

Throughout his life Trump has shown an open contempt for most of the things Jesus lived and preached:  humility, generosity, respect, empathy, kindness, peace.

Now that he claims to be a devout Christian, he needs to reread a few key Bible verses filled with messages he’s openly violated.  Several passages from Matthew and James speak to empty words meaning nothing unless you’re willing to take action.  

One example is from James 2:14-17: 

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

I understand he’s a serial liar. I know he needs constant attention.  That’s most likely related to his narcissism.  It doesn’t matter.  Using the image of children burning and writhing in pain to his advantage is deplorable.  All of a sudden appearing compassionate and concerned about Syrian children when he has turned his back on them, is a new level of hypocrisy.

If he’s no longer a dishonest poser, then he can prove it by repealing the ban on Syrian refugees.  He is in a position to make a plea for all countries to play a humanitarian role in relieving the human suffering of refugees.  As the old cliché says, you’re either part of the solution or part of a problem.

Pope Francis posted a stern reminder for Trump and others claiming to be Christians,
“The sickness (sin) that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy, which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ. You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian.”

Friday, January 27

It's All about the Greedy

Not gonna deny it. I am sitting in my office weeping.  Thinking about disabled kids and their
caretakers. Trying to understand why people support such cowards.

Add the imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act  to cutting SSI (Supplemental Social Income)  and this pathetic President might as well write another infamous executive order announcing death sentences to millions of helpless patients.  The impact will be brutal.

I realize this administration values profit more than people.  I realize the rich are often out of touch with everyday people.  It seems the President is more obsessed with himself than with common people. That doesn’t give greedy politicians the right to cause suffering.  Taking vital services from the neediest, most vulnerable   Americans  is shameful.

Personal experience

From a personal perspective, I know all about the cruelty of government greed. I put myself through college, got a job as a teacher, earned measly money but had great insurance.  With a disabled daughter, insurance was a big relief. That was way back when I was so naïve I thought the insurance company was trying to help me.

When I planned to relocate for a better position, insurance was a problem.  If I took a job offering anything other than good old blue insurance, my disabled daughter wouldn’t be covered.   Pre-existing condition.  I found another school with the infamous blue company. Then, a few years later when she turned 18, the good old blue cut her from my insurance plan.  All kinds of drama and trauma.

Her prescriptions cost more than my monthly check.  In an effort to get paid, a clinic receptionist told me about the SSI program.  I don’t know how my daughter could have survived without SSI.  And Medicaid. Long story.

Incompetent Greedy Politicians

I was gullible about insurance. But, the politicians had no clue about the programs.  The hypocritical asses sent me a note stating SSI would be cut to encourage me to get a job.  What a bunch of clowns.
One look at the application: Single mother.  As dense as they often are, the staff assumed I wasn’t working because I was a single mom.  I don’t think they enjoyed my call suggesting they do their jobs instead of me proving mine. 

The rationale of caretakers collecting SSI to get out of working shows the stupidity of those suggesting the cuts. Another ridiculous observation, “SSI imposes no work requirements on parents and does not explicitly limit how long they may receive benefits as long as the child remains medically and financially eligible." They need to look up the definition of ‘disabled’. 

Politicians Should Represent Us

If you are a parent of a disabled child the level of care can be overwhelming.  Many children with disabilities require special care often provided by a parent. Many of the disabled were born with a condition lasting a lifetime. The idea of kicking a child off insurance with a permanent disability due to a time limit is inhumane. 

The $600 (approximate) used for treatments, equipment, prescriptions, doesn’t allow a caretaker to lounge at home.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the politicians willing to cut SSI don’t appreciate the challenge of caring for a child with special needs.  In order to receive SSI children “must have marked and severe functional limitations.”  Politicians have been willing to put mentally ill and disabled adults on the street. I am hoping they’re not so addicted to money they do the same to a child.

SSI hasn’t been chopped yet.  If enough people call their representatives and tell them not to touch SSI, there’s a chance they will listen.  At the very least we need to expose the greed of the rich and their inability to do the right thing.
Trump and friends are seriously considering cutting SSI.  They won't consider holding back on tax breaks for the wealthy.  It’s what’s important to them.  Money.  With over 60% of Americans saying the wealthy should pay more taxes, they’re not listening. It’s not an option.

Remind Congress of their job description.  They seem to have forgotten who they represent. Politicians represent the highest bidder.  It’s time for them to represent voters. Otherwise, we are reliving the taxation without representation era.

Congress contacts are listed here:
Millions in New York offer to pay higher taxes

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Grandma Marge shows off her modern coffee percolator while Deb (left) and I hold the dolls we got for Christmas. When it’s time ...