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Posts Tagged ‘Public Policy’

Stop the presses!

You know how you have to initial a HIPAA form every time you go to a doctor’s office, or a hospital, or a car wash? We Americans like to think our medical records are sacrosanct, we deserve privacy, in fact we demand it. That boil the size of a baseball we had removed from our back in high school – nobody needs to know.

Until now.

Google wants to know our medical history! It’s bad enough they are already taking pictures of our backyards and listening in to our wants and needs, sneaking ads into social media like a flickering lightbulb to a moth. Google has cut a deal with Ascension Health to access troves of its patient data:

Among the data Google reportedly has access to under the deal are lab results, diagnoses, records of hospitalization and dates of birth.

Neither doctors nor patients need to be told that Google can see this information.

The Wall Street Journal reports that data access began last year and was broadened over the summer. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-50388464

Ascension runs 2,600 hospitals, including St Thomas in Nashville.

Along with an overnight dusting of snow, this bit of news sent a chill down my spine. What’s worse is their data trolling started last year! While we’re busy attacking Elizabeth Warren about Medicare for All, this corporate giant stuck its finger in the cookie jar. “Ascension said the deal would help it to “optimise” patient care and would include the development of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to support doctors.” Sorry for the British spelling but I’m quoting the BBC.

Wasn’t I just talking about doctors and AI? I know this is the generation of solipsistic selfies, living their lives online, charting every meal, video taping every hotel room, uploading their songs to YouTube in search of InstaFame. Jumping onto Tic Toc which I don’t even understand.

I had an appointment with a retina specialist yesterday at Vandy, about my little West Nile incident 20 years ago, and people were sitting like zombies in a dark, crowded waiting room with dilated pupils staring into their smart phones. HGTV was on in the corner but everyone was glued to their tiny black mirror. I was thinking to myself, why not get rid of all the TVs in doctor waiting rooms, and what kind of neck problems will this generation have?

I still thought we had a right to our own medical records. And granted, this blog is a peek into the window of my soul, but do we no longer care about privacy… at all?

Send in the lawyers! Here is my lame attempt at a selfie in that old ice cream parlor.

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I was talking with Great Grandma Ada this morning and I mentioned that disrespect, or its evil cousin “contempt,” is a most toxic part of some marriages. I figured this marriage counselor had seen her fair share of marital discord over the years. We started off discussing how Pompeo is holding Congress in “contempt” by refusing to hand over documents relating to our President’s abuse of power in Ukraine, and now VP Pence has joined this “League of Sycophantic Gentlemen Eager to Ignore a Subpoena!” 

Ada pivoted immediately from politics to personality. She told me how she had always wanted to do a study of newlyweds, specifically of videos detailing how they handled the whole wedding cake situation. I blurted out, “Oh, you mean did they smash a piece of cake into each other’s mouth?”

“Yes,” she said, she could usually predict if a relationship was going to last by the way they fed each other cake on their wedding day.

Nine years ago, my reluctant Bride was having nothing resembling a huge, monstrous, wedding cake at her ceremony in an apple orchard. No, she chose cupcakes that would be named after her dogs – Bailey’s Irish Cream and Guiness’ Dark Chocolate – and since we didn’t have an MC to set aside a special time for cutting a cake, guests were served their tiny sweets during the reception on a rooftop downtown. I added small maple sugar candies, the kind the Bride loved as a child in the Berkshires.

They went so fast, I’m not sure if the Bride and Groom even tasted them?

Their marriage has grown into a mutually supportive, loving and respectful partnership. Getting along with your partner in the good times is easy; but getting along through grueling residencies and fellowships, punctuated even now by weeks of MICU on-call-endless nights and emergency phone calls, takes commitment and courage to a new level.

Ada brought up Melania Trump, how she slapped her husband’s hand away. I mentioned a recent video montage of world leaders looking disgusted and appalled at Mr T’s remarks. What are the signs of contempt?

“Here’s some common signs that contempt is underlying the negative tone in a conversation.  Eye-rolling suggests contempt.  An upper lip raised on one side suggests contempt.  So does a sarcastic tone of voice.  Beware if you have these habits, and also if you have been on the receiving end of these negative communications. They are sure signs that someone is not listening or listening to deprecate you (or you to deprecate your partner), not to gain understanding.

Empathy and contempt are polar opposites.  Empathy involves caring about others feelings and concerns.  Contempt is arrogant (“I know best”) disregard, dismissal and denigration of others’ concerns.  Empathy nurtures relationship bonds; contempt invites relationship and marriage problems.”  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201303/how-contempt-destroys-relationships

Will House Democrats have the WILL (I was going to write a different word, but after having to look up “BLANK Strap” thinking Mr T meant “boot strap” which he didn’t, I thought the less coarsening of language the better) to impeach? What will it take for this League of Sycophants to release the documents desired so that articles of impeachment may be served? Will they claim executive privilege once again? Shall we remain a sovereign state? These old white men are in contempt of court and we are a nation of laws. Straight jackets have come to mind.

Meanwhile, here is the Love Bug learning how to decorate a cake. It’s up to us to model  empathy, to teach kindness.

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“Where the wind comes sweepin down the plain.” That Rogers and Hammerstein musical was my first taste of show biz. I was new to public school and new to ninth grade, so naturally I tried out for the school play! My first boyfriend was a drummer in the orchestra; a nice, Irish Catholic boy who gave the Flapper the impression he would watch out for me after school at rehearsals…

I’ve thought about the theme behind the play many times, about how the farmers and the cowboys can’t really be friends. About building walls and fences to keep certain people out, and certain people in. It’s about conflict with a capital C, and are we going to blame others for our problems or try to cooperatively fix things – “Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom. Plenty of air and plenty of room. Plenty of room to swing a rope!”

Well, states’ AGs have decided to treat our country’s big problem, the opioid epidemic and our addiction to pain-killers, in the same way they treated our addiction to nicotine – by blaming corporations. Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson lost their landmark opioid trial and was ordered to pay $572 Million to the Sooner State.

Surprisingly J&J stock went up, because the decision fell far short of the 17 Billion judgement the OK state was asking for – from the New York Times:

“In his ruling, he (the judge) wrote that Johnson & Johnson had promulgated “false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns” that had “caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths” and babies born exposed to opioids.

Johnson & Johnson, which contracted with poppy growers in Tasmania, supplied 60 percent of the opiate ingredients that drug companies used for opioids like oxycodone, the state argued, and aggressively marketed opioids to doctors and patients as safe and effective. A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, made its own opioids — a pill whose rights it sold in 2015, and a fentanyl patch that it still produces.”

Bob tells me that it’s kind of difficult to abuse a patch. But what made me chuckle just a little was the actual law on the books the judge used to cite his landmark decision, the “Public Nuisance” law! 

What constitutes a public nuisance, one might ask? This law is the bread and butter of local government: you let your lawn grow into wildflowers till it overtakes the sidewalk; you play your music too loud and for too long; or more broadly, you act (or fail to act) on something that endangers an entire community.

In 2017, 117 people died in Nashville due to overdoses, though it’s hard to find out if the drug was pushed via needle or via mouth. For some reason the TN death rate due to drugs has been going up every year: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2019/07/19/opioid-crisis-tennessee-overdose-deaths-climbing-heroin-fentanyl-meth/1550137001/

I’m wondering why a smart AG shouldn’t treat gun violence with the same strategy? How many people were killed with guns in your community last year?

Why not go after Sturm Ruger or Smith & Wesson also known as American Outdoor Brands? Allowing people to walk around town brandishing an assault weapon, even though they managed to get an “open-carry permit,” might also fit into this “Public Nuisance” category. https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/03/04/can-you-guess-the-biggest-gunmaker-in-the-us.aspx

After all, gun deaths are on the rise. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gun-death-statistics-cdc-study-says-gun-deaths-are-on-the-rise-after-years-of-decline/ While drug deaths due to prescription opioids have been going down in most states (exception TN), albeit deaths due to fentanyl laced cocaine and meth have been going up. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/its-not-just-opioids-deaths-from-cocaine-and-meth-are-surging

I remember when Rumson passed a Noise Ordinance law, though I’m not sure how they managed to enforce it. Mostly driven by extremely early sounds of lawn maintenance equipment on the weekends; the Wall Street traders in town wanted to sleep in, while the townies who did their own lawns wanted an early start. It’s always the cowboys and the farmers.

This was me at 15, rather a drawing my big sister Kay did of me as a Can-Can girl in Oklahoma.

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Yesterday, Bob attended a zoning board meeting.

Over the years, I’ve attended my fair share of borough council, school board, and zoning meetings as a reporter, taking copious notes and trying hard not to fall asleep on a hard wooden bench, the kind most civil servants prefer. So I opted out of going with Bob and our neighbor Berdelle, even though this was a mid-afternoon meeting and chances were good I’d be wide awake.

It seems yet another company would like a variance in the number of parking spots required for a bar.

We live in a mixed-use, historic neighborhood in Downtown Nashville. Monstrous building cranes do battle every day (not the bird-variety), and explosions pierce the landscape rippling through limestone bedrock. We are about to get thousands of new jobs downtown thanks to the Amazon Empire. Being a most popular city is a blessing and a curse. Small shacks are selling for half a million dollars, only to be demolished and replaced by two “tall skinny” houses on one lot. Tall apartment buildings are rising quickly along, dwarfing smaller homes like ours,  and real estate prices are still climbing.

So it’s no wonder that regular people cannot afford to live here. The large, stately, historic Victorian brick homes sell for more than a million dollars and are being snatched up by LLCs – lawyers, dentists, shops and restaurants mingle closely with residential properties. Pretty soon our riverfront is going to be developed, and traffic lights just might find their way onto our streets, instead of the comforting four-way-stop sign.

But back to yesterday. According to our metro government zoning code, bars must have one parking spot per 75 sq ft! This particular big, brick building was 3657 sq ft last year, but the proposed bar reduced it to a smaller size requiring 36 parking spaces! Out in the back is a tiny residential slab for parking maybe 3 cars!

The lawyer for the bar thinks that street parking, and a paid parking lot a block away will magically make up for their lack of spots. The zoning board tabled their request thanks to Bob and our neighbors showing up.

Another local bugaboo has been tabled recently; Mayor Briley’s idea to install a bunch of parking meters downtown. This was the Tennessean’s take on the matter:

“Nashville is in a rush to secure a deal to outsource its public parking.The solicitation for proposals from private companies to take over its on-street parking operations asks for $30 million up front to take over the city’s work.

The winning bidder — which would also pay the city its current net revenue parking of $1.5 million — would manage the city’s parking spaces, issue tickets, collect fines and issue permits for valet parking, loading zones and street parking permits in residential areas. It would be a 30-year deal.”

I wonder where Bob and I will park ourselves in the next 30 years? After all, Great Grandma Ada is turning 95 next week and she’ll be the first to tell you she never saw herself living in TN! Will we eventually find a beach house? Stay tuned to our adventure in aging and fighting for residential parking permits! Here I am in front of the old slaughterhouse by the river which will soon become condos.

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This was not your burn-your-bra-along-with-your-draft-card kind of weekend, then head for Canada. No.

This was the biggest single thing to hit Nashville since the advent of Country Music Awards. The NFL Draft on Broadway not only sacrificed some of our cherry trees, it drew overall 600,000 football fans across three days to the Honky Tonks, who spent well over $100M on merch, booze and housing. That’s a lot of cowboy boots!

And to round off the festivities, the Rock and Roll Marathon saw 30,000 runners sprinting up Rosa Parks Blvd, followed by Parrot Heads that evening at the Bridgestone Arena. It was a perfect storm sort of Spring awakening for this city and I was glad the Bride only worked the first night; with rain dampening the Draft, her ER shift went smoothly – one scooter injury here, one drinking injury there…

Then she and her family did what most natives and transplants alike did, they flew the coop. It was the first camping experience for the Grands and they loved it, scary stories and all.  A great way to dodge the Draft!

It wasn’t quite that simple for us because I got a severe case of the stomach flu. My daughter tells me it’s going around, which doesn’t help much. It knocked me out for 3 full days and nights, just when we were going to tackle all the boxes we’d shoved into all our closets so we could hold a Seder like Alice’s Restaurant; you know Arlo’s song, where you could get anything you want, except bread of course, there were no baguettes to be found, only matzoh.

(Here I could digress about how we used to attend Torah study in the Berkshires with Arlo Guthrie, but I won’t 🙂

My brother, Dr Jim, tells me that the Draft used to be a bunch of old, white guys sitting behind a big white curtain that would open to reveal all the new college picks in about an hour in each NFL city. Open and shut. That was back in the roaring 80s, when my brother Mike was President and General Manager of the MN Vikings. Today, from what I could gather between bouts of nausea, the Draft looks like Hasty Pudding skits put on by grown men. Guys dressed like Cardinals, or gunslingers, parading through the streets re-enacting some arcane tribal ritual. I didn’t get it.

But the team owners still charged fans 20 bucks back home, just to sit in their stadiums and watch the Nashville Draft on a jumbotron. So, you could dress up like a Patriot and stay in Foxboro, MA. Maybe I do get it.

As Passover was ending, another mass shooting was happening at a Chabad in Southern California. A research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center has this to say:

“ ‘We’ve started referring to them as the apocalyptic community, these online groupings that are marked by a sense of urgency’ about the perceived threat to white dominance.”

Lori Gilbert Kaye is the name of the woman who was shot protecting her rabbi from a nineteen year old with a gun. The rabbi insists it was a miracle that the terrorist’s gun jammed, preventing more from being slaughtered.  A border patrol agent who had recently discovered he wasn’t really Italian (a family joke) gave chase. The young killer surrendered to the police, wonder of wonder.

We can only imagine what would have happened to him if he was Black.

We can talk as much as we want about apocalyptic hate groups being radicalized online, but you cannot ignore the facts – New Zealand just banned assault rifles after 50 people were murdered in a mosque.

It’s time we Americans stopped dodging the truth. Stopped re-enacting Gunsmoke while our sons and daughters are actually martyred in places of worship, schools, theaters and malls. Our landscape has become a battlefield and our elected officials have no moral courage.

This was our Seder table, where we opened our door for Elijah.

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Today is #EqualPayDay across the globe, meaning any woman who thinks she isn’t a feminist isn’t paying attention. For every single dollar, or euro, a man makes, a woman will collect only 80 cents. Think about it, we make almost one quarter less than what men make for doing the same work! Maybe back in the day, where MAGA-hat-wearing people long to live, men went out to work and plunder leaving their mates at home, barefoot and pregnant. But today, we ladies are half of the workforce, maybe the “better half?”

Last week, the D Majority House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. Why should that matter? Certainly some industries are fair when it comes to the payroll – historically women-centered careers like healthcare and teaching have been gender-neutral for the most part. But now the Paycheck Fairness Act will help to close the 20% wage gap in a broader way by banning employers from asking about former salaries. And maybe most importantly, prohibit companies from firing or retaliating at workers who share their wage information!

So step over to the next cubicle and talk about money people!

I remember my first real job. Before my days of teaching at a Head Start in Jersey City, I was hired to interview temp workers for a large American firm. This entry HR job meant I had to administer typing tests and ask the kinds of questions above and beyond what your last salary looked like – “Are you married?” “Do you want to have children?” Those were the good ole days, when it was more of what your body actually “looked like;” the days when my older sister Kay had to keep her child a secret if she wanted to continue to work as a stewardess in the airline industry.

And she had to starve herself too, in order to stay at a certain weight. We women of a certain age have these memories floating around in our hippocampus, judging ourselves in the mirror every day.

And being a card-carrying feminist means one should fight against sexual harassment in the workplace, or anyplace really. But listen up, I may offend some of you here, maybe we’ve gone a step too far? I mean, I LOVE ex-Veep Joe Biden! He hails from my hometown, and has the most authentic, warmest smile. His son died of the same kind of brain tumor that killed my biological father. He reminds me of my foster father, Daddy Jim; I’d share a cup of tea with him anytime! And guess what…

If he kissed the back of my head, or leaned in for some Eskimo kisses or even butterfly kisses… why, I’d hug him right back! There, I said it. Most women can differentiate between a lecherous old guy who is too handy and goes for your lips, and a Mensch. The first kind of man makes you instantly turn your face away, he hugs too hard and too long, we can see it in their hungry eyes. Great Grandma Ada had a friend like that, even into his 90s he’d put the moves on you.

But Uncle Joe just doesn’t strike me that way, you know, the way Mr T strikes me.

So let’s settle down Dems, we will never win in 2020 by fighting amongst ourselves. Let’s teach our little boys about consent, without scaring them away from intimacy. Teach them how to know when to shake hands or hug hello. Here is Pop Bob (a genuine Mensch) teaching the L’il Pumpkin about tools with his very first tool box. Clap your hands if you believe in fairy houses.

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This morning we awoke to another mass shooting, except this time the carnage took place in New Zealand, a country we Americans like to think of as idyllic. Friends returned from a trip once to tell us that Kiwis are the most delightful people they’ve ever met! The Bride will tell anyone that people just don’t sue their doctors in the land of Tolkein.

But today, hate has landed on their shores in the form of far-right, white supremacy.

49 people are dead and more than 20 are injured simply for attending their mosque in Christchurch. The young man, the terrorist with a gun, live-streamed his vicious attack shooting men, women and children at close range for Facebook.

How is this different than a neo-Nazi killing Black people in a Christian church in South Carolina? Or is it different from an anti-Semite slaughtering Jews at prayer in a synagogue in Pennsylvania? Is a shooting at a place of worship any different from a school massacre?

An anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, racist bigot with a camera on his head is no different than other young, white men on a mission to hate and kill; what they all have in common besides hate is a GUN. Yes, terrorists will try killing with cars and trucks and knives, but a gun is so much more efficient

And in this respect I do have some good news to share – the Supreme Court of the state of Connecticut has ruled that the Sandy Hook Elementary victims have the right to sue the manufacturer of the gun, a Remington Bushmaker AR-15, that was used to slaughter their children. The Associated Press reports:

In a 4-3 decision, justices reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington and overturned the ruling of a lower court judge, who said the entire lawsuit was prohibited by the 2005 federal law. The majority said that while most of the lawsuit’s claims were barred by the federal law, Remington could still be sued for alleged wrongful marketing under Connecticut law.

This is a huge step for gun control safety, ending the age-old practice of complicit immunity to gun companies and their shareholders.

And in other good news, the 55 year old father of the Waffle House shooter here in Nashville has been charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, a felony, in his home state of Illinois. His “child” killed 4 people in 42 seconds. Because the father knew his son had been hospitalized in the past five years for his mental health, the state thinks he should not have given his son an AR-15. What do you think? Do you see a pattern? https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2019/03/14/travis-reinking-father-jeffrey-waffle-house-shooting/3016158002/

“If he is found guilty, the charge could carry probation or up to three years prison time and a fine of up to $25,000.”

My heart goes out to the victims in Christchurch this morning. But as Spring approaches, I have hope that we can turn this massive public health crisis around. Like Rip van Winkle, our country is awakening from the biting cold grip of the Second Amendment.

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