Thursday, December 27, 2007

College Football

My latest submission of Peabody-quality work is now posted on the Spero News site.

In this installment I offer my deep insights (or, incites) into the world of football bowl games, and the insanity/inanity college football has become.

Visit, read, and comment here (and there) if you are so moved.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Latinos Say US Has Hostile Climate for Immigrants

A letter from Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans—MARCHA—calls upon United Methodists to be sensitive to the plight of immigrants this Christmas seasons. The letter is signed by retired Bishop Elias Galvan, interim CEO, and the organization's president, Rev. David Maldonado Jr., who list problems that they say Latinos are plagued with.

"During this Christmas season, when we remember [that Jesus was] born to parents journeying in a foreign land for the sake of their survival," the letter states, "we invite The United Methodist Church to join MARCHA in standing against the negative and anti-Latino forces and voices around us. Let us be truly The United Methodist Church."

How's that again? "Journeying in a foreign land for the sake of their survival?" What Bible do the good people at MARCHA read? The Bible I am familiar with tells us that Mary and Joseph, the future parents of Jesus, were in Bethlehem where Joseph was born to register for the census or to pay taxes, depending upon which version you like, at the demand of emperor Caesar Augustus. That's just a little different than being in a foreign land for the sake of survival.

This twisting of the Christmas story to draw a fallacious, self-serving parallel is vaguely reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's efforts a few years ago when she made a similarly erroneous charge, claiming that Mary and Joseph were homeless people. We might expect such cheap tricks from a politician, but most of us expect a Methodist bishop and minister to be more forthright or at least to know their scripture.

The letter goes on to say that "Latinos face daily suspicion of their citizenship and rights as residents of our communities," and that "they are subjected to racial profiling and suspicion as they seek employment, housing, or simply driving down the street." Asking Latino families "to prove their citizenship in order to rent a house, to be employed or enroll their children in school" is "legalized racism," the letter says.

Methinks that MARCHA protests too much. There are, after all, some 20 million Latinos in the US illegally, and it is against the law to hire illegals and to assist them in remaining in the US illegally. And with the increased focus on stopping illegals from entering the country, smart employers will be careful whom they hire, and landlords and school officials will be wise to do likewise.

This defensive, victim attitude is similar to the attitude of some Muslims, who can't understand why Americans are suspicious of young Muslim men on airplanes.

MARCHA wants the Methodists to stand against the treatment they call racism, to oppose what they view as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino laws enacted by cities and states, and also to support Latinos subjected to bad treatment.

What the Methodists decide to do on this issue is their business, but one would hope that they base their decision on the fundamental tenets of their religion, and not succumb to the dishonestly twisted facts about Jesus' birth that MARCHA employed in its letter. And we would hope that the governing body of the Methodist Church would not encourage its adherents to break their country's laws to satisfy MARCHA's narrow aims.

Friday, December 21, 2007



The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced, and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole.

Streamlining was appropriate in view of the reality that the North Pole no longer dominates the season's gift distribution business. Home shopping channels and mail order catalogs have diminished Santa's market share and he could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture.

The reindeer downsizing was made possible through the purchase of a late model Japanese sled for the CEO's annual trip. Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer, who summered at the Harvard Business School, is anticipated and should take up the slack with no discernible loss of service.

Reduction in reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has been cited and received unfavorable press. I am pleased to inform you and yours that Rudolph's role will not be disturbed.

Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole. Management denies, in the strongest possible language, the earlier leak that Rudolph's nose got that way not from the cold, but from substance abuse. Calling Rudolph "a lush who was into the sauce and never did pull his share of the load" was an unfortunate comment, made by one of Santa's helpers and taken out of context at a time of year when he is known to be under executive stress.

As a further restructuring, today's global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps. Effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" subsidiary.

a. The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted. It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance.

b. The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are therefore eliminated.

c. The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French.

d. The four calling birds were replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call waiting option. An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often, and how long they talked.

e. The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order.

f. The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of the decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it gets will be a good one.

g. The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. The function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes and therefore enhance their outplacement.

h. As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching.

i. Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps.

j. Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work Congresspersons. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed Congresspersons this year.

k. Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line.

We can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and other expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved.

Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorney's association seeking expansion to include the legal profession ("thirteen lawyers-a-suing") - action is pending.

Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. If that should happen, the Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number.

Questions should be directed to me.

(Signed) S. Claus

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More Media Misbehavior

Mike Huckabee’s recent commercial, which is a Christmas message to voters, shows Huckabee sitting in front of a Christmas tree, which is in front of a bookcase. As the camera pans across the background, part of the bookcase, consisting of a shelf and a vertical separator, appear behind Huckabee. The way the shot is framed and the way the decorations are placed around the bookcase can be interpreted as the shape of a cross.

And, predictably, Huckabee’s critics assume he is trying to use “subliminal” graphics in the ad, deliberately placing the “cross” in the background.

Now, it is well known at this point in the campaign that Huckabee is a Christian, and is a minister. It is further well known that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, and it doesn’t matter whether you believe in Christ or not, that is the origin of the Christmas holiday.

All of which begs the question: “so what?”

So what if Mike Huckabee, who was previously a Christian minister, and is now a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, uses a cross in the background of his Christmas message to voters? What is the big deal about this commercial?

The reality is that there is no big deal about this commercial to people who cling to common sense.

It all comes down to media hyping whatever in the campaign it can find to generate interest. It does nothing to inform the public about the important elements of any of the candidates.

It is, after all, the political silly season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rich Rodriguez Shows Us The Seamy Side of College Football

I am a native West Virginian, although don’t live in the state now. In the Mountain State the defection of WVU head football coach Rich Rodriguez to Michigan is a BIG DEAL.

Just last year Rodriguez was wooed by Alabama, but WVU came through with enough of something to keep him and cause him to reassert his love for the state that gave him his start and the university he played for and took over as head coach of in 2002. Rodriguez did well at WVU and looks to be a pretty good coach, or at least to have something going for him. Why else would Michigan come a-calling?

But after I blast Rodriguez for his ethical lapse, reneging on his deal, his cheap double-dealing, and abandoning his team right before a bowl game and taking half the coaching staff and a prize recruit with him, I have no more to say about him, and given his low character, I wonder how long before he gives Michigan the same brush off he gave WVU if greener pastures turn up somewhere else.

Try to imagine the plight of the West Virginia football team, which is to play Oklahoma in two weeks, and finds out before a practice last week that its coach is leaving them high and dry for a better deal, and taking a number of his assistants with him.

What this is really about isn’t so much the low behavior of one head coach, it is the asinine situation that exists in the NCAA where things like this can and do happen with far too much regularity. If anything, the Rodriguez affair highlights the degree to which money drives college sports, and the desire to win drives the money.

It seems to me that if the NCAA had any principles at all it would put in place a rule that prohibited any college from approaching any coach until after his or her season is over, bowl games and national championships and all, and impose heavy penalties for breaching the rule, heavy penalties meaning millions in fines and/or years of no recruiting.

It is crap like this that strengthens my opinion that inter-collegiate sports ought to be either done away with altogether, or returned to its former level of little more than an interesting contest between schools. College sports today are all too often nothing more than a money machine that creates unethical and unseemly practices, not unlike professional sports, as the ongoing steroid scandal in baseball illustrates.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

al-Qaida on its Last Legs in Iraq?

So al-Qaida’s #2 man believes that there are traitors among the Muslims in Iraq, and has called on Iraqi Sunni Arab tribes to purge those who help the Americans. In a videotape posted Monday on the Web, the “physician”—whose specialties are murder, misery and despair—is freaking out as he cowers in his spider hole or some cave along the Afghan-Pakistan border that some of his fellow Muslims have forsworn the terrorist mantle, and now fight alongside the infidel Americans.

Ayman the Impotent is dissing the so-called "awakening councils," groups of Iraqi Sunni tribesmen that the U.S. military has backed to help fight al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies.

Count this as a positive sign that the Iraqi government in its struggle for independence from the evil, satanic clutches of al-Qaida is moving in precisely the right direction. The Sunni tribesmen have been able to see the light, that freedom isn’t such a bad thing, that living in the 7th century is stupid, and have cast al-Zawahri and his murderous brethren into the trash pit of history, just where they belong.

Even as he laments the triumph of the forces of freedom and light, the Ayman whistles past the graveyard: he said the Americans have failed in Iraq and will withdraw soon.

Yeah, right! Only if the lace panty-wearing liberals somehow prevail.

The U.S. general responsible for the ground campaign in Iraq says that violence is at its lowest levels since 2003. Personally, I believe the general, not the “doctor.”

History will show that freeing the Iraqi people from the cruel domination of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, and then freeing them from the idiocy of the Islamic fringe fanatics who are mired in the past were good and valiant things.

Write it down.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tortured Reasoning

There is more hand-wringing about waterboarding, the aggressive interrogation technique that involves simulating drowning and often stimulates the interrogatee to talk. Some people consider this torture.

This issue is a divisive one, with strong opinions on both sides.

First of all, there is an active argument about just what constitutes "torture." The most ardent opponents of aggressive questioning likely would label playing loud music and depriving suspects of sleep as torture, and anything more strenuous, as well. To these people acceptable interrogation consists only of asking questions and hoping for helpful answers.

But we're not talking about Boy Scouts here, we're talking about terrorists bent on killing Americans, and it's just common sense that if you don't make terrorists uncomfortable, they will never divulge the critical information we must have; it is naïve in the extreme to expect them to have a change of heart just because they've been captured. So what do we expect our government agents and military people to do when they capture people who likely have critical information that may enable us to prevent the loss of American lives?

The antis use the term torture to describe every technique that their sensitive psyches cannot abide, and they say things like, "we are a better country than that," and "torture is always wrong," and "torture produces bad information."

All of those points have forceful contrary arguments.

The first thing that must be said is that many aggressive interrogation techniques fall far short of being torture, and a lot of people who know do not consider waterboarding torture. Even so, are we so "good" a country that we will wet our pants and willingly sacrifice fellow Americans over the possibility of taking the steps necessary to get the information we need to protect our country and our people from murderers? Are we so screwed up that we will risk the lives of our civilian and military personnel to capture terrorists, and then not aggressively question them to find out what they know? And by the way, aggressive interrogation techniques often produce positive results. Sure, suspects sometimes will say anything under torture techniques to make it stop, but sometimes they tell you what you want to know.

So it comes down to this: just because you sometimes hit a golf ball into the sand or miss a three-foot putt, do you stop playing the game? Of course not. And just because aggressive interrogation, or even real torture, sometimes fails to work, do you avoid using it to save lives when that is the only option?

A Democrat strategist argued on TV recently, "I'm a mother. You come after my kids and I'll use whatever I have. But I'm not the President of the US." So, according to the strategist, it is okay for a mother to torture someone to save her child, but the President can't use the same means to save hundreds or perhaps thousands of Americans? That strategist then said, "You can beat a child into submission, but that doesn't make it right." In addition to the magnificent lameness of that comparison, the statement is asinine on its face.

Here's the bottom line: If you have the opportunity to get information from someone that will save American lives, you damned well better do everything you can to get that information! Period.

And if that causes the hyper-sensitive namby-pambies to get their panties in a wad, so be it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Week That Was

A couple of days ago I posted a whiny rant about how horrible this past week was going to be. It was all of that, and more. But now it is over, and I survived.

Brad let me down by failing to be sympathetic, and added insult to injury when he called me a “wealthy southern gentleman,” I mean, how low can you go?

Buff expressed the idea that I would be able to handle it; I appreciated his confidence and his encouragement.

Steve, bless his heart, let me know that he has it worse than I, and I think he was right about that.

Nuri, the sweet lady that she is, understood why I like to visit the Caribbean.

Today the main problem was stress, with two performances. If you aren’t a performer/musician, it may be a little difficult to identify, but you always want to do well. Being the leader of this jazz band is a mixed blessing. I don’t get to play much, which is what I like, and why I was in the band to start with, so it’s frustrating from that point, alone. Right after our dress rehearsal Thursday, one of our trumpet players, the guy who is the best soloist, told me that he wasn’t going to play on the concert. He’s 85 years old and has some health problems, so I fully understood where he was coming from, but nevertheless, it was another screwdriver in the gears.

So, in addition to running the band today, I had to sight read his parts. I did get to play, though, and I count that as a blessing. The concert went pretty well, and everyone seemed happy. Hallelujah!!!

Thanks, good friends! And now on to other things.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Home Cookin'

So, we fixed ourselves a home-cooked dinner tonight consisting of rib eyes and asparagus on the grill (it was about 51 degrees today) and some salad and a piece of ciabatta toast with a Sterling pinot noir that was very tasty (and not at all expensive).

We are in the process of decorating for the season, and we have been listening to some Christmas music on the stereo as we went about our business. First was a glorious CD featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of my favorites; then one by the Airmen of Note, the USAF big band, which is a truly wonderful CD; and then Chris Botti’s “December” album, which is very fine; and finally a Christmas album by James Taylor titled, “James Taylor at Christmas.” James is a guy who just continues to put out good stuff, year after year, starting way back in the 70s (I think). One tune came up, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which involves some singing along with some spoken words (what the opera people call “recitative”), which is really just some banter between the man and the woman doing the song, he trying to convince her to stay because it’s “cold outside,” and she saying, “I really should go.” Diane ventured that the woman was Natalie Cole, and I wasn’t convinced that it was Natalie, although I didn’t rule that possibility out.

Here, I must tell you that I have a very good ear for voices, and have a very good record at identifying singers. But, I just thought that it didn’t really sound quite like Natalie.

Well, guess what? It was Natalie!

Damn! I hate it when that happens; when she’s right.Fortunately, it doesn’t happen that often. (Don’t tell her I said that, okay?)

As Buffalo would say, life is sweet when … your wife is right and you aren’t?

Well, maybe that’s not exactly what he’d say.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sometimes, Life Gets in the Way

I visited Buffalo’s Ruminations recently, as I do nearly every day, and found that my ol’ buddy was whining again about how uncomfortable he is in wonderful Friendly Manitoba. Buff seems to think that 25 below is a problem. Some people just can’t be happy. So I’m taking a cue from Buff and seeking sympathy from my gang, as he was from his.

Here’s my schedule for this week:

Sunday: Layout and prepare print job for printer; work on 900-name mailing list for event on Dec. 28 (fairly easy day)

Monday: deliver job to printer; work on agenda, etc. for 11 a.m. meeting tomorrow at which I am, as Mr. Bush might say, the “presider;” work on agenda, etc., for meeting at 12 at which I am, again, the presider; read notes and prepare for board meeting tomorrow at 5:30 at which I am merely an “attender;” in between, work on mailing list for event coming up on Dec. 28; conduct rehearsal for group with concert on Sunday, find out I have a challenging solo that no one else wants to play, finished at 9:40 p.m.

Tuesday: Complete prep for meetings at 11 and 12; practice for solo no one else wants to play; be the presider at the 11 o’clock meeting; be the presider at the 12 o’clock meeting; be an attender at the 5:30 meeting; in between work on details of next Wednesday’s annual dinner of another organization I am involved in; 6:00, attend annual dinner of local business organization; get home at 9:50

Wednesday: preliminary work on the newsletter and Web site update due Thursday; attend holiday reception as representative of organization; work on details of next week’s annual dinner; be attender of, and involved in reception at 5:30 for potential members of organization for which I was presider yesterday; perform in hand bell group I am a member of at 6:15; rehearse with group for Christmas cantata following hand bell performance, finish up at 9:30 p.m.

Thursday: Complete newsletter and Web site update (aprx 4 hours); 1:30 confirm arrangements and equipment transfer for Sunday concert/Thursday dress rehearsal; attend to details for next week’s annual dinner; dress rehearsal from 6 ‘til 9:15, including setup, rehearsing band, and playing solo that no one else wants to play (NOEWTP)

Friday: 9:00 a.m., practice for cantata and solo NOEWTP; work on details of annual dinner for next week at which I must give annual report and introduce the Governor of West Virginia; cook dinner and enjoy an evening and some wine with my wife

Saturday: Work on decorating the house; practice for cantata and solo NOEWTP; work on mailing list for event on Dec. 28; copy and fold programs for tomorrow’s concert; try to relax a little

Sunday: 9:30 a.m. prep for 10:30 hand bell performance; 11:45 aprx, lunch for hand bell choir; 1:00 setup for concert; 1:30 warm-up for concert; 2:30 concert; 4:00 rehearsal for cantata; 5:30 or so, home

Next week has its challenges, but isn’t as full as this week.

Don’t you feel sorry for me?

It’s not so much that I’ve been busy, although I certainly have been, but there is a lot of responsible attached to these activities, which is stressful. But the worst of it is that I just haven’t had much time for writing and visiting other sites. That is the real shame of all this.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

This and That


In the right column of this page are two site rankings, the top one indicating that you must be a genius to understand the material printed hereon. Below that is one that says that you must be capable of getting into college to understand the material on this site. These two rating were made only a few days apart.

I have other sites, as well. One is where I posted pieces of a more personal nature, which requires a junior high IQ, and the other is a site where I post jokes and cartoons that requires only an elementary school education to understand it.

The fact that Observations received two different ratings just a few days apart tells me that the method for determining the reading level must focus on the most recent posts. Also, some of the jokes on that site are a little sophisticated, although the words are pretty basic, so the method must focus on the number of four-letter words, or some such thing, to determine the rating.

What this all means is that this is a neat little trick, but essentially meaningless.


Monday sees the return of Don Imus to morning radio, and I for one am glad. I think Imus got a raw deal over his crude remark about a black women’s basketball team. The remark was crude, but it wasn’t any worse than a great deal of Imus’ material. That’s what made him interesting to listen to, that and the truly funny stuff on the show. But suddenly one comment out of thousands hit a nerve with the right people, triggering righteous indignation, and a huge fit of political correctness.

Even though I used to listen to Imus when a local station carried his show a few years back, I didn’t appreciate everything he did, but I did like the show. It was alternately high-brow and in the gutter; it had something for everybody!

A little advice for Imus: keep up the liberal politics, and the slamming of politicians. Keep doing the funny bits, the parodies, and keep bringing in personalities to interview. Just avoid anything remotely resembling racist material. That’s the only thing you have to fear. Everything else is okay.

Healthcare in the United States: Expectations and Reality

Further down the page is a column I wrote about medical malpractice, which received a couple of comments. One of those comments was from a first-time visitor to the site whose comment I want to use as a mechanism to discuss the broader subject of healthcare.

First, to define the intent of this piece: On a site that I visit where I often disagree with the positions taken by the host, my efforts to explain things that the host suggests show hypocrisy on the part of non-Muslims most often get labeled as a defense of whatever behavior the host is criticizing. What I am offering here is an explanation of certain conditions that exist in the healthcare industry, not a defense of those conditions.

First, here is the comment from Marsha:

"Hi, this is my first time visiting your blog, I found you at blog village. I have very little experience with health care, but the experience I do have has all been pretty bad. My personal feeling is that health care providers don't give a fig about patients and that they are in it for the money. They cover for each other and there is almost nothing we as patients can do about this disaster. Keeping us sick means more money in their pockets. While I don't think that people should be monetarily compensated every time they don't get the outcome they want from the doctor, I believe that the accountability of doctors and hospitals needs to increase dramatically. Thanks for sharing so much detailed information, I learned a lot. I hope you don't mind reading my feelings on the matter."

And now, my response:

Hi, Marsha, and welcome to Observations. I value all sincere comments from readers, whether they agree with me or not.

“ … but the experience I do have has all been pretty bad.”

No doubt quite a few others have had similar experiences, and there are more than enough instances where people have been treated badly, or have received sub-standard care

I think that people look at the healthcare industry as somehow different than other businesses or industries, likely because of the reason that we utilize healthcare providers: We or a family member or friend is sick or hurt, and we want them cured. That causes a great deal of emotional stress on the people involved, and the emotional aspect of the situation frequently is a major factor in how we evaluate the way healthcare providers responded to our situation.

But the reality is that healthcare is “a job” or “going to work” for millions of people. You can find numerous instances where people weren’t treated properly at their bank, or at a department store, by the phone company, or by a plumber or electrician, and while that is an irritation, it is often dismissed as “just the way it is.” However, when someone goes to their doctor or to a hospital and gets less than they expect, it is worse than if they were treated rudely by a store clerk. So much of what we believe about our healthcare system is based upon what we expect it to be, and sometimes what we expect is not realistic.

I often try to get the people in the hospital with which I am associated to understand that many of the complaints the hospital gets are due to the unrealistic expectations of patients and their families, and it is sometimes because they weren’t told what to expect. I ‘m not suggesting that patients shouldn’t expect to be well taken care of, but so often they expect more than they can be given. Hospitals have an obligation to be attentive to patients’ needs, to provide clean surroundings and provide the best care possible, and nothing less is acceptable.

However, people often hold healthcare providers to a higher standard than other “businesses.” When someone is sick, they need competent medical care, not a stay in a resort. Patients have to understand that it may not be possible to cure them, or to do so without their experiencing some discomfort. Please do not take this explanation to mean that healthcare providers do not sometimes fail miserably in their duty to patients.

Doctors, nurses, techs, administrative personnel are just working people like the rest of us, and they sometimes make mistakes, or have a bad day, or just don’t do their job very well on a given day, and like the rest of us they may not like their job or their supervisor or some co-workers. It may be worse when those things occur in a healthcare setting, but they are natural parts of having a job. If we expect otherwise, we expect too much.

“My personal feeling is that health care providers don't give a fig about patients and that they are in it for the money.”

No doubt there are some providers who look at things that way. I can only speak for the hospital with which I’m associated, and that is not the case there. It is a not-for-profit hospital in a competitive situation with other nearby facilities, and as such it must work hard to be the hospital of choice in our region. I have noticed, however, that some physicians tend to become less “patient friendly” after they have been in practice for a few years. Their initial perspective of helping people gets affected by other influences, such as the rigors of running a business, having employees, dealing with Medicare/Medicaid agencies, paying tens of thousands of dollars each year for malpractice insurance, trying to avoid being sued and other such “real life” things. Some doctors and other providers don’t understand what it is like to be a patient, and as a result do not conduct themselves in a manner that is sufficiently sympathetic to patients.

“They cover for each other and there is almost nothing we as patients can do about this disaster.”

Again, I can only talk about my own experience, and I can tell you that our hospital has a process that looks into every complaint from a patient, family member or visitor. I chair a committee that looks at these complaints and is diligent in addressing issues of quality of care and relationships with patients/family/visitors, and while we do find cases where hospital personnel made mistakes or did not act appropriately, we also find cases where patients and family members were simply wrong in their assertions, or “mis-remembered” details.

“Keeping us sick means more money in their pockets.”

I don’t know about where you live, but where I live there are plenty of patients needing medical care and not enough doctors to treat them. Consequently, doctors have enough patients, and do not need to “keep them sick” to make money. I’m not saying that it doesn’t occur, but it is not common here.

“I believe that the accountability of doctors and hospitals needs to increase dramatically.”

You may be right, but as I said earlier the level of expectation for healthcare providers is much higher than for many/most other businesses; I really doubt that you can cite an industry that is more closely watched today, or which gets as much negative publicity as the healthcare industry. I’m not saying that such close scrutiny isn’t warranted, or that the negative publicity isn’t sometimes justified.

What I am saying is that to expect mere human beings to be less subject to the normal influences of the work-a-day world, or to be more perfect in their work just because they deal with sick and injured people is probably not a realistic expectation. It is a worthy goal to aim at, but I think it is a goal that we will never completely achieve.

Thanks, again, Marsha for your comment, and I hope you will become a regular visitor to Observations.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Common Sense Does Not Exist in Sudan

School teacher Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, England, was jailed for 15 days in Sudan recently after “allowing” her class of primary school pupils to name a teddy bear “Muhammad” as part of a study of animals and their habitats.

In response to this sentence up to a thousand marchers turned out in Martyrs Square outside the presidential palace in the capital after Friday prayers to denounce the sentence as too lenient, many of them carrying knives and sticks. Some reports said protesters had called for her to be shot. Her lawyer said she was later moved for her own safety. Some of the protesters reportedly chanted: "Shame, shame on the UK," "No tolerance - execution" and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad.”

One demonstrator told reporters that it was unacceptable to take a toy and call it “Muhammad.” Question: Can no one or no thing be called "Muhammad" in the Muslim world?"

It isn’t clear exactly how this occurred, but from the reports it seems that rather than Mrs. Gibbons encouraging the children to name the teddy bear “Muhammed,” the children suggested that name and Mrs. Gibbons okayed it. That may not be correct, but it really doesn’t matter. This is yet another example of religious zeal taken to the level of absurdity.

Some Muslims have a hypersensitivity to anything that even remotely resembles negativity toward their religion. This hypersensitivity sometimes crosses the line into obsessiveness and even lunacy. This is one of those times. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said he could not "see any justification" for the sentence, calling it an "absurdly disproportionate response" to a "minor cultural faux pas." He is absolutely correct.

From this situation it would not be unreasonable to believe that the Muslims in Sudan do not possess the ability to think. Their actions and words certainly support that idea. It would certainly be appropriate to allow for the possibility that Mrs. Gibbons intended no offense. It would not be unreasonable to imagine that this “horrible offense” was merely an accident of cultural differences, as the Archbishop suggested. But no, the Muslims in Sudan leapt immediately to the conclusion that this school teacher and her young Muslim students intended to insult the prophet. [Ooops! I forgot to capitalize “prophet.” Will I be the target of the rage of extreme Muslims?]

As if the situation with Mrs. Givens were not sufficient evidence of Sudanese Muslim extremism, and patent idiocy, Mrs. Gibbons’ lawyer, a Sudanese Muslim himself, carries a weapon because he has received death threats, merely for representing this lady in court.

I know a few Muslims, and of those I don’t believe any of them hold these extreme views. That said, some of them were not outraged at the 9-11 attacks, and a couple of them seemed to be pleased that the US got hit. This seems not only strange, but more than a little dumb, given that they came here willingly to earn a good living providing healthcare to Americans. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

I believe that those attitudes are due to some of the fundamental views of Islam toward non-Muslims. They may not support terrorism and other extremist activities such as this one, but neither do they condemn extremist activities.

Does that mean that most Muslim’s religions beliefs dominate all other aspects of their life? And if so, does that tell us anything about the tendency of Muslims to fight the terrorist tendencies of the Islamist extremists?