Archive for October, 2013

Slide your fanny a little…

“Slide your fanny a little bit back from the edge.  A little more.  Until it touches my hand.  That’s it.  You got it.”

Risque?  Hardly.  Warm and fuzzy?  No.  It was only Nurse Ratched getting me in position for my long anticipated prostate biopsy.  Sexual innuendos and any semblance of privacy were the farthest things from my mind.

For those of you who have faithfully followed my blog, you may recall a piece I wrote about a year ago that displayed in living color the unrelenting progress of my PSA readings.  Readings that, in some corners of the medical establishment, leave the suspicion of a sinister, cancerous infestation of my prostate gland.

I had dutifully made several breath-holding follow-up visits to Dr. Goldberg my busy, generally humorless, urologist.  This series of perilous events  led to the last one, an all too brief encounter a month ago where he blandly announced “Your PSA is up again.  Time to find out what’s really going on in there.  It’s fifty-fifty on the outcome.”   Huh? I thought.  That’s it?  No preliminaries, no show-and-tell.  Not even a hand on the shoulder.  “Just make a biopsy appointment for a couple of weeks from now and bring your body back here.”

During those weeks I had ample opportunity to think about the worst and to explore in-depth the components of the dreaded procedure.  However, except for a couple of brief light-hearted discussions with friends, I disdained the bountiful educational opportunities offered by the web, the local library and the Jewish Forward.  The most memorable and illuminating conversation was the one had with Harry.  “I spoke to a friend of mine.  He had a prostate biopsy.  No big deal.”  My, how reassuring.

The big day arrived.  I prepared and cleansed my body as instructed.  I swallowed the rather large antibiotic pill taken as a precaution against a possible infection that I was convinced was surely as deadly as 18th century bubonic plague.

Sweetie and I arrived at Dr. Goldberg’s office, early as usual.  I embarked on the obligatory viewing of the same travel magazines seen during my earlier visits and, realizing that I had absolutely no idea of what I was reading, settled back while the clock wound past my appointed time.

Other than the need to argue with the bookkeeper about co-pays, I passed the time wondering what particular urinary malady was afflicting each of the other sullen faced men sharing the waiting room with me.  The Halloween decorations, especially the sheeted ghost hanging by its neck over the entry door, did little to lift one’s spirits.

Nurse Ratched appeared and escorted me to the operating chamber.  I was a bit disappointed, given the singular importance of the upcoming procedure, that it did not look more like Mel Brooks’ laboratory in Young Frankenstein.  Nurse Ratched took my blood pressure, pulse and temperature.  All were functioning…a good sign I thought.  I was then instructed in the proper removal of clothing and the donning of that never to stay in place paper cover-up.  I was left sitting backless and alone on the dissection table.  “Back in a few seconds” Nurse Ratched promised.

Time passed.  Anticipating that I might somehow be forgotten and left to starve to death, I reviewed the contents of the chamber.  The most imposing element was an ultrasound machine.  This clever device is used by the physician to locate, measure and help zero in on the parts of the prostate gland that have been chosen by lottery as the lucky ones for biopsy.

Once located, a small snippet of obviously useless living matter is clipped, removed from the dark recesses of one’s body and deposited in a carefully (I hoped) marked container to be sent off to that mysterious place that none of us has ever visited, called the lab. There it sits ignored for what seems like an eternity while god only knows what is done to it to determine whether it is, in that generic inoffensive terminology, negative or positive.

The scariest piece of the ultrasound machine is the probe that will, when the smiling doctor appears, be shoved ingloriously into your anus on its way to the blessed area occupied by that one ounce piece of meat called your prostate gland.  With time on my hands, I had ample opportunity to observe the impossible size of the probe and I wondered what it might be like to be incarcerated in prison with giant men who have been deprived of female company.  Not a pretty sight.

And for more laughs, I stared at the near life-sized chart on the wall depicting a fully functioning urinary system including a monstrous penis that put me to shame.

Having waited for what seemed like hours, I was preparing to remove my useless paper cover-up, get dressed and sneak from the office when Dr. Goldberg arrived.   Nurse Ratched, careful to make no clever comments about my private parts, began the arduous job of sliding and positioning my fanny.  She then  placed my feet into the same kind of stirrups that you women are more likely to encounter as you pass through life.  I really don’t know how you manage it.

“We’re going to take ten snippets” Dr. Goldberg announced.  “The hardest part is getting this probe past your great wall of China.  After that it’s a walk in the park.”

Around snip number three, and concerned that I might be left prostate free, I asked how much the ten snippets weighed.  “Everyone asks that” Dr. Goldberg laughingly said.  “Your prostate weighs about twenty-eight grams and the snippets will total less than a gram.”  Seemed hardly worth the effort, I thought.

Snippet ten occurred at about the five-minute mark.  Or, in Fred time, about twelve hours.  Done, we all breathed a well-earned sigh of relief.  I was allowed to recover some of my dignity, get dressed and proceed to the waiting room of sullen men where I gave Sweetie a big kiss.  I’m due back in Dr. Goldberg’s office in about a week.

Meanwhile Harry, tell your friend that he must have practiced.

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Prodding those in need

What we really need is Martin and Mendel.

No, that’s not the name of a Jewish law firm.  It’s two Orthodox Rabbis in New York who, for a hefty fee paid by an unhappy wife, will arrange for the thrashing of a recalcitrant Orthodox Jewish husband who refuses to comply with a religious divorce, known as a “get”.

According to the New York Times, for about $50,000 Rabbis Martin and Mendel would get two tough guys named Ariel and Yaakov to kidnap the unwilling hubby, apply a cattle prod to his unnamed body parts and then deliver the now willing husband to the mercies of the Orthodox Jewish court.  As the Rabbis proudly expounded to an undercover FBI agent, it was important that the instruments of torture did not leave any mark that might otherwise reveal their nefarious deed.

So, after due consideration, I think that applying this novel approach to the current government shutdown might be just the ticket to our own salvation.

“Hello, Rabbi Mendel, this is Barack Obama.  I’ve got a situation that I think you can help me with.  I’ve been reading about your ground-breaking approach to problem solving and I must admit that it may be exactly what I need.”

“Yes, Mr. President.  I’m happy to hear from you even though I didn’t vote for you, not even once.  You know, it’s that Israeli thing.  But anyway, what’s your problem?”

“Well, I’ve tried just about everything to get John Boehner to see it my way.  I’ve offered to kick people off food stamps, open up Yosemite to oil exploration, and even let him beat me at golf.  But he still won’t let me re-open the government.  The stubborn mule says he won’t budge until I kill ObamaCare and default on the national debt.”

“Yes, I understand your problem completely.  In fact, I’ve been following it religiously on Fox News and must admit that I’m a really big fan of that nice young man, Ted Cruz.  Even though he doesn’t  attend my shul.”

“But Rabbi, maybe you can put your politics aside and, for a fee, see it my way.”

“Well as a matter of fact you’re in luck.  We’ve just begun a big fund-raiser for our shul.  It’s called “Prod Them to See It Your Way”.  Our hope is that we can help people like you bring the opposition around to your way of thinking.  After all, it’s our specialty.”

“Sounds great.  What else do you need to know from me before we can get going?  I’m in a bit of a hurry to save the greatest nation on earth.”

“For you, Mr. President, I will set aside our differences and get Ariel and Yaakov on the job tonight.  And, please, consider it a freebie.”

“A freebie?  Why so cheap?”

“It will be great publicity for our fund-raiser.  Can you imagine?  After all, Boehner isn’t the only one who needs some prodding.

Obama Gives In…Willing to Negotiate

News Flash…Obama willing to negotiate.

NBC News reported this morning that President Obama is willing to negotiate both the government shutdown and the federal debt limit.  In a concession speech delivered at the national headquarters of the Tea Party, Obama admitted that his grievous error in allowing Harry Reid to push him to the fiscal cliff and his own wrong-headed intransigence to come to the negotiating table have brought us to a near collapse of the country’s fiscal system and the impoverishment of millions.

He graciously apologized to the leaders of the Tea Party who, he admitted, had been right all the time about the need to cut government spending and substantially reduce the tax burden on millionaires who, he said, were the true patriots of this country toiling day and night to create jobs while foregoing their own personal needs.  He also asked for the forgiveness of  the American public for the havoc, job loss and increased mortality rates that he had wreaked on the nation because of his single-minded insistence that the Affordable Care Act be implemented.

“It’s no longer a case of who’s right and who’s wrong.  It’s abundantly clear that we Democrats took the wrong road and we deserve the blame.” he said.

Obama pointed to John Boehner and the Republican led congress as a shining example of doing things the right way as they continually offered time and again to work with him and the Democrat led senate but were mindlessly rejected by Harry Reid and other left-wing zealots.  He praised the way Speaker Boehner had carefully selected those particular budget items that the Speaker believed were the most essential ones to get this country back on track.

Obama particularly cited the Smithsonian National Zoo Panda Cam as a shining example of urgently needed funds.  He agreed with Speaker Boehner that America indeed has a god given right to relentlessly observe every moment of panda antics.  The President specifically praised New Gingrich for his generous offer to fund the Panda Cam while deliberations over food stamps, immigration and education took a back seat.

To get things rolling President Obama agreed to repeal, not just delay,  the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.  As an added incentive to begin negotiations forthwith, he proposed the elimination of all federal subsidies for Medicaid which would effectively shut down that mindless, corrupt, debilitating program in all fifty states and, in the bargain, save three trillion dollars over the next hundred years.

Finally, and as a sign of good faith and willingness to quickly reopen the government without the selective, cumbersome, convoluted multitude of self-serving budget amendments proposed by the Republican House of Representatives, he proposed the immediate enrollment of all 350 million U.S. citizens in the federal Medicare program.

President Obama closed his presentation by expressing his heartfelt thanks to Speaker Boehner, majority whip Eric Cantor and Senators Mitch McConnell and Ron Paul for their patience and fortitude in leading us from the abyss created by his own misguided ignorance and obstinacy.  The President also expressed a special thanks and undying admiration to Senator Ted Cruz for his thoughtful insights and words that were largely accountable for resolving the predicament that we had faced, and designing a clear, equitable pathway to lasting resolution.

Contacted by NBC following Mr. Obama’s remarks, Speaker Boehner said  “What a guy.  Let’s move ahead.”

obama gives up

Republican Poster Children

My good friend Ralph, in a somewhat inebriated state, once said “I don’t like so many things that I don’t even know what I don’t like anymore.”  Over the years Ralph and I have joked about his half-serious declaration that, for some people, is the center point of their lives.

I was reminded of it again when I read the sobering rant aired by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) who told The Washington Examiner  “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Marlin was of course referring to the current budget crisis and the Republican crusade to banish Obamacare  before anyone can find out that it actually helps people.  A major brain fart was obviously gassing Marlin’s ability to reason, evaluate the consequences of his actions, and to speak without the intervention of serious drugs.

But to be fair, Marlin was probably just relying on those in his party who were feeding him a constant barrage of one-liners, manufactured facts, and u-turns in their twisted road to sway government opinion that would seriously challenge a Barnum and Bailey contortionist.

After shutting down the government because they couldn’t deep-six Obamacare, Republicans have taken the high road by picking those government programs that deserve to be reopened (like parks) and keeping other less important ones shut down (like the National Institute of Health and OSHA.)

Marlin’s good friend, Texas Republican congressman Randy Neugebauer, also had his facts somewhat mixed when he berated a  National Park Ranger at the Washington WWII memorial for doing her job.  Carrying an oversized American flag in his breast pocket, Randy objected to the Ranger’s attempt to keep people out of the facility which had been officially closed due to the government shutdown provoked by you know who.   “The Park Service should be ashamed” Randy declared as his flag began to wilt.

A near-by bicyclist shouted  “This woman is doing her job, just like me. I’m a 30-year federal veteran — I’m out of work.”  The man at this point was face to face with the Congressman who was perhaps irritated by being delayed from cashing his U.S. Government paycheck.

“Well, the reason you are is because Mr. Reid decided to shut down the government,” responded Neugebauer, no doubt restraining himself from calling the Senate Democrat a Commie bastard.

“No, it’s because the government won’t do its job and pass a budget” said the 30 year federal veteran.

Having wilted completely, both the flag and Congressman Neugebauer returned to the House floor where he proudly proposed an end to the National Park Service and the opening of Yosemite to oil exploration.

So to Marlin Stutzman I say, your disrespect is well deserved.  You’re lucky enough to still be employed even though you’ve refused to perform the functions required of your position.  Namely, to better the lives of those who look to you for leadership.  Not to make their lot more difficult.

And to Randy Neugebauer.  You should be greatly ashamed for displaying the symbol of our country while doing your best to destroy the thing it has most stood for.  Protecting and helping those less fortunate than you.

But I will grant both of you this.  You are the ideal poster-children of the Party to which we owe our current state of affairs.  Keep up the good work.

Obamacare, an obvious failure

I’ve been bombarded with requests for money.  The list is endless.  Congressional Democrats, Senatorial Democrats,  Bold Progressives,  Not So Bold Democrats, Generic Democrats, Name Democrats, Would Be Democrats, and Obama himself…so many that I have lost the ability to differentiate between them.  My Outlook “Deleted Items” folder is brimming with their e-mails.

I tried to escape them by watching the news this morning.  Charlie Rangel appeared in an interview on MSNBC.  “Don’t you think it’s a bit ingenuous of politicians to be trying to capitalize on the current government shutdown by reaching out to their base for political donations?”  the lovely interviewer asked.  “It’s shameful” said Charlie.  Given Charlie’s brushes with various financial scandals, I might say that’s like the pot calling the kettle black, but then that might be kind of racist, I guess.

But the most astounding request for access to my wallet graced my in-box early this morning.  It was from the National Republican Congressional Committee. ..

Here’s your chance to tell Obama he’s wrong.  Obama and the Senate Democrats have made a huge mistake by shutting down the government in order to protect ObamaCare.

In fact, the websites that run ObamaCare went live this morning and are already broken! Chip in $25, $50, or even $100 today and we will add your name open letter to President Obama.

And we’ll make sure he gets it tonight – because there’s no time to waste.
Hurry, you only have a couple of hours left.

Talk about chutzpah.  Talk about short-term memory.  Forty-three times the House voted to repeal (not delay, not fix) Obamacare.  When that didn’t pan out, the great emancipators attached de-funding of Obamacare to the budget bill.  When that seemed a non-starter, they voted to delay the program for a year, remove contraception coverage and deep-six the tax on medical devices.  When that went into the shitter, they voted to remove the cornerstone of the program…the individual mandate and, for good measure, strip government employees of health care subsidies.  That too suffered from the Senate’s studied disregard.  Then, with barely an hour left before shutdown, Speaker Boehner calls for a conference committee with the Senate to iron things out, something that the Senate had been proposing for over six months.  So, come again, who was it that shut down the government?

On to the second point of the Republican e-mail donation request.  The Obamacare insurance exchanges have been open for about twelve hours.  Handling the volume of requests for information and enrollment has lived up to its pre-opening hype.  Shoddy at best.  In many instances bearing a marked resemblance to the Keystone Kops.  A make it up as you go project.  Which reminded me of Barney Tresnowski.

In 1966 I went to work for the Blue Cross Association in Chicago.  The Medicare law had just been passed and the Association was selected as the intermediary to process claims and handle other administrative aspects of the law.  Wandering through the Association’s Michigan Avenue offices, I bumped into Barney who had just been hired as the Association’s Medicare Coordinator.  His office was about as large as a phone booth, barely big enough to fit his somewhat teddy bear sized body.  An amiable guy with a keen mind augmented by a master’s degree in public health, his job was to coordinate the activities of multiple Blue Cross plans across the country as they tried to uniformly administer the new Medicare law and interpret its daily scattergun blasts of explanatory regulations.

Behind Barney’s desk and cramping his ability to lean back in his swivel chair was a waist high radiator.  Piled on top of the radiator, in no particular order, was a blizzard of government documents.  Each of those documents attempted to explain a particular provision of the law and provide often unintelligible directions.  I asked Barney how he could, without much visible means of support, deal with the daily deluge of sometimes contradictory instructions.  “Mirrors, we do it all with mirrors.”

Things went from bad to worse.  There were multiple Congressional hearings that blasted the administration of the program, and cries of incompetence and failure rang through the halls.  Funny thing though, Barney went on to become the president of the Association for thirteen years and, as the now famous Charlton Heston saying goes, “I’ll give you my Medicare benefits when you can pry them from my cold, dead hands.”

And that’s what Republicans fear most.  Another Barney Tresnowski who will make Obamacare work.  Another Barney Tresnowski who will recognize the value of the program and its potential impact on the millions who, without it, would be doomed to continue their unassisted search through the great wasteland of health care and suffer financial ruin as they exhaust their savings in pursuit of it.

But the last few sentences of my Republican donation request are the most telling.  Time is short.  There’s no time to waste.  There’s only a couple of hours left.  Yes, it’s true.  Only a short time left to kill the beast before it’s house-trained.  Only a short time before millions recognize the value of a program that can bring some order to the provision of health care and make their lives less tenuous and more comfortable.  And then it will indeed be too late.  Too late to kill it.  But not too late for us to remember.


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