Archive for June 2008

Euro Cup 2008 Final (For Americans too!)

June 29, 2008

Ernst Happel Stadion in Vienna, as 2:30 Eastern Standard Time approached here in New York City, people all over the world tuned in. All of them watching the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship or the EURO 2008.

Held every four years, the tournament brings together the national teams of Europe, featuring the best players in the world. It started with 16 teams in the tournament and two remain. Spain and Germany are the final two competing for the championship.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “But Chris the Yankees are playing the Mets!” and “who cares about soccer? This is America!” Well so far for the 30 matches held, the average attendance is 36,316 per match. Just over a million fans have filled stadiums for the tournament. The number of people who are watching this around the world will surely shock anyone who thinks 16.8 million for a world series (Game 1 2007) is great.

In 2004 the final between Greece and Portugal was watched by… ready for this? 153,000,000 people. One hundred and fifty three million. I’m sure the ratings will only increase this year.

Fernando Torres scores for Spain in the 33rd minute of the game which until then had been dominated by a more experienced German team. He put just enough touch on the ball to get it past Philipp Lahm and over Jens Lehmann. Shortly thereafter Michael Ballack came to the ground after a head to head collision with Senna. He was bleeding profusely and was ordered off the field only to come back with a new shirt and some dry blood.

Going into half time Spain leads 1-0 in search of their first title since 1964 when they hosted it.

Coming into the second half Philipp Lahm is subbed out, most likely for the costly error he made allowing Torres to score. Minutes 53 through 55 were non stop action. Xavi drilled a shot which Lehmann tipped away for a corner kick in the 53rd minute. In the 54th minute a corner kick goes wide from Spain which would of put them up 2-0. In the 55th minute Torres come through and almost scores another goal in the same fashion. This time he gets past Mertesacker but Lehmann comes out in time to stop it.

In the 64th minute tensions flare between the two teams. David Silva almost pulled a Zidane and attempted to head butt Lucas Podolski.

After a handball by Christoph Metzelder Spain takes a free kick. Xavi drills it and it hooks to the far side. The 22 year old Sergio Ramos sneaks in and gets a header towards the goal but Lehmann makes an amazing save to keep the score at 1-0.

This time Santi Cazorla takes a shot at Lehmann close in the box but Lehmann makes yet another save. With under 15 minutes left in regular play time Germany is getting desperate.

Germany who is seeking their 4th Euro Cup title has to score to stay alive. Inside the final 10 minutes Germany trails in the European Championship Final. Spain is on the attack, this time Senna slides in to make it a two goal game but misses by inches!

With 5 minutes left in regular time, the crowd starts coming to life. The red and yellow sections of Spanish fans behind the German goal are going insane. They can not believe they are this close to seeing their team win the championship. Many of these fans weren’t even born the last time Spain won.

There are 44 million people in Spain right now watching or listening to this game, hanging on every word, living and dying with every kick. If Spain wins tonight the parties will rage from Barcelona, to Valencia to Madrid and Cadiz.

With the 90 minutes over we go into stoppage time. Stoppage time is time allotted to play for the time the game was stopped either because of a call, or a ball going out of play.

It’s over! It’s all over! Spain wins!

For those 44 million, those 44 years are finally over! Spain is crowned the champion of Europe for the next four years.

Fernando Torres

Dream Ticket Redux?

June 27, 2008

OK, I have never thought that the whole “dream ticket” idea was too good of an idea, let alone dreamy. While they do have different strengths, I was always more concerned with their diversity and wide array of weaknesses.

For anyone who was paying attention today, Barack and Hillary campaigned together for the first time, according to CNN, in a conveniently selected place called Unity, NH. To top it off, they both reportedly received exactly the same amount of votes in that town during the Primary. I turned it on knowing how contrived and scripted it would probably appear. It began with them embracing each other. It was like watching two sworn enemies give each other a hug…a hug that they had rehearsed for 4 hours prior to the event – one arm or two, kiss on the cheek or whisper in the ear, to the left or to the right, 75* hug angle or the more business-like 90*, ‘loosen up Hillary, you’re making it look like Barack is groping you’.  I practically expected to see Bill Clinton in the audience with his arm around a black woman while kissing a black baby.

I expected to watch this dual speech and feel the cynic within me following along with an imaginary script. I expected to read into their speeches far too easily, picking out both the soundbytes and the bullet points. However, at some point during the two speeches, something happened to me. The cynicism and pessimism inside of me vanished without much warning and were replaced by feelings of catharsis and destiny. Hillary’s muscle with Obama’s finesse. Hillary’s experience with Obama’s instinct. It suddenly all made sense, both from a political and romantic view. Hillary’s appeal to the working-class, Obama’s appeal to college grads. Hillary’s ethos with Obama’s pathos. Maybe I’m being a bit idealistic, not focusing on the swing-state appeal of a VP from a state in contention, missing the guy who would carry a strong military record, ignoring the long-tenured Senator with a strong voting record a mile long. It’s possible, but capriciousness and idealism aren’t character flaws, they’re traits that give one the ability to see outside the proverbial box…even if the box can hold the Atlantic Ocean.

While that ticket still might not feel like a dream, it’s certainly no nightmare either.

F**K YOU!!

June 26, 2008

I apologize for the vulgar title, but there is justification for it. There’s no story behind this one. I was reading a campaign magazine, and in the back of the issue is a series of “They said What?” quotes. One of them was too good to let go:

“Fuck you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room.”

It seems Dick Cheney isn’t the only politican with a dirty mouth. This quote was said by Senator John McCain. He said it in defense of missing many negotations of an immigration bill. He said it directly to Senator John Cornyn. Is this really someone who trust as commander in chief: someone who acts like a 12 year old in the Senate the second they get questioned on something

Thought I was done? Of course not. Another John McCain pearl of wisdom:

“I think the fence is least effective, but I’ll build the goddamned fence if they want it.”

Oh John McCain, such a man of the people. Maybe if i want some f’ing healthcare I can have some? No? Oh well maybe if I get a kickass war with Iran? Yes that seems possible. But at least we can take solice in the fact that we can finally after all these years have our goddamn border fence.

John McCain

The Health Care Headache: A Sickening Paradox

June 25, 2008

Too much? or Too little? The American health care system has often been called “a paradox of excess and deprivation” (Enthoven and Kronick, 1989) and we’ve yet to find a middle ground. Some people are uninsured, not properly insured, and/or have medicaid/medicare coverage that physicians simply won’t take.

Picture the pregnant woman who cannot find a physician who will accept her insurance. Without proper pre-natal care, the woman will suffer from severe headaches, and will have been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) and preeclampsia (fluid retention). This woman will give birth to a stillborn baby.

Sad, I know. Unfortunately having too much medical care can also be rather harmful.
Picture the senior citizen who has minor back pain easily treated with over the counter painkillers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen etc…) To make sure the back pain is nothing to worry about, he goes to his doctor’s office and is prescribed a stronger painkiller and later develops a bleeding ulcer which resulted in a two-week hospital stay, $17,000 later.

Ridiculous, I know, but the story gets worse…

Since the 1980’s, the goal of the American Health Care system has been to reduce excess rather than fix the issue pertaining to those who lack health care.

Why?

Because rising health care costs were considered more of a problem than the lack of medical care. The executors behind this idea figured that if we can make health care more affordable, then the people who cannot afford it may be entitled to adequate health services.

Chances are, if you cannot afford healthcare as of now (and there are affordable health care plans in this country for everyone) then chances are, you won’t be able to afford it later.

This week’s topic: How do you pay for health care, and what does it get you?

Glad you asked. Lets talk about the 4 major ways of paying for health care.

Out of Pocket Payment:

So your little brother breaks his arm during football practice and is taken by your mom to the emergency room at the hospital about 15 minutes away. The orthopedist orders an x-ray and places a cast on the arm. Your mom paid about $900.00 out of pocket.

This form of payment, where the patient directly pays the physician is not a very common practice anymore. However, about a century ago, a barter system was usually used to pay for medical services. Unfortunately, paying for a house call with chickens won’t work anymore. Here’s why:

Some people believe health care is a basic human right, therefore, people who cannot afford to barter (or pay out of pocket) need an alternative to paying for health care.

There’s no constant price for health care. Just like all cars, computers, foods, and musical instruments cost different sums of money, so do different health care procedures. Who knows, chest pain may require a small bottle of aspirin: $3.50, or it could involve an endoscopic evaluation from a doctor: $600.00, or perhaps even open heart surgery, triple bypass: $75,000.00, followed by a two week hospital stay with multiple surgeries and endoscopic treatment: $250,000.00 (aspirin IV not included). This example represents the unpredictability of need and cost as well as the importance to rely on a patient’s need to rely on a physician’s recommendation. No one knows what a symptom may lead to, nor how much it costs. Sorry Farmer Zeke, those potatoes, a pig, and 2 chickens won’t cover this hospital visit.

Individual Private Insurance and Employment Based Private Insurance:
Points two and three encompass most of the American population today and is how many individuals pay for themselves (and their family’s) health care costs. Let’s take a look into how they work.

Individual insurance is financed through a steady (yet sometimes fluctuating) cost called a premium. Premiums are usually paid monthly and are usually a large enough sum of money to make the patient complain. Premiums are paid to a health care plan that will reimburse the health care professional (physician, hospital) for the services done. Cool, sounds reasonable. Read on.

The unfortunate side of this story is that sometimes, a $300.00/month Premium wont cover Little Johnny’s bone marrow transplant, especially since his family cannot afford the wider coverage and had to take out a several-thousand dollar deductible on their plan (this means that Little Johnny’s family will have to pay a large amount of the hospital bill out of pocket). If Little Johnny lives to see college after his procedure, he probably won’t be able to afford it anyway. Sad times.

In employment based insurance, works the same way as individual insurance. The main difference is that the employer will pay a premium to cover his workers and the workers will pay a small premium to pay for coverage as well. Everything after that works just about the same as individual health insurance. Again, thats nice. Read on.

A retired employee at age 70 used to pay a premium of about $25.00/month (paid by the employer). When he retired, he was shocked to find out that his premium for 70 year old retired men was raised to $100.00/month. This worker denied insurance because he could not afford it. What happens if he becomes ill? Is 70 old enough to pass away?

Finally, the fourth mechanism of paying for health care in this country is:

Government Financed Insurance:

This form of insurance (Medicare, Medicaid) was enacted by the government to cover two large demographics in America since the 1950s: The poor, and the elderly. The poor usually held jobs that did not offer a health care benefit, or were unemployed. And the elderly were unemployed due to retirement and could not afford individual health care services premiums without a steady income. What to do?

Medicare is broken up into two parts: Part A and Part B.

Part A: People over the age of 65 and collect social security are able to utilize medicare’s benefits. In fact, once you turn 65, you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare, retired or not, so long as you’ve been paying into social security for 10 years (minimum). If not, then you have to pay a monthly premium. 
People under 65 who are totally and permanently disabled can utilize medicare after 24 months of social security benefits. People requiring important medical procedures (dialysis, transplants) can be admitted to Part A without a 2-year wait.

It’s financed by Social Security, and everyone pays that special percentage out of their paycheck to cover it. You all know the one.

Services included are hospitalization, skilled nursing facilities, home health care, and hospice care. Nursing homes are covered but medicare pays nothing. Sorry!

Medicare pays “X” amount of dollars depending on how long the patient utilizes the benefit. The longer the stay at the hospital, the less Medicare pays. Sorry!!

Medicare Part B works with all the benefits of Part A, but has better coverage as a monthly premium of about 70 dollars paid by the patient (in addition to taxes and Social Security).

Part B will cover all medically necessary services, some preventative care (vaccines and scans) and will not cover outpatient medications and dental work, eye exams, and hearing tests.

Well, that was a mouth full! I think that when it comes down to it, even with the attempt of the nation to lower health care costs, people, somewhere, will never be able to afford health care to take care of their ailments. Chances are, the insurance they pay for will cover most of their needs, but as their luck will have it, they will contract a disease or medical problem that their insurance just wont cover.

When looking from an ethical standpoint, one must ask: Can anyone put a price on a human life? Do insurance companies reserve the right to declare which tumors are more deadly than others, or which fractures they’ll pay for? I wonder if Grandma and Grandpa will live long enough to see their grand children get married? If not, then, well…I hope they have good life insurance!

Be concerned. Speak out. I’m anxious to hear your comments.

This is fredbertino, who saw Liquid Tension Experiment’s 10th Year Anniversary Concert and shook hands with John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, and Jordan Rudess yesterday, signing out.

Information provided by: Understanding Health Policy: A Clinical Approach, Fourth Edition by Bodenheimer and Grumbach (C) 2005 McGraw Hill Companies, Inc. 

Bye bye Bruno…

June 24, 2008

Only four days after letters were sent by Democratic candidates to State Senate Republicans demanding that they support the property tax cap, Republican State Senator Joseph Bruno (SD-43) saw the writing on the wall and decided not to run for re-election. What this does is open up his seat for an unanticipated uncontested dog fight. It will actually draw attention away from other vital State Senate races such as the Trunzo (R) v. Foley/Dahroug (D) (SD-3), Padavan (R) v. Gennaro (D) (SD-11), Maltese (R) v. Addabbo/Baldeo (D) (SD-15), and Hannon (R) v. McElroy (D) (SD-06).

It looks like Bruno’s successor, Dean Skelos (R) (SD-9), is going to be voted in today by Senate Republicans over Thomas Libous (R) (SD-52). When Skelos becomes the majority leader, it’ll be the first time since 1995 that the Senate power will return to Long Island. It’s too bad that the Senate majority will be short lived for Republicans with the departure of Joe Bruno, since there is no reason for other State Senate GOP wall mounts to stick around.

To steal a line from Bob Dylan’s third album cover, “The Times They Are a-Changing”

Mean Dean Skelos

June 24, 2008

Dean Skelos…. what do you know about him?

Well, I’m assuming you know about as much as I did before I read up on him. Allow me to fill you in on Mean Dean.

When you look at his record you’ll see the man who authored Megan’s law and voted to get rid of the commuter tax in New York City. Not bad you might say, however when you look into his voting history you’ll realize that he is just another Washington insider.

At the annual New York State Republican Party dinner Republican Vice President Dick Cheney was the keynote speaker. In the address Mr Cheney said America was “succeeding brilliantly” in Iraq. If we’re succeeding so brilliantly in Iraq why are we still there?

I find it hard to believe that someone who has $750 a person dinners in Albany is a man of the people.

This is the man who blocked the MTA from buying more buses in order to alleviate congestion in New York City and make it easier for people to commute. With the high prices of gasoline, I’m pretty sure those buses would of been a good investment. Especially when you consider the fact that these were express buses.

On top of that he has been spending your tax money on pork barrel pet projects. $250,000.00 to renovate a baseball field in his district? Do you really need that much money to fix up a baseball field? On top of that another $250,000.00 for a flight worthy B-17 for a museum.

This is exactly what Albany has been doing. This is why we’re the most gridlocked legislature in the nation! If we keep spending our tax dollars on things like this when kids in schools can’t read books. What’s more important to you? Would you rather have a highway reconstruction, bringing jobs to your neighborhood and increasing your economy, or would you rather have a big shiny airplane in a museum?

Museums are great! But you have to do what is important first. Joe Bruno has left the economy in a bad state. Dean seems just like more of the same. Thankfully the democrats will take back the State Senate this year and will give Governor Patterson the majority he needs in order to pass some useful legislation.

The time for change is now!

Dean Skelos

George Carlin Dies

June 23, 2008

Yes, a week after we already lost a great personality, we have lost another. The comedian/actor/author/everything else you can think of died of heart failure in a Los Angeles hospital Sunday night. The man had an undisputably godlike career. He was known for his brash sense of humor, his witty books, and his hysterical movies.

 

There isn’t much more I can say other than that we’ve lost yet another beauitful human being. But I can confide in the fact that now God can conduct the best interviews he ever could, and have an infinite amount of laughs in heaven; although Carlin may have some explaining to do about “Dogma”. George Carlin, you will be missed dearly.

 

 Carlin

 1937-2008