Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Statesman of the Century

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Fifty years ago today, Sir Winston Churchill died. Ever since I was in the sixth grade, when Churchill was the subject of my first history term paper, I consider him the greatest leader of the 20th century.

As a lifelong lover of words and the English language, I think he was without peer as a gifted speaker and writer. His expression was so stirring, so inspiring, so elegant and profound. I believe it was his depth of commitment, spirit, and eloquence that brought Great Britain successfully through World War II. We certainly could use a statesman of his caliber today.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Delusion vs. Reality

...there’s the line when he declared, “We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance.” Doesn’t he realize that he just did that to millions of people, after promising them they could keep their plans?
~ Robert Tracinski

I didn't watch the State of the Union speech the other night. Honestly, I simply can't listen to the president anymore; he is a total waste of my time. He thinks everything is roses and lollipops, that the sun has come out tomorrow, that he has healed the planet. But, like millions of my fellow Americans, I know that the facts are otherwise.

Last May, I was laid off from my job. I was not unduly concerned; this was my fifth layoff in three decades. In the past, I've always rebounded quite promptly, within a couple of months, and always to a more lucrative position with the promise of better opportunities. News flash to the White House: Those days are over. After six months of intensive job searching and many dozens of applications submitted all over town, in November I accepted a lower level position, with no benefits, at a 40% pay cut.

Time for me to "turn the page," I suppose the president would say. He's turned it all the way back to my 1999 salary.

Meanwhile, my health insurance ended along with my last job. With no income outside of unemployment insurance, I decided to go without insurance for the rest of 2014 and suck up the penalty. I'm not eligible for benefits at my new job, so I bought Affordable Care Act insurance--"Obamacare"--that started this year on January 1. I chose the economical Bronze plan, because at my new hourly wage that's all I can afford to pay for.

The good news about my low-paying job is that I qualify for subsidies towards my premiums, which will cost me $168 each month. The bad news is that my policy has a $5,000 deductible. The co-pay for an Urgent Care visit is $120. Outside of the covered, once-a-year wellness checkup, all other doctor visits are cash upfront until the deductible is met. Welcome to "affordable" health care.

I do wish President Obama would stop "helping" the middle class. We just can't afford his version of reality.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Farewell to a Friend

Joel I. Bernstein, MD
1953 - 2014

"The writer must write what he has to say. Not speak it."

~ Ernest Hemingway

It was midsummer when I learned that Dr. Joel Bernstein was ill with a deadly cancer. The cruel and tragic irony of this oncological genius, who had saved literally thousands of lives, falling prey to the dreadful disease he had applied his skills to defeat for so many others, was almost physically painful. Joel was dear to me, for one of the lives he saved was my husband's.

In 1994, Dr. Bernstein's aggressive and creative treatment of Pete's almost fatally advanced cancer was a life-and-death gamble, but we had nothing to lose by trusting him. The year and many following were hard. Pete almost died more than once, from both chemotherapy and complications after surgery. But Joel was with us every step of the way, and each time I spoke with him, I remember feeling confident that Joel would bring Pete through the ordeal. He did exactly that; our family had an extra dozen years with Pete because Joel chose to be fearless in attacking the cancer.

In 2006, when Pete was extremely ill again but various referral physicians seemed unable to figure out the problem, Joel was the one doctor who told us the truth. Weary of the endless rounds of specialists, tests, and inconclusive results, we circled back with Joel. With his characteristic calm, gentleness, and compassion, he transitioned from his doctor role to that of our dear friend as he helped us face and deal with the end of Pete's life. Joel made the most terrible thing that had ever happened to us bearable, and he ensured Pete a death of peace and dignity. For that, I will always owe him what I call a soul debt--one that can never be repaid.

Joel has been heavy on my heart in the past six months. After Pete's death, when my longtime physician had moved out of town, I asked Joel to be my doctor; it was his "honor," he replied. So I became Joel's healthy patient, the one who saw him only for a sore throat every couple of years. My last office visit was in September 2012. I thought of making an appointment to see him after I heard of his illness, but I didn't want to take his precious time. I knew that so many people would need him much more than I during his remaining days in practice. But he stayed in my thoughts and prayers.

On Christmas Day, Joel died of his cancer. This week I attended a memorial service for him at the hospital. From the many speakers, I learned that among Joel's numerous interests were opera and gardening, that he was an excellent cellist, and that he had an IQ of 170. The last item didn't surprise me, nor did the fact that Joel never mentioned it to anyone. But then, his intellectual brilliance was obvious.

Photo by Beth Mallon
I certainly had known that Joel loved dogs; that's all he and Pete ever seemed to discuss at checkup appointments--their black Labrador Retrievers. One examining room in his office suite looked like it belonged to a veterinarian. It had statues, placards, and pictures of black labs, including the huge framed wall photo of him with his dog giving him a nuzzle. I remember Pete telling me about Joel's old dog, Duke, being put down, and when Joel got his next dog, Tommy. (I also remember asking Pete, "Do you two ever discuss your blood work?") Joel's beloved 11-year-old Tommy was at the memorial event with his new owner, the dog sitter who had always cared for him when Joel traveled (and who took the wonderful photo of Joel and his pet). She told me that Joel had called her very soon after his diagnosis to ask if, after his death, she would take care of Tommy.

Poor Tommy looked lonely at the reception afterwards, casting searching eyes around the crowd as if looking for Joel to appear. I can relate to that. It's difficult to believe that someone who did so much good for so many people, who could make his patients laugh at cancer even as he battled it to the last cell on their behalf, is gone. The heartache among his friends, colleagues, and patients--many of whom fill all three roles--is palpable. I'm hoping that writing this goodbye will help me to move past my own lingering sadness.

Yes, I will find another doctor. But there will never be another Joel Bernstein. Rest in peace, dear friend. How well you have earned it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Play 'La Marseillaise'--Play It!"

"Vive la France," indeed. Marchons.

Photo: USA Today

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Extreme or Mainstream?

Andrew C. McCarthy educates us on the normalcy of Islamic violence, linked here. The Western world needs to learn this lesson or die of our self-imposed ignorance.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Lesson in Losing

What a poetically just way to start the New Year--Harvard professors howling over the rising costs of Obamacare.

Any blue collar worker who follows the news with a functioning brain had this figured out years ago. Harvard elitists (of which President Obama is one), who consider themselves high above the great unwashed masses of inferior Americans, never dreamed that the Great Transformer Obama would inflict such financial indignity upon them. School is full of surprises, isn't it?

Pencils down, professors. The results of your lessons are in, and it looks like you failed the course.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movies 2014

Looking back at 2014 movies, here's a link to 2014's top 100 box office films. I find it very interesting that most titles represent family-oriented pictures rather than blood/guts/explosions/sex "R" rated films. I've seen nineteen of the top 100 movies, with several more on my "to see" list.

Among the movies on my wish list is the inspiring true story Unbroken; I hope finds a place on the list before the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

A clock striking midnight is such a quaint image nowadays--how very 20th century of me. Let's say before the LED screen digital time clicks to 12:00 AM...which is actually a nonexistent time, since 12:00 is either noon or midnight, not AM or PM. No wonder 1942's Casablanca remains my favorite movie of all time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas to All

Enjoy Christmas time!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Colorless Crime?

Two NYC police officers sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn were shot and killed today. I've read over two dozen of the reports flooding onto the Internet, and I can find no mention of race pertaining to either the murdered policemen or to their executioner.

I might well be wrong, you can call me crazy, but the color-neutral media coverage so far leads me to believe that the killer was black and the cops were not. Interestingly, many of today's articles still mention the "white officers" and their chokehold on "black man, Eric Garner." So if the cops had been black and the murderer white, all the news stories would be screaming that fact by now. We'd probably have mobs already forming in the streets.

We'll see how long it takes for personal descriptions to surface in this oddly colorless atrocity.

So here we are. All the media, government, and cultural race agitation has brought us to two slaughtered cops five days before Christmas. I hope Eric Holder, Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, their lapdog media minions, and all of the anarchist demonstrators across the country are satisfied with today's work.

I wonder if the nation's hate-driven dividers ever pause for a moment in pursuing their race-baiting agenda to remember that, regardless of a person's race, everyone's blood is red.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Rule for Good TV

Rule 5: You don't waste good.

~ Gibbs Rules

For more than a decade, there is only one television show that I simply can't miss: NCIS.

Because of NCIS, I never watched a single episode of American Idol. It was scheduled opposite NCIS--no contest, you should pardon the expression (and I don't feel I missed anything). In the early years, the sizable chunk of hard-core NCIS fans kept the show viable during "Idol's" blockbuster run.

NCIS features smart, well-written scripts with an imaginative and interesting ensemble of characters that has evolved considerably over time. Yes, it's formulaic, but it's hard to name a TV drama that isn't. The difference with NCIS is that the characters are more interesting than the plots, which are top notch. From taciturn team leader Gibbs, to historical tidbits buff "Ducky"--Dr. Mallard, the medical examiner who talks to all his corpses--to movie trivia expert/womanizer/wisecracker Agent DiNozzo, to amped-up Gothic laboratory princess Abby, personal backstories continue to unfold at a tantalizingly slow pace throughout the seasons.

As an example, "Gibbs Rules" are still being revealed, and not sequentially. We're still learning them, with some fan complaints of redundancy or skipping numbers. I don't mind the gaps or repetitions; I like how the characters repeat the applicable rules in various circumstances. Last night's episode, which featured team computer geek McGee learning from Rule 51: "Sometimes, you're wrong," pulled on the heartstrings while both working a case and keeping the Christmas spirit. The script actually made a reference to the birth of Jesus, talked about the "second chance" it gave mankind, and featured McGee opening doors on his Advent calendar. Bravo!

My Rule 1 for good television: Tune in to CBS at 8:00 p.m. Tuesdays for NCIS.