Saturday, April 24, 2010

But how will we make change?

Barter I think most people have seen that a woman named Sue Lowden, who is running to challenge Harry Reid's Senate seat from Nevada, has suggested that it would be perfectly reasonable to pay for medical care using the barter system and that people used to give doctors chickens for services rendered.

That’s right.


According to this clip I’m posting (see below) from "The Ed Show," someone else is jumping on the barter bandwagon, a Tennessee state representative, who thinks it would be great if people would pay with vegetables. (Yes, I said PAY, not 'play.') The guy seems to think that we'd all be better off if we lived like Mennonites, who he says are very healthy people. I live in an area where there are a lot of Mennonites, and I respectfully decline to live like a Mennonite. I don't look good in a bonnet. Or those below-the-knee dresses. And Peter Pan collars are just gross. I also disagree about their overall health to some extent, and more about that in a moment.

This is laughable in so many ways. First of all, Lowden talks about the "olden days" when people took a chicken to the doctor. Yeah, she's right on that. I know that my grandparents did what they had to do in order to provide for their family, and sometimes that included doing jobs for services. My Dad's parents had a farm, and my Grandpa also worked as a blacksmith, barn builder, and any other job he needed to do in order to get by. But the "olden days" that Lowden talks so lovingly about? That would be the fucking DEPRESSION, people, and my Dad's family probably had it better than most folks because they DID live on a farm. I know it wasn't easy for them, but they could grow a lot of their own things, they raised hogs so they always had meat, and even if their meals sometimes consisted of nothing more than beans, they got by and Dad said they never went hungry. Well, not too hungry.

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However, there also wasn't a whole lot of health care going on at that time. Kids died all the time from infectious diseases that we've learned to inoculate against, and part of being a farmer involves the possibility of serious accidents. One of my great-uncles died of diphtheria; another one got his arm lopped off in a farming accident. Your yearning and nostalgia for the "olden days" is just so much bullshit, Ms. Lowden.

As for the Mennonites, they and the Amish do pretty much make their own way in life, and don't rely much upon government programs. However, they often don't vaccinate their kids against preventable infections, and I've seen several outbreaks among such populations. Just speaking from my own perspective, I can tell you that such outbreaks result in strains on laboratories like the one where I worked and on county and state health departments. Such outbreaks need to be investigated and tracked, and although I understand that there needs to be a respect for religious beliefs, I also know that those kids probably don't have a choice in whether or not they get a vaccine, and that, to me, is religious indoctrination.

But I digress.

My point here is that people like Lowden and that Tennessee legislator seem to think that it's a really nifty idea to go back to how we lived a century ago. Not only have we managed to progress just a skosh since then, they seem to conveniently forget that not everyone lives in a place where they can raise chickens, for Chrissakes! I don't know the demographics for sure, but I'm guessing that a lot of the uninsured are those living in urban areas, and you don't just erect a chicken coop on the roof of the building where you live in the inner city. Same goes for raising a vegetable garden. People are getting creative about community and rooftop gardens, and I think that's wonderful, but not everyone lives where they can do that, and not everyone has the skill to do carpentry or handyman work.

Barter2 I'm also guessing that not every doctor would be thrilled about getting a bushel of zucchini in payment for that Pap smear he or she gave you last week. Have you ever grown zucchini? Do you know how prolific they are? Everyone I know who grows it ends up giving some of it away to friends or family, because no matter how many recipes you have for zucchini bread, zucchini crisp, zucchini chocolate cake, stuffed zucchini, and on and on and sometimes cannot use up all that damned zucchini. If I were a doctor and some patient gave me a bushel of zucchini in payment for service, I'd be like, "What in the holy hell do you expect me to do with all this goddamn zucchini?! Seriously!"

Not to mention, when I can get zucchini on sale for three for a dollar, how many damn zucchini am I going to have to haul to the doctor to pay for the mammogram I've got coming up in May? Thanks to the Lowden Plan Chicken Calculator, I did find that my mammogram will cost me 18 chickens. I've got some work to do between now and May 6.

If the barter system is the best that they can come up with for how to pay for health care, these people are fucking idiots. It's time to tell it like it is.

I also think there is a deeper, more insidious, and more troubling aspect to this. There is an incredible disconnect between these people and those who are uninsured. They can't seem to wrap their minds around the fact that not only is health care much more expensive than it used to be in the "olden days," it is much more sophisticated. It is no longer a matter of a doctor checking out your throat, thinking it looks red and inflamed and seeing plaques on your tonsils and being reasonably certain that you have Strep throat, so gargle with salt water and get some rest (oh, and hope you don't get rheumatic fever because I can't treat you with antibiotics since they aren't available yet). Beyond that, there seems to be a certain condescension there, a matter of "Oh, you'll be okay if you just use common sense, live a healthy lifestyle, and pay that doc with a chicken." Well, no. There are tests for such things now, and those result in costs for the doctor's office, the lab, and the pharmacy. Those costs are a hell of a lot more than a chicken, I assure you.

I see it as yet another instance of "I've got mine, screw all of the rest of you." I don’t know at this point if it’s the legislators imparting this attitude onto the teabaggers or vice versa. Whatever way it’s happening, I see it as shortsighted and showing a serious lack of compassion for those who cannot obtain even the most basic health care.

Friday, April 23, 2010

When the cat’s away…

Eggplant penguins The eggplant comes out to play.

That's right, I'm on my own for a few days, so that is my cue to make something with eggplant in it. I love eggplant, and I don't know why it gets such a bad rap.

Most people that say they don't like it tell me that it is because of the texture. I don't really get that, because it often has a crispy coating on it. But then I also love squash of all kinds, so if there is a texture phobia, I don't have it.

Usually I make Eggplant Parmigiana, but I came across a new recipe on one of my recipes sites a while back, and thought I'd give it a try. First the recipe, then my comments and review.


Eggplant Lasagna

1 package lasagna noodles (cooked and drained, or use no-boil noodles--I used no-boil)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion (I used more)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted this)
1/8 tsp pepper (also omitted)
2-3 cups spaghetti sauce
1/2 pound Muenster or Port Salut cheese, shredded (I used Muenster; also see NOTE below)
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I used Italian)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp Italian seasonings: Basil, Thyme, Oregano (I used more basil, then just some Italian seasoning blend)
Some extra Muenster/Port Salut cheese for the top, or some shredded mozzarella

Sauté garlic in oil until brown. Add eggplant and onion, cook about 5 minutes, stirring. Add water, cover, and cook 10 more minutes until tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In medium bowl, combine ricotta, Muenster, eggs, bread crumbs, and seasonings. Stir in eggplant and onion mixture straight from pan. Don't drain the oil. (The eggplant absorbs most of it, anyway.)

Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with non-stick spray. Pour enough sauce in the bottom of the pan to cover bottom. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Spread a layer of eggplant-cheese mixture on noodles. NOTE: I love fresh mozzarella, so in the eggplant cheese mixture, I used a little less Muenster. Here I included a layer of sliced, fresh mozzarella, 8 ounces of it. You can't go wrong with fresh mozzarella in my book! Cover with sauce, being careful not to drown it with too much. Another layer of noodles, then eggplant-cheese mixture, then sauce. End with a layer of noodles, sauce, and sprinkle the extra Muenster cheese on top. Cover with foil (be sure to spray the underside with non-stick spray) and bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more. NOTE: If using no-boil noodles, like I did, cook according to the recipe on the package. Mine called for 50-60 minutes, so that's how long I left it in the oven before uncovering it.

Alternative use: you can stuff manicotti shells with the eggplant-cheese mixture. Pour half of the sauce on the bottom of the dish, place shells and rest of sauce on top. Sprinkle with cheese. I think that would be really good, too!Eggplant LasagnaAt the risk of tooting my own horn, I can tell you that this totally kicked ass. Oh man, it was so freaking good! The eggplant wasn't overpowering at all, and there was plenty of cheesy goodness with the fresh mozzarella I added. If you wanted to be more authentic than I am, you could make your own sauce (or gravy, as I'm told is the correct terminology), but I think Prego is mighty tasty. What can I say? I'm German, not Italian. One thing I wish I'd done differently is using a larger pan. I have one that is a couple of inches bigger, and that would have accommodated all of this much better than the 9x13 one. Some of the sauce gooshed out before I even put it in the oven, so I made sure I put it on a foil-covered cookie sheet when I baked it, just so I didn't have an oogy mess afterwards.

I can hardly wait to eat more of it tonight, which is a good thing, because I barely put a dent in it! I'm guessing I ate maybe a sixth of it.

I would definitely make this again; it is a fine addition to my eggplant repertoire. It's not vegan, because of the cheese and eggs (vegans don't eat cheese, right?), but I would think it could be easily adapted.

All you eggplant haters just keep on hatin'. I adore these beautiful purple ovals of vegetable goodness. Eggplant-o-lanterns

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A dissonant note

Irony On Facebook tonight, I noticed that a couple of friends had joined a group with this name:


Aside from the annoyance of all capital letters, and misspelling Swayze and Farrah, the very idea of this really struck me wrong.

The friends who joined are kind people, and we have agreed to disagree on many things. But this one was just too wrong, and I left a note on one of their walls, wondering about the appropriateness of praying for our President's death, or anyone's death. Do they really think their God would approve of such a prayer, or answer it? If he did, wouldn't that make him vindictive and hateful and a big, smiting jerk?

Of course, there were similar prayers for the death of Senator Robert Byrd during the health care debate. And Michele Bachmann called for people to get on their knees and pray for the defeat of health care reform:

That’s really where this battle will be won—on our knees in prayer and fasting. Remember: faith without works is dead. So we’re asking you to do all of it: pray, fast, believe, trust the Lord, but also act.

Ooooops! The bill passed! It would seem that God wasn't paying attention to your prayers and fasting, Bachmann. And Robert Byrd is still alive. Maybe God was out playing golf and had one too many at the 19th Hole so he missed your call. Or maybe he got stuck in traffic on the Skyway and wasn't able to get home in time to fulfill his nightly smiting requests. Or maybe, just maybe, he finds such requests abhorrent.

Or perhaps there is no one there to hear such prayers.

I suppose to a lot of people, such a group was funny. It had kind of a funny premise, although I have to wonder about anyone whose favorite actress was Farrah Fawcett. She really wasn't that great. But for anyone who is a devout Christian to actually pray for someone's death is just not funny to me, especially in the current charged atmosphere. It again begs the question: why on earth would I want to be associated with any religion that prays for the death of others; or that believes that God visited an earthquake upon Haiti because the Haitian people made a "pact with the devil" a couple of hundred years ago; or thinks that another earthquake (in which people died and were injured) was sent to show us his love for us; or believes that he blew up a fucking volcano in Iceland because the United States passed health care reform? Do you have any idea how insane that sounds? Even forgetting the rational, scientific explanations for all of these things, why would I want to be associated with someone who thinks so little of human life that he picks people off like our lives are part of his goddamn video game?

I'd really like to know.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An intellectual duel with the unarmed

Battle of wits I sometimes comment on the Facebook page of one of my local stations. They do a "Question of the Day" for their newscast, and although many of the questions are about local issues, sometimes they'll choose a topic that is significant nationwide. The other day, the question was whether gay couples should have the same rights as straight couples.

I think most of you know how I feel about that. Of course, they should, and I said so. Despite being in a conservative Midwestern area, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the majority of people who commented agreed. There were a few notable exceptions, though, and all of those who felt that way and went into detail stated no, because God says it's wrong.

Well, that's just not a legitimate reason in my book. Not when it comes to legalities. I've written here in the past how marriage is a civic institution, not a religious one. A couple can get married in a church, by a minister, but that marriage is not valid unless they have a license from the state. I'm not sure where we got off track and began thinking that marriage is strictly a religious institution. Besides, I pointed out, we are not a theocracy that is governed by any religion or set of religious beliefs. We do not and must not base our policies upon religion.

I was reasonable. You all have seen how I lay out my arguments here concerning politics or policy. When I offer my personal opinions on people or politicians, I definitely get a little more critical in my words (okay, sometimes a lot), but if I'm arguing a position on policy, I try to do my research and do my best to leave emotion out of it. I made no personal attacks on the thread—that just isn't my style. Well, one particular commenter there seems to have taken quite a disliking to me, which became evident in a thread several weeks ago. He decided to go after me (also my friend Doug, and a few others) and proceeded to call me a hypocrite, a liar, a phony, and hysterically delusional.

He wrote that I misused the words "civic institution," and said that I obviously meant "civil institution," and for a "supposed writer," that wasn't very good. When I provided the definitions for both "civic" and "institution," he wrote, sure, when you combine them into one word, it "changes the meaning." What? hahaha He took the time to visit me here at my blog, said that I seemed rather "trashy," said he was sure that my "3 readers" really enjoy what I have to write, and quoted me from my previous entry about Heidi Montag and her plastic surgeries, saying that for all my writing of equality for all, apparently I have no problem with ridiculing someone if I disagree with their lifestyle. I will cop to ridiculing stupidity and foolish behavior, that's true. But this is my personal blog, and my opinions here are just that: my opinions. They had no bearing on the argument at hand, which was concerning equal rights for gays.

Pubic optionHe stated that 83% of Americans consider themselves Christians, so like it or not it's already done HIS WAY! I said thanks for singing "My Way," Frank Sinatra, and pointed out that recent polls indicate a drop in those who consider themselves Christians, to 78.5%. He mentioned that we govern based on God and the Constitution, and I asked him where he found any mention of God and/or Jesus in the Constitution. He responded with a paragraph that was taken directly from a website I found when I did a quick search, and I responded with a link to it saying that if he's going to cut and paste, it's best to include the link rather than pass such writing off as your own.

He wrote that I didn't seem to understand basic government, and that maybe in the "50 years" since I've been out of college, I've forgotten.

He said that he would pray for me (and others), and he hoped that I would find my way, but if not, he hopes that I enjoy sweltering heat! This was all becoming tiresome by now, and I said that I don't want or need his prayers, and that when it comes to evangelizing, he's failed miserably. You don't bring people over to your side with condescension, insults, and threats of eternal damnation in the fiery Pits of Hell™. Based on his behavior, why on earth would I ever want to be associated with his religion? His rudimentary argument, when countered with logic and facts, quickly descended into juvenile insults and pettiness. I pointed out that people like him are exactly why I moved away from religion.

On a new thread today, he actually mentioned me and my friend Doug by name, wondering what we'd have to say about the new topic. He also dug up something I'd written in November 2009 (I don't know if it was on my blog or in a comment) in which I said that I can't understand why Sarah Palin or anyone would find it desirable to be "purposefully retarded," and he wrote that I was making fun of the mentally handicapped. No...I was making fun of Sarah Palin, although I suppose the phrase "mentally handicapped" would also apply in her case! I'm seriously going to keep my eyes peeled for this guy, because he seems to have a rather unhealthy obsession with anyone who dares to question his superiority and authority. I never became insulting or abusive with him—again, not my style—but he apparently has a real problem with me. Since he lives in my area, that concerns me.

Perhaps he'll come back and visit my blog again. I invited him to, and welcomed his comments here. I said that some of my readers would probably enjoy them.

I know I would.

Evil grin