Health care reform (take that Palin!)

Hey, I’m back!

Sorry I’ve been away. A lot of changes have been happening in my life.

And in the time that I’ve been away, I’m not the only person who’s changed. I’m talking about you health care industry.

Anyway, a lot of people have been making a fuss about the new health care reform bill that was passed. Some of the arguments have been:

  1. We can’t afford it
  2. It hurts businesses
  3. Socialism!
  4. It’s morally wrong

I’ll address some of the points, but I urge everyone to go to factcheck.org t learn more about the bill.

Could we afford such a drastic change in an industry (health care service) that makes up more than 30 percent of our economy? To quote Mr. Obama: “Yes we can!” True, health care reform will be expensive, but with increased taxes, budget cuts, and fees on health care industries we will be able to cover the 940 billion dollar price tag.

If you do not make over 200,000 and do not tan regularly (bill includes a tanning bed tax) then most blue collar people won’t expect any new taxes.

Will it hurt business? Yes and no. Businesses with 50 employees or less will not be required to provide insurance to their workers, but business with over 50 employees…well that’s a different story. If you are a CEO of a reasonably large business and you do not offer health insurance to your workers, you will be fined $2,000 for every full time worker you employ.

Is it socialism? No. Is it even universal health care? No. The bill aims to restructure the health care industry so all Americans can receive medical care and products at decreased prices. The government offers aid to businesses and citizens who need help purchasing insurance, but it, the government,  does not purchase health care for every citizen.

Is it morally wrong for the government to mandate consumers to buy a product? This is what a Buddhist would call a question wrongly asked. Like libraries, firemen, policemen, education and other public services, the health care reform bill requires businesses and citizens to increase the quality of life for each other. It’s not a matter of money or big government, it’s about people.

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Unofficial letter to the editor

Again, I have to preface this blog by saying I love my Tejano family. Unfortunately, I disagree with the points taken in my editor’s latest editorial.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I wrote an article about Rachel Quintana’s proposal to ban hand-held cell phone devices. My editor, Isabel Rodriquez, wrote how she opposed the ban. She stated that she believes the ban will not be effective.

She is referring to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) finding that suggests cell-phone bans do not reduce the amount of crashes in cities where the law has been enacted.

However, there have been many other studies that show a cell phone ban is effective.

According to new study conducted by Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and director of the simulation and optimization laboratory at the University of Illinois, 46 of the 62 counties studied saw a reduction in the number of fatal accidents and ten counties show significant reduction of accidents. The study continues to state that cities with dense population and traffic flow are more likely to see a reduction in cell-phone related accidents and fatalities.

But even if we disregard this new finding, we know that hand held cell-phone use while driving increasing chances for accidents.

IIHS own president, Adrian Lund, recognized that studies have “established that phoning while driving increases crash risk.”

Later in the article, my editor stated that she supports a recent ban in Texas of drivers using cell-phones in school zones.

“When it comes to kids, I believe that any precaution to ensure their safety should be taken,” she said.

I agree whole heartedly. Children’s safety should be a priority. However, I believed my editor failed to recognize that children are not just contained in school zones. They are at parks, fast-food restaurants, Movie Theaters. They are also passengers to motorists.

Why not extend the ban for the children’s sake?

I also fail to see the logic that the same precautions given to children should not be given to adults. Why is okay to put an adult in danger, but not a child.

Finally, I would like to address my editor’s contention that the cell-phone use is not the problem, it is distracted drivers.

“Their eyes may be on the road in front of them and their two hands on the steering wheel, but if their mind is somewhere else, a Bluetooth device will do little difference,” she said.

I agree. The problem is not just cell-phones, its distracted drivers. However, by banning hand held cell-phones while driving, we are significantly curbing the risks of auto accidents and educating motorists about driving safety.

Again, let me reiterate my affection for my editor and the Tejano newspaper. They are all awesome and wonderful, and I’m hopeful this blog will spark many lively debates in the future.

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Catholics

Most of my Facebook friends are well aware of my year and a half stint at St. Mary’s University. Despite my decision to come back to El Paso, I am happy I attended college in San Antonio. I made good friends and have fond memories.

I learned, among many things, that St. Mary’s Catholics are informed and consistent people. They believe in God and in their particular faith because it is logical and moral. They do not follow blindly; they are free from ideological politics.

They opposed abortion and the death penalty, unlike many of their Christian-conservative counterparts, because they believe all life has intrinsic value.

They support modern technology and science because they believe that all Christians should be enlightened and informed citizens. Evolution does not replace Christianity or God but validates it.

They believe that human actions have consequences in the here and now; that we have a moral responsibility to protect the environment and each other.

They believe that all people are created equal regardless of sex, age, color, creed and sexual orientation. Yes, even sexual orientation. Though I have not asked any St. Mary’s Catholics their thoughts on homosexuality, I am confident that most, if not all, will say that the gay community deserves the same rights, respect and love that are guaranteed to all people.

They believe in all of this because it is morally right. Not because they fear punishment, feel obligated by their faith or desire to please God. They are Christians because they want to be good people, not the other way around.

Unfortunately, I see a lot self-described Christians here in El Paso say and support issues that I feel are contradictory to their faith. They oppose abortions, yet they support the death penalty.

They simplify their faith into a formula so they can ensure themselves of their own salvation.

“If I go to church every Sunday and confess my sins every Saturday and volunteer every Monday then I will get into heaven.”

They treat their relationship with God as magic.

“Thank you God giving me a sunny day for that football game. Now could you please let the Cowboys win next time around? Amen.”

Sometimes I feel like shaking them and saying “you’re not doing it right!”

Ah, I miss the St. Mary’s Catholic.

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Truth in journalism

Before I begin, let me just say I love my Tejano family! They are some of the nicest, goofiest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

But on to business.

Like I said in my previous post, I disagree with the statement that good journalists must be objective and provide both sides to an argument.

Both sides are not always equal. When two opposing viewpoints are covered with the same intensity, without prefacing the fringe group with necessary skepticism, then the public is misled to believe both sides have equal weight.  It’s a disservice to report on a global warming convention and then include quotes from opponents who are not identified as being sponsored by an oil company.

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse, a  journalists must “seek out truth first, and avoid false balance in the name of an outdated notion of “objectivity”.

And this does not mean that journalists must propagate their own opinions. There must be a necessary vetting process where the reporter critically reviews their information for the truth, rather than dumping a load of facts and letting their readers decide.

“If all you do is ‘he said this’ and ‘she said that’, those are both facts,” Greenhouse said, “but you can end up completely not informing or misleading the reader unless you, the journalist, are using whatever intelligence you might have to determine where they’re coming from. You’re paid to use your critical intelligence, to do that heavy lifting.”

Many reporters feel pressures to be seen as objective and even handed. Certainly, Fox News’ info-tainers love to say “we report, you decide” (before telling them what to think).

The purpose of journalism is to tell the truth. That what we are in business for, that is what we do. Anything short of that is failure.

More from greenhouse: http://www.cornellsun.com/section/news/content/2009/10/21/former-times-reporter-challenges-media-norms

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From feature to news

As I suggested in my first blog post, I am a reporter for my school newspaper, which is more exciting than it sounds. To be honest, I find newsrooms sexy.

Anyway, I was assigned an article about the safety risks of driving while be distracted. I used the story of a student hit by a driver on a cell phone to relay statistic and studies about distracted drivers. I thought the story was moving.

John Smith (the victim refused to give his name) shattered his tibia and broke his leg in several places. He described the hours of painful therapy he suffered. The incident also hurt his family, who had to pay for expensive medical bills and legal representation in the aftermath of the accident. Needless to say, it was a horrible time in their life.

Like I said before, the story was about the dangers of inattentive drivers and the story of Smith illustrated the consequences of those actions. However, the newspaper adviser suggested I relate the story to a recent city proposal to ban cell phone use.  This was a great idea. It grounded my story and gave my article some authority, but unfortunately, in order for me to report the proposal in a linear and logical fashion, my article would have to deviate away from smith’s accident. If that happens,  my article will no longer be a feature.

Oh well, se la vie!

In truth, my feature wasn’t really right for our newspaper. We don’t really have a feature or human interest section; the closest articles to the genre are teacher profiles, so no sour grapes. However, I do disagree with my adviser and my editor about how I should frame my research and quotes.

Basically, if I include information about the proposal to ban cell phone use while driving, my adviser suggested I also get quotes from people who are against it. I disagree. My story is about the dangers of driving while distracted. It is irrelevant to include quotes from dissenters of the proposal, that is only a footnote in my story. If the story was about the cell phone ban, then I would agree that I need to include that type of information.

However, my main contention was the reasoning behind my adviser’s suggestion. He repeated that we must present both sides in order to be objective, fair reporters.

Unfortunately, this blog is way too long, so I will describe why I disagree and provide my views on journalism in the next post.

See ya’ then!

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On Writing

Ahhhhh! I wish I was a better writer!

Yesterday, I was reading Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (a really fun read) and answering some homework questions when I became angry because I wasn’t able to write down a simple, eloquent sentence. You know, a sentence that a published author like Sittenfeld could come up with.  It’s like my brain is this Guttenberg machine and if one screw is loose (ha!) then the idea won’t come out smoothly.

Anyway, I was doing this assignment and kept rewriting this one sentence because it sounded clunky and ugly and all those other adjectives that make me want to put a gun in my mouth. I knew my teacher wouldn’t mind how it was written as long as it was the right answer, but I couldn’t stop myself from tinkering and referencing grammar Web sites to make sure I was doing the dang thing right.

I wonder if other writers have this problem. I wonder if J.D. Salinger read John Steinbeck and thought his words sounded like filth in comparison. If his sentences sounded stilted. If his paragraphs sounded static. If his ideas seemed incomplete. This is really terrible but I wish that Salinger felt horrible about his writing.

In Stephen King’s book “On Writing” he says that if writers don’t feel terrible then they aren’t doing it right. I hope this is true, but I doubt King ever thought his writing was crap. Maybe it’s one of those things writers say to make other people feel better.

I do think I have been improving. I’ve tried to eliminate adjectives and adverbs from my writing. I think I’ve started to use simple declarative sentences more often. I think I’m starting to become a more active writer. But the question is, will it ever be enough?

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World’s worst dog!

I’m waiting for a job interview, so I thought I would do another one of these.

Anyway, I was thinking about my dog, Rufus. He is a horrible dog. The following are only some of his many crimes.

He enjoys shredding fabric of any kind when unsupervised. When he was a young pup we left my Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers sleeping bag—a childhood favorite— to cushion his doghouse. In the morning, to our frustration, he ripped and gouged all the cotton, leaving a visible trail of destruction from his doghouse.

He becomes obsessive whenever an animal enters the backyard. When my mom was bird sitting for her boyfriend, Rufus sat, stared and whimpered under his cage for days. I guess as punishment for not allowing him to “have” the bird, he strutted in front of us with a bloody pigeon in his mouth.

He refuses to play fetch. He does not not know how to. He gets the stick, but he refuses to let go unless you can catch him, a feat by which is near impossible. This may not seem like a big deal, but dogs have it pretty sweet. They sleep whenever, whevever they want, eat two to three meals a day and play to their little heart’s content.  All rent free. Is it too much to ask that they play a little fetch? I mean their dogs! It’s in their DNA!

He refuses to pee in his own yard. The only time he does so, is when he is walked. Wherever there is a trashcan, light post, sign post or the smell of urine, he must pee. God help you if you’re in the way.

He is deaf to everyone except my mother. I could scream into his ear and he won’t even look at me, but my mother casually says his name, he’s right by her side.

I think in his past life, Rufus was some sort of clown. He’s not a hero. He is too stupid to be brave.  If there was some sort of burglar, Rufus would probably lick him to death, which is fine by me. Who needs another Lassie?  Timmy? As for me, I’m perfectly happy with the world’s worst dog.

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