Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Health Care Forum tip: consider your retorts carefully

When I say "teabagger," I'm referring to the prog-blog meaning of the word. A handy label for people who attend local and national anti-Obama tea party rallies, such as the ones organized and energized by Glenn Beck and Fixed News on Sept. 12. Those shouting crazies who disrupt town hall meetings. The fuming bearers of misspelled signs.

To some, though, "teabagger" refers to a sex act described and/or pictured on a variety of non-political blogs and web sites.

I should have considered my words more carefully when I called The Woman In The Back Row (hereafter referred to as TWITBR) "a teabagger."

But that was later. When she arrived, she trotted out all the lines from the Glenn Beck Playbook. Her first non-question to Tuesday night's health reform panel organized by the Democratic Party was about tort reform. Uh oh. A Republican talking point. The panel took a shot at the answer. Yes, tort reform was important but not crucial. The next panelist talked. TWITBR spoke again. This time she had a litany of complaints. All alternative opinions in the national health care debate are being shut out. "I don't appreciate the secrecy," she said. Process at the federal level is asking for failure because it's terrifying to people." People don't want decision made by a one-sided process. And so on.

Mike Bell, vice chair of the Wyoming Democrats and the evening's moderator, asked her to to specific and maybe ask a real question.

She then reeled out some statistics, saying that 51 percent of the American people don't like the health care public option.

Me: "57 percent of the American people want the public option. The survey was just on the evening news"

Mike: "More like 65 percent."

She disputed our figures. I said she could look it up. She said she did look it up and said our statistics were wrong.

Then I asked the fateful question: "Are you a teabagger?" She was showing all the symptoms. I should have referred her to one of the physicians on the panel.

"What?" she yelled. Her eyes bugged out.

I turned back to the panel, hoping that the informative talk could resume.

Next thing I know, TWITBR was beside me yelling "Asshole!"

I turned. She was fuming. "You know what a teabagger is?"

"Yeah," I said, "a conservative who yells at town hall meetings."

"You know what a teabagger is?"

I knew what she was getting at. But I was het up now in the tradition of my Irish ancestors. "Teabaggers go to tea parties."

"Asshole," she said again. I felt the calming hand of a fellow Democrat on my shoulder, some murmuring in the crowd. Mike came over to referee.

TWITBR then described the teabagger sex act.

"It has nothing to do with that."

She fumed some more. Calming Democratic voices could be heard but the room was red. "Idiot," she said.

"You're the idot," I said, adult-like.

She stomped away grumbling. I think I heard "asshole" again. Gary's calming hand was still on my shoulder. He's a teacher -- he knows how to calm feuding factions.

The woman in the back row stomped to the door. She said something bad about stupid Democrats and how they couldn't even get a crowd out for this event. She was correct on the attendance -- only 16 people in the audience.

And then there were 15.

"Go talk to Lummis." This was my parting shot, referring to ultra-conservative Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis.

Mike told me to cool it for the second time. And I found myself turning red as those remaining in their seats tried not to stare at me.

Rep. Pete Jorgensen from Jackson went up to the podium in an effort to get us back on track. Steam was still coming out of my ears so I didn't hear most of it. He talked about controlling costs and gave grudging praise to Mitt Romney's successes with that in Massachusetts. He then noted that "75 percent of critical care for people of Wyoming is done outside the state." That's a fact of life in a rural state that has neighboring cities such as Denver and Salt Lake City and Billings with excellent medical facilities.

Not even critical care. I chose to go to Fort Collins tomorrow for a root canal. F.C. has dental surgeons and Cheyenne doesn't. Most people I know go to Fort Collins doctors and choose hospitals there and in Denver for their critical care. Coloradans sometimes make the trip to Cheyenne. But most of them are veterans seeking care at our excellent V.A. Hospital.

The rest of the evening was interesting yet anticlimactic. The panelists, whose names I haven't even mentioned, were Mary Forrester, a family nurse practitioner from Laramie; Lorraine Saulino-Klein, a registered nurse from Laramie; Dr. Brent Sherard, head of the Wyoming Health department and the state's chief medical officer; and Dr. Lance Proctor, an anaesthesiologist from Laramie.

The event was organized by Brianna Jones, public information officer for the Wyoming Democrats. The Democratic National Committee had encouraged each state to hold forums on Oct. 20 to push harder for real health care reform.

Dr. Sherard talked at length about Medicaid. About 14-15 percent of the state's population is uninsured.

That's 75,000-80,000. About 75,000 people in Wyoming are on Medicaid. That adds up (at most) to to 160,000. The rest (370,000), he said, have some kind of health insurance.

If some sort of public option were instituted for the uninsured (as Obama has proposed), Dr Sherard said he's not sure "who will take care of them until we get the infrastructure in place." The state's Medicaid program, funded by state and federal dollars, is stressed.

He also talked about prevention. If it was instituted in the correct way, it would save money and lives. Said Dr. Sherard: "Beware of facts by health care economists who say that prevention will not save a dime."

That's one of the problems with this health care conundrum. Whom do you believe? Which set of facts by which expert do you work with? You have to do some homework. That goes for teabaggers and pinko liberal bloggers alike.

Dr. Sherard, formerly a family physician in Wheatland, volunteers at the Cheyenne Free Clinic.

Mary Forrester volunteers at the downtown free clinic in Laramie. The clinic is only open one night a week and is "very busy." It only serves people "with absolutely no insurance."

"At the clinic, there are so many of them that are working but have nowhere else to go," said Forrester. Their employees may have cut coverage or never had it. Some people aren't able to work. And some have just made some bad choices or lived through bad times.

The clinic works on volunteers and donated money. It accepts no government funding.

Forrester is a firm believer in universal coverage. "This is the only way we can cut down costs and reduce unnecessary suffering."

Dr. Proctor says that it's "embarrassing that the U.S. has no universal health care." He wants us to "eliminate the middle man and pool our money and use that to do good by providing the infrastructure we need for health care."

The doctor is originally from Texas. As a specialist, he's the rare Democrat. "95 percent of my colleagues are Republicans," he said. "They think I'm crazy. But most of their opposition is based on fear." Doctors spend so many years in school and interning and residency and starting a practice "that they're afraid of losing what they've worked hard for."

He advocates a compromise by creating a public trust. This should calm the fears and create a better system, he said.

"For health care, we pay two-and-one-half times in the U.S. compared to other western countries," said Lorraine Saulino-Klein. Republicans usually scoff at health care in Canada and other western democracies. They contend that care is rationed and that people have to wait for months for surgical procedures.

"It takes me three months to get a mammogram in Laramie," she said. "Don't believe the scare tactics." She wants to see the regulation of drug and insrance companies. "If that doesn't work, do a public option," she said.

She noted that scare tactics again enter the equation with the mention of "public option." Critics decry the "government takeover of health care" and 'socialized medicine." She had some fun with this: "You know how many people are dropping out of Medicare. They're the most satisfied people in the country."

The forum broke up at 9 p.m. A fine time was had by all. Well, almost everyone.

It's possible I may encounter TWITBR at this Thursday's 7 p.m. health care forum at the Laramie County Public Library. This forum will feature staffers from the offices of Rep. Lummis and Wyoming Senators Barrasso and Enzi. They're all Republicans. It will be a partisan crowd. Enzi is one of the Senate Finance Committee's "Gang of Six." The term "public option" will be mentioned only in jest. Teabaggery won't be mentioned but patriotism will be. Over and over and over again.


wyogranny said...

You might consider abandoning the term "teabagger" which was, after all, coined to insult tea party attendants. The civil discourse you desire, at least claim to desire, isn't advanced by using such terms. It seems to me everyone is really just looking for a chance to be insulting and insulted. Hearts and minds aren't changed in such an antagonistic atmosphere. Our positions as conservatives are based on deeply cherished values, and won't yield to insults. I suspect the same is true of progressives.
On the other hand, if you enjoy the battle go ahead and call names and we will too. Even people with deeply held values can be provoked.

Michael Shay said...

I see that you're informed enough to know that the term "teabagger" was coined to label "tea party" attendees. They are an easy target, as tea party people seem to represent the worst America has to offer. They are loud, rude and uninformed. They can't spell, not a crime unto itself, just ridiculous. They come to health care forums to disrupt. That is their one and only goal. That was the goal of the woman at last night's forum. My only regret is that I fell headlong into a verbal battle and resorted to name-calling. For that, I apologized to the people at the forum. I would have done the same to TWITBR if she hadn't been so busy calling me names.

wyogranny said...

Grammar and spelling issues are just another reason to feel superior, as everyone, even liberals/progressives, make mistakes. Not being able to spell is not the same as not being able to think.

As conservatives we've been watching "loud, rude" unwashed demonstrators who can't spell disrupting all kinds of forums for years, not many of them have been conservatives.

Lining up and shooting "nasty bullets" across the discourse is fun, but will not change minds. I have contempt for "teh liberal welfare drones" but my contempt won't change them into conservatives, shut them up or advance civility.

I can tell your purpose isn't to have a civil discourse, but to take instant offense and lob verbal bombs, so to pretend to be alarmed or outraged at the response is disingenuous at best.

Michael Shay said...

Actually, we may be loud and rude and even unwashed, but we can spell. That's because we read.

And yes, not being able to spell is not being able to think. And vice versa.

We now have a president who can think and can write and can mull over various options before he acts. This is such a sharp departure from the Bush/Cheney, years, that many are in shock.

But you'll get used to it.

wyogranny said...

Your response is about what I expected.

I'm a librarian and I read everything I can get my hands on, my sister was a reporter who also read widely and deeply (she died 2 years ago), I come from a family of 5 kids and we all read voraciously and have degrees from universities and our parents do as well. My point here isn't to brag, but to demonstrate a point. Some of my family are conservative, some are liberal all are well read and educated. None of us can spell except my dad. Ridiculous---perhaps, but perfectly beside the point. Spelling is not a criteria or a prerequisite for a thinking brain.

As for Obama mulling over, I could wish for it to be a little more across the board. A more mulling would be a great idea when it comes to the public option for health care. That is, if the point really is to address the shortcomings of the current system and keep spending under control.

The sharp departure from Bush/Cheney would be wonderful if it really were sharp and a departure. The biggest difference from my point of view is the failure of the Obama administration to assure that the sacrifices of the soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will stand for something. Otherwise it’s politics as usual.

I find commenting on your blog fun and challenging. I’m sure you’ll want me to shut up soon, or maybe already; but you really need to match wits with an informed conservative and allow yourself to suppose that a conservative can think. It could prove interesting. I’d love to watch. I’m pretty sure I’m not the conservative to do it, but you should seek someone out. It might be a shock...but you'll get used to it.

Btw---Out of respect for your spelling elitism I looked up the spelling of three words I just used. Any misspellings I missed are completely the result of my disability since I don’t recognize them.

Michael Shay said...

Librarians are my favorite people, no matter their political leanings. My accountant father, librarians and Dominican nuns brought me to reading and thinking. I come from a family of southern Republicans. Most of them used to be Democrats. Reagan Democrats, I guess you could say. We argue often and with much emotion. I'm the only one who doesn't live in the South and I'm the pinko liberal in conservative Wyoming. Go figure.

My targets on these pages have been the loony right-wing fringe which does not represent all conservatives. I do know that. It is fun to make fun. It is more fun to debate a thinker.

I'll try to remember that.

wyogranny said...

Thanks. It's nice to be taken seriously. I'll keep your blog on my bookmark page and if I see you getting a little too loonie left-wing I'll call you on it. People should be engaged in thinking and reading, even if the result is two opposite points of view.
We're about the same age and I have a 14 year old daughter. I'm reassured to have read in your history that you have an even younger child, I'm not the only "old fart" trying to raise kids in these terrifying times.