On the LAPD

I hesitated in writing this post, but I figured that now that there is a two-page typed letter to Congresswoman Roybal-Allard in the mail detailing my complaint, I may as well go ahead.

To say I am indifferent to the LAPD would be an understatement. I have never really gone out of my way to praise our police officers, but I also don’t possess the hatred that some people do. It’s one of those things that I truly believe I can’t be faulted for. If you look at the places I’ve lived and the places I’ve worked, it should make some sense. I don’t think the LAPD is the enemy. I truly don’t. But I also don’t think they are saviors.

Last weekend, I was having dinner with some friends. As we walked back to our car, we heard bone-chilling screams. We identified the screams as coming from a woman who seemed to be in an argument with a male companion. Before we realized what was happening, she ran toward us, crouched behind a car, and said that she “had never been so scared in her life” and that her boyfriend had told her if she told anyone “he would [expletive] kill her.” One of my friends was on the phone with 911 dispatch as she darted across the street. He ran after her and yelled as he passed us, “What did you [expletive] tell them?”

We had noticed LAPD squad cars in the area as we were eating, so I turned to see if I could find one. I ran over to a pair of officers and explained the situation and what we had been told. I pointed down the street to where the two were standing and asked if they could walk down and ask the woman if she was okay. They told me that they had already spoken with the male companion and he “assured” them that she was okay. I asked if they had asked her as well, and they replied, “no.”

When the car dispatched by 911 arrived, my friend walked over to them and pointed out their new location, relaying the same story and asking if they could check on the woman. They drove away, without checking on her, and did not return in the 20 or so minutes that we stood there.
Finally, as we were about to leave, we noticed a County Sheriff’s squad car parked on the street. As a last ditch effort, my friend approached them and asked if they could walk down the block to see how the couple was doing, as they continued to argue on the street. “Well,” one replied. “We’re going to go in there [pointed at a Starbucks] first and if we hear anything when we come out, we’ll check into it.”

On that night, I was absolutely shocked in a strange way. It’s comparable to times I have called dispatch, asked for a squad car, and was told point-blank, “no.” I think the shock came from the face-to-face contact. It’s awful to think that if another human came up to you and asked for help, you would find your coffee to be more important.

Now, it makes me really angry. As a single woman, I rely on things like peace officers to keep me safe and to allow me to live my life as I choose to. I walk alone often. I run errands alone, always. I go to ATM’s, grocery stores, bars….all alone. I have always had the security of knowing that should I need help, I could scream or call 911 and would be assisted. After the events last Saturday, I no longer have that assurance. Instead, I have a fear that I would be interrupting someone’s coffee break or that my fear would be disregarded if a man could explain it away.

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Why I'm Not Impressed with the Seniors' Drug Agreement

So as part of the health care reform I expect Congress to enact this year, Medicare beneficiaries whose spending falls within this gap will now receive a discount on prescription drugs of at least 50 percent from the negotiated price their plan pays.  It’s a reform that will make prescription drugs more affordable for millions of seniors, and restore a measure of fairness to Medicare Part D.    It’s a reflection of the importance of this single step for America’s seniors that it has earned the support of AARP, which has been fighting for years to address this anomaly in the system on behalf of older Americans.  AARP is committed, as I am, to achieving health care reform by the end of this year.  And I’m committed to continuing to work with AARP to ensure that any reforms we pursue are carried out in a way that protects America’s seniors, who know as well as anyone what’s wrong with our health care system and why it’s badly in need of reform.
Our goal — our imperative — is to reduce the punishing inflation in health care costs while improving patient care.  And to do that we’re going to have to work together to root out waste and inefficiencies that may pad the bottom line of the insurance industry, but add nothing to the health of our nation.   To that end, the pharmaceutical industry has committed to reduce its draw on the health care system by $80 billion over the next 10 years as part of overall health care reform.

The White House – Blog Post – A Significant Breakthrough to Assist Our Seniors.

I am highly disappointed to read the provisions of this portion of the health care “reform” that was announced today.

What President Obama understands as outlined in several things he’s written, most notably “The Audacity of Hope”, is that true drug reform in this country is only going to come through stringent regulations placed on the pharmaceutical companies. While I understand that these companies have a wealth of power because they have a wealth of income, it’s really time to take a stand. It’s time for a politician to stand up against Pfizer, Bristol Myers, Procter & Gamble, Amgen and all of their counterparts. It’s time for someone to have the courage to say that these band-aid fixes simply aren’t enough.

The drug companies get off so easy with this agreement they have made.

First, a majority of seniors don’t even use Medicare D. For a variety of reasons, Medicare D has just not caught on. They either don’t understand it, have alternate coverage or can’t afford it. So, the total percentage of the American population who are benefiting from this agreement is probably minuscule.

Second, drugs that are most popular with seniors are also popular with other age groups. So, the chances are that these pharmaceutical companies are going to make plenty of money off the same drugs without even considering those prescriptions filled by seniors. Meanwhile, they get to look like the good guys while shipping off these 50% checks to Medicare. So, now they have a few good years where they get to say “remember when we gave you 50%??” Heck, it might last for the whole Obama administration. Bad, bad move, Mr. President.

Third, as a person who lived with an elderly uncle, delivered prescriptions to my great-grandmother, and has grandparents who all had various prescriptions to fill, I can tell you for certain that a half price discount is not nearly enough to make the extremely over-inflated drugs affordable. In the case of my grandparents, you can’t tell me that reducing their monthly prescription needs from $900 to $450 is going to help. Guess what? They don’t have the $450 either.

We are again at the root of many of the major problems in this country: corporate greed.

Health care and medicine are not the places to make a profit. Not at the cost of someone’s life. Next time you pick up a prescription, note the full price. The last prescription, I picked up for myself had a sticker price of $472. I paid $32, but I will tell you without a shadow of a doubt that even working full time, there’s no way I would have been able to pay half price for those antibiotics.

The true, true reform is going to lie in standing up to these pharmaceutical companies, providing public financing and requiring them to sell drugs AT-COST to the American people. So all people, not just seniors, can benefit from a true reform agreement that does not penalize people for illness, genetic defects, terminal illness, or accidents.

Until that moment, I will not be impressed. I will not rally behind this “reform.” And, I will not say this is progress.

People Who Should Stop Talking: Installment 1

I’m all for free speech. I’m all for freedom of the press, but there are some people who so far outlive their 15 minutes of fame that it makes me wonder about the very fiber of our society. Why do we allow these people to continue to talk? Why are people still listening? Why are these arcane opinions still necessary in the public debate?

So, I present my first installment of People Who Should Stop Talking.

#1. Sarah Palin. It wouldn’t be right if the first person in the first installment of this post WASN’T Sarah Palin. You lost. Not only did you lose, but you probably are the reason your ticket lost. You don’t have a place in mainstream America. And honestly, every time you open your mouth I cringe for all intelligent women.

#2. Megan McCain. You may not have lost like Ms. Palin, but your father did. So, your fifteen minutes of fame was gained in a carpet-bagger approach in the first place. It’s one thing to say you want to open up the political discussion in America, but stick to that. You’re not a Hollywood celebrity.

#3. Scott Boras. No one cares. No one cares. No one cares. We don’t care that you represent BOTH the Weaver brothers. You’ve done enough to ruin major league baseball, we don’t need your take on “feel-good” stories. We don’t need your take on Manny’s silence. We (especially Dodger fans) don’t need your take on a lot of things.

#4. Jon & Kate (with or without your 8). Whatever personal issues you may have, you put out there in the media by agreeing to do a TV show. That being said, we really don’t care to have your entire life drama drawn out on news programs. (Perhaps this complaint has more to do with those who report this stuff as thought it were breaking news.)

Please stay tuned as our American media continues to spread the celebrity of these folks and others like wildfire.

President Obama in Cairo

This is a speech that I have been waiting for since President Obama spoke for the second time at AIPAC about a year ago. I sat, watching that speech because it was one of those moments where I thought I just might hear something different.

I was totally blown away by his acknowledgment of the right of the Palestinian people to have their own land. It was then that I knew that should he become President international relations would be rooted in an entirely different mentality, one of open-mindedness and thought. One of compassion and equity. One of genuine concern and value for human rights.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity.  And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

Speaking with Brian Williams, he said that he did not believe he was the only President who could make this speech. He’s probably correct, but he is the only President in the recent past who has the ability to speak honestly and with conviction and authority about issues of integration of ideas and thoughts. With fresh ideas and a beautiful optimism that characterizes his administration. It is not an optimism of naivete, but one deeply rooted in history and belief in the true goodness of not only the American people but in humanity at large.

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.  It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.  It was innovation in Muslim communities — (applause) — it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.  Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation.  And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.  (Applause.)

President Obama’s delivery and his willingness to address Afghanistan and Iraq and 9-11 is simply the right thing to do. There is an ugly American legacy in this world right now. It is not President Obama’s personal responsibility to apologize for it anymore than it is mine. Yet, it is. As citizens of a country that has acted recklessly without concern for the safety of others that we seek in our own country, we have a responsibility to say that it is a new day. That the America of yesterday is not the America of today.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.  For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation.  Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead.  They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation.  So let there be no doubt:  The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.  And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.  (Applause.)

For decades then, there has been a stalemate:  two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive.  It’s easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond.  But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth:  The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

It is with gratitude that I quote those words. For the right of every people, regardless of religion or race, to have their own land in which to govern and live and worship their God, is so undeniably basic that it is incomprehensible that a nation would stand in denial of that right. This is not to say that it would be a simple change or progression. No, it is a goal that will require much work, but includes the commitment of a President who believes deeply in this goal.

Too many tears have been shed.  Too much blood has been shed.  All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.  (Applause.)

And this segment of President Obama’s speech was so deeply moving. It was one rooted in the history of three faiths. It is rooted in an understanding, in an ability to embrace things that are different. That is the beauty, the humbling beauty, of this presidency. It is rooted in a tolerance that is ingrained so deeply in the basic desire to accept that there are many different avenues in this life and all must be respected.

But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek — a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected.  Those are mutual interests.  That is the world we seek.  But we can only achieve it together.

It sounds like Utopia. Simply Utopia. Grandslam, Mr. President. Grandslam.

Things your mother told you not to do

One of my favorite things about President Obama is that he does all kinds of things that we’re (at least I) are told not to do. Saying “I won” was a big one for me. Scrapping a zillion dollars of education to work in an impoverished area was a close second. Getting a dog. It’s fun stuff.

BUT this by far is my favorite moment thus far:

Obama Tipping His Chair Back
Obama Tipping His Chair Back

CALLIE SHELL / AURORA FOR TIME

I was told throughout my childhood not to tip my chair back. I still do it (oops!), but I LOVE this shot of Obama tipping his chair back in anticipation of a meeting!

Filter-Free News

Politico featured a great story about how President Obama is “seek[ing] filter free news.” The idea behind it is that some people aren’t news junkies (they aren’t?!?) and could potentially miss out on news that is important to our politics and our society.

The concept behind it is an interesting one to me. It seems that the idea is to communicate constantly to an array of people in an array of mediums. This includes tv, radio, internet, print, traditional, nontraditional, bloggers, twitter-ers. You name it, and I’m sure it’s covered in one way or another.

Even with all of this and my relative faith in Obama, I still have to wonder what is exactly that we don’t know. I mean we are working on a backwards trajectory in some cases. A lot of what Obama has to talk about regarding wars and economics is rooted deeply in an administration that is not his and did not value the constant stream of communication with the general public.

I’d like to say that President Bush spoke just as much as President Obama does and that I just wasn’t paying attention, but the more I think about it, the more I’m sure that it genuinely is not true. I know for sure that it didn’t filter into any of my liberal news sources. You would think, at the very least, I would have read and heard a wealth of criticism.

When I began studying journalism 9 years ago, the internet was a relatively new phenomenon in the journalism world. It was new, and it was mostly untrusted by the veteran reporters I was privileged to call professors. At the time, I could completely understand why an “online journalism” emphasis was not given much credence by these writers who could count the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times amongst their employers. The internet, to them, was diluted. It was something that “anyone could do.”

And it is. It’s something that anyone can do. Anyone can sign up for a blog just like this one and write. Anyone could start up an online magazine, newspaper or (heaven forbid!) a blog.

I can see the positives and negatives. The biggest negative for me is that there is no editor for an online blog such as mine. Presumably, I could make up just about anything and publish it. I wouldn’t do that, of course, but who’s to say it doesn’t happen? The positives though? There are many from my vantage point. Online writing gives someone like me a medium to express myself. It provides yet another layer of that “watchdog” quality that journalism is known for. All of these bloggers and online reporters can instantly post their work and disseminate information much faster than any print newspaper could. I think that’s pretty cool. I think it also gives people (i.e. elected officials) less leeway to lie. Tell a lie? It’s all over the internet pretty much instantly. I think people my age and younger pick up on these things within seconds, and seconds later you have a viral situation going on where millions of people not only know what President Obama said in his news conference this evening, but millions of opinions have already been posted.

For me, that’s the best part of all. One of the lessons that I have carried with me from my journalism education was one taught by a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist of the New York Times. He covered the Vietnam war in Vietnam for several years. When he left for Vietnam, he asked his significant other to collect copies of the Times with his articles in them so he could have an archive of his work upon his return to the U.S.

In class, he described to us some of the most horrific firsthand descriptions of war that I have ever heard. Strangely, the most disturbing part of his story was that upon his return he read each and every article printed in the Times with his byline only to find that they had been edited, altered, “cleaned” up, sanitized and otherwise violated.

“I didn’t write for 12 years after that,” he told us. Thinking about it right now, I still want to cry. I bought his book on Vietnam when I was a junior in college. He signed it for me, and I still have it on my bookshelf. It took him 30 years to be able to write that book, and it is a very moving and very true tale of what it was like to be a reporter during one of the darkest periods of our recent history.

When I think about that story, I always think about Iraq and how little we really know. What makes me even sadder is that the little we know is probably much more than people knew in the 60’s. Even with the advent of the instant “news” online, I think in some ways we’re still pretty censored, even if it is self-censoring.

It just gives me a little comfort to know that we are making strides. The more often that news is disseminated to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible, we are finally making headway on a problem that genuinely plagues this country.