healthcare, law, politicians, politics

Kansas shocks the hell out of me!

Good morning, folks! I woke up to the news about Kansas, and how voters there decided that they won’t tolerate abortion bans in their state. To that, I say BRAVO! I am pleasantly shocked to read that Kansans let good sense prevail and voted to allow individuals to maintain the right to make their own private, personal, healthcare decisions.

I know a lot of people think that abortion is absolutely disgusting and an abomination. If I’m honest, I find it pretty repulsive, too. But I also find many necessary medical interventions and tests repulsive. For instance, I wouldn’t be super excited to have a colonoscopy or a colposcopy, but I know those are procedures that save lives. Abortion can be life saving in many situations. No, I don’t cheer for them, but I do think that sometimes they are necessary, and I don’t feel it’s my place to intervene in another person’s decision to have one.

I think there will be some repercussions in the wake of this decision made by Kansas voters, which I know surprises a lot of people. I doubt that a lot of the Republican leaders in super red states will want to allow voters to decide on these issues, because they’ve seen that there’s a good chance that voters will vote to allow abortions. And now, there will be a lot of demand for abortions in Kansas, because people in red states who have banned the procedure will flock there for care. That will potentially make it tough for providers to keep up, and for Kansas residents who need care. Some people may decide to leave Kansas because of this decision, and some may decide to move there. That could mean a change in the local culture. Whether the change is positive or negative depends on the individual.

I read one comment from a 75 year old woman who is anti-abortion. It really irked me, because her opinion was based entirely on her religious beliefs. From the Washington Post:

Janice Dearinger, 75, a part-time alcohol and drug counselor in Shawnee, Kan., voted an early “yes” to the ballot referendum at Monticello Library on Friday.

She said that the media and the “Vote No” forces had used scare tactics and unfairly described the proposed amendment as a total ban on abortion; the Value Them Both amendment would have affirmed that there is “no Kansas constitutional right to an abortion” and given the legislature the power to regulate it. Some Kansas legislators have previously said they would sponsor bills saying life begins at conception, had the amendment passed.

“If you read what they’re trying to pass, it’s not about banning abortions altogether, it’s about limiting the ones that don’t need to be done,” Dearinger said. “They’re not saying you can’t have an abortion at all. That’s what the media is wanting you to hear.”

I want to ask Ms. Dearinger why she thinks it’s any uninvolved person’s place to determine which abortions “need to be done”, and which ones don’t? Why should anyone have to explain to another person why they want or need to have any medical procedure? It’s not her business. I presume that abortion will not be something she personally faces for the rest of her life. Why should someone of childbearing age have to ask permission of anyone to terminate a pregnancy if she is not prepared to gestate, for ANY reason?

I don’t trust legislators to make these decisions. I also don’t think they’ll stop at abortion. You know the old saying, “Give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile?” That’s what I think could happen if we let lawmakers get a foothold in healthcare privacy rights, especially if they are Republicans. Republicans– or, at least this current incarnation of the Republican Party– are basically interested in MONEY. And while they don’t want to provide safety nets for the poor, it’s in their best interest to keep as many people poor and under control as possible. Poor people don’t have the freedoms that wealthier people have. They don’t have the voices or choices that people with money have. And a lot of people with money would just as soon keep the poor in their lot, slaving away for pittance wages while they get richer. Babies are expensive, and having one before one is ready can be financially devastating. Aside from that, sometimes abortions are simply required because without one, the mother will die.

Beau, as usual, making a lot of sense as he talks about why poor people aren’t nearly as free as wealthy people are.

I read another horror story yesterday about yet another young woman whose doctor told her she should have an abortion because of a health condition. Madison Underwood is a Medicaid patient in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where abortion bans are now in place. Her very much wanted 18 week old developing fetus had catastrophic developmental defects that were incompatible with life. Specifically, the fetus had not developed a skull, and the brain matter was leaking into the umbilical sac, which could make Madison deathly sick with sepsis. Madison was told that if she continued the pregnancy, her own life could be at stake. Her doctor advised her to go to Georgia, where at the time, abortions were still permitted, although bans are now in effect there. Abortions are allowed in Tennessee if the mother’s life is in danger, but doctors are now afraid to perform the procedure, because they don’t want to risk being prosecuted if their colleagues don’t agree with their medical opinions.

Underwood hadn’t even wanted to have an abortion. She had cried on her way to the clinic, and argued with her fiance as to what they should do. But there she was on the table, waiting for the procedure, and it was canceled. And then she and her fiance, already poor, had to travel many hours to another state so she could access necessary healthcare. They had to come up with gas money, time off work, and money for a hotel room, and all because of heartless, brainless, anti-choice people who hate women and can’t understand that sometimes abortion is very necessary healthcare. This should NOT be happening in the United States!

Adding to Madison Underwood’s sad story is the fact that her fiance’s mother supported abortion. Why? Because when she was twelve years old, she was raped and impregnated, and gave birth to a stillborn baby! As it was, Madison had to face throngs of protestors when she and her fiance went to the facility where Madison would have a D&E (dilation and evacuation) procedure. It would take two harrowing days. As they entered the facility to have necessary medical care, they had to tolerate overbearing idiots with signs and pictures of dead fetuses, demanding to know if they were “okay” with killing babies. When they said they were against abortion, but needed one for health reasons, one of the protestors asked if they trusted doctors over God. Whenever I think of people like that, I feel enraged. How dare they?!

I have just about had it with religious zealots. I’m tired of them imposing their moronic, myopic views on all other people, especially women. I’m tired of them interfering with personal, private, gut wrenching healthcare decisions that are NOT their business. I grew up hearing that Americans were free. We’re not free if legislators can insert themselves in a woman’s womb and force her to give birth. We can do better. I’m glad that people in Kansas showed the United States how things should be… and how people should vote, when it comes to abortion. I hope other states will follow suit.

In other pregnancy related news… Georgia has now declared that embryos can be listed as dependents on state tax returns. Residents can claim up to a $3000 deduction for any fetus whose heartbeat can be detected. On the surface, it sounds good… until you realize that a lot of people who want or need abortions are poor. So this provision won’t be helpful to them, because they don’t pay as much in taxes as wealthier people do. Moreover, I think this will open a Pandora’s Box that will lead to a lot of other issues, as people demand other privileges for the unborn, like driving in HOV lanes alone. 😉 Also… in order to qualify for the tax breaks, the person claiming an embryo will be obliged to provide relative medical records or other supporting documentation. That requirement– while not a violation of HIPAA, since HIPAA only applies to healthcare workers– will mean giving up healthcare privacy in exchange for saving a few bucks on taxes. And since a lot of pregnancies end in miscarriage, Georgia will be giving out a lot of money to people whose pregnancies never resulted in a live birth. That will not be popular with taxpayers.

Again… I am glad to be 50… and I’m glad to not be living in the States right now. We really need to straighten out this mess, and so many others.

Well… time to end this post and practice guitar. I made a new video yesterday, this time with me playing guitar. I don’t play super well, but I did play well enough that I got a copyright claim. Here it is, for those who are interested.

I should probably focus more on this instead of politics, if only so I learn to play better guitar!

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complaints, rants, social media

Things Americans “know” about my life in Germany…

I got into a brief discussion yesterday with people from my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia. One of my high school classmates posted a picture of what she’d spent at the gas pump. If I recall correctly, it was about $125 or so… and that certainly is a mind blowing figure. While I didn’t expressly state it, I was initially sympathetic. I left the first comment on her photo, which was that [gas prices] have been like that in Europe for years. In fact, they’re even higher here than they are in the United States. I had originally meant the comment to be matter-of-fact, but it kind of blew up a bit.

A funny note someone left at a BP gas station near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, about twelve years ago. It was just after BP’s oil tanker started leaking in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last time I checked, which I will admit wasn’t super recently, gas in Germany was about 2 euros per liter. There are 3.785 liters in a gallon. A quick Googling tells me that gas prices near where I live are still at about 2 euros per liter, thereabouts. My trusty calculator tells me that a gallon of gas near me would cost about 7.57 euros. One euro is currently equivalent to $1.05, so that means a gallon of gas is about $7.96. If you’re driving a honkin’ big truck that holds 20 gallons of gas, it’s going to cost you about $160 to fill up in Germany. But that’s not unusual here. I remember it being very expensive here when we lived here years ago, although it wasn’t that expensive. I think it was the dollar equivalent of about $2.65 per gallon back around 2007 or so, which was still expensive for us spoiled Americans.

A few hours later, a woman from Gloucester whom I’ve never met, left me kind of a snarky comment about how everybody in Europe lives in houses that are the size of a U.S. house’s kitchen. Then she went on a rant about how much Europeans pay in taxes (she claimed 58%) and compared them to socialists. She finished her comment with an orange angry emoji… to which I laugh reacted, because her comment was so full of misconceptions and falsehoods that I was kind of flabbergasted.

The front of my current house in Germany. It’s bigger than a kitchen.

I added another comment. I wrote “I live in Germany, and I assure you that my house is bigger than your kitchen.” Indeed, the home we live in now is on three levels, has three bathrooms, three bedrooms, a large, finished basement with a granny apartment, and a fenced in backyard. There are also two large balconies. The one thing this house doesn’t have, that I wish it did have, is closet space. Most German houses don’t have closets. Our first German house was an exception to that trend. It was built by a man who had worked for IBM and was familiar with US houses.

At that point, another person from Gloucester, but living in Arkansas, left a lengthy, but basically polite comment, explaining that she knew Germans had nice homes, but they don’t have to drive much, because of the public transportation available here. She wrote me a tale of woe about life in rural America, and how the high gas prices are a real hardship. She wrote her comment as if she thought I was from Germany, which struck me as funny.

While it’s true that there’s a lot of public transportation here, not everyone uses it, nor is it necessarily convenient for everyone to use in every area. If the usual traffic on Autobahn 3, which is very near my house, is any indication of how many Europeans are driving, I’d say that lady is a little out of touch with how things are over here in Germany.

I do understand what life in rural America is like. I lived there myself for many years. So I commented, “I’m an American, so I know how it works,” adding a winky smiley. I know… that’s a little snarky, but I have to admit I was a little irritated that this person felt she needed to explain life in the United States to me. Especially since I never indicated that I didn’t have any empathy for Americans having to pay a lot for gas. My initial comment was simply that gas prices have been high in Europe for years, not that my friend needed to “get over it”. But after reading a couple of comments from obvious conservatives who blame Joe Biden for the price of gas, I was starting to feel like my countrymen were whining a bit and could use a perspective adjustment.

Then the first lady came back, still seemingly a little pissy, writing that she doesn’t want to spend $10 a gallon on gas, and she thinks taxes are too high in Europe. I was still left with the impression that she had no idea about what she was writing. So I responded with something along the lines of, “Okay, but you’ve made some comments about life in Europe that are not grounded in reality. Germans do pay a lot of taxes, but they get a lot for the money they pay. Most of the Germans I’ve known live perfectly nice lifestyles. Yes, gas is expensive here, but other things are much less expensive, like healthcare, education, and food. And Germany also isn’t a socialist country.”

I also added that here, one doesn’t have to go to college to have a hope of getting a “good” job. In fairness, people don’t necessarily have to go to college in the United States to get a good job, either, as long as they have a useful talent or skill. However, here, the emphasis is on people being able to find work so they can pay their bills. Young people don’t get saddled with humongous loans that will take the rest of their lives to pay off, and workers have rights. In the USA, it can be very difficult to find work that pays enough, even if one went to college, or even graduate school. And vacation leave is pretty stingy in a lot of jobs. You’re lucky if you get two weeks, unpaid.

I didn’t add that in Germany, new parents get generous paid leave. In fact, they also get generous guaranteed vacation time every year, which allows people the chance to rest, and to recover when they get sick or injured. We pay for energy by the year, and it’s less than we’d spend in the United States. We pay for heating oil every year, so we don’t have to worry about getting an unexpectedly high bill every month. Bill and I don’t pay German taxes for most things, because we have SOFA status. We pay US taxes, which are admittedly lower than German taxes are. But the United States makes every citizen file a tax return and pay taxes, no matter where in the world they are living. Most other countries don’t do that. Granted, if one makes under a certain salary threshold, there is a US tax exemption. Whatever one makes over that figure is taxed.

Then the second woman wrote that she didn’t check my passport before assuming I was German, and apologized. It seemed like a snarky comment, but I chose not to respond in a snarky way. I wrote that I grew up in Gloucester, so I know the pain of commuting long distances in the United States. I also know that a lot of people, some of whom have never lived anywhere but Gloucester, and many of whom have never so much as visited another country, assume that the United States is the best country on Earth. I’m here to tell them that it ain’t necessarily so. Even if they did think Gloucester was the best place ever to live, after having experienced living in many other places, that wouldn’t be every person’s opinion. As my Italian friend Vittorio would say, “Tastes differ.”

At this point in my life, I’ve now lived in several countries. No place was ever perfect, but the other countries I lived in had their pluses and minuses. Even Armenia, which was really developing when I lived there in the 90s, had some aspects of life that I later missed. The beautiful produce at the shukas comes to mind… as well as the fascinating churches, amazing art and music, and interesting cultural traditions. It was also a very CHEAP place to live… much cheaper than the USA or Germany is. I was definitely ready to leave Armenia at the end of my Peace Corps service, but that was mostly because of a situation I was dealing with at the time that could have happened anywhere. I also missed Armenia when I got back to good old Gloucester, where I was stuck living for two years post Peace Corps.

Anyway, when I left my original comment about how expensive gas is, it was to the original poster. It was neither a positive nor a negative comment. I just wrote that gas prices have been high in Europe for years. The other people were the ones who made it negative, and then added a bunch of hooey about life in Germany… something about which they clearly know very little, or next to nothing. I probably should have just rolled my eyes and moved on… people are going to complain, and some will continue to blame the president for something he can’t, and doesn’t, control.

Personally, I would rather pay higher gas costs and know that if I get sick and need to go to a hospital, I won’t go bankrupt. Of course, we could probably use the military hospital in Germany, but I wouldn’t conclude that’s ideal, except that we would be more likely to get decent pain relief. One of Bill’s co-workers, who is American and a retiree, sought care at Landstuhl for his wife, who had colon cancer. The military hospital couldn’t accommodate them in a timely manner, so they called up the local hospital. They got a same day appointment. She went in, and over about a year’s time, they treated her for the cancer. She’s now in remission. When all was said and done, the whole thing cost about $13,000, which was entirely paid for by her health insurance. Try doing that in a US hospital, even with insurance.

The United States truly does have some great things going for it. I do love my country, and I even miss it sometimes. But there’s PLENTY of room for improvement in the United States. And to be honest, high gas prices are not what I would be focusing on right now, when children can’t even go to school without being afraid for their lives. Yes, it sucks to pay a lot for gas, but I’m afraid the days of cheap gas are coming to an end for many people. It’s not just because of the political situation in the United States; this is a global issue. Maybe instead of whining about high gas prices, American people might invest in more fuel efficient vehicles… or push for better and more extensive modes of public transportation. There’s a high price to be paid for living out in bum fucked Egypt, where there is no bus or train system.

But most of all, I wish ignorant, all-knowing people in the United States would stop trying to tell me how life is where I am actually living. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and it really drives home why so many non-Americans think so many Americans are so insufferable and arrogant. As an American, I didn’t see it so clearly when I lived in the US, but I can see it plain as day now… and folks, as the “orange hero”, Donald Trump, would say– it’s not a good look.

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musings, politics, silliness

Monday morning advice…

For those of you who don’t know me on Facebook, here’s a good tip for Monday.

And afterwards, please soap your hands.

As the weather gets cooler, I realize that there will soon be mornings when I couldn’t soap my arse if I wanted to. I suspect I have a touch of arthritis, and sometimes I wake up with decidedly less mobility than usual. It takes about an hour before my lower back stops seizing and I can soap my arse properly.

Incidentally, 23andMe recently updated my ancestry report. I went from being 70.8 percent British and Irish to 97.5 percent. My German heritage “disappeared”, as did my Swiss and Scandinavian heritage… and now I’m apparently a wee bit Finnish, Spanish, and/or Portuguese, with a trace of Native American (that bit didn’t change).

Actually, I can believe that I might have 97.5 percent British and Irish ancestry/DNA. I really look the part, even if I don’t have the accent. When I’ve been in the United Kingdom, people have stopped me and asked me for directions. And I always feel very much at home there. In fact, when we visited Mildenhall in 2016, I felt like I was at home in Gloucester, Virginia. It really looked like the town where I grew up– not exactly my birthplace, but close. Mildenhall happens to be the first place I ever lived during my lifetime that I remember well. Incidentally, Ancestry.com also recently updated its results and I came out as almost entirely Brit/Irish there, too. In fact, according to Ancestry.com, about half of my DNA is Scottish. I don’t know if I buy that, but again, I definitely fit the part.

I could spend all day listening to her. I see I’m not the only one. Supposedly, some of my people and Bill’s were from County Donegal. In fact, Bill and I ran into a “McCrossan” when we were last in that area. When I married Bill, I traded an English surname for an Irish one.

Lately, I’ve given some thought to going “home” again. It’s been six years… they have flown by, and I do kind of miss home to some extent. I don’t know that I care too much about seeing family. Maybe my mom…. she’s become a lot nicer to be around since my dad passed away. Taking care of Dad was stressful and my mom could become quite bitchy in the process. But now she’s funny and friendly, and we can speak freely about subjects like politics, mainly because we agree. Mom also swears. She doesn’t swear as much as I do, but she swears more than she did when my dad was around. My dad hated swearing. It was probably because his father used to swear and hearing coarse language reminded my dad of growing up being abused by his father.

She’s very clever.

But going home is not so easy right now, for many reasons. COVID-19 is the main one. So here I sit, listening to funny songs by an Irish woman and thinking about the old days, when I still felt at home in the United States. I do love Germany, though. I wish more Americans could see how things work in Europe.

My cousin shared some post about what would happen if Joe Biden is elected. Basically, he’s upset about the prospect of paying more taxes. I live in a country where people pay higher taxes. Some of the taxes are a bit ridiculous, I will admit. BUT– most people here live very well, despite paying higher taxes. They can afford to take vacations. They can afford to access higher education and go to the doctor when they are sick. Parents can take time off to take care of their babies for a year or more. Those who are ill can get affordable hospital care and take time off work to heal. In fact, employers expect it.

My German friend told me yesterday that five years ago, her health insurance paid for her to spend time in a rehab facility to help her learn how to cope with chronic pain. The only thing she had to pay for was materials for a handcrafting project. The rehab was intended to help those who couldn’t work due to a medical problem find ways to cope so that they can get back to being productive members of society. That, to me, seems a lot better than just telling people who fall on hard times to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or worse, “tough luck”.

I understand that a lot of Americans don’t trust the government. They don’t like the idea of taking care of the whole community rather than just focusing on taking care of themselves and their families. And so, when someone dies, such as a different cousin’s husband did last week, we Americans often resort to measures like GoFundMe to pay for medical care and funerals.

Unfortunately, a lot of Americans are conditioned to pay obscene rates for medical care and funeral care. They don’t know anything different. They hate the idea of higher taxes that might go for paying for someone else’s well-being. They don’t understand that someday, they might need help themselves, and that money raised through taxes would theoretically be there for them, too.

Well… I don’t know how much longer we’ll be living the European dream. I do like it here a lot and have mostly assimilated, although my German definitely needs a lot of work. We don’t plan to stay here forever… but neither is a move back to the States in the cards at this point. I would like to wait until the virus settles down somewhat and Trump is no longer a threat to my blood pressure. I could write a lot about what I think of him… especially as the election looms and he does more drastic things to mess up democracy. But I don’t feel like ranting today. It’s rainy… dark and chilly outside. I’d rather focus on something cozier.

So, I hope you’ll all have a nice Monday and take Rosaleen’s advice to heart if you’re feeling a bit blue. Or, at least imagine yourself soaping your arse and slipping backwards over a rainbow. Maybe you’ll even crack a smile as wide as your asscrack.

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