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Friday, June 29, 2012

Oh, ye of little faith...or why we should all be offended by the GOP's opinion of the USA

All hell is breaking loose over the Supreme Court decision that The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is indeed constitutional. (Yes, the bill has a name and it isn't Obamacare, but the actual name is too descriptive of what the law really does and isn't as offensive to people of a certain political persuasion the way "Obamacare" is.)

I've been listening to all the media outlets about this for the past two days and have to wonder: Am I the only one who's offended by the arguments being put forth for why universal health care can't work in the United States? The best they can do is, "Look at Canada" and then threaten to move to Costa Rica if Obamacare is implemented? 

I also have to wonder if any of them have 1.) been to a country with universal health care, and 2) used that system? Oh, that's right, Rush went to one of those to get his cheap Viagra that he then tried to sneakinto the country. He's willing to use those services, but not support them. (Sounds like he feels entitled, doesn't it?) I also wonder if they've done a comprehensive survey of ALL the countries with universal health care to see what the quality of service is? Their unsubstantiated allegations should offend all thinking people who would like to form a rational opinion based on real information.

What offends me most, however, is their underlying assumption that American's are too stupid and lack the necessary innovation to avoid the things that don't work, and learn from and use the things that do work in other countries' health care systems. They honestly think the people of this country don't have the wherewithal to develop the best universal health care system in the world. Isn't that a slap in the face to us all?

Those yelling loudest that universal health care can't and doesn't work use anecdotes, single data points, related through hearsay from a friend whose friend's aunt's mother had to wait six months for surgery in Canada, or France, or China. We're supposed to base our decisions and opinions on that? They point to cases of foreigners coming here for medical treatment. I can give you half a dozen anecdotes of people who are thrilled with their health care coverage in countries where universal health care is the law of the land, and tell you about busloads of US citizens who have sought healthcare in other countries when the US system failed them, too. I can even give you my own anecdote about receiving a house call from a doctor (no charge) while living in Germany because Matt was too sick to go to his office.

So what? That's a single data point. I'm a scientist. Rather than base my opinion on an anecdote or single data point, I looked into rankings from various expert sources. In its 2010 World Health Report, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the US as #37 in the world in terms of quality of health care (France, Italy, and San Marino are 1, 2, and 3, respectively) and we're #1 in terms of per capita health care expenditures.

In terms of quality, Costa Rica is ahead of us by 1 place, but they're 50th in terms of expenditures (again, Rush looking to get his piece of the pie he complains about without paying for it.) Who else outranks us? Most of Europe with their socialized medicine, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Oman, Dominica, Chile, Colombia, and more. Lagging behind us? African nations, some Pacific Island nations, and some countries in South America.
When those who oppose "Obamacare" argue that the US has "the best health care system in the world," are they really only talking about the third world?

Of course, the WHO study has its detractors. They say the rankings are biased and the US comes out so low because it doesn't take into account that life expectancy here is lowered due to the high rate of deaths due to "homicides, accidents, poor diet, and lack of exercise."

Umm...seriously? Your best argument is that we eat poorly, don't exercise, have too many guns in the hands of people with too little self-control, and are bad drivers? I think you just made the case that, not only does the US fit right in with third world countries in health care, but in pretty much every other social indicator, too.

We're not setting the bar very high, are we?

What I really want to know is why the Republicans think so poorly of American ingenuity, competence, and capability that they assume we can't come up with a way to implement universal health care that works? There are interesting articles in both Forbes magazine and the Business Insider about just who we might want to emulate (Switzerland) and why (they spend less on medical care than we do because the insurance market is more competitive.) The articles identify the strengths and weaknesses of other systems and point out some areas that we could improve. It's good food for thought for anyone who wants to think about health care in this country, rather than just spit back the party line.

It's sad that the flag-waving rabid-right have so little faith in this country that they don't believe we can improve things like health care, oil and gas dependency, environmental degradation, or the economy. Their "fix" for everything is to maintain the status quo: keep giving big businesses subsidies, keep us dependent on oil and gas, keep in place the medical system that no one is satisfied with (they haven't offered an alternative, only objections).

Unlike the Republicans, I believe in the people of our nation. I believe we have the capability and ingenuity to be innovative, to come up with unique, workable solutions to the problems that face us. The people who are benefiting from the problems, who are getting rich by perpetuating misinformation, need to get out of the way and let innovative people take over. This is the USA, after all, and YES, WE CAN. Don't believe anyone who doesn't have faith in America and tells you we can't.

Want to read more to learn the facts for yourself?

National Georgraphic report on health care spending:
World Health Organization: 
Business Insider article:
Forbes magazine article:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bring on the Gatekeepers, or Why I Won't Read Any More Self-Published Novels*

I came out of the closet this week. No, not that one. The "Anti Self-Published Books" closet. I've been afraid to say that out loud since many of the people in the writing groups I belong to have taken that path. I include the many "small publishers" whose entire author list consists entirely of themselves or their family members in that category, as well.

No offense to anyone who has self-pubbed their fiction or gone through a small, indy publisher. My first novel, Marina Melee is published by a small indy publisher, Casperian Books, and since they only publish print books and I put out the electronic version myself, I'm technically self-published, too. So, I'm sure there are some perfectly wonderful books out there, but because of the poor quality of the vast majority of these, I've made the decision to stop reading self-pubbed books*

Call me a reading snob if you will. I love to read, I love good writing, and even more, I love a good story. I'll forgive a lot of bad writing for a great plot. In the past few years, I've wasted loads of my valuable and limited reading time slogging through books that have neither good writing, nor a good story. They are just not ready for prime time. Mostly, the self-pubbed books I've read, with few exceptions*, read like the first draft of something I might like to read--after the author has outlined and cut out the tangential mess, revised, rewritten, edited, and reedited the story, then sent it to a professional editor.

Too many writers think one round of self-edits is plenty. Yes, Browne and King's Self-editing for Fiction Writers is a terrific resource, but every manuscript needs at least a second set of eyes to review it, if not a third and fourth. Marina Melee went through four rounds of editing: my own, two critique groups, and a professional editor, before going to the publisher. Their editor found a few more errors. Even after all that the book ended up with 2 typos. When I saw them, I wanted to cry. But, it was a good lesson and made me a kinder, gentler reader. I've stopped looking for "perfection" in editing, but if I'm going to spend my time and $$ on a book, I want it to at least have been proofread.

I know many self-pubbed authors will immediately come back with, "But I've read books by the big publishers that aren't very good." True, the big-6 make some poor choices, like giving giant advances to Jersey Shore "celebs" who can barely speak, much less write in English. Even though I wouldn't read that book, if I did I'd at least feel confident that the publisher had hired a ghost writer and editor. There might be a few typos in the books they put out, and there's no guarantee that the book will be my cup of tea, but I at least know it's not someone's first draft.

I expect my new stance against reading self-published novels* to raise hackles. So far though, I've been pleasantly surprised to hear I'm not alone. My time is too valuable to wade through all the crap out there looking for that one-in-a-million good self-pubbed novel. If it's that good, an agent or publisher will find it, or the buzz will be big enough that I'll hear about it. Of course, those aren't guarantees of a good book (as  demonstrated by a current novel that started as a self-pub, was bought by a big house, and is now on the bestseller list), but it greatly increases the odds that it won't be total tripe.

When the current self-publishing tidal wave ebbs and some vetting process evolves, I'll give self-published books another try. Who knows? If the vetting process is effective, maybe I'll even consider self-publishing in the future. Until then, bring on the gatekeepers! I have a new appreciation for everyone in the publishing industry who will slog through all the crap so I don't have to.

*except for those by authors whose work I know and trust