Wendell Potter, My New Hero

I have a new hero.  His name is Wendell Potter, and he is a quiet-spoken, unassuming, middle-aged, white man-a native Tennessean-who is a former insurance company executive.  When he stopped working for Cigna he began to speak out, telling Americans what he saw and did during his more than 15 years in the private health insurance industry. 

I heard him first on the Bob Edwards show on National Public Radio.  The interview was so riveting that I sat in my car in a 95-degree garage to hear it to the end.  I dared not miss a minute of the education he was providing.  Since then I have looked further at his associations and his work in informing the American public about health care reform and the role that private insurance is taking in trying to prevent it from happening.  I find this man to be unassailably credible, primarily because he had nothing to gain (and much to lose) by leaving his cushy insurance job and becoming a truth-teller for his fellow citizens.  He is a man motivated only by the desire to right the wrongs that he has witnessed, and help provide decent health care for all of us.  Those motives are pretty doggone clean when you set them beside the profit motive that all those private insurers are living by. 

It takes courage to hear the truth.  We should all be courageous citizens, tireless in our quest for truth and compassion and dignity for all Americans.  About 99 percent of the time, this seems too flighty and idealistic and just plain difficult.  About 99 percent of the time, we want a quicky sound bite, an extra $10 in our pocket, and the feeling of belonging.  We prefer to feel that our local elected officials (and I’m talking east Tennessee and everywhere that a public option is being opposed) are batting for us and we don’t have to pay too much attention or take up a sign and walk the line for ourselves.  Unfortunately, that is not the truth.  Our local officials don’t want health care reform.  They want to continue to have friends and contributors in the private health insurance industry.  They don’t mind suspending reality to stick to the proscribed script, telling us that health care reform will be bad for us and that the current system is what we want and need. 

When Barack Obama mounted a campaign for president of this country, something happened to me.  I woke up.  I felt something that I thought died with Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.  I felt personal commitment and a sense of responsibility, and I stopped plugging my ears and started writing letters.  I also felt that-just possibly-my words and votes and actions had some small impact here. 

I already made a blog entry today.  I don’t want to be political all the time, nor do I intend the major subject of this blog to change.  But when I listen to Wendell Potter in this interview with Bill Moyers, and recall a conversation in a doctor’s waiting room just a few days ago, a woman confused about the implications of health care reform, but angry at her husband’s impossibly expensive prescription regimen, I have to come back to this topic.  As in Jeremiah 20:9, when he has a message that must come out: “…but His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not,” I feel the urgency and pressure of dispensing this message.

Here’s Wendell Potter:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QwX_soZ1GI.  Please take the time. 



Diamonds, Health and Houses

The word is out.  The Congressional Budget Office has scored the complete health care reform bill and it definitely looks affordable, hundreds of billions less than previous estimates.  Ezra Klein has summarized the results for WashingtonPost.com (Ezra Klein – Primary Documents: The Congressional Budget Office’s Score of the HELP Bill).  Definitely worth reading his brief post.  Here’s a bit more info on Alternet today:  The Results Are In: A Public Health Plan Saves Big Money | Health and Wellness | AlterNet.  The Congressional Budget Office is nonpartisan, has no political agenda.  Their role was to look at the provisions of the bill and tell members of Congress what it would cost and what they could expect as a result of passing it. 

Yesterday we shopped for houses.  I fell in love with a small house on a hill in a new subdivision.  It eclipsed everything I’ve seen before now.  I want to pack my bags, put my yarn in the car, and move across town.  The only hold-up is the home I’m living in, the perfectly lovely suburban house that I cannot keep and have not sold.  I climbed the stairs to the upper level four times last week.  My back and legs have been sending me nasty messages ever since.  Of course, cleaning out the garage may have also contributed.  I am trying to make it look less of a disaster zone.  One carload to Samaritan Center, one carload to the recycle center…the repeated litany of our debulking. 

I am up to the neckline and armhole ribbing on my father’s vest.  Can’t wait to show it.  I’m pleased with how it’s come along, and he will be happy, I think.  I have listed several new items in my stores-two pairs of fingerless mitts in the adult store (http://turtlefat.com) and several infant and child hats in the children’s store (http://turtletots.etsy.com). I decided to empty all the super-warm winter items from the adult store, streamlining the inventory to things that are seasonally appropriate.  I think it makes it much more shoppable. 

A last note for the day.  Rob Thomas performed at a Today Show concert today.  He sang Her Diamonds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQgaGS4BL6I&feature=related), and it was explained that the title refers to his wife’s tears.  She has an autoimmune disease.  In the song, she says that she cannot take it any more, and she cries.  He feels unable to help her, but stays by and cries with her.  A mate that understands having the disease – out of my realm of experience.  I will download the album and imagine having that relationship.


Blocking a Shawl and Unblocking Health Care

I start every day with breakfast and pills.  While I am waiting for the pills to do their thing, I get my first look at morning email.   My method of attack is to first scan the whole list and wipe out the junk – solicitations, sale notices, friending notes from Facebook, spam that the filter missed, and group conversation comments that I don’t want to read.  Next I attack the urgent mail – Etsy orders (woefully infrequent), real messages from family and friends (as opposed to the ever-present and quickly deleted forwards), and notifications from companies I pay on line.  Finally, I open the mail that takes a bit longer and requires more focus – Alternet mail with timely and informative articles on political and social matters, the New York Times headlines, new information on craft shows and markets, and comments on threads in my groups that I’d like to follow and perhaps contribute to. 

This morning, an interesting notice caught my attention.  It was a request to join hundreds of thousands of Americans in a petition from the Stand with Dr. Dean organization.  It has a very common sense argument for a public health plan.  If you’ve been following the issue, you know that huge numbers of our population (43 to 47 million Americans) have no health insurance, and thus miss out on most of the nonemergency health care that they should be getting.  There’s a lot of hoopla in Congress over whether we can afford to have a public insurance program, paid for by the government, to cover all of those people and perhaps any others who want to ditch their employer-sponsored plan.  The Dean organization points out that this is the only route for true health care reform, that any other option (involving just private insurers) is only insurance reform, and doesn’t address the real need for improved health care in this country.  They have a concise overview of the situation, comparing our vital health care statistics (life expectancy, survival of acute illnesses, etc.) with those of other developed nations.  The site includes a petition that you can fill out in one minute to join other public health option supporters.  Check it out:  http://standwithdrdean.com/ .

This week I’ve found time to admire someone else’s handknitting.  A friend brought me a gorgeous shawl to block, and I had a wonderful time working on it.  Knitted lace doesn’t look very special when you’re working on it.  It is the subsequent stretching that reveals the beautiful patterns and makes it hang with appropriate drape.  That is achieved by using wires and pins strategically placed to pull out the piece to its limits and accent the proper areas of the design.   I don’t think she will mind me showing you:  DSC04084 As you can see, I have pinned out the shawl on a queen-size bed (thanks, Dayna).  The pins go through the comforter and into the mattress, as they have to be securely anchored.  I prefer to pin it dry, then spray it with water using a perfume atomizer.  You can buy atomizers for a few bucks.  Never spray with a bottle that has held perfume, as it may discolor your piece.  I spray until the entire piece is damp, smoothing over the whole shawl with my hand to make sure I haven’t missed a corner. 

DSC04083  The shawl instructions gave only one dimension – about 68 inches from side to side.  You can see that it takes most of the bed length.  I put in the blocking wires at the top straight edges, and adjusted the fabric to achieve the proper width.  Then, working first the bottom corners, then bottom center, then filling in the sides and bottom spikes, I stretched until the pattern was clear and pulled to symmetrical dimensions.  The pins are placed at the very tip of the scalloped edge, emphasizing the diamond row above it.  DSC04088 Just another view of pretty!  This shawl takes my breath away.  Mary Z did a fantastic job! 

I gave it another spraying down with water today, because I removed a pin and found that it wasn’t holding its shape as well as I wanted.  I will give it another 48 hours of drying time, then remove all the pins and present it to its rightful owner (sigh). 

I have to apologize for the previous post, Rockstar.  I wrote it two nights ago and forgot to push the publish button.  Don’t neglect it, there’s some fun involved.