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Author Archives: damonjwalker

John Sandford’s ‘Lucas Davenport’ Series

I am re-reading one of John Sandford’s excellent police procedurals centered around Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport. Lucas may be my favorite character in popular fiction and the books are great because, over and above the mysteries, he is surrounded by an entertaining group of realistic characters.

The interplay between Sandford’s people, and his good eye and wry wit when describing people and situations is reason enough to dive into this great series. By all means, start with Rules of Prey. It is the first of what is now a 26-book series and you want to follow along as Lucas and those close to him change and grow, and…

The one I am re-reading is Night Prey and, while I know who the killer is, I don’t remember exactly how they put the case together and catch him. (Give me a break. I read it more than twenty years ago for the first time.) I am just in the mood to be entertained and this is doing the trick.

Night Prey cover

Here is an excerpt to show you how well Sandford plies his trade:

“You cleared the domestic on Dupont,” Lucas asked. [He is talking to Det. Sloan]
“Yeah, with the hammer and chisel.”
“Hurts to think about it.” Lucas grinned.

“Got it right between the eyes,” Sloan said, impressed. He’d never had a hammer-and-chisel job before, and novelty wasn’t that common in murder. Most of it was a half-drunk guy scratching his ass and saying, Jesus, she got me really pissed, you know? Sloan went on. “She waited until he was asleep, and whack. Actually, whack, whack, whack. The chisel went all the way through to the mattress. She pulled it out, put it in the dishwasher, turned the dishwasher on, and called 911. Makes me think twice about going to sleep at night. You catch your old lady staring at you…”

“Any defense? Long-term abuse?”

“Not so far. So far, she says it was hot inside, and she got tired of him laying there snoring and farting. You know Donovan up in the prosecutor’s office?”
“Yeah.”
“Says he of taken a plea to second if it’s been only one whack,” Sloan said. “With whack-whack-whack, he’s gotta go for first degree.”

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Is Fox News Guilty of Extortion?

On July 24, 2016 the Sunday edition of The New York Times carried an article disclosing a significant pattern of sexual harassment at Fox News, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation media empire.

Headlined At Fox News, Kisses, Innuendo, Propositions and Fears of Reprisal the piece focuses on Rudi Bakhtiar, who “came to Fox News Channel’s New York headquarters with a command of foreign policy, an appealing personality and a delivery that easily switched between light and serious.

Rudi-Bakhtiar

I remember Rudi Bakhtiar from her days on camera at CNN. I was very disappointed when she moved to Fox News because I don’t, for the most part, watch it.
 
When I read that they had dropped her I couldn’t believe it. I should have suspected something like this because she was an excellent newscaster, very sharp and fluid. Seemingly knowledgeable about everything she addressed (i.e. not just a copy reader). And she was a stunning presence on the screen.
 
If there is any substance to what is alleged in this article, I don’t see why Fox News wouldn’t be the subject of a RICO investigation. This would be a sustained pattern of extortion. Just because it is not money, doesn’t mean that the victim is not being extorted. In fact, in this case, it deals with something more precious than money.

 

 

The Sad State of Presidential Politics

I can think of no better symbol of how low our national politics have sunk than the current structure of convention coverage. We have gone from Walter Cronkite, Eric Severeid, Huntley/Brinkley, Frank McGee and Roger Mudd, to:
 
Bill Mahr, Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Seth Myers and Stephen Colbert.

John Oliver

colbert2

Comedian Stephen Colbert.

 

I have nothing aginst these guys, who are all very talented and entertaining. But the personnel fits the product… a joke.
 
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Posted by on July 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Cortez at the Pacific Ocean

One of my all-time favorite poems is John Keats’ “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer,” where he expresses the moment of discovery of something unimagined.

The final image is a simile comparing Keats’ awe with that of Hernando Cortez and his men and how they must have felt when they topped a mountain in Darien (now called Panama) and were the first Europeans to sight the awesome power of the Pacific Ocean.

Pacific-Ocean_-2.jpg

From ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ – BY JOHN KEATS

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

 
 

Le Lac Superieur

Lake Superior, in the United States, is considered the largest fresh-water lake in the world, when considering total surface area (31,700 square miles) . It is not only the largest lake in North America, but its water volume exceeds the total of all the other Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan & Erie) combined.
Lake Superior
The name Lake Superior was Anglicized by the British from the French designation “le lac superieur” meaning “the highest lake.” French explorers gave it that appellation since it extended geographically North of the others.

 
The true name of this massive glacial inland sea is, in Ojibwa Gichigami, or to the Anishaabe, Gichiami, depending on which group of the Ojibwa/Algonquin people you consult. I first heard this as a wee lad when my mother would read to me of a hero who live with his grandmother, Nokomis.

Hiawatha Granger Lithograph

Illustration by Felix Octavius CarrF. O. C.Darley (June 23, 1822 – March 27, 1888)

From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha

By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.
All the air was full of freshness,
All the earth was bright and joyous,
And before him, through the sunshine,
Westward toward the neighboring forest
Passed in golden swarms the Ahmo,
Passed the bees, the honey-makers,
Burning, singing in the sunshine.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

At the Threshold?

We are individuals, each our own person in various ways. We perceive pain differently. What may be agony to one person is, for another, a tolerable discomfort to be conquered.

While I do some cycling for exercise, I look at what the riders on each year’s version of the Tour de France endure (2,000+ miles over 23 days; sprints at 50-60 MPH mixed with endless rides up the mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees) and I simply don’t see how they do it.

We have different tolerances for alcohol, noise, crowds, disorder. This is all part of what makes us a species with remarkably varied levels of tolerance.

Today, when checking the news wires, I was struck by another area in which we seemingly have vast differences in taste and tolerance – the level at which we judge someone to be a stark-raving lunatic.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

JFK Throws Out First Pitch – April 8, 1962

The Atlantic has released a 50-picture trove of photographs of John F. Kennedy, from before and during his presidency. Below is JFK getting ready to throw out the ball to start the American League season on April 8, 1962.
What I find particularly interesting is that on Kennedy’s immediate left is Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-IL) who was, at that time, the Minority Leader in the Senate. Can you imagine, in this day and time, a president and the Senate leader of the opposite party (whether Minority or Majority) choosing to sit together through an entire baseball game?
We have become a fractious and infantile society. I think the greatest influence on our political climate, over the last 20 years, has been the World Wrestling Federation.
President John F. Kennedy opening the American League season at a Washington Senators game, April 8, 1962.

President John F. Kennedy opening the American League season at a Washington Senators game, April 8, 1962.

 

 

You can view the entire collection at: http://www.theatlantic.com/special-report/jfk/

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2013 in Look Back In History

 

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Cute! Sorry to lose Hilary from the national stage, but she deserves a rest.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Three of Four Doctors Prefer Public Option

A new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that three of four physicians prefers Health Care reform that includes a public option. More than 62% of respondents opted for reform that includesa public option as an alternative, or in addition to, existing private health . Another 10%+ prefer a public-only, single-payer, system. Added together, this means that three of every four practicing physicians prefer a plan in line that proposed by President Obama.

Don’t just take my word for it. here is the text of the NEJM report:

Doctors on Coverage — Physicians’ Views on a New Public Insurance Option and Medicare Expansion

Posted by NEJM • September 14th, 2009 • Printer-friendly

Salomeh Keyhani, M.D., M.P.H., and Alex Federman, M.D., M.P.H.

In the past few months, a key point of contention in the health care reform debate has been whether a public health insurance option should be included in the final legislation. Although polls have shown that 52 to 69% of Americans support such an option,1 the views of physicians are unclear. Physicians are critical stakeholders in health care reform and have been influential in shaping health policy throughout the history of organized medicine in the United States.2

The voices of physicians in the current debate have emanated almost exclusively from national physicians’ groups and societies. Like any special-interest group, these organizations claim to represent their members (and often nonmembers as well). The result is a well-established understanding of the interests of physicians’ societies but little, if any, understanding of views among physicians in general. Faced with this absence of empirical data, we conducted a national survey of physicians to inform federal policymakers about physicians’ views of proposed expansions of health care coverage.

In April 2009, we obtained data on a random sample of 6000 physicians from the American Medical Association (AMA) Physician Masterfile, which includes current data on all U.S. physicians. We excluded physicians from U.S. territories because health care reform may not be as relevant to them, and we excluded physicians in training because of their limited experience with insurance; a sample of 5157 physicians remained. We categorized physicians into four groups: primary care physicians (in internal medicine, pediatrics, or family practice); medical subspecialists, neurologists, and psychiatrists; surgical specialists and subspecialists; and other specialties. The survey instrument we used was developed with the input of an expert panel, and we conducted cognitive testing and pilot testing to ensure its clarity and relevance. (More detailed information about our methods can be found in the Supplementary Appendix, available with the full text of this article at NEJM.org.)

NEJM Report Data

NEJM Report Data

Survey respondents were asked to indicate which of three options for expanding health insurance coverage they would most strongly support: public and private options, providing people younger than 65 years of age the choice of enrolling in a new public health insurance plan (like Medicare) or in private plans; private options only, providing people with tax credits or subsidies, if they have low income, to buy private insurance coverage, without creating a new public plan; or a public option only, eliminating private insurance and covering everyone through a single public plan like Medicare. We also assessed the level of physician support for a proposal that would enable adults between the ages of 55 and 64 years to buy into the current Medicare program — a strategy that the Senate Finance Committee has proposed.

Data were also collected on additional variables that might be associated with preferences for different expansion options, such as time spent on clinical duties each week, whether physicians owned their own practice, salary status, and type of practice. The survey has been in the field for approximately 2 months (June 25, 2009, to September 3, 2009). All available data were analyzed on September 4, 2009. A third survey wave was initiated on August 27, 2009.

The final sample included 5157 physicians, but 221 of them had an incorrect or incomplete address or were deceased. Of the remaining 4936 physicians, 2130 returned the survey — a response rate of 43.2%. Women made up a smaller proportion of respondents than of nonrespondents (26.8% vs. 31.2%, P<0.001), and the average age of respondents was 1 year older than that of nonrespondents. There were no significant differences associated with practice location (census division or urban vs. rural setting), practice type, or specialty group. There were no significant differences in the characteristics of respondents to different survey waves (for details, see the Supplementary Appendix).

Overall, a majority of physicians (62.9%) supported public and private options (see Panel A of graph). Only 27.3% supported offering private options only. Respondents — across all demographic subgroups, specialties, practice locations, and practice types — showed majority support (>57.4%) for the inclusion of a public option (see Table 1). Primary care providers were the most likely to support a public option (65.2%); among the other specialty groups, the “other” physicians — those in fields that generally have less regular direct contact with patients, such as radiology, anesthesiology, and nuclear medicine — were the least likely to support a public option, though 57.4% did so. Physicians in every census region showed majority support for a public option, with percentages in favor ranging from 58.9% in the South to 69.7% in the Northeast. Practice owners were less likely than nonowners to support a public option (59.7% vs. 67.1%, P<0.001), but a majority still supported it. Finally, there was also majority support for a public option among AMA members (62.2%).

20090914_keyh_f1Physicians’ Support of Options for Expanding Insurance Coverage and Medicare.

Panel A shows the proportion of survey respondents who favored public options only, those who favored both public and private options, and those who favored private options only. Panel B shows the proportions of respondents (according to their medical specialty) who supported, opposed, or were undecided about the expansion of Medicare to include adults between the ages of 55 and 64 years. The proportion of support was consistent across all four specialty groups (P=0.08).

20090914_keyh_t1

Overall, 58.3% of respondents supported an expansion of Medicare to Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 years (see Panel B of graph). This support was consistent across all four specialty groups, with proportions in favor ranging from 55.6% to 62.4% (P=0.08).

Physicians’ groups have strongly influenced efforts in health care reform throughout modern U.S. history2 and in so doing may have often obscured the collective views of individual physicians across the spectrum of specialties, interests, and regional affiliations. Given the enormity of the current effort to reform health care and its potential effect on future generations of Americans, policymakers need to hear the views of the whole range of physicians on the key elements of reform.

On one of the most critical elements — expansion of coverage — our study of a national sample of physicians showed that a clear majority support a combined public–private approach to expanding health insurance. We found that physicians’ support for including a public option in the reform package largely mirrors the support revealed in national public polls conducted throughout the spring and summer of this year.1 A similar proportion of physicians also supported the expansion of Medicare to help cover the near-elderly population. Support of public and private options was consistent across a wide range of physicians, including those from the traditionally conservative southern regions of the United States, those with a financial stake in their practice, and members of the AMA — despite that organization’s history of opposition to reform efforts.2 The AMA’s 2009 platform on health care reform originally endorsed an expansion of health insurance through private means.3 But the organization recently came out in support of a House proposal for reform that includes a new public option4 — a position that our data suggest is consistent with the views of its members.

Some limitations of our study deserve comment. First, our response rate was 43.2%, which is modest, though typical of the most recent national physician surveys and surveys in general. There were no significant differences between survey respondents and nonrespondents in important characteristics, such as specialty, practice location, and practice type. Second, physicians’ opinions about strategies for expanding health insurance coverage may have evolved during the period of data collection, given the intensive press coverage of the issues. However, we found no significant differences between respondents in the first and second waves of the survey. Finally, we did not ask physicians their views on other proposed solutions, such as insurance cooperatives.

Nonetheless, it seems clear that the majority of U.S. physicians support using both public and private insurance options to expand coverage. A majority of physicians also support the expansion of Medicare. Support for the public option is consistent across physician specialties, practice settings, and regions of the country, and therefore should be carefully considered by lawmakers as they finalize legislation to reform health care and provide coverage for 47 million uninsured Americans.

No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

Source Information

From the James J. Peters Veterans Administration Medical Center, Bronx, NY (S.K.); and the Department of Health Policy (S.K.) and the Division of General Internal Medicine (S.K., A.F.), Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York.

This article (10.1056/NEJMp0908239) was published on September 14, 2009, at NEJM.org.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2009 in Health Care Debate

 

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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist & Hurricanes

Perpetually orange/tan Florida Gov. Charlie Crist told a group of Florida real estate agents last Friday that he has been personally placing, or having someone else place, a prayer in the Western Wall of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem once a year since he became Florida’s governor.

Commonly referred to as “The Wailing Wall” the structure in question is the only remaining portion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Originally built around 960 BC by King Solomon, according to the Bible (and numerous non-religious sources, as well), the “First Temple” was destroyed by the Babylonians in the war leading to the Babylonian Captivity which dominates a good segment of the Old Testament.

Rendering of Solomon's Temple

Rendering of Solomon's Temple

Around 516 BC, Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great, in a move heretofor unique in history, set the Hebrews free and underwrote, out of his treasury, much of the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem AND the Temple. Amazing! The gift of freedom and economic support to a former enemy by an absolute monarch of a completely different ethnic culture and religion. A burst of generosity and peace completely unprecedented in human history. And never equaled except, perhaps, when Pres. Harry Truman created the plan to rebuild Europe and named it for his Secretary of State Gen. George C. Marshall. (Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1953.)

Rebuilt over several hundred years, the Temple was again destroyed in 70 AD, this time by the Romans. Never since reconstructed, the only portion of the original (2nd) structure is the wall on the Western side, hence the Western Wall. The sobriquet “Wailing Wall” comes from the tradition of offering prayers, in the form of chants to Yahweh while facing the Temple Wall, most often from a standing position while rocking back-and-forth. Particularly important prayers are commonly written out on tiny “scrolls” of paper and inserted in the crevasses between the stones of the wall. It is this tradition, the written prayer inserted in the Western wall, that Gov. Crist, a Methodist, was referring to.

Prayers inserted in the Wailing Wall

Prayers inserted in the Wailing Wall

What does this have to do with hurricanes?  That is exactly what the governor was purporting to explain to the meeting of agents. He noted that in the two years before his elevation to the governor’s chair, Florida had been hit by a total of eight hurricanes.

“Do you know the last time it was we had a hurricane in Florida? It’s been awhile. In 2007, I took my first trade mission. Do you know where I went?” said Crist, a Methodist, referring to a trip to Israel.

He then told of going to the Western Wall and inserting a note with a prayer. He said it read, “Dear God, please protect our Florida from storms and other difficulties. Charlie.”

Crist had a friend, Sen. Nan Rich, place the same prayer in the Wall on a trip to Israel during 2008. This year, in May, another friend repeated the same task.

“May, June, July, August — we’re getting closer,” Crist said. “Knock on wood. I would ask you all to say a prayer.”

Afterward, he said he’s not taking credit for the lack of storms in this hurricane-prone state.

“I give that to God,” Crist said. “But it’s nice.”

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Nice that Charlie doesn’t want to hog all the credit. But here’s my question. Is God, in all his bloodthirstiness, sitting out there just itching to blast significant portions of Florida away, killing a few of his beloved subjects in the process, and only held in check as long as Orange Charlie keeps sticking scrolls in the wall?

Follow up question: Given the state of the real estate market throughout Florida, do you think that what the agents most wanted to hear was about how Charlie is in good with The Lord?

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Posted by on August 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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