Archive for the ‘Appointments’ Category

Is a seat in the United States Senate worth over 100 million dollars? Is it worth $86 million? How about $78 or $72 million? What is worth spending those kinds of dollars? It seems that ever since the Supreme Court struck down the ruling on campaign contributions, PAC’s of all types and sizes are going wild with the money they are throwing around to get their candidate into a Senate seat. Senator John McCain was disgusted when he recently spoke to a Washington reporter. McCain, as we know, was one of the authors of campaign finance reform.

Back to the big bucks…Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis, the state House Speaker who is challenging her, could retire for life with the money that is pouring in from their party as well as from “independent” sources. In Colorado, Democratic incumbent, Mark Udall and his challenger, Republican Cory Gardner are wooing voters with over $86 million. And Udall is in trouble, in part because of his support of the Affordable Health Care Act.

If the Republican Party takes control of the Senate as it has the House of Representatives, it’s time for many people to be frightened. Obama might as well take the next two years off because he sure as hell isn’t going to get any bills passed by a Republican Congress. Senior citizens may as well take classes in shoplifting and other crimes to supplement what will surely be a reduction in Social Security…if it’s not cut altogether, along with Medicare benefits. Am I sounding like an alarmist? You-are-goddamned-right, because while Obama care is not perfect, the Republican House tried more than 40 times to get it repealed and failed each time. Can you imagine how fast it will go down the tubes if the entire Congress is controlled by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner? Neither has the courage to stand up to the Tea Party extremists like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Joe, “You’re a Liar” Wilson and other crazies who put themselves ahead of their constituents and the Republican Party they are supposed to represent.

If the 113th Congress was the least productive group ever to occupy the halls, the 114th will be one of the most productive, and Barack Obama may go down as the President who vetoed the greatest number of bills. The question then becomes, will Congress, with majorities in both houses be able to override those vetoes? If so, what will that mean to Mr. and Mrs. Average American?

How have we come so far away from where we started? Our founding fathers didn’t agree on everything that appears in the Constitution, but they at least had the ability to discuss questionable phrases and clauses within that document. In addition, there has always been a certain degree of rancor in both houses, but in the overall, things were accomplished, and we, the people, were better off because of it. That’s not so today.

Twice I voted for this President. I believed his rhetoric, and I still believe that he has the best intentions for the nation in his heart. Today, I believe he was not ready for the job; today, I believe that if he had waited; had gained more experience; had learned to listen to some of the more seasoned members “on the hill,” that he would have been better prepared. His failure to involve members of Congress from the onset of his presidency has cost him dearly with both parties. His inexperience in foreign policy has alienated many of our allies. His choices for department and division heads have been questionable, at best, and downright stupid in a number of cases. Could I have done a better job? Don’t be ridiculous. Could Hillary Clinton, his opponent for the nomination, have done a better job? I have no idea. Personally, I believe that Mrs. Clinton has a long list of people who did not serve her husband during his time as leader of the free world, and should she ever win the presidency, those folks would be wise to hunker down and hide.

I shudder to think how much money will be spent on the 2016 Presidential campaigns. My singular hope is that between now and then, a campaign finance reform bill will be passed by Congress, one that the Supreme Court will find acceptable, and that will make campaign spending more respectable. It’s time that “We the people” take back our rights; that instead of being led like sheep, we begin to howl like wolves and say that the rich may not be allowed to buy the United States Congress; that the rich may not be allowed to buy a President they can control; that there is a middle class in America, and we are sick and tired of being screwed by those who believe they can control us with their money.


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You’re going to have to forgive an old man if he misinterprets some of the horse manure that floats from the halls of Congress into the media below…or is it “onto” the media below. It really doesn’t matter a whole hell of a lot, but it seems to me that Congress is supposed to enact legislation for the benefit of its constituency; you know, the people who elected them. I don’t know where it says that they are supposed to go looking for ways to mess up an incumbent administration or cast aspersions on the Office of the President…keep an eye open, sure, but not beat a dead horse until the entire animal smells like what’s comin’ outta the south end.

The US mission in Benghazi was attacked by a group of who-knows-who [wink, wink] on September 11, 2012. The attack was fatal and killed a number of people. There were insufficient resources to defend the mission. That is the fault of US intelligence. That those resources weren’t there is the fault of US intelligence and the military not working together. That no one in the US Department of State or in any US intelligence agency OR any US military organization OR in any branch of government didn’t believe there would be an attack on the US somewhere in the world on the anniversary of the World Trade Center attack is sheer idiocy. Every mission, embassy, military post on foreign soil, and tourist who is travelling on September 11th of any year, should be prepare to be treated as a target. Anyone not considering this deserves whatever happens to them. What the hell has to happen for people to wake up to the fact that America is at war on its own soil as well as abroad.

The Republican House of Representatives is dissatisfied with how the Benghazi attack (a) could possibly take place in beloved Libya; (b) who should take the blame for the attack…not the attackers themselves, mind you, but who is to blame from the American side; (c) has been falsely described by the White House according to House Speaker John Boehner. To get to the bottom of all of this, Speaker Boehner is appointing a “select” committee to “… investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks, accusing the Obama White House of “misleading the American people” by withholding emails on Benghazi – emails that only just surfaced this week despite a 2013 subpoena.” According to the New York Daily News, Speaker Boehner stated, “This dismissiveness and evasion requires us to elevate the investigation to a new level. I intend for this select committee to have robust authority, and I will expect it to work quickly to get answers for the American people and the families of the victims.” Hey, Jack, the American people know what happened and the families of the victims don’t require constant reminders that they don’t have a loved one anymore. Build a goddamned bridge and get over it.

On the basis of Mr. Boehner’s House controlled half of the Congress, perhaps Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader from Nevada, should appoint a select committee to determine who is responsible for the erroneous information that precipitated our invasion of Iraq. Perhaps the Senator could subpoena then Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to testify where all of those wonderful and fraudulent photographs came from that “definitely” showed Iraq with weapons of mass destruction. We might have bring former President George Bush and his string-puller, Dick Cheney to the Halls of the Senate to tell us why 4,487 American soldiers died in a war that was (a) unnecessary; (b) a personal vendetta on the part of George Bush; and, (c) a bold faced lie.

Speaker Boehner is being led around by the nose by his aggressive Tea Party Republicrats. He has fallen in line with a group of crazies who will do anything, use any reason, and tell any lie to discredit the incumbent administration in order to gain an edge in the 2016 elections. Is the Obama administration withholding some information about Benghazi? Wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Did the Bush administration openly lie about the weapons of mass destruction that preceded the invasion of Iraq? Without question they did.

Benghazi is now a footnote in the history of the United States. We have not learned from it. We will probably be just as complacent on September 11th 2014 and then wonder why a mission, an embassy, a military outpost or fort was attacked. And leaders from the minority party will blame the leaders of the majority party and more horse shit will fly around the Halls of Congress. Meanwhile, important legislation will languish in some committee or other because either Speaker Boehner or Majority Leader Reid believes it will give brownie points to the opposition. Is this any way to run a nation? The idea of a two-party system [try to forget about the Tea Party for just a moment here, puh-leze] of government is wonderful. It’s wonderful as long as the two parties understand that their role is to move the country ahead in pursuit of goals that will help the nation. It doesn’t matter which party wins as long as the nation benefits as a whole.

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I read the Irish sports page every morning. I’ve heard it called the Jewish Tally Sheet, but for the most part, it’s called a sports page; I know that’s what my Italian friends call it.  It doesn’t matter; when you reach a certain age, the first thing you look for in the paper is the obituary section. You figure if your own name isn’t there it’s probably going to be a reasonably good day.

It’s always nice to learn that you didn’t die yet. I mean, there are some people I see walking around who just might feel better dead. You’ve seen them; they’re the ones who have “that” look on their face that indicates they don’t give a damn anymore. The world better get out of their way ‘cause they’re coming through. They’ll beat the crap out of you with their cane; they just don’t care. I remember the time when I had exited an elevator down town and one of them jabbed her umbrella down on my shoe as she said, “Outta my way, buster!” She couldn’t have been more than five feet tall; had that blue hair and a wizened up monkey face, but by God you better not get in her way.

There are several interesting things about the “sports” page. Have you ever noticed the photos that are used? The photograph is of a beautiful young woman, probably in her early twenties. Then you look at the obit itself and learn that “Mary Jones, 93, died on Sunday.” Ninety-friggin’-three! Who the hell is trying to kid whom? The other thing I notice is the way in which people die. “Charles Espenoza, 79, passed peacefully on Sunday…..peacefully, my ass! And ‘passed;’ what did he do, fart on his way to the Promised Land? Have you seen the obits of those who have “crossed to the other side?” How’d they do that? Somebody comes along – Charon or Acheron – and rows them across the river? I don’t know what to say when I see, “entered into rest;” No, he’s not resting; he’s all the way gone and coming back – as far as we know – is not an option. He is not taking a power nap.

Obituaries contain all of these wonderful words and phrases. The one that gets me is “passed peacefully;” Who the hell wants to “pass peacefully;” I want to “pass” fighting like hell and screaming, “Hey, not yet, it’s too soon…if I’m gonna go, somebody get me a bottle and a couple of cigars.” Screw this “peacefully” bullshit. I also love the ones that talk about, “Survived by his wife, Margaret with whom he shared 58 years of a loving marriage.” I’m sorry but if you had 58 years of bliss, you weren’t married; there had to be some point along the way when you two fought like cats and dogs. Hell, fighting is fun, but the making up is even better.

I saw one this morning. It was a local obit for someone in their late seventies as I recall. “Loving mother of…” and it listed someone in Homer. Alaska, someone in Florida, another on the West Coast, and I’m thinking to myself, “When the hell was the last time you saw them?” One of my kids lives in Michigan. I haven’t seen him in about seven years. He has his own family and job to worry about. He comes back for my funeral; I’m going to go haunt the son-of-a-bitch for wasting air fare. Don’t get me wrong; I love him dearly, but I can think of a lot better uses for his money than to come back and see a box of ashes. “Oh, can I see Dad? Open the box and sneeze…”Hey, nice to see ya, Dad; damn, you just blew everywhere, didn’t ya?” Gimme a break!

When I see “…died at home, surrounded by family, it conjures up an image of some poor bastard lying in bed with a hoard of greedy people staring – “think he’ll get another breath out…or was that it? – and wondering just what’s in the will. “He didn’t have a will? Holy Shit, how’re we gonna split things up? How about those that say, “…formerly of 51 Belmont Street, Rockland, 295 Gardener Street, Hingham, 60 Wild Harbor Road, Falmouth, 102 Lenox Street, West Newton, 62 North Avenue, Rockland, and…” and the damned thing goes on to list not only towns but street addresses. Hey, wait a minute; you’re paying for this thing by the word. It might be cheaper just to take out a full-page ad so you could show more pictures, including that one in the center showing the poor old bastard in the casket. Then you surround it with snapshots of the guys life…from birth to retirement party.

I joke about the obituaries but, of course, they are very serious business both to those who remain, and, ah, not so much to the deceased. I don’t care for those who say something like, “…died following a long battle with cancer.” My wife died of cancer. She lasted a hell of a lot longer than the doctors told her she would, but she didn’t battle with the disease. It took possession of her body and slowly, inevitably, destroyed her, piece by piece. There is no ‘battle,’  because in war, sometimes you might win a battle; you don’t win anything with Stage IV cancer that’s already metastasized.

I’ve lost enough of my friends that I should probably stop reading the obits. Lately, it seems that I know more and more of the names. It’s bad enough when you see the name of one person you knew from years ago, but when you start seeing two or three in the same paper, perhaps it’s time to read Dilbert or Mother Goose and Grimm, or some such. Well, there’s one good thing about one’s own obituary; at least I won’t have to read it!

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What can we say about the 113th Congress? Well, it’s young; that’s for darn sure. It’s inexperienced; when you have two freshmen holding seats on the House Appropriations Committee, you know there’s trouble from the git-go. In addition another freshman is chairing one of the Homeland Security subcommittees.

Initially, it seems that the first big debate for the new administration – pardon me; old administration in a new guise – will be the battle over the debt ceiling. How do we reduce our multi-trillion dollar deficit or do we raise the ceiling so we can spend more? Oh, wait a minute, we also have to discuss the matter of taxes and get that resolved in the next three months. How these two items can take the next four years is impossible to foresee, but I imagine that the Republican House of Representatives already has a plan in place that will stall progress for months and months to come.

It was nice of the Obama’s to cut the number of inaugural balls to two this time instead of the ten that were held as part of the last inaugural celebration. This time there was no limit to what corporate donors could give. Maybe we could use part of that to lower the budget deficit. Probably not because it was ‘earmarked’ – if there ever was a word to be hated, it’s ‘earmarked – for the celebration.

This Congress, this new group of inexperienced men and women, should not turn to their older colleagues for knowledge. The older members of Congress are too set in their ways. They are the most polarized group of politicians we have seen in decades, and that’s too bad. Corruption by continuation is no way for this country to reach new heights. The concept of proposing a bill meant to benefit the vast majority of Americans must not be allowed to become a contentious piece of legislation because some fool decided to attach a piece of pork that just might kill the bill in the final analysis. Perhaps there will be some young Republican Senator or Congressman/woman who will reach across the aisle and work closely with colleagues from the other party – and the opposite can be true – to outlaw earmarks and riders on legislation. It won’t be easy; it might mean his or her death knell, but this has to be done. It has to become part of the legislative process. We cannot allow this foolishness to continue. If we do, then we, the people of the United States of America, will finally begin to realize that the members of our legislative branch are for sale to the highest bidder. That, my friends, is not democracy. It is not the manner in which our form of government should be allowed to operate.

The President might want to let us, his loyal electors, know what his priorities are for the second term, not in the banal terms that he seems to toss around willy-nilly, but in real-life-honest-to-God words that the average American can understand. Don’t throw talking points at me, Mr. President; give me a real plan, day-by-day, if necessary and tell me what the hell you’re going to do for me, the guy who threw a few bucks into your campaign…more out of fear of what Herr Mitt might do rather than what you might don’t. As I listened to your Inaugural Address, I was completely unimpressed by its banality. I heard “gay rights, civil rights, and gun control.” It was the largest wagon-load of horse manure that Washington has seen since the mid-1800s.  Unfortunately, I can almost hear your yes men and women telling you how great it was. I’m sorry, sir, but it most assuredly did not carry the day.

Sorry – once more I digress. We’re all aware that, following the horror at Newtown, CT, the issue of gun control will once again be on the agenda. I’ve said before, but I must reiterate, this is a useless topic for Congress and the President to debate. No one is planning a rewrite of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, and we are not going to ban gun sales in the United States. As a consequence, that must go to the bottom of the barrel in terms of what can be done to accomplish tasks about which we might stand some chance of getting done.

It is important to remember that Congressional delegates will see about 10,000 bills and resolutions during their two-year tenure. Of that group only about 400 will actually become law. One of the greatest problems in consideration of all of these bills and resolutions is that they are written in “Congressionalese.” Let me give you just one example:  H.R. 307, entitled the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 is 97 pages in length. Its purpose is to “…reauthorize certain programs under the Public Health Service Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response, and for other purposes.” Oops, what are those other purposes?  Since the bill was written by Representative Mike Rogers of Mississippi’s Eighth Congressional District, does it also contain an earmark for one of the Congressman’s pet projects or does it not. As a Congressman, I suppose I should assume that since it’s a reauthorization, all is well. I’ll just have a staffer review it. But the freaking thing is 97 pages to reauthorize something that already exists. And that’s a short bill!

When he was at Harvard, Henry Kissinger gave an aide a 10-page monograph and asked for a summary. The aide returned with a 5-page summary. “Summarize it,” said Kissinger. The story goes that the aide damned near went crazy because of the number of times Kissinger sent it back. Finally, the 10-page monograph became a two-sentence summary that Kissinger read. It seems to me that there are probably too many 100+ page pieces of legislation that could be condensed by more than half and still cover all of the legalese bullcrap that so many bills contain.

And so, members of the 113th Congress, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Don’t just shake hands across the aisle once and then retreat to your trenches.
  • If you have a piece of legislation on your mind, seek the advice of many…from both sides. Open your mind to the fact that while he or she may be from the opposite party, they may also have some good ideas to improve your work.
  • Make your personal agenda brief. What do your constituents want that will best serve the largest group of Americans? If you’re in the House, it may be good for the District, but is it really important enough at this stage when, perhaps, larger issues are stake?
  • Listen. Most of us have a plague that blocks our ears to the thoughts of others. Remember the old expression, “My mind’s made up; don’t try to convince me with facts!” It’s true, particularly in the halls of congress…sad, but true.
  • Ask the second, third, and fourth questions when you are approached with a new piece of legislation. Too many of you stop after asking the most simplistic question of all: “What’s in it for me?”
  • Most important of all…remember how short of a period of time your tenure actually is. Make the most of it…for America; for your constituents; for you. Let’s get it on, folks.

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Dear Mr. President:

Many of us are delighted that you have been elected to serve another four years in the White House. Of course, there are also a significant number who would have preferred to see your opponent – we now call Mitt “him who shall not be named” but what the hell, one last time. On a personal note, my question remains, “How many bloody appeals were sent out after I’d offered a small contribution?” Your people sounded like beggars on the streets of NYC!

Enough of my complaints: Regrettably, you are losing several members of your Cabinet. Mrs. Clinton’s performance is beyond any superlative that I could possibly use. Heaven only knows how many millions of miles she’s logged; how many rubber chickens she’s been forced to nibble; how much bullcrap she’s been forced to smile through, or how many times she might have just liked to deck someone with a good right hook. The media gave her so much coverage that you, above all, had to know that some editor somewhere was just searching for a gaffe on her part. It never happened, and she is going to be horribly difficult to replace. While you may consider Ambassador Rice to be an excellent choice as a replacement, let’s get practical here; the trouble it will take to get her confirmed is not worth the effort. She may, in fact, be the person you consider most appropriate; she’s not, and it has nothing to do with her ability. She’s already been tarred with a brush that will only complicate your life. It would be similar to attempting to get South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson confirmed as Chief of Protocol…or even as Secretary of State. Certainly, Senator Kerry is an excellent choice; however, I would remind you that his contributions might well be better served in his current position as Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee where he can have some control over the other members of the Senate….better to keep this friend close.  You might ask, “Well, Dick, who would you choose?” and the answer is, “I don’t have a clue!” I am not a Washington person – other than a short stint at the Pentagon. Are there undersecretaries who are qualified to fill Mrs. Clinton’s shoes? Who would she recommend? What are going to be the hot spots over the next four years? Who has the ability to see that far ahead and can predetermine what the response of the administration should be? Is there a proactive person already in place who fits this description? No, I’m sorry, but the Blessed Virgin Mother has other things on her mind and Jim Baker is getting along in years. Frankly, I’d ask Joe Biden to be my point man on getting suggestions for this position, but for heaven’s sake, don’t ask for a brouhaha by attempting to push poor Ms. Rice through a procedure she will not survive.

So much for the Secretary of State; Leon Panetta will be another terrible loss. He has been – with no malice toward anyone else – your most loyal and trusted colleague. His intelligence and understanding of the Washington political scene is without equal. Here, believe it or not, I do have a suggestion. You may not care for it, but I would suggest that Eric Kantor be nominated for the position of Secretary of Defense. Granted, it would be on-the-job-training for the Congressman, but his determination and drive could serve as a useful weapon in eliminating a certain amount of waste from both the Pentagon and other redundant areas within the military. In addition, it would be an eye opener for the Congressman from Virginia to learn the actual price of vigilance in America. Maybe then he would understand what it means when we say that “freedom isn’t free.” Again, I would caution you about losing John Kerry to this position. The Senator is a remarkable man. I compare his talents in the Senate to those of some of the former great political leaders such as Everett Dirksen of Illinois, Sam Rayburn of Texas, as well as our own “Tip” O’Neill and Ted Kennedy.

Before I go, let me examine another position…raising the taxes on those making $200K and up just won’t work. If you raise it to those making $500,000, I think you might win some votes from some Republican holdouts. Of course, I should note that I never made more that $56,000 in my life, but what the heck, you know who educators get paid. If House Speaker Boehner can’t get his folks to buy into the half a million pact, he’s not trying.

You’ve asked for my input through other sources and I have failed to respond. This time I figured that I just can’t leave you in the lurch. You’ve worked too hard and too long not to hear from someone who has every confidence in your abilities and has put his money where his mouth is [as modest as my financial commitment was].  As you begin your second term I wish you the very best. Forget about any kind of ‘legacy;’ It will forge itself as you and a cooperative Congress – yeah, right – work together to move America forward.



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I’m not certain for whom or which I have the greatest distaste. Is it doctors, those pompous, arrogant, cocksure practitioners of what they call medicine? Or perhaps it’s the hospitals where, if you are in the emergency room with anything short of a heart attack or a body covered in blood, you are treated as a colossal waste of their precious time?

Now, having made all of these denigrating remarks about physicians and the mansions – a.k.a., hospitals – that many of them call home, allow me to flip the coin to the other side. If not for some of these contemptuous, annoying, insipid, medical harpies, I would be dead…several times over…which is not only redundant but stretches the limits of the truth. In addition, I must admit that some of these grandiloquent, self-important dilettantes are extremely likeable characters. With one notable, now retired cardiologist whose routine called for keeping his patients in his waiting room for a minimum of one hour beyond their appointment time, my heart healers have been magnificent. The late Doctor ‘Chip’ – I never did learn his first name – Gold was a character beyond characters. I don’t believe Chip ever slept; I suppose that could have been what killed him…it wasn’t but it could have been. He would generally arrive in my room at Massachusetts General Hospital sometime between two and three o’clock…in the morning. He would hover like a ghost over my bed. He wouldn’t say anything…just hover. Eventually, his presence would wake me. It was interesting because I never woke with a start. It wasn’t like someone scaring the crap out of you; it was merely that I knew someone was there. Looking back, it was a remarkable gift on his part. Should I meet him in an afterlife, I must ask him how the hell he was able to accomplish such a feat. Here comes the interesting part…the first words that generally came out of his mouth were, “Whatcha reading?” On one of his early-on, infrequent day visits, I had been reading a Tom Clancy novel. He practically tore it from my hands, dropped into a chair and began reading. “Ooh, I haven’t seen this one yet,” he said…and read some more. It was rather strange but learning that our reading tastes were similar, that would be his first question…in the middle of the freaking night! Chip was one of those doctors who was (a) an excellent surgeon; (b)an extremely caring physician; (c) an impossibly funny prankster, and; (d)a doctor with an international reputation that had him flying back and forth from the U.S. to Europe…that may be when he slept, although he denied that and said it was when he read.

Before you begin to believe that my first paragraph was a lie, allow me to tell you about my primary care doctor. It’s been so long since I have seen him that I don’t really remember what he looks like. Last year, because he happened to accept a call from a dental surgeon – mine – he told this doctor that I had atrial fibrillation and would be on a blood thinner for life. First, I do not now, nor do I ever hope to have atrial fibrillation and second, the only blood thinner I take is a baby aspirin for my heart. When I learned what he had said, I asked that he correct himself with the dental surgeon…he never did. I asked that he apologize to me for making such a stupid mistake…he never did. If it weren’t for the fact that his nurse practitioner is so damned good, I would have changed doctors some time ago. It’s too bad because years ago, when he had a partner, they diagnosed me with a blood disease that (they said) would have killed me within 24 hours had they not caught it. So, here again, I owe a physician my life. Too bad he changed and became a horse’s ass.

Enough about doctors; let’s talk about hospitals…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Every hospital has a horror story; some are worse than others. My personal stints have included Newton-Wellesley, New England Deaconess, Tufts New England Medical Center, South Shore, and Massachusetts General. Let’s see…where to begin. Following my first heart attack I was taken to Mass General in Boston. It’s a fine hospital and is also where I met Dr. Gold. From a physician point of view, it was great. However, since I was recuperating on a cardiac floor…strictly a floor for cardiac patients, I really didn’t appreciate various people coming in on four different occasions to take me down for chemotherapy…definitely not a heart attack treatment. Mistakes can be made anywhere.

It was at Tufts New England Medical Center that I saw the real ugly. I watched a cleaner stand in the middle of an ICU for three and a half hours, leaning on her wide mop and not moving, while nurses and doctors walked around her. She just plain did not move. Of course, the fact that she looked to be about 350 pounds may explain some of her lack of movement. In front of the mop was a small pile of bandage wrappers, dust, surgical tape, and other crap, but she did not move it. At one point, I asked my doctor if the cleaners were unionized. He allowed as how they were not. I said, “Then why doesn’t someone fire that fat bitch who’s been standing there for over three hours?” He looked; looked back at me, and just shook his head. On my follow-up visit, I reminded him of our conversation. “Weren’t you being a bit of a racist?” he asked. I couldn’t believe his response. I don’t give a damn what color you are; you stand like a post for that length of time, your butt should be out the door!

There is not one negative thing I can say about New England Deaconess. The place was immaculate; the nurses were fantastic; my neurosurgeon, who would die of pancreatic cancer less than two years following my surgery was remarkable, and, and…and…in addition to fixing my cervical disc problem, he got me to quit smoking. Rest in peace, Howrd Blume; rest in peace.

Newton-Wellesley is my local, suburban hospital. US News ranks it among the top 100 suburban hospitals in the country. I can look back on the times when it wasn’t so great, but I can also say that the changes that have earned it the justified ranking of “top 100” have come about so quickly that there are few bad things I can say about it. To paraphrase Marc Antony, “The good these people do will live after them; the evil or bad stuff has been interred long ago.” My life was saved at Newton-Wellesley by a young woman who has been deaf since birth and by a former M.A.S.H. doc who asked the right questions. The woman, an ultrasound technician, noticed a blood clot in my leg. She called the doctor who asked if I was short of breath. The upshot was that they discovered a pulmonary embolism in my lung…that’s a bad thing…and took immediate action to clear my lung of the blood that was leaking into it. The procedure was life-saving, and I have since had the opportunity to meet and thank both the tech and the doctor responsible.

Whatever hospital you choose, you or someone close to you has to be alert. All hospitals make mistakes, some that can be fatal. Certainly, things aren’t as bad as they used to be, but even today, mistakes do happen. As patient, family member, or friend, it is not your right to question; it is your responsibility to do so.

Oh, South Shore Hospital? How the hell should I know? I was seven years old and having my tonsils removed. Damn, that ice cream was good!

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