Thursday, April 03, 2008


By Fred Owens

A lot of my attention is on the news from Zimbabwe. The Old Man, Robert Mugabe, is packing his suitcase now, a suitcase full of diamonds and bundles of Euros -- but he is on his way out. The Zimbabwean community in Seattle has an Independence Day party every year on April 19 -- this year they will have something to celebrate.

I lived in Zimbabwe for a year in 1998 and married my second wife there. We came back to America and lived together for five more years and then divorced. She stayed in America. She has a decent job and is able to wire money to her family back in Zimbabwe

I called her this morning to get the news from her home. For the past few years, news from her is about which one of her relatives back home has died. Today she told me that her cousin Francis, a young man, was dead, and that her cousin Tante will soon die. Tante is in her mid-forties and has eight children. I didn't ask what caused their death, I only said I was sorry and how I remembered the times I spent with them.

It's like that for every family in Zimbabwe. Mugabe's departure might not make things better.

SAY IT IN A NICE WAY. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week that the United States still has trouble dealing with race because of a national "birth defect" that denied blacks the same opportunities as whites when the country was founded.

"Black Americans were a founding population," she said. "Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together -- Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That's not a very pretty reality of our founding.

Didn't Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, say the same thing?. Of course Rice is a diplomat, so she said it in a much nicer way.

NATIONAL HEALTH CARE. Of 2,000 American doctors surveyed, 59 % said that they favored a universal national health care plan, according to a survey published by the Reuters News Service. The U.S. has over 800,000 doctors.

Frog Hospital surveyed only one doctor, Dr. Roy Berkowitz, who practices family medicine in Somerville, Massachusetts, a working class suburb of Boston. Dr. Berkowitz said, and I quote, "Anything is better than what we have now."

Berkowitz was my family physician when I lived in the Boston area 15 years ago. He likes his work and he makes a good living, but he is buried in paperwork from HMOs and insurance companies.

WORLD'S LARGEST BUREAUCRACY. Frog Hospital does not support A universal national health care plan for over 300 million Americans. It could create the largest bureaucracy in the nation's history. The next President needs to first demonstrate competence solving a more tractable problem, such as immigration reform. Or California and Massachusetts can forge ahead with their single-player plans -- if those work, a bigger program might be attempted.

YOU CAN KEEP YOUR HAT ON. You get sent to the hospital, you get admitted and sign a million papers, and then they take you to a room, and you take off all your clothes, and you put on one of those ass-waving-in-the-breeze hospital gowns. This is nothing to the hospital staff, in terms of your personal nakedness -- they are SO not interested. But your sense of modesty is challenged, and worse, your identity has been stripped -- because there is nothing in that room that looks like home. Of course it's spanking clean, and the sheets are fresh, and you have a TV. It doesn't even smell like hospitals used to smell -- they have an excellent ventilation system and they use odor-free soap.

And the nurses are all very nice to you -- it's just that you can't actually do anything, they won't let you.

But you can keep your hat on.

I will need to explain this. With all the gizmos and wires and tubes they are using or might use on you, they need to get hands-on access to every part of your body -- that's why you're wearing that skimpy gown. But you can keep your hat on, because it won't get in the way, and so, be you a lady or a gentlemen, you can still BE YOURSELF.

I've been thinking that I would visit the Big Nurse down on the first floor, and make a suggestion that we put a sign at the entrance to the unit that says, "You Can Keep Your Hat On."

A sign wouldn't cost very much money, and the incoming patients would find it re-assuring.

Actually, I get lots of ideas about how things could get better at the hospital. I kept a notebook for jotting down ideas, but when I reviewed them all, I found a common thread -- they all cost money. And do the Higher Ups want to hear my expensive suggestions? I think not. So I am searching for ideas that will save money and discovering that is not so easy.

SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE CONTINUES. With sufficient funds this newsletters could be proof-read and edited. Editors fix problems -- they make sure that facts are really facts, and attributed to a source -- stuff like that. It would not cost a great deal to engage an editor for this newsletter, but it would make a great improvement.

Please mail a check for $25, made out to Fred Owens, and mail it to

Fred Owens
Box 1292
LaConner WA 98257


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