Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just like Utley's Home Run

Coming into work today, I was fully prepared to be bitter for the majority of the day. Really, I was already a little bitter.
Today was the day the Supreme Court would reveal their decision on the Affordable Care Act.
Today was also the day that I believed the people that labeled the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” would win, with the law declared unconstitutional, and repealed.
As I’ve said before, I’m not one to put very much trust in politicians. I am very jaded by the bickering, sniping, missteps and back-steps American politics have been so full of during my lifetime.
Many of the things I believe in have been trampled down and gone by the wayside or just outright ignored by the American political spectrum.
The Affordable Care Act looked to be one of those things.
But, sitting at my desk and going through the start-up routine of checking e-mail and creating story assignments, someone in the office said to someone else, “Are you going to get something up about the Supreme Court decision?”
I thought I’d heard somewhere that nothing would come down until the afternoon, so I was a little confused.
“You mean they decided?” I asked aloud to anyone.
Instantly, I checked Mark Knoller, my go-to for presidential politics, on Twitter, who confirmed that the law was upheld.
For days, I’d been through articles that basically prepared me for the worst. But when push came to shove, the outcome I’d hoped for came through.
I had a flashback feeling to last night when Chase Utley, whose knees seemed so bad that many were saying he’d never return to form, smacked a home run to right in his first at-bat back in a Phillies uniform.
Like Utley’s home run during such an abysmal Phillies season, the court’s ruling today feels like a glimmer of hope, that maybe things aren’t as bad as I think they are.
I don’t pretend to be an expert in the field of law. I do my best to struggle through court dockets and preliminary hearings in my day-to-day job. But I feel that I’ve kept myself knowledgeable about the Affordable Care Act and have talked with a diverse-enough crowd about it that I understand what it does and what it does not do for Americans.
For me, whether or not this law passed muster there would have no effect on whether I was covered for health care or not. I currently have a job that provides benefits that I’ll keep for the foreseeable future until the higher-ups figure out I’m not very good at said job. I have health care (well, in theory; I have to clear a few things up with HR).
But I also want the best for people. I know a lot of people that need this. In my experience, in what I’ve seen, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act far outweigh the cons.
I won’t have to pay the health care tax when this kicks in (provided I still have this job and its benefits). But if I didn’t, if I had to pay that tax, then that’s how it is and should be.
While in Wisconsin, I saw collective bargaining rights stripped from public workers. I did a lot of interviews and came across a lot of different people. A large portion of those that showed up to the protests in February of 2011 weren’t the ones having their CBA rights taken away. They were there to support those that did because they wanted to help out, because they were trying to look out for other people.
The most common opinion I found of those that were in favor of Governor Scott Walker’s bill?
“I don’t get those rights, why should they?
It was straight-up jealousy.
It wasn’t even about the reasons Walker claimed, lightening the state debt or promoting business, (which I highly doubted were even his own reasons). It was about being angry that someone has something they didn’t.
By and large, most of the things I pay taxes for don’t directly benefit me. I have a lot of the things I need and taxes don’t provide them for me.
But I don’t think twice about paying them because I (probably naively) know those taxes are supposed to go toward things that help people.
Helping someone can’t be limited to a choice. It needs to be mandatory and, in my mind, that’s where the Affordable Care Act comes in.
If some people have to get taxed, a group of people that could potentially include me at some point, as a provision in a law that ensures people with pre-existing conditions get the coverage they need to live as full a life as mine or anyone else’s, then that's what needs to be done.
For that, I’m sure I’ll be labeled a communist.
Oh well. I guess you can’t win them all.
But I think I already got the win I needed today around 10:30 this morning.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions (By Me)

So, it’s been a little while since I’ve posted.
First, I’ve been pretty busy with a lot of different stories. Second, I’m a little lazy because of that.
 ^Time spent not writing
As much as I like writing, when you do it day in and day out, even the fun stuff, like a blog, becomes a task and you develop sort of an aversion to it.
So that explains myself, I hope.
In any case, though I’m still a little busy and don’t have much time, I figured I could write a short and sweet one up for this week.
While working in the newsroom and talking with other staff members here, I’ve developed little, somewhat honest questions about life.
I figure I can share them with you here and, maybe, get some answers while also displaying my likely stupidity.
Here goes:
1.      Do dogs that have cancer lose their hair? (My childhood dog had stomach cancer but never got chemotherapy treatment or anything, so her hair stayed.)

2.      After discussing Nadya Suleman (Octomom) and her financial situation (stripping for food) I wondered whether you pay by the kid for invitro-fertilization, which I’ve heard is very expensive. Does the bill increase as more and more keep spilling out in the delivery room?
 That's like $750,000 worth of baby, right?

3.      Do penguins accidentally hit on other penguins’ lifemates as much as humans do?
 If I were a penguin on the dating scene, I'd totally be the one on the right pretending to see a plane.

4.      Do you have to salute the state auditor general? Curtsy? 
 Pictured, PA Auditor General Jack Wagner

Now, since I’ve posed so many questions, I’ll share one thing I’ve learned on the job.
After reading so many police reports and hearing so many stories, I’d say that 30 to 40 percent of those arrested either urinate or defecate themselves.
Even if my figures are off, it is a staggering amount.
As such, word to the wise, don’t sit down in a police station’s common area. Just don’t.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Late Memorial Day Post

           My family has a relatively strong history of service in the military.
My cousin Rich was a paratrooper that put in time in places he still isn’t allowed to tell us about. During a training jump, he was almost killed when an over-zealous jumpmaster pushed him out the plane’s door, causing him to tumble end over end into the sky.
            My dad joined the army in the early 70s after making a promise with God that if he were able to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, he’d join the military.
            My uncle served in the 60s, I’m not sure where, but he alluded to the distinct feeling of machine gun bullets passing over your head.
            My dad’s dad served with the Army Air Corps in the early stages of World War II with the 30th Fighter Control Squadron as a ground radar man. He had difficulty dealing with fireworks for the rest of his life after spending a more than a few nights in slit trenches on New Guinea under Japanese artillery fire and plane bombardment.
            My great uncle, Johnny, served as the top gunner on a B-17 and was shot down over Germany, the only survivor of his plane after flak blew up the nose of their plane and their flare locker. If you look, you can still see the faint outline of his goggles around his eyes, the only place on his body unburned.
This guy drank harder and kicked more ass than anyone can ever know.
            My great-grandfather even served, not in the U.S. military, but with the Austro-Hungarian Forces in the 19th century.
            That’s not even all of them. There are others that jumped from C-47s into France behind the beaches on D-Day, helped fight Rommel in North Africa or helped transport supplies with the Merchant Marine through the U-boat-infested Atlantic.
            As such, whenever I think about the military and the fact that I’ve never served, I get a tremendous feeling that stands somewhere between guilt and shame.
            So when I get assignments like the one I had for the Sunday before Memorial Day, I take it very seriously and gladly.
            For Memorial Day, I was assigned with a round-up article. Basically, I had to find out when and where all the parades, observances and other things associated with Memorial Day was going on.
            One such thing was a small ceremony that was to take place at a Revolutionary War soldier cemetery at 2 p.m. Sunday.
            Talking on the phone to the VFW and American Legion commanders about it, I got excited.
            “I know the place,” I’d tell them, smiling.
            I’d passed by it several times, noticing the small sign out front and the 13-starred flag. I’m something of a history geek and my awe of those that served in the military had always drawn me to the site.
            Unfortunately, I only went by when I was on assignment and busy, so I never had the time to stop and check it out.
            Now, I had the perfect excuse.
            When 1:30 rolled around Sunday afternoon, I hopped into my car and took off toward Route 23 from the office.
            It was hot, but a beautiful day and I enjoyed the drive. Sundays, as I’ve mentioned before, are slow, slow days usually, so I was happy to be out of the office with a nice little assignment.
            Eventually, I got out to the cemetery but thought it a little strange that no one was there. I was literally the only person at the site.
            I was about 15 minutes early so I thought that maybe they’d still come, so I began walking around the grounds and taking notes and video.
            It was a strangely peaceful place. In front of the 22 tiny Revolution-era American flags, past a wrought-iron fence, lay Route 23, just about five yards away.
            While I was there, documenting what I found at the gravesite of men dead from a fever sweeping through their army more than two centuries ago, a roadster that looked straight out of the Great Gatsby chugged by going east.
            Just a minute later, a sleek, black Lamborghini flew by traveling west.
            I had the distinct feeling of being at a strange crossroads in time.
            After about half an hour and remaining the only living person at the site, I decided to leave.
            It felt a little sad, that people might blow off those veterans.
            “That’s kind of shitty,” I said out loud to myself.
            I got back to the office and tried to think of how I could swing the story since it was slated for A1 in the next morning’s paper.
            While doing so, I got curious and looked at my own round-up story of Memorial Day events, at the spot where I mentioned the Revolutionary War graves.
            “That’s not right,” I murmured, looking at the article. “Why would they have told me the graves were in East Coventry when they’re obviously in East Vincent?”
            Doing a quick Google search, I suddenly realized my problem.
            “Oh, f***, there’s two of them,” I groaned before grabbing up my notebook and flying out the door, headed for the Revolutionary War soldier gravesite I didn’t know about, Ellis Woods in East Coventry.
            No one had abandoned the soldiers laying in East Vincent. They’d just done a service a week or two before.
            I was able to get the story on Ellis Woods. It wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but I really don’t mind it. It was worth getting out to both sites.
At the cemetery in East looking south, behind the flags and the low stone wall surrounding them, rolling fields, valleys and green hills, bluish in the distance, stretch out before your eyes.
It looks empty and if you squint so that the few radio antennas ahead disappear, you can see the country in the same way the 22 Continental Army soldiers there did.
            As a rule, I don’t like using the word “patriot” in my stories. In my opinion, it’s a broken word. It once truly meant something, but politicians, businesses and others have twisted it up and repurposed it for their own use far too many times.
            It’s a word that has so many latent, politicized connotations now that it’s almost worthless, in my opinion.
            Although the men at the cemetery in East Vincent were patriots in the truest, original sense of the word, I pushed that thought from my mind.
            Standing out by that cemetery, I thought of how timeless they were, regardless of the fact that they died nearly 250 years earlier.
            The nameless men there were the same as my grandfather who fought in the Pacific, same as my cousin who may or may not have been in Somalia.
They were all people that served their country in their best capacity.
And that’s a quality that I respect far too much to ascribe a broken word like “patriot” to.