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Law > Stir It Up

Raking the bottom

Neighborhood problems, the health care debate and more

 

Published 12/2/2009

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Everybody has some sort of screen for calculating just how bad things have gotten around here. When I started hearing about people breaking into houses and stealing food, I knew the desperation level had ramped up. I got more peeks at the carnage the past couple of weeks. First, I heard about a group of men who were caught stealing pipes from a home. Their cover was that they were pretending to rake leaves at the house they were stripping.

That didn't make me feel like hiring any of the several young and not-so-young who came to my door asking for yard work. And I looked more closely at people I saw raking leaves in the neighborhood. Then the other shoe dropped when I heard that a man raking leaves was robbed in front of the house where he was working.

In one case, the rakers were the thieves. In the other, the raker was the victim. You never know.

The same e-mail that alerted me to the incident also mentioned a man getting robbed around noon in front of a local party store. I guess it can happen anytime, anywhere. Keep your eyes open and your rake at the ready. I wonder if we'll hear something similar about snow-shoveling crimes in coming months.

E-mails traveling through the neighborhood work well to keep me up on what's going on. That way I don't have to wait for the gossip to finally get around to me, though most of the time it wouldn't. When I was a kid, the community was connected through school organizations, church, ethnic clubs or housewives chatting over the back fence. Most of those avenues are gone now. E-mail seems the next best thing. As much as I'd rather chat with neighbors face-to-face, the way we live now makes that chat something I can't count on.


DDD health care:
I once heard a routine by comedian Wanda Sykes in which she discussed going to a topless club with some workmates. One of her observations from inside the club elicited an opinion she expressed something like this: "If your titties are bigger than your head, then they should be making you some money."

Support from big breasts may soon become a big thing for Americans seeking health insurance. One of the ways legislators plan to pay for health care reform is a small excise tax on "elective cosmetic surgery." According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, breast enlargement is the most popular cosmetic plastic surgery, followed by breast lifts, then, curiously, breast reductions. So there you have it. An entire industry built around women unhappy with their breasts. They're too small, too big or not perky enough. ASAPS' cosmetic surgery Top 10 list is filled out with facelifts, eyelid lifts, nose reshaping (once popularly known as a nose job), chin augmentation, brow lifts, liposuction and tummy tucks. Apparently the burden of financing health care reform shall fall upon the congenitally ugly among us.

That's not entirely true. There are several avenues for carrying the financial load, including reforms to save money within the health care system, collecting industry fees that might not be paid, increasing the Medicare tax for high-income earners and other provisions. Whatever it may be, I think the financial concerns taking on such importance are mainly a smokescreen by opponents of health care reform to scare people.

Yes, the economy is in the tank. But I believe the money already being spent on health care would pay for a national single-payer system. The Council on Foreign Relations reported U.S. health care expenditures in 2007 were about 16 percent of our gross domestic product, more than any other developed nation. The bottom line is that we're paying more and getting less for it than any other country.

According to the 2007 United Nations Human Development Report, the United States spent $6,096 per person for health care while other high-cost countries — such as Canada ($3,173), the United Kingdom ($2,560) and Switzerland ($4,011) — spent considerably less and managed to cover everyone in a national single-payer system. All of those countries have a lower infant mortality rates and higher life expectancies than the United States. Hmmm. ...

Not being ones to follow the crowd, our so-called health care reform is not a single-payer system. And even the so-called public option of a government-run insurance plan is in question. Not to mention the right-to-life lobby using health care reform as another cudgel to wage their war against abortion. All in all, I'm disappointed. What we're seeing emerge is nothing like what I imagined when President Obama promised health care reform. While I would like a much better reform bill, I'm not for torpedoing whatever comes out of the legislature. Let's get some movement here and retinker it at some point in the future.


Visionary Evans:
I have to admit that there was a piece in Sunday's News & Freep that showed me a different side of Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans. Evans penned a piece, along with San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne and Miami-Dade Police Department Director Robert Parker, titled "Fight crime with health care legislation." Their point is that "targeted approaches delivered by health professionals to kids" reduce crime and its costs later in life. They wrote that access to health care reduces child neglect, substance abuse and the negative effects of mental and behavioral disorders.

Evans is a tough-on-crime guy. The opinion piece he contributed to shows a man with a more enlightened view of the causes of crime and their remedies than I was aware of. Had I seen something like this last winter, I just might've voted for him. I'll have to see how he does his job in upcoming days. It seems that Evans still has at least one more run for mayor in his future.


Pompous Pugh:
A fresher politician on the scene, soon-to-be City Council President Charles Pugh, is getting a bit full of himself. In the media rounds since the Nov. 3 election, Pugh made no bones about the fact he and the other new council members will be running things come January. Does he realize there are four other council members that voters elected? Also, in an interview (I can't remember where it aired), Pugh discussed meeting with Mayor Bing and Lt. Gov. John Cherry. Later in the discussion he backed up a bit to claim, "I am not a political monster." Hey, Charlie, you ran for office and won, and you're meeting with politicians. I think you've jumped the shark. You are a political monster. The days of tossing petards from the outside are over.


DISCOTECH:
I'm not bad at figuring out how things work mechanically, but that skill ends when things get electronic. This is why the Dec. 12 DISCOver TECHnology community workshops and film screening caught my interest. The workshops aim to demystify computer technology and uses. To that end, organizers plan a hands-on computer build using salvaged parts and open-source software. Participants will also have the opportunity to build audio synthesizers they can take home. There will be sessions on Internet use, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. All of this, put on by the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, is with an eye toward community activism and social justice. The short documentary film The Internet is Serious Business, produced by youth from New York City's City-As-School, will screen throughout the 2-6 p.m. all-ages event at the 5E Gallery, 2125 Michigan Ave., Detroit. Call Lottie Spady at 313-505-3325 for more information.

Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Contact him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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