The Widdershins

Archive for June 2013

Good Sunday, Widdershins.

We are four days away from marking America’s 235th birthday.  It’s been a busy couple of centuries here, for bitter and for better.  A lot has changed, and much has stayed the same.   Our forefathers (and mothers) arrived here full of hope, and longing for opportunity that (if we are the known indicators), most of them found and embraced.  While I have be know at times (cough, cough!) to complain bitterly about my country, I cannot fault the simple and rather elegant premise that is the United States of America.

We all know that there have been – and still are – some obstacles to progress here, but that’s a story for another post.  Just for today, let’s celebrate some songs for an Independence Day playlist.  My favorites are listed below, and I await your contributions in this otherwise open thread.

(1) America the Beautiful – Ray Charles

(2) Born in the USA – Bruce Springstein, 1984

(3) American Pie – Don McLean, 1972

(4) Power and the Glory – Phil Ochs, 1964

(5) A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke, 1964

Have a great day, y’all.

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jello_shots-2

I’m tired of putting up the pics of salads and light meals and junk.  Let’s have some jello shots!  It’s still light fare Saturday and no heavy lifting will be involved.

Why are your eyes so big Grandma?

Because I just got a surgical eyelid lift my child and medicare (and you) paid for it!
Yep it seems that eyelid lifts are the rage (?) amongst the oldsters these days and medicare is picking up the tab.  Now, medicare does not pay for cosmetic surgery.  But if the plastic surgeon certifies that the lift is necessary because the droopy eyelids are affecting your vision, well that’s a different story entirely.

From 2001 to 2011, eyelid lifts charged to Medicare more than tripled to 136,000 annually, according to a review of physician billing data by the Center for Public Integrity. In 2001, physicians billed taxpayers a total of $20 million for the procedure. By 2011, the price tag had quadrupled to $80 million. The number of physicians billing the surgery more than doubled.

Well,  that could be because the number of folks over the age of 65 are increasing too, but that number hasn’t doubled…not yet at least.  Now when the rest of us baby boomers start hitting the medicare rolls, who knows.  Sen. Tom Coburn of OK isn’t too happy about this.  (He happens to be a physician also, or so he says.  Just now looked it up in wiki and shudder (!) he’s an obstetrician!!)    😯

“With this kind of management malpractice, it’s little wonder that the [Medicare] program is in such dire shape,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is also a physician. “The federal government is essentially asking people to game the system. Every dollar we spend on cosmetic surgery that isn’t necessary is a dollar that can’t be used to shore up the program for people who need it the most.”

But not so fast say the docs who are doing these procedures:

Plastic surgeons say there are a number of legitimate reasons for the spike, including a tendency among the elderly to seek fixes for real medical issues they might have quietly suffered through even a decade ago. But surgeons also acknowledge an increased awareness of the surgery fueled by reality television, word-of-mouth referrals, and advertising — often including dramatic before-and-after photographs — that promises a more youthful appearance. And doctors concede they face increased pressure from patients to perform eyelid lifts, even when they do not meet Medicare’s requirement that peripheral vision actually be impaired.

Now also of interest was that 11 of the top 20 highest billers were in:  Surprise – Florida!

11 of the 20 highest billers in 2008 were in Florida, which is both an elderly mecca and the country’s foremost magnet for questionable Medicare billing.

Among the top surgeons, the data show a South Florida doctor billed Medicare more than $800,000 in 2008 for about 2,200 eyelid lifts. That’s an average of six a day, including weekends. This same doctor was also a top biller in 2006 and 2007.  (That man or woman is busy!)

The reason that so many of these procedures get billed to and paid for by Medicare is because the Medicare guidelines are difficult to enforce.

The process for purely cosmetic surgeries and Medicare-funded blepharoplasty is the same. Doctors numb the eyelids with a local anesthetic before removing fat and excess skin, often with a laser. The entire process usually takes less than 30 minutes, and is performed most often in doctors’ offices or outpatient surgical centers, some of which are connected to “medical spas” or “beauty clinics.”

The process to test whether a procedure was done for purely cosmetic or medically necessary reasons is a simple test:  “doctors are required to test a patient’s vision and document that drooping skin significantly compromises a patient’s eyesight. The exam usually involves lifting a patient’s eyelids with tape and comparing their vision results to tests performed without tape.”  Well okay then, seems simple enough.  And Medicare, unlike private insurance doesn’t require a “pre-authorization for eyelid surgeries.  Further, Robert Berenson, former commissioner of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, said he doubts that pre-auths would help very much.

“I am sure there are some patients who are hampered by eyelids drooping. And I’m sure that many of them are not and it’s a cosmetic reason,” Berenson said. But the doctors, he added, “have probably gotten very skilled at knowing how to document that something is not cosmetic.”

When a claim is reviewed, Quinn said, staff receives a medical record from a doctor that says a patient’s eyelids interfered with their vision, along with a photo of someone with droopy eyelids. There really isn’t anything to review, Quinn said. “It’s really hard to go much further on that.”

There’s a lot more to the article if you wish to read it, including some quotes from one of the top “eye guys” in Florida, John LiVecchi.  I liked his reasoning for justifying the surgery.  I hope they are still as lax with it when I need one of those and hope to hell there’s still Medicare too!  😉

Filed under “what were you thinking?” or
your parents’ license is revoked

Apparently Mamma wasn’t too familiar with catfish and she’s from Arkansas!

What seemed like harmless fun involving a live catfish nearly turned deadly when the sharp spine of a catfish impaled a 13-year-old boy in the neck, coming just a couple of centimeters from puncturing a main artery.  (as I recall this used to be called getting “finned” by the catfish)

Melissa Menchaca, Aiden’s mother, was joking around as she held the slippery catfish near her son.

“I wanted to give him a kiss,” she explained. “He got nervous, the fish flopped, and it smacked him on the neck.”

Melissa was going to pull the spine out until she saw a bulging artery. She left the spine in place and immediately phoned for help.  (smart thinking Melissa!)

When paramedics arrived, they were said to have been surprised at what they saw. They were forced to wait 30 minutes until the fish calmed down before they were able to cut the fin and airlift Aiden to Arkansas Children’s Hospital where the spine was safely removed. An ultrasound revealed how close Aiden came to possibly dying.

Oy vey!

This one is as bad as the butt-dialing thieves a couple of weeks ago

This fool in nola robbed two people and then took off with their car.  Later on he abandoned the car but left his cell phone in the front seat.   Mr. Brilliant here decided to call the cops and tell them that he had been robbed and his wallet and cell phone were taken.  This was about a half hour after the cops found the car.

Faciane gave police his home address, and when officers arrived and asked who robbed him he gave a description of a man who looked very much like himself, the NOPD said. Police said that when detectives asked Faciane to describe the gun, he “essentially described his own handgun.”

Detectives obtained a search warrant for Faciane’s home and found the handgun described by the victims of the car theft, as well as Faciane’s wallet, which was under his bed.

Police say Faciane, wearing a “Jason” mask, initially rummaged through the car and told the victims at gun point to get in the trunk, thus the attempted kidnapping charge. When the victim suggested he just take the car, police said Faciane agreed.

Faciane was arrested and booked into Orleans Parish Prison with two counts of armed robbery, two counts of attempted kidnapping, one count of auto theft and one count of filing a false police report.

According to the NOPD, Faciane has been previously arrested for aggravated battery and disturbing the police. He also has a municipal court warrant outstanding since January 25.

Darrin Faciane, yo mama is not proud of you!

Lastly for today I’ve got two youtubes for you.  One is of a squirrel and a bull snake in Gold AZ who get into a tussle and the squirrel wins!

This next one is kinda creepy!  It’s about a statue at the Manchester Museum in the U.K.

The museum officials were stumped. A statue is supposed to stand still, not rotate all by itself.

But this one at the Manchester Museum seemed to have done just that. Turned around 180 degrees — revealing an inscription on its back asking for beer.

No other figure in the display had moved — nor had any other in the museum.

Statuette no. 9325 doesn’t appear to go by any proper name. It’s a prefabricated figure — an off-the-shelf product — that was placed into a small tomb around 1800 B.C.

A private collector in Britain donated it to the museum in 1933. The inscription on the back, requesting a sacrifice of beer, bread and animals, was a standard prayer for the deceased.

For decades, the figurine stood perfectly still — until museum workers moved its case a few feet from its original position.

Turn, turn, turn

In February, curator Campbell Price noticed something curious was afoot.

The statue seemed to have slightly turned.

When he looked next, it was facing another direction. A day later, another.

The turns were subtle. But at the end of each day, you could tell the statue was angled differently.

You can read more at the link and here is the time-lapsed video of the statue.  It is the tallest of the four statues on the shelf.

Okay Widdershins, what’s going on in your world today?  Let me know in the comments below and btw, don’t take too many jello shots!  😉

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

                                                               Matthew 7:20

A pretty simple prescription for a sure-fire leadership test. It isn’t by their title you shall know them. It isn’t by theirWinding Road... money you shall know them. It isn’t by their Twitter followers, the size of their PAC, their media time, or their adorning, fawning posses that you will know them. It is by their works.

Would you want to be known as Gov. Rick Perry who within two hours of the gutting of the Voters Rights Act called for the implementation of the nation’s most draconian voter ID law — the very same law that had been put on hold by the Voters Rights Act; or would you want to be known as Gov. Jerry Brown who within hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling on California’s Prop 8 called for clerks to again begin issuing marriage licenses to couples who had been denied their right to marry the person they loved?

Would you want to be known as the faceless, nameless House Republicans who used the darkness and the shadows of the cloak room to propose the eleventh hour elimination of food stamps for 2 million needy Americans while continuing to funnel government subsidies to mega-billion dollar corporations like ADM and Monsanto; or would you want to be known as Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, who transparently stood in the open light for thirteen hours to filibuster the passage of the country’s most onerous restrictions of women’s reproductive rights?

Spurs Game -- Sebastian De La CruzWould you want to be the pandering Tea Party darling, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) who dared speak in Spanish to last week’s Tea Party anti-immigration rally and was heckled by the crowd to, “Learn English,”: or would you want to be known as eleven year old, yes 11, Sebastian De La Cruz, the San Antonio lad who sang America the Beautiful before the Spurs/Heat game and was heckled, viciously attacked on Twitter with racist slurs, and who graciously replied, “On the positive remarks, I just want to thank everybody for their support, on the racism remarks, to be honest, it‘s just the people how they were raised.”

Would you want to be John Boehner and the House Republicans who jumped into the DOMA litigation and spent $23 Million of tax dollars to defend a patently unconstitutional act ultimately resulting in a sweeping defeat based upon the far-reaching “equal protection” clause of the Constitution; or would you want to be known as 84-year old Edie Windsor, who after a committed relationship and marriage of 44 years, had the courage and the stick-to-itiveness to take on the United States Government over an argument about fairness and win?

I’ve written this before, all it takes is one follower and you are a leader. Most likely, the people in theseThe nose knows... circumstances didn’t even look around to see if anyone was following — they just did what their conscience told them was right. They followed their instincts and as Madame Delphine de Girardin famously wrote, “Instinct is the nose of the mind.”

History will bear me out on this, but at any point when you are on the side of fairness, equality, equity, or the expansion of rights to those who have been denied, you will be known by the fruits of your efforts — all the while being able to rest easy in the strength of an unburdened conscience. I guarantee it.

Have a great weekend.

This is an open thread.

Good Thursday, Widdershins.

It’s been quite a week.  Tuesday’s news was the SCOTUS decision to uphold selected parts of the VRA and punt the salient feature back to Congress to rethink.  Yes, to the same Congress that is currently unable to pass a resolution honoring motherhood – that Congress.  In some ways, they are correct.  I can assure you that things are different in the South than they were in 1965.  Far from perfect,to be sure,  but unarguably better.  Also, other parts of our glorious nation indulged in some activities that would have made George Corley Wallace beam, especially in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Section IV needs to be rewritten and considerably broadened, but this Congress is unlikely to get it – or much of anything else – done in the near future.

Wednesday was a much brighter day.  The verdicts on DOMA and Prop 8 formed a double rainbow (H/T to Huffington Post for that beautiful analogy) and made the world a better place, despite the best efforts of one Justice Antonin Scalia.  In his minority opinion, sodomy is now the law of the land, and cats will likely marry dogs forthwith, or some such thing.  Scalia decried “legalistic argle-bargle”, and more or less stated that it just simply isn’t fair that the majority of Americans no longer believe as he does. Well, boo-hoo, your majesty.  The rest of us have progressed somewhat in our attitudes,  Here are a few of the salient quotes from his judicial temper tantrum:

“When the Court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with ‘whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter,'” he wrote. “Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it ‘demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects,’ ante, at 23 — with an accompanying citation of Lawrence.

“It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here — when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.”

So take that, you cheeky little b@st@rds.  Your crazy uncle Antonin is watching you.

Now that we have affirmed (and simultaneously destroyed) the VRA, and overturned DOMA and Prop 8, perhaps we might turn our attention to yet another group that has been clamoring for equality since 1775 – women.   Yes, I am also aware that things are much better in the arena of opportunity for women than they were in 1965.  We are present in executive boardrooms, graduate programs, professions,and levels of politics.   The glass ceiling may be cracked, but it still holds fast, and the continuous erosion of our implied right to control our own bodies will ease the pressure until it slowly dissipates.  The time has come, ladies and gentlemen, to carry this issue this across the finish line.  The ERA stalled and died, new anti-abortion measures are flourishing, and things do not look so great right now from where I am sitting.  Somehow, some way we need to finish the damn drill.

The women who began agitating for equality are, for the most part,  collecting Social Security these days.  I don;t know how many more decades that I will have on the earth, but I damned well want to see this through.  Hopefully, younger people will want to carry this particular torch forward with the same resolution that civil rights and gay rights activists have done.  Come on, people, it’s not all that far to the finish line.  Get ‘er done.

This is an open thread.

Hello Widdershins! Today, it seems like Obama has taken a tentative, Tree-Beard-Like step towards energy sanity by deciding that if Keystone XL increases greenhouse gases, it shouldn’t go forward. (Not that there’s any “if” about it, but still…)

“Our national interest will be served only if this project doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” Obama said in speech laying out his second-term climate agenda, including greenhouse gas emissions for power plants.

“The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project can go forward.”

[snip]

Keystone’s foes said they were heartened because they do not believe there is any way the pipeline will pass Obama’s test.

[snip]

“The president is saying what the science has always demanded. It’s encouraging news for certain,” said Bill McKibben, founder of the group 350.org.

Well, it’s certainly an improvement over his previous statements, which pretty much amounted to “Hoom, Hoom, Let’s Not Be Hasty.” While what he said was somewhat vague, I think I have seen this progression towards the right (left) side of an issue before. It’s reminiscent of his “evolution” on marriage equality. First he wouldn’t take a position, then he said he didn’t favor equal marriage, then he said he did after a great deal of pressure by the LGBT community. After all the pressure from the environmental community on this issue, I do believe our President DINO may just end up rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, and come out smelling like smog-free air on climate change as a result. That would indeed be reason to celebrate.

And now…my mea culpas. I know I have not been around regularly for quite some time, and I am becoming woefully ignorant on the main issues of the day. Oh, I know some things are happening: Aaron Hernandez is probably a murderer, the Supreme Court is ruling on some important issues (including marriage equality), the NSA whistleblower is running for cover and may or may not be in Russia with Pooty-Poot…but I truly, truly do not have the time to investigate them and write about them intelligently. As it has been said in a comic book once, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Okay, okay, I don’t have great power, but I have SOME power now, and a LOT of responsibility. Not to mention that my weekly “commute” is up to 16 hours a week!

But just because I am not as present as I used to be, does not mean that I don’t want to be here with you all. You mean so much to me still, after all these years – both the newer friends, and the ones who have been around since the beginning on TC. And I am so thankful that you are still here, and that you’re still writing about the things you care about. You are the best!

So please don’t take it personally that I’m not able to give as much as I’d like, or (SORRY!) that my next two posts will be re-posts of plays/open threads. (Going on vacation, counting the minutes!) Just keep doing what your doing, and know that the fault lies not in you, Widdershin stars, but in myself.

This is an open thread.

Upstairs Lounge3

Monday marked the 40th anniversary of a terrible tragedy in New Orleans; the arson fire at the Upstairs Lounge in the French Quarter.  Twenty-eight men died at the scene of the fire, one died on the way to the hospital and three died later from their wounds so a total of 32 people died as a result of this arson.  All but one were men.

This post is going to have a lot of quotes pasted in so I hope you don’t mind that.  But the story needs to be told outside of nola and some of you might consider it a history lesson, while some of us lived through the times.

Essentially, here’s the story.  The Upstairs Lounge was a gay bar in the French Quarter.  This was 1973.  A lot of people (hell most people) were not out back then.  The French Quarter itself was different back then.  If you’ve been there, it wasn’t the elegant (Royal Street and its antique stores) touristy area it is now.  Rather, think in terms of what you saw if you saw the movie A Streetcar Named Desire.  It was a rundown area, filled with, as one person said, “thieves and queers”.  Many times, gay men carried fake i.d.s to the bars, not so much to prove they were over the age of 18 (the drinking age in La at the time), but in case there was a bust at the gay bar, so their real names would not be printed in the paper.

According to Frank Perez, a writer for Ambush magazine in New Orleans,

“The way things were at the time was really pretty bad. Raids of gay bars were very high and discrimination was profound,” Perez said.

A description of the Upstairs Lounge was given this way:

In 1973, the gay and lesbian scene in New Orleans was still largely underground, and patrons remember the UpStairs Lounge as not just any bar, but as a gay community hangout where locals could gather without fear of social persecution.

Songs were sung around a piano, “nellydramas” were performed with the help of local playwrights, and couples competed in tricycle races, according to former 9th Ward resident Johnny Townsend, the author of “Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire,” a comprehensive retelling of the events of that night in 1973.

The walls of the French Quarter watering hole were covered with flocked wallpaper, adorned with memorabilia including an iconic Cosmopolitan magazine spread of Burt Reynolds lying naked on a bearskin rug.

To get into the bar, you had to ring a buzzer at the entrance on the ground level and then after you were let in, you went upstairs to the bar.  The gist of the story of the arson is this:  A local hustler and regular Rodger Nunez, had been thrown out of the bar and it was said that he remarked, “I’m gonna burn y’all out.”.  (Note: Nunez committed suicide the next year and an acquaintance of his said that when he was drunk he confessed to setting the fire but denied it when he sobered up)  The fire was determined to be arson but no one was ever arrested or convicted of the crime.

That night:

about 60 people held court at the French Quarter bar. A weekly “beer bust” had just ended, a jukebox was blaring near the entrance and people were gathered around the bar’s piano, where two men took turns banging away on the keys, as patrons joined in and sang along to “United We Stand”.

An incessant buzzing at the bar’s door, however, got the attention of bartender Buddy Rasmussen, who eventually asked 47-year-old Luther Boggs to go answer it. The buzzer was located at the street level where another door entered onto Iberville Street. Upon pushing open the lounge door, Boggs was met with a wall of fire that had been building in the stairway, causing flames to explode into the bar, instantly setting the whole place ablaze.

Rasmussen, an Air Force veteran, was able to lead about 20 people to safety through a rear door near the stage, which led out onto the roof of the building.

Read the rest of this entry »

hernandezx-largeI’ve always maintained that it is a “good thing” to be a cleric, politician, celebrity or a sports figure. You are almost guaranteed to get away with anything.

Take the current murder ongoing investigation in North Attleboro, MA that has ties to a New England Patriot that is replete with lies, possibly sex, and videotapes.

Aaron Hernandez has been questioned in connection to the death of a “friend” whose body was found in a car ½ mile from the his home in North Attleboro, MA. What led the police to Hernandez was finding that the SUV was one of 3 leased vehicles in his name. Not one, but three.

During the investigation so far, law enforcement found that security tapes surrounding the Hernandez home had been destroyed. Word is that Mr. Hernadez had also done the same to the computer(s) hard drive as well. The question would be “why” this elimination of evidence was necessary.

Commonsense would suggest that someone had something to hide.

Aaron Hernandez was signed to the NE Patriots last year with a salary of $40,000,000. However, prior to that signing, Mr. Hernandez was also credited with taking part in some serious “pranks” during his college career. This was followed recently by him having been accused of shooting out the eye of a guy who was considered a suspected drug dealer who first filed a complaint but then withdrew.  Fourty million dollars can buy a lot of silence.

However in the wake of a possible homicide taking place in MA, these charges have been reinstated. Apparently, as with many overly celebrated athletes, Mr. Hernandez is often accompanied by an entourage and a gun. What could go wrong?

Aaron Hernandez is 23 years of age. He seemed to be enjoying a long future in football due to his athletic ability to bring home a “win” to the francise. That 40 million says it all.

So far the events of the murder have been kept under wraps. Mr. Hernandez’s home has been searched at least twice. Missing from the murder scene is the outside driver’s mirror which seemed to have become detached from the nurder vehicle as some time during the evening when both the victim and Hernandez were seen together in a Boston nightclub.  This could play a key role in the murder itself but so far it has yet to be found.

But here is the question: why was he allowed to continue to play football when he had be charged with attempted murder in February where the victim, a known drug dealer, lost an eye from being shot in the face? How did those charges end up being dropped? Where was the management of the Boston Patriots who would have sent this volatile young man out onto the field carrying a 40 million dollar contract which translated to bad behavior even then?

The investigation into this murder is murky with details. The manner of homicide has been withheld. The suggestion is that an arrest warrant against Mr. Hernandez is forthcoming. The charge is “obstruction of justice”. This is all we know except for “hints” that a woman may have been the catalyst that led to the murder itself.

Again, another “prized” athlete is being cosseted by law enforcement, his team, and possible witnesses due in large part to his “celebrity” on the field. The destruction of vital evidence leads one to believe that a cover-up is now in place.

But the silence so far, which would not necessarily be accorded to anyone other than a well known sports figure, is leading to all sorts of speculation. Some people are offered more leeway due in large measure to the role they play in society.

The Pats may have Tim Tebow “praying” for victory but they are also stuck with Aaron Hernandez representing the other side of the coin. After all, he got away with shooting someone in the face which caused the loss of an eye  that was originally thrown out by the court.  It is also indicative of a pattern of behavior.

Get away with it once and it becomes a habit and an entitlement since “I am a star!” overrules justice.

We shall see soon enough if my cynical approach will prove to be true.

For the record: the victim’s name was Odin Lloyd.  I mention this now because history dictates his name will fade into history while all eyes will he on Aaron Hernandez from this point foward.


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2.7 years to go.

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