Monday, October 26, 2009

Positively Negative

I watched two authors this weekend with similar takes on what's wrong with America--best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich (Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America) and National Review columnist and contributing editor, John Derbyshire (We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism).

Both Ehrenreich and Derbyshire (for different reasons, of course) oppose the think-good-thoughts-to-create-positive-change-in-the-world school of philosophy.

For example, Ehrenreich, who has been treated for breast cancer, criticizes the notions that being positive bolsters your immune system, that you need to embrace your disease, or that cancer is a "blessing."

The flip side, she says, presumes that if you are not positive, you can produce negative outcomes and that is your fault. This is a simplified version of her views (which also consider the effects of false positivity in business and politics).

The blurb for Derbyshire's book states that if "conservatives had retained their gloom, few would have been seduced by promises of hope and change, and Barack Obama would not have won the White House."

During the second half of Book TV, Derbyshire traded barbs with Alan Colmes, formerly of Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes." Derbyshire made disparaging comments about women, liberals, and immigrants (despite having a wife who is Chinese). He came off as arrogrant, and yes, gloomy.

I agree that thinking good thoughts alone won't help you accomplish goals. That takes planning, perseverance, and action.


There have been times in my life when having a positive attitude while coping with difficult challenges helped me get through them. In some cases, it was all I had. Facing reality can be a real bummer when all doors seem closed or when one's resources are limited.

I can think of several situations when fear, insecurity, or feelings of incompetence could have immobilized me. However, I would talk myself into a more positive frame of mind. In most instances, doing so made all the difference.

So Barbara and John, I respect your views, but can't give up the belief that what we think--positive or negative--affects how we feel, and consequently, what actions we take. Our thoughts can affect outcomes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Random Ramblngs...

"Slumdog Millionaire"

I finally viewed this 2009 winner of eight Oscars (best film, directing, music, editing, sound mixing, cinematography, and writing).

What I find surprising is that none of the three children--Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, and Pubina Ali--plucked from the Mumbai slums was even given a nod for their performances.

As first-time actors, these bright-eyed, disarming children are the real stars of the film. So, how come, no recognition, Hollywood?

Dev Patel, a young Indian actor, also deserved praise for his impressive acting range as love-obsessed Jamal K. Malik, the game show contestant.

I think it's a shame that neither Dev nor the children were honored for their contribution to the success of the film.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Capitalism:" funny, sad, and serious

My mother was eager to see "Capitalism: A Love Story" by her "man," filmmaker Michael Moore.

On the other hand, I was less keen about seeing his second-highest grossing film. I'd seen "Bowling for Columbine," "Fahrenheit 911," and "Sicko.

I was familiar Moore's tactic of publicly confronting corporate execs or elected officials to demand explanations for their actions.

Nonetheless, when I returned home, I called family members, urging them to see "Capitalism." It's funny, sad, and serious.

For MM-haters and critics: Name someone else who calls what Wall Street, large corporations, and politicians do (or allow)--mortgage meltdowns, job lay-offs, billion-dollar bailouts--a "crime"?

Scholars and political writers probably provide the same information in more erudite terms, but MM's documentaries demonstrate how government and corporate policies often negatively affect ordinary people.

The eye-opener for me was learning that some companies, including Wal-Mart and American Express, take out life insurance on employees (called "Dead Peasants" in internal documents) and receive thousands of dollars in payouts.

One widow with a young son is shocked to learn that her husband's employer received close to $2 million dollars after her spouse died.

The most heart-wrenching scenes involve a rural family forced out of their 40-year old farm/home because of increased mortgage payments that they could no longer afford.

The middle-aged father's frustration and helplessness are amplified when he's told that he has to move immediately; he believed that he had 30 days.

If nothing else, "Capitalism" will make you count your blessings.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dental Insurance: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

My 85-year old mother pays $39.00 extra per month for a "deluxe rider" that enables her to get dental coverage. Okay. Thirty-nine dollars times 12 equals $468 per year. Humana contracts with another company to administer this plan. (This fact took me almost a month to find out).

For this she gets $1000 off dental services. Stay with me, now. Her bill for dentures was nearly $2000. She paid a $964 co-pay for a full upper and a partial lower, plus approximately $150 for two visits, all of which she paid in full.

Yesterday, was her final visit; as we're leaving with her shiny new dentures, the front desk clerk says Humana's dental provider won't pay for two extractions that were necessary for her dentures to fit properly. The cost: $154

If extractions, a routine procedure, aren't covered under her Medicare Advantage plan, what is? (A letter we received recently states: "Routine and Non-Routine dental services are not a covered benefit under your Medicare Advantage.")

The result: she has paid almost $1200 in addition to her monthly deluxe rider premium.

In an article "The Oral Cost Spiral," part of a series on dentistry in America for, June Thomas writes:

"Still, most middle-class Americans—even those with health and dental insurance—tend to be more aware of the price of dental treatment because they're more likely to have to pull out their checkbooks when they visit the dentist. Although dental-insurance premiums remained relatively steady over the last decade, especially when compared with skyrocketing medical-insurance premiums, between 1998 and 2008 the increase in the cost of dental services exceeded that of medical care and far exceeded the overall rate of inflation."