Saturday, December 29, 2012

A New Birthday

December 28, 2012. 

You could say that this day is my new Birthday.

How could someone who was born a baby boomer on June 1st get a new birthday?  I will explain and perhaps you can not only celebrate my new birthday with me, but gain an appreciation for the many others who share this lucky situation with me.

For any of you who have honored me with following my posts from the past here, this will be a bit of a departure.  Please indulge me as I update those of you who have been following my personal adventure with Lymphoma.  My hope in publishing here is to not only provide those of you who are my friends with an update, but to provide encouragement and hope to those of you who may be facing a similar challenge.


So some questions to begin with:  How did I get here?

Back in 2007, I was diagnosed with indolent, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  I went through treatment and was declared to be "in remission" in March of 2008.  All seemed well and with each passing month of "good health", the anxiety I felt when I first heard those words, "Well tough luck kid, you have cancer", seemed to fade into a memory.

In 2010, on a routine scan, I was told that the Lymphoma had come back.  I began to work with a team at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Treatment Center of Johns Hopkins to supplement the work of my local oncology team.  Being the type of Lymphoma it was, the physicians here at Johns Hopkins counseled me to adopt a watch and wait attitude toward the disease as it was relatively slow growing and had not compromised any vital organs.  However, we all knew that at some point, it would begin to impact my health and some form of treatment would be required.

Thus began a time of waiting for the bomb to go off.  As Alfred Hitchcock would famously say..."If you place a bomb under a table with two people eating and it goes off, that is drama.  If you place a bomb under a table and you don't let anyone know, then have it go off, it is a surprise.  If you place a bomb under the table, let the audience know and then don't have it go off, that my friend, is suspense."

So for me, this was a time of great suspense.  Many questions; When would the Lymphoma "bomb" go off?  How big would be the damage?  What has this got to do with a new birthday?  (I'll get to that in a bit)

This past summer (2012), I began to have some odd things begin to happen.  I felt pressure in my throat area.  Strange lumps in my underarms.  I started seeing my local family doctor and he thought perhaps I was having a respiratory infection so treatment was prescribed and I responded OK.  Then in August/September the bottom fell out.  I began to feel like areas below my stomach were becoming very hard and my breathing became more difficult (I just couldn't take a deep breath).

I can't watch Paul Ryan???

On the night of Paul Ryan's speech to the Republican Convention, I turned to my wife Cheryl and said, "It's time, take me to the emergency room".  Those of you who know me that to give up hearing Congressman Ryan speak, meant that I knew something was very wrong.

The trip to the emergency room was an adventure.  However, after several hours, I was wheeled into the CT Scan room and it fired up to take a look at what was going on inside.  The preliminary results showed that several of my lymph nodes as well as my spleen had become enlarged.  Time to visit the Oncologist.  So the next day I saw Dr. Aksentijevitch of the Virginia Cancer Specialists Group.

Dr. Aksentijevitch had seen the results of my scans and blood work and declared, "It is time to put you back into treatment."  Thus began a whirlwind 7 days.  Tests, more tests, a placement of a Port in my chest and a visit back to Hopkins for additional support.  Thursday, September 6th was a day of much activity and surprises.  In the morning I received a port in my chest so that medication could be delivered more efficiently.  Then it was off to see Richard Jones, MD at Hopkins.  His impression... "Your Lymphoma has become a little angry".  My thought, "What did I do to "piss" if off?"

That day ended with surprises.  As we were traveling back from Baltimore, I received a phone call.  It was from Alexandria, Inova Hospital.  I was told that my room was ready.  I turned to Cheryl and said, "What???".  Apparently, Dr. Jones was sufficiently concerned that he had ordered to have a room set up for me so that treatment could begin right away.  So it was go straight to the hospital, do not go home, do not pass go, go straight to the hospital.

New Treatment Begins

Thus began a series of chemotherapy sessions, starting in September and continuing through the week just before Thanksgiving.

It was agreed that all of this was to prepare me for a bone-marrow transplant as the best option to deal with this disease.  What followed was a search for a donor.  Thus a series of blood samples were taken from each of my siblings as well as my son, Michael.  The process took several weeks.  I was on pins and needles.  I was pleased to hear that each of my siblings were an "acceptable match", with my youngest sister being considered a "best match".  For many days we were operating under the impression that she would then be the likely donor.

Surprisingly we discovered, that for the type of transplant I was going to receive, my son would be the most suitable donor.  So plans were made to undergo the transplant.

Going through Chemo was tough, at times, but we made it through each session without too much wear and tear.  December came and the rush to prepare myself for the transplant began.  Tests, tests and more tests; each one designed to measure the condition of my heart, lungs and other vital organs.

The big drive began one week ago today.  On Thursday, December 20th, Cheryl, her Mom (Peggy) and I packed up, said good-bye to our home in Northern Virginia and trekked up to Baltimore.  We moved into the Hackerman Patz residential facility right next to Johns Hopkins.  The next day, I had a Hickman catheter placed and then began one more round of Chemo.  This went fairly well as the anti-nausea drugs have been fairly effective.

Like Stepping into an Episode of the Outer Limits

One of the scariest steps in this process was receiving radiation yesterday.  I felt like I had stepped into an episode of the "Outer Limits", as the radiation machine generated a bit of a weirdly wild "light show".  My entire body was showered in beams of a fairly low dose of radiation.  I half expected to step off the table and be confronted by some inter-dimensional being.  I wondered if sometime in the middle of the night, I would grow a third eye.  But in fact, it was all a bit boring and I did not even have much of the problems I was told to expect like nausea and some lower GI distress.

So here we were, all set for today, the BIG DAY.  Michael arrived late Thursday afternoon.  We chatted and Michael went off to his room to prepare himself for his part as the donor in this operation.  Cheryl and I were resting getting ready for bed thinking all was well and the pieces were all in place for the transplant.  Of course nothing we Snowdens do ever can come off without some last minute panic and this was no exception.  Shortly after Michael went to his room, we got a semi-panicked phone call.  We discovered that Michael had found a tick on his skin.

All sorts of questions came up.  Would the tick create problems for the transplant?  Would we have to delay?  What can be done to prevent Michael from getting Lyme disease?  Would I suddenly grow insect arms after my transplant?  We walked over to the unit at the hospital and after tracking down the on call doctor, we were informed that the transplant would proceed as scheduled.  That Michael and I might receive some antibiotics, but we were full steam ahead on the transplant.

That leads us to day "0".  Michael, my son, arrived at 5AM to begin preparation for his surgery.  My understanding is that his pelvic bone would soon be made to look like Swiss cheese as they went in with harvesting needles all over the pelvic bone region and burrowed in to "harvest" the stem cells.  When they were done, poor Michael looked like he'd gone 12 rounds on WWF.  Still he emerged with a smile, proceeded to call several people by wrong names and has been resting comfortably since.

My New Birthday 

My end was a little less dramatic.  Since my blood type is O negative and Michael's is A negative, they prepared me with lots of fluids starting around 9AM.  In addition, I received several drugs to minimize any reaction to receiving the different blood type stem cells.  Some of these made me quite sleepy.

Then the big event: a big pinkish bag was delivered full of the magic nectar from my son.  It was delivered over the course of a few hours.  This was followed by more fluids.  Finally, we finished up around 6PM and the entire family headed back to our residences at the Hackerman Patz. 

Michael and his girlfriend came over.  He looked like he could definitely use some pain relievers, while all I wanted to do was crawl into a fetal position to stay warm and have a sense of protection.  All in all we cried a little and laughed a lot.  It is well to be surrounded by a wonderful family.

So now begins the process of my adoption of my son's marrow to generate a new immune system that will attack the remaining lymphoma.  If all goes according to plan, eventually my old blood will be replaced by my adopted blood from Michael.  So I literally have new blood in me.  This is why so many transplant patients call this day their NEW Birthday.

Makes sense to me.  At any rate I don't think you can have too many birthdays.  So I will celebrate December 28, 2012 as my new birthday.

Gratitude for those who have meant so much to me 

There are so many people I am grateful to for getting me to this point.  I am sure I will leave out someone important, but first let me begin my expression of gratitude for the many doctors, nurses and staff of the different facilities I have been working with along the way.  These include Inova Hospital, both the Fairfax and Alexandria campuses.  Johns Hopkins has been marvelous.  My team back at Virginia Cancer Group.  Everyone has played a vital role in getting me to this point.

I especially acknowledge Ivan Aksentijevitch, MD and Richard Jones, MD as being a perfect team to help me on this journey.  The last professional I want to give special recognition to is Audra Shedeck, NP.  As Dr. Jones right hand, she is someone who I have come to discover not only understands the process from a technical perspective but also deeply conveys an understanding of the emotional journey that goes with this process.

It may seem corny, but I appreciate my company AT&T.  Not only do they have wonderful policies that have given me freedom to focus on my well being, my leadership team and co-workers been most supportive in accommodating my situation.  I look forward to my return.  I would single out my managers for this year, Tim Harrod-Davis and Leigh Yanes.  Both have been there for me well beyond a simple work relationship.

I have discovered that I have many friends along the way.  From old friends, like Chris and Lorraine Stiehl, that cover my lifetime to newer ones that I have met just recently.  Your words of encouragement and prayers seem to come at just the right time when I needed a pick me up.  Of special note are friends at Teammates at McLean Bible Church who offer prayers and encouragement.  Martin and Sharon Edwards you have been especially kind.  Finally, a note to my lifelong pal Tim O'Connell who through this all has helped me with his sense of humor in a way no one else does.

Of course, family is my bedrock.  Each of my children, Mark, Kelly and Michael along with their support, Larissa, Jeff and Samantha have been tender, funny, encouraging and have helped me to feel like the greatest Dad in the world.  I know that any of you would have offered to provide the marrow, but Michael we now have a unique connection that we share that few others in the world have.  Your Mom and I gave life to you and you have now given it back.  My gratitude goes beyond words.

Sharon and Suzanne you are sisters that I love and appreciate for your encouragement and wishes of well being.  Sharon, I appreciate your presence here with me during this entire journey in ways that can't be described in words alone.  David, my brother, your grounding in God's providence has been a frequent reminder that we have much to be blessed by.

That leaves me with Peggy and Cheryl.  Peggy, I know I am not your natural son.  Cheryl is your daughter and I only get to be associated to you through her.  You have always made me feel like I was one of your own.  Still, in spite of the fact that you lost someone so dear to you when we said good-bye to Leon last year, your being here has meant the world to me.

Finally, what can I say sweetheart, Cheryl you are the love of my life.  I am clear that I would not be the man I am today without your guidance, partnership and love.  All that you have done has been nothing short of amazing.  Your kindness to all is second to none.  I love you and like the song from the Who, you are a "Bargain, the best I ever had".

God willing, Cheryl, you and I will have many happy years ahead where we will enjoy more grandchildren "on our knee", though they may not be (with an English accent) "Vera, Chuck and Dave", I am sure, like Luke is already, they will be a blessing.

Of course, this can not be ended without thanking God.  On Christmas Eve, there was a small Christmas dinner celebration here at the Hackerman-Patz facility.  Small packages of gifts were handed out and a couple from Oklahoma who we had never met but apparently had been here for treatment sometime previously had a card with a simple message: Peace to you this joyful season.  Hand written inside was the following passage from Joshua 1:9:

"... Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
He is indeed! My greatest thanks of all is for His continued blessings on this family and all who share a similar journey. 

To all, especially my family and wife, I can not think of a better way to end this story (so far) than with a traditional Irish Toast, so to honor my maternal grandmother Maude Bailey and all who are Irish or just wished they were Irish, may I offer the following:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Congratulations Barack Obama–A Post Election Risk Assessment

Yesterday, Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States.  To those of you who supported the President, it is my hope that your faith in your cause will be realized in ways that speak to the higher aspirations you believed in.
For me, it is disappointing that this man was re-elected using the most negative and shameful tactics I have witnessed in my lifetime. To those few Obama supporters who supported him with reason and argument, you have my respect.  For the vast, vast majority of you, who used bumper sticker slogans and character assassination, I am deeply disappointed, have lost a little respect, and say to you flatly, you did not serve this country well or with dignity.  I am so tired of hearing the four horseman of the Democratic apocalypse (i.e. Republicans are either 1) Bigoted, 2) Racist, 3) Uncaring or 4) stupid).  These four fundamental characteristics form the foundation of nearly every Democratic attack.  Go back across this campaign and you will see how each has been used either alone or in combination to paint a demonic picture of Mitt Romney in particular and Republicans in general.  This character assassination may have won you the election, but you have lost the respect of thinking people in America.
I fear for our country in a way like never before in my lifetime.  This re-affirmation of this President has put this country at serious risk that will fundamentally change this country and how we see ourselves in ways no election before.

Barack Obama and the Risk of Disaster from this Election

There are several risk areas that I see.  These areas in and of themselves are neither good nor bad, they simply carry with them significant risk of a very undesirable outcomes.  So, here are my predictions for the next four years and beyond that, if realized, will lead to irrevocable steps that will transform this country from a land of opportunity to one of increasing government servitude and European Style Socialism.

Health Care

Mr. Obama has achieved the most sweeping health care reforms since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The reform law takes a big step toward universal health coverage, a final piece in the social contract.  With his re-election, there will be no stopping this flawed entitlement.  It carries a great risk that there will be a drive to bring about universal health care coverage administered by the federal government.  I predict it is only a matter of time as independent health care companies and insurance providers are squeezed and more and more people migrate to a government option. At some point, health care providers will become employees of government and the destruction of our economy and health care system will be complete.  This will lead to rationing of services and delays in testing/treatment.
Beyond the impact on care will be the impact on the relationship between health care workers and government officials. I predict that as this huge segment of the economy transforms to a government run entity, there will be a rise of health care service unions modeled after teacher’s unions.  With such an enormous part of our economy dependent on the Federal Government for their livelihood and with a corruptible health care worker service union, we will see the funneling of public dollars going for those candidates that promise the most benefits to health care workers.  This is likely to become the greatest source of corruption this country has ever known.
Further, there will be a spillover effect for all service employee unions and ultimately all unions.  The union movement will be strengthened overall and, as a result, taxpayers and consumers will likely suffer.

The Economy

Mr. Obama prevented another Great Depression. The economy was cratering when he took office in January 2009. By that June it was growing, and it has been ever since (although at a rate that disappoints).  If President Obama is able to implement his economic agenda by hiring more teachers, firefighters, police officers, it is likely that there will be some short term burst to the economy as those workers spend their dollars.  However, it is likely that small businesses and entrepreneurs, that have generally formed the backbone of classic economic recovery will continue to be under-represented in the recovery.  Because of this, we will get reduction in jobless claims but a lower overall economic growth that is likely to stay below 3%.
The president will continue to push infrastructure projects that will again provide economic impact in those local areas of the country where the infrastructure occurs.  However, there is significant risk that these projects will be done inefficiently and with an eye toward making the participating construction companies more dependent on government officials for their livelihood.  Again, this direct funding by the public sector to these private sector companies means that there will be enormous risk of graft and corruption.  It has the potential of furthering an incestuous relationship between the companies that are recipients of the contracts and the elected officials who direct the funding.  When this happens, “public” officials become even more insulated from the electorate.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 


The Federal Debt


Currently we are over $16 Trillion in debt at the federal level.  It is predictable that by the end of this year, we will break through the $17 Trillion barrier.  Of all the risks of this election, this one is the most predictable and has the potential to wreak havoc in ways that are both significant and devastating.  Here the risk is multifold.  The interest on the debt is non-negotiable and represents billions of dollars that is essentially unavailable for spending on anything else.  If interest rates rise, the bite of this would squeeze other programs in ways that limit our options.
The President’s plan is to propose spending cuts with a caveat that for every $2.50 in cuts, there will be a $1.00 increase in taxes.  If this pathway is achieved, then we may see some modest attenuation of the federal debt.  However, one must ask, “At what cost”.  Every dollar that is taken out of the private sector that is used to pay down the debt is a dollar that is unavailable to create economic growth.  One of the proposals that the President makes is to treat Capital gains taxes like ordinary income.  This would raise the effective rate of those taxes from 15% to something around or north of 30%.  What this would do is to create a powerful drag on investments and make the ROI analysis riskier.  This would have a detrimental effect on capital formation and would seriously hamper potential growth from small businesses and entrepreneurs.  So here again, we see small businesses and entrepreneurs impacted leading to less participation in the economy than in previous recoveries.
The other scenario is to inflate our way out of debt.  I predict that this maybe the more likely scenario as budget compromise may prove challenging with the continued divide of Congress.  By purposely generating dollars through the fed, it ultimately would lead to inflation.  This inflation from a federal debt perspective would be good as it would shrink the size of the debt relative to the economy.  However, again one must ask “At what cost”. 
Inflation is a terrible beast that consumes and devastates all, but particularly those on fixed incomes.  In addition it stifles investors because why would I want to lend money to anyone when my future earnings are being paid back in dollars that are worth less?
Make no mistake, because of this election, we will pay for this debt either with an economy that is slower growing than it otherwise would be or through inflation that would be incredibly destructive (or both).

Foreign Affairs

Mr. Obama and his administration have been resolute in attacking Al Qaeda’s leadership, including the killing of Osama bin Laden. He has ended the war in Iraq.
I believe that we have yet to fully realize the consequences of the administrations policies.  The Benghazi attack and attendant follow up reveals a deeply flawed internal communication structure, but worse calls into question the integrity of what is being revealed to the American people.  The current approach toward the middle east and the rest of the world will put our nation at risk in ways that we can not imagine at the present time.  The proposed cuts to the military also puts our national security at risk.
There will be significant risk of an attack on this country that could make 9/11 small by comparison.


The Supreme Court

The future of the nation’s highest court hung in the balance in this election.  The President will make at least one appointment to the bench, possibly two.  These appointments could institutionalize several key trends in this country.  There will be key cases that will run the full spectrum of social issues.  Our society will accelerate its drive toward non-traditional lifestyles.
Perhaps the biggest threat will come in the form of stifling free speech.  Free speech is at risk of being reduced through decisions that will impact how much money can be spent in elections.  This will limit our citizens from being able to hear all sides of an issue, not just the popular side.
Another risk will be that in the name of protecting groups from “hate speech”, the justices will likely codify and sanction attacks on most if not all institutions that espouse traditional values.  The attacks on organizations such as the Boy Scouts will likely extend and expand until anyone who espouses traditional values will be ostracized as “hate-mongering”.

Civil Rights

There is a significant risk that under the guise of extending civil rights, there will be an accelerated drive toward an amoral society.  An “anything goes” mentality and the self indulgent will triumph over the self-less.  We will be at risk of having government take a bigger and bigger role in defining acceptable behavior.  Further, our non-government institutions will either wither away and starve due to lack of funding or support or they will be fully co-opted by the government.
By 2016, we will be well on our way to a society in which the federal government will be more dominant, more of our citizens will be at the mercy of that government for their livelihood and we will be less a society in which an individual can truly succeed without the assistance of someone in the government.  This creates an environment in which corruption becomes likely and a despot become possible.  

A Dark Future?

Perhaps.  I do not say that all of these things will happen, only that we are at risk that they will happen.  Will we survive?  I suppose we will, but this country will likely be a very different one than the one I grew up in, more like France or Argentina and less like the land of opportunity we have known.  There is a significant risk to the “American Dream”.  Like Castro’s Cuba, where paradise is just around the corner and that paradise would be realized except for those terrible Americans who are holding back the people, your government will preside over a deteriorating US Economy while your Democratic leadership will tell you that prosperity is just around the corner if we can just get rid of those bigoted, racist, miserly and stupid Republicans.  If you want a preview of that, look no further than the one party rule of Washington, DC or California.
I usually end this by offering the hopeful “Let Freedom Ring”, but I am afraid that bell may have been rung for the last time, so I will simply signoff with….


Friday, October 19, 2012

Romney and the Social Issues

Recently one of my Facebook friends made the following observation about the election.  She said, “Why are conservative bigoted white men wasting so much time and energy fighting homosexuality? It may take years, decades, who knows...but the LGBT community will eventually win the fight. They'll be able to marry, have rights with respect to their significant others, to be open without ridicule, etc. So why is the whole planet wasting SO much time dealing with this issue? Isn't it exhausting?”

So who are these conservative white men that she is referring to?  I consider myself a conservative who also happens to be white and male and here is where I am at on this issue.  If the citizens of a state, either through their elected officials or through direct referendum choose to expand the definition of marriage and confer these rights on same sex couples, I will respect the law and its citizens.  I feel that my position is shared by many thoughtful conservatives who like Bill Bennett, former secretary of education under Reagan who said on a Daily Show with John Stewart, “John, why do you keep harping on the gay rights agenda? you won! Its over.  Time to move on.”  This was in response to a brow beating that Stewart was giving Bennett on the subject even though it was neither brought up by Bennett nor did it have anything to do with the book Mr. Bennett was there to promote.

Most Conservatives/Republicans can identify with Bill Bennett.  The Gay/Lesbian agenda is a train that has left the station.  It is rolling and not worth fighting over, there are bigger issues to deal with.  For the most part, we simply want to avoid the question and avoid the inevitable beatings.  Its not as if we think that expanding the definition of marriage in this manner is a good idea (we don’t), we simply are resigned to the inevitable expansion/adoption of this right in our communities and have made a decision, it is not worth fighting for.

Not one major Republican leader actively promotes any policy that would suggest that they would interfere with a State’s right to determine its own laws when it comes to most social issues including the marriage issue.  Mitt Romney is a big state’s right guy and this issue would be way, way down on his agenda of items requiring action.  My evidence for this?  In neither of the two debates was the issue brought up.  I have not heard any major policy speech by either Romney or Ryan address this issue from a policy perspective.

Here is what I do hear from Mitt Romney: First, the economy is suffering, GDP has been growing more slowly for the last two years, jobs are down, people are suffering because they cannot find decent work at decent wages.  Secondly, our federal debt is over $16 trillion dollars.  Over the past 3 1/2 years the current administration has added to the debt by over $1 trillion annually.  Finally, we have an administration who is not leveling with the American people about our foreign policy as evidenced by the nearly two week time frame in which the situation in Benghazi was blamed on a you tube video by various administration officials including our Ambassador to the UN, when overwhelming evidence pointed to this being a terrorist attack.  Why would the administration mislead the American public on this issue for such a long period of time, even when their own investigators were saying otherwise?  Why would our State Department deny requests for additional security made by the Ambassador’s staff?

When I consider the issue of whether Frank can get married to Matt or Lisa can get married to Susie in the light of these three fundamental issues that lie at the core of what a federal government should be doing, the gay agenda does not hold a candle.  And I like Bill Bennett (and other thoughtful conservatives) are begging “ENOUGH ALREADY, YOU HAVE WON THE DEBATE ON THE ISSUE” lets move on to more important topics such as:
  • Economic Growth and Job Creation
  • Balancing the Federal Budget and returning our country to fiscal sanity
  • Operating with a realistic and honest foreign policy that respects our allies, condemns acts of terror, pursues foreign policies that are designed to keep this country and its citizens safe.
These are the critical issues.

There is no credible evidence that a Romney/Ryan administration would focus on much if anything beyond these three critical issues (with perhaps the exception of education).  Yes I know social values are one topic of 27 issues addressed on his website, but I would argue that there is nothing in his speeches nor his advocates talking points that suggest that this would be anything besides a low priority issue.  According to his own website, his top issues are: 5 Point Plan, jobs for Economic Growth, Foreign Policy, Smaller, Simpler, Smarter Government, Taxes.  So the Social Issues don’t make it into the top 5 and is relegated to three paragraphs as one of 27 overall issues.  The threat to the GLBT community is way, way, way overblown.

So your concern for the Gay Lesbian agenda is Straw Man.  Meant to point to something that fires up peoples concerns but at the end of the day has little meaningful substance.  Stop with the straw man already, YOU WON!!!!  Let’s focus on the most important issues, jobs and the economy, creating a plan to get the budget under control and a foreign policy that avoids the murder of Ambassadors and keeps American’s safe.

What say you?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is it a truly Affordable Health Care?

I am continuing to ask others what is important in this election.  Recently I have been getting the Affordable Care Act as a main issue and reason to vote for Obama.  One gentleman noted that without Health Care Reform, he would not have insurance.

I responded with a personal dilemma that I hope helps put this into perspective and as a Senior I am wondering if I am not alone on this.

I want to share with you something that is being impacted by the upcoming election that affects me personally.  I am asking all of you who support Obama, especially those of you who consider the Affordable Care Act to be the main reason for supporting Obama to reflect on my situation and help me to understand why I should vote for Obama.

Many of you know that I have a form of cancer called indolent, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  This requires aggressive treatment from time to time and I am looking at a possible bone marrow transplant over the next several months.  While I am not certain what the overall cost will be, I am certain it will be well in excess of $100,000. 

We have been blessed with a good job that has allowed me to purchase decent insurance at a rate that has been fairly affordable.  One way we have tried to manage our health care expenses and to more directly be responsible for our health care costs is that I chose a higher deductible (about;$7,000) and opted for a health savings account (HSA).  We have funded this HSA with the difference between the deductible and our anticipated out of pocket expenses.

Because of Obama's So Called Affordable Health Care plan, beginning in 2013, I will only be able to set aside $2,500 annually into my HSA.  This means that I will be "on the hook" without tax assistance for the difference between my deductible and $2,500.

This leaves me with a dilemma.  My choices would be keep the high deductible, take the 2,500 into the HSA account and pay out of pocket the nearly $5,000 of the difference between my deductable and the HSA without consideration against my after tax income.  This means that at my current tax bracket, I must earn $6,100 in order to have a net of $5,000 for my deductible.

My other option is pay nearly double my monthly premiums in order to get my deductible down to close to $2,500.  In either case, the so called Affordable Care Act makes my health care less affordable.

So when Obama tells you that he is not raising taxes on the middle class, I submit my situation as evidence piece number one that he is being less than honest on this matter.  I am confident that this is not the only situation in which this legislation has not fully represented the costs, especially to seniors who often need the most health care.

So you tell me, how is the Affordable Care Act helping me and why is it in my best interest to re-elect the President?  I'll be listening.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Issues Are Important to You in This Election?

Why I Am Voting FOR Mitt Romney and Not Merely Against Obama

For some time now I have been asking many people this simple question: "For you, what are the key issues of this campaign"?

I have been delighted to hear both the willingness to engage on the subject and the wide range of issues that people consider when voting. It has been illuminating and educational.

When those I have engaged in this conversation have the respect to turn the question back on me, here is my answer....

3 Critical Crises

Our country is facing a series of crises of unprecedented magnitude. While we could engage on many, for me the focus must be on 3 critical concerns:

1)  Economic Growth
2)  the federal debt

3)  National Security


To me these three critical issues dwarf all other considerations.

Why? Because no matter your stand on education, health, social issues, etc., (all worthy of concern) no meaningful action, one way or another, can truly take place, until we get our own house in order. To be concerned about who should be allowed to marry who or how health care should be distributed, is a little bit like choosing between removing my valuables from  a safe or saving the lives of people in a house that is in flames.  Clearly, if we have time and it is safe, you want to do both. Unfortunately I am afraid that we don't have the time to even have that discussion.

When lives are at stake, the priority should be on saving lives.

Economic Growth

In this election, the first and most dangerous fire is jobs and the economy. However, it is not merely about how many people we put to work but also what kind of economic philosophy is going to drive our country going forward. Here are our choices as I see them.

Do we work to restore a commitment to prosperity and the creation of wealth, or one in which we merely put people to work?

The President’s plan is one that relies on direct funding of work with little or no regard of the source of those funds.  To be clear, I believe in the great work of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and road construction workers. As the son of a man who taught unselfishly for 50 years, I can testify to the difference that one teacher can make in the lives of a human being.

But we need to take a step back to understand that what allows for great teachers to flourish is an underlying healthy economy that generates enough wealth to support the hiring of great teachers, firefighters and police officers. Small Business, Entrepreneurs and owners of private enterprise are the creators of goods, products and services.  These products and services, when they are successful, lead to wealth creation, good jobs and the ability to provide sufficient funding for necessary public works, schools and the services that protect all of our citizens, especially the most vulnerable. So, a vibrant economy is critical, because without it, all other services, programs, and initiatives become "at risk" regardless of their merit.

Mitt Romney Has a Better Approach

Instead of directly funding the middle layers of our economy in which the government takes the role of directing the funds of the wealthy and future taxpayers to our noble teachers, firefighters, etc, Mitt Romney proposes that the role of government  should be to encourage private sector growth, by freeing up funds, primarily through a fair and level tax policy and reasonable regulation that promotes private investment, creating opportunity for wealth creation and solid jobs for all. The wealthier all of us are as citizens, the more we have available to extend the judicious use of citizen led initiatives, including but not limited to government programs to address the wide range of the social challenges we face.  Simply put, people, with the freedom to invest and take risks, will do a better job of creating a wealthier society that impacts us all than well meaning, but limited government bureaucrats.

Federal Debt Secondly we have a federal debt  that is out of control. It is irresponsible and unconscionable that we would allow the federal debt to increase to $16 trillion. This puts at risk future prosperity and limits the options that we have available for the necessary work of government. I simply will not stand by to pass along this large debt to my children and their children.  It is immoral and unfair.  It also saps our nation’s ability to meet our basic responsibilities.

How so?  With every dollar that we spend on the interest servicing our debt, we lose a dollar for other necessary programs. This means every dollar sent to China to service the debt is a dollar we don't have for social security, medicaid, healthcare, programs for education, national  security – or anything else, just name it. This is a beast that must be controlled and the most powerful way to approach this is to combine a sensible way of reigning in the spending, combined with a “pedal to the metal” fueling up of economic growth. Bear in mind that for every 1% rise in the GDP we contribute almost $700-$800 billion is added revenue for the federal government. This is why having economic growth is the number one priority for taming the federal deficit.  Having success with this first and most important issue makes the tough work of the second much easier.  Most of the pundits who are looking for the specifics in the Romney/Ryan plan and state in pontificating terms "that it does not add up", are guilty of looking at the economic world from a static perception. It does not add up because they have no faith in the power of an American economy unleashed. Imagine what would happen to our government revenues if we could coax and extra 2% RISE OUT OF THE GDP? Why it might be enough to raise even the fortunes of California.

Here, Mitt Romney along with his partner Paul Ryan have an absolute sterling record of success in managing and controlling budgets and turning around difficult situations so that success could be achieved.  Whether   you look to his work in the private sector, his volunteer work during the winter Olympics, or his unpaid leadership as Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt has a superior track record of success in turning around challenging situations and leaving many much better off.

Foreign Policy Finally our current foreign-policy is a disaster. The question isn't should we have a foreign policy that enhances the security of the United States and leads to a safer world? That is a nearly universally shared goal. The better question is, how do we best achieve that? 

Here again I think that Romney has a distinct and positive solution. First and foremost he clearly differentiates himself from the president by calling for a stronger commitment to military and defense spending. It's a sensible 20% of GDP commitment to military spending which is consistent with our level of commitment for over 40 years.  Having the interest payments on our debt going to fuel Chinese expansion of their military is unconscionable.  If we reduce the level of payments to the Chinese we can afford to update and modernize  our own military, thus  enhancing  the strength of our military force. Obama has proposed over $500 billion in cuts to the military and a reduction in our military force. Compared to Ronald Reagan’s successful foreign policy initiatives, Obama couldn't provide a more diametrically opposed philosophy.   Ronald Reagan famously demonstrated, the effectiveness of “Peace Through Strength” -- and I believe that Romney brings that same essential proven successful philosophy to his approach on foreign-policy. Drones and Special Forces alone will not provide us the security nor offer us the options that come from a military that cannot be challenged. All foreign issues are not simply “criminal actions” that necessitate a limited police like response.  Nothing is as potent as having a complete top to bottom military that is second to none.

Now some may challenge this with, “How can we afford a military buildup when we are struggling with deficits?”  A sensible question.  I respond with three points:  It is a matter of priorities: 1) Economic Growth, key to all other issues.  2) Reduce foreign interest payments with fair budgets, 3) maintain security spending @20% of GDP.  This means that we manage security spending in a manner that is affordable and makes economic growth and reduction of foreign debt payment THE critical issues in order to achieve those security goals.

This then allows the United States to project influence into dangerous parts of the world and have our influence be taken seriously. I believe that the current administration's approach puts at serious risk our standing in the world.

So there you have it, these are my top issues and reasons for voting for Mitt Romney and not necessarily against Pres. Obama.

Mitt is a man who was successful in turning around businesses with  and setting them up for sustained success.  He turned a troubled Olympics around, , guiding the 2002 Winter Olympics into one of the most successful endeavors in Olympic history.  Finally, he demonstrated his ability to be an effective leader in a government executive position.  As governor of the state of Massachusetts, he was able to bring an out-of-control budget under control, while at the same time managing the education standards of that  state  in such a way that they were envy of others.  

We must elect Mitt Romney not merely to defeat President Obama, but because he is the right man at the right time that will tackle these three most important issues in a manner that, I believe. will help turn this country .

These are my issues and concerns.  That is why I am voting for Romney and not necessarily against President Obama!

What are your issues and concerns?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Top Ten Reasons To Dislike Mitt Romney

Why Mitt Romney is Unlikeable.
A lot is being said in the media about Mitt Romney's not being "likable" or that he doesn't "relate well" to people. Frankly, we struggled to understand why. So after much research, we have come up with a Top Ten List to explain this "unlikeablility."
Top Ten Reasons To Dislike Mitt Romney:
1. Drop-dead, collar-ad handsome with gracious, statesmanlike aura. Looks like every central casting's #1 choice for Commander-in-Chief.
2. Been married to ONE woman his entire life, and has been faithful to her, including through her bouts with breast cancer and MS.
3. No scandals or skeletons in his closet. (How boring is that?)
4. Can't speak in a fake, southern, "black preacher voice" when necessary.
5. Highly intelligent. Graduated cum laude from both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School... and by the way, his academic records are NOT sealed.
6. Doesn't smoke or drink alcohol, and has never done drugs, not even in the counter-culture age when he went to college. Too square for today's America?
7. Represents an America of "yesterday", where people believed in God, went to Church, didn't screw around, worked hard, and became a SUCCESS!
8. Has a family of five great sons....and none of them have police records or are in drug rehab. But of course, they were raised by a stay-at-home mom, and that "choice" deserves America's scorn.
9. Oh yes.....he's a MORMON. We need to be very afraid of that very strange religion that teaches its members to be clean-living, patriotic, fiscally conservative, charitable, self-reliant, and honest.
10. And one more point.....pundits say because of his wealth, he can't relate to ordinary Americans. I guess that's because he made that money opposed to marrying it or inheriting it from Dad. Apparently, he didn't understand that actually working at a job and earning your own money made you unrelatable to Americans.
My goodness, it's a strange world, isn't it?
Personal Information:

His full Name is: Willard Mitt Romney. He was Born: March 12, 1947 and is 65 years old.

His Father: George W. Romney, former Governor of the State of Michigan.

He was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

He is Married to Ann Romney since 1969; they five children.

Education: B.A. from Brigham Young University, J.D. and M.B.A. from Harvard University

Religion: Mormon - The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints
Working Background: After high school, he spent 30 months in France as a Mormon missionary.

After going to both Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School simultaneously, he passed the Michigan bar exam, but never worked as an attorney.

In 1984, he co-founded Bain Capital a private equity investment firm, one of the largest such firms in the United States.

In 1994, he ran for Senator of Massachusetts and lost to Ted Kennedy.

He was President and CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

In 2002, he was elected Governor of the State of Massachusetts where he eliminated a 1.5 billion deficit.
Some Interesting Facts about Romney:

Bain Capital, starting with one small office supply store in Massachusetts, turned it into Staples; now over 2,000 stores employing 90,000 people.

Bain Capital also worked to perform the same kinds of business miracles again and again, with companies like Domino's, Sealy, Brookstone, Weather Channel, Burger King, Warner Music Group, Dollarama, Home Depot Supply and many others.

He was an unpaid volunteer campaign worker for his dad's gubernatorial campaign 1 year.

He was an unpaid intern in his dad's governor's office for eight years.

He was an unpaid bishop and state president of his church for ten years.

He was an unpaid President of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee for three years.

He took no salary and was the unpaid Governor of Massachusetts for four years.

He gave his entire inheritance from his father to charity.

Mitt Romney is one of the wealthiest self-made men in our country but has given more back to its citizens in terms of money, service and time than most men.

And in 2011 Mitt Romney gave over $4 million to charity, almost 19% of his income.... Just for comparison purposes,Obama gave 1% and Joe Biden gave $300 or .0013%.
Mitt Romney is Trustworthy:

He will show us his birth certificate

He will show us his high school and college transcripts.

He will show us his social security card.

He will show us his law degree.

He will show us his draft notice.

He will show us his medical records.

He will show us his income tax records.

He will show us he has nothing to hide.
Mitt Romney's background, experience and trustworthiness show him to be a great leader and an excellent citizen for President of the United States.
You may think that Romney may not be the best representative the Republicans could have selected. At least I know what religion he is, and that he won't desecrate the flag, bow down to foreign powers, or practice fiscal irresponsibility.
I know he has the ability to turn this financial debacle that the current regime has gotten us into. We won't like all the things necessary to recover from this debt, but someone with Romney's background can do it.
But, on the minus side, he never was a "Community Organizer", never took drugs or smoked pot, never got drunk, did not associate with communists
or terrorists, nor did he attend a church whose pastor called for God to damn the US.