Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Doctors Just Don't Like Second Opinions (Or First Ones)

For better or worse, the rising presence of the internet has obviously allowed the common person to express their opinions on any topic. No longer does one need to be a paid “expert” to rattle on about the merits of music, movies, politics, or any other subject that garners a reaction.
Sometimes these opinions are found on sites that have nothing to do with the subject. Message boards for all subjects thrive on off-topic forums; music blogs may include posts on politics, and vice versa. Further input exists as replies to these posts…at least on those sites where the owner has the balls to allow opposing viewpoints. The only drawback is one tends to attract trolls who will argue that the sky is green if the site owner states that it’s blue. (Hi Kurt! I’m kidding, my friend.)
But even mainstream sites allow for visitor input. For example, Amazon allows anybody to review any of their products, which can make for good reading on a boring night. Yelp’s very existence is to create a database of restaurant reviews. Rotten Tomatoes compiles the reviews of people all over the world into a score that better evaluates individual movies than the publicity-driven reviews in most mainstream publications.
To me, this is all fantastic - the more opinions the better. Yet many are not happy by these developments. One of the more disappointing traits of my favorite satellite radio program is their reaction to even the most minor criticisms. Many a show has been wasted on bitching about “faceless people behind a keyboard”.
With that in mind, you can imagine my laughter when I picked up yesterday’s Argus Leader and read this headline - Doctors pan online reviews as criticism without rebuttal (http://www.argusleader.com/article/20090324/NEWS/903240306). Apparently, there’s a website (http://ratemds.com) where people can review local doctors on a number of different categories. Oh, the indignity of having customers actually voicing their opinions!
Even those who received high scores are quoted in the article as being hurt by this site. Dr. Kimberly McKay, who has a perfect score on the site, complained that “it hurts my feelings” that more than one patient stated she pushed stomach surgery on them.
This entire article is just crazy talk. If we can review food, movies, television, concerts, albums, electronics, and everything else, why can’t we do the same for the very people who hold the keys for our very survival? I know the fine folks at Sanford and Avera want us to believe that every employee is a perfect practitioner, but anybody with a brain knows this to be untrue. Since our local media refuses to report anything but glowing stories on these two institutions, it is up to a grass roots campaign to spread the real truth about what goes on inside those ever-expanding walls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gimme Back the Real St. Patrick's Day!

One of my more surprising traits (or curses, depending on your opinion) is that I’m a traditionalist. I’m against the designated hitter, interleague play, three-step traveling non-calls, MP3-only releases, computer porn, Times Square and Vegas redone as Disney-ish family destinations, etc. etc. Yeah, I realize all of these examples perfectly fit the cliché that I’m a curmudgeon. Got a problem with that?
I especially hate when “The Man” turns good ol’ adult fun into family-friendly outings. There are certain events that have been built for at least decades, if not centuries, as times for adults to let out some steam.
St. Patrick’s Day is one of those days. There’s no other day in the year where it’s acceptable to sneak out of work a few hours early to get bombed. I can’t count the times that I’ve put in a half day, ended up at Skelly’s for a liquid lunch, hurled insults at politicians in the parade, and ended up home in bed by 8 p.m. Because it all happens so early in the day and evening, there’s rarely any aftereffects the next morning when I head back into my office at 8 a.m.
Leave it to our fine city to screw up my fun. With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Tuesday, somebody in City Hall (or in some local bureaucratic office) decided to move up the holiday to Saturday. What a bonehead move!
For one thing, drinking early on a Saturday is no big deal. Give me a good game on the tube, and I’m doing exactly that anyway. Or I’m so hungover from the previous evening that I’m just entering the real world around the time the festivities began. Then one must pace themselves a bit throughout the day, as you can’t waste a weekend night by ending up passed out before Cops is even over.
I tried to play the game. I headed downtown an hour or so before the parade, only to find myself surrounded by shoppers and families. Ugh! At Skelly’s there was no sense that this was a special day. People were doing more eating than drinking. Silly green hats and buttons do not make the day!
Because of the lack of true revelry, I was still sober when the parade began. What a mistake! Come on, you have to be hammered to deal with any parade, let alone one in Sioux Falls. The only entertainment I had was watching the city’s political leaders avoid the horse poop that littered the street.
Worse yet, the parade seemed to go on forever! How could anybody sit through one of these? Finally, the last float came by, and I headed back to a bar…where I was almost the only person in the building (outside of the lone bartender, of course). I finally called my kid for a ride, and took a long nap before starting all over again.
It’s obvious to me why the city moved up the “official” St. Patrick’s party. It’s no longer a day for the Irish, or the drinkers, or the Irish drinkers. It’s now a sanctioned family event, with the goal to no longer be to let the working class have a day to let off some steam. Instead, it’s a glorified Crazy Days. Gather up the kids, and come downtown to buy some overpriced knickknacks and snacks while the city’s elite showcase their non-skills in a lame parade. No, no, no! Kids belong at the babysitters (or with family members) on this wonderful day of debauchery. What makes this even sadder is that the local media were in cahoots with this lame plan, making the real St. Patty’s Day came and go with almost no notice. We can’t let this happen next year, as Hump Day is THE perfect day for being drunk before sunset.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sandy, Sandy, Sandy

Some people are just not cut out for politics. Take me, for example. While I certainly have the ambitions and narcissism required to make a run for office, I know that even in the unlikely event of a win I would be a disaster. I wouldn’t be able to handle the lengthy meetings, the rigid rules, or the constant attention from clems begging for consideration of their pet projects. I shiver at the very thought of dealing with these people.
But that’s my own psychosis. For many people, it’s the simple fact that everything you do or say is going to be put under a microscope. Almost every politician, and almost every vote, is going to be opposed by at least 40% of the populace. Those that aren’t used to criticism are bound to have a tough time while in office.
This is why I actually feel bad for Sandy Jerstad. She’s an outstanding citizen who somehow decided that she could make a difference for the citizens of her state. Despite the odds, she defeated two icons, Hal Wick and Bill Earley, of our state’s majority party. I congratulate her for these two major upsets.
Yet in my eyes she has been a disaster as a state legislator. She’s the queen of “nanny” laws; unnecessary bills that do nothing but infringe on our personal rights. Twice she has attempted to create bans on underage tanning. She co-sponsored a bill that made it illegal for an adult to not have health insurance. She was an outspoken proponent on expanding the car seat law to include children up to 8 years old. This year, her big move is to redefine seat belt laws as a primary offense, thus giving police a potential excuse to pull anybody over.
Her reasoning for these types of bills? “Sometimes we just don’t do what we should do unless there’s a law against it,” she recently told the Mitchell Republic. That kind of rhetoric doesn’t play well in this state, and thankfully most of these types of bills haven’t made it very far.
These inane bills are not the cause or today’s rant, though. My main complaint began a few months ago when her personal crusade against a certain adult toy store in Tea led her to a screamfest inside the store. When she denied an exchange took place, security camera footage proved her to be a liar. Honestly, it was my favorite news story of the year.
Things haven’t improved for her this year. After a legislative gathering at a Pierre bar, Jerstad was seen backing into another vehicle and leaving the scene without notifying the police. After pleading “no contest” last week, Jerstad somehow became the victim. Life in Pierre has “absolutely been hellish”, she told the Argus. “I’m a big target - partly I believe because of my gender…I'm all about doing the right thing, and that's why this was so devastating."
Um, no. Your gender has nothing to do with the various controversies that surround you. I would laugh at anybody who would cause a scene in a vibrator store. I would criticize anybody who believes that teen use of tanning beds is a major problem in this state. On the other hand, I’d probably feel a little less angry at somebody who admitted they made a mistake by not reporting a minor fender bender. Instead, the attitude is that it’s those mean men who don’t like powerful women that are plotting against your every move.
Sandy, it’s time. Thank you for attempting to serve the fine people of our jurisdiction, but you just don’t have thick enough skin for South Dakota politics.