Guest Columnist:

Mark Scheinbaum

Double Dose: Two from Mark

With a long involvement in all news media from print, to radio, to television Mark Scheinbaum graciously enhances JosephMind as part of its continuing 'Guest Columnist Series' ...


INTRODUCTORY NOTES from JOSEPH ...

It would be some years ago when – while having having dinner with friends in London – my ex-Mod, former swinging West Ender companions would become inquisitive about my friends from American talk radio. This wouldn’t be quite as odd as one might otherwise consider … For this dining ensemble was often fascinated with ‘all things American’ and their interest in ‘The Media States’, in particular, conjured the greatest of … intrigue.

I dutifully offered quick and abbreviated assessments, some of which spurred laughter in my confessional moments. But when I turned to the overview of Mark Scheinbaum, I distinctly remember my evaluation …

“There were talk hosts who used Mark as fodder as a subject of ridicule – for ridicule was both their medium and their principle content”, I said. “But the actual truth of the matter is, as it relates to most issues pertinent to this world, Mark has literally forgotten more than most talk hosts collectively know.”

Indeed, Mark had started as a newspaper copy boy in New York at age 11. This would ultimately gravitate to becoming a newsman for United Press International – as well as securing a highly diverse resume that would also include – yes, a varied talk radio career – inclusive of producing commentary, syndicated on 230 radio stations … as well as a three year directorship of The National Association of Radio Talk Show Hosts. Now add a smattering of ABC-TV Network News in New York. Mark would also contribute a series of reports from Bosnia for CNN Radio.

He would additionally be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, rounded out by a Political Science Association award for his thesis, ‘Cuban Foreign Policy in the English-Speaking Caribbean’, and an SBA Media Advocate of the Year Award.

Graciously sharing his knowledge and experience with others, Mark would also teach Political Science, US Foreign Policy, and ‘The Role of The Press in Foreign Policy Formulation’. And, with all this, he also found the time to be a top-flight investment analyst. Mark currently writes for The American-Reporter, as well as being Managing Director of LF Financial.

There’s some other shit I can’t entirely remember on this day, but Mark’s background nevertheless makes most people’s resumes seem like a Post-It note … Moreover, Mark continues to possess a journalistic quality, often now forgotten, as it's been more recently replaced by ego and 'share': A genuine interest in the subject, whether one would be reporting on it or not. A true and irrepressible intellectual curiosity, in short.

With this, some time back, I asked Mark to pen a piece on the National Healthcare debate – that which would permeate the news in The States and has further divided the same. But Mark would reply that he felt his ability to offer an objective work on the subject would not be possible at this time … For Mark would now find himself involuntarily involved with healthcare and the insurance industry on a very … personal level. As Mark filled me in on the details, I well understood his reluctance and fully respected his decline.

Three months would since pass and, on this day in my In-Box, I would be greeted with two written manuscripts ... from Scheinbaum.

Perhaps Mark had come to realize that a ‘lack of objectivity’ didn’t necessarily lead to erroneous conclusions by simple default. Or maybe he ultimately recognized that one’s personal involvement with a subject offered the potential of insights more human ... and less cold in the frigid, blue light of detached analysis. For the issue at hand – by it’s very nature – is a personal one. Perhaps Mark just needed to get past a specific line and reach a marker ...

In any or all events, I’m honored to feature Mark as part of JosephMind’s ‘Guest Columnist Series’ with two pieces, situationally related …  


 

Ignore Healthcare Reform ... Unless It's Yours

By Mark Scheinbaum


BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – I wonder if a national health plan bordering on socialism would be a slam dunk if Liberal democrats such as the late Ted Kennedy had spun the issue so that departed Carolina conservative Senate icons such as Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond could make it a “populist” cause.

“Ahem, Ahem now, “ the power structure of the current Broadway revival of “Finian’s Rainbow” might tell the folks of mythical Missitucky, “We don’t want none of that there pinko commie national health care, just the same darned health and medical protection them fat cats we bailed out on Wall Street all have for their young’uns and kin.”

It seems as if serious health reform is someone else’s problem, someone else’s issue, someone else’s tragedy ... until it is yours.

Charity from a friend puts me in a brownstone in the upscale Park Slope section of Brooklyn to recuperate from prostate cancer surgery this week at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Deficient medical insurance such as mine in New Mexico where $700 plus a month buys you perhaps a $10,000 deductible and $3,000 and 50% co-pay when you are still three years too young for Medicare, hits you squarely in the face with health choices.

Do what I did in a state where there was no bariatric surgeon certified in the state to perform weight loss surgery which was mandatory precursor to cancer surgery; and no Davinci laproscopic surgery machine until months after my diagnosis.

Take your chances, literally allow “watchful waiting” with at least two tumors, or go on “hormone” therapy with daily pills and quarterly $1,900 shots. Ask nine urologists in two countries where they would go with the same cancer and have eight of them tell you Sloan Kettering, and the ninth would “Go to M.D. Andersen in Houston, unless I had more time, and then I’d go to New York to Sloan Kettering.”

So with a wife of 40-plus years who takes “for better or worse” seriously and the real likelihood of literally losing the ranch because my insurer changed my New York treatment from in network to “out of network” coverage when a new machine was unveiled in Albuquerque after I had already embarked on a course of treatment in New York, we go forward.

I think I will be able to pay my bills after working and scrimping since age 11 starting as a copy boy at the New York World-Telegram and Sun. I also think paying my bills will remove any remaining retirement funds, max out all credit cards, and with the economic downturn actually flirt with foreclosure and/or bankruptcy unless things pick up. I am not meeting my financial obligations to an elderly mom, and not helping out struggling kids and grandkids. C’est la vie.

Years ago when the Op Ed page of The New York Times published a dispatch I wrote from Cuba, I remarked to friends that Cuban residents could not understand parents needing to pay for child care or health care in order to be secure in a job. Nothing has changed except millions of Americans have lost their homes because other Americans believe promoters who tell them it’s no one else’s worry if a mom has to miss work or take an extra job to pay for a kid’s ER bill after a soccer injury.

In Park Slope a metal canister with much less than a pound of coffee is $14.99. Across from Methodist Hospital two burgers at Five Guys and a Coke are $14.10. The small Breakstone's cottage cheese at Steve’s discount supermarket is more than four bucks. And through it all, New Yorkers, New Mexicans and everyone in between pay hundreds or thousands per month for coverage they pray they will never need.

The pain after radical prostate surgery is like being in a knife fight which you lost. One gains a new respect for drug addicts popping pain pills. But after four days the pain has subsided and thoughts of “did they get it all?,” recovery, resumed work, and facing the bills evolve to the forefront of one’s personal health care journey.

Is it really a luxury to guarantee a basic safety net for all Americans? Does Boeing really and truly play on a level playing field with Airbus Industrie when airlines bid on planes? Boeing’s planes include benefits packages negotiated with, for, and by working people. Airbus low balls prices in a work environment subsidized by half of the taxpayers of Western Europe.

As I think of this health care debate, I wonder if some of the captains of Wall Street now scorned, the Guggenheims or an Admiral Josephthal would be very proud of workers’ treatments. Cutting my investment teeth at the end of the golden era of Josephthal & Co., I remember when true leaders such as Michael DeMarco Sr. and Raymond Mando took care of employees.

Workers who helped the firm survive the Great Depression had a job with benefits for life. Period.

As a young limited partner and director I learned of at least two cases when employees’ children were accepted to medical school and the firm proudly paid their tuitions.

A coronary attack which killed a worker resulted in $900+ complete physical exams for all employees paid for by the firm.

Thanksgiving did not only mean a fresh turkey but a choice of an Empire Kosher Turkey for Jewish workers. I won’t even get into the gold plated Seth Thomas mantel clocks on corporate anniversaries.

Yup, a single payer national universal health care system is pretty bad policy. Except when it hits home.

- Mark Scheinbaum -



 

My Apology to Drug Addicts

by Mark Scheinbaum


NEW YORK — Full disclosure requires the author to reveal he is currently whacked out on drugs.

While longtime friends might wonder how this differs from my usual whacked out state, this time the behavior is really special. It will cause me to actually apologize to blowhard Rush Limbaugh, and numerous members of the NBA, NFL and jazz quartets.

There seems to be a reason why people become drug addicts:

They are addicted.

Whoa, Nellie! Let’s back this baby up to the loading dock a minute ...

As an old fart set in his ways, I now have three definitive, public apologies for totally misguided pronouncements and philosophies for most of my life as a citizen, parent, writer, and broadcaster, it shakes my self-confidence a bit, but facts are facts. I was wrong about:
 

  • The NCAA and college athletes,

  • Boozehounds and barflies, and ...

  • Narcotics addicts.

The first one is easy. After debating the ills of college athletes who take cars, and trips, and bribes from boosters I used to rant and rave that college sports needs to produce educated genteel men of the world, all playing for free.

Fergettabout it. For about the last decade I have changed over to the idea that college football and basketball are entertainment. Big time stars produce money for schools and their public relations image. An athlete should be signed to a school which becomes like a minor league team. If the Lakers want to draft a freshman the school gets a piece of the take. Kids get stipends and cars and insurance and the same perks a young executive trainee would get. If we need a crumb to education, the student upon signing gets a 30 year or lifetime ticket for a bachelor’s degree. They could go to school after their sports career. Clear the air, call it what it is: sports business, not education.

Alcohol addition attitudes changed for this observer when a zillion diets, trainers, nutritionists, and warnings failed. It took bariatric surgery to make me admit I was addicted to food, bad food, good food, all food. Especially to carbs. To fast forward the catalyst for good behavior a surgeon gave me the choice: “You now have the stomach the size of the egg. Here is the diet for the rest of your life. Your lifetime intake of alcoholic beverages, carbonated beverages, and - in fact - any beverages with your meal is zero. Shovel in the old crap and the nut-raisin Cadbury bars as usual and, if you’re lucky, you’ll puke, or gag, or have horrible pains, or start hemorrhaging. If you’re not particularly lucky you’ll just die. So, follow the program now or die. The old way before surgery you would just die of a stroke or a clot, or diabetes or something in a month or a year or a decade. Play games now and you’ll probably cut the process down to a few minutes or a few hours. Your choice, good luck, see you every six months forever.”

An alcoholic is never “cured.” A food addict is never cured. It took not a family cozy, fuzzy intervention – but a surgical intervention to get me to realize that my addiction to food and concomitant behavior has little different from a boozer. I thus make my mea culpa to all people who regularly get bombed or blasted or call themselves “social” drinkers.

An apology to Rush Limbaugh is tougher. Recreational drugs for the wealthy, or addictive drugs for the once healthy, seemed to call for tough love.

“Don’t tell me that a poor addict could buy three hundred or three thousand pills a months.”

“Don’t tell me that 20,000 pills in a month are just for ‘personal use’, put these people in jail,” I remember dictating to a national radio audience, many of who agreed in their calls to the show.

Boy, was I wrong.

After big time surgery last week which made the bariatric procedure in January seem like having a wart removed in comparison, I awoke with these instructions from a Hungarian-born angel of mercy:

“We’ve loaded you up with some stuff for the pain, but if you need more pain killers just press this button a few times.”

She pressed the remote clicker into my palm, smiled, and left the room.

The little clicker made me happier than a kid handed the remote switch for the Jumbotron screen at Yankee Stadium.

Through the night every few hours ... click, click, click ... drip, drip, drip ... sleep, sleep, sleep. When another angel appeared late the next morning and said, looks like you're feeling better and we’ll remove the IV and the button in about an hour, she kind of winked.

My hand-button coordination was accelerated in that hour.

Discharged from the hospital with a bag of drugs, I studied the one container labeled:

Hydrocodone / Acetaminophen  5mg-500mg

The Rx said to take one or two pills every four hours as needed but not to take more than eight in one day ...

The first two days out of the hospital I took one pill before going to bed. I did not take the sleeping pills they gave me. The next two days I took nothing.

Now keep in mind the bariatric surgery meant no aspirin, ever, even the prophylactic heart healthy kind. In 9 months I, perhaps, have taken two Tylenol or Advil for a pain or strain.

Around 4 AM, what I will politely call, well, er, “catheter pain.” hit. No rearrangement of pillows or position helped. I took a pain pill, no relief. About an hour later I took another pain pill. Things started feeling better, so three hours later I took two more, and now feel totally calm, relaxed and pain free.

I don’t mean to be a smart ass or poetically cute, but apparently the main trouble with drugs and addiction is that the good stuff that works is both addictive and tolerated fairly well. In booze terms, the Bourbon Old Fashioned quickly gives way to throwing down double shots of Jim Beam.

The website, AddictionSearch, (what else would you go to?) says:

The major concern with the use of Oxycodone and its derivatives is tolerance and physical dependence which can occur after several weeks to months of use. Oxycodone has almost similar effects to morphine, and thus appeals to the same community who abuse morphine and heroin. Reports of pharmacies being broken in for Oxycodone are not uncommon.

My closest friend who, through many a year of serious study and hard work in that direction, has become my expert on street scum, beach bums, and sleaze balls. He pooh-poohs my pills and says the stuff the hospital gave me is the “mild form” and “not that strong" ... "The really good stuff could fetch $80 a pill on the street", he says. "Your stuff is just jacked up Tylenol.”

Okay, that’s actually making my point.

Joe Blow who is addicted to nothing more than White Castle and any form of legal sex, is in a car wreck. Or he trips on the ski slope. Or he forgets to bend his knees lifting the rebuilt InterState battery into his truck. Or he gets out of his car the wrong way and twists his spine. Or he wakes up one morning and every bone in his body hurts and the doctors say, “Ummmmm we all concur, it is nonspecific, take four of these daily” as they scribble on the Rx pad.

Rush, you are a big guy. Almost as big as I was last year. Could the pills that allowed you to function at four a day today require fourteen a day next week? Or four an hour next month? I don’t know, I’m not a pharmacologist and I don’t play one on TV. Yet I surely think it is more plausible than I did a few months ago.

When people are in pain but still need and want to function or earn a living, or make excuses for their real problems, things that work for them become a necessity.

So, to the NFL draft pick who never finished college and can’t read the ?Wendy’s menu; to the social drinker who picks up a case of Tecate every night enroute home, and to Rush Limbaugh … mea culpa.

- Mark Scheinbaum -


Epilogue: Mark, now out of Sloan Kettering, tells me that the pathologist reports absolutely no indication that the cancer escaped the prostrate or has, in any way, metastasized.  - Joseph -

 

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