Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Garden of Date

The sun rose 14 centuries ago
He prepared a garden of dates
The flowers abound a garden of eden
The date palm was watered
Protecting all in the garden

The day of reckoning at past noon
The tenth of moharram
The date palm he rests his shoulder
See the injustice on me
For those in the garden saw the rivers of blood
The date looked on in despair
His caretaker burdened the injustice
A dusk of one age as the dawn of a long night

A lonely palm with a harvest of dates
The garden was protected with the blood of the tenth day
For what time will pass under the shimmer of the moon

The garden of date flourishes
Every harvest remembering the
Sacrifice of the tenth day.
He awaits the sun to rise again
He shall reap the rewards of
Fourteen hundred years,
I ask that I be in this garden indeed.
Come on come on...come under the shadow of garden of date.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Journey of Benefit

For my Master arrives today
A sad mourne of the first ten
Days of remeberance for The King
Travels He returned with Treasures
Abound from the plains of Kerbala

Pearls of wisdom he will gift
Many will have their hands ready
Grab the jewels as they fall
For with the wealth is a pardon
For many sins I have committed

Tears roll on the servants cheek
As The Master says O'Brother you
Are washed of all No worries on the
Sea of troubles just hold My Hand
For our Journey is together grab it firm

Travel brings us closer to home
The shores He has seen and I have forgotten
For the captain calls me His Brother
When I am fulfilled as his servant

The ten days will be to capture
The jewels of wisdom
A wealth to pay for our journey home.
Gather the pearls as they are said
A Journey of Benefit He says..

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A New Year Today

For 1431 has arrived!
We travel forward everyday
Today is no less or more than yesterday
But yesterday was 1430 and today 1431

The beginning we mourn, a child born
In ten days a sacrifice for eternity
For the Commander will call upon all
Remember the blood shed on the desert
Sunrise to sunset on the tenth we shall recall

The images of the fields of Kerbala
A distant past tale brought to life
The final time of Asr He will prostrate
To demonstrate and vividly remind the story is today
Thousands in Marol shall see it LIVE
For the King will be there in Spirit

Million plus will join minute by minute
1431 the day of the tenth - Ashura indeed
We await the day where we shall be at his knees
Begging for the blessings that all shall receive
Forget not that he blesses all
But being there it would be indeed best for my feeble mind

A solace on the image on the screen
He will remember me I know
And in that I ask for forgiveness
The tenth on a New year today
I shall await with great fervor.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

1431H - Welcome the Nine

The last few days and hours.
The ten days of mourn - a celebration indeed
This year adds to nine - one short of ten
A hail from Marol to relays of the world
A son in the West replies again

A journey for those lucky
Emirates in the air Eastbound
Celebrate the nine, we await the tenth
This year is nines! 99 years in the year of nine
We await his call for Our Eid on the tenth
One Four Three and One - nine again
Next year Tens! 1432H One Four Three Two - 10
100 years it shall be - we celebrate again.

A glorious two years it will start - Twelve months of the next
Wait for the new moon wait for the celebration.
Indeed we await the glorious nine and anticipate the ten

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving And Eid-Ul-Adha

This years thanksgiving marks an interesting intersection of the Muslim holiday of Eid-Ul-Adha and Thanksgiving for Muslim Americans.

Eid-Ul-Adha is a celebration of the Day of Sacrifice. It marks the climax of the Haj pilgrimage. For over 2 million people who have made the journey to Makkah, this day is when you return from Mount Arafat and have spiritually cleaned yourself. A sense of renewal and re-birth for those fortunate 2 million.

For the rest of us, it is a celebration marked by the second Eid. Festivities, family gatherings are common along with visits to the Masjid (Mosque). Muslims around the world share and rejoice the Eid day along with their fellow 2 million Hajjis.

For Muslim Americans, this Thursday is Thanksgiving. In many ways Thanksgiving is bigger than any US holiday because it is unquely burried in traditions that are the fundamentals of being an American. It is a celebration of our unqiue heritage of immigrants that have built the world greatest country. A heritage that bonds us all together this one day irrespective of race color religion or credo.

What will be going through my mind as I plan to share a meal with family this weekend? First and foremost this will be a non-traditional thanksgiving. Instead of a meal at home, I will be at the Masjid celebrating Eid and giving thanks with family, friends and other members. There will be a celebration from all around.

I will be thinking about what this intersection of two holidays means to me? Such an event comes rarely in a lifetime and I want to make it special by listening to voices that speak about our journey in the past year and what is to come.

This year many events have occured. For many 2009 will be a year to forget due to the tough circumstances that our country has gone through. Many personal events have occured that made the year tough and challenging. My business has struggled as we cope the economic downturn. Family turmoil, health issues and sadly a couple of family and friends have passed away.

But then there have been many good things as well. My imediate family is doing well and everybody has so far gone through the year without too big of any events. We enjoyed a good summer vacation and my parents got to go to Kerbala and Najaf along with my brother and his wife. My two children are doing well. Jamila got her Misaaq done and now she is a young lady peering into her future; marveling at the numerous possibilities. Its so awesome to view life through my kids as they wonder about their futures. It reminds me of my childhood days as I was curious about what I will be doing. Its also fun to collaborate with them and provide options and possibilities from my viewpoint and see how they digest those suggestions.

So to all my friends, colleagues and fellow brothers and sisters in the USA, i bid you a great Thanksgiving Holiday and a very auspicious Eid Mubarak! With many challenges and tribulations of this year, I offer a simple thought of thank you for being able to write this column today and being able to say thanks for one more time for one more great holiday. It is a privilege indeed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Korea - "We will not buy American Cars"

It was interesting today to hear a report on NPR about the people of South Korea and their reaction to buying American cars.

President Obama like past Presidents, has tried to bolster the domestic car market overseas - especially in his Asian visit. NPR did an unscientific poll by asking the locals in Korea what they thought about buying US cars. Korea today only buys a meager 6000 vehicles a year! That's it! I see more Hyundai's in one day I think then what Korea buys the entire year.

So what does this mean for us? A common reaction by a patriotic American is to say screw Korea - I will never buy their cars again. Or write to your congressman to put tough tariffs on Korean cars.

I believe a better way to proceed is to bolster our local car manufacturers. Subsidize some of their activities and encourage them to significantly improve their quality and technology. The US has the chance to truly leapfrog the foreign car makers by harnessing the green initiative and truly focusing on building the next generation vehicles.

With the new re-organized companies and the fact that we have helped the locals shed their legacy burdens, I believe the domestic car makers are poised to become a leading force once again. I am glad that President Obama through the department of energy awarded billions of dollars in grants for the Big 3 and others like Tesla Motors to invest in the future Eco friendly vehicles

Its time for us to step up and beat the Koreans, Japanese and the Germans to introduce the next generation power trains in our cars which will serve the future market needs. Once we do this then watch how Koreans and Japanese flock to buy our cars.

Ford, is in my opinion best poised to take advantage of this change. I believe in the next 5 years Ford will become a premier mass car maker with exports far exceeding domestic consumption. From the ashes of this financial meltdown, we will see the giants wake up again.

If you see the quality of products that are coming out of Detroit today - it is excellent products. Quality has improved, design has dramatically changed and progressive thought now dominates this industry. Let's hope the momentum remains. Then NPR can go to Korea after 5 years and let's see what they have to say then.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Personal Opinion of Value on Value Added Tax

The debt clock has reached a staggering $11.9 trillion.

This is a staggering number! Keep in mind that our current GDP is approximately $13.3 trillion. That puts our debt at around 90% of our GDP. Even during the worst times in recent history of Reagonomics the debt was no more than around 65% of GDP. The current debt ratio is the highest it has even been outside of WWI and WWII time when the country was in a middle of a major war. Arguably the "war on terrorism" i guess could qualify as a major combat (Iraq and Afghanistan). But realistically Iraq and Afghanistan do not truly compare to our efforts during WWII.

So what does this debt mean and how do we get out of it. MY proposed answer is the national sales tax or value added tax - depending on how you implement it. Here are 3 basic reasons for implementing a value added tax:

1. It has the potential to progressively raise far more revenue than the income tax. A Washington Post article discusses some valid reasons along this line and how it may be progressive and raise revenues while keeping Obama's $200K tax promise.
2. It encourages a pro-environmental consumer by clamping down on rampant consumerism, reduce consumer debt by encouraging less spending on unnecessary goods, and generally trends the society to a more need based consumer than a want based one.
3. It has the potential to grab a significant amount of additional tax money from the illegal community. Currently most illegal immigrants work and pay no taxes. Combine that with cash earners and other "below the radar" cash based economics which do not pay any income taxes, the VAT captures those when the earners spend any money to buy goods. Conservatively if we say that there are 15 million illegals and that results in 5 million households, with each household spending around $10K in taxable goods. Then at a 10% VAT rate we can easily capture another $5 billion a year!

Now a national Sales Tax is not good all around, but for a detailed look at the pros and cons go to this website to read the benfits and drawbacks. I feel the benefits outweighs the drawbacks.

Write to your congressman about this idea. At the end of the day I believe whether we like it or not we HAVE to raise taxes and raise some additional revenue. I think the consequences of not doing anything for this national debt is worse than taxes.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Farewell Message

It was Saturday night and my phone buzzed. An SMS from our Masjid SMS system said, "A Sad Demise...". This was a typical message when a congregation member of our community had unfortunately passed away. The message said that the funeral ceremonies would be held Sunday morning at 9AM.

The member was a family friend and a person whom I had known since my arrival to Houston in 1983. He had lived a full life so it was a mixed feeling. A person who has lived a full life finally departing; leaving behind a legacy, memories and friends who will remember the great times.

Funerals always make you the rat race we run everyday truly getting us to the goal of leaving a legacy? This question I have asked more often recently than ever before. The last three years have truly been challenging for me. With the company of great friends and colleagues I started a business in 2006. The journey has been a long challenging one. At many times, even today we continue to ask, "are we doing the right thing?"

But at this funeral as you stand in front of the body in state and pray the final prayers, you are reminded the full circle and journey of us. For the journey must be about the pursuit of happiness and building a legacy. What crystallizes for me is the last conversations that friends, families, colleagues and congregation members will have as you lay in state? What will that legacy be?

A human being hidden deep in the subconscious always pursues immortality. Even though we all know immortality is not possible, yet the human life force instinctively desires it. It longs to live forever. Everyone thinks about it everyday. But then at a funeral you are reminded that immortality is a fable and that it is not possible. My question: is it is truly impossible? What is immortality?

My thoughts are that immortality is the legacy we leave behind. Today as people spoke gently about the passed away, it was interesting to understand that the legacy of this person who just passed was now frozen in time. He had in essence now become immortal. His memory was frozen in time; immortal. He will forever now be remembered as the last person he was before he took the last breath, or last seen, or the last deed he had done.

As my journey since 2006 has allowed me to unplug from the corporate money grabbing rat race, I have come to realize that ultimately my journey must take me to this immortal state. For anything else would be a futile waste of energy, time and resources. What is it that we all long for? Is it the big car, the expensive house, the luxurious vacations? Well of course we all want that, but what will be the whispers when I lay in state? What will the conversation be when people gather to stand in line for the last prayers for me? What will be the thought in the person's mind as he carries the casket with my body in state in it? Will the weight he carries on his shoulders be a burden or a some form of longing to be part of my immortality and legacy?

For today I resolve - my journey must be part of the greater good. As cliche and as soapy that may sound, it is a journey often aspired by all but achieved by a few - close your eyes, think for a minute about who comes to your mind first as you try to remember a loved one. Think about why you are thinking of him so fondly. You have just answered the question - what does immortality and legacy truly go and try to achieve that. That my friend will give you the ultimate prize in life.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Is Nostradamus Right?

Have been watching the gimmicks of the Nostradamus series on A&E, Discovery and SyFy. Kind of interesting to see the fervor around the end of the world series as 2012 nears.

My theory is that the Mayans picked a number that was way far in the future and just stuck the number as something they will never have to deal with. And 'lo and behold' here we are thousands of years later speculating on the end of the world when someone decided to stick that number on a calendar as the last number he coud think of based on astrology mumbo jumbo!

How many times has the world ended! Remember Y2K! How about WWI and WWII when I am sure our parents and grand parents speculated on how this war will "end all wars".

As the story of the end the world continues and evolves. Here is my take on what is happening to the world since around 2000.

I feel the balance of power and the socio economic balance is shifting. Finally after 500 years of power shifting to the "Western World", we are seeing the early stages of the shift back to the East. Just like all cycles, the peak of the West is passed and the Ascent of the East has re-emerged.

Its only human and natural order that this shift happens. The revelation and awareness of this cyclical shift is accentuated by the age of the internet. Information today flows quickly and the human collective consciousness is more aware of each other's influence - more so than ever before. This awareness has accelerated the transfer of power.

I believe for whatever we do, the inertia of the West way of life will inevitably cause us to give up our status to the East. The transfer of power has already begun. It is time that we accept and adapt rather than resist. By adapting we will be able to co-exist and blossom. By resisting we stand to loose it all to complete self destruction.

The choice is we adapt or resist.....

So in a way Nostradamus was right---I guess---we will see the rise of the third anti-christ - except the anti-christ is the 3rd shift of power, once more to the East. I wonder if this will fly in Quatrain 10001, Century 9?????

---aahh one more show comes on in a few minutes, something about Newton and his predictions???....

Thursday, November 05, 2009

For it begins when it ends

A celebration for the end
Forty days and nights have passed
A wave of blessing on Kerbala and Najaf

He came shouldering thousands
All in the glimmer of His eyes
The Prophet's grandson asking questions
For He asked for our forgiveness
Clinching his hands on the grill of silver and gold

Specs of tears flowed on cheeks for all
A joy for the hundreds on His side
On the ground beside him
Many more thousands peering on the TV
Begging for forgiveness as blessings flowed

His last deed to prostrate for His Commander
Ask not whether we are forgiven - for that is a must
Ask what gifts he comes bearing
The gateway to heaven for all guaranteed

For those returning with cups full
Shower the less fortunate as we share the victory
For the Commander had said - we have won indeed!
Foretold almost 1400 years prior
The courtyard filled with marble and gold
More so filled with invaluable forever grace
The two domes await for another time
Soon it shall happen again and again indeed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Garden of Kerbala Blooms Again

After a long wait
The King has returned to his Nation
The homage of a lifetime
The courtyard of forgiveness
And the waters of euphrates flows again
The Garden has bloomed again
For when he lays the forehead on the silver
Look close for the bearer is annointing his King once more
The commander shed tears as jewels of heaven
Capture them and for those turn into grace of a lifetime.
May these days go on forever
The owner of the river has forgiven all...its up to me to capture and remember.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Case for Electronic Medical Records

Yesterday I expereinced the never ending nightmare of transferring medical records (that I own but are kept by my phisicians office).

I have Occular Hypertension - possible cause of Glaucoma. I have lived with this condition for the past 20 years. Since the late eightees I saw one Ophthamologist - Dr. Robert Stewart of The Houston Eye Associates. Dr Stewart passed away last summer and I decided that I would eventually change my physician for my chronic disease care of the eye.

I searched and eventually I settled on The Texas Eye Institute and Dr Jesse McKey. My plan was to visit him yesterday and ask Houston Eye Associates to transfer MY medical records (from the past 20 years) to him so that he can study the comprehensive care I have received and pick up from where Dr. Stewart left off.

When I arrived for my appointment the assistant at Texas Eye told me she was having problems getting Houston Eye Associates sending the records.

She called again and again - each time receiving some faxes and incorrect data from my files at Houston Eye Associates!

After 3 hours!! That's right 3 hours, we still did not get the necessary information from Houston Eye Associates. And by the way these records technically belong to the patient! I own them!

If health records were electronic and hosted by a central system like your credit report...then this transfer would have been MUCH MUCH easier.

The whole transaction of getting my records unsucessfully from Houston Eye Associates to Texas Eye Institute was 3 hours with 6 people involved (total of 18 man hours!).

OUCH!!! at an average cost of $30 per hour that is a ridiculous $540 - just to try to get records transferred - and still unsuccessful.

Finally we gave up. Dr McKey did a basic exam, accepted cash for payment of his service at discounted rate and then he personally called Houston Eye Associates to get records transferred by talking to the chief doctor at Houston Eye. Probably took another 2 man hours of medical docitor time!

If there was ever a case for getting our medical records and systems in an electronic format and help reduce cost.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Sand So Sweet

...For save me from hellfire.." The last words at sunset.
All together the jewel box of pure sand..
A few specs on the finger
The sacrifice of 1400 years from the shores of the mighty battlefield of kerbala
On the lips of the fasting.
A thirst for forgiveness of centuries
All soothed with the few specs of sand so sweet
For at sunset as the moonlight dawns..
Oh so pure as the cool breeze of forgiveness rises.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

After Midnight

As the clock struck one hour past midnight.
A gentle march of the sun on the other.
Anwar, Aqmar, Azhar, Lulua and Juyushi -
glimmer in the first rays of the sun
The Night of Power cleansing the soul.
A Fresh Day rises - after more than a 1000 nights
For only we wish we are there
Open arms welcome to the stones of ages.
For the kings made it so that we can benefit
The angels have decended.
Welcome welcome as the dawn breaks in the Night of Power,
a journey of ages ends here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Night of Power

A trickling rain as the emotions flow
The night of power approaches
As the sun sets and angels prepare
The sky seemingly smiles in a golden orange glow
A gift of a 1000 nights all in one
Prepare the vessel for the rain will pour
The spirits will rise
Forgiveness in hearts
A message to be delivered
Peace, The Night of Power till dawn

The Shores of Euphrates

For millenia the waters of knowledge flowed along the glorious euphrates.
Awaiting the ultimate sacrifice.
Blood would spill on its shores..
An ultimate sacrifice to dispell the myth and keep the truth.
Today two domes tower..between a courtyard of forgiveness.
The king in one and the loyal commander on the other.
A vessel of water he did not manage, for when he fell he may have fallen short.
But the water spilled soaked the courtyard of grace.
Forever linking The Forgiver with his Master.
For eternity this courtyard between them,
A heaven on earth connected by the spilled water of long.
Verily the two shimmering domes today await the arrival of The Commander.
Once again He shall renew this courtyard with images of Kerbala.
Hail from Kerbala the news we wait.
Najaf and Kufa are not too long away,
He will pay homage.
May it be soon that we drink once more at the shores of the great euphrates.

Sail On!

A ship sailing through rough sees, all aboard gazing through the stormy clouds peering at a gray horizon. a blink of light and a shipmate sounds an alarm "shore shore..we are here." The captain says, "do not get distracted by the lights of a desert, the destination is long and trust me we shall sail through this storm together, sail on sail on with me, I have been to our promised land."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Be Thankfull This Ramadhan

If you believe that the more thankful you are then you will receive more, then this Ramadhan is a good time to fundamentally change the way we live.

The past 25 years, in the USA we have truly focused on the individual. My success, my money, my status in the economic and social structure. These excesses are a direct byproduct of a capitalistic society unfortunately.

Don't get me wrong capitalism is essential and necessary for this country to operate. I would have it no other way. But to leave it unchecked and to completely absorb our systems in it without any counterbalance is synonymous to letting your animal instincts run wild without the human intellect and moral barriers.

This is precisely what has happened to us as a country in the past 25 years. We let our capitalistic instincts, which is engrained in the DNA of this country, run wild. The rich got richer and the poor and economically disdvantaged were getting worse. Our healthcare, our economy, our morals and the very fundamentals of our society that governed our founding fathers went unchecked. The focus was on the all mighty dollar - more and more! No amount was enough! No time to be thankfull and stop and ponder if any good was coming out of this endless greed. Towards the last five years, anything went for the million dollar bonuses, the bigger houses and the endless excess. Leveraged, over extended, no plan to exit - who cares, as long as I got mine!

This excess prooved to be fatal like it always does. We were not thankfull of what we got and instead revelled in the bounty only to be filled with greed to want more and more. We became shallow in our deep appreciation of the country, system and platforms that made all this possible. Our founding fathers would have been disgusted in seeing the endless scratching and clawing of the ascent of greedy money.

Being thankfull and stopping every so often is a must. This Ramadhan, I am making it a point to everyday stop and ponder at the endless bounties that I receive. Think about what can I do with the many resources I have been given which will better myself, my family, my friends, my neighbors and my country. A reflection of this kind on a daily basis provides the moral foundation to take a healthy next step everyday. It gives the timeout our capitalistic instincts needs to make good positive decisions. It forces moderation and hence fuels more bounties to be had because the decisions made are selfless not selfish.

As a nation I am urging my friends, family and fellow citizens this auspicious month of Ramadhan to think about the endless bounties and search to see if we can find it in our hearts to find solutions to difficult problems like healthcare, war in Iraq and the economic disasters created by the endless greed. Can we dig deep and consider those that cannot have healthcare to say, yes we have gotten enough it is time to restructure and provide the umbrella that we all deserve? Can we look at Iraq and say, yes this was a genuine error and that it is time to listen to the voices of pain and provide solutions to the region than missiles. And finally, are we going to look around and consider the end to the endless consumerism that yielded in a complete financial disaster that may take our kids to pay off?

What can be wrong with being more thankful everyday and stopping everytime to consider of others before you buy for yourself. Are we ready to trascend to the next stage of our social evolution of a society that claims endless greed to a society that looks outwards. A society that is willing to harness the power of capitalism and feed it back in betterment of each other?

I believe starting with a simple gesture where in the morning spend 5-10 minutes during Sehri (breakfast before sunrise) right before you start that meal, reflect and be thankful that you woke up today with all these bounties to see another day, healthy and full of life in a country like the USA. Be thankful for 10 minutes and then see if it changes your perspective the rest of the day and inshallah the rest of your life.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Arrival of an Esteemed Guest Ramadhan - Sherulla-E-Moazzam

Ramadhan arrives like a guest, an esteemed guest. Families prepare to receive the guest in many ways. Houses get cleaned, talk of fasting and prayers are abound, preparation to go to Masjid everyday is arranged and generally the whole tempo of daily life is about to change. This year the esteemed guest Ramadhan arrives to the US with much trouble still looming. The year has been tumultuous and unprecendented. Economic challenges along with general instability and uncertainty has turned many lives upside down.
So having a guest like Ramadhan arrive, how should we prepare? What can we do to bring such a noble arrival its due respect while we struggle to make ends meet?
This year for me personally will be a unique Ramadhan. Three years ago I started a small business. After going through the challenges of a startup, I continue to now struggle to make this small business profitable. The economic challenges that started 12 months ago have not made it easy. But the arrival of Ramadhan helps break the monotony of fighting this battle everyday and it gives an opportunity to stop and reflect.
Everyday, I will be at the Masjid meeting friends, family and others. An air of sharing and feeling part of community will envelope my thoughts. The daily prayers at the Masjid will allow me to bond with my friends and the spiritual. The daily fasting will reduce my needs for worldly and materialistic possessions and give me an oppportunity to thank for what I have. This Ramadhan will be unique because our small community in Houston will start its journey to renew our Masjid complex with a new Multipurpous hall, a new Madresah and eventually a new Masjid to accomodate the exploding membership to our Masjid. I have been blessed to be appointed to serve in the construction committee and the start date of this project has been coincided with the beginning of Ramadhan.
As a nation, we are blessed in so many ways. But this year we start Ramadhan with some very lofty challenges. Healthcare reform, economic uncertainty and wars that seem to never end. A trifecta of challenges this big seem rare in American History but not unprecendented. Ramadhan will be a good month for every muslim living in this great nation to reflect the many bounties that our nation has given us and renew the promise to it by re-dedicating our efforts to help bring solutions to these massive problems. I urge every muslim to dig deep, gain strength from the month of Ramadhan and resolve to work towards helping our nation resolve these challenges.
Whether you agree or disagree with either party, I believe all of us can agree that Healthcare needs to change. We are getting crippled by this issue as greed has crushed the very purpose of the system - to bring the best healthcare to everyone. Economically, we struggle because the last 20 years all of us were swimming in excess - we thought we could buy hapiness by overspending and over leverging. Ramadhan will help us reflect and say thanks for what we have. Return to modesty, sharing and community service. Look at those below you and thank for what you have today. We were violently reminded that money is like dirt on your hands. It can be washed away in seconds! Its the glutony of the past 20 years that has caused this issue and all of us somehow contributed to it. Let us remind oursleves of this excess and resolve in Ramadhan to change and solve the problem for our posterity.
And finally the huburous of our past 10 years along with a tragic reaction to the dispicable act of 9/11 has brought us today to confront a seemingly endless war. Thousands of our citizens who bravely follow orders of our leaders are now fighting an endless battle in multiple fronts. What can we learn from Ramadhan to help solve this problem? For one humility and servitude should help us. Let's gain strength to forgive and understand what is around on the other side and gently help guide our fellow man to a world of understanding. Yes realistically peace may not be realized, but calmness and stability is achievable. Let us not continue our display of strength with power but rather show the power of our example of living in harmony. To those who say USA is their enemy, I call on them to stop and look around and see whether Ramadhan as guest in their house agrees to their actions. To our citizens who think we will "change" the others to think like we do - to them I say let us reflect on ourselves and ask are we right to think our way is the only way.
I believe this Ramadhan will help us all reflect deeper, feel more and achieve more - just invite the guest in and let it be your guide. Ramadhan Mubarak to all. May Allah Bless us this month and may He bless this nation of ours in this great month with wisdom, charity and the fruits of freedom.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Reflections of Medical Town Hall

I was invited to the Town Hall held by Senator Cornyn of Texas. Senator McCain and Senator Mitch McConnell were in attendance. It was held July 30 2009 at 10AM CDT on the 8th Floor Conference Room at the main MD Anderson Campus building in Houston.

My thoughts and views:

1. The republican party seemed very opposed to the Democratic plan primarily based on the fact that government will run healthcare resulting in a decline in what we have today - "the worlds best healthcare". I do not believe we have the world's best healthcare simply because we are the only industrialized nation that does not provide full access to every citizen. In fact we leave over 10 percent of our population without any healthcare. So how can our healthcare be the world's best when we have 45 million Americans without coverage. It is a false notion to think that because we have the best technology that it somehow translates to the worlds best healthcare. There is a thought that maybe we are one of the worst - especially in primary care and preventive healthcare considering that we have the worst obesity and other industrialized nation diseases.

2. Many Doctors expressed their disgust over insurance companies. There was consensus that the Insurance Companies are colluding in the pricing of insurance and that regulations are causing unnecessary burdens. Plus insurance companies take over 25% of the premiums as profit - which sounds very high!

3. Senator McCain claimed that his proposal of widening the insurance pool by providing connectors for small businesses and tearing down state barriers where insurance companies have to operate within a state and that they cannot cross sell is one way to help reduce cost. I tend to agree that by nationalizing healthcare insurance rules (removing each states own insurance regulation industries) you can have a private carrier be one national company that can underwrite a group like small business association across multiple state lines and widening the risk pool. This would also allow for Federal regulations preventing insurance companies from creating biased smaller risk pools which creates sharp increases in premiums unnecessarily. As a small business owner for the past 20 years, I have spent most of my professional life getting healthcare by paying cash. Insurance has been prohibitive because as an individual I am unable to pool together using connectors to help diversify my risk across many others like me. This defeats the very meaning of insurance. Part of the culprit here is greed on the insurance companies side and partly it is caused by each state having its own regulation body.

4. Universal single payer Vs Multiple providers - I am unsure about this. Part of me wants healthcare to be like national defense. We only have one military so why not one healthcare provider. We all need to bite the bullet and say that healthcare is not an industry but rather a government service. But then part of looks at all the good things our medical system provides (and yes there are good things) and I do not see a reason to completely dismantle the machine. I believe a hybrid approach is necessary. I tend to think that allowing the government to be one of the providers where you can have a way to pool in or to drop barriers for pooling is one way.

I think that there is no one way to solve the issue. A comprehensive reform is what I think is necessary. Here is my wish list for what I feel would significantly change the way healthcare is delivered in our country. Only if all or most of the below is done, then I believe we will be on our way to controlling this spiraling beast.

1. Drop the red tape and tangling of state by state regulations and create a national Federal Healthcare regulatory body. This will allow insurance companies to reduce their overhead. Aetna will not have to create 49 subsidiaries to serve each state, instead they will have one underwriter for the country - like the government.
2. Significantly reform our liability and tort process around healthcare. Healthcare is not an exact science - it is an art form. Hence the practice itself is not perfect. Remove as much as possible the defensive medical aspect. Create a more cognitive consultative environment and allow doctors to practice medicine rather than order a battery of tests every time you complain of a headache. Are doctors test orderer or are they medical doctors?
3. Provide the ability to pool into a large group via a government plan or other connectors for small business owners and individuals without insurers. Require everyone to get insurance one way or the other.
4. Empower the consumer by bringing a level of responsbility and education and information to the consumer. Too many times consumers have absolutely no idea of what they are getting from the doctor. Part of it is because Doctors do not take the time to explain what they are doing, part of it is because insurance pays and consumer does not care as long as they pay $10 co-pay, and part of it is because the system wants to hide this information to bring the God Complex of medicine to themselves. Yes not all can use this information but just because some do not use it does not mean more should not be empowered to make this decisions. This country was built on personal responsibility and self empowerment, why is medicine not practicing this?
5. Incentivize the consumer to practice preventive care and empower them to "shop around" to make this happen. Tax credits for preventive wellness care that is not tied to insurance but rather some kind of health savings would create a win win situation. Insurance should kick in after a certain amount every year to take care of catastrophic and major issues. But for the sniffles, for the annual checkup, for the child visits - I would love the ability to shop around to get the best care and value and I would love to see Medical Doctors offer packages that gives me the best care and advise. We should examine why the CVS, Wal-Mart and corner small clinics that only accept cash do well. I have visited them and I feel the care and advise they provide is perfect for primary care. More of that! They advertise on $45 visits, no lines and a doctor who actually takes the time to examine you and see what is going on. - Plus I get to shop for the best care. You combine this with portable electronic medical records and now you remove the dependecy into one doctor and truly create a competitive environment.
6. Which brings me to the final point - national electronic medical records standard. The consumer needs it, the doctors need it and all stakeholders need it. Liek your credit report, your healthcare records need to be standardized. This can be done - I do not know how, but my brother who lives and breathes this stuff (he is in this business), tells me it is a travesty how heathcare is light years behind here. Again part of it is because Doctors can't let go! They feel that these records is their power....let go people, stop holding on to this shit.

The time has come....the gravy train for those suckling at the tit of this cash cow has crippled this nation. 25 percent of our GDP!!! That is ridiculous. No wonder Starbucks spends more on healthcare than coffee - think about it! Let's end this crisis before it becomes another tsunami like the financial crisis.