The Healthcare Analogy

by Thomas Pace on May 14, 2020

Could it be a failure of communication?

Now that one time front runner, Bernie Sanders’s chances of getting the Democratic Presidential nomination have been effective whittled down to near zero, one thing seems pretty clear.  The American electorate is not been convinced that every American deserves access to affordable healthcare.    

When you consider that between 40-45 million people in America don’t, and tens of millions more have insurance inadequate for their needs 

(that’s about one fifth of Americans), you might think it would be easier argument to make. I find myself surprised that no politician has managed to convince us that our system is one of haves and have-nots and thus far we have not heard from the politician savvy enough to clearly convey to the haves the difficulties faced by those who have-not.

It’s hard for me to believe that, among all other industrialized nations, is it the United States alone that refuses healthcare as a right to their citizens.  Not only this but that Americans feel so strongly about the current system, that for a Presidential candidate to suggested that everyone should have access to healthcare is grounds for disqualification.

When I hear people say that universal coverage would cost too much, and, as a country, we can’t afford it, I point out that the current system is the among the world’s most expensive, while, at the same time, among the least efficient.

When I try to point out the fact that more than 60 percent of all bankruptcies in this country come due to medical related expenses, one could argue that we really can’t afford not to make a significant change.  They only grumble about the evils of socialized medicine.

Even when I bring up the costs beyond economics, that nearly half of Americans, including many of those “haves” with healthcare insurance, have skipped recommended medical tests or treatment due to the cost just in the last 12 months.  As for the have nots, the Harvard School of Medicine estimates that around 45,000 people die every year due to lack of health insurance.

These statistics, though dire, seem to do little toward convincing us that it is time to join the rest of the world in offering all citizens affordable healthcare.  It’s a strange disconnect because as recently as last year a Gallup poll indicated that as many as 70% of Americans thought the U.S. healthcare system was in crisis.

Americans, even the ones fortunate enough to have insurance, seem to understand that the U.S. system is expensive, inefficient, and ineffective.  All the while they seem to cling to it as if it’s something they worship.  It’s a mystery that eludes reason.        

If only there was some way to better communicate what it’s like to have inadequate healthcare or not have healthcare insurance in America at all to the rest of the American people.  But how?

It seems like it would take something very serious, I don’t know, maybe some kind of nation-wide medical emergency that somehow left people, en-masse, feeling frighted and vulnerable that they might need medical care and find that it’s unavailable to them.  Something that, like an unexpected sickness or injury, could hit us out of nowhere, and devastate us economically.

Maybe then people could better sympathize with those who live without the comfort of health insurance.  Maybe then people would finally understand the kind of stress involved with being a minor health emergency away from financial insolvency.  Because if there was such a way to communicate this kind of reality to the American electorate I have no doubt that they would drop everything and demand healthcare as a right for all Americans.  Because they would finally understand what it’s like to be a have not in the American healthcare system. 


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More than Memories: A Lesson from John Prine

by Thomas Pace on April 8, 2020

I’ll never forget the summer my family drove down to St. Louis for our vacation. I was probably around eleven. It was kind of exciting because we’d be taking our brand-new-used-van which was a luxurious contrast from the aged and recently retired station wagon of prior road trips. Simulated wood grain panels not withstanding.

I remember, vividly, finally getting my turn to sit in the front passenger seat. An honor that included unilateral control of the music selection. And even though we’d already heard it on that drive, I chose to play a well worn cassette tape of our favorite John Prine songs that we’d recorded from his vinyl records on our home stereo. A tape that was a listening staple in our household for many years.

I sat in the sun, in the front seat of the van, next to my father as he drove, and we listened to songs like, “Fish and Whistle,” “Dear Abby,” and “Chain of Sorrow.” And I remember talking with my father about those songs and the stories they told.

On that beat up old cassette was one of Prine’s better-known songs called, “Paradise.” A story in which the narrator laments that his family can never return “home” because, “Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.” I recall my father helping me understand that that song is about what can happen to a mining town when the coal company pulls up stakes and abandons it.

I don’t really remember too much more about that trip. The zoo. A Cardinals game.

I do, however, remember how those songs were still playing through my head during our visit the the Arch. It was a thrill to get in the tiny elevator that shuttled you to the top. The view was wonderful and dizzying. But it’s actually the view that we had when we came back down that is etched fast into my memory. It’s the view we had from along the river bank that I will never forget.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to St. Louis, but in 1981, if you stood by the water near the St Louis Arch and looked across the river, you would have seen a giant sign that, to my recollection, read, “PEABODY.”

When my father confirmed that it was indeed a sign for the very same company we’d been listening to John Prine sing about, the story of “Paradise” became real. The people, the places, the coal company, they shifted from fictitious folk tale heroes and villains, to honest flesh, bone, and earth and soil.

This is when I started to understand that music, especially folk music, is a lot more than clever little stories that rhyme. It’s about more than the turning of a humorous phrase, more than sweet harmonies and acoustic guitars.

That day by the river I learned that music is about real people and their untold histories.
Music is journalism.
Music is activism.
Music is about justice, and who gets it and who is denied.
Music is about hearing the voice of the voiceless and about bringing power to the people.
Music is how we win in the long run.

So take heart.

Though he has left us at a time when it seems like we need him more than ever, we find we still have everything he taught us.

Which leaves us in good hands.

It leaves us in each others hands.

Thank You, Mr. John Prine.

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Quick Skim of the Trib

by Thomas Pace on December 10, 2018

Quick Skim of the Trib

Monday 12/10/18


Charter school company Acero came to an agreement with their striking teachers after four days off.  The teachers won concessions more pay and smaller class sizes.

Article of Interest

Mary Wisniewski has an article about how road construction at the Jane Byrne (Circle) interchange will not be completed until 2022.  Seems like kind of a ridiculously long time for a project.  At the same time, when I drive through and see how complicated the whole thing is, it seems kind of amazing it can be done at all.


After first claiming the no one from his campaign ever had any contact with Russians it’s now clear that at least 14 people from Trump’s camp had contact with Russians including  Ivanka, Donald Jr., Jared, Manafort, Cohen, and  Roger Stone.


Shameik Moore is going to be the voice of Spiderman in a new animated series making him the first black man to claim this role.    

Comics:  Argyle Sweater, Dilbert


What did I say about the Bears beating the Rams?  Sky is the limit with this team.


Jill on Money tell me to prepare for a less robust 2019.  No shit?


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Quick Skim of the Trib

by Thomas Pace on December 7, 2018

Quick Skim of the Trib

Friday 12/7/18


Preckwinkle gets the endorsement of the teacher’s union.  She also fires her security chief in the wake of a scandal involving one of her Cook County vehicles that turned up abandon with a bunch of political material inside.  Still not sure what that episode was all about

Article of Interest

It’s becoming more and more clear that GOP candidate Mark Harris resorted to fraud to win the congressional election last month.  The GOP says they are open to a new election.  New election?  How about going to jail?  I would love to see this fully investigated.  It’s a tread that could undo the entire sweater.


A judge ordered the reopening of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server.


I guess the movie about the Swedish guy who wrote the “Pippi Longstocking” book.   I’m gonna check it out. 

Comics:  Argyle Sweater, Baby Blues


Check back tomorrow.


A coalition of state attorney generals are taking action to stem robo-calling (5.1 billion calls in November).  I get at least two calls a day, which I invariably block.  Still they call.

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Quick Skim

December 7, 2018

I managed to salvage these posts that I’d lost while updating my hosting service. Quick Skim of the Trib by THOMAS PACE on DECEMBER 5, 2018 Quick Skim of the Trib Wednesday 12/5/18 Headline Wanted: Alderman to play ball. Looks like the Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs are looking to back an Aldermanic candidate […]

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Puppet Theater

June 28, 2016

Check out these video I made for a couple songs from the new record using puppets of my own creation. Nothing Left for Me Heaven

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Trumpy McTrumpface

June 1, 2016

Here’s an op-ed that I wrote with writer/friend Patrick T. Reardon that appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Trumpy McTrumpface

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Highlights from House of Blues.

March 3, 2016

Thanks so much to the Trippin’ Billies for hosting us at the House of Blues. Here are a couple of the highlights. Nobody There – HOB – 1/2/16 Tell Me I’m Wrong – HOB 1/2/16    

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December 11, 2015

There are the highlights of a little video series I’ve been doing at home. Songs From The Stairs Lost In My Parents’ Closet Sonny Liston Has Died Here’s one with help from Tom Slater Lover Astray New American Way    

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September 11, 2015

Fourteen years ago today America was changed forever. I remember how afraid I was. It’s not hyperbole to say that my construct of reality was truly challenged. I felt a kind of permeating vulnerability that I had not thought it possible to feel. Nothing I had ever experienced in my entire lifetime had prepared me […]

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