Archives For In The News

Things happening in the world today

2014-10-10_08-32-08“There’s a lot of people out here in the working field doing what Governor Walker wants us to do: he says he wants us to be out here working,” said Branch, who identified herself as a supporter of Burke. “I was hoping that Mr. Walker would see [the complaints] and take account of these workers out here … he just needs to take a walk in my shoes.”

SOURCE: This Is Scott Walker’s Idea Of A Living Wage.

I know that Scott Walker’s fellow Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan simply adores all of Ayn Rand’s teaching and a primary part of those teaching is that empathy has no place in a modern society. Empathy is basically about putting yourself in the shoes of others in order to understand their problems and handicaps. This article seems to indicate that Governor Walker believes the same thing.

To their, and Ayn Rand’s, mind empathizing with others is not one of the reasons they were put on this earth. But my hero is not Ayn Rand but instead Jesus Christ and he clearly told us that empathy is a critical important part of being one of his followers. He told us that all of life is about only two things: To love God and his creation, and to love each other. In my mind it is hard to have love without empathy.

Mr. Ryan says he is a devout Catholic but his words and actions seem to go against a primary teaching of that church. Of course it is not my, or anyone else’s place to judge Mr. Ryan or Mr. Walker but I would certainly like to hear both their apparent lack of caring for others and especially about government’s responsibility in those areas.

2014-10-19_08-26-11The instant the Ebola crisis hit American shores, the inevitable happened. The GOP blamed President Obama for it. First, it was the lame brained borderline racist charge that Obama either deliberately or through sheer incompetence did nothing to seal the borders to keep the virus at bay. The only slightly more intelligible attack was that Obama did nothing to command the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take panic measures to insure no incidence of the disease would turn up in the country. Then the GOP campaign strategists stepped in and had some of its top candidates suddenly parroting the kooky line that Obama was to blame for a supposedly porous and negligent CDC and border security lapse. Obama’s appointment of an “Ebola Czar” provided even more grist for the GOP hit mill on Obama. It was variously blown off as too little, too late or ridiculed as a desperate appointment of a supposedly medically unqualified political crony.

This is political gamesmanship of the lowest order, playing on media and public fears over a legitimate and terrifying health crisis, to again belittle Obama. And with the stakes sky high in the 2014 midterm elections, the dirty political pool by the GOP was totally predictable.

But the twist in the Ebola saga is that the dirty hit job has backfired. The attack opened the GOP wide open to media and public scrutiny of the galling fact that the GOP has systematically whittled away vital funding for dozens of health programs since 2010. The CDC, much the whipping agency for the supposed Obama health dereliction, was stripped of nearly $600 million; millions that could have gone to ramp up monitoring, screening, and education programs, as well as research on vaccines to deal with infectious and communicable diseases. The names of the more than two dozen Republicans who poleaxed the CDC budget have been published. And to no surprise the bulk of them are either directly affiliated with or have been in part bankrolled by tea party factions.

SOURCE: Republican’s Blame Ebola on Obama Ploy Backfires | Earl Ofari Hutchinson.

I know I vowed to stay away from politics at least for the most part but this latest fiasco from the GOP is just too “down in the gutter filthy” to ignore. I hope all of you who are not totally engrained in the Tea Party schemes will click on the source to see the article in its entirety.  We got to do what we can to send a message to these yahoos that this stuff will not be tolerated…..  enough said

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits

Fanatics will never learn that, though it is written in letters of gold across the sky

It is prohibition that makes things precious.

Mark Twain

 

I have recently come across several sources of what I consider mandating morality. That is trying to force your version of morality on others. Our personal view of morality can come from one person, usually a parent or other authority figure, telling us what we are to believe about this or that. It can come form one group who think they have it right and others need to get it. It can even come from countries that force their citizens to a certain version of morality. Many times it comes from various religious beliefs.

As the quote above from Mark Twain says if you prohibit someone from doing something it just makes that thing seem more desirable to them. Tell a kid he can’t have something and that is usually the first thing he tries to get. Mandating morality often times has the opposite effect than what was intended.

Let’s look at a morality that was mandated in the U.S. almost a century ago

2014-08-24_10-38-18Prohibition was intended to improve, even to ennoble, the lives of all Americans, to protect individuals, families, and society at large from the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals, made a mockery of the justice system, caused illicit drinking to seem glamorous and fun…But the enshrining of a faith-driven moral code in the Constitution paradoxically caused millions of Americans to rethink their definition of morality. Thugs became celebrities, responsible authority was rendered impotent. Social mores in place for a century were obliterated. Especially among the young, and most especially among young women, liquor consumption rocketed, propelling the rest of the culture with it: skirts shortened. Music heated up. America’s Sweetheart morphed into The Vamp.

SOURCE:  Prohibition: About the Series | PBS.

There were many who were convinced that alcohol was the root of all evil. It was the most immoral part of our society. After ten years of trying to push that morality on the country they finally managed to accomplish it with the  18th amendment to the constitution. When that amendment became law many smaller communities who were the most enthusiastic supporters actually closed their local jails! They were convinced that they would no longer be needed.

Of course what banning alcohol actually did was to drive it underground and put it in the hands of very immoral men like Al Capone. It took almost twenty years to finally convince the majority of citizens that outlawing alcohol actually increased crime and its over use.

Yes, I acknowledge that some, due to a genetic makeup, are destroyed by an addiction to alcohol but for the vast majority it is simply a way to get together with others and forget about the drudgery of life for a few hours.  Alcohol is very much ingrained in to the social fabric of life.

Don’t Label Me …

October 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-10-07_08-16-26In fact, Raven tells Oprah that she rejects the notion of labels completely in all areas of her life. “I’m tired of being labeled,” she says. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American.

“The remark seems to catch Oprah off guard. “Oh, girl,” Oprah says, shifting in her chair. “Don’t set up the Twitter on fire… Oh, my lord. What did you just say?”

“I mean, I don’t know where my roots go to,” Raven explains. “I don’t know how far back they go… I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from, but I do know that my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person.”

“You’re going to get a lot of flak for saying you’re not African-American. You know that, right?” Oprah asks.

Raven puts her hands up. “I don’t label myself,” she reiterates. “I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian, I connect with Asian, I connect with Black, I connect with Indian, I connect with each culture.”

“You are a melting pot in one body,” Oprah says.”Aren’t we all?” Raven asks. “Isn’t that what America’s supposed to be?”

SOURCE:  Raven-Symoné: Don’t Label Me ‘Gay’ Or ‘African-American’ VIDEO.

I was totally fascinated by Raven Symone as a little girl on the Cosby Show. Even at that young age she was a person well beyond her years and proves to be that way even today. She might be naive in some aspects of life and an idealist but those are assets the way I look at it.

I too don’t like to be labeled and I never have. I very seldom talk about my deafness and I definitely don’t label myself with that affliction.  Yes, I am deaf and that means I cope daily with different obstacles than many but that is not who I am.

I think, but am not sure that my distant relatives came for Scotland but that fact does not mean that I am a Scottish-American. One blood line is in the native-American category I am kind of proud of that fact but I don’t go around calling myself a native-American.

Yes Raven America has been labeled as a melting pot but in some sense it is far from that.  A melting pot means everyone is the same and treated the same and we all know that is simply not the case, at least yet.

I need to find out what Raven has been doing in the entertainment field since the Cosby show. She still seems to be quite a unique young lady…

Trickle Up….

October 9, 2014

2014-09-04_19-56-10“The money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.”

Will Rogers – 4 December 1932

The first time I remember hearing about “Trickle Down” policy was from David Stockman in the Reagan administration and of course the GOP has been pushing it ever since. I wasn’t aware that Hoover was the first president to try it.  Thanks Will for informing me of that fact. Why do we allow this idiotic concept to even exist today? As Will says money, unlike water, runs uphill and will end up soon enough in the 1%er’s off shore bank accounts. Let’s pass it through the hands of the guys to need it first.

 

2014-10-02_09-11-00Drug and medical-device companies paid at least $3.5 billion to U.S. physicians and teaching hospitals during the final five months of last year, according to the most comprehensive accounting so far of the financial ties that some critics say have compromised medical care….

Some doctors have earned tens of thousands of dollars annually from drug companies by flying to various cities to give paid speeches, while some surgeons have received even larger amounts from medical-device makers, partly from royalties on products they helped develop….

One former Senate staffer who was closely involved in the effort to pass the Sunshine Act hopes the database will do some good. “This website will let patients ask a very important question: ‘Is a relationship between my doctor and a drug company right for me?’ It took six years of hard work to get this site together and, hopefully, it will help clean up medicine,” said Paul Thacker, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) who is now a fellow at the Safra Ethics Center at Harvard University. He said the “total amount of money is pretty eye popping.”

SOURCE:  Doctors net billions from drug firms – Yahoo Finance.

Doctors receiving $3.5 billion from the drug companies was a total surprise to me. I knew the drug companies pampered them hoping that they will prescribe their drug over their competitor’s but some of the instances reported in the source articles go way beyond an ethical boundary.

I find it totally astounding that it is illegal for the largest medical care company in the country to negotiate prices with the drug manufacturers. It is a well known fact that all other countries in the world get their pharmaceuticals at a deeply discounted price. Why must Medicare pay full price when everyone else can bargain for their needs? How many billions of dollars are needlessly spent to give these guys a golden apple?

They say Medicare will go broke in about twenty years or so. I wonder how far that would be extended if we could bargain with the drug companies? Getting back to the original thoughts about this article why  is it even legal for doctors to take all the bribes that apparently do from these guys. A doctor being paid $70,000+ to give a seminar in an exotic location and which no one attends is surely a grossly unethical situation. Doctors who are among the top ten most compensated profession makes enough without these bribes!

It will take a legislative branch similar to those during the Teddy Roosevelt administration to finally put an end to these types of practices. If we are serious about cutting our healthcare costs in this country the drug companies are the low hanging fruit to be first dealt with. If only our current gridlocked government would life up to their responsibilities and do the people’s business. It is as simple as that….

Medical Costs

I was going through some of my past scans and ran across this one recently. It was from 2012 but I didn’t keep the source info. I can only assume it has some validity but just looking at is now tells me a lot about our American healthcare system.

Before I get started here I want to let you know about a basic fallacy of Obamacare at least as I see it. Too many people make the complaint that Obamacare has not brought down the cost of healthcare. If I remember right that was not the purpose of the ACA. It was to provide affordable healthcare to more people. The proverbial “second shoe” was to attack the cost side of the equation and of course we know that never happened due to our stifled government.

The chart above tells me that there are several different avenues to reducing out healthcare expenses. The most obvious one is in the insurance costs. It is a well known fact that Medicare has an administrative cost much lower than any private insurance company. Of course one of the reasons for that is because of our aversion to providing an adequate tax base to fund a higher level of service.  But whatever the reason, insurance bureaucracies eat up $190 billion per year in our healthcare dollars. Moving to a single payer system could reduce that expense dramatically.

The second obvious way to reduce costs is reducing errors in the system. We know that over 50,000 people a year die in hospitals annually due to medical errors. This is one area that seems to be currently improving via the digitization of medical records and the elimination of the doctor’s prescription pad. It has always been a joke about doctors illegible writing. But it is not a joke that it causes many unnecessary deaths each year. Unless it happens to someone you personally know we seem to flippantly write off that fact.

$105 billion simply because doctors and hospitals overcharge for their services. Of course single payer system which oversees medical costs would greatly reduce this one.

$210 billion for unnecessary services is a hard one to tackle. If you try to eliminate unnecessary services the “death panel” ranters will quickly come on board. Someone else’s unnecessary service is bad while your test to eliminate the possibility of a very remote cause is good.

When we finally get around to doing things to reduce the cost in our healthcare system there seems to be many avenues to take. In my mind a single payer system much like the rest of the world already has provides the biggest potential for cutting our healthcare expenses and someday we might actually get around to accomplishing that task…

2014-09-24_08-07-27The name Rockefeller is deeply synonymous with turning oil into gold. Familial patriarch John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil in 1870 and bought up most of the oil refineries in the United States, eventually controlling over 90 percent of the American oil business. “Competition,” he said, “is a sin.”

That empire, in inflation-adjusted terms, made him the richest man in history with a fortune estimated at $336 billion in 2010 dollars. The Standard Oil monopoly, meanwhile, was broken up and evolved into the global oil brands Exxon-Mobil, Amoco, and Chevron.

But the times they are a-changin’, and you don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Rockefeller’s descendants — who still control a cool $860 million through the family philanthropy, the Rockefeller Brothers fund — are dumping the endowment’s investments in the oil business and reinvesting at least a portion of that wealth into renewable energy….

As I wrote last December, renewable energy and particularly solar are on a very steep price trend downward thanks to a continued spurt of technological innovations that have reduced the cost of manufacturing. If the trend of falling prices continues for another 10 years, solar-generated electricity in the U.S. will descend to a point where it’s competitive with coal and nuclear — by 2020, or even 2015 for the sunniest parts of America. And if the trend continues for the next 20 years, solar costs will be half that of the price of coal today.

SOURCE: Why the Rockefellers are betting on renewable energy – The Week.

I guess many think that John D. Rockefeller is turning over in his grave to see what is left of his hard-earned money being taken out of fossil fuel stocks. As usual I take a different view of that. John D. was a guy who saw opportunities and had a way of taking advantage of them. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly believe that he could have used a HUGE dose of empathy along the way and his contributions to America, like Henry Ford’s would have been much greater than they were. But he was a guy who know an opportunity when it knocked.

Would John D still be into oil if he were alive today? I kind of doubt it. He would probably see that fossil fuels have pretty much run their course. Being driven almost totally by the profit motive I doubt he would lay much merit of the “damaging the earth” parts but… Of course it is only speculation as that is all any of us can do, but I kind of believe he  would be in renewable resources as the next “great” thing to make a profit from.

So, unlike many others I think John D is saying “It’s about time you guys who are controlling my wealth made some changes. He was all about changes wasn’t he?

Thirteen years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, this was supposed to be a season of relief, with Iraq managing on its own and most U.S. troops finally ending their combat duty in Afghanistan. Instead, Americans are bracing for another upsurge of military engagement in a region where one war blurs into another. Across the world, a generation has now grown up amid this continuous conflict, and there’s no end in sight. AP

SOURCE:  No end in sight for America’s Mideast war duties.

I hadn’t really thought about it much as 13 years seems a small part of my life but most of the kids in our elementary and high schools have never known a time when we were not at war at the other end of the world. The September 11 attacks by a handful of ideologues was a very tragic event but I kind of think its effects have been way beyond the original event. We, as a country just seem to be totally fixated on the idea that it must never happen again.  To that end we go all over the world to find anyone who wishes us ill will.

There is no end in sight for our involvement in the Middle East and that saddens me greatly.  That part of the world has been in a war mode for more than a millennia and will likely remain so for many many more years. It is just unrealistic to think that somehow we can change the dynamic towards peace with our military might.  In reality our meddling in their affairs has probably done more harm than good.

The policemen of the world should answer to a multinational body who doesn’t have the baggage that we do. If only the UN were capable of doing the task. If only we would allow them to even try. But there are just too many in this country with too big of egos to allow that possibility to even have a chance.  Sadly, we will likely remain in the “policemen” mode until it finally breaks us financially.  We, five percent of the world’s population foot over half the bill for maintaining order, or at least our version of it. By any account that is just not a sustainable condition and will sooner or later, like the Roman Empire cause our downfall.

 

Buying a Thousand Pillows…

September 30, 2014

Two colorful pillows over whiteYeah. So it is true that rich people can spend more money than middle class people, but there’s this upper limit on what we can spend. I drive a very nice car, but it’s only one car. I don’t own a thousand, even though I earn a thousand times the median wage. I have a few jackets, not a few thousand. My family can afford to go out to eat more than most American families, but not more than three times a day. We can’t go out 3,000 times a day.

So if you concentrate wealth in the hands of a very few people, you break down this feedback loop between customers and businesses. My family, among other businesses, owns a pillow company, and the pillow business is tough because fewer and fewer people can afford to buy pillows. Again, I may earn a thousand times the median wage, but I don’t sleep on a thousand pillows.

You need everyone to be able to afford a pillow every year in order to have a successful pillow business, and concentrating wealth at the top essentially creates a death spiral of falling demand.

 

SOURCE: Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour.

To me it just seems common sense that if you want an economy to thrive you put money in the hands of people who will spend it. Putting it in the hands of those who will simply stash it away with an already absurd bank account does nothing for the good of the country or its citizens.

Trickle down is still the mantra of many in the GOP, especially Mr. Ryan. If they get their way all social services would cease to exist and everyone would be left to themselves. Ayn Rand, who is Mr. Ryan’s hero, believed that altruism, that is caring for humanity, is a weakness and not a strength and it needs to be driven out of any truly successful society. That mentality seems to permeate those who are at the very conservative margins of our country now days.

It seems there are basically two distinctively different types of people in the U.S. There are those who love and care about everyone at least on some level and this  includes people they don’t know. Then sadly there are those who care seemingly only care about themselves and maybe their immediate families. Everyone else is to be feared on some level or simply of no or little consequence to them.

Trickle down does not nor has it ever worked. Raising the minimum wage and giving workers their fair share of the rewards benefits everyone, even those who believe in trickle down.