An Ode To Pumpkins

October 11, 2014 — Leave a comment

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To maybe entice you over to my pictorial blog site I am pulling another post from there for this Saturday’s picture day. Click on the mosaic map to the right to see some more entries…

A nip is definitely in the air here in Indiana so that takes my thoughts to Pumpkins. Halloween is the first event related to pumpkins but since that is a pagan holiday I don’t celebrate that one :)  so that leaves Thanksgiving. I can’t imagine a Thanksgiving meal with a healthy slice of pumpkin pie. Pumpkins are very American. They were grown by native Americans long before  the invaders came to their country. So, here is to you my bright orange orbs….

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and one of the country’s leading health care experts, says by age 75 he would opt out of medical treatments in order to not prolong his life in favor of letting nature take its course. Emmanuel joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his provocative essay published in The Atlantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”….

So, as we age, as we get older, we are actually going to become healthier, that the falling apart, the disabilities, the dementia, they’re going to become ever smaller parts of life. And that was a very, very compelling theory, and a lot of people grabbed on to it.

Turns out that’s not true. The data are that, as we age, we have actually added more years of disability, so there’s not a compression of morbidity. There’s actually been an expansion, and that I think is — it’s somewhat distracting for people to realize, yes, we will live longer, but we will also live with more functional limitations, less able to move around, more mental limitations, more psychological depression, and other mental problems.

SOURCE:  A doctor’s argument against living longer.

This quote came from a recent PBS Newshour report. Being a contrarian I look for alternative thought wherever I can find it and this is certainly one of those cases. In a country where hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually trying to cancel the normal aging effects, accepting our morbidity is not widely followed. We also know that almost half of our annual healthcare expenses are from the last month of life.

As pointed out in the interview, whenever someone talks about the normal again process there is someone who always points to a few people who have defied the odds and made valuable contributions well beyond the normal age of death at 75. Like most everything  the effects of aging and death is a bell-shaped curve. There will be some who are very active and productive in their old age but they are the ones on the tiny upper edge of the curve. You might call them the 1%ers.  Even as we show disdain for the financial 1%ers we all, at least in the back of our minds, dream of being in that group.

Getting personal now, I will turn 68 in the coming weeks and like almost everyone else that age I have seen my muscle mass decrease. I have moments where I get confused about what I was just thinking about and what I was intending to do. They calls these times “senior moments” for a reason.  I joke that I think my warranty expired at age 60 and now everything is starting to fall apart.  I accept that I will not be one of those 1%ers in this area. I will likely die in my mid to late 70s as did my father and grandfather.

Not prolonging my life beyond that age kind of appeals to me now but who knows what I will decide when that time comes.  Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die to get there…..

Trickle Up….

October 9, 2014 — 1 Comment

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?

2014-08-26_17-21-49This is going to be one of those posts that jerks at my soul.

I remember hearing the title phrase pretty frequently when I was growing up. It usually meant that the speaker was surprised at what I had done and usually disapproved of it.

Today it seems so many people are doing things, abominable things, in the name of God. Almost every war in my lifetime has been in the name of God. So much hatred is spewed in his name. If God is really paying attention to all of us puny human beings I wonder if he is also say the same thing. “What are you doing in my name???”

They say that Mother Teresa often had doubts about the existence of God. Here is a quote from her about that from Wikipedia

“Where is my faith? Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”

I am certainly no Mother Teresa but I too have doubts on occasion whether God is really there and involved in our personal lives as they say he is. At times he seems very remote to me. With all this evil going on in the name of God why doesn’t he set us straight and tell us to quit killing each other in his name?  Why does he allow so many radically different beliefs about him to even exist? If there is a God it seems he would put a stop to all this idiotic garbage!

To try to resolve my conflict I spent thousands of hours over a ten-year period studying theological things. I approached the study with a somewhat open mind given the religious baggage I carried into it.  One thing I gleaned from this journey is just how close-minded most are when it come to beliefs. Once we latch onto their favorite religious system we tend to shut down any openness to anything else. Most will never study or give any credence to another possibility. We, for the most part, are convinced that we have it right and everyone else is just plain wrong. This fact is true of every religious brand out there.  Christianity alone has over 40,000 different versions of faith!  Who can figure it out?

There have been millions savagely killed in the name of God. Realizing this fact has caused me periods of depression. I found that the only way I could effectively deal with that was to simply walk away from the conflicting views.  I know that I am no one but I have concluded  that we are all seeking the same God and that eventually all of us will be reconciled with the true image of God. Due to our stubbornness, it won’t likely happen in this life for many, perhaps most, of us but I believe it will happen. If God truly loves us all, and I believe he does, he will eventually bring everyone back to him. This belief changes my view of many things including fortifying the belief that we are ALL God’s children and are meant to love each other as He taught us. It is sad that we can’t seem to do just that….

 

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I have always had a fascination for burning bushes so I have four of them in my yard.  And it is that time of year for them to “burn”.

Don’t Wonder Why….

October 3, 2014

Don’t wonder why some people go crazy, wonder why all of us don’t.

Ok, that is my observation for today. Yeah, some people go over the edge when life overloads them but don’t we all get overloaded one time or another. I know I do. I see things that just don’t make any sense no matter how you look at them:

Violence - The amount of violence in our society simply astounds me! I know Americans are on the whole more aggressive than most other countries but we seem to be unique in expressing that aggression in violent ways. American football is an obsession for many and it is by far the most violent sanctioned sport on this plant. The most popular video games feature someone with a weapon killing the “bad” guys”

Guns - We have a love of guns and weapons of destruction far above almost everyone else in the world. I think we have more guns that people. The primary purpose for guns is to kill something or someone.

War - I don’t think I can even recall all the wars we have been involved with in my lifetime. It seems if we don’t have someone to go to war with we go out and generate some.  We spend more on our military than all the rest of the world combined. How insane is that!!

Narcissism – Narcissism is spending your life concentrating almost totally on yourself. Selfies are an indication of that condition. I try to be an ardent follower of Jesus Christ and when he tells me the two most important things in life are to love God and the love each other. Narcissism is the exact opposite of that.

Greed - The dark side of capitalism is greed. It is endemic to our way of doing business. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and for many that is the way it is supposed to be.

Corruption – Corruption invades too much in our society. It seems that daily there is yet another politician, religious figurehead, or business man who is exposed for corruption.

Incompetence – There are just too many people who think they can make the big bucks with this or that scheme and sadly many do. They would rather cheat and scheme than put in an honest days work. Someone recently, I think it was Steve Jobs, say it that it takes 10,000 trys to become an expert at something. Too many are just not willing to put in the effort. And then there are the current crop of politicians. Too much incompetence among those folks.

Why do we have to face all these stupid things day after day? It’s enough to make anyone crazy. Don’t wonder why some people go crazy, wonder why all of us don’t….

Violating Natural Rights…

October 2, 2014

Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. . . . The small landowners are the most precious part of the State.

Thomas Jefferson Letter, 28 Oct. 1785, to politician (later president) James Madison

These words above are very indicative of the overall philosophy of Thomas Jefferson.  He believed in power to the people and that includes all of us.  To have an unemployed poor is a failure of a country’s society and government.  Everyone should be given a chance to a fair equitable labor.

Power to the People

That should be the American mantra. To allow that power to be usurped by the monied elite goes against everything our founders had in mind.