Self Made…..

July 7, 2013

“A real self-made man would have to be one who had received no learning or knowledge, or assistance from any person or source.” – Will Rogers, 28 October 1923

MeI really appreciate your words here Will. There is really no such thing as a self made man.  I have run across so many people who proudly claim to be self made.  There is a definite whiff of arrogance in every one of them. There is even a car guy on cable that has those words tattooed on his fingers.  He proudly says he built his business totally on his own.

Being the social liberal that I am, I fall into the category of “it takes a village to raise a child” mentality. None of us are really self made. When we were growing up we had our heroes to admire and our mentors to emulate.  We start out in the mode that we don’t know what we don’t know and with the help of others go from there. Our teachers through the years, some probably more so than others, gave us the tools to learn what we needed to know to be a success in whatever field we would ultimately choose. Of course, our parents provided us with a safe and nurturing environment that made learning possible and more than likely someone gave us that “break” that started everything off.

When we ultimately got on the job there were those who taught us the ropes in our chosen profession. We were certainly green and would probably have remained so without their guidance. No one comes into this world prepared to be a success at anything except maybe breathing. :) To proudly claim that “I did it alone” is probably the ultimate form of narcissism.

SurgeonA central reason U.S. health care spending is so high is because hospitals and doctors charge more for their services and there’s little transparency about why. There is no uniformity to the system, in which public and private insurers have separate, unrelated contracts with hospitals and doctors. The result is a tangled, confusing and largely secretive collection of forces driving health care prices higher and higher.

This isn’t possible in many other countries either because governments set prices for health care services or broker negotiations between coalitions of insurers and providers. Known as “all-payer rate setting,” insurers in these systems band together to negotiate as groups. In contrast, U.S. insurers closely guard the secrecy of their contracted prices with health care providers and negotiate individually. This is why a hospital hosting five patients for knee replacements might get paid five different amounts for the surgeries.

Source: Why Our Health Care Lets Prices Run Wild | TIME.com.

There seems to be so many possible solutions to reigning in our ever-increasing healthcare costs if only those in congress would be brave enough to actually try a few. Instead they seem intent on just complaining about the situation. That’s easy, solving it is where the work begins and I am convinced that those yahoos inside the beltway are just too lazy to do the work to actually affect the problem.

After putting in quite a bit of study in this area I have come to believe that the above quote gets to the heart of the problem.  Like everything else in life if something is totally unregulated and uncontrolled it tends to move to an extreme.  I will admit that there are many doctors who are the exception to this statement but overall doctor’s pay is out of control.  When they believe that they are justified in charging me thousands of dollars for an hour of their time they need to be taught otherwise.

The way that hospitals set their rates is simply insanity. It has nothing to do with the actual cost of the service but more to do with getting the most possible. I love the quote above that “the result is a tangled, confusing and largely secretive collection of forces driving health care prices higher and higher”. As long as all of these price setting schemes are held behind closed doors our costs will inevitably grow higher and higher.  Why can’t we understand that simple fact.

Even a simple solution such as allowing Social Security to bargain for lower drug prices has been deemed not allowed by many of the so-called leaders in our government. Until we can finally realize that at some level of regulation is necessary in order to contain our healthcare dollars we will continue to complain about costs but fail to do any real action to contain them. The rest of the world discovered these solutions years ago, when will we ever catch up with them?

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know…..

CritisizeExcessive self-criticism tends to backfire, because it leads us to focus on our so-called failures instead of the “small ways that we could have improved,” says psychologist Tamar E. Chansky, PhD, author of Freeing Yourself From Anxiety. And over the long term, studies show, self trash-talk is associated with higher stress levels and even depression.

Source:  9 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic – ABC News.

Being down on yourself is just a normal state for some and an occasional state for others. This seems especially true for  certain varieties of Christians who believe that all human beings are just worthless pieces of snot but then declare that God loves us anyway. It is hard to have a positive attitude about almost anything when that philosophy drives your life. As the article above says self criticism is a good thing to a certain degree. It allows us to change things in our lives when they are detrimental to our overall health or attitude.

I must admit that even though I long ago gave up the “worthless piece of snot” Christian beliefs, I still get down on myself more frequently than is probably healthy. But I don’t think I am unusual in that regard. I think that is a common human affliction. One of the worst problems with getting down on yourself is that it often leads to getting down on everyone else and seeing the world as a very dark place.  There seem to be many in that mode lately. In some ways that is perhaps one of the root problems we have in our currently disjointed world right now. We just can’t seem to see any goodness in ourselves or in others.

Upon reviewing the list in this article of ways to silence your inner critic  I think the first and the last ones are the most helpful.  The first one is to try to narrow it down when you are self-critical. Find out what specifically you don’t like about yourself and go about trying to change that smaller issue.  Don’t dump your criticism all over yourself like a heavy wet blanket.  The last one is to those perfectionists among us of which I am certainly not one but my wife is.  Seeking to be perfect is an unattainable goal in life. Perfection is so destructive. One of my favorite Sci-Fi movies is Tron- The Legacy. I have it on my DVR list and watch parts of it at least weekly.  In it the creator of a digital world commissioned a digital clone of himself to create a perfect world. Of course what resulted was chaos since perfection is unknowable.

I need to look at this list again in a few days to see if any other parts of it can stick on me.

Happy July 4th…

July 4, 2013

July 4

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In a Washington Post Op-Ed piece Wednesday, co-founder Mr. Zuckerberg wrote that today’s “economy is based primarily on knowledge and ideas – resources that are renewable…. In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are talented people.”

Beyond helping to nudge the current debate, according to a statement released on Wednesday, the group’s goal is to “organize and engage the tech community in the issues where we can contribute to the national debate, on issues of vital importance to America’s ability to compete in the global knowledge economy.”…

The country does not have enough skilled workers to fill industry’s needs, he says, and it sorely needs a more sensible approach to keeping America competitive. “Silicon Valley can play an important role in getting that message out,” he says, “because small individuals or companies cannot get that message out, but a company like Apple or Microsoft can be heard.”

Source: Immigration reform: Can Mark Zuckerberg and friends deliver? – CSMonitor.com.

Although my quote above doesn’t indicate it, the article above is primarily about how Silicon Valley has come out in the immigration debates. They indicate that there are simply not enough of our youth that have the desire, or maybe opportunity, to get an advanced education to fill the needs of a “Knowledge Economy”. So, if the U.S. is to remain competitive we need to allow those who are willing to do the hard work necessary to come to our country.

I also read all the statistics that show that a large percentage of our youth are not buying into the costs of a college education. They see so many college graduates on the unemployment lines to believe in the mantra of the knowledge economy.  I must admit that my college education put me solidly into the middle class  where I had never been before. I watched my father struggle throughout his life to make a living; often a back-breaking living. He sold chain saws, he drove a milk truck, he packed thousands of sand molds and poured white-hot metal in them.  He was fortunate to finally get a big time factory job during his later years that allowed him to retire on a little more than his social security payments. I watched my father struggle through life.

I have been thinking quite a bit about the history of America and how we are unique in so many ways. We are an independent people who like to make our own ways. We, even those born from milkmen, stubbornly ask why we can’t have life a little easier than our fathers. We seemed to have ambition where many others don’t. I am searching to find just what has made America great in the past in order to try to understand how we might gain back that edge that we seem to be losing.

I simply can’t take Mr. Zuckerberg’s stand that the answer to our national malaise is to allow more of the ambitious from other countries to come here to fill out our “knowledge economy” roster. Are our youth who will be the leaders of tomorrow not stepping up to the task or are we just making the path too difficult? Those thoughts are on my mind lately. I am earnestly looking for the soul of America.  More about that later….

Jim Wallis

But, virtually every night, I would also feel from those who came, along with that hunger, a very deep cynicism about social change even being possible. And when it came to Washington or Wall Street, the cynicism was overwhelming. Virtually no one trusts either our political system or marketplace to be fair, honest, moral, or even open to doing the right thing. Most Americans seem to believe that the primary institutions of our public life completely lack integrity. And sadly, that cynicism, for many, even extends to their churches or other religious institutions, which they don’t regard as playing an independent leadership role for the common good that could hold other institutions accountable.

Excerpt from the weekly email from Jim Wallis (6/20/13)

I have been emotionally down in the dumps for several weeks now. So, when I read the quote above from Jim Wallis on his “Hearts & Minds” theme they hit me directly in the face.  I couldn’t think of a clearer way to describe what I am feeling right now.

I have a deep hunger for the common good and social change in our seemingly quickly degrading world.  My cynicism is indeed overwhelming sometimes.  It just doesn’t seem worth a pittance to continue to do anything to effect any change. It just seems a waste of time. I have lost faith in Washington, Wall Street and yes, even some versions Christ’s church to some degree. All seem to have abandoned anything resembling the common good or even common sense.

Does that mean I have given up on life?  Hell NO!!  I have just given up on affecting any change via our current institutions. I need to step back and look seriously about how I, on a personal level, can put a glimmer of socially conscious light in myself and maybe even those who might read my words.  I need to get back to my roots, to a simpler time to make sense of the world today.  It is not about Washington, Wall Street, or even the institutional church. It is more about how I treat my fellow-man and what I do with the gifts the Lord has given me.   All that stuff in Washington and Wall Street is as Will Rogers says is applesauce. That is it is nonsense.  I hope to never lose sight of that  fact……

Rand Paul 1Like other Republicans who have advocated a ‘bigger-tent’ philosophy for their party, US Senator Rand Paul says this doesn’t mean leaving behind strongly held principles

Source: Rand Paul: ‘When Republican Party looks like the rest of America, we’ll win’ (+video) – CSMonitor.com.

As any Madison Avenue type and he will tell you it is all about marketing. In other words you must show the masses what they want or what you want them to believe; they don’t have a clue themselves.

I must admit that if you ignore much of Rand Paul’s libertarian philosophies about shutting down government he says things that I like. He is very astute in the workings of the twenty-first century media and that certainly includes the marketing aspects of it. I often love listening to the guy; he is one of the few of those yahoos in Washington who seems to have a lick of common sense.

In the interior of the quoted article above he goes on to say we don’t have to budge on our “principles”, we just need stronger marketing tools. I say the above in a semi-jest mode because he does go on to say that on many things we can just “agree to disagree” and still get along. I remember back in the 1960’s there were so many who refused to budge on their principles about their belief in the inferiority of “those negroes” (I substituted a nicer word in this quote).  They loudly proclaimed that it was a “State’s right” to handle the segregation thing. Thankfully those “principles” are now long gone, at least on the surface.  Sometimes giving up on “principles” is a good thing.

Until the Republican party look at others as being something other than the “enemy” they will continue to decline in numbers no matter how big a tent they try to put up. Things are just so bad now that I might even consider giving Mr. Rand a vote in the next presidential elections just to see what happens.  We need to do something to shake up our partisan political country. Maybe he is that thing. But in the end I am really putting most of my hopes on the emerging Centrist Party if they can only get a significant following.

Flying carsWe are generally very poor at predicting the future. Congressman Ryan who is a radical right conservative in the House of Representative recently proudly put out a ten year government budget that he proclaims will starve us from our legendary deficit spending.  With his ten year budget in hand he keeps ranting about where is the democratic ten year budget. I think maybe my Democratic friends are just too smart to try to predict what will happen in ten years. It is almost certain that it won’t represent what Mr. Ryan predicts.   Let’s face it we are just terrible at predicting the future next year, let alone in ten years.

But, political budgets are not what this post is about. Instead it is about predicting the future of our personal transportation vehicles, otherwise known as cars. I have been a car guy on one level or another for more than fifty years. During the early and mid 1960s I could tell you just about every car make and model on the road. I lived through the midwestern version of the movie “American Graffiti”.  I was a car guy even before I could afford to own one; not so much any more.

But let’s get back to predicting the future.  I can remember going to the 1960 New York World’s Fair during our high school graduation trip in 1965. It seemed like it was almost all about the future. The predictors back then knew for a fact that way off in the year 2000 we would all be driving cars that few in the skies. Roads would no longer be necessary and gasoline would be a thing of the distant past.  They were sure that all car would be nuclear powered by that distant date.

Flash forward those forty plus years and lets look at where we are.  Still driving gasoline polluting global warming cars over just as many pot holes as in those days.  I think the politicians are about the only ones who bought into that 1960s prediction as they quit collecting enough taxes to maintain our highway infrastructure. It continues to crumble down with no end in sight. It may be that in the future our cars will have to fly as our roads will probably become un-driveable.

Banner - Will Rogers

Will Rogers“You see a Republican moves slowly. They are what we call conservatives. A conservative is a man who has plenty of money and doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t always have plenty of money. A Democrat is a fellow who never had any, but doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t have some.” – Will Rogers, 26 March 1933

Will certainly had it right about things of politics in his day and it is almost weird that the same hold true eighty years later.  The rich continue to get richer and the poor are almost exponentially increase month after month.

Gone Fishing….

June 28, 2013

Banner - Will Rogers

fishin“If all politicians fished instead of speaking publicly we would be at peace with the world.” – Will Rogers, 20 October 1933

Maybe that is the solution for our current gridlock in Washington.  Just shut it down and go fishing. But remember to turn off the money spigot before they leave.   There is a lot of hot air in that area of Virginia that needs to be blown out to sea.

In my younger bachelor days I had a fifteen foot bass boat that I took around the country. I really wasn’t much of a fisherman but I guess I caught my share. It was more about being out there on the lake than anything else.  Being that close to nature and its corresponding serenity was what it was all about. Everything else just tended to melt away during those hours.

If those yahoos in Washington need anything it is to wash away all the bitterness and spite that has enveloped that city. They need to chill out and discover that “it” is not always about them and their re-election campaigns. They need to understand that the billions of bucks that they hand out daily is not theirs but belongs to those who elected them.  They were sent there to do the people’s business to accomplish the greater good and to provide for the general welfare of the whole country. In other words they need to learn how to be the statesmen that their predecessors were.

Another saying that was popular from Will is that the best thing congress could do for the people is to take a two-week vacation. But, given the circumstance I’m sure two-weeks is not enough. Hell, I’m not even sure two years is long enough.

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….