We Learn Nothing By Speaking…..

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You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi

For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead… Thomas Jefferson

Remember, we learn nothing by speaking. St. Francis of Asissi

I thought I would pull up three inspirational quotes from some of my heroes for this inspiration Sunday.

Gandhi was a man of simplicity. He lived his life with very few luxuries. But his words were full of riches. We can’t just complain about something in life. Doing only that is a worthless task. Instead of complaining work to find a solution.

Thomas Jefferson left a huge legacy of writing for us to learn from. He spent his life as a seeker of truth. He questioned everything. Like me, that got him in trouble with some.

I bring out a quote from St. Francis of Asissi in honor of the new pope.  Even though I am no longer a Catholic I wish him the best of successes.

Feeding the Cynicism….

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I have been thinking about all the partisanship and our legislative process lately.  We seem to be in a gridlocked pattern that is almost impossible to break. Washington is completely out of step with the rest of the country.  Poll after pole tells us that we the people want them to get off their butts and do something.

Doing nothing in the U.S. Senate feeds the cynicism in the country which enhances the Republican view that government can’t do anything right. The filibuster is the latest major tool used  to accomplish that task. All it takes now it for the representatives of about 10% of the U.S. population to shut down all activity in the legislative branch.

Congress used to work 45 weeks a year in the 1970s. They now are only in session for about 32 weeks. Last year set numerous records as being the least productive senate in our history. Only 2.5% of the bills submitted were even acted upon. When I think about this I get upset.  There are so many things that need done. But then again maybe doing nothing is what is right for these times.  We need to move both of our political parties back to the center. What it will take to do that is anybody’s guess.

Overcharged By Your Hospital?

Source: Are you getting overcharged by your hospital? Time to become a Smart patient | VentureBeat.

If you’re a patient represented by Medicare or Medicaid, you’re well served because these programs have significant market muscle: They negotiate prices below what it costs to treat patients. …..Time Cover  MedicalWith few exceptions, private insurers tend to be relatively weak when bargaining with hospitals, so that hospitals can extract from them prices substantially in excess of the full cost of treating privately insured patients, with profit margins sometimes in excess of 20 percent.

Finally, uninsured patients — also called “self-pay” patients — have effectively no market power at all vis-à-vis hospitals, especially when they are seriously ill and in acute need of care. Therefore, in principle, they can be charged the highly inflated list prices in the hospitals’ chargemasters, an industry term for the large list of all charges for services and materials. These prices tend to be more than twice as high as those paid by private insurers.

A fellow blogger clued me in on this report about why our medical bills are so high. I now have an electronic copy of this Time issue and plan to do several posts on it in the coming weeks.  We have a major problem with out present healthcare system. We are currently spending twice as much as any other country in the world on our healthcare and actually more unhealthy and dying earlier than most.

It seems that most in Washington, especially the conservatives, want to solve our problem by denying care to those who can’t afford to pay the full bills. They want to reduce coverage for those on Medicare and Medicaid and want to repeal Obamacare; they say that will fix our problems.  That and suggesting that people die early if possible. The Time article above shows us a very different scenario of the causes for our exorbitant spending.

I certainly hope that the results of this study are taken to heart by our legislatures. But since the article basically puts much of the blame on our hospitals and caregivers I doubt it will get much response from them.  The medical lobbies in this country are among the strongest around; they spend millions every year to keep these sort of reports in the background of life.

The quote above is the crux of the problems that are further explained in the article.  The guy that can afford it the least is the one to bear the brunt of hospital overcharges as they have no market power. While Medicare and Medicaid patients are “well served” as the quote says there are still many ways to reduce costs even further. The most obvious one that the Republicans in Washington so object to is the ability of that system to bargain with the drug manufacturers for reduced rates. That seems a no-brainer to me. It would reduce costs in those systems by several billion dollars every year.  It is indeed a low hanging fruit in healthcare containment that has been left untouched because of lobbying power.

Somehow or another we need to convince our lawmakers and regulators to start looking at cost containment instead of service denial.  I will be posting several more times about what this article found on “why medical bills are killing us”. I hope you will be as astounded by the facts as I am and possibly spurred to some sort of action.

About Gerrymandering….

Source: Republicans Win Congress as Democrats Get Most Votes – Bloomberg.

gerrymanderingThe 2010 elections, in which Republicans won the House majority and gained more than 700 state legislative seats across the nation, gave the party the upper-hand in the process of redistricting, the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional seats. The advantage helped them design safer partisan districts and maintain their House majority in 2012 — even as they lost the presidential race by about 5 million votes. Also nationwide, Democratic House candidates combined to win about 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Gerrymandering which is what is described by the article above is something that subverts our democratic process to such a degree to jeopardize our country similarly to what the filibuster has done to the Senate. I know gerrymandering totally takes place at the State level and is endemic of almost all fifty States by the political party in power.  Instead of eliminating the Civil Rights bill as the SCOTUS is likely to do they should be enlarging it to cover gerrymandering.  But since the Supreme court seems to have a deaf ear, like they do so many other things now, on this issue that is unlikely to happen.

Wrongly Convicted….

jail cellIn the decades since a jury convicted him of murder, nearly every piece of evidence in this case has fallen away. A key witness told The New York Times that a detective instructed him to select Mr. Ranta in the lineup. A convicted rapist told the district attorney that he falsely implicated Mr. Ranta in hopes of cutting a deal for himself. A woman has signed an affidavit saying she too lied about Mr. Ranta’s involvement.

Detective Scarcella and his partner, Stephen Chmil, according to investigators and legal documents, broke rule after rule. They kept few written records, coached a witness and took Mr. Ranta’s confession under what a judge described as highly dubious circumstances. They allowed two dangerous criminals, an investigator said, to leave jail, smoke crack cocaine and visit with prostitutes in exchange for incriminating Mr. Ranta.

Source: Brooklyn Prosecutor to Seek Freedom of Man Convicted in 1990 Killing of Rabbi – NYTimes.com.

One of the things in life that disturbs me much is injustice. That is people being punished for something that they had no responsibility for. I am pro-life in all its regards. I am against abortion, against needless war deaths, people dying from preventable health causes, and  especially capital punishment.

The story above is about a high-profile case in New York City in 1990. While this one is not about capital punishment it is about injustice. For those who clicked on the source above you can see that many glaring errors were made to wrongly convict an innocent person in order to close the books on this high-profile case. The only good thing to come out of this particular story is that he was not killed by the State before all these gross errors were eventually uncovered.

Injustice just drives me up a wall so to speak and there are so many injustices in the world, always have been, to keep me up that wall.  In order to maintain my sanity it is often necessary to do what so many others do and frequently just turn a blind eye to it. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and his primary demand of me is to be my brother’s keeper. That is a hard row to hoe.  I can’t understand how so many who call themselves fundamentalist Christians seem to ignore injustice and other keeper issues as much as they do.

Thank heavens for Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project who are righting so many wrongs when it comes to injustice.  It was very ironic that Mr. Scheck was part of the “Dream Team” who got O.J. Simpson off from killing his wife. I think personal guilt pushed him into the Innocence Project. Thank heavens for that.

Why did it take twenty years for this story to finally unfold? Why was someone left to rot in our prison system who looking backwards was so wrongly convicted? What worries me is that there are probably thousands of others sitting in jail cells or who have died by lethal injection who were innocent of the charges against them.  Yes, I realize that almost everyone in our judicial system claims their innocence so it is easy to ignore those who might actually be innocent.

It is up to us as our brother’s keeper to make sure that justice is served especially for the least of these who cannot defend themselves……

Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper signs landmark gun-control bills – U.S. News


The state has been scarred by some of the deadliest incidents of mass gun violence in recent U.S. history, including the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School and the Aurora movie theater shooting that killed 12 last July. The state’s gun control bills have gained national attention since they were first proposed, drawing the ire of those who oppose any new restrictions on gun purchases or ownership.

“We’re all in shock here,” state Senator Greg Brophy, a Republican, said on Wednesday. “It turns out this guy who everybody thought was a moderate Democrat is actually a gun-control governor.”

“I think the governor will be replaced by someone who has Colorado values instead of New York City values,” Brophy said. “If Republicans are returned to control we will repeal these bills immediately.”

Source:  Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper signs landmark gun-control bills – U.S. News.

I am heartened to see some common sense legislation from some of the States. Colorado has certainly been hit with more than their share of violence due to too many guns in our society.  Of course no real progress is made without the ranting by those of opposite interests.   I just can’t understand why the country is so split on this issue. Are guns really that embedded in our society?

Thinking outside the box….


Source:  Thinking outside the box – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

BoxThinking outside the box (also thinking out of the box or thinking beyond the box) is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking. The term is thought to derive from management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s challenging their clients to solve the “nine dots” puzzle, whose solution requires some lateral thinking.

Ironically, telling people to “think outside the box” does not help them think outside the box, at least not with the 9-dot problem. This is due to the distinction between procedural knowledge (implicit or tacit knowledge) and declarative knowledge (book knowledge). For example, a non-verbal cue such drawing a square outside the 9 dots does allow people to solve the 9-dot problem better than average. However, a very particular kind of verbalization did indeed allow people to solve the problem better than average. This is to speak in a non-judgmental, free association style. These were the instructions in a study which showed facilitation in solving the 9-dot problem…

Quote Inside the BoxI have always prided myself in thinking outside the box.  That is taking a different view of things than is commonly done. I love being unconventional. It is just my nature to ask “why” on almost everything I encounter in life.  It makes me different and one thing I am convinced about life is that all of us want to think that we are different. We are not from the vanilla cookie cutter of life.

I have come to accept that thinking outside the box gets me in trouble on occasion. I’m sure I was passed over for some promotions in my professional career because I questioned some of the things that my boss said or did.  I would have made a terrible soldier in that regard as a primary aspect of being a soldier is to obey orders without question. I just can’t seem to do that. I know asking questions, or maybe looking for answers, got me thrown out of my church of almost ten years.  I just did not mindlessly jump through all the “sola” hoops demanded of me by a strict fundamentalist Lutheran pastor.

I am also proud of being a progressive. I actually embrace change where others seem to fear it.  That also gets me in trouble once in a while. It seems most people want to take the safe way in almost all circumstances. The safe way usually means doing something the way “we have always done it”. That just doesn’t appeal to me.

I am also a pragmatist. That is I am always looking for the best way to accomplish goals or tasks in life. If I can mimic something that someone has managed to find to solve a problem then I usually leap at the chance but of course I usually put my own spin on it. I am not a “not invented here” person. I don’t mind giving credit to others who have already found a good solution to current day problems.

I guess I am a pretty complicated guy when it comes to life. At least I think I am…..

If you haven’t figured out how to do the 9-dot problem click the source to see the solution.

China’s real estate bubble

China BuildingsSource: China’s real estate bubble – CBS News.

China has been nothing short of a financial miracle. In just 30 years, this state-controlled economy became the world’s second largest, deftly managed by government policies and decrees.

One sector the authorities concentrated on was real estate and construction. But that may have created the largest housing bubble in human history. If you go to China, it’s easy to see why there’s all the talk of a bubble. We discovered that the most populated nation on earth is building houses, districts and cities with no one in them.

This article got my attention because of two different items.  One is how our prosperity did not disappear; it was simply moved to another continent. The second is that I recently posted the words that started ultra-conservatism in our country. Those words were “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.” from Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural speech. He ushered in the feeling in this country that government serves no purpose and should just get out of the way of the private sector and everything will be alright.

Obviously China has taken the exact opposite track. Their government controls almost everything in that country. To see them go from number twelve to number two in less than thirty years is nothing short of amazing. But of course their prosperity is coming at the expense of the American worker as our corporations continue to move jobs to their country.

Why Not????

why notJust as after Vietnam, politicians can vow never to fight another long and unpopular war against insurgents. But Perkins said that would be exactly the wrong lesson for the military to learn from Iraq.

“We can never be in a position to say, you know what, we don’t do that anymore,” Perkins said.

The great lesson of Iraq — that the American military must be prepared both to sow chaos and create stability — must be learned not just by those who fought there, but by all those who come after.

Source: U.S. military still weighing Iraq lessons – CBS News.

Why can’t we say we don’t do that anymore? What is wrong with keeping to our own business and letting the regional players or at least the UN to handle conflicts on the other side of the world? Why must the U.S. be the policemen of the world? Is it because we spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined? If that is the case then I have a radical solution. Quit spending so much of our grandchildren’s money on our war machines and mind our own business.

I applaud the generals for putting out this report but they seem to be ignoring the obvious solutions. They seem to think that their military might is a foregone conclusion.  The real solution is to get us off our dependence on oil and our dependence on a hyper-military to get it for us.

Iraq will soon go into the history book right beside Vietnam as wars that had no lasting effect on history. It is dreadful that my generation had to sacrifice 55,000 for no difference.  We should have learned our lessons but that was just not the case. Now thousands of kids of the twenty-first century have been killed or maimed in a very similar situation. The totally senseless and tragic loss of life is stupefying.

Life isn’t fair.  That is a lesson all of us need to learn.  There will always be people who take advantage of others in this world. There will always be civil wars in one magnitude or another going.  When Mr. Gorbachev made the statement that he has done grievous harm to us by making the U.S. the only superpower in the world he certainly predicted our future as it is now playing out. In order to justify our outrageous military spending we just have to use it whenever possible. Is that our fate or will common sense eventually reign?  It is hard to see the answer to that right now but I have faith that, like the collapse of the Soviet Union, our drawdown of the military just might happen even quicker than I dream.