Posts Tagged With: science

THE HEALTH CARE BAMBOOZLE

Much of the friction and divisiveness among the U.S. electorate is often the result of most Americans choosing to be either uncaring, uninformed, or uninvolved. For example, in the 2016 presidential election only about 135 million Americans bothered to vote out of an adult population well in excess of 200 million. It’s now estimated that for the upcoming 2018 Congressional elections there will be a 40% drop-off from the already weak numbers of 2016. In the computer age when a wealth of information is literally at ones finger tips, most people can’t be bothered to access such data that’s often critical to their lives and well-being. Instead they prefer to make crucial decisions based on trite slogans written on a baseball cap or a hand-made sign sticking out from a crowd. Back in the day, when I was actually young, one had to literally trudge to the library and search out hard-copy (if it existed) in order to become informed. Now that the process has become so much easier, most people are too busy with other stuff to really care. Yet, even though political and social ignorance and uncaring is so prevalent, the actions of our elected officials often have profound consequences for all too many people.

You want proof. In the presidential election of 2000, George W. Bush supposedly carried the state of Florida ( a fact still being disputed) by a few hundred votes out of millions cast, thus giving him the presidency. His opponent, Democrat Al Gore, won the popular vote nation-wide only to lose access to the White House because of the idiocies of our Electoral College system, and a disputed vote count in Florida. (Sound familiar regarding our 2016 election?) The primary difference between the two men? In 2003 Bush decide to invade Iraq in order to depose Saddam Hussein, admittedly, a really bad tyrant and despot. That war continues in one form another to this day 14 years later. Al Gore, had he become president, would have never initiated such an invasion. During the Iraqi war 6000 U.S. military and civilian contractors lost their lives, and about another 25,000 Americans were so severely wounded that their lives were effectively over. Brain damage, blindness, loss of limbs, that sort of thing. Ask a veteran of that war  who’s blind or a quad-palegic whether elections have consequences.

The relevancy of an uninformed and generally uncaring public will once again rear it’s ugly head when Congressional Republicans, for the umpteenth time, try, once again, to repeal and supposedly replace Obamacare, as the nation’s health care system. It’s once again time for the Republican health care bamboozle. In the Senate, the Republican effort is primarily based on lopping off over 20 million poor from Medicaid, in order to provide tax cuts for the rich. It’s Reverse Robin Hood time, as I wrote in a previous piece. And, of course, the proposed legislation has the solid backing of Donald Trump, who really doesn’t care what’s in the details, as long as he can claim that his administration did away with the supposedly despised and socialistic Obamacare. Good for the ego and that sort of rot. Especially for a pathological narcissist like Trump. So, since Republicans are so adamant in their opposition to socialized medicine, I thought it would be useful to cite some relevant facts in that regard, that dispute the fact our medicine is un-socialistic.

The reality is that we already have a large degree of socialized medicine in this country. Here are the facts. TRICARE, a comprehensive medical plan that’s available to active and retired military and their families for a nominal fee, already has 9.5 million participants. The Veterans Affairs system, also for the military, is free, for those that don’t participate in TRICARE, and counts another 9 million members. Medicare, a type of socialized medicine with nominal premiums for seniors, has about 55.5  million members, while Medicaid, which is free health care for the poor, adds another 76 million to its membership rolls. Throw in CHIP, which is Medicaid for poor children, and you have another 4 million participants on the governments dime. Call me crazy, but my math is saying that about 154 million Americans are already receiving subsidized or socialized health care support from the government. It’s true that for Medicaid participants, the quality of the health care they receive is often poor or low-grade, but that’s because of government stinginess in reimbursing doctors for health care services provided to poor people.

It also should be considered that another 156 million Americans receive their health care coverage from their employers. This is also subsidized by the government since those same employers are then allowed to deduct the costs of providing that benefit  from the income taxes they owe the government. So, although the various health care arrangements in the U.S. may be convoluted, there’s little doubt that the government participates in providing socialistic type coverage to about 310 million Americans. That leaves about 15 million people in the U.S. that are left dangling in the wind when it comes to protecting their most valuable asset, namely their health.

The sane solution to all of this would be to scrap all these various arrangements, and institute a universal, single payer health care system that’s prevalent through the rest of the world, especially those with advanced economies like ours. But, of course, that’s way too sensible and would not allow our Republican President and Congress to demagogue the issue as they plan to do this week. It will probably take another couple of centuries of evolution before the sanity of universal health care will be allowed to prevail.

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THE ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT

It’s late 2015 and Donald Trump is having a small gathering at his penthouse at Trump Towers in Manhattan. His family is there including his children and grandchildren, as well as some friends and associates his known over the years. The conversation invariably begins to dwell on politics and how the upcoming 2016 primaries are starting earlier and earlier. Suddenly, Donnie Jr. loudly comments that- “You know, Dad, you could take another run at it. It’s not too late to get your name on the ballot for the Iowa caucuses.” “Right,” replies Trump. “Because it worked out so well for me in 2012.” But Donnie Jr. is persistent. “The only reason that went bust was because you let Corey talk into running as a “birther.” (He’s referring to Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager in 2012, and the first half of the 2016 campaign.) “That was a losing issue from the beginning. There just wasn’t enough true believers in the Republican base to convince that Obama was secretly born in Kenya. Besides this time, you would be running against Hillary, a much weaker candidate than Obama ever was.”

“This time you can focus on the stuff that has the Republican base all in tizzy,” continues  Donnie Jr. “Like all the Mexican illegals pouring over the border. Most Republicans really hate that. And ISIS terrorism and the flood of Moslems coming into this country as well as Europe are certainly issues to rile people up. Look at the recent attacks in Europe and California. Both of these areas could give you plenty of traction in the primaries.” “I don’t know Dad,” injects Ivanka, speaking for the first time. “Aren’t there like 20 guys running for the nomination. How are you going to stand out from the rest.” “By being different than rest, and politically incorrrect” declares Steve Bannon,” a close associate of Trump over the years, and head of the Alt-Right propaganda outlet called Breitbart News.  “I mean, look who he would be running against. Jeb Bush? Give me a break. Not only has his time come and gone maybe a dozen years ago, but I don’t believe the country is ready for still another Bush in the White House. Ted Cruz? Outside of Texas, his drawing power is diddly-squat. Rubio? Too young and inexperienced. The rest are just political pigmies.”

Trump turned to Melania seated next to him, and said- “You know, the kids pretty much run the business on a day-to-day basis as it is. It’s not like I don’t have the time.” “But you would be out campaigning for about the next year,” she protested. “I’d still make time to come home to you, every now and then,” Trump replied. Melania did not look pleased, but said nothing. Turning to everyone else Trump declared that- “If I did do this, I’m not going to spend a lot of my own money, I’ll tell you that. It will be a like a take it or leave proposition. This is who I am, take it or leave it.” And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Trump entered the Republican primaries with 16 other potential candidates. His ratings alongside the others stood at about 5%. That’s when he decided to be as politically incorrect as possible, as Steve Bannon had advised. He denigrated Senator John McCain’s service to his country when he was captured and held prisoner by the Viet-Cong in the hellish “Hanoi Hilton” for 6 long years. Trump stated that he- “liked people that weren’t captured.” (I’m still trying to figure out in what universe that’s a coherent statement.) When Megyn Kelly, Fox News host, was critical of him during a debate, Trump stated that “she had blood coming out of her whatever.” He said that Mexico was deliberately sending us “their rapists and murderers,” and promised to build a 2000 mile long wall to keep them out. He said he would bar Moslems from entering the country, and would “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” (I’m still waiting on some action concerning that last promise.) But the more outlandish the Trump remarks were, the more his poll numbers shot up. From 5% to about the 35-40% range.

Because Trump’s comments were considered so utterly vile, NBC fired him from their “Celebrity Apprentice” show. Macy’s fired him from being one of their spokespersons. But a large chunk of the Republican base really liked what they heard. Every white supremacist organization from the KKK on down considered Trump “their kind of guy.” The “Bikers of America” flocked to the Cleveland Convention Center to provide the necessary protection and muscle to assure that for the first time in their lives, they would have a kindred spirit occupying the White House. To this day, the large and growing white supremacy movement in the U.S. maintains nothing but adoration for Trump and his cohorts.

Despite his demagogic appeal to white racists and bigots, Trump still would have lost the election had his campaign not suppressed the voter turnout amongst blacks, Latinos and other minorities that normally vote Democratic. As I’ve said many times, elections are often decided more by the people who stay home and fail to vote, then by the numbers that do cast a ballot. The Trump campaign cast Hillary in such a derogatory light, that many voters that would have normally turned out for her were too discouraged to make the effort. Also, of course, if we didn’t have this unfathomable electoral college system, Hillary would be occupying the Oval Office today.

I wrote last time about the upcoming French presidential election (this Sunday), where the female version of Donald Trump is trying to use the same tactics of voter suppression on her opponents base. Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right, who hopes to become the new French president, is telling her opponent’s base voters that it’s not worth their effort to come out and cast a ballot on Sunday.  It would be much more pleasant for them to take a liesurly stroll in the park. Interesting to see if that tactic will work a second time.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE….”

I’m one of those people that faithfully reads the obituaries every day in the morning newspaper. Perhaps it’s because, as the old joke goes, I’m checking to see wether my name is listed there or not. Well, this morning’s obits had a bit of surprise for me. Listed as one of life’s casualties was a person that I had gone to college with named Reuben Goldstein, so many decades ago. He too was my age and born and raised in Brooklyn, but unbeknownst to me, was living in Las Vegas well before we had moved out here. I guess we were like two ships passing in the night. How unfortunate.

In those days of yesteryear (as the Lone Ranger might have said) I went to City College in Manhattan. It’s now called City University of New York or CUNY. Living in Brooklyn, I had to walk 12 blocks to the nearest subway station and take the train for about a 45 minute ride into Manhattan. A total joy in freezing cold, or rainy or snowy winter days. This station was elevated (above ground) and Reuben was often already there for the morning commute before I had arrived. When he saw me approaching, he would call out my name and shout that he would wait for me even if a train was pulling into the station to pick up passengers. And so he waited until I arrived and we then took the next train so that we could commute together and avoid the loneliness and monotony of those daily subway rides.

Reuben was not a great student as I came to realize when we sometimes did homework together after class. It turned out to be mainly a case of me helping him cope with subject matter that seemed to baffle him. In the end I wound up doing most of his homework in addition to mine. It wasn’t long after I graduated, that I latched onto a cushy assignment in Europe for three years (which I’ve written about in previous pieces) and lost complete contact with Rueben. That is, until now, when his entire life’s journey is summed up in a very brief paragraph in the daily obits. How sad. In those days, tuition at City College amounted to a $10 registration fee per semester for New York residents. When I had to spend $50 each term for school books, (used, of course) I considered it an outlandish rip-off. A subway ride initially cost a nickel then, and when it was raised to a dime, New Yorkers howled in protest, as if they were being slaughtered by Jack the Ripper. I don’t even want to know what obscene amount is being charged today. Garbage was picked up 6 days a week, even in poor neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. Now you’re lucky if they come around once a week. Is this what they call progress?

The title of this piece is taken from a song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary. It’s an anti-war song about loss and death, which Reuben’s passing made me think of. Speaking of P,P,&M, the wife and I saw them perform here in Las Vegas when they were well into their sixties, or perhaps older. I’ve often written that Las Vegas is where dead performers can come back to life. For a fraction of the price that it would cost to see a headliner like, say, Celine Dion, perform at a strip hotel, one can see a has-been  perform at an off-strip hotel. Think Frankie Valli, and the Four Seasons. And so it was with Peter, Paul and Mary, who were well past their prime when we saw them go on stage at one of the local hotel/casinos. Peter and Paul were in reasonably decent shape but Mary had aged considerably. I remember in her youth, with her long blonde hair and bangs tossing about as she performed on-stage with huge vibrance and vitality.  Now she had gotten fat with multiple ailments and had to walk on-stage using two canes and sit while performing. Their voices were a whisper of past glories. The audience sat there respectfully, knowing it was likely to be the last time they would come together on-stage. Mary, sadly, would die not that long after, at the premature age 72. And so goes the cycle of life and death.

Today I also learned that a man my age, who lived in my community, and who we used to socialize and play cards with, also just died, this time from cancer. Add one more to the obits list. Indeed, where have all the flowers gone. Turned to dust, every one.

 

 

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OVER THE FISCAL CLIFF WE GO

By now you should have all heard about the “fiscal cliff” and how we are about to plunge over it, if Congress does not act by around Christmastime. Lots of luck with that. The fiscal cliff came into being in August 2011. The voters, in their infinite wisdom during the November 2010 elections, elected  a Democratic majority in the Senate, but a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Most of the newly elected House members were Tea Party stalwarts, with a supposed mandate to sharply reduce Government spending by cutting the budget. Then, in July of 2011, a piece of legislative idiocy known as the debt-ceiling had to be raised in order for the Government to go on functioning. The debt-ceiling, which is not stipulated anywhere in the Constitution, mandates that the Government cannot borrow anymore money above an amount previously designated by Congress, unless Congress passes a new law designating an increased amount of debt. I know that this is utter nonsense that attempts to appeal to voters who otherwise are not paying attention to the machinations of the way things get done in Washington, but this nonsense is codified in statute.

So, if any of you haven’t fallen asleep yet, I’ll plow on with more explanation of how Congress functions on the taxpayers dime. Thus, back in July 2011, if the debt-ceiling wasn’t going to be raised on Government spending, where 40 cents out of every dollar spent had to be borrowed, it would have meant that major components of the Government would have to be shut down, and Federal employes sent home with no paycheck. It would have meant missed social security or medicare payments, as well as failure to pay Defense and other Government contractors. It would have meant that if you had payed for a trip to any of our national parks, such as Yellowstone or Yosemite, (over 300 million people visit our national parks every year) you were out-of-luck since park personnel would have been sent home, and the parks closed. You get the picture. But catastrophic or not, House Republicans vowed they would not go along with raising the debt-ceiling unless the Obama administration agreed to drastic cuts in Federal spending to begin January 2013, as well as renewal of the Bush tax cuts through the end of 2012. Otherwise the Government would be shuttered, starting August 2, 2011. Just before midnight on August 1, Obama caved, and agreed to all the Republican demands, and the Government was allowed to stay in business through the end of 2012.

By now, those of you that haven’t fallen asleep are probably propping open your eyelids with toothpicks, but, hey, I didn’t make the rules whereby the Government functions in all its splendor. So now we are in December 2012 and the “fiscal cliff” which sounds a lot better than “congressional stupidity” is about to befall us in just a few weeks. If the Administration and Congress can’t come to an agreement, the Bush tax cuts expire, and taxes go up for nearly everyone. This will be noticed immediately in reduced paychecks due to increased tax withholding. Automatic budget cuts will take effect, including a $50 billion annual cut in Defense spending. This has a lot of  Republicans all upset, since spending on military hardware and troops is the holy grail for conservatives. As if the Defense budget was funded by the money tree that grows in the Pentagon courtyard. Small Defense contractors, heavily concentrated in the Washington DC suburbs of Northern Virginia and Maryland, are claiming that they will have to close their businesses should these Defense cuts be allowed to take place. Other non-Defense contractors are also claiming they will have to reduce payrolls or shutter their companies, causing more unemployment and further weakening an already tepid economy. And so it goes, on and on.

President Obama is willing to reinstate the Bush tax cuts for all Americans, except the wealthiest 2% of the population. For them, (couples earning over $250,000) the marginal tax rates would go up 4.6% on earnings after $250,000. Which is where they were during the Clinton years. Yet Republicans are absolutely not willing to accept 98% of the loaf. They are insisting that it has to be either the entire 100% of the loaf, or no bread at all. After all, doesn’t everyone know that a small marginal tax increase on the richest 2% of Americans will cause an irreparable breach in the very space-time fabric of the universe. A breach that can never be healed and will eventually cause the universe to crumble into a heap of ashes. That, in effect is the Republican position on income taxes, and they’re not budging from it.

The Republicans also want to overhaul social security and medicare to lower their costs, both of which are unquestionably breaking the budget. In this instance, it’s the Republicans that are facing up to reality, and the Democrats that are being irrationally stubborn in refusing to come forward with reform plans that are clearly necessary for those 2 giant entitlement programs. Raising the eligibility age for both programs to 67, and eventually to 70, would make them solvent overnight. And such action would be completely justified because the life span of Americans has significantly increased since these programs were enacted. So there you have it- the GOP won’t budge on on a tax increase for the rich, and the Democrats are just as stubborn on reforming social security and medicare. If both parties hold to their positions we go over the fiscal cliff come January.

Awhile back I wrote a piece on the failures and dysfunctions of democracy, and democratic forms of government in general. I pointed out that Winston Churchill had said that democracy was the worst form of government, (except for all the others that have ever been tried.) And now with this extreme polarization among the ruling parties in this country, dysfunction has never been more clearly highlighted. I believe that members of both parties become highly agitated just at the thought of having to compromise with the other side. Thus, we appear to be stalemated. My feeling is, that at the last minute, some sort of agreement will be reached preventing our plunge over the fiscal cliff. Or not.

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MORE SUMMER FOLLIES

I’ve written before about this being the summer of our discontent, with some very real problems, and some that are totally fabricated. On the real side, there’s a very severe drought gripping at least two-thirds of the country causing some serious pain to many of the nation’s farmers. Crops are withering on the vine, and a huge shortage of corn and other grains needed to feed animal livestock has developed. Prices are sure to surge dramatically in the ensuing months because of fruit and vegetable shortages, and the increasing costs to import food for farm animals. A real problem with no end in sight as the severe drought appears to be locking itself in with increasing intensity. Then there are the manufactured problems that a lot of people love to indulge in because they’re so much easier to attack as well as feed into people’s delusions.

Recently there has been a big kerfuffle over the fact that the president of a fast food chain has said on the radio words to the effect that we are incurring God’s wrath if we allow gay marriage in this country. The food chain is called Chick-fil-A and it’s major distinction is that it’s closed on Sundays in deference to God’s wishes. (I had never heard of them until this latest tizzy.) Now I wonder if the president of Chick-fil-A gets regular e-mails from God (or the invisible man, as George Carlin used to say) specifying exactly what God’s wishes are, and if he does, how come I never get these e-mails. Or maybe he gets a steady stream of tweets directly from God. Maybe my problem is that I don’t belong to Twitter, so I never get these proclamations. That must be it, since God never let me in on what His definition of marriage is, or why people of the same gender should be forbidden from such unions. My view is that homosexuals should be allowed to indulge in the same marriage sufferings as heterosexuals.

Of course what’s really in play here, is the fear among religious fanatics they if we don’t adhere to what their perceived notions are about how God wants us to behave, He will crush us like a bug. Also if we allow gay marriage, it’s tantamount to accepting homosexual behavior as a legitimate life-style. The bible-thumpers and those that are holier-than -thou can never accept that because in their minds, such behavior will always be sinful. It must be all laid out in those tweets I’m not getting on Twitter. So playing deftly to those fears, delusions and prejudices, a guy on Fox News (where else?) named Mike Huckabee, who used to be the governor of Arkansas when he had a real life,  declared that all right-minded thinking folks like him ought to show their support for Chick-fil-A by buying their greasy fried chicken, en masse, on August first. Sure enough, on August 1, thousands of people lined up at fast-food joints throughout the country in the summer heat to chow down some of Chick-fil-A’s artery-clogging offerings. There were reports of lines that were hours long to dine on fried chicken and other greasy, fast-food venues. But, a small price to pay to show their disapproval of what they considered a sinful life-style, and support someone willing to oppose such sin.

After all, gays are the perfect minority to scapegoat and demonize since they are supposedly less than 5 percent of the population. If they were, say, a quarter to a third of the population, I can assure you that politicians and corporate execs, including all the “family values” nut-cases would be falling all over themselves trying to curry favor with the gay community. Interestingly, in ancient Greece, historians estimate that nearly half the population was homosexual, which was considered on the same level as heterosexual behavior. The Chick-fil-A types would have undoubtably had a lot tougher time in that period.

In other fascinating summer news from looney-tunesville, the state of Texas just had a primary to fill the Senate seat of out-going Senator Kay Baily Hutchinson, a moderate conservative. The winner in the Republican primary normally has a lock on winning the general election, since the Democrats in that state are apparently too inept to be competitive. So the winner of the Republican primary was a far, far right-wing tea party favorite, who as one of his first actions after being sworn-in, has promised to do everything in his power to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA.) And why not. For example, those of you that have seen aerial photos of Pittsburgh in the 1950s, can remember seeing huge billows of toxic smoke belching forth from the steel mills that were dominant in that area during that period. It added such ambience to the scene. Now that EPA has come into existence, all those billows of smoke and particles are gone. If you take an aerial shot of Pittsburg today, all you see is plain ole blue sky. How disappointing. And have you noticed how bland the water tastes these days, since chemical companies have been prevented from spewing some of their toxic waste into local streams and rivers. Nothing like just the right amount of arsenic to spruce up the taste of the local water system.

But never fear, we will all be well protected. In Idaho, which along with Montana and Utah, is the paranoia capital of the country, a new militia has formed and they are armed to the hilt. They have weaponry that the Army is envious of, and they claim sovereignty from every form of existing government, especially from the Feds. With just the right-mixture of uber-nationalism, hate and defiance, they recognize no governmental jurisdiction over any of their activities. With Americans like these, marching through the western countryside, who needs enemies. And so the summer continues on, as all the nut-cases and haters have seemingly been given the green light to come slithering out from under their rocks, and display their craziness and delusions in the bright sunlight.

 

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THE PROBLEM WITH LIFE

Scientists estimate that the the universe began about 14 billion years ago with the big bang theory. The theory goes that a relatively small clump of matter suddenly appeared on the scene, and then exploded and sent forth smaller pieces of matter that evolved into the infinite number of planets and other material that comprise the universe as we know it today. Which is kind of ridiculous. I mean, did this chunk of matter suddenly appear out of nowhere into what was then a total void. Where did it come from? In actuality, the universe has always existed, perhaps in a different arrangement of matter, but nevertheless, it has always been there. The universe is infinite, a very difficult concept for people to grasp, but there is no beginning or end to it. It’s not as if you were traveling in a space ship and suddenly came upon a sign that said : “Universe Ends in Two Miles.” Upon traveling those next 2 miles there would be a big chain link fence with another sign saying: “End of Universe.” Like space, time is also infinite, in that there always has and will be time. I believe time, past, present and future, occurs simultaneously, but we can only see the present in the dimension that we currently occupy. Perhaps when we enter a different dimension, more fondly known as the afterlife, time will have a whole different meaning and we will be able to see time as circular, rather than linear, as we mortals currently view it. In any event, time and space are inexorably linked, as Einstein and other scientists have pointed out, but we can only see both in limited contexts.

Which is a rather long way around of getting to the topic at hand, which is the problem with life as we know it on this planet. That problem is that we begin to age  from the moment we’re born, and then, eventually die. Of course, most people fight and strive to stay alive as long as possible. But even under the best of circumstances, even if you live to be 100 or older, (less than one percent of the population does), it’s still only the tiniest sliver of time compared to the age of the universe. After that you have to spend like forever, better known as eternity, in the next dimension. Or perhaps there is no next dimension, and what you get in this world is all she wrote. I suspect that most people harbor such thoughts no matter what their religious beliefs may be, and that’s why they strive so hard to stay alive as long as possible. When one is young and in good health, such ruminations are seldom are entertained. But when you get to be my age, they seem to crop up more often. As I’ve written before, the young person looks down the road of life, and unless they’ve inherited some serious genetic defect, that road looks sunny and clear as a bell. But when you get to my age and look down that same road, you can see Death flitting among the bushes, or peaking out from behind a tree. It’s like the lines I quoted in my last entry from the poem by John Donne: “Ask not for whom the bells toll. They toll for thee.”  Donne had worked in a church whose bells would slowly peal whenever a church member died, so the poem’s meaning is quite clear.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression that I fixate on this. I’m generally in good health, but I do have a few problems, the biggest one being my rotten teeth. I spend almost as much time at the dentist as I do at home. I was there a couple of days ago for work on a tooth implant. My gums are still sore. Because of all the work I’ve had done, implants, bridges, crowns, fillings, etc., my wife says I have the equivalent of a Mercedes in my mouth. Probably more like a Rolls Royce. I also have glaucoma, treatable with prescription eye drops, but requiring periodic visits to the eye doctor. And lets not forget deafness, requiring hearing aids that are virtually useless in a noisy environment. This requires periodic visits to the hearing aids people to fine tune the devices. Thus, you get a picture of what you have to look forward to if you make it to old age. Nevertheless, one of my daughters says, I should count my blessings that I don’t have worse problems, which is true.

As you know, I live in a large seniors community, and hardly a day goes by when an ambulance blaring its sirens doesn’t go tearing through the streets. Another senior is about to be rushed to the hospital, or perhaps, is already dead. Over the 12 years that we’ve lived here, we’ve known a fair amount of people that have died, usually of cancer, and often before their time. Others we know are battling seriously debilitating diseases. One individual we know has a condition where the fluid that continually bathes the brain is not draining away as it should. This required the insertion of a stunt to properly drain this fluid, but still leaves him weak with serious disability. Still he manages to keep positive and in good spirits. Another woman is battling serious breast cancer, but also maintains good spirits. A lot better spirit than I would have under similar circumstances. In any event, being a senior means learning about a whole slew of health issues, many of which you had never previously heard of. Many seniors make so many doctors visits that they often become better diagnosticians than most doctors. One’s health also often comes down to genetic makeup. We know seniors that will make it well into their nineties or older, because they inherited what I call caste-iron genes. I try to compensate for a poor genetic inheritance by going to the gym every day, although I often feel, “lots of luck with that.”

In any event, it helps when things get especially tough or dispiriting, to remember what a tiny amount of time we spend in this form on this planet. Perhaps in comparison, when we do cross over to the other side, it will make the pain and suffering we’ve had to endure in this life form, seem pretty trivial and insignificant. Which, in the end, would the best perspective we can have on life.

 

 

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A RATIONAL PLANET

One of the great disappointments I will have endured, is that in my lifetime we will not have made contact with beings from another planet. Space is so vast that the development of technology to enable us to travel to another inhabited planet probably won’t occur for at least a thousand years. But it would have been so cool to be able to examine life on an alien planet and see whether they were able to get it right, or whether they fucked it all up the way we have on planet Earth. Even some basic stuff would be fascinating. Do they have sex with the same organs used to remove bodily waste? What kind of foods do they eat if any? Do they require sleep like we do? But the most fascinating thing of all is whether they were able to develop a civilization that lived in peace and harmony, or did they have a history of constant war, strife and bloodshed as we have had. In other words, did they live lives of rational common sense, or in constant fear, paranoia, and irrationality as we have done.

So it got me thinking that if we ditched our usual fears and the delusional thinking that goes with those fears, how much better life on this planet would become. For example, when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, there was virtually an unprecedented rush to buy guns and ammo that occurred almost over night. Gun stores couldn’t up with the demand, especially for bullets, as the surge to buy weaponry cleaned off their shelves within days after the election. Apparently, a good segment of the population went into a full fledged state of paranoia, believing that the election of a liberal Democrat would result in the Government stripping every citizen of  his or her weapons, and hauling protesters off to concentration camps. This, despite the fact that the subject of gun ownership was rarely, if ever, discussed during the campaign. Today we have millions of citizens armed to the hilt with multiple guns and storage sheds filled with nothing but bullets, still waiting for Government tanks to come rolling down their streets and haul them off.

Anyway here are some of the things we can do to achieve a more rational planet.Lets start with drugs. Every year we spend tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to outlaw marijuana, heroin and cocaine, while allowing drugs that kill far more people like tobacco and alcohol to remain legal. Every year we incarcerate tens of thousands of drug dealers and users at enormous expense, while tens of thousands of  of suppliers in this country and throughout Latin America are murdered, usually by drug cartels that make billions off the illegal drug trade. First of all, is it the government’s role to tell someone they’re prohibited from engaging in self-destructive behavior if such is their desire. If that is the government’s role, then the government should prohibit tobacco which kills about 400,000 Americans a year, alcohol which is highly detrimental to over users, as well as cheeseburgers, fries and pepperoni pizza which do nothing but clog people’s arteries leading to heart disease and other ills. Sound ridiculous? No more so than the so-called war on drugs which has been a monumental and extremely costly failure. Legalizing at least marijuana would reduce prison populations, reduce a major source of revenue from the drug cartels, and lead to an increased flow of government revenues as it could be taxed the way tobacco is.

Another rational move would be for all the world’s governments to eliminate tariffs on imported goods. Tariff is just a $10 word for taxes. When the government puts a “tariff” on say a pair of imported shoes made in China, you, the consumer are paying a higher price than you need to for those shoes. Tariffs are put in place ostensibly to allow domestic producers to compete with countries where it’s cheaper to make similar  products, but all it does is result in consumers having to pay higher prices than they should. Tariffs result in protectionism, which is highly destructive to most economies,and is blamed as one of the main causes of the 1930s Depression. It has been estimated by some of the world’s leading economists that if tariffs were totally eliminated, all world economies would significantly improve almost overnight, especially the economies in the poorest third-word countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Interestingly, both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump before him (they make a good pair) have been bashing China and threatening them with higher tariffs, if China doesn’t raise the prices on the stuff we import from them. I know that will gladden the hearts of all consumers.

Another exercise in sanity would have the government be the employer of last resort for the unemployed. In 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt took office at the height of the Depression, and the unemployment rate was triple what it is today, he quickly established what came to be known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed men were hired by the Corps to go into every community in the country and plant trees and shrubs and undertake other environmentally-friendly actions. By 1936 the unemployment rate was cut in half, and Roosevelt swept to a landslide re-election. Today, instead of just shoveling out unemployment checks to those that can’t find work, the government could use that money to also hire hundreds of thousands of people to do a myriad of badly needed infrastructure projects. They could repair our decaying water and sewer pipelines, repave roads and restore crumbling bridges, work on outdated aspects of the nations’s electrical grid, and also perform environmental projects. The unemployment rate would be dramatically lowered and as spending increased the economy as a whole would gather steam.

In any event these are just a few of the steps we could take on the road to rationality. I could go on and list hundreds more but you get the picture. I deliberately left unsaid some of the more contentious political irrationalities that ideologues like to indulge in,  like trying to ban a woman they don’t know from terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Ideologue, by the way, is just another 10 dollar word for fanatic. Will this planet start to come around and begin exhibiting more common sense and rational behavior? I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime I’ll have to console myself with old Star-Trek reruns.

 

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