Saturday, June 30, 2012

Back to the Past

I always have difficulty understanding why certain groups of people think as they do, particularly when their thought processes, in fact, cause them negative consequences.  The best example is the Tea Party old timer protesting government interference with his social security check.  (To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, if I need to explain this you may be a Tea-Partier).  But I digress.  My topic today is thinking.  An old parable comes to mind;  ‘We are what we think.’  (Buddha, BC).
It might be said that what we think is what we are taught; by our parents, peers or our schools.  There is a tremendous divide in this country about what type of information should be taught, or not taught, to the children in our society by our schools.  Sex education is perhaps the best example of this divide.  But, I submit there is an earlier stage in the process of thinking that is more important than the ‘what’.   How a person thinks about a topic or idea or belief system is vital to intellectual growth and development.  People in an earlier age grew up with the thought that the earth was flat.  Once this fixed belief was challenged and disproven, the world opened up to its citizens. 
It is with this brief background that I present the Republican Party of Texas’s 2012 platform plank on “Knowledge-Based Education” that reads:  We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
The plant also states that, “[e]very Republican is responsible for implementing this platform.”
As I read this, my understanding of why the old Tea-Partier decrying government interference with his social security check became much clearer.  My understanding was further clarified when I read about what is going on in some Louisiana private schools where apparently the question of the validity of evolution is still a hot topic.  Thousands of students across the state are eligible to receive publicly funded vouchers to allow them to attend private Christian schools where they are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real in a bid by religious educators to disprove Darwin's theory of evolution.  In an education program that began in Texas in the late 1970s are included claims in their science and history textbooks that: the Loch Ness monster, which “appears to be a plesiosaur” from photographs, helps to disprove evolution; apartheid was beneficial to South Africa; reasons include the claim that segregated schools “made it possible for each group to maintain and pass on their culture and heritage to their children”; and “unquestionable proofs” and “unarguable evidences” existed for creationism.   One of the textbooks states  
Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the `Loch Ness Monster' in Scotland? `Nessie,' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.  Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it             may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils             have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals.  Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all."

Another one of the textbooks also provides a somewhat controversial look at the Ku Klux Klan. "The [Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross ... In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians"
Why does all of this matter?  I submit such anti-intellectualism has real world consequences.  As an example, a radio talk host based in Arizona referred to President Obama last week as “the first monkey president.” Barbara Espinosa made the remark on her show, “Hair on Fire,” after a caller described Obama as a communist with “rabbit ears.” “Well, I don’t call him ‘rabbit ears,’ I call him a monkey,” she told the caller. “I don’t believe in calling him the first black president, I call him the first monkey president….I voted for the white guy, myself,” referring to Obama’s 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)  Michelle Bachmann famously observed that she didn’t see any ‘monkeys turning into humans’ as the basis for her non-belief in evolution.   There are the countless, relentless, hate-filled e-mails received by me daily which are filled with ugly racist comments.  Finally, there is the hysterical reaction of the Republican party to the successful approval of the Affordable Health Care Act by the Supreme Court, even in the face of knowledge that the plan was initially conceived by Republicans, pushed by Republicans and established by a Republican governor in the state of Massachusetts.
Is this a quantum leap of an overactive imagination that allow me to finally see and understand the party of ‘no’ behaving in a countless number of ways against the public interests? Against their own  interests?  Think about it. 
Just saying . . .

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Historic Day

Yesterday was a historic day for the citizens of the United States.  A variety of journalistic efforts responded in characteristic fashion. 
At Faux News, “The mandate is gone,” Shannon Bream, a Fox News correspondent, announced at 10:08 a.m. as a graphic flashed on the screen that called it unconstitutional. A moment later, one of the Fox anchors, Megyn Kelly, cautioned that Ms. Bream might be wrong.
“We’re getting conflicting information,” Ms. Kelly said, while reading from Scotusblog, an authoritative Web site about the court. Citing the blog, she accurately told viewers that “the individual mandate is surviving as a tax.”

Fox News did not issue an apology. In a statement, Michael Clemente, a Fox executive, said flatly, “Fox reported the facts as they came in.”

The most exciting version of yesterday’s events came from the Borowitz Report: 

Just minutes after the Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney slammed the Court, calling the law “the worst idea I ever had.”

“I vow to repeal this law on my first day in office,” he told a crowd at a campaign rally.  “Until then, I will work tirelessly to make people forget that I used to totally love it.”

At the White House, President Obama greeted the news of the Court’s decision in muted fashion: “I haven’t been this pumped since I smoked bin Laden.”

Dissenters in the 5-4 decision included Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote, “The only medical procedures the government should pay for are forced transvaginal ultrasounds and exorcisms.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also had harsh words for the healthcare law, telling reporters, “Under Obamacare, you will be forced to marry a gay doctor.”

But perhaps the most negative appraisal came from Speaker of the House John Boehner: "This is a dark day for America. If we are forced to have healthcare, it's only a matter of time before we have education."”

All the news that's fit to print . . .or distort.  Just saying . . .

Friday, June 22, 2012

I need to be really careful with my comments on what follows.  The guy who sent it to me is someone whom I respect and, in some of the ways stated below, agree with him.   If I were to summarize the way I disagree with what is stated below, it would be a generalization of the first order of magnitude.  It would be the convenient overlooking of the role of corporations in the shaping of our society and in that concern, I share the views of Dwight D. Eisenhower (I think he was a Republican).   When Ike left office,  he said,  "We have been compelled to create a permanent 
armaments industry of vast proportions. Three and a half million men 
and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. 
The total influence, economic, political, even spiritual, is felt in every 
city, every state-house, every office of the federal government. We 
recognize the imperative need for this development yet we must not fail 
to comprehend its grave implications. … In the councils of government 
we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether 
sought of unsought by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the
 disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let
 the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."  In light of the experiences over the fifty plus years since Eisenhower made that prophetic observation, I would add to the list of concerns the pervasive powers of multinational corporations, as most recently manifested by the Supreme court opinion  in the Citizens Union decision allowing unlimited corporation spending on elections.  It is within in this context that I present the totality of what my friend has sent me.  I would request that the reader of this consider the thoughts of Ike as they do so.
 Neal Boortz is a Texan, a lawyer, a Texas Aggie ( Texas A&M) graduate, and now a nationally syndicated talk show host from Atlanta . His commencement address to the graduates of a recent Texas A&M class is far different from what either the students or the faculty expected. Whether you agree or disagree, his views are certainly thought provoking.
"I am honored by the invitation to address you on this august occasion. It's about time. Be warned, however, that I am not here to impress you; you'll have enough smoke blown up your bloomers today. And you can bet your tassels I'm not here to impress the faculty and administration. You may not like much of what I have to say, and that's fine. You will remember it though. Especially after about 10 years out there in the real world. This, it goes without saying, does not apply to those of you who will seek your careers and your fortunes as government employees.
This gowned gaggle behind me is your faculty. You've heard the old saying that those who can - do. Those who can't - teach. That sounds deliciously insensitive. But there is often raw truth in insensitivity, just as you often find feel-good falsehoods and lies in compassion. Say good-bye to your faculty because now you are getting ready to go out there and do. These folks behind me are going to stay right here and teach.
By the way, just because you are leaving this place with a diploma doesn't mean the learning is over. When an FAA flight examiner handed me my private pilot's license many years ago, he said, “Here, this is your ticket to learn.” The same can be said for your diploma. Believe me, the learning has just begun.
Now, I realize that most of you consider yourselves Liberals. In fact, you are probably very proud of your liberal views. You care so much. You feel so much. You want to help so much. After all, you're a compassionate and caring person, aren't you now? Well, isn't that just so extraordinarily special. Now, at this age, is as good a time as any to be a liberal; as good a time as any to know absolutely everything. You have plenty of time, starting tomorrow, for the truth to set in.
Over the next few years, as you begin to feel the cold breath of reality down your neck, things are going to start changing pretty fast... Including your own assessment of just how much you really know.
So here are the first assignments for your initial class in reality: Pay attention to the news, read newspapers, and listen to the words and phrases that proud Liberals use to promote their causes. Then, compare the words of the left to the words and phrases you hear from those evil, heartless, greedy conservatives.
From the Left you will hear "I feel." From the Right you will hear "I think." From the Liberals you will hear references to groups -- The Blacks, the Poor, the Rich, the Disadvantaged, the Less Fortunate. From the Right you will hear references to individuals. On the Left you hear talk of group rights; on the Right, individual rights.
That about sums it up, really: Liberals feel. Liberals care. They are pack animals whose identity is tied up in group dynamics. Conservatives think -- and, setting aside the theocracy crowd, their identity is centered on the individual.
Liberals feel that their favored groups have enforceable rights to the property and services of productive individuals. Conservatives, I among them I might add, think that individuals have the right to protect their lives and their property from the plunder of the masses.
In college you developed a group mentality, but if you look closely at your diplomas you will see that they have your individual names on them. Not the name of your school mascot, or of your fraternity or sorority, but your name. Your group identity is going away. Your recognition and appreciation of your individual identity starts now.
If, by the time you reach the age of 30, you do not consider yourself to be a conservative, rush right back here as quickly as you can and apply for a faculty position. These people will welcome you with open arms. They will welcome you, that is, so long as you haven't developed an individual identity. Once again you will have to be willing to sign on to the group mentality you embraced during the past four years.
Something is going to happen soon that is going to really open your eyes. You're going to actually get a full time job!
You're also going to get a lifelong work partner. This partner isn't going to help you do your job. This partner is just going to sit back and wait for payday. This partner doesn't want to share in your effort, but in your earnings.
Your new lifelong partner is actually an agent; an agent representing a strange and diverse group of people; an agent for every teenager with an illegitimate child; an agent for a research scientist who wanted to make some cash answering the age-old question of why monkeys grind their teeth. An agent for some poor demented hippie who considers herself to be a meaningful and talented artist, but who just can't manage to sell any of her artwork on the open market.
Your new partner is an agent for every person with limited, if any, job skills, but who wanted a job at City Hall. An agent for tin-horn dictators in fancy military uniforms grasping for American foreign aid. An agent for multi-million dollar companies who want someone else to pay for their overseas advertising. An agent for everybody who wants to use the unimaginable power of this agent's for their personal enrichment and benefit.
That agent is our wonderful, caring, compassionate, oppressive government. Believe me, you will be awed by the unimaginable power this agent has. Power that you do not have. A power that no individual has, or will have. This agent has the legal power to use force, deadly force to accomplish its goals.
You have no choice here. Your new friend is just going to walk up to you, introduce itself rather gruffly, hand you a few forms to fill out, and move right on in. Say hello to your own personal one ton gorilla. It will sleep anywhere it wants to.
Now, let me tell you, this agent is not cheap. As you become successful it will seize about 40% of everything you earn. And no, I'm sorry, there just isn't any way you can fire this agent of plunder, and you can't decrease its share of your income. That power rests with him, not you.
So, here I am saying negative things to you about government. Well, be clear on this: It is not wrong to distrust government. It is not wrong to fear government. In certain cases it is not even wrong to despise government for government is inherently evil. Yes, a necessary evil, but dangerous nonetheless, somewhat like a drug. Just as a drug that in the proper dosage can save your life, an overdose of government can be fatal.
Now let's address a few things that have been crammed into your minds at this university. There are some ideas you need to expunge as soon as possible. These ideas may work well in academic environment, but they fail miserably out there in the real world.
First is that favorite buzz word of the media and academia: Diversity! You have been taught that the real value of any group of people - be it a social group, an employee group, a management group, whatever - is based on diversity. This is a favored liberal ideal because diversity is based not on an individuals abilities or character, but on a person's identity and status as a member of a group. Yes, it's that liberal group identity thing again.
Within the great diversity movement group identification - be it racial, gender based, or some other minority status - means more than the individuals integrity, character or other qualifications.
Brace yourself. You are about to move from this academic atmosphere where diversity rules, to a workplace and a culture where individual achievement and excellence actually count. No matter what your professors have taught you over the last four years, you are about to learn that diversity is absolutely no replacement for excellence, ability, and individual hard work. From this day on every single time you hear the word "diversity" you can rest assured that there is someone close by who is determined to rob you of every vestige of individuality you possess.
We also need to address this thing you seem to have about "rights." We have witnessed an obscene explosion of so-called "rights" in the last few decades, usually emanating from college campuses.
You know the mantra: You have the right to a job. The right to a place to live. The right to a living wage. The right to health care. The right to an education. You probably even have your own pet right - the right to a Beemer for instance, or the right to have someone else provide for that child you plan on downloading in a year or so.
Forget it. Forget those rights! I'll tell you what your rights are. You have a right to live free, and to the results of 60% -75% of your labor. I'll also tell you have no right to any portion of the life or labor of another.
You may, for instance, think that you have a right to health care. After all, President Obama said so, didn't he? But you cannot receive health-care unless some doctor or health practitioner surrenders some of his time - his life - to you. He may be willing to do this for compensation, but that's his choice. You have no "right" to his time or property. You have no right to his or any other person's life or to any portion thereof.
You may also think you have some "right" to a job; a job with a living wage, whatever that is. Do you mean to tell me that you have a right to force your services on another person, and then the right to demand that this person compensate you with their money? Sorry, forget it. I am sure you would scream if some urban outdoors men (that would be "homeless person" for those of you who don't want to give these less fortunate people a romantic and adventurous title) came to you and demanded his job and your money.
The people who have been telling you about all the rights you have are simply exercising one of theirs - the right to be imbeciles. Their being imbeciles didn't cost anyone else either property or time. It's their right, and they exercise it brilliantly.
By the way, did you catch my use of the phrase "less fortunate" a bit ago when I was talking about the urban outdoors men? That phrase is a favorite of the Left. Think about it, and you'll understand why.
To imply that one person is homeless, destitute, dirty, drunk, spaced out on drugs, unemployable, and generally miserable because he is "less fortunate" is to imply that a successful person - one with a job, a home and a future - is in that position because he or she was "fortunate." The dictionary says that fortunate means "having derived good from an unexpected place." There is nothing unexpected about deriving good from hard work. There is also nothing unexpected about deriving misery from choosing drugs, alcohol, and the street.
If the Liberal Left can create the common perception that success and failure are simple matters of "fortune" or "luck," then it is easy to promote and justify their various income redistribution schemes. After all, we are just evening out the odds a little bit. This "success equals luck" idea the liberals like to push is seen everywhere. Former Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt refers to high-achievers as "people who have won life's lottery." He wants you to believe they are making the big bucks because they are lucky. It's not luck, my friends. It's choice. One of the greatest lessons I ever learned was in a book by Og Mandino, entitled, "The Greatest Secret in the World." The lesson? Very simple: "Use wisely your power of choice."
That bum sitting on a heating grate, smelling like a wharf rat? He's there by choice. He is there because of the sum total of the choices he has made in his life. This truism is absolutely the hardest thing for some people to accept, especially those who consider themselves to be victims of something or other - victims of discrimination, bad luck, the system, capitalism, whatever. After all, nobody really wants to accept the blame for his or her position in life. Not when it is so much easier to point and say, "Look! He did this to me!" than it is to look into a mirror and say, "You S. O. B.! You did this to me!"
The key to accepting responsibility for your life is to accept the fact that your choices, every one of them, are leading you inexorably to either success or failure, however you define those terms.
Some of the choices are obvious: Whether or not to stay in school. Whether or not to get pregnant. Whether or not to hit the bottle. Whether or not to keep this job you hate until you get another better-paying job. Whether or not to save some of your money, or saddle yourself with huge payments for that new car.
Some of the choices are seemingly insignificant: Whom to go to the movies with. Whose car to ride home in. Whether to watch the tube tonight, or read a book on investing. But, and you can be sure of this, each choice counts. Each choice is a building block - some large, some small. But each one is a part of the structure of your life. If you make the right choices, or if you make more right choices than wrong ones, something absolutely terrible may happen to you. Something unthinkable. You, my friend, could become one of the hated, the evil, the ugly, the feared, the filthy, the successful, the rich.
The rich basically serve two purposes in this country. First, they provide the investments, the investment capital, and the brains for the formation of new businesses. Businesses that hire people. Businesses that send millions of paychecks home each week to the un-rich.
Second, the rich are a wonderful object of ridicule, distrust, and hatred. Few things are more valuable to a politician than the envy most Americans feel for the evil rich.
Envy is a powerful emotion. Even more powerful than the emotional minefield that surrounded Bill Clinton when he reviewed his last batch of White House interns. Politicians use envy to get votes and power. And they keep that power by promising the envious that the envied will be punished: "The rich will pay their fair share of taxes if I have anything to do with it." The truth is that the top 10% of income earners in this country pays almost 50% of all income taxes collected. I shudder to think what these job producers would be paying if our tax system were any more "fair."
You have heard, no doubt, that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Interestingly enough, our government's own numbers show that many of the poor actually get richer, and that quite a few of the rich actually get poorer. But for the rich who do actually get richer, and the poor who remain poor .. there's an explanation -- a reason. The rich, you see, keep doing the things that make them rich; while the poor keep doing the things that make them poor.
Speaking of the poor, during your adult life you are going to hear an endless string of politicians bemoaning the plight of the poor. So, you need to know that under our government's definition of "poor" you can have a $5 million net worth, a $300,000 home and a new $90,000 Mercedes, all completely paid for. You can also have a maid, cook, and valet, and a million in your checking account, and you can still be officially defined by our government as "living in poverty." Now there's something you haven't seen on the evening news.
How does the government pull this one off? Very simple, really. To determine whether or not some poor soul is "living in poverty," the government measures one thing -- just one thing. Income.
It doesn't matter one bit how much you have, how much you own, how many cars you drive or how big they are, whether or not your pool is heated, whether you winter in Aspen and spend the summers in the Bahamas, or how much is in your savings account. It only matters how much income you claim in that particular year. This means that if you take a one-year leave of absence from your high-paying job and decide to live off the money in your savings and checking accounts while you write the next great American novel, the government says you are living in poverty."
This isn't exactly what you had in mind when you heard these gloomy statistics, is it? Do you need more convincing? Try this. The government's own statistics show that people who are said to be "living in poverty" spend more than $1.50 for each dollar of income they claim. Something is a bit fishy here. Just remember all this the next time Charles Gibson tells you about some hideous new poverty statistics.
Why has the government concocted this phony poverty scam? Because the government needs an excuse to grow and to expand its social welfare programs, which translates into an expansion of its power. If the government can convince you, in all your compassion, that the number of "poor" is increasing, it will have all the excuse it needs to sway an electorate suffering from the advanced stages of Obsessive-Compulsive Compassion Disorder.
I'm about to be stoned by the faculty here. They've already changed their minds about that honorary degree I was going to get. That's OK, though. I still have my PhD. in Insensitivity from the Neal Boortz Institute for Insensitivity Training. I learned that, in short, sensitivity sucks. It's a trap. Think about it - the truth knows no sensitivity. Life can be insensitive. Wallow too much in sensitivity and you'll be unable to deal with life, or the truth, so get over it.
Now, before the dean has me shackled and hauled off, I have a few random thoughts.
* You need to register to vote, unless you are on welfare. If you are living off the efforts of others, please do us the favor of sitting down and shutting up until you are on your own again.
* When you do vote, your votes for the House and the Senate are more important than your vote for President. The House controls the purse strings, so concentrate your awareness there.
* Liars cannot be trusted, even when the liar is the President of the country. If someone can't deal honestly with you, send them packing.
* Don't bow to the temptation to use the government as an instrument of plunder. If it is wrong for you to take money from someone else who earned it -- to take their money by force for your own needs -- then it is certainly just as wrong for you to demand that the government step forward and do this dirty work for you.
* Don't look in other people's pockets. You have no business there. What they earn is theirs. What you earn is yours. Keep it that way. Nobody owes you anything, except to respect your privacy and your rights, and leave you the hell alone.
* Speaking of earning, the revered 40-hour workweek is for losers. Forty hours should be considered the minimum, not the maximum. You don't see highly successful people clocking out of the office every afternoon at five. The losers are the ones caught up in that afternoon rush hour. The winners drive home in the dark.
* Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.
* Finally (and aren't you glad to hear that word), as Og Mandino wrote,
1. Proclaim your rarity. Each of you is a rare and unique human being.
2. Use wisely your power of choice.
3. Go the extra mile, drive home in the dark.
Oh, and put off buying a television set as long as you can. Now, if you have any idea at all what's good for you, you will get out of here and never come back. Class dismissed"

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Presidential Debate (Part One): Will the Real Mitt Come Forward?

Moderator:  Now, let’s get down to business.  Before we begin, let me introduce the candidates participating in tonight’s debate.  First, we have Mitt Romney, the former governor of the state of Massachusetts.  He’s the gentleman in the blue shirt and dark suit with the red tie.  At the other end of the podium is Mitt Romney, the gentleman with the blue shirt, dark suit and red tie.  To eliminate any potential confusion among viewers, I will refer to the gentleman at each end of the podium as Mitt 1 and Mitt 2.

We flipped a coin before the debate to see who goes first.  My first question is for Mitt 1.

Q.  Sir, global warming is considered by mainstream scientists to be one of the critical issues on the planet insofar as its potential negative impact on the future of the human race. If you are elected president what are your plans, if any, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

A.  As the governor of Massachusetts I pushed a program to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, pushed to close old coal-fired power plants and embraced wind and solar power.  I agree that this is one of the most important issues for our present generation, not only for the United States, but the world.  I worry a great deal about climate-driven sea-level rise in poor countries like Bangladesh and the potential impact that global warming may have on the people of the world.

Q.  Mitt 2.  Do you share the same views as Mitt 1? 

A.  No, absolutely not.  My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.

Q.   Mitt 1, recent reports from the International Energy Agency reveal an alarming one-year increase in global greenhouse gas emissions, largely because of increasing coal use around the world.  As president, will you have a plan to reduce the use of coal in the United States?
A.  Yes, I will.  Coal-fired power plants kill people.  Keeping global temperatures below a dangerous threshold is still within reach if nations aggressively reduce fossil-fuel consumption while nurturing low-carbon alternatives.  I will see that the United States leads the world by setting an example in developing alternative sources of energy.   Such a program will not only reduce harmful emissions, but will create new jobs and technologies as the use of new sources of energy proliferate.
Q.  Mitt 2, the same questions, sir.
A.  Mainstream science is definitely wrong on this issue and humans have nothing to do with global warming.  I stand before you as a champion of oil and other fossil fuels.  Federal efforts to develop cleaner energy sources are a waste of time and money and and the Environmental Protection Agency, with all its rules and regulations, is an agency run amok.  The E.P.A. has gotten completely out of control for a very simple reason. It is a tool in the hands of the president to crush the private enterprise system, to crush our ability to have energy whether it’s oil, gas, coal or nuclear.  I will give serious thought to shutting down this agency when I am president because, in my opinion, all it does is harm the coal and oil industries.  President Obama has made it harder to get coal out of the ground with all his fancy policies and regulations.  Or, as I like to say, “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it, but you can drive a car with a dog strapped on top.”
Q.  Mitt 1, do you think the EPA should be shut down?
A. No, absolutely not.  The clean water and clean air laws the E.P.A. is enforcing were passed by bipartisan majorities four decades ago for the express purpose of protecting Americans’ health and the environment.
Q.  Thank you Mitt 1 and Mitt 2.  These are all the questions on this topic.  We shall turn to other topics in the next series of question.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I want to present a conundrum.  The issue is how can a political party base an election campaign on the principle that the taxpayers of our population should not have to pay for the deadbeats (i.e. the unemployed, the elderly, etc) while at the same time denouncing a health plan that ensures that the taxpayers should not have to pay for the deadbeats i.e. those insured who by law must receive health care at the expense of taxpayers?  What am I missing here when the principle advocate of this position is Mitt Romney who, as is well known, is the founding father of Obamacare — the law requiring people to get health insurance, pioneered by him in Massachusetts.  By now I hope you agree that this is a conundrum.  (I repeat the word because I like its sound, its texture, it implications.)   The dictionary defines the word as something hard to understand or explain such as the conundrum of how an ancient people were able to build such massive structures without the benefit of today's knowledge and technology.  Synonyms of conundrum help us understand the meaning better; enigma, head-scratcher, mystification, puzzle, puzzlement, riddle, and secret, all of which describe the current Republican campaign themes.

Other conundrums are getting the truth out about the fiction and falsehoods forming the basis for the current Republican election campaign.  Mr. Romney’s entire campaign, in additional to his two-step about health care, rests on a foundation of short and false sound bites.
1)   The stimulus failed. (Three million employed people beg to differ.)  Most economists admit that the stimulus was an unqualified success, albeit not as large as it should have been to truly stimulate the private sector. 
2)   The auto bailout was a mistake. (Another million jobs.)  Ironically, now that Romney recognizes that the auto bailout has been an unqualified success, he now tries to take credit for it.
3)    Spending is out of control and that under Obama, federal spending “has accelerated at a rate without precedent.” (Spending growth is actually lower than under all modern Republican presidents as reported last month by Rex Nutting in MarketWatch, a Web site affiliated with The Wall Street Journal.)

These are conundrums.  Just saying . . .

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Memo to the Medical Profession: 34,450

Hey Docs, you’re killing us!  Let’s talk about iatrogenic problems in our country.  'Iatrogenic' as defined by Dorland's Medical Dictionary means “resulting from the activity of physicians; said of any adverse condition in a patient resulting from treatment by a physician or surgeon.”
Before I present facts regarding the second leading cause of death in our country, I think it’s important to place some perspective on my comments.  Think of  9/11 and the death of three thousand of our fellow citizens. Think of the consequences of those deaths; two wars and the deaths of several thousands of young men and women fighting those wars on our behalf.  Yet, these tragic figures (I do not want anyone reading this thinking for one second that I am minimizing the deaths of  9/11 victims, the brave firefighters police officers or soldiers) actually pale in comparison to the annual deaths caused by three percent of the doctors in our country who over-prescribe narcotics to patients. 

The CDC issued a report late last year and, admittedly, I have cherry-picked the findings of that report to emphasize the seriousness of the problem.  The report states (in part):
"Prescription drug overdoses in the United States has worsened over the last decade.  In 2008, drug overdose deaths (36,450) were approaching the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes (39,973), the leading cause of injury death in the United States. By 2010, enough narcotic opioid-type drugs, including the ever popular Xanax were sold to medicate every American adult with a typical dose of 5 mg of hydrocodone every 4 hours for 1 month. Three percent (3%) of physicians accounted for 62% of the opioids prescribed in one study.  For example, large increases in overdoses involving the types of drugs sold by illegitimate pain clinics (i.e., "pill mills") have been reported in Florida  and Texas. Such clinics provide opioid-type drugs to large volumes of patients without adequate evaluation or follow-up."  Source (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers --- United States, 1999—2008 November 4, 2011 / 60(43);1487-1492
Please note that I am emphasizing only the prescription of narcotic-type drugs in this writing.  The problem of iatrogeny is actually much greater.  For example, in 1995, a report in JAMA said, "Over a million patients are injured in U.S. hospitals each year, and approximately 280,000 die annually as a result of these injuries. Therefore, the iatrogenic death rate dwarfs the annual automobile accident mortality rate of 45,000 and accounts for more deaths than all other accidents combined."  
Hey Docs.  Remember the number; 36,540
Just saying . . .

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Return to Frontier Justice

When I was a kid one of my favorite activities was to go to the movies on Saturday afternoon where a ticket cost twelve cents and justice was meted out Western-style without consequences by those who (thought they) were doing right.   Probably the best phrase to understand the justice of the old cowboy movies is ‘kill or be killed.’  We don’t see much of that in the movies anymore, but who can forget the signature part of each Western movie where the good guy rides into town and takes on the bad guy in a shoot-out on Main Street in full view on the entire town’s occupants?

I experienced a severe case of déjà vu about these childhood experiences this morning when I read that the Tampa Bay Times has identified nearly 200 "stand your ground'' cases and their outcomes in Florida.  For those of you who may have been spending time on another planet the past four months and, as a result, been unaware of happenings in Florida, a self-anointed executor named George Zimmerman took it upon himself to follow and shoot to death an unarmed young black kid who was walking through a gated community carrying a bag of Skittles he bought for his step-brother.  Zimmerman now claims as his defense a ‘stand your ground’ law   
People have had the right to defend themselves from a threat as far back as English common law. The key in Florida and many other states was that they could not use deadly force if it was reasonably possible to retreat.  In 2005  Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law a significant change of the common law.  The new law says a person "has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground'' if he or she thinks deadly force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or commission of a forcible felony like robbery.  "Now it's lawful to stand there like Matt Dillon at high noon, pull the gun and shoot back,'' a University of Florida law professor and former prosecutor in North Florida is quoted in the Times article.  Hence my déjà vu.
The law has had some definite unintended consequences.  As the Times reports:
• Those who invoke "stand your ground" to avoid prosecution have been extremely successful. Nearly 70 percent have gone free.
• Defendants claiming "stand your ground" are more likely to prevail if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.
• The number of cases is increasing, largely because defense attorneys are using "stand your ground" in ways state legislators never envisioned. The defense has been invoked in dozens of cases with minor or no injuries. It has also been used by a self-described "vampire" in Pinellas County, a Miami man arrested with a single marijuana cigarette, a Fort Myers homeowner who shot a bear and a West Palm Beach jogger who beat a Jack Russell terrier.
• People often go free under "stand your ground" in cases that seem to make a mockery of what lawmakers intended. One man killed two unarmed people and walked out of jail. Another shot a man as he lay on the ground. Others went free after shooting their victims in the back. In nearly a third of the cases the Times analyzed, defendants initiated the fight, shot an unarmed person or pursued their victim — and still went free.
It has always seemed to me that the goal of a civilized society is to move forward in the direction of  more humane conduct among and between individuals and groups and, indeed, one of the inherent strengths of these United States is that we are a nation of laws binding us all together in that goal.  Laws, such as the ‘stand your ground’ law, defeat that very purpose.  Just saying . . .