CDC Pushing Pain Patients onto Streets of Death – DEA announces 20-25% reduction of legal opioid production

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This week, in the Federal Register, the DEA announced 20-25% reduction of quotas for 2018, legal, U.S. opioid production.   (2017 Quotas:  https://goo.gl/sChjmc  2018 Quotas: https://goo.gl/sj8L7C)

This, along with ill-advised CDC pressure on ethical pain doctors is pushing legitimate pain patients to seek pain relief on the black market.  I am lucky, my doctors have not caved in to the hysteria.  What the public does not know is the difference between “dependent,” and “addicted.”

Four years ago, I started having sharp pains in my back and down the backs of both legs from my hips to my ankles.  I am fairly pain tolerant, but this was excruciating.  It felt like someone was electrocuting me from behind.  I had double sciatica. Two back surgeries, and three spine infusions later, the surgeons had relieved me of a baseball-sized tumor on my spine, and a herniated disk.  I now have a titanium strut screwed to my vertebrae, a substitute disk, and residual nerve damage.

My doctors started me off with a pretty big dose of oxycodone for two months while I was starting to heal.  Every month, they monitored my pain, and tested for “compliance,” before they gave me the next month’s prescription.  They gradually lowered the dose and switched me to hydrocodone and a small fentanyl patch.  Then I stopped the patch and lowered the dose of hydrocodone below the “worry line.”  They have guidelines for prescription levels that pose potential danger.  Now I take a small, stable amount of hydrocodone every day, right above the threshold of pain.  If I take less, the pains begin.  I do not feel high; I hardly notice the effects of the drugs; I do not crave more.  I am drug dependent, but not addicted; that is the difference.  This is what pain specialists want for chronic pain patients.

When the CDC reported the rise in drug overdose deaths, they said they were issuing “opioid guidelines for primary care physicians.”  My doctors told me that was code for the hospital lawyers that these were the rules for everyone, because of liability. That is when I read the CDC report.  I discovered most of the overdose deaths were from illegal drugs.  The deaths from prescription drugs did reveal the abusive prescription doctors; I think the authorities are dealing with them.  But that might be part of the problem.  Where do addicts or people in pain go when cut off from prescriptions?  Their options today are extremely dangerous.

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Equal Amounts of Death:  Above are Lethal Doses of Heroin, Fentanyl, and Carfentanil.

The latest CDC report showed that deaths from prescription drugs declined over the past several years, even before their report.  So, the “crisis” lies in illegal synthetic opiods, like fentanyl and carfentanil, which are many times more potent than heroin.  They are true pain killers.

Mexico and China manufacture the drugs for drug dealers to strengthen other drugs, like heroin, and to put in counterfeit pain pills, such as fake oxycontin and hydrocodone.  The danger is that it takes so little of these super powerful synthetic opioids to kill you.  Fentanyl is a strong pain killer, 100 times stronger than morphine; Carfentanil is an elephant tranquilizer, 10,000 times stronger than morphine; 20 micrograms will kill a human being; that equals the size of one or two grains of salt.  Drug sellers and drug users do not know how much fentanyl or carfentanil is in their drugs.  Police are terrified when they discover drugs, that they might touch or breathe a deadly dose.  Houston police discovered that, what they thought was 80 grams of methamphetamine powder, was really carfentanil.  It could have been lethal for any officer who got some on their skin or accidentally breathed the dust.

On top of this, a new fentanyl derivative, acrylfentanyl, is resistant to Narcan, the drug used to neutralize overdoses of opioids.  Another Narcan-resistant  drug, tetrahydrofureon, is so new, it is not yet on the list of illegal drugs.

The current portrayal of the drug overdose epidemic hurts real pain doctors, like mine.  If they get pressured into under-prescribing pain medicine, three things happen:

  1. Patients with real pain will suffer
  2. “Breakthrough” pain will inhibit patient healing.
  3. Patients may seek illegal drugs for pain relief.

So, let us dispel this vast generalization and focus on the lethal products and problems.  Let professional pain management specialists do their best for their patients.  Do not push people in pain onto the streets of death.

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Virtual Fahrenheit 451 – No Part of History Is Good Enough

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“Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…”.

In Ray Bradbury’s prescient 1953 novel, the government made the past illegal. Guy Montag is a “fireman” employed to burn the possessions of those who read outlawed books.  They even had book-sniffing robots to find homes with hidden books.

When Guy becomes despondent over the meaning of his work, his fire chief explains that, “over the course of several decades, people embraced new media (in this case, film, and television), sports, and a quickening pace of life.  Books were ruthlessly abridged or degraded to accommodate a short attention span, while minority groups protested over the controversial, outdated content perceived to be found in literature (yet comic books, trade papers, and sex magazines were allowed to stay, as those fed into the population’s want for mindless entertainment).”  People would watch the “parlor walls” (large televisions) with visiting friends instead of conversation.

We are now in the throes of a virtual Fahrenheit 451.  The need for burning books has become moot with the advent of ubiquitous, mesmerizing “screens.”  Evidence:

  1. Generations of high school graduates who show increasing ignorance, apathy, and illiteracy; they are ill-equipped for self-sufficiency, yet they excel at World of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto.
  2. People without enough money for food, have cellphones, and giant high-definition televisions, with cable. They read little and text a lot.  Everything is Facebook, selfies, videos, and soon virtual reality.
  3. Minority groups are protesting the controversial facts of our history. For example, the Fairfax County, Virginia school board just renamed my high school, J.E.B. Stuart High School, Justice High School.  (I can just imagine my next class reunion.)  Why?  Because he was an officer in the Confederate army.  Does anyone believe the Confederacy won the war?  Does anyone not see the tragedy of 600,000 lives lost as a lesson in pain?  Why remove the reminders?

What is next?  Will we remove the Civil War from our libraries?  Will museums take down every work of art with elements of that part of our nation’s history?  Will schools bury the history of slavery and the people responsible?

When will we hold accountable the Africans who sold tens of millions of other African as slaves to the entire world? https://goo.gl/EXnyGT

Were they not even more responsible for the misery of those slaves and their progeny?

Ignoring or censoring history will neither change the past, nor the consequences of what happened.  It will leave us less aware of the truth; a type of cultural dementia.  We must resist becoming a world of virtual Fahrenheit 451.

When Dementia Gets Personal – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Brought To You

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A friend for 30 years (I will use the name” Jason”) goes ballistic; Jason verbally attacks me, ranting and raving with scary yelling and gestures.  The trigger:  I have no opinions about the significance of the day after Halloween (All Saints’ Day).  The next day Jason calls like nothing happened; I remind him, he swears he does not remember; we have a normal, friendly talk, so,  I write the outburst off as several  “senior moments.”

The next week a group of mutual friends and I are at a weekly lunch meeting.  We are chatting about faux pas and embarrassing mistakes we have made.  One friend (let’s call him “Chad”) tells a humorous story about when he sent an email to his boss that was a passionate message to his wife.  We laugh and tease him, like guy friends always do.

Suddenly, Jason raises his voice and wags a finger at this “stupid screw-up.”  He rails and berates Chad until Chad gets up and walks out of the restaurant.  Then Jason follows Chad into the parking lot and beats on his window, still yelling.  Five minutes later, he comes back, smiles at everyone, and asks me if I can stay after lunch to talk about an idea he has for a photography business.  He was clear and pleasant the whole time; he was the friend I know again.

Jason’s problem becomes traumatically real to me.  Alzheimer’s, or bipolar, schizophrenia, mad cow disease, I am at a complete loss.  Does he have a brain tumor?  Has he taken some mood-altering drugs?  Is he still going to be the friend I have known all these years?  Is he some kind of hybrid being, who “identifies” differently some days, or hours?  Has old age stolen his mind?  I am confused, sad, and worried.  What should I do?

My nature is to research problems before I act.  I discover that his condition is probably medical.  Advancing age is fraught with declines, distortions, amplifications of who we are.  What people dread most, is not death; it is the loss of independence and identity.

My research yielded interesting, enlightening, conflicting, and vague ideas.  The mysteries of Alzheimer’s and Grumpy Old Man syndrome are beyond us now.  I am going to make the best suggestions I can to give Jason a chance to live independently, to retain his self-respect, and to let his friends know when he needs them.

Phase 1.  Find out what he can about what is happening to him.  Whatever it takes to know what he is dealing with.  Doctors, tests, interviews, and the lot of modern medicine.  Most likely, they will be semi-inconclusive.  Mood shifts, forgetting, risk taking, those are the symptoms.  Jason will have to choose a path, a theory, a diagnosis he can pursue.  He cannot do everything, but he can do some things.

Phase 2.  Implement the universal common denominators of healthy lifestyle.  All bids for health share wellness and mindfulness as crucial, non-pharmaceutical elements (although medication might be needed for some things).

  • Complete examination
  • Enough good:
    • Sleep
    • Hydration
    • Exercise
    • Nutrition
  • Stable daily routines
  • Thinking/learning/puzzles
  • Stress management/mindfulness
  • Social/spiritual support

Phase 3.  Comply with doctors’ orders.  Try everything long enough to be a fair trial.

  • Take all prescribed medications when and how the prescriptions direct.
  • Show up for appointments and tests
  • Give regular feedback on efficacy of treatments

Phase 4.  Accept your mortality.

  • We all exit this world, unexpectedly. Be gracious until then
  • We all get to choose our friends, revere who we love, and forgive our families
  • Acknowledge your family, friends, doctors
  • Add to that acknowledgement list
  • Do not hold back because you feel vulnerable or embarrassed

I do not think we can guess who will be our Jason, or to whom we will be a Jason.  Maybe these thoughts could help.

 

Puerto Rico Dilemma – Distribution Chokepoints Plague Every Catastrophe

Distribution is the barrier to helping Puerto Ricans recover from the aftermath of two major hurricanes, Irma & Maria.  Natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, etc.) always block the means and ways to relief.  The lack of airfields limits aid delivery to large helicopters; for areas open to water, boats that can land on beaches.

The Island of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is destroyed.  Ships waiting in harbors will do no good if they cannot moor and unload; mountains of needed supplies piled on docks and airfields will do no good without roads, trucks, and drivers to get them where they are needed; generators and powerplants at full capacity will do no good without transmission lines, power stations, and power lines; without power, fuel for generators and vehicles is largely unavailable; thousands of volunteers and military will do no good if they cannot get to the victims.

Waiting for aid might not be the best strategy for the stranded; it might be better if they could move to locations that offered food, shelter, medical aid.  Travel is difficult, but unless transportation becomes available, walking is better than starving.  It may be more effective to transport people out, than moving enough support to the afflicted areas.  In addition, when supplies are delivered, the transport must return to its origin; it could carry refugees.

Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was built to meet the needs of the 3.4 million residents and 4 million plus tourists per year.  They do not have the capacity to repair/replace everything at once.  Complaining and blaming will not change that quickly.

Addressing humanitarian needs (water, food, medical) is priority one.  Restoring power to enable equipment and transportation is priority two.  Opening roads, ports, and airfields is priority three.

Allowing more ships to clog the harbors, adding more soldiers to crowd the capital while they wait for transport, will not help.

Top needs:  Helicopters, generators, bulldozers, and fuel are the hardware; pilots, engineers, drivers, and equipment operators are the software.  Let’s focus on these first.

Transconfusion – “Identity“ Detached from Reality

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I wonder if anyone is clear about what these various “my body is this form, but I feel like another form” discussions yield?  In our society, a body with a penis is male, and a body with a vagina is female.  That is a physical, sexual distinction.  This distinction is important to procreation, on a purely biological basis.  Females have the capacity to bring a fertilized egg, to embryo, through gestation, to live birth of a new person.  Males do not.  This is bisexual reproduction, without dispute.  Early humans could not alter this law of nature.  The fact that our world now has 7 billion people, is testament to  this:  vive la différence(I know that physiology can be unclear in up to 1.7 percent of the world’s population, according to the UN, but let’s let the outliers lie out there.)

Then we have society.  Sex is physical, gender is cultural, based on the expected roles and behaviors of men and women.  Most of these expectations have evolved from physical traits and expanded family traditions.  To act like a man was to think, speak, and act in ways that the alpha male did. Little boys worked at being like their father or big brother.   Likewise, to act like a woman was to conform to the ways of other women, take cues from their mother and other female models.

Yet, humans have gone through amazing, changing models for men and women.  Three centuries ago men wore fancy silk and satin clothes, high heels, wigs, and makeup.  They moved and spoke in ways modern Americans would associate with women.  We have also seen the division of labor of the past shift mightily.  The roles and responsibilities of men and women are more alike than ever.

We inherited our intricate social structure and laws from humans who managed to survive and procreate.  In any culture, to deviate from those complex behaviors was to jar the stability of, and threaten the survival of a family/community.  Failure to conform to the spoken and unspoken rules of society was an invitation to punishment.

Homosexuality did not bear the fruit of children, which was a threat to the future of the community.  Religions proclaim that it is a duty to God for people be fruitful, and forbid non-fruitful behaviors.  Some religions even promoted polygamy to increase the number of children added to their flock.  Being “non-fruitful” by having sex without the possibility of children was a sin.  Such sins were often punishable by shaming, shunning, physical punishment, death, or exile.  No one questioned the wisdom of the “scriptures.”

When societies expanded and advanced to the point that extinction was not as great a fear, people felt safer to allow themselves to be “non-fruitful.”  Homosexuality was tolerated along with other “sins,” and “debauchery.”

Only recently, has America made homosexuality legal and sanctioned homosexual marriages.

But here is where I get confused:  what exactly is “transgender?”  At first, I thought it meant a homosexual who took action to physically gain the attributes of the opposite sex.  Sounds painful and expensive to me; and not all men make pretty women.

But now I hear that transgender can mean that a person “identifies” as another sex without the physical transformation.  I was surprised that Bruce/Kaitlin Jenner “identifies” as a woman, has gained breasts, grown long hair, bought a wardrobe of women’s clothing, but retains male genitalia. You think, maybe, he “identifies” as both male and female?

I am also hearing about people who call themselves transgender who do nothing physical, just “identify.”  Boys who “identify” as girls, but are still physically boys, want to go to the girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.  Homosexuals have always used the bathrooms of their physical sex.  What is different with transgenders who are physically boys or girls?  For me, as long as the difference in preference or identity is not represented by your body, I say, your body determines which school or public facilities to use.

 

 

 

Is it Important to Know the Sources of Truth? – Henry David Thoreau, Yes and Know

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Maybe it has always been this way, but why does it seem so vital to associate an insightful aphorism with a famous person?

“Truth strikes us from behind, and in the dark, as well as from before and in broad day-light.”

Who wrote this? Henry David Thoreau.  Beautiful in its truth and simplicity.  But what if some insignificant playwright put these words on Thoreau’s lips in his play?  Would it be less insightful?

There is a plague of mis-quotations, mis-attributions, and quotation mills, (e.g. brainyquotes.com) who do nothing to verify what people add to their sites.  I see these un-researched and inaccurate quotes used by people of incredible ability because the Internet makes it easy to be wrong and believe you are right.

When I first started seeing these “quotes.” and discovered how few were accurate, I spent months trying to raise the alarm about quotes attributed to Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and other notable historic figures.  Even after blazing the trail to truth, people shrugged and continued their reliance on provably unreliable websites.

One personal experience, before the current craze, happened to me in Colorado, while I was on a month-long “Chautauqua” through the Rocky Mountains.  A friendly lady gave me a bookmarker with a quotation from Henry David Thoreau.  “Many men fish all their lives without ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.”  Very touching and insightful, but a misquote by a writer, Michael Baughman, who wrote it in his book A River Seen Right (Lyons Press, 1995) p. 156.

He apparently paraphrased something Thoreau wrote in his journal, January 26, 1853:

“It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course, it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game, which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay so much stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught.”

I wonder, if today, this aphorism captures our current, self-absorbed culture?  Maybe today, the “fishing” is taking “selfies” and exposing every aspect of people’s experience and perspective on the Internet.  They get noticed but not notorious, or famous, or even infamous.  They become suicidal when virtual phantoms express disdain and scorn.

Everybody seems to be fishing for something, but what do they really want and why?

What they may really want is proof, and acknowledgment that they exist and have a value, and a meaning.  Why do they want it?  Maybe the disintegration of family, neighborhood, community leaves a void they cannot fill.  Maybe this secular dissociation leaves people feeling empty, afraid, and alone.

Could it be that what they really want is what families and churches used to provide:  love and belonging?

Independence Every Day – Divorce Virtual Opioids

This is a great time to be alive in America.  The average American has a better life than kings, queens, and pharaohs of the past.  We are safer, live longer, are free to go where we want, and enjoy knowledge and experiences that would have astounded the world only a few decades ago.

One area that is encroaching on our freedom is the enticing addiction to the virtual world to the exclusion of the real, here and now world.  More, and more, I walk through crowds of “zombies” stuck in their phones, tablets, music, and video.  They are not really “here.”  The inattention to life has begun to dominate our culture.  Isolation from “real” family and friends is rapidly wearing down the social skills of our society members.

The siren attraction of the imaginations of others is sapping the development and practice of imagining for ourselves.  Children need that development as they grow up.  What kind of adults, parents, employees will people become if they have no experience of self-creation?  What will our culture become when all we have is “copies” of the excellent ideas generated by a few “imagineers.”

Try doing without the virtual toys and tools you spend so much time with for 24 hours:  No cell phones, tablets, pc’s, internet, cable tv, DVD’s or other electronics.  You will quickly find out what you have been missing, such as talking with your family, reading books, playing musical instruments, inventing things, fixing things, learning things, eating with people who are present and making conversation about your life and the people you love.

We had to fight for our independence as we started this nation.  Now is a good time to exercise total freedom from the seductive draw of virtual opioids.

The News, Sans Trump? – What Is Left?

Based on the news I have seen these last 2 years, the only thing keeping U.S. news sources going is Trump.

Really, subtract all the coverage of Donald Trump and his coterie and we have what?  The major cable news channels would be reduced to human interest pieces, sports, and weather, oh, and North Korea.  Sure, the occasional terrorist attack, another Catholic priest scandal, and futile battles in the Middle East crop up every so often, but the rest would have to be just plain entertainment.

This goes double for the tiny news sites like salon, BuzzFeed, and their ilk.  Without political warfare, their nets, and their advertising coffers would be empty.

ESPN invented 24/7 sports programming.  The franchise makes a fortune from 1% actual sports activity + 99% talking, analyzing, postulating about sports figures, drafts, management changes, wagering, keeping score, and all the endless, pointless falderol of mostly man-talk (often by beautiful women).

Cable news, ala CNN, Fox, MSNBC, have taken that model to new heights of expanded air time by making everything editorial opinion, building media stars and forums to pander to one political cohort or the other.  The real feeding frenzy around everything Trump never seems to end.  Shows how hatred sells and fear captivates.

Anyway, I hope the news media enjoys the ride, because some day, they won’t have DJT to flick around anymore.

Opioids – Government Impotent Ignorance Prevails!

Update 10/31/2017:  Politicians blame doctors and pharmacies for the opioid crisis, despite the CDC reports that show that illegal drugs are the main source of overdose deaths.

According to the CDC report for 2016, most lethal effects of the opioid epidemic are coming from the streets and not out of doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

“Illicitly manufactured fentanyl is now a major driver of opioid overdose deaths in multiple states, with a variety of fentanyl analogs increasingly involved, if not solely implicated, in these deaths,” the CDC’s Julie O’Donnell, John Halpin, and colleagues reported.

“Fentanyl was involved in more than 50 percent of opioid overdose deaths, and more than 50 percent of deaths testing positive for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs also tested positive for other illicit drugs.”

But where has the government focused attention?  President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, proposed further restrictions on physicians, and, abstinence to potential drug abusers.  Why do authorities do this?  Because they are ignorant and unable to stop the illegal drug manufacture, sale, or use.

Highly publicized articles, including grandstanding lawsuits by states’ attorneys’ general are pandering to news hungry media and ignoring the pain inflicted on compassionate pain management. Death by dying method (drug overdose), without distinguishing source (legal vs. illegal) is a misleading abuse of authority and power.

The recent blitz campaign against opioid drugs is terribly flawed.  According to the latest official data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (as of 2015) more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015.  Sad, we lost fewer to drugs than to automobiles (38,000), plus homicide (16,000), and slightly fewer than those lost to suicides (43,000).

But of the 52,000, how many died of prescription drugs vs. illegal drugs?  Nearly, 30,000 (58%) died from prescription drugs, the balance of 22,000 (42%) died from illicit drugs.

Opioids include prescription drugs derived from opium (such as heroin), and synthetic drugs (e.g. fentanyl) which are both prescribed, and sold illegally (manufactured and sold to drug dealers).  These illegal synthetic opioids are largely responsible for the spike in overdose deaths, because they are 100 to 10,000 times stronger than morphine.  Drug dealers mix them with heroin or other drugs to enhance the strength.  The potency is often inconsistent and unknown to the user.  Illegal fentanyl is a popular additive which is 100 times stronger than morphine.  Even a slight mismeasurement is multiplied by 100.

CDC is foreclosing options for legal, and legitimate pain medicine, even though illegal drugs are aggravating the overdose statistics.  They are implying that doctors are responsible through overprescribing opioids to pain patients.  Pain management specialists, who deal with chronic pain patients are often ignoring real suffering by undertreating the pain to avoid criticism from the CDC.

Readers who have real spine and neck problems know what pain is, even after surgery and other efforts to repair the damage.  I have talked to people just beginning treatment and surgery, who are being given glorified Advil and other ineffective drugs, when what their pain indicates is opioids.  Some people do get addicted and abuse opioids.  I do not dispute that.  But, not everyone who takes pain medicine becomes an addict, even though they depend on the relief they get from their prescriptions.  Dependency is not the same as addiction.  It does not automatically lead to ever-increasing desire for more and more.

Carfentanil is the scariest invention yet.  10,000 more powerful than morphine, this relative of fentanyl has been a recent bogeyman for illicit drug users.  Primary producer:  China (recently banned).  This drug is meant to tranquilize elephants. As little as 20 micrograms will kill you.

This scary substance is, knowingly or unknowingly, used as a cheap booster for other illegal drugs, mostly out of Mexico.  Think you are buying heroin, or meth?  Think again.  Houston police recently seized what they thought was methamphetamine and found lethal amounts of carfentanil instead.

The old days of drug abuse are officially over with the advent of this drug.  The next terrorist attack could easily be a batch of white powder.  A car bomb or suicide vest filled with this drug could kill hundreds or thousands, including first responders.

The point, let legitimate pain-management doctors do their jobs; spend the millions of dollars now devoted to opioid suppression on the true shadow of death: illegal superopiods.

 

 

 

 

Details Missing in CBO Projected Healthcare Coverage “Losses”

Numbers can deceive when important details are left out.  The recent Congressional Budget Office assessment of the Senate Republican healthcare bill estimated the reduction in the number of people covered by health insurance.

Most of the coverage dropped would be because of state laws, not federal.  The states set Medicaid coverage standards.

Another big chunk of the “losses” would be those who did not want coverage anyway.  Those forced to buy by the mandate penalties.

According to Politico:

<The House Republican health care overhaul would repeal the individual mandate penalty, and according to the CBO, this would be the single biggest driver of raising the uninsured rate by 14 million next year.

“Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate,” the CBO report reads. “Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums” (emphasis ours).>

Read the entire article at:  http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/mar/22/chris-murphy/house-gop-health-care-bill-would-cause-14-million-/

 

The projected 30% reduction in premiums should help some, but the out-of-pocket costs might still leave some people out.

Who says the people insured are “covered?”  Some people wait more than a month, and then drive 50 miles to see the only doctor who accepts Medicaid, or a high-deductible “bronze” plan from the only remaining insurer.

Bernie Sanders’ assertion that “thousands” of “excess deaths” would result is based on numbers from studies of people with untreated, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  This same population could get no or inadequate treatment under Medicaid and low-end health insurance coverage.

And, what if the newly uninsured population is skewed towards young, healthy people who just dropped out?  Would the results be as dire?

Without a detailed demographic breakdown of the CBO numbers, we are left to speculate and infer what we choose.

 

Do Americans Really Want Economic Equality? – Not Beyond Our Borders

So much anger and angst about “Inequality” fills the American press without suggesting solutions.  Do they propose taking from the wealthy and handing it to the poor?  Just what do they want?

Do Americans really want economic equality, considering the vast economic differences in the world’s economies?  How about economic equality with the 10 poorest countries in the world?

  • Malawi: (pop 16 million, GDP per capita of $226.50)
  • Burundi: (pop 12 million, GDP per capita of $267.10)
  • Central African Republic: (pop 5 million, GDP per capita of $333.20)
  • Niger: (pop 21 million, GDP per capita of $415.40)
  • Liberia: (pop 5 million, GDP per capita of $454.30)
  • Madagascar: (pop 20 million, GDP per capita of $463.00)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: (pop 77 million, GDP per capita of $484.20)
  • The Gambia: (pop 2 million, GDP per capita of $488.60)
  • Ethiopia: (pop 104 million, GDP per capita of $505.00)
  • Guinea: (pop 12 million, GDP per capita of $523.10)
 http://gazettereview.com/2016/06/top-10-poorest-countries-world/

United States (pop 300 million, GDP per capita of $51,638.10)

How much of your lifestyle would it take to “level the playing field with these 274 million African people who average $460 per year?Are you ready to make your contribution?

I do not think so.  It seems that the perceptions of difference limited to Americans are much more important to the critics than broader global realities.  This way of thinking of the world in discreet nations is automatic for most people.  We blithely ignore the fact that America is near the top of the economic “food chain” when we cry “inequality.”  Even the TV weather seems to stop at our borders.  But money does not.

The internet and international trade have dissolved the economic borders of nations.  People can buy and sell goods and services among the countries of the world with fewer restrictions and barriers.  Countries with lower cost labor compete with businesses in countries where wages and costs are much higher.  Globalization has revealed the world’s true economic inequalities.

American workers were paid well to operate factories and do skilled and unskilled jobs; now many are displaced by globalization, and other technological and cultural factors.  New jobs in America require different skills, and higher levels of education, knowledge, and experience.  Those who do not or cannot adapt and learn are left to compete for lower-paying jobs.

Creating financial success is not an equal opportunity phenomenon.  It tends to favor those who are born with successful parents, intellect, talent, and drive.  Globalization and technology have created business opportunities that can make people wealthy overnight, widening the wealth gap between the haves and have nots.

Where did the concept of economic equality come from?  Has any country survived and thrived under mandated economic equality?  When, in history, were people equal in anything?

In its early form, America was unique in the world to propose that citizens govern themselves with the precepts of equal civil and legal rights under our constitution and laws.  Under our system, we have equality of liberty and freedom for citizens who obey the law.  We are not promised economic equality.

The Declaration of Independence asserts that “all men are created equal.” Conceptually, we asserted this in the context of renouncing the right of a king to rule his subjects.  We were announcing that no one has a birthright to a lower or superior class or nobility in America.  Further, it reads “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” among them “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  We were not announcing anything beyond natural rights to life, liberty (from overreaching, arbitrary laws and rules of monarchs), and the pursuit of happiness.  We were not announcing redistribution of wealth, or handicapping the blessed.

Humans are born different and unequal in almost every aspect of being, including intellect, strength, size, eyesight, and other things that allow them to operate successfully in the world.  The fact is, people are never equal; that is what makes them unique.

 

This Blog Is Fake News

Not really, but language is our primary way to communicate.  “This statement is false,” is a classic example of recursive writing.  Sometimes I enjoy annoying, contradictory statements; these conundrums are good exercise for our understanding of language, our value judgements and our unchallenged intellectual sides.  Fake news is fiction dressed up in the trappings of fact.  Those who are fooled operate on faulty assumptions.  Snopes may not be enough to save us.

How important is what we believe?  We make choices every day based on information from others. For long stretches of our history, Americans expected, and demanded professional journalism; we challenged the news with research of our own; we relied on professional information gatherers and presenters; we cherished objectivity.  Walter Cronkite is the example that comes to mind.  He and his news team did not editorialize; they presented the facts they could verify plainly; even when the news was painful, such as the Kennedy assassination, he held his emotions in check, almost.

As the era of journalism fades in our collective awareness, we stumble into an epoch of opinion; the 24-hour news age Ted Turner invented is voracious; anything to fill the hours.  The demand grew for titillating, shocking, insidious, intentional, or just stupid, public lying; I guess there was not enough honest scandal, hyperbole, deception, libel, and defamation.

Now we find completely fabricated articles, meant to harm specific people or raise undue alarm among us. Free speech, or libel?  First Amendment rights, or vicious cowardice?  It seems we are reaping what we have sown.   We have become victims of our society’s lax attitude towards rigor and honor.  We have grown lazy and unwilling to check the things presented to us.

Frankly, I am glad.  Not for the bad things that follow such propaganda, but for the possible reawakening of doubt, curiosity, and inquiry.  Of all the innovations of the 20th century, the internet connection of millions of individuals is the most important, because it reveals and magnifies our human nature and limits. Our naivete allowed us to be fooled by sources we trusted. At last, we know we must check the sources and validity of our vast ocean of daily information.

Humans are suspicious by nature; evolution has left this trait engraved in our genes.  But we can be lulled into gullibility, and we have been.  The opinions of writers and editors may vary all along the spectrum of belief; perspectives may open many windows of human experience; but some grounded facts must be present to sort and distort.  Fake news is just written lies and gossip without honest attribution.

China Must Tame Kim Jong-Un & Save Face – Intricate but Not Impossible

Forgive, is the message of Christmas.  But do not forget.  The person who betrayed trust is still in that body.  Trust is a gift best reserved for those who deserve it. We reserve the word “disgrace” for a serious reason – it is the permanent loss of credibility and assumed morality; it is a revocation of the gift of grace.

In 2005 Doug Bandow resigned from the Cato Institute because he accepted bribes from Jack Abramoff.  He published articles in the Copley News Service, favoring Abramoff’s clients.  He served almost four years of a six-year, plea-agreement sentence.

My question:  why does anyone listen to him or publish his opinions?  Well, the Huffington Post raised their hand.

His recent HuffPost opinion article is about Korea.  After visiting Pyongyang in June, he says, “Washington sees North Korea as a security challenge. Yet the North threatens America only because the U.S. intervened in the conflict between the two Koreas. The case for defending now populous and prosperous South Korea expired long ago.”

What did they do to him while he was there?  Did they bribe him too?  Does he know Dennis Rodman?  Is he still an American?

He proposes more-of-the-same diplomacy.  From 1953 until today,  North Korean’s persistent, winning tactic has been to extract financial aid and other concessions from the West by making promises to be good or do better.  Once they have what they need, they break all the promises, ratchet up the oppression of their people, and take food out of the mouths of their children for money to develop rockets and nuclear weapons.  (I wonder if they would be willing to sell such things to terrorists?)

220px-Kim_Jong-Un_Photorealistic-Sketch

The whole mindset of engaging North Korea in diplomacy is ludicrous.  How many times will we settle for the same false promises to liberalize their iron-fisted culture, or scale back their military?  After six decades of this soft-headed, “gentle” approach, what do we have to show?  Rocket Man.  Doing more of what has not worked is insanity.

What do we have now?  Change.  China knows North Korea intimately.  They buy most of their exports.  They have people living and working there.  They are North Korea’s lifeblood.  As long the N. Koreans stay “in bounds” and do not unsettle the region, China sees them as proxy insulation between themselves & Western encroachment.  But the “buffer” has begun to attract rather than distract Western attention, and not in a good way.

China has finally broken ranks with the North Korean government.  They have more to lose than gain from world condemnation or another Korean War.  China knows that the U.S. cannot, and will not allow any kind of attack on itself or its allies.

Our current stance is likely to spur the Chinese to neutralize Kim Jong-un and achieve their ultimate goal: stability.  Appearances are key.  No one wants their fingerprints on this effort.  Deniability is the standard by which all will be judged.

I am confident that China, South Korea, the U.S., and Japan are engaged in every type of discussions and plans they can imagine.  The main obstacle to resolution is “face.”  All parties need to preserve and improve their “face” at home and in the world.  How to tame or replace Kim Jong-un is a top priority for some of the world’s most powerful governments.  I have faith that Chinese ingenuity and American courage will combine to defuse threats to peace in the region.

(Discussion of Face: https://wp.me/p1qZOe-C7)

Transgender Quandary – Trading Stereotypes

How does a person define and demonstrate their gender identity?  What does a “man” or “woman” think and feel?  Aside from media precepts and sexual preferences, what defines man and woman in our society?

The more I read about 50 kinds of Gender Dysphoria, the less I see how people are so sure they are a specific type of person.  What does it mean to “feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body?”  Sounds dissatisfied to me.  What about a woman’s body and lifestyle do they miss and want?  What about a man’s body and way of life are in the way and undesirable?  How do they want other people to treat or not treat them?

The latest descriptions of transgender include completely internal “identification.”  That means, no physical change to the body one is born with, but just feeling and acting like the gender you are/want.  Images of what is a man and what is a woman are stereotypes.  Trading and asserting stereotypes is a mental, emotional exercise that some people feel driven to do to prove who they are.  If a male wants to love another male, we have come to accept that; likewise, if a woman wants to love another woman.  Why not see this “trans” mindset for what it is: changing costumes and characters.  Hormones and surgery are the costume change; name changes and voice training are the new role.  Why are they so important?

paper hat

When I was a child, I loved to pretend I was a pirate, a cowboy, a soldier, a fireman by changing hats and voices.  I used to make an admiral’s hat by folding a newspaper.  When I put on this hat, and picked up the stick that was my sword, I was that admiral; ordering my men to fight off the pirates.  I did not insist on a real costume or a real sword; I was what I wanted to be.  After I grew up, I dubbed this the “paper hat syndrome.”  People believe they are what they portray, even when the obvious says otherwise. I still see people using this same mental trick to “be” what they want to be at work or with friends.

“Transitioning” is expensive; tens of thousands of dollars and physical trauma for surgery, lawyers, hormones, and therapy.  After all that, some men do not make attractive women; and some women do not become convincing men.  But as long they are satisfied, I am glad for them.  I hope they are not disappointed when they do not feel as different as they expected; that could be very depressing.  It might be worth some therapy to support living the way you want with the body you already have; leave the paper hat at home.

 

 

 

 

One Global Democracy? – Imagine That

Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, either has trouble filling his air time, or he has a serious sadistic streak.  Or, maybe he wants to add humor, and not-too-thinly-veiled ridicule to his, usually serious repartee.  I did not know whether to laugh or cry when he interviewed Peter Schurman, involved with MoveOn.org, a San Francisco-based, non-profit, political activist group, founded by two entertainment-software entrepreneurs.

MoveOn was organized in 1998, to oppose the impeachment of Bill Clinton over his handling of Monica Lewinsky.  They support liberal causes (anti-war, anti-SUV, anti-Bush, Pro-Michael Moore, Pro-Obama, Pro-Obama, Pro-Bernie Sanders) with fund-raising and virtual petitioning.

Mr Schurman joined MoveOn in 2001 as its first salaried employee.  His MBA from Yale is an academic achievement, but this new thesis would make any dean groan, and any John Lennon fan cheer.

One Global Democracy is an idea whose time is never.  Their website starts off, “SAN FRANCISCO, CA, November 29, 2017 — A small group of highly credentialed progressive leaders have announced in a video a new movement for One Global Democracy ..”

The tenet:  eliminate all national borders (“Imagine there’s no countries,”) and give each person one vote (“Imagine all the people sharing all the world”).  Allow anyone in the world to go to any other place in the world to live (“A brotherhood of man”).

international people

I would like to see him make this concept work on one block where he lives in San Francisco.  A few hundred homeless people would add appropriately to the mix of people living and working there. (Imagine all the people living life in peace”)

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They offer a video that is supposed to explain the idea and how it can work.  They ask for donations to fund the effort.

I watched it.  Circular logic, logical gaps, vague references, and not one working model of getting everyone to work together to solve problems. (“Imagine all the people living for today”) What would be a quorum?  How long would the voting stay open?

This group of “highly credentialed progressives” are clueless.  They propose to give everyone an anonymous voting account and have everyone vote on every issue.  (“And the world will be as one”) Sounds like “Animal Farm,” to me.  Let’s look at this idea from eight perspectives:

  1. Knowledge, skills, and understanding – Where do we have citizens of the world who know enough and understand the mechanisms to solve problems and set rules?  How many problems does the world have?  Who can know all that?
  2. Agreement – Couples disagree; juries of 12 people cannot always agree on one issue. How would this system find agreement among 7.5 billion people who do not share culture or language?  How can someone in Africa know answers on any local or global need or solution?
  3. Majority rules – Africans may become the majority population of the world by 2100. Who could end the tyranny of the majority?  How would we keep minorities from resisting egregious, burdensome discrimination?  What if the majority is wrong and makes bad choices based on superstition, rumor, and gossip?  What would be the common language?  Chinese?  Who would do the translations?  How would we handle issues such as gay marriage?  Abortion?  Euthanasia?  Civil rights?  Energy?
  4. Resources – how would resources be acquired, and allocated among areas and people?  Who would pay taxes?  What jobs would survive?
  5. Infrastructure – Would the whole world have to agree to build a bridge or highway in Bangladesh? How could it get done if approved?  What if the majority changed their minds half way through the project?  How would public safety work?  Health care? Finance?  Agriculture?  Education?  Justice?
  6. Economics – If resources were evenly distributed, where would communities get the money for local schools? If skilled and unskilled, educated and uneducated people were paid equally, is that not communism?  (a failed concept) Would Americans be willing to give up 85% of their belongings and money to equalize Africans in poverty.  (read Do Americans Really Want Economic Equality? – Not Beyond Our Borders)
  7. Ideology – Could the dominate religion force their beliefs on everyone else? Could women subjugate men?  Could children rule adults?  Could tribes require everyone join one or the other tribes?  What about sworn enemies and long-standing disputes?
  8. Leadership – How would we choose leaders? – “friends” or “likes?” How would we manage and coordinate in natural and man-made crises?  Who would set the agenda and propositions?

I could go on, but why should I?  This naïve notion that democracy answers all questions and needs is useless and worthless.  How many countries, and how many people do not live in democracies?  Why should they change? How have they managed all these eons without an 18th century innovation?

Most of the world has no idea of plurality.  Why should they prefer democracy to the structure they have now?  Civilization evolved to meet the conditions of life.  Witness the mayhem in the Middle East where we have imposed democracy.  Ethnic and religious strongmen immediately launched deadly, exhausting conflicts to take control.  Consider Africa, the Balkans, and Venezuela.  Civilization is not uniform or universal.

MoveOn’s self-styled, credentialed Olympians have not thought beyond selfie fund raising, as the TV interview revealed.  Please, progressives, do not let these people seduce or represent you.

Their fantasies do make a pretty song though (John Lennon, Imagine).

American Graffiti – The Old Model of Sex

am graf.jpg

The rules of sex are both formal and informal for men and women, in America.

Boys and girls learn about love and sex in the climate of their youth.  They learn and practice the rules and taboos of their “tribe.”  When I was a boy, men were macho.  My dad was strong, facile, and strict.  Movies were John Wayne, Micky Spillane, and Gone with the Wind.  Just after World War II, society’s standards for men were macho, and aggressive; standards for women were demure, cosmetic, social accessories, fiercely-devout housewives, ardent lovers, and stalwart, protectors of children.

gwtw

Men pursued sexual contact, despite protests from a woman (e.g. Gone with the Wind).  “Wolf Whistles” were some crude men’s idea of how to get women’s attention.  Boys had a mandate to “get girls” (e.g. American Graffiti).  We had no idea how, but we could not let it be known we were kiss-less virgins.  Dates were events with timorous, sexual fumbles.  Men “scored” with women.  They used baseball as a metaphor.  First base was kissing; second base was touching breasts; you can guess third base and home run – and strike out.  Virginity was for boys to lose, and girls to keep; that was the battle of the sexes.

Boys’ bathrooms or gym locker rooms were the venues for lame boasts of conquest, and face-saving lies.  Every boy had a story to tell that would lift his score on the invisible scoreboard of manliness.  The desperate would name local, popular boy-legends; girls with “reputations.”

Anyone who watches the series “Mad Men,” sees the power structure, and vulnerability men and women accepted and took for granted.  Everyone tacitly agreed that powerful men can press themselves on women.  Today, we call them “predators.”

Women did not want these advances then, either.  They just learned to ignore or deal with it, and moved on.  It was job survival for a woman in the workplace to tactfully divert the advances of the men she worked with.

Then came the late 60’s,70’s, and 80’s; confusing and defining times for both sexes.  Young, unmarried women were “liberated.”  We had a mix of traditional and uninhibited values.  It was a second “suffrage.”  Some men and women connected in “adulterous” liaisons.  Others lived dual lives, with a traditional family, and a sexual second.  Some had “open” marriages that allowed sex with non-spouses.

This historic, buffet of choices causes conflict today.  The recent pillory and massacre of powerful men based on accusations of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances is a cultural sea change.  The information age is giving women a platform, permission, and encouragement to revolt against the subjugating, sexual power men have held over subordinate women forever.

This is a confusing time for men who like women.  Men are on notice to be “appropriate” with all women.  Are platonic friendships between men and women possible now?  What is “appropriate?”

Men want women to like them, but many are clumsy and clueless; women are different, subjective, fickle, ephemeral “mysteries” men cannot figure out; therefore, attractive curiosities.  Who will teach men how to be around women?  Where is the manual?  What parts of the way they grew up do they discard?  Straight men are in peril if they describe, notice, appreciate, comment, or have facial expressions in response to a woman’s appearance or attractiveness.  That surely limits the range of single men’s overtures to a potential mate. (e.g. “Hi, I noticed you from across the library, in the non- fiction section, I do not know anything about non-fiction, could you help me?  Could I bribe you with a coffee?”  Or, “Aren’t you the lady from my bank?  I always wondered what being a teller is like.  Would you have time to help me understand?   I’ll buy the coffee. What do you like?”)  Still pretty lame, but completely appropriate.

Women spend hours each day to prepare and present themselves to “others.”  Cosmetics, hair style, nail polish, clothes, whitened teeth, shoes, and body-shape are endemic elements of fashion and style in our culture.  Women often compliment or disparage other women for their presentation; that is not harassment, but it can be “shaming.”  Women take compliments from gay men as, well, compliments, because they figure sex is not their motivation.

When straight men compliment women, without sexual intentions, women might still accuse them of sexual aggression.  Absent comments, some women might feel ignored, or unattractive, but what are men to do?  Confused and threatened men can retreat into a “man’s world,” which is a safe, sane, and familiar cave.

 

Global Warning – Our Model of Life Threatened

What is happening in Europe is a harbinger for America.  The Information age has flattened the globe.  People know what life is like elsewhere.  They see plenty, and safety where they have scarcity, and mortal danger.  People migrate to where “the grass is greener,”  when they have no employment, opportunity, liberty, or peace.

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Moreover, there are currently fifteen African countries involved in war, or are experiencing post-war conflict and tension. In West Africa, the countries include, Cote d’Ivoire, GuineaLiberiaNigeriaSierra Leone, and Togo; in East Africa, EritreaEthiopiaSomaliaSudanUganda.

Refugees and economic migrants have discovered the wealth and peace of Europe.  They risk their lives to escape their world and flee to “Paradise.” Europe cannot accommodate all the refugees, and economic migrants who want to come there.  If there were no obstacles, half the population of Africa, and a large part of the population Arabia would move to Europe.  And that would be just the beginning of Europe’s problems.  The foreboding future growth in population will test their mettle.

population 1

Africa has two related characteristics, high birth rate, low employment.  More than 1 billion people live in Africa today. Their unemployment rate is the highest in the world: 43.7%, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  Population projections show 4.2 billion people by 2100, outstripping Asia.  More than half of those 2.5 billion will be working age (15-64).  If things are not far better then, more that half will be unemployed.  1.3 billion people unemployed?

The people risking everything to get to the U.S. and Europe have tremendous motivations, especially when the descriptions they hear are wildly exaggerated.

africa boat

Imagine what it would take for you to leave your home and family, pay your life savings and all you can borrow to someone who says they will get you to your destination, despite the law.  You board a rickety, overloaded, fishing boat across the Mediterranean.  All this in hopes of employment and services common to the West.

Aside from escaping oppression or war, most want to earn enough to feed and shelter themselves and their families.  The way the world works is: you farm/fish/hunt/gather food, or trade labor for money, then trade money for food.  No farm, no money, no food.

Unless the right to give birth changes, we must bridge the gap between food and burgeoning population, or face constant unrest, and armed conflicts.  The current model of life will not support those who do not serve a valuable purpose.

 

Future World – What Might We Expect?

Predictions are always wrong, because we cannot shed the context and assumptions of now.

World population is about 7 billion now.  Half (3.5 billion) can work.  Two hundred million are unemployed.  Thirty percent of workers live in poverty.  Workers in precarious jobs number 1.4 billion.  Worldwide, 65.3 million refugees.

Suppose we succeed in breaking the connection of labor to living for everyone.  What will we do?

Those who watch Star Trek have seen people with no need of money.  Gene Roddenberry ’s model of the future is one in which each person chooses what they want to do with their time, talents, and capabilities.

“Replicators” provide food, clothing, anything they want; they “disassemble” waste at the atomic level and recycle it.  “Transporters” take us where we want to go.  We will have things we have not yet imagined.   Every critical human need could be met, except purpose, love, caring for children, and worship.  What could anyone gain by military force?

replicater            transporter

The challenge will be having a purposeful life. The competition for some vocations might be intense, but no one starves or languishes in rags.  The best of the best will gain the prized positions; meritocracy must rule.  People will seek learning, practice skills, and achieve mastery because they want to.

Imagine managing your life and relationships in this environment.  Most people want to have purpose, meaning, value, and love.  How would you operate with no mandates to work?  Unless you choose what you want to do, you could become a complete, passive consumer.  Sadly, some part of the population will choose nothing, spending their days with virtual reality or whatever passive entertainment suits them.  If anyone is bored, it would be their mindset, not the lack of opportunity or shortage of possibilities.

Picture the “landscape” this produces.  Everyone who has an interest, talent, or skill is doing what they love best.  They might split their lives among various pastimes, adventures, travel, and learning.

The world will still have certain needs for real expertise, but they might be limited to high technical or medical skills, education, psychiatry, management, art, sports, and entertainment.

People will still have medical and mental problems, even when they have no pressures, because we are physical, emotional animals.  Advanced medical knowledge, technology, pharmacology, and treatments should allow doctors, nurses, and aids to handle the physical needs.

Feelings drive us.  Coaching and emotional problem management would be a need.  We might still have people born with mental or physical limitations, needing caregivers.

Manufacturing, food, transportation, and housing would all be produced by the technology.  With no scarce commodities or resources, the only conflicts would be intra-personal: love, sex, sports, politics, and religion.  These can be resolved peacefully.

Billions of people would compete for and share the remaining tasks.  Sharing makes sense, especially for the multi-talented.  Doing three or four different activities a few hours each day might be satisfying, and fun.  They might have hourly shifts around the clock to accommodate all the masters of that task or activity.  There would be standbys for every hour making “on call” the rule versus the exception.  People could choose tasks we now assign as impractical, or worthless, like the artistry and craftsmanship we admire from the past.  How long something takes to do will no longer be a factor.  The world would be art.

 

 

 

Winter Solstice 2017 – Tis the Season to Figure Things Out

For Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my blessings; I love to list my favorite things, what makes them thank-worthy, and what little disappointments that come with them.

For example, I love Amazon.  I have bought all sorts of things I needed and some that I just wanted.  One disappointment:  assembly instructions.  My frugal self loves the savings for things that are twice the price in the brick-and-mortar stores; my honest self sees the hidden price I pay.  I rationalize the wonderful nuances of foreign cultures as I try to figure out which real-life nut and bolt matches the vaguely portrayed nuts and bolts in the faintly-printed instructions.

assembly

Sometimes there is not even unintelligible English-as-a-language-no-one-here-really-knows text to confuse me.  The diagrams are diabolical, psychological warfare.  A few companies tease us by attaching stickers to pieces with the letter or number shown in the pamphlet.  Even then, one company mislabeled the parts in the instructions.

Most throw us graphics that are tests, like Mensa/SAT/Psychological/IQ tests.  The questions on the test?

  1. Match this table of drawings to the items you are staring at, that came in the box.
  2. Can you see the pattern or sequence between step 1 and step 2?
  3. Can you identify the actions required to explain the difference between figure 1 and figure 2?
  4. Can you fill in the missing part or parts of the sequences?
  5. Can you get the parts you glued together by mistake apart again?
  6. Is the FedEx guy too far up the street to flag down?

I can see the Mensa buyers sitting on the garage floor with dressers that look more like Picasso bookcases, or Escher stairways.

The instruction writers of foreign manufacturers must have never been to America.  They have never spoken to any native speaker in English, in person, just the less-than-fluent instructors who taught them, and the non-English-speaking bosses who were impressed with what sounded like English to him.

And here is where frustration brings out sadism:  We who have fallen, do not enlighten the seller, nor warn other buyers.  Why shouldn’t they suffer like we did?

Even if the instructions are adequate, they often include fewer of the metric nuts, bolts, and washers than needed, or some that are defective.  Where will you find 10 more of those little slider-holder thing-a-ma-jigs you need when you are bent over, holding up the critical strut of your almost-completed gazebo with one hand, the instructions in the other, as the sun sets?

If “some assembly required,” does not ruin your day, how about things that do not fit together like you saw on-line?  I mean a coffee maker that dribbles when you follow the instructions exactly, or the lid of the pressure cooker that will not lock, or the replacement for the roller brush for your vacuum cleaner that spins out from under the vacuum and sticks in the wall?

coffee

Oh, I forgot, batteries; you buy an electronic device that does what you want, for an incredibly low price.  Once you have it, you find that the “batteries-are-not-included,” or run out after 10 minutes, are not rechargeable, and cost more than the device.

low-battery-low-battery-everywhere

I love the whole concept of Amazon; I use it regularly; it appeals to my money-saving, couch-potato side. I love it when I find something better, at a lower price on-line, than my wife can find with woman-days of store shopping.  It makes me feel vindicated for never wanting to go to the mall.

 I just have to learn to temper my greed, contain my optimism, and curb my enthusiasm.  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and every other winter-solstice-scheduled celebration of the return of the sun, that you may enjoy.