The complicated world of healthcare

Let me start out at the beginning. About one hundred years ago or so, doctors came to your house, gave you some pills that probably did not work, told you to rest regardless of what was wrong with you and you gave them a chicken or a slab of ham and everybody was happy. Of course, life expectancy was far less and crippling diseases ravaged the population, but it was affordable. Slowly, modern medicine began to evolve and actually was able to cure some diseases like polio, bacterial diseases and sometimes a minor gunshot wound. Not many doctors went into medicine because they planned on making a lot of money, but rather to help their fellow man. Medical technology, like most technologies of the time, moved along slowly at first and then began to gain steam as invention and understanding of the human body began to accelerate.

Around 1850 the first accident insurance was introduced, and not until 1920 was the first hospital and medical insurance plan offered. It was offered by hospitals as a way of setting aside money in case of unforeseen medical expenses. Enter capitalism! Some visionary capitalist saw the potential to make a lot of money. I doubt that he envisioned the enormous profit that today’s insurance companies and medical companies make, but he did see dollar signs floating in the air. I imagine that this entrepreneur went to a hospital and offered to take the burden of monitoring insurance costs and dispersal so the hospital could concentrate on what they were supposed to be doing, healing people. This sounded like an excellent idea and hospitals around the land quickly joined the movement. As you can imagine, many of these insurance companies began to consolidate, becoming more powerful, thus increasing their control and profits.

Capitalists of the time saw the writing on the wall and began positioning themselves for the largest ripoff in human history! If they can control access to people’s health care and control the flow of these new technologies, they can make more money than anyone had ever dreamed of before. Think of it this way, if someone created a pill that allowed humans to live for another 100 years, how much would that pill cost? Whoever controlled this new pill would make more money than anyone in human history! Of course, money is needed, and lots of it, to make use of the medical system, which in a screwed up kind of way, is offering an extended life span if one can afford it.

So here we are today, a doctor’s visit for the common cold or flu is a major expense. Injuries that could be treated and allow a person to live a more productive life are ignored due to prohibitive cost. Pharmaceutical companies, medical instrument companies, insurance companies and hospitals CEO’s are laughing as they drink champagne on their yachts in the Caribbean while Americans suffer from their greed. Politicians rake in enormous contributions from these large corporate beasts to ensure their reelection and convince the people that they are going to change things.

The old saying that you can’t let the fox guard the hen house is where we are right now. Large corporations are controlling the vote of our elected leaders (thank you Supreme Court with your Citizens United ruling) thus ensuring the continued subterfuge of the American citizen! This is not a blue or red issue, this is a grab for power equal to any in history. You and I are the pawns on this board and the large hand that moves us around at will is corporate America making sure they are rolling in the money and power.

If you have read this far and are wondering what you can do to change this picture, the answer is easy, Do not vote for any politician who takes money from corporations! If you want to be a one issue voter, make this your issue! I can not say I am optimistic that we will make this change but I must hold on to the hope that we do, so that our children and their children will have a world to live in free of corporate greed and corruption.

Once a Trekkie always a Trekkie.

Walmart is our buddy…NOT!

I almost became sick while watching a commercial for Walmart the other day. If you are old enough to have witnessed the rise of Walmart over the years you would have been as upset as I was/am. I remember the days when the MADE IN USA signs hung all over the store. There were Walmart associates in most every department to help you find what you were looking for. Lines were rather quick and service was pretty good for a retail store. As you may know, Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, died and with him died his vision of a fun, friendly store. In this commercial they said things like “we see a spark in every customer”…yeah, they see a spark, somebody’s getting so mad they burst into flames while waiting a half hour in line! They said “they see a kindness in humanity”! Have they not witnessed their silly Black Friday sales? People fighting and climbing over one another for stuff. How about “we see a spark in every smile”? The minute I walk into Walmart a certain dread takes over my mind as I weave through the countless isles trying to figure out were they have hidden an item, with no help to be found. “We see a kindness in humanity” Let me explain to you what you are seeing. That kindness is the onslaught of depression at having to spend so much time in your store and your checkout lines. I love this one, “We saw 20 million people just yesterday”. Yeah you did, and most of them were standing in lines!

I saw a Facebook ad where they were bragging about their new inventory robot that will take another bunch of jobs away from their stores. If you have not noticed, there are fewer and fewer people working in Walmart. With virtually no help, self-check out lanes and now automatic inventory robots, the Walmart of the future will be manned with security agents to suppress the vandals, and they will not have a clue where anything is.

So Walmart, snap out of it! Why not make commercials where people are roaming about the store lost and confused as to where an item is. Or how about a poor soul who dies of dehydration while waiting to check out. I shop at Costco whenever I can. Have any of you ever shopped there? They are quick and efficient. Employees move about the store as if they were on a mission, not like the earth’s about to end. I have noticed over time that many of Costco’s employees stick around for years. They stick around because they are paid well, treated with respect, insured and generally happy with their jobs. Can you say that? Have you become so big and bureaucratically cumbersome that you are unable to evolve, to improve and keep your employees? I am sure there are very few left who remember Sam’s dream and what it entailed. Anyone who did would join me in asserting that old Sam would be turning in his grave if he walked into a Walmart today. I miss you Sam!

A beautiful day in the Neighborhood.

Mister Nice Guy

Every once in a while you see a movie that touches your soul and leaves you with the desire to be a better person. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is one of those movies. As a young man I rarely watched Mr. Rogers, it was just too nice for me. A man of questionable masculinity telling stories of kindness and generosity just wasn’t cool enough. Though once in a while I would run across it while channel surfing and stay just long enough to witness this incredible human being, a credit to our species, capture the minds of a younger generation. He talked about the human condition in a way that made everything look so much brighter and hopeful. I wish I had taken the time to watch Mr. Rogers, I think I would have been a better person.

The movie is about the impact Mr. Rogers had on a young man who was doing a story about him as an American hero. The reporter was troubled, anxious and angry due to a fractured relationship with his father. In the movie, Mr. Rogers, played incredibly by Tom Hanks, reaches into the reporters psyche and helps him learn to forgive his father.

I believe this movie is important right now with the climate of our culture moving in a darker direction. White supremacist and various other hate groups are gaining strength in this toxic environment we live in. Hate and violence seem to be the standard recently. Politics has divided us even more with very divisive language.

Mr. Rogers emanates a sense of quiet and strength with full acceptance for everybody. His peaceful demeanor is beautiful and a model we should all strive to copy. If you are needing a good movie to see, check out ITS A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. I am pretty sure you will enjoy it.

A Christmas story told again and again and….

This is one of my favorite stories and it helps me remember what Christmas is really about. If you read it last year or the year before, read it again and if you are new to my blog, I hope you enjoy this touching story. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! You can find Naotaka Maehara on Facebook. Maybe someday parents will sit around the fire and read this to there children…or maybe not…

Naotaka Maehara arriving in Augusta

The other day my friend Steve Bailes called me up to ask if I would be interested in housing a young man from Japan for the evening. He is riding his bike across America, having left from Vancouver 70 days ago. He was coming from Clarksburg and would arrive on Saturday if things worked out. I agreed, and contacted Nao (pronounced NOW which is short for Naotaka Maehara) by email to invited him to stay with us for the evening. He replied that he would like to stay with us Saturday evening. The next two days were interesting as I stayed in contact as much as possible via e-mail. If you remember, this past Wednesday and Thursday we experienced our first major snow fall of the season so Nao was right in the middle of it with the continental divide directly in front of him. To make a long, involved story shorter, he made it across the mountains to our home by 4pm on Saturday. I quickly suggested he take a bath to get warm. He agreed and headed for the bathroom. About an hour later he emerged, hungry, relaxed and anxious to get to know us. Steve had asked if he could come over and meet Nao so I suggested that we do dinner ; at about 6pm Steve and Terry arrived. It was one of those magical evenings that happen so rarely. We talked, exchanged stories and ate until we were ready to pop. Nao turned out to be charming, pleasant and a very gracious guest. I will remember the evening for a long time. With my fading memory that could be months from now. After dinner, us guys went down stairs to give Nao’s bike some tender loving care, which it needed badly. We reattached the front racks, cleaned and oiled the chain, pumped up the tires, and gave it a quick inspection. Later Nao and I went upstairs to spend almost two hours planning his route to New York City. He was ready for his journey to continue in the morning. After I went to bed, Sue stayed up until midnight talking with Nao about who knows what.

Resting after dinner

Relaxing after dinner

The morning came; Nao had several bowls of cereal and began to ready himself and his bike for his journey to New York City where he was scheduled to arrive on December 23. We created a Skype connection so that he could contact us with his computer, if needed. Shortly thereafter, Nao headed down the driveway.

After Nao had left, we found a note in his bedroom. In the note was a twenty-dollar bill. At first I considered getting in the car and catching him to give back the money but after reading the note I decided not to. This is written in Nao’s own words. He has only been learning English for three years. I’m impressed!

“I met woman in that time. (this is before he met us) She listened my serious talking and gave this $20 to me. She gave money and I received money. And also I received her kindness. She said, “I can’t help you now, but use this money and stay in hotel.

I want you guys (me) receive this $20. I mean it is not a staying fee, it means a woman’s kindness.”

I will keep this twenty and pass it forward when the time comes. Experiences like this one only intensify my belief that life is about the people you meet and the memories you take from those meeting. My only hope is that someday I will get to see Nao again!

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas!!!!

Big business is paying NO taxes

Walt would turn in his grave.

Many people are excited about the current perceived positive improvements in the economy. The DOW is going through the roof, wages are going up a little, unemployment has dropped down to a 50 year low and inflation is not as bad as it could be. This all seems good on the outside. Let’s glance at the other side just to be fair. Because of the tax cut given to the rich and corporate America, our national debt is currently climbing faster than any other time in history. The stock market is not climbing on industrial growth but simple reinvestment of the huge windfall of cash given corporate America by the recent tax cut. Currently, many companies are buying back their own stock to boost the price. When stock prices have gone high enough, and the big guys decide they have made enough money, they will quickly pull their money out of the market causing stock prices to plummet, thus destroying the retirements of many hardworking American citizens. If you happen to run into one of these billionaires (of which there are over 600 in the US) ask him if he gives a rat’s ass about retiring Americans after this has all come to pass.

Now to the reason I am writing this blog. Do you realize that the largest corporations in America paid NO tax last year!!!! On my meager social security check and pension, which totals about $40,000/year, I paid over $5100 in taxes! Seriously? Is there something wrong with this? Now check below to see how much tax the big corporations paid last year. You must add 6 zeros to all these numbers which makes 10,835 a whopping 10.8 BILLION DOLLARS or $10,835,000,000.

CompanyU.S. IncomeFederal TaxEffective Tax Rate
Amazon.com$10,835–129–1%
Delta Air Lines$5,073–187–4%
Chevron$4,547–181–4%
General Motors$4,320–104–2%
EOG Resources$4,067–304–7%
Occidental Petroleum$3,379–23–1%
Honeywell International$2,830–21–1%
Deere$2,152–268–12%
American Electric Power$1,943–32–2%
Principal Financial$1,641–49–3%
FirstEnergy$1,495–16–1%
Prudential Financial$1,440–346–24%
Xcel Energy$1,434–34–2%
Devon Energy$1,297–14–1%
DTE Energy$1,215–17–1%
Halliburton$1,082–19–2%
Netflix$856–22–3%
Whirlpool$717–70–10%
Eli Lilly$598–54–9%
IBM$500–342–68%
Goodyear Tire & Rubber$440–15–3%
Penske Automotive Group$393–16–4%
Aramark$315–48–15%
AECOM Technology$238–122–51%
Tech Data$203–10–5%
Performance Food Group$192–9–4%
Arrow Electronics$167–12–7%
Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

Almost all these companies also received very large rebates from the federal government!!! That is why all the numbers in the second and third column have negatives in front of them!!! Do you see what I am talking about? This is only part of the list, there are a whole lot more.

Republican, Democrat or any political philosophy, this is crazy! Some of you made a few dollars with the tax cut but how many of you paid NO tax?

Years ago I used a game in my classroom called STARPOWER that created a class system very similar to our current situation; the powerful rich make the rules, control the money and secure their position at the top of the food chain. If you understand and believe what I have stated here, only vote for candidates who do not take corporate money and will move to create rules to overrule CITIZENS UNITED.

It is important that we laugh more often

Believe it or not, this is a piece of artwork. It is a real 8 foot deep hole that is designed to look like a drawn hole on the surface. So, you know what happened here, a man, despite signs, security guards and basic human intelligence, walked into the hole. Apparently he was not hurt that bad but I can imagine he thought that this art had a strong impact on his life.

A survey made by the yougov organization found that 2/3’s of 24 year olds are sure that the earth is spherical. I have to ask what the other 1/3 thinks.

Elon Musk presented his new totally electric truck and for reasons unbeknownst to me felt the need to demonstrate that the side glass was very strong. He did this by having a very heavy metal ball hurled at the window thus creating a large impact crater on the window. I guess Elon must have dined on crow that night for dinner. Life message: do not throw heavy balls at glass windows regardless of how strong you think they are. Still love ya Elon. But seriously…a car launched into space…

Hip Hop singer Dr Dre sued Dr Drai, author of 20 Things You May Not Know About The Vagina, over name recognition issues. He feels that the public may confuse these two names. Sorry to say he lost in court. I think it important that ladies make sure they get the spelling right if they decide on a new gynecologist.

You have got to wonder why KFC took the C out of their name. After all, it was Kentucky Fried Chicken, wasn’t it?

That’s all I got folks! Have a great day!

Three Important Words

Ethics: moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.

Morality: a particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society.

Rationalization: the action of attempting to explain or justify behavior or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate.

Lately I have found myself thinking about these three words and what they mean. I have tried to rank them in a way that is appropriate or logical, and I might add, ineffectively. Each word is so tied into the other two that it is hard to use one without thinking of the other two. On the bumpy road of life one finds oneself confronted with these three ideals on a regular basis. I must admit that a recent event in my life has forced me to re-evaluate my understanding and dedication to these principles.

Let’s begin with the word MORALS, since this word is used in the definition of ETHICS. A particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society. What is a system of values? Who decides on this system of values? Are these values a constant in a world of chaos? Is there one set of morals/values that is better than any other? These are tough questions that may be unanswerable for someone living in a fish bowl. How can I, or anyone for that matter, think they can liberate themselves from the environment enough to evaluate their own morals? Some of the Ten Commandments may offer some insights into acceptable morals. After rereading the Ten Commandments several times I am left with a bad feeling in my tummy. The first four commandments are talking about giving allegiance to a god. There is no mention of values or morals, just that you devote yourself to a supreme entity, no questions asked. Number five says you should listen to your parents, who I might add, have been given no guidance in moral behavior at this point in the commandments. I feel that number 6 has some real meat on its bones, THOU SHALT NOT KILL. I feel that this may be a viable moral to believe in. Number 7 has some merit to help control our crazy need for procreation. Stealing is a tough one, since Robin Hood was a thief taking from the wealthy and giving to the poor. Do you think he was rationalizing? I think 10 is referring to your neighbor’s lawn mower or car, or maybe even his or her mate which is sort of like number 7. So out of 10 commandments I only found four that fit into a code of morals. Be nice to your mom and dad, don’t kill other people, stay away from your neighbors stuff, (this includes his mate) and don’t steal, which is similar to , stay away from your neighbors stuff. That’s not a lot to go on but I guess its a good start. I think I can condense this to three morals.

  1. Be good to mom and dad
  2. Don’t kill other people
  3. Don’t take anything that belongs to your neighbor or anyone else for that matter

Now think of how much money they could have saved had I been there to help them with that stone tablet. I believe that if we were to truly follow these three rules, society would be a far better place to live.

Lets move on to ETHICS: Now that we have some morals to live by, we can begin to discuss Ethics. Moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. We must decide if we have the ethics to live by those morals. I believe that most people know what basic good morals are, but the problem arises when people do not have the principles, or ethics, to live by those ideals. The bumpier the road, the increased chance exists that you will drive off the road or break down on the road. Lets call the morals the passengers in the car and the car is the ethics carrying the morals down the road. As long as the car is able to navigate the road everything is fine. When the car/ethics begin to fail, the morals are left to fend for themselves. This is when the morals face their greatest challenge. and this is when our third word comes into play.

Rationalization is by far the most difficult word to write about. This word has led to wars, carnage, theft, sexual abuse, child abuse, hunger and it is my belief, almost every disastrous event that has ever happened on earth. One could say that Adam rationalized that he should take a bite of that proverbial apple. The ability of the human mind to take most any situation and rationalize that their approach to a problem is correct, regardless of the possible outcomes is staggering! I wonder when in the evolution of man through the ages did we develop the ability to rationalize? With this thought we will talk about the coming of the artificial intelligence age and what it will bring to human kind.

Here is an example: I’m late to work and I am caught in traffic. One more late charge and I may be fired. The light in front of me is yellow and if I rush I should be able to make it through thus avoiding all the negative consequences. I step on the gas but to my dismay the light turns red and a van full of kids pulls out in front of me and I take the lives of two of the kids….

Second option: My car is being driven by an artificial intelligence device. The computer senses the light turning yellow and knows how long I have before it turns red. It makes a very accurate calculation predicting my ability to make it through the changing light. What ever it decides, I am sure the chances of killing two kids is greatly reduced and maybe I will make it to work on time anyway.

Computers do not rationalize, they predict outcomes based on available data. Computers could not rationalize a war or any of the disastrous events we have caused. As we become more and more powerful and able to make bigger and more powerful destructive devices, maybe we will have to rely on AI to help us through, because I do not believe we have the ability to navigate the bumpy road that lies ahead of mankind.

I would like to close this article with a little bit of humor so here goes. Even though Bill Cosby turned out to be the ultimate rationalizer, I thought his early humor very funny. This is one of my favorite stories: The scene is breakfast and Bill has been told to serve breakfast for the kids. The kids ask for chocolate cake. Bill decides that since cake is made of flour, eggs and milk that it would make a healthy breakfast meal. Mom comes to the kitchen and quickly squashes that idea. You’d think Bill would have learned from this episode not to rationalize.

The day the USA should shut down

There is little doubt that the weak kneed House of Representatives is moving towards impeaching Trump and in the end will impeach him. His mental state and crimes against the United States are obvious and a clear breach of his duties as president. At that point in time our “bought and sold Senate” will take those articles of impeachment and vote to leave him in office. It is my belief that we the people, the ones who won the actual vote of the election should close down this country for a day! Yes, we should stay home from work, have work slow downs, protest in the streets, write letters, call our Senators and anything we can think of to let congress know what we think about this probable outcome. We should be planning this event now!

Everyone needs health care

If you are like me, you feel as if you are watching the discussion on health care through a dense cloud, unable to tell fact from truth.  We watch the news, we talk to our friends, some of us read and still the cloud is there. In all this confusion, It is my belief that health care is the most important issue of the upcoming election, and worthy of our deepest attention.  I have many friends who have no health care.  They live with the fear of what it would cost if they had a serious medical issue?  I have insurance and I still make decisions about my health based on the potential cost to me.  As many of our current presidential contenders say, health care is a right of all people, not just the rich.  I lose my mind when I hear people talking about health care on the TV and they have no clue of the impact on 30 some million people in this country who do not have healthcare insurance.  They say such stupid things as, I HAVE GREAT HEALTHCARE INSURANCE, I’M NOT SURE WHAT THESE PEOPLE ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT.  This is one of my favorites, WE HAVE ONE OF THE BEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS IN THE WORLD.  I would add to this, “that money can buy”.  We do not have one of the best healthcare systems in the world!  In fact, according to much of the data, we have one of the worst healthcare systems in the developed world!

One of the biggest complaints people have about a single payer plan is it will cost too much.  Right now our country spends almost $15,000 a year for each and every individual in this country for medical coverage. This is almost 50% more than Canada pays which is around $10,000 per year.  The truth is our country can not continue to pay these exorbitant prices for HC.  The insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical instrument companies and hospitals have been stealing from the cookie jar at the American people’s expense for many years!  Due to intense lobbying, we have allowed these companies to run a muck for far too long. It is time to tighten the line and real these fat boys in!

Now, to finish this point of view, how many of you struggle with HC cost?  How many companies, big or small, would flourish if they were not anchored to expensive HC bills? Look at the effect the tax cut for the rich has had on the stock market.  With all that excess money they are buying up their own shares which is giving us the illusion of prosperity.  This will bite us in the butt real soon when they decide to pull their money out of the market.  Now consider the benefits of a single payer HC plan. Small business would realize an immediate increase in revenue which could be targeted towards growth, employee salaries or anything to help the business.  We may not see the growth in the stock market, that we have experienced recently, which has benefited the folks who can afford investing , but small business would boom!

One presidential candidate has proposed that we tax income over $50,000,000 a year to subsidize HC.  I can not even imagine that much money!  They claim that this one tax would be enough to pay for any increases amassed by the new single player HC system.  If we stop the large companies from making excessive profit based on the health of our people I am sure HC cost would be reduced! 

Folks, it is time for the single payer plan.  We do not need to dump all the other insurance plans, or eliminate the Affordable Care Act, we just need to add the option to join Medicare at an affordable cost.  Oh yes, government may not be as efficient as big business, or as ruthless, and they may waste a small amount of money, but their aim won’t be to make millionaires and billionaires faster than any previous time in history, but to provide affordable insurance.   CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES!

Spending the afternoon with our veterans

I’m sitting here at the Bottling Works in Romney operating the sound system for the veterans’ dinner sponsored by the Town of Romney and funded by local businesses and contributions. As I sit here I feel a real sense of comradery and friendship between the men and women who laid their life on the line for our freedom. It’s an honor to be able to witness this event.

Hampshire County’s own Logan Mantz, along with Beverly Keadle, opened up the event followed by a great dinner. After we all finished chewing our food, Logan Mantz introduced the guest speaker, Aaron Schienberg, who spoke about the need for veterans to get involved and help improve the treatment and assistance for them. Aaron currently works for Sen. Manchin in the area of of Veterans Affairs. After Aaron finished we were entertained by Romney’s own Honey Bees. I believe there were a few tears when the Honey Bees sang America and Hallelujah. There is no doubt in my mind that the dreams and aspirations of our forefathers was in the air.

To finish the afternoon, Logan stepped to the mic and proceeded to honor several veterans beginning with Gary Brady, who served in the United States Marine Corp and currently is working in the county. Next to be honored was Georgina Smith who served in the National Guard and returned home to earn her nursing degree and continues to use her time to improve Hampshire County.

Aaron Cox was next in line to be honored by the veterans. Aaron was trained in sophisticated electronic warfare and was involved in several large projects in the military. Later he was involved in drug enforcement and finally came home to Hampshire County to use his talents to bring our county up to speed in communication. He is currently head of the Hampshire Broadband Council which is leading the county and state into the future.

I feel privileged to have been a part of the celebration. I was told there are almost 2000 veterans in the county. Wouldn’t it be incredible if they all came out to be recognized!