Thursday, January 29, 2009

My spouse and I have recently become addicted to movies again. There were some good ones out this season. We saw “Doubt” yesterday and loved it. Meryl Streep plays a crusty old nun who is the principal of a school. Beneath this façade of sternness she also has a caring heart. She is terrific and deserves an Academy Award for best actress.

Streep runs a tight ship at the school and doesn’t put up with any foolishness from the kids or the head priest. She becomes suspicious about the relationship of a priest and a young male student. Armed with some information and observations from an innocent young teacher, Streep sets out to get the priest. The movie gives much insight into the behavior of both nuns and priests and the running of a Catholic school. The movie does a great job of addressing the problem of abnormal sexual behavior of priests and its coverup, which has plagued the Catholic Church in recent years. Streep has a lot of circumstantial evidence to support her case against the priest, but the question is he guilty. You have to see the movie to find out but, most of all, the viewer will see why the movie gets its name. It’s a great flick.

Unfortunately, kinky sexual behavior in men of the cloth is not uncommon. Recently, Oprah interviewed Ted Haggard the TV evangelist who admitted to having a long time homosexual relationship with a guy he paid for the service. Haggard is also married with five kids and takes drugs to boost his sexual performance. Everything is now okay because he has confessed to Oprah and told his church he is sorry. The world is full of these people like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, etc. etc.

All this behavior by so called, “men of God”, is enough to shake ones faith. It’s not just their sexual behavior but their conduct in general. As Holden Caulfield said, “it’s enough to make Jesus puke.” I have known some of these folks personally and have been greatly disappointed.

There is no escaping perverts and weirdness in the world. I even see it from the porch as I observe the behavior of the deer in my backyard. In most cases animals seem to have better morals and behavior than humans. As Mark Twain said, “ if you have your dog with you when you get to the pearly gates, don’t ask if he can come in, because dogs aren’t permitted. Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit you would stay out and the dog would go in.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Today, a report came out from a consumer confidence research board that consumer confidence was at an all time low of 37.7 (whatever that is). I didn’t know there was such a board but I could have saved them a lot of trouble in their research if they would have ask me. The confidence level was down even more than they had projected. DA!!!

My spouse spent the morning talking to GE and a service company about our broken GE washing machine. The machine is one year old and is now broken for the third time. We used to be Maytag users but we were told, by the people at Home Depot, that Maytag sold out and that GE was now the best. We never had trouble with our old Maytag. Maytag was even my mother’s first washer and was the type where you turned a hand wringer and the clothes were rinsed in three tubs of water with one containing bluing. The Maytag man lived next door. He sold us the machine and if we ever had a problem he would come over and fixed it for a cup of coffee. He was especially nice to us because I feed his chickens. Those were the good old days.

Now we have to fight to get anything fixed on the inferior products made by people like GE. The service folks never have anything in stock. They charge you a service charge and then order a part that takes several days to come from the factory. They then return for instillation and have a giant charge for labor. Meanwhile, you have a mountain of dirty clothes. Or course, the place where we bought the unit, Home Depot, has nothing to do with any of this. Once you buy something from them, it’s your responsibility baby. The customer is on their own in getting a faulty piece of merchandise repaired.

Is it any wonder that places like Home Depot are having massive layoffs and closing stores? Also, is it any wonder that GE and other American companies are in trouble? Consumer confidence is down. What a surprise!!

The main thing that surprises me is that, at my advanced age, I haven’t learned these lessons and keep making the same mistake by buying stuff from places like Home Depot and buying products like GE. One reason is that I have no choice. It just isn’t like it was when I was a kid when people and companies seemed to care.

I guess even the bad stuff and troubles are better than the rub board my mother used when I was a kid. We hung all our washing on clotheslines outside in the sun to dry. Boy, the clothes sure smelled good and it was nothing like those fresh sheets to ensure a good nights sleep. I wouldn’t mind a clothesline in the back yard now and have those hanging clothes block the sight of the deer. However, I don’t think my spouse would go for this idea. She would probably prefer to argue with GE and the service people on the phone rather than hang clothes. She has had a lot of experience with the latter and it has become much easier.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The new president had just finished taking his oath of office the second time this week when the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of human embryonic stem cells for a trial in treating spinal cord injured patients. This is great. Now we can get down to curing incurable diseases and cloning people. Obama has ordered an immediate cloning of himself so the specimen will be ready to become president as soon as his youngest daughter leaves office. Barack will have 4 terms, like FDR, because it will take at least that long to straighten out the economy and the Middle East. He will be succeeded by each of his daughters. That will be just about enough time for the cloned specimen to be ready.

These stem cells are great things. A cell from a fresh embryo is pluripotent, which means it is like a blank slate and can be manipulated into becoming any type cell. In the case of the spinal cord injured patient who can’t walk, because of the nerve damage, these cells can become nerve cells that repair the injury. In my case, fresh brain cells may repair the damage from Alzheimer’s and other maladies of old age. I may life forever. That’s good because it may take that long to recover the losses in my retirement fund.

Congress needs to immediately pass a bill to outlaw all forms of contraception. We need as many pregnancies as possible to ensure an adequate supply of embryos for use in producing the stem cells. Scientist also need to figure out if the products of abortion can be used for the cells since abortion will be back in vogue.. Gays may not like all this stuff because they can’t contribute to the stem cell production racket. However, they should be happy because we will be able to produce kids in the lab who will be up for adoption by same sex couples. Same sex marriages will soon be legal, so there will be a great demand for kids produced in the lab. This may turn out to be a big business.

The Pope and the Fundamentalist Christian bunch may not like this whole business with use of stem cells, cloning and abortion. They can scream all they want but there is no one to hear them. The media won’t let them be heard and as church attendance continues to fall, religion will no longer be a means of disseminating information regarding that mysterious and non-definable part of ourselves called the soul and conscience.

This Brave New World is going to be great. I may be able to stay on the porch indefinitely and fully intact. Now if we can just figure out if the deer in my yard can be used as a source of cells for something it would almost be a perfect world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

It is estimated that the Obama Inauguration is going to cost 150 Million Dollars. This is four times the cost of any other inauguration. The Bush affair cost about 40 Million. It’s a big, historic occasion and worth an extra amount, but 140 Million in these times seems a little much. He may need to ask for a bailout.

What worries me is the more than 3 million people expected for the event. I used to live in the DC area and recently visited. I don’t know where they are all going to stay or eat. When I lived there we had the anti-Viet Nam War demonstrations and that was pretty bad but nothing like this deal. It’s going to be especially bad because of the bitterly cold temperatures that are forecast. I hope it doesn’t snow and he keeps his speech short. I’m always reminded of our 9th President, William Henry Harrison, who gave a speech I &1/2 hours in length in a blizzard. It was the longest inaugural speech on record. Harrison developed pneumonia because of the exposure and died one month later. We sure don’t want that to happen to Obama.

The thing that worries me more than anything else about the Inauguration is that there are only going to be 7000 port-a potties for the more than 3 millions folks attending. That’s roughly 1 potty for every 430,000 people. That’s just not enough. There are going to be a lot of folks dancing jigs. I hope there are not a lot of thinkers in the crowd who usually take forever to defecate. That probably won’t be a problem with this crowd.

I’m sure thankful I won’t be in the cleanup squad after this thing is over. Things are bad now, but at least I’m thankful I’ll be watching the affair on TV unless there is a rerun of Gilligans Island.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My spouse and I have seen more movies, at the theater, in the past week than in the previous couple of years. They were all great. The last one was Gran Torino with Clint Eastwood. The story is fantastic but the language will offend some sensitive ears. Unfortunately, the language is true to life and the way many people talk. It makes the story more true to life. If goody-two-shoes language had been used the movie would not have been as effective in delivering the message it was meant to convey.

Just about every politically incorrect statement that could be made was made. I’m surprised it got past the censors with all the racial slurs. The N word wasn’t used but there really wasn’t an occasion to use it. Most of the slurs were against the Orientals.

In this movie, love and responsibility overcome the race issue. It’s about doing what is right regardless of race or anything else. I guess I liked it a lot because I could identify with the Clint Eastwood character in me. I don’t know if I would have the guts to do what he did but I would like to picture myself as having that much courage.

The Gran Torino is an old Ford that is Clint Eastwood’s prize possession and is in mint condition. The Eastwood character won a silver star in the Korean War but the Gran Torino is a greater prize than the medal. In this movie, it’s like a Congressional Medal of Honor.

I sure recommend this movie but it’s not for those who might be offended by the language or for those who live in a bubble not knowing how the real blue collar Joe, the minorities and the gangs of the inner city live. I’m just thankful I live on the porch and can be a Clint Eastwood character in my imagination

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Alabama Azalea Trail Maids are scheduled to be in the Inaugural Parade next week. These young ladies dress in antebellum dresses like the ones worn by Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” This has really drawn criticism from the NAACP who claim this is too much of a reminder of slavery and the girls shouldn’t be in the parade for Barack Obama. They claim that the ladies will be the laughing stock of the parade.

To me it’s another example of having to do what is politically correct. I am scheduled to give a talk on Texas history on Texas Independence Day and am a little reluctant to do so. My great grandfather fought against the Mexicans during the Texas Revolution. As the Hispanics become the majority in Texas they may look back on those who were their enemy and may put me in jail or at least give me a hard time. It’s kind of like those who may have said hello to a communist in the 30’s and by the time Joe McCarthy came around, in the 50’s, these folks were labeled as communist. Hitler did a similar thing in Germany and proceeded to exterminate an entire race.

I give talks on Civil War Medicine with an emphasis on the Confederacy. I last gave the talk to the sons of the Confederacy who have an active chapter in Central Texas. I was a little afraid to appear before the group and be seen with this bunch of rebels who still display the Confederate flag.

It’s getting more and more dangerous to get off the porch for fear of doing or saying something that is politically incorrect. I could even get my grandkids in trouble, so it’s probably best for me just to stay in my safe haven on the porch. I know that even the blog is going to get me in trouble one of these days. I just want to go on record by saying I love all minorities, even Muslims and gays. However, I would love to see those Alabama Maids in the Parade and, hopefully, might get a peek on TV.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Perhaps it’s time we make an American Indian Shaman the Secretary of Health or Surgeon General. A Shaman is an Indian Medicine Man who drives out evil spirits that are the cause of most illness. He uses things like gourds, spells, incantations and the like to heal the sick. The shaman makes use of mind-body medicine. This approach to healthcare will save us a lot of money as we adopt universal healthcare. We sure need to save money on something with the multi-billion dollar bailouts for everything else.

Another consideration is to make someone like Dr. Deepak Chopra the Secretary of Health. He is a proponent of integrative medicine or a holistic approach to healthcare. This makes use of alternative natural health remedies and unconventional methods of therapy such a meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and herbal medicines. This approach has an emphasis on spirituality. I, for one, am a believer in prayer. Unfortunately all this stuff has rather marginal scientific proof and the evidence for its effectiveness is purely anecdotal. That’s all right, because lack of scientific proof hasn’t stopped us yet, and much that first appears scientifically proven turns out to be hogwash.

The holistic approach to healthcare can save us a lot of money and make universal care entirely possible. Insurance companies need to stop paying for much of this high tech stuff like CT, MR and PET scans. If reimbursement was change with a better financial incentive for acupuncture and yoga then cardiologist, orthopedist and other physicians would stop buying some of the high tech equipment for use in their office to make an extra buck. They would suddenly start using acupuncture to treat coronary disease and yoga for back pain and swear to its effectiveness. If vaginal deliveries paid more than a C Section then the C Section rate would drop from its current high of 30% and infant mortality would even improve.

Yes, I’m for either an Indian Shaman or Dr. Deepak Chopra to be Secretary of Health. Who knows, they may even make a house call on the porch and again put the welfare and concern of the patient first. This is revolutionary stuff but it’s the change we need to make universal healthcare possible. It’s change we can believe in. Obama will probably buy into this because it’s the type care his father was accustomed to in his homeland. Extreme conservative and extreme liberal folks both love this holistic approach to healthcare, so it’s going to be an easy sell.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Barack Obama has recommended Dr. Sanjay Gupka for the position of Surgeon General. The duties of the Surgeon General are: The Office of the Surgeon General, under the direction of the Surgeon General, oversees the operations of the 6,000-member Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and provides support for the Surgeon General in the accomplishment of his other duties. The Office is part of the Office of Public Health and Science in the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Surgeon General serves as America's chief health educator by providing Americans the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury. The Surgeon General is appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the United States Senate for a 4-year term of office. In carrying out all responsibilities, the Surgeon General reports to the Assistant Secretary for Health, who is the principal advisor to the Secretary on public health and scientific issues.

Those are the official duties. So, he doesn’t make health care policy. He/she is basically an educator on health issues for the American people.

Gupta is a neurosurgeon on the staff at Emory University and Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. He had been a news correspondent for CNN and has been a medical news reporter for Anderson Cooper. He has written articles for Time and has been very much in the public eye. He was also a health advisor for Hillary Clinton. In short, he seems to be well qualified for the job.

Gupta is running into opposition for the appointment by Rep. John Conyer from Michigan. Conyer’s apparently doesn’t like him because he got into a big quarrel with Michael Moore. Moore is the fat, filmmaker with the scruffy beard who is a big liberal and made a movie about how sick American medicine is. Moore is a big advocate of universal healthcare, Canadian style.

Michael Moore is an obnoxious jerk. He should be placed on one of those floating chunks of ice with a polar bear in the Artic or dropped by helicopter into the outback in Australia.

From my perspective on the porch, Gupta should do a fine job. I say give him the position and get ride of Conyers and Michael Moore.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Recently, I was reminded by my favorite radio talk show host about the abysmal infant mortality rate in the U.S.. A little over 6 infants out of 1000 births die before the age of one year. There are 28 countries, including Cuba, who have better figures than the U.S.. This all seems to be a paradox because we are the country with the largest number of neonatologist and neonatal nurseries. Could it be because we have a so called, “broken health care system” with 47 million Americans who are uninsured.

I think it has little to do with the insurance. In my hospital well over half the deliveries are Medicaid, which means they are paid for by the state. No one is turned away from the delivery suite because of lack of money.

We don’t want to say the real reason for the horrible mortality figures. Most of these infants who are doomed to die are products of African–American or Hispanic parents. A large number of these are born to unwed mothers. Many of the parents are teenagers and the vast majority are at poverty level and have no education. Medical care is available if only the person realizes the need to seek it. The infant mortality is related to culture, poverty and education more than to the availability of medical care. Even when we get universal health insurance the figures will unlikely change to a great degree. An improvement in education and a change in culture will also be needed to improve our statistics.

The sexual behavior of most of the parents responsible for the infants who die is not a lot different from the deer who live in my backyard. It’s very promiscuous and primitive. The father is frequently unknown and is just someone relieving his sexual desires on the most available doe.

A relationship that stresses the importance of family and social responsibility is the best fix for the infant mortality problem. This change in culture and thinking enhanced by education must apply to all if we are to see improvement in the infant mortality. Obama has talked about change we can believe in. This is one change I sure hope he can implement by the example he sets and the vision he can create for a better America.

Universal health care coverage will be a good thing but is going to make the national debt even worse. National health care was a high priority for Obama during his campaign but with the horrible state of the economy it will likely take a back seat along with the energy crisis. It will be interesting to see what Tom Daschle has to offer when he becomes Secretary of Health.

In the meantime, I’m trying to improve the sagging longevity figures in the US by staying calm on the porch. That’s hard to do when I look out the window and see the deer laughing at me as they destroy my yard. My Christmas gluttony also didn’t help my case.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The 111th Congress convened today. I hope they can perform some miracles. I’m sure they will authorize the printing of more money and vote to take more of mine away.

It was an interesting day. Roland Burris, the selection of embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill the vacant seat of Barack Obama was denied a seat in the Senate. Burris has not been officially sanctioned by the state authorities because of Blagojevich’s illegal actions regarding the appointment. The governor, who looks like a twelve year old, is accused of wanting a payoff for the candidate he selects. I think the governor’s actions should be overlooked because he isn’t old enough to know better.

The joke of the day is that the comedian Al Franken has apparently won the senate seat from Minnesota by a landslide after a recount of the vote. He is the winner by 225 votes. The incumbent senator, Norm Coleman, is threatening to sue, so things are still up in the air. Nevertheless, it looks like Franken will be the new senator. The senate is a great place for a comedian. Saturday Night Live should just start filming the actions on the senate floor and that can be their show. With the comedy acts lead by Franken, I hope they can get Harry Reid to smile.

Even the lowly Texas Legislature is having some controversy. House Speaker Tom Craddick is under fire. He is apparently dropping his bid for a fourth term. He has served in this capacity since 2003 but has been pretty heavy handed and even accused of being a dictator.

The show in Congress is enough material for several blogs a day. The scandals are the exciting part. No doubt, we will have more stories like the one with Larry Craig. I just hope they can behave long enough to get the economy back on track but that would indeed be a miracle.

My favorite TV channel to watch on the porch may become CSPAN. All they do is film the empty chairs in Congress with some lone soul in front reading a speech. I do want to be sure and tune in if Al Franken makes a speech.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I love movies but we rarely go to the movie theater anymore. It’s just a big hassle to go to the theater and the popcorn and drink cost more than a meal at a nice restaurant. This weekend my spouse and I broke down and went to see “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” at the theater. It was worth it.

Benjamin Button was indeed a curious case. It’s based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald story. The original story is very different. It’s about a guy who ages backwards. It starts out with a guy well into his 80s who was born the last day of World War II. The movie version has the old guy meet a young girl and they later fall in love. They turn out to be the same age in the 1960’s. It’s a great love story that brings tears to your eyes. The movie is not filled with blood and gore and there are only a couple of explosions during a war scene. It’s probably not for the average audience whose favorite star is Explosion. The viewer is spellbound during this movie by the wonderful plot and great acting. I have new respect for Brad Pitt (I can’t believe I’m saying that).

The original Fitzgerald story, in my opinion, is not as good as the movie version. That’s not usually the case with the movie adaptation of stories. Sometimes, the movie sticks right with the book, as is the case with “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is my all time favorite flick.

Benjamin Button makes me want to go to the movies again. There looks like a good one coming soon with Clint Eastwood who plays an old guy who takes on a gang of neighborhood thugs. Another of my favorite movies is the original version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” I hear the new version stinks. I just don’t want to see the old version corrupted, so I will probably stay on the porch with this one.

When I was a kid I attended the movie for 9 cents. A coke cost 5 cents. A bag of popcorn was a nickel as opposed to $5.00 today. I could have a great Saturday afternoon for 15 or 20 cents. I practically grew up in the movie theater shown above. Back then I called it a picture show rather than a movie. Today it cost me $20.00 for the same entertainment. The cost and explosions are what keep me on the porch now days.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The number of college bowl games now being played will make your head swim and certainly make you a couch potato if you watch all of them. I think there is now a total of 34 bowel games. It now takes several days to play them all. They start before Christmas and go until well after New Years Day.

When I was a kid, the main bowl game for me was the Cotton Bowl. The champion of the great Southwest Conference played another winning team. To me. that was the national championship. The Cotton Bowl started back in the mid-thirties. The opening game featured the famous slinging Sammy Baugh who played for TCU. Today’s game will be the last Cotton Bowl game played in the Cotton Bowl stadium. They will be moving to the new Jerry Jones, Cowboy Stadium. As far as I’m concerned, the Cotton Bowl ended when the Southwest Conference ended. The great Sammy Baugh died a couple of weeks ago, which seems fitting to have occurred the same year as the closing of the traditional Cotton Bowl.

The other great bowl games when I was a kid were the, Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl. The Orange and Rose Bowl never meant much to me. They just had some Yankee teams playing and I didn’t much care except for Army and Navy. The four major bowl games were all played on New Years Day right after lunch. The Rose Bowl starting much later because of the time difference. All of the many other bowls are new comers and started in recent years. The Rose Bowl, of course, is the granddaddy of Bowls and started on a regular basis in 1916.

Many of the current Bowls advertise a product like Chick-fil-A, Outback and Papa Johns Pizza. Others identify a region or city like, Motor City or the Alamo Bowl.

When TV came along I was a football addict and I would line up three sets and watch all three networks simultaneously. There used to be only three networks, CBS, NBC and ABC. These networks divided up the Bowl Games.

Now that there are 34 Bowl Games and no Southwest Conference I have just stopped watching. The pro playoffs and Superbowl have also taken the starch out of the college bowl games. I don’t really care to watch games all during the holidays, so I now keep the porch silent and blackout football altogether. I now prefer to sit back in my rocker and reminisce about great Cotton Bowl games of the past, like the one in 1954 between Rice and Alabama. An Alabama player came off the bench and tackled Rice’s Dicky Maegle, preventing a 95 yard touchdown run. The referees gave Rice the score anyway. I know there must be some fantastic plays in the games of today but that one between Rice and Alabama is hard to beat.