Saturday, February 27, 2010

I never write my elected officials in the State or US Congress because it doesn’t seem to do any good. They do what they want to do. The healthcare reform stuff is a good example. This piece of legislation is about to pass by something called reconciliation or a vote of a simple majority. If that doesn’t work, the President can act along as authorized by Article I, Section B of the Constitution, which allows him to declare war without approval of Congress. He will be declaring war on the American People with the current version of healthcare reform. I have finally broken with my practice of not writing to my elected officials. I have written a letter but it will do no good because he is a Republican who has no voice.

After listening to the healthcare Summit I am convinced that Republican and Democrats are both wrong, but yet both are right. We need reform but we don’t need to crush the country with increasing the national debt. If they would only listen to me and stop their current partisan bickering The Republicans need to stop saying NO and being afraid Obama is going to get credit for the legislation. The Democrats need to be aware of the cost. If they would only listen to me.

The following is my proposal:
1. Reform of the greedy insurance companies. No more of this denial of coverage because of preexisting conditions.
2. Elimination of physician self-referral or require physician disclosure if they own the equipment they are using for diagnosis and treatment.
3. Coordination of care among providers.
4. Aggressively attack fraud and abuse with greater scrutiny of claims and strict enforcement of laws for those who are guilty.
5. Mandate coverage with subsidy for those who cannot pay after needs assessment.
6. Malpractice reform with cap on non-economic or punitive damages.

If we did the above, the 40 million uninsured could easily be covered without increasing the national debt or increasing taxes even on the rich. We should eliminate the current 2000 page document with all its pork, like government coverage of Medicaid in Nebraska just to get one senators vote.

It would be good to get some other news on the porch besides healthcare reform and gridlocks in Washington. The nice thing about the Olympics is the US seems to be united in the support of our athletes. At least we are united about something, but I’m sure there are folks who don’t ever support the Olympics.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

For much of my adult life I have tried to overcome prejudices that I learned as a child. I have made a lot of headway, but then things happen that set me back to childhood. The recent flap with Toyota is a prime example.

After Pearl Harbor my family hated the Japanese and didn’t trust them. It’s a shame what happened to many of the innocent Japanese Americans who were put in internment camps during WWII just because of their race. I suspect that our government didn’t have much choice and didn’t know whom to trust. The Japanese as a nation sure couldn’t be trusted after pulling a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. They also proved to be a down right mean and evil bunch of folks because of the many atrocities committed during the war. These people were masters of torture.

Even before the war the Japanese were known for cheap and worthless stuff. Made in Japan meant it was inferior. After the war they started the Total Quality Management concept for almost everything they made. They appeared to have completely changed their stripes. Electronics and automobiles were quality products. Now they seem to be going back to their old ways with the practices of Toyota.

It always bothers me how these people bow and smile as they slip a dagger into your liver. The CEO of Toyota appeared before a Congressional committee today. He bowed and then said “so sorry.” To me, that doesn’t do the trick. He should have bowed as he inserted a sword into his abdomen as is commonly done back in his homeland.

In my travels I have also found the Japanese to be the most rude tourist on the planet. They disregard all rules of courtesy as they break in line and elbow everyone else aside. They shove to the front of the crowd with their cameras to get the best shot.

Maybe the Toyota flap will bring them down a notch, but don’t count on it. I’m just glad I don’t own a Toyota even if it was safe. I’m still of the redneck mentality that wants to stay American. Even my porch sitting and eating chicken fried steak is an American custom as opposed to sitting on the floor sipping sake while eating rice with chop sticks. I’m afraid I have lapsed back into my WWII view.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Like many people my age, some of my first reading material was Dick and Jane. However, I perfected my reading skills on comic books. When I was a kid I was addicted to the comics and would go to the newsstand in my little hometown and just hang around and read them. The owner was kind enough not to run me away because I would usually end up buying at least one. I also traded comics with other kids. My favorite comics were Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel. I even belonged to the Captain Marvel Club and would write in his secret code, which was the alphabet backwards.

Comics cost 10 cents back in my day, which was quite a bit of money during WWII. I just wish I had held onto some of those comics because they are now worth a fortune. The comic pictured above is the first Superman Comic published in June 1938 by Action Comics. It sold today in New York for 1 Million Dollars. Yes, that is 1 Million Dollars. Not bad for something that cost 10 cents. I don’t know many things that have produced that good of return.

It was reported that there are around 100 of these comics remaining but this one must be in the best condition. If I owned it I would be afraid to even open it.

I am somewhat of a pack rat and like to collect things but it seems that I have collected the wrong stuff. I have thrown away thousands of dollars worth of comics. During WWII my brother-in-law sent home a number of things from Germany. I remember one of the things he sent was a large red Nazis flag. My sister eventually threw all this stuff away and it was only recently that I saw a flag, just like the one I had, in an antique store with a price tag of $5,000.

Anyway, I was happy to see that Superman Comic was worth so much. It gives me some reassurance that there are other people around as crazy as I am. I’ll bet there are even others who would like to sit on the porch and reminisce about the lazy days of childhood and reading comics.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Events of this week have been hard on my nerves. The fiery crash of the suicide pilot into the building in Austin was very unnerving. I was afraid we were in for another 9/11 until I thought for a minute. Why would a terrorist crash into a building in Austin anymore than a suicide bomber would detonate himself in a Dairy Queen in Salado? The disturbing thing about Joseph Stack, the pilot, was his manifesto published on the internet. It almost sounded like one of my blogs. The guy was unhappy with all aspects of the government, right and left. He just completely cracked and it’s amazing more people don’t do the same.

The other thing that has been hard on my nerves is watching the Olympics. It’s difficult for me to watch because I’m afraid these folks are going to wipe themselves out like the guy on the luge track. Before Lindsey Vonn made her winning downhill run, two earlier skiers had taken a big spill and amazingly survived. I was waiting for Shaun White to break his neck on one of his flips. Even the figure skating unnerves me.

The amazing thing of the week was Shani Davis winning a gold. How did a black guy get into the winter Olympics? He stood out like a catsup bottle on the table at an upscale restaurant. Hitler walked out of the Olympics when Jesse Owens won all those years ago. The Fuhrer must be turning over in his grave with the win by Davis.

The master race of Germany may be making a comeback. They now rank second in the number of medals. Russia is far behind. All the results might be different if they had snow in Vancover.

The last bit of news was the confession and apology of Tiger Woods. That didn’t bother my nerves as much as just make me sick to see a fallen hero. He may make a comeback but we must always remember that scum always rises. He will probably always be tainted like a Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Pete Rose.

Anyway, I’m hoping for a quieter week on the porch next week. The weekend certainly hasn’t started off well because I just looked up and saw about 20 deer in the backyard. Wish I could put these pest on the luge track.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I recently had some excellent therapy for my depression related to the economy and the state of our country. The inactions of our Congress and the gridlock in Washington are enough to make anybody depressed. The unemployment figures, increasing national debt, unsettled stock market, cost and availability of healthcare, cooperate thieves, fraud, church fires and a host of other things makes me very worried about the future for my grandkids. This extraordinarily cold winter has also made me more depressed.

My recent therapy sure helped lift my spirits and give some hope for the future. The therapy was an exposure to some of the musical activities of my grandchildren that usually occur in the spring. One of my granddaughters was part of a musical production by her high school. The production was Seussical, a musical based on Dr. Seuss characters. Next, two of my grandchildren were selected to play a few numbers with a Russian Chamber Music group who performed in Temple. The group is called Chamber Orchestra Kremlin and they were absolutely fantastic. Finally, one of my granddaughters made All-State Symphonic Orchestra and performed in San Antonio this past weekend. They played the 5th Symphony of Shostakovich and were as good as any professional symphony I have ever heard. That symphony by Shostakovich is a journey for the soul. As a matter of fact, all of the combined musical performances, I experience, were a journey for my soul.

Before the All-State Orchestra performed, the President of the Texas Music Educators Association made a few remarks about the kids who were about to play. The kids involved in music have a much higher SAT score than average, and more go college and on to successful careers. Most of these kids will not major in music but are excellent students in math and a whole variety of subjects.

Looking and listening to these various musical programs gave me a lot of hope about the future. The young folks seem head and shoulders over what I was at their level a half century ago. I have hopes that they are smart enough to fix many of the problems we have created and will help America stay competitive with the rest of the world.

I hope some of these kids will go into politics and public service and straighten out this mess. Unfortunately, politics, and the law have become so corrupt that bright young folks avoid these career paths. It is also unfortunate that medicine and the ministry are not far behind politics and law. I only hope that if they become investment bankers and CEOs they will not follow in the footsteps of the present criminals who currently occupy those jobs.

Anyway, this musical experience gives me some comfort and peace of mind. Now, if I can just see some signs of spring from the porch I will feel even better. I may have to wait for the budding of the pecan and mesquite trees before I am completely rejuvenated. Meanwhile, I will just listen to a little Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings and even read Dr. Seuss to help my soul journey into spring.

Monday, February 15, 2010

America could be called a country of Gs. At first we were Great and God-fearing. Now we are Greedy, Gullible and Godless. Our Greed and Gullibility has predisposed us to the so-called Ponzi schemes. This is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to investors from their own money or money paid by \subsequent investors rather than from actual profits earned. This requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors to keep the scheme going and will eventually collapse because of its own weight because the earning are less than the payments to investors.

Bernie Madoff had the most colossal scheme in history that was exposed when the decline in the economy caused investors to want their funds that turned out not to be there. More recently, Texas billionaire, Robert Sanford, had an 8 billion dollar scheme going when he fraudulently peddled high-yielding CDs . These CDs were in his off-shore bank and the yield wasn’t there so he is now in jail for fraud and robbing folks of millions of dollars.

Folks are just greedy and gullible. The message is to beware of something that sounds to good to be true. Smart folks are the easiest to fool and other groups such as fundamentalist Christians, who will believe anything, are suckers for the schemes. These schemes are most easily perpetrated by those with a similar background to the victim such as Jews to Jews, Christians to Christians and Rednecks to Rednecks. Rednecks don’t usually have the money to invest

The name Ponzi comes from Charles Ponzi who became famous for using this technique in 1920. His scheme had to do with international reply coupons for postage stamps where he diverted investors money to support payments to earlier investors and his own personal wealth.

Another name for all this is con games. Pyramid schemes are also a type of Ponzi scheme. Medicine is full of con artist and charlatans of all types. I have always had concerns about chiropractic medicine. Patent medicines that line the shelves in the grocery store are usually worthless and are a type of con. There is little proof that the herbal drugs do any good. All this falls into the category of cons and fraud.

Anyway, I’m not going to invest in any of these schemes since all my money is now going to the electric bill to keep the porch warm. Just beware of anything that sounds to good to be true. It may be another Madoff or Sanford.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In a recent blog I complained about the sorry state of food. An announcement this week may be the last straw for me. Every few days, doctors and others researchers come up with another cause for cancer. This week they are blaming soft drinks with sugar as a cause for pancreatic cancer. This means that my beloved Dr. Pepper is going to kill me.

When I was a kid, even before starting to school, I developed pneumonia. This was in the days before penicillin and other antibiotics. Sulfa drug was the only antimicrobial available. I was hospitalized and given IV fluids and sulfa drugs. I wouldn’t eat or drink anything. My brother, who worked at a drug store at the time, brought me some ice cream. I still remember that ice cream as one of the few things I would eat. The thing that really saved me was Dr. Pepper. I loved that soft drink and it was the only fluid I would take. It actually helped save my life. I have been a loyal fan of Dr. Pepper ever since and have ingested barrels of the stuff during my life. Now I find that it is going to kill me. That news is more than a body can stand. The TV even had an interview by a doctor I know who said the stuff was a killer. He talked like he was an authority on the lethal nature of soft drinks. He said that sugary soft drink make the pancreas work overtime to produce insulin and predispose it to getting cancer. A few years ago they were saying that coffee was a cause of pancreatic cancer and I stopped this for a couple of days. Now they have implicated my precious life saving Dr. Pepper and it is an insult. I have been on the planet for three quarters of a century and am too addicted to give up my beloved drink this late in life. I plan to have a Dr. Pepper logo stamped on my tombstone.

There is nothing safe anymore. We get a warning almost daily about something else that is out there to kill us. China is trying to poison us, Japan is making our cars to run away when we push the accelerator, our vegetables are laced with lethal E Coli, meat contains deadly cholesterol, fish is tainted with carcinogens and mercury, and all fast foods make you drop dead on the spot. There is nothing left. I’m building a bubble on the porch to protect me from the Swine flu and other pathogens. Inside the bubble I plan to restrict my diet to yogurt, a multigrain bread and sterile water. For the rest of the world, I would recommend selling your Dr. Pepper and other soft drink stock because my going on the wagon will cause these stock values to plummet.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I recently read John Grisham’s latest book, “ Ford Country.” This has nothing to do with Ford automobiles. It’s a collection of several short stories and each is a terrific read by this master storyteller. I liked it so much I picked up one of his older novels “The Rainmaker” and read it this week. Grisham can really spin a yarn.

I have a great distaste for most trial lawyers. When I was in practice I saw much evidence of their frivolous lawsuits. Reading Grisham, I do gain a little appreciation for the value of the plaintiff attorneys. “The Rainmaker’ contains characters who represent the worst of the legal profession including ambulance chasers. It’s also about some who want to do right by going after those who have committed a grave injustice. The story centers around a corrupt and greedy health insurance company that denied claims just to make a buck. The insurance companies are out of control as we have seen with the incredible rise in premiums. Much of this goes to support the salaries of greedy executives. Unfortunately, we are seeing a lot of capitalism going wild with greed and the only way to contain it is through litigation or government regulation. The safety and rights of individuals is jeopardized by this greed. The more the population increases, in a free society, the more there is a need for regulation and laws to protect us from our greatest enemy – us.

There has recently been a lot of news about the safety of X-Ray machines and the lack of concern regarding radiation exposure by the users. The machines may emit excessive amounts of radiation and of even greater concern is the indiscriminate use of X-Ray by physicians to make a profit. Today, I learned that the FDA is going to have greater oversight of radiation producing equipment such as CT scanners, fluoroscopy and nuclear medicine. Machines will have detectors to measure the amount of radiation and warn the user of danger levels. There is still nothing to restrict the doctors from ordering unnecessary studies because they think it is medically justified when the real reason is to pad their pocketbook.

Unfortunately. a lot of things are in need of regulating. I wish someone would take a critical look at electric companies. The major increase in electric bills this winter is partially due to the extremely cold weather but I suspect there is more to it. Even the food we eat and the toys our kids play with need strict oversight are farmers and manufacturers would poison us all to death. The meat we consume is from animals that have been given antibiotics and resulted in resistant strains of bacteria such a MRSA. The list goes on and on. It’s sad that the human race can’t behave and there is a need for trial lawyers and government regulation.

All this has even affected my life on the porch. We are turning the lights off when it gets dark and turning the heat down to save on the expensive electricity. I’m becoming more like my ancestors who lived on the farm before electricity. I’m just going to bed early and staying under the cover. Guess I will be writing some of my blogs from under the cover so the spelling may be even worse than usual.

Monday, February 08, 2010

I watched the Super Bowl because I wanted New Orleans to win. My spouse even got to watch it with me and we had a Super Bowl party for two. It was a great game and New Orleans won. I wanted them to win because they were sort of the underdog and New Orleans deserved a boost after Katrina. I guess the city has now come back to life with the win.

The game was exciting and the commercials were terrific. A commercial cost a company 2.5 million for 30 seconds, so that means Budweiser and Doritos have to sell a lot of their stuff to pay for the airtime. There were other commercials but Bud and Doritos win in my book. Those commercials with babies talking like adults are funny but I have great difficulty hearing what they say.

In general, I don’t care for the gorilla, thug millionaire football players but Drew Brees, the quarterback for the Saints, seems to be a class act. Payton Manning for the Colts is also great and I sort of felt sorry for him when he threw the interception and the Saints scored and virtually sewed up the win. The other play of the game was the onside kick at the beginning of the second half that totally surprised the Colts and turned the tide of the game to New Orleans.

The low point of the Super Bowl was the half-time show with The Who. This is a rock group that started in the sixties and have been known for the destruction of their instruments on stage. In this performance, I wish they would have self-destructed They are now just old men, like me, and had no business out there with all the lights and fireworks. Their show was nothing but lights, smoke and noise. Peter Townshend, the guitar player, is definitely going to dislocate his shoulder if he continues with his wild gyrations. Anyway, they were bad, bad, bad. They need to go back to Who-ville or wherever they came from and check into a nursing home for old rock-stars. So far, Janet Jackson’s breast has been the best halftime show in years.

We can now all relax; football season is over. For the sports fans, the Winter Olympics is now on stage, followed by March Madness. As for me, I will watch very little of either. I am just as content to watch the deer romp in my back yard from my box seat on the porch.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

This should be an interesting winter Olympics. There is no snow in Vancouver. El Nino has moved all the snow south. The winter Olympics should have been in Oklahoma City this year. It would be easier to build a mountain than create a snowstorm.

They are creating a base in the mountains with hay and then hauling in snow by the truckloads to coat everything. That has to be a tremendous job. One time I was in Canada and toured a glacier. One of the Japanese tourists on the tour chipped a piece of the glacier off and put it in her purse as a souvenir. I suspect she was very surprised when she returned to the hotel to see a little puddle of water in her purse. That is the way I picture the snow that is being hauled in. The skiers will be landing in a swimming pool filled with hay. All of this should be fun to watch. NBC is covering the Olympics and at least it will be more entertaining than the recent Tonight Show episodes with Conan.

I have never been a big Winter Olympics fan, especially with the skiing events. The figure skating is fun to watch and these events should be okay with the warm weather in Canada. The skating is inside so it could take place in Brownsville, Texas or anywhere south of San Antonio.

I guess the problem in Vancouver and El Nino is due to global warming and is George Bush’s fault. With all this weird weather it seems like the poles are shifting to the middle of the world. The central part of the US may become the new North Pole. Iran and the Middle East could become the South Pole and that would truly be like hell freezing over.

With all this bizarre weather, I’m just happy to be on the porch. I have just been watching the rain come down and it’s nice because the deer seem to take cover and are out of sight. Instead of the Winter Olympics, I may watch Lawrence of Arabia because the desert scenes will be better than those in Vancouver.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Most Emergency Rooms are packed with patients and the waiting time for care is extraordinarily long. If you have a minor illness it could take hours to be seen. Doc in the Box or Urgent care Centers have given a little relief but the ERs are still packed. It’s mostly people who can’t get a doctors appointment or they are just afraid they may have something bad and want it checked out. When a patient has an acute illness they can’t wait weeks for a doctor’s appointment. There are a lot of uninsured folks seeking care because they have nowhere else to go and are not usually turned away from an Emergency Room.

I have noticed through the years that there are times when the ER is almost empty. You won’t find anyone there on Christmas morning unless they are truly sick. Another time is during the Super Bowl. All of America stops for that event, even the Emergency Rooms. A couple of hours after the game the place will again become packed. It would be interesting to plot the death rate in America hour by hour. I suspect it would drop during the Super Bowl. The world stops during the game so the number of accidents drop and iatrogenic deaths in the hospitals stop for that brief period of time.

Another way to clear the ER is to walk in with a uniform that has a US Border Patrol Patch. The illegal aliens will scramble for the door. The ER is the main source of medical care for illegal aliens. These folks are usually pretty sick and really stress the system that is already stressed to the breaking point.

One other word of caution about the ERs. If at all possible don’t go in the first couple of weeks in July because that’s when all the new interns and residents start and these are the ones who deliver most of the care. For that reason I think it would be best to have the Super Bowl on July 4th. A lot of lives would be saved. With the way it is now, I always stay on the porch on July 4th, surrounded by pillows, so I won’t run the risk of being taken to he ER.