Monday, October 26, 2009

Hippos Under the Blanket

Amid all of the hoopla and controversy about health insurance and the “public option”, ostensibly to be offered by the federal government as an option to private insurance, this is the first time I’ve seen the below statement, included almost as an afterthought midway through this article from the Washington Post: Prognosis improves for public insurance

"The public option would effectively be just another insurance plan offered on the open market. It would likely be administered by a private insurance provider, charging premiums and copayments like any other policy."

Interesting. But why would that particular statement jump out at me? Because I’ve seen it before, in concept if not in verbatim script:

Excerpt from What So Proudly We Hailed”:
“ . . . they never changed the infrastructure of the private system already in place. They “ran” the program on the surface, but the real meat & potatoes of the whole thing was still run by the insurance companies, those 3rd party middlemen who added no value at all and did nothing except transfer money from here to there and grow rich in the process.

The only difference was that now they had more customers, which, the last time anybody at an insurance company checked, wasn’t a bad thing. More customers meant more money, and all the healthcare companies had to do to get those customers (and the money that came with them) was to allow the state government offices to have access to patient accounts and medical records. No harm in that; they were all working together after all.

So when the program went federal, all that really happened was that instead of the health insurance companies working with state governments, they started working with the feds instead. It was a different colored blanket, but the hippos wrestling underneath hadn’t changed. They’d just gotten fatter.”

Just dumb luck? Apparently I'm either very dumb or very lucky, because this isn't the first time reality has followed the fictional words I penned two years ago. I always thought the conclusion to What So Proudly We Hailed was beyond the realm of any real possibility, but as we continue to head in that direction, I'll admit that I'm not so sure anymore.

Friday, October 23, 2009

For the Common Good of All

When it comes to the government executing on the statement in the U.S. Constitution that reads “ . . . provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States . . .”, is there a limit on what they “provide”?

Apparently not, according to the House Majority leader:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the individual health insurance mandates included in every health reform bill, which require Americans to have insurance, were “like paying taxes.” He added that Congress has “broad authority” to force Americans to purchase other things as well, so long as it was trying to promote “the general welfare.”
Source: Hoyer Says Constitution’s ‘General Welfare’ Clause Empowers Congress to Order Americans to Buy Health Insurance

Is it just me, or is Hoyer’s definition of what “provide” means a little different from what you or I would find in an average dictionary? It seems to me that in addition to the “broad authority” which Hoyer grants the government, he also afford himself a “broad interpretation” of word meanings as well.

What’s really disturbing about this is not just the prospect of the government telling people that they have to purchase health insurance (or pay a fine if they don’t), but the fact that if/when this is done, a precedent will have been set that will undoubtedly give the government the ability to dictate what you must buy in the future, if it so chooses.

What else will come up in the years ahead that the government will deem necessary for all Americans to purchase “for the general welfare”?

Hoyer refers to car insurance as an example of a comparable mandate; but that’s not even close to the same thing. You only have to buy car insurance if you decide to drive a car; you have the option not to, even though very few people exercise that option.

Not so with mandatory health insurance. If you’re alive, you will have to buy it.

Is there anyone naive enough to actually believe that this would be the last thing the government would force its citizens to purchase once we give it that ability?

He added that Congress has “broad authority” to force Americans to purchase other things as well, so long as it was trying to promote “the general welfare.”

Hoyer’s words, not mine.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Female Word Meanings

I don’t think Catherine attended the same type of schools that I did because she doesn’t seem to understand the meanings of normal everyday words. I’m also aware that she isn’t the only woman who doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of the basic concepts of the English language; it’s an affliction that apparently affects wives everywhere.

When I was in school, I paid attention sometimes, and that investment during my youth - added to the vast store of information that I have gleaned during my marriage - makes me somewhat of an authority on this subject.

With that in mind, and in my constant struggle to make the world a better place for all, I’ve decided to clarify a few simple words that seem to have completely a different meaning to women than those that have been officially defined by that famous bachelor Mr. Webster (and we know that he was a bachelor because if he had ever been married he might have actually defined some of these things differently and thus saved many a newly married man from countless hours of confusion and lonely nights sleeping on the couch, not to mention entire forests that have been mown down over the years to print out credit card receipts for roses).

1) nothing (n) – something of no importance

Female definition: something of great importance that is so ridiculously obvious it will not be explained to the husband even though he needs to apologize for it and make massive & immediate reparations. (In context: “What’s wrong, honey?” “Nothing.”) It should be noted that the magnitude of “nothing” will increase exponentially if the husband naively mistakes its use to actually mean “something of no importance”.

2) minute (n) – a period of time equal to 60 seconds

Female definition: any period of time required to accomplish a task that the wife wants done right now, the scope of which may range from hours to days. Usually preceded by the words “Honey, can you come here for a - ”

3) phone-call (n) - a convenient, easy way to transfer information over a distance

Female definition: a convenient, easy, and absolutely non-negotiable action required whenever a husband will miss his expected arrival by more than 5 minutes (of the type that equal 60 seconds). Not applicable to wives at all, regardless of time frame involved.

4) money (n) – coins or paper currency issued by a government as a medium of exchange

Female definition: an inexhaustible and magically appearing resource that must be exchanged for goods & services as quickly as possible in order to prevent its accumulation.

5) period (n) – an occurrence of menstruation

Female definition: a time of extreme fatigue and crankiness lasting from 5 to 31 days of any given month.

6) no (adv) – a term used to express categorical refusal

Female definition: a term used to express categorical refusal. Common synonyms: I’ve got a headache; I just washed my hair; Is that all you think about?; Your parents are sleeping in the next room; Your parents will be visiting next week; You have parents. Sometimes also used to mean “yes” - but rarely - and you’ll never realize it if it does.

One-Stop Chipping

Every time I’ve written a plug for What So Proudly We Hailed I’ve told myself “this is the last time.”

And then I read something else so disturbingly close to what is in the book that I feel compelled to do it again. So I apologize in advance, but . . .

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been around for a long time. This excerpt was from a news article I read this morning:

About the size of a grain of rice, the microchip is inserted just under the skin and contains only a unique, 16-digit identifier. The microchip itself does not contain any other data other than this unique electronic ID, nor does it contain any Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking capabilities. And unlike conventional forms of identification, the Health Link cannot be lost, stolen, misplaced, or counterfeited. It is safe, secure, reversible, and always with you.
Source: Microchip Implant to Link Your Health Records, Credit History, Social Security

It’s not quite “one chip does it all”, but it’s pretty close. GPS tracking technology could be added easily to this particular chip, and, as was announced back in May of this year, the ability to remotely kill with an RFID chip has already been invented, if not yet patented: Saudi 'Killer Chip' Implant Would Track, Eliminate Undesirables

Should GPS and remote termination capability ever be added in, you’ll have the exact same RFID chip that is depicted in What So Proudly We Hailed.

And then the fun really begins.

What So Proudly We Hailed is a novel of the future. It was not written as a “light Sunday afternoon read”, but as a warning of where technology can lead when it is coupled with a blind, unquestioning trust in mankind. In that respect, reading it is kind of like waking up to a cold, overcast Monday morning.

Most people don’t like cold, overcast Monday mornings. But how else would we know we don’t like them unless we have personally experienced one? What So Proudly We Hailed depicts a future that nobody would want; but how will we know for sure that we don’t want it unless we know what it is?

I would suggest that it could even be important to see that unwanted future, because unlike the weather on Monday, we might actually be able to do something about it.

Maybe you should read What So Proudly We Hailed. You don't have anything to be afraid of.

Then again, maybe you do.

What So Proudly We Hailed and Finding Liberty can be purchased from Both books – including delivery – for only $20.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Changed?

Back in the mid-80’s I went down to Engineroom Lower Level (ERLL) on the U.S.S. Woodrow Wilson to relieve the watch. I got a turnover from the previous ERLL watchstander who gave me an update on the current status. Among other things, he told me that he had just switched the lube oil purifier to the #2 TG lube oil sump.

A submarine has two steam driven turbine generators (TG’s) which generate all of the electricity for the entire ship. Each generator has its own lube oil system to flush & cool its bearings. Because it isn’t possible to do an oil change of these oil systems like we do on our cars, the ship also has an oil purifying system that takes oil from a sump, cleans it, and then pumps it back. The lube oil purifier, or “LOP”, gets switched around during the day to different oil sumps so that all of the oil systems are under a continuous cleaning cycle.

It’s not hard to switch the LOP. Each oil sump has an inlet and outlet valve; all you have to do is shut those two valves on the sump you’re done with and open them on the sump that you want to purify. Pretty easy. And this is what the prior watchstander had told me he had just done.

About 5 minutes after he left, I’m standing there drinking my coffee and trying to fully wake up when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see lube oil shooting out of the vent line for the #2 TG sump and spraying all over the place, which is certainly not what it was supposed to be doing.

When a casualty happens on a ship, one of the first things that we were taught to do is to ask “What changed?” In other words, it everything was fine a few minutes or hours before, did anything happen recently that might have caused the problem you are seeing now?

In this case, the ship was not doing any maneuvers or speed changes. No evolutions or drills were in progress. We were simply cruising along submerged in the North Atlantic at a leisurely 1/3 bell with all of the regular hums and vibrations that our engineroom normally had. And yet, for some reason, there’s oil shooting out of the vent on this sump, which, again, was definitely not normal.

Knowing that the last watchstander had just changed the valve lineup on the oil system that was now exhibiting this problem, I ran to check that the valves were in the proper alignment.

They were not.

In the state I found it, he had left the system so that the LOP was pulling oil from #1 TG sump, purifying it, and then dumping it into the #2 TG sump. I took corrective action and fixed the problem.

And then spent the rest of my 6 hour watch fuming mad as I cleaned up a whole bunch of spilled oil.

It’s a simple concept; not even close to rocket science. If there wasn’t a problem before and now there is, did something change that might have created the problem?

Granted, sometimes things just break or go wrong for no specific reason at all. But what I’ve found is that, more often than not, when things go wrong it’s usually because something changed. This applies to relationships, employment, the economy, our healthcare system; pretty much anything.

Over the past two years I’ve written some very pointed & critical posts about vaccines, modern drugs, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and other “modern marvels”.

Do I know that any of these things are dangerous? Do I have any proof at all? Absolutely not. I don’t know for sure that there is anything wrong with any of them.

But I do know that most of those things came into being in just the past few decades. Today, we are dealing with an explosion of diabetes, obesity, and autism in our kids. Just this morning, I read about a new study which states that 1 in 100 children are now diagnosed as autistic. 1 out of every 100! Why?

In our small community here, 2 kids have already died this year from cancer, and a third is fighting for his life. Why?

In all my years growing up in public school, I can’t remember a single kid who had autism or that died from cancer. I remember a couple of kids with Down’s Syndrome, a couple who were diabetic (from birth), and a couple who were morbidly obese.

Nothing like what we are seeing today. It didn’t use to be this way; why is it like this now?

I find myself asking that same question that I did 20 years ago – What changed? – and I see that the number of vaccines we are pumping into our kids has more than doubled since I was young. I see HFCS in everything we eat. I see people bypassing sugar for chemically created sweeteners. I see people rushing their kids into the hospital emergency room for antibiotics every time they get a sniffle or a slight temperature.

We didn’t do or have any of these things when I was growing up. Is it possible that there may be a link? Should we not at least take a hard, unbiased, objective look?

My kids are not autistic, diabetic, or obese. They are healthy, fit, and suffer no allergies. Is this simply due to “good genes”, or could it possibly be because we avoid vaccines, HFCS, aspartame, and emergency rooms in general whenever we can?

What about our school systems? Our kids used to get a decent education – what has changed that would allow my kids who are homeschooled to outperform kids being taught by dedicated, educated experts in their field? I’ll readily admit that I don’t know more than the teachers do; so how is it even possible that I can do a better job than them? But I can. Why?

What has changed during the last 20 or 30 years in our school system? Is the problem simply cultural; a sign of the times? Or did we in fact do something – or several things – that fundamentally altered the system to create what we have today?

I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d put my money on the latter.

I don’t know all of the answers. I’m not even sure that I know all of the questions. But I’m not blind either, and while I may not be the brightest bulb in the lamp store, I’ll at least give myself credit for having a persistent – and possibly annoying – flicker.

In closing, what unsettles me even more than the fact that nobody seems to be investigating the question of “what has changed”, is another question which, if we ever get around to answering the first one, would seem to be the obvious follow-up:

Why was it changed?