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122. Considerations for a Good Life

18 Sep

I recently met a young man who was troubled and was dealing with difficult decisions. When I think about him I imaging how much better his life could be if he did not make the same mistakes that I have made. There is so much to learn. I have listed below many of the important factors that one should consider.

1. In many interactions, it is better to ask questions than make assertions. An assertion implies that the recipient is unaware of something and deficient in some way. For example, a dental assistant said to a patient “your teeth are yellow.” That would imply that his house does not contain mirrors, that his vision is deficient, or that he is stupid. Better to ask “would you agree that your teeth are yellow?”

2. As a general rule, it is always good to tell the truth. However, there are specific circumstances where saying something true, can be hurtful or destructive. A communication must be evaluated, comparing its negatives against the value of “truth.” A husband may have thoughts about a sexy secretary, but truthfully describing these thoughts to our wife could ruin a marriage. Everything you say to another person must be evaluated.

3. Dealing with a complicated situation usually does not have a quick and simple solution. The most successful people consider all the possible outcomes for each important decision variation considered. Also to be considered is relevant history and the opinions of experts.

4. Learning how to find truth, and evaluating the truthfulness of a statement, is extremely important. We are lucky today, to have a resource like the Internet to help us with this. After your formal education is completed, it can be beneficial to continue with informal learning. Try to keep an open mind in most areas.

5. For your entire life, frequently stretch the major muscles of your body. Consider carefully what you eat (“you are what you eat”). Get 8-hours of sleep every night. Exercise regularly. Good health habits make a big difference.

6. I can say from bitter experience: if at all possible, never make an enemy. Learn to assert yourself in a polite way. The rules seem simple, but this is a very difficult area and attention to this is critical to success. Think about how to respond in difficult situations. Many people you don’t like can be helpful in some way. Keep the doors open.

7. Doctors, dentists, etc are necessary for a healthy life. Try to choose them carefully (not easy). Most of what they say is true, but as you further your education you will find that some statements are controversial and some good ideas are omitted.

8. All of the above is serious, but a good part of life should be fun.

This whole page is an over-simplification and certainly incomplete, but still may be helpful. Every concept could be discussed and clarified in several pages, and for each rule, there could be exceptions. I hope that this piece is at least thought-provoking.

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121. Democrats Do Have Important Messages.

10 Sep

Republicans love to claim that Democrats don’t have positive goals and they are only interested attacking Trump. For example, Sarah Sanders says they “have no message” and only want to “attack people that support this president.”

I have studied politics for many years and I find this assertion to be absurd. Democrats have always promoted the following themes (with a reasonable amount of variation). Here is my version of Democrat goals.

1. All Democrats support improved health care coverage for our citizens.

2. Social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, etc. have always been preserved and often improved by Democrats.

3. Democrats support the USA Constitution and traditional governmental institutions, including the FBI, DOJ, and all other executive branch agencies. They also support the authoritative press.

4. Democrats tend to promote the financial success of the middle class and discourage excessive and inappropriate financial support for wealthy people. Democrats favor fair tax programs and elimination of unnecessary subsidies for righ corporations.

5. Democrats believe in the importance of voting rights for everyone who is eligible. Laws that make it difficult for certain people (often low-income) to vote (voter suppression) must be changed.

6. Tax programs and other policies should be designed to increase average income for the non-rich (almost no change), while income has been steadily increasing for the wealthy.

7. Democrats traditionally support NATO and all of our other world-wide allies.

8. Our international trade policies should be designed to help our USA workers in terms of employment and improving their income.

9. Democrats are anti-torture, promote improved gun laws, and favor reproductive “choice.

10. Democrats promote inclusiveness, are against racism, defend the rights of lesbian, gay, and transgender people, and DACA (dreamers).

11. Democrats promote peaceful (and even generous) international relations and agree to war only in drastic situations.

12. Democrats support unions — the right to join them and organize.

13. Almost all Democrats accept American capitalism, but also believe in social programs and certain other limits. There is confusion over the word “socialism.” The few Dems that use this term actually mean support of “social programs” within a capitalistic system.

14. Democrats believe that campaign laws should emphasize equality; and those favoring the rich, like “Citizens United” should be abolished.

15. Democrats support efforts to combat climate change, regulate pollution, promote clean energy, and other efforts relevant to safety for our citizens.

16. Democrats generally support public education, more free education, and federal support for students.

A casual research of Democrat leader speeches and their websites will quickly show that there are many consistent messages and ideals.

In the past two years, Trump has purposely dominated the news with his outrageous tweets and policies so that many Democrat message are obscured. Trump has messages but they are extremely inconsistent, not factual, and change frequently. Most just serve his ego and many like “make America great again” are vague and meaningless. He attacks our basic institutions and our long-term vital allies, who are perplexed by his communications.

106. Health Care for All

30 Jul

It is already a basic USA value to help everyone with at least some types of health problems. If a homeless person is lying in the street with severe injuries, he will at least get minimal care. Covertly, Republicans might not agree with this, but on the record they would have to support it or be castigated.

Given this premise, that in practice, everyone will get health care if needed, then it does make sense to require everyone pay for it. The simplest and most agreeable implementation is Medicare for all. Remember that our POTUS promised health care for all at good rates, in his campaign.

I suggest that we greatly increase taxes for rich folks by having higher rates and by closing tax loopholes. If you are extremely rich, then your taxes will be extremely high. If you have no income, then no tax. If you have a small regular income then you could have a very small increase. As income increases, then the percent allotted to health care expense also gradually increases. Lower and middle class people will pay a little more and wealthy people a lot more. Why should wealthy people pay a lot more: because they use a lot of resources and because much of their wealth has been gained by unfair influence on Congressional financial (tax, subsidies, IRA’s, etc.) legislation.

Note that I am not against people who become rich through hard work and intelligence. It is extreme wealth and wealth unfairly gained that bothers me; particularly when there is substantial poverty in our nation. Many very wealthy people have stated that they would not object to increased taxes.

Countries with universal health care include: Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom (see Wikipedia).

 

103. Republicans Hate ObamaCare: Why?

28 Apr

“Insurance companies must use more of the premiums they receive for patient care rather than administrative costs…” (see reference below)

As I watched a number of news programs, it became apparent that commentators were not fully aware of the ACA (ObamaCare) provisions, or for whatever reason, ignored some of the most important points.

I am already familiar with most of the significant features, but I decided to search for a good summary. Here is one that is very useful and authoritative by Norma Goodwin, MD:
12 Simply Stated Features of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare
The above (beginning) quotation is from this very useful summary (search Internet for this title). This feature alone, can explain why the GOP wants to abolish the ACA rather than just improve it. Rich insurance company owners don’t want to be limited in their lust for profits.

There are a few additional points that I would like to emphasize. There is much discussion about “pre-existing conditions.” But often overlooked are many other features that are critical (life-and-death) for good heath care. These include:

1. Eliminates annual and lifetime insurance policy limits.  Many people have died because their insurance money ran out.
2. Parent insurance coverage for offspring up to the age 26.
3. Medicaid is supported, but some states have refused to accept the free financial support.
4. Medicare is protected and now many preventive screenings are included.
5. Costs for vital medications are reduced.
6. Other provisions of the ACA are designed to lower the general cost of health care, and improve the quality of care.

The ACA is not perfect, but includes many great ideas. Keeping it will insure that the people will be well taken care of. New plans by the GOP will eliminate many more citizens from insurance coverage, decrease the quality of care, and will insure that rich insurance company owners will become even richer. Hopefully, some day we will have a “single payer” system, a Medicare for all.

98. Teen Trump Discovers Healthcare

28 Feb

During my long life, I have had a number of contacts with teenagers. Some of the brighter ones recognize that they have much to learn, and others just assume that when they discover something, no one else knew it.  I think that most older adults are familiar the “know-it-all” teenagers.  It is sad to say that our 45th president, often having the intellect of a know-it-all teenager, has just discovered Healthcare.

Before he talked about it, teen Trump could have spent just an hour or two in research and immediately figured out that our healthcare system is extremely complicated. He could have asked specialists who wrote the ACA (Obamacare) law and others, to explain it’s intricacies. Instead, after making numerous remarks about immediately abolishing the law, he now says:

“Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated”

I think even the “know-it-all” teenager would not say something as naive as this.
Here are a few more teen Trump assertions:

“I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone”
“I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth”
“Nobody knows banking better than I do”
“I understand money better than anybody.”
“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.”

(Please see Aaron Blake, Washington Post, October 4, 2016 as a reference and for more examples.)

Why didn’t his original supporters realize that the Presidency is not an entry-level position and that it’s not OK to serve with on-the-job training? Well, I guess we have to accept the fact that many of them are not knowledgeable  — and they were caught-up in the thrill of racism, violence, and over simplification. They knew and teen Trump knew that foreign policy, military actions, trade laws, treaties, education, technology and so forth are all trivial, and a great builder of buildings can master anything in a few hours.

After just a few weeks in office, teen Trump has made a mess of most everything he has done and the few positives, like the Carrier Co employee situation, are just tokens, having no substantial value. He has come up with incredibly valuable plans for making America Great, and defeating enemies like ISIS, but alas, cannot reveal any of the details. The most serious mess is his cozy relationship with Russia’s Putin.  Blackmail and election interference are possibilities that need investigation by fully independent parties.

89. Some Tweet-like World Observations

2 Feb

1. Privatizing means creating a system that has a private owner as opposed to a government-run institution. Examples are schools and prisons. The latter has been tried but is now diminishing. In privately run systems a concern for profit can cause neglect in providing required services. Often, civic-minded people working as a public governmental body can be more effective, and with less expenditure. There is a fixed budget so that workers can focus on quality work.  Some would argue that privatizing creates beneficial competition, but in fact there is little competition in areas where privatizing is being promoted.

2. Do we need insurance companies that develop extreme wealth for their executives, paid for by you and me, while benefits are diminished. Why should our world be configured so that a few can become very rich at the expense of the rest of us? Our more advanced civilization has been around for 150 years or so. In that time, the “royalty class” has become entrenched in our system — robbing many ordinary people of their means of survival. I am not against the concept that hard-work and intelligence should be financially rewarded, it is the extremes and abuses that concern me.extreme we Being rich is OK, wealth is not. I also want to make clear that I owned two businesses and believe in our form of regulated capitalism.

3. The arrival of Trump marks the creation of a new entity resulting from social/business evolution. The new creation is what I shall call the extended governing family unit. The Trump version consists of himself, his offspring and their spouses; each having a specialized function. But to clarify, effective and powerful family units are not really “new”, but a unit this large, with necessary distributed functionality, has never before been our “president.” My next blog (no. 90) will explain this further.

4. Diagnosis of all types should be separate from treatment. The fees for various treatments can be very different, and the Dx could be biased towards better income. For example, the exact diagnosis for a cancer could lead to expensive and profitable surgery or a much less expensive radiation or drug treatment.  Dentists have tough decisions in deciding what is actually a cavity that require a filling.  Any healthcare, other service, or repair company can be jaded by this factor. How to fix this is a real dilemma.

5. Our U.S. government may be doomed to failure, because of powerful relationships between very rich folks (donors) and governmental leaders. The best cure would be a great improvement in education so that we can break the donor influence. Remember that our current leaders arose to power under this system and, as you would expect, want to preserve it. Many of those at the top have little interest in teaching logic, reasoning, and correct history to our students and potential voters. We are caught in a powerful loop and will need to be coordinated and industrious to have a chance of breaking it. The current massive demonstrations in many cities is on the right track and encouraging.

6. Ironically, a thousand years from now, the invention of email may be identified by witty history professors, as the cause of the downfall of our Earth civilization. Take away email, and there would have been much less abuse of Hillary Clinton, and she could have been elected. If that had happened, a strong NATO, great international relations, better climate change efforts, fair treatment of the middle-class, control of nuclear weapons, careful communications, and other factors could have saved the world from numerous disasters.  Trump has already alienated some of our closest allies.

7. Governmental officials generally set their own salaries and rules of operation. They are only people, after all, so how can we expect them to be fair. It seems that most people in power long enough will eventually become corrupted (at least somewhat). We need a better system, but change is difficult. The press should help us, but are often limited by some very real vulnerabilities. A tough leader with violent supporters can be an awesome force that discourages needed criticism and modification.

8. I suspect that most of Trump’s early supporters voted for him for various reasons, including: his power, likability (for many), promises of jobs, identification of scapegoats, prejudices, anti-terrorism statements, etc.  What probably was overlooked, was a good estimation of what he would actually DO and SAY after taking office.  Many of us had hoped that he would change after a couple of weeks as POTUS, but he has not.

87. GMO Babies and Foods

26 Jan

I recently listened to a TED talk entitled “The ethical dilemma of designer babies”, by Paul Knoepfler. It was a good talk, but I was disappointed by the suggestion of a moratorium on the science involved in the direct genetic improvement of reproduction.
Knoepfler is a scientist working in the field of genetics and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). He discusses the possibility that in 15 years or so, we will be able to make “designer babies” that are free of genetic diseases and may also have improved looks and intelligence. The author is afraid that “natural” children will be upset by the successes of “designer” children.
I think the “designer” idea is great and is not so strange as some think. After all, we affect the success of our children in many ways, including medical methods such as plastic and corrective surgery, good nutrition, the best education, exercise, mental health, etc. — why not give them an even better start by improving their DNA through carefully studied and regulated procedures.

Aside from the talk, I am also concerned about irrational fears of GMO foods, which are really important for the survival of our growing populations. Here is what I wrote about these methods as a comment to the TED talk:

I am a scientist (retired, and not in the field of genetics) but still study many areas of science and am very interested in scientific progress.   My judgment is to forge ahead in any scientific area, but observe certain limitations.  If there is a clear possibility of danger then we need responsible transparency and monitoring, not moratoriums.  I live in and am a citizen of the USA.  It’s foolish for us to stop working on something potentially very beneficial  while all over the world others are progressing and benefiting. At a minimum, just preventing genetic diseases is very worthwhile.  A moratorium here just puts us behind scientists working in other countries, and does not prevent the dangers that the speaker hints at.  Rich people, of course, would be able to take advantage of this overseas, and ordinary people would not.   My idea is to reject timid and fearful limitations and go full force,  using good documentation and studies as guides.  If it becomes clear that advances such as “designer babies” or certain GMO foods are dangerous, then scientists and Congress can regulate or abolish the procedure. 

The speaker is worried that a “natural” child would have to compete with a “designer” child. But even without this method there will always be someone better than you. It is not a good argument. Nature, breeding methods, cosmic rays, and even choice of a spouse all cause genetic (DNA) changes. The advantage of direct DNA changes by scientists is that they CAN be monitored and procedures can be improved or limited.

The innovations and amazing discoveries of science are a great joy. In a world filled with kindness and intelligence, scientists would never have created atomic bombs. Traditions, rigid beliefs, ignorance, and greedy politicians HAVE caused world disasters — Science has not.
After writing the comment, I decided to read more about GMO use. It is hard to do human research on GMO’s, but there are good studies using animals, that, in fact, we eat. Jon Etine (Sept 19, 2014, Forbes) reports:

“Estimates of the numbers of meals consumed by feed animals since the introduction of GM crops 18 years ago would number well into the trillions. By common sense alone, if GMO feed were causing unusual problems among livestock, farmers would have noticed. Dead and sick animals would literally litter farms around the world.”

There also is formal research that shows no negative effects and no effects on humans eating these animals. Irrational fears about GMO’s are unproductive and harmful. Of course, specific findings on particular GMO’s should be acknowledged, but should not influence the whole field. We don’t avoid all doctors, because a few have been convicted of malpractice. We need to use the results of good responsible scientific research wherever it is helpful. It is ignorance and unethical politicians that have caused our widespread dilemmas.