Tag Archives: health

104. Underemphasized Political Facts

5 May

I listen to a lot of political commentators and government leaders. It disturbs me that many important factors are rarely mentioned. Here is a list of very important facts that should affect political judgments:

1. The inheritance tax (a.k.a. death tax) is only for very rich folks and starts at $5.45 million. So when GOP people want to end it, it is done to support millionaires and take money away from us.

2. Tax simplification does not help ordinary folks, as their tax is already simple. It helps rich folks cheat, because there are fewer rules governing their very complex returns. Fewer tax categories are always designed by Republicans to make rates lower for high earners, not you and me.

3. When highly respected conservative George Will says a fellow Republican, Donald Trump, cannot “think and speak clearly”, it is significant.

4. Scientists have found that lack of sleep seriously promotes Alzheimer’s disease. Pres. Trump brags about the little time he devotes to sleeping.

5. Those who believe that Bill Clinton’s affairs tarnish his wife Hillary, should recognize that Trump, the actual candidate, has worse transgressions.

6. In Trump’s recent interactions with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he was the losing negotiator. Trump was forced to reverse his accusation of currency manipulation while China only reinforced previous policies.

7. Our House of Reps. just passed a healthcare bill for which there was little time to read and discuss, and was not evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office. This bill is also not consistent with Trump’s many promises, which proves he has no ideals and just supports rich Republicans and himself.

8. There is a tendency for commentators to look for one cause for each result. The recent Dem. loss by Hillary is one such case. Most likely, is that a combination of 7 or 8 factors (mostly “dirty tricks”) lead to the defeat. Please see my Blog Number 95.

9. Trump would have lost most of his followers if he told them in advance of his cabinet choices of several Wall Street billionaires, and his extreme conflicts with personal business interests. He has not done any divesting.

10. In the last 50 years or so, Republicans have always favored very rich folks over ordinary citizens. This is clear if you go to GOP candidate web-sites and examine their U.S. Budget plans. Current plans are to increase U.S. debt by lowering taxes for the rich, and offset this with reductions in services and programs for the rest of us.

11. FBI Director Comey has excuses for making announcements of Hillary investigations, but the bottom line is that he violated Justice Dept. rules. Almost all FBI investigations are secret and not announced until the final result. Investigations of Republicans were secret.

12. Republicans want to decrease regulations because that helps their rich industrial donors and Wall Street.  But most regulations are designed to protect the citizens from air and water pollution, hazards in the workplace and elsewhere, and taxpayer bail outs for bankrupt financial institutions.  Regulations are based on actual abuses and now are being eliminated in a secretive way.  There are supposed to be hearings on such matters.

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.

93. Trump Chaos Easing Off (2 days later, maybe not)

14 Feb

Up until yesterday, the new administration was very disconcerting and disappointing — but this was not unexpected. Cabinet appointments were inappropriate, a directive was declared unconstitutional, there were violations of divesting rules, illegal foreign contacts, angry international phone calls, etc., and a lot of fast-talking and naive ideas. Since I mentioned fast-talking, I have to note that the really fast talkers are Kellyanne Conway and Shephen Miller, both rumored to be state-of-the-art robots programmed for double talk and downloaded each morning with alt-facts to confuse “tweet” critics.

But today, February 14, 2017, I see some improvements. “In-like-flynn” security advisor Michael Flynn is out — very significant. Trump has accepted the “One-China” concept, which is so important for this vital relationship. He is rewriting his Travel Ban directive so that it is more workable and less damaging to some of our foreign friends, and of course, he has accepted (and better understands) the judicial actions. It appears that he is accepting for now, the Iran-Nuclear-Deal, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and some other commitments and policies of the Pres. Obama Administration.

The ObamaCare (ACA) law is under scrutiny, but ironically may survive because any substantially different replacement plan developed by Republicans would be worse for them. Ironic, because of their numerous attempts to abolish it. Keeping the important rules like “pre-existing conditions” need to be paid for by the “mandate” (everyone must have insurance or pay a fine) or will break the budget. The best choice is to have Medicare for everyone but the GOP cannot disappoint the billionaires that run our health insurance companies and provide for their extravagant life-styles. To take insurance away from 20 million people and to take away the other popular features (like no life-time or annual limits) is too disastrous for now and future elections. ObamaCare is supported by a majority of our citizens, who would like it kept and improved. It appears that the new government is recognizing this.

We are indeed lucky to have a few sensible additions to the cabinet such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. I admit to being skeptical about Tillerson, but when I heard his speech to the State Department I was impressed by his intelligence and social skills. His rise to leadership of Exxon required great skills. He has the capability and knowledge to be a real asset. I am rooting for the two of them and a few others, to help Trump with major decisions. I also think some members of his “greater” family can encourage reasonable and maybe even progressive ideas. He has stated that Ivanka is a good influence.

The American “ship of state” is heavy and an almost irresistible object. Altering its main course is extremely difficult. It can force any irresponsible or reckless leadership into a more traditional and safer track. Donald Trump now has more appreciation for the complexities and difficulties in making presidential decisions.

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.

86. Common Current Conceptions Corrected

23 Jan

When I watch the news talk shows and listen to commentators, there is a great effort to understand Trump’s ideals, Putin’s motivation, Hillary’s loss, etc. in terms of abstract political and historical principles. I think the obvious basic interpretations are often lost in a sea of overly-complex irrelevant theories. Here are some specifics:

1. Trump has no lofty ideals. If you listen carefully to what he says, you can see that his overwhelming interest is in making himself feel good and he is not embarrassed to talk about it. He wants adoration, flattery, winning, and hero worship. He constantly compares himself to others, putting them down, and lifting himself up. Of secondary interest is the promotion of his own financial interests and to a lesser extent the success of his extremely wealthy friends. Like all Republicans, his financial plans involve making rich people richer and the rest of us will receive a few token benefits. He will try to give the impression of saving jobs, like bribing Carrier Corp. to keep 800 workers in the U.S., ignoring the millions already gone and in the process of leaving. His motto “America First” really means hero Trump first.

2. Why does Trump paint a terrible (carnage) picture of the current USA? Most news people ignore or don’t understand the obvious. If everything is wonderful at the beginning of his term, how can he show any accomplishments? Four years from now he wants to say what a great job he did, so the beginning must be a low point. In all likelihood he will re-write history to tell his version of events. He hates the fact that the offiial unemployment rate is now 4.7%. His press secretary tries to hide this fact by quoting anecdotes and non-standard numbers. Even more absurd, he says that the numbers do not matter, stories tell the whole thing.

3. What does Putin really want? If you listen to what he says, it is obvious that his main goal is to restore the “Soviet Union” of Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic States, and others; a total of 15 republics. Like Trump, he wants to be the hero by making Russia great again. He works on achieving this goal by overt aggressive actions like annexing Crimea, and also covert actions like cyber attacks. He is influencing Trump for his ends, through flattery, release of hacked embarrassing emails, and perhaps even blackmail (unsubstantiated).

4. Why does Trump support Russia? See the discussion above. The clearest factors are flattery (saying Trump is brilliant) and refuting Russian election hacking, which calls into question the validity of his election.  The following are other possibilities: business marketing considerations, financial help through loans, and blackmail.

5. There are a lot of theories as to why Hillary Clinton lost the election. Most news people want to focus on one cause, and critics of the one-cause idea are probably right. People that search for causes (such as scientists and doctors) know that complicated conditions often have multiple causes. But I have yet to hear anyone say that it was a combination of small factors that led to her loss. Briefly (see previous blogs) these include: Russian hacking, FBI director Comey electioneering, suppression of voters, numerous unjustified congressional investigations, and bogus Internet “news” sites (which may have been created by Russians). I could add that Hillary was a good candidate, not a great one, but I voted for her and most important, she would have done a great job as president.

6. It disturbs me that certain misconceptions are repeated over and over, without correction or even argument. For example, Joe Scarborough just said that President Obama did nothing in response to Syria crossing the chemical- weapon red-line. Obama was reluctant to further participate in the hopeless Syrian conflict and bombing would kill many civilians. He asked Congress for approval of U.S. bombing and (as he suspected) they rejected that. Secretary of State Kerry urged Syria to dispose of the chemical weapons. Shortly thereafter, Russia volunteered to take charge of the weapon disposal. The problem was solved and everyone benefited. How can anyone complain about Obama’s thoughtful and cautious resolution to this difficult problem. Just like the ridiculous Benghazi political issues, detractors have distorted the red-line incident and used it for an attack. Republicans even used the red-line issue to attack Hillary Clinton, who held no governmental office at the time and only gave opinions as a friend.

7. Kellyanne Conway said in effect: ignore what Trump says and look instead “at what’s in his heart”. Others have said in many variations, that we need to ignore the words. Personally, I would prefer a president that truthfully says what is in his heart. When Trump gives orders to the military, should they obey the orders or have an abstract discussion for a while on what he really means. “You said attack the enemy landing on our shores, but in your heart you really meant be kind to the them, maybe?”

8. Hillary Clinton is often blamed by Republicans for everything negative that took place in the last 30 years. Do I really have to say that major national decisions are made by presidents and Congress and not by first-ladies, individual Senators, or Secretaries of State.

9. A common misconception is that simplifying tax code and reducing taxation categories will benefit ordinary citizens. Just the opposite is true: it only helps very rich people. For the non-rich working man/woman, tax code is already simple. By removing all of the details applicable to the very rich, you make it easier for them to take unfair advantage and reduce their tax payment. If you actually read the tax proposals written by Trump and Republicans in general, you will see that all of them benefit the rich. And if rich people pay less tax, then the rest of us will pay more and/or have decreased benefits.

10. ExPres. Obama did not lie about “ObamaCare.” This legislation is very complicated and new systems almost always have unforeseen problems. To think that an honorable person like Barack Obama purposely lied to the public is absurd. Unanticipated problems led to some mistakes in some small areas representing about one-half of one percent of the U.S. population. Obama has always recognized that there would be problems, and that these could be corrected by Congress. But the Republican Congress put forth nothing that could help.

I could add many more “corrections”, but these I think, are most important.