We Need Change


A few weeks ago, I had a prostate biopsy. You can click on the blue link to see what’s involved in that. My father and my brother both had prostate cancer, so it’s something I have to be concerned with. So far so good, no cancer. Two days ago, I got a “Claims Summary” from my insurance company. I pay a lot of money every month to have this insurance. The total charges for the procedure were $7,163.40. It took twenty minutes to do this procedure and I had to drive 80 miles round trip to have it done. Twenty minutes with my Doctor costs $7,163.40.

On the Claims Summary there is an interesting column called, “Discounted Balance.” The amount in that column is $3,248.48. Beside this amount it says: “(my insurance company) negotiates discounts with doctors, hospitals and other health care providers.” The interesting thing about this is that even though my medical provider charged me $7,163.40, they knocked off $3,248.48 from the bill. Almost half. And the even more interesting thing about this is that my medical provider is still making money off this procedure. If they wern’t making money, they wouldn’t be doing it. They charged me almost twice as much as they needed to. My insurance paid. $1,747.03 leaving me with a bill for $1,501.45. If I didn’t have insurance I’d have to pay the entire $7,163.40 bill.

Have you ever gone to a “Half price” sale. The store will have big signs all over stating, 50% discount on everything! This is a great time to buy things. But the underlying meaning here is that for the rest of the year they have been charging you twice as much as they needed to. They are still making money off of the sale. They wouldn’t be giving you a 50% discount if it meant the were losing money on it. My medical provider wouldn’t knock off half my bill if they would lose money doing it. This is what capitalism does for you. Sure, it gives you the freedom to start a business and maybe do really well with it, providing the opportunities are there for you. But on the other hand it gives you the opportunity to be ripped off by other people starting businesses who want to charge outrageous prices for their services. Now this may be a controversial thing to say but here goes: Capitalism only works for the few, not for the many. And it is for this very reason that it is not sustainable. Eventually, given enough time, the system will crash.

The problem is simple enough. The lure of money is too hard to resist. If a rich person showed up at your door and handed you a million dollars for free, who would turn that down? “No thanks, my Social Security check each month is enough for me. Keep your million.” That wouldn’t happen. We may not like to admit it, but we all want more. How long can the country, or the world sustain unchecked capitalism? How long before the whole thing crashes? Do I have a solution? Not really. I don’t know that much about other systems to speak on them. But I do know this, any time you put some one in charge, in a position of authority, they need to be watched, closely. Remember the lure of money? It is only exceeded by the lure of power.

A favorite author, Douglas Addams once said this: “The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” Those who seek power are the least suited to handle it. It’s one of the reasons why I get charged twice as much on my medical bill than they need to charge.

So what are we to do? I think we all need to admit that the system we currently have in place doesn’t, for the most part, work for most of us. We need to consider this when we decide who we’re going to vote for and what we’re going to vote for. We need something new. Government needs to be re-done from the top down. It’s time for change. Most people are not comfortable with change, however. We need to get over that. For the good of us all, and the future of our country, we need change.

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What Can We Do?

Three mass shootings in two weeks. Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton. All by angry white men with assault weapons. The media reports on it, the country grieves, flags are at half staff. We go about our lives wondering what the hell is happening, wondering what can be done, and no one does a goddamn thing. Words get tossed around: mental health, anger, fear, white supremacy, terrorism. Solutions are suggested, protests are staged, blame all around. And no one does a goddamn thing. We will go back to our lives, our jobs, saddened by our current state of affairs. And nothing will change.

The question of the hour: What can we do? I’ve heard plenty of ideas but almost no one is suggesting that we vote legislators out of congress who allow these shootings to continue. The ones who take money from the NRA as bribes for not voting for stricter gun laws. Our president uses fear and hate to divide us and surely this is part of the problem. Looking at the killers social media more than suggests that it is. Racism, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry contribute as well. Toxic masculinity from hundreds of years of raising boys to believe they should hide and fear their emotions. Hundreds of years of not talking about mental illness, of treating it as a taboo subject. You want to know what’s wrong? These things. These things right here.

“Don’t cry Bobby. Crying is for girls. Are you are girl? Well then, stop crying. Boys don’t cry.” Toxic masculinity. Countless millions of boys have been raised this way. To be tough, to be strong. To be stoic. Don’t let anyone know you feel terrible inside and whatever you do, don’t cry. Like adding pressure to an airtight bottle. Eventually it’s going to blow.

Fear. What are you afraid of? Well, if you’re American, you’re afraid of almost everything. Brown people, coming to take your jobs. Muslims, coming to take your God. LGBTQ people turning your children gay. Socialists coming to take your freedom. And when these fears are fed a steady diet of Trump and Fox News well, any thinking person can see what happens. And when our Congress refuses to act, refuses to do their jobs, it adds fuel to the fire. Like adding pressure to an airtight bottle. And when we refuse to demand that Congress does its job, that our president does his job, we are complicit. We are at fault.

There’s no point making a list, a “What can be done list.” There’s no point. We know what to do. We know what needs to be fixed. We were once a Democracy. Our country has become what we have allowed it to become. When you turn on the news and see another mass shooting, that’s your fault, and my fault. We have allowed this to happen. Through direct action or inaction, we have allowed our country to become what it is. No one I know of is suggesting this. No news agency, no individual writers that I have read are saying this is our own fault. Through our own action or inaction, it is. And we know how to fix it.

A Giant Meteor Is One Solution


Today is one of those days where I feel the need to write but I’ve no real idea what to write about. Isn’t that strange? If I feel the urge, shouldn’t there be a reason? Shouldn’t there be some idea trying desperately to get out? There should, but it’s hidden, like there’s another person in there keeping secrets from me. Sometimes communicating with myself is like trying to pry into someone else’s brain. Sometimes others just don’t want to talk to you. Sometimes, I don’t want to talk to me. I guess I’ll just ramble and see if anything reveals itself.

I was thinking recently about poverty in the U.S. The capitalist system we have here creates poverty. In a system where people can become billionaires, you will always have a segment of the people who live in poverty. If you were somehow able to get rid of all the people who live in poverty, the people in the next highest income bracket would then be the people in poverty. I looked up some statistics. The poverty level income in the U.S. in 2019 is, $12,490 per year, (Link) That’s a pretty low number. The average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in 2018 is right around $1000 per month. (Link) Even with my rudimentary math skills I can see that you’re going to spend more than half to almost all of your yearly income on rent. So how does that work? How do you live with a minimum wage job? The answer is, you don’t. One of the reasons why unemployment is so low today is because a lot of people have more than one job.

I’ve always believed that in life, quality is more important than quantity. If you have to work two or more jobs just to survive, where is the quality in that? From these numbers it’s easy to see why we have the social problems that we do. Recently I watched the Democratic debates on television. All of the candidates have great ideas for fixing the problems but few solutions. When specific questions were asked about how each of them were going to accomplish their goals, very few of them had direct answers. One candidate said he would give everyone over the age of 18, $1000 dollars a month guaranteed income. Great idea, right? It doesn’t take much to see the problems involved in pulling that off. We’re full of great ideas, but not so many solutions. Unfortunately I don’t have any solutions either, so it’s easy to see why they don’t. The truth is, no system of government is perfect. All have their problems and the problems always stem from greed. Every government will always include some who will try to scam the system in their favor.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t think about these things. I wish I could just go stupidly through life not caring about anything. Life would be so much easier if I just didn’t care. Alas, that is not the way it is. And I don’t regret that. I want to care, and I want to do my part. I just wish sometimes I could turn it all off for a while. Say, take a vacation from my brain. Sit on a beach somewhere under the shade of a big umbrella drinking boat drinks and thinking of nothing but the waves on the deep blue sea and what I might have for lunch. Ahh, can you see it? Not a care in the world. Again alas, that is not the way it is. So here we are, in the midst of our troubled world trying to figure out what to do next. Anyone in favor of a giant meteor?

Pain

power to the people
I’m sitting here at my computer today with my foot resting on a bottle of frozen water. I have Plantars Fasciitis in my right foot. I’ve been hobbling along for several weeks now, the pain coming and going, but yesterday was really tough. And this morning it was so sore and swollen that I couldn’t go to work. I hate to let down my boss and co-workers so I don’t miss much work but today, well it had to be. I need to stay off it and get the swelling down. Maybe I’ll mow my lawn this afternoon. A couple hours on the riding lawn mower won’t hurt my foot. But it’s supposed to be 90 degrees today so we’ll see. 80’s and 90’s are too hot for May. We should be having 60’s and 70’s for highs in May in Minnesota. Oh well.

Thinking about my foot and how the pain shoots up my leg while the rest of me feels pretty good is reminding me of how things are going in the U.S. today. Our country is in flux, no doubt about it. Having Fasciitis causes me to walk different. I’m favoring my right foot, trying not to put too much pressure on it. This in turn is causing me to use muscles differently than I normally do. So now I have leg and hip pain. I suppose you’re wondering how this relates to the country? Well, there are a lot of things going on that are causing people to think and act differently than they have, and it’s causing some pain.

The coming presidential election is defiantly causing pain throughout the country. People are arguing about the candidates, about who’s best and worst. About the political parties, how they have changed, and what they will accomplish. Should we get rid of them, should we have a three party system, Should we even have democracy, or do we still have democracy? We have so many things on our plates these days. Politicians, the NRA, Monsanto, GMO’s, the Koch brothers, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Syria, ISIS, LGBT people, Transgender people, pipelines, Native rights, Black Lives Matter, etc., etc. The list goes on and on. All of this is causing us pain in many forms and causing us to act in different ways than we normally do. We are dividing ourselves with all these issues.

Our constitution allows us many freedoms. But with over three hundred million people you are bound to have differing opinions about what those freedoms mean. It’s always been that way, right from the start. And it causes pain. Maybe past generations thought that things were getting to be too much. In the Sixties, when we were fighting for civil rights did people wonder how things could get much worse? I’m sure some thought it couldn’t. When white people first came here did the Native people wonder how things could get worse? Each generation has had its pain and some fought hard for change while others sat on the sidelines. Change is the thing that causes the most pain. People are reluctant to change.

So here we are in 2016. Change is called for from many different factions. Tolerance and acceptance vs intolerance and rejection. The battle lines are being drawn in the news headlines every day. Gun control, Transgender rights, the environment, climate change, refugees and more. We’re all taking sides on these arguments; even if you’re sitting on the sidelines, you’re still taking a side. The pain is growing and forcing us to act differently than we would like to. And it’s causing other pains. Where do we find our answers? People used to find comfort in their religious beliefs but statistics show that church membership is losing ground and more people are leaving religion behind than ever before. So now where do we look to find answers? Our government? Well I think most people know the answer to that question.

I’m getting control of the pain in my foot by staying off of it and using ice to reduce the inflammation, which makes my leg and hip feel better. So how do we reduce the inflammation in our country? How do we feel better? By accepting change? By informing ourselves about the issues and deciding which ones are really important and which ones we should not be so worried about? Understanding that we are all given the same freedoms from the constitution even though some have had to fight for these rights a lot harder than others because some people are so reluctant to change and so reluctant to give up control helps us to know what we’re fighting for. So what are we fighting for? Hopefully we are fighting for a better, more just America. Hopefully we are fighting for acceptance and freedom. Hopefully, we are fighting for our lives.