15 Minutes To Live….

Duck and cover. Say the rosary and of course don’t forget to make a good Act of Contrition. That was the standard A bomb drill at St Mary’s Elementary School. As a mere lad of 7 or 8 like everything else, you did what you were told without any form of discussion. Today everything we do is fraught with hypothetical consequences and the possibility of being scarred for life. How could I ever have made it this far?

For the people of Guam the drills are for real. They have buried deep in their island paradise, the largest collection of munitions found in the free world. If the radiation doesn’t get you then the secondary explosions will. So your cogitation is not whether you will survive but what does the next life look like? Or at least how am I going to enjoy my last quarter of an hour on the planet. Probably I would find the best single malt I could, unzip a fresh pack of Marlboro Reds and have one last chat with my wife.

In fifteen minutes you can’t really accomplish a lot. What about fifteen hours or days or months? Now that is a little different proposition. You are in a little more control of your environment but what to do? I have often found the concept of a last meal for a person about to be executed a bit of a mystery. Probably more to assuage the guilt feelings of the warden and jailers. You know at least we were pleasant to him or her at the end even though we were pulling the switch.

I would have some decent food in my last months but more importantly who would I reach out to? Would I keep my group selective or would I try to touch every base in my social spectrum? The internet has made that a hell of a lot easier but I would also want to put something in writing. As in real writing on paper. So someone in the future could sit down in a quiet moment and see my script. I have a letter from my mom and my brother and it is wonderful just to read them every so often as if they were still here. I can still see their great smiles in that handwriting.

I would try to have one on ones with my kids and grandkids. Nothing maudlin but maybe some little cliche or bon mot that would stick with them as time goes by. Maybe a whiff of my cigar or a memory of a funny moment shared. Of course I would tell my fantastic wife thank you so many times and probably tell her much more than I do now how much I love her.

With my work in hospice I have often thought how I would I handle it if someone told me I had the big C. I would want to have a long talk with the docs and approach it from a business like point of view. I would want to know the odds but more importantly what would be my quality of life? I have had a marvelous run and it would be somewhat selfish to try to wring out more than I deserve.

I would probably still like to read and write and try to make a difference. I met yesterday with the director of education for the Florida Oceanographic Society. This PHD was more than approachable as I just wanted to know more about the ecosystem I was living in. We talked for an hour and a half. If I had only “x” number hours to go, what a marvelous way to have spent some of them. He was magical in his explanations and of course I debated about getting involved in one more thing. No matter how long you have, it is good to be engaged.

I am somewhat disgusted at the palp and intensity of our news today. People breathlessly want to analyze the Trumpster’s every word. Calling him out, egging him on or shouting hosanna to the highest. Do I really want to spend my last days listening to Wolf, Rachel or Sean? Is listening to panels of so called experts blathering and interrupting each other going to improve my so called quality of life. Do I need a breakdown of every play on the field of sport or will I just sit back and watch the game? Relying on what I saw as opposed to someone telling me what I should have.

You can probably see where this is going. In our frenetic world we rarely stop and just think. A brief respite to bring things back in alignment. The doc I mentioned above told a tale of equilibrium in the world of nature. Things happen for a reason and there is a beauty to that rhythm and predictability. It has served this place we call home for billions of years. Yet in our arrogance we claim to make it and our lives significantly better by our tinkering. Are we really accomplishing that or do we spend a good portion of our time correcting our mistakes? Are we taking a masterpiece and tagging it with graffiti of all sorts? Good question.

I guess I am trying to think about my life and all the little pieces. If I had a short time to go how many would I jettison and how many would I treasure? Most of all I am asking the question, if this is how I would like it to be, If so what am I waiting for? Maybe not the Marlboro Reds but having a good talk rather than a hit and run or savoring a peaty Scotch rather than swilling it down. Throwing out the stupid distractions and static while listening to the sweet symphony of life. Loving people and my God like I meant it. That to me would be a wonderful way to go.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

About 10% of the people who die, do so suddenly. In the world today there about 360,000 births and 150,000 deaths each day. So about 15,000 never see it coming.

Through medical science we have extended the life expectancy to around 77 years for the United Staes. The average healthy life expectancy here is 71. Thought the world the life expectancy for Japan is 83 and Swaziland is 49.

We are a death denying society. There is a theory that we would be happier if we accepted death as a fact of life. Instead of doing all we can to avoid death and taking precautions for this and that, we might be more relaxed and ergo enjoy life more if we didn’t sweat it. Interesting.

We avoid terms like death or dying and instead call it “passing.” We ascribe to so and so that they have gone to a “better place.” I can’t wait because mine ain’t so bad here. We also use the following for death: “taking a dirt nap,” “wearing a pine overcoat(coffin)”,,”pushing up daisies”, “food for worms” and my favorite from the military: “Tango Uniform” which simply means Tits Up!

I Am An Alien….

Many of you would not find my title this week terribly shocking  when it comes to Ted The Great. Many of my friends swear there was a space ship that dropped me off a long time ago. Maybe like the Dork from Ork. But as we have transported ourselves from the confines of the Rockies to the shores of the Atlantic there are some transitions and acceptances that need to be navigated.

Looking at His Hairness’ latest proclamation, I seized upon the language, education and wealth requirements. I grew up in New York and one cannot help detect a certain dialect if not a totally different use of the King’s English from the inhabitants of the NY Metro area. Ditto Boston and points further South. One need not have grown up on Long Island to see that Locust Valley Lockjaw is in a class by itself. Or at least the swells hope it is. I never perfected the talent. I could not get into Georgetown today and there are a whole lot of people with more money than I have. Big deal.

Wandering as my mind does, I look at our new address in the Sunshine State which is replete with history that goes all the way back to the mid 1980’s. Much like Plymouth Rock the hardy warriors found this deserted spot and decided to build golf courses and docks. I wonder if the existing residents of the surrounding area were as fearful of the onslaught as we seem to be today of anyone not of our cloth?

I am not espousing open borders but I think we have become a tad over the top when it comes to practical thinking. Why is that? We are no different than the locals who freaked out at the hordes rushing  to Ellis Island in the early 1900’s. Back in colonial times the venerable Ben Franklin had an extreme dislike for the “tawny creatures” of a different shade of white and the Germans teutonic ways were seen to be just a touch above barbarian. So let’s just say it is nothing new.

The basic distrust of immigrants is quite simply born of fear. The first example goes back to the caveman where anything outside your cave was not good and probably dangerous to your health. The saber toothed tiger in the room. We have to be about protecting the motherland. Concurrent with that is the fear of there not being enough to go around. I have got mine and I ain’t sharing otherwise my family will starve or maybe we won’t be able to have six tv’s in the house. There is also the fear that the bloodline will be irretrievably mutilated. Mixed marriages whether in religion, color or sex have to lead to destruction of civilization as we know it.Don’t they?

But isn’t it just the fear of something new? We have always done it that way is more than an axiom. It is firewall protecting what we perceive to be right. This has served us for so long everything else has to be wrong. At the local Catholic church we are having more than a hard time because the place resembles the Dark Ages. How do you think they would respond if my old friend, Fr. Pat and his troubadours came through the doors singing up a storm? Excommunication for all you heathens. Next stop, Hell.

Fear is the strongest emotion of all. It is much more virulent than love. We get so crazy we can’t think straight. For politicians it is grist for the mill. Those hispanics are going to steal your job. The Muslims are going to blow up your town and take over. Any immigrant has evil on his or her mind. Any large group of people are going to have good apples and bad apples. Do you really think there are some of our fellow native born Americans who when put together won’t be prone to murder, rape and plunder? That is not the nature of immigrants but the nature of homo sapiens. Yet the office seekers will dredge up every bit of vitriol in our little bodies to secure their place in whatever assembly. It is just the way it works

America is the home of the free and the brave. We are the greatest country in the world. If we really believe that why do we have so much temerity about new arrivals? Want to take that to an extreme? Isn’t a new born baby an immigrant into this thing we call the planet earth. Shouldn’t we curtail or stop all childbirth until that infant can be properly vetted. He or she does not speak the language or have any visible mens of support. They may grow up to become a thief or a killer or rapist. Let’s not take that chance.

As Kathy and I get to know people in our development, golf club, bar or restaurant there are going to be some that are open and welcoming and some that are wary. That is beyond natural. But if we are going to grow there has to be new input and perhaps a revisiting of old ideas. We shouldn’t throw them out but rather be open to discussion. Perhaps a little from Column A and little from Column B. Maybe even column we have not even thought about yet. I understand the reluctance and more than a few times I have been reticent to greet with open arms. Doesn’t make it smart.

Assuming we have 11,000,000 undocumented who have made it to our shores, we need them. Otherwise you and I should break out our lawn mowers, vacuums and go for take out rather than  sit down restaurant dinners. There is a way and they put a great program on the table a few years ago in Congress that was never brought to a vote. Alien idea? Maybe, but not really as strange as it sounds. We should all get off our high horses of principle and do something that makes sense for all.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

The idea that a baby is an alien person was not mine. I read it somewhere. As an open minded philosophical exercise I find it fascinating.

Verner Von Braun was a rocket scientist for the Nazis in WW II. If not for him our space program would have gone nowhere. Albert Einstein, John Muir, Elon Musk, Levi Strauss, Joseph Pulitzer are but a few notables. Steve Chen (Taiwan) and Jared Karim(East Germany) cofounded You Tube. Foreign nurses represent 15% of the total. If they were not here we would be forced to shut down entire hospital wings.

From 1995 to 2005, 52 percent of Silicon Valley’s technology and engineering companies were founded by immigrants. The majority came to the United States as students. They ended up staying after graduation and on average founded companies 13 years after their arrival. They also filed 25 percent of America’s global patents, significantly boosting U.S. competitiveness. Hmmm!

“Fear of an illegal immigrant crime wave is sparked by the fear that they are overwhelmingly murderers, rapists, and thieves. In reality, illegal immigrants have lower incarceration rates and live in places with lower crimes rates than native-born Americans” …Source:…Fox News

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Addicted to……

I was amused this week to see the government wants to control the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. Bully for it and they even got the tobacco companies on board. Suspicious me says maybe the latter will be able to sell more because they are now “Low Nicotine.” There are still three hundred kids who start smoking every day. Be careful what you wish for.

It is actually part of a larger argument as to the scope of government regulations or lack thereof. Right now it is legal to buy alcoholic beverages without any warning labels except for pregnant women. Of course I love my red or scotch but binge drinking cost our country $250 BILLION last year in lost productivity, medical treatments, criminal justice and accidents. Binge drinking is over four drinks in one sitting for a woman and five for a man. 88,000 people die every year from its ill effects.It is the number one cause of domestic violence.But it is deemed okay. Drink responsibly.

States and municipalities are freaking out about the opioid crisis. EMT’s and emergency rooms are being pushed to the limit with overdosing. Sometimes they will revive a person five or six times over a short period of weeks and months. I think I have mentioned to you that three times in the last two years I have been “encouraged” to take oxycontin after a medical procedure. I appreciate they feel my pain but that was nuts. I could have filled the prescriptions and done who knows what with it. No one told me there was good chance I would become a zombie after a few weeks of ingesting.

Sexual addiction is what they call a process not a substance. It is incredible when they find teachers, coaches, business people et alia cruising the internet looking for porn of every type. At home or at work. Name your poison. Child pornography is beyond detestable but it all seems like our dirty little secret. Every second 28,258 users are watching pornography on the internet. Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography on the internet. 40 million American people regularly visit porn sites. 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography. Come on TTG, boys will be boys.Oh yeah! One third of porn viewers are women!

 

Addiction is simply enjoying a substance or an activity that becomes so pleasurable that you can’t carry on your normal daily activities without it being constantly on your mind. It can be heroin, cocaine, alcohol, sex or even shopping. This can ruin jobs, families and do I dare say a country. I will not get into all the science because I am not qualified but there is a very distinct culture that is growing that revels in excess and sees no wrong in it. As it becomes more acceptable and mainstream I am probably a jerk for even bringing it to the fore. The Irish would say Uncle Joe is not a drunk even though you have never seen him sober. He just has the “weakness”.

There is a reason why we are so overweight as a country and the main culprit is sugar. Now if you want to be fat that is fine with me but the end result is that you will develop diabetes and a variety of other ailments that we, and I mean you and me, are going to be paying for throughout our lives. We average 19 teaspoons a day as a country. But this is not just going in your coffee. It is in almost in everything we eat. it is baked in with a wonderful ingredient called corn syrup. It goes in bread, beverages, yogurt, salad dressing, even nutrition bars.

Now for the good part. No, there are not warning labels on sugar or high fructose corn syrups. As a government we actually subsidize their production. Sugar has a guaranteed price level. Corn is similarly inflated by the Energy Act of 2005 stating that there will be ethanol added to gasoline. That ethanol is derived from that stuff that grows as high as an elephants eye. Instead of deterring its use we are encouraging it. Got to get those farm votes.

I am not a dry or a vegan but this is one of these things we really have to sit down and take a long look at for its far reaching implications. When we have a “can you top this ?“ society we are finding more and more ways to satisfy our pleasures without absolutely no regard the outcomes. We don’t know how to say no to ourselves and our kids. I want it and I want it now. Over time this attitude becomes part of our culture.

I guess I find it fascinating the we are such a reactive vs proactive society. Oh oh, we have got a problem. Then we put all we can into treatment when we could have avoided so much by addressing the problem itself. There are a lot of people addicted to credit cards and shopping. They pay anywhere from 15% to 25% in annual interest. Some never dig out of the rut yet our banks derive tremendous profits from peddling the plastic and the desperation. Shouldn’t there be someone saying NO.

Abstinence sucks. I am not advocating becoming a recluse or a monk donning a hair shirt. I am saying we have to learn a stupid thing called responsibility or better yet self control. In the guise of freedom we have told people they can do anything they want and we will pick up the pieces after them. This is not sustainable from a social as well as financial point of view. I really think we should put a warning on everything the government does. “Dealing With This Entity Could be Injurious to Your Mental and Physical Health” That would be great, but we all ignore most warnings anyway.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Overall spending on illegal substances remained consistent at roughly $100 billion per year over the decade from 200-2010 Over the same time period, the U.S. government spent between $40 billion and $50 billion each year fighting the war on drugs. Despite these efforts, Americans’ spending levels on illegal drugs stayed more or less the same.

Drug Food Chain: Doctors, pharmacies, patients on the legal side. Patients, dealers, pushers, users on the illegal side. Drug abuse cuts across every economic and social landscape. Some of the underlying reasons are boredom, unemployment and lack of supervision. The dealers know how to build markets and we have no real way to stop them if everyone is complicit.

The word “addiction” is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.”Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences.Approximately 25 million Americans are addicted to drugs or alcohol. There are more alcoholics than drug addicts.

Inpatient addiction treatment facilities can cost between $15,000- $30,000 per month. The overall impact on our economic well being is $450 BILION per annum as a result of alcohol and drug abuse.

What a Week…

Sorry I am a little late. This week has represented all ends of the spectrum. I have gone from 6% humidity in Denver to 90% humidity in Stuart, Florida. I noted to a friend that my brain must be getting soft because it does not bother me that much…so far. Kathy has arrived and of course my bachelor pad has been totally reorganized but it is great to be together again. The poor girl is doomed .

I have spent part of my first days getting lost…on purpose. I want to really know this area. The nooks and the crannies. The good and the bad. We live in a gated community but it doesn’t feel like one. The 30% who are year round residents, like it here versus just another alternative. While playing golf or having a beer afterwards, there is an easy rapport that doesn’t put a lot of stock of who you are, what your past accomplishments are or who you know. It’s kind of like,”Hey let’s get to know each other on simple terms.” That’s a great way to start.

I drove along the beach road and found stately homes not far from double wides. The beaches don’t charge and you can go from town complexes that are pristine to those that are showing their years. There are totally private ones in name only. Just a little dirt parking lot cut in the dunes that holds maybe 20 cars. Pull up and walk 100 feet to the beach. There are people of all colors and sizes and no one seems to care. Can this be real?

Of course there is weird stuff in Florida. Not sure why but it attracts all kinds and maybe that is why we like it. You run into a long haired 70 year old who has maybe been in the sun too long all these years but he is harmless. You see on TV, kids that watched a disabled teen drown as they egged him on. Just as fast, a young man who was helping a motorist stripped to his skivvies and saved a fellow resident of this planet earth who was going down for the last time in a canal. Go figure.

I was working out this morning and I saw a fellow in an Army shirt on the treadmill next to me . Couldn’t resist saying, “Go Navy, Beat Army”. We immediately struck up a friendship. He was a two or three or whatever star General but no matter. The guy had gone to West Point and done forty years. Didn’t care what his rank was, he was a kindred spirit. In civilian life he has taken on a consulting/speaking gig. He is talking to major corporations about leadership which seemed fine until I really thought about it.

In all my corporate life I never had someone tell me about what it took to succeed and stand up. Whatever resources that I had to draw on whether it was in Viet Nam or Wall Street had been instilled in me over my early and later years. Parents, Jesuit training, OCS, Catholicism and I guess just some sort of morality and ethics all melded into this thing called TTG. It was nothing special but just the way we were all raised. Why is that obsolete or not good enough today?

Are we thinking too much or too little? Does life come at us so fast that we don’t have time to think about wrong and right? Has artificial intelligence and quant theory just given you points for showing up? Are we no longer responsible for life but just unwitting participants?

I am watching the tragedy of governing unfolding in front of us. The sparring and verbal jousting from our fearless leader have brought me to disgust and shame. I watched John McCain maybe getting up from his inevitable death bed, and standing with a fresh scar on his face. Yet his exhortations could not rouse some sort of fire in soulless politicians. The Dems are sitting on the sidelines throwing brickbats but when you come right down to it they are just as complicit in this travesty.

As my new found Army buddy and I chatted we kept edging closer and closer to the reality that what might be missing is public service. Not to try to recruit for the armed services but just to say we ALL should do something for our country. I raised that to a friend awhile back and he objected. Why should his son or daughter put a halt to their education and or career to serve in some stupid and non productive way? I ask you as amigos is there any ounce of veracity to his logic? Have we become that far removed from what has made us great?

Now this may all seem some deep stuff for a guy that is supposed to be playing golf and smoking cigars on the docks. Au contraire, mon ami. This is exactly why I hope i am here, far from the madding crowd. I want to engage with thoughtful people and not so much solve the problems of the world but just seek out those who care about where we are going .

A fool’s journey? Perhaps. But I have this nagging thought that the more and more we get wrapped up in our own little selves, the further we will get from really enjoying the friendship and camaraderie that begets compromise and progress. Not banal chatter but really getting to know one another. Finding out how to make this damn thing work. It’s been a marvelous first week here. I hope Kathy and I don’t lose our lust for life in whatever form it takes. It’s a great road ahead and we have a lot of living to do. Please join us.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:
Sorry, but none come to mind

It’s Been Too Long….

We departed Denver at dawn last Friday. Two guys don’t need makeup or last minute packing. Just get up and go. Two thousand miles and a bunch of wonderful memories lay ahead. Going East is a bit of problem at that hour. Visors down and shades on as the sun begins its journey across the Western sky. My son Scott had his playlist with “On The Road Again” and “Good Day Sunshine” leading the way. Johnnie Cash stopped by and was interspersed with Fleetwood Mac and Dire Straits. He was yielding to his old man’s musical tastes.

We both had been relishing this trip. Not for the miles but the time to be spent together. Three years in London left too many voids to be filled. Thoughts to be pursued and a wonderful friendship to be put back on the front burner. As with my daughters it is sometimes hard to comprehend I have son who is 43 and is married with two adolescent boys. The transition is from father to close friend but how do I play it? Do I hold back and act mature? He’ll never buy that. Maybe I’ll just be me.

I asked a lot of questions and yes I DID listen. We covered the world from Trump to cyber attacks. We got deep into parenting and God. I tried to explain our methodology in raising him and his sisters. Not as an apologist but as a veteran. There is no book per se even though the Spock’s might tell you otherwise. You go with your gut.You look at what worked for you growing up and what didn’t. In flight adjustments so to speak.

There are only two real rules Kathy and I have lived by. Never, ever freak out when your kids tell you something. If you do, they will never reveal anything to you again. When they leave the room you can look at each other and say, “Did we just hear that?” But somehow it all works out. The other piece is roots and wings. We love our kids and want them to be part of our lives…if they choose to. No guilt trips but always a safe place to call home. Yet that gets thrown askew today from kids that don’t leave home or even if they do their problems become yours. It is not a matter of being fair but of being responsible.

As Scott talked on it became more evident what a truly wonderful young man he is. Good thinking going on there and a good citizen of the world to boot. I don’t say that to brag but to just have a lot of respect for him and how he handles things. When I have that same opportunity with my girls I know the outcome will be the same but in a totally different way and that is beyond cool. I guess that is why I have such an affinity for young people. They just have great ideas and perspectives.

We agreed that the future was perilous in so many ways from the environment to our financial follies. That is not as two worry worts but pragmatists. Pension liabilities and entitlements will bring us down if we don’t get our act in gear. Scott was an environmental engineering major at Notre Dame. He understands the pluses and minuses of climatology. I felt like I was in class as he told me of the different land masses and how they were formed. Did you know Colorado was completely covered by water and the red hills are remnants of beaches where the aqua receded over millions of years? I didn’t.

We covered that two thousand miles in two days. We got used to a NASCAR type pit stop with one pumping the gas and the other hitting the head. By the time I get to Nashville or wherever was our song with apologies to Glenn Cambell. We saw all sorts of idiocy in neighboring cars. Many were texting or reading while driving. One woman was putting on makeup doing 80mph. Of course there were the left lane Louies who were doing the exact speed limit and you were not going to move them. Such is the open road.

On our last night here at Harbor Ridge we had an especially neat discussion while sitting on the dock with a drink and of course a cigar for TTG. The water has a way of getting to your depths. I admitted mistakes and faults not to cleanse my soul but to let him know things don’t always go according to plan. Best laid plans of mice and men. Kath and I have had a wonderful life with pratfalls and pitfalls but if you keep your sense of humor and your wits about you it all works out in the end.

Enough of my prattle. I just wanted to tell you mostly of how wonderful it is to get close to those you love and let them do the same to you. We had a marvelous trip and visit and I can’t wait to do the same with my girls. Well, maybe not the NASCAR part. But don’t waste time or opportunities. Don’t look back and think if only. Pick up the phone or make a visit. Today we only think busy. Do it before it is too late. Realize just what you have.

As always
Ted The great

Factoids:

Six people a day die from distracted driving. It could be you texting or someone else. What an incredible waste of life.

Many of you expressed frustration with me for not presenting a solution to our healthcare problem. I do not want to dictate but I will give you some hints as to my thinking.

The amount of fraud is enormous. Over $80 billion for Medicare alone. The bizarre part is they are using your and my Medicare numbers. Set up a whole group of investigators to get the bad guys…and girls. One time I talked with the  Inspector General of HHS and asked him why he didn’t have more investigators? He said he could demonstrate a 14 to 1 ROI but Congress would not let him hire more people.  Give the consumer an incentive to report and receive a portion of the monies retrieved.

2. Speaking of incentives let’s establish a base line for people with regard to Blood Pressure, Body Mass Index(BMI) and Blood Sugar. If you decrease your numbers and thus reduce your risk you get a reduction in your insurance premiums. Your call.

3.Repeal the section of Medicare relating to the banning of bidding out drugs. The VA pays one half what Medicare for the same medicines. Fini! No More!

4.Severely limit the use of emergency rooms for everyday illnesses. If your problem is deemed non emergency then you pay the bill. We are not limiting acute care but using other outlets to treat colds and sore throats than these astronomical billing machines.

5.Put money into telemedicine and the use of nurse practitioners for routine procedures. I have used them myself both at the VA and the University of Colorado and they have been more than adequate. In the long run they save a boatload of money.

6. FEHB Federal Employees Health Benefits and FERS Federal Employees Retirement System are comprehensive health and retirement programs for federal employees. I would immediately make this system which covers Congress et alia, either open to the rest of the populace or that the feds become part of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. We should not have two systems. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. At least that should get their attention.

How is that for openers?

 

Here’s to Your Health….

Since I have nothing else to do today I thought I would cogitate on immigration, tax reform, infrastructure, entitlements, education and of course healthcare. Figure I better do it because Congress is fast approaching its summer recess which has followed on very quickly from their 4th of July recess. First things first, TTG. Of course we are spending most of our time skewering Trump and Co, which although warranted does not leap to the top of my list.

I hope healthcare is at least the second most important thing on the agenda. Just trying to understand all the pieces is setting me up for a visit to the ER with a big dose of angina. There are three moving parts. The patient, and that be you and me. The provider, consisting of the hospitals, docs, drug companies and medical device emporiums. Lastly is the money in the operation which consists of the government, insurances companies and the poor schmuck with none of the above. Each one plays a part and must be put to blame for our current state of affairs.

I find it interesting that all of the current conversation revolves around how are we going to pay for all of this? Not one word about why it cost so much? The increases can be 5-10% per annum and no one bats an eye. I will still hold out until my dying day that there is a finite amount of money we can throw at our health but people seem relatively calm about 18% of our GDP going into this trough. That is $10,000 for every man, woman and child.

We have all been given something and nobody wants that taken away or minimized. As patients we are used to service and right now. Ergo the overuse of the most expensive form of medicine, the ER. It has its place but we use it as our local doctor. Thousands of dollars? Not a problem when you are insured or even better, indigent. The hospitals even have billboards touting how short your wait time is.

Continuing on if you need a hip replacement we can get you one with no more than two week’s to a month’s wait time. The medical device company is constantly improving their product and we all want the latest and greatest. When it is done the pain is unbearable so there is a plethora of goodies to ease the agony. Then you become addicted and that creates a whole new round of treatment. Along the way you need physical therapy and followup care. And all this is until the next body part fails.

Meanwhile that non profit hospital group has to compete with the those mercenary for profits cross town so they do all they can to attract top notch practitioners. That will cost money for staff, administration and equipment. Lo and behold a relatively small metro area soon has multiple institutions that claim the best oncology, cardiac care, stroke treatment, and ob/gyn that money can buy. That redundancy causes further competition that results in redecorating birthing suites and providing valet parking to distinguish themselves.

I am capitalist at heart but the reason I believe we have gone off the rails for several decades is by making healing people a money making operation. MD’s have become specialists and by doing so you see five or six instead of the one General Practitioner or Internist. You don’t go to one hospital but several in or outpatient facilities related to your particular ailment.The hospital has an expensive MRI machine so we have to run people through it. Care is obviously better but at what cost?

Whole industries and municipal areas have grown up around this. The execs are compensated by stock options that soar as the drugs or devices they sell become an instant best seller. Take a look at the explosion in the pacemaker business when Medicare loosened its standards for care. You have a cold? You need a pacemaker. I am not singling them out because the number of unwarranted or misplaced treatments is a contagion throughout the halls of healing.

We spend almost $3.3 trillion a year and that is with a “T” on healing the sick. Almost ONE QUARTER of that is spent on just paperwork. If we went to a single payer system we could save $375 billion of that. We spend almost $350 billion a year on drugs and the only operation that bids them out is the VA. It is estimated that fraud alone costs us $275 billion across the entire healthcare spectrum with Medicare accounting for $100 billion of that.

This is a mess beyond comprehension. To think the rocket scientists in DC can come to the rescue is a fairy tale. The Dems had eight years to fix Obamacare and did nothing. The GOP has had eight years to come up with an alternative and is running around in circles. Everything is so rampant with interest groups you don’t know who is on which side.

Frankly it starts with you and me. For starters we should question the necessity of this treatment or that. If we had a copay on every test performed do you think we would want every last one or at least question them? We pay $200 billion per annum in unnecessary testing. I will call us all out on taking better care of ourselves. Eating right and getting some exercise. Don’t just show up at the clinic door after abusing your body for twenty or thirty years and say, “Heal me.”

I am pissed off. As I have said before, I will probably sneak out the door but what are we leaving our kids and grandkids with? The six topics I mentioned at the beginning of my epistle are not nice to do things but incredibly vital to our success as a nation and a world. Yet the village idiots can’t wait to take planes home on Wednesday and most of the summer off. We shrug our shoulders and say what can I do? Please tell me it is not that hopeless.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

5% of the population accounts for almost 50% of the nation’s cost for healthcare. In one of the absurdities of life, healthy people spend more on healthcare in their lifetimes because they live longer than obese people or smokers.

I

Medicare and its beneficiaries spent $103 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2013.The data show that 14 drugs cost the federal government over $1 billion apiece. Most of those drugs are used to treat chronic conditions that plague the elderly, including diabetes, depression, high cholesterol and blood pressure, dementia and asthma.The brand drug Nexium, used to treat heartburn, acid reflux and related stomach ailments, cost the most: $2.5 billion for 1.5 million Medicare patients, who filled 8 million prescriptions and refills. None of this was bid out.

The end of life costs are a bit of a myth when looked at in a short period of time. It is more appropriate to look at overall care which for the elderly entails sometimes many years of treatment for chronic diseases which begin to have a multiple effect. The most expensive diseases to treat per annum are:

1.HIV $25,000
2. Cancer $49,000
3. Transplant $51,000
4. Stroke $61,000
5 Hemophilia $62,000
6. Heart Attack including Cardiac Revascularization (Angioplasty with or without Stent) $72,000
7. Coronary Artery Disease $75,000
8. Neonate (premature baby) with extreme problems $101,000
9. End-Stage Renal Disease $173,000
10. Respiratory Failure on Ventilator $314,000

We are living longer and that care is one of the primary drivers of our exploding costs. My treatise is just an attempt to define things. My head is spinning with the amount of data but we have to start somewhere. Tell me where I am wrong. Let’s get the discussion going.

 

 

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Passages….

It’s 5:00AM here in the Mile High City and the sun is beginning to reveal its unclose view of Denver. I treasure this time of day because it is quiet and contemplative. As I look downtown and to the mountains beyond I realize I am in the final leg of a wonderful stop in this thing we call life. The insightful book, Passages, by Gaily Sheehy seems an apt description of where I am.

Colorado is a majestic place to live. We spent part of the weekend with friends in the Vail Valley. They have an idyllic home right on the Eagle River that I have spoken about previously. The snowmelt laden waters put you in a bit of a revery as they roar by. It is a marvelous place to take stock.

On Saturday I read a book my daughter Megan had given me, “Barking Up The Wrong Tree” by Eric Barker. There are far too many fantastic nuggets of insight to enumerate but suffice to say he parses our thoughts ranging from daydreaming to stark reality. Positives and negatives. Helps and hindrances. There are no magic bullets but it gets you to thinking in extraordinary ways. Most of all it demonstrated to me how much more there is to do and yes to learn.

I was watching PBS Nova on the origins of our earth. I was spellbound by the gradual unravelling of how this place came to be. Tectonic plates still grinding and palm frond fossils uncovered in Alaska showed our blue marble is ever morphing into something different from the original Pangea. Evolution of all sorts is part of our DNA. Education and questioning should never stop until the day we die.

I mentioned a few weeks ago about my 50th reunion at Georgetown. Beyond eyeballing who looked good and who looked not so good I had to recall what five decades had imparted not only on my life but the world. Then I realized we are but a dot in time when we talk of billions of years of history. Yet I am still responsible for my place, however minute. What have I done and what I have failed to do. A little borrowing from the Catholic Act of Confession. Mea culpa but very apropos.

You have to go with both sides of the ledger, assets and liabilities. My plus list is a lot shorter than the problem areas. I have a sense of other people which I guess can be called empathy. I do care about my fellow man and by extension my world. I have this crazy gift to be able to relate to people who are having a hard time. Whether it is homeless or hospice or maybe the mentally ill I just sort of do my thing. . I hope I am a decent friend and have been truly blessed by many of you in that light. As an amigo recently told me when we talk we are not guarded. Let it rip, warts and all.   I am indeed lucky.

I am enthusiastic about just about everything. I get too psyched up sometimes about the tiniest of things. Some call it energy and others deem it insanity. I become frustrated when others don’t share my interest level and all too often I have run into brick walls of disinterest or resistance to change. Then that fleeting concept all too often goes into my book,”100 Great Ideas I Haven’t Done Squat About”. I should be more dogged and dedicated.

I have to get better at so many things and I consider that a goal rather than self flagellation. First and foremost I have to listen better. I don’t have all the answers. I have to sit and observe more. I go off half cocked because I have this idea there is only so much time to get things done. I have a pretty good sense of when things are screwed up but I usually use dynamite rather than modeling clay when fashioning a solution. My son Scott and I are driving cross country next week. He has just finished a three year tour in London. It will be a great test of my ears rather than my vocal chords.

I really need work on being a husband, dad and Padge. With Kathy I have to understand it is not just me or her but us. Even after 46 years there is work to do and lessons to be learned. I was proud and yet startled when having a drink at my youngest daughter’s new condo in Vail. I looked at the surroundings, her husband and her children and in a crazy way said. “Holy shit, she is all grown up!” All of my kids have grown and done remarkable things in their own lives. Where have I been? Not exactly “Cat in the Cradle” but I need work.

I want to become a better writer. I had breakfast with a great friend and I told her I want to be more disciplined in my approach to writing. I have great fun writing Ted’s Head but I have to write for writing’s sake and explore new and different ways to do so. Don’t worry I won’t foist the great American novel on you and whatever I put on paper probably will never see the light of day. It is just a wonderful medium to process thoughts and bring some coherence to my zany existence.

I hope I have not bored you with this missive. I hope in my twists and turns and delving that I am not alone in thinking about where I am and what I want to be. Kathy says I think too much. I would hold out that as we put our lives on automatic and one day mindlessly blends into another we don’t think enough. The phrase du jour is “Living With Purpose”. I will just call it just stopping and realizing who we are and just maybe who we might want to be. That is a passage in its own right. See you on down the road.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Many thanks to those that responded to my “I Have the Deck” blog. There were a record number of responses.

The RAAM (Race Across America) is an insane bike ride that occurs every year. It goes from San Diego to Atlantic City and covers some 3000 miles. The cyclists accomplish this in 12 days. One fellow has won it five times often doing so in nine days. At the end he was hallucinating and crying. Crazy? Of course but what an effort.

Each person has an average of 60,000 thoughts a day! That’s one thought per second in every waking hour! Amazingly, 95 percent are the same thoughts repeated every day. On average, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative. Unfortunately, our brains are hardwired to pay more attention to negative experiences than to positive ones. That is our survival instinct but how sad.
Merriam Webster Definition of success
1
obsolete :  outcome, result
2a :  degree or measure of succeeding
b :  favorable or desired outcome; also :  the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
3:  one that succeeds

I don’t know about you but I would take issue with the above. It seems the definition leaves out the intangibles of self worth…..Still pondering the imponderables.