The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘health’ Category

I’VE GOT A LITTLE LIST

Here’s a list of countries that have earned their way to a top ten list:

10.  Mozambique

9.  Guinea

8.  Burundi

7.  Burkina Faso

6.  Eritrea

5.  Sierra Leone

4.  Chad

3.  Central African Republic

2.  Democratic Republic of the Congo

1.  Niger

The list in question is entitled, “The Least Livable Countries in the World.”  The link to the full report follows.

http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/10/25/the-10-least-livable-countries/

If you have some familiarity with geography, perhaps you will be taken with the same thing that grabbed my attention.  That is that all of these countries are located on the continent of Africa.

If you read the entire report, you will note that the data and criteria was collected from the UN Development Programme.  The basis for indexing the countries worldwide was determined by three factors:  life expectancy, education and income.  These were then numerically quantified into what the UN calls a “Human Development Index.”  In a separate report, accessible from the same link, Norway which ranked as #1 had an index of 0.944.  Niger, at the bottom of the list had an index of 0.337.  I presume that an index number of 1.000 would be found only in the country of Nirvana.

In the United States, some of our politicians have found a rallying cry around the cause of “Income Inequality.”  The average person who lives in Niger earns $1.25 per day.  Which brings us to examining a far more important issue than “Income Inequality” – specifically, “Income Sufficiency.”  If an individual earns enough to provide a family with a comfortable home, food on the table, education and medical treatment, does it really matter that he does so in only a 1,500 square foot house while someone who has been more successful, been born to the purple or has simply gotten lucky, owns ten houses which average 15,000 square feet each?  That is not a matter of equality but rather an instance of envy.

This snapshot of ten African nations made me think immediately of life in many of America’s inner cities.  However, unlike these countries which are extremely poorly managed, in many cases have repressive governments and are further hampered with limited natural resources, most of our inner cities residents have access to ever expanding numbers of government subsidies, live in a country with a mandatory educational system and have the ability to succeed – if they choose to exercise that right.  It would be foolish not to admit that the inner city child has a more daunting task ahead of her than her counterpart who grows up in an upper class suburban environment.  But at least the opportunity exists, something that cannot be said for the citizens of those countries who made this list.

As Americans, do we really care about world poverty, limited life expectancies or lack of education – specifically as they affect those who live in Africa?  We responded to the Ebola outbreak – but is that a matter of concern for Africans who are being infected with Ebola – or because we are simply worried that it might spread here and then become a problem affecting our own country?  Sadly, those who are the most vocal on the issue seem to have taken the low road of political aggrandizement rather than true humanitarian concern.  And while we may, in the short run be able to stem or eradicate this most recent outburst, we will not do anything to change the long term outlook for the citizens of the affected African nations – or the others on this list.

Ebola was first identified in 1976.  It was as virulent then as it is thirty-eight years later.  But working to develop a vaccine makes no economic sense.  The disease was largely confined to the African continent both then and today.  And quite clearly, pharmaceutical companies, looking at the return on investment for developing an inoculation which would be marketed to poor Africans who could not pay for it and additionally might resist an effort to establish a preventative program and comparing that to the potential financial boon by developing yet another weight loss drug to be sold to an affluent American market where insurance and typical family income would guarantee an explosive market made that decision simple.

To my fellow Americans who complain that the United States is responsible for everything bad that has happened since man began recording his history, I find it strange that we are leading the effort to assist those who are victims of this disease.  But if they find that insufficient, perhaps they would like to take a more personal interest in resolving the problem by heading to the affected area and lending their helping hand.  It is true that we are still debating the appropriate way to handle people returning from the areas of infection in Africa.  But to my knowledge, there is no prohibition against traveling there.  And, given the generosity that Americans generally have, there’s probably a government program to help them buy their ticket.

IS FAST FOOD BAD FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?

How well I remember the wonderful smells of childhood.  The fresh air (even in New York City) after a spring rainfall; the refreshing scent of freshly-mown grass (the kind that covered the ground on lawns and in parks); but most of all, the marvelous aromas that came from the kitchen as Mom and Grandma worked to put out Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember the hours of anticipation as the smell of the Thanksgiving bird filled the apartment, heightened in intensity when the oven door was opened and Grandma lovingly basted it.  How my stomach would growl in anticipation and I could feel the saliva running in my mouth as I anticipated biting into this very special family dinner.

But at my hungriest, I never came near the intensity of the rant which occurred at a McDonald’s.  A friend was kind enough to forward this to me.  The link is to a potty-mouthed woman’s unbelievable outburst when she discovered that she could not get her fix for  Chicken McNuggets.  This video is rated MD – for mentally deranged:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1412484778970143&set=vb.381641995257474&type=2&theater

Wow!  While I am not a trained psychotherapist, I suspect this woman definitely could benefit from some  mental health assistance – which may be available to her if she can only get on the Obamacre website.

But in all seriousness, we know that eating lead-based paint can lead to mental issues.  The “Mad Hatter” suffered from dementia, probably as a result of his profession since lead was used in the manufacture of hats.  Could there be some connection between this woman’s consumption of Chicken McNuggets and her frenzy at finding out she couldn’t get them when she went to her local McDonald’s?

We know that eating fast food regularly is not conducive to good health.  Physical health, that is.  But could there be some sort of long-term effects from consuming this stuff on a regular basis?  What actually goes into a Chicken McNugget?  The following video will give you an electron microscope’s view of this “food.”

Some of my friends and more of my acquaintances are, I suspect, convinced that some of my opinions are “around the bend.”  Since December 18, 2013 will be my 30th anniversary of being “McDonald’s free,” I guess that I cannot use eating their output as an affirmative defense against these accusations.

But I’m in luck.  I’ve discovered an amazing website, www.excuses.com which has an excuse for every occasion and circumstance.  And the value of this website is further validated by the fact that, on good authority I am told, the Obama administration makes frequent use of its services.

A SKEPTIC’S VIEW ON “HEALTHCARE”

Grandma taught me a lesson at an early age.  It was a lesson that as a child I didn’t really appreciate or understand.  “Sweetheart, if you have your health you have everything.”  I adored my Grandmother but I thought filling up the page of my stamp album with all the pretty stamps or getting an A on the history test were far more important.  Then I got older – and then I grew up.

Because she was widowed at an age when my mother and aunt were young, she had to work hard to get by.  She held two jobs and took in other peoples’ laundry to make ends meet and to save a little bit each week.  Sadly, back in the 1920’s there were no social financial safety nets – other than what you might receive from family, friends or neighbors.

Grandma was not obsessed by money.  She never anticipated, nor did she have aspirations to become wealthy.  But she definitely understood that it was a bad thing not to be able to pay her bills and she worked diligently so that neither she nor her children were ever in that position.

Part of Grandma’s profound understanding of economics, based less than on her third grade education than on the experience she gained by attending the “School of Hard Knocks” was that income was only one component of being financially secure.  The other was how she spent what she had earned.  So she would go to five or six different grocers to buy the finest quality produce at the best possible price.  If she were president of the United States, this country would be running annual surpluses – which then could be used to help those who had not learned or didn’t care about the lessons she had been taught by life.

I don’t believe my Grandmother thought of herself as a Libertarian.  I’m not sure that the word had even been coined while she was alive.  But if she were with us today, I’m sure that she would identify far more closely with that system of government than what we find ourselves saddled with today.  And perhaps, by osmosis, that is why I view the world as I do.

Let me say that my views do not necessarily follow a “party line.”  There are very few essential issues to which virtually all Libertarians subscribe.  Beyond believing in a  limited amount of  government intervention in our lives and taking personal responsibility for our actions,, many of us who consider ourselves to be Libertarians are free to agree or disagree.  That, in itself, differentiates the Libertarian from most people who subscribe to the dogma promulgated by other political parties.  We do not have to subscribe blindly to the party “platform” in order to be considered loyal partisans.  That is, of course, also the weakness of Libertarianism.

Perhaps a better word to use to define Libertarianism is the phrase, “people who are skeptical.”  While we commonly accept the word “skeptic” as meaning a person who doubts, the derivation comes from the Greek “skeptikos” which refers to a person who investigates.  So with that in mind, let’s investigate why Obamacare isn’t working – at least not as it was touted it would.

First, I think it is fair to say that the primary premise behind the law was that it would enable every American to get health insurance.  In that respect it makes the assumption that having health insurance is the equivalency of having healthcare and that those who do not currently have health insurance would, with great avidity, seek it out.  Granted, there have been difficulties with access to the website which might have deterred some of the uninsured from investigating their new options.  But the most recent polls suggest that only one in five of those who are uninsured have even bothered to try to see what options are available to them.

If I were marketing a product that I was convinced “everybody” wanted and needed but found in surveys that only one in five actually had an interest, I would probably revise my expectations and my marketing strategies.

Second, Obamacare approaches the question of “healthcare” only from the standpoint of the consumer – not the medical establishment.   It doesn’t require skepticism to realize that if our doctors and hospitals are not willing to accept people who are covered by the new “health insurance” because of the minimal reimbursements which are being offered to them, they will find more profitable ways to do business and those who hold these new insurance policies will find themselves holding a worthless piece of paper.

If we were to purchase a product that was advertised on national television and discovered when we went to use it that it simply did not work, all sorts of government agencies, in the interest of “consumer protection,” would be filing law suits against the manufacturer and probably drive that company out of business.

Third, I have said many times that we do not now have and will not have after Obamacare a “healthcare system.”  What we truly have is a “disease maintenance” system.  If we were serious about improving the nation’s health, we should focus on having a “wellness system.”  But there are several problems with that concept.

The first is that there is very little money in providing “wellness.”  The healthy individual does not go to the doctor, other than for an annual physical exam and does not need the services provided in our advanced operating rooms.  Nor does she require prescriptions that support our pharmaceutical companies and our drug stores.

The second problem is that living a healthy lifestyle requires effort – individual effort.  It means that the individual must accept responsibility for his own good health and that requires discipline.  Americans like things fast.  That includes food – whether at a franchised McDonald’s or from the freezer of our grocery stores.  These products may be FDA approved – but that doesn’t mean that they promote good health.

The FDA and the Department of Agriculture also approve the way in which we raise and feed the factory-farm animals that contribute significantly to our diets.  The estimates are that 90% of the FDA approved antibiotics which are manufactured are fed to these animals.  As we ingest them in our meals, we naturally absorb the antibiotics that the slaughtered animals consumed during their brief lives.  Why, therefore, should we be surprised that the NIH has raised concerns that antibiotics are no longer proving to have the efficacy they once did as new “super bugs” are proving resistant to them?

It’s one thing to refer to problems and criticize and quite another to offer positive solutions.  But in a country which has almost universally accepted the concept of “disease maintenance” as “the way things are,” it is unlikely that either Obamacare or any variation of it will prove effective in the long term.  Our “healthcare system” will continue to hemorrhage both blood and red ink.  And it will be up to the individual to look after her or his own well-being.  That is if the government will let those few of us who believe this to follow our hearts and our consciences.

As Grandma said, “When you have your health you have everything.”  For those who do not believe that statement – well, they have Obamacare.

IF YOU COULD CHOOSE …

So let’s pretend that in the Brave New World into which we are rapidly transforming America you are given the choice of three options:

A.  You can have good health;

B.  You can have good health care;

C.  You can have good health insurance.

Which one of the above would you choose?

If anyone selected option B or C I suggest you immediately turn yourself into your local mental health clinic.

Let me say that we have, with the passage of Obamacare, re-defined the term healthcare and have made it synonymous with health insurance.  The two are as dissimilar as black and white.  And neither of them assures a person of good health.

If you consider the underlying premise of this abysmal law, it is supposed to insure those who currently do not have insurance and make it affordable for all the rest of us (who actually have not received exemptions and will be forced to eat this spoiled lunch).  This will, of course, lead to greater access to healthcare.  Let’s look at that premise.

Let’s assume that if Obamacare survives it achieves its goal of making certain that every American has insurance.  How does that serve the common good?  We’ve had absolutely no increase in those who provide healthcare services and with the influx of new people wanting attention, everyone will simply wait longer to get service, if that service is even permitted by those bureaucrats who will determine what we are entitled to receive.  It’s a little like giving everyone some money to get a meal at a local restaurant.  The only problem is that none of the restaurants has any food.

Before heading off to Martha’s Vineyard, the Prez lambasted Republicans for wanting to deprive 30 MM Americans of good health insurance.  (Actually, I’m not sure if he even employed the word good).  But the truth of the matter is that having good health insurance and having good health are unrelated to each other.

If you are fortunate, have good genes, eat well, maintain a healthy lifestyle, barring an accident, you are likely to have very little need for health insurance.  In your case the amount that you spend for health insurance is simply money that went down the drain.  Well, that’s the nature of insurance.  We buy it but we hope never to have to use it.  Who wants to cash in on that premiere home insurance policy which will rebuild our house and replace our furnishings after the house was demolished by a tornado?

Several days ago in my post “The Cure For Cancer,” I quoted the American Diabetes Association in their analysis of the financial implications of this one disease.

“For the cost categories analyzed, care for people with diagnosed diabetes accounts for more than 1 in 5 health care dollars in the U.S., and more than half of that expenditure is directly attributable to diabetes.”

Diabetes is one condition which the medical industry refers to as a “chronic disease.”  There are others which also contribute to our state of ill health.  Certainly overweight and obesity which, like diabetes have been labeled by both the CDC and NIH as of “epidemic proportion” fit that category.  In and of themselves they kill relatively few people (although they have a severe impact on productivity) but they are the gateways to cardio-vascular conditions which are the single greatest cause of health-related deaths among Americans – to the tune of about 700,000 per year.

Now what’s interesting in this whole discussion is that Obama’s implication is that the 30 million whom Republicans want to deprive of health insurance are people about whom they don’t care.  The implication is that these are “poor people” (translation Democrats) and the further translation of that is “black/minority”.

A division of the Department of Health and Human Services is something known as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  In a report they published in November, 2001 they made the statement that black Americans are between 1.4 to 2.2 times as likely to contract diabetes as are their white counterparts.  They made this further statement about immigrant populations who were Hispanic:

“In studies comparing migrant populations with native non-migrant populations, a consistent linkage of type 2 diabetes with the American lifestyle was found. According to AHRQ-funded researchers, this lifestyle includes a diet higher in total calories and fat but lower in fiber, as well as the tendency to expend less energy because of laborsaving devices. All minorities in the United States for which data exist have a higher prevalence of diabetes than do residents of their countries of origin.”

There we have it – something that kooks like Gaylord Hauser and other nutritionists from back in the ‘60’s were preaching and whose words were scoffed at by the medical establishment.  Sure our genes are important determinants – but we have no control over our parents and our lineage.  But we do have the ability to control how we manage our lives whether we were blessed with great genes or ones that are not so good.  Unfortunately, that message, while not missing entirely from our approach to good health, has been the most understated in this whole conversation.

While I do not follow either a vegan or vegetarian regimen, I have five friends who do.  I can tell you that not one of them is overweight and all of them are extremely active both in their business and personal lives.

I also know many people who hit up fast food restaurants for five to ten meals a week.  Virtually all of them are overweight and several are obese.  Their greatest level of activity is flipping the remote control to find out about the latest product which promises that if they simply swallow a pill, they can continue to eat as they do now and still lose weight.

That products such as the “no-diet-change-weight-loss pills sell speaks to the fact that we are unwilling as a country to take individual responsibility for our health (or much of anything else).  And in that environment, it is understandable why we elect people to public office who play to our weakness and pass acts such  as the ACA.

Apparently, most of us really want to have a nanny government to whom we can turn, who will kiss our boo boo and make the pain go away.  I miss my mom and dad too, but at least when they comforted me I knew that they sincerely cared.  I have no such sense of comfort when government dispenses its largesse.

In the half hour I’ve been writing this post I’ve heard two ads on television (which I keep on for background noise).  Both were for trial lawyers who will happily represent us if we are female and had a “mesh or bladder sling” implanted and have suffered adverse effects; and the second willing to represent women who might have taken Lipitor – which “allegedly” may have caused an increased risk in their developing diabetes.

If you go to the Medicare website, the very first thing that you will be asked is whether or not you want more information on Part D insurance (prescription drug coverage).  The cost of prescription drugs represents a massive percentage of our “healthcare” costs.  Not a bad price to pay if these drugs actually cured our maladies – but ninety percent of them simply don’t – and almost all have dreadful side effects.

There is one further thought about “healthcare” availability which every serious person should consider.

Do you really believe that a program, directed by an administration that has consistently lied to the American people; who have exempted those with whom it is in bed from this rule or that regulation; who have exhibited no ability to get its only “accomplishment” up and running in a way in which anyone could have any confidence; and whose only “accomplishment” is being forced down the throats of Americans, the vast majority of whom oppose its implementation; do you believe that sort of an administration which has exhibited nothing but total incompetence and elitism will, in fact, “mete out” healthcare on an equal basis to everyone?

Those who want to criticize big business have no further to look than big government and big pharmaceutical companies who rank as the number one or two largest government lobbyist year after year after year.  Either by itself is dangerous – combined they may prove fatal.

If you do not now believe that your health is your personal responsibility – Obamacare may change your view – very quickly.

THE O’REILLY FACTOR

Last night I listened, as I often do, to “The O’Reilly Factor” on the FOX network.  With so much media slanted in one direction, I find it necessary to get an occasional fix of some conservative input to remind myself that I’m not totally insane.

One of the stories that Mr. O’Reilly covered in his introduction was that Attorney General Holder has made an effort to dissemble the minimum sentencing requirements for non-violent drug offenders.  He made this statement at a meeting of the American Bar Association.

I heard a portion of his speech earlier in the day and, to be honest, I thought it was the most enlightened thing that the AG had said during his tenure.  Mr. O’Reilly felt otherwise.

Bill O’Reilly’s point was that drug dealers are selling poison – true; and that their sales, particularly to minors and others who are not capable of making prudent decisions may result in death – also true.  Therefore, he concluded that all drug sales had the potential of resulting in violent consequences and that the Attorney General was totally off base.  He also made reference to the recent death of Corey Monteith as an example of the horrible negative effects of drugs.

Bill O’Reilly has a point of view that is internally consistent – generally.  Part of his credo is that the individual has the right to make choices, free of government interference.  In that respect, I have to question his position on the issue of drug sellers and drug abusers.  Mr. Monteith is a case in point.  He made a terrible life choice which resulted in his death.  But it was his choice to make.

Then there’s the now much-touted case of the thirteen year old youngster in Florida who was savagely beaten by three older teenagers on the school bus.  This kid did the right thing by informing school authorities that his assailants were selling drugs on school grounds.  The result was that he suffered a terrible beating and a fractured arm.

Should those thugs be punished for their primitive behavior?  Of course they should.  But they should be tried and punished irrespective of their motivation or their drug-selling activity.

If I had a magic wand, all drugs would instantaneously disappear from the face of the earth.  But we know that isn’t reality or a lot of good people would have waved that wand a long time ago.

Anytime there are massive amounts of money involved in selling a product and a consumer demand for it, you can be certain people will make a market in it.  Setting aside our personal moral objections to drugs or drug use, we need to acknowledge that.  And then we need to find a productive strategy that will minimize their impact on society.

As a kid in New York City I don’t know how many times I read about some junkie holding up and harming an elderly person who was waiting to catch the subway, robbing them so they could get money for their next fix.  Some of those episodes resulted in the death of the victim.  That isn’t justice for the victims.

To my mind there is only one way to deal with this in a rational way and that is to decriminalize drugs and to dispense them through certified outlets – whether run by government or by a closely-regulated private operation.

Since most of the western world has adopted the American mind set toward drugs, we have few examples to guide us as to how implementing a process of legalization and regulation might work.  One country which has experience with this approach is the Netherlands.  They implemented their heroin-assisted program in 1998.

Since that time they have found that the number of heroin addicts has increased at a rate slower than the general population growth and that the average increase in the age of users has increased from 27 years of age to 38.  In other words, fewer young people are entering the addict population and those who are confirmed users are simply getting older, pulling up the average age.

Although cannabis is legal, using it while operating a vehicle is strictly prohibited and the police routinely give motorists who are involved in a traffic accident a drug test.  Failing this test can lead to a minimum three year jail term.

As a conservative I rely on the lessons that history teaches us.  If a particular philosophy, no matter how well-motivated, simply doesn’t work, it’s time for all reasonable people to question its usefulness.  That is what we learned with respect to alcohol.  And with all due respect to Bill O’Reilly, that is what we should be willing to admit about illegal drugs.

Pass The Butter … Please.

Once upon a time in the Dairy State (Wisconsin) it was illegal to sell margarine. The margarine people complained that this was unfair to them and a restraint of their right to sell a butter/alternative product. Read through to the end of this excellent article and you’ll see maybe those old dairy farmers were on to something.

Oyia Brown

This is interesting . .. .

Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back.

It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow colouring and sold it to people to use in place of butter.

How do you like it? They have come out with some clever new flavourings….

DO YOU KNOW.. The difference between margarine and butter?

Read on to the end…gets very interesting!

Both have the same amount of calories.

Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams; compared to 5 grams for margarine..

Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to…

View original post 314 more words

THE PEPSI GENERATION

Perhaps you’ve seen the ad for Pepsi Next.  To my knowledge there is only one that has been aired.  In it a young 20-something guy comes bursting through the front door of his apartment where his young 20-something wife/significant other/girlfriend is tending to what is presumably their young toddler offspring.  He erupts with the proclamation that “He’s found it.  The most fantastic thing that he has ever discovered in his young life.  It’s Pepsi Next with 30% less sugar than regular Pepsi.  It’s the ‘most remarkable thing he’s encountered in his life.’”  I guess that includes sex.

The female, after tasting the product goes on to say that “Their parents are going to be so proud [I presume because of his genius at this discovery].”  Good grief.  Is this the kind of discovery that our 20 year olds consider remarkable – a new soft drink?  At the end of the commercial the toddler, overjoyed at his parents’ genius is seen jumping up and down and strumming on an electric guitar – apparently in preparation for his becoming an aspiring rock star – where he will no doubt be able to eclipse his parents’ discovery by partaking of all sorts of illicit substances which only rock stars, pro athletes and politicians can afford.

Let’s think about the commercial and the product  for a moment.  Apparently, 30% less sugar is a “good thing” – meaning that the regular dose which have been and are being consumed in “Hi-Test Pepsi” that has been marketed since 1893 (in various incarnations) is a “bad thing”.  That is certainly the only implication we could draw from the commercial – an admission by the Pepsi-Cola Company that they have been marketing a product that is bad for 120 years.  And, of course, they along with their bigger confederate, the Coca-Cola Company have offered products that are, in the minds of many in the medical profession one of the root causes for our explosion in diabetes, obesity and a host of chronic diseases which are currently contributing to the overall unhealthiness of our child and adult populations and are in large part creating the millstone hanging around the neck of American healthcare.

You would have thought that in the 2,000 plus pages of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), some one or several of our geniuses in the Congress might actually have considered looking at the causes of our medical malaise and proposed a tax (just as we impose an excise tax on tobacco and alcohol because of their harmful effects) and said, “We can solve the entire healthcare issue very simply if we tax each serving of carbonated beverage $.25.  The additional cost will deter some consumers from drinking the stuff, leading to a healthier population, and the money raised from the rest will close the Medicare/Medicaid budget deficit.

At today’s rates of consumption, this would raise the astounding amount of $160 Million Per Day.  That’s $58.4 Billion per year.  In addition, in those states and municipal districts which levy a sales tax and which presently do not collect it on soft drinks because they are considered “food”, redefining the product as a non-food item would raise additional billions of dollars in revenue.

But to leave the economics and return briefly to the product,  let’s face it.  If Pepsi Next uses 30% less sugar and still delivers that sweet taste that consumers love, how do they do it?  If you haven’t already guessed, they do it be substituting natural and artificial sweeteners that have, perhaps even worse long term health implications than the sugar that we get from sugar cane and sugar beets.  These little killers are high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose.

Do you remember several years ago when we were targeted with ads that proclaimed “this product and that product” contained no high fructose corn syrup?  And then the industry lobby struck back with their ads contending that “sugar is sugar and the body doesn’t know the difference.”  Well, like Jason Voorhees in the “Friday the 13th” movie series, there’s no getting away from it – high fructose corn syrup has made its return.  And as I’ve written before, the harmful long-term side effects of aspartame are growing in number.  (It is a common sweetener in many carbonated soft drinks).  I refer you to an earlier post on the subject:

https://juwannadoright.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/the-battle-of-the-bulge/

Of course, it is possible to sweeten beverages and other food products with natural, non-white sugar ingredients.  Stevia which is extracted from a variety of sunflowers is a perfect example – and Pepsi knows this because this is exactly what they use in the Pepsi Next beverages that they produce and distribute in Australia.  Perhaps the Aussie version of our FDA is more on the ball than our bureaucrats in Washington.  Of course, stevia is more costly than mass-produced aspartame which is undoubtedly the reason that it is not included in the product meant for distribution to the far larger American audience.

Just an additional point on the “unhealthiness of Pepsi products”.  A  research and consumer advocacy group recently released a report that the caramel coloring used by Pepsi contains an unacceptably high level of a carcinogen which is called 4-methylimidazole or 4-Mel for short.  While the implications of the consumption of this chemical and cancer in humans has not been conclusively determined, it would seem prudent to avoid it if at all possible.

I always try to remain optimistic and in that regard I hope that our 20-something and partner discover the wonderful product that one can obtain by using a water filter.  Thirst quenching, natural and a big step up from any of our carbonated alternatives.  If everyone used and enjoyed their output – now that would truly be a revolutionary event.

LIGHTS OUT

As we have survived the purported Mayan Apocalypse, seen yet another seasonal “Holiday” on December 25th and wandered our way into a New Year, I am sure that many of us hope for a better 2013 than what we saw in its predecessor.  I certainly find it difficult to imagine how it might be worse.  And then the light bulb in my head went on.  But, actually, the CFL light bulb in one of the lamps in the family room went out.

Although I began replacing the old incandescent bulbs in my home a few years ago with CFL’s, my cost analysis of their economic efficiency versus those old bulbs with which we all grew up, left me wondering if the reduction in energy consumption and the bulbs’ purported seven year life would ever overcome the original cost of the bulbs.  It was a close call if I factored in about a ten percent yearly increase in the cost my electric company charged for letting light shine in my home.

But, of course, there was also the worthwhile goal, on which I couldn’t place a dollar figure, of reducing my “environmental imprint” on planet Earth.  The bulbs are reputed to draw less electrical consumption thus reducing our demand for fossil fuel.

Now when I made my original purchase of these bulbs a few years back, I remember standing in Lowe’s and saying to myself, “How do they know these things are going to last for seven years when they’ve only been on the market for three years?”  I got the answer two years later.  They don’t.  Of course, this threw my total economic analysis on the “value” of these bulbs right out the window.

I also remember thinking, as I pondered my original purchase, “How is using something that contains mercury something that is good for the environment?”  We know that mercury is one of the most toxic substances to which animal and plant life can be exposed.  That’s why the old mercury thermometers with which we were diagnosed as children now exist only as an exhibit at The Smithsonian.  And that’s why The Mad Hatter was “mad” as in his occupation he was constantly exposed to mercury.

Notwithstanding these reservations, I did purchase a supply of CFL’s and as my incandescent bulbs went to bulb heaven I began replacing them.  Yesterday, one of these valiant soldiers of the advance army of technology lost it’s life and I started to replace it.

Fortunately, I had recently read a post on the wonderful blog Two Heads Are Better Than One which can be accessed at http://thabto.wordpress.com/  in which Mark Steyn explained the process of clearing up one of these contraptions in the event that it broke in the process of removal and disposal.   I present that here in case you are in need of similar guidance in this area.

Armed with the knowledge provided in the video, I prepared the area near the CFL containing lamp by stripping two beds of their pillows and placing them underneath the lamp.  I washed my hands thoroughly with lava containing soap to make sure than any slippery substance which might have adhered was now history.  I dried my hands thoroughly and shooed Gracie out the back door into the yard just to be certain that, despite my precautions, should a mishap occur in this process, she would not be exposed to mercury poisoning.  And with the deft hands of a skilled surgeon, I unscrewed the now deceased warrior of a better way of life and removed it from the fixture.  The operation went well and was concluded without incident.

I am jubilant to report that I also made my own contribution to advancing the cause of mankind.  I happened to find in my light bulb “stash” one of those old, warm incandescent bulbs which had snuggled its way into a corner and which I had overlooked.  I replaced the CFL with it, returning to the older, simpler way of doing things.  I think the reason the CFL’s draw less electricity is obvious.  They throw less light than their ancient counterparts.

When I drive over to Lowe’s the next time so that I can properly recycle my mercury-containing CFL bulb, I think I’m going to load up on a supply of the oldies but goodies before they become illegal later this year.  Who knows, a black market for these bulbs might develop and I may stand to make a small fortune.  Or at the least, I should check out whether I can find an incandescent light bulb manufacturer in China – which may indeed become the provider of light in this Brave New World.

THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE

As one of my personal trainer friends tells me, he is gearing up for the busiest time of the year at his gym.  That is the period starting on January 2nd (when everyone has recovered from their New Year’s Eve hangover) and it lasts until about mid-February – when gym goers everywhere realize that despite working out diligently three times a week, their waistline has shrunken by one quarter of an inch. 

Then, for most, it’s back to business as usual – which doesn’t include designer sweats or the gym.  Well, the designer sweats are still a fashion statement so maybe the former workout enthusiasts will wear them when they pick up their lattes.

Most of us realize that it’s unlikely that you’re going to earn a college degree until you’ve completed elementary school.  We recognize that there is a defined plan, a curriculum which we must complete before we can move on to the next stage.  If we only held that same concept in mind as we considered our weight and our health, we would collectively weigh a lot less and be far healthier.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where we expect downloads to be instantaneous and that mindset carries over into our view of everything about our lives.  We want it and we want it NOW.  But the cold reality of weight gain and loss is that it doesn’t happen instantaneously.  Rather it is a process both on the up and downsides.  And that frustrates us.

So how do we deal with the fact that nature stands in the way of our desire for instant gratification for looking sleek and svelte?  For many of us the answer is that we turn to diet soda, conning ourselves into believing that consuming that beverage will counterbalance the double helping of mashed potatoes and gravy that we heaped on our plates.

Now the “stuff” that is generally used to simulate the taste of sugar in diet sodas is a man-made chemical known as aspartame.  It was originally formulated by G. D. Searle which is now owned by Monsanto – the people who were greatly involved in inventing GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) vegetables. 

Depending on who you speak with, aspartame may or may not be such a good thing.  You may not be surprised to learn that the Coca Cola Company’s “Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness” concludes that aspartame is the greatest thing that happened to mankind since sweet and salty snacks were invented.  I leave it to you to decide whether you think that is an objective assessment.

On the other hand, there are others who would differ in their view of this additive.  Ninety-two different symptoms have been attributed to the consumption of aspartame.  And numerous complaints have been made to the FDA by people who have consumed foods containing this chemical.  The largest number of these come from people who consumed the substance in diet soda.

Perhaps you are one of those who basks in the glow of being sheltered from harm by government.  If so, you assuredly are living in hog heaven today.  But let’s look at facts and not philosophies for a moment.

The most recognized logo in the world belongs to the Coca Cola Company.  They are the dominant player in the business of selling soda not only in America but throughout the world.  And the problem of overweight is not simply our national problem but is one that is increasing throughout the globe. 

We know that the refined sugar used in regular soft drinks has long-term adverse health effects – including weight gain, obesity and cardio-vascular implications.  Some studies show that while aspartame has no caloric content, it actually increases appetite – thus, should that be true – defeating the purpose for which it was originally included in the beverage.

Frankly, I don’t know whether these assertions are true or false – nor do I believe that we are likely to get any honest  government involvement in this as the companies that are involved in the manufacture and distribution of these iconic products carry a lot of weight and pay a lot of tax dollars into the Treasury.  As we all know, “Money talks … and sometimes BS gets a free pass.”

In the absence of conclusive evidence, perhaps the only logical thing to do is to assume the worst and avoid aspartame in diet sodas and in other products in which it is used (and that list is extensive).  The last I heard, water is still aspartame-free. 

You know, things were simpler when all we had to worry about was our kids’ chewing the lead based paint off the walls.

PULLING THE PLUG

When it is scientifically clear that a patient has no chance of ever again functioning normally and is on life support for his existence, those who have loved him for a lifetime have a terrible choice to make.  Do they continue to administer the support to keep him breathing, even though there is no brain function, or do they make the decision to let him go?

I never expected to be in the position to have to make that decision but that is exactly where I found myself.  I gave the order yesterday to pull the plug on my Cable TV subscription at 11:37 a.m. PST.  The patient was pronounced dead by the time I returned home a half hour later.

It might be difficult for those who are young and have grown up with hundreds of channels of television and enough remotes to control their viewing pleasure that would sink a small battleship that there was a time when there were only a few channels from which we could choose.  And those broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC actually took a break and went off the air – allowing us to get our needed rest.

Although the choices we had were limited, the content of those programs was far superior and more entertaining than what we are offered today – at least in my opinion.  And we enjoyed that experience together, as a family, watching those shows which my parents thought were appropriate for me to see.

Our old Dumont television was housed in a chinoise-style cabinet.  Generally, the doors to the cabinet were shut, hiding from our eyes the small television that blankly stared with its blind eye until we turned on the power and waited a minute or so until the cathode ray tubes had heated up to the point they provided a black and white picture and monophonic sound. 

For me, Grandma, not the television was the babysitter.  And of course there were other things to entertain me like homework and books and my stamp collection.  By the time I was twelve I had read through A – K of my Encyclopedia Britannica, still had time for extracurricular activities at school and was halfway through the collected works of Charles Dickens.  I simply can’t imagine how I could have had the time to do all of that if I had been glued to our television from the moment I returned home from classes to the time I went to bed.

I remember coming home one day after one of my classmates had mentioned that his family had eaten their dinner on TV tables the previous evening.  I didn’t know what a TV table was, so I asked Mom.  Her response was, “That’s something that families who don’t have anything to say to one another use to avoid having a conversation.”  I admit that at the time that comment was a little over my head, but I got the point later in my life.  All I knew was that we didn’t have TV tables but we did have an evening meal together and we talked to each other.

In my mind, the Japanese concept of shibui certainly applies to television.  Perhaps the best definition of this word that describes the joy of minimalist aesthetics is, “less is more.”  And you can’t have less than none which is where I have now found myself in my television viewing experience.

I won’t miss episodes of stories about suburban housewives, the latest designs in tattoos, reality television in which the most pathetic examples of humanity parade themselves for all the world to emulate or 99% of the rest of the stuff that is broadcast to an unthinking public who considers the drivel that is offered as a good way to improve their minds.  Since I never watched that sort of thing when I was connected, I guess the producers of those shows would consider me as one of the unbaptized, unclean and uninformed.  So be it.

The way I look at it, the money I’m going to save over the next year both on television and the consequent reduction in my electric bill will allow me to purchase about fifty new titles to add to my classic movie collection.  Although I long ago finished Dickens, I haven’t re-read Dostoevsky for many years and I allowed my Encyclopedia Britannica project to lapse when I had only just started on the letter “T” – so there’s a project.

It was difficult for me to make the decision to pull the plug on an old friend.  But only one day into my new television-less brave new world I realize – it had to be done.

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