Hidden Immorality of Medical Costs

Hidden Immorality

I just read an interesting article that illustrates the hidden immorality associated with medical costs in this country. In Alabama primarily but other states as well, the sheriff’s office is required to pay for medical expenses of inmates. The cost is so prohibitive the sheriffs simply release the inmates, often dragging the hand of an incoherent prisoner over a release form, before sending her or him off to the hospital.

Do the sheriffs in question know this is an immoral action? Of course they do, but what other choice is there? If an inmate suffers from a serious illness the cost of care could be more than the entire department’s yearly budget. That’s the reality of high medical costs in this country. The problem spreads its vile tentacles into so many aspects of our lives it’s difficult to truly comprehend the horror it creates, not only for patients, for their families, but also for the people who are trying to care for them, including the sheriffs.

I absolutely guarantee you sheriffs don’t want take prisoners who look like they are getting ill, drive them to the edge of town, and dump them on the street. The reality is painful but true. Why is this happening? Because so many poor people don’t have insurance. Why don’t people have insurance? Because medical care can be an enormous expense and insurance companies don’t want people who have illnesses on their plans.

The trickle up effect is that sheriffs, counties, states, and the federal government are stuck with enormous bills they cannot easily pay, just as are patients. The result is that people are not getting treatment because it costs too much and that creates vast suffering, a hidden immorality of high medical expenses.

Do you think a law enforcement officer goes home and tells her or his friends and family about how wonderful it was to help a nearly unconscious inmate scrawl their signature on a release form so the county could save money? I don’t. I think the officers hate themselves for having to do it because the act is unethical on its face. Yet it is happening over and over again. That’s the hidden immorality that our nation is facing.

I’ve written about the underlying problem, an aging and unhealthy population, before so I won’t go into details here. There are certainly no easy solutions but I think it’s important to understand how medical costs create a hidden immorality far beyond the people who get sick.

Tom Liberman

Fake Guacamole on the Rise Because of High Priced Avocados

Fake Guacamole

If you’re like me, you love guacamole and avocados. Yum. The price for avocados is skyrocketing and this is causing a lot of pain in restaurants who use the delicious fruit in various dishes. It strikes particular hard for Mexican establishments who tend to use it across a wide array of menu items but other restaurants are suffering as well. What do they do? Use other ingredients and create Fake Guacamole.

If you weren’t against tariffs because you’re a freedom loving Libertarian who promotes open and free trade then this phrase almost certainly hits somewhere most likely even more important, your stomach. The very words Fake Guacamole should be as rage inducing as trying to Get Over It. Ok, that’s a video game reference and sometimes I just can’t help but let my inner nerd out for all to see. Well, actually, it’s pretty much always on display but I won’t get sidetracked from my mission to free you from Fake Guacamole.

I’ve written about why protectionism hurts consumers far more than it helps those industries it purports to protect so I won’t reiterate here. The results are plain to see. Avocados cost a lot more today because tariffs have exacerbated a poor harvest and increasing demand. Today’s issue is the sort of punch to the gut that I think economic philosophy and Libertarian ideology don’t impart. You, the consumer, have most likely eaten Fake Guacamole in the last few months. You are certainly paying more for what avocados you still purchase although it’s almost certain you’ve cut down on that particularly delightful and healthy food.

This is the direct result of policies that promote protectionism and their attendant tariffs. How does it feel to know you’ve been tricked? That you’ve been served something under false pretenses because politically motivated economic policies forced the restaurant to do so in order to survive? Perhaps you think it’s worth it, that the trade off is worth the horror of fake guacamole. I disagree because I see no benefit from the policies of protectionism. They are merely political rallying points to inspire a group of citizens who are not happy with the direction of government.

If you are not happy with where our government is going, more bad policies are not going help. Things are hardly perfect in the United States but don’t let that encourage you to vote for politicians who enact policies detrimental both in the short and long term. Don’t let your rabble be raised in negative ways. Demand good decisions from your leaders with your votes. They’ll listen, I promise.

Free trade means cheaper avocados and real guacamole. How can you be against that?

Tom Liberman

Hot Tea Cancer Misleading Headline

Hot Tea

Does drinking hot tea cause esophageal cancer? That’s what my Misleading Headline of the week certainly seems to suggest. Once you spend the time to read the article a different reality emerges.

Putting something scalding hot in your throat, regardless of its composition, causes irritation with in turn leads to an increased risk of cancer. Certainly it’s more common to burn your throat with a liquid than a solid and lots of people drink tea hot therefore it’s a likely culprit, but it’s not the tea causing the problem.

In order to burn your throat with hot items they have to be quite hot, so hot that such tea is rarely drunk in most places in the world. In a few cultures the tea or coffee is kept in a samovar which is continuously heated and it is in these places the studies took places.

Most people wait for their tea, or coffee, or hot toddy, to cool enough where they aren’t burning their throat. Don’t always believe the headline and keep coming back for more Misleading Headlines!

Tom Liberman

Stan Lee and Trusted Financial Advisors

Stan LeeFor the last few years a tragic story involving Stan Lee and the demise of his fortune has been sprinkling into the news one depressing story after the next. It reminds me again of why it’s so important to have a trusted financial advisor in dealing with your estate. Most people think of long term growth but quick and brutal theft is also possible when working with people of diminishing mental capacity.

Mr. Lee either created or helped create many of the fictional super hero characters for Marvel Comics in the era before they were enormous money-making movie machines. He was paid a regular salary and didn’t earn much despite his superlative creative efforts. Later, when the movies came out he did receive his just due.

As is often the case when there is a large amount of money involved, nefarious villains slither into the picture. Not men and women like Doctor Octopus, the Green Goblin, and Black Cat; but everyday people who promise to help but instead plan to steal all the money quietly and without the need for super-powers. They just lie and gain your trust, those are abilities well within the capabilities of the average person who has no conscience.

In the United States it’s not particularly easy to get someone declared incompetent so as to protect them from themselves. I discussed this idea in other blogs but the gist of it is that people did so as a way to steal money from others. In fact, many times the person coming to steal your money isn’t some stranger but a relative.

This is where it’s absolutely vital to make sure you engage a reputable financial company to handle your finances, even if you have a relatively small amount like a few hundred thousand dollars in savings. Yes, you will have to pay that company fees for their services. These services certainly include wise investing which should increase your holdings, but also protect it from those who see it as opportunity. It may seem paradoxical to trust strangers over friends and family when it comes to finances, but when those strangers handle money for a living they are less tempted to steal and more likely to protect.

As we get older we often lose our mental acuity. This is clearly what happened to Mr. Lee and since the death of his wife, who apparently guarded the finances well, much of the money was stolen. Transferred from his estate to those of supposed friends and possibly family members intent on bilking him out of his earnings.

It nearly brings me to tears to see Mr. Lee in such a condition. Paraded around and used by horrible people as they steal his money and whisper lies to a man of diminished mental capacity. Sickened is the word that comes to mind.

It’s probably too late for Mr. Lee and his money, don’t let it happen to you or the ones you love.

Tom Liberman

Benningfield offers to Sterilize Free for Reduced Sentence

Judge Sam BenningfieldThere’s an interesting situation going on in Tennessee where Judge Sam Benningfield is offering reduced sentences for criminals who partake of freely provided birth control. Vasectomy for men and Nexplanon for women. For men, this largely means permanent sterilization and for women the device lasts for about four years. Naturally, there is an uproar.

I think Judge Benningfield has it partially right. I don’t think we should be offering free birth control to convicted criminals, we should be offering it to everyone! What would the world be like if no woman became pregnant with an unwanted child, if no father impregnated a woman when he didn’t want to have a child? The answer is quite clear; much, much better.

I think the benefits of such procedures, performed free of charge for the asking, cut through political divides on all sides. Hey, conservatives, that’s it; no more abortions. Or at least only in quite rare circumstances. Birth rates among illegal immigrants and generally the poorer segments of society drop dramatically. Hey, liberals, child abuse reduced dramatically, orphanages emptied, crime rates plummet, the poorest segment of society has a much better chance to improve their circumstances.

When every child is a wanted child we eliminate any number of societal problems. The population of the world will stabilize at a quite sustainable level. I’m of the opinion we should temporarily sterilize everyone as soon as they reach puberty. Then, later, if anyone wants to have a baby, reverse the procedure at no cost. That’s probably too extreme for most of people out there but I think the changes it would bring to the world would be dramatic and wonderful.

Another thing I find particularly interesting are those railing against Judge Benningfield and those supporting his decision. Those who find it distasteful are generally for freely available birth control. Those who think the judge is right are almost universally against free birth control. Judge Benningfield is offering free birth control to a segment of the population. The problem is largely the carrot offered, reduced jail time. Thus, people are presumably getting sterilized who actually want children. I argue most of the people lining up for the procedure have no desire for a child and the only thing that kept them from doing it themselves is the cost of the operation.

What I’d really like people to examine is your own feelings on the ideas of freely available birth control and the situation in Tennessee. Why do you support one or the other? Why do you oppose the ideas?

Let me know!

Tom Liberman

Sorry to say but Connie Yates and Chris Gard are Evil

yates-gardPeople who do horrible things to other people are evil. Connie Yates and Chris Gard are stealing a bunch of money from people and using it to allow a zombie baby to take up space and resources in a hospital that could be used to help someone else. That’s evil.

They are parents and they love their child, Charlie, that I don’t deny, but they have let that love become twisted into something horrible. Something that borders on, and in my opinion, crosses into a realm we call evil. Those who support them are not just enabling this situation but contributing to it.

Charlie was born with a terrible disease that left his brain destroyed. He is unable to breath or move. He is blind and deaf. Even if the cause of this tragic disease could be treated, and it can’t, his brain is dead. He is simply a lifeless zombie. I can only hope Charlie doesn’t have nerve activity and he is feeling no pain. Still, there is tremendous pain being intentionally inflicted by Yates and Gard playing to people’s heartstrings with the impossibility of the boy’s recovery. They are stealing money from people, not for themselves, but for doctors offering an experimental treatment that will do nothing to reverse the brain damage.

One of the most fundamental issues of this situation is the reversal of normal morality. In many cases it would be immoral to allow a sick child to die. If the child had a disease which can be cured, it would be despicable to place that child in the woods and allow it to die. This was done throughout history but medical care has improved to the point where children who were doomed to horrific lives until a few hundred years ago, can now live full and fulfilling lives. Thus, when we hear about a sick child whose parents are trying to get medical care, we are predisposed to think of them as heroes and those who are opposed as villains.

In this case it is the reverse. Keeping Charlie alive is the immoral act. The professionals at Great Ormond Street Hospital are the ethical and kind players in this story. The judges who have made their rulings are moral.

What I’m saying is brutal. It’s not nice. I’m not a nice guy. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll be happy to confirm I’m often times quite a jerk, quite forceful, when it comes to putting forward arguments. Be that as it may, what I’m saying is true. Keeping Charlie alive is the immoral act. That’s the bottom line. The parents are engaged in behavior that I can only describe as evil.

There are a number of people in Social Media and other places who supported and continue to support this behavior. They encouraged the parents to take money from many people for the pursuance of an immoral act. They encouraged the people to keep poor Charlie on life-support for the last ten months when they could have ended this entire ordeal, and saved a huge amount of pain and suffering. Those who support Yates and Gard are contributing to the evil.

If that’s you, I won’t apologize. Get your act together.

Tom Liberman

Whooping Cough and the Facebook Baby

Whooping CoughThere’s an interesting little post making the rounds on Facebook about a mother who doesn’t believe in vaccination and whose one month old baby died from a disease popularly known as Whooping Cough but technically called Pertussis. As you would imagine, people are up in arms.

I did some research on the internet and I couldn’t find this particular case but there are a number of incidents of parents with multiple children whose entire families contracted the disease, and some whose babies died. So, it’s close enough to reality to at least discuss the general issue.

What I find interesting is the child in question is reportedly one month old. That’s too young to receive a vaccination in any case. The child contracted the disease from some other source and then died. That’s a pretty typical pattern for this disease. In the past, older children and adults contracted Whooping Cough on a fairly regular basis, but it is largely only infants who died from the disease. It can also lead to complications that end up being lethal.

Another interesting factor is that childhood immunization does not last forever. It’s important for adults to get booster shots. In addition, children who delay the vaccine are less likely to be immune.

The statistics are undeniable. Prior to the vaccine becoming available in the 1940s over 175,000 people contracted the disease in the United States each year, the vast majority of them children. This is likely a large underreporting of the disease because adults and older children usually do not require hospitalization or medical care and thus their cases went uncounted.

Reported cases of the disease reached a low in 1976 with about only 1,000 being noted. That has gone up, particularly since 2004 when large numbers of people began to skip vaccinations for their children. In 2015 reported cases topped 20,000. In countries that don’t use vaccinations, rates of Whooping Cough and deaths from the disease are still prevalent.

Pertussis is the best example of why getting vaccinations is important. Those most likely to get the disease and die from it cannot get vaccinations. Just like the supposed case being reported on Facebook. The way these infants get Whooping Cough is through someone else who has the disease but is unaware of it. The disease is highly-communicable. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s airborne. Anyone who has it and breathes can pass it along to nearby healthy people.

I’m not going to get into a long debate about why I think vaccinations are important. Nor am I going to tell you that you should get your booster and make sure your children are properly treated. I think people are too well entrenched into their positions to be changed by a simple article.

I will tell you a personal story. A couple of years ago at my annual checkup my doctor noticed that it was time for my Whooping Cough booster. I’m in pretty good health and the disease presents no threat to me. I could easily catch Whooping Cough and be only mildly discomforted. As I sat in the doctor’s office and he stared at me expectantly a lot ran through my mind. Friends of mine with small children. Going to the baseball game and sitting near families with infants decked out in Cardinals’ gear. Walking through the park chasing Pokémon with children all around.

The thought of how I’d feel if I was inadvertently responsible for the death of one of those children.

“Bring on the needle”, I said.

Tom Liberman

The Power of Antioxidants

antioxidantThe people who want to see you achieve better health have long recommended antioxidants be a major part of your diet. There’s only one catch. The people who want to see you become healthier are largely not the same ones trying to sell you antioxidant stuffed supplements.

Those who promote good health have long recommended you eat fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. These people don’t own fruit farms or sell the actual product they are recommending. They are largely doctors and others associated with a group called health professionals. They are recommending you eat things filled with lots of antioxidants.

On the other hand, the people who want you to purchase supplements filled with antioxidants are the same people who are producing and selling that particular product. They have a vested interest in you purchasing their supplements because it enriches them.
“Well, Tom,” you might say. “What’s the difference? They are both promoting antioxidants.”

There is a big difference and it’s exactly what common sense predicts. Antioxidant supplements have a proven track record of not doing anything to help and actually causing harm. A number of studies of people who flooded their bodies with antioxidant supplements showed an increased mortality rate!

Antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains do your body all sorts of good. Eating such a diet combined with regular exercise will statistically increase the quality and length of your life. You are less likely to have heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other medical issues if you pursue such a diet.

The problem is that most people don’t want to eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains each and every day. They don’t want to spend time buying such healthy foods. They would prefer to make an unjustifiably expensive purchase for a particular supplement and simply take the pill once a day. It’s so much easier of a way to good health. The problem is that it doesn’t work.

One of the most difficult things in life is sustaining consistent behavior. If you want to be healthy, you must eat properly most of the time. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with dessert or an unhealthy meal once a week, but the reality is good health requires good habits. While true, that is somewhat tangential to the point I’m trying to make today.

Beware of people trying to sell you things. If someone tells you a particular product is going to make your life better, take a moment to find out about the person doing the talking. If they don’t have anything to do what is being sold it’s more likely you’re getting good advice. The converse is true as well. It’s not really rocket science.

I think most people are aware of this instinctively. It seems as if there is no need to tell people to be aware of the problem and yet the supplement industry rolls on to the tune of billions of dollars. People purchase antioxidant supplements and convince themselves they are doing what is healthy when, to some degree, they must be aware they are not.

In the end, it’s your decision. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains or supplements. Now, pass me a Fuji Apple, I’m hungry!

Tom Liberman

Faith Healers in Idaho and the Law

Faith HealersThere are a number of people in the United States who don’t believe in seeking medical attention because they think such efforts should be left to a divine being. These Faith Healers die quite frequently and so do their children. That’s where we run into a difficult situation involving the Constitution of the United States and the obligation of government to protect children.

If a legally capable adult foregoes medical treatment, there is nothing to be done about it. Faith Healers base their actions on religious beliefs. In the United States the government is not allowed to interfere in such cases. However, children are not legally capable of making their own decisions. If a parent is physically, mentally, or emotionally harming a child; they are generally breaking laws.

In many states, it is possible to intervene in a situation where a child’s life is being endangered by withholding medication, but not in Idaho, where I went to college. Many of the people in western states, including Idaho, strongly believe in individual liberty. I wrote a blog not long ago about how one of the most important lessons I learned while at the University of Idaho was avoiding interfering in another person’s business. It’s not right to tell them how to live. Thus, is not surprising Faith Healers have legal protection in the state.

Any metric based study of modern medicine indicates, without a doubt, medical intervention saves many lives. Many of the children and adults who die in the families of Faith Healers would still be alive today if they were treated.

Where does Idaho have an obligation to step in? Where should we mind our own business? Is it proper to stand by and watch a child die when they most likely could be saved with medical intervention? Is it proper to allow families to treat their children as they see fit?

Much as it pains me to say, I think the state should stay out of these situations. The children have no say into what family they are born into and their fate is avoidable and terrible. The onus for their death falls not on the state, not on me, but on their guardians who chose not to seek medical care. Horrible as it is.

One would hope that children who survive in such a family, who witness their siblings’ avoidable death, would choose to leave such a religion. That eventually no one would believe in Faith Healing and no children would die unnecessary deaths. Sadly, their death is the price of liberty, of freedom. It’s a terrible and painful price. An awful price for children who had no say in the matter. I do not deny this.

It’s not always easy to believe in individual liberty when the people practicing it are incredibly stupid. When this stupidity results in the death of their children.

Tom Liberman

Are Vitamins Worth Purchasing?

vitamins-supplementsThe Annals of Internal Medicine recently posted an editorial pretty much blasting the use of multivitamins and supplements. I originally came across the study in an article from Business Insider and the comment section was pretty universal in condemnation of the story.

I’ve long felt that supplements and vitamins were a waste of money and almost universally placebos but the recent studies and this article seems to affirm my opinions. Wikipedia also confirms this idea.

It is important to note that the studies do not address what are called micronutrient deficiencies. Those who suffer from such deficiencies benefit greatly from vitamins and supplements. The editorial specifically excludes them from the study and is talking only about otherwise healthy people who spend considerable money on vitamins and supplements.

And I do mean considerable. The vitamin and supplement industry generates over $28 billion in sales annually and that amount continues to rise each year. I think it’s important to understand that the vast majority of people spending money on multivitamins and supplements are simply spending money on a product that does them no good whatsoever and, in some cases, actually causes harm.

In addition, many of these supplements and vitamins are produced in foreign countries with China making up the lion’s share.

As you may or may not know, I’m a Libertarian. If people choose to purchase vitamins and supplements that’s their business. I’m merely suggesting that you stop. Spend your money elsewhere. Perhaps a food service that brings you healthy meals each day. I’m a big believer in capitalism as a driving force of making the world a better place. It is to the benefit of all of us to have a healthier population. More work is done, less healthcare is necessary, etc. If people transfer part of the expenditures from something that is not helping their health to something that is helping their health, I benefit. We all benefit.

I know quite a few people who take vitamins and supplements and I suspect I’m going to take some heat for my stance on this issue. That’s all right. I’m tough.

Take a look at the studies and decide for yourself.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
April 2017 Release: For the Gray

Maternal Deaths in Childbirth Rising in USA Misleading Headline

Maternal_mortality_rateI’m not sure if I’d call it a misleading headline so much as a clickbait sensational headline but Vox splashes the following headline: More and more women are now dying in childbirth, but only in America.

The story, written by Sarah Frostenson, is quite informative and interesting. The headline leaves it up to the imagination of the viewer as to what is causing more women in the United States to die during birth and the mind, left to its own devises, can come up with some interesting scenarios. Personally I was thinking that the rise in infections or perhaps more home births was the culprit.

But no. The culprit is that more and more women who are giving birth are dangerously obese. Deaths from the complications of anesthesia have virtually vanished, deaths from infections are about the same, deaths from hemorrhaging and blood pressure spikes have dropped. People who are morbidly obese put tremendous strain on their hearts and also have diabetes at a very high rate. Add in the stress of giving birth and there you have it. That’s why maternal deaths are rising in the United States but not in other countries.

Excellent reporting, well-written, and thoroughly researched article. Yay!

Clickbait headline. Boo.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Gray Horn
Next Release: For the Gray

Some Parents aren’t Nice

Angry ParentsI use Facebook although I don’t have a huge number of friends. I do peruse the links of those friends as I look for fodder for my blog. One of my friends shared the image at the top of this blog. It purportedly shows an exchange between father and child. It might be completely false but it most certainly does illustrate that sometimes parents aren’t very nice.

What struck me about the image was that it spoke rather directly to a topic that I attempt to analyze in my new novel, The Girl in Glass I – Apparition. In that novel the three main characters are teenage girls, Rhia, Mike, and Marianna, who have had very different parental experiences. A fourth character, Adusko also must deal with childhood baggage. It is not simply black and white, good and evil. There are nuances. One of the central themes of the book, and the trilogy as a whole, is the ability to grow outside of that very important parent/child relationship. Eventually the child must be their own entity.

Mike is raised by loving parents in a privileged environment but is in full teenage rebellion. Rhia left her parents at a young age and has set out on her own. Marianna was initially raised by a loving father but his death left her in the hands of an uncaring mother and an abusive step-father. The three set out together to save Tanelorn. One of the ideas of the novels is they get to know one another and learn to escape the patterns set by childhood. Adusko is the product of an extremely violent childhood although his story is explored in more detail in later books.

There is no doubt that we are all children and subject to the environment that our parents or guardians create. A child raised in one way certainly has both advantages and disadvantages in comparison to a child raised differently. There are certain environments that are more likely to create a happy and productive child and others which are more likely to create a monster.

The main point is that despite the worst or best upbringing it is largely possible for a person to make their own lives. In the Girl in Glass trilogy, I spend time with each of the girls showing how they overcome that initial life direction and eventually find their own way.

This lesson is important for everyone. We are none of us perfect. We all make mistakes. We all fall into patterns in life and too frequently they are those set into us at an early age. Those ingrained habits can be for good or ill but it is important to recognize them and eventually choose our own paths.

In the case of the Facebook post the last entry is a sarcastic reference to the lack of parental support. Is that a good thing? A bad thing? It’s not easy to say. Certainly anger is often justified as is sarcasm but if it hurts us to engage in such, should we choose not to do so? If the need to hurt someone else overwhelms the desire to help ourselves, I argue it is a bad thing.

In the end, if we spend our time trying to figure out ways to hurt those who have hurt us, we only perpetuate the lesson they taught us. Their lesson was that hurting others is a way to temporarily abate the self-loathing.

What would be better is if we moved on. Easy to say ….

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition – Release date: late August 2015

Loud Singing at the Gym

Gym Pet PeevesI make no bones about it. The gym is my sanctuary. I love going to the gym. It’s great for me physically and it clears my mind from the day’s events. When I encounter rudeness at the gym I’m not one to tolerate it. Today I met the enemy and faced it down.

Monday is a weight workout day and I hop on the treadmill for a five minute warm-up before lifting. Today I had companions to my right and left. The person to my left suddenly started singing loudly enough for me to hear it easily. It goes on for about thirty seconds and I lean over and politely express my desire that the singing stop. I get a dismissive wave, the singing stops for thirty seconds, but then begins again. I lean over and forcefully say that the singing is intruding on my space and it must stop. It stops but I am the recipient of an angry face. Tough.

I have no doubt it started up again as soon as I headed off to the weight room and I feel for the poor person who took my spot. I feel for everyone who has to deal with such rudeness but don’t expect me to put up with it. I’m too old to allow that sort of thing to ruin my time at the oasis of my life.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I hope you’ll do the same when you encounter such behavior. If we all firmly but politely insist on better behavior from our fellow humans it’s much more likely that we’ll get it. If enough people tell the singer to stop singing eventually the message will penetrate the skull and the world will be better for it.

You’re welcome.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Misleading Headline – Court Ordered Circumcision

Circumcision Arrest Heather HironimusI just spotted a story from Good Morning America that blares out that a woman was recently released from prison after disputing the circumcision of her son. The headline in this case is actually not bad, it’s the story itself that is misleading.

If you read the story they simply state that the son of Heather Hironimus was to be circumcised and that when she refused to allow it, she was put in prison.

What actually happened was that Hironimus and the boy’s father have been in a dispute about the boy since before he was born. As part of that dispute Hironimus signed a parental agreement document that stated she agreed to have him circumcised. She later refused to honor that signed statement. The boy’s father, Dennis Nebus, then asked the courts to enforce her agreement, which they did.

At that point she didn’t show up for the procedure and was found guilty of violating the court order and thus put into prison.

So while the headline was actually not bad the fact that the person who wrote the story left out absolutely vital information means it, sort of, fits into my misleading headline category!

Have a great Memorial Day.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Jahi McMath – What is Compassionate and Caring?

jahi mcmathI wrote about the Jahi McMath case just a short time ago and, sadly, events are following the lines that I predicted. I’ve talked to a number of people about the case and I read many comments. My plan today isn’t to reiterate my original position, it hasn’t changed, but to examine the nature of who is compassionate and caring in this battle and who is a heartless monster.

A quick recap. McMath went in for a tonsillectomy to relieve sleep apnea and in post-operation began to bleed. The bleeding proved uncontrollable and she died. She was connected to a respirator and continues on in that condition despite that fact that she has been ruled brain-dead by a number of physicians.

The hospital told the family they would be removing life-support about a week after McMath was declared dead. The family fought this and got a stay from a judge. The family has since been searching for a facility that will provide long-term care for the corpse. This is what I suspected would happen.

Now to the point of my blog. When I wrote a post that the hospital should discontinue life-support I got a number of negative replies. The hospital is receiving venomous attacks for the death and for their policy of stopping life-support. In comment sections in general I’ve seen one nasty attack after the next against people who suggest that life-support be halted. The hospital is now refusing to put feeding tubes into the corpse which is complicating the transfer of the corpse to a long-term facility. People don’t much like that either, they think the hospital should pay for everything and do everything.

Whenever I talk about this situation I feel like I have to be clear that I’m not a heartless, uncaring wretch. I always preface my arguments with the comments like “it’s a horrible tragedy but ….”

Well, I’ve had enough. The hospital is the good guy here. I’m the good guy. The people who are suggesting the family acknowledge events and move on are the good guys!

The bad guys are the ones who are encouraging the family to visit a corpse every day for the rest of their lives. The bad guys are the ones who write supportive comments to the family. McMath is dead. If the family cannot accept that they will spend the rest of their lives in a horrible lie. They will spend every dollar they make at the “caring” facility that takes the girl. The facility knows the girl is dead, they just want to steal the family money. That’s evil.

I realize I’m coming across as heartless here but I don’t care. Me, the hospital, and those like us are the ones who offer the family a real future. We’re the ones who actually care. The truth may hurt; but lies cause far more damage.

If someone is close to the McMath family and really, truly cares about them; tell them the truth. Encourage them to move on. Life is for the living.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

McDonalds Advises Employees to Eat Healthier – a Good Thing

McDonalds Food AdviceThere’s a rather interesting story in the news these days about fast food giant McDonald’s. The company hired a third-party vendor to provide guidance to employees on how to live a healthier and more balanced life. This is a trend among industry these days because healthy employees are far more productive than unhealthy employees. It’s an excellent example of the kind of ideas that Ayn Rand explores her novels.

The company benefits if they give their employees healthy lifestyle choices. This sort of behavior helps the company and it helps the employees. This is something often overlooked with our current business model. Things that maximize profits over the long-term are generally not things that hurt employees, they are things that help employees.

The reason this story is making the news is that the company in question offered eating advice suggesting that cheeseburgers and fries are unhealthy choices. This is exactly the kind of food that McDonald’s serves. So there is the appearance of hypocrisy from McDonald’s. Many people found the advice amusing and the company immediately faced a storm of social media posts. As of today McDonald’s has closed their McResources website in order to determine how to best handle the situation.

This comes on top of earlier incidents when McDonald’s offered their workforce tips on how to pay for personal trainers and swimming pool cleaners (these being services that average McDonald’s workers do not use) and another where McDonald’s gave workers a suggested budget allowance that included no money for HVAC and estimated that health care should cost about $20 a month.

In each case the sites were removed and McDonald’s forced to explain their actions.

It is providing good fodder for ridicule but I’m of the opinion that McDonald’s is behaving in a responsible way that not only helps their bottom line but also the lives of their employees. I certainly think that any budget advice should include HVAC expenses as well as realistic health care expenditures. Any advice on tipping should reflect the tips that people of various income levels should provide including waste management crews and postal delivery employees.

The reality is that we all know fast food is generally unhealthy. McDonald’s wants their employees to be healthy because such employees call in sick less frequently and visit the doctors less. This has a positive impact on the company’s profit but also on the lives of their employees. By making McDonald’s a better place to work they attract more qualified candidates. This is one of those employment issues that is important to understand. Happy and healthy employees are far more productive workers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying increase everyone’s wages, I’m saying that what McDonald’s is trying to do through these programs should be applauded, not ridiculed. Sure, there is some fine-tuning to be done but the effort is good.

As for the actual advice. It’s true. Fast food is generally unhealthy but it is also very convenient. It’s not as if people don’t understand this. People understand cigarettes are unhealthy and choose to smoke them anyway. Perhaps the vendor should have listed guidelines limiting the number of cheeseburgers eaten in a month with the knowledge that the site was used by employees of the fast food industry.

As to the people ridiculing McDonald’s: stop it! The company is actually behaving in a responsible way and should be applauded for their efforts.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Jahi McMath Tonsillectomy – Making Things Worse

jahi mcmathThere’s a tragic story in the news about a young teenager from California who went in for a tonsillectomy to relieve her sleep apnea and died after complications from the surgery. A perusal of the Wikipedia article suggests that about 1 in 15,000 surgeries of this nature result in mortality.

After the surgery she started to bleed and despite transfusions and attempts to stop the bleeding she eventually died. She is currently on life support and receiving intravenous fluids. A pair of doctors not affiliated with the hospital declared Jahi McMath dead and the hospital wants to remove the machinery but the parents went to court to prevent such a move.

They want an independent doctor to examine the girl and a judge agreed. So, for now, McMath will remain on life support. It is almost certain that the independent doctor will confirm that she is dead at which point the family will have to make a decision.

It is not uncommon for hospitals to keep people on life support for a few days to allow the family to accept the tragedy. McMath was declared dead on December 12 and the hospital informed the family this past Thursday, Dec 19, that they wished to remove life support.

The judge in question issued a statement suggesting that the restraining order was applied to give the family time to gain peace of mind and hoped the situation would be resolved by Christmas.

I think everyone would agree the situation is tragic. That everyone would understand the hospital can’t keep McMath on life support indefinitely, particularly as the insurance will not pay for it. I think everyone understands the family’s grief and unwillingness to accept the death.

I’ve never been in this situation but I suspect a number of my readers have had to make such a decision for a family member.

In this case I suspect the family will file a lawsuit and attempt to keep McMath on life support even after the next doctor comes to the same conclusion. I think this would be a terrible mistake. They would then spend the next fifteen years of their life coming to visit the corpse of their daughter and eventually suffer the same grief again when life support was finally removed. See the Terri Schiavo case.

They will end up paying lawyers a lot of money and unless some significant malpractice issue comes up they will bankrupt themselves for nothing.

So, what’s the point of my blog? Be prepared. Make your wishes known. Appoint someone you trust to make the decision for you. Family members who suffer such a loss will not always make good decisions. As bad as a situation might be, poor decisions can make it worse.

As for me? No life support. No heroic measures. No life prolonging measures.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Early Puberty = Doom – Misleading Headline of the Week

Early Puberty equals DoomAnd we have a winner. In an upset it’s not from Motley Fool!

iVillage posts this gem in their HealthDay section: Why Girls who Get their Period at a Younger Age are Basically Doomed.

The article itself is actually pretty well written and the researchers seem to have made an excellent effort to avoid external influences on the study.

The main thrust of the argument is that because of early puberty there becomes a mismatch between a young girl’s appearance and her actual mental maturity.

One of the interesting findings was that girls who mature early are more likely to listen to friends who lead them astray. Those we surround ourselves with play an important role in our lives and therefore choosing good friends is a vital stage of life for kids. The finding of the study was that girls who mature early were more influenced by a bad-seed friend than girls who mature later.

It’s an interesting read for anyone with young daughters, just a stupid and misleading headline!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

The Public Perception of Being Overweight

Hating Fat PeoplePerhaps I’m not the best person in the world to be talking about overweight people and the public perception they face in the United States. I’m 5′ 7″ and about 165 pounds. I work out five days a week and come from a family of relatively thin people. Still, the pure mean-spirited nastiness I see directed towards overweight people sometimes stuns me.

I just finished reading a story about a Frenchman who was denied a flight back to France because he weighs over 500 pounds. The airline couldn’t accommodate him because of his weight. In the article it was mentioned that he was in the United States receiving medical treatment for a hormone disorder at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. This is in all likelihood at least partially responsible for his weight gain while in the U.S.

The family made alternate plans and will now take a train to the coast and liner to Europe. I understand the airline and their policy and certainly the family itself does not seem to have an issue with happened, or at least nothing of that sort was mentioned in the article.

What prompted me to write this blog was the avalanche of horrible comments below the article itself. I’ve a number of friends who battle weight problems and, even though I’m relatively thin, I’m trying to get a little more fit and drop some weight.

The thing about losing weight that is so difficult is that eating is something we do every day. Eating can be an incredible joyful and sensual experience. I love to eat good food. I’ve been accused by dining mates of having sex with a particular good order of oysters. Drool … oysters on the half-shell.

If you are a drug addict, or a cigarette smoker, or an alcoholic the best method of removing the addiction from your life is to completely end the habit, cold-turkey as they call it. That’s just not possible with food. We must eat and it is generally healthy to eat multiple times each day. There is temptation at every turn. To lose weight and keep it off you must be strong for not a week or a month but for the rest of your life.

In addition it is not just eating better but you must exercise. You must find time in an already busy day to get to the gym and do cardiovascular and weight work. That is the only true path to fitness and anyone who tells you it’s easy is lying.

I’m single, I have no pets, I work at most 40 hours a week so it’s not that hard for me to get to the gym almost every day, but even then it’s not easy. I have to make myself do it. I shop only for myself so if I refrain from buying fatty foods at the grocery store then I’m not tempted by having them nearby.

Losing weight and keeping it off is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. It’s not easy, it requires effort every day, multiple times a day.

What bothers me the most is all the hate towards overweight people. It’s not like I’m covering exciting new ground here. The vast majority of people know that it is difficult to keep off weight. The diet industry is huge. The exercise industry is huge. Food is cheap and abundant. It is designed to be tasty so that we overeat. Human nature is to eat while the eating is good.

So, why all the hate? Why the nasty comments? If almost everyone realizes how difficult it is to lose weight and get fit why do we see so many spiteful comments?

When my overweight friends take steps to solve the problem I encourage them. I help in any way I can. I don’t make nasty comments about them to their face or behind their back. What’s the difference between me and the people making those nasty comments?

I’m at a point in my life where I’m increasingly less inclined to be cruel to other people in order to feel better about myself. In fact, being cruel makes me feel worse about myself. If you’ll forgive my smug self-satisfaction, I’m simply the better person.

Are you?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Phony Herbal Supplements

Phony Herbal SupplementsThere is an item making the rounds on the major news outlets that probably comes as a surprise to many people but is something about which I’ve been aware for many years. Those herbal supplements you’ve been taking … not what they purport to be.

Researchers tested products from twelve companies and found only two that were providing correct ingredients while the rest were selling “shoddy” product. These companies were putting in cheap and often toxic ingredients instead of the purported herbs in an attempt to increase their profit margin.

These herbal supplements are part of a $5 billion industry, an unregulated industry. People swear by them with the same fervor they swear that copper bracelets alleviate the pain of their arthritis and Power Bracelets boost athletic performance.

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that there are about 50,000 “adverse events” a year caused by herbal supplements although most are not reported.

The real reason for my blog post is not to lambaste those who believe herbal supplements are healthy but to address what is certain to become a call for the government to regulate this “out-of-control” industry. The FDA already oversees a great deal but because these herbal supplements don’t fit into either the food or the drug category they have thus far escaped supervision. With this new data there are sure to be calls for regulation.

I have no issue with holding companies to their word. If a supplement company claims that their product is Echinacea then it should be so. If it is not there are legal remedies available to consumers. Local, State, and Federal government can and should hand out fines. What I don’t see as being helpful is the government stepping in to tell supplement companies how to make their product.

Anyone who doesn’t realize there is a potential problem with the supplements they purchase simply hasn’t bothered to do the requisite research. Information is available and readily found on the internet.

I’d like to examine what I think would be the result of government regulation as opposed to vigilant consumer action. The supplement companies would spend money on various political campaign via contributions and lobbyist. The laws that eventually came down from Washington would be designed to benefit the largest of these companies while hindering the smallest.

If, on the other hand, consumers paid attention to the supplements they were putting in their body and only purchased from the two companies that actually did what they claimed they were doing, those two companies would thrive while the shoddy operations failed. That’s capitalism in action and that is good for consumers and business owners who operate ethically.

When the government gets involved we largely end up with the illusion of safety where little actually exists. Organic foods are not organic. They meet the government definition of organic but that has become largely meaningless thanks to lobbyists convincing politicians to pervert the laws.

We live in the burgeoning information age and with it comes the ability to change the world for the better. If you are putting supplements into your body and don’t know the readily available information about the reputation of the provider then I don’t have a lot of sympathy for you.

I don’t much like the way factory farms treat chickens and I buy eggs from sources that have “pastured” animals. That’s my decision to make. If enough people make it then the industry would change. Government regulation is unlikely to bring about such a change.

If the supplement article shocks you then you have recourse, your purchasing habits.

To paraphrase a pretty wise fellow; Don’t ask what the government can do for you, ask what you can do for you.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne