Medicine

Fear & Loathing in Portland

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 15, 2016

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As regular Diners know, I am still in the battle with the bureaucracies and insurance companies on my disability case, and later this morning I will be picked up at the digs by a cab to ship my decrepit ass down to Ted Stevens International  Airport, to be further Air Freighted to Portland for what the lawyers call an "IME", or Independent Medical Exam.  Said IME is paid for by the Insurance company for my old employer, so it's not REALLY independent of course.  ::)

 

 

After recording today's Collapse Cafe with Ugo Bardi, Steve Ludlum and Norman Pagett, I spent most of the rest of the day tidying up the digs and getting my travel bag ready for the expedition out of Alaska and back down to the Lower 48.  All Wrong Insurance doesn't have a local Alaska Neurosurgeon on their payroll, so they need to fork over for the travel and hotel to ship my sorry ass to Portland for this exercise in stupidity, totally unnecessary because all the evidence of merit is in the imaging already.  There is nothing this Pro from Dover could find that isn't in the MRIs, Xrays and CT scans.  However, they still look for ways to delay and to try and weasel out from under the massive medical bills accumulated here to date, along with paying off on the long term repercussions of the injury.

I packed a spartan bag of preps for me, mainly due to all the restrictions the TSA has for what you can carry on these days, and I don't want to wait around the baggage claim area for a bag of preps which in all likelihood I won't need.  Of course, I will be sorry if TSHTF while  I am in Portland and I don't have them, but I'll take the risk on this one.  It's only a 3 day trip, and how much can go wrong in 3 days, right?  :icon_scratch:  Even if there is a Bank Holiday declared on Monday while I am flying, the planes will still probably be flying for my return trip on Wednesday.  So I fully expect to make it back to my digs and am not real worried about this eventuality.

What I will use this free trip for is to get the latest on the air travel experience, since I haven't flown out of here in about 2 years, in fact I think my last trip out of Alaska was for the Diner Convocation in TX in April of 2014.  Also try to get some feel for what is going on in Portland, though I am not renting a car so won't be able to cruise around too freely.  All Wrong Insurance paid for cabs to get me to the IME and back to the hotel, and the hotel provides a shuttle to & from the airport.  So I will mostly be holed up in the hotel room.  Hopefully it is a fairly decent one.

I will broadcast live from the airports if possible, and maybe even while In Flight since these days it is possible to get Wi-Fi while you are in flight on Alaska Airlines.  Not sure on the bandwidth though, so whether it will handle audio and video is an open question.  Check in on the Diner Forum for links to Google Hangouts if you wanna chat while I am On the Road (or In The Air).

This is in theory the last of the hoops I need to jump through before the Workman's Comp case gets resolved.  I don't think there is anything left for All Wrong to use to delay resolution further, and the final hearing date for the case is set for the Ides of March, aka March 15th.  Hopefully, this chapter of my life will be tidied up by then, although I still have an ongoing issue with getting my pension disbursed which may take a few more months.

So, while the World Burns over the next few days, I will not be talking or writing much about that, but rather just doing a diary of my own shit.  If you're interested, drop in on the Diner over the next 3 days.  If not, you can take a break from Doom and go on a Picnic or something.  :icon_sunny:

RE

 

 

 

 

 


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Downsizing

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on October 29, 2015

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What Downsizing really means…

That we are entering a period of decline is not in any real doubt, at least not among those with the inclination to think about it. ‘Downsizing’ seems to be the commonly used term, but few really understand what it will really mean. No one will willingly accept downsizing if it means a meaningful drop in their standard of living. So it remains a vague notion that it might be somebody else’s problem, and nothing too drastic on a personal level. There is a misplaced concept that we will drift into it gradually as oil decline eases us into another mode of living that will not be too far removed from the one that we enjoy now. We want the creature comforts that we have known for less than a century to remain a permanent feature of our imagined future.

Our most recent history shows that the slightest slowdown of our current economy by just a few percentage points brings an immediate chaos of unemployment and global destabilisation. Yet somehow that won’t apply to a permanent ‘downsizing’; that seems to follow a different set of social rules, as if we can do it and still retain a civilised existence. And of course without downsizing wages too much. We will still expect to eat, buy ‘stuff’ and carry on in employment and even retain our wheels, with the strange certainty that as long as we have wheels, we will have prosperity by involving ourselves in the exchanges of trade that will not differ much to what we have now.

http://techdrive.co/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/elon-musk-335x223.jpgIn the face of imminent global chaos, from climate change, overpopulation and energy depletion, billions are being poured into development of alternative methods of transportation. Elon Musk, though producing a first class electric car, proposes it to be a vehicle for the ‘post oil’ age, which will inevitably mean a downsized environment. He ignores the basic reality that no road vehicle in the context of modern usage can function without an infrastructure that is itself a construct of hydrocarbon. The notion is that we can all get into electric cars and continue to drive from home to work and back, and our comfortable lifestyle can carry on much as before. In other words, it is the vehicle itself that creates and supports our prosperity. If we use an electric car, we can still somehow move a lump of metal and plastic around as an integral part of our employment and leisure.

But the electric car adds to the socio-economic complexity of our over-stressed life support system, it does not simplify it. In addition to the factory itself, an electric car needs sophisticated power hungry production systems, a living environment for its workers, housing, roads, schools and so on, as well as the Bolivian lithium mines and the socio-economic-industrial complexity needed in that country, all solely dependent on a vehicle concept that is ultimately a consumer of the hydrocarbon fuel it is promising to replace. All these systems are (hydrocarbon) energy intensive and expensive to produce. In a downsized society, that complexity will not exist, yet our focus on such dead ends as the electric car shows that humankind does not have the means to rid itself of dependence on the wheel. While the electric car might appear to be a bright shiny symbol of continuing wealth and prosperity, it is in fact a block of embodied energy, as subject to the laws of thermodynamics as any other construction. It demands constant energy input to maintain its viability, and serves no useful purpose in a downsized environment because the means to sustain will not be there. No industrialised nation can maintain its road transport system without the constant input of oil. Fossil fuelled vehicles, whether used on land, air or sea produce our food, sustain our infrastructure and maintain the cohesion of nations. And there are no alternatives.

http://www.welcome-to-lancaster-county.com/images/amish-market-wagon-opt.jpgWe must face the painful truth: that our fossil fuelled prosperity (temporarily) allowed us to have personal transport, but it was not personal transport that created our prosperity. A downsized lifestyle will mean that we will no longer be able to move around on a whim, for no better reason than we happen to want to drag a couple of tons of steel and plastic around to buy a newspaper or a carton of milk. The car has allowed us to live many miles from our energy sources, whether food or employment. That is going to end. When considering downsized transportation, remember that probably the most useful wheeled vehicles in the pre oil environment were haycarts and war chariots. The only forms of renewable energy were derived from the waterwheel and the windmill. They were manufactured from trees, and needed the energy input from animal and human muscle to give them functionality. We cannot have a future that is dependent on complex industry. It will not work.

When advocating downsizing, there is rarely, if ever, any mention of the healthcare we currently enjoy, which has given us a reasonably fit and healthy 80 year average lifespan.

A prime safeguard for the health of citizens throughout the developed world is the ability to remove and dispose of human waste and provide an inflow of fresh water. But to do it there must be constant availability of hydrocarbon energy. Electricity will enable you to pump water and sewage but it cannot provide the infrastructure needed to build or maintain a fresh water or waste treatment plant; for that you need oil, coal and gas. Modern domestic plumbing systems are now made largely of plastic, which is manufactured exclusively from oil feedstock, while concrete main sewer pipes are produced using processes that are equally energy intensive. In a downsized society fresh water will have to be carried from its source, and sewage will not be moved.

http://static.progressivemediagroup.com/uploads/imagelibrary/Mogden_STW_Water.jpgBut we are even more deluded when it comes to the medical profession and all the advanced treatments and technologies it has provided to keep us in good health and make our lives as pain free as possible. There seems to be a strange expectation that we will remain as healthy as we are now, or become even healthier through a less stressful lifestyle, where we tend our vegetable gardens and chicken coops in a state of bucolic bliss irrespective of any other problems we face. And while ‘downsizing’ – a somewhat bizarre concept in itself – might affect other aspects of our lives, it will not apply to doctors, medical staff, hospitals and the vast power-hungry pharmaceutical factories and supply chains that give them round the clock backup. Without that backup, your medical practitioner might know what ails you, but more often than not won’t be able to offer you any more help than a tribal witch doctor.

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that hospitals use twice as much energy per square foot as a comparable office block, to keep the lights, heating, ventilation and air conditioning on 24/7 and run an array of equipment from refrigerators to MRI scanners. We have a blind faith that we can continue to benefit from this highly complex, energy-intensive healthcare system, irrespective of any decline in our energy supplies. We know of the conditions endured by our not-so-distant forebears, and recoil in horror at the prevalence of the dirt and diseases they had to accept as part of their lives.  We should perhaps stop to consider that they did not have the means to make it otherwise. Like our forebears, we also will not have the means to make it otherwise.  A downsized society will no longer be able to build outwards and live in a spreading suburbia, so must be forced back into crowded environments, inevitably reverting to a more medieval lifestyle which will make the spread of diseases inevitable.

City Lights 2012 - Flat mapNor does downsizing appear to apply to the other emergency services we might want to call on if our home is on fire or those of criminal intent wish to relieve us of what is rightfully ours. We might put solar panels on the roof, and banks of batteries to supply power, but a downsized society will not have the engineering complexity available to manufacture a single lightbulb, heating element or the basic components of an electric motor. Without those, any electricity production system is useless. You may be able to recondition an electric motor up to a point, but you cannot repair a lightbulb. A downsized lifestyle means a dark lifestyle, or put more bluntly a naked flame society. Alternative lifestylers seem to have blanked out the detail that fire engines, ambulances and police cars need fuel, and the people who man them need to get paid, fed and moved around quickly. They will not have time to indulge in the fantasy of self sufficiency. In other words ‘we’ might reduce our imprint on the environment, as long as those who support our way of life do not. Humanity, at least our ‘western’ developed segment of it, is enjoying a phase of good health and longevity that is an anomaly in historical terms. There is a refusal to recognize that our health and wellbeing will only last as long as we have cheap hydrocarbon energy available to support it. While there are those who profess to welcome a return to the freedom of a frontier society with minimal or non-existent law enforcement, the ravages of the diseases that were an everyday part of frontier life will not be accepted as part of it, particularly when accompanied by the knowledge that such diseases are curable but the means to do it are no longer available.

Since the introduction of modern drugs and the availability of products that can kill bacteria, we have set out to do just that. Bacteria have had a bad press, but they keep us alive, if only to serve their own ends. In our haste to kill off or control almost every microscopic form of life, as well as larger species, we have forgotten that bacteria have been around in one form or another for about 2 billion years and possess a collective survival strength that is far in advance of ours. We have only been here for about 2 million years, and have held our delusion of controlling them for less than a century. If humankind ceased to exist, bacteria wouldn’t be aware of our demise; without them, we couldn’t last a week. On that basis, which is the dominant species? Our attempts at eradication have merely caused them to retreat for a while and given them the means to mutate into new and more deadly forms. When our hydrocarbon energy shield is no longer there to protect us, they will return to wreak their vengeance, and reassert their position as top predator.

http://tpucdn.com/npu/img/2014/08-27/12049-7a176461_600_400.jpgThat we are subject to laws not of our own making will be hard to accept, because humankind has elevated itself to the position of biological supremacy, and created gods and written holy books to offer proof of that. A growing awareness that something is wrong will foster denial of it, in the same way that we see the reality of climate change denied. That is part of human nature. We can look around and see the proof of what we are, but the actual sum total of human endeavour has been to overpopulate our planet far in excess of its carrying capacity. Before we learned how to use the destructive forces of hydrocarbons to control bacteria and microbial life ‘for the good of humanity’, they kept our planet as a safe living environment for all species by controlling any excesses. Without our hydrocarbon weaponry, microbial life will reassert dominance.

The deniers will vent their frustration and anger, and apportion blame and demand that diseases be cured. But there are just too many humans to allow the possibility of a human solution. We are genetically programmed to fight for survival, just as bacteria are. But with no hydrocarbon armoury, it will be a battle we cannot win, any more than the plague victims of the middle ages could win their fight against disease. Their great die off resulted in a third of their population being wiped out, with no knowledge of the cause other than a certainty of divine intention. On a planet with 7 billion people, which has a carrying capacity of around 1 billion, we may not want to admit to an impending die off, but we know it has to come, and within this century. The difference between ourselves and our medieval forebears is that we will know why but will be equally powerless. When the die off begins, violent reaction is certain, and that will help bacteria in their task of rebalancing our numbers.

The infrastructure of modern healthcare hasn’t given us immortality, but it has provided the next best thing: long, safe and comfortable lives. But it relies entirely on hydrocarbon energy, and in the future a range of problems will make it progressively more difficult for us to exert control over disease as that energy source goes into irreversible decline. Disease will become more prevalent, not only in localized outbreaks, but at epidemic and even pandemic levels. Healthcare systems cannot downsize, they are either there or they are not.

And yet the greatest loss in a downsized economy is likely to be our democracy.

You don’t think much about the democratic state you live in. A few gripes about it sometimes, but other than that, things coast along reasonably well. You vote one lot of useless politicos in, and another lot out. Or maybe don’t vote at all. They never change anything, being swept along by the tide of circumstance just like everybody else.

But your democratic state is an unnatural state.

Through almost all of recorded history mankind has lived under autocratic rule to a greater or lesser degree, always enforced by the threat of violence, either on a personal or collective level.

In the sense that we know it democracy has been selectively planted only during the last 2 centuries, with universal suffrage appearing in different places at different times. But it has not in any sense taken root. It is a fragile concept that we are going to lose as our environment alters and degrades with climate change and energy depletion. Before the industrial revolution, the concept of democracy and human rights did not exist. It may not seem immediately obvious that our democratic state is dependent on surplus energy, but it is.

Euro_collapseWe look to Ancient Greece, or more specifically Athens itself for the origins of our democracy, but while Athens in the 4th century BCE had a population of 100,000, living in what we think of as democratic harmony, they also had an underclass of about 150,000 slaves who supported their economy. Slaves had no part in the Athenian democratic process, but they allowed the free time for their owners (men only, women were not part of it) to go about their leisurely democratic business.

Had it not been for slave-energy, Athens would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain the sophisticated business of democracy. Providing the means to stay alive doesn’t allow much leisure for political thinking. In England, Magna Carta might be seen as part of the democratic process, but it only applied to the nobility who forced it on the King. The underclass who provided the energy sources from the land had no part in it. They had much the same status as the slaves who belonged to the Athenians.

We differ in our time only through the surplus energy of fossil fuel that has allowed us to enjoy the luxury of democracy.

We have had access to that surplus energy for only 250 years, and fully exploited it for less than 100 years. In every developed nation in the world, that period of time has seen the growth of universal suffrage and allowed it to become normality.

But it is a fragile concept and we cannot claim this as a fundamental human right, despite the endless assurances of politicians.

When our coal, oil and gas has finally been used up, our comfortable environment will vanish with it. The unpleasant reality of the world outside the comfort zone of our cars, warm or cool homes, healthcare on demand and reliable food and water supplies will reassert itself and our democratic niceties will vanish as we strive to survive.

An energy depleted economy will mean a downsized state and a breakup of established law, because no government can exist outside the boundaries of its own energy range. In that situation you can have no control over your position within your future state or nation, and the way in which you will be governed. The individual details might be open to question, but millennia of past history supplies a broad outline: weakened states submit to whichever despot can hold power. We will not only have a downsized economy, we will have autocratic rule by someone who has seized the opportunity of weakness and used it for his own ends.

RE’s Excellent Spinal Surgery Adventure: Part 2 Recap

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on September 6, 2015

Bed-Superstar

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As regular Diners know, last week I AT LAST went in to have my neck carved up by the Pros From Dover, after many months of blogging on all the problems related to this here on the pages of the Doomstead Diner.

Obviously, I came through this surgery capable of still Blogging on Doom, and have not as of yet Bought my Ticket to the Great Beyond TM.  So far, it doesn't seem to have made much difference as far as the symptoms go, but at least I am not taking my final Dirt Nap as of yet. 🙂

This is not the End of this Story however, it is not even the Beginning of the End.  It is just the End of the Beginning of numerous battles I need to fight to win this little personal War on Doom for myself.  It was a necessary one to go through though, even though I am still unsure of how all the bills will get paid, who will pay them or even exactly what the total bills are yet.  I am sure to find out soon enough though as my Snail Mail Box fills with bills from the team of Dover Pros who participated in carving up my neck.

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This post is a recap of my experiences since I published D-Day Part 3 last Friday when I finally got in for the surgery.  Does my personal little story of Doom for me have any relevance with so much WORSE on the grand scale ongoing here as we speak?  Well, it obviously does to ME, which is why I am writing about it.  It also does have general applicability though as an example of the ongoing collapse evident in many systems, the Medical & Insurance industries and our Goobermint Social Support services.

Thursday Night, August 27, 2015

Instructions for the 2 weeks prior to the surgery were to avoid certain foods like Garlic, Ginger, Hops and a number of other things which sometimes react badly with anaesthesia.  So I had a pretty plain diet for the last couple of weeks, mostly Ramen Noodles, meat and cheese.  At midnite I was instructed to not eat or drink anything further until after the operation, to come in "hungry & thirsty".  This so that you don't have anything in there to puke up and choke yourself on during the operation.  I didn't get much sleep the night before, my friend who drove me into Anchorage was due at 4:30 AM and I also had to shower with a soap laced with chlorhexidine, which reduces the chance of infection.  After the shower I put on all freshly washed clothing as well, and then waited for my friend's arrival.

We arrived at the hospital at just about precisely the 5:30 AM Check-In time for the operation scheduled for 7:30 AM.  My friend headed back to the Valley for his work day, and I waited a short time in the lobby and then after around 15 minutes an orderly came to fetch me and we headed to the Prep area.  I got Cubicle #6 to undress, stuff my belonging into some bags they provided, although I also had my own bags with my preps for the stay in the hospital after the operation, scheduled for 2 days minimum.

Friday Morning, August 28, 2015

After undressing in the cubicle and stuffing all my belongings into the bags provided by the hospital as well as my own bags, I had a parade of Nurses and Doctors that dropped in to converse with me and answer my questions regarding the surgery.  I was assured that I was in much more danger on a statistical level in the drive from the Mat Valley to Anchorage than I would be while being dissected on the surgery table.  Nobody would give me any stats though on how often such surgeries are successful, how often they fail etc.  Nor did any Doctor know what their services cost for such a surgery, or at least they won't admit to knowing.  The Doctors are "above" such plebian concerns as to how much their services actually COST.  They don't even want to KNOW what they will cost, because that would affect their decisions on what to provide in terms of care and drugs, etc.  If you believe this shit, your anaesthesiologist has zero knowledge of what his services cost.  I find that slightly hard to believe.

Regardless of this, I was obviously committed to going through with said surgery, and after the last Doc left the cubicle, it was about another 15 minutes and an Orderly came to wheel me into the Surgical Theater.  Here I met the rest of the "Team" that would be doing one job or another during the surgery, 3-4 Nurses and 2-3 Techs besides the Docs doing the surgery and the neuromonitor ad anaesthesiologist.  This Meet & Greet was the last thing I remember prior to the Surgery.

Friday Afternoon, August 28, 2015

Approximately 20 minutes after the surgery was completed, I regained consciousness in the Recovery Room.  This timeline I got from asking the Nurse who was monitoring me how long I was unconcious after the surgery.  It is truly remarkable how well they can knock you out for such a proceedure, and yet return to consciouness so quickly.  The different drugs they use for this all have certain "half-lives", so they know how quick it will wear off.  I do not know as of yet what the drugs were that I was full of during surgery, I am trying to get that information now.

I was sufficiently "with it" however to make a video of my trip from Recovery Room to the Neurosurgical Ward where I spent the next 2 days while they made sure I was recovering OK and could be released without being liable for not doing due diligence. Vitals taken every 4 hours, check the wound for infection, etc.

I was able to rapidly get back to blogging, in  fact besides recording the Guerney Trip from the Recovery Room, I also recorded a Selfie once shifted over to the bed in the Ward Room. So this adventure did not cause much of a blip in coverage of ongoing Doom on the Diner, the chronicle continues relatively uninterrupted by this adventure.

Friday Evening, August 28, 2015

Upon arrival in my Ward Recovery Room, I was sharing it with another fellow who apparently was diagnosed with possible Brain Cancer, but during the course of the day found out that he did NOT have such a cancer and got Released.  The other half of the room was empty for the next few hours and life was quite Peaceful.  This all changed around 11PM when yet another neurological basket case got wheeled in to take up that bed.

Ths fellow was in absolute AGONY, moaning and groaning in pain at the top of his lungs.  He also was pretty DEAF, so the various Docs and Nurses had to also yell at the top of their lungs for him to be able to hear them.  It took several hours for them to load him up with enough drugs he quieted down some.  I got virtually no sleep the entire night due to this pain fest, and I felt positively LUCKY that I was only suffering moderate pain that was more or less under control with the Morphine Drip.

Neither on Friday Night nor on Saturday did I find out exactly what this guy's issues were.  I only observed a non-stop parade of different doctors going behind his curtain, catching snippets of conversation and discussions of what kind of drug to feed him next to try to get this under control.  By midday Saturday they loaded him up with enough drugs to put him to sleep for most of the rest of the day, and things were more or less peaceful on the Ward once again.  I will get to what his problems were in the Sunday Episode here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Late Friday Night and Saturday morning I finally was able to PISS, but not before the Nurse on Duty on Friday tried to slip a catheter up my dick to unload the vast quantity of piss held in my bladder at that time.  I unloaded about 500ml, which was enough to be pretty sure my bladder would not explode before the next morning.  4 hours later, I unloaded another 800ml, which basically showed I was able to piss OK, and this would not hold up my release on Sunday.

Around noon on Saturday I had them pull the IV Morphine drip to go on Oral Pain Killer meds, Percocet mainly.  1 of those every 4 hours has been more or less sufficient to keep the pain down to a 3, which I can deal with.  Above 5 it gets bad if it goes on for any length of time.  Occasionally I will drop 2 of them if I have been moving around a lot, even with the neck collar on a lot of movement gets the pain going stronger.  I have found in the following week I need to lay down for about 20 minutes out of every hour to keep the pain from escalating through the day.

I also had visits from Physical Therapy and Occupational Rehab, and every last person who came to visit me had me do the same things over and over again, flex and point feet, try to lift arms etc.  Not a whole lot of difference here after the operation from before.  The Occ Rehab guy had me demonstrate I could get myself in and out of the shower OK as well.  I passed all the main tests and was scheduled for Discharge on Sunday.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saturday night-Sunday morning was mostly quiet, my roomate was being kept pretty well drugged and I got decent sleep.  By morning though he awakened and was once again moaning in pain at the top of his lungs, and now I finally found out his issues, listening to the Doctors discussing what to do about controlling the pain.

First off, he had both brain and spinal column issues, but the real problem was WITHDRAWAL.  Not from one drug, but from 3 different ones.

First off he was a heavy smoker, 2-3 packs a day.  They had him on their strongest Nic Patch, but it wasn't enough and he was constantly BEGGING to be allowed outside to grab a smoke.  Next, he was such a serious Alcoholic that part of his Meds was a shot of Whiskey in the morning and afternoon and before bedtime.  Finally, he had been seeing a Doctor (who has apparently since lost her license) who was prescribing him huge doses of Morphine every day, and he was morphine addicted.  The amount of morphine that the Hospital Docs were giving him was just not enough, he needed about double the dose they were giving him, which was about 5X what I had been getting.

He had a totally unrealistic idea of being released, there was just no way this would happen.  Oral meds were not enough and he needed constant care from the whole team of docs and nurses on the ward.  Nobody as far as I can tell ever mentioned to him that his pain problem was one of Withdrawal from all the drugs he loaded himself with every day for the past few years.  I can't see how he will ever get out of at least some kind of Assisted Care Living situation.  The cost of course is enormous for this stuff, and this fellow is just one small example of what is going on everywhere these days.

Sunday Afternoon DISCHARGE!

Around 3PM on Sunday I got discharged with a sheaf of prescriptions to pick up on the way back to the Digs.  So I ended up with pretty much the short-average stay for one of these proceedures, slightly over 2 days.  My friend came to collect me, and we drove back to the Valley, stopped to pick up the meds and I got back to BAU reporting on Doom here on the Diner.

In the week following discharge, so far I haven't seen much in the way of improvement, and some things like the pain are worse.  With the operation now out of the way, I am now on the task of trying to get my SSDI bennies, which apparently have been held up because SS either lost or misplaced my Form 827 medical release, and they did not inform me of this.  So I have now re-sent that via registered mail-return receipt to both the Anchorage Office and the Main Office in MD. I'm trying to locate an SSDI specialist lawyer in the area, but so far not too much luck with this.  No Newz on the Workman's Comp case either, so still draining the savings to keep going here.  If nothing breaks my way and I can keep the Bill Collectors at bay, I'm good through the winter up here and then I'll move into the bugout machine and make a last cross country drive, assuming gas is still available in the Spring and I can still drive the thing.

Far as the stay at Providence Hospital is concerned, overall I would give them high rankings, it's a nice facility, the staff were all helpful and courteous, and the food was pretty good for institutional food.  The menu was pretty complete and they served from 6AM to 9PM every day.  It took about 45 minutes from when you ordered until the food arrived at your bedside.  Here's a sample of my meals at the hospital:

Breakfast: Omellette with green peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheese, English Muffin with eggs, cheese and Canadian Bacon, low sodium Bacon, Bagel with Cream Cheese and Cranberry Juice

Breakfast

Lunch Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese, Chicken and Dried Raspberries

North-Spinach

Dinner Alaska Cod Fillet encrusted with sesaoned bread crumbs and tomato, red potatoes with sour cream

Alaska Cod Fillet

Potatoes

Here's some shots of the helpful Nurses and Aides who made the stay reasonably tolerable:

Nurses-1

Murse-Aide

And finally a few of RE cruising around the Neurosurgical Ward 🙂

Hosp_Bed

Bathroom

Lobby-Spine

Days of Our Lives 3: D-Day Arrives!

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on August 28, 2015

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Death-Rattle

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RE-Age-28Today I go in to have my neck carved up by the Pros From Dover, after several months of trying to get costs hammered out, insurance hammered out, etc.  I was never really able to do that, and I go in for this operation without any real knowledge of what I will be billed for in the end.  I know I am supposed to have a $5000 Deductible and maximum out-of-pocket for the year around $1500 and 100% of the costs are supposed to be paid beyond that, except that is only for what the insurance company deems as "reasonable and normal" charges.  Needless to say, often enough the charges dropped on your tab are unreasonable and abnormal.  The cost of Spinal surgery is unreasonable and abnormal from the get-go, this will go well into the 6 figures.

Although it sticks in my craw, I am going in for this operation regardless, because my lawyer tells me I should, and I agreed to follow his advice when he took my case.  I don't really have a choice here other than to go forward with this, even without all the details hammered out.  I will be asked to sign an open end contract that I will pay whatever is charged that my insurance company does not pay, and I have no idea what this amount might be.

I wrote  what follows below as a script for an audio rant about a month ago, but after 2 tries I couldn't do the read of it without getting overly emotional, so I'm just going to post the script.

Greetings Doomfans, and welcome to another edition of the Frostbite Falls Daily Rant, here on the Doomstead Diner.

I decided to do Episode 3 of Days of Our Doom Lives as an Audio Rant, rather than another plodding text discourse on the failures in our current health care and legal systems. Mainly this is because there is tons of shit to write on in Collapse right now which is treated better with text and graphics, and my Personal Doom story doesn't need a whole lotta that shit. I'm doing just one text blog a week and one audio rant a week now, in an effort to not burn myself out on laptop time. So I have to pick and choose and do some rationing here. For those of you who have not been following this clusterfuck, a brief recap.

About a year ago I took a fall on the job and injured my neck. The symptoms from it started cropping up inside a week or two, at first just dull pain, and I wasn't sure where it came from. I thought maybe I just slept wrong or I was spending too much time in front of the laptop with bad posture. LOL. In a few more weeks, this escalated to EXTREME PAIN, to the point every day even at work I had to lie down with a heat pad on my neck to try to relieve it some. Eventually that pain subsided some, but then I got a NEW PROBLEM! My right arm became paralyzed, Not 100% paralysis, but enough to make the arm almost useless for many tasks, like shaving or wiping my ass for instance. Fortunately I am left handed, so I still can write with a pen sort of, but that isn't too good either. My keyboarding on the computer is a good deal slower these days than it used to be too, but at least I can still do that right now. So at this point, I know I need to find out what I wrong, except one small problem. NO MEDICAL INSURANCE at this time!

RE-age-28-backflipI also don't want to go down the Workman's Comp path at this time, because first off I hope it will get better, and second I don't want to leave my job either. So I wait it out and finally get some Insurance in January of 2015, and head in for the VERY EXPENSIVE testing necessary to get a diagnosis of the problem. Just to get fully diagnosed here cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $10K, between the MRI, CT Scan, Xrays and visits to a variety of Doctors, my primary care physician, a Neurodiagnostician and the Surgeon who is supposed to carve up my neck and try to stabilize the problem. Those preliminary visits are not done with yet either, because prior to going in for surgery, you have to have visits with the same pros from dover in the last month before the surgery, and I will tell you from experience these visits are a complete waste of time. All the information they need is in the imaging that was done. About the only thing important is to do a final Blood Workup before the surgery to make sure there isn't some thing that will make the anaesthesia a problem.

Anyhow, the whole biz led up to my leaving my working life about 5 months ago now, trying to get Unemployment Insurance, getting a Workman's Compensation case going and applying for SSDI, since nobody is going to hire a one armed guy who has trouble walking , bowel problems and tinnitis (ringing in the ears) for the type of work I do. Have I been able to get any sort of assistance from any of these agencies? Nope, as of yet, Zero, Zilch, NADA! I am fortunate I am a Doomer and have my own savings and preps, otherwise I would have been Homeless and dying as a Cripple on the streets of Palmer Alaska 3 months ago! I still may go out that way. Definitely do not count on Da Goobermint to help you through a crisis, even IF in the end you can win your case. By the time you win, you're DEAD!

The intervening months have been a nightmare of trying to negotiate the medical insurance industry, the doctors, the legal system and the Goobermint bureaucracy. I have received all sorts of interesting advice here on the Diner on how to approach this, and I have my own thoughts on it as well, but the only advice I really can follow is that of my Lawyer, because I made the promise when he took the case On Spec that I would follow his advice. He has 40 years experience trying this type of case, he doesn't take cases he doesn't think he won't win, and he tells me what I need to do. I am obligated to do that, and I live up to my word, always.

RE-newbornThis is not to say I myself have not spent many hours in Due Diligence, trying to find out all the costs, how they are paid, who will pay them, etc. It is close to impossible to do this, if not entirely impossible. Maybe you could do it if you had a few years of time available to make phone calls, negotiate automated phone trees and pass Snail Mails back and forth (Doctors don't do email), but I don't have the time for that, my lawyer tells me I need to have my neck carved up by the Pros from Dover ASAP. So, in spite of the fact I cannot get all these charges nailed down and how the coverage will be paid out, I did as I was told and I SIGNED UP for the operation, to be performed by the Alaska Pros from Dover who specialize in this type of operation. My date fore the operation: August 28, 2015, 3 days before my 58th birthday. 2-3 days Recovery time if you live through the operation, so with luck, I walk out of the hospital on August 31st, just as I left the hospital carried in the arms of my mother 58 years earlier.

I really do not expect to make it these days. But it doesn't matter to me, because I got everything tied up now, and everybody dies sooner or later. I already lasted a lot longer than I should have. In a certain sense, it is WORSE if I live through this thing, because then I got a whole lot of new shit I will have to negotiate, like trying to figure out how I will LIVE afterward, because I highly doubt I am employable anymore, even if there is some improvement over my current issues, and it seems unlikely there will be. It was a lot simpler back in the old days, when you got a real bad problem, you just died. Today, you have all these real cool means to keep you ticking, but SHIT they cost a lot of money! Is it really worth it to keep me ticking a few more years? Well, to me it sort of is, at least if those last few years are not lived as a Homeless Person on the streets of Palmer Alaska, but for society in general I can't see WTF the value is in this is? I personally would like to witness more of this Civilization Collapse spin down and write about it, but it sure will make very little to no difference in how it plays out. I spent the last 8 years or so writing about this shit, all I do now is chronicle the latest manifestations of of the clusterfuck, I had it pretty well figured by 2009. The Diner is the digest of all of that, and its up on the web now for as long as the web is up and running, on the Diner Legacy space.

RE-age-28-handstandI still have a couple of more hoops to jump through before D-Day on Aug 28. I have to go in AGAIN for a stupid pre-op with the Pro from Dover on Aug 11, where I will be pretty surprised if I even get to see HIM personally. Just more chats with the Nurses, PA and Billing folks. Then I have a Pre-Op with the Internist on Aug 24th, which actually does have some meaning, he will take the last Blood tests before the operation. Of course though, the charges for this visit will be outrageous. I had to schedule that visit within one week of the actual surgery, otherwise they would have had to do them all over again by the rules here. My own prediliction was to wait this out, see how the WC case turned out before signing up for the operation, even though there is substantial risk in that. Longer you wait on something like this, the more probable you get additional problems and damage. However, which is worse, dieing as a Quadraplegic or Freezing to Death as a Homeless Person? At least as a Quadraplegic you don't feel any pain on the way to the Great Beyond. My lawyer doesn't see it that way though, and apparently neither does the system he is negotiating for me and doing the Navigation. I have to follow his advice on this, so under the knife I go on August 28th. I got one more month here of Blogging to do, and I intend on making the most out of it. If I get a new lease on life and get off the table in somewhat better shape than I am now and can keep on blogging after that, that will be another Bonus. I've been on Bonus Time for years if not decades now. I should have been dead many times over already. I guess there may be some purpose in the grand scheme of things for me to stay alive a bit longer, and I will try to do that and value it if I get it. But if not, it was a wonderful run through the Age of Oil, and I got to see and experience plenty. I sewed up my Legacy, and I am ready for my meeting with the Grim Reaper. I will cross the Great Divide satisfied with my life and how I lived it.

And that's all the Doom, this time until next time, here on the Doomstead Diner.

Hopefully, I will make it through and just be offline for a few days to a week, and the other Diner Admins will keep the Diner running during that time.  I have up previously written material in the drafts that should publish automatically, if not Surly can drop in and get them published.

If I don't make it through, I have a Self-Obituary in the drafts which Surly can publish, but not for at least a week not hearing from me!  It went up briefly once by accident while we had the server problems, and I don't need another one of those clusterfucks, so I am not scheduling it to post automatically.  LOL.

OK, my friend should be picking me up in a few hours for the drive into Anchorage and I am going to try and get some sleep.  Hopefully I will check in with you all again a few days. If not, you know the Tag Lines.

SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE

UPDATE: I MADE IT THROUGH!!! 🙂

I Spy Doom: Hospital Intro

Guerney Ride from Recovery Room

CLUSTERFUCK: Personal Doom for RE

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on June 24, 2015

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clusterfuckMedic

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Greetings Diners!

Sorry for being so long between Rants these days, but as Regular Diners know, things have not been going exactly SWIMMINGLY WELL for RE over the last few weeks.  All the bullshit I am dealing with both in my Cyberlife and IRL has been consuming most of my writing and ranting time for the last 3 weeks.

I will fill you in on the nonsense in this Rant.

I am at least through the cyber problems now for the most part.  Through VOLUNTEER GIFT efforts by my Code Jockey Doomer friends on the net, we are in the process of making the Doomstead Diner (and other Doomer Sites we host) the most resilient and BULLETPROOF Doom Site on the NET.  This will get DONE before I BUY MY TICKET TO THE GREAT BEYOND TM!; I will not LET myself die before it gets done!

I wish I had friends who could help me negotiate the Matrix of the Medical & Insurance Industries.  Alas, this Code is impenetrable even for IT Code Jockeys.

Anyhow, to make up for not ranting much lately, this one runs long at 12:34.  1234…

Snippet:

…As regular Diners know, I have been in a battle with numerous Goobermint Agencies, Unemployment Insurance, Workman's Compensation and Social Security in order to try and get some kind of income here while I work out how to get Medical care and to afford that care. So far, about four months into this clusterfuck, I have not been able to get a dime from any of these systems that I paid into over the last 40 years of my working life. Not one thin DIME here, from any of them.

I am fortunate that I have some savings, because if I did not I would already be Homeless and dieing as a Cripple on the streets of Palmer, Alaska. So I have been waiting out the legal issues and the bureaucracy issues involved in all of these areas. Each month my savings dwindle a little more, each month I wait for some response from each area of the supposed “Social Safety Net”…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Full transcript will be available HERE in a few days

The Days of Our Lives: Episode 2

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on June 14, 2015

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Discuss this article at the Medicine & Health Table inside the Diner

Another Week has passed in the Last Great AdventureTM for RE, negotiating the Dysfunctional Health Care System of the Fascist States of AmerikaTM.

medical_billsAfter the visit this week at the office of the Pro From Dover who is supposed to carve up my neck and fix me up at some point, two NEW Projects emerged which I need to resolve before Signing on the Dotted Line for all the charges that are going to be pitched out for such a Surgery.

First thing is to get the Subrogation between the two Insurance Companies (my own Insurance and Workman's Comp Insurance) properly set up.  This has to happen because in the event I win my Workman's Comp case, all the bills that currently have been paid for by my insurance or myself will need to be reimbursed to me and my insurance company ex-post-facto.

Second thing is to nail down precisely WHAT the costs are for this operation?  All I have right now are the charges the main Pro From Dover drops on the Bill, but there are many more.  Anaesthesiologist, Neuro-Monitoring Dover Pro, Assistant Neck Carver Dover Pro, and the Hospital costs themselves.  There probably are other ones not yet identified too.

All of this we have been detailing out Inside the Diner in the thread evolving from Episode 1 so far.  Balance of this article comes from that thread.

From JDW:

Heh, you're not the only one, Micheal Snyder just published this:

http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/hospitals-are-blatantly-ripping-us-off

 

From Surly:


Right on time.

50 hospitals charge uninsured more than 10 times cost of care, study finds

From Eddie:

 I mentioned the story of how my son went to the ER in Del Rio to get checked out for a bit of heat stroke, right?

The actual treatment rendered consisted of starting an IV and giving one bag of fluids.

The bill? Ten thousand dollars. Seems they like to diagnose heat stroke using an MRI and a CT Scan on a healthy 24 year old.

From RE:

I just finished composing two emails to my Insurance company, which of course can only be sent on their proprietary server.  For "security" reasons of course.  ::)

However, a minute after sending them that way, I sent the same two emails to myself through two of my many email addys.  ;D  So I have my own record with the time and date stamps on them.

In addition, for the reading pleasure of the Diners following the Days of RE's Life Soap Opera, here are the two emails:

Note:  I have changed names and numbers for legal reasons in this version.  Changes are in BLUE  :icon_mrgreen:

First, on the Workman's Comp Subrogation issue:

I have spent the last several month undergoing diagnosis for an injury I suffered at work.

I was informed by the billing department of one of the doctors that the claim needed to be "subrogated", so I called up ALLWRONG Insurance a couple of months back to find out about this.  The representative on the phone told me there was nothing I needed to do, my claims were being paid.

I was informed again yesterday the claim needed to be subrogated, and that ALLWRONG Insurance said I had never called about that, which is not accurate.

The Insurance company for the Workman's Comp Claim is Mutual of Deceit.  The Claim Number is 666-FUCKYOU.

Further information regarding the case can be provided by my Lawyers Dewey, Cheatham & Howe.  They can be reached at (666) SHYSTER.
 
Please let me know when this has been properly handled.

Thanks for the fine coverage you have provided so far.  Without it, I would not have been able to get diagnosed.

Second, on the reimbursement rates for the Pro From Dover's list of charges:

I have been diagnosed with a neck injury and will need spinal surgery.

I have been given a list of 2 possible proceedures that might be undertaken, and the prices the Pro From Dover charges for this.  It does not include the charges from the anaesthesiologist or neuromonitoring doctor or the assisting doctor, just his own charges.  It also does not include the hospital charges.  I have not yet been able to get those charges.  However, we can begin with this.

I will list the codes for each proceedure and the prices he charges.

63081     $13,000
22551       $19,000
22554     $12,500
22846     $ 7,900
22585     $ 3,500
20931     $ 1,300
Total       $57,200

or

63081     $13,000
22554     $12,500
22846     $ 7,900
22585 x 2  $3,500 each
63082     $ 4,500
20931     $ 1,300
Total $46,200

Please send me the list of reimbursement rates from ALLWRONG Insurance on both of these sets, and the total reimbursement for each one.

Thanks for your help and fine coverage.
——————
I am going to get a LOT of Blogging material out of this!  :icon_sunny:

From RE:

OK, just fired off another email to try and get a Price Quote on the REST of the charges for this operation.

Doing this is not easy, because just FINDING an email address to send this mail to was difficult, but I did find one that was semi-appropriate in a pdf on the Providence Hospital website.

None of the Pros From Dover provide email addys, and everybody has their own Billing department.  If you have dealt with just ONE of these billing departments on the phone, you know you can't get jack shit in information this way.

Anyhow, here is my first attempt at trying to get the FULL LIST of charges for the operation by the Pros From Dover:

I have been Diagnosed with a neck injury I suffered at work, and will need Spinal Surgery to repair it.

The Surgeon at Providence I visited with is Dr. X.  He has provided me with his list of charges for the operation, but not the rest of the charges such an operation at Providence Hospital will accrue.

I need the list of charges from the following Doctors and Providence:

1-Anaesthesiologist charges (No Doctor Named)

2-Neuromonitoring Doctor (Dr. Q named)

3-Assisting Doctor to Dr. X (No Doctor Named)

4-Providence Hospital Charges for the Operating Room and Recovery stay at Providence

Estimated time in Surgery is 3 hours

This is the only email address I could find to try and get this information.  Please forward to the appropriate billing departments and have them reply to me if you cannot provide this information yourself at this address.

Thanks for your help.
—————-

OK, that is IT for today in trying to swim through this clusterfuck.

Now I am going back to DOOM!

From GO:

Realize it's easy to say but throw it out of your mind, it will add to your illness if you dwell too much on it.

There is no swimming through it, it's an endless river of pure evil extortion. Get the operation as soon as possible to get yourself well and deal with it later. The whole fucking country is in unpayable debt and bankrupt anyway, from students to senior citizens to the government. Something will have to be done to help out people in such an untenable situation sooner rather than later.

From RE:

Nope, will not do this operation until I get it all spelled out.

It's really a very good Test Case of many aspects of the system, besides the Medical Industry bullshit & Insurance Industry bullshit, you also have Unemployment Insurance (Epic Fail already), Workman's Comp (still under litigation) and  SSDI (still in bureaucratic paper shuffling).

I'm not going to get bullied into an operation that will bankrupt me before I am otherwise bankrupt anyhow.  Right now I can still write and I have a roof over my I head I can do it in and plenty of food to eat too.  When I have used up the last of my savings, THEN I will go in for the operation, if I'm still alive anyhow.

It's my LAST GREAT ADVENTURETM.

From GO:
Well, you certainly are the best judge of your own situation RE.

I was merely coming from the usual assumption that a medical condition untreated become worse and harder to deal with later on. But I'm no Doctor, that's for sure.

It's such an evil racket that it turns the stomach of honest normal people.  :'(

From RE:

Everyone "assumes" that "your health is the most important thing".  So no matter WHAT it costs, you're supposed to do it.

Really though, your Health is subsidiary to your Economic Well-Being.  If getting fixed up means GOING BANKRUPT, HTF am I better off?  I have a fixed neck but I am HOMELESS? This is an IMPROVEMENT?

The Med industry trades on the fact that sick & injured people will spend whatever it takes to get fixed up, rather than die or live as a cripple.  I WON'T pay whatever it takes, if whatever it takes will BANKRUPT me.  It's not worth it.

From JDW:

You know, RE, you may have trouble with your spine, but you definitely have BACKBONE.

Most people (myself included) would not do what you're doing, and that's why these businesses are able to get away with it.

From GO:

I hear you and think the same way RE. My idea is they know they can't get blood from a stone so it may be possible to work out a long term payment plan without ending up on a park bench.

Of course if you had a paid for home or they smelled assets they would bleed you dry. But a school teacher, on a modest salary, living in a rental and driving what they consider to be a shitbox is another matter. They surmise you are not rolling in dough They might want to grab every dime the could get from insurance and all the avenues you listed and then, after they maxed out all they could get there, saddle you with some leftovers and work out a monthly pay plan which allows you to continue without bankruptcy. A lot of legal firms offer an initial free consultation, perhaps you could get an idea with an inquiry.

Another idea is a legal aid society. a lot of colleges and schools offer free advice to people in financial trouble, the law students usually give ideas from that source and not actual lawyers.

I certainly understand what you are saying though, would do the same thing if in your shoes, just trying to offer some ideas. 

From RE:

Thanks for that JDW, but it's really not "Backbone" or "Courage" at work here, it's my LOGIC and CFS at work.

I just did a COST-BENEFIT analysis on the situation.

1- The operation is unlikely to restore my former spry and athletic self.  Damage done already is too great for that.  All it does is stabilize the situation some.

2- I am not likely to be fit for any type of work that I have experience with even after a successful operation which stabilizes it.

3- Being BANKRUPT and unfit for any type of work I have experience with leads to HOMELESSNESS if I cannot get my Bennies or a Settlement on the Workman's Comp Claim.

4- Finishing off my life as a Homeless Cripple is not how I would like to go to the Great Beyond.

So in this Game Theory exercise, I have only one valid option, which is to fight the system and hope I hold up long enough to make it through to the Other Side of it.

I'm not being "Brave".  I am just doing what makes CFS to me.

I will WIN!  I will make it through the Clusterfuck!  I have HOPIUM.  :icon_sunny:

I never QUIT!  I never GIVE UP!

It ain't OVAH till the Fat Lady Sings for RE, and she's not sung the final Aria yet!

From Monsta:

Logical it maybe but it still involves courage. The thing is we like to think of ourselves as rational human beings that apply logic whenever possible but the thing is when logic meets our primal desires it often fails. Our will to live is strong and quite often those logic decisions we make get overruled. It is partly this reason why we have the clusterfuck we see today. So in the end while your decision maybe CFS it still requires courage on the fact it takes balls to overrule your desire to live (you're primitive brain often does not make the distinction between good life and bad life). Also another desire that stops people is quite often people want to fit and not rock the boat and be a troublesome person. This is a fact that many companies play on when giving poor customer service; the lack of courage some customers have in speaking out.


And that is probable MORE than enough for Episode 2 of Days of Doomer LivesTM here on the Doomstead Diner. More coming down the pipe, to be sure.

RE

Hospitals Are Blatantly Ripping Us Off

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on June 9, 2015

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Scam - Public Domain

Discuss this article at the Medicine & Health Table inside the Diner

Most Americans are deathly afraid to go to the hospital these days – and it is because of the immense pain that it will cause to their wallets.  If you want to get on a path that will lead you to bankruptcy, just start going to the hospital a lot.  In America today, hospitals and doctors are blatantly ripping us off and they aren’t making any apologies for it.  As you will read about below, some hospitals mark up treatments by 1,000 percent.  In other instances, basic medical supplies are being billed out at hundreds of times what they cost providers.  For example, it has been reported that some hospitals are charging up to 30 dollars for a single aspirin pill.  It would be difficult to argue that the extreme greed that we see in the medical system is even matched by the crooks on Wall Street.  These medical predators get their hands on us when we are at our most vulnerable.  They know that in our lowest moments we are willing to pay just about anything to get better or to make the pain go away.  And so they very quietly have us sign a bunch of forms without ever telling us how much everything is going to cost.  Eventually when the bills come in the mail, it is too late to do anything about it.

How would you feel if someone sold you something for ten times the amount that it was worth?

Would you feel ripped off?

Well, that is what hospitals all over the country are doing every single day.  Just check out what one brand new study has discovered

Some hospitals are marking up treatments by as much as 1,000 percent, a new study finds, and the average U.S. hospital charges uninsured patients three times what Medicare allows.

Twenty of the hospitals in the top 50 when it comes to marking up charges are in Florida, the researchers write in the journal Health Affairs. And three-quarters of them are operated by two Tennessee-based for-profit hospital systems: Community Health Systems and Hospital Corporation of America.

“We just want to raise public awareness of the problem,” said Ge Bai of Washington & Lee University in Virginia, an accounting professor who wrote the study along with Gerard Anderson of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Does reading that make you angry?

It should.

They are greedily taking advantage of all of us.

Other studies have come up with similar results.  Here is one example

According to National Nurses United, U.S. hospital charges continue to soar with a handful of them, such as Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, N.J., going as far as charging more than ten times the total cost — or almost $1,200 per $100 of the cost of care. Meanwhile, the hundred priciest hospitals in the nation were found to have this cost ratio begin at 765 percent, which is more than twice the national average of 331 percent.

Much of the time, we are being overcharged for tests, services and procedures that we don’t even need.

It has been estimated that the amount of truly wasteful spending in the U.S. medical system comes to a grand total of about $600 billion to $700 billion annually.  That means that wasteful medical spending in the U.S. each year is greater than the GDP of the entire country of Sweden.

And of course almost everyone has a story about an absolutely ridiculous medical bill that they have received.  In fact, if you have one that you would like to share, please feel free to share it at the end of this article.  The following are just a few examples that were shared in an editorial in a local newspaper

Have you heard about the little girl who required three stitches over her right eye? The emergency room sent her parents a bill for $1,500 — $500 per stitch (NY Times, Dec. 3). My neighbor recently spent six hours in the emergency room with bleeding from the mouth. He was on a blood thinner, needed several blood tests, and his heart was monitored. His hospital bill came to $22,000. A California man diagnosed with lung cancer chose to fight his cancer aggressively. Eleven months later his widow received a bill exceeding $900,000.

One of the most disturbing trends that we are witnessing all over the nation is something called “drive by doctoring”.  That is where an extra doctor that isn’t even necessary “pops in” to visit patients that are not his or “assists” with a surgery in order to stick the patient with a big, fat extra bill.  The following is from a New York Times article about this disgusting practice…

Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms. A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.

He was blindsided, though, by a bill of about $117,000 from an “assistant surgeon,” a Queens-based neurosurgeon whom Mr. Drier did not recall meeting.

How would you like to receive a bill for $117,000 from a doctor that you had never met and that you did not know would be at your surgery?

This is how broken our medical system has become.

And of course this type of abuse is not just happening in New York.  It is literally happening all over the nation

In operating rooms and on hospital wards across the country, physicians and other health providers typically help one another in patient care. But in an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.

If you or a close family member has been to the hospital recently, you probably know how astronomical some of these bills can be.

And if you have a chronic, life threatening disease, you can very rapidly end up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

If you doubt this, just check out the following excerpt from an article that appeared in Time Magazine.  One cancer patient out in California ran up nearly a million dollars in hospital bills before he finally died…

By the time Steven D. died at his home in Northern California the following November, he had lived for an additional 11 months. And Alice had collected bills totaling $902,452. The family’s first bill — for $348,000 — which arrived when Steven got home from the Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., was full of all the usual chargemaster profit grabs: $18 each for 88 diabetes-test strips that Amazon sells in boxes of 50 for $27.85; $24 each for 19 niacin pills that are sold in drugstores for about a nickel apiece. There were also four boxes of sterile gauze pads for $77 each. None of that was considered part of what was provided in return for Seton’s facility charge for the intensive-care unit for two days at $13,225 a day, 12 days in the critical unit at $7,315 a day and one day in a standard room (all of which totaled $120,116 over 15 days). There was also $20,886 for CT scans and $24,251 for lab work.

The sad truth is that the U.S. health care system has become all about the money.

A select few are becoming exceedingly wealthy while millions go broke.  One very disturbing study discovered that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.  And collection agencies seek to collect unpaid medical bills from approximately 30 million Americans every single year.

Once upon a time, going into the medical profession was a sacrifice and you did it because you wanted to help people.

Today, it is considered to be a path to riches.

If the U.S. health care system was a separate country, it would actually be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.  Even though our system is deeply broken, nobody wants to rock the boat because trillions of dollars are at stake.  If it was up to me, I would tear the entire thing down and rebuild it from scratch.

So what about you?  How would you fix our broken health care system?  Please feel free to share your ideas by posting a comment below…

The Days of Our Lives

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on June 10, 2015

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I'm taking a break this week from doing my usual Wednesday Audio Rant, because with all the shit going down with the Diner Crash and my personal  Health Crash issues, I just haven't had the time to get one recorded this week.

In its place, from Inside the Diner in a restricted forum for Regular Diners Only is today's tale of my latest visit with the Surgeon Pro From Dover who is supposed to carve up my neck at some point and slow the progress toward Quadraplegia and Inevitable Death.

It's a short snippet of the tale of the Amerikan Medical System, and how it fails to operate in any sane fashion.  Enjoy.  LOL.


From RE:

Another appointment with the Surgeon today.

(Note: The Image Below is NOT my Xray!  I can't use my own Imaging for Legal Reasons.  Suffice it to say that my issue is in the C4-C5 area but somewhat dissimilar to this one in some respects.  I can't go into that either.  Beyond that, an XRay doesn't reveal the scope of the problem too well.  For this you need an MRI and CT Scan.  KACHING!)

http://www.knowyourback.org/PublishingImages/cervical_rao1.jpgI handed them my Imaging DVDs at the Desk.  Waited about 20 min.  Got called in to go to an exam room.

I saw the intake Nurse who takes your BP and recent history of symptoms, then sat in the exam room for 45 min waiting for the Physician'a Assistant.

Physician's Assistant tells me again what I already know, condition is deteriorating, need Surgery Soon.  Taps my knees with the Mallet, has me try and lift my arms.  No can do with the right arm as usual.

Another 30 min wait and the Surgery Scheduler comes in and hands me basically the same paper as before with the Surgeon's Price List on it.  We discuss the same issues regarding how Insurance will cover it, and the Workman's Comp case.  I am told once again it needs to be "subrogated", which I tried to do after they told me that the first time, but was told by whoever it was I spoke to at the Insurance company that it wasn't necessary.  Said insurance company says I never called them, which is bullshit.  This time I am going to do it online in writing and take a record of it.

Wait another 15 minutes and the Billing Clerk comes in, with a list of Phone numbers I need to call to get Price Lists from Anaesthesiologist, Neuro Monitoring Pro From Dover who monitors nerve impulses as the Scalpel Pro From Dover carves up my Neck, and the Hospital itself that charges for the Operating Room expenses and any time you need to spend in recovery.

I never actually see the Surgeon himself on this visit.

So we are basically at the same place we were before, with the added Info that none of the 3 Pros From Dover are "In Network" for my Insurance company, so likely what will be covered is not what will be charged.

I will write the Insurance company tomorrow about the Subrogation bullshit, not up to it today.  I'll also give them the Codes and list of charges from the Surgeon to see what they will cover.

At this point however, I will not go in for Surgery until this economic nonsense is better defined.

From AG

From RE

BTW, for this "Consult" with the Surgeon (who I never actually saw), I was charged $650.

For the $650 I got:

10 Min with the Nurse taking my BP (Good today at 118/78  :icon_sunny:)
10 Min with the PA Tapping my knees and chatting with me encouraging me to sign up for surgery NOW!
10 Min with the Surgery Scheduler going over the same Price List as before
 5 Min with the Billing Clerk discussing Insurance issues
85 Min Waiting Time in the Exam Room Surfing the Net on my Smart Phone

What a fucking RACKET!

From GO

You are getting off easy.

I hate to add to your misery RE, but things are really bad, much worse than you have encountered so far.

They have drive by doctors now that no one requests who work hospitals and cases just like yours. People get bills for twenty and thirty grand from these pricks.

Max Keiser and others have done shows recently on these swill. Please check it out on various places on the web and do what you can to protect yourself from them. It is a con that is growing rapidly, and the bastards get away with it legally some how.  A sad situation.  :'(

From Eddie

Wow! That's ridiculous. Hard to believe. I believe it, but it's really outrageous. I can't believe any insurance company would pay that for a minute…so of course they stick it to you, since they won't. ONLY IN 'MERIKA.

From RE

Well, actually so far the Insurance Company HAS picked up the tab for this nonsense.

I met my Deductible and Max Out of Pocket for the year of $1500, within reason and my ability to pay.

So far, my total bills for all the diagnostics and consult are still under $10K (slightly).  This is still less than the $12K/year my Insurance costs, paid for by you the Taxpayer under Obamacare.  :icon_sunny:

However, I am 100% CERTAIN that once I rack up the 6-Figure costs for the Surgery, they will not be so generous.  LOL.

Even though I haven't got cost estimates from the other 2 Pros From Dover and the Hospital on their charges, I am pretty certain we are talking a $200K Bill here.

medical_billsNow, besides this, the Surgeon Billing Department on the way out wants YOU to pay the bill right then and there, then YOU negotiate with the Insurance company to get Reimbursed.  Needless to say, on both visits to the Surgeon for a Consult, I "forgot" my checkbook.  LOL.  So they billed the Insurance company in the end for the first one, which they paid up on.  No idea what will happen with this one.

Have I got off EZ here?  Yea, so far actually I have.  I did get diagnosed finally and it only cost me $1500 so far, max $2150 if the insurance company balks on paying the latest ridiculous bill.

Will I rack up $200K in bills without having it spelled out what is gonna be paid for here and what won't and by who?

HELL WILL FREEZE OVER FIRST!

I would rather get 2 nice years here of Retirement and then give myself up to the Bear than let these folks RAPE me!  I do not sign up for this fucking surgery until it goes onto the Tab of Workman's Comp insurance or I have already bankrupted my savings, THEN I will go in and have said surgery and declare Bankruptcy.

Will my condition deteriorate because I am not gonna do this?  Probably.

Then, if I finally do come through it I will file a Class Action Lawsuit against the Federal Goobermint, Workman's Comp and Social Security and the Insurance Companies for the delays involved in getting the Health Care I need.

I am going to go out FIGHTING!


So ends today's Ongoing Soap Opera with my Neck Injury.  This is sure to continue onward for MONTHS, if not YEARS if I don't Buy My Ticket to the Great BeyondTM before it plays itself out.

If nothing else, I am going to get a SHIT LOAD of writing material (and ranting too when I have some time to record) out of this.

LIKE SANDS THROUGH THE HOURGLASS, THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES

RE

 

RE’s Excellent Spinal Surgery Adventure

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 15, 2015

Neck-Injuryhttp://api.ning.com/files/JJsOgcmxC3fUvCyoW4AAZFJDMAzgNJahfa-VpXyIPZyz8u-RVSppED4aCTmsoCQ3mhd9fShIkNSsnAALhnd1rjd-y-1T*hqn/billted.jpg

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Death-RattleAs regular Diner Readers are aware, I have been dealing for quite some time with Pain & Paralysis from a Neck Injury I suffered last year.  I did not have Med Insurance at the time, and have been waiting, hoping it would improve on its own.  It has not, it has become worse.  I finally got Insurance, and started making the rounds of the Doctors, beginning with my Primary Care Internist, followed by a visit with a Neurological Diagnostician and then finally today the visit with the Spinal Surgeon.

The issue is this: resultant from a fall I took on the job, the C4-C5 vertebrae in my neck were damaged. This has put pressure on the nerve bundle running down the  spinal column, and anyone who knows anything about this knows that when you have damage that far up, you’re not just in danger of becoming Paraplegic, you are on the road to Quadraplegia if you aren’t fortunate enough to die outright.

From SPINALINJURY.ORG

Vertebrae are grouped into sections. The higher the injury on the spinal cord, the more dysfunction can occur.

http://www.stemcureindia.com/images/spinal.jpgHigh-Cervical Nerves (C1 – C4)

  • Most severe of the spinal cord injury levels
  • Paralysis in arms, hands, trunk and legs
  • Patient may not be able to breathe on his or her own, cough, or control bowel or bladder movements.
  • Ability to speak is sometimes impaired or reduced.
  • When all four limbs are affected, this is called tetraplegia or quadriplegia.
  • Requires complete assistance with activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, bathing, and getting in or out of bed
  • May be able to use powered wheelchairs with special controls to move around on their own
  • Will not be able to drive a car on their own
  • Requires 24-hour-a-day personal care

Low-Cervical Nerves (C5 – C8)

  • Corresponding nerves control arms and hands.
  • A person with this level of injury may be able to breathe on their own and speak normally.
  • C5 injury
    • Person can raise his or her arms and bend elbows.
    • Likely to have some or total paralysis of wrists, hands, trunk and legs
    • Can speak and use diaphragm, but breathing will be weakened
    • Will need assistance with most activities of daily living, but once in a power wheelchair, can move from one place to another independently
  • C6 injury
    • Nerves affect wrist extension.
    • Paralysis in hands, trunk and legs, typically
    • Should be able to bend wrists back
    • Can speak and use diaphragm, but breathing will be weakened
    • Can move in and out of wheelchair and bed with assistive equipment
    • May also be able to drive an adapted vehicle
    • Little or no voluntary control of bowel or bladder, but may be able to manage on their own with special equipment

I was warned first by the Neuro-Diagnostician that any further falls or whiplashing of the neck could send me over the edge in an instant.  The Spinal Surgeon confirmed this today, and is desperate to get me on the table to carve up my neck STAT!  However, the costs of this operation are Mind Boggling.  We’re talking $200K here at least by the time all is said and done.

So, the last month since leaving the job have been a non-stop NIGHTMARE of dealing with Goobermint Bureaucracies and Insurance Companies as I attempt to get this covered under our dysfunctional system.  To this point, other than having some of the early bills for Diagnosis which are none too small themselves  partially covered, I haven’t been able to get any Bennies at all to cover my loss of income.  I am living entirely off my savings at the moment.  I’ve got a Lawyer working on this, but it will likely be months before I see any resolution or Bennies.

This may well be the Last Great Adventure for RE, so to further be able to Chronicle it on the pages of the Diner, I have to “Come Clean” and drop one of the RE Mythologies, that I have piles of money.  I don’t, I’m a formerly Hard Working Middle Class Guy who managed to stay out of Debt by being Penurious, socking away some Savings and getting a small Inheritance when my mom died.  That’s my “Cushion”,  which if I didn’t have it I would be well on my way to Homelessness already.  I could last a few years with no Income with no Med Bills, but if I can’t get this covered it basically would wipe me out financially, and then what fucking good is having my neck fixed if I am completely broke?  I’m better off DEAD in this scenario.

The next step in the process here is a Friday “Pre-Hearing” with Workman’s Comp Alaska, where my Lawyer will begin the process of doing Battle  with the Insurance Company Lawyers, but which will end in a postponement for minimum 45 days because neither side has all the medical records yet.  The Insurance Company has of course “Contraverted” the claim, since paying out on this will cost a decent piece of change between the Med Bills and the Lost Income.  My Lawyer will attend the pre-Hearing for me, I don’t need to make another trip to Anchorage yet for this one.  I never enjoyed going down to Anchorage to begin with, but now when I know if I even stop short because a Moose is crossing the road that could instantly turn me into a Vegetable I don’t relish the drive into Anchorage at all.  I try to not travel much at all these days and spend a lot of time resting horizontal which takes away some of the Pain.  If I spend a lot of time on my feet moving around, by the end of the day my Head feels like it will literally EXPLODE with PAIN.

Then, next week I am scheduled for a C-T Scan at the local Matsu Regional Medical Center.  The Surgeon wants this scan in addition to the MRI and X-Rays I already got ($3000, KACHING!).  This additional Scan necessary to determine which of two types of proceedures he might end up performing, which I have details of but I will save for another post.  After that, I will try and schedule the Surgery and get it Pre-Approved by the Workman’s Comp Insurance Company.  If miraculously that occurs,  I should be wheeled into Surgery sometime in Mid-May at the earliest would be my best guess, but somehow I doubt the Insurance Company will sign off on $200K in bills that easily.

Meanwhile, although every day is somewhat tortuous in terms of pain and just doing simple tasks like tying my shoes  and getting dressed, I am looking at this as my Retirement at long last from the world of “School” and “Work”, neither of which I ever was happy about having to do even though I was good in Skule and for the most part enjoyed my work while doing it, whatever it happened to be in whatever era of my life, although there were a couple of jobs I didn’t like at all after doing them for a while, like teaching in the Public Skules.  What I always hated was the necessity and responsibility every day of HAVING to get up and do what was required of me to be an acceptable member of this culture.  The Retirement may not be very long here, but at least I got one a month long or so and counting now.  Many folks never get one, they die in Car Accidents on the way to work.  or they sign up to be a Brave Soldier, and get their Ticket to the Great Beyond TM from an IED in Beirut before they make it out of their 20s.  Or they get Cancer young; or they get Hazed and Abused on the net and Hang themselves as Teenagers; or the numerous other ways people end up dying long before they ever get the chance to “retire”.

Anyhow, now if I don’t show up here one day Unexpectedly in the near future, Diners will have a better idea of what happened.  I HAVE made provisions for the Diner to continue on at least for a while after I cross the Great Divide, though I doubt it will last all that long.  In the grand scheme of things though, nothing lasts all that long and everything dies, even Species and even Planets.  I’d like to last a bit longer, and I hope the Planet and Homo Sapiens do also.  Ka inside the Diner asked what the purpose of living is without Individuality? What is the Purpose of  Honeybee living, or of a Flower?  It is self-reflexive, the purpose of living is just to live.  You do so for so long as you can, experiencing what we call life, and then you are Dust in the Wind.

SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE

RE

I Consider Myself…the Luckiest Doomer…on the Face of the Earth

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 19, 2015

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Today, Doom arrived at my Doorstep.

As regular readers of the Diner know, a while back I suffered a partial paralysis of My Right Arm, which I have been dealing with for the last few months.  I actually did a Rant on the problem shortly after it cropped up.

Here’s the transcript for those of you who prefer to read rather than listen.

Typical current RE Sleeping Position

Typical current RE Sleeping Position

Greetings Doomfans, and welcome to another edition of the Frostbite Fall Daily Rant, here on the Doomstead Diner.

For today, I am going to leave the world of Global Doom once again to talk about personal Doom. This goes along the lines of it’s a Recession when your neighbor loses his job, it’s a Depression when you lose yours.

I remain amongst the fortunate folks in the world of Collapse for the most part, no debts, money in the Bank, still employed, live in a nice still uncollapsed neighborhood etc. However, I have health problems, most of which are my own fucking fault for taking lousy care of my corporeal package for the last 50+ years. Well, actually I took pretty good care of myself for the first 35 or so, but slacked on this stuff for the last score or so of years.

I mentioned in a prior rant my issues with PAD, peripheral artery disease which has made my legs less than world class for running the marathon, or even walking to the dumpster to dispose of some of the waste from my life. This has been an annoyance for a while, but overall hasn’t made life that difficult for me.

A couple of weeks ago though a NEW problem cropped up, which appears to be neurological in nature, though I am not 100% sure of this or what exactly is causing it, though I have some pretty good ideas on it at this point, after dealing with it for the last few weeks.

The etiology of this latest issue is one day about 3 weeks ago or so I noticed some pain in my right arm. The next day, ENORMOUS Pain at the base of my neck. The day after that, I could barely move my right arm.

I hate the whole med industry, so refused to go to the Doctor. I figure at the time its a pinched nerve in my neck, maybe some CRACKING from a chiropractor will fix it up. I had good luck with a chiropractor once before, so even though these guys don’t have a great rep overall I figure this is worth a try again. The first session gives me some minor relief, but the next session does nothing. I cant see continuing having my head and back cranked on like this if I can’t perceive releif after the torture session.

So now I do finally talk to an MD, a friend of mine, casually about this issue. He informs me I can have a whole HOST of problems possible here, from a Stroke to Lung Cancer. So now I am SURE I am gonna die soon. He also lets me know there is no way to make an absolute diagnosis without getting not one but probably 2-3 CT scans of the tissue in my arm, my neck and my torso. The TESTS alone here are probably $3-4000, and they won’t cure any of these problems either.

If I DO find out I have Lung Cancer, what’s the prognosis there? Very low survival rate if you got the BIG C in your breathing apparatus. In the med solution to this issue, you gotta go through Radiation and Chemothrapy, and even after all of that most folks don’t make it more than 5 years best case scenario. Not gonna do this no matter what.

If I find out its a STROKE, also not much can be done. These things either heal over time or they don’t. Your brain and nervous system either find a work around to the problem or not. Physical Therapy can help here, but you don’t need a Physical therapist to help you with this, all the info for this is available Online on what to do.

So now I decide to be my OWN Doctor, and go researching to try to figure out WTF is wrong with my Right Arm based on all these symptoms, and after a couple of days of this I get what I consider the most likely answer, I have something called”Cervicogenic Headache”, just a real bad version of this. It hits the lower neck vertebrae, and comes basically from Bad Posture and doing stuff like hunching over your laptop 8 hours a day writing about DOOM. LOL.

So now I figure I am not really dieing of Lung Cancer, I’m just a CRIPPLE for some indeterminate period of time until I can Rehab my way out of this or not.

Until you have actually LOST the use of one of your arms, you don’t realize how much this screws up even simple things you do all the time like wipe your ass or shave. I happen to be (fortunately in this case) Left Handed but even so I have traditionally wiped my ass with my Right Hand and put the shaving Cream on my face with this hand also. I already have had to re-educate myself to wipe my ass with my LEFT hand instead, and spread shaving cream on my face with this hand also. This hasn’t been too hard overall, but there are other more difficult things I have to find work arounds for while I Rehab here, or not.

My Cameras and my Car are two main ones. Did you know all Cameras are Right Handed? The Shiutter Button is always on the right side of the camera. If you only have use of your LEFT hand, you can’t hit the shutter button to take a pic, Try it with your camera. Fortunately here I don’t have TOTAL loss of the Right Arm at the moemnt, it’s just real weak through many positions. If I hold the camera up with my left hand, I can essentially rest my right hand on the camera and my finger still works to press the shutter button. LOL.

Similar with the car. The Transmission Lever is operated with your Right Arm, what I did to adapt here is use my Left Arm to lift my Right arm up to hold the lever, Dr. Strangelove style and then pull on my right arm with the left one to shift it into Drive. LOL,.

Putting on your clothes, tieing your shoes, buttoning your shirt, zipping up your fly, EVERYTHING is a challenge here without a fully functional right arm! Fortunately, I did not lose complete use of it, just partial, and more fortunate than that I appear to be getting incremental improvement as days go by here, though it is mighty slow overall and I don;t know if I will ever get back complete use of this limb.

I keep my Left Fingers crossed the Left Arm doesn’t go down the route of the Right one before I can get it working OK again. As of now, I can adapt, even though many things are difficult to accomplish. Similar loss in the Let arm would make that impossible though.

On the upside, I can still keyboard with both hands, though a lot slower now. Also got no problem ranting into a microphone attached to a wireless headset, though it is a bit of a challenge to get the damn headset onto my head to begin with.

Basically at this point I am a Living Metaphor for the Industrial Economy, falling apart one piece at a time, held together with duct tape and bailing wire.

That’s all the Doom, this time until next time, here on the Doomstead Diner.

RE

I didn’t see a doctor about the problem until just recently, since I was without insurance and just to get it diagnosed was going to cost a small fortune, much less any of the possible techno-fixes depending on exactly what the cause of the problem is.  Well, not completely accurate, I have a friend who is an ER doctor, and I talked with him about it, and we looked at some crappy X-Rays of my neck the Chiropractor took which didn’t really show much.

I considered also going to an Accupuncturist after the Chiropractic did nothing, but finally passed on going down that route also.  Visits there weren’t too cheap either, though a good deal cheaper than a visit to the Internist to get started on this thing.  I finally got some new Med insurance though, so a few weeks ago it was off to the Internist for the first appointment in the Big Med Industry.

From my chats with the ER Doctor, I was aware of a few of the possibilities here.  Possible trauma to the Spinal Cord, possible blockage at the Brachioplexus from a tumor, possible forms of peripheral neuropathy.

For my initial visit with the Internist, $500 not including the Blood Tests, which I am not sure how much they charged for those yet.  He did a few squeeze tests and the old fashioned ping your elbows and knees with a rubber mallet trick, and found enough wrong that he recommended I see the Spinal diagnostician in Anchorage.

I saw her the first time 2 weeks ago, and she did a few more tests, but without an MRI and Chest Xray and a more comprehensive set of nerve tests, making any kind of diagnosis wasn’t possible.  $1000 for this visit.  So I was scheduled for my BIG DAY today of the full 9 yards of Techno Medicine, XRAY, MRI in the morning then the nerve tests in the afternoon.

The XRAY was EZ and fast, then off to the MRI Tube.  You don’t want to be claustrophobic in these things, and I wondered while in there how some of the Large Size people we have in Amerika can even FIT into one of them.  I asked this question after finally getting out, and the answer is they have special Jumbo MRI units for the Big People.  LOL.

A few rules while getting your Neck Scanned, don’t swallow your spit or move your tongue while the RACKET is going on, it can blur the image.  You have your ears plugged up and pads over the ears, but it’s so loud when the machine is running that the sound travels right through your bones and into your ears that way.  Also, don’t need a bathroom trip, which I started getting concerned about around the 20 minute mark inside the Electronic Coffin.  Fortunately, I made it through the full 30 minutes without pissing the demeaning Hospital Gowns they make you wear for these things.  I avoided any claustrophobia feelings by keeping my eyes closed the whole time and pretending I was taking a nap.

Cost for this adventure, around $3000 for both, then I had a couple of hours for Lunch and upstairs in Tower A of Providence Hospital for the Nerve Tests.

After once again undressing and donning another Hospital Gown, the nerve Test Specialista came in, and we had a Discussion first about what was now possible in the panoply of things that could be wrong with my nervous system.

First, a RELIEF, the Chest XRAY showed my Lungs were clear, we could rule OUT the Big C of Lung Cancer. 🙂

Then came the BAD NEWZ.  What could not be ruled out based on the symptoms and initial tests was ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aka,  Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  She was going to have to run through full conductivity and needle testing to see if this was the cause or not.

At this point of course, my Heart is Pounding, my Brain is Racing.  I KNOW the progress of ALS, it remains an incurable disease and if it is what I got, then I got MAYBE a year or two left before my motor neurons progressively deteriorate and eventually I choke to death on my own spit, after a few months where I can’t feed myself.  I mention to the doctor that if I got ALS, I would rather die fast here.

So now it is time to do the nerve testing, and folks, this is positively Medieval stuff, I imagine they do versions of it with higher amperages at Gitmo, but even at the low end here of the Shocks, every one makes you JUMP and grit your teeth if you don’t wanna be a baby and scream.  The Needle stuff is even worse than the electrode stuff.  I am not sure which was worse, this or the day I had my Teeth pulled by the Dentista, it’s a Pain Tossup there.

https://www.bvu.edu/resize_image?path=/dotAsset/201210.jpg&w=628I was reminded of my Science Cabin biology experiments on Frogs that I caught at Summer Camp.  In those days, nobody was worried about being Cruel to Frogs, so all you did before disecting them was “pith” the brain of the frog so it wouldn’t jump around on you when you dissected it, but the nerves still worked, you could make legs move with a little jump start from a 9V battery, etc.  In this case, I was the Frog.

It took about an hour of this shit for Dr. Frankenstein to work her way all the way from my toes to my hip on my right leg, then from my fingers to my shoulder on my right arm, then finishing me off with tests of the neck muscles.  I am a limp rag at this point but move my decrepti ass off the table and back to the consulting chair for the DISCUSSION.

GOOD NEWZ!

It’s probably NOT Lou Gehrig’s Disease, if it is it is very early stage and with new medicines coming down the pipe, I might have a few years left before I choke on my own spit. 🙂

Now the BAD NEWZ!

The main problem appears to be in the Spinal Column between the C4-C5 vertebrae, this apparent from the MRI.  I apparently have an extremely narrow channel for the nerves going down through my neck, this is probably congenital and then exacerbated by Age as bone spurs develop on the vertebrae and can put pressure on the spinal cord.  Normal Channel width around 10mm, Spinal Specialists begin to be concerned around 7-8 mm, mine is 5mm.  Accckk!

Then there is the DAMAGE.  There is trauma and scarring of the tissue where I whacked my neck in a fall I took just prior to all this shit going down.  It’s very precarious, and the Doc WARNED me I need to wear I cramps on my shoes for Ice and Snow, make sure there is nothing to trip over, don’t whiplash your neck in any way because…at the point where this is affected, if it gets any more pressure I will be a QUADRAPLEGIC!

This is a GOOD result for a QP trying to rehab. I’ll spare you the depressing videos of QP being fed by helpers and getting his bed pan cleaned of excrement and being turned over so he doesn’t get Bed Sores.

Is there HOPIUM here for RE?  Of course there is, modern medicine is AMAZING!

My next stop is with the Spinal Surgeon, where any chance for fixing this up lies in having at least two of my neck vertebrae fused, along with trying to grind off some of the bone spurs and damaged spots to open the channel a bit for the nerves to operate the way they are supposed to.  Said operation of course has its own set of risks, they probably have to go in from both the front and back of the neck to try to fix it, and the recovery period is LONG.

I’m not sure I even WANT to go through this shit.  I haven’t figured out yet what I am going to do.

On the upside, it is very liberating in a way, I no longer have to concern myself with Prepping anymore, I am a fucking goner no matter what here, even if modern medicine can keep me ticking a while, in a SHTF scenario I am DEAD in short order.

If I just stay careful here, maybe I can last a while longer with just a malfunctioning right arm, write a few more blogs and record a few more rants before I turn into a vegetable.  All I ask here is that when the messages from my Brain shut down to my Fingers to further keyboard out the Doom here on the Diner, you Diners send in Dr. Kevorkian if I cannot off myself at that time.

To conclude, I DO consider myself the Luckiest Doomer on the Face of the Earth.  I had a great run through the Age of Oil, living by my own set of rules and making only the compromises necessary to make to get along.  I had enough time and woke up to the nonsense going down early enough that I was able to write down just about everything I could think of to examine the history and how we got here, and how we might work out of this very ugly situation.  Also, much like Lou Gehrig, I am glad to have been associated with the people who have helped me in creating and building the Diner.  A great bunch of Doomers.  Love you guys.

RE

Obamacare and Free Market Solutions

Off the keyboard of John Lounsbury

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Published on Global Economic Intersection on September 23, 2013

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Note from RE:

With this article, the Diner welcomes John Lounsbury from Global Economic Intersection to the list of Cross Posting Bloggers featured on the Diner Blog.  John is an old friend from days back on the Raging Debate website, where I also first got together with Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform.  Steve Hansen who works together with John on GEI also is a veteran of the Raging Debate, which ended up spawning quite a few Collapse Bloggers of varying types in the end.

John’s blog Global Economic Intersection is quite comprehensive, covering economic topics from many perspectives and publishing numerous articles of interest every day for Kollapsniks to wade through.  A highly recommended read for all Diners.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum hospital:  Socialized medicine was passed into law and free market implementation broke out.  Liberals have proclaimed the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be the first step in establishing truly universal care for all Americans – in their view it is a step down the road to single payer “socialized medicine“.  And this is exactly why many conservatives criticize it as a “government take-over of health care“.

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Follow up:

This observer now sees Obamacare as a government enabled and subsidized free market health care insurance system. What is happening is a progression toward an ideal that this observer argued for in 2009 here and here. The consumer (the patient) is becoming the economic arbiter of his own health care insurance implementation. This is a step toward eliminating major sources of waste in health care. As I said in 2009:

If the patient is negotiating for service with his own money, we will have the most effective and affordable control of fraud and unnecessary treatment possible.

Corporate Sugar Daddies

Since the middle of the last century the traditional source of health care has been employer provided insurance. Employees have generally liked that arrangement – they had a major economic factor (their health care costs) magically paid for by their corporate sugar daddy. Someone who was paid $50,000 a year in salary never considered the cost in dollar terms of his comprehensive coverage as part of his compensation, even though it might have been as much as 20-40% of taxable salary. Few recognized that the $50,000 salary they received was actually part of their larger compensation – they were also receiving the equivalent of another $10,000 to $20,000 a year in tax free medical benefits.

This employee was receiving his compensation in two forms:  $50,000 in taxable cash and $10,000 to $20,000 in untaxed services.  The employee probably paid a great deal of attention to how he spent the cash; he paid very little attention to how effectively he “spent” the services portion because he wasn’t viewing that as part of his income.  He rather viewed it as a “benefit” that flowed like nectar from the gods.

Even as employee contributions to health care have been implemented over the past two decades the perception of company paid health care benefits as part of total compensation in a dollar context has not been on the minds of most employees. That is all changing very rapidly because of Obamacare.

How Much Will Government Costs for Health Care Increase?

The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) seems to know the answer: The government will pay a lot more, rising to 8% of GDP by 2038 (up from 4.6% in 2012).

However, how health care costs will accrue to the government in the future is subject to much uncertainty and the CBO’s current projections could be either too high or too low. From a recent GEI News article:

One study finds that small increases in employer provided plans could shift millions of people into the public insurance exchanges and shift the supplemental support for premium payments from companies to government.

Another study finds that costs of Obamacare accruing to the government could result in enormous pricing power for the consumer and hence reduce the cost of government subsidies. The study also concludes that the cost savings could be impacted by continued political resistance. Those politically active in “fighting” Obamacare may achieve the opposite of their stated objective; they may reduce the cost savings that could otherwise be achieved and thereby increase government expenditures, according to researchers from the Brookings Institute and Georgetown University.

The shift of health care costs from corporations to employees and government is picking up speed. GEI News recently reported the movement of corporations away from group health plans for retirees:

Corporate benefits for retiree health care have been shrinking for years but the latest changes appear to be accelerating the process. Late last month GEI News covered the shifting pattern of employers moving from sponsored group plans to use of private insurance exchanges where employees shop for individually tailored coverage with corporate support of part of premium costs through donations to HCAs (Health Care Accounts). The changes are especially common for retirees.

Corporate giants who are making this change include General Electric (NYSE:GE), IBM (NYSE:IBM), DuPont (NYSE:DD), Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and Time Warner (NYSE:TWC) which made the announcement today (09 September 2013). GEI News covered details of the IBM change in the article last month.

The answer as to how much government costs for health care will increase over the next 5, 10 and 20 years is not one for which a reliable estimate can be made at present. The playing field is changing in a revolutionary way.

Private Insurance Exchanges are NOT Obamacare

What corporate headlines are reflecting is not a shift from corporate group plans to Obamacare. The private insurance exchanges that are rapidly expanding have been operational on a smaller scale for a number of years. They are just now becoming major players as large corporations shift their retiree health plans from corporate sponsored group plans to the new format. And, even though just a month ago survey results indicated a much lower active interest in the insurance exchange format, now the use of exchanges for active employees is suddenly in the news. Just last week Walgreen announced it was shifting its 160,000 employees from a company group plan to individual purchase on a private exchange.

The public exchanges opening for registration of applicants next month under Obamacare are newcomers to the exchange platform concept. As time goes on the efficiencies of the older private exchange system and the public exchanges can be compared and operational costs can be reduced. Eventually there may be just a single set of insurance exchanges with a merger of public and private structures.

Winners and Losers

Any time big changes are made there will be winners and losers. In many cases the same parties may be both winners and losers – it’s called a process of trade-offs. Some of the winners:

  • Corporations will be better able to cap and plan for health care benefit costs.
  • Employees will no longer be captives to a health care benefit shackle tying them to one employer.
  • Insurance companies will gain millions of new premium payers greatly increasing their revenues.

Here are some of the losers – the list looks similar:

  • Corporations will have to compete more vigorously to staff their most demanding positions because talent will be more mobile.
  • Employees will no longer have a “sugar daddy” paying for their health care.
  • All seeking health care coverage will have to put forth effort to get the best individual coverage.
  • Insurance companies will be subjected to more competition for cost effectiveness as tens of millions of customers shop for the most cost effective coverage.

Bottom Line

The “socialized medicine” legislation known as Obamacare may unleash private market forces that will be cheered by today’s opponents and are probably feared by many present-day proponents. The cost curve for health care may be bent and the CBO projections may turn out to be way off the mark. Remember federal surpluses “forever” (2000) and trillion dollar deficits “as far as the eye can see” (2009)?  The CBO has a record of projecting poorly from past records into the future.

Rather than the first step to socialized medicine with everything offered through central planning, we may be seeing the first step toward distributed health care determined by 150 million consumer housholds. Which path has the greater likelihood of resulting in the most efficient delivery of health care and the best chance to “bend the curve”?

Single payer may offer a path to holding down the growth of health care costs.  But couldn’t 150 million payers also curtail that growth?  And which process has the best chance of optimization for each household?

An Aside to Ron Paul

Ron Paul recently reviewed Obamacare and concluded it was merely a waypoint before we got a single payer.  He criticized the Obama administration as “corporatist” and criticized the structure of the health care delivery system.  Mr. Paul suggested that the most efficient system would be for everyday health care to be paid for by patients directly, with insurance used only for coverage of catastrophic events.  This aligns with my arguments more than four years ago.

However, I propose a glass half full view of Obamacare and suggest it could be a step closer to our shared view. Mr. Paul views the glass as half empty and envisions a future moving away from the free market forces I suggest may hold sway.

 

Is Science Another Failed Institution?

Off the keyboard of George Mobus

Published on Question Everything on July 14, 2013

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The Greatest Intellectual Feat of Mankind

I love science. All science and sciences. I’ve spent a lifetime reading every popular science book I could get my hands on in every imaginable discipline. And in fields in which I was intensely interested I read the textbooks and the journal articles. Science as a way to understanding has been my passion. It therefore gives me great pain to entertain the possibility that the institution of science is yet another failed institution of Homo calidus.

The recognition of the process of science and, in particular, the scientific method has to stand as humanity’s greatest intellectual success. The notions of objectivity, observation, empirical methods, data, analysis, and provisional interpretation as the only reliable means of gaining knowledge have been woven into a beautiful tapestry of process that has proven its value over and over again. Ideologies (beliefs without actual verification) and religious dogma served a purpose to hold groups together by sharing common ideas and beliefs when our species emerged from the basic biological nexus as sentient, social self-conscious beings. Some purely practical beliefs took their origin in observations of nature that were repeatable and therefore the basis of prediction. Where the game could be found, when the rains would come, where the predators lurked, all of these kinds of regular happenings were the basis for repeatability. Each foray out to hunt was an experiment testing the hypothesis of that belief. But the existential questions that came with self-consciousness were not answerable by observations of nature. It would take the discovery of Darwinian evolution by natural selection before we could even begin to approach such questions.

And therein is the reason that ideologies and religions still exist today; that and the likelihood that the further evolution of eusapience was stymied after the invention of settled agriculture.

Even so, agriculture provided a significant boost to what would one day become science. Observation of many variables associated with plant and animal husbandry, and the application of those observations in controlled ways was incipient science at work. Large-scale agriculture gave rise to number systems for accounting, and, eventually, writing — using abstract symbols to express speech. Both were essential for codifying knowledge gained. Number systems and accounting (plain arithmetic) gave rise to mathematics when architects were commanded to build complex monuments and cities. Science (observing and interpreting) and engineering (exploiting knowledge to design and construct artifacts) were already developing as practical but unconsciously performed practices. As civilization progressed it enabled more areas to come under scrutiny and, in turn, allow civilization to progress further. Astrology (an attempt at answering existential questions) morphed eventually into astronomy and enabled long-range navigation and exploration.

The greatest accomplishment for humans was the eventual recognition of the process and its formal codification, transforming it from natural philosophy into a rigorous disciplinary method for obtaining knowledge. There were many steps in this process over a number of centuries. Aristotle had advocated what would become the empirical methods of observation. Roger Bacon, in the 13th century would advocate further for empirical observation as the basis for gaining truth. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries the Scientific Revolution crystallized and science emerged as a recognized process distinct from philosophy or religion.

And what a revolution it was. Mostly in terms of the pickup of the pace. Discoveries and exploitation came at accelerating rates. The invention of the printing press made it feasible to get it all recorded and disseminated. The institution of science would rapidly evolve.

Today science is an established institution overlaid on universities, government agencies, foundations, and industry. Money flows to researchers who conduct peer-reviewed projects with definite goals laid out. The granting institutions decide what the worthy pursuits will be and the investigators compete to show that their projects are relevant and likely to succeed. If a neuroscientist pursues an National Institutes of Health grant to study some aspect of brain function, she is required (if she wants a chance to win) to mention how her research could lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. Failure to delineate how a line of research is going to lead to solving the energy crisis or cure cancer is a death sentence in the highly competitive fields of the modern practice of science.

The line between science and engineering has become blurred. Today engineering PhDs need to do research, ostensibly applied, to push the boundaries of what artifacts they can develop and what those artifacts can do. As in the above paragraph, scientists doing ostensibly pure research are obliged to mention the practical applications. The gaining of knowledge has come down to a gaining of new forms of wealth and wealth creation, not of gaining understanding of nature. If that happens from time to time it is a by-product, not the main goal. Put simply the funding model has changed the purpose of science and turned it into Über-engineering — finding solutions to problems. Science is now an industry*.

The universities, for their part, are producing copious PhDs in sciences and engineering even while the corporations complain that there aren’t enough. There aren’t enough of the Über-engineers based on the fact that the level of competition in innovative product development is staggeringly high. Today what counts as science is a discovery of how to cram more transistors on a chip of silicon.

And as often happens when you over produce a product you turn it into a commodity. The crops of PhDs and Master’s degreed people coming out of second and third tier universities have flooded the markets. They look for jobs as adjunct “instructors” or lecturers rather than full time, tenure-track positions in departments with active research agendas. Thanks to the societal meme that everyone should have a college degree, the subsequent rapid expansion of higher education institutions, and the demand for instructors, this has resulted in a positive feedback loop that produces stamped out of the mold products (PhDs) who then take whatever job they can get. A PhD in a science is no longer about science or the level of intellectual sophistication that it had been at the beginning of the 20th century.

A Two-Edged Sword

Science has been used for good and evil for its whole history as a human endeavor. I count evil as those acts of violence such as wars that make humanity worse off. Science has given us medicines but it also gave us the means of maiming soldiers so that they would require those medicines. Radioactive isotopes and atom smashers have been extremely useful in medical and investigative work but nuclear bombs have been a curse. And now, industrial grade agriculture is feeding billions (though some not so well) it is also poisoning our bodies, our soils, our air, and our waters. And not just our species is suffering.

Up until the mid 20th century science was mostly perceived as a force for good and progress. Very few people could or would question this proposition. But a few started to wonder about the negative effects that they began to suspect and later observe. Rachel Carson and her “Silent Spring” is a poster child of this thinking. But there were others and many even before Ms. Carson. The sword had become that of Damocles to them. We enjoyed the benefits of science and engineering, but most people were either ignorant of or simply ignored the threats hanging just over their heads as they sat on the throne of progress.

Unfortunately the warning voices were drowned out by the din of exclamations about the wonders of science. As I was just coming into more adult-level awareness, having been brought up on Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and (later) Star Trek, the Brussels World’s Fair (Expo 58) was a site where adulation of our knowledge of atomic energy was on display. I had been born exactly on the day the first atomic bomb had been used to kill people in Japan 13 years earlier. So I found myself conflicted over the science of atomic energy; on the one hand producing such horror, and on the other producing what seemed, at the time, like a promise of prosperity. By my senior year in high school and continuing in my first years of college, I wondered how this could be. What kind of creatures were we that we could do this to ourselves?

Ironically I would come to live in Seattle, WA. less than a decade after the Seattle World’s Fair where the expectations of progress and the great promise of science was the major theme. I had grown up reading mostly science fiction tales about space travel. Men had landed on the moon just before I came to Seattle so it looked like we were on our way to the Gordon/Rogers/Trek era. The optimism surrounding what would be possible given our mastery over science was palpable throughout the western world (as long as you could suppress thinking about the Cold War and nuclear Armageddon). To this day I like to visit the Pacific Science Center on the grounds of that fair, with the towering Space Needle a constant reminder of the notion of progress. I still love science, with its ability to produce meaningful knowledge of how the universe works. But I have developed considerable doubts about its payoff for humanity given our propensity to see that knowledge as only valuable if it increases our profits or helps us kill our enemies.

The Failure

Science itself, as a means for gaining knowledge, is not a failure. As a process it is not inherently a two-edged sword. It is not evil. It is the use of science that has turned evil. I hinted at this above.

By evil I don’t mean in a spiritual sense. I mean in the effect on human life sense. As a species we are bound to protect our interests in survival so anything that does so in the evolutionary framework is good, anything that threatens us is evil. Unfortunately in mankind’s exploitation of the knowledge we gained from science we find increasingly more evil than good. The knowledge itself is, of course, neutral. It is just knowledge. The problem is that we do not have the meta-knowledge of how to use knowledge for the long-term benefit of humanity. We have, instead, learned to exploit science, through engineering, for immediate gains without thinking about the long-term consequences. So knowledge of heat engines is used to engineer machines that propel us rapidly from point A to point B. We individuals in the here-and-now “profit” by getting places faster. Our time is then in surplus, our personal energies conserved. Why should we worry about the consequences of burning fossil fuel to achieve this short-term profit? Isn’t it easy to believe this trend will go on and on forever, that our children, and their children, will have even more profit from science and technology?

Knowledge of how to use knowledge for the long-term good of humanity is wisdom. That knowledge is not explicit nor are we necessarily consciously aware of it when it influences our intuitions. It just comes up from our subconsciousness as a feeling about the right path to follow, the right thing to do. Wisdom is also veridical knowledge. It must be valid, consistent, holistic, and morally motivated. It comes only from the experiences of a lifetime that consolidate into mental models of deep reality. It is knowledge ultimately based on evolutionary truth. It cannot be otherwise since evolutionary fitness objectively requires the species to be operating in accordance with the rules of the environment.

Evolution itself is the wisdom of ordinary biology. For every prior species that has ever existed evolution made the strategic decisions through variation and natural selection. Species improved in fitness until the environments changed radically enough to require new strategies. Variation in the genetic pools provided the raw material for selection to cause both incremental improvement, to adjust the phenotypes to shifting environments, and novelty, when needed to launch a new line, so to speak. And if the changes in environments were too extreme, as in a major die-off, evolution started over with whatever remained — the rest went extinct.

Humans emerged as a species with an expanded capacity to imagine the future by taking into account environmental changes that were possible and feasible. They began to formulate their own strategies and improve their own fitness. They figured out how to control fire, how to make artificial fur out of animal hides. They learned how to survive in inclement climates. Cultures became the new ‘species’ (or sub-sub-species). But as with any emerging property or behavior, strategic thinking started out fairly weak and only a few variant members of a population ever achieved anything close to what would eventually be needed as the cultures continued to evolve. Group selection is now being recognized as the selection process that deepened our eusocial nature, but also promoted the ascension of a few wiser leaders in early human tribes. The tribes with the most dominance of cooperation and with the wisest elders were more fit than those who were less cooperative or failed to have sufficiently wise elders.

The basis of eusociality, primarily empathy and language, along with strategic thinking ability are the roots of sapience and wisdom. Stronger sapience (i.e. genetic variants that boosted expansion of the necessary brain components in fetal development) led to more successful groups, which in turn favored the increase in sapience. But it just didn’t progress far enough or fast enough to build the kind of wisdom — knowledge of how to use knowledge — needed to manage the growth and use of simple knowledge.

Ergo here we stand today, overrun with some knowledge of the natural world (including ourselves) and lots of knowledge about stuff (the human-built world) and we haven’t a clue as to how to use it appropriately to bring balance between the two realms. What passes as science today is a mere shadow of what it was and what role it played in discovering how the universe works. There are still, fortunately, a large number of scientists who keep to the old ways. But they are generally the older members of the community. Often they are the ones who have gained wisdom. They are the ones who tend to write books about what the science they practice means in the larger sense. But their voices are barely heard at all against the clatter and banging of the modern industrialized, politicized institution we call science.

Science, as it originated, still stands as an ultimate intellectual achievement. As a method for gaining knowledge, when practiced with wisdom it stands unsullied. It is the process that uses science, the low-sapient human society, that is failed. Society creates institutions that process information and use it for supposed human uses. Something has gone terribly wrong in the institutionalized science of modern times, and that something is the lack of wisdom in humans themselves.


* Lest I be accused of painting with too broad a brush I should hasten to point out that there are still many scientific fields that are pursued for the sake of gaining knowledge without a profit motive. I’ll name one, cosmology. I don’t think cosmologists and astronomers need to justify their grant proposals with anything immediately profitable or curing a disease. However, it has been getting harder and harder to get sufficient grants as national budgets are strapped and priorities increasingly focus on “practical” work. Ask any Republican congressman if he/she thinks it valuable for the NSF to fund a project to find out if there is life on other planets and see how they respond. Ask the same person how valuable it is to research the next major weapons system and you will likely get a totally different response. My feeling is that whatever funding is going toward pure research in these fields is on the basis of momentum and tradition more than choice.

Rat Kidneys, Science and the Promethean

Off the keyboard of Lucid Dreams

Published on Epiphany Now on May 5, 2013

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I recently finished a semester at our local community college where I took prerequisites for their nursing program. I was 33 taking 13 hours of classes in this bastion of hopium, wishful thinking, and just plan reality distorting dysplagia that is American higher education…or whatever the hell it’s called these days. My classes were Anatomy and Physiology 2, Medical Terminology, Probability and Statistics, and Compter Science 101, and each class had it’s own brand of incompetence, egomegaly superhero professors, and creative academic bullshit as required reading. I’ll be taking you on a quick tour of what economically accessible higher education looks like in America in 2013 in the following expose.
I’ll start with CPT 101 (computer science) since it represented the absolute pinnacle of what a pointless waste of brain cells college has become. The first class our instructor told us that she was only going to be our instructor for a couple of classes. Apparently she was going to be teaching at the community college in the next town and couldn’t be bothered with us. The first three classes involved a pre-digital literacy test followed by me spending time online at the doomsteaddiner due to the fact that there was nothing for me to pay attention to. When our next instructor arrived it got interesting. She had the worse case of ADD I’ve ever seen, and we got to be subjected to it on the overhead whenever she could be bothered with actually showing up to class. 10 minutes late was early for this magnificent specimen of a 21st century college professor. A month goes by and there hasn’t been so much as one powerpoint presentation about what the internet is, or what a computer is, or what Microsoft is…nothing. Just more doomsteaddiner surfing.
One day, the entire class and I were still sitting on the floor in the hall, 15 minutes after class had started, with no instructor. Usually this wasn’t a problem because we’d all just go in the room and get online to do what we no doubt would all probably be doing anyways if we were at home…only not getting college credit for it, except this day the class room door was locked. At any rate, I decided, all at once, that I didn’t go to war and drop bombs on Afghanistan so that I could sit on the floor in a hallway waiting on some incompetent twit to get her drunk ass out of bed to come spread her ADD around in an academic setting. I got up, walked to the next classroom, opened the door, and grabbed a random professor by the neck and said “hey bub, how bout opening our classroom door so that we can get up off the damn hallway floor?” That set a chain of events in motion that I was sure would get the ball rolling in our classroom. The head of the department ended up in our classroom that day. Our instructor rolled in 20 minutes late and then disappeared with the head of the department. The next class…there our Miss Incompetent was, on time and in class ready to spread her ADD around on the overhead in the name of computer science. I was thrilled that the head of the department apparently found it reasonable to put her back into position as the professor seeing as how she had taught nothing and been on time once all semester.
She was on time for the next two classes before she got back to her usual ways. One day, 18 minutes after class had started, still instructorless, I decided to check my school email. That’s when I noticed that she had just sent us an email stating that she was still in court and class had been canceled for the day. WTF I thought to myself. A couple of weeks later and she decides to assign us a project for Microsoft Access after we had already taken the Access chapter exam (having not been taught anything about it in class mind you). I got pissed off about the fact, as did others, and we began making a general consensus ruckus about what an outrage it all was. This resulted in the head of the department getting involved again.
This time she decided to shit can Miss Incompetent. We had three classes left of the semester at this point. Our replacement professor, and apparently second in command of the department, took over at this point. The first class was a powerpoint presentation on how awesome her 21 year old son was. He was a black homosexual who had moved from the Upstate of SC to Hollywood where he was pursuing a career as an actor. We got to see his facebook page and a bunch of head shots of him. Apparently he is a great and sweet man who bagged a roll as the local retard who throws rocks at Van Diesel who’s babysitting the neighbors kids or some stupid shit. He got about a minute on screen and shouted some retard slogan. Captain second in command of the computer department assured us that her son was destined for great things on the silver screen and then dismissed us from class. This was the best the school could cough up for the last couple of classes.
Next I’ll cover the only online class I took, Medical Terminology. This was the only class that I took that wasn’t a requirement. Of course, I was taking it because I was told by my guidance counselor that it was a mandatory prereq. As an aside, my overly competent guidance counselor had a degree in business administration. Apparently the days of guidance counselors having some psychology back ground are over. Let there be no mistake about it, this is a business and nothing more. My Medical Terminology proctor was a successful black lady in her late 30’s. She was a doctor, of chiropractics, and had an ego that was full of dead air, but full of itself nonetheless. I found myself in her office, for a scheduled meet and greet, to help me figure out the schools online class software. There were glitches that I couldn’t figure out. She hemmed and hawed and ultimately produced no help for me because she simply did not know the answer to my questions. She didn’t have time to deal with an “online” student. She also had no idea that her head was full of hot air that had just been blown up her ass by some other academic credential dispensing goon.
At one point I had a project due that involved reading a professional medical journal entry of my choosing, writing a 250 word synopsis of it, and defining ten medical terms. The instructions on how to submit this intolerably difficult academic exercise set a new precedence in vaguery. We were supposed to submit a “copy of the professional journal entry used,” and it couldn’t be the same article that any of the other students used in the class. How we were to know what articles the other students were using was never disclosed. At any rate, I sent her a copy of the url to the article as well as documented it in the appropriate MLA format in the bibliography and called it good. A couple of weeks later I noticed that I had been given a zero on the project because I did not submit a copy of the article, only a link as well as MLA citation (which tells you everything you could possibly want to know about the god damned article’s location and point of origin). I emailed her a kind WTF, and how do I submit a copy of the article so that I can get credit for the work that I did? She emailed me back with a one liner that said “go to the schools tech department to get help” if I couldn’t figure it out. She didn’t have time to deal with it, and at any rate she didn’t give two shits about my grade.
This was the only class where an “A” was a 94, and so it was the only class that was keeping my GPA below a 4.0. The one class that wasn’t mandatory for me to take. The other three classes an “A” was a 90 or above. The other gripe I had with the class is that we were required to pay 50 bucks for online software that we never used. The good and learn-ed doctor explained to me that the company responsible for the online material stated that we would be required to enter an access code for the class at some point. Doctor Learn-ed couldn’t tell me when that day would be, but she assured me that one day I would log onto the site and be required to insert that 50 dollar line of random numbers. I never had to insert that magic number.
Anatomy and Physiology 2 was ruled over by another Doctor who believed that the schools standard for Anatomy should be the same as Harvards, or any other Ivy league school for that matter. He liked pointing out how our required text book was wrong on every occasion where it was wrong. I learned quickly that studying the required text book was a waste of my time. After the first test I threw my 300 dollar text book aside and never opened it again (of course I’m not a sucker, so I bought it for 120 off ebay rather than at the schools usury store). Doctor Anatomy was at least competent and very knowledgeable, albeit under the delusion that we were here to learn. His class was the most difficult college class I’ve had in my life. I had to study about 20 hours to make an “A” on any of his exams and even then it wasn’t guaranteed that I would make an “A”. His anatomy exams were over 100 questions of him pointing to various foramens, notches, orifices, and meatuses while we recalled the overly descriptive Latin and Greek words. I made five “A’s” two “B’s” and one “F” and made an “A” on the final. My final letter grade was a “B.” The only “B” I made for the semester. I thought it was bullshit that one bad test, weighted the same as all the rest, brought my grade down to a “B.”
After class one day I got into a conversation with Dr. Ivy League about the foundations of science. Back in the 70’s and 80’s he was involved in doing research on kidney function for a large study that was being done at a large university. His particular study was about a specific symporter in the loop of Henle, which is a feature of the kidney that allows us to make concentrated urine. It’s impossible to see the loop of Henle under a slide because it’s too long. You can only see sections of it. However, there is a specific rat who’s Loop of Henle can be seen microscopically, and this rat is responsible for the majority of what we know about the Loop of Henle (as well as other kidney physiology). Dr. Ivy League was actually studying human kidney tissue in the lab, and he discovered a reaction that was different from the rat’s in the human kidney tissue. It was repeatable, and he could prove that the function was different. The dude responsible for the research at the university told Dr. Ivy league, when presented with this new information that had come to light, that it mattered not what the microscope was repeatedly saying about human kidney physiology. What mattered was what the official line said.
Now, Dr. Ivy League could prove that what the official line was saying was now wrong. He was told that he would remove this from his report and replace it with the rat physiology. He refused. This put an end to his research in histology and therefore an end to his membership in academia. No research, no books, no tenure for you. 20 year’s later, after billing pharmaceutical companies 500 dollars an hour to look at shit under a microscope as an independent contractor, and he was teaching at a local community college to pay the bills. Academia chewed him up and spit him out because he was concerned about what the microscope had to say about reality. He was concerned about the stated goals of science that feature illuminating mankind about reality. Science on the other hand, is not really concerned with reality, it’s concerned with the same thing the rest of BAU is concerned with…money. So the official line is that rat kidneys are mamallian, just like ours, and so they are close enough. And since they are close enough we can assume that they are indeed the same, and so base our allopathic treatment of human kidneys on the physiology of rats. Pharmaceuticals anyone?
Finally there was Probability and Statistics. I was actually impressed with this classes professor. She was an astute, competent, and beautiful teacher of math. She made the concepts accessible and easy to manage. The class featured a Promethean, which is a huge screen on the wall that she could write on. I didn’t have to take notes because her notes were saved and made available to us online. This allowed me to pay complete attention to her as she taught. I found it interesting to learn how the man manipulates numbers to make reality say whatever he wants it to. That is essentially what “Probability and Statistics” is about. I had questions about the theoretical aspects of the class because they seemed to be a bit presumptuous at times. I smelled bull shit with the official theories that we were to take for granted were true. However, I’m not mathematically inclined, and being 33 I no longer give a shit. I understand that it’s not about learning, or higher education, it’s about jumping through hoops to arrive as a Registered Nurse so that I can make money.
The Promethean
Now I have Microbiology left to take during the summer session. After Microbiology I’ll have met all of the requirements and will be applying to nursing school this fall. I fully expect nursing school to be about the same bullshit that I just spent the last semester sifting through. Just a bunch of shit that I’m to commit to memory so that I can promptly forget it once I’m in the clinical setting. After all, how much shit do I need to know to do what a doctor tells me to do? I’ve already been a medic for eight years. I’ve been in tough medical situations with lives depending on my actions and no doctor to tell me what to do. You can’t teach competence. All that I’m doing in college is plugging a hole that’s in place to help with the business of college. I’m required to learn about how science doesn’t give a shit about reality, and how to sit in a computer class surfing the net, and how to manipulate reality with numbers; and all of this is somehow going to make me a better murse. I’m pretty sure I can do what a doctor tells me to do now…without all of the required bullshit and time wasted. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s what I did in high school, when the doctor cradled my balls in his hand and asked me to turn my head and cough.

Orwellian Nightmare or Technological Utopia

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

Published on Land Destroyer on October 16th, 2012

Craig Venter discusses 3D DNA printers at Wired's Living by Number Health Conference in New York City. The technology, systems, and policies presented at the event are neither good nor evil - they are only what those who wield them make them out to be. Currently much of this technology is controlled by large corporations, institutions, and organizations. By getting better informed and involved in the development and use of this technology, we can ensure that this technology is used for the greater good of humanity, rather than leveraged against it for the benefit of a technocratic elite.

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasboard inside the Diner

Wired’s “Living by Numbers” Health Conference.October 16, 2012 –  Wired Magazine has conducted a “Living by Numbers” health conference in New York City, drawing together experts and leaders involved in medicine, science, technology, and business to share their perspective on the progress and future of healthcare. The underlying theme of the “Living by Numbers” conference was the gathering and applying of information regarding our health to improve the prevention and treatment of injuries and sickness.

The implications of the conference were far reaching in both the profound positive impact the emerging technologies and systems presented could have, as well as the vast capacity for abuse that each possesses.The conference was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, IBM, BASF, BodyMedia, iHealth, 2morrow Mobile, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Speakers included Craig Venter of the J. Craig Venter Institute and Synthetic Genomics, Stephen Wolfram of Wolfram Research, Sue Siegel of GE, and retired US Army Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum.

The term “tracking” was prevalent throughout the talks. Several presenters revealed that data collected from Google and Facebook were regularly used in research, specifically for predicting trends almost instantaneously. Of course, in the context of these talks, such methods were presented as being purely beneficial in regards to spotting pandemics and improving healthcare efficiency.

Smart products including phones and home appliances were presented that could record data, be used for health monitoring, and even replace or augment existing medical devices. There were implantable sensors that could log data and monitor vital signs, and GE and Google executives talking about taking a more active, not to mention Orwellian and intrusive role in employees’ habits and lifestyles, and how technology and information-gathering could make such efforts more effective.

There were also talks involving technology such as 3D DNA printers, presented by Craig Venter, that if widely disseminated into the hands of an informed, technically complement medical community, could vastly improve healthcare and regenerative medicine, as well as strip the monopolies, and all the dangers associated with them, from large biotech firms like Monsanto, Bayer, and Cargill.

Coupled with the concept of “self-tracking” presented by Tim Ferriss, and increasingly cheaper and more capable medical equipment making it into the hands of better informed patients as mentioned by Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Institute, we see a possible future quite the opposite of anything Orwellian. But it is also a future large corporations are already arraying their resources against to prevent from coming into fruition. 

Ultimately, the conference was about technology. Technology is a double edged sword. It can cut both ways, and how it is wielded depends mostly on the hands it is held with. Currently, this technology is in the hands of large corporations, institutions, and organizations. And while many of those involved in the development of these networks, technologies, and policies are well-intentioned, the danger exists that those at the very top, the same corporate-financier interests that fund policy think-tanks that engineer wars as well as economic and political manipulation on a global scale, have truly malevolent intentions.

This is a real problem. Perhaps the problem. Technology has reached a point where the very building blocks of what makes us human can be manipulated and controlled to such an extent, it can either liberate us from disease, injury, and even aging, or render us permanently and irrevocably inferior to those who control this technology. Likewise, the control and use of digital information can create either a tool of infinite benefit, or a vast, invasive, inescapable control grid. Coupled together, exists either a technological utopia, or an Orwellian nightmare, all depending on who controls the technology – a malevolent elite, or humanity as a whole.

The key to solving this problem is by simply getting informed and getting involved. The more informed, technically competent people that become involved in the development, use, and improvement of this technology, the more difficult it will be for any corporation or institution to monopolize and leverage the technology against others, ensuring that it is used for the collective benefit of humanity.

Technology, and more specifically biotechnology, is becoming increasingly accessible to the average person through online resources and community laboratories like New York City’s GenSpace and Boston’s BossLab. As technology in general continues to advance and costs continue to go down, the tools once used solely by large corporations, institutions, and organizations are now becoming available to local schools, community laboratories, and independent researchers and developers. While there are many fears of this technology getting into the hands of people intent on creating catastrophes, it must be remembered that the technology will also make it into the hands of many more people interested in defending against such catastrophes. 

The choice between an Orwellian nightmare or a technological utopia is entirely up to us. We can choose to be perpetually paralyzed by political ploys, crass, superficial distractions, and shallow consumerist endeavors, or we can choose to assert our own collective will above that of the corporate-financier interests who have for so long dominated humanity and seek to dominate it to an ever greater degree. We can assert our will by becoming informed and involved in the very disciplines that build a modern civilization – engineering, design, and sciences of all kinds. If we can do this individually, even in the smallest way, taking even but a single step forward in the right direction, collectively we can begin replacing the existing paradigm in great strides.

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