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Friday, January 31, 2014

Going To the Doctor = Going In Debt

I am engaged in a little war with SOMC, Medical Mutual Health Insurance Company, and various related billing agencies about my health coverage and increasing medical bills. This last week I have spent numerous hours calling one number after another to discover the high costs of treatment and the enormous amounts of my medical bills.

I am a retired teacher insured in group coverage by Medical Mutual and the State Teachers Retirement System. My wife recently lost her health insurance and was forced to shop for coverage. She still works for a local drug store, and, of course, Medical Mutual will not let me cover her in a reduced premium family plan. We both pay substantial insurance premiums every month for policies with high deductibles. We also pay SOMC at least $50 a month for our medical debt. In addition, we pay payments to SOMC Medical Care Foundation, Inc.

The two of us exceed the limit for financial assistance to help with the increasing charges of healthcare. As most of you well know, the middle class bears the burden for those who receive free health care. Before I inquired, I was certain my retirement income would exceed required limits for assistance; however, I called to verify that financial help was not an option. Also, my income does not allow me assistance for the Life Center's Silver Sneaker program -- something I now see as preventative because of my diabetes. I see membership as a cost-saving move for the hospital, but I'm not sure anyone is interested in long-term patient cost saving.

Neither my wife or I have a history of serious medical problems requiring long term hospital stays. My wife has had some recent required surgery and treatment for kidney stones. As for me, I once spent a week in the hospital over fifteen years ago for a bad interior nosebleed. I had one stent procedure about ten years ago at Kings Daughters (one night stay), and I was also treated at SOMC for a blood clot one other time (two night stay).

I wrote a recent blog about discovering my diabetes. As I began to incur tremendous charges for diagnostic and necessary procedures, largely uncovered by my insurance, I began to explore my options before I had to forfeit all of my assets to medical debt. This is when I began pulling out my hair, gnashing my teeth, and swearing never to assume medical procedures as necessities.

I am 63, two years away from Medicare. Some of my friends tell me medical costs will lessen then, but in the meantime, I'm dealing with a new illness that promises to send me further and further in debt. Speaking of debt, the actual figure of my debt depends upon the official tally of my total bills to SOMC -- two days ago a hospital financier told me I owed $11,000 and today one claimed my debt was $17,851.75. The difference in the figures of billing, which incidentally I don't understand at all and wonder if anyone keeping track of it does either, gives new meaning to the cliche "What a difference a day makes."

I have worked and paid nearly all my life for medical coverage. (And, I still pay dearly.)The policy I can afford basically amounts to an endless game of paying for 20% of everything but never meeting my deductible. And, my Lord, everyone you speak with -- insurance folks, medical billing staff, foundation employees, State Teachers Retirement health representatives, doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs -- all sympathize that the health care system, health insurance, pharmaceutical companies, and firms that produce medical goods rape the innocent, insurance-paying pocketbook. Yet, none of them want to do a thing about it but blame one another in a clever, endless circle of denial.

By the way... I'm so sick of hearing people blame President Obama about the fractured state of healthcare in America. How about a little common sense. This problem has been escalating out of control before anyone knew the name "Barack Obama." He is convenient scapegoat and a political target of those with something to gain by their opposition.

Outrageous medical bills and insufficient but expensive health insurance have been staples for decades. All sense of reason is gone. The game plan for healthcare has become "How much can we gouge and get away with?" While some auto insurance companies seem to be addressing overblown costs, medical insurance providers often don't care enough to fight for the consumer. Why should they? As the population ages, they sit in the catbird's seat of "pay me a lot now" or "pay me more later." People really don't have a viable option.

I hate being ill. I hate going to the doctor. I detest the idea of staying in the hospital. Still ... I realize and appreciate the great need for healthcare professionals and healthcare insurance. I just can't afford both at this point in my life. I am honestly considering "rolling the dice" and dropping my coverage to apply the premium cost to my escalating SOMC bills. I wonder if I could live long enough to make this "plan" work? It's life and death on the installment plan for those who actually try to pay.

And, you knew this diatribe was coming...

How about the fact that I pay the outrageous costs of covering those on welfare, many of whom remain happy not just to use but to abuse the system. sh%damxxxfu&!!! Enough is enough. Crowded emergency rooms are lounges for those with no coverage who suffer the most minor illnesses and injuries. As a kid, unless I had a broken bone or was bleeding out, my family addressed these simple issues at home or at the family doctor's office. I'm tired of paying inefficiency and freeloaders.

Incidentally, my emergency room copay is now $150. Hope I don't get in an accident without some cash in my pocket.

Go to the doctor's office now. Pay by the minute. Get your pills and your blood tests and your orders for hospital procedures. Then, get referrals to see specialists for most any problem you face. All orders and hospital procedures must be strictly followed, not necessarily because of the health of the patient but because of the constant fear of the doctors being sued for malpractice.

Who gets poked in the ass by this system the most? You guessed it: the sick patient who will undoubtedly get bills for treatment his insurance won't cover and he or she can't pay off. Charges and bills and partial payments and denial of payments: I bet one simple procedure goes through over 100 individuals before I even get the bill in the mail.

Healthcare officials sympathize. Insurance companies sympathize. Everybody is so sorry that money does not grow on trees, but they all want paid and paid extremely well. Politicians and State office holders are content to walk the fine line of hooking the taxpaying public into understanding the need for welfare because they can't afford to lose the large welfare state vote. Actually, politicians feed upon the system. They are now just party puppets who serve to stay in office, on the dole themselves.

In truth, collusion between medicine and government makes money for politicians taking favors from lobbyists, and it also makes money for the big healthcare businesses and healthcare insurance firms they represent. They pass the charge on to us, the taxpayers. You can bet congressmen have top of the line health coverage paid for by us, and, rest assured, they owe no large debts to hospitals and doctors, no matter the treatments. My cash goes to their coverage.

I hate to owe this much money to SOMC, but for the life of me, I can't understand one thing. How could anyone with any bit of intelligence not get on the welfare dole before working two or three low-paying jobs that don't offer health benefits? It is insane to believe everyone is going to find employment that offers significant coverage. Those who struggle and who are in their right mind should apply for welfare and free health coverage. In the current state of affairs, we must have those willing to work service jobs and other inexcusably stingy employment refusing to offer them benefits. I do not know how they could survive without government health assistance. Employers want profits and have little interest in paying hospital bills for sick employees.

Maybe some of you have experienced this merry-go-round of escalating costs besides me. Maybe not. Perhaps, I am overreacting and being my usual "bitchy" self. Yet, after making premium payments, hospital loan payments, co-pays, and pharmacy bills, I feel sicker than before I was treated.

My last mailed statement read "$274.79 -- Past Due. Please Pay Immediately." We received this statement after we sent our monthly payment of $50.00 to the foundation. We do this every month without fail. I feel like a lousy debtor and a criminal. And, in a way, I guess I am. But, I guess I can take solace in the fact that the collection agency hasn't had me arresting, and I don't have Big Bubba for a cellmate. It's bad enough having Big Business for an overseer. Either way, you have to watch your ass.

But, America is a great place to live when you hide your eyes from the corporate criminals intent on making your life miserable. Sometimes I feel as if I am just a little pawn in a plot to kill off an older generation. After all, people my age are largely ineffective spokespeople. We complain and become a small thorn in the side of greedy profiteers. We represent both a bother and a resource to the economy. We bother by going in debt for simple necessities like healthcare, and we help by paying for those who cannot afford to see a doctor. The system likes to jack up our charges to compensate for those "poor" people.

$1,854.60 for a needed CT scan procedure. An additional $250 to read the scan. $770.00 for one round of blood work. Nearly $18,000 of hospital debt. I'm overwhelmed. Everyone from SOMC wants me to give them the highest ranking on the Consumer Assessment Surveys. Currently, they sell the ranking about five times before any procedure is done. They should preach, "Rank us high before you get your high bill."

I understand the problems. But, remember, the way to insure problems do not abate is to do nothing about them. I have a keyboard, a mind, and a blog that cost me nothing. I can afford to fight this war.

Here is a salvo from my keyboard:

The Healthcare Bluebook supported by folks like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR offers information on prices based on the typical fee that providers in your area accept as payment from insurance companies. This is the price you should have to pay, even if your provider charges more. You can use this price to negotiate with your provider or shop for an in-network provider that charges a Fair Price. I entered the Healthcare Bluebook site and found 45662 area code information for my CT scan. Here are the results:

Face and Jaw CT (with and without contrast)

Total Fair Price: $712

I encourage you to click here and check out this online site:

Remember, I was charged $1,854.60 in the unhealthiest county of Ohio. Can anyone see a connection here? Or, maybe I should just get a loan, pay my bill, and shut up.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time: A Mystery Without Meaning

People love to profess all these wonderful, learned things about time. They use their intelligence and collected wisdom to tell you how how to value it, how to employ it, and how to squeeze every minute from it. The truth is no one knows jack about time. If they did, we could have a planet of blissful and natural inhabitants instead of discontented, rash reactionaries.

We don't even know what time is. We don't know what causes time. We don't know when time began. We don't know how to measure it with exactness. We don't know why time slows in gravity or slows in motion. We don't know why we should use it in certain ways. We don't know whether time is a dimension.

We all -- regular Joe to brainiac to sage -- are basically time dumb asses, and I assure you we will remain that way until "our time passes."

When it comes to understanding concepts of time, I tend to think like Henry David Thoreau who once said: "Time is just the stream I go a-fishing in." This fine quote speaks with proper perspective and adequate admission of uncertainty.

Maybe Albert Einstein did know a little more than most of the rest of us about time, but I can't help but believe that if he were alive today, Einstein would say, "Well, you know that stuff I told you about relativity and the fabric of time? Well, scratch that because I did some bad calculations, and since I died in 1955, I've rethought a few of my theories."

Believe me, reader, you don't understand time. You (like me) parrot stupid advice about the subject because you have heard it so often. Give me, an old-time a chance to explain the folly of our ways.

* Don't Waste Time

People love to tell others not to waste time. Why? In the first place, how do you "waste" something without a conceivable end? For example, I can see how people may waste electricity because its generation depends on limited resources. But how can you waste something that continues indefinitely? And time certainly doesn't decay or decompose because a lot of people are "wasting" it: it simply passes. And, if this universe ever implodes, I'm pretty sure time will march right ahead.

What should we do with our "time"? Beats me. Most people want others to be industrious when they say "don't waste time." Yet, the most pleasurable times of my life have occurred when I was simply wasting time -- relaxing with friends, vacationing to new places, eating and drinking, listening to music, or catching a restful nap. Wasting time can often brighten my darkest days. In fact, these times "wasted" are often the hours I feel most free and unencumbered by negativity.

* Spend Time As If Every Day Were Your Last

Then, people also love to preach "spend every day as if it were your last." Now, if I knew my time was up in 24 hours, I would probably engage in quite a few selfish, egotistical activities that would require others to change their important schedules and cater to my rash wishes. That is simply something many loved ones would not enjoy doing.

And, to live with the end in mind would prove impossible. I couldn't jam all the good stuff into 24 hours anyway without great financial and physical means and an air of accelerated, senseless appreciation of my being. I mean, who would take you seriously when you told them you just might check out each and every day. "Hey, man, I'm just living every day as if I'm not going to be around tomorrow." Sooner or later, they would probably be glad to see you go.

And, I think about this: I have seen quite a few souls who knew they had just a day or two left on earth, and most of them were not living that time in a particularly attractive manner. Many of these now-departed souls were in great pain and in feeble mind during their last hours. I would say if people could "live every day as if were their last," many would be sorely disappointed all the time.

* Time Heals All Wounds

Of course, people love to tell others "time heals all wounds." Here is a news flash: time cannot heal. I believe some doctors, God, and peace of mind can heal, but time doesn't automatically diagnose your illnesses and remedy your woes. Pain can last indefinitely ... both physical and mental pain may persist ad nauseam. Ask severely injured people about time schedules for healing. The process of becoming whole does not operate within minutes, hours, days, years, decades, or even lifetimes.

I think for many of us "time heals" in the sense that we "learn" to forget and repress things while it passes. How about a new expression? I like "time numbs ... to some extent." Combine this with "accurate memory fades with time" and I believe the old saying about time healing our ills is closer to the truth.

* Time Is Money

Well, thank old Ben Franklin for this next observation: "Time is money." That idea suggests no time should be taken to philosophize or to digest information. Inefficiency can cost money, but some busy people believe the answer to great production is to jump right into the task and "git-r-done" like Larry the Cable Guy. This idea makes craftsmen shudder and those who believe in quality settle for producing junk.

"Time is money" pretty much kills the process of believing in essential trial and error, too. No wonder we settle for goods that last "for a while" as opposed to lasting "like they should." It honestly should take time to design and produce anything lasting and even more time to make sure quality exists before the public spends its precious money to purchase the product.

And, I ask you, if time is money, why do people work so damn hard not to work? Don't they realize that "time is money." Give me a break, no one believes they make enough money for putting in their time. People who make the best money have made a science out of avoiding work. For far too many, survival money is minimum wage. If time was money, those who wash dishes should make $50.00 an hour for their labor. My revision of this cliche: "Time and money are strange bedfellows."

* Don't Live Behind the Times

People love to say "don't live behind the times." Why not? This philosophy suggests some pretty strange reasoning. I assume this means keeping up is good. If being current is good, then being "ahead of the times" must be even better. Yet, this may or may not be true. Being "ahead of the times" may lead to rejection and to being ostracized because of strange proclivities. Society tends to reject those with forward thinking: these people often suffer during their lifetimes.

How ridiculous for me, a 63-year-old man, to believe I can be viewed "normal" if I follow fashion and new trends. If I decide to be a geezer twerking my ancient booty, I am sure to be the subject of ridicule. Let me be frank about Frank: my "times" are gone. They breathed their last gasps somewhere in the mid-1970s. I could race to keep up but my speed is now a slow walk.

Besides, choosing to be "behind the times" can lead to tranquility and a renewed appreciation for the past. How in the hell can anyone gauge what they know as "the times" anyway? A passing thought instantly becomes "behind the times." Racing to keep up with time can also lead to hypertension and other health problems, not to mention missing the honest "savor" of simply living and breathing.

* No Time Like the Present

And, that's enough about the past. Don't most people also love to profess "there is no time like the present." Perhaps much of the rash action we witness is due to this unfounded statement. 50% of those who enter wedlock experience their reality of "the right time" to share their lives with someone else to be bullshit. They rage against love; they hate; and they divorce, only to remarry and start the process all over again. Their idea of being able to live an "undying love" in the present tense somehow sours into a past mistake.

Besides, the present is actually an impossible state of being. It is brief mental awareness. Just as soon as a thought enters our brain and manifests itself into a decision and an eventual action, the present has faded. The present is a fleeting moment, whatever is happening now (present) is confined to an infinitesimally narrow point on the time line which is being encroached upon by what we think of as the past and the future.

What little "present" we rashly execute in a skewed actuality of a Webster's definition without much thought or reason -- it is simply energy knee-jerked into existence.

* You Can't Turn Back Time

I hear those insightful folks who claim "you cannot turn back the clock." Now, I believe in moving on and not dwelling too much on past mistakes; however, if we truly can't regain younger days, why do people spend millions on cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and procedures to recapture the illusion of youth? The reality is more than Madison Avenue is responsible. The gullible and the willing true believers are constantly "turning back the clock" because they need something they now miss.

Besides, I defy you to accurately judge age, maturity, and beauty with silly notions about time. You can't even judge what appears to be a human in whom time has appeared to "stand still."

And, this is not just a saying that claims advice for physical matters, it also suggests the past has lasting relevance that must be endured no matter the consequences. I believe in going back to past when needed -- apologies, changes, vows, traditions, recognitions -- all require "turning back the clock."

And, how about a time machine? Science contends that the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest atom smasher, could be the first machine capable of causing matter to travel backwards in time. It has something to do with the Higgs boson and the Higgs singlet. My tiny brain cannot explain anything about the research, yet some scientists claim belief in the theories.

And, for God's sake, don't tell psychics time travel is impossible. These sensitive, supernatural saps have no problem traversing time in their minds and altered states of consciousness. They spend more time out of the bounds of this planet than they do within. Doesn't the Number One Best Seller of All Time, the Bible put faith in things like visions and dreams?

* Time Will Tell

This well-known expression implies that answers to vexing questions and problems will be revealed over the passage of time. It reminds of the line in the hymn: "Further along we'll know more about it." People apply this to a temporal existence, but many Earthlings find that time keeps its most intriguing secrets without the slightest revelation of meaning. Time does not always, or even most often, "tell" anything as it passes. Much of what is deemed true today was fiction 100 years ago, and today's understandings will prove wrong in good time.

Instead of living comfortably with constant changes, people let time pass and find opinions and beliefs that match their own preferred interpretation of answers to pressing questions. Despite research and clinical study, most depend upon their intuition to "tell" them what to do. "What feels right" rules and conquers logical acceptance. Time serves to tell these folks that their answer will be revealed "just around the next bend" and they are "on course" with their good hearts headed straight for the Promised Land.

I believe if "time tells" truly any smidgeon of absolute advice, the information is full of doubt. The problem goes right back to the misunderstanding of time itself. In his finite brain, man believes time owes an explanation for its nature. People like to say, "It's just a matter of time" when they don't have the slightest conception of what matter (or lack of matter) comprises time. For millions and millions of years, time has "told" man nothing. It may be more accurate to say we are unwilling prisoners of time.

Last Take on Time

I love thinking about time. I see it as the ultimate mystery. Still, I know pretty much nothing about it. And, it's pretty strange to be governed by an entity I cannot define -- and, God knows, it is a strict, sure governor. I do believe people have many misconceptions about time. The people who are convinced they know the most like physicists deal in theories.

Writer and physicist Paul Davies has called "time" Einstein’s unfinished revolution. Davies says there is an underlying process of motion and forces from which time emerges, however what we perceive as time is mostly an illusion. Our memory creates the illusion of the past. Conscious perception of
events gives the feeling of present. Future is a mental construct patterned on the memory experience of the past. Our concept of time emerges as our mind tries to make sense of the world around us which is filled with change.

If we measure time by comparing one standard motion against another, time may not have any independent existence. It seems time and clocks are used for convenience. If time is really "nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once," time, as we know it, may be simply a way of arranging events. Thinking about anything absolute concerning time is frustrating to me, so I choose to look for that "stream" Thoreau was talking about and "go fishing" during my existence.
'Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once.'

Read more:

Postulates of Special Relativity, violation of time-reversal symmetry, radioactive decay, Parity and Time symmetry, interlocking space and time -- it's all Greek horseshit to me.

All Things Are Current Found

ALL things are current found
On earthly ground,
Spirits and elements
Have their descents.

Night and day, year on year,
High and low, far and near,
These are our own aspects,
These are our own regrets.

Ye gods of the shore,
Who abide evermore,
I see you far headland,
Stretching on either hand;

I hear the sweet evening sounds
From your undecaying grounds;
Cheat me no more with time,
Take me to your clime.

--Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Protective Cap For Major League Pitchers -- Needed Change?

In an often awkward post delivery stance on the mound, a Major League Baseball pitcher has approximate one-third of a second to 
react to liners screaming at him from the bats of opposing players 
at a reported average of 83 mph and a recorded high of 108 mph. 
A hit to the head often causes devastating injury and can be fatal.

In the nearly 17 months since then-Oakland Athletics pitcher Brandon McCarthy was struck in the head by a line drive and suffered life-threatening brain injuries, Major League Baseball says it has received and tested numerous prototypes from different vendors for padded caps to provide some head protection against high-speed shots off the bat.

In a similar devastating injury, Toronto Blue Jays J.A. Happ also suffered a fractured skull and sprained knee ligaments on his fall after he was struck in the left ear on May 7, 2013.

Now, 4Licensing Corporation subsidiary isoBloxa has designed and manufactured a helmet that has been approved by the major leagues to protect these players. All 30 teams were informed Tuesday  morning (January 28, 2014) of the decision after consulting with the league's players union. The newly approved caps will be made available to pitchers for spring training next month. Use of the caps is optional.

The threshold for approval was that the cap had to provide protection, at 83 miles per hour, below the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment standard severity index of 1,200. Severity indexes higher than 1,200 are considered high-risk for skull fractures and traumatic brain injuries. An MLB-commissioned study determined that 83 mph was the average speed of a line drive when it reaches the area of the pitching mound.

According to isoBloxa, the caps are a little more than a half-inch thicker in the front and an inch thicker on the sides -- near the temples -- than standard caps, and afford protection for frontal impact locations against line drives of up to 90 mph and for side impact locations at up to 85 mph. The soft padding is made of "plastic injection molded polymers combined with a foam substrate" and is designed to diffuse energy upon impact through a combination of dispersion and absorption techniques.

IsoBloxa will send the padding to New Era to sew into MLB's official custom-fitted caps. Of course, the padding will likely increase the heat factor pitchers face in summer games. A cap currently weighs three to four ounces. The padding adds seven ounces to the cap.

The two pitchers mentioned above ironically have reservations about wearing the protective gear.

Brandon McCarthy, now with the Arizona Diamondbacks, told ESPN he would not wear one of the protective hats because "it is too big" and "doesn't feel quite right."

“I’d have to see what the differences in feel would be—does it feel close enough to a regular cap?” Happ told ESPN. “You don’t want to be out there thinking about it and have it take away from your focus on what you’re doing.”

Four of the five pitchers who have been hit in the head since September 2012, including those most seriously injured, were struck below the cap line. MLB, however, hasn't contemplated exploring protective headgear for pitchers with broader coverage, such as a visor, mask or helmet.

This reluctance to dress Major League Pitchers in equipment that may prevent season-ending injury is interesting to say the least -- what with pitchers' high salary contracts and the tremendous care taken by the management with pitch counts, required rest, extended conditioning, etc.

Is it the weight of added protection, the psychological effect of change, or just the fashion-conscious pitchers reluctance to wear anything not deemed "hot gear" that draws opposition. I bet if pitchers were permitted to be paid for sporting visible 4Licensing Corporation logo on the new caps, most of them would gladly bear any inconvenience.

MLB didn't make the use of helmets or protective cap inserts mandatory for batters until the National League required them for the 1956 season. Helmets weren't required until the 1971 season and, even then, they weren't mandatory for players already in the big leagues. An earflap on the side of the head facing the pitcher was required for new players starting in 1983.

Several years ago, MLB introduced larger batting helmets that offered increased safety. But big leaguers mostly rejected them, saying they looked funny and made them resemble the Great Gazoo, a character on the "The Flintstones" cartoon series.

IsoBloxa sees great potential for youth league players and their parents to embrace increased protection and evolving devices. The company said it hoped that the product would be used widely at the youth levels and gradually would become more popular. A youth skull cap, to be placed under a child’s adjustable cap, sells for $59.99.

Baseball-Related Injury

Research confirms the majority of the sports-related injuries seen in America’s youths are preventable. The importance and prestige placed on high achievement in athletics in America today have led to the increase in overuse injuries in adolescent athletes. These are injuries that are easily avoidable when the proper precautions are taken and decisions are made based on the best interests of the athletes long term health and future instead of what will promote the athlete fastest in the sport at that point in time. 

In some rather dated research from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 1996, the commission analyzed the 88 reports it received of baseball-related deaths of children between 1973 and 1995. It found that 68 of the deaths were caused by ball impact and 13 were caused by bat impact. Of the 68 ball impact deaths, 38 resulted from blows to the chest while 21 deaths were caused by a ball hitting a player's head.

Of the 162,100 hospital emergency-room-treated injuries in 1995, most of the injuries (almost 75 percent) occurred to older children ages 10 to 14. This age group represents about half of the total number of children playing baseball.

More recently, Bradley Lawson, Dawn Comstock and Gary Smith of Ohio State University filtered data to research information about baseball-related injuries to kids under 18 from 1994-2006. During that period, they found that more than 1.5 million young players were treated in hospital emergency rooms, with the most common baseball injury being being hit by the ball, and typically in the face.

The good news is that the annual number of baseball injuries has decreased by 24.9 percent over those 13 years. The researchers credit the decline to the increased use of protective equipment. Gary Smith said:

"Safety equipment such as age-appropriate breakaway bases, helmets with properly-fitted face shields, mouth guards and reduced-impact safety baseballs have all been shown to reduce injuries. As more youth leagues, coaches and parents ensure the use of these types of safety equipment in both practices and games, the number of baseball-related injuries should continue to decrease. Mouth guards, in particular, should be more widely used in youth baseball."

While accident-related injuries are down, preventable injuries from overuse still seem to be a problem, according to author Mark Hyman. In his recent book, Until It Hurts, Hyman admits his own mistakes in pressuring his 14-year-old son to continue pitching with a sore arm, causing further injury.

Surprised by his own unwillingness to listen to reason, Hyman, a long-time journalist, researched the growing trend of high-pressure parents pushing their young athletes too far, too fast. Hyman told Livescience:

"Many of the physicians I spoke with told me of a spike in overuse injuries they had witnessed. As youth sports become increasingly competitive — climbing a ladder to elite teams, college scholarships, parental prestige and so on -- children are engaging in a range of risky behaviors."

One expert he consulted was Dr. Lyle Micheli, founder of one of the country's first pediatric sports medicine clinics at Children's Hospital in Boston. Micheli estimates that 75 percent of the young patients he sees are suffering from some sort of overuse injury, versus 20 percent back in the 1990s.

 (Dan Peterson. "Youth Baseball Injuries: Good and Bad News." June 12, 2009)

Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, offered these points of interest:

  • More than 110,000 U.S. children younger than 18 years of age are treated each year in emergency departments for baseball-related injuries.
  • The most common mechanisms of injury are being hit by the baseball and being hit by the bat.
  • The face and the upper extremities (shoulders, arms, hands) are the most commonly injured areas of the body.
  • Adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 years are more likely to have been injured while sliding than younger children.
  • Injuries that are the result of sliding are more likely to be fractures and need hospital admission than injuries caused by other mechanisms.
  • Children younger than 5 years of age with a baseball-related injury are more likely to be injured at home and to sustain injuries to the face than older children.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Archie Bell "Tightens Up" and "Dances As Good As He Wants"

I wondered how many rock music artists had actually served in Vietnam. I remembered Gary Lewis (of Gary Lewis and the Playboys), son of comedic icon Jerry Lewis, had served in Vietnam. I have never heard much about what Lewis did during the war. And, I wondered how many other musical artists had been in the war. I was surprised to find little information on the subject; however, what I found out about one artist is a story within itself.

Let me give you this "story," which gives credence to being careful to believing what you read on Internet sites that may be deemed credible. And, hey, let me assure you that my little blog entry may not report all the facts. So, research it yourself. But, let's get on with the story and "tighten up" a little.

Archie Bell

Born in Henderson, Texas, on September 1, 1944, Archie Bell grew up in Houston in a household that included seven brothers, including All-American football star Ricky Bell. His mother, Ruthie Bell, sang gospel and made sure her sons were involved in church-based activities. Because of his mother, Archie began singing in church at an early age.

"I don't read or write music, but what I have is God's gift," he said. As a youngster, he watched legendary singers Esther Phillips, Bobby Blue Bland and Gatemouth Brown and attended traveling shows. He would save up $3 to see 10 acts in one show.

At age 10, Bell was singing in nightclubs. In junior high, Bell joined a vocal group called Little Pop & the Fireballs, and Bell's success evidently had very early beginnings. 

"When I saw Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke perform I said to myself, at age 12, I wanted to be a professional singer," Bell said. "I didn't know anything about the pitfalls that go with the business of music." 

Archie Bell's musical career began to burgeon in 1966 when he formed The Drells with four high school friends. The Drells won several local talent shows, and they were discovered by local DJ Skipper Lee Frazier, who became their manager and producer.

n junior high, he joined a vocal group called Little Pop & the Fireballs, and formed the Drells in high school with friends James Wise, Huey "Billy" Butler, and Joe Cross (later replaced by Willie Pernell). The Drells won several local talent shows, performing a repertoire dominated by Chicago soul, and were discovered by local DJ Skipper Lee Frazier, who became their manager and producer.
Read more at Drells won several local talent shows, performing a repertoire dominated by Chicago soul, and were discovered by local DJ Skipper Lee Frazier, who became their manager and producer.
Soon, Archie Bell and The Drells were enjoying regional success with the single “She’s My Woman, She’s My Girl.”
But, in early 1967, Uncle Sam called upon Archie Bell to serve his country. “I went down to the draft board to take my physical and the next thing I knew I was on a bus to boot camp in Louisiana,” Archie Bell reminisced in the book All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music. “I didn’t even have time to call my mother,” Archie Bell said.

While on a short leave, he recorded the single "Dog Eat Dog" with musical backing by The TSU Tornadoes, an instrumental R&B combo from Texas Southern University. The B-side was a dance tune called "Tighten Up." The record was issued in December 1967, and "Tighten Up" became a huge hit in Houston.

 Bell said that his roommate, Billy Butler of the Drells, inspired the infectious dance tune.
"He came in and did a little dance. I said, 'What are you doing?' and he said, 'I’m doing the Tighten Up.' We used  'Tighten Up' just like we would 'Word Up' or 'Right On,' you know, it was a slang word: 'I’ll see you later brother, tighten up.' So when he did the little dance, I said, 'Tighten Up.' That’s really unique and I got my pen and started writing."
Bell told what made the song unique:

"This was the first song where every player got a solo. We wanted to get that whole 
house party feel. That’s what we’d do down in the Fifth Ward, have these big parties 
at somebody’s house and just jam all night. Everybody would form a circle and two 
people would have like a dance-off in the middle. All the dancers would kick in a 
buck and whoever was the best dancer would win the pot."

Bell maintains the spoken intro to the song was in response to hearing a deejay say, after President Kennedy’s assassination that nothing good came out of Texas. Bell wanted “people to know that Archie Bell & the Drells were from Texas and [that we] were good.” Here is that spoken intro:

"Hi everybody. I'm Archie Bell of the Drells of Houston, Texas. We don't
only sing but we dance just as good as we want. In Houston we just started a
new dance called the 'Tighten Up.' This is the music we tighten up with."

The song was eventually picked up for distribution by New York-based Atlantic Records. "Tighten Up" took the country by storm in early 1968. By May 27, 1968, the song hit number one on both the pop and R&B charts, moving an astounding 3 million copies.

Accolades for the song piled up over the years. Later Austin’s veteran rock critic Michael Corcoran placed it at Number 12 on his own list of the “Best Texas Recordings Ever.” The song ranked #265 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and has been called one of the earliest funk music hits by music aficionados.

As for Archie Bell, he had the unique experience of seeing his song skyrocket while serving in the U.S. military.

“I said, ‘Hey everybody! That’s me singing’ but nobody believed me,” Archie Bell said. “They figured I was shell-shocked, crazy. The next time the song came on the radio they heard me say, ‘Hi everybody. I’m Archie Bell of The Drells of Houston, Texas,’ and then some of them went, ‘hmmm, maybe it is him.'”

"I don't know how it feels to have a hot record in the states," Bell told an interviewer in 2007, "because I could only come home on leaves to record the album."

Here is where the bio gets very interesting. Sources "confirm" different tales.

It is written: Bell learned of the song's success while recovering from wounds suffered in Vietnam. He had been shot in the leg on the battlefield during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

Meanwhile, several promoters took advantage of Bell's absence to send fake Archie Bell & the Drells lineups out on the road. With the real Archie Bell out of the picture, several fake Archie Bell and the Drells cropped up, including one phony, all-white Archie Bell and the Drells group.

With Atlantic requesting a full album, he began traveling to and from the States on leave.

But, Doug Bradley, former director of communications for the University of Wisconsin System and Vietnam veteran claims that the "real story" is that "Tighten Up" was picked up by Atlantic Records for national distribution – all while Bell was stationed in Germany. Bell was not in Vietnam.

Some sources write yet another version of foreign war service. Archie Bell said by the time he got to Vietnam in late 1970, the word was that he had died from wounds he'd sustained in Vietnam, much like the (false) rumor that Jerry Mathers of Leave It To Beaver fame had died in combat.

Eventually, the Beaver-dying-in Vietnam-myth was debunked, but in the era before the Internet. Doug Bradley remained unconvinced about Archie Bell until he visited The Wall in Washington, D.C.

Bradley says this:

"Standing in front of Panel 25W Line 61, I looked at the name and realized my obsession had been with Arthur Bell, a white man from Mississippi, who wasn't the guy who sang Tighten Up after all.

"The real Archie Bell was never in Vietnam, was never wounded ('Nah, man, I never saw any combat,' he says) and was discharged from the Army in 1969. His oldest brother fought in Vietnam, as did every member of his unit from basic training. Archie came back to a long, prosperous musical career and still gets to perform 'Tighten Up.'

"Sadly, Specialist 4 Arthur Frederick Bell was killed by small arms fire in Binh Dinh, South Vietnam, in May 1969. He was 23 years old. That's old by Vietnam demographics, but it's still a life cut short too soon. He probably watched Leave it to Beaver and listened to 'Tighten Up.' But Arthur Frederick Bell and more than 58,000 others never got to come home."

(Doug Bradley. "Tighten Up." The Huffington Post. August 03, 2012)

Urban legends and unconfirmed reports run rampant on the Internet. The differing details in the biography of Archie Bell is proof. One of my favorite sites about songs is "Songfacts." Check out what the site says about "Tighten Up" by clicking here:

It really doesn't make any difference whether Archie Bell served in Vietnam or was wounded in battle. The story of "Tighten Up" is enjoyable reading for rock enthusiasts. Bell recorded a great song that is still popular. Maybe myth is just part of living with war. Doug Bradley uses these words to explain:

"Our youth, our innocence and our music were all succumbing to Vietnam, much like we were.
And while there was some truth in that -- Michael Herr, author of the great Vietnam journalism book Dispatches, is quoted as saying that "Vietnam is what we had instead of happy childhoods," there was a lot of urban myth/legend in that belief, too. And why is that?

"I think some of it has to do with that visceral loss of innocence that I mention above, but some of it also has to do with the relevancy of that old saying 'misery loves company.' Trying to survive 365 days in Vietnam in 1970-71, I, like thousands upon thousands of my fellow GIs, was scared and miserable. So I took comfort in the fact that a person who is miserable can find solace in other people who share their feelings. This is the basis of some forms of group therapy -- when you realize you are not the only one feeling the way you feel, well, you don't feel so bad.

"And how better to share that misery than with idols like The Beaver and Archie Bell?"

(Doug Bradley. "Tighten Up." The Huffington Post. August 03, 2012)

Wasting Money In Afghanistan -- Making Literate Terrorists In a Narco-Criminal State

"The U.S. government has committed $200 million to a program teaching Afghan soldiers to read -- but a new report 
shows more than half of them still may be illiterate."

(Judson Berger. "Afghan soldiers still can't read, despite $200M US-backed program, report finds." Fox News. January 28, 2014)

John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), says the program dates back to 2010. Poor tracking of recruits, inconsistent instruction and other factors have left military leaders unable to say how many soldiers can actually read and write, according to the study.

Sopko said  that  literacy of the Afghan National Security Forces is critically a statement. "We've spent $200 million on this -- yet we don't even know how many Afghan security forces are literate or how well the program worked. That's deeply disturbing."

The program's original goal was for 100 percent of Afghan National Security Forces to achieve what's called Level 1 literacy (equivalent to first-grade proficiency), and half to attain Level 3 literacy (equivalent to third-grade proficiency).

Military leaders initially reported that the program would meet its goals by the end of 2014. But the new report cast doubt on those claims, saying "several" officials told the inspector general's office that achieving that goal may be "unrealistic" and "unattainable."

Further, the report claimed officials said "that over half of the force was still illiterate as of February 2013," a level likely to stay constant through the end of the decade. Reconstruction estimates found that 64% had first-grade ability and 21% were at the third-grade level. The police and army have about 352,000 personnel.

Other key findings include the following:

• Between July 2012 and February 2013, 45% of Afghan national police were deployed without any literacy training.

• Attrition rates of 30% to 50% mean that it is unlikely that the personnel who passed literacy tests are still serving.

Believe it or not, SIGAR is the U.S. government’s leading agency on Afghanistan reconstruction "committed to uncovering fraud, waste and abuse – and to providing policymakers with the independent analysis they need to make informed decisions on one of the complex foreign policy issues facing the United States." Yes, such an organization does exist.

It is reported that all SIGAR audits are performed in compliance with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS), established by the Comptroller General of the United States.

According to New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg, Sopko has made a full-time job of "embarrassing people." Sopko, a 61-year-old former prosecutor believes that strategy works. He and his team spend their days cataloging the waste, mismanagement and fraud that have plagued American reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. 

Then they go out and publicize what they have found — aggressively. If they upset the generals and diplomats running the war, so much the better. Sopko says, “I’m into accountability.” His take-no-prisoners approach has alienated many officials whose work he scrutinizes. Sopko and his team have done work that has felt like salt in the wounds for some officials in Afghanistan.

Rosenberg believes "Sopko has been as instrumental as anyone in shaping the now-prevalent view among Americans that the war in Afghanistan has become an expensive boondoggle no longer worth fighting." 

(Matthew Rosenberg. "To American Watchdog on Afghan Reconstruction, 
Bluntness Is a Weapon." The New York Times. August 8, 2013) 

Since 2002, Congress has appropriated more than $95 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction.

 John F. Sopko

What other misbehavior has been uncovered by SIGAR?

1. Contracts For Terrorists

In a recent quarterly report to Congress in August, 2013, Sopko expressed deep concerns over the U.S. Army’s refusal to suspend its contracts with 43 companies suspected of supporting terrorist activities.

“I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack and even kill terrorists and their supporters, but that some in the U.S. government believe we cannot prevent these same people from receiving a government contract,” Sopko wrote in his report.

The SIGAR office had brought the 43 companies, most of them Afghani, to the Army’s attention and suggested that their contracts be brought under suspension or debarment. The information supplied by SIGAR allegedly pointed to connections between the companies and the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Haqqani network.

“The Army Suspension and Debarment Office appears to believe that suspension or debarment of these individuals and companies would be a violation of their due process rights if based on classified information or if based on findings by the Department of Commerce,” the report said.

What was done? The Army Procurement Fraud Branch did review the 43 recommendations, but the report did not include enough supporting evidence to initiate suspention and debarment under Federal Acquisition Regulations.

2. Hectares of Heroin

There is a shocking report about heroin grown in Afghanistan. In testimony before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control in January, 2014, Sopko warned that Afghanistan could degenerate into a narco-criminal state.

The special inspector general complains that counternarcotics has been a low priority for both the U.S. and Afghan governments and that robust law enforcement is needed. 

According to Sopko, despite a $7 billion effort to eradicate opium production in Afghanistan, poppy cultivation there is at its highest level since the U.S. invasion more than a decade ago, sparking corruption, criminal gangs and providing the insurgency with hard cash.

"The situation in Afghanistan is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond," Sopko says. "Afghan farmers are growing more opium poppies today than at any time in their modern history." In fact, a United Nations report said about 209,000 hectares (515,000 acres) of land was being used to cultivate poppies last year — with the highest concentration in southern Helmand province. That compares with just 8,000 hectares in 2001 and 74,000 in 2002, when U.S.-led international forces toppled the Taliban. 

The value of the heroin produced is worth $3 billion annually, or roughly 15 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product. As much as 90 percent of the world's heroin is produced there, and, of course, it reaches the United States and Canada.

"It is widely thought that every drug organization supports or works with insurgents in Afghanistan," Sopko says. "I have been told that these same groups are closely linked with corrupt government officials."

(Scott Neuman. "U.S. Official: Afghanistan Could Become 'Narco-Criminal State.'" 
 National Public Radio. January 15, 2014)

3. Empty Police Facilities

According to a 2013 report by Sopko, inspectors found a nearly deserted compound at the large new Imam Sahib Border Police Company headquarters in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province. All but three of the 12 buildings were locked, and no one had keys.

The findings echoed those in a July 2012 inspection of four other Afghan Border Police facilities in Nangarhar Province, bordering Pakistan, where many buildings were empty or used for something other than what they were designed for – one structure housing a well doubled as a chicken coop. “It is difficult to consider a project as wanted and needed if its intended recipients are not using it or are using it for an unplanned purpose,” the report noted.

The Imam Sahib facility, completed two months earlier at a cost to the United States of $7.3 million, was designed to provide a base for 175 border police to help provide security along Afghanistan’s rugged frontier with Tajikistan, an infiltration route for militants and perhaps the most important transit corridor for Afghan heroin headed to Russia.

In addition to the deserted border control post, SIGAR auditors discovered that the sprawling $17.7 million Kunduz police headquarters, a collection of 37 separate buildings located in the heart of the busy provincial capital, included poor welding, unstable soils, and collapsing buildings.

SIGAR also noted that the headquarters wasn’t prepared to handle the 625 or so police officials expected to work and, in some cases, live there. The compound, the report said, has a single diesel generator to provide power, and the base is not connected to the local electrical grid. Neither were there plans to train Afghans to maintain the equipment. The SIGAR report said that because of these and the project’s other problems, the U.S. investment in the compound “may be at risk.”

(Douglas Birch. "More waste found in Afghanistan as US heads for the exit." 
The Center for Public Integrity. January 31, 2013)

The costs of a war involve atrocious waste -- loss of life, loss of limb, and loss of taxpayer money. Afghanistan is destined to be whatever it was before we arrived. Despite the American government's commitment to instilling so-called "freedom" there, the Afghans will continue to be "Afghans" if and when we ever leave. Call terrorism by any other name and still this aggressive rape of the citizen's pocketbook is personal, political violence imposed by the United States elite.

Yes, we are being terrorized by our own officials. Teach Afghans English, rebuild their country, push them toward a police state -- why? It is evident. Big business, big politics, and big government equate to lining the pockets of those "on the take" with public funds. War is big business and big money -- just the preferred fare of voracious, greedy people "at the top." 

Imagine wasteful foreign spending instead being used to help Americans at home. Blood money runs deep overseas -- it is tied with oil, drugs, and temporary promises of peace. Instead, it could be used to infuse new lifeblood in the future of the country. I worry less about the foreign terrorist in Afghanistan than I do about the native terrorists in Washington.


Coalition Military Fatalities By Year


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Heroin Arrests and Symptoms of Illness

No doubt, the shocking number arrests for heroin possession and trafficking indicates the broad scope of opiate dependency and addiction in Scioto County. The apprehension of criminals involved in the illegal drug trade represents good work and meaningful, concrete efforts by local authorities that help stem the flow of opiates. Yet, with all the tireless and dangerous hard work done by enforcement, they deal with symptoms, not causes, of the real problem that plagues Southern Ohio.

We are an epicenter of a health epidemic sweeping our nation. The addictive personality of America continues to grow. Escape pain, eliminate problems, step back from reality, and stay "high" -- all in the name of trading chemically induced pleasure for inevitable reality. For many diseased individuals in Scioto County, heroin has become the opiate of choice with the same "big bang" once provided by Oxy's and other rx opioids in the infamous "Portsmouth cocktail" once served up by the now vacant pill mills. Legally assisted misery and suicide has been replaced by dealer-assisted remedy and the reviled drug, heroin.

You see, the opiate addict still needs the fix with the same "kick" once provided by the pill. Is it any wonder Scioto County didn't become Mayberry just because needed action was taken to change Ohio laws, convict unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists, account for legal distribution, and choke out pain centers commonly known as pill mills? I rejoice every day that these death mills are gone. But, addicts and dangerous illegal drugs naturally didn't magically exit with the flush of the excrement of the mills. The need will always produce some viable solution. In this case, heroin became the answer.

What once seemed to just be the fare of Hollywood films is no longer restricted to fantastical celluloid. The substance that seduced rich rock stars and celebrities with promises of unrestricted energy and pleasure is now commonplace in poor, depressed Appalachia. Heroin -- black tar and other forms -- has found a comfortable home in the land of moonshine, alcohol, and marijuana. It pours into our region, a place known for outrageous consumption of vice, from origins hundreds, if not thousands of miles away, and it sells here for local consumption. It can be ordered and home delivered like a Pappa John's pizza.

It is time to launch large-scale attacks on the causes of chemical dependency and focus most of our energy at the core of the vice. Now that the public awareness of epic heroin addiction is transparent, it is time for us to use massive doses of clinically based education, intervention, and rehabilitation to treat the diseased and to save lives.

However, just as important as full scale medical war on heroin addiction is psychological healing. A downtrodden, poor spirit convinced of a future consisting of spending a depressed life in an area of escalating decay will turn to false promises of lasting satisfaction. That is predictable human nature that wells from a tortured, imprisoned human soul.

That miserable soul often mistakes temporary bliss for eternal joy and happiness. Instant chemical pleasure serves to spur the idea that living "high" is better than living depressed. Permanent jobs, part-time income, criminal activity, dealing, bartering, abusing government assistance -- all of these become readily available vehicles to supply the "high" of heroin. The need is so powerful for the addict that the drug becomes the person. It becomes complete possession -- the takeover of reason.

What once frightened the majority about heroin -- the use of needles, the fear of overdose, forming a life-threatening habit -- has been nearly extinguished. Risk taking itself is the new religion of those who believe "living on the edge" is a passage through youth to adulthood. The hood, the bad ass, the bitch, even the popular brush arms with a venom that eats innocent spirits. To an addict, the substance becomes the sole companion and deity, more important than loved ones, friends, or the Savior.

I know why people do heroin. It makes them feel good and it makes them forget their troubling reality. It can lead to euphoria, peer group acceptance, sexual satisfaction, money, status, and attractive alternate states of existence. If most people value these things more than simple pleasures and enduring the inevitable pains of living in the real world, America is headed for a full-scale collapse from within which will make the fall of the Roman Empire look like a hangnail in the annals of history.

Face it -- we live in the most addicted nation, and we live in one of its most addicted counties. To stop the madness of heroin dependency and addiction, we must offer better alternatives and better hopes of a promising future to our citizens ... all of them from age 0 to age 110. Like all solutions, the answer begins with love and commitment. But that is only the stimulus of change.

To effect lasting change and kick heroin addiction, we must care for all of our neighbors. We must do more to extend the love of our family to the love of our area. While we increase our care, overdoses, addictions, drug arrests, and  prison terms will continue to occur.

While we endure the tragedies during this transition, we must dedicate ourselves to change our "heroin philosophy" -- not to accept the use of the substance, but instead to become concerned and to initiate a climate of assistance for those who do abuse. We must turn our beliefs that only subhuman refuse use heroin into a more positive philosophy as we accept the reality that good communities must begin to better understand the disease of those we have once ignorantly chosen to ignore and to hate.

We can and will continue to arrest, jail, and release those who possess and traffic heroin. This is good, but, at best, it represents the proverbial "finger in the dike" restricting the flood of drug abuse in our county. If this is the beginning and the end of the "care" of those with heroin addictions in Scioto County, substance use and abuse will get worse and worse here.

You must understand that people don't get "cured" as they are put under arrest or in jail. The few who do receive treatment are marginal offenders anyway -- they exit drug court living a day-to-day existence that helps keep them clean and away from stressors. The "hard core" will seek a fix the day the prison doors open to freedom and to opiate access. The vicious cycle of crime and abuse is evident.

You can legislate and enforce heroin addiction into extinction if you can eliminate the natural drive of human beings to seek pleasure. The funny part about this impossible task is that it may only be accomplished through treatments with other powerful substances. If those meds give addicts life and some quality to their existence, then accepting Suboxone, Vivitrol, and the like may be the best option some heroin addicts may expect (At least, at this stage).

I tend to think the real successes for heroin addicts occur when they commit to whatever treatment restores their broken, diseased bodies and simultaneously mends their severely damaged spirits -- possibly a combination of meds and intense counseling. And, we know spiritual activities definitely help a needy soul. Even one friend can help mend emotions.

The diseased person must be truthful with himself or herself in lifelong commitment and yet ever aware of the dangers of relapse. And, even more, these folks need active mentoring by a sympathetic community that listens and commits itself to providing an addict an environment that allows him or her to become an active, working, positive citizen.

If you hate heroin, you are not alone. But, do you hold the same hatred for other vices such as drinking alcohol or lying or committing adultery or skipping out on child support or smoking marijuana? Oh... you say, "But these vices aren't as bad as taking heroin: we should lock these addicts up and throw away the keys.

As judge and jury of sinful activity, you must be very wise. Perhaps, some of you wise people know a better way to stop the epidemic of drug abuse here because our present course of action begs for change.

Let me end this diatribe by saying this: I do not possess a bleeding, liberal heart; I believe in justice and in paying for wrongdoings. But, after researching and being involved in efforts to stop drug abuse, neither do I have a hard core mentality that police forces or isolated, totalitarian states can keep the flood of heroin from Mexico, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, Columbia, and other countries from drowning the populace. Money is money; vice is vice; greed is greed. 

What Can You Do?

Every parent, grandparent, friend can begin a positive change by teaching children about the abuse of heroin. I believe the most effective learning is accomplished by those who teach good decision making and skills of logic. The young mind is fertile, and so many parents assume the right things are growing there. They are if you know and teach good coping skills.

* Ask yourself how many hours you have researched successful, research-based parenting skills to curb young dependency and addiction. What is your truthful answer? Most parents need to get busy studying.

* Next, ask yourself how many hours you have spent teaching your children how to make better decisions when offered drugs by their peers and acquaintances. What is your concrete plan for walking away from danger and temptation? Remember, this education must begin at a very young age to be most successful.

* Instill appreciation for the fruits of innocence, not the showy display of "growing up before the chronological clock." Twelve year old adolescents don't need to be "sexy" or "hot." Even though the kid may have a Lamborghini frame, he or she likely has a Ford Pinto mind. Don't "gas up their tanks" with Kardashian appeal "I'm ready for world" bullshit. Research shows that we don't really mature until at least our mid-twenties ... do we? Be honest with yourself and teach the kids the reality, not the fantasy.

* Ask yourself how many hours you provide alternative positive, pleasurable activities (not in organized group settings) to your children. Or, do you just badmouth Scioto County, its citizens, and its poor conditions? This rhetoric only adds to the negative concept of home experienced in spades by your kids. Show them the "good life" here.

* Listen carefully to what children say about drugs and friends and activities. I would rather have a free, open line of communication with kids, one containing some horror than a closed line leaving kids dealing solely with personal reflection. Adolescents want to take risks; parents must structure proper activities that present no harm but excitement and fun.

* Finally, begin to become an active role model in fighting drug abuse. Don't just be indifferent. Choose your role and be sure it is genuine and appealing. Don't expect miracles overnight. You are in the fight for the war, not just the battle. Even those with whom you associate have different ideas, and I think it is important to find your own niche to help the cause. Expect opposition but believe in your commitment to right. I have been called a "nut case" and a "fool" for my efforts, but I really don't care. I understand my role and my comfort zone. I continually adjust my stance as evidence pours forth. You can help by being receptive and open to the best and most timely research available.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Top-Ten Solvable Problems In Scioto County

This entry is a Top-Ten List of things I would like to see fixed in the area. It represents my opinion, and in no way does it stand for anything but personal observations and thoughts. When I write an editorial blog, I understand some people naturally get tired of my finding fault. Mama told me to find something I could do well and stick with it, so I think I find fault because I'm decent at pointing it out. Granted, I'm not so good with solutions to these problems. Maybe you are. I hope you can help with a few I gripe about today.

It is not my intention to "piss people off." Wait ... well ... scratch that. Anyone who knows me well understands that I do aggravate people and sprinkle too much urine. Maybe, like Jerry Jeff Walker, my reputation would be better if I learned not to "piss against the wind and buzz blow old friends."

At any rate, this is me. I'm too old to change, and I must be getting a little worse about complaining. You know, when I was a kid, I used to talk with my friends about the nasty nature of "so and so, the angry old cuss." I have learned I must be careful whom I judge because I seem to be morphing into the very thing I once detested.

Now that I know you won't take this entry with much seriousness, just let the old fart bellow about the top-ten simple "bugs" he experiences. I'm sure I'll get over all of them, and my criticisms will change in another day or two anyway. So, never mind. Just read and discuss among yourselves. You can read my latest gripe tomorrow.

By the way, the list is in random order. Gee, this little grouping works just like my wandering mind: fragmented and constantly changing.

The Top-Ten Solvable Problems In Scioto

1. The "Who Knows Their Holidays?" Portsmouth Trash Pickup Schedule

The rotating trash collection schedule for the City of Portsmouth is one of the great mysteries of 21st century existence in P Town. For most of my many years of residency, trash collection after a holiday was accomplished with overtime and not much confusion. But now, citizens have no idea of what constitutes a recognized "trash collection holiday" and the schedule changes due to days off and inclement weather. Fearing missing a different trash collection day, people just wheel their trash vehicles to the street and let them sit curbside all week.

If letters were given to city zones of collection and a map disclosing the location of "Zone A," "Zone B," etc., couldn't the "Pick Up Day" schedule be regularly updated and posted on a new Facebook group page for all to access easily?

As a side note -- wasn't overtime included in the budget for trash collection before the "rotating holiday schedule"? The old way worked just fine. My question is: "Why wasn't overtime money also included to cover trash collection now?" Maybe, just maybe... it was. Where is the "service" as in the title "Service Department"?

The situation reminds me of a cashier not saying the obligatory "thank you" as I hand him or her payment for my purchase. Where is the needed consideration for hard-earned money spent? "You are welcome."

2. The Traffic Light at the Foot of the Scioto Trail North Overpass

With the new Kings Daughters Medical Complex at 2001 Scioto Trail, a need exists for a light with a left turn signal to allow drivers entry to the complex. This light could alleviate traffic backup on the Trail near Kinney's Lane and potentially decrease collisions. Traffic patterns are especially heavy during rush hours on weekdays. 

Can the city just the timing of the traffic light and install a turn signal allowing easy entry to Kings Daughters? I'm sure traffic studies and other unnecessary red tape would be required, but, honestly, what a simple solution could be quickly taken to save traffic jams, auto crashes, and loss of life.

3. The 25 MPH Speed Traps on Coles Boulevard

The city received a grant to crack down on speeders. Right now the traffic court is crowded with those evil felons like me who do a few miles over the limit, which is just about the speed of walking. In case you don't know, the speed limit on city streets is 25 MPH. I was caught going 38 MPH in a speed trap set up at the armory on Coles. After my ticket, I have been attempting to drive 25 MPH on Portsmouth streets. While traveling the speed limit, people get on my bumper, give me an array of finger signals, and some even attempt to pull me over and punch me because of my turtle-like, safety habits. I ask each of you to "TRY" to drive under 25 MPH on Coles as an experiment in patience.

Don't speed on city streets until the grant money runs out. And, if you wind up behind me in traffic, please remember the necessity of doing 20 MPH because of the crackdown on taxpaying citizens. Don't wind up in traffic court -- it's a time-consuming, costly experience that starts late and requires you to stand in the hallway with scores of voracious speeders and other ne'er-do-wells like me.

4. First of the Month Employee Backups at Local Bank Drive-Thru's

Anyone living in our welfare-driven community knows the first of the month is government check time. This equates to most of the populace going to the bank. Our local banks seem to be dropping service after service to save money, which, by the way, is our money, so I don't get the cutoff of useful consumer services. Anyway, the crowds at the drive-thru's the first of every month are tumultuous for a few days, but they soon recede after government, state, and business checks are cashed and bills are paid.

Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems as if no extra tellers are employed and no extra lanes are opened for the first-of-each-month rush. Would it be too much to ask for a few more workers to assist customers during these peak periods? For example, Desco was so jammed for several days at the first of the month recently that I waited for over twenty minutes and still wasn't near the head of the line. Of course, by that time, I was pinned in by other motorists in my lane and had to wait forever to do business.

One more note -- lunch hour is an ideal time for many bank customers to use drive-thru's. Why would banks schedule teller breaks and employee lunch times when they are needed most by customers who expect to use their time to go "convenience banking," then return, on time, to their work settings?

5. Eyesore Property and the Owner Initiative

The people who own property that has long been in disrepair and represents a danger and an eyesore should be required to either tear down or to remodel the structures on the property. Let's begin with the now infamous Martings Building on Chillicothe Street and the hideous remains of the old Club Franklin near Rosemount Point. And these two structures are just the tip of the iceberg of nasty constructions in the area.

Give the owners a reasonable time to begin demolition or to start remodeling. If they refuse to improve, no matter how much total slum property they own, then fine them heavily each month they remain inactive. By the way, I would much rather see revenue generated this way than through speed traps. I guess the city would have to fine itself in the case of the Martings ruins.

Nothing is more depressing in a depressive area than slums, dirt, and unkempt real estate. Hazardous and unhealthy areas in Ohio's most unhealthy county need special attention. In many cases, restoration could be accomplished with a minimum outlay of cash. In other, more severe cases, structures should be torn down, not left to ruin in public sight.

6. The Ridiculous Stop Sign on Dorman Drive

OK, let's say you drive over the hill on Dorman to get back home in Portsmouth from New Boston or from Wheelersburg. You are tooling along in your car on a clear straightaway and near Circle Drive. Suddenly, a stop sign appears. You slam on the brakes to wait for traffic that seldom, if ever, funnels in from your right. You wonder why the stop sign has been installed on Dorman, and you realize it has been there for decades. As kids say, you do an instant "WTF?"

I know... how dare I mention this. What a small inconvenience for idiot thinkers like me. But, what a simple change could be made to accommodate the usual, normal driving habits of residents. Take out the stop sign and install it on the other road? The present stop sign is really a quirky reality that reminds me of something done because someone at some time had enough influence to get it erected. If the presence of this sign is "sacred ground" and has a logical reason for its existence, I would like to know. I apologize in advance to anyone who knows about a horrible accident caused some time in the past by the exclusion of the Dorman stop sign. I'm just baffled at its existence.

7. The Lack of a Branch Rickey Museum and Permanent Display

Branch Rickey and the entire biography of the man represent unique, fascinating, positive influence for Major League Baseball, race relations, and the diverse culture of America. Mr. Rickey is renowned as one American who changed the face of the country. At his funeral, Jackie Robinson contended that only Abraham Lincoln had done more for African Americans than had Rickey.

Branch Rickey's boyhood home was Scioto County. He married local Jane Moulton, and many of his relation still live here. Branch is buried in Rush Township Memorial Park. His legacy from his roots in Stockdale to his schooling in Lucasville to his college days at Ohio Wesleyan is remarkable.

Mr. Rickey has been portrayed by Minor Watson in the 1950 movie The Jackie Robinson Story. In the 1996 HBO movie Soul of the Game, he is played by Edward Herrmann. And in the acclaimed 2013 film 42, Harrison Ford plays Rickey. A great side note -- Rickey's great-granddaughter, actress Kelly Jakle, also appears in 42

Somewhere appropriate in this county, a Branch Rickey Museum Center must be built and a concerted effort must be made to acquire, to collect, to purchase, to house, and to display the artifacts and biography of the man. He is simply one of the most gifted baseball celebrities to have walked the earth. With great intellect and unparalleled leadership, Branch Rickey is recognizes as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, an inductee into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, and a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame. What an accomplished man!

I implore those with resources and influence to consider making Scioto County home to Major League Baseball as we know it today. Perhaps all the great players from the area plus the county and state governments, and local benefactors could tackle a mammoth project that would produce lasting and popular appeal. Tourists would love a museum dedicated to the face of baseball. It should be built here ... in the backyard of Mr. Rickey. He is the force and the innovator that saved the game.

I remember my high school English teacher, Mrs. Peebles, as a close relative to Rickey. Stories here about the man abound. Wouldn't it be wonderful to work with all involved to house a collection of Branch Rickey materials which would outshine any such collection in America?

8. The "I Can't Drive 55" Speed Limit Between Clay Overpass and Lucasville Village Limits

I guess I'm a little repetitive as I gripe about speed limits. But, recently, the speed limit on most or Route 23 to Columbus has been raised to 60 MPH. I have been going to Dublin weekly to see my mother, and I feel so good about the change. Still, the 55 MPH limit is imposed from Clay Overpass to Lucasville. I wonder why it hasn't been raised as most other stretches of Rt. 23 are 60 MPH.

And, I'm sure it has something to do with limited access, traffic patterns, and safety, but still...
remember what the race organizer in the film Cannonball Run said: "Certain skeptics note that as soon as we begin, thirty thousand of the nation's most alert highway patrolmen will be out there waiting to stop you guys, but let's stay positive. Think of the fact that not one state of the fifty has the death penalty for speeding...although I'm not so sure about Ohio."

9. Enforcement of Fast Food Drive-Thru "Get My Condiments and Order Right the First Time"

I know, eating fast food is something I should do much less of; however, I do frequent local fast food outlets, almost always employing the drive-thru windows. Granted, many of the communications systems sound like the tin-can-string assemblies we played with as kids -- a marvel of inefficiency in this day of super technology -- but, with the order coming up on the screen and the reassuring voice of the employee, I assume my order will be filled correctly. Uh, huh... everyone by now knows the old cliche' about why one should never "assume" -- it makes an "ass" - out of "u" and "me."

Just a few notes to those filling the orders:

(a.) A cheeseburger actually has cheese on it, and the fries go in the container, not all over the bag.
(b.) Please, don't ask me stupid questions like an automaton. No, I don't want the combo unless I say "Give me that sandwich in the combo meal."
(c.) The condiments should be nicely and attractively arranged on the sandwich, not dumped on one side like a glob of self-sliding slime. Also, don't cough, touch, or even breathe on my food. I wouldn't do that to yours. Always include napkins, and always check the order against the food you place in the bag.
(d.) Never ask me to pull away from the window to accommodate the next customer before I get my fast food order because that usually means I sit in the car waiting for a long time while my food has entered the "red light" district of Warmup and stays there until you and your co-worker decide to stop blabbing about how much fun you had on your date last night. Don't come out to my car with lukewarm vittles.
(e.) And, lastly, always... always, say "thank you" when I fork over my money. I don't give a rat's ass about your low wages and insufficient hours. I've been there. I have worked for poor wages in less-than-wonderful conditions in the past, and I don't want to suffer your pain. Suck it up. Save your money; go to college; and advance your career like the rest of us did. Learn to say "thank you" to every customer because you are getting paid to be a good representative of the company.

10. Monthly Updated Missing Persons and Criminal Activity Billboard

I still grieve for the loss of Megan Lancaster. Since her disappearance, I have learned of many other missing persons in our area and crimes that have yet to be solved. The lack of information and lack of new leads frustrate all involved. Part of the hope of finding missing people lies in the constant reminders that we should "look and listen" for them. Enforcement has an obligation to inform the public of developments until a case is solved. Relatives and friends deserve this service.

In addition to those missing, unsolved crimes mount. People wonder if new clues and possible evidence might help solve these mysteries. The pain of an unsolved crime never leaves those who care. We, as a community, could help solve these terrible crimes if we had an open, clear line of communication with those who investigate them. Tips and calls often result from billboards with photos and information about such activity.

Indifference by a community only lends to fear and distrust. Although many have justifiable reasons for their inaction, positive change can only result when the populace rises to identify wrongdoers. In the case of Megan, I have heard scores of stories, possible clues, and false leads.

To give up because we want better investigation is inexcusable. First, we must force our hands to action; then, we must force the hands of others to find answers despite the low status or the marginal influence of the missing individual. Many of you know the "way" certain operations get stalled here. I ask those in the highest places to become instrumental in revealing the truth about injustice in Scioto County. As you on the peaks of power ignore it, you also feed it, and the "bad wolf" grows unabated as it feeds its lustful hunger. Sorry for the cloaked symbolism. I just believe our system needs some improvement from within and some officials who will report wrongdoings.