|Posted by Jerry Cavanaugh on February 15, 2015 at 7:00 PM||comments (2)|
In today's newspaper, right-wing nutjob Phyllis Schlafly accuses President Obama of insulting Christians by asking them, when judging the terrorist activities of ISIS, to remember that the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, and Jim Crow laws were all perpetrated by Christians who used their religion as justification for their actions. She claims that he is trying to "downplay the horrific act of burning someone alive in a steel cage by analogizing it to other conduct that Americans rejected long ago." She points out that the Crusades were 800 to 900 years ago; the Inquisition, 500 to 600 years ago; slavery ended 150 years ago; and Jim Crow (which she defines as "not letting blacks and whites eat at the same lunch counter") ended 50 years ago.
Leaving aside the question of whether or not Jim Crow included far more than lunch counters (it did), what is the merit of her argument? Not much, it seems to me.
What the president was saying, obviously, was that we should not judge an entire religion by the actions of its most extreme adherents. He was trying to forestall acts of retribution against followers of Islam who, by any objective measure, seem to reject the extremist acts of ISIS and other Islamic radicals. He wasn't trying to excuse the actions of ISIS, only reminding us of the lessons of history, which Ms. Schlafly seems to have conveniently forgotten. What are those lessons?
The most important lesson, which the president was trying to point out, is that, throughout recorded history, mankind has acted pretty shabbily toward people of other beliefs and that extremists have always used their religious beliefs to justify killing, raping, and enslaving other human beings. That this is true, no one can deny. The radicals of ISIS are doing the same thing, and no one can deny that, either.
What needs to be remembered is that, while religious extremists use their twisted belief systems to brutalize their fellow human beings, the vast majority of believers do not. Whether Christians, Muslims, or Jews, most religious believers do not support the actions of the most extreme members of their faiths.. What the president should have pointed out, but failed to, is that most Christians did not support the Crusades or the Inquisition. The effort to end slavery in the United States was led by Christians and it was Christians, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, who took the actions which led to the demise of Jim Crow laws.
What also needs to be stated, loudly and clearly, is that the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, and Jim Crow need to be remembered so that we don't allow them to happen again. The subjugation of Native Americans, the forced internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II, the Holocaust, the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of today are all shameful episodes in human history -- and there are countless more that could be listed -- that we need to be reminded of so we can guard against the religious bigotry which contributed so much to their occurrence.
|Posted by Jerry Cavanaugh on October 4, 2014 at 7:45 PM||comments (0)|
One of the signs that you're getting old is when popular songs from your youth start being used in television commercials. During last year's Super Bowl, Budweiser ran a very popular ad about a Clydesdale and its supposed trainer which featured "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac. Recently, I saw a Geico ad which used the Wallflowers' "One Headlight," and a Visa ad that used Blondie's "The Tide Is High." But the crusher was an ad for Farxiga, a diabetes medication, for which the music was "Walk of Life" by Dire Straits. Really? Dire Straits selling diabetes medication? Besides signalling that you're getting old, the use of these songs to sell beer, insurance, and drugs guarantees that the bands whose music is used have reached the end of the road. They are no longer relevant. And that's sad.
In 1987, the surviving Beatles tried to stop Sony and Michael Jackson from letting Nike use "Revolution" in a commercial featuring Michael Jordan and John McEnroe because they felt that using a song of theirs to sell products would tarnish their legacy. They failed and, since then, every time a classic pop singer or band becomes irrelevant their songs become fair game for commercial use.
In the 1980's, the Beach Boys let Sunkist use "Good Vibrations." In 1986, Michelob used "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" by Genesis. Most famously, Bob Seger's "Like a Rock" was used to sell Chevy trucks from 1991 through 2004, so much so that people began to believe that it was actually written for the ad.
Besides Nike, Beatles songs have been used in commercials by Chrysler ("Something"), Target ("Hello, Goodbye"), and Phillips ("Getting Better"). Usually, the advertisers have had the good taste to use versions of Beatles songs recorded by other artists, but sometimes they have gone crazy. The best example is the 2007 commercial for disposable diapers that changed the words to a classic Beatles song to "All You Need Is Luvs." How sad is that?
And while I'm on the subject of commercials, there is an ad that runs on TV here in Florida that starts by saying, "If you, or someone you know, has died or been injured in an accident...call us." Pardon my English, but if you've died and you call this attorney, we have a news item. Who would trust their case to a lawyer whose ads use such horrible English? I'm guessing (from years of watching Law And Order) that lawyers have to be very careful in how they use words. One wrong word could be the deciding factor in a lawsuit. Would you hire a lawyer who asks you to call him if you died in an accident? Neither would I.
I also tend not to buy products from companies whose ads insult the intelligence of their potential customers. Case in point -- Sprint. For months they ran TV ads for a phone plan that included the made-up word "Framily" and featured a family whose father was a hamster in a plastic ball. Now, they've rolled out a new ad which features women screaming so loudly that their high-pitched screams break glass. I wouldn't care if their phone plan was free, I wouldn't buy it after such annoying commercials.
|Posted by Jerry Cavanaugh on September 29, 2014 at 6:55 PM||comments (0)|
The other afternoon, I was listening to a song by Dan Fogelberg, one of my favorite singer-songwriters from the Eighties, and it got me thinking about prostate cancer. No, the song wasn't abut prostate cancer, Fogelberg was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2004. He believed that it had gone into remission, but it hadn't, and he died in December of 2007. He was 56 years old. Some famous men, including Charlton Heston, Dennis Hopper, Frank Zappa, and Merv Griffin have succumbed to the disease over the years.
One of the guys on my softball team recently underwent prostate surgery, so the subject was already on my mind.
Some 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2014 and more than 29,000 men will die from the disease this year. Next to skin cancer, it is the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer in men, with 15 percent contracting it at some time, and it is the cancer that causes more deaths than any other.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the situation is getting better. The 5-year survival rate for men with prostate cancer has risen from 66 percent in 1975 to over 99 percent today.
Part of the reason for this, of course, is increased awareness. Major league baseball has a promotion called the Home Run Challenge, which it runs every season during the days leading up to Father's Day, which raises money and awareness by having people pledge money for every home run hit during that time span. It's the brainchild of Michael Milken, who is more famously known as the "Junk Bond King." He served time in prison for his role in insider trading and, since his release, has devoted himself to prostate cancer awareness.
Also, September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which our local newspaper acknowledged on the last day of the month, instead of the first day, as one might have expected. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with long articles being published the first week of the month and sports teams wearing pink to bring attention to the cause.
The breast cancer drive has some built-in advantages over prostate cancer awareness. Everybody likes breasts, whereas not everyone even knows what the prostate is. Wearing pink is an eye-catching way to draw attention to breast cancer, but what can you wear to draw attention to prostate cancer? A rubber glove?
Besides increased awareness, the other cause of higher survival rates is better treatment options and surgical techniques. My friend's surgery was done with a laser, which has only been an option in the last few years. His surgery was ten days ago, and he expects to be cleared to play softball two days from now.
Once you get men over the embarrassment they feel undergoing a prostate exam, which is one of the goals of the awareness campaign, the treatment options mean that there is an excellent chance of keeping the disease in check.
|Posted by Jerry Cavanaugh on September 29, 2014 at 5:05 PM||comments (0)|
About a month ago, I was experiencing dizziness and nausea, so I went to the Urgent Care Center. After running some tests, the doctor recommended that I go to the Emergency Room for further diagnosis. I arrived at the E.R. at about 12:30 pm. After I gave them my credit card and insurance information, they gave me a receipt for the $200 copay. They ran some tests, including an EKG and a CT scan, and, at about 6 pm, they said they were going to admit me to the hospital.
They apparently assumed that the cause of my dizziness had something to do with my heart, so they put me on the cardiology floor. At 7 pm, I asked the nurse if they had anything to eat, since I hadn't eaten since breakfast and she brought me a ham and cheese sandwich. I threw away the ham and ate the cheese. They took some blood to run some tests and put me on a heart monitor.
The next morning, they awakened me at 6 am to take more blood for more tests. Breakfast consisted of Cream of Wheat and a fruit cup. One thing that amazed me was that a modern, state-of-the-art hospital did not seem to know how to construct a menu for a vegetarian.
After breakfast, I sat in my room doing absolutley nothing until 1 pm. At that point, when the nurse came in to draw some more blood, I told her that I did not plan on staying there another night, so if they were going to do anything for me, they had better get busy. She called the cardiologist who was on-call and he came to my room at about 1:30. I told him that I was feeling fine and planned on going home that evening, so any tests he wanted to run had better be done by then. He left the room and started issuing orders for various tests.
At about 2 pm, a nurse's aide came and took some more blood. Then they took me in a wheelchair to another floor, where I underwent an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of my carotid arteries, and a treadmill stress test. During all of this, I discovered that what concerned them was that I had a resting heart rate of between 47 and 52 beats per minute. This, they assumed, meant that my heart was not pumping with sufficient force to keep my head supplied with oxygen. Hence, the dizziness and nausea. The doctor suggested that, depending on my test results, they might consider installing a pacemaker.
Well, when I passed all of the tests, including the stress test, with flying colors, he had to reassess. When I told him that I exercised quite a bit and that my low heart rate was possibly due to that, the lightbulb went off above his head. We agreed that my dizziness probably was not heart-related. More likely it was due to simple dehydration.
I then repeated to the nurse that I was going home and to prepare my discharge papers. She got very upset, because the nurse who had to discharge me wasn't on the floor at that time and wasn't reponding to her page. I said that was not my problem and began putting on my clothes. She left the room and came back a few minutes later with a discharge form for me to sign. I signed and she walked me down to the front door of the hospital.
A few days later, I received an account summary from the hospital. The total charges were $12,110.61. The CT Scan was $2,101.00. The charge for "Cardiology" was $3,727.65. Lab fees were $1,608.80.
I was in the E.R. and the hospital for a total of about 30 hours. Thank goodness I have a Medicare Advantage plan which will cover these expenses.
I wondered how these charges compared to other people and other hospitals, so I did some checking online. Apparently, what a hospital charges has little to do with the actual cost of a procedure and more with what they think they can get away with. They charge Medicare patients more than others because they know that Medicare (or a Medicare Advantage plan) will pay more.
In 2009, the average cost of a hospital stay was about $2,200 per day. According to Elizabeth Rosenthal (New York Times, "Paying Till It Hurts" 2014), the average cost of one day of inpatient care is now $4000.
I hadn't been in a hospital in thirty years before this stay and I hope I don't have to be in one again in a long time...or at least that, if I do, I still have medical insurance.
|Posted by Jerry Cavanaugh on September 29, 2014 at 2:30 PM||comments (0)|
Yesterday marked the end of the regular season for major league baseball, but you might have missed it because of all the NFL games on TV. Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter against the Miami Marlins, but it barely made the headlines. What's happened to "America's game" that has caused it to steadily lose popularity over the last twenty years to pro football and pro basketball? What can be done to change things? Here are my thoughts.
First, the season is too long. The regular season starts at the end of March and goes until the end of September. With spring training and the playoffs added, you're looking at eight months. That's far too long for the modern fan to pay attention. What should they do about it? Since 1962, both major leagues have used a 162-game schedule (eight games more than the previous 154-game schedule). The increase in games was justified by the need to have a balanced schedule, what with expansion and all, and it's been kept in place, even though there has been no such thing as a balanced schedule since interleague play came onto the scene. So, that's the first solution -- shorten the season schedule. The second solution is to eliminate the wild card games. They were created to generate fan interest and, in that respect, they have succeeded. But everyone agrees that a one-game playoff in baseball is ludicrous. Here is my solution: Expansion. Add a team in each league, bringing the total to 32 teams. Divide each league into four divisions, based on geography. Each division would have four teams, which would play each team in their own league ten games. That would be a total of 150 games for each team. In the playoffs, the division winners would play each other in a 5-game series, with the winners facing off in a 7-game series to see who gets to the World Series. No more interleague games. No more phony baloney wild card games. And the American League can keep its stupid desigated hitters while the National League sticks with real baseball.
Second, the games are too long. The average major league game in 2014 was over three hours long. There are a lot of reasons why this has occurred, but let's look at just a few of them. First, the time between half-innings is two minutes and five seconds to accomodate television advertising and, since almost every game is televised these days, that adds 34 minutes to each game -- minutes where nothing is happening on the field. That could be cut in half. Second, pitchers take too long between pitches. Rule 8.04 says that if the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher must deliver the pitch within 12 seconds after he receives the ball. The average this season was 23 seconds. Enforce the rule. Third, batters are allowed to step out of the batter's box too often. Remember when Nomar Garciaparra was the object of ridicule because he stepped out after every pitch to adjust his batting gloves? Now, they all do it. Wil Myers makes a complete circuit around the umpire and catcher every time he swings and misses. Maybe this is because he doesn't wear gloves and needs some other way to draw attention to himself, but such time-wasting antics shoud be stopped. If a batter steps more than two feet out of the box, a strike should be called. Fourth, there are two many trips to the mound by catchers. I saw a game this weekend where the catcher made three trips to the mound before one pitch was made. Limit it to one trip per inning. Fifth, eliminate the need to throw four pitches for an intentional walk. Let the pitcher wave the batter to first base. Sixth, restrict the number of relief pitchers who can be used in an inning. Except in the case of injury, limit the manager to one reliever per inning.
Each of these suggestions would speed things up a little, with the end result being more fan interest. However, there is one more change that needs to be made as well. The advent of replays in baseball has reduced the number of arguments between managers and umpires. The emphasis is on getting the call right. It has also led, I believe, to umpires paying better attention on tag plays and players being more careful when applying tags, so that the swipe tag has almost been eliminated and phantom tags are seen less often. But there is one more area where baseball needs to get with the times. The introduction of the Pitch Trax system has clearly shown, and the current round of postseason games has confirmed, that most umpires have no clue what is or isn't a strike. The idea of getting the call right has not been applied to balls and strikes. I would require that Pitch Trax be used to call balls and strikes. The home plate ump could be equipped with an earpiece that signals when a pitch crosses the plate, so he could call a strike. If there is no signal, but the batter swings, he can still call it a strike, as usual. This might result in a slight delay in calls, but it would be so brief that in no time it would become a part of the game.
Outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig has announced the formation of a Pace of Game Committee to study some of these issues. I think they would do well to consider these suggestions when they meet.