The Sky is Falling Probably!

Sheera-a and Talmin stood at the edge of the wrecked city, taking in the crumbling building which nature had already started to reclaim. Vines and other flora gripped against the mortar with a death grip, striving to find a ray of sun leaking through the dark nuclear winter clouds that fully enveloped the planet. They each felt the other’s warmth in spite of the cutting winds of the onsetting nuclear winter and knew that, together, it would all be alright. They would be the seeds of a new humanity, preferably a smarter humanity less predatory and greed filled.

What . a . bunch . of . bovine . excrement! Pee Yew with a capital yecch! I just finished reading yet another science fiction book and the only positive comment I can make is that at least it didn’t have zombies involved. This one was where Artificial Intelligence took over and wiped out mankind in defense of the planet. It’s usually one or the other. Zombies rise because of man’s mistreatment of the planet or some higher digital being wipes out mankind because we have  squandered our precious resources. Okay, there are also the books where an advanced alien civilization comes to kick us off the planet because they have been watching us destroy our planet and they’re afraid a few of us might leak out into the galaxy and infect whatever mental disease we have on member civilizations of the Galactic Hegemony of Democratic Caliphates who have perfectly unsoiled planets and an ordered set of societies.

The common thread here is that, as a species, we really suck and exhibit #1 is what we have done to our planet.  This is a common thread because EVERYBODY knows that we’ve plundered our planet irreparably and for some reason this is okay with us because we keep on electing the same bacterial slime into our political structure and staunchly refuse to make a single effective change to our lifestyle while we’re at it.

Television documentaries garner world respected awards for in depth explanations of precisely what we’re doing wrong and we give a standing ovation to the producers. Yet we consider it entertainment, as though we just saw Lord of the Rings XVIII: Merlin contracts melanoma and for the next couple of weeks we discuss the deep truths of the One Ring over our Cafe Venti at Starbucks.

To listen to us, some raise their voice in ire and say Hey Man! We are doing something about the frightful state of affairs! We just re-enlivened the salmon runs and now we can raise the take of salmon fisheries. Meanwhile, the ice shelves in the arctic keep calving, the oceans are heating, the currents are changing and people are saying “I wonder why we’re getting such a rising number of more powerful hurricanes. We have to import sand to Florida beaches because its all getting washed away.

I keep finding myself thinking about deer. Okay, that seemed to come out of left field, but let me explain.  Nature has a built in population control that applies to most lifeforms on the planet, but let’s look at deer. When deer populations grow to a certain point, they consume all of the available food and start to die off. As their numbers shrink, nature replenishes the foodstuff they survive on and the herds begin to regain their strength. If left completely alone, deep populations are totally self correcting. This is, I grant, an over simplification, but it’s still accurate.

While our egos don’t take well to the concept, we people are animals as well, and subject to the same population curtailments our fellow breathers experience. Except that we’re smart. We find way around nature’s attempts to keep us in balance with resources. Or do we? By getting more food out of the ground we deplete it of minerals and contaminate it as well. Additionally, we drain the aquifers and pollute them with the effluence of our consumerism. I have to wonder is Mother Nature is just sitting back and smiling while thinking “Go ahead on my little people, all you’re going to do is set yourself up for a more dramatic and catastrophic herd culling.” At some point we get dumber about our clever ways to bypass nature’s controls and paint ourselves into a virtual corner.

We know this is more than a supposition because we’re not totally mentally challenged yet. We know quite well what the results of our actions -lack of actions- will reap for us in the end, and so we find that where in earlier times our science fiction promised a future of peace and interplanetary commerce with the occasional ego inflating interplanetary war against evil aliens where good triumphs over evil, instead we have artificial intelligence, smarter than us aliens, or zombies making the backdrop of our depressing and apocalyptic futuristic views.

A few articles back I wrote a piece in which I proposed the granting of a wish: That a shield would prevent any person from harming or being able to bully their fellow planetary residents -or the planet itself. I surmised that the people of planet earth would be forced to use logic and a demonstration of universal benefit to sway others to their way of thinking.

I began to think about the ramifications of that scenario and realized that war, crime, radicalism and even marketing would become a thing of the past. I also realized that it would also shape the products available to us,  remove entire cities (the most obvious, Las Vegas because of the toll it takes on the Colorado River) and would even change agriculture, forcing industry and populations away from life giving waters of rivers in favor a supporting food supply.

The thing is, I couldn’t really imagine it. The changes would be so sweeping and draconian that it would traumatize entire generations of mankind. My grasp for a better and gentler world would create an apocalypse of its own. This caused me to wonder then, wouldn’t I have just added another villainous dystopian crash of civilization? I think so.

Then again, at least I may have added another paradigm for the writers flooding Amazon’s digital shelves with visions of our social demise. I guess it’s time to switch over to hard science to replace my voracious consumption of reading materials. They too are pointing to all of the ways that asteroids, comets, rogue planets, black holes, expanding suns, gamma ray bursts, antimatter, and dark energy and dark matter will bring life to a cataclysmic end, but the pictures of it are prettier than rotted undead shuffling around.


A Turn of Phrase

“Wow, did you see that?” she said. “British Petroleum donated over 23 billion dollars to the states down in the gulf to help with their businesses down there. That’s so cool that a company would show its gratitude and help people after Katrina.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked confused.

“I just saw it on television.”

“In the news?”

“No, I think it was a public service mesage.”

Still confused, he asked her to point it out the next time she saw it on TV. It wasn’t very long before she pointed to the television and said “here it is. This is that message!”

Sure, it looked as though there was something very philanthropic about the money BP “invested” in the gulf states, but the truth is, that the 23 billion was damages demanded by the government for the 100 billion dollars worth of damage done then one of their oil wells spewed crude into the ocean and devastated the coast. There was absolutely nothing philanthropic about their so called gift, yet a lot of people couldn’t help but misunderstand because of the way that BP phrased their advertisements. In no way had BP invested in those states and people; their money hasn’t made those devastated by their recklessness anywhere near whole again.

It’s not any different than the commercials that the natural gas industry is spewing trying to cage their use of “fracking” as being good for the nation in spite of the widespread contamination of aquifers and the inducing of low grade earthquakes as a result of the fracturing of the bedrock necessary for stability. There are also releases of chemicals that when airborne, cause headaches and nausea, and even causes neuropathy in some. Those of us with Multiple Myeloma and those near to us understand the severe negative of contaminants –those self same contaminants are responsible for our cancer. We know how real the danger is.

I hate puffery –the term for advertisements that misrepresent their products in a favorable light. But I despise outright lies, especially those that try to conceal such gross negativity. Better these profiteers present real facts when it comes to the welfare of the citizens and allow us to choose how much risk we choose to have in our lives and allow the majority to decide. That’s the democratic way, and the way a democratic republic should operate.

It’s bad enough that companies like Nuance misrepresent their Dragon Naturally Speaking by refusing to show that their product will not simply listen to speech and accurately represent what it hears, punctuation and all. It doesn’t even come close to doing that. But buying into Dragon’s puffery isn’t likely to kill people or make them suffer.

This is, I think, a big deal. We Americans are lied to on a daily basis, whether it’s politics, business, or virtually anything else, and we accept it like grazing sheep oblivious to the wolves stalking our herd.  And I have a feeling that if we don’t wise up and start holding those who damage us so knowingly and willfully responsible, and make their existence as tenuous as they make ours, we’re in for trouble..


Buckle Up for The Medicare Labrynth

I’ve spent the last two days on the phone with the friendly folks at Medicare. Seems I’ve been on disability long enough that I’m eligible and — unless you tell them, “no thanks,” — they sign you up automatically.

So I spent a half day wading through Part A, Part B, and the exceptionally confusing Part C, and a day and a half on Part D, which is prescription drug coverage. It has got to be the greatest shame ever foisted on the American public, and I defy any Congresspig to explain it to their grandchildren. Of course, they couldn’t. How on earth did this debacle, this tragedy, this bloody abortion of a prescription drug plan ever get passed? It boggles the mind.

There are prescription-drug-only plans and prescription-drugs-plus plans (which may include vision or other coverages.) After providing a list of my daily meds, the Medicare Rep told me about what the computer says is the best plan for me. But one drug was in dispute: I said there was no generic equivalent, the computer insisted there was. Many phone calls later, I prove I am correct, but the computer won’t let the agent (a different one, of course) override the generic option. Of course, there has to be a way, I insist ten times. After the eleventh plea, Ms. Helpful finally talks to a supervisor and finds there is, indeed, a way to do so. And the chip on her shoulder grows exponentially.

Now I have a new price for the recommended plan but, she explains, it’s only good until I hit the infamous “donut hole.” (I won’t even try to explain this to you, even though I finally understand it, although I still don’t understand whether the criteria for reaching it is based on what I’ve spent or what Medicare has spent.) But yesterday, I say, I was told this plan has no donut hole. Every plan has a donut hole, Ms. Helpful insists, and not five minutes later, she’s trying to explain a different plan which has no donut hole. I just don’t have the stomach to point it out.

After getting off the phone and doing lots of calculations based on information that may or may not be correct, it appears that my DieSuckah Health Insurance policy is actually very close to my true cost of Medicare. And at least I’ve met my deductible for the year, and at this point I know what is and isn’t covered — including that disputed prescription which I take daily, which doesn’t have a generic, and which, until I hit the deductible, costs me $500/month.

(This is true now, but I will be getting my annual premium increase in April, which has been running close to 20% per year, in which case, Medicare probably will be the better option. But — get this — if you don’t sign up as soon as you become eligible, the Part D premium goes up every month. Sooo… it’s impossible to know which will be the better value in 60 days.)

I’ve wasted two days of my life just sorting it out and coming to this conclusion, although as I said, I don’t have much faith that I’m basing my calculations on correct data. Oh, boy. Who would have thought — it seems our friends in the federal government may have provided me a raison d’etre after all.

My new goal is not only to campaign for health care reform, but to strip our Congresspigs of their gluttonous plan, which includes donations to their election campaigns, luxury travel, and complete health, vision, dental, botox, shoe shines, massages and prescription coverage for themselves and their families, staff, neighbors and acquaintances, for their whole lives and at least one afterlife. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?