Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blaming "Boomers" For The Social Security Mess

Much has been written and spoken lately about the Social Security Retirement Fund and its near lack of solvency. Almost always the term “entitlement program” is used in apposition with “Social Security” thus lumping Social Security Retirement Benefits in with food stamps, aid to needy families and other social welfare programs created by LBJ’s “Great Society” push of the 1960s. Pundits use the term “entitlement” in a sarcastic manner as though those receiving Social Security retirement benefits are doing so solely through the charity and largesse of the gainfully employed tax paying public. And no group is singled out more directly as the cause of the near insolvency of the program than we “baby boomers”.

And as usual the fact is the media has shown their disdain for the truth in favor of their liberal bias. The media need to be honest in their reportage on this subject rather than implying we boomers are just greedy folks undeservedly feeding at the public trough. Let me explain

• I've been paying into Social Security since I was 14 years old--- 51 years in total, so far.

• For most of my corporate career I earned salaries well into six figures thus I paid the maximum amount into Social Security each year for over 30 years.

• At the current rate of SS payments to someone my age I will have to live to 97 years old just to break even and get back the money I paid in.

• I've been paying into Medicare since it's inception in the mid 60s and have paid the maximum amount almost every year since. Barring any catastrophic illness and allowing for only 4 doctor visits a year, one physical exam and one colonoscopy annually I will never get back in benefits what I paid into the program unless I live to be 102.

If the Social Security Trust Fund had been left untouched as it was originally mandated and we were promised by FDR, we would easily have the money to pay for all LEGITIMATE retiree benefits today and into the future but instead two things happened.

1. The rules were changed in 1956 to allow Social Security Disability Payments to be made to injured people who NEVER paid a dime into the system thus inviting unchecked fraud and waste. And while this is a separate fund from the retirement fund, your payroll deductions and mine- -when they were increased- - helped fund that program rather than our retirement benefits. There are law firms advertising on TV their ability to help a person get "Social Security Disability even if you've never been a part of the system before". An open invitation to defraud the system and yet, no one raises a finger to stop it.

2. In 1986 the US Senate led by none other than that Gen-X hero Al Gore allowed the Social Security Retirement Fund "lock box" to be opened so the government could "borrow" money from the Social Security Retirement Fund to pay for other giveaway programs such as food stamps. True to form the government has failed to repay the Social Security Retirement Fund and the ever growing IOU is part of the "national debt" we face today.

So I get really angry when Gen-Xers make snide remarks about having to fund "entitlement" programs like Social Security retirement because of the "greedy baby boomers". In fact, what they are funding is the REPAYMENT of the money stolen from us by their pals the liberals and progressives through their operatives the Democrats. Money I, like every other boomer, paid into the system under the promise by those same liberals and progressives that the money- - -our money- - - the money we boomers are entitled to would be there when we all started turning 65 this year.

I hope I live long enough and my faculties remain intact long enough so I can see what happens to the Gen-Xers who buy into the media lies and Democrat’s political promises about their own retirement because- - - I want to laugh at them.

(c) The Sage of Tampa 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Changing the Definition of Remarkable

Today’s Sunday newspapers in New Hampshire are all running headlines about the fact that yesterday Mitt Romney won their first-in-the nation Republican Presidential Straw Poll. Romney is by all accounts an extraordinary man with an accomplishment filled résumé . He boasts an impressive business and political pedigree as well as true conservative credentials. He is noteworthy and newsworthy; a truly remarkable man deserving of all the front-section reportage that will continue during the coming week. But somewhere in the back pages of the Laconia Citizen newspaper this week will be a very short story of a man some would call ordinary and unremarkable. The Laconia Citizen will run the obituary of Ron King who passed away yesterday and that obituary will read like those of everyone in that town who passed before him without fame or notoriety. It will be unremarkable in its content and tone. But, it shouldn’t be.

I first met Ron King and his wife Sue almost 7 years ago when their son Josh King married my daughter Cristina Andrews. Josh and Cristina had each been married previously and each of them brought a child from their prior marriage into the new marriage. Josh brought his daughter (Ron’s granddaughter) Maddison and Cristina brought her daughter (my granddaughter) Emma. It didn’t take long to see that Ron and Sue King welcomed Emma into their family and their hearts in exactly the same manner that my family and I welcomed Maddison into ours. To Ron King, Emma was simply one more granddaughter to love- - -precisely how I felt about Maddison. And then about 2 years later Josh and Cristina gave birth to Keegan King- - -a grandson who shared a bit of Ron’s blood and mine too.

At Keegan’s baptism Ron and I joked good naturedly about what a handsome little guy our grandson was with each of us claiming to be the source of his good looks. At one point during the day when Ron and I were just standing next to each other and quietly watching Emma and Maddi fawn over Keegan with big-sister delight Ron elbowed me, pointed at the three of them and said, “We did alright didn’t we Hal. . ." "Yes, Ron” I responded, “We did great. . .”

Ron King, a man of staunch Catholic faith, passed away yesterday. He had been shoveling snow off the roof of his house- - -a house he had built in a town he had lived in most of his 67 years, not far from the company he worked for his entire career. He went in the house- -the home in which he and Sue raised their two sons- - and told his one and only wife of 41 years, he was tired and went downstairs to rest. He passed while asleep in his chair.

By the current measure in today’s celebrity obsessed society Ron King, a rock solid husband, father and grandfather would not be considered “remarkable”. But given the frailties and failings of the people we look up to perhaps we need to give some serious thought to a new definition of remarkable- - -one that includes men like Ron King.

I don’t know how much more time on this earth God has allocated to me but, in the future I will remind my grandson Keegan that he was lucky enough to have had two grandfathers who loved him. It’s the least I can do for Ron. It’s the same thing I know he’d do for me.

God keep you and protect you Ron.

(c) The Sage of Tampa 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Becoming Andy Rooney

I’m becoming Andy Rooney. Rooney, of CBS’ “60 Minutes” program is TV’s best known and surliest curmudgeon. He’s 92 years old and just about everything annoys him or ticks him off. He opines on everything from human behaviors to food, pets, teens, politics, money, movies, TV, music and- - -sex. And none of it pleases him. If you don’t know Andy Rooney you surely know someone like him. But just in case you don’t, let me, The Sage, be your Andy Rooney for the next few minutes as I try to emulate him in telling you about three things that really, really, REALLY tick me off. All three involve human behavior especially the behavior of Gen-Xers.

I’m nowhere near Andy Rooney’s age but like him I have a full head of completely gray hair. Some say it makes me look distinguished and rugged. But to Gen-Xers, obviously, it makes me look stupid, helpless, and technologically challenged. Nowhere is that more evident than when I go into a big box technology store such as Best Buy or Comp USA and start looking at computers and peripherals. Within 15 seconds a “twenty-something” nerd reeking of acne medication and having all the sartorial style of a none-too-effective panhandler approaches me and says something in the nature of, “You do know that’s a COMPUTER, right?” Then adds, “Are you really looking for a COMPUUUUUTER (drawing it out for emphasis) today, sir, really?” I would tell him that I was working with COMPUUUUUTERS long before his father knew that “hard disk” wasn’t a term to be giggled over in the boys bathroom in the sixth grade, but it wouldn’t do any good. I know he’d just look at me and say, “Huh, what? Whadya mean?” Then I’d just say something ruder still, he’d be even more clueless and I’d walk out in a huff. That’s why I now order ALL technology online from one of their competitors. Online stores never see my hair and don’t care how old I am. All they care about is how much I spend, the shipping option I choose and that my credit card is valid.

Andy Rooney also complains a lot about doctors. Most seniors do because the things that afflict seniors don’t afflict young doctors so their familiarity with those afflictions is vicarious at best. But my gripe with doctors is different than Andy’s. Every time my primary care physician refers me to a specialist the following scenario takes place: Doctor enters exam room 40 minutes late and says, “ Hi Hal, I’m DOCTOR Smith." That rude greeting is followed by me wasting the next ten minutes furthering his education by explaining: “Look pal, I don’t know what they taught you at home or in med school but I am either Hal and you are Bob or you are DOCTOR Smith and I am MISTER Andrews. . .I don’t give a fig which of those two you choose but if you insist on calling me Hal and referring to yourself as DOCTOR Smith you will find yourself having that stethoscope you’re wearing around your neck plugged into something other than your ears!” Most of them have studied enough anatomy to get my point and we move on, politely, from there.

There is however one situation I never hear Andy Rooney gripe about- - -the parking lots at suburban strip centers- - -the kind with a major grocery store along with a pizza parlor, nail studio, sandwich shop, liquor store, Chinese take-out, dry cleaner and tanning salon. There are two of those within 2 miles of my house each patronized by Gen-Xers driving BMWs, Mercedes, Volvos and yes, Hummers too. All of them educated, well-off, young, good looking, fit and able people who for some strange reason believe that because they live in the Tampa zip code with the highest per household income and the highest level of education. . .the rules do not apply to them. And so instead of parking in one of the thousand or so parking spaces the rest of us use they park in the highly visible yellow delineated “Fire Lane” in front of the video store, liquor store or take-out place initiating their “flashers” as a signal that YOU, you unprivileged dope in a Toyota, should just go on around them and their $80,000 import. And I used to do that honking my horn and flipping “half a peace sign” at them on my way. But it just wasn’t very satisfying because it didn’t get their attention. So now, I park my car and walk up to their vehicle and motion for them to lower their window while I pretend to be dialing my cell phone. When the driver puts the window down I put my index finger up and say, Hang on a sec, I’m calling a tow truck.” The driver always asks why and I say, I saw you parked in a “No Parking” zone with your emergency flashers on and knew you must be having car trouble so, I decided to be a good Samaritan and call a tow truck for you. . .should be here momentarily.” If the driver looks particularly oafish I ask, “Will the literacy lessons take long?” He or she usually replies, “Listen wise guy I can read” and I ask if that “includes the big yellow letters over which you are parked- - -you know the ones that say ‘No Parking Fire Lane’?” These two methods seem particularly effective and so far only one guy has gotten out of the car and threatened me with bodily harm.

OK, so I may not be in Andy Rooney’s league yet when it comes to being a curmudgeon but I’m working on it and by the time I’m 92 I hope to have it down pat.

© The Sage of Tampa 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

All Conservatives Have to Do Is Surrender.

Sunday January 9, 2011

As one might have predicted the political opportunists among us- -especially those on the far left- -have already made use of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords and the death of US District Judge John Roll in addition to 5 more people including a 9 year old girl, to scream about “divisive politics” and blame such divisiveness solely on the backs of talk radio “hate spewers” like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and on Fox News as well. As a result, we can expect a political hew and cry this week to “gag” conservative talk radio and brand all conservatives as gun-toting, homophobic, hateful, bigots.

By late-week there will be endless recitations by liberal media outlets recalling each contentious thing said in the past 3 years by every talk radio host about Barrack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and any elected official with a “D” after their name indicating their party affiliation. Regurgitated will be the definition of hate speech as being only those things said by conservatives about liberals and their friends. Forgotten will be the ugly and threatening rants spoken over the preceding 8 years by the Hollywood elite, limousine liberals, smug liberal media folks like Keith Olbermann, Al Francken, Janeane Garafolo, Alan Colmes, Leslie Marshall, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and dozens more about George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Sarah Palin and virtually every high profile adherent of Judeo-Christian values. Journalists from the traditional media outlets will offer knowing comments linking the tenets of the “tea party” to racism, bigotry and paranoia. Paranoid will be used as the main descriptor of Jared Laughner thus his paranoia will make him a “tool” of the tea party by the journalistic "logic" of the New York Times, Newsweek Magazine, NBC News, and the Los Angeles Times to name a few.

During this week we will hear the term “divisive” applied to folks like Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly and even Mike Huckabee because of their non-liberal views. On every far left website anyone of public note who is not a liberal will be held responsible for the deep divide within our country today. The left's chief target will be Sarah Palin and she will be the focus of the debate over who’s to blame for the events in Tucson last Saturday. But missing from the public discourse on “disunity” will be the names of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and every other ‘race baiter’ and advocate of class warfare. Missing from the citations and quotes will be the comments made by arrogant liberal politicians intent on imposing their will on the public. Divisive actions and comments such as Nancy Pelosi’s infamous statement about the healthcare bill, “We’ll have to pass it to see what’s in it”, will not be anywhere to be seen or spoken of as a catalyst for alienation and angst regarding our elected officials and the federal government.

By week’s end they will be calling for the dismantling of Fox News and Rupert Murdoch’s news empire. They will demand the FCC take Limbaugh and Beck off the air. Boycotts of the Wall Street Journal’s advertisers will be the norm. All because THEIR views incubate hate and divide us as a nation so it will be claimed. But no one will publicly tell George Soros that he can’t donate $23,581,000 to various 527 organizations dedicated to defeating conservative causes or millions more to the Center for American Progress, the Democracy Alliance or No one will demand equal time or balance from the Huffington Post or the Daily Kos. No, the burden of unifying America again will fall to conservatives but this time the left will demand it take the form of conservatives abandoning their principles and subordinating their rights to the will of liberals and progressives who will not be asked to tone down their actions or their rhetoric. Yes by the end of this coming week it will be apparent- -if you listen only to the traditional and liberal media- -that until conservatives capitulate and wave the white flag of surrender to liberal ideals and social economics people will continue to be targeted by certified whackos like Jared Laughner. Surrender? Really? Not as long as I’m alive.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Winning the Battle With Prostate Cancer: A very personal story, Part IV

The Last Post of a Four Part Blog

The 10 month span from that shocking diagnosis through tough decisions, debilitating treatment with angst filled recovery and finally to relieving remission has been, I can honestly say, the most interesting ten month span of my life. It has been an ordeal, albeit a far less severe ordeal than others who may have been diagnosed at a later stage and some who were diagnosed too late to prevail. Yet for me and a few of those closest to me, this was an ordeal from which a lot could be learned. And the lessons learned were many. I share some of them with you now in the honest hope that if you or someone you love is diagnosed with prostate cancer somewhere in my recorded experience is just one (or perhaps more) comment, some action taken, some decision made or some observation which will help you or a loved one get through this challenge more easily and quickly and with the same good results I’ve had.

1. Get a PSA Test: If you are over 40 years of age make sure you get your level of Prostate Specific Antigen tested once a year. It’s a simple blood test requiring only one tube to be drawn. It’s over and done in about 3 minutes and is completely painless. If your PSA level is under 1.0 ppn (parts per nanogram) there’s nothing to worry about. If it’s approaching 2.0 ppn you might want to talk with your doctor about all the reasons that can happen. If it’s climbing beyond 2.0 and headed to 3.0 don’t ignore it!! When it comes to prostate cancer and your PSA level the old adage holds true: where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

2. Don’t Delay a Diagnosis:
Like any disease, the earlier prostate cancer is detected and diagnosed the greater your options for treatment and the better the success rate.

3. Don’t Be Fooled by Unorthodox Diagnostic Claims: If you listen to sports talk radio or political talk radio during the day you can’t help but notice the radio ads and claims for “no needle diagnosis” and diagnosis by imaging methods such as CT Scan, MRI and even “ultra-sound”. The fact is, the only sure way to know whether cancer is lurking in your prostate is to get tissue samples from the gland and have a certified lab look at the cells under a microscope. Cancerous cells don’t look anything like healthy cells and cannot be mistaken for anything other than what they are. . .ugly and misshapen markers of disease. And the only way to get those tissue samples is through the standard needle biopsy. Yes, it’s painful, nasty and incredibly undignified but the needle biopsy is the ONLY sure diagnostic tool- - -the ONLY one. So, man up, suck it up and get it done. The sooner you are diagnosed the better. Treat it like a matter of life and death because- - - it is. Did you get that, brother? Did I make it plain enough for you? I sure hope so.

4. Research Your Treatment Options Carefully: The earlier stage at which your cancer is found the more treatment options you have. Cancers found at more advanced stages require more radical and limited forms of treatment. The more radical the treatment the longer and more difficult the recovery and the path to remission. Information is the key to selecting the right treatment option. Yes, your doctors will give you reams of information to read but, that information is likely to reflect their own treatment biases. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, after all these folks are highly trained and highly skilled professionals worthy of your trust. But because you are making a life altering decision you want to back up your trust in your doctors with your own ability to verify the information you have. The Internet makes it easy to do your own in research and in Part II of this 4 part blog I’ve given you four good places to start. Don’t ignore this. Doing your own research will give you greater confidence in selecting your treatment and the more confident you are going into that treatment the easier your recovery and path to remission will be.

5. Get Fit and Stay Fit: Yes, I’m repeating this again: the healthier you are going into your selected treatment plan the healthier you will be during the recovery period and on your path to remission. Even if your cancer is discovered at an advanced stage and the time you have between diagnosis and starting treatment is only a matter of days rather than weeks or months, start working on an exercise and fitness plan incorporating any and all exercise your medical team will permit then stick to it. The discipline will pay off. You will feel like you have some control over your recovery and that you are giving your body the means to heal itself . . . because you are. Aerobic and cardio enhancing exercise will force more oxygen to your healthy cells and tissues which in turn will negate a lot of the side effects of your treatment and speed up your body’s ability to recover.

6. Expect the Unexpected:
All prostate cancer treatment is based on one of two processes; surgery or radiation or both. Some treatments such as radical removal followed by high intensity radiation are harder on your body than others. But every treatment option without exception will cause side effects- - -some anticipated, some not. Your body will do strange things, things you’ve never experienced before and some of it won’t be “polite”. But these things are most often temporary and eventually you will regain control of them. The need for surgical correction is rare. Learn to expect the unexpected from your genito-urinary system and intestinal tract. And yes, sexual dysfunction is also the norm during recovery. But this too can be easier to deal with if you have an understanding partner who will help you keep that part of your system functioning through the recovery process.

7. Listen to Your Doctors Carefully: This should be obvious but doctors are humans too. They have different personalities and different styles (bedside manners). They all deliver their ideas, comments, information and messages differently. Ask your doctors to be specific about what they want you to do or not do and more importantly, why they want you to do it (or refrain from doing something). Unclear communication between you and your doctor will slow down your recovery. Yes, your doctor has a responsibility to tell you the things you need to know but you have a responsibility to listen and act.

8. Don’t Overlook the Power of the Mind: Techniques like self-hypnosis and focused imagery can harness the energy of your mind and body to help you heal. Consider adding a licensed holistic practitioner to your medical team if you can. If you cannot do that then consider the technique I described in Part III of the blog. It’s easy and effective.

9. Don’t Discount the Power of Prayer: Even the most rabid of atheists when pressed will admit a belief in some sort of force in the universe . . . something to explain the unexplainable. Religion teaches us that force is God and instructs us on how to make use of His power through prayer and meditation. Your religious friends, as mine did, will offer to put you on their ‘prayer lists’. Let them do that. You will feel it and you will know it. They do it because they love you and that love has the power to heal.

10. Don’t Be Embarrassed to Lean on Others: This disease and its treatment WILL wreak havoc on you mentally as well as physically. On many days it will sap you of your energy and stamina. It will challenge your sense of self-worth and your notion of your masculinity. No one told me this and I didn’t handle it very well at all. But now you know it. And if you make certain that your family and friends know what you are going through and that, while you recover, you won’t be the “Mr. Reliable” they have always known you will get through the ordeal more easily. The people who love you will want to know and they will want to help. Let them do so. Be honest with them about what is happening to you. Most will understand. Only the selfish few will not.

So that’s it, dear readers. The thing men don’t like to talk about, even though we know that, like women, we should talk about it. We should talk to our friends and our sons- - -and our daughters, too. We should proclaim we are survivors. We should have races for the cure. We should be asking for more research funding. We should be wearing lapel pins. We should have a “Prostate Cancer Awareness Month”. . . .but wait, we did. It was proclaimed by President Obama, for the first time ever, to be the month of September 2010. A Presidential Proclamation was issued and yet I didn’t know about it because I saw nothing on the Internet or TV news programs. I read nothing in the newspapers, and Moffitt Cancer Center- -where I’m being treated- -sent me nothing about it. If I had not seen, by chance, a brief segment about it on the Geraldo show one night, I would never have known.

Such is the way we treat the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in this country. And we men, through our silence, allow it to happen. But, hopefully, this four part blog will, in some small way, help to get other men- - -and the people who love them- - - doing all those "shoulds".