Wednesday, April 25, 2007

John Stossel makes my point

I have not seen a good John Stossel special report in a while. He is always so darn logical and presents his material in such an accessible way. Here he brings to light the real problems with the whole global warming snafu and in the process draws the same conclusions I came to when I taught Environmental Science at the University of Phoenix after working in environmental law for several years.
Sometimes it helps to think about things from a different angle.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Managing Menopause

There are times in our lives when we need a good network of female friends-men will just not cut it. I am finding that Menopause is one of them. As I have begun experiencing what apparently are relatively mild hot flashes (girls, I pity those of you who are in the non-mild categories) it naturally becomes a topic of conversation with everyone I meet. Sorry, everyone, but I feel the need to explain why I am suddenly turning red and tuning out. Mind you, I am not really complaining-if this is the price for losing the menstrual period, then I am all for it.
As with everything else that involves medicine, it seems we are all desperately seeking relief in any place we can find it and comparing notes. My internet research led me to a couple of websites that listed the 33 symptoms of menopause.
I had them all. Don't we all?
It gave the usual admonitions about avoiding alcohol and spicy food. Yeah, right!
Well, that turned out to be true. Anniversary night dinner naturally involved a couple of cocktails. About 2 a.m. I awoke with a fervent desire to fill in for the Palo Verde plant by having APS plug into me. I could have lit the entire city with the energy that was emanating from my torso!
Then I asked my guru what I could do for my hot flashes. He referred me to the "premier herbologist" in the field. These people are sikhs so they have interesting names. Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa lives in the Pacific Northwest and conducts internet/phone consultations for $65 and provides recommendations for exercise and herbal regimens to address individual problems. He sends an advance questionairre that gets very personal. You fill it out and return it before the telephone meeting.
The consultation was amazingly pleasant. KP had the most soothing voice, something a hormonal old broad like me is going to immediately take to. Although he did not get my info sheet ahead of time that did not slow things down much as he found it and reviewed it while we spoke. He was very encouraging, referring to my issue as a relatively simple one. He promised to get back to me in a couple of days after he thought about it for awhile. I promised to show him to some real Mexican restuarants on his next trip down from Eugene, OR. Seems he always gets referred to chain restaurants when he is here. Can you imagine?
I am expecting to get relief as he led me to believe he was pretty sure we could "turn off" the furnace. I am currently waiting for the recommendations but in the meanwhile I found his website and thought I would share it in case any of you wish to follow up on this. You will see he is eminently qualified.
Also, another friend brought to my attention a herbal food supplement that is supposed to be nearly miraculous, particular for people suffering from chronic ailments. A psoriasis sufferer, I was interested and checked out that website. See for yourself at He seems a bit unconventional but you be the judge. I am told that the person who was taking it obtained great results on her health basic, i.e., blood sugar, cholesterol, etc. almost immediately.
I will keep you posted on my progress. Gotta run and stick my head in the fridge, having a hot flash!!!! Whew.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You must check out Camille Paglia today

She and I are on many of the same pages; most high profile at this point the global warming thing. Go to today!

And here is a link to another scientist who is also contending what I have said all along: how big are our ego's to think we can trump mother nature?,23599,21542564-2,00.html

The real problem with sensationalizing the global warming issue is that once it is shown to be false we risk a swing back of the pendulum by a cynicized public that is likely to make local environmental progress a very low priority. That could be a bigger catastrophe than a couple of degree temperature hike caused by the sun.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Fear of Aging in an Organic World

Being a bit of a libertarian I have a natural aversion to government programs. I suppose it is ancestral. My family did not come to Arizona 125 years ago because they are conformists. Nonetheless, there are some things that government must handle because the marketplace does not and cannot reflect the true costs. Take the environment for example. One cannot put an immediate, quantifiable value on clean air, clean water and clean land regardless of what hydrologists or the preeminent carbon trader Al Gore will tell you. Well, maybe land, but even that is inextricably linked to the air and water issues. Regulation is definitely called for.

Making our own decisions carries the burden of getting the right data. In our complex world this might seem impossible for the average person without the aid of government, but that is where any number of private sector organizations arise to fill in the technical and practical gaps in information; the American Consumers Union, the NAACP, Creative Commons, groups like that. To be sure, people are not going to self organize without some kind of ax to grind. But I would much rather get my info from a group with a clear, well-stated agenda than from the political process where data becomes forcemeat as it is grinds through the well-funded fists of platforms and political agendas.

What I have observed in my years inside and outside of the government is that just as sure as death and taxes any regulatory scheme is going to come complete with unintended consequences. And as a consequence, the more regulated an area becomes the less able we are to progress. Regulation stifles creativity and critical thinking and removes the aspect of practicality. This is evident in two distinct areas of which I became aware just this week: organic coffee and assisted living facilities.

The Food and Drug Administration is in charge of regulating the use of the word organic in connection with the sale of food items. Truth in labeling and that sort of thing--noble cause, right? It seems that the agency has recently proposed a rule change that will require every coffee producer world-wide to be subject to a certifying inspection by the FDA in order make the claim it is organic. Sounds sensible, right? Well, maybe if you are the FDA inspector who is going to get the boondoggle trips to exotic climes in order to make these inspections. How do I get that job?

The inspection and certification used to be accomplished by grower organizations who arose in the marketplace to self regulate and provide the consumer with the data they needed in order to make that organic coffee purchase. Suddenly, apparently, we don’t trust them so we need the reliable federal government to take on the task. Why? What horrors have occurred to justify this?

Instead of making the marketplace more reliable, this regulation will stifle commerce and put any number of coffee growers out of business. When you operate in a marginally profitable world such as agriculture (see government subsidies) any added expense can put you over the edge. I have seen this in action. As a former member of a CSA (community supported agriculture) I subscribed to a local farm and received a weekly share of the glorious fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables produced by the able hands of Charlie the farmer. I toured the place and knew for a fact that he used no chemicals and ably worked within the ecosystem to produce a wide range of seasonal produce. But Charlie could not use the word organic when he spoke about his product. You see organic now only has meaning if some government agent breathes life into it. Without that blessing, the word had to be deleted from every dictionary in Charlie’s farmhouse. You see Charlie simply could not afford to go through the lengthy and costly process of organic certification. Seems a bit Orwellian don’t you think? Imagine explaining this to a Sumatran coffee producer! Needless to say, Charlie eventually threw in the rake and moved on. I miss his handiwork desperately.

We also have a very specific system of regulating care in assisted living facilities. After all these people are out to make a profit off of the elderly who are unable to care for themselves. They cannot be trusted to do this in a safe and efficient manner unless we are there to tell them every step of the way just how to do their jobs. As a baby boomer I am completely traumatized by the thought of living like this which is enough to drive me to the gym 3 nights a week and to people like Charlie for my food. Now someone has come along with some innovative ideas on how to improve the nature of assisted living. But, they are so hampered by the existing regulatory system any creative suggestion for progress is limited by some generally enacted but specifically applied regulation. The example in the article was that some people can’t swallow pills but it takes a specific order from a doctor to allow smashing them into applesauce for ingestion. Is this a proper use of a doctor’s time? Not to mention the costs associated with making the appointment, providing the transportation, the copay and the loss of opportunity for the transporter, patient and doctor to be doing something actually useful.

Doctor Atul Gawande was extolling his new book Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance on the radio the other day. Inherent in his message about the reasons why 15% of the time doctors make erroneous diagnoses and why it took 45 years to find a way to truly reduce the spread of infection in hospitals via unclean hands, it dawned on me that his observations are examples of the regulatory sickness that has infected our society.

Just consider any number of the bills brought forth in the legislature every year. Do we really need more laws? Are we really incapable of doing anything properly without being given explicit instructions and then being watched over like children? And that presumes that government will ever have the actual budgets to adequately perform all these tasks.

You can’t call something organic unless someone lets you, even if you spell it without a capital O. No wonder so many seemingly intelligent people today cannot separate black and white. We have colored it all a very dismal shade of gray. And I live in fear that when my hair reaches that color and I am stuck in some regimented facility without enough resources to timely change my diaper I won’t really care if my coffee is organic or otherwise. Getting old is scary.