Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

An Update, a Rant About Medical Insurance, And a Plea

I haven’t been posting much here lately.   I literally have dozens of writing ideas stashed away in my blog research notebook, but I just haven’t been able to get anything written. 

The main reason is that I lost my job a little over two months ago.  We’ve been lucky so far in that we have some financial resources that we have been able to draw on to keep us afloat, but these are quickly running out.  Unemployment barley pays the bills and will leave nothing left over if that is the only thing we have to live on.  Food stamps help, but $100 a month is hardly enough to feed a family of four.  

I suffer from Bi-polar II and depression.  I take medication for it.  Still, the depression has been acute and this makes it very hard to concentrate, so writing anything of substance is difficult.

I’ve been using what little concentration I have to concentrate on finding a new job.  The medication I take at least gives me enough stability to do that.  I’ve had several interviews that didn’t pan out, and I have three more companies who want to interview me, but the Holidays put that off.  Next week will hopefully see a lot of movement on the jobs front.

Going back to the issue of medical insurance, Medicaid covers the kids, but for my wife an I, we can’t get anything until we have met a $1100 monthly deductible.  That’s almost as much as we are bringing in.  I’m lucky.  Being a veteran, I can go to the VA hospital here and get my medication for only $8 per prescription.  My wife’s medication, on the other hand, we have to pay out of pocket.  These run to several hundred dollars a month, making it even harder to make ends meet.

All of this makes me wonder, if I didn’t have access to the VA, and can’t afford to pay for my medication out of pocket ($300+ per month), how would I ever be able to look for a job?  Without my medication I would almost surely be so bad off that I would either never get out of bed, end up in an inpatient facility, or dead.  Seriously.   Before I was diagnosed as Bi-polar II and got on the medication to treat it, I was suicidal.  The only thing keeping me from killing myself were my kids.  Since they live with me, I somehow managed to keep it together enough to care for them.  If I didn’t have them, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be here now.  

So, back to my point.  If people like myself can’t get the medication they need to function, or in some cases even live (think diabetics who can’t afford their insulin, heart patients who can’t afford their heart medication), how can we be expected to function well enough to actually find a job?  Job searching is hard.  It is time consuming and incredibly depressing.  Every rejection, or even every non-reply, is a slap down .  How can you be expected to perform well at an interview if your mental state makes you anxious and jumpy, or depressed and lethargic (something all in the same day)?   What if your diabetes or heart condition make it impossible to even get out to an interview?

Eventually, you could end up in the hospital (on the government’s dime), or worse.   The least the government could do is to cover medications that people need to function while we are collecting unemployment and looking for a job.  Otherwise, we become a burden to the state for much longer than we might otherwise, not to mention the terrible toll it can take on ourselves and our families.

Anywhoo, I still have some stock in my old company that I can sell if a job doesn’t come my way before the end of this month.  It isn’t much, but will mostly cover rent.  

Not being able to write is really bothering me.  I have an article being published in Skeptical Inquirer magazine in a few months.  I hope to use the exposure that I get from that to find other writing opportunities, not just to boost my ego, but to make some extra money.   Even one paying article per month would help pay a car payment or car insurance.  To do this, though, requires that I can be seen to be able to write not just well, but consistently and constantly.  That is something I’m making a priority, now that I’m starting to feel somewhat better (was without meds for a while until I could get things going at the VA).

Given this, I’m making a plea to anyone reading this.  I don’t want you to send money or anything like that, but if you know of anyone or anyplace needing some writing done, please let me know, or let them know about me.   I know I said I’ve been having a hard time writing, but if I have a deadline I always have been able to deliver the goods.  It would be a job, after all.

You may be asking yourself how I am able to write this if I’ve been having so much trouble.  Easy, it’s about me.  No research needed.

 

 

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Selling Hope

I saw a commercial on TV today.  Some guy (I didn’t get his name, and it’s not really important) was selling a book that he claimed contained his secret to overcoming any addition.   You see things like this all the time.  Someone has a cure-all for whatever might ail you.

I’m not going to talk about the details of this guy’s supposed cure.  I’m not going to analyze the efficacy of him claims.  I want to look at the idea of selling hope;  why it is a sign of selfishness and perhaps even sociopathic. 

There are plenty of reasons why dubious claims are harmful, just browse the what’s the harm website for a plethora of details.   There are many examples there of people who have died because the chose to follow programs that promised a cure for a medical condition.  These stories are sad and unnecessarily so.

What what I can’t help but wonder about guys like the one I’ve mentioned here is, if they truly have cure or treatment that is revolutionary and that does what they say it does, then why do they always insist on charging for it?  Sure, I know people have to make a living, but I can tell you that if I came up with a treatment that could cure and help a lot of people, I’d want to help as many as I could.  

To have a treatment, a real cure, for a disease like MS or cancer, or a treatment that will get people off their addiction and keep them off, would be an amazing thing.  The ethical, the moral, thing to do would be to share this with the medical community, to allow others to test it and perfect it, so that it can benefit everyone.

Sure, get compensated.  After all, you worked for it.  You discovered it.  Drug companies would pay millions for something like this.  But to horde it, to sell it only to those who could afford your asking price, it the ultimate in selfishness and immorality.

September 23, 2012 Posted by | Skepticism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prayer Costs Lives

The BBC has a sad, disturbing article about a totally preventable cause of death due to HIV in Africa.  It seems that people who had been being successfully treated for HIV infection died when they stopped taking their antiretroviral medication because their pastors or priests told them to and instead put their faith, and lives, in the power of prayer.

If anyone has any doubts about the harm that superstitious, religious beliefs can cause, this story should quash them.  People like to say that god answers every prayer, but sometimes the answer is “no”.  Bullshit!  What kind of loving, merciful god would let someone die in agony when they had abandoned worldly treatments of their illness and put their faith in him?  If there is a god, then this just proves that he is a sick, sadistic fuck.  But we knew that already from reading the Old Testament.  Just look up the books of Joshua, Job, or, for that matter, most of the whole of the Bible if you want a taste of callousness, perfidy, and outright cruelty.

October 22, 2011 Posted by | Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Alternative Medicine = What’s the Harm?

When skeptics point out the fact that alternative medicine like homeopathy and naturopathy don’t work, people ask, “What’s the harm?”  Brian Dunning from skeptiod.com has a very sad and poignant example of just what the harm can be.  He opines that Steve Jobs might still be with us if he had pursued modern medical treatment earlier rather than naturopathy.  Go read the article.

If you want to read many more stories about the harm of alternative medical treatments, go to What’s the Harm.

October 6, 2011 Posted by | Science, Skeptical, Skepticism | , , | 1 Comment

Miracle Mineral Solution – How Bleach Can Cure the World!

 

I listened to the Righteous Indignation podcast today where they interviewed Jim Humble, the creator and promoter of Miracle Mineral Solution.   The interview was very interesting and revealing.  It was interesting in the sense that it was fascinating to hear Mr. Humble commit just about every logical fallacy that I’ve ever heard of.  It was revealing in that it became obvious that Jimbo is either completely deluded or an evil genius.  

From listening to his halting, folksy way of speaking, the first impression is that he is simply deluded, but later we found out that he created a church to promote the healing properties of his Miracle Mineral Solution, or MMS.   When he was asked why he decided to use a church instead of a traditional non-profit organization to promote MMS, he rambled on about how Jesus told his disciples to go out and heal.   

When asked about an article in which he used the Catholic Church’s tax exempt status and the separation of church and state as examples of how this gives his organization more power than a non-profit, he fumbled around for a bit before admitting that it was a bad example to use given the abuses of the Catholic Church.

What strikes me about this, though, is that he obviously gave a lot of thought to how organizing as a church would allow him to skirt many of the laws and restrictions that a non-profit would be held to in providing health care using a product that can only claim testimonials and anecdotal evidence for its efficacy.  This shows him to be, in my book, a true charlatan. Evil genius it is!

The claims he makes for MMS are myriad and track perfectly with typical pseudoscientific claims.  It can cure cancer, HIV, malaria.  It can treat serious burns by lowering the PH of the burn area, which he claims is highly acidic, even though he has no medical research whatsoever to back up this claim.  In fact, he has no medical research at all to back up any of his claims.  When called on this, he spouts the usual clap-trap about modern science not wanting to believe the truth about his claims, invokes the evils of modern medicine, and goes on the seal the deal with anti-vaccination rhetoric. 

To quote his website:

“The answer to AIDS, hepatitis A,B and C, malaria, herpes, TB, most cancer and many more of mankind’s worse diseases has been found. Many diseases are now easily controlled. More that 75,000 disease victims have been included in the field tests in Africa. Scientific clinical trials have been conducted in a prison in the country of Malawi, East Africa.”

Strangely, he doesn’t not include links to these “scientific clinical trials”.  I wonder why?

This guy is treating people around the world with what is essentially bleach.  That’s right, bleach.  He advocates putting bleach on burns, open wounds, and drinking it to cure any number of maladies.  

Jim Humble should be locked up for peddling a dangerous product to innocent people, as well as practicing medicine without a license, but since he operations mainly in Africa, he is probably immune from prosecution here in the U.S.

 

May 16, 2011 Posted by | Social Justice | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Stigma of Mental Illness – A Personal Story

The resources for people with mental illnesses in the country are sadly lacking. They are terribly underfunded and understaffed. The problem is somewhat better for those with health insurance, but even then, there is the social stigma that goes along with being mentally ill.

I would prefer a term such a Brain Chemical Imbalance or Brain Structural Anomaly. These terms are more accurate and better describe where the real cause of mental illness lies. It is a malfunction of various brain activities. Because these things are happening in our brains, where our mind resides, the effects can be profound and devastating to the person suffering from it and all those around him.

I have a son with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). Deal with him has been a constant and difficult struggle since he was a baby. While he is intelligent, attends high school like any other kid, ways of perceiving the world and relating to others that make life very difficult for him. He can come across as indifferent to feelings of others because he can’t understand the normal queues such as tone of voice or body language or facial expressions that most of us grasp intuitively.

I myself suffer from chronic clinical depression. There are days when I literally can barely function. Imagine wearing a suite that weights 200 pounds and goggles that are slightly cloudy and then trying to go through your day like that. Add to that a complete lack of motivation and even something as simple as standing up to walk to the printer at work takes an amazing effort. I’ve even had people remark that I look like I’m carrying a weight around on my shoulders. It actually affects how I move physically. It certainly effects how I feel physically. My head feels like it is full of cotton stuffing, my arms, hands, head feel like little needles are being poked into the. There are almost constant headaches and the pain in my neck, shoulders and arms are real and ever-present. When those commercials say that depression hurts, they are 100% serious and true.

I have begun to reach the point where I don’t know if I can work anymore. Of course, I have to because I can’t afford not to. I’m a single dad and there is no one else to take care of my kids. Taking a leave of absence is out of the question. I have not idea if my disability insurance at work covers mental illness. I suppose I need to find out.

I’m sure you are wondering what I’m doing to treat this? I am on various medications for depression and anxiety. I also regularly see a therapist. I try to get out, do some exercise. Not keep myself isolated. I’m doing the right things, but the depression just seems to worsen as each day passes.

Why do I bring all this up? I’m not looking for sympathy. I want people to be aware that mental illness is more than just homeless people mutter to themselves in parks and on street corners. It can effect anyone, in any walk of life. It is as debilitating as any physical illness can be, and that is because it is a physical illness. And just like other physical illnesses it needs to be treated with medication and therapy.

Unlike other physical illnesses, you can see the signs just by looking at someone. Instead it affects behavior and mood, which are considered to be part of our personalities. If your job performance is impacted because of a physical ailment like a back problem, accommodations can be made to help compensate. But what accommodations can you make for an inability to focus on tasks or to organize your thoughts enough to organize your work?

I don’t have the ability to even focus on possibly solutions. If anyone out there does, please comment.

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Motherf*#kers!

I’m too angry to even comment rationally on this. For anyone who had any doubts that the Republican party only cares about rich, white men, go here and read on. I’d recommend doing it on an empty stomach because if you have even a modicum of decency, it will make you want to hurl.

February 21, 2011 Posted by | Humanism, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Cognitive Dissonance Revisited

I have written about cognitive dissonance here before (here, here, here, here and here). In brief, cognitive dissonance is holding two contradicting ideas in your head at the same time and the emotional discomfort that causes.

Cognitive dissonance is something that we all experience to one degree or another on a fairly continuos basis. Most of the time, the dissonance is easily and painlessly resolved simply by making a decision. For example, say you know that you need complete a project deadline by the day after tomorrow and you have planned on completing it today, but then you get a call from a friend asking you to go out for lunch and shopping. You feel unease because you know you need to get the project done. If you decide to work on the project instead of go with your friend, you have resolved the dissonance and the unease gone now that you know you will complete your project today. If, on the other hand, you decide to go with your friend, the dissonance remains. You justify your decision by telling yourself that you have all day tomorrow to complete the project. In this case you haven’t really resolved the dissonance, but you have rationalized it to yourself effectively enough so that you are able to go out and enjoy your time with your friend, even if the dissonance may be nagging at you in the back of your mind.

We deal with situations like this all the time. The vast majority of times, we resolve it by making a decision that makes the dissonance go away. Sometimes, we choose to let the dissonance remain and we rationalize it away in order to allow ourselves to function without the emotional discomfort.

In situations where the dissonance involves a very important idea to us though, it becomes much harder to remove the dissonance because that could mean making a very big change in our worldview. A good example of this is religious belief.

I was a devout believer in god for much of my life, but was constantly changing my reasons for believing because the more I thought about it the more I saw that the evidence for god’s existence was non-existence. For a while I found ways to rationalize the dissonance that arose from keeping the ideas of a perfectly good and loving god and of suffering and evil in the world in my head at the same time. Eventually, I could no longer justify away the dissonance and accompanying emotion distress without abandoning either my rational, scientific view of the world, or my belief in god. As those of you who have been regular readers of this blog know, I abandoned the later.

How we deal with cognitive dissonance has huge implications for our society’s future because those who are devout believers in god are actively trying to interfere with and limit government funding for much important scientific research. From climate change to stem cell research, vital research into subjects that will have a profound impact on our future is in danger.

I will be continuing to research, think about, and write about cognitive dissonance and what can be done to successfully deal with it here on this blog.

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Antipathy Towards Science Is Killing Us

I’ve spoken here before of the harms of religious thinking. Today I want to talk about something that is a threat to our modern society and that is the religious antipathy toward science.

Science has done more to advance the health and welfare of the human race than anything else humans have yet devised. In the past 100 years alone, the average human lifespan at birth has almost doubled. Humans are healthier, taller and live longer than at any point in our history as a species. This trend is due almost entirely to the progress that science has provided.

Science has allowed us to understand how the world we live in really works which in turn has allowed us to improve sanitation, housing, agriculture, food safely and production, health care and more. Without an understanding of how the world really works, we would still be in the medieval ages in terms of our well being and technology, beset by famines, plagues and pandemics that, until the middle of the 20th century, killed millions annually.

To illustrate just why and how science is important, I’m going to discuss evolution as it applies to bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Evolution is a fact. Yes, it is a theory, but it is also a fact just as much as gravity, which is also a theory, is a fact. Gravity exists. We know this to be true because we can successfully launch space probes and satellites, and we can predict where an asteroid or comet will travel.

In the same respect, evolution is a fact. We know it is a fact, for example, because we can see how bacteria evolves resistance to antibiotics. Because of our understanding of evolution we are able to predict how certain bacteria will likely evolve and use this knowledge to provided new drugs in time to treat bacteria that became resistant to older antibiotics. **

The problem we are now running into is that the funding for research and development into antibiotic resistance is in jeopardy because of resistance to science funding by the U.S. Congress, driven mainly by the GOP due to religiously motivated ideology.

Another problem that is possibly even more serious is the general lack of education in evolution in public schools. This lack of evolution education is caused mainly by religiously motivated anti-evolution groups all across the country.

The effect of this is that most students who enter college have littler or no knowledge of evolution or even science in general. This has lead to students who have little or on interest in science, or if they do, they tend to get discouraged because of the extra classes and work they have to complete just to get up to the level to be able to do college work in science.

This sad state of affairs means that the United States, once the undisputed leader in science and technology in the world, is quickly becoming a scientific has-been in the world. It is now countries like China, Russia, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and the European Union that lead the world in science and technology. It is no accident that these countries have very weak or nonexistent religiously based political groups.

In fact, if you look at countries that have the greatest infusion of religion in society and government, you will see that these countries are all scientific and technological backwaters. The Middle East is a prime example. Yes, they might embrace technology, but that technology is bought, not developed. Soon, unless we do something to change the current trend, the U.S. will also be a buyer of other’s technologies. We will become a nation of consumption instead of creativity and innovation. We will be entirely dependent on other countries for almost everything we need to function as a society. That is not a future that I think any of us wish to live in.

What is the solution? Get religious ideology out of government and public institutions. Base science funding and policy on what is proven to work or has the potential to work, not on religious dogma and ideology. Make science education as important as reading and arithmetic, just like we did in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

It is time to put religion back where it belongs, in our homes and churches, and keep it out of where it doesn’t belong, in government and our public institutions. If we fail to do this, we will soon find ourselves the greatest has-beens of world.

**Wikipedia, Antibiotic resistance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic_resistance#Alternatives

October 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health Update – Part 2

I got the the hospital for my stress test this morning. It took half an hour for them to find a good vein for the IV then another half hour to get the EKG wires attached and do the resting set of echo pictures of my heart. Then the cardiologist came in so we could start the treadmill part of the test. After asking me a few questions about the pains I’d been having over the past week, she decided that since I’d been having some instances of pain with no exertion, that stress test would be too risky. She feels that there is a very high probability that I have some blockage in one or more arteries around my heart, given the symptoms I’ve been having.

So tomorrow, I have to go in for a heart catheterization. This will consist of having an IV put in, being sedated, and then they will insert a catheter into my groin and run it up to my heart, put contrast dye into the IV and see what the condition of my heart and surrounding arteries is. If I’m lucky, there will be no blockages. If there are blockages they should be able to either use a ballon or stents to open them up, unless there are too many blockages or they are too blocked, then its open heart surgery for a bypass.

It’ll take about an hour and a half minimum for the procedure. If all goes well, I’ll go to recovery for 6 hours and then get to go home tomorrow afternoon. If they need to do the ballon or stents, I’ll spend at least one night in the hospital. If I need surgery then that will be schedule for a week or two out.

I’m not too worried. I’m actually more nervous about the wound from the catheter than anything else. The literature the gave me keeps mentioning swelling and bleeding as possible problems. I’m not really too concerned if I need the ballon or stents since that will make me healthier and feel better. The possibility of open heart surgery isn’t very appealing, to say the least, but I think that possibility is pretty remote.

I’ll keep you all posted.

September 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 5 Comments

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