Friday, June 24, 2011

Thoughts For The Day!

The pundits are opining about Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan faster than the generals want and slower than many of the rest of us want. I agree with Tom Friedman who says there are four choices in Afghanistan: Lose small, lose big, lose fast, lose slow. To think we’ll be able to make any fundamental difference in that place, after countless generations of strife and unrest, is delusional.

Greece’s economy is in the toilet. European banks are bailing them out. The Greek people don’t like the austerity measures that are required and are rioting in the streets in protest. In Greece, the per capita debt amount is $44,000. Per capita debt in the U.S. is $45,000. Draw your own conclusions.

The FBI nabbed Whitey Bulger. They’ve only been searching for him all over the world for 16 years. For 15 of those years he’s been living the modest life of an aging retiree three blocks from the beach in Santa Monica. Way to go FBI. Who else are you looking for?

Ron Paul and Barney Frank (an odd couple?) have introduced a bill to take the Feds out of the pot business. Leave it to the states to legalize and tax marijuana, they say. Sounds like a good idea. An alternative would be to have the Feds legalize it and levy a tax to help close the budget deficit. But Republicans, even pot-smoking ones, are against imposing new taxes, so I guess that idea is a non-starter.

Way to go, Timmy. 12 strikeouts, no runs and 3 hits in 7 innings yesterday. The bearded closer almost blew it, but what else is new?

They kicked the can on Bonds down the road again. The prosecutors can’t bring themselves to say, “Hey, we blew it and wasted a lot of the public’s money in the process. We won’t exacerbate the idiocy by trying him again.” What else did you expect?

Unless its knocked off the ballot, in November we San Franciscans will vote on whether to ban circumcision for males under 18. A coalition of Muslim and Jews are opposed. Well, nothing else has worked, so maybe this is a pathway for moving forward the dormant peace process in Israel.

It is two years since we visited what was then a peaceful Syria. Now people are being killed in their towns and villages. A year after we were in Iran people were being killed on the streets of Tehran. It is eight months since we were in Greece. Now the people are rioting. Maybe we should cancel our upcoming trip to India.

Have a nice day!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Message #14 - Whassup, Doc?

I love Frank Sinatra’s beautiful ballad, “It Was A Very Good Year.”

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year for small town girls and soft summer nights.

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year for city girls with all that perfumed hair.

When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year for blue-blooded girls of independent means.

And finally:

But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year,

And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs

From the brim to the dregs

And it poured sweet and clear

It was a very good year.

He speaks for me when he sings of life as it is now – sweet and clear. I am grateful that I’ve lived long enough to savor this very good year.

Most of you are younger. You feel good. You have a lot of energy. Your health is not your major concern. You are immortal, right? Wrong!

If you’ve inherited good genes, and avoided accidents, and not been stricken with a disease that limits your ability to live life fully, then at 17 and 21 and 35 and beyond you haven’t had to think much about taking care of your well being. You haven’t had to think much about doctors.

I say that whatever your age you are your own best doctor. And so it’s fair to ask, Whassup, Doc?

I know that on this subject I’m like Sisyphus trying to roll that stone up to the top of the mountain. Or to be more explicit, this one is like shoveling shit against the tide. There is only a small chance you’ll pay attention. Even so, I’ve got something to say and I’m going to say it.

I’ve practiced what I’m preaching forever. I’ve been exceedingly responsible about my health. This is not surprising since one of my mantras for life is: “Protect yourself from the unexpected.”

Predictably, I’m a defensive driver. I assume fools who can’t be trusted surround me. When I travel I go to extraordinary lengths to minimize the impact of everything that can go wrong – late planes, missed flights, lost baggage, etc. I feel that I lose nothing by taking precautions. If they are unnecessary, fine. If one of my fears is realized, I’ve outsmarted it.

So of course I am a fierce advocate of preventive medicine. If I’m advised to have a colonoscopy every three years I do it. It I’m told to have a dermatologist check me out once a year I do it. If it is smart to have a yearly eye exam I don’t put it off. And for sure I faithfully set up my annual physical.

So in December 2003 I was in Jane Hightower’s office for my yearly checkup. Jane is an extraordinary Primary Care Physician. Careful, persistent, knowledgeable, with a commitment to customer service. Her patients are not bodies quickly moved in and out to maximize her cash flow.

At that time I’d been seeing her for six or seven years. I’d been unhappy with my previous primary doc and decided to interview replacements. I recognized that taking this approach was out of the ordinary, but I wanted to be happy with the person who was to monitor my well being.

I talked with three doctors. One was willing to talk with me and seemed fine, but was a little too conventional. A second didn’t hide his disdain for my process. How could an ignorant layperson like me presume to know enough to make an intelligent choice about who his doctor should be? Obviously, he didn’t make the cut. Jane was head and shoulders the best, and the years since then have validated both my process and the decision I made.

During my physical, a routine urine test showed some blood in the sample. That led to a trip to a urologist, which led to a kidney test (negative), which led to a bladder scoping which revealed two small malignant growths on the surface of the bladder. Low grade, not difficult to remove, but very dangerous if undiscovered and left to grow and penetrate into the bladder wall and beyond.

In the intervening years I’ve had regular cystoscopies and there have been recurrences. It is a condition that appears to be chronic and needs management. The game is to catch them before they catch you. Not surprisingly, I rigorously manage this process.

My bladder is beside the point. What is on point is that my annual checkup was not a pro forma exercise. It made a life saving difference. This is not a subtle message.

Whassup, Doc?

Sunday, June 12, 2011


So Anthony Weiner is going to take a break from Congress and enter psychological treatment counseling to cure him of his sickness.

What a bunch of crap!

I can see him wanting to get away from the relentless media attention he’s been getting and the phone calls from colleagues and others telling him he’s a bad boy and should quit. A break from all that makes sense. But to say he’s sick and needs mental help is bullshit.

Arrogant? Yes. Reckless? Yes. Stupid? Yes.

The medical term for Weiner’s sickness is “Inappropriate Internet Behavior.” He shares this disease with 75% of American boys under the age of 18 and 50% of American men over the age of 18. Gimme a break!

Let’s send our entire male population into psychological counseling and be done with it. Maybe the need for more trained counselors will help our unemployment numbers.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

That Doesn't Seem Right!

On the day summer begins the days start getting shorter. That doesn’t seem right.

The full resources of the government are brought to bear to get big-name people for minor and maybe not even illegal acts – like Barry Bonds, Martha Stewart, John Edwards. They’re wasting our money.

After ten years squandering lives and treasure fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan our wise leaders can’t bring themselves to acknowledge their foolishness. They can’t handle the truth.

The media is going to spend thousands of hours of research and airtime sifting through 13,000 Palin emails in a search for useless gotcha’s. Who cares?

Are the days numbered for corrupt, repressive dictatorships? Egypt and Tunisia? Done. Libya? Yes, soon. Syria? Maybe. Yemen and Bahrain? Problems for us. Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Republic of Congo, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and many more? Don’t bet on it. FIFA? Not a chance.

Gingrich’s senior staff deserted his sinking ship, which was distracted while sailing in the Greek islands. Oh, what a shame.

Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner is 2-8 so far this season. In 7 of his 8 losses the Giants have scored only once or been shut out. Over his past nine starts his ERA is 1.93. That doesn’t seem right.

Tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods seem to have it in for trailer parks. That doesn’t seem right.

Too often unemployment hits those who are already struggling. That doesn’t seem right.

Conclusion: Life really is unfair. That doesn’t seem right.

Monday, June 06, 2011


I have been following recent events in Syria closely and with concern. Two years ago we were there and had a wonderful visit. At that time Bashar al-Assad seemed to be leading his country beyond its history of repression and intimidation, the hallmark of his father’s reign. As visitors, we felt welcome and secure. We were able to explore Syria’s rich cultural and archaeological treasures at our leisure. And we had an opportunity to interact freely with average people everywhere we went.

I have been wondering when the protests would erupt in places we visited. It happened Friday in Hama. A reported 150,000 people staged a peaceful march and were met with bullets and clubs. Dozens died. Hundreds were injured. I went on UTube to watch videos of the carnage and to see if I could recognize any of the streets or buildings. Nothing was familiar.

Hama has a special history. In Hama, in 1982, between 10,000 and 20,000 residents died when Hafez al-Assad confronted and brutally put down an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood. Large sections of the city were destroyed. Evidence of the slaughter is still there. We drove through unoccupied neighborhoods in the Old Town, where damaged structures and vacant land offer mute testimony to what Hama was like when the fighting ended.

From our hotel window we had a wonderful view of a different claim to fame for Hama – its norias. These are centuries-old wooden water wheels, some of which are 65’ in diameter. The Orontes River, which flows through Hama, is lower than the surrounding land, so the norias were needed to scoop up water and channel it for irrigation. Even though modern water management systems are now available, some of these ancient norias are still in use.

Not all of the Old Town was destroyed. We spent time walking through what remains. It is lovely – pleasant and laid back. A key attraction is the Azem Palace, an 18th Century Ottoman home. We passed many women covered head-to-toe (including a face veil) in black. One stands out. Clearly young and perky, as she passed Sandra she surprised us with a clear “hello.” And then she was gone. We went to an old mosque. Small, quiet, little decoration, and a very nice feel to it. We went to the Christian Quarter to buy wine.

We had a car and driver, Nasser, who we hired in Damascus to take us to Aleppo, with stops in Palmyra, Hama and other places of interest. It turns out that Nasser’s wife, Fatima, is from Hama and was visiting her family. She joined us the next day for our drive to Aleppo. We also met their son, who was staying in Hama with his grandparents.

I think of these people and hope they are OK. The news is filled with stories of protests, seemingly everywhere. Sometimes they are more than remote, impersonal events. So it is with me and Hama.

Thursday, June 02, 2011



Made my yearly pilgrimage to Yosemite last week. As always – an inspirational space.

Also went over to the Hetch Hechy Reservoir for the first time. I wonder what that valley would have looked like if it weren’t filled with water.


The brutal injury to Buster Posey is sickening to think about.

I’d like to see the Mavericks beat the Heat, but I doubt it will happen.

Barcelona in the Champion’s League final was beautiful to watch.

FIFA is a corrupt dictatorship. No sign it will change any time soon.


The bad news is that the presumptive Republican candidates are a joke. The good news is that the presumptive Republican candidates are a joke.

It’s good to see that old people are frightened by Ryan’s plan to reduce the deficit on the backs of those who can’t afford it. They vote. Many of the poorer people who will bear the burden of Republican economic orthodoxy don’t vote.

Obama leaves much to be desired. All the others leave even more to be desired.

Jerry Brown is doing a good job. The California Legislature remains hopeless.

It looks more and more like our interim mayor, Ed Lee, is head and shoulders above all those who want to take his place.


It’s hard to see a way through the mess that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas. Are there any good guys anywhere?

The status quo is unacceptable. The tidal wave for change is uncontrollable. Wanna swap a dictator for a terrorist? Wanna swap a corrupt autocrat for a religious fanatic? Wanna swap repressive stability for a weak democracy? The choices are terrible.

On the surface China, India and Brazil are doing well. Beneath the surface there are rumblings. Stay tuned.

Every day Pakistan finds new ways to stay fucked up.

At Home:

Unemployment won’t go down.

Housing is in the toilet.

Bankers are getting richer.

American exceptionalism has great appeal.

Our educational system is woeful.

We don’t have an energy policy.

We don’t have an immigration policy.

The Supreme Court is one vote short of fascism uber alles.

That’s enough for now. Have a nice day . . .