Cuba, Trump and foolishness

In May I had my hair cut in Havana. I am balding so I tend to shave my head, and to compensate I have grown a massive beard. Occasionally I have a barber clean me up with a trim so I can maintain a month or two before needing professional intervention again. Walking a few blocks off the Malecon on my last night in Cuba I wandered past a little hole-in-the-wall barber shop. For $5 the barber expertly cut my hair and offered additional services which I had to decline as it was getting late and I needed to catch a plane early the next morning. He also offered rum and conversation.

He relayed how he was worried about his prospects and about Trump. His trade was that of cutting hair for tourists and offering pulls of rum. He also was a homosexual and growing up in a country where his lifestyle was looked upon as a detriment and to be cut off from the accepting U.S. only compounded his feelings of dread. With my freshly shaved head I thanked him for his services and wandered back to my hotel through the near dark streets of Havana never once feeling uneasiness.

In the eastern city of Viñales a local tobacco farmer whose residence and farm were within the bounds of a National Park revealed his story to me. The government tells him what to plant and how much. What he grows he can only keep 10% of to sell on his own. The government takes 90% of any seed stock that is saved. To use the term ‘abject poverty’ would be an understatement. His children were catching wild birds for later meals. You could see that his skin was globally callused, almost as if he had crawled out of the ground that morning. Sheer desperation was in his face as he quietly described how all his hard work was hauled away in a government truck. Then he rolled me a cigar, pulling the leaves right off the rack using a shabby little table surrounded by pigs. Pigs chomping yucca. To date it is still the best cigar I have had. If I could only order them direct.

Stopping at another tobacco farm I asked the gentleman rolling cigars if the farm belonged to him. He said: “No, It’s Raul’s,” – as in Castro. He gave me a puzzled look as though that should be obvious. The uneasiness that I never experienced on the streets of Havana slowly crept in as I realized I was standing on a dictator’s farm.

Everyone should go to Cuba. We all should see the final result of the years of lies the Castro brothers laid onto the Cuban people. Everyone in America should bear witness to a city that is 90 miles from the shores of Florida yet unable to produce a single street without potholes or a store with full shelves.  Having seen such devastation caused by communism is a more powerful lesson than any teacher or book has to offer. And this is why I am so puzzled as to why Trump would disallow U.S. citizens from once again traveling there.

Perhaps the crony capitalists of the U.S. do not want the competition that Cuba presents. Unspoiled beaches, diving, rum, tobacco- all at ⅓ the cost of Florida may prove too much of a threat to U.S. resorts. Maybe the GOP is trying to appeal to the Cuban expat vote. Or maybe Trump is simply just going against anything Obama did to appeal to his base. Whatever the reason, nothing is to be gained from a policy of childish foolishness.   

Trump: Repeal the sanctions. Beating an already dead horse makes little sense. Let the American people go. Let them experience the real Cuba, staying at any of the multitude of AirBnB’s dotted across the countryside as my wife and I did. Let Americans embrace the people and culture and see the incredible oppression a people are subject to within the confines of too much government. Let them experience firsthand the amazing Cuban people and realize we are not so different. Such a pilgrimage could change the youth of our country, making them more willing to embrace the democracy they now take for granted. Only good can come from allowing the U.S. to engage the citizens of Cuba from the inside and to start a one-to-one revolution. Nothing in this world changes with indifference and distance. Cuba will be no different.

It’s OK, you can blame the doctors.

 

If healthcare was truly working, it would be putting itself out of business.

I can buy guns. LOTS of guns. No questions asked. But if I want to buy a prescription strength ibuprofen, I need to talk to a doctor first. There is something basically wrong with that.

It’s rather odd that in the healthcare debate doctors seem to be sliding out of shouldering any of the blame. I don’t see them on talk shows answering questions as to why their services are so hard to navigate, why their prices are so high, why prices are dictated by insurance companies and corporations, or why their profession is the third leading cause of death. Yeah, that’s right. THE THIRD LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN AMERICA IS DUE TO MEDICAL MISTAKES. Look–>here. Or here.  

This does not begin to take into account the amount of people who die every year as a result of the physician started opioid epidemic. Or the Type II Diabetes epidemic started by the deluge of sugar rich food pumped into the veins of Americans–physicians didn’t speak out about that either. 

All other professionals are held accountable when there is gross negligence in their field. Automakers: reference the recent Volkswagen scandal or Takata airbag issue. Justice system: reference any number of cases of abuse of power either through police officers or court officials. Industry: when a company is found to be releasing toxic chemicals into the environment or putting out a dangerous product they must answer in court. Doctors? Nah, they largely get a pass and we just keep booking appointments in the most antiquated system available to consumers. Sure there are lawsuits, but is there massive fines, social stigma or overall loss of business and revenue? No.

Have you ever noticed that there is no price list in a doctor’s office? In the Emergency Room? Hanging at the end of the hospital bed? Why? Because it is all a shell game. You pay one price, your neighbor pays another, and insurance companies pay yet another. This is done intentionally to keep the prices a floating mystery so no one is able to compare prices and comparison shop. Hospitals and medical professionals will tell you that they have no idea what the cost is of their services. Emergency Room docs literally don’t know how much each test they order costs, and this is also intentional. Can’t have the patient making informed choices or doctors not ordering unnecessary tests when a patient’s ability to pay is a concern; that would make too much sense. Just rack it up and send the bill via mail a week later.

Is there any other business we interact with where we order goods and services without knowing the price? No. It is bullshit that we allow healthcare to get away with it.

Look at how Amazon has revolutionized shopping. Uber taxis. Airbnb accommodations. Why have doctors not produced the same innovations in their own space? Because they would have to compete with one another, and lose money. In fact some doctors are actively trying to stop technology that would lower costs and be of great efficiency. Optometrists are at this very moment trying to use the power of the state to block innovation in their space. Basically, an App could provide a diagnosis and give a patient the prescription for glasses without the need for a visit to the optometrist. The test is still read by a licensed professional, but some are trying to use the power of the state to stop such innovation and force customers to accept less convenience for more money.  Look here.

Always remember that doctors use the power of the state to force their services and solidify their position. You cannot buy prescriptions without seeing them. You cannot order a variety of medical products without their approval. Yet guns and booze are open for everyone. See the problem? Medical professionals sacrifice a lot to take care of their fellow human beings and their achievements and altruism should be commended, but they should also be willing to take the blame when things go sideways. And looking around, the healthcare system seems sideways.

The Need for Drugs

Go to any football game and you have 100,000 drunks, boozed up, smoking cigarettes, watching 22 athletes that are supposedly clean. –Louis Simmons

It always makes me laugh when I hear pundits rail against the legalization of marijuana. Take your pick of conservative pundits and they will more than likely be against the ‘drug dealers’ who have moved into states and communities that have chosen to legalize the plant. They will drone on about the dangers of marijuana, all the while remaining eerily silent on the topic of prescription drug abuse, alcohol abuse, tobacco, gambling, cheeseburgers and whatever else you want to add to this list.

These are the same pundits who think nothing of taking their children to a professional sporting event- where the ads for a mass-produced beer are countless and no one in attendance doubts that their favorite athlete is taking a little something extra to win that day.

Steroid and performance enhancing drugs is widely talked about and accepted in athletics, even though those substances are illegal. Look to the bodybuilding world or the recent Olympic Russian scandal as confirmation of this. Why are the police not arresting Olympians as they get off the track? Why are cops not corralling bodybuilders into cages off stage and handing them a summons? I will tell you why- because that drug use is accepted.

It is just as accepted as the piles of compounds and supplements available in any health food store. Miles and miles of containers containing ‘proprietal blends’ of who-knows-what and how-much. It is just as accepted as hordes of Spring-Breakers or Mardi-Gras-Goers doing kegs stands in the street, and just as accepted as your local pharmacy- killing more people with opiates than any warlord could dream.

Then we have the non-accepted drugs. Marijuana, despite continued evidence for help with seizures, PTSD and other maladies. MDMA or ecstasy, even though there are people studying its’ potential benefits to the human race. Peyote, illegal unless your religion calls for use of the drug- then an exception can be provided for. DMT, mescaline, LSD. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I find it odd that mind altering drugs are banned, and mind numbing drugs are not. Is there a war on changing consciousness?  If people could take a drug that makes them see themselves as part of the species and not separate from the whole, is that bad? Is the crime smoking a joint or locking up that person?

Graham Hancock breaks down the breach Colorado stepped into and the path blazed for other states.  

Drugs have allowed us to perform surgery on one another without pain, have brought couples together, torn lives apart, and both saved and killed babies. There is a reason that “one barrel of wine can work more miracles than a church full of saints.” -Italian Proverb.

Our species has been seeking out mind altering alternatives since that first rotten fermented fruit was eaten. Since the first peyote button was chomped on. It is time to be adults about the chemical compounds that surround us. We need education, not fear.
The drug we really need is truth – and the truth is we need drugs.