Welcome to America – I hope you are packing heat (a second reprise)

Second reprise in November, 2022: Two more mass shootings have occurred in America in the past few days. Maybe it will be easier to post when there have not been any shootings that day. Today, it was reported that seven were killed at a shooting in a Walmart in Virginia. Last week, five died in a nightclub in Colorado Springs. Yet, it is still early in the week. A watered down gun bill was passed earlier this year. It was something, but not enough. In the US, the real danger is not even the mass shootings. It is the everyday killings over a fight, crime, or escalated disagreement. Or, it could be when a four-year old finds a gun and thinks it is a toy. As for the mass shootings, it not ironic that the two that just happened dovetail the reference in the first reprise in May, 2021.

First reprise in May, 2021: The following post was written almost eight years ago, but as you read it, the events seem to come right out of today’s headlines. This is one topic I am truly tired of writing about, as lobbyists have hobbled the ability for legislators to act like parents and spouses and do something. Americans have said in surveys they want, yet nothing gets done. It reveals who butters the bread for these politicians. At this moment, one more shooting has occurred in Virginia. After Colorado. After Atlanta….

I have written several posts about our excessive gun violence in America. We lead the world by far in gun deaths and children gun deaths. Yet, we continue to do nothing about it. We have a parade of children led shootings at schools the past few weeks, yet we continue to do nothing about it. Pick up any US newspaper anywhere in the country and count the number of gun death or violence stories. I wrote a post about Googling a “six-year-old kills four-year-old” and counting the number of stories that pop up. Yet, we still do nothing about it. We have mass shootings, which are horrific tragedies, but dwarfed by the daily killings of kids, yet we still do nothing about it. And, Americans by virtue of reputable surveys, clearly want better background checks and more elongated waiting periods, yet we still do nothing about it.

Here are a few links to these previous posts.

I am thinking of the person who finally asked Senator Joe McCarthy during his communist witch hunt trials, “Senator, have you no shame?” That was actually the beginning of the end for McCarthy. I fully recognize the complexity of what is causing gun deaths, but the NRA and strident gun amassers would like you to believe that guns have little to do with gun deaths. Responsible gun owners know this not to be the case, which is why they take great pains to teach their use and put them away for safekeeping. So, using the McCarthy line above, “NRA, have you no shame?”

We are well past the time to act on these issues. It is a poverty issue, it is mental health issue, it is a lack of civil discourse issue, it is a violence in entertainment issue, but make no mistake about it, it is an access to guns issue. Without access to a weapon, the child does not kill his sibling or cousin. Without access to a weapon, the depressed teenager, college student or adult does not act on an impulse and end a life. Without access to a weapon a drunken patron at a bar or ball game does not go to his car and come back guns a blazing because they were offended.

NRA, have you no shame? You could have acted responsibly like the majority of gun owners, yet you decided to fan the flames of a fervent crowd and crow about Second Amendment rights, which I still have not seen anyone threaten. You have also usurped the leadership of the GOP and taken them down a darker path along with some other fervent misconceptions. As a result, we cannot have the long overdue civil, appropriate debate about this topic looking at all issues, including what Americans, even Republicans want by far – better background checks and elongated waiting periods. We should do more than that, but those two issues are no brainers and largely popular.

It is past time. NRA, have you no shame? NRA, stand down. We need to have a better conversation without your involvement, as you violated the trust of Americans and responsible gun owners, whom you no longer represent.

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To little hype, several climate change initiatives passed in last week’s elections

In an article by Frida Garza of The Guardian called “Voters pass historic climate initiatives in ‘silent surprise’ of US midterms,” some very good news occurred while we weren’t paying too much attention.

The full article can be linked to below, but here are a few paragraphs that summarize the story:

“While the economy and abortion rights drove momentum behind the midterm election this year, voters in cities and states across the US also turned out to pass a number of climate ballot initiatives .

Among the measures passed were a historic multibillion-dollar investment into environmental improvement projects in New York state, including up to $1.5bn in funding for climate change mitigation. This election also saw a $50m green bond act pass in Rhode Island, and in Colorado, the city of Boulder approved a climate tax as well as a ballot measure that will allow the city to borrow against that tax to fund climate projects.

‘Climate voters were the silent surprise of election night,’ said Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder of the Environmental Voter Project. ‘We weren’t loud, and nobody saw us coming, but we showed up to vote in huge numbers.

The electoral support at the state and local levels for more climate action comes at a time when world leaders meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to discuss the climate crisis at Cop27. Joe Biden and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, were both in attendance last week, urging leaders at home and abroad to meet the moment and take action against the climate crisis now. Because of the timing of the global summit and the US midterms, the Biden administration also had the pressure of a political shift that could mean stagnation of any further climate action after the president’s signature Inflation Reduction Act.

It is nice to see such movement, as we need a lot more of the same. With a split Congress, we will have to rely on the states and the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act which has climate change mitigation in its midst. To this independent voter, we lost twelve years with the Bush and Trump White Houses to fight climate change, years we will never get back. So, we must act now. I am encouraged by offshore wind projects that are gaining footing, to catch up to the great strides in onshore wind projects in the plains’ states and elsewhere as well as the solar energy development keeps on going strong.

Please push our lawmakers at all levels to move forward. If someone is a naysayer, move on to those who share your concern. We are already late to the party and we unfortunately still must combat a mountain of money being put in some folks pockets by the fossil fuel industry to deter the fight and keep their profit margins.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/18/climate-initiatives-passed-us-midterm-elections

Anna’s Time – a movie about mental illness and romance

My wife and I often watch foreign films with subtitles due to interesting storylines and dialogue. And, at our age and state of hearing, we don’t mind subtitles to begin with. We came across another movie that touched our hearts called “Anna’s Time,” about a true love story in Switzerland written by the granddaughter of the couple. The theme of the movie involves mental illness long before it became more appropriate to recognize and discuss.

In French, the movie title is “Le temps d’Anna.” The story was written by Noemie Kocher and was directed by Greg Zglinski. An overview of the films follows:

“Canton of Neuchâtel, 1917 to 1933. A young watchmaker falls head over heels with a mysterious young woman. Jean and Anna get married, love each other madly and go through all life experiences together, supported by their happiness and friends at their side. Jean wants to invent a new waterproof watch, and the future looks promising. But Anna suddenly seems to suffer from a strange sickness which gets worse each day. Will Jean’s love for her be enough to save her?”

Jean is played by Mathieu Simonet with Anna played by Gaelle Bona. Theirs is a love story that begins with two chance meetings about three years apart. Yet, Jean’s friendship with his two watchmaking colleagues, Abraham (played by Jean-Charles Clichet) and Gaspard (played by Baptiste Coustenoble) and Anna’s with her friend Elisabeth (played by Isabelle Caillat) are key parts to the story.

Without giving too much away beyond the challenge you sense Anna has reasonably early in the movie, the movie draws you into the life of a loving husband, but work-alcoholic inventor of watches, who realizes after much urging by his friends he must make more time for his troubled wife. Anna loves him dearly, but something is not right as she hears voices and goes into a depressive state quite easily. At first it is written off to post-partum depression after she has each of her four children, but it does not go away.

I will stop there. The movie is compelling and evocative. The love is present and obvious throughout, even though the husband can be distracted with his watches. Bona plays Anna well and takes you through a range of emotions from love, lust, anguish, confusion and ultimately realization. Check it out, but keep some tissue close by.

My guess is mental illness was just as present then as it is now. It is just recognized now and treated and managed. Per a behavioral psychologist colleague, one in five people will have some bout of mental illness in their lifetime. It may be depression, anxiety or paranoia they must deal with or it could be something more challenging like schizoid affective disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Often, people have multiple diagnoses.

The stigma still exists, but it is not even close to how it once evoked a reaction as evidenced in the movie. Fear of the unknown creates a denial defense mechanism all too often. Today, there is no shame in seeking help from a therapist qualified to offer it. Medication helps but is also best to govern that treatment with therapy. Talk with someone.

A few random thoughts for this big day

The day to officially vote has arrived in America. Will America take a step back from its democracy or will it say to some belligerent autocratic thinkers enough is enough? Here are a few thoughts, again from an independent and former member of both parties. I mention this often as I want people to know I have some conservative bents around financial stewardship and progressive bents around civil rights and opportunities.

Please vote, if you have not doneso already. If you have, well done.

If you care about our planet and battling climate change even more, please vote.

If you care about the civil rights of all people on our shores, please vote.

If you care about the right for a woman to choose what to do with her own body, please vote.

If you care about healthcare access for all Americans, please vote.

If you care about financial programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, please vote.

If you care about requiring more truthfulness and civility in politics, please vote.

If you want to people to address real issues rather than contrived ones, please vote.

To be frank, the halls of legislature no longer are filled entirely with people with good morals, ethics and sense. We have some folks who are not only less than competent, they are more than mean-spirited. Sadly, we have hundreds more just like this lot who are running for office today.

This last statement is unnerving is as Bill Maher put it so well, this is how autocracies start, by electing the people who have sown seeds of doubt. As Maher said the other night, Hitler and Mussolini were elected into office and brought along like-minded folks.

If anyone touts the former US president’s bogus and unproven claims of election fraud in this election, they should not be voted for. Full stop. They are purposefully gaslighting you to get elected, just as the former president has done all of his adult life. He did not just wake up, run for office and start deceiving people. That has long been his modus operandi. This is why I did not vote for him in 2016 or 2020. I want my president to be more truthful than not.

We have one Senatorial candidate who is against abortion, unless it is his baby and he needs to pay to get rid of it. We have one Senatorial candidate who as a doctor on a TV show was hauled in front of Congress for peddling snake oil miracle cures that were untested and harmful to people when taken with other drugs. We have another Senatorial candidate who owns a gun shop, presenting a fairly significant conflict of interest, but also has posed a even tighter nationwide abortion ban.

People need to look at the candidates and vote. Even if you don’t agree with me on all issues, please vote. The problem with elections in America is not fraud, it is not enough people voting. That has always been the case. One party does not think that.

Views from an independent, former Republican and Democrat voter

For what they are worth, the following are the views of an old fart who can sing the lyrics with truth behind them to Paul McCartney’s song about age; “will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four.” I have been a Republican for over 20 years and Democrat for less than five. Around the 2007-08 timeframe, I left the GOP to become an Independent voter.

I would add I am more conservative, especially in financial matters, and more progressive in other issues. I believe in helping people climb a ladder when needed, but we need to be able to pay for it. I am also a big believer in Teddy Roosevelt’s mantra of a Square Deal, meaning giving everyone equal opportunity and I am also a believer in Franklin Roosevelt’s Fair Deal, which helped people who were disenfranchised and broken.

Politics seems to be less about policy and more about designed, fabricated and embellished wedge issues. To be frank, the Republican party public relation spin doctors do not want their candidates to speak about real issues, unless it is blame someone that they really have little control over. Democrats embellish and even lie as well, but it is not a normal distribution being heavily tilted to the right.

Let me set aside the obvious concerns this election and speak to a few policy concerns.

-the Republican Party has no platform, as they did not vote on one in the 2020 GOP presidential convention in Charlotte. Senator Rick Scott, who is heading the Senate campaign, came up with one, but it did not reach consensus. This is a one reason Republicans will not tell you what they will do to solve the problems as they don’t know. The PR people said don’t put a stake in the ground and no one can fault you for it. So, ask them “what do you plan to do about it?”

-Democrats are not perfect, but they are at least addressing or attempting to address issues. A gun governance law was passed (although watered down to garner votes by Republicans), laws impacting infrastructure funding, climate change funding, renewable energy measures, and health care premium and drug costs stabilization were passed and subsidies were passed to help people during the pandemic, building off the ones passed under Trump’s tenure. We also returned to the Paris Climate Change Accord. While an abatement is being provided on federal student loans, I personally would have rather seen something deal with healthcare debt, which is the number one reason for personal bankruptcy.

-Outside of the pandemic help, the key thrusts of the Trump administration were to repeal and replace the ACA (which thankfully failed), give a huge tax break to the wealthy and corporations, masking that the middle class may not come out ahead with limitations on state tax deductions and place tariffs on our trading partners which upset markets causing supply chain issues which were worsened by the pandemic. We also harmed our relationships by focusing more on the transactional and we pulled out of three major accords that went on without us – the Paris Climate Change Accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership to better compete with China and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

-We should be talking more about what should matter most to people – helping them feed their families, pay for healthcare and keep a roof over their heads. We must deal more with environmental issues as a steward of this country and planet – on top of climate change, we have a global water crisis, that is being exacerbated even worse by climate change and lack of decision-making. If that were not enough, we have a lead pipe issue for distributing the diminished water supply. And, we must protect all people’s rights, not just those who look or worship a certain way. Finally, we have too many in a country this successful going to bed hungry. That is a damn shame.

-What we don’t need to be talking about is contrived issues that really don’t matter a whole lot. I won’t even mention them now as that would give them more cover than they deserve. If I did not mention it above, with the exceptions below, then maybe it is not that big of an issue.

The exceptions are two. We have a debt and deficit problem in our country that has been made worse with the last two administrations. Neither party does well with this issue. Neither. The GOP likes to beat on their chest about it, but made the debt worse under the previous president. The current administration did something about, but that is after making it worse with pandemic subsidies. Obama did something about, but only because both parties put in this sequestration fall back position that made cuts if no deal was reached. No deal was reached.

We have immigration concerns, but the problem is nowhere near as bad as portrayed and was not that bad in 2016 either, even though it was played up. I would ask Republicans if you want to deal with immigration, why did Speaker John Boehner not bring to a vote a bipartisan immigration bill which passed the Senate, which had enough votes to pass the House? Why did the former president renege on his number one campaign issue when a bipartisan deal was reached to give $25 billion for his border wall for making DACA a law? The reason is PR people told the GOP not resolving immigration issues was a more winning issue than solving them – not my words, by the way, but I agree.

Setting aside all of the above, as an independent, I feel my old Republican party is adrift an untethered to the truth. Michael Gerson, a conservative pundit, said the “party is in decay.” When the truth tellers are vilified and the liars aggrandized, it is does not lead to gravitas and veritas. If you tout a Big Lie, then it greases the skids to lie about more things. I believe our voters need to send a strong message to any Republican who touts the former president’s bogus election fraud story and to any Republican who has rationalized his deceitful and illicit behavior. They are perpetuating a fraud on the American people and many know they are so doing, which is even worse.

I encourage people to research how candidates stand on issues. If they support the Big Lie, then dig even deeper. And, know there is one party bent on restricting dissenting votes leveraging the Big Lie. My advice is know the rules and vote. And, remember who wants you not to as you do, as your voice does matter.

Noble – a movie about a real hero named Christina Noble

My wife and I like to explore movies that ran beneath the radar. One called “Noble” caught our eye and it was well worth the watch, as it is a true story about a relatively unknown hero.

Per Wikipedia,Noble is a 2014 film written and directed by Stephen Bradley about the true life story of Christina Noble, a children’s rights campaigner, charity worker and writer, who founded the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation in 1989. It stars Deirdre O’KaneSarah GreeneBrendan CoyleMark Huberman and Ruth Negga.

The film is set in Vietnam in 1989, fourteen years after the end of the war. Christina Noble flies into Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), a country ‘that she wouldn’t be able to show you on a map.’ With a few dollars, her own hard-won courage, she is about embark on a life calling. The film explores her tough upbringing in Dublin and her early adult life in the UK. It is the inspirational true story of a woman who believes that it only takes one person to make a difference.”

Per The Guardian article called “Christina Noble: the woman who transformed the lives of 700,000 children,” by Joanna Moorhead, here is a quick summary of Noble.

“We all have dreams, but Christina Noble had a dream that was to transform not just her own life, but that of the lives of 700,000 children (and counting). At the height of the Vietnam war, in the 1970s, Christina went to bed after watching the news and dreamed she could go there and make a difference.

At the time she was raising three children of her own in Birmingham, working all hours as a waitress and coping with the fallout from an abusive marriage. She wasn’t rich, she wasn’t highly educated, she knew next to nothing about Vietnam and what was happening there and she had no skills that might have singled her out as someone who could do something useful in a country thousands of miles away. When she called an aid agency to tell them about her dream and to offer her services, they listened politely and said they would call back. Unsurprisingly, they never did.

The aid agency people weren’t to know it, but there was one qualification Christina had for the work she was volunteering for. She had endured a childhood of appalling suffering and from that had sprung a passion to help other children. ‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a gutter in Dublin or Ho Chi Minh City, it’s still a gutter,’ she says when we meet to talk about a film that has been made about her life. ‘What I want to do is get children out of the gutter because it’s no childhood at all – every child deserves love and cuddles and kindness and warm food and a bed, and every child has the right not to be afraid.’”

In today’s time, where we look to superior athletes and celebrities as heroes, it is awe-inspiring to see a real hero. Noble’s heart is matched by her tenacity to serve these kids, often not taking no for an answer after it is offered up time and again. I encourage you to either read-up on her life, watch this movie or both. Her name is apt as she has a noble cause which she fights for.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/13/my-700000-children

Coal ash in the bottom of a lake

In an article yesterday in The Charlotte Observer by Sara Coello called “Researchers detect coal ash beneath five NC lakes, including a Charlotte water source” a troubling study result indicates that coal ash has been invasive over time. It is the gift that keeps on giving long after its use and not in a good way.

Here are the first few paragraphs from the article, with a link to the full piece below:

“Scientists have detected coal ash in sediment at the bottom of five North Carolina lakes, evidence that it can reach bodies of water in previously unknown ways. Sediments beneath Mountain Island Lake, a drinking water source in and near Charlotte, was one spot where ash was detected. The study did not conclude that the waste is a risk to people or wildlife, but recommends more research.

Experts had thought that coal ash polluted ground and surface waters primarily by leaking from pits and ponds where power companies traditionally stashed it. Duke Energy is excavating 80 millions tons of coal ash across the state to reduce that threat, with 5.4 million tons once stored close to Mountain Island Lake already removed.

But researchers from Duke and Appalachian State universities found that airborne ash particles fell directly into lake waters over the past 40 to 70 years, especially before pollution controls were installed. And that ash particles that dropped to the ground also washed into the lakes, especially during extreme weather.

‘We thought that the majority of the coal ash is restricted to coal ash ponds and landfills,’ said Avner Vengosh, a professor at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. ‘Now we see it’s already in the open environment.’”

One of the many costs of burning coal that is usually underestimated is the long-term impact of trying to keep coal ash corralled long after the coal has been burned. The Dan River spill from a few years back was from coal ash from a closed down plant. This is why we must continue to move (and have moved away from) coal burning to create electricity. The tail on its maintenance is very long and costly.

This is also why I have long been critical of leaders from coal mining states. They have known this for years and instead of helping workers to transition to newer cleaner energy solutions, they clinged to the past. The last time I looked the sun shines, the water flows and the wind blows in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

US Solar jobs dwarf coal jobs today, but that is not news and was highly predictable several years ago. Oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said about ten years ago on “60 Minutes” the future of energy in the US is with wind energy. Natural gas will buy time, but the wind blows across the plains and offshore.

Solar and wind energy are now on par with or better than fossil fuel production costs. But, when you factor in all of the other costs related to acquisition, transport, healthcare, maintenance and litigation, eg. the costs for renewables beat the pants off coal and even natural gas. And, when a wind mill offshore “spills” the only thing that happens is a splash.

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article266613326.html#storylink=cpy

Financial suggestions from an old fart (a reprise)

Recognizing there are many places for financial advice, as an old fart, I thought I would offer some specific examples on ways to save money. Some of these are in reaction to various conversations I have had with my children, nieces and nephews, but regardless of age, it does not hurt to validate your thinking from time to time. Please take these for what they are worth, examples of lessons learned, pitfalls avoided and plans executed when I was prescient enough to listen to someone else beforehand. NOTE: I am not a financial advisor, so please do not interpret this as coming from such.

  • Don’t have too many credit cards. I have one debit and two credit cards – you will pile up too much debt otherwise and expose yourself to identity theft with too many. Pay down your largest interest rate first and close it out. Don’t just cut up the card, cancel it as identity theft can still occur – trust me on this.
  • If you are working and have access to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan, for God’s sake use it. If there is a match, find a way to contribute up to the maximum match percentage. You will retire from some place and the cash provides cushion if you are laid off (company’s do that and it has happened to people who are better at their jobs than you are). You are throwing money away otherwise.
  • Do not play the lottery. I repeat, do not play the lottery. You might as well throw the money out the window. Lotteries are a regressive tax – it means people who can least afford to pay taxes, contribute to the lottery. Use the money instead in the 401(k) or 403(b) plan.
  • Avoid online fantasy team and sports betting. You are playing against an audience using multi-variable regression tools for their predictions. A very small percentage of people win the bulk of the money, with everyone else in the red. If you do play, set a small budget.
  • Avoid payday lending. In the bible, usury is a sin. In Dante’s Inferno, there is a level of Hell for payday lenders of the day. These guys are a step away from legbreakers. You will go into a death spiral of debt if you succumb.
  • If you can’t get a job, try volunteering for a charity group. The networking is good as people will see your energies on showcase in a good way. Plus, the psychic income is rich. By working, you will avoid depressive thoughts and can use your energy in a positive way. Some non-profits may be able to figure out a way to get you some income. Plus, you can see ways to tap services if needed.
  • If you have some money to invest – think dividend paying stocks with low P/E (price to earnings) ratios. Take the price per share of the stock and divide it by the earnings per share. If 20 or under, it may be worth the effort. These companies may also have Dividend or Customer Purchase plans you can access online. This means you buy the stock without a sales charge driectly from the company.
  • You do not need to own the newest gadget or thing. Companies do this to get you to buy something. I am not impressed by who owns what. Most people are not. If people are more impressed by your gadgets than you, then you may want to hang around a different crowd.
  • Be smart with your fast food purchases. Do not buy the drinks there as the margins are huge on liquid. Get out of your car and go inside. You are wasting a ton of gas waiting in line and it may be faster if the line outside is long. Read the calorie chart – the Affordable Care Act is requiring disclosure. This will help you be less of a train wreck later on. And, please do not supersize as you will become what you eat – supersized.
  • Better yet, eat more meals at home and yes, eat the leftovers. The savings are huge. I will never die of food poisoning in my own house, so I usually have to be quick with the leftovers before my wife tosses them.
  • Avoid eye level purchases in stores, especially if you are woman. Not to be sexist, but the highest margin items in a grocery store are at the eye level of a 5’5″ woman. Also avoid out-of-place stuff at the end of an aisle or by the cashier. The stuff by the cashier is lethal. While we are at it, do not go inside a convenience store when you pump gas unless it is to use the restroom. Their margins are huge inside on purchases.
  • Reduce water usage by not running water while you shave, brush your teeth, etc. Also, get a lower flush toilet or put a small enclosed container of rocks in the tank as this will reduce the water usage. Use the energy saver setting on dishwashers.
  • Shut off electrical devices overnight. This will save energy plus it will slow the deterioration of modems, routers, computers, etc. And, it will reduce a fire hazard.
  • Go generic on all prescriptions (some generics are the same pill). Use the store brand ibuprofen, decongestants, etc. as they work just as well. Not all pills are the same as one of my sons breaks out in a rash with one generic, but the brand is fine, so use trial and error.
  • Get a second and third opinion on surgeries or diagnosis. Especially, back surgeries. Sometime surgeries can do more harm than good. If you need one, make sure you get all the answers to your questions and have exhausted other options.
  • Walk to errands. Take a couple of shopping bags and walk to the store. You will be healthier, plus you will buy less because you cannot carry it all back.
  • Don’t drink so much. I don’t drink anymore, but have drunk enough for a lifetime before I quit fifteen years ago. You would be amazed at how much you save, plus the better health pays dividends. My last straw was a friend who died at age 59 because of alcoholism. I can tell most people drink more than they tell people. So, find ways to cut it back. Trust me, I know.

That is all I have for now. I hope this was useful. I am sorry about the preaching on the last item, but that is a big-ticket savings item. I welcome other ideas as I want to learn how to save more as well. Please provide additional suggestions below.

Mental health spending on the rise

From a recent article in Benefits Pro, which is a recurring newsletter for benefit professionals:

“Overall spending on mental health services increased from 6.8% to 8.2% between 2013 and 2020, according to a new study published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

Approximately 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth experience mental illness each year, and these rates have been rising,’ Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s Health Benefits Research and co-author of the study, says in a statement. ‘Over 20 million Americans have a substance use disorder.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues nationally and in the workplace. With increases in both the number of individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders and use of health care services, higher spending is of great concern to plan sponsors of health benefit programs.'”

This trend has been supported by other sources of information, especially as it relates to the impact from the pandemic. When I traveled around with a Behavioral Psychologist who would help our corporate clients set-up mental health programs around depression and obesity management, mental wellness help-lines, etc., she would cite a statistic that 1 in 5 adults would have some form of depression in their lifetime. That is now a dated statistic, as the above surveys cites 1 in 5 per year.

Her main thrust is people who are battling depression to any degree should get counseling. She hated to see anti-depression medicine prescribed by general practitioners, as that just helped with the depression not get at the cause and management. If you know of anyone who is experiencing depression, please encourage them to seek counseling.

There is no shame in getting help from someone qualified to give it. This also goes for other disorders that someone might be dealing with – substance abuse, anxiety, paranoia, OCD, schizoid personality disorder, PTSD, etc. It is not uncommon for someone to have multiple diagnoses. And, I include PTSD, as one need not be in battle to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, as homeless mothers and kids or victims of domestic violence will tend to have PTSD issues as well.

Moderation in all things, including moderation

The above title is a quote I heard from Alan Alda, the actor most famous for playing Dr. Hawkeye Pierce in the long running TV show “MASH” about doctors and nurses during the Korean conflict. His interviewer liked it so much he commented. Alda coined this phrase when he was sixteen, “Moderation in all things, including moderation.”

His point is it is more than OK to do things in moderation, but there are occasions when a person needs to take a leap of faith and go for it. This comes from an actor who remains quite busy with various podcasts he hosts and acting roles. Plus, he is a very charitable person.

Alda was more than just the weekly doctor with a huge heart, surgical brain, skilled hands and appetite for making out with the nurses. He had a long list of movies and shows he did during and after his MASH work. I recall a couple of movies off the top of my head.

He and Ellen Burstyn turned a Neil Simon play into a wonderful movie called “Same Time Next Year.” The premise is the two meet and continue to meet up once a year at this beautiful inn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They confide in each other and speak of problems and love they have their spouses. Seeing Burstyn change her attire and attitudes each year is what makes the movie sing, while Alda plays more of a straight man.

Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno and a wonderful cast join Alda for a very funny movie called “Four Seasons.” These three couples decide they are going to take four vacations (bad idea) together in one year. The humor heightens when one of the couples separates and the husband brings a young girlfriend to the next vacation. Like with Burstyn, seeing Alda and Burnett together is a treat, as very few people can rival the character acting of Carol Burnett.

A third movie I liked a lot was not a comedy, but a drama called “The Seduction of Senator Joe Tynan.” He played with Meryl Streep in this one, so there seems to be a pattern of his acting in movies with very talented leading ladies. Streep plays an intern who falls for the married Senator played by Alda. The premise is the rise and fall of a Senator do to his tryst.

There are of course several other movies he starred in or played key roles in. He even played the antagonist in some of the movies. That took some getting used to. He was much more enjoyable to watch when he could pull for him, even though he would make us cringe being smart-ass.

MASH was one of my favorite shows, playing each Saturday night in one of the best comedy line-ups ever. Ironically, the final show of the night was “The Carol Burnett Show” which is fitting that the two stars would play in a very funny movie together. What is also fascinating about MASH is the parade of future stars that came through the show, either for a few seasons or one or two episodes.

I recall having a crush on Blythe Danner, the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow, and a good actress in her own right, as she played a love interest. I also recall Marcia Strassman, who would go on to play in the sit-com “Welcome Back Kotter,” as another one of Alda’s love interests. I also remember Brian Dennehy, Edward Hermann, Ed Begley, Jr., Ron Howard, Patrick Swayze, Lawrence Fishburne, et all who played for an episode, most often as a wounded soldier, either mentally or physically or both.

What made the show popular went beyond the actors. The writers scoured documents about a wartime hospital in Korea and actually pulled some episodes out of those files. The one I remember vividly is when a wounded soldier had an unexploded shell in his chest, which was a true incident.

So, let me know what you think of Alda and his work on MASH and elsewhere.