PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #50: REDOING LIFE? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #50

So this week’s question is:

My answer is exceedingly simple.

Hell, no.

I’ve enjoyed my life. Even the bad stuff was interesting. One of the things Garry and I love about getting old together is that we don’t feel like we missed anything. We did everything we could as often as we could. We didn’t get to every city or every historic site, but we did a lot and it was tons of fun.

It wasn’t great for our longterm financial future, but damn, we have wonderful memories. And because we’ve known each other so long, many of those memories are together — before we were married.

There are pieces of my life I wish I could fix, but life, as a whole, has been fascinating — good, bad, and in between!

MEDICARE FOR ALL: WAY TO GO AMERICA! – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #48

Personally, we both are on Medicare because we are at an age where we deserve it. Lord knows we paid enough money over the years for the privilege of having doctors when we got old.

Medicare is a pretty good system and it is getting even better. The people who run it are competent, ready and willing to talk to you any time of the day or night. They are incredibly patient, which really helps because a lot of people on Medicare are not entirely “all there” anymore.

Medicare’s way of distributing drugs was deeply flawed and still leaves a lot to be desired, though it is better than it was. Their unwillingness to deal with — until this year — seeing, hearing, chewing, and breathing was cruel.

I don’t know if the changes we are seeing this year are local Massachusetts changes or national, but this year we are actually going to get enough money to buy a pair of eyeglasses, get our teeth cleaned and x-rayed and if Garry still needed them, hearing aids. Too bad they are available now because a few years ago, Garry really needed them.

We just changed from BlueCross to Harvard-Pilgrim. It will save us about $170/month and we can keep all our doctors (I checked). Also, since we’d use the same hospital where they already have all our records, I wouldn’t have to get a new institution “up to speed.” I honestly didn’t think I could cope with swapping all my doctors again and records again.

Do you believe the government of a country has a responsibility to provide universal, affordable (if not “free”) healthcare for its citizens?

Yes. Absolutely.

If you live in the United States, would you favor Medicare for all/single-payer health plan?

Having lived in Israel where medical care is free if you are poor, but if you aren’t quite that poor, you can buy into any one of a number insurance plans that give you other options, like private doctors rather than clinics, or one of the groups that offer more options for natural care. But all medical care uses the same hospitals and surgeons are not your choice but are based on your problem(s) and who they think can best solve it.

You got incredibly good medical care, probably because there are more doctors per capita in Israel than anywhere else in the world. Well, you know. Jewish doctors are a “thing.” Half the doctors were American or British, too. All the top surgeons were American — but of course, that was the 1980s and things have probably changed.

The thing is, you had a choice of how you wanted the services delivered, but one way or the other, you were entitled to the services. Everyone had medical care, free or paid. Whether you were a citizen or tourist, you could go to the nearest health clinic and they would take care of you. No identification needed.

Medicine was free. For everyone.

It was such a good system that I think that’s what we should have here. You can use the government “free for all” system or spend a bit more money and get extra services. But regardless, everyone gets medication at no cost. No one is left out of the system.

If you live outside of the U.S., does your government provide universal healthcare? If so, how do you feel about it? If not, what kind of healthcare coverage do you have?

See my answer above. Having lived in two countries with two very different medical systems, Israel’s was really great. I think Switzerland has a very similar system too.

THE ARRIVAL AND IMMINENT DEPARTURE OF A SINGULARITY – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #47

A provocative question today that I think currently means very little. It probably meant something 200-years ago, but now? I doubt it.

Here’s the question:

Technological singularity?

Personally? I think we reached it years ago — probably at least 50 years ago — and we are already in the throes of it. It did not need to become a net negative, but because of other issues — politics being the obvious one but also human greed, corporate greed, and a refusal to believe that the world was not made to accommodate us and when we push its boundaries hard enough, it will, in its own way, push back.

We have a dying world. We have a horribly over-inflated belief in humanity’s place in this world. And it will come to pass — is already coming to pass — that we shall discover how unimportant we really are. We are mosquitoes sitting on the back of a world that is getting ready to take a dip in waters lethal to our kind.

We shall be cleaned out and slowly but surely vanish. The planet will survive and recover in its own way. Whether or not that recovery leaves room for our kind? I’m not overly optimistic about it. While we are making enormous progress on one level, we are destroying what needs to be saved at the same time. It won’t do us any good to create a green world when we have already destroyed the greenery.

We can try, but we’d better start trying a whole lot harder than we currently are. Because I don’t think we can call a time out on the changes we have created and the desolation it is likely to bring.

Sorry for not sounding more chipper and cheery. If someone has something chipper and cheery to add that is based on science and not a personal opinion, shout it out.

ARE WE GOING TO “RUN OUT” OF CREATIVITY? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #45

From Fandango:

“Some smart people claim there is nothing new under the sun. I’m not normally one to reference the Bible, but in the Book of Ecclesiastes, the author complains frequently about the meaninglessness and monotony of life. One entire passage reads, “That which has been is what will be. That which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Which brings up the question:

Question de jour

To me, “merely rearranging concepts and building on previous ideas” doesn’t sound like a “merely.” Have you got a recent invention up your sleeve? Then maybe the ability to take concepts and build on ideas to create a new “thing” is the nature of creativity. I’m sorry the guy in Ecclesiastes sounded so dreary, but the world was having a hard time. Unlike now when things are so easy! Poor guy, he didn’t even have a computer or television to make it easier.

Everything is part of a context. To invent the telephone, you needed people who could talk. The telephone’s inventors — Antonio Meucci and Alexander Graham Bell — let people talk at a distance, but they didn’t have to create language, just another way to use language.

Everything new evolves from a construct of what we saw, then imagined what it might do for us. These days, a modern mobile phone does everything except work telephone calls.

I don’t think there’s a limit to what we can create, although to create something that no one can imagine seems implausible and unlikely.

I do think there are limits to what people want, need, or are willing to pay for. That has happened with all kinds of electronics, from color televisions, computers, telephones to many other things. At some point, people don’t want them that much or feel they’ve got enough (and spent enough) on whatever it is.

Which means creativity will need to find a new direction. No doubt it will. Creative ways to make money are even more nonstop than mere invention. It would still have to be something humans can imagine owning and believe would make their lives easier, more fun, and maybe more exciting.

HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #44

From Fandango:

“You’re probably familiar with this quote from philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“ In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.“

Or my favorite version of this particular saying:

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” ― Michael Crichton

So, speaking about what you remember about the past or have learned from history, how would you answer this question:”

Achievement? By the human race?

Right now, I’m having a lot of trouble crediting the human species with any significant event. I suppose it depends on what you think is significant. Would it be something that makes a life for people better? Or for a specific part of the human species better? Even if that “advancement” decimates or destroys other important aspects of the world in which we live? Like, for example, when we learned to plow and created the Sahara desert? And eventually killed ever last living mastodon? Was that an improvement?

Or how about when we broke the sod in the west and created the Dust Bowl? You know all those westerns where the sodbusters are the Good Guys and the ranchers are the Bad Guys? You know — the ranchers were right. We destroyed the prairies.

How about the invention of the government? After the Black Plague, the central government that was created produced giant grain silos and thus managed to feed the starving people after the plague wiped out the serfs — aka, farmers.

So the central government enabled people to rebuild after the worst (known) 100 years of human life or at least the worst time we still know about. But the deep plowing of the soil essentially was the beginning of what we are now experiencing: the ending of the world as we know it.

Will we take from that lesson that few have understood and somehow avoid total annihilation? Shall we yet come up with a world in which we can all live? Not just the human race, but all creatures?

Was the world better when we foraged for food and hunted our meat? I suspect it was. Were humankind’s invention of the railroad, automobile, and the airplane an improvement or was it the beginning of our end?

Do I live with any substantial hope that we will find a way out of this disaster we are in and rebuild a world in which we can live at peace as a part of nature and not its murderer?

I don’t know. Do you know?

We aren’t going to live long enough to see the end result of this madness and I’m not sorry about that. I love this world with its birds and bunnies and squirrels and eagles. With its tigers and lions and the elephants that crush the crops — but they were here before me and they have the right to live, even when it makes our lives more complicated.

Doesn’t every living thing deserve the right to survive? And our grandchildren — do they deserve the right to survive too?

We came out of our caves as killers and so we have remained.

And here’s my answer:

The most significant thing we ever invented were weapons. Significant isn’t, after all, the same as “good.” Or positive. 

IS HONESTY YOUR BEST POLICY – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #38

Do you really want to tell your wife she looks fat in those jeans? No? Do you need to tell her you slept with her best friend, even if it was before you got married? Or for that matter, with anyone besides her since you got married?

If you tell her any of these things, are they going to improve or ruin your relationship?


Do you believe that honesty is always the best policy? Is there is ever a time or circumstance when dishonesty (lying) is justifiable? Please elaborate.

We lie to each other all the time. Usually little lies. Like how much you paid for those sneakers … or for that matter, how much you paid for your wife’s birthday present (she warned you to NOT spend a lot of money). Or maybe shearing $100 of the price of that camera lens or telephone or computer.

We lie to our kids all the time. Some of them are huge, life-changing lies like: “You can do anything you set your mind to.”

No, you can’t. If you don’t have the talent, you can’t become a great writer or musician or mathematician or engineer. You need tenacity, but you also need talent. When we don’t mention the whole “talent” issue, it’s a lie and it can ruin a kid’s life, too.

I’m in favor of telling the truth when not telling the truth will cause harm to anyone, will destroy a good relationship, or simply make someone unhappy when they don’t need to be. I am also strongly in favor of honest conversations so that people don’t waste years believing something they partially heard while eavesdropping. AND I strongly, passionately believe in NEVER EVER EAVESDROPPING.

Whenever I watch a movie and someone has cheated and the cheater feels a compelling need to confess, I always wonder “why”? If his/her spouse never heard about the cheating, they would be okay. So the only reason you are confessing is to make ourself feel better. It isn’t going to make your relationship better or make your spouse happier. If you need to confess, find a priest. Get a shrink. Confess to your seatmate on the bus across town.

Leave your spouse alone. They didn’t do anything wrong and don’t deserve to be punished. If you have the kind of spouse who is going to eviscerate you for failing to “tell the truth,” they need to have a brain adjustment too.

ARE WE READY FOR A GAY PRESIDENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

This is a reblog from a Fandango “Provocative President” post some months back. As we get closer to the election, Pete Buttigieg has moved to the forefront as a potential candidate. Thus I’m running this again and I think it deserves to be run again. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg?


From Fandango:

“For those of you who may not follow American politics, let me introduce to you Pete Buttigieg. “Mayor Pete,” as he is known, is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States. He is a graduate of Harvard University, a Rhodes Scholar, a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan. He is currently the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. And as a bonus — he’s white and Christian. The perfect candidate, right?

He’s ranking third or fourth (out of 20) in the early political polls and is getting a lot of attention and positive press.

He’s also gay and married to his husband, Chasten. Wait! What?”

So here is the question:


“Do you think America is ready for an openly gay person to be elected to the office of President of the United States? Explain your opinion.”


I first would like to point out that “gay” used to mean happy and carefree … and America is 100% ready for that! I can’t think of anything we need more than a spirit of joy and freedom.

As for the more modern meaning of “gay,” my answer is a solid “I don’t know.”

I would, given the negative ionization of the air over America for the past two and something years, would be inclined to say no. Except that I would also have been sure we would not have a black president — twice — and we could never have such a current lowlife elected to the presidency, either.

Each was impossible and both were elected.

Pete Buttigieg – Photo: ABC News

So I don’t know. Our political pendulum swings wildly from side to side, kind of “The Pit and the Pendulum” of American politics. It isn’t unusual for us to go from very liberal to very conservative presidents and we’ve done it any number of times. Can we do it this time?

I really don’t know. There’s a lot of “playing out” of our political spider web still to be done. It’s not impossible and it also isn’t likely. Which is to say it’s neither probable nor outlandish.

I would hope the qualities of the man will be the point on which judgments are made, not to whom he is married. Hey, at least he is married and not a serial philanderer. Or a sociopathic liar. Or a self-promoting moron.

But who knows? Maybe America is not ready for a sane president yet. Maybe we need to roll around in the sty with the pigs for another term of office before we get our fill of this particular nightmare.

And maybe the world will never be the way it was after this presidency. There are too many questions without answers, so, in my opinion, it is also too early to gauge for whom we might vote.

We have miles to go in that snowy woods. What I do know is that the Democrats have yet to even make it clear for what they stand. Until they get their heads wrapped around their position, you can’t know where the voters stand.