Robert B. Jordan
Resident Grump, Retired

I do not like labels, but there are a couple that are acceptable to me – “Freethinker,” or “Humanist.” I suppose that some would insist on labeling me an “atheist”, but that is so harsh – a nasty sounding word – you almost have to hiss to say it. So I will stick with Freethinker and/or Humanist for now.

The religious populace would insist that everyone should believe in a higher power, and that you cannot lead a fruitful and happy life without believing in something greater than yourself.

Well, I never have found that to be absolutely true. I have survived nicely by just believing in myself, and my family, and my values. Religion didn’t give me the ability to know right from wrong, good from evil, civility from rudeness – my parents and common sense did. I spent 12 years in Catholic schools and the dominant thing I came away with was lessons in guilt, and fear.

However, as I get older I have pondered the idea of believing in something greater, a higher power. Maybe there’s something to it. What, or who, could I accept as a model that I could respect and follow? Something or someone that held high standards, was respected worldwide, had a great attitude, and was well loved by all.

Suddenly it hit me – it was Santa Claus!

Several years ago my daughter Kris gave me a tin sign in the image of Santa Claus holding a blackboard. On the blackboard was written the four stages of life:

“You believe in Santa Claus”
“You don’t believe in Santa Claus”
“You are Santa Claus”
“You look like Santa Claus”

That tin sign hangs over my work bench in my modest work shop in the basement (I fit the fourth description). I was working on a small project and looked up at the sign and had an inspiration. If those that believed in Jesus Christ were Christians, then I could believe in Santa Claus and be a Claustian.

There may be some out there that insist the only reason Santa Claus is around is because of Christmas,

which is allegedly the birth date of Jesus Christ; actually we have no idea of his birth date. Most scholars place his birth year between 7 BC and 2 BC. The actual day and month are not known. December 25th was “selected” as the birth date of Jesus in the 4th century by the church leadership in Rome as a cosmic symbolism. It was determined by simply counting nine months after March 25, generally thought to be the date of conception. How those people knew the date of conception is not explained, nor is what form of conception is required in a virgin birth, hmmm! I probably could write a whole blog on that subject.

Coincidentally December 25 was also celebrated by the pagans as the birth date of Sol Invictus, the official sun god of the Roman Empire.

Santa Claus originated in legendary, mythical, historical folklore rather than religion. He evolved from the 2nd century Dutch Sinterklaas, the 17th century British Father Christmas, and 4th century Greek St Nicholas, who was the only one of the three that was an actual person. St. Nicholas was a 4th century Greek Christian bishop known for his gift giving.

There have been parallels drawn with “Odin” a pagan god of the Germanic peoples. In the 1930’s it was believed by some that Coca Cola invented Santa Claus because they used him extensively in their advertising. But I digress; let’s get back to Santa Claus and all the advantages of being a Claustian.

Think about it, neither Santa Claus nor any of his followers have ever persecuted, or killed people in his name, or because they didn’t believe in him. You needn’t spend a lot of time praying; just write him a letter once a year and ask him for stuff. It would be fruitless to try and hide your bad deeds, or to lie, because Santa Claus sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake and he knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.

Santa Claus is a jolly fellow that spreads joy and happiness throughout the world.

He doesn’t condemn folks that don’t share in the joy and happiness. His followers don’t declare that he is the one and only holiday icon – no, you can freely believe in the Easter Bunny, or the Great Pumpkin, or the tooth fairy, or whoever else, and without fear of reprisal.

What’s that? You say you don’t believe in Santa Claus! You stopped believing when you were about 10 years old? But, you do believe in Jesus. Hmmm! Well, some question that Jesus really existed. You have to be a non-questioning, blindly accepting individual to believe what the fictional book they call the bible tells you about Jesus. And yes, you have to be a non-questioning, blindly accepting individual to believe in Santa Claus. It’s your choice.

Personally I’m going with Santa Claus. I’ve been all through that religious thing. I was brought up in a Catholic household, attended Catholic schools, and survived all their attempts to fill me with guilt and fear. From there I tried the Protestant path for a few years. That was filled with hypocrites and narrow minded people that I didn’t care for. I never found solace, or validity with religious teachings, because to me it required a good measure of superstition, and blind acceptance. Besides, each of the many versions require you to believe that their particular way is the only way, and all others are heathens, or pagans, or savages, or

worse. Well, need I tell you that’s not true? Seems to me they are all extremists, and anything to the extreme is not always good. But enough of that, let’s get back to being a Claustian.

Who of you would reject feeling joyful and happy? Does not the spirit of

Santa Claus give you that joyful and happy feeling?

For you fathers, does not playing Santa Claus just fill you with pleasure? When your children are small do they not get joyful and happy when they go sit on Santa Claus’s lap? How about you grandparents? Is it not true that the thrill and excitement of your grandchildren at the mention of Santa Claus is an awesome experience?

Okay, you skeptics will say “but Santa Claus is only once a year.” That’s somewhat true, but cannot the spirit of Santa Claus last year round, year in and year out? And the same skeptics may also make the argument that the joy, and happiness is solely because of receiving gifts. Again, that is somewhat true. But again cannot that be extended throughout the year? Material gifts are not the only gifts that are meaningful and important. How about the gifts of love, sharing, support, encouragement, respect, etc.? Cannot they be given, and received, year round, year in and year out? That is the spirit of Claustianity.

Yes my friends, given my freethinking, humanists beliefs, I am going with Claustianity !  But, I will defend and support your choice no matter what it is – that’s also in the spirit of Claustianty.

“To say there is no Santa Claus is the most erroneous statement in the world. Santa Claus is a thought that is passed from generation to generation. After time this thought takes on a human form. Maybe if all children and adults understand the symbolism of this thought we can actually attain Peace on Earth and good will to men everywhere.”
Charles W. Howard – in 1937 Howard founded the Santa Claus School in Midland, Michigan which continues today.






Robert B. Jordan
Resident Grump

Dear Jesus,
How you doing? I hope this finds you well. Mimi and I are getting by best we can, in spite of all the physical miseries old age brings. All our family members are in pretty good shape, not 100%, but who is?

I’m writing to solicit your help in clarifying a few things that are bothering me; hopefully you can find the time to respond.

We all know there are those that don’t believe you ever existed. Then, there are others who believe you did. And there are a few that think maybe you did, but don’t know for sure because there is very little evidence of your existence, except for the bible thing, which is filled with errors, and contradictions. Your actual birth date is a mystery because no one knows for sure. The year, month, and date are all lost to history, so there are many opinions, and controversies. There are differing theories about why December 25th was picked. I guess we are free to believe what we will about the date, depending on which theory one embraces.

It is said that one day you will return to earth. I wish you’d get with it. What’s the hold up? It’s been over 2000 years you know. Oh wait, if you never existed in the first place, how could you exist now and come back? Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. Well anyway let’s assume for the moment you did exist so I can continue with this letter.

We need to get some things straightened out and clarified; you are the only one that can do it. For instance a virgin birth, and rising up from the dead and ascending into heaven! Tell us the truth. Did those things really happen or were they the product of someone’s imagination? There are so many contradictions, and unbelievable events in what we’ve been lead to believe. It sure would help if you could clarify, when you have time.

I understand all this bible business began in 1400 BC with the Hebrew Old Testament, is that correct? I also understand that’s about the same time the 10 Commandments were given to Moses. It is said that there were many prophecies written centuries before your birth that actually came true. One thing that lends to the feelings of doubt is that the bible was written over a 1500 year period by 40 different authors. How did all the facts spanning that period be accurate. Some scholars say that to believe the bible one must ignore facts of science and history and just proceed on “blind faith.”

Those bible authors had a hit though. The bible has sold over 5 billion copies over the years and currently sells 100 million copies annually. However, I marvel at what pain and misery it has caused. I mean did you really intend to have thousands upon thousands of people killed in the name of Christianity? Many that believed were killed by those that didn’t believe or believed in something different. And, many that didn’t believe or believed in something different were killed by those that did believe. Very confusing – I don’ think that’s what you had in mind, was it? And burning heretics alive at the stake was a pretty gruesome punishment.

What about all the various interpretations of what you taught, and how to worship? The Catholics have their version; the Baptists have several, as do the Methodists, not to mention the Lutherans, and all the other interpretations. It just seems to me that if in fact you did live, preach and teach, there should be just one true version. Doesn’t that make sense? I suppose it’s more lucrative for those that have created different interpretations – getting their piece of the pie, as it were. Religion is a big business, but I guess you know that.

How about the Hindus and the Buddhists and the Muslims, etc? Do you like any of those writings?

Now, this may sound harsh, but your father did a really lousy job of creating us. That is if that’s really how we got here. What was he thinking? Is it true that he created us in his image? If so I’m not at all impressed with his image. I lean more towards man created him in our image. I just can’t buy into him ripping a rib out of Adam and creating Eve. Many artistic renditions of Adam and Eve show they had a belly button – must be the artist’s mistake.

Your father doesn’t really exist, does he? Those old guys made him up, didn’t they? Was it to help sell more bibles? The modern day fiction and science fiction writers can’t hold a candle to all those old bible authors.

Speaking of Adam and Eve, the first and only people to exist, how did their sons find their wives? Where did those women come from?

If your father actually exists, can you maybe explain to me why he allows things like the Aurora theater shooting, the Newton school shootings, the current almost daily mass shootings, the poor girl at Arapahoe High School getting shot and killed, the atrocities over the centuries in Africa and Eastern Europe, genocide, Stalin and Hitler, Charlie Manson, Ted Bundy, John Gilbert Graham? How about little kids dying of awful sicknesses? Recently here in my town a fifth grade boy was killed by a hit and run driver, why? How about the gassing of those people in Syria? Recently an Oklahoma politician named George Faught said that rape and incest are the will of God. That can’t be, can it?

Before you answer, I must caution you that I will not accept things like “God works in mysterious ways,” or “God needed that 5th grade boy to come to him,” or “Don’t take the bible literally.” Excuse my language, but that’s poppycock! Those are just copouts because the religious folks have no answers, they don’t know. I think your father has a bad attitude Jesus. Sorry I just had to say that.

Are you beginning to see why I’m confused, and frustrated, and just a little angry? Religious people have it so easy by just passing things off to you, and your father. Honestly I don’t think that is at all how it works. We mortals are rational animals that live and die as a result of just being animals. We get sick, we get injured, and we eventually die, and that will continue unless some power hungry, demented person (created in His image) destroys us all.

It seems strange to me when someone asks for prayers to help heal someone who is sick, or injured, or dead. Where were you and/or your father when they got sick, or got injured, or died? Since you allowed it to happen, why would praying to you after the fact help?

Like I said earlier, if you are coming back, please do it soon. We are so messed up down here. That bible has created so much misery in the world. You could straighten things out by coming on down and telling us the truth about your life, and what you believed, and taught. But alas, I fear you never existed because if you did, and your father was real, you guys wouldn’t let all this horrible stuff go on day after day, year after year, would you?

I guess we’ll just have to muddle along, rational animals that we are. Our only hope is that we’ll become more and more rational, if in fact we survive what those old men created with that bible thing, and survive each other.

Nice talking with you, hope to hear back soon.

Robert B. Jordan
Resident Grump

PS: Is it okay with you if I share your response with other people?

“There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.”
George Bernard Shaw



Robert B. Jordan
Resident Grump

“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” Will Rogers

Many times during my years in the aerospace industry, I received periodic notices from the Human Resources Department for Stress Management classes I should attend. I was in a position that involved the negotiating, and administering large and complex contracts. Our customers included various agencies of the US Government, and other aerospace companies. It was a position that could cause stressful situations, both internally and externally. I assume most large and progressive businesses promote managing stress for their employees. A noble cause, but misguided in my opinion.

I never attended a stress management class. I told Human Resources to let me know the minute they offered a stress avoidance class. I had no interest in managing stress, or reducing stress, I had intense interest in avoiding it altogether.

Over the years I have come to believe that stress, like guilt, is self-induced. When you give a situation, or a person (stress carriers) permission to cause you stress, or guilt, then you will have it. If you withhold permission you have a much better chance of avoiding it, and avoiding should be the goal.

Let me be clear that I am not a doctor nor do I have formal training in this subject. What I do have is years of experience personally, and through observation and association. I have seen many instances of someone struggling with a situation that causes stress. This essay does not offer advice, or suggest medical cures, it is simply one man’s opinion formulated by direct contact with many types of “stress carriers.”

Every situation, or condition, that could cause stress has a moment when it transitions from a normal situation, or condition, to one with




stress. During that moment is when you grant your permission, or not. It is the moment when you recognize impending stress and accept it, or avoid it. Sounds so simple, but is it?

Experts offer many suggestions to manage or reduce your stress. You can write it down, you can get a massage, you can do yoga, you can meditate, who can cast out the negative emotions, you can go for a walk, you can read a good book, curl up with a pet etc. All of that is good advice, except it all allows that you have induced yourself with stress, and are now looking to manage or reduce it.

Over the years I have encountered many stressful situations, both professionally and personally, and there were times I self-induced. It took numerous episodes before I realized that avoidance was the better condition. But how do you avoid?

It’s all a matter of timing. Earlier I stated there was a moment when a situation transforms into stress. It is in that time period when you have the control to avoid, or perhaps minimize the effect, before it turns into full-blown, painful stress.

There are numerous situations that can be “stress carriers”; most are either in the workplace, or at home. Some concern relationships, some concern money, some concern behavior, some concern workloads or deadlines, and some concern health issues. Whatever the form the “stress carrier” takes there is a moment when it is a normal situation or condition.

All “stress carriers” present you with a problem. They present challenges. They test your patience and your knowledge and your fortitude. They are asking for your permission to cause you stress, make you feel miserable, and induce potential health problems. So, what do you do to avoid giving permission, and thus avoid or minimize stress?

The first thing is recognition – is this situation a “stress carrier”? In nearly all cases you can make that determination right away, and if it is, what to do? Start with defining it, analyzing it, dissecting it, and looking for solutions. The absolute worst thing you can do is ignore it – that is a guaranteed 100% mistake.




“Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face.” Nelson DeMille

There are solutions for everything. Some are complete solutions, some are partial, and some are compromises. A mentor once told me he could solve every problem presented to him, he could not be stymied. Give him the facts, some time, a table, a couple of chairs, and the parties involved and he would solve the problem, perhaps with compromises, but it would be solved. There are two lessons here; > have the courage to face the situation, > and have a confidence you can solve it.
There are many things that will happen to you that are outside your control, but what you have complete control over is the manner in which you handle them.


“Rule number one is don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two it’s all small stuff.” Robert Eliot



It is imperative to recognize a “stress carrier” at  the right moment, face it, deny permission, and find a solution. Part of the solution may cause some momentary tension, some momentary apprehension, and maybe even a little momentary panic. Not everyone handles potential stressful situations the same way. Avoiding stress is easier for some than for others. It may not work for some personalities, but even if one could cut out 50%, or 30%, or even 10% wouldn’t it give more ease? I do not believe that stress can be avoided in 100% of the situations, 100% of the time, by 100% of the people. I do believe that once one accepts that stress is self-induced they take ownership and can deal with it in a much more effective manner. It may just may turn out to be a question of problem solving.

If one owes a car payment, or a house payment, and they don’t have the money, hiding from it is a self-induced stress. Facing the shortfall by calling the car dealership, or the mortgage company, and solving the dilemma is far better than ignoring the problem. Usually one can work out a solution, if faced head-on.  You can not solve anything by ignoring it.

Personal stress causing situations are more difficult because of the emotions involved, but it is always better to face them, and solve them, rather than have them become even more divisive.

Work stress may be because of deadlines, work overload, impossible demands by a superior, etc. Again, confrontation and negotiation work far better than neglect.

I believe that stress can be eliminated, or reduced, if you can come to grips with the fact that “stress is self-induced.” Once you do, then stress can be self-extracted, or at least reduced.

“It’s not stress that kills us; it is our reaction to it.” Hans Selye

Political Labels




Robert B. Jordan
Resident Grump


“I have opinions of my own – strong opinions – but I don’t always agree with them.” George W. Bush


I Robert B. Jordan do not like labels. I don’t like being labeled. Labels are confining, and restrictive. In the recent election year one could not avoid hearing labels. The Republican primaries, which we all tolerated for what seemed like a decade, were comedic. One candidate accused the other of being too Moderate, another was not Conservative enough, and the folks in the other party are Liberal and Radical.

I started to wonder about the four labels that crop up the most; Conservative, Liberal, Moderate, and Radical so I went to my Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus residing on the corner of my desk to see just exactly what each of those labels mean. Here is what I found:

Conservative – is averse to rapid change; avoids extremes; unprogressive; traditional; cautious.

Liberal – gives freely; open-minded; generous; profuse; free; fair.

Moderate – is temperate in conduct or expression; medium strength; calm; reasonable; rational.

Radical – advocating through reform; holding extreme political views.

In reading through the definitions, and looking at the synonyms, I was struck with the realization that no one can be exclusive to any of these four labels all the time. I, for example, am generally Moderate, but at times Conservative depending on the subject, or Liberal on a different subject. I can instantly become Radical when I hear, or read about the two sides not being able to reach a decision.

I really don’t believe that a declared Conservative is in fact Conservative on every issue every time. Neither do I believe the same is true with the other labels. I hold this belief as regards politics. In personal life this belief is unchallenged. Example; when my daughters were teenagers I held extremely Conservative views on their activities, their friends, and most particularly their boyfriends. With my grand kids I am Liberal at the ice cream parlor, but Moderate with their choice of music. I become Radical at their lack of manners.

We live in a world of enhancements and exaggerations. Let me give you a football example. I cringe when I hear the announcer say “He’s wide open”! What does that mean? Isn’t a receiver either open or he’s not? Is being “wide open” better than just being open? This is an enhancement, an exaggeration. Another example: In my city we have an interstate highway that runs north and south through the city. To expedite traffic they have HOV lanes, which mean “High Occupancy Vehicle”. In order to drive in the HOV lane there must be three or more people in the vehicle. Oh really? Three people are high occupancy? Isn’t “High Occupancy Vehicle” a bit enhanced and exaggerated? How about renaming that lane a TOM lane – “Three or More” – plain, simple and self explained.


“Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they’d be Republicans.”
Will Rogers


Applying political labels to candidates, as well as people already in office seems to me an enhancement or an exaggeration. Of course if one is labeled it is so much easier to find fault, and criticize, if their label differs from what the other’s perceived label is. Truth is that if one declares he/she is exclusively a Conservative, a Moderate, a Liberal, or a Radical they are being a bit hypocritical, don’t you think?

We, the voting public, are so easily taken in by political rhetoric. Each election we listen to, and believe, the candidate with the best ideas. The candidate that will make the best changes, has the most logical ideas, and pledges to make everything warm and fuzzy. The political speeches and promises today vary only slightly from those speeches and promises from years past. Election after election we vote for a candidate with the label most like ours, only to be disappointed by not receiving the warm and fuzzy we were counting on.

“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Mark Twain


How about those negative ads during the campaigns, local and national? How we enjoy hearing the bad about the other guy – any chance those ads contain enhancements and exaggerations? Of course they do. All the experts tell us that negative is what sells. Being negative is the best strategy, the best tactic. And, we all fall for it. As consumers don’t we like to hear the benefits of a product? Don’t we want to know the positives of the automobile we want to buy? Don’t we want to know the advantages of the vacuum cleaner? Or, do we seek a negative sales pitch about the other brand of automobile, and the other store’s vacuum cleaner? I believe that we all want to know the positives so we can make our own comparison. I seriously doubt that a salesman in one automobile dealership would be successful if his entire sales pitch was criticizing the other brand. It’s sad that it works in politics.

So my friends tell me why we love negative political ads, or do we? Are the experts correct in their opinions? Is he/she with the most money to spend the best candidate? Should our President be the one that out spends the other candidate, the one that claims the best and most negative ads? Is that the criteria? Is that okay with you?

My mind would be more at ease if candidates owned up to practicing the characteristics of the different labels at different times on different subjects. I am not comfortable with anyone who professes to be totally dedicated to one of the labels, all the time, on all issues political and personal. I don’t want my elected officials to be restricted and confined. I just want them to be “open”.

I close with a question. Has anyone ever been accused of being Radically Moderate? Is that a conundrum? It’s sort of like having too much fun, or plastic glass, or military intelligence.


“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Groucho Marx


Robert B. Jordan
Resident Grump

“Anyone can speak troll. All you have to do is point and grunt.” JK Rowling

A recent issue of National Geographic magazine had a story about “Saving Lost Languages.” The story states the Earth’s seven billion people speak 7,000 languages, and that 78% speak one of the 85 major languages while the remaining 22% speak one of the 3,500 smaller languages, 1000 of which are teetering on the edge of oblivion.

7,000 languages? How did that happen? How did it happen that 7,000

different peoples created 7,000 different variations of sounds
for words that became their language? After all a word is just a sound, or series of sounds that have meaning, and that other people understand. So, many thousands of years ago when those first human beings
emigrated out of Africa onto all the continents of the then world, they

each created a language individual to their particular group. When did their alphabet follow? Or did it come first?

The National Geographic story also says English has 328 million first-language speakers. In many of the world’s tribal villages parents encourage their children to move away from the insular language of their ancestors, and towards languages that can offer better chances for education and success. “Prosperity, it seems, speaks English”, at the cost of losing minor languages. However, the most dominate language is Chinese, including all forms – 2.1 billion.

Wikipedia tells us that empirical evidence is limited in the study of language origins. At one point scholars declared the origins of language unsuitable for serious study. The emergence of language is so far back in history that it left no direct historical traces. Linguists, archaeologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and others began in the early 1990’s to address the problem with new methods, but have declared it is “the hardest problem in science.”

The two main approaches today are that language evolved slowly from

pre-linguistic systems, while the other is that language occurred quickly with Homo sapiens less than 200,000 years ago.
There are many theories within those approaches, but the controversy continues. And, how could it not with the following hypotheses and theories being debated for validity:

The ‘obligatory reciprocal altruism’ hypotheses –
If you speak truthfully to me, I will speak truthfully to you

The gossip and grooming hypotheses –
Manual grooming replaced by verbal grooming

Ritual/speech co-evolution –
Human symbolic culture as a whole

Gestural theory –
Language evolved from gestures

Putting the baby down theory
Human mothers had to put the baby down to forage, so they           expressed safety to the baby

Grammaticalisation theory –
Humans care less about niceties than making themselves understood

Self-domesticated ape theory –
Creating cultural niches that provide understandings key to survival

In 1871 Charles Darwin wrote, “I cannot doubt that language owes its

origin to the imitation and modification, aided by signs and gestures, of various natural sounds, the voices of other animals, and man’s own instinctive cries.”

Okay, it’s a known fact that all human populations have a language, but in each of those populations who was the first person to make the sound of a word? And what was it?

Getting back to the National Geographic magazine – it discusses some of the minor endangered languages. It tells how many first-language speakers there are remaining, and gives examples of words within those languages. There are 254 languages that have gone extinct just since 1960; they have no remaining speakers. There are hundreds more languages that are only spoken by the older members of the population.

There are some languages that are down to only one or two speakers: Wintu a native tongue in California, Siletz Dee-ni in Oregon, or Amurdak an Aboriginal tongue in Australia’s Northern Territory. As the story points out “A last speaker with no one to talk to exists in unspeakable solitude.”

In the Tuvan language the word anayim means “my little goat”, and in the Aka language the words nichleu-nuggo means “village counselor” or “wise, compassionate, tolerant.” I would love to know when and why the first Tuvanian uttered anayim when referring to his/her little goat? Who was he/she, and how did they decide on the sound that makes anayim? And that curiosity extends to all populations and languages.

And how about the English language; tells us that around 1000 B.C.E. there was a single language called “Proto-Germanic” everyone understood, but dialects emerged, people dispersed and those dialects became languages called Danish, Dutch, English, Faroese, German, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish.

Other sources say that the English language began when three Germanic Tribes (Angels, Saxons, and Jutes) entered the British Isles in the 5th century. It wasn’t until the 16th century when “Modern English” took hold. Since then words have entered the English language, both directly and indirectly, from no less than 16 other languages.

Even with all this information and knowledge I still don’t know why, where, and how each and every word in each and every language was first uttered, and who uttered it.

This is an unreachable quest, an impossible task, and a complete waste of time. However, I will always wonder. My father was curious about who the first person was that was brave enough to dig a potato out of the ground, and eat it. I suppose it’s hereditary.

By the way – when and who contrived kissing, or applause?

“I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.” Jane Wagner

Soaring Drug Prices

                                                      Soaring Drug Prices

Robert B. Jordan
Resident Grump

My May 2017 AARP Bulletin VOL. 58 has the front page story – “Why Our Drug Prices Are So High.” During the course of this blog I am going to take the liberty of using some of the material from the AARP Bulletin.

Have you seen all the news items of late telling of elderly people having to make decisions on whether to buy food, pay the rent or buy their prescribed medicines? That, in my view is criminal.

Let’s start with the operating profit margins for the eleven top companies in 2016 taken from AARP Bulletin VOL.58:
> AMGEN Drug Manufacturer (CEO and 29 vice presidents)          42.6%
> ABBVIE Drug Manufacturer (29,000 employees)                         30.6%
> JOHNSON & JOHNSON Drug Manufacturer (founded in 1886)     29.4%
> ROCHE HOLDING Drug Manufacturer (Swiss company)               27.8%
> Alphabet (parent of Google)                                                         26.3%
> PFIZER Drug Manufacturer (founded 1849)                                 26.0%
> Walt Disney                                                                                   25.8%
> Verizon                                                                                          21.5%
> ASTRAZENECA Drug Manufacturer (Swedish company)               21.3%
> Coca Cola                                                                                       20.6%
> MERCK Drug Manufacturer (German company)                           15.1%


Johnson & Johnson

Seven of the top eleven are drug manufacturers. Filling out the list, the 5 companies trailing are:
> General Electric                         14.4%
> American Airlines                      13.2%
> General Motors                           5.7%
> Exxon                                          3.7%
> Ford                                             2.7%
The average for S&P 500 companies in 2016 was 10.4%.

The drug manufacturers must be very profitable based on the number of TV ads they run. It seems that 90% of all TV ads are either automobiles or drugs. The commercials for drug companies contain long and complicated disclaimers.

“Every night I watch the nightly news. It’s funded by the pharmaceutical companies. Virtually every ad is a drug ad. They get their say every night on the nightly news through advertising.” Michael Moore

The US of A has the most expensive drugs in the world. Xarelto, from Johnson & Johnson, is a drug to thin blood to prevent blood clots, for each prescription it costs:
* $48.00 in South Africa
* $101.00 in Spain
* $102.00 in Switzerland
* $126.00 in the UK
* $292.00 in the US

“There is no disputing the fact that American consumers pay 30 to 300 percent more for the same prescription drugs as our counterparts in Canada, Europe, and in the rest of the world.” Michael K. Simpson

One month supply of Lipitor (from Pifzer) in the US costs $100.00, and in New Zealand $6.00. Twelve weeks supply of Sovaldi (from Gilead) in the us $84,000.00, and in Egypt $900.00. The cost of new drugs continues to skyrocket:
* The new cancer drug Bavencio (Pfizer) – $156,000.00 per year per patient
* A new muscular dystrophy drug – $300,000.00 annually
* Tecentrig (Roche) a new bladder cancer drug – $12,500.00 a month

Even older drugs are not immune:
* Between 2002 and 2013 the cost of Insulin tripled
* EpiPen (by Mylan) increased 500% since 2007

Leigh Purvis, the Director of Health Services Research for the AARP Public Policy Institute was asked how drug makers can charge so much. His answer was “Because there’s nothing stopping them.”


The New Gold

The supply of a new drug is controlled exclusively by the manufacturer, who owns the patent rights, which gives them a monopoly on the drug for the 20 year life of the patent. They are free to raise the prices to whatever the market can bear. An example – Evzio, (by Kaleo, Inc.) an auto-injected drug that is used for opioid overdose jumped to over $4,000.00 from $690.00 because the demand increased. And, these companies have become clever at strategies to extend their monopolies beyond the original expiration of its original patent.

Medicare, which is one of the largest purchasers of prescription drugs, is

blocked by law from negotiating prices. In 2006 with the advent of Part D, the pharmaceutical lobbyists convinced legislators that it would amount to price control if Medicare were able to negotiate prices.

                                          Pharmaceutical Lobbyist

The pharmaceutical industry says a major reason for high prices is the Research and Development process of bringing a new drug to market.

R&D is expensive in any market, but these guys claim it takes 10 years and $2.6 billion to bring just one new drug to market. However, the Journal of Health Economics reveals that only $1.4 billion is actual costs while the other $1.2 billion goes to capital costs, which smacks of bogus write offs. The research company Global Data says 8 out of the 10 big pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing than they do on research – all those TV ads.

Are there remedies? Yes says the AARP May Bulletin VOL. 58:
1 – Let Medicare negotiate prices. According to Carleton University of Ottawa, Canada, and Public Citizen, a public advocacy located in Washington, D.C., claim that letting Medicare negotiate prices would produce as much as $16 billion in savings.
2 – Remove the restrictions on importing drugs, which would put pressure on the drug companies to reduce prices.
3 – Create pricing transparency. The public has no idea how these companies price their products.

The following is taken verbatim from the AARP Bulletin #58.

At a nighttime rally in Louisville in late March, President Trump revisited a favorite campaign topic: the high cost of drugs.  “Medicine prices will be coming down, way down.” The new congress appeared to match the president’s fervor for taking on high drug prices, introducing several bills aimed at cutting the costs of prescription pharmaceuticals. But no clear path to reduced costs has yet emerged. “



Congress at Rest

This past Sunday night, June 4, 2017, MKelly’s “Sunday Night” show featured a story about Insys Therapeutics based in Chandler, ArizonInsys produces a drug called Subsys which was developed solely for cancer patients that experience severe pain. A month’s supply can cost anywhere from $3,000.00 to $30,000.00. In the past year Insys has sold $240 million dollars worth of Subsys. In December of 2016 seven former executives and managers from Insys were taken into custody on charges of bribing medical staffs in several states to prescribe their product – for all kinds of pain. The marketing was aggressive and illegal. In at least one instance Subsys was determined to be the cause of death. Employees of Insys gained bonuses for selling Subsys.

So, does any of this fit your idea of “The Greatest Country in the World,” ? No, then how about “The Greediest County in the World?”

                                           Money, Money, Money

“There is sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.” Mahatma Gandhi