BALTIMORE – “Who’s the president of the United States?”
Last night, we had an encounter with the U.S. health care system.
Your editor’s mother, 94, was having trouble breathing. So, we took her across Baltimore to an outfit called Patient First on the campus of The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
This was probably your editor’s fault.
On Monday, he had wheeled her all around town. She might have gotten a chill.
The idea was to explore the old “hood” by pushing her around in a wheelchair.
Mother grew up on Park Avenue in Baltimore, only about eight blocks north of where we live today.
So, we made our way up Charles Street… then over to Cathedral Street… and then across Martin Luther King Boulevard… finally turning up Park Avenue. She had been slumping down in the wheelchair, but as we neared the familiar streets, she perked up.
“I remember this house… and there’s the church where we used to go. Now, it’s a Presbyterian church. It used to be Episcopal.”
This was the Bolton Hill area of town – an area that had somehow kept itself together through the riots of 1968… the “White Flight” of the 1970s and 1980s… the corruption… the murders… the drug wars… the poverty… the inept government…
“Oh, look, there’s the drug store. I used to get ice cream cones there 80 years ago. And it’s still open!”
Now, the corner store is labeled a “pharmacy.” But it is little changed from long ago.
The houses and shops in the area – dating from the late 19th century – were well built. Still today, they are handsome townhouses, four stories high, made of brick. A few are double-wide mansions, with brownstone fronts.
“And there’s our house. It hasn’t changed one bit. On one side, down the hill, lived the Sullivans. They were rich. They had a full-time maid. On the other side, up the hill, were the Hollins. I don’t think they were so well off. It was the Depression. A lot of people were out of work.
“It was hard… my poor father. He didn’t say a word about it. He was always cheerful. But he lost everything. My mother didn’t find out until her sister sent her a letter of sympathy. She’d read about it in the paper. My father had to sell the house. That was how we ended up down on the farm.”
In the middle of the street is a wide, grassy strip with a pool in the center.
“That’s the fish pond,” said Mother. “We used to play around it. And we made scooters out of boxes and roller skates. The big boys would fly down the hill. We had such fun.”
Somehow, the neighborhood resisted the Great Depression, and then both urban blight and urban renewal. Fortunately for Bolton Hill, the improvers focused their efforts elsewhere.
Down the street, for example, there’s a large apartment and shopping complex. Nearby, too, is the Maryland Institute College of Art, which seems to have grown by leaps and bounds. But at least this section of Park Avenue remained untouched, unimproved, and un-messed up.
Much of what passes for progress is a fraud.
Like mutant animal species, the fruit is often sterile… an evolutionary dead end. One building is torn down. An even uglier one is put up in its place.
“And look how pretty it is here. I’d forgotten,” Mother continued.
“I remember this from when I was 16 years old. But it hasn’t changed. Look, the cherry trees are blooming. And the wisteria is almost out. Nothing has changed. It’s lovely. I haven’t been back here for 40 years. I’m glad to see it one last time.”
But the outing had a price. Mother began coughing the next day.
Yesterday, it was time to seek professional help.
“Your mother has a very irregular heartbeat,” explained the doctor, an attractive, self-assured woman whom we took for an immigrant from India.
“And her breathing is very strained. We better check her into the hospital. There may be nothing we can do, but we better run some tests.”
“Hmmm… let’s ask her first,” we replied.
“Mom, the doctor thinks you should to the hospital. Your heartbeat is irregular. She thinks there is a chance you could have a heart attack at any time.”
“I want to go home,” came the answer.
But that wasn’t the end of it…
“Yes, but your mother is 94,” the doctor continued. “She may not be thinking clearly. This is very serious. When I see an EKG like that, I get very nervous.”
“Sounds clear enough to me,” we insisted. “She wants to go home.”
“Yes, but maybe you should reason with her.”
“I think her position is very reasonable. It’s not as though you are going to cure her of old age. She wants to be with her family as long as possible and then make a graceful exit. She’s told me that many times.
“Mom,” we tried to clarify matters for the doctor, “the doctor thinks something bad might happen if you’re not in the hospital.”
“Like what?” Mother asked in feeble voice.
“Like you might die.”
Mother smiled. “Is that all?”
“Well…” the doctor wouldn’t let go, “we can’t let her out of here unless she signs a waiver of responsibility. She has to recognize that she is leaving against our medical advice. And I don’t know if she’s mentally competent to sign that kind of waiver.”
“What? She’s perfectly competent.”
Mother had listened to this conversation warily. She wanted no further medical intervention. But she didn’t want to make a fuss about it.
“Doctor… just ask her a few questions to satisfy yourself about her mental state,” we suggested.
“Okay… Ms. Bonner… what is your full name?
“Anne Billard Bonner.”
“And what year were you born? “
“What year is it now?”
“Who’s the president of the U.S.?”
“…just kidding. It’s Obama.”
BY CHRIS LOWE, EDITOR AT LARGE
This wasn’t supposed to happen…
In theory, negative rates are supposed to send investors out of a currency, in search of higher rates elsewhere.
This is supposed to lead to higher inflation.
But when the Bank of Japan dropped rates into negative territory at the end of January… its plan backfired.
As you can see from today’s chart, the yen just hit a 17-month high versus the dollar.
Meanwhile, the rate of annual consumer price inflation remains barely above zero…
Stop Hackers From Emptying Your Bank Account
Imagine logging into your bank account and seeing a balance of zero. Thanks to today’s digitized financial system, it’s a real threat. Here’s how to stop this from happening.
Oil Prices Just Charged Past $40 on OPEC Deal Hopes
Oil prices have broken above $40 a barrel. Investors are betting that a deal to freeze production will be struck when OPEC oil producers meet in Qatar on April 17.
11 Ways to Cut Your Taxes in Retirement
Uncle Sam doesn’t stop taxing you just because you’re retired. You may be taxed on Social Security benefits. Traditional IRAs face income tax. But here are strategies to slash taxable income…
Bill’s Diary issue on his favorite way to own gold really got readers thinking and asking questions.
First of all, thank you for the insight and you point of view. My question is how or what to own in gold? Do I buy gold coins and if so which ones; old ones or new ones or collectables? I have wanted to for years to do this and now that I have a few bucks extra to put away I would like to do the right thing.– David M.
So, where does the smart average “Joe” buy the gold being talked about, whether coin or other type? Certainly not coin dealers, yes?– Mark B.
Why wouldn’t silver be better than gold? Since silver has a high correlation to gold prices… if gold doubles then what do silver prices do from here – triple or more? What are your recommendations for silver purchase?– George D.
Is gold better than silver? It is easier to get silver for me.– Dick S.
You mention the need to buy GOLD. My query is: Why do you not also mention SILVER? Is there some dastardly plot afoot to squelch the value of that noble metal? Please let us know your thoughts on this. (I own silver coins, thus my interest.) Many thanks!– Mary B.
Where and how is it best way to buy physical gold? What type of coin? Bars? What about Platinum? Silver? Thank you.– John M.
In the article, “Our favorite way to own Gold,” there was good info on the credit crisis to come. BUT there was nothing specific and USEABLE on the best way to buy gold. Just something about flipping a gold coin to your grandson.
This subscriber really is pretty busy and would appreciate a bit less general info and more substantive useable recommendations.– Georg S.
Chris comment: A lot of great questions. For expert answers, we turned to the team at Casey Research. Headed by legendary resource speculator Doug Casey, they’re the smartest precious metals investors we know.
We spoke to the folks at Casey about the questions we’ve gotten from readers on gold and silver. And they agreed to give Diary readers access to the 2016 Gold Investor’s Guide and The Beginner’s Guide to Investing in Silver.
Please enjoy, with compliments from Doug Casey and his team
Bill and his top analyst, Chris Mayer, have released part two of their video training series about Chris’ investing strategy – a strategy he’s used to beat “super investor” Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway 2-to-1 over the last decade.
For instant access to these videos, join Chris’ exclusive email list by clicking here.