My Living Will: Take Medicare Down, FOR ME!

My Living Will

I set forth the following as instructions to my family and caregivers, and the taxpayers of the United States of America, to be followed in the event that I should become unable to express my own wishes on the subject of medical treatment.

Should I be afflicted with Alzheimer’s, stroke, brain damage, or other debility, I direct Medicare, doctors and hospitals to keep me alive by mechanical devices, pharmaceuticals or treatments, regardless of the cost. No expense is to be spared. No matter how many years I have been comatose, provide me with the best and latest. Allow no infection, influenza or pneumonia to cause my demise. I want every possible action to be undertaken. Do not “not resuscitate”. If my organs or joints weaken, replace them. For example, even if I show no interest in walking, I insist on hip and knee replacements.

Provide me with advanced lenses and hearing aids even if my body has long since lost sensory perception. Feed me, oxygenate me. Whatever can be done must be done.

My children are not to be burdened by the cost. I expect them to mask my fortune so that it may not be sacrificed for the expense. The kids are to have their inheritances.

If the executors named in my trust documents resign and no one can be found to carry out the dictates of this will, I name Nancy Pelosi, or the successor to her current post, from her political party.

I demand this. I expect the full force of the budget of the United Sates of America to be brought to bear on my behalf. Even if the costs seem too high, pursue whatever measures can be conceived. Such measures could extend to repealing the Emancipation Proclamation, nationalizing the income of all rock stars and sport heroes, or selling the fighter jets of the United States Air Force to Osama Bin Laden.

This is my living will. The people are bound to it, by my demand.

Signed, Sealed, and Witnessed:

Thomas L. Burnett

Ecuador rocks!

Ecuador Journal

 

 

Sept 17, 2006. Traveled from Bozeman to SLC with the Strobels. They generously purchased gas at Ennis for the Camry. I drove most of the way. They also purchased a meal for me at the Chuck-A-Rama in Bountiful.

I learned of Phillips Environmental products and Strobel’s microorganisms and the role they play in degrading human waste.

We discussed world travel, good places like Ireland and Israel and Australia and boring or less great places like India, Egypt, Morocco and Greece. He and Susan have been to jungles 8-14 times.

Costa Rica bananas. The organism Gary discovered that controls candida in the human gastrointestinal tract also helps against a major banana disease, sigatoka. A Dole executive expressed interest in Phillip’ products for their farm workers so they do not have to soil spinach fields with waste and the resultant E. coli. Gary asked if I’d like to go to on another, similar trip. Maybe he and Suzan would plan a trip for Bozeman Stake members to Costa Rica.

 

He asked what my post-business plans are. (Music, literature, research, political reform.) We spoke of FDA procedures and European approvals. Drug companies are abandoning infectious diseases for exotic, marketable enhancements, the kinds of products that are advertised in Reader’s Digest. Gary mentioned FDA, OSHA, and EPA with some disdain, as impediments to good business and opportunity. In China you just start your business without troublesome agencies hassling you – a good thing, he thought. The USA is starting to stifle entrepreneurs, China to free them. He was afraid of China’s possible imperial plans and tendency. An organism had been cleared by the FDA for use in human food but could not be automatically cleared for use in toilets. How ridiculous! Years and much trouble would have to go by prior to approval. He persuaded them to clear it.

 

He and Susan could see how justice could grow up out of local customs without the monopoly of a king or government. This is Benson’s theme in The Enterprise of Law, which I will finish reading on this trip. He mentioned Montana’s Vigilantes, and Meyerhoffer in Three Forks.

 

If I were running for president, I would promise that everyone would pay at most $30 to fill up with gas. Why should anyone have to pay $50 to fill up when they are only earning $50,000 a year? (Tomas in Quito told what riots erupted when the Ecuador government wanted to allow the price of bottled propane to go from $1 to $5 per bottle. Politicians have to find ways to privatize and allow prices to prevail in markets, but commodities that everyone interacts with daily are a sore spot. Even here, in the U.S., politicians are supposed to intervene when petrol goes to $3.00 per gallon. Lots of people don’t think prices should fluctuate.)

 

MJ and Jeff told of an exhibit at Boston Science Museum of body art. Dead bodies are plasticized. Some are in athletic poses. One was “Drawer Man”, and had his body sectioned so that you could pull out a rectangular solid right out of his abdomen and slide it back in. Some are cut in half. People will their bodies to the “artist”. MJ thinks he is weird. There are few human remains in the BSM, from the ancient past.

 

Jeff Cameron is a PhD student in plant biochemistry. He has seen chloroplast appendages with sulfur compounds attached that no one else has. He will publish. He is learning how redox works. Brian Phillips is VP sales and marketing at Phillips Environmental. His fiance is Pamela. She loved Cuzco, Peru. Bonnie Posselli is a landscape artist from SLC. Carlos is our tour organizer. He has three travel companies. Scott Strobel leads in his field of rNA research at Yale. His son, Ben, 17, is with us. John Tengelsen is taking a “year for himself”, taking botany and working in dinosaur digs. He wants to pursue life sciences. He missed it in college, he was so focused on engineering.

 

Gary thought buying a house in Brazil would be inferior to traveling to different locations. He praised a friend who bought a mountainside with 4,000 year old trees that were endangered. The Chilean government made other federal land housing the trees un-loggable and forbids cutting the species in any other locale.

Suzan spent one night in a room full of spiders and webs on one of their trips. This bothered her greatly though she is not afraid of tarantulas. Gary has 20 digeredoos. Players use them to tell stories. They come pitched. They cannot play harmonics. Gary joined the Church in Sweden on his way to Russia in 1960. He was horrified by Stalin’s Russia: “a total obliteration of the human spirit”. He recommends I watch more TV and videos for what can be experienced through them, and so that I might better write soundtrack music.

 

Gary recommends that I read Guns, Germs and Steel even though some of Diamond’s observations about Montana seemed uninformed, over-stated, not to point to a conclusion, and, by the report of one of Gary’s friends, the section on Easter Island had wrong conclusions. I could write an article titled Montana’s Great Disruption: How the Ranching and Mining Way of Life Disappeared. CRP and the Great Invasions from the West, Pressure from the East, (that is, from Washington, D.C).

Tuesday. Played frisbee with Ben and Jeff at the city park in Quito. This entertained other park visitors. We saw three transvestites on the airplane yesterday. Thin hips, broad bosoms, deep voices.

Today in the “cloud forest”, Percy, the Peruvian botanist, and Tomas, our guide, told us of a “living fossil”, a plant that is from 200 million years ago. Jeff, the PhD student from Missouri stopped frequently for pictures of fungi. Strobel collected samples. Each may yield 30-40 organisms of the type he is interested in. We watched youth not in school and women doing laundry by hand on our bus ride to and from Pasochoa Reserve.

 

Tomas told of the average wage of $320 per month. Minimum wage is $160 per month. Professionals make $700-800. Students train for medicine in Argentina and don’t come back. Tomas calls it a “brain drain”. The cost of living is high relative to their wages. The streetscape below is much more modern than below the Hotel Grao in Belem. Ecuador took the US dollar as their currency in 2000. Overall, it is a very good thing for the economy, reports Tomas. Problems with revolutionaries, prostitutes and laundered money coming in from Colombia are abetted by the currency, though. Agrarian reforms occurred in 1960 and 1974. Tenants got 12 hectares with free titles. I asked, but couldn’t find out who decided who got which piece, and who forced the landowner to do it, and how much was confiscated, how the program worked.

 

Cars that are imported suffer a 100% duty. People don’t complete their houses for two reasons: They build as they can afford materials, and they don’t have to pay taxes if they are incomplete. I hear, on the street, standard Nokia cell phone ring tones, just like mine.

Of the 130 office spaces in Ed. Rio Amazonas across the street from the Hotel Mercure, 60 are still lit. It is 6:30 p.m. Many workers are working late. Carlos, our Cuenca guide, estimated that many people work 50-60 hours a week if they are trying to “get ahead”. The temperature in Quito ranges from 58-72 degrees most of the year. The day is 12 hours long, with a 3-5 minute variation depending on the solstice.

Percy claims to be ½ Inca. The Inca are spiritual. He once collected 20,000 plants for Washington University in St. Louis over an eight year period. I asked him how to save the rain forest. He said to “get involved!”, but didn’t elaborate. He complains that the big environmental outfits spend their money on offices and ad campaigns.

 

Strobel knows someone in Indonesia who knows the traditional names for hundred of plants, no Latin genus names, and what they are good for. No one has cataloged them. I may like to engage in this work, or fund and organize an effort to do so.

 

September 20, 2006. We took a bus ride to and past the Middle of the World Monument, then to the edge of a volcano crater. A house and 10 acres on the valley floor of the volcano, was for sale for $40,000. Tomas, the guide, thought it was a good deal and he coveted it. We drove up here, to the Bella Vista Lodge, stopping in at a private reserve where the owner tends 2,000 kinds of orchids. We saw hundreds of orchids/epiphytes from a trail that only covered a couple of hundred yards. On the bus ride I questioned MJ, the museum exec from Boston Science Museum, about the propriety of museums holding objects “out of place” like Norman conquest shields that might be displayed anywhere except in SE England. She knows that this is debated in other museums, but BSM is not that kind of museum.

 

At this lodge we reveled watching and photographing hummingbirds, dozens of kinds. Tonight the moths are plentiful and fantastically various. Lunch today was trout. A slice of tomato excelled for taste. Tomatoes, (Solanacaea) are indiginous to the Andes, as are potatoes, from the same family. Tonight we had spinach soup and tomato/squash dish. Fabulous. Our hike today, including the un-environmental slosh ½ mile up a stream course, was strenuous, punctuated by many discoveries.

 

I asked Percy if preservation totally precludes oil drilling and production. He didn’t say. He said Shell likes to be known as a “green” company, but they only partially succeed, in his estimation. I captured a beautiful beetle today. We saw the volcano Cotapaxi in full glory today, from afar. The ravines we drove through, and hiked through were extremely steep. The highway is a recently completed marvel. Its construction is anything but environmentally benign.

Residents, on the floor of the volcano, where Tomas pointed out the $40,000 house, haul their potatoes and corn via donkey up to the parking lot where our bus stopped. Such a long, ascending way to walk!

 

Percy named a dozen plants within the cast of a yard. “It’s like the plants talk to me.” He asked Strobel if he thought he, Percy, was crazy for saying the plants talk to him. Strobel said, “no”.

At dinner John, Bonnie and I wondered out loud if the rising generation , the ones we know in the US, would be wise and resilient. We decided they are smart, wary, spoiled and that they probably would rise to challenging occasions, in spite of their obvious softness. Bonnie said, “I hope they can save the earth. We sure messed it up.” Many assumptions and judgments lie within those words.

 

Half of our hike (at Bella Vista) was in secondary forest, regrowth from the clear-cut that had occurred in 1950 to make pasture. I couldn’t tell the difference between it and the primary forest that we hiked through on the second half of the hike. I’m sure the plant diversity was less, but who knows by how much? Both halves were lush, varied and tangled. I suppose species variety would suffer if , say, 50% of every valley was logged, but how much is anyone’s guess. Tomas says if workers don’t hack the trails clear every 15-30 days, they disappear. We were careful not to pluck plants, (I stole a few leaves and slipped them into the pages of my notebook), except for Strobel’s collections. But all around us leaves were falling, branches tearing off. What would it have hurt if we had taken a few bushels out? We hastened erosion by walking in creeks. You cannot steady yourself without rubbing moss and epiphytes off secropia or bamboo. We got here in a diesel-belching bus on a dirt road that was built by heavy equipment and chain saws. Environmental morality is a hard thing to make absolute. Our footsteps crush rumeria and Deadman’s Fingers.

 

I woke up in this “cloud forest”, in an Austrian-looking lodge of Bella Vista. Had breakfast. Watched a toucan from the balcony. Watched the stars last night, punctuated by lightning, the camera flash of heaven. The jungle on our walk yesterday had a solemn, reverential, temple-like feeling to it. Today: bus ride back to Quito, through Quito, to the Old City, past a cathedral 160 years in the building and not yet complete, and to the Companion of Christ church, begun in 1605. It, too, took 160 years to build. Spain seized it when the Jesuits got too powerful. Had fabulous “locro”, which is potato soup, for lunch. We bought “fair trade” items. I shopped for shoes with my elementary Spanish. They didn’t have any in size 13. John and I bought pan pipes and T-shirts. We decided to vote for Cynthia for president. The election is in 22 days. Tomas says interest rates go up prior to elections and things get tense because so much can change with property rights and taxes when governments change. They kick out presidents who don’t fulfill campaign promises. Susan and Carlos think that is good. I disagree. More stability is needed. Percy seemed taken in by the mural in the church. It illustrated and labeled various sins and their punishments. Sinners were being punished in hell. We Latter-day Saints have a more psychological view of hell, and much less reliance on it as a behavior modifier than that Catholics do. The mural showed a beast taking a bite out of a man’s side, and a man drinking acid.

 

September 23, 2006. Today is Gary Strobel’s birthday. I think he is 67 or thereabouts. I swam down the Kapawi River. It is 5-6 meters deep and slow-moving. It harbors leaches on the bottom, according to Percy. On our raft ride, Scott was asking permission for 15 Yale students to collect if they came here. Juan Carlos said “sure”, but Jorge said to ask the president of the federated native communities.

 

I talked to Atoaldo. His name is Incan and he is a royal descendant- a warrior, according the English teacher here. This being descended from the Inca thing may be a little hard to believe since, when the Spaniards came, the Incas had had such a savage civil war that there were 15 women for every man, so there is at most 50% Inca even in that first generation, probably much less now, four hundred years later! And to cast them as the hapless victims of Spanish aggression is far-fetched, both because of the civil war wherein they wiped themselves out, and the fact that 60 years prior to that, they had been the imperialists, coming in and conquering the Canarys. Atolado initiated the conversation by asking, “What is your name?” as we passed on the boardwalk. It was daring of him, inasmuch as he had had only one English lesson. We pieced together a conversation in Portu-Spanish and a little English. The teacher , a young fellow from South Africa, was very happy when I reported this to him.

 

The bird of the Kapawi Lodge logo is ancient, dumb, and not tasty. We saw some as we swam in the river.

 

Today’s hike included edible and medicinal plants, vines, and stories about a man and his wife and the vine to heaven, and an explanation of how poisonous darts are made. (The process is so toxic that they keep children out of the vicinity because of the fumes that are created. They can self-regulate without even needing the oversight of Congress! Incomprehensible!) We located ginger and an onion-smelling leaf for culinary use, learned how to mark trails and point out overhead fruit to others by means of pointers, saw tree frogs, learned how to bang on flared tree bottoms to direct rescuers when you are lost, and had “walking trees” pointed out to us.

 

I searched the library. No Bible. No Bible! I can’t imagine any collection of books, or any place that is self-contained like this little village without a Bible. I left my triple combination in Quito to save weight, expecting a general interest library to include a Bible, and some Shakespeare. I’ll have to rely on memory.

 

I am out of touch with my standard life, wandering in a strange land, sweltering, straining into the unfamiliarity, hiking. Psychologically uprooted. The biological input is tremendous; plants, birds, butterflies, spiders, beetles, ferns, fungus. The lodge is rustic in the extreme. Scott and Ben’s cabin has a tarantula on the ceiling just outside the screen. Gary and Suzan’s cabin had a bat trying to escape all night, banging their bed nets. I am cut off from all things familiar with the exception of a few friends. My routine in business, church work, recreation, study, music and correspondence with our children, working with Melani, all are worlds away. I feel like I have been dropped into a different universe. No phone, computer, internet, radio, newspaper. No duties except the duty of common courtesy. No service to render. No To Do list. Few indulgements, though the food is exotic and mostly very tasty. Wet boots. A language barrier with the locals. No purpose except to observe, memorize, and ask questions. So many “Wow!” moments.

 

Last night’s hike was great. 2 guides, Jeff and I went. Large spiders, frogs, mating walking sticks. The others’ lanterns were powerful. Jeff is prepared for everything. He is an experienced jungle explorer, having toured Madagascar two years ago, this month, with Strobel.

I don’t understand the prohibition on plant collection. The plants regenerate instantly. They abound. If millions of collectors came here and used the same trails, it may necessitate a permit system but a few hundred in a summer can do no harm. Paranoia, innumeracy, a misplaced pride of ownership, lack of real property rights, fear of offending your constituents (if you are a regulator), and threats to your prestige all play into the prohibitions.

 

I was a little queasy getting to Kapawi. Even commercial, large-plane flights strain me. It turns out that we almost had a runway collision with a single engine plane as we landed. Luckily that pilot noticed and vacated the strip just in time.

I so wish my daughters could be here. They would be so fun to watch and be entertained by, observing their wonder and pranks.

 

There is a bird here at Kapawi that I call the goat bird. I base this on the bleating sound it makes. No rain so far. That could make the strain even more.

 

September 24, 2006. Sunday. This is the first Sabbath since my 18th year that I have been unable to attend a Sacrament Meeting with the Saints. I regret it. I am almost always edified there. Today the activity was hiking leisurely through the jungle, and besides identifying the plants, hearing Jorge describe native ways, such as how to build a blow gun. Then we had a picnic lunch. Then we visited the Ishwipo village. Five families live there. The head man hosted us. We were handed manioc beer by his wife. It had been pre-chewed by her prior to fermentation. I was glad to have the excuse of my religion that forbids the taking of alcoholic beverages! The formalities of the occasion were precise.

 

The head man had a red and yellow headdress and thin-walled, long funnels penetrating his ear lobes. I don’t think he left his chair, rather a throne, at all while we were there. He had a shotgun within easy reach. A blow gun completed his arsenal. A log drum hung at an angle. A very crude violin that was incapable of music dangled. It looked like a block of wood carved with a machete. The beds slanted. He was father of 15. A perpetual fire smoldered. He gave us a very long explanation of the source of fire when all Brian wanted was to know how they normally start fires. Some of the tubs were plastic and some of the clothes were American cast-offs but otherwise the mode of life was ancient and backward. The foods were chicken, manioc, palm hearts and bananas and other fruit. They had an air strip. Carlos Fida, our trip organizer, who has been to many native villages in his career, said he has never seen any village so pre-historic. This one was 600-700 years more ancient than other ones he has seen.

 

Carlos says he doubts very much that transferring Kapawi Lodge to FINEA, the federation of native communities, or the Ashuar people themselves, will work. Kapawi is already going downhill from what he saw a few years ago, in terms of maintenance. Conodros Travel Company has split it off from their Galapagos operation, though they continue to subsidize it. This operation will need expert business management. It needs marketing, accounting, legal skill. Carlos predicted that within a couple of years after the transfer, some disgruntled neighboring tribe will set fire to the place. It will be sad evidence that communal ownership is doomed.

 

Today Percy found a 300 million year old, “living fossil”, a cycad. Until today it was not even known to exist in this entire region. The specimen itself was probably 400 years old. It was only 8-9’ tall, rather slender like a type of Arizona cactus.

Meeting Paul D’Angelo has been a pleasure. He is evangelical, a libertarian and a reader. He perceived similar interests in me and broached the subject. Our interests include fatherlessness, Marvin Olasky, Leon Kass, C.S. Lewis, welfare problems, love for God, book clubs. We will correspond a little from our homes.

 

Looking through the library books of plants and mushrooms, I saw many that we have stopped to name from our various hikes. That makes me feel like I am gaining some familiarity.

I have prayed.

A summary of our time at Kapawi:

Day 1: Arrive, canoe to sand bar, night hike.

Day 2: Clay lick boat ride, Easy hike, Swim down river.

Day 3: Hike, Picnic lunch, Ishpigo village, boat home in the rapidly falling darkness and beautiful sunset.

Day 4: Fly to Quito

 

Next day.

We visited a high mountain area where, if the clouds had lifted, we could have seen Antisana volcano. We were at 12,500 feet. As we drove, John and I conversed about taxes, health insurance for employees, environmental policy, his family and mine, church topics, and his quest. It was cold up there. The hacienda we visited was very interesting. Humboldt lived or stayed there. We saw a somewhat rare purple-headed hummingbird.

 

Employees of Kapawi pay 9% deduction to central government social security. Rent at the hip clothing store, where the dimensions might have been 15’x30’, was $800 per month. Tomas said police bribes are common with street officers, less so with officers higher up the chain of command. Public schools are of low quality. Public hospitals, too. You have to push to get prescribed generic drugs instead of name brands. Tomas and his wife make $2,000-2,300 in a good month. They pay $371 for two kids in private schools and $160 for a nanny for the baby. They have a 10 year mortgage on their house at 9.5% interest. He made a large down payment. His wife is a website designer for a university. She can’t afford the new computer that would be needed to do a home business. His income fluctuates based on tourism demand, and the tips. Average wage in Quito is $400 per month. The laptop computers John and I saw in Guayaquil were $3,800! That must reflect high import tariffs. They are a serious impediment to economic development.

 

September 27, 2006. Just arrived in Guayaquil after descending the Andes from the highest point of 14,000’ at the pass. Now we are at 18’. We passed banana, rice, cocoa, mango, teak and sugar fields. houses were on stilts. A black laborer slept on a 2”x12” plank on a pickup truck’s roof rack as the driver jostled their way at 45 mph toward town. The sleeper could fall off! The National Forest of Cajas was spectacular in craggy beauty. Cold. We heard of some of Percy’s trials with plant collection permits. One time 3 policemen stopped him and threatened to prosecute. Percy threw the leaves in the river, saying, “There are your plants. Go get them.” One officer tore off his shirt and wanted to fist fight.

 

Percy’s family owns 4,000 acres, and a couple of smaller pieces of land in Cusco or Lima. But the title is insecure. It all depends on who is in power in the government. The Amazon Indians don’t really own their land. According to Percy, it seems more like they have a “lease” to it. I asked who will inherit his mother’s land. I understood him to say he would. That was when he clarified the uncertain status of the title. Uncertainty of this kind is another roadblock to economic development.

 

Cuenca City manages Cajas Park, an arrangement that goes back only about 6 years. They are much better managers than the central government was, according to Carlos, our guide. Cuenca is the only city in Ecuador that treats its sewage water before discharging it in the river.

 

Our guide, Carlos, father of an eight month-old boy, was very proud of Cajas. He had a health-food approach to clearing up some problems he had. We talked about Marathon Biological, weed problems in general, and the 100,000 introduced goats in the Galapagos. 20,000 have been shot by government snipers, to try to rid the islands of them. They are eating the food the highly profitable – from a tourism point of view – turtles need.

Guayaquil is the “economic powerhouse” of the country. Pudginess is more common here. So are the women who wear scanty tops. One of the books I read prior to the trip called Quito the conservative, Catholic area, and Guayaquil the modern, less religious region.

 

Collecting was approved in Cajas. We saw a “living fossil”: Merlin’s Grass.

Our bus stopped at the roadside and we got a cocoa pod. The beans reside in a white pulp that is very tasty. From Quito to Cuenca, (a couple days back), we flew over the volcano Cotopaxi. The view was stunning. Before leaving Cuenca for Cajas, we bought pastries at a bakery and visited the gallery of a famous artist. One of his works, The Tree of Life, looked like it could be based on Lehi’s dream. Perhaps the artist is LDS.

 

The cathedral at Cuenca was immense and grand, gilded, with huge arches. Beggars plied their spots. MJ bought lemon hand cream from the cloistered nuns, through a wooden portal which keeps the parties to the transaction from seeing each other.

We are flooded by sights and sounds and new experiences. It can be overwhelming!

 

September 29, 2006. How does Jeff have all this money? He is a PhD student at Washington University in St. Louis. It must come from his parents. His dad is a consultant to some billionaires, mostly from the high tech fields, who roam looking for opportunities. Jeff is very interesting, funny, knowledgeable and curious.

 

We ate at the Blue Snail last night. Four waiters hovered. Carlos bought the appetizers.

 

Yesterday we toured the Dry Forest Cerro Blanco. It is owned, funded and operated by Holcim Cement company, the very company that is so berated in the Gallatin Valley for proposing an environmental tragedy like burning tires in their kiln. The Dry Forest is proof that conservation can prosper in the hands of the private sector. The orchid reserve, Bella Vista Hummingbird forest, Kapawi Lodge and Cerro Blanco were all privately owned. Cajas was managed by Cuenca, and it thrived compared to the treatment it had under central government management. I discussed this with Gary Strobel. He agreed that the private areas we had visted were exemplary. I was trying to point out that private efforts can often be better than government parks and conservation measures. He mentioned a couple of fine private reserves in Madagascar that were in great shape. He thinks the National Parks in the U.S. are in good shape because, “taxpayers demand Congress to keep them good”. He says the Soviet Union in the 1960’s was the worst thing he’s seen, apparently referring to environmental degradation as well as other aspects of society and the economy. It entailed a “complete crushing of the human spirit”. He properly attributes that to lack of incentives (profit motive) to provide excellence. His sentiment apparently applied to nature conservancy, social observations and the economic realm equally.