Some Good News

I was having coffee with one of my best friends and discussing my frustrations over the number of readers I’ve attracted during the last year. Between 150-200 folks usually read my posts but I had hoped to have lots more by now. Yes…I’m sure it is my ego at work. Doesn’t EVERYONE want to read my musings?

My friend suggested that maybe people are just tired of all the negative stuff going on in the country and the world, and since I tend to focus on some of that negative stuff maybe that partially explains why I’m not getting more readers.

Here are some things about which to be happy and optimistic:

  • In 1820 almost everyone on the planet lived in some level of poverty and very few people actually had higher standards of living. Poverty rates have steadily declined during the last 200 years even as the planet’s population increased seven times. In 1820 about 94% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty but by 2015 that number had dropped to 9.6%. In 1836 the world’s richest man, Nathan Rothschild, died of an infection that almost everyone on the planet would have treated today.
  • The world’s population is becoming more literate. In 1820 only 12% of the planet’s inhabitants were literate and today that number is 83%. This has obviously been a consequence of increased access to education across the plane.
  • Although American life expectancy rates have actually dropped the last two years, mostly because of the opioid crisis, life expectancy rates have risen steadily across the planet in recent decades and that trend is expected to continue. Women tend to live longer than men because they are less likely to abuse alcohol, use tobacco, or engage in other harmful behaviors as are men. By 2030 the average woman will live more than 85 years and women in South Korea will live past 90. Overall, life expectancy on the planet has almost doubled in the last 100 years.
  • Artificial Intelligence capabilities are being developed that have improved and will increasingly improve our lives in numerous ways. You can read this cool story on Watson, the IBM AI being used to diagnose diseases and much more. Yes…the TV ads on Watson are accurate (but annoying). Many of industry’s most dangerous jobs could eventually be replaced by AI driven robots that can perform tasks more efficiently and safely.
  • Michael Brown, a 17 year old senior from Texas, was accepted by all the top 20 universities in the United States and offered full scholarships at each. That includes admission and free tuition to every Ivy League school, Stanford, and Vanderbilt. No student has previously accomplished this. And everyone says he’s a good, well-rounded young man. And he wants to major in Political Science!
  • Contrary to popular belief, American homicide rates have actually declined during the last two decades or so. American homicide rates peaked during the 1970’s, 80’s, and early 90’s then began dropping significantly. According to this research, homicide rates were much higher during America’s early colonial period.
  • Larotrectonib, a new cancer drug, “was effective in 93% of pediatric patients tested” and had a 75% response rate in adults. Whereas most cancer drugs target a specific organ or affected area, this drug may actually treat a variety of cancers. Read this story about a 13 year old girl whose life was saved by Larotrectonib.
  • Because humans decided to establish policies phasing out chemicals used in aerosol cans, refrigerator coolant, and air conditioning systems, the Earth’s ozone layer is actually recovering. The use of chloroflurocarbons was causing the ozone layer to thin, so humans were at greater risk of skin cancers, plant growth was inhibited, and more. This intervention is proof that we can actually solve environmental and other problems if we have the resolve to do so.
  • Because of increased sex education in at least some American states and because of other forms of sex education, teen pregnancy rates have been on a steady decline in recent years after teen birth rates hit an all time high in 1991. Research indicates that more teens are abstaining from sex and more are using birth control when they do have sex. Colorado reduced teen pregnancy rates by 40% and abortion rates by 35% when a law providing free birth control was passed.
  • In the average developed country taxes are a 34% share of gross domestic product. American taxes are only 24% of GDP. In fact almost every developed country has a higher rate of taxation than does the United States.
  • The sun is expected to burn steadily for another 5.4 billion years. That is a good thing because solar power is quickly becoming the Earth’s most affordable form of energy. New technology and materials will make it even more affordable and accessible in the future.
  • As much as I sometimes question its value, the number of people with access to the internet has increased from 16 million in 1995 to almost 4.2 billion today. This matters because more people have access to information and also may begin to understand that those we previously thought were enemies are in fact people just like us. We truly do have the opportunity to become a world village. The internet may certainly be used for evil causes as well, but I would like to think that with increased knowledge comes the opportunity for increased awareness. As you know, I am a dreamer.
  • The number of people dying in wars has steadily declined since the 1940’s and that number is currently at its lowest level in seven decades.

My wife and I have traveled to numerous countries and I have visited at least 46 American states. Everywhere I go I find people who are kind, generous, funny, and loving. I continue to believe that almost all humans are basically good but that those who aren’t get all the press coverage.

Thank you for reading my blog.

And thanks for making me consider happier news in at least one post, Julie!


Back in July the Trump administration cut more than $200 million from about 80 programs nationwide that are working to prevent teen pregnancy. This decision was lost in the other political turmoil surrounding the White House this summer, but the consequences of the cuts are significant.

Here are important facts according to the Guttmacher Institute:

  • Almost half of American teenagers are sexually active (that means almost half admit to being sexually active).
  • The average age for American teenagers’ first sexual experience is 17.
  • About 15% of American teenagers report having sex for the first time prior to turning 15 years of age.
  • American and European teenagers are equally active sexually, but European teens are more likely to use birth control and have lower teen pregnancy rates.
  • According to a Centers for Disease Control survey about 10% of teenagers had sex with multiple partners during the twelve months prior to the survey.
  • About half of all American sexually transmitted infections (STI) occur in those aged 24 and younger. That age group incurred about 9.7 million infections in 2008 and also accounts for a little more than 20% of HIV infections.
  • Adolescents account for about 15% of all unintended pregnancies.
  • In 2013 American adolescents had approximately 110,000 abortions.
  • Abortion is pregnant teenagers’ choice only 24% of the time. They choose to take the baby to term 61% of the time, meaning more times than not these teenagers become single mothers.


  • The number of teenage girls using contraception rose from 48% in 1982 to 79% in 2011.
  • In 1980, 118 per 1,000 teenaged girls became pregnant each year but in 2013 that number reached the record low of 43 pregnancies per 1,000. However, the pregnancy rates vary significantly by state. New Mexico, for example, has a teen pregnancy rate of 62 per 1,000 whereas New Hampshire’s rate is only 22 per 1,000.
  • Between 1985 and 2007 the number of teenagers having abortions dropped by at least a third.

That’s a lot of information.

Bottom line? A large number of teenagers are sexually active. A fair number get pregnant. Some have abortions. But teen pregnancy and abortion rates have declined in recent decades? Why? And why are teen pregnancy rates declining more slowly in some states than others? Several factors likely explain the differences in teen pregnancy rates, but concluding that it is because kids in some areas have more sex would be inaccurate. The evidence is that kids have sex at the same rates pretty much everywhere.

Let’s compare two states with opposite rates. Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country and Colorado one of the lowest, and Colorado’s rates continue to decline steadily.

In Texas a 17 year old who wants contraceptives must have parental permission, and that doesn’t change even if a teenager has a child at an earlier age. Even after having a child a 17 year old would need parental permission to obtain birth control. Further, 58% of sex education in Texas is “abstinence only”  and another 25% of school districts offer no sex education at all.  Yes, that means about 83% of Texas schools teach abstinence only or no sex education at all. The remaining 17%? They teach “abstinence plus”. Oh, and research indicates that a good bit of the information provided in abstinence only programs is either false or misleading (that, for example, condoms are ineffective).  They also rely on fear and shame, and neither of these works. Obviously.

In recent years Colorado has moved quickly to change sex education curricula in public schools, making it more age-appropriate and comprehensive. Also, in Colorado the state actually subsidizes long acting, reversible birth control for those in lower income brackets and, you guessed it, teen pregnancy and abortion rates have plummeted. In fact the teen pregnancy rate was cut in half during the first five years of the Colorado Family Planning Initiative. That means that a large number of teenage women who might have become pregnant will now be able to attend college or pursue careers, build families, and be more productive members of society than would likely have been the case had they become single mothers.

There has been a modest decline in the number of teenagers having sex (again, this is self-reported so the statistics may be inaccurate), but the decline in the number of kids saying they have sex doesn’t come close to explaining the steep decline in the teen birth rate since the early 1990’s. Numerous factors contribute, but most significantly about 80% of kids report using birth control the first time they had sex. Kids are also using more effective forms of birth control than in the past. Interestingly, a 2016 Brookings Institute report also concluded that such TV shows as “16 and Pregnant” (on MTV) led to a decline in teen births because these shows accurately portray the consequences of unprotected sex.

In America we have this idea that if we tell kids not to have sex, they won’t. If we just ignore the topic of sex and don’t discuss it with our kids they won’t become interested. If we don’t tell them about the birds and the bees they will only be interested in chocolate. This is just a dumb attitude. Yes, in an ideal world kids would wait until they were old enough to understand the consequences of sex, but a good many just don’t, never have and never will. The urge to have sex is powerful (thank goodness or I would not be here to write this and you would not be reading it).

We should stop pretending that telling kids to abstain from sex works. Evidence overwhelmingly condemns abstinence only education as ineffective and supports comprehensive sex education. So instead of reducing funding to programs seeking lower teen pregnancy rates, we should increase spending for those programs. The cost is minor compared to the social and emotional costs of young girls having unplanned and unwanted babies or, even more troubling, choosing to abort those pregnancies.

Random Thoughts

I’m away for a conference this week (which, as it happens, is on a beach in Charleston, SC) and don’t have time to focus on a post (well, I guess I’m choosing to spend my limited free time on the beach), so I thought I would just offer some random ideas and opinions. There is no theme.

  • American school kids rank 38th out of 71 countries in math, 24th in Science. If this trend continues we will be relying on people from other countries to solve more of the world’s problems in the future. Still, some children in American schools do fine and score on par with their peers in other countries. The determining factor (as I’ve mentioned previously) is socioeconomic status. The schools and teachers should not be blamed for our international rankings.
  • Those rumble strips on the edges of I-70 have saved me more times than I can count. This is an example of great government policy. So are those cables that separate lanes on interstate highways.
  • Colorado established a program providing free birth control to low-income women and had a 40% decrease in teen pregnancy during a four year period. Teen pregnancy rates have been on the decline nationally in recent years and I personally don’t think it is because teenagers have suddenly decided to stop having sex.
  • Last year (2016) the British government established a commission to examine the reasons we went to war in Iraq in 2003. The study concluded that the war was initiated without solid reasons and was based on false assumptions regarding the anticipated outcome. That war helped destabilized the Middle East, was one factor leading to the growth of ISIS, cost the American taxpayers more than $2 trillion, and cost approximately 175,000 people their lives.
  • The average annual cost to educate one child in public schools is about $7,500. The $2 trillion we spent in Iraq could educate 267 million children, so the amount spent in Iraq would cover expenses for all 98,817 American public schools for about four years.
  • It is never acceptable to mock people because of their gender, race, sexual identity, or height because these are naturally defining characteristics. Why then is it OK to tease people because of their age?
  • Pink Floyd Was the best rock band ever. The intro to “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” is one of the two best intros in rock history.  The other? Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend”.
  • Figuring out a solution to the rising cost of American healthcare is hard (or so I’ve heard), but now that healthcare has become a “right” it will be very difficult for Uncle Sam to take it away. Most increased costs are a consequence of increased drug prices, medical devices, and hospital care. American healthcare costs much more than healthcare in our peer countries.
  • Less than two months ago scientists from three countries released a study arguing that the universe may be an incredibly huge and complex hologram and that what we consider reality may be an illusion.  Wow, dude!
  • My dad (the greatest man who ever lived) was a master of idioms and a unique turner of phrases. Once when he and I were watching Richard Nixon on the nightly news my dad said “if he’s telling the truth my a$$ is a Chinese typewriter”. The best advice he ever offered was “…go to college, son. You might wind up digging ditches for a living, but at least you will be an educated ditch digger”.
  • If you don’t agree with what I (or anyone else) write(s) then for goodness sakes don’t read it.  Don’t let it affect our friendship!
  • Our Founders were very forward thinking when they accepted Montesquieu’s argument that government should be divided into three equal branches and that each would have control over the others. It would be really nice if all three branches actually performed their responsibilities. And now there are actually four branches because the federal bureaucracy numbers about 2.8 million employees (a number that has been steady for several decades regardless of what politicians tell us) who are largely uncontrolled by the elected branches.
  • Squirrel!

I’ll be back in the saddle again on Monday and will post something more focused. Thanks for your patience.