The Flywheel

Meeting of August 17th

A Richmond-built Liberty Ship Sea Battle in WWII

Steve Gilford is an independent historian, an author (see book-cover graphic below), and a Board member of the Richmond Museum of History.

Steve will describe an amazing but little known World War Two sea battle that took place in the South Atlantic 70 years ago this September. The battle involved the SS Stephen Hopkins, a Richmond-built Liberty ship, and a German raider, which was sunk.

Gilford will recount tales of heroism, including that of the Hopkins' Chief Mate who was from Richmond, and other related stories.


Meeting of Friday, August 10th

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Our Remarkable president Jim Young welcomed members with a litany of other R-starting adjectives, which this busy scribe was unable to Reliably Record. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Mark Howe. Herb Cole gave the invocation.
Jim Young, waking with a sore throat, said he briefly considered filing a claim at a Chevron office. He wasn’t serious, though the Chevron Refinery fire that occurred on Monday was the subject of a lot of serious talk before the meeting was called to order.

Visiting Rotarians

Assistant District Governor Fred Collignon visited us on this day.

Rotarians with Guests

  • Henry Kelman’s  guest was his brother Joe.
  • Tom Waller introduced his guest Kennedy Brooks
  • Richard Alexander introduced his wife Katherine.


  • Mark your calendar for the Solano Stroll, where the Richmond Rotary may share a booth with other BARSHEEP Rotary Clubs. Stay tuned for more information.
  • Sid has the printed Club Directory but only for those who are unable to download and print a copy from this website.
  • Herb Cole reminded everyone there was another National Immunization Day opportunity in Nigeria, October 9-17. This scribe believes Herb will go if he can find someone to accompany him.
  • Peace Through Service pins are still available. See Jim Young.


Joe Bagley thanked Joan Davis for her skillful service as moderator of the town hall meeting on the evening following the Chevron Refinery fire.  Joan Davis explained that her sincere intent was that everyone in that packed auditorium had an opportunity to speak. She very nearly succeeded before the meeting had to be adjourned on account of the lateness of the hour.

Happy and Sad Dollars

  • Sid Chauvin said it was his 43rd anniversary of his first date with his now wife Zelpha where he took her home and never left!
  • Herb Cole gave Happy dollars to keep this scribe in business.
  • Dan Sanders had Unhappy Dollars since he had to visit his in-laws. They live in Bermuda! They have the right to import wine for all hotels on the island. Dan & Sarah eat and drank like a king & queen!
  • Hank Covel had Happy & Sad Dollars. Sad he would miss our speaker. Happy to pick up John Nicol to play poker. Your scribe reports that John looked well.
  • Jim Young gave Happy Dollars to certify that Alan Blavins (that’s me!)  would not be a scribe for life. Thanks Jim. Give more.
  • Fred Collignon gave Happy Dollars to recognize that the Richmond City Council surpassed the Berkeley City Council for something or other. (Clearly, the item of comparison mattered less than the fact that our guys beat their guys.)

Norm's Nonsense

More quotes from the airlines ...
- After an extremely hard landing, the flight attendant came on the PA and announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo. Please remain in your seats with your seatbelts fastened while the Captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!"

- After landing, the Flight Attendant said "Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

- Once on a Southwest flight, the pilot said, "We've reached our cruising altitude now, and I'm turning off the seat belt sign. I'm switching to autopilot, too so I can come back there and visit with all of you for the rest of the flight."


The History and Evolution of Health Care in America

Author and former healthcare industry executive Tom Loker, offered his ideas about where our healthcare system is headed. (He must know something. He had the healthiest head of hair in the room.)

Toward a sustainable healthcare system
Mr. Loker attempted to expose the myths surrounding our current "system" (not a system at all), and set out what we can do to truly effect change. The solution for our healthcare problems, he said, must come from all of us.

To underscore the pervasive and often damaging power of myths, Mr. Loker quoted a past president: “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth— persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought”. - President John F. Kennedy.

Our own myths, Mr. Loker assured us, are among the biggest obstacles standing in the way of achieving efficient, affordable, and effective healthcare.

Myth: We know what healthcare is.

  • We can agree on what healthcare is, and on what constitutes good healthcare. (We cannot.)
  • We believe that healthcare is a static issue. (It is not.)

The practice of healthcare, after all, is largely a war with other species (bacteria, viruses, and other complex pathogens), a war with our environment (accidents, violence and pollution) and also a war with ourselves (diet, exercise, work habits and sleep).

Myth: There is a cure for everything

  • Only 20% of medical care is backed up by a best practice indicators.
  • Effective medications may only work well for 60% of people that take them and it is getting worse not better.
  • Much of the existing practice of medicine has changed little since the 1860’s and, a portion has not change in over 500 years.
  • We really haven't cured anything.
  • Healthcare providers are pretty good at what they do. (As an illustration— never mind that it's more than a little anachronistic—Mr. Loker cited the sad death of President George Washington in 1799. The President received the current treatment for a sore throat: he was bled 3 times by 3 different “physicians”. The result: he bleed to death.)
  • 50% of care delivered is wrong.
  • 40,000 patients per day are harmed by extraneous medical procedures— equal to 15 million people yearly.
  • Despite our innate beliefs, more healthcare is often not better. On the contrary, it is often much worse, dangerous, and sometimes deadly.

Myth: We are getting healthier

  • We are living longer, but that is not the same as living healthier. In 1872 the average lifespan was 42 years. 15 years ago the average life span was 73 years. The average life span today is 83 years.  85% of our lifetime medical expenses occur in the last 5 years of life, spent to extend “quality of life”,  not to bring about a sustainable state of health.
  • We are no longer subject to natural selection. As a species, we are getting weaker and more vulnerable while our biological enemies are getting stronger. Many of our best biochemical weapons no longer are effective.

Myth, in part: American care is inferior to the rest of the world and is much more expensive.
The truth of this proposition depends on where you are in the socioeconomic spectrum. If you are very wealthy or very poor, you can get high quality health care at very high, or very low, cost. If you are between the two extremes, the claim that American care is inferior, at least in terms of getting what you pay for, is probably true.

Myth:  Villains in the health care industry are behind the mess we’re in, like:

  • Big Pharma, insurance companies, hospitals, and medical specialists. But, according to Mr. Loker, most are not making money. The few that do have razor thin margins, around 1.5 percent.

During the battle to pass the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” as its detractors call it, several legislators claimed “This is our best path to a federal single payer system!”. Among them were senators Henry Waxman, Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid. But no one bought it.

Mr. Loker sprinkled his wide-ranging presentation with a number of provocative quotes.  For instance, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”, variously attributed to Sir Winston Churchill and the philosopher George Santayana. The implication is that in pursuing our current path we are repeating a mistake we failed to learn from the first time. (Which first time?)

A less controversial claim is advanced by this more familiar quote: “It’s the economy, stupid!” President Bill  Clinton did hit the nail on the head with that one. But it’s hard not to see that nail.

“The government can solve our healthcare problem? Probably not!”. For this somewhat less obvious idea the speaker was quoting himself, Thomas W. Loker, 2010.

Mr. Loker went on to point out discrepancies between Ted Kennedy’s original blueprint for a national health care program. The Kennedy goals included:

  • Coverage for 100% of Americans, including the underserved
  • Affordability
  • A mandated minimum standard of care
  • Coverage regardless of pre-existing condition
  • Elimination of care disparities

Mr. Loker claimed that the Affordable Care Act achieved none of those goals, and offered a few figures and assertions to back it up. (Very little time was left for question and answer after his presentation, so for the most part those claims went unchallenged.) Mr. Loker also said that total health care cost will not diminish with this legislation, and millions of Americans feel that this bill is unaffordable.

What can we do?

Above all, create a true “patient-centered system” that fully coordinates care and benefits across all available sources. This system can save at least 20% of the total cost of healthcare by reducing duplication of services and significantly increasing the capacity of existing networks.

Such a system would bring a plethora of benefits to all, through

  • A lowering the overall cost of care
  • Reduction of duplicated services
  • Reduction in the practice of “defensive medicine”
  • Reduction of fraud and abuse
  • Reduction of infrastructure costs
  • Reduction of administrative costs
  • Reduction in litigation
  • Reduction in personnel

Mr. Loker’s prescriptions for curing what ails our healthcare “system” are contained in his book The History Evoultion of Healthcare in America. But whatever the merit of his book, some of us were not feeling too good after his examination of our condition.

-Alan Blavins, Apprentice Scribe