Lonesome Tree in Sandhills

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Health Reform: Part V - Canadian Medical Care System

Canadian Doctors for Medicare hosted a celebration of Medicare in Canada - a medical care system open to everyone in Canada. Some in the U.S. insist on calling the Canadian system 'socialist' but the Canadians do not consider it anything other than good common sense for the well-being of Canadians and Canada.

Speakers at the celebration included a former Commissioner on Health Care, Health Policy and Medical Research Consultant, President of Canadian Federation of Nurses Union, and three Canadian Doctors for Medicare.
They uploaded a video on YouTube to inform Americans that Canadian health care works well and there is absolutely nothing to fear about a universal health care system such as Canada has.  IN FACT, Canada enjoys excellent medical care with very low administration costs (1.5%), compared to U.S. private medical insurance record of high administrative costs (30%) and high claim rejection rates (20-40%).

Routine denial of claims is the REAL elephant in the room NO ONE talks about in town hall meetings ... or in the halls of Congress. California's Real Death Panels: Insurers Deny 21% of Claims.  The study prompted the State Attorney General to begin an investigation of the pattern and practice of claim denials by private insurance companies.  

Rescission and rejection policies of the top 18 insurance giants helped rack up profits of almost $16 BILLION in 2008 alone... for which their top executives are paid super-sized bonuses from... you guessed it... YOUR premiums! 

YOUR premiums were also used to take advantage of the anti-trust exemption private health insurance companies enjoy. 

Massive transfer of wealth from the many to the few?  Absolutely it is! OUR politicians and their media hacks have a lot of nerve ranting and raving against health care reform as redistribution of wealth???  Oh, give me a break!

Watch their video in the sidebar and get a better understanding of Canadian Medicare.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Health Reform: Progressives on Public Option

65 members of the House drew a line in the sand: no public option, no health care bill.

The public option gives our country freedom from being locked into private insurance. Individuals and small employers would not be held hostage by private insurance with their high administrative costs driven by high executive salaries, bonuses and profits. The public option would expand Medicare to everyone who applies at far cheaper premiums with 1/10th the administrative cost (30% vs 3%). 

Medicare Advantage (Part C) has provided free insurance to those with limited incomes, but the government's 12% subsidy has overpaid private insurance companies since it began in 2002.  The high subsidy must stop and people on Part C must begin paying a premium. Medicare Part A and B cost $96 per month, but has not increased in well over a decade. Many if not most people on Part A and B can afford to pay $15 to $25 more per month to keep the program going, which would also pay for training more new physicians.

There is NO free lunch - consumers pay one way or the other, but PLEASE, we must stop bailing out private insurance executives, too.  Freedom to buy medical care without padding executive salaries and investor pockets is the bottom line!

If you haven't understood the reasons why a public option is necessary, then you haven't read my posts about the high cost of private insurance... or listened to Wendell Potter or the doctors in the videos here.

If you want to tell Congress the public option is that important to our country, click here and sign the petition.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Health Reform: Part III - Confusion vs Facts

No one shouted or booed at health care forums held last spring, which were aired on C-Span and made available online. People were rational in their concerns that ranged from access to costs to insurance. People expressed quite a bit of fear but not boorish behavior like the town hall meetings. People are now scared and want straight answers.

Newspapers and news magazines would do everyone a huge favor by publishing a series based on facts to inform and educate its readers. TV producers could do likewise for folks who never read newspapers or magazines. The rest of us could help by getting informed ourselves and then asking our local newspaper editors to publish the facts.

First the news could explain how Medicare reimbursement works and varies widely by state. Physicians and hospitals accepting assignment are reimbursed 80% of charges set by regional areas. They agree to collect the remaining 20% from patients or their insurers. The difference between actual charges and what Medicare allows averages 65% nationwide, but reimbursement rates vary by regional areas that overlap state boundaries. In rural areas especially, the average charge is much lower than in metropolitan areas. Yet studies show there is no correlation between high costs and more effective medical care.

The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice began the Dartmouth Atlas Project over 20 years ago. They used 20 years of Medicare data to study distribution and use of medical resources. Researchers found glaring variations in efficiency and effectiveness of the nation's health care system.

Check out Dartmouth's Interactive Map: Medicare Reimbursements Per Enrollee by State See: "Taming Wide Variations in Spending Key to Health Reform" Published February 26, 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

We could reduce confusion by understanding the basics of health reform. The Kaiser Foundation's Explaining the Basics of Health Reform

We can also get informed about the uninsured in our states and in the nation from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Cover The Insured

At least then maybe... just maybe... we could have less emotionally-loaded discussions about health care reform!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sons of Maxwell: 2 | United Airlines: 0

Need a break from all the blather about health/medical care - reform?  Check out Sons of Maxwell's 2nd video taking United Airlines to task for breaking Dave Carrol's $3500 guitar (full story here).  They plan to release a 3rd & final song & ask people to vote for their favorite on YouTube. Enjoy Song #2 in the sidebar!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Health Care Reform - Time For Cooler Heads To Prevail

Senator Grassley spoke at an AARP meeting in Iowa & began by mentioning that both he & Senator Harkin, a Democrat, had worked for many years on legislation that affected the entire nation.  He went on to say this has always been a bipartisan process in both houses of Congress & in the White House, and he had no reason to believe this legislation would be any different.

HB 3200 was expected to be bloated with provisions squeezed in by lobby firms for clients.  The rubber will really hit the road when the Joint Committees begin working the differences out, putting combined draft legislation through 100’s of legal “car washes” until all the lawyers on both sides will be sick of it.  David Sloan, VP of Gov Relations for AARP, said on C-Span’s Washington Journal a few days ago that AARP’s lawyers & accountants have yet to finish analyzing the bill.  So as a retired energy lawyer, I am amused by all the hyperbolic opinions.

I invite you to read why 450,000 physicians support the proposed Health Care Reform Plan: Health Care Reform: Part II - Physicians Support Health Care Reform

Older people especially are ill-served by the ”Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” approach  on talk shows or otherwise pressing their panic buttons. Thankfully, cooler heads are beginning to speak up on Network News, PBS & NPR.

I recommend listening to the President’s weekly address today at WhiteHouse.gov -- or read the transcript (here).

It might help to have a little faith in this President like everyone had to when the Republicans were in power. Try reading about how the Weapons System Acquisition Reforms Act finally got done, which is overhauling a procurement systems bloated with cost overruns.  DOD’s procurement is a complex monster that many in both parties had tried to reform for quite some time.  Obama promised Senator McCain when they met after the election that he would do everything in his power to get it done and the WSARA was signed into law on May 22nd.  He was also able to convince Bob Gates to remain as Sec. of DOD to implement the WSARA.

I agree with Senator Grassley, it is past time for people in both parties to put aside the bitter vitriol for the sake of the whole country.  It is WAY past time for cooler heads to prevail.

Health Care Reform: Part II - Physicians Support Health Care Reform

The MAJOR BATTLE over Health Care Reform is being fought between physicians and insurance companies, HMO's and PPO Networks -- not in town hall skirmishes. The nation's FAMILY DOCTORS believe our current health care system IS dysfunctional and that significant benefits in patient care and cost reduction can be realized from a system built on primary care and diagnostic skills.

Now those 450,000 physicians want YOU to know THEY SUPPORT the HEALTH CARE REFORM PLAN proposed by Congress and President Obama, to overhaul the financing, delivery and reach of health insurance - especially a vigorous assault on unnecessary, unproductive and complex administrative requirements imposed by multiple level requirements of the current health care system. They have tried to make their support abundantly clear through the following efforts:

1.   American Academy of Family Physicians - Statement of Support
"The American Academy of Family Physicians agrees with President Barack Obama that the American people cannot wait for health care reform. Family physicians see first hand the fallout from our broken system, as more patients are priced out of health care coverage or lose health insurance and forgo needed health care services. -- Our nation must redesign the way we deliver health care so that we pay for quality of care, not the quantity of tests and procedures performed. We must have a health care system that fosters the doctor-patient relationship and ensures the preventive care that saves lives and money."
The AAFP was organized in 1947 and represents 94,000 family physicians.  AAFP is a member of the Herndon Alliance, a coalition of more than 200 nonpartisan organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Nurses Association, the AARP, the Mayo Clinic and the Families USA.

2.   Physicians Launch: Heal Health Care Now
The AAFP & Herndon Alliance launched Heal Health Care Now as an online information resource to counter the most potent anti-reform arguments with their most trusted spokespersons. Primary care FAMILY DOCTORS describe how health care reform will improve their care of patients by:  a) increased quality, affordability and access of care; b) assuring the patient's choice of doctor and health plan; and c) bringing insurance in line with what is medically best for patients. (See video in sidebar)

3.   Letter of Support for Reform to U.S. Senate.
Organizations representing 450,000 doctors signed and delivered a joint letter supporting the Health Care Reform Plan to leaders of the Senate. The doctors are members of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American College of Physicians, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Medical Student Association, Doctors for America and the National Physicians Alliance. Their letter reads in part:
"We are confident that the reforms being proposed will allow us to provide better quality care to our patients, while preserving patient choice of plan and doctor."
4.   Medical Management Coalition Plan: Voluntarily Reduce Red Tape & Costs.
Healthcare Administrative Simplification Coalition (HASC) released its report:  
"Bringing Better Value: Recommendations to Address the Costs and Causes
of Administrative Complexity in the Nation’s Healthcare System
The 34-pg. report outlines HASC's nationwide plan to reduce bureacratic red tape causing treatment delays and costly paperwork largely related to billing and payment. HASC estimates that 25% of all health spending is wasted by unnecessary duplication and complex administration requirements. Their plan would save an estimated $50 billion a year - $500 billion over 10 years - and permit physicians to spend more time on patient services.  Expected savings represents 1/2 of the estimated costs of the Health Care Reform Plan - $1 trillion cost over 10 years.  The Report can be download here

HASC's Plan calls for physician practices, hospitals, insurance payers, benefits managers and others to voluntarily adopt coordinated nationwide key administrative processes. The Report focuses on provider credentialing, eligibility verification, patient IDs and prior authorization:
* Physician and Clinician Credentialing: One standardized credentialing form to eliminate administrative costs of completing multiple different forms for insurance payers, hospitals and others.
* Patient Eligibility for Insurance: Adoption of an industry-wide standard for interchangeable electronic data to quickly and accurately verify a patient's insurance coverage.
* Patient Identity Cards: Standardized machine-readable patient ID cards to significantly reduce costly errors and delays in the medical claims billing process.
* Prior Authorization of Radiology and Pharmacy:  Standardized request and receipt of patient eligibility for radiology and pharmacy services to reduce treatment delays and costly paperwork.
HASC was organized in 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). HASC now includes some of the nation’s leading physician and hospital organizations, health and benefits plans, employers, government agencies, and other groups that share the goals of simplifying administrative processes in the nation’s public and private health care financing programs.

FAMILY PHYSICIANS are the cornerstone of a health care system increasingly fragmented by specialties.  The number of family physicians in training has drastically declined - a significant need addressed by the Health Care Reform Plan.

AAFP provides charts and graphs on family physician primary care. AAFP Media Center at: www.aafp.org

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health Care Reform - Part I-A: Insurance CEO Compensation

I encourage you to watch the video in the sidebar where Wendell Potter, former V.P. of Public Relations for CIGNA, explains how he came to have a crisis of conscience and blew the whistle on how these executives operate the major insurance companies.  He testified before a Congressional Committee as to their practices & is now speaking out about their PR that is threatening to block reform.  Whistle-blower: Health care industry engaging in PR practices (CNN.com 8/13/09).

Below is a list of insurance CEO's and compensation in 2008 - taken from SEC filings by healthcare management & recruiting firm, Fierce Health CareLeading health plan CEO paychecks (5/14/09).  The amounts do not include perks like corporate jets, memberships in country clubs, or security services.
2008 Total CEO compensation (SEC filings):
Ron Williams - Aetna   $24,300,112
H. Edward Hanway - CIGNA  $12,236,740
Angela Braly - WellPoint  $  9,844,212
Dale Wolf - Coventry Health  $  9,047,469
Michael Neidorff - Centene  $  8,774,483
James Carlson - AMERIGROUP  $  5,292,546
Jay Gellert - Health Net  $  4,425,355
Richard Barasch - Universal American $  3,503,702
Stephen Hemsley - UnitedHealth Group $  3,241,042
Karen Ignagni, AHIP (2007 total comp) $  1,580,000
(America's Health Insurance Plans)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Care Reform - Part I

Health Care Reform Affects 20% of Economy
Consumers Ultimately Pay Health Care Bills

People who are clueless believe whatever drivel is dished out on  talk shows. Then they spout ignorant opinions as if they really know!  Liberals and conservatives scream & shout, both deadly certain their precious ideologies are more important than those who's life or mind hang in the balance.  So, first things first ~ this isn't about labels!

Next, use your common sense reasoning to answer a couple of simple questions:
1. Do we enjoy public-funded fire, police, road/bridge maintenance, education, Social Security and Medicare?
2. How did private medical insurance have $168 million to give campaigns in 2008 plus $485 million to lobby Congress last year?  In the first 6 months of this year, the health insurance sector alone has paid out over $128 million to lobby Congress.  Where did they get that money and what do they expect to get for it?

Insurance is a "paper" industry, but it can't print money! So-called "health" insurance is very profitable! It used to be called medical insurance but now they insure only healthy people if they can get away with it. They exclude coverage for pre-conditions and rescind coverage for any excuse they can find AFTER YEARS OF ACCEPTING PREMIUMS!

Consider a doctor that started his private practice 10 yrs ago. He or she could NOT see a patient until 30 contracts with insurance, networks and HMOs were signed. NONE were negotiable! Only 1 was with Medicare. The COMPANIES DETERMINE:  how much can be charged and what is routine service - anything else must be pre-approved.  Many decisions are made by non-medical personnel using insurance protocol intended to increase profits to the company and reduce profits for your doctors.  Payment can take 3 to 6 mo. after being billed, which makes doctors and hospitals de facto lenders to the insurance companies.  Otherwise the companies would pay banks for short-term lines of credit.

If the doctor brings in partners, more employees are needed to handle insurance-related administrative work in order to get reimbursed. Almost 60% of total medical costs are insurance-related administrative costs.  The doctors overhead increases, but not their charges to cover it. They must see more patients and do more procedures to make ends meet.

Many doctors feel so squeezed they worry about being neglectful of patients. Patients feel they get shorted, too.

Private doctors are actually a small business providing medical services to patients while also providing jobs and medical insurance for employees at a HUGE premium. That, too, is overhead that must be covered by their charges. CHARGES THAT ARE SET BY THE VERY SAME INSURANCE COMPANIES!!!

Many small businesses have not been able to provide medical insurance any more. Large businesses spend money on  resources to find and negotiate new coverage every 2 years. To reduce the costs of insurance, coverage is then reduced by larger co-pays and deductibles.

People spouting off about "socialism" are being manipulated by TV and radio talk shows, paid for by insurance and drug company ads. Such ads are tax deductions so they actually are paid with lost tax revenue as well.

People need to think about insurance company executives with high salaries and bonuses, country club fees, golfing fees, skyboxes and other entertainment perks that are legally deductible marketing expenses - like advertising.

Insurance executives have a vested interest in keeping their golden lifestyles - hence their willingness to pay out well over $780 MILLION to elect and lobby congress in only 18 months - just to derail health care reform legislation. They also handsomely support talk show hosts through ad revenues (again tax deductible).


It is WAY past time people get a clue! We are getting manipulated alright - by "health" insurance companies!!

What exactly is "socialistic" about these specific consumer protections that Obama's pushing for? What is so wrong with these being legislated by Congress and enforced by the Obama administration?  In my humble opinion, these 8 specific items address only the most egregious infractions by "health" insurance companies.
  • No discrimination for pre-existing conditions
  • No exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays
  • No cost-sharing for preventive care
  • No dropping of coverage if you become seriously ill
  • No gender discrimination
  • No annual or lifetime caps on coverage
  • Extended coverage for young adults
  • Guaranteed insurance renewal so long as premiums are paid
What is so wrong about Obama pushing for public health measures to promote health and prevention of illness?
So SPEAK UP to counter the self-serving arguments of crass partisans, special interests and their fear-mongering news shows!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sons of Maxwell: 1 | United Airlines: 0

The Sons of Maxwell, a band from Nova Scotia, flew to Nebraska for a 1-wk tour in the Spring of 2008. United Airlines's baggage handlers in Chicago threw guitars into the hold, breaking Dave Carroll's $3500 Taylor guitar. He watched in horror and immediately protested but was told, “hun, that’s why we make you sign the waiver” and to take it up with the ground crew in Omaha. He hadn't signed a waiver and there were no employees in sight when the plane arrived late at 12:30 A.M. - besides they were tired and needed those few hours to sleep.

Tuning up for the first gig on their Nebraska tour, Dave realized his guitar was broken.  Returning to the Omaha airport 7 days later, Dave was told he would have to start his claim where he began the trip - in Halifax, but was told by Canadian Air in Halifax that United didn't have a presence there.  Thus began an incredible, unsuccessful quest to get United to either fix or replace his Taylor guitar.

Dave's efforts give new meaning to "getting the run-around" - including calls to customer service in India. Over the past year, United steadfastly refused to accept responsibility for damaging Dave's $3500 Taylor guitar.  Meanwhile Dave had it repaired at a cost of $1200, but it doesn't have the same sound.  Dave told United's last representative that he would write 3 songs about his experiences, post a video of the songs on YouTube and ask people to vote their favorite - hoping to get a million hits in a year. Dave's video has had almost 5 million views so far.  Its a great song (in the sidebar or here).

United's parent company executives are compensated richly (not necessarily "earned").  Glenn Tilton (UAL Chairman/CEO), Kathryn Mikells (UAL Ex.VP & CFO), and John Tague ( UAL Ex.VP of UAL & United Airlines Pres.) were paid $6.47 million, $1.02 million, and $3.2 million, respectively.

No matter ~ let's just enjoy listening to Dave Carroll's lovely laid-back song "A Woman Like You" (in the sidebar)... ummm, SO nice!  I'll not hold my breath waiting for United's richly-paid execs to invite Dave to have a beer with them....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fourth Amendment Revisited

We learned more than we ever wanted to know about a Harvard professor and the Cambridge police... due to an off-the-cuff answer to an off-topic question at the President's press conference.

Emotions across the nation escalated in response - due to the power of TV/Radio media to manipulate people by either twisting or ignoring what few facts were known. However, NO mention of Fourth Amendment rights by an educated media shows a level of ignorance that is shameful given their First Amendment privileges. As a result, people focused on race or police relations in public venues or on Gates' behavior based on arrest photos and police reports.

Yet Sgt. Crowley's police report is evidence he failed to give Prof. Gates his own ID card - a violation of Mass. General Law, Chapter 41: Section 98D. Identification cards. ("Each city or town shall issue to every full time police officer employed by it an identification card bearing his photograph and the municipal seal. Such card shall be carried on the officer’s person, and shall be exhibited upon lawful request for purposes of identification.")

Crowley's report omitted that Gates handed over his MA license (w/that address) along with his Harvard ID, nor that it took place in the kitchen. His report mentions acoustics in the kitchen & having Gates' Harvard ID in hand while calling the Harvard Police.

According to a statement by Gates' attorney, Charles Ogletree, at that point Crowley upset Gates who again demanded his name and badge info. Crowley's report stated another officer had appeared behind him and he stated - as he turned to leave - that he had already given Gates his information.  Crowley was aware the officer would presume he had provided his ID to Gates and had not heard what he said to Prof. Gates - but only Gates' reaction.

A close and objective scrutiny of Sgt. Crowley's report indicates he used baiting tactics to get an angry reaction and entrapment tactics to manipulate Gates to step outside where he could be arrested. Clearly the charge of "disorderly conduct" - was a further violation of not only Massachusetts law, but federal law as well.

Today we know Sgt. Crowley's official report wrongly attributed to the 911 caller that the men she saw were black. The audiotape of the caller is clear: "one may be Hispanic, but I didn't see the other one." Consider that if she saw the limo driver at the door and waited on the sidewalk, she had to have seen the driver - dressed in a black suit - leave in his limo/taxi. She was not questioned in this regard and key information was simply added or omitted by the officer to support an unlawful arrest. 

UPDATELucie Walen's first public statement on July 29, 2009), clearly contradicts the official police report.  911 tapes back her statements that she did not know if the men were breaking - repeatedly stating they may live there and having a hard time with a key.  When Sgt. Crowley arrived she said only that she had made the 911 call & he told her to stay right there.  At no time did she mention race.

A country of laws? One would not think so given such appalling ignorance of our country's legal foundations by the media. Those who are making everything into political war scare me far more BECAUSE they are agitating for anarchy.  Our Founding Fathers and Mothers must be rolling over in their graves at such disregard for our Fourth Amendment rights by those given First Amendment priviledges.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Armageddon in Retrospect" by Kurt Vonnegut - WWII Hero

I wager few people know Kurt Vonnegut as a World War II hero who was captured in what is known as the Battle of the Bulge.  He was Private First Class of the 106th Infantry Division, then age 21.

He was well known as a science fiction writer with a wicked sense of humor and author of Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), but few outside the literary world knew about his Army experience in World War II. He passed away 2 years ago at the age of 84 due to brain injuries from a fall. Last summer a collection of his letters and unpublished writings on war and peace was published as "Armageddon in Retrospect" by his son, Mark.

Like many war survivors, Kurt Vonnegut suffered from those painful memories for 64 years, but he used his humor and knack for the absurd to survive. However, he also wrote: "The reason for my being sick at heart then and now has to do with an incident that received cursory treatment in the American newspapers. In February 1945, Dresden, Germany, was destroyed, and with it over 100,000 human beings. I was there. Not many know how tough America got."

On December 19, 1944, 6 months after his mother committed suicide while he was home on leave, PFC Kurt Vonnegut along with the remnants of his division were captured when 7 German Panzer Divisions cut them to ribbons in what is now known as The Battle of the Bulge through Luxemborg and Belgium near Bastogne. The German Offensive through the Ardennes Forest during a blizzard was a feat considered highly unlikely by Allied Commanders.  The 106th Infantry Division was posted there while the rest of the Allied armies were pulled out to positions at the flanks.  PFC Vonnegut wrote, in his first letter home after the war, "Seven Fanatical Panzer Divisions hit us and cut us off from the rest of Hodges' First Army. The other American Divisions on our flanks managed to pull out: We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren't much good against tanks: Our ammunition, food and medical supplies gave out and our casualties out-numbered those who could still fight..."

The captured men in Vonnegut's division who survived the 60 mile march in freezing conditions were loaded in cattle cars and taken by unmarked train, bombed and strafed by the Brits, to a POW camp south of Berlin where they were stripped and deloused. On January 10, 1945, PFC Vonnegut and 150 other privates were shipped to Dresden to work.

The men, imprisoned underground in Slaughterhouse #5, survived saturated firebombing of Dresden in February, then were forced to dig out tens of thousands of bodies - mostly women, children, old and disabled men in hospitals - from beneath all the rubble. Author Vonnegut described the aftermath as "utter destruction" and "carnage unfathomable" - a central theme in 7 of his books., but PFC Vonnegut did not go into those details in a letter to his parents in late May of 1945 (reprinted with permission by Newsweek July 7/14, 2008).

Details of Vonnegut's eyewitness account that inspired Slaughterhouse-Five, left unpublished by him, were discovered after his death by his son and published collectively as Armageddon in Retrospect (reprinted in part by The Sunday Times of London on June 1, 2008). His writings in Armageddon include a typically funny story about 3 Army privates fantasizing about the perfect first meal upon returning home from war as well as a not-so-funny story about whether our children can be shielded from temptations of violence.

Kurt Vonnegut had majored in chemistry at Cornell University and when he enlisted, the Army sent him to Carnegie's Institute of Technology and U. of Tennessee to study mechanical engineering.  His studies were cut short when the decision was made to invade Europe on a massive scale with 600,000 men.  After the war, he enrolled as an anthropology major at the U. of Chicago where Cat's Cradle was finally accepted as a thesis.  He was invited to teach at the U. of Iowa Writers' Workshop where he began the painful process of recalling memories of World War II that culminated in Slaughterhouse.

Kurt Vonnegut would not likely think of himself as a hero, nor do any of the men who were at the front going through hell on earth in a world-wide war of such magnitude.  Nevertheless... please join me and millions online around the world in remembering and honoring these men as TRUE HEROES!  Turn off and tune into a huge deafening MEMORIAL OF SILENCE on July 20th.  And if you happen to know one, taken them to lunch this week... or send a card... just to say "Thank You!" for your service to our country.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Change vs Restoration

Another political email is making its way around the Internet calling for "A restoration that would take us back in time to a place where things ran better, smoother and life was more enjoyable." It went on to claim we used to have lower tax structures, enjoy more freedoms, affordable food and gas... along with other like assertions. Anyone who thinks we had it better "back then" is either clueless or very forgetful.

I for one do not want to go backwards to the time when. . .
- violent rioters were burning businesses owned by hard-working black people (1920's & 1960's)
- peaceful protesters were being beaten for exercising their 1st Amendment rights (1920's thru 1960's)
- beef & other food processors operated in unsanitary conditions (1900's through 1950's)
- black-market beef was sold for outrageous prices in the cities (1930's)
- electricity was available only in cities & only for those who could afford it (pre-1940-50's)
- natural gas was not piped in to heat homes all across the country (pre- 1940-50's)
- child labor was the norm in urban & rural areas - unless wealthy (pre-1920's)
- cars didn't have seat belts or safety seats to protect our children & ourselves in cars (pre-1970)
- telephones were available, if at all, only in the cities & then limited to 3 minutes (pre-1950's)
- 50-70% tax rates for middle incomes still paying for World II & reconstruction (1950-1980's)
- 10-12% inflation rates that sucked the value out of the US Dollar (1970's through 1980's)

Our beloved United States continues to enjoy almost full employment (over 90%) and full freedom of speech on our airwaves and in our streets. Our highways are well maintained and commerce continues across state lines unabated. Our stores are absolutely chock full of relatively CHEAP food, clothing, and other goods.

So far adjoining states have not declared war on their neighbors over water. Our country is still intact and not been wracked by violent war since the Civil War. There are only a handful of countries that have it better than we do.

Can we be just a little thankful... for a change?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Judge Sotomayor: Judged "Well Qualified" by American Bar

While Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a federal judge for 17 years, heads into hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee to be considered for the U. S. Supreme Court, her burden has been made lighter by the rating given her by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.  Judge Sotomayor received a unanimous "well qualified" rating - the highest rating given by the Committee's 15 members, who judged Sonia Sotomayor to be of exceptional ability to be a Supreme Court Justice!

The ABA Federal Judiciary Committee gave its highest rating based upon Judge Sotomayor's integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament for the Supreme Court.  All but one of the current Supreme Court Justices have received "well qualified" ratings - only 3 ratings are given: "well qualified" - "qualified" - "unqualified" (Clarence Thomas was rated "qualified").

Thankfully, the ABA's Standing Committee does not take into account a nominee’s philosophy, political affiliation or ideology. While the ABA's criteria of integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament are the basis for the Standing Committee’s evaluation of all federal court nominees, the ABA Committee’s investigations of Supreme Court nominees are particularly rigorous and the peer-review process is structured to achieve impartial evaluations. The significance, range and complexity of the issues considered by the Supreme Court demand that nominees appointed to the Court be of exceptional ability. 

The ABA, founded in 1878, has provided evaluations of judicial nominees since 1953. The Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary consists of 15 members - 2 from the Ninth Circuit, 1 from each of the other 12 federal judicial circuits and 1 member-at-large - appointed for staggered 3-year terms by the President of the ABA based on their reputations for professional competence, integrity and devotion to public service. Each member of the Standing Committee spends roughly 1,000 hours per year on a voluntary basis to provide this vital public service.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kids Health: Fun & Fitness 4 All

The daughter of a long-time friend (nurse & hospital administrator) shares her mother's passion about fitness. Both women firmly believe that healthy eating and exercise is just a fun part of life, but Sara jacked up her passion quite a few notches higher than her mom.

Sarah Vance, a Fitness Instructor for 15 years in Denver and MOM to 2 kids, moved to the San Diego area with her husband where she incorporated her passion for fitness into a new endeavor: Yoga Fun & Fitness Fun 4 All.

You see, this country has a medical "train wreck" coming down the tracks because kids eat & drink more sugar and empty calories, and are more sedentary than 20 years ago. Lack of exercise and nutrient deficiencies have doubled the number of kids with weight problems, leading to an increasing number of Juvenile Type II Diabetes, which leads to heart disease and even loss of toes & feet as adults. Well... you get the picture... now get scared! Sara was well aware of what the future held for these kids and decided to take action!

Sara is teaching kids the importance of health & wellness through twice-weekly classes in area elementary schools and through Fitness Fun 4 All. Kids learn about healthy nutrition, exercise and mind-body connection - all while having fun through yoga, fitness games and food games called “Slow, Go and Whoa” - A Kids Guide to Eating Right.

Sara makes it fun for the kids to learn that wellness is about balance - making good food choices and being active MOST of the time. Check out how she does it in the NBC video in the sidebar.

If you would like to join Sara in FUN FITNESS, move away from the computer, lay the book down, close the door if at work, and start the next video... the Gummibär Nuki Nuki Song will get you MOVING!!

Nonsense News on Steroids

Nonsense News already gorged on the Spritzer & Blagoyavich scandals, then went on to Sanford, Michael and now Palin. With eager fingers on keyboards, they let 'er rip - with glee!  If only all of them - politicians and news media alike - could just say, "NO!" to their demons... poor souls.

In the meantime, I received a safety recall for my 11-year-old Oldsmobile from General Motors.  I've become so cynical that I naturally assumed it was GM's newest marketing technique to get rid of inventory.  With 110,000 miles on the odometer, I expected a pitch to trade it in for a new Buick (they don't make my beloved Olds Intrigue anymore).  Checking recall information with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - a useful government resource - it was legit after all!  Frayed spark plug wires & leaking oil gaskets was a match made in hell... a potential disaster waiting to happen just as I was preparing to drive across 9 states the end of May.  GM's local dealership took care of it right away - no charge - on a car they no longer even make.

I took it back to my old trusted mechanic who opened his own business, Road Runner Auto Sales & Service, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last September.  I had him replace the leaking gaskets, plenum and intake valve, and the water pump, steering wheel pump, hoses and brake pads, too - all at a very reasonable cost.  He vouched for the Intrigue's 3.8L V6 engine, saying it was now good to go another 100,000 miles.  My fuel efficiency effort consists of driving only when absolutely necessary, which averages about 5-6000 miles/year.  Hummm.... my Intrigue (really love that car!) should last just long enough for the industry to finally get its act together to produce new batteries and electric cars at a reasonable price.  Check out GM's Re-Invention Plan - they're answering questions in a live chat on July 13 at 1:30pm.

I might have made a totally different decision had I been able to wait until July 23rd - when the final rule is issued for the new Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) that President Obama signed into law on June 24th.  CARS is part of the stimulus package designed to help people trade in less fuel efficient cars for new, more fuel efficient cars.  Click here for more details: Frequently Asked Questions - or call the CARS Hotline: 866-CAR-7891.

Meanwhile, driving along on Interstates 20, 24, 55, 57, 70, 75, 80 & 85 - over 3 weeks - I couldn't help but notice the tremendous numbers of cars and 18-wheel trucks - coming and going - on the highways.  Family vacations despite a surge in gas prices from $2 to $2.50 and loaded shipping containers?  It sure looked like our economic engine was in "good to go" mode, too.

It is past time to focus on the "half-full" - instead of "half-empty" - cup because 91% of American citizens are gainfully employed.  Do what Warren Buffet does - turn off Nonsense News, get out of the house, take a little drive & look around!  We may be spending less... meaning buying less unnecessary "stuff" to stuff in our homes... but as a nation, we are saving more.  In the long run, that's a good thing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Susan Boyle: Has Manager - Signs Deal - Sings On Tour

Susan Boyle, like Jennifer Hudson on American Idol, has won the hearts of many as did Diversity, a precision dance troupe.  Susan's niece, Kirsty Foy, a London entertainment and media lawyer, sought out the best financial wizard in the music industry - Ossie Kilkenny - to manage Susan's career and finances.  With Ossie's assistance, Susan signed a deal with Simon Cowell's Syco Record label, a subsidiary of Sony, to release her first record.  She then flew home Saturday for a much-needed rest.  Simon has received requests for Susan to perform from all over the world but is adamant that she rests and recuperates before doing anything.  BGT may be facing an inquiry by media watchdog, Ofcom, into why help was not provided until Susan collapsed from anxiety and had to be hospitalized.  However, Susan has been adamant that she intends to join Britain's Got Talent Tour, a series of 27 gigs beginning this Friday, telling aides: "I'd hate to let me fans down. They put me in this amazing position and I owe it to them as a mark of thanks." 

After all is said and done, Susan Boyle is an aspiring professional singer who inspired the world by simply singing 'I Dreamed a Dream' in an audition.  As BGT judge, Piers Morgan, put it, "In that short 90-second performance, Susan Boyle offered up a wonderful one-woman antidote to all the cynicism that had engulfed the world during this devastating recession. She wasn’t a greedy banker, or a corrupt politician. She wasn’t in this for fame or fortune, either. The Susan Boyle who auditioned that day in Glasgow was a feisty, funny, joyful woman who was quite clearly loving every second of being on the show."  Then the Susan Boyle mania grew. "It was insane. Susan Boyle was downloaded more times in a month than Barack Obama, Britney Spears and David Beckham put together. She’s had, to date, more internet hits than Mandela, Churchill, JFK and Hitler combined."  In my humble opinion, the mania is a measure of how much the world needed Susan Boyle's beautiful singing.

Susan sang her heart out in a new version of 'I Dreamed a Dream' in the final, losing by only 4% of the votes.
Susan Boyle is now living her dream - to sing professionally....

Senator Grassley Twitter Tweaks Twits

Irked Grassley Tweets Obama in France, 'You Got Nerve'

Senators like Grassley and McCain using their staff to Twitter do so at their risk. Just too cute to tweak the twits who report the 'tweet' as news to twits who eat it up like 'tweaties' for breakfast. Dumb, dumber, dumbest like blind leading the blind; and once sent, you can't get it back. But NO ONE checks FACTS before tweeting or reporting tweets.

Unfortunately, senators who Twitter just end up looking foolish not like respected statesmen. Question really is why do reporters and journalists get their underwear all in a twitter putting it out in national news?  For this our Nonsense News is protected by the First Amendment?

Senator Grassley attended an Iowa AARP 'town hall' meeting recently where he opened his remarks with a sad statement about Congress has a history of working together on bipartisan legislation. He should carefully listen to his own words and THEN listen to ALL the health care forum videos. The rising costs of medical care and premiums, despite high deductibles, have become an overwhelming burden for small businesses and individuals, which has hurt our economy in the long run. What part of that does he not understand after 3 terms in the House and 6 terms as Senator?

Since Grassley has been in Congress a very long time - since 1974, he surely understands his Constitutional duty and responsibility to write and pass legislation. The President cannot do anything until Congress does its job first. Meanwhile, President Obama went to France to commemorate D-Day in Normandy and took a day off to enjoy its capital city. To chastise him for doing what all presidents before him did is indeed petty and childish, which may affect Iowan's perception of Grassley in the 2010 election.  However, he APPEARS to be Twittering some kind of battle cry to satisfy the social uber-conservatives out for his blood for wanting to think a bit before commenting about Iowa's Supreme Court decision on same-sex civil unions.  Nothing short of "Out with that liberal rascal!" is good enough for those radicals.

The President meanwhile APPEARS the statesman our country has needed for a long time - SMART WITH NERVES OF STEEL - now that is one we can respect and admire. He is also admired for being a caring family man taking time to celebrate his daughter's birthday even if it was in Paris.  He lives family values as espoused by Republicans for years while GOP leaders like Gingrich and Limbaugh did not and still do not. As we all know, APPEARANCES DO MATTER, especially with regard to our nation's leaders. Yes, Senator Grassley, you are right - thankfully, our President does have nerve.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tribute to Engineering Ingenuity

This Memorial Day, let's not forget the ASTRONAUTS who paid the ultimate price for exploring space and the universe that benefits the rest of us.  We take for granted so much that results from aerospace engineering.  Make this weekend a Tribute to Aerospace Engineers.

Did anyone else watch NASA's repair of the Hubble Space Telescope LIVE on NASA-TV? It is truly a tribute to engineering ingenuity!  Space shuttles no longer get attention as engineering feats, but the Atlantis shuttle was different.  It had what amounted to a giant screw driver robot arm tucked inside its bay area along with specially designed tools for repairing the Hubble Telescope.  Astronauts with feet locked on the tip of that giant screw driver were lifted up and out to work on replacing small items on the giant telescope.  Watching them work in streaming REAL TIME was AWESOME!  The tools were AMAZING!  No need to wait for the replay at IMEX theaters, check it out here

Our beautiful earth could be seen beyond to provide perspective.  Since Friday, the Atlantis and Houston have been dealing with re-entry weather problems at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  I'm again glued to my laptop watching & listening to the engineers at the controls in Houston & shuttle pilot, Chris Ferguson, bring the Atlantis safely to earth.  They have finally been given clearance for the de-orbit burn and to land at Edwards Airbase in the desert of California - at 9:00 a.m. Sunday.  BIG CHEERS to all aboard for a safe landing!!

As for the cost of NASA's space shuttles adding to our national debt - remember that post-WWII GI bill?  It helped the US become a Nation of Engineers, many were aerospace engineers.  It created millions of well-paying jobs that resulted in raising the standard of living for the maximum number of US citizens.  As a result of investing these costs of higher education in engineering, our nation paid off the tremendous burden of WWII debt - ours and that of Europe and SE Asia - all while sending Americans to the moon.  So, have some faith, folks - we will do it again!

Note the surge of engineering ingenuity is focused on designing batteries for electric automobiles.  Dr. Ann Marie Sastry, top expert on lithium-ion vehicle battery technology, is Prof. of Mechanical, Biomedical and Materials Science and Engineering, and Director of Energy Systems Engineering Program at U. of Michigan.  Dr. Sastry decided the world needed a new type of battery - not another research paper.  Last November, Dr. Sastry founded a new company, Sakti3, raised $15 million in venture capital and engaged an engineering firm with a battery systems development facility in Michigan.  Dr. Sastry is now competing aggressively for matching ARRA funds from the Dept. of Energy. 

Battle of Old War Horses

Are we ready for an Independent Party to emerge?  I am certainly past ready for the country to stop being in the grip of political sniping.  The 'Dick-Newt-Rush' junk-yard-dog style of political discourse has truly worn thin (psst! someone please tell the press corps).  Cheney choosing Rush over Powell is news?  Now General Powell's answer is on Face The Nation this Sunday morning... and this is important to us how? 

General Powell is a politician as are all top brass in our armed forces - that is how they rise to the top in the military. He was rising through those ranks when Cheney was Sec. of Defense and CEO of Halliburton/KBR.  Both are RETIRED OLD "war horses" of our federal military or bureaucracy... well, at least Gen. Powell has a legitimate claim to being in a real war.  No longer running the REAL show, I guess leadership of one political party is a good substitute if the media covers it - satisfies their egos anyway.
Meanwhile the REAL SHOW goes on with REAL BATTLES to bring...
  • Osama & Al-Queda to justice (after 6 yrs of failure),
  • a careening investment-banking-credit system under control (after being wrecked),
  • military spending & its accounting under control for first time in 30 years,
  • scientific research back to the forefront,
  • regulation back to being effective again to protect us all, and
  • JOBS back to Americans to reinvest in the USA!!
 So...our press eagerly covers these 2 old men doing battle for a political party, but fails in its First Amendment duty to cover what is most important to most citizens.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Catholics - Impact of Change

Media-chasing is like ambulance-chasing and today they chased protesters to Notre Dame where Barack Obama is giving the traditional President's send-off to U-ND graduates. The protesters would not protest Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh despite their adulterous life styles being the antithesis of Catholic teaching. Into this fray, the media tossed a popular priest with a girlfriend in Florida. A question was raised by columnist David Gibson, "Who Is a Real Catholic?" in today's Washington Post.

Protestant churches face the same tired old tug-of-war question, too, but unique issues face American Catholics - assimilation, rejection, Vatican authority, faith vs church, converts and religious politics. All of these issues have been playing a role in most Catholic families for over 60 years.

Take an average Catholic family as an example. Since 1935 Catholic parents raised an average of 6 kids, but only 3 would remain practicing Catholics as adults. 5 had 2 children each and 1 had 6 children for an average of 2.67 each. 14 of their 16 children were raised Catholic, but only 2 remained Catholics. Of 22 total potential Catholics, only 5 remain to support the church - all within 2 generations. Assuming each of the 17 ex-Catholics would have given an average of $100 per month, the economic loss to the church is over $20,400 per year - or $204,000 within 10 years. A major drop in Catholic birth rates has the same impact.

The National Council of Churches 2008 statistical report lists the Roman Catholic Church as the largest Christian group in the United States with over 67 million registered members (next largest: Southern Baptist Convention with ~ 16 million members). If a MILLION Catholic families declined by an average of 17 members in 2 generations, the economic loss to the church is $20.4 billion PER YEAR or $204 BILLION in 10 years. If that were true of 10 million Catholic families, the church would lose $204 billion per year, or $2.4 TRILLION WITHIN 10 YEARS.

Now consider that 20 million Catholic families have 17 fewer children within 2 generations. An equal number of converts or increased giving would be needed to make up an economic loss of $4.8 TRILLION. Compare church losses with our federal deficits and understanding begins to dawn as to why the Vatican continues to oppose using contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.

Introduction of the birth control pill in 1964 began unraveling Vatican authority. Mom advised me to use the pill shortly before my 2nd child was born and shocked me since birth control was prohibited by the church. Drawing herself up as tall as her short frame would allow, Mom said, "If men could have babies, the Pope would make it a sacrament at Mass!" She went on about priests and bishops have no idea what it's like to be pregnant, give birth and then feed, clothe and educate children. She was very aware as the oldest of 8 children raised on a farm during the Great Depression, and felt strongly about the heavy burdens large families placed on women. Her final point was simple - my children depended on me not to have any more than I could take care of. Her approval of birth control was more powerful than the Pope!

Bishops control the money & power of the Roman Catholic authoritarian hierarchy, but it is the Catholic women who sustain the faith and future of the church. Since Vatican II, Bishops split over participation of laity - especially by women. Conservative bishops remain opposed to women's involvement other than cleaning, cooking and secretarial functions. Not surprisingly, those same bishops that are rabidly pro-life as it pertains to pre-birth, remain largely unmoved by post-birth life issues such as the lives of 500,000 children in foster care across our nation who are looked after by our government - not the church.

Religious communities have been pushing bishops to look at broader life issues, including sustainability of the earth. These Catholic religious communities have been catalysts for changes in the church historically, along with St. Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine and the Jesuits, but the nuns did the hard work. They opened schools & hospitals to benefit poor and middle class people. As WSJ reporter John Fialco wrote in "Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America," it was women, nuns in particular, who extended the Catholic faith in America, establishing and operating over 800 hospitals and 10,000 schools plus a multitude of other charities for the poor. Now their numbers are dwindling amid huge issues about their independence from Vatican authority - a traditional tug-of-war for many of the nuns' communities.

To answer the question - the majority of Catholics are good, kind, caring people, who simply want to believe in the teachings of Jesus, help the poor, pray and attend Mass as a matter of faith in a higher power. If the last election is an indication, many came to realize that funding health coverage for low-income children and support for pregnant women is must more effective in reducing the number of abortions - more so than a staged protest.

Most Catholics don't take to the streets in righteous protests even when they agree with the protesters. It's enough for them to face reality that they're paying the claims for abuses, sexual and financial, by some priests and a few bishops, which now total almost $500 million so far... enough for a $1000 scholarship for each child coming out of foster care.

David Gibson is the author of "The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful are Shaping a New American Catholicism" and "The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Food For Thought

I have proof - actual evidence - that we're SO buried in "news junk speak" that we glide by wiggle words like might or could happen or according to anonymous sources.  Proof that we're also numb to ridiculous book deals handed out like candy to idiots who's idiocy will be marketed to other desperate idiots.  Ad agency execs live quite nicely on ad revenue thanks to such idiots.

Now my friends & family are really, really smart people... or so I thought.  I sent them an email with this Subject line:  "You're never going to believe this!!" (you know the kind).  Why? Because... well, because it was one of those "junk news for idiots" days and my little ornery streak got loose.  I just couldn't resist with Joe trying to horn in on Bristol's 15 min. of fame.  Here's the email...

Joe the Plumber announced he ditched the GOP and, according to undisclosed inside virtual sources, Joe/Sam has been courting Bristol Palin since breaking her engagement to Johnston. Joe said he proposed last weekend in NYC & Bristol squealed, "Yes!" They plan to be married in June at Governor Palin's home then retire to an undisclosed location to write their books, which total over $10 million. Now about that bridge...
Could happen, ya know!  That's how urban legends get going... keep passing them on... some surrepticiously posting ideological thrillers using "Anonymous" comments on articles or blogs about every hot-button issue under the sun.

My delicious recipe was to use all of these flavors:  "according to undisclosed inside virtual sources," which apparently was too subtle to be noticed.  The Subject line and kicker at the end were surely dead giveaways like "Now about that bridge.." (as in "If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you!").

But my really, really, really smart friends & family fell for it anyway!  Hummm.. passed right on by tell-tale signs of tongue-in-cheek & bit!  I'll bet they just assumed the bridge was to nowhere...

Poor Dick Cheney!  His daughter had to duke it out with Eugene Robinson in his defense... of torture.  He so desperately wants the country to know that HE was the true DON now that he doth protest too much.

Right Wing 'Fix' for GOP: Medieval Bloodletting

I was driving to the Red Cross for a little bloodletting today & almost spewed my drink all over my dashboard when I heard what Dick Cheney told Bob Schieffer on Face The Nation about Colin Powell!!
Schieffer brought up recent banter about the Republican Party's future: "Rush Limbaugh said the other day that the party would probably be better off if Colin Powell left and just became a Democrat. Colin Powell said Republicans would be better off if they didn't have Rush Limbaugh out speaking for them. Where do you come down [on this]?"
"Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I'd go with Rush Limbaugh, I think," Cheney replied. "I think my take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn't know he was still a Republican."

So Dick's prescription for an ailing Grand Old Party is to shove a military man like Powell out the door! Given a large percentage of active & inactive military people follow Powell, would that not be like a medieval bloodletting??

Shhhh!! Listen!! You can hear Jon Stewart is rubbing his hands with a big sh--eating grin on his face...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers of the Year!

MomsRising.org has a great way to tell MOTHERS they're the best! Tell your favorite Mom she's the 2009 Mother of the Year! Your favorite mom deserves national recognition! Get her on national news, thanked by President Obama, and envied by Angelina Jolie. Click here and customize it for all the moms in your life » And don't forget: MOMS LOVE HUGS, TOO!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Are people going nuts or are we a Nation of Neurotics?

People seem to be going nuts like a Chinook wind is blowing. A few examples... in no particular order:
  • A University professor shoots his wife and 2 others with his little kids waiting in the car - obviously "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!" Whatever "it" was is still unknown - as is the professor.
  • Texas Governor Perry announces that Texas is "mad as hell" and may just secede from the United States.
  • 43 of 44 Georgia state senators try to one-up Texas - must be "mad as hell & not going to take it anymore" to pass a resolution laying the grounds for secession & dissolving the United States.
  • 8 protestors arrested outside Sudan's Embassy include 5 Congressional Representatives - also "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" because the world is ignoring the madness of genocide in Darfur.
  • An Army Reservist w/anger issues about Obama being president - obviously "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore" - kills 2 sheriff's deputies after roughing up his wife - who obviously dodged a bullet.
  • Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh agitating for anarchy all across the country.
  • A late-season flu epidemic in a few US cities sets off swine flu pandemic alarms because Mexico has it.
  • The federal government takes over large banks and automanufacturers teetering on bankruptcy.
We must not forget a major earthquake in Mexico. The Andreas Fault might also come unglued! Okay, I agree that is NOT funny since geologists have been warning about California's "Big One" for the last decade!!

However, the load of negative news can make us feel like we're standing on that proverbial edge staring into an abyss!! To keep our wits about us, keep in mind new implications of chaos for unpredictability of nature requires that predictability of all past events be largely irrelevant. Now put your mind to work on that little morsel - it is guaranteed to help you sleep better at night!

Maybe the predicted "end times" for 2000 is a late arrival and if you're born again, not to worry. But if not... well, dang... best turn the news off or we will become a Nation of Neurotics seeing danger in every nook and cranny.

Have you heard Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is selling like hot cakes again? I'm going to watch The Passion of Ayn Rand - the movie about the life of Alice Rosenbaum (pen name Ayn Rand). Alice/Ayn was a Russion immigrant of Jewish ancestry who was heavily influenced by the Russian Revolution at age 12. She liked her heroes to be strong and smart like those in her favorite childhood stories. I wonder if there's a connection between Alice's disappearing heroes in her infamous novel about "objective individualism" - and those "born-again" religious heroes who would be "raptured" in the end times of the Left Behind novels. ~;-)

Any laid back non-neurotics can simply vote in the sidebar for whether Susan Boyle will win the Britain's Got Talent and scroll down to listen to Cry Me a River by Susan Boyle, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London or Barbara Streisand... then vote for which one you think is best!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Health Care Reform - Discussions & Results

First Step: Health Care Community Discussions In December, the President's Transition Team launched an engagement of the public in health care reform that was extensive, intense and unprecedented. Over 9,000 citizens in all 50 states/DC signed up to host community discussions. Patients, doctors, business owners, and advocacy groups - people from all walks of life and various viewpoints gathered, discussed and submitted reports. The Health Policy Transition Team conducted 30,603 Participant Surveys and with help from dedicated volunteers read and analyzed 3,276 group reports submitted and survey results. Details of Report

Video: Results and Remarks of Firefighter and EMT Discussion host, Travis Ulerick, rose to his mother's challenge to stop complaining and do something about the health care problems he saw first-hand as a firefighter and EMT in Dublin, Indiana. A video of Travis' remarks and discussion results are in the sidebar.

Results and Conclusions:
Americans have a cohesive view of what is wrong and the general direction to fixing our health system. Interest in continuing to stay involved was very strong. A group in Green Acres, WA wrote: "We are extremely encouraged that President-elect Obama is reaching out to all Americans rather than special interest groups to come up with a solution. More than ever, we are optimistic that this solution will be reached."

Top Concerns - System Not Focused on Health or Prevention:
75% - costs (55%) and lack of emphasis on prevention (20%)
25% - preexisting conditions limit insurance (13%) and quality of care (12%)

Solutions Wanted:
55% want a fair (36%), patient centered and choice-oriented system (19%)
32% want a simple, efficient and comprehensive system

Second Step: Five Regional Forum in MI, VT, IA, NC, CA.
Democratic and Republican Governors Regional Forums bringing together citizens, key health care stakeholders, and elected officials to discuss what must be done to change our health care system. There was consensus that lack of health care and costs have adversely affected business competition with detrimental effects beyond political partisanship. With community organization and participation comes commitment to reforming the system because it simply is too important to our nation.

Final Step: Discussion of 30 Health Care Stakeholders on April 8
Leaders from hospitals, physicians, nurses, public health, educators, business, insurance and IT participant comments summarized in Health Reform Blog. (Big issues listed below)
C-Span (2 hr) Airtime at 3:50 pm on April 8

Major Stakeholders Ready for Reform:
Leader of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP ran "Harry and Louise" ads early 90's) stated to President Obama: "We want to work with you, we want to work with the members of Congress on a bipartisan basis here. We hear the American people about what’s not working. You have our commitment to play, to contribute, and to help pass health care reform this year. American Medical Assoc. (AMA), Physician-Hospital Organization (PHO) also committed to reforming the health care system.

Action Needed Now - Big Gorilla Issues:
Patient-Centered - focus system based on patient-centered and individual care.
Insurance Plans - insureds do not understand policies affecting care and costs.
Insurance Costs - not sustainable for small businesses (employ 70% of workers).
EMR 'Wiring' - focus on patient & operability for information and reimbursement.
End-of-Life - options affect economic and human costs (hospice vs intervention).
Prevention - focus must on prevention of chronic diseases at home and school.
Education - provide health care literacy programs for prevention and options.
Provider Shortage - need to train more doctors and nurses to meet demand.
Primary Care - clinics, not doctors, needed in rural and low-income areas.
Disabilities - train providers in care of disabled with more home care options.
Home Care - align costs and care w/facts - most care is provided at home.
Responsibility - engage employers and insurers in system designs.
Children Care - system must include schools, chronic disease and disabilities.
System Design - simplify, seamless access, technology and education.
Risk Barriers - patient risk-taking and align incentives among providers.
Social Connections - strategic investment w/health impact in communities.
Pharmaceutical - FDA approval delays requires funding more staff.
Dental Health - integrate prevention into health care system structure.
Public Health - healthy work/military force relies on care at front end.
Patient Choice - patients want choice of providers not insurers.
Individual Responsibility - health incentives work (nutrition and activity).

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Global Migrating Traders

Is trading in this global world of finance still too much to grapple with? Try comprehending something more complex, yet much easier to understand - because we simply accept forces of nature like these Global Migrating Traders.

Major players in Nature's Global Trading Exchanges are the Sandhill Cranes, much larger than snow geese. In March the Sandhill Cranes migrate from their winter homes spread across northern South America, fly north through a narrow band across Nebraska, to arrive & again spread out across their summer home in Canada. These large cranes are especially graceful despite 7 ft. wing spans and squat bodies balancing on spindly legs. Watch their dance moves in the sidebar video shot by Harold Silver in southern Ontario.

As the Sandhill Cranes traverse a narrow route across Nebraska's beautiful Sandhills, they stop for several weeks to rest and mate along a 50 mile-wide stretch of Nebraska's Platte River near Kearney. This wildlife spectacle of graceful cranes swoop up each night in the sky & land gracefully on sandbars in the Platte to roost overnight. It is a sight to behold while visiting Nebraska in March.

Let's not forgot 500,000 snow geese, trading places from the north to the south, that gather in Missouri's Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Their chattering as they roost for the night sounds like Nature's Global Trading Exchange every Spring and Fall.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Big-3 US Auto vs Big-2 Japanese Auto

So much ignorance, so little understanding.  Management & unions have a history of both good & bad relations, depending on their leadership.  Decisions at the top set the tone.  Does greed play a role?  Yes, on both sides. Have certain corporations lost their way? Absolutely!

Unions elect their own leaders, but don't have a say in executive hiring decisions.  Consider for a moment that Chrysler hired Nardelli as its new CEO, who had been fired by Home Depot the year before & paid $125 million as severance! 

If bad blood began at the top, those attitudes get insulated on both sides, flowing down to the bottom rung, becoming entrenched regardless of market forces.  Those corporations eventually become dinosaurs - executive, management & union.  Unfortunately, both sides dig ever deeper defenses & their products or services suffer the most.  Expenses for marketing/sales get bigger, which cover bad products/services only so long before more flexible competition takes a bigger market share.  This describes GM, Chrysler & Ford.

As an investor, I look for companies who's executives have a positive tone at the top. If they treat all employees well in terms of safe working conditions & wages, that company does not have union problems regardless whether unionized or not. They clearly understand that "best practices" get "best results" from employees, top to bottom, i.e., smarter decisions, fewer conflicts, happier employees, better trained workforce, less turnover, fewer QA rejects or returns, far fewer injuries or sickness, experienced supervisors, better management, smarter executive decisions - full circle.  All of which leads to larger profits in the bottom line.  This describes Honda & Toyota.

Japanese auto manufacturers learned well from Peter Drucker.  His analysis of GM, at GM's request, was published in "Concepts of the Corporation" (1946), with suggestions for improved management that was rejected by GM executives for decades.  Meanwhile, the Japanese manufacturers hired Drucker & adopted his ideas wholesale.  Results speak for themselves, including their 9 US plants, which are not unionized & are expanding.

If someone on WSJ's staff knows anyone with Drucker's genius, please publish their solutions to the Big-3 problems.  Otherwise, the tripe from "talking heads" is simply not useful to us.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Short & Simple Story of the Credit Crisis

TV news anchors are STILL trying to figure out who is to blame for the credit crisis!  Media artist - Jonathan Jarvis - came to their rescue with a visualized explanation. Check out  Crisis of Credit Visualized (video in sidebar).

Jonathan's goal of giving form to a complex situation like the credit crisis is to quickly supply the essence of the situation to those unfamiliar and uninitiated. This project was completed as part of his thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.  Explore more Jonathan Jarvis new media.


Healthy banks are revolting?  Yes, & with good reason!  Regional branch banks & community banks are rebelling against added FDIC costs, curbs on pay and business practices imposed on recipients of TARP capital after public outrage over bonuses and perks at the biggest lenders. 

I fault the News Media for not differentiating healthy banks from big unhealthy banks, causing a TARP stigma that has decimated stock prices of healthy banks & brought pressure to cut dividends, pay and perks. Healthy banks are applying to return TARP funds & urging Congress to change FDIC assessments so formulas are weighted by bank size to shift the cost burden to the largest banks that caused this train wreck.

Why should healthy banks have to help clean up the mess made by Wall Street banks?  8300 regional branch banks and community banks did NOT "securitize" collateral nor indulge in other unscrupulous behavior like hire fly-by-night mortgage loan originators.  These healthy banks adhered to high standards, maintaining healthy balance sheets & capital reserves. 

Adding insult to injury, the 8,300 banks also face increased FDIC fees plus an "emergency charge" to raise $27 billion this year to replenish FDIC's funding accounts. The FDIC took over 25 banks in 2008 & another 16 banks this year, most with less than $1 billion in assets.  Independent Community Bankers of America, representing 5,000 locally-owned community banks, expects that even half the proposed "emergency" charge means a 10-20% drop in 2009 earnings.

I wholeheartedly agree with Paul Volcker, former Chair of the Federal Reserve (1979-1987), who has recommended separating commercial banks from investment banks & insurance companies.

Congress should reinstate holding company provisions in the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that were repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.  Obviously such provisions are needed to maintain scrupulous oversight of our banking system.

Holding Conservatives Accountable - Part II

UPDATE: Conservatives dumped "socialist" now for "fascist" now. Someone finally convinced them Social Security and Medicare is "a good thing" for the economy and THEM (thanks Martha). They still don't bet it! The large majority in Congress is indicative of "fascism" if they don't adopt the conservative platform lock, stock and barrel. Folks, this is why the United States is a REPUBLIC, not a fascist union.  The rumor Conservatives hijacked the GOP is true!  But where are the OLD Republicans?  Could we please have our Grand Old Party back?

Conservatives are on the stump claiming the "house is burning down" while Pres. Obama ignores The Banking Crisis - by focusing on putting ARRA funds in the hands of state & city leaders to jump-start their infrastructure projects. Such short memories!

Are Conservatives still drinking the Kool-Aid? Did they forget a year ago in March the GOP's Gang of Three, led by Treasurer Henry Paulsen, started bailing out the BIG investment banks beginning with $29 BILLION to Bear Stearns? Okay, so they didn't bail out Lehman with $84 BILLION, but they rushed to save an even bigger fire - AIG.

Apparently Conservatives drank too much Kool-Aid to recall last summer at all!! When bailing out the largest and most incompetent bankers didn't break the log-jam of credit, GOP's Gang of Three worked furiously to get Congress to adopt TARP. Finally in October they forced 10 largest banks to take $250 BILLION & used another $200 BILLION to shore up other weak banks that also let greed run away with their common sense. Mere weeks after the election, the Gang of Three had the Federal Reserve create TALF using $200 BILLION to prop up asset-backed securities collateralized by student, auto, credit card, and SBA loans. Should've fixed those banks, right? Wrong!

Conservatives let the country down. Where were Conservatives when Nouriel Roubini, NYU Prof. of Economics, warned the IMF back in 2006 that our country was heading into a huge crisis? Prof. Roubini, a highly regarded economist, laid out projections of a housing bust, an oil shock, abrupt halt in credit, imploding investment banks, crashing markets & sharply declining consumer confidence - all leading to a very deep recession. ["Dr. Doom" by Prof. Steven Mihm - NYTimes 8-17-08]

Speaking of incompetence! The oh-so-smart members of the Conservative Media didn't sound the alarm when they could have used Prof. Roubini's warnings to pressure Bush|Cheney to to stop predatory lending in its tracks, putting out the first small credit fires and stop the bankers' Ponzi game early - before it burned down the house?

The Guardian on the Prescient Prof. Roubini: 25 People at the Heart of the Meltdown (1-26-09): "He remains a pessimist. He predicted last week that losses in the US financial system could hit $3.6tn before the credit crunch ends - which, he said, means the entire US banking system is in effect bankrupt. After last year's bail-outs and nationalisations, he famously described George Bush, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke as "a troika of Bolsheviks who turned the USA into the United Socialist State Republic of America."

Conservative Talking Heads still don't 'get' it, which frankly gives Conservative Media a bad name! They espouse free market solutions (just cut taxes) UNTIL free markets burn down the barn with out-of-control greed. Then they DEMAND that a new LIBERAL President use the government to fix the problem. Well, this old gal is no fool!

President Obama is no fool either - he gets it. Those bankers played a stealth game trading CDO/CDS like baseball cards and are still buried in that humongous stinking pile of debt of their own making. The President is correctly focused on bringing business to the 8300 leaner banks that kept their balance sheets healthy!

Holding Conservatives Accountable - Part I

Apparently Conservatives in the media were in the dark back in 2006-2007 when big banks went out of control - gorging on greed. What did Conservative reporters for National Journal, American Spectator or Fox News & other Conservative columnists know & when did they know it? Do we hold them accountable for their stupidity or their silence?

Conservative commentators & writers like George Will, Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, Stuart Taylor, Charles Krauthammer & many others - 'true believers' in the GOP spending & regulatory policies - were focused on keeping the GOP in power... while rich bankers got richer. Rush began sounding the alarm only when the GOP Gang of Three started up the firetrucks to save Bear Stearns. THE BANKING CRISIS was addressed by Bush|Cheney last year AFTER the barns began burning down... & after they got THEIR horses out first of course.

The very same Conservatives now want us to believe that Pres. Obama hasn't done enough in 6 weeks to save the banks from burning to the ground. NOW they ramp up anxiety?! They love to beat that drum now keying off Stuart Taylor from The National Journal, "The house is burning down. It's no time to be watering the grass." ["Obama's Left Turn: Centrists fear that the president's budget reveals his liberal leanings." by Stuart Taylor, National Journal Magazine (Mar. 7, 2009)]

Conservatives want to think THEY have all the answers. DO THEY? Hold them accountable for their silence when the fires began to burn back in 2006-2007! If they didn't know then, why didn't they? Why should we think they have all the answers now?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The LiteSide: First Arms Debate

I have some observations to share about the President's address to Congress last night.

The First Arms debate is not about proliferation or reduction of nuclear arms. NonsenseNews is up in arms over the First Arms of First Lady Michelle Obama. 1,440 hits on Google in 24 hours, 2680 hits in 1 week and 11,400 hits over the last month! Media focus on the First Lady's First Arms would make one think bare arm wrestling will be the new sport of arms negotiations.

President Obama used his gift of oratory to chide and inspire with the best of them - he gives as good as he gets. Couldn't tell by watching Republicans, but the GOP did the same to Pres. Clinton and Democrats did likewise during Pres. Bush 43's addresses. So what else is new? Gov. Jindal is new... as a GOP spokesperson. I heard so many good things about him, I wanted to like him... but he simply does not have the gift of oratory.

Wish now I had taught my kids to clap every time I said something they liked and if they really, really liked it, to stand up and clap really hard with an occasional long "whooey" too! Too late now that they're almost as old as the First Couple and parents themselves. Parents today should consider whether they're teaching their children to respect them today, tomorrow and when they're my age.

The LiteSide: Music, Maps & Innovators

On The LiteSide: Discover another world of Music, Maps and Innovators!  Wiki, OpenSource, CreativeCommons, OpenStreetsMap are bringing delightful changes in the world.  Check out the video in the sidebar!

CreativeCommons ... Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit organization that creates free tools and software for authors, scientists, artists, and educators.
Jamendo ... Enjoy and legally download free music.  Discover new musicians in the largest Creative Commons (CC) catalog in the world (in 7 languages).
Jamendo's Blog ... Learn what's new in the world of music (in 5 languages).
OpenStreetsMap ... Free World Wiki Map that continuously maps countries.  Edits were made by 20,000 people in 2008.  ITO World provides free online support software for OpenStreetMap.
Ideas in Transit ... Engages User Innovators, utilizing an Innovations Portal on Wiki, to find solutions to problems facing transport systems and users, and provides incubator funding of sub-projects.  A collaboration of government, commercial and academic leaders and networks, it uses 'bottoms-up' people rather than 'top-down' industry as a powerful new source of innovation to influence transport decisions.

Video: OSM 2008: A Year of Edits by ItoWorld
Financial support from Ideas in Transit
Music by Vincent Girès' Silence: Open Electro
(Open Source Audio hosted on Internet Archive.org)

Access White House Info

Open and sharing are beyond buzz words now.  President Obama is meeting his commitment to be the most open and accessible Administration in American history.  The websites WhiteHouse.org and Recovery.org provide citizens with open access to information.  Citizens can also give their ideas, thoughts or complaints to the Administration by direct communication online.  Access to the Internet is available at most local libraries.  Folks, it just doesn't get any easier than this!

Read the Constitution and the history of melding divergent views.  Introduce your kids/grandkids to White House Fun Facts with photos of White House Pets:  Johnson's beagles Him & Her, or Bush's Millie & her puppies in "executive" service (Spot returned with George W.).

The White House Briefing Room blogs daily with summaries, documents, videos and transcripts. Automatic updates are available by email or RSS/Atomic Feeder.

My greatest hope is that we stop the mean-spirited sniping.  With access to the same information the media get, do we need their one-sided negative commentary to form our opinions?  The negativity that shrouds our country is old, gets us nowhere, and sure doesn't help our country get better. 

Read what happened at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit held Mon., Feb. 23rd, when Congressional and nonprofit representatives met with the President to discuss: Owning Up To What We Owe

Read about the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan -- the Q&A identifies who can qualify and how to get help.  Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan explained....
The President has talked about the solution to this economic crisis as a stool with several legs, and his commitment to a comprehensive approach was clear when he moved from the first leg, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, immediately into the second and third legs, the Financial Stability Plan and the Mortgage Affordability Plan. This started as a mortgage crisis, and then a credit crisis, but it’s become a job crisis, so we have to take it on all at once.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tax TARP Recipients

I am outraged, too! What was Congress thinking... or at least the idiots who wrote TARP?!

Now I really like your style, Senator McCaskill, but you are singing to the choir out here. So roll up your sleeves & go to work fast to amend the tax code if you want to recoup most of that money.

Beginning with TY2008:
  1. Apply a 70% tax rate to total salaries over $500,000 received from a TARP recipient, including stock options valued as of January 1, 2008.
  2. Apply an 80% tax rate to the total value of bonuses received by anyone earning more than $250,000 from a TARP recipient.
  3. Disallow any personal deductions up to the total amount of salaries and bonuses received from a TARP recipient.
  4. Eliminate deductions for entertainment and marketing expenses claimed by a TARP recipient or by any employee of a TARP recipient.
If you can get this passed, you will be forever America's HERO!!!

Sup. Ct. Justice Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer today. Pancreatic cancer is a killer - few can survive it. Let's hope this tenacious lady does. Perhaps only 'old' lawyers like me understand the significance of this great American. Like Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, she has been a hero to many... & is in my thoughts & prayers.

Gearing up for Afghanistan

Anyone who thinks Pres. Obama isn't serious about routing Al Queda from its cozy mountain retreat just isn't paying close attention. Obama talks softly... to those who are listening... especially in the Middle East.

He's also carrying a BIG stick. Don't believe it? Listen carefully to this webcast of Secretary Gates testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Now look closely at who Obama has forming AND carrying out US policy on Afghanistan...

Obama has now tapped Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry as ambassador to Afghanistan. Eikenberry is about to retire as deputy chairman of NATO’s military committee in Brussels, but he served in Afghanistan twice, including an 18-month command tour, earning a reputation for spotting problems early. He's a West Pointer with master’s degrees from Harvard and Stanford. Obama's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, backed Eikenberry because he knows all the players in Afghanistan & developed close ties with European NATO allies that haven't met their support obligations.

If the Senate approves, Eikenberry would become the 4th active-duty or retired general on Obama's 'team' setting policy on Afghanistan, along with Gen. Petraeus(CENTCOM), Gen. McKiernan (Afghanistan Commander), retired USMC Gen. Jones (National Security Advisor). HELLO!