Lonesome Tree in Sandhills

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.