Thursday, March 28, 2013

Suddenly, They're All Gone


"Caring for the old is just like parenting an infant, only on really bad acid. It's all there: the head-spinning exhaustion, the fractured brain, the demands and smells. Only this time with the knowledge that it won't get better." Carol Mithers, wrote this essay the other day.

I have been thinking about my mom who took care of her in-laws for several years. She gave up a lot to do this but I never heard her complain. She was 'old school' in the sense the task was not a sacrifice to her but a call from her heart. I also think of parents of severely damaged service men and women, who also are sacrificing quietly, their lives for their children.

Throughout this world, caregivers, be they family, friends or lovers are quietly giving up the best years of their lives without medals, plaques or parades for what they know will be the inevitable epitaph … They Are Gone…..

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Disease In Medicine Redux

Yesterday I discussed the Baumol's Disease as it applies to the medical professional. I did not include one of the primary drivers that can enhance or retard an efficient and safe interface between technology and patient care… medical equipment salesmen. Yep, medical equipment salesmen are as important to patient care as is the most proficient medical professionals. Motivated by incentives some salesmen and their supervisors have endangered and severely injured patients, and not indirectly.

Roni Caryn Rabin reports that in pursuit of money, medical equipment salesmen have and I believe criminally injured patients. If you read her article you may also blame the surgeons and I wouldn't dispute that argument. But, the injuries originate with the intent of these salesmen to encourage medical procedures that they know beforehand are lethal in the hands of ill-prepared surgeons. 

As it relates to the Baumol's Disease concept these criminal motivations retard productivity, retard technology advancement in medicine and injure/kill patients.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Disease In Medicine

Jonathan Cohn writes in the The Atlantic (March 2013) about the synergy of technology and economics. More specifically about the medical profession and the above.

An intriguing part of Mr. Cohn's article is something called "Baumol's Disease" or "the Braumol effect". Essentially in most jobs, wages increase as productivity rises. We know that today there are many exceptions due to the uniqueness of the current economic environment. Productivity in the United States is rising but wages are not and in many instances because of low consumer and government spending along with bank parsimony demand is down. I digress, but another exception is the exorbitant bonuses and 'golden parachutes' given to CEO's whether productive or not. Hopefully to end soon? Anyway, in a perfect world, this is how it is supposed to operate.

The relevance of Baumol's Disease to the medical profession is that in good times and bad as productivity goes down, wages rise. Cohn explains that the medical field is very labor intensive and demand is high and increasing. Employers must retain their personnel, especially the highly trained, by continually raising their compensation. Now we come to the impact technology can have on Baumol's Disease. It can increase productivity in several ways. Highly trained physicians and highly trained support staff can increase productivity (diagnosis and execution of treatment protocals) by increasing their use of technology. Less trained staff can have skills upgraded to the point where some burdens are removed from doctors. This increases productivity.

I am not saying that technology will lower medical costs. But, what it may do is give the profession more bang for the buck. Today as Mr. Cohn notes: "… a doctor in a clinic still sees patients individually, listens to their problems, orders tests, makes diagnoses - in the classic economic sense, the process of an office visit is no more efficient the it was 10, 30, or 50 years ago."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Phil Spector HBO Review

Watched "Phil Spector" last night on HBO. The critics didn't seem to care much for it, but I found it entertaining in all phases of the production. Pacino and Mirren were good, direction and screenplay were good. The critics got onto David Mamet because it's not accurate. DUH, it was not touted to be accurate. It was just a dramatization and stated such before a word in the movie was spoken. It did cast doubt on the verdict and seemed to blame the victim for her own death which evolved in the story from suicide to a dumb accident. 

Remember those 'thingys' (usually yellow) that we put in the middle of 45 records so they would fit on an LP player. Well most of Mirren's defense team had not only no idea what they were, they thought the 45 record was something that was used in an old computer… you know, like a precursor to a CD. They weren't that young either!

Anyway, great sound track. I especially liked Rebecca Pidgeon's interpretation of 'Spanish Harlem'.




Sunday, March 24, 2013

If Not You, Who?

 “A democracy should not be dependent for its major decisions on what nine unelected people from a narrow legal background have to say,” ... Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.


 I disagree. For one thing we are a Republic not a Democracy. And that's the reason you have a job, Justice Kennedy.  Ben Franklin was asked by a woman, after the Constitution was signed, what type of government was created?  Franklin replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it." 

We want a government of laws not majority public opinions. And another thing, Justice Kennedy,  the Supreme Court does not decide major decisions, it decides only cases that the court deems worthy of certiorari  [should the court listen]. Sometimes they decide on standing , but most importantly they decide if there is a constitutional question involved.[That's what Franklin was addressing.]

The courts are not and should not make decisions based on polls, or any other popular expression of sentiment. That's why Justica wears a blindfold.








It's unconscionable that a justice of the Supreme Court holds such a view. It's time to 'get off the bus' Anthony.







Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Justification of Nullification

In a previous post I kind of advocated for court remedies by law enforcement officials when perceived constitutional conflicts arise between jurisdictions in our federal system. But reading Adam Liptak's article yesterday I realized that sometimes using the courts to resolve constitutional conflicts may have to be accompanied by civil disobedience of those we elect to enforce laws. Probably the most dramatic example was the debate over slavery preceding the Civil War. Many law makers from the north felt justified both morally and legally to defy laws protecting slavery.

Now we come to the issue of gay marriage which will be heard before the Supreme Court on March 26. [Just read that the court will release same-day audio of this argument.] The civil disobedience was initiated by the city attorney's office in San Francisco in the face of California's voter approval of Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriage after state courts and a lower federal court judge ruled a previous ban [Proposition 22] to be unconstitutional [The court will also be deciding on a federal law known as Defense of Marriage Act.] In reporter Liptak's referenced article I e-mailed him regarding this statement: "… the plaintiffs and defendants in both cases agree that the laws under review are unconstitutional … ". No response by reporter Liptak and I can't make heads are tails of the discussion online. So I can only assume the city attorney for San Francisco is breaking the law by not enforcing  the  unconsitutional Proposition 8?

Official nullification by government officials is a very dangerous thing, especially by law enforcement personnel. A famous case [Worcester v. Georgia] involves President Jackson and Chief Justice John Marshall. Marshall's court ruled against a case that Jackson strongly supported. He refused to obey the court and famously said: "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" This is the 'still point' in our form of government. The courts have no police force. The laws we live by are balanced on the knife edge of voluntary compliance and enforcement by other officials who do have police forces. 

So even though reporter Liptak won't answer me I will assume that the Supreme Court has granted certiorari [listen to arguments] in the hope that with their decision they are not told to enforce it.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Separating The Truly Gifted From The Well Prepared

Jenny Anderson reports on the competition of parents and 4-year olds to win placement at some of New York City's top private kindergarten programs.

Reporter Anderson, has brought to our attention a Mutual Assured Deception (MAD) race going on between test makers, test preparers, test takers, and test evaluators. You can read the article but essentially the test maker Pearson announced that it was changing the exam used to test 4-year olds. Almost immediately test preparers had announced a 'fix' for the test takers. Now the test evaluators are pretty much back where they started from, trying to discern the truly gifted from the well prepared.

Four-year olds are "a mercurial and unpredictable lot by nature" and assessing them is not made any easier by deceptive practices.




Friday, March 15, 2013

Up Close And Personal

Peter Gelb, the general manager for the MET is getting a bit of heat because attendance has dropped at the House. Not because opera loving fans are losing interests but because Mr. Gelb instituted live HD performance at local theaters. I, for one love it and prefer it over going to the Houston Grand Opera. I love the close up camera work, the interviews at intermission, the visual and audio quality of the HD production.

I use to buy DVD sets of operas, but now I don't have to unless I want to hold onto a particular performance. Wouldn't it be great if they could somehow remaster Maria Callas's performances with close-ups?

If you haven't seen an HD production you are missing a fantastic experience. As a former season ticket holder of the Houston Grand Opera I put my glasses on the final scene of Carmen staring Denyce Graves. In the Houston production she is in a bloody yellow dress, dying against the outside wall of the bullring. She is a mess and breathing hard … for real. (She just had a fight and was stabbed by Jose.) You can see the energy it took to perform that scene, it made it real, it suspended belief. You don't get that in the cheap seats. That's why I like the theater HD performances.

Same applies with concerts, for example want to experience what some critics say it the best symphony orchestra in the world? Check it out here:

True Believers


To be fair this photo was taken immediately after the 9-11-01 attack, but it still contains some who truly believe that Dick Cheney was right about everything, including Dick Cheney. This guy is a discredited self-deceiving man. Even the likes of George W. Bush and Don Rumsfeld admit they were mislead by Cheney and his neocons. Yet he keeps getting press and tells the same stories. Now he is going to be on a Showtime documentary called, "The World According To Dick Cheney". Well that's the only world he knows and it has past him by. I don't like him. He and his crowd like to send other peoples kids to war.

Cheney believes that by invading Iraq he stopped Saddam from his "intent" to develop WMD. By that reasoning my tour in Hawaii stopped the Japanese Empire from attacking Pearl Harbor again … which by the way they did not, thanks to my vigilance.

I can't tell you how angry Viet Nam veterans still are about McNamara. Years later he admitted that he knew Viet Nam was a lost cause. He was also a self-deceiving individual working for a self-deceiving President who made up a raison d'√Čtat in the Gulf of Tonkin to send troops and treasure to Viet Nam.

I am done ranting, just having flashbacks to the lies of lying liars.

And That's The Truth



Using The Courts For Nullification

I'm not sure how to respond to this nullification trend that's being talked about lately. We hear it from some governors regarding Obamacare and recently over any state or federal laws that would 'weaken' the Second Amendment.

 Montana and I think a few other states have threatened to arrest federal law enforcement officers that violate their state constitutions. Not certain if this is just pandering or serious stuff. If it is serious stuff then the states lose big time. State rights people can argue until blue in the face but they will not prevail.  All elected officials take an oath to uphold the laws of their particular state and the federal constitution. Where they conflict the federal courts ultimately decides on the constitutionality of the issue not a local sheriff nor even a governor.

Back to Obamacare. Bill Keller, wrote an op-ed piece in early February asking: "Can a corporation have a conscience? And if so, is it protected by the First Amendment?" He was addressing the stance taken by Hobby Lobby's founder, David Green, who opposes providing the so-called morning-after pill, which he deems to be a chemical abortion, to his employees. Employees can pay for it themselves, but he will not pay for the pill as required by Obamacare. This conflict unlike the sheriffs is being addressed through the courts and may end up before the Supreme Court. As Mr. Keller notes the attorney for Mr. Green states:

"'The legal case' for the religious freedom of corporations "does not start with, 'Does the corporation pray?' or 'Does the corporation go to  heaven?' … 'It starts with the owner.' For owners who have woven religious practice into their operations, he told me, 'an exercise of religion in the context of a business' is still an exercise of religion  and thus constitutionally protected."

HOBBY LOBBY 
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

In order to effectively serve our owners, employees, and customers the Board of Directors is committed to:
Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.
Offering our customers an exceptional selection and value.
Serving our employees and their families by establishing a work environment and company policies that build character, strengthen individuals, and nurture families.
Providing a return on the owners' investment, sharing the Lord's blessings with our employees, and investing in our community.
We believe that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured. He has been faithful in the past, and we trust Him for our future.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Too Big To Fail And Too Big To Jail

Just the other day Attorney General Holder, admitted that bringing criminal charges against large banks and corporations was not in the national interest. The poster boy for corporations that are too big to jail is the now eviscerated Arthur Andersen. Innocent employees lost their jobs, investors lost money and of course Enron innocents experienced the same outcome.


Today we learn that Google's Street View project obtained, unbeknown to management, privacy data from everyone, everywhere. 

"Never again, it says, will a midlevel engineer be able to do anything like what one did in Street View: start a program to scoop up data secretly from potentially millions of unencrypted Wi-Fi networks around the world, without his bosses, bothering to know."


I like this image because it looks so innocuous yet it is so evil.

It's time to prosecute individuals instead of corporations … you know, something called accountability. 

What happen to the engineer who stole data? Well he has been identified as Marius Milner. What has happen to Marius, apparently not much. The latest I can find is that Google is being fined and Marius as of 2008 was doing well in Palo Alto.




How Safe Is Public Art?

Some weeks ago I was reading a discussion regarding the security of public art. Some call it graffiti and indeed there is a genre known as graffiti art. My personal opinion is that it is art … period.

Anyway not too long after that discussion, a work by the British artist Branksy goes missing from a wall in London and turns up for auction in Miami.

BEFORE

AFTER


Wood Greens Investment ended up with the piece (and won't say how), then sold it to a private collector who in-turn put it up for auction in Miami. Some legal minds believe ownership of the art belongs to the owner of the structure on which in was created.  


I am not certain of work's current status. I think the auction house held off selling it until some legal opinion is given. I know the local community in London wants it back. The ramifications of the removal and selling it poses questions for the security of other graffiti masterpieces.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Violence Against Women Act

After much give-and-take in both the Senate and House an expanded Violence Against Women Act was past and subsequently signed by the President.


The 'expanded' part was the bump in the road for many Republicans. Violence Against Women Act now includes abuse in gay relationships and on Native American Reservations. I'm going to address the Native American aspect. It comes to light that Native Americans could not bring charges against non-Native Americans in their tribal courts.

Native American women are victims twice as much as non-Native American women. Not all these acts are committed by non-Native Americans, but many are and with little consequences. This is because non-Native Americans could not be tried in tribal courts.

Unknown to me was that tribal courts do not have the same constitutional protections as those judicial system outside the reservations. The tribal courts will have to amend their legal codes to reflect protections given to defendants off the reservation before the expanded Violence Against Women Act can be implemented on the reservation.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The United States Pleads For Sobriety At The United Nations

Most of the drinking, according to Marc Santora, occurs during budget hearings. Smaller country representatives have no power over the budget because the United States, Japan and Western European nations supply most of the funds. So it's kind of boring and the hearings last a looooooog time.

Party on guys and gals, no one takes the United Nations seriously anyway.

Pope Rambo I

Apparently with the Curia in such disarray, increase defections by the Catholic cohort, cover-ups in local dioceses and within the Vatican bureaucracy, some Vaticanistas yearn for a tough love guy to become the Vicar of Christ.

I did not coined Pope Rambo I, that was done by an un-named source close to Vatican politics. Tradition is still very important to the church and to most of its congregants, but there is almost universal concern for the slipshod and criminal management at all levels in the Church bureaucracy. And this includes lay officials and clergy.






The Way We Were


The photo above shows Jeffery Miller lying dead at the feet of 14 year old Mary Ann Vecchio. He was killed along with three other students at Kent State University by Ohio National Guardsmen. No convictions in this case. I bring this time up because the lawyer representing Jeffery's mother, Joseph Kelner, past away, on March 4, 2013. 


Think the country is ideologically divided now? You should been with some of us during the 60's and into the 70's. John Kennedy was killed for political reasons as was Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Governor George Wallace was seriously wounded for his political stance. I was put up against a tree in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention. Bayonets pointed at my chest by the Illinois National Guard. Post convention investigations termed it a "police riot". 








Families were divided and hard feelings still linger today. 

Ironically the movement back then was called the "peace movement" and even more ironically for me personally, I side with the NRA about government control of lethal force. Having lived and participated through this period I think it foolish to assume the government will not use deadly force against its citizens.  And if they could get away with it don't think they wouldn't confiscate weapons. But, that's a whole other topic.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What's In Your Ear Today?

Ira Hyman Jr. of Western Washington University calls those songs you can't get rid of earworms. Mostly it's kind of a loop thing of the chorus.

His study seems to show that earworms activate themselves while we are doing mundane tasks-like house cleaning. To get rid of these annoyances we should do more demanding things such as reading.

My earworm this morning is:


Good Day, and Long Live Rock-n-Roll!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A "Cottage Industry" Flourishes In Louisiana

I don't know if you watch Treme on HBO, but it covers some silly government rebuilding efforts still going on after Katrina.

Now, we learn from the Associated Press that a $75 million cottage program has significant costs overuns. The average cost of each cottage is $145,216. But what, there's more. People who live in 34 of those cottages had to move out in order that repairs be made because water leakage in the walls.  With these repairs the price of the 34 homes has increased to $195,452.



Honest Graft

Spin from the 'ole school' may have started with a Tammany Hall guy named George Washington Plunkitt:



"Everybody is talkin‘ these days about Tammany men growin’ rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin‘ the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There’s all the difference in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I’ve made a big fortune out of the game, and I’m gettin’ richer every day, but I’ve not gone in for dishonest graft—blackmailin' gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.—and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.
There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin‘: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”

Believe it or not this distinction has become even more refined. For example in the The Abuse of Power there was a discussion regarding 'legal graft'. Legal graft is considered apolitical. It is featured by a quid pro quo. It is apolitical because the parties involved in the 'arrangement' see themselves at a level outside of politics. An example from the book is: "I'll get you a 99-year lease from the city and you give my friend some insurance …." In Robert Caro's book, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, this so-called legal graft was pervasive for decades and at the expense of reforms. Legal graft, is not apolitical and those who participate in it have a vested interest in keeping the status quo.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Trust Me

Ever here of 'gun trusts'?

Erica Goode has:

"A growing number of shooting enthusiasts are creating legal trusts to acquire machine-guns, silencers or other items whose sale is restricted by federal law - a mechanism that bypasses the need to obtain law enforcement approval or even undergo criminal background checks."

An ATF spokesman confirms "… that under current regulations, background checks are not required for the buying of restricted firearms through trusts."

ATF also notes that applications between 2008 and 2012 have doubled to 39,000.

Furthermore these gun trusts are amazingly easy to procure. One guy in Ms. Goode's report used Quicken and a $10.00 fee to get his gun trust, but the quick Quicken method may not be valid. I have seen some articles on the internet by law firms questioning the validity of Quicken and Legal Zoom regarding strength of these on-line gun trusts forms, but no current literature. Some forums go back- and-forth on the legality of these quick and cheap on-line gun trusts forms. The best advice is to use an NFA Trust.

Newtown: Still A Deadly Place To Live

Francis X. Clines reports that Newtown, Connecticut had a warehouse full of toys that they had to get rid of recently. This is just one of many factors that linger in the aftermath of the December mass murders. Another is the continuing fight over local gun control. Newtown or Riverside is the headquarters of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Different sources put the organization's base in different towns. I'm going with National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), who claim a Riverside location, they should know, right? The problem with NSSF is that somewhere in their history, backyard shooting ranges were permitted. As Mr. Clines notes this was before the the members of the local NSSF accessed long-range assault pistols and rifles. Now there are complaints of bullets flying around the neighborhoods of Newtown.

More bad news for the unarmed citizens of Newtown is coming out of Washington concerning opposition to closing loopholes in background checks, and assault weapon ban.

And so it goes….

Sunday, March 3, 2013

What's That You Say?

The New York Times has had very extensive coverage regarding the pre and posts goings on resulting from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI resignation. Why did he REALLY resign? How corrupt is the Curia? And so on.

I have followed this coverage closely, but not being Catholic I am curious about only several things:

In this Times article by John F. Burns and Rachel Donado of February 26, 2013 they report:

"The main role of cardinals is to elect a new pope, and they remain eligible to vote under any circumstances, even if they have been excommunicated, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, the secretary for the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said last week."

Does this mean that the eligible voting members can elect an excommunicated cardinal as Pope? I can't confirm the Times statement attributed to Bishop Arrieta. I have written to the Times Public Editor, the Times Foreign Editor and The Catholic News Service … no replies. You can find discussions on forums, but not from an authorized source such as Bishop Arrieta.

The other question I have is just who are the Memores Domini? I ask this because four women from this community will be caring for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at his temporary 'quarters' at the Castel Grandolfo. The women are laywomen and you can find some information here.

If you don't already know the Pope Emeritus will be 'hidden to the world' here, but only temperary:


Then he moves to his permanent digs here:



Poor Catholics in Louisiana are 'hidden to the world' here:




Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty, Where Are You?








                           

                                         










Mrs. Koop, have you seen my cat? Dr. Schrodinger and I don't know if he is dead or alive.?



"Mrs. Schrodinger, why would you ever ask me?





C. Everett Koop was appointed by Ronald Reagan as Surgeon General and died February 26, 2013.
Anyway, in a rather lengthy obituary in the New York Times we learn that around age 14:

"… he operated on rabbits, rats and and stray cats in his basement after his mother had administered anesthesia. By his account, not one of the animals died."