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I’m Still Here

I just really haven’t had much to say. We are inundated and overwhelmed with words, good words, bad words, good ideas bad ideas. The world isn’t getting any better because of them as far as I can tell. It’s pretty much like tinnitus, a roaring in the ears doing little more than annoying me.

Okay, a return just for the purpose of whining isn’t much. Tomorrow I’ll do better.

I tend to waste a good deal of time on the internet, and a chunk of that time is spent perusing reddit.com. Kind of a bulletin board, you might say, but that hardly covers it. A lot of people participate, and actually take up some causes. What I’m going to address today are two subjects which get a lot of “press” on reddit, and which are connected in my mind: file-sharing (piracy) and drug (mostly marijuana) use. My thoughts basically concern needs versus wants, and the advisability of knowing the difference.

PIRACY: I’m talking here about, mainly, musical recordings, movies, and video games. The “hive mind” (a term commonly used there) on reddit mostly sticks up for unregulated/unpunished internet sharing of copyrighted material without paying for it. I take the other side. If someone offers something for sale, either I buy it, or I do without it. Nobody “needs” to have a handy recorded version of any form of entertainment. It’s as simple as that to me. In my lexicon, it is theft. If one is starving, and has no money, or immediate prospect of any, there is some moral suasion to the idea of taking some food (although it is still theft) for survival, but that argument certainly wouldn’t apply to the latest song by Adele or whatever. I do not agree with the draconian fines/damages claimed by copyright holders in their battle against piracy, and the overreaching laws being considered/passed to protect the vendors of copyrighted stuff. If I steal a $.99 cent song, I don’t owe you thousands of dollars. I also don’t acquire a moral right to pirate your material, just because I think you are being too nasty.

DRUGS: If it were up to me, there would be no criminal penalty for possession or use of any drug. I’d allow all drugs to be sold and regulated like alcohol/tobacco. I think criminalizing drugs causes far more trauma (as well as government expense/lost revenue) than any potential harm which could be attributed to the drugs or their use. Having said that, I also don’t agree that the sometimes silly, often draconian, criminal laws and penalties fit the definition of the punishment fitting the crime. However, setting aside for the moment any claimed medicinal use of a drug, and any self-developed addiction, nobody “needs” the drugs which are illegal. They are just an indulgence. Just because someone wants to smoke pot, does not create a moral, or legal, right or privilege to do so.

I don’t believe everyone is entitled to do completely as they please. I don’t believe the proper form of indicating displeasure with existing law is to break it, consequences be damned. Just because I want to do something does not justify my doing it. If someone wants to take risks, they ought to be aware of and willing to accept the consequences. I certainly don’t agree that a voluntary decision to do something can reasonably be retroactively described as a “mistake” (the favorite word of convicted criminals these days). You don’t like a law, work to get it changed. Think the system is stacked against you getting that change? Then work on the system. Rich oligarchs have usurped the system and change from below is impossible (in your view)? Then just remember, what you want, and what you need, are not always the same thing.

Doctors Going Broke?

This post was inspired by an article I read today: http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/05/smallbusiness/doctors_broke/index.htm, by Parija Kavilanz.

“Doctors in America are harboring an embarrassing secret: Many of them are going broke.”

I’m not going to recite the article, read it at the link above. The reasons recited by doctors for their financial woes include: shrinking insurance reimbursements, changing regulations, and rising business and drug costs. A reason offered by some experts is lack of business acumen on the part of doctors. Medicare reimbursements have shrunk (and are scheduled to shrink more), and private insurance reimbursements tend to follow Medicare rates. Medicare reimbursement rates for drugs declined, so selling drugs at a profit to patients (after buying them from the pharmaceutical companies, which made a profit), has faded as a profit center (not all doctors, in all jurisdictions, had the right to sell drugs at a markup, it seems).

So, what’s my point? Well, I saw one study which tracked new small businesses opened in 1992, and only about 29% of them were still going in 2002. If doctors are exempt from the perils of the business world (or ought to be), I’m unaware of that. Oh, I know, it’s a bigger deal if a community loses its family doctor than if it loses a souvenir shop or something, because health is perhaps more important than tchotchkes. But the consequences of a business shutting its doors does not bear any relation to its survivability that I know of.

Maybe more importantly, I perceive a systemic flaw in the system. Medical care is driving many Americans into bankruptcy (and actual death) sometimes, even insured Americans (who are bleeding money into insurance premiums). Now we hear doctors are having it tough financially. I say that if something costs consumers a ruinous amount, yet does not provide a living to the producers (doctors in this case), something is terribly wrong. It reminds me of the issue of farmers barely eking out a living while everyone else is paying high prices for food. Maybe that’s “liberal” or “socialist” thinking. After all in the dog-eat-dog and cat-eat-mouse foodchain of Capitalism (gotta capitalize high concepts), if the middlemen (and women) out-work (do I mean out-scheme?) the producers and consumers, then the great god Mammon should provide them with more of the gold. My solution? Well, it’s no secret, I favor universal tax-supported health care, where doctors and other providers don’t have to worry about running a business because they are on salary. There, I said it.

As for doctors selling medicine at a profit, I’m against it. Big Pharma puts its money into developing a medicine (and then puts twice the amount they paid to develop it into idiot TV ads). Yes, they deserve a reasonable profit. Medicine is, and should be (if not nationalized) a service industry entirely, not a retail goods industry. That’s my opinion.

So, do I want Doctor Zhivago to have to close his doors? No, I don’t. I would like to know why medical practices can’t control their overhead, but, then, I’m not a doctor (although I did run a law office). Here’s a cautionary tale (might remind you of the disputes between millionaire athletes and billionaire team owners). In Florida (and doubtless other states) the doctors constantly whine to the legislature about the huge premiums they have to pay for medical malpractice insurance, usually calling it a “crisis.” Some sad tales come forth of doctors paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per annum for malpractice premiums, even without ever had a claim made against them. So, the reasonable question is posed to the doctor paying those premiums: how much do you have left over after paying all overhead, including those monster premiums. Well, like unto the billionaire ball team owners, they don’t want to answer that. Why? Well, because there isn’t much sympathy to be had if the leftovers amount, on an annual basis, to multiples of what Joe and Jane Lunchbox anticipate making in a lifetime of hard work. Oh, you might ask, how did I get here from a discussion of bankrupt doctors? Easy, I think probably the vast majority of doctors are not closing their doors, and many of those who are shutting down are probably the authors of their own misfortune.

Anyway, I’ll save my sympathies for the unwell who can’t afford treatment.

[This is my first cross-post from my other blog]

I saw this sign on my way home from the dentist. I find it reassuring that I can get a whole pig from Publix any time of year. Well, actually, I just found the sign odd, never having seen a supermarket with such a sign. Moreover, I wonder who their target demographic is for these whole hogs. I live in what for many decades was (is?) a Florida Cracker county. Now, it’s pretty much an Orlando exurb, or bedroom community. The supermarket in question is smack dab in the middle of one of the highest earned-income demographic areas in Florida (note I didn’t mention unearned income, I think Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Naples might compete in that category). Do the nouveau-riche (well, nouveau-prosperous) buy a lot of whole hogs? Have I missed a trend by not reading “Bon Apetit?”

And, sadly, no, I don’t have anything better to write about at the moment

Mary and Maude

The elephants are Mary and Maude. Mary was born in 1946 in India. I was born in 1946 in Detroit. We both made our way to Sanford, Florida. Her to live in the zoo, and me to live about four miles away. Mary died last year (or was it the year before?). Maude was moved to another location where there were other elephants because it didn’t seem right to the keepers to make her live alone.

My Babycakes got to meet Mary and Maude, and Mary gave her a bit of a tummy tickle.

I get a wistful sense of the passage of time, and life moving on when I look at these images.


Just by coincidence, yesterday I got a mailing regarding a settlement of a class action against Honda regarding gas mileage (and battery pack life). I am a member of the covered class, and of a covered sub class. If I read the document correctly, I can have a $1000 rebate if I trade in my 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid (HCH) on any new Honda, plus an additional $500 rebate, plus $100, plus another $100, plus an extended warranty on the battery pack.

All I have to do is fill in a form, and mail it in! Yay! On the form I have to certify that: 1) I am a Settlement Class Member dissatisfied with the fuel economy I have achieved in my HCH and would like to claim [the settlement goodies] and 2) I am a Member of the MY 2006-2008 Subclass, and I am dissatisfied with the performance of the IMA Battery in my HCH and/or the July 2010 Software Update . . . [and I want the settlement goodies].

The problem is, from my point of view, is that I am NOT dissatisfied, and cannot honestly submit the form. So I’m not gonna. I’m sorry if some folks were disappointed with their Civic Hybrids, but cannot see my way to participate in the settlement. Maybe I’m just a fool, but so be it.

Oh, so far nobody has cursed me (see the prior post) for my position.

Okay, it’s only fair to add the list of “banned” words, since I posted the “in” words a day or so ago. Lake Superior State University in Michigan (up by Sault Ste. Marie), released its “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness”. Here they are:
1. Amazing
2. Baby Bump.
3. Shared Sacrifice
4. Occupy
5. Blowback
6. Man Cave
7. The New Normal
8. Pet Parent
9. Win the Future
10. Trickeration
11. Ginormous
12. Thank you in Advance.

The astute and faithful reader will note that “Occupy” is on both this list, and the list I posted in my prior post. Of all the words/phrases on today’s list, I’d pick “Baby Bump” as my favorite (meaning I hate it the most). It demeans motherhood and pregnancy in my estimation.