Archive for the ‘Musing’ Category

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.

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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.

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[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

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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.

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I was perusing Digg a couple of days ago when I ran across an article about a woman suing Honda in small claims court in California. She was disappointed with her 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid’s gas mileage. She was getting 20 mpg less than predicted. There were some comments on the article, saying various things about gas mileage and Honda.

I have a 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid which has gotten just about the gas mileage predicted for it. I posted a comment saying so:

“I have a 2007 model year Civic Hybrid, and have been very happy with the gas mileage. I drive 3 or 4 highway trips each year of 1,000 miles or more and my average on those trips is 50mpg. Factor in the local driving, and I hover, for the year, between 42 and 43 mpg. I do not speed out on the open road, and generally no not have a lead foot. If I didn’t let my hot rod spouse drive my car, I’d probably be between 44 and 45 annually! If Honda reads this comment, they are welcome to my testimony.”

Someone styling himself as “Jeremy” thought to make a comment on my comment:

“Honda also supports slave labor and human misery. So go fuck yourself you are not intelligent or leading the species with your caring fabled existence. More people died collecting the lithium to power that piece of shit than died on sept 11. You would know this if you were educated. Also, to recharge a battery in a hybrid, is done by running off of coal fired power plants. So not only are you hybrid buyers less efficient overall, you’re also still ignorant. Great job now go suck more dick at the office you felch.”

I did not reply in kind, I’m happy to report. A different commenter addressed the actual factual issues raised by “Jeremy,” pointing out that the car in question doesn’t use lithium batteries and isn’t a plug-in hybrid, so it gets no electrical charge from power plants.

The internet, ya gotta love it. Does anyone know what a “felch” is?

Oh, for those interested, I made a calculation that, based upon EPA gas mileage predictions for the vehicles, I spent about $2500 less for gas operating my car since I bought it than I would have spent had I bought the non-hybrid Civic Hybrid. I have more than made up for the premium paid for acquiring the hybrid, and that gap will increase as I drive my car more. For those interested (your atavistic stick-shift lovers, naming no names here), the EPA predicted considerably lower gas mileage for the stick-shift Honda Civic than for the automatic, non-hybrid Civic.

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Farewell Facebook, Farewell Reddit

I’ve decided to give up on Facebook and Reddit. I was in fact wasting too much time on them, and I could stop right there and feel justified in quitting them. Of course, I’m American, so I’ll say some more stuff.

Facebook. Most of the relatively few “friends” on my Facebook page/account were people of whom I think well, I suppose, but most of them were people who I pretty much never see, never converse with by telephone, never get emails (or that old-fashioned kind of mail) from, and with whom I share almost no real bond. I am related to a few of them by blood, but in most cases, by not much else. So, anyone of them who actually has something to communicate to me can easily find out how to get their message to me, and vice versa. If you get right down to it, I always felt sort of pathetic when I singed on to Facebook and spent time perusing the stuff there.

Reddit. For those who are unfamiliar with Reddit, stop reading. For the rest, here’s my version. Reddit went from being a fairly lively discussion board/bulletin board to a place where folks posted pictures of their pets, advice for the lovelorn requests, fanciful/hypothetical questions (“If you could have a dinner conversation with anyone in history, presently living or dead, who would you pick, and what would you talk about?”), tell us your deepest, darkest secret you never told anyone posts (like anyone’s gonna answer that honestly), and bunches of memes and other such dreck. All that’s okay, really, but I admit that I spent endless hours reading the silliness and commenting on it.

So, you might ask, would you rather spend your time working on a blog nobody reads? Yes, I would. If nothing else it keeps up my typing skills, and helps me remember how to write reasonably cogent sentences and paragraphs, with a stab at appropriate style (Strunk and White).

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Some folks contend that Ron Paul should not be flogged with the racist crap in his newsletters because it was written by others, he says he cannot now figure out who those others might have been, as in “ghostwriters.” They say his long history of sticking up for minorities counts for much more. Okay, Something to consider.

On the other hand, some say that if he had that little control of his little newsletter publishing business, perhaps he isn’t the best guy to try to run a government.

“Political analysts say that if even if Paul did not write the messages in the ad and newsletters, his apparent inability to control his modest newsletter- and book-selling operation may not bode well for a man seeking to run the executive branch of the U.S. government.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School, said she has followed Paul for years and that the messages in the direct-mail ad were “emphatically inconsistent” with his frequent statements supporting minorities and gay rights.
But Jamieson questioned how it was “plausible” for Paul to deny responsibility for materials that had provided him income.
“What does that say about his managerial competence?” she asked.
Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia, agreed.
“Ron Paul would have us believe that this newsletter went out under his name and a direct-mail solicitation for it went out under his signature, yet he knew nothing about it. That is not credible,” Sabato said.
“Or is it that Paul can’t control his own staff?” Sabato asked. “Not exactly a qualification for the presidency. At the very least, more explanation is needed.””
(Reuters. Mark Hosenball. Dec. 23, 2011).

Here’s what I want to know. How does a medical doctor deny evolution?

As for Uncle Newt, he also doesn’t like getting jacked up about his past. When his censure by the House of Representatives for unethical conduct as Speaker of the House comes up, Newt’s view of history sounds quite familiar (relating to Dr. Paul’s defense of his past):

“Gingrich said in recent comments on the campaign trail that more than 1 million pages of documents were turned over to the ethics committee that investigated him, and that 83 charges were repudiated as false. “The one mistake we made was a letter written by a lawyer that I didn’t read carefully,” he said.
But he also accused the ethics committee of being partisan and said, “The way I was dealt with related more to the politics of the Democratic Party than the ethics.” The committee, then and now, has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.” Associated Press: Larry Margasak

Ghost writers weren’t supervised.
Lawyer’s letters weren’t read carefully.

And these guys want to be our leader.

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