Thursday, December 27, 2007

College Football

My latest submission of Peabody-quality work is now posted on the Spero News site.

In this installment I offer my deep insights (or, incites) into the world of football bowl games, and the insanity/inanity college football has become.

Visit, read, and comment here (and there) if you are so moved.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Latinos Say US Has Hostile Climate for Immigrants

A letter from Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans—MARCHA—calls upon United Methodists to be sensitive to the plight of immigrants this Christmas seasons. The letter is signed by retired Bishop Elias Galvan, interim CEO, and the organization's president, Rev. David Maldonado Jr., who list problems that they say Latinos are plagued with.

"During this Christmas season, when we remember [that Jesus was] born to parents journeying in a foreign land for the sake of their survival," the letter states, "we invite The United Methodist Church to join MARCHA in standing against the negative and anti-Latino forces and voices around us. Let us be truly The United Methodist Church."

How's that again? "Journeying in a foreign land for the sake of their survival?" What Bible do the good people at MARCHA read? The Bible I am familiar with tells us that Mary and Joseph, the future parents of Jesus, were in Bethlehem where Joseph was born to register for the census or to pay taxes, depending upon which version you like, at the demand of emperor Caesar Augustus. That's just a little different than being in a foreign land for the sake of survival.

This twisting of the Christmas story to draw a fallacious, self-serving parallel is vaguely reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's efforts a few years ago when she made a similarly erroneous charge, claiming that Mary and Joseph were homeless people. We might expect such cheap tricks from a politician, but most of us expect a Methodist bishop and minister to be more forthright or at least to know their scripture.

The letter goes on to say that "Latinos face daily suspicion of their citizenship and rights as residents of our communities," and that "they are subjected to racial profiling and suspicion as they seek employment, housing, or simply driving down the street." Asking Latino families "to prove their citizenship in order to rent a house, to be employed or enroll their children in school" is "legalized racism," the letter says.

Methinks that MARCHA protests too much. There are, after all, some 20 million Latinos in the US illegally, and it is against the law to hire illegals and to assist them in remaining in the US illegally. And with the increased focus on stopping illegals from entering the country, smart employers will be careful whom they hire, and landlords and school officials will be wise to do likewise.

This defensive, victim attitude is similar to the attitude of some Muslims, who can't understand why Americans are suspicious of young Muslim men on airplanes.

MARCHA wants the Methodists to stand against the treatment they call racism, to oppose what they view as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino laws enacted by cities and states, and also to support Latinos subjected to bad treatment.

What the Methodists decide to do on this issue is their business, but one would hope that they base their decision on the fundamental tenets of their religion, and not succumb to the dishonestly twisted facts about Jesus' birth that MARCHA employed in its letter. And we would hope that the governing body of the Methodist Church would not encourage its adherents to break their country's laws to satisfy MARCHA's narrow aims.

Friday, December 21, 2007



The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early reindeer retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced, and about other restructuring decisions at the North Pole.

Streamlining was appropriate in view of the reality that the North Pole no longer dominates the season's gift distribution business. Home shopping channels and mail order catalogs have diminished Santa's market share and he could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture.

The reindeer downsizing was made possible through the purchase of a late model Japanese sled for the CEO's annual trip. Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer, who summered at the Harvard Business School, is anticipated and should take up the slack with no discernible loss of service.

Reduction in reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has been cited and received unfavorable press. I am pleased to inform you and yours that Rudolph's role will not be disturbed.

Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole. Management denies, in the strongest possible language, the earlier leak that Rudolph's nose got that way not from the cold, but from substance abuse. Calling Rudolph "a lush who was into the sauce and never did pull his share of the load" was an unfortunate comment, made by one of Santa's helpers and taken out of context at a time of year when he is known to be under executive stress.

As a further restructuring, today's global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps. Effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" subsidiary.

a. The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted. It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance.

b. The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective. In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned. The positions are therefore eliminated.

c. The three French hens will remain intact. After all, everyone loves the French.

d. The four calling birds were replaced by an automated voice mail system, with a call waiting option. An analysis is underway to determine who the birds have been calling, how often, and how long they talked.

e. The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors. Maintaining a portfolio based on one commodity could have negative implications for institutional investors. Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of T-Bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order.

f. The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded. It has long been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of the decline in productivity. Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it gets will be a good one.

g. The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times. The function is primarily decorative. Mechanical swans are on order. The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes and therefore enhance their outplacement.

h. As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC. A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought. The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility. Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring or a-mulching.

i. Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number. This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps.

j. Ten Lords-a-leaping is overkill. The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensation Committee to suggest replacing this group with ten out-of-work Congresspersons. While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed Congresspersons this year.

k. Eleven pipers piping and twelve drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big. A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line.

We can expect a substantial reduction in assorted people, fowl, animals and other expenses. Though incomplete, studies indicate that stretching deliveries over twelve days is inefficient. If we can drop ship in one day, service levels will be improved.

Regarding the lawsuit filed by the attorney's association seeking expansion to include the legal profession ("thirteen lawyers-a-suing") - action is pending.

Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. If that should happen, the Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number.

Questions should be directed to me.

(Signed) S. Claus

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More Media Misbehavior

Mike Huckabee’s recent commercial, which is a Christmas message to voters, shows Huckabee sitting in front of a Christmas tree, which is in front of a bookcase. As the camera pans across the background, part of the bookcase, consisting of a shelf and a vertical separator, appear behind Huckabee. The way the shot is framed and the way the decorations are placed around the bookcase can be interpreted as the shape of a cross.

And, predictably, Huckabee’s critics assume he is trying to use “subliminal” graphics in the ad, deliberately placing the “cross” in the background.

Now, it is well known at this point in the campaign that Huckabee is a Christian, and is a minister. It is further well known that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ, and it doesn’t matter whether you believe in Christ or not, that is the origin of the Christmas holiday.

All of which begs the question: “so what?”

So what if Mike Huckabee, who was previously a Christian minister, and is now a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, uses a cross in the background of his Christmas message to voters? What is the big deal about this commercial?

The reality is that there is no big deal about this commercial to people who cling to common sense.

It all comes down to media hyping whatever in the campaign it can find to generate interest. It does nothing to inform the public about the important elements of any of the candidates.

It is, after all, the political silly season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rich Rodriguez Shows Us The Seamy Side of College Football

I am a native West Virginian, although don’t live in the state now. In the Mountain State the defection of WVU head football coach Rich Rodriguez to Michigan is a BIG DEAL.

Just last year Rodriguez was wooed by Alabama, but WVU came through with enough of something to keep him and cause him to reassert his love for the state that gave him his start and the university he played for and took over as head coach of in 2002. Rodriguez did well at WVU and looks to be a pretty good coach, or at least to have something going for him. Why else would Michigan come a-calling?

But after I blast Rodriguez for his ethical lapse, reneging on his deal, his cheap double-dealing, and abandoning his team right before a bowl game and taking half the coaching staff and a prize recruit with him, I have no more to say about him, and given his low character, I wonder how long before he gives Michigan the same brush off he gave WVU if greener pastures turn up somewhere else.

Try to imagine the plight of the West Virginia football team, which is to play Oklahoma in two weeks, and finds out before a practice last week that its coach is leaving them high and dry for a better deal, and taking a number of his assistants with him.

What this is really about isn’t so much the low behavior of one head coach, it is the asinine situation that exists in the NCAA where things like this can and do happen with far too much regularity. If anything, the Rodriguez affair highlights the degree to which money drives college sports, and the desire to win drives the money.

It seems to me that if the NCAA had any principles at all it would put in place a rule that prohibited any college from approaching any coach until after his or her season is over, bowl games and national championships and all, and impose heavy penalties for breaching the rule, heavy penalties meaning millions in fines and/or years of no recruiting.

It is crap like this that strengthens my opinion that inter-collegiate sports ought to be either done away with altogether, or returned to its former level of little more than an interesting contest between schools. College sports today are all too often nothing more than a money machine that creates unethical and unseemly practices, not unlike professional sports, as the ongoing steroid scandal in baseball illustrates.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

al-Qaida on its Last Legs in Iraq?

So al-Qaida’s #2 man believes that there are traitors among the Muslims in Iraq, and has called on Iraqi Sunni Arab tribes to purge those who help the Americans. In a videotape posted Monday on the Web, the “physician”—whose specialties are murder, misery and despair—is freaking out as he cowers in his spider hole or some cave along the Afghan-Pakistan border that some of his fellow Muslims have forsworn the terrorist mantle, and now fight alongside the infidel Americans.

Ayman the Impotent is dissing the so-called "awakening councils," groups of Iraqi Sunni tribesmen that the U.S. military has backed to help fight al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies.

Count this as a positive sign that the Iraqi government in its struggle for independence from the evil, satanic clutches of al-Qaida is moving in precisely the right direction. The Sunni tribesmen have been able to see the light, that freedom isn’t such a bad thing, that living in the 7th century is stupid, and have cast al-Zawahri and his murderous brethren into the trash pit of history, just where they belong.

Even as he laments the triumph of the forces of freedom and light, the Ayman whistles past the graveyard: he said the Americans have failed in Iraq and will withdraw soon.

Yeah, right! Only if the lace panty-wearing liberals somehow prevail.

The U.S. general responsible for the ground campaign in Iraq says that violence is at its lowest levels since 2003. Personally, I believe the general, not the “doctor.”

History will show that freeing the Iraqi people from the cruel domination of Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime, and then freeing them from the idiocy of the Islamic fringe fanatics who are mired in the past were good and valiant things.

Write it down.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tortured Reasoning

There is more hand-wringing about waterboarding, the aggressive interrogation technique that involves simulating drowning and often stimulates the interrogatee to talk. Some people consider this torture.

This issue is a divisive one, with strong opinions on both sides.

First of all, there is an active argument about just what constitutes "torture." The most ardent opponents of aggressive questioning likely would label playing loud music and depriving suspects of sleep as torture, and anything more strenuous, as well. To these people acceptable interrogation consists only of asking questions and hoping for helpful answers.

But we're not talking about Boy Scouts here, we're talking about terrorists bent on killing Americans, and it's just common sense that if you don't make terrorists uncomfortable, they will never divulge the critical information we must have; it is naïve in the extreme to expect them to have a change of heart just because they've been captured. So what do we expect our government agents and military people to do when they capture people who likely have critical information that may enable us to prevent the loss of American lives?

The antis use the term torture to describe every technique that their sensitive psyches cannot abide, and they say things like, "we are a better country than that," and "torture is always wrong," and "torture produces bad information."

All of those points have forceful contrary arguments.

The first thing that must be said is that many aggressive interrogation techniques fall far short of being torture, and a lot of people who know do not consider waterboarding torture. Even so, are we so "good" a country that we will wet our pants and willingly sacrifice fellow Americans over the possibility of taking the steps necessary to get the information we need to protect our country and our people from murderers? Are we so screwed up that we will risk the lives of our civilian and military personnel to capture terrorists, and then not aggressively question them to find out what they know? And by the way, aggressive interrogation techniques often produce positive results. Sure, suspects sometimes will say anything under torture techniques to make it stop, but sometimes they tell you what you want to know.

So it comes down to this: just because you sometimes hit a golf ball into the sand or miss a three-foot putt, do you stop playing the game? Of course not. And just because aggressive interrogation, or even real torture, sometimes fails to work, do you avoid using it to save lives when that is the only option?

A Democrat strategist argued on TV recently, "I'm a mother. You come after my kids and I'll use whatever I have. But I'm not the President of the US." So, according to the strategist, it is okay for a mother to torture someone to save her child, but the President can't use the same means to save hundreds or perhaps thousands of Americans? That strategist then said, "You can beat a child into submission, but that doesn't make it right." In addition to the magnificent lameness of that comparison, the statement is asinine on its face.

Here's the bottom line: If you have the opportunity to get information from someone that will save American lives, you damned well better do everything you can to get that information! Period.

And if that causes the hyper-sensitive namby-pambies to get their panties in a wad, so be it.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Week That Was

A couple of days ago I posted a whiny rant about how horrible this past week was going to be. It was all of that, and more. But now it is over, and I survived.

Brad let me down by failing to be sympathetic, and added insult to injury when he called me a “wealthy southern gentleman,” I mean, how low can you go?

Buff expressed the idea that I would be able to handle it; I appreciated his confidence and his encouragement.

Steve, bless his heart, let me know that he has it worse than I, and I think he was right about that.

Nuri, the sweet lady that she is, understood why I like to visit the Caribbean.

Today the main problem was stress, with two performances. If you aren’t a performer/musician, it may be a little difficult to identify, but you always want to do well. Being the leader of this jazz band is a mixed blessing. I don’t get to play much, which is what I like, and why I was in the band to start with, so it’s frustrating from that point, alone. Right after our dress rehearsal Thursday, one of our trumpet players, the guy who is the best soloist, told me that he wasn’t going to play on the concert. He’s 85 years old and has some health problems, so I fully understood where he was coming from, but nevertheless, it was another screwdriver in the gears.

So, in addition to running the band today, I had to sight read his parts. I did get to play, though, and I count that as a blessing. The concert went pretty well, and everyone seemed happy. Hallelujah!!!

Thanks, good friends! And now on to other things.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Home Cookin'

So, we fixed ourselves a home-cooked dinner tonight consisting of rib eyes and asparagus on the grill (it was about 51 degrees today) and some salad and a piece of ciabatta toast with a Sterling pinot noir that was very tasty (and not at all expensive).

We are in the process of decorating for the season, and we have been listening to some Christmas music on the stereo as we went about our business. First was a glorious CD featuring the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of my favorites; then one by the Airmen of Note, the USAF big band, which is a truly wonderful CD; and then Chris Botti’s “December” album, which is very fine; and finally a Christmas album by James Taylor titled, “James Taylor at Christmas.” James is a guy who just continues to put out good stuff, year after year, starting way back in the 70s (I think). One tune came up, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” which involves some singing along with some spoken words (what the opera people call “recitative”), which is really just some banter between the man and the woman doing the song, he trying to convince her to stay because it’s “cold outside,” and she saying, “I really should go.” Diane ventured that the woman was Natalie Cole, and I wasn’t convinced that it was Natalie, although I didn’t rule that possibility out.

Here, I must tell you that I have a very good ear for voices, and have a very good record at identifying singers. But, I just thought that it didn’t really sound quite like Natalie.

Well, guess what? It was Natalie!

Damn! I hate it when that happens; when she’s right.Fortunately, it doesn’t happen that often. (Don’t tell her I said that, okay?)

As Buffalo would say, life is sweet when … your wife is right and you aren’t?

Well, maybe that’s not exactly what he’d say.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sometimes, Life Gets in the Way

I visited Buffalo’s Ruminations recently, as I do nearly every day, and found that my ol’ buddy was whining again about how uncomfortable he is in wonderful Friendly Manitoba. Buff seems to think that 25 below is a problem. Some people just can’t be happy. So I’m taking a cue from Buff and seeking sympathy from my gang, as he was from his.

Here’s my schedule for this week:

Sunday: Layout and prepare print job for printer; work on 900-name mailing list for event on Dec. 28 (fairly easy day)

Monday: deliver job to printer; work on agenda, etc. for 11 a.m. meeting tomorrow at which I am, as Mr. Bush might say, the “presider;” work on agenda, etc., for meeting at 12 at which I am, again, the presider; read notes and prepare for board meeting tomorrow at 5:30 at which I am merely an “attender;” in between, work on mailing list for event coming up on Dec. 28; conduct rehearsal for group with concert on Sunday, find out I have a challenging solo that no one else wants to play, finished at 9:40 p.m.

Tuesday: Complete prep for meetings at 11 and 12; practice for solo no one else wants to play; be the presider at the 11 o’clock meeting; be the presider at the 12 o’clock meeting; be an attender at the 5:30 meeting; in between work on details of next Wednesday’s annual dinner of another organization I am involved in; 6:00, attend annual dinner of local business organization; get home at 9:50

Wednesday: preliminary work on the newsletter and Web site update due Thursday; attend holiday reception as representative of organization; work on details of next week’s annual dinner; be attender of, and involved in reception at 5:30 for potential members of organization for which I was presider yesterday; perform in hand bell group I am a member of at 6:15; rehearse with group for Christmas cantata following hand bell performance, finish up at 9:30 p.m.

Thursday: Complete newsletter and Web site update (aprx 4 hours); 1:30 confirm arrangements and equipment transfer for Sunday concert/Thursday dress rehearsal; attend to details for next week’s annual dinner; dress rehearsal from 6 ‘til 9:15, including setup, rehearsing band, and playing solo that no one else wants to play (NOEWTP)

Friday: 9:00 a.m., practice for cantata and solo NOEWTP; work on details of annual dinner for next week at which I must give annual report and introduce the Governor of West Virginia; cook dinner and enjoy an evening and some wine with my wife

Saturday: Work on decorating the house; practice for cantata and solo NOEWTP; work on mailing list for event on Dec. 28; copy and fold programs for tomorrow’s concert; try to relax a little

Sunday: 9:30 a.m. prep for 10:30 hand bell performance; 11:45 aprx, lunch for hand bell choir; 1:00 setup for concert; 1:30 warm-up for concert; 2:30 concert; 4:00 rehearsal for cantata; 5:30 or so, home

Next week has its challenges, but isn’t as full as this week.

Don’t you feel sorry for me?

It’s not so much that I’ve been busy, although I certainly have been, but there is a lot of responsible attached to these activities, which is stressful. But the worst of it is that I just haven’t had much time for writing and visiting other sites. That is the real shame of all this.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

This and That


In the right column of this page are two site rankings, the top one indicating that you must be a genius to understand the material printed hereon. Below that is one that says that you must be capable of getting into college to understand the material on this site. These two rating were made only a few days apart.

I have other sites, as well. One is where I posted pieces of a more personal nature, which requires a junior high IQ, and the other is a site where I post jokes and cartoons that requires only an elementary school education to understand it.

The fact that Observations received two different ratings just a few days apart tells me that the method for determining the reading level must focus on the most recent posts. Also, some of the jokes on that site are a little sophisticated, although the words are pretty basic, so the method must focus on the number of four-letter words, or some such thing, to determine the rating.

What this all means is that this is a neat little trick, but essentially meaningless.


Monday sees the return of Don Imus to morning radio, and I for one am glad. I think Imus got a raw deal over his crude remark about a black women’s basketball team. The remark was crude, but it wasn’t any worse than a great deal of Imus’ material. That’s what made him interesting to listen to, that and the truly funny stuff on the show. But suddenly one comment out of thousands hit a nerve with the right people, triggering righteous indignation, and a huge fit of political correctness.

Even though I used to listen to Imus when a local station carried his show a few years back, I didn’t appreciate everything he did, but I did like the show. It was alternately high-brow and in the gutter; it had something for everybody!

A little advice for Imus: keep up the liberal politics, and the slamming of politicians. Keep doing the funny bits, the parodies, and keep bringing in personalities to interview. Just avoid anything remotely resembling racist material. That’s the only thing you have to fear. Everything else is okay.

Healthcare in the United States: Expectations and Reality

Further down the page is a column I wrote about medical malpractice, which received a couple of comments. One of those comments was from a first-time visitor to the site whose comment I want to use as a mechanism to discuss the broader subject of healthcare.

First, to define the intent of this piece: On a site that I visit where I often disagree with the positions taken by the host, my efforts to explain things that the host suggests show hypocrisy on the part of non-Muslims most often get labeled as a defense of whatever behavior the host is criticizing. What I am offering here is an explanation of certain conditions that exist in the healthcare industry, not a defense of those conditions.

First, here is the comment from Marsha:

"Hi, this is my first time visiting your blog, I found you at blog village. I have very little experience with health care, but the experience I do have has all been pretty bad. My personal feeling is that health care providers don't give a fig about patients and that they are in it for the money. They cover for each other and there is almost nothing we as patients can do about this disaster. Keeping us sick means more money in their pockets. While I don't think that people should be monetarily compensated every time they don't get the outcome they want from the doctor, I believe that the accountability of doctors and hospitals needs to increase dramatically. Thanks for sharing so much detailed information, I learned a lot. I hope you don't mind reading my feelings on the matter."

And now, my response:

Hi, Marsha, and welcome to Observations. I value all sincere comments from readers, whether they agree with me or not.

“ … but the experience I do have has all been pretty bad.”

No doubt quite a few others have had similar experiences, and there are more than enough instances where people have been treated badly, or have received sub-standard care

I think that people look at the healthcare industry as somehow different than other businesses or industries, likely because of the reason that we utilize healthcare providers: We or a family member or friend is sick or hurt, and we want them cured. That causes a great deal of emotional stress on the people involved, and the emotional aspect of the situation frequently is a major factor in how we evaluate the way healthcare providers responded to our situation.

But the reality is that healthcare is “a job” or “going to work” for millions of people. You can find numerous instances where people weren’t treated properly at their bank, or at a department store, by the phone company, or by a plumber or electrician, and while that is an irritation, it is often dismissed as “just the way it is.” However, when someone goes to their doctor or to a hospital and gets less than they expect, it is worse than if they were treated rudely by a store clerk. So much of what we believe about our healthcare system is based upon what we expect it to be, and sometimes what we expect is not realistic.

I often try to get the people in the hospital with which I am associated to understand that many of the complaints the hospital gets are due to the unrealistic expectations of patients and their families, and it is sometimes because they weren’t told what to expect. I ‘m not suggesting that patients shouldn’t expect to be well taken care of, but so often they expect more than they can be given. Hospitals have an obligation to be attentive to patients’ needs, to provide clean surroundings and provide the best care possible, and nothing less is acceptable.

However, people often hold healthcare providers to a higher standard than other “businesses.” When someone is sick, they need competent medical care, not a stay in a resort. Patients have to understand that it may not be possible to cure them, or to do so without their experiencing some discomfort. Please do not take this explanation to mean that healthcare providers do not sometimes fail miserably in their duty to patients.

Doctors, nurses, techs, administrative personnel are just working people like the rest of us, and they sometimes make mistakes, or have a bad day, or just don’t do their job very well on a given day, and like the rest of us they may not like their job or their supervisor or some co-workers. It may be worse when those things occur in a healthcare setting, but they are natural parts of having a job. If we expect otherwise, we expect too much.

“My personal feeling is that health care providers don't give a fig about patients and that they are in it for the money.”

No doubt there are some providers who look at things that way. I can only speak for the hospital with which I’m associated, and that is not the case there. It is a not-for-profit hospital in a competitive situation with other nearby facilities, and as such it must work hard to be the hospital of choice in our region. I have noticed, however, that some physicians tend to become less “patient friendly” after they have been in practice for a few years. Their initial perspective of helping people gets affected by other influences, such as the rigors of running a business, having employees, dealing with Medicare/Medicaid agencies, paying tens of thousands of dollars each year for malpractice insurance, trying to avoid being sued and other such “real life” things. Some doctors and other providers don’t understand what it is like to be a patient, and as a result do not conduct themselves in a manner that is sufficiently sympathetic to patients.

“They cover for each other and there is almost nothing we as patients can do about this disaster.”

Again, I can only talk about my own experience, and I can tell you that our hospital has a process that looks into every complaint from a patient, family member or visitor. I chair a committee that looks at these complaints and is diligent in addressing issues of quality of care and relationships with patients/family/visitors, and while we do find cases where hospital personnel made mistakes or did not act appropriately, we also find cases where patients and family members were simply wrong in their assertions, or “mis-remembered” details.

“Keeping us sick means more money in their pockets.”

I don’t know about where you live, but where I live there are plenty of patients needing medical care and not enough doctors to treat them. Consequently, doctors have enough patients, and do not need to “keep them sick” to make money. I’m not saying that it doesn’t occur, but it is not common here.

“I believe that the accountability of doctors and hospitals needs to increase dramatically.”

You may be right, but as I said earlier the level of expectation for healthcare providers is much higher than for many/most other businesses; I really doubt that you can cite an industry that is more closely watched today, or which gets as much negative publicity as the healthcare industry. I’m not saying that such close scrutiny isn’t warranted, or that the negative publicity isn’t sometimes justified.

What I am saying is that to expect mere human beings to be less subject to the normal influences of the work-a-day world, or to be more perfect in their work just because they deal with sick and injured people is probably not a realistic expectation. It is a worthy goal to aim at, but I think it is a goal that we will never completely achieve.

Thanks, again, Marsha for your comment, and I hope you will become a regular visitor to Observations.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Common Sense Does Not Exist in Sudan

School teacher Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, England, was jailed for 15 days in Sudan recently after “allowing” her class of primary school pupils to name a teddy bear “Muhammad” as part of a study of animals and their habitats.

In response to this sentence up to a thousand marchers turned out in Martyrs Square outside the presidential palace in the capital after Friday prayers to denounce the sentence as too lenient, many of them carrying knives and sticks. Some reports said protesters had called for her to be shot. Her lawyer said she was later moved for her own safety. Some of the protesters reportedly chanted: "Shame, shame on the UK," "No tolerance - execution" and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad.”

One demonstrator told reporters that it was unacceptable to take a toy and call it “Muhammad.” Question: Can no one or no thing be called "Muhammad" in the Muslim world?"

It isn’t clear exactly how this occurred, but from the reports it seems that rather than Mrs. Gibbons encouraging the children to name the teddy bear “Muhammed,” the children suggested that name and Mrs. Gibbons okayed it. That may not be correct, but it really doesn’t matter. This is yet another example of religious zeal taken to the level of absurdity.

Some Muslims have a hypersensitivity to anything that even remotely resembles negativity toward their religion. This hypersensitivity sometimes crosses the line into obsessiveness and even lunacy. This is one of those times. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said he could not "see any justification" for the sentence, calling it an "absurdly disproportionate response" to a "minor cultural faux pas." He is absolutely correct.

From this situation it would not be unreasonable to believe that the Muslims in Sudan do not possess the ability to think. Their actions and words certainly support that idea. It would certainly be appropriate to allow for the possibility that Mrs. Gibbons intended no offense. It would not be unreasonable to imagine that this “horrible offense” was merely an accident of cultural differences, as the Archbishop suggested. But no, the Muslims in Sudan leapt immediately to the conclusion that this school teacher and her young Muslim students intended to insult the prophet. [Ooops! I forgot to capitalize “prophet.” Will I be the target of the rage of extreme Muslims?]

As if the situation with Mrs. Givens were not sufficient evidence of Sudanese Muslim extremism, and patent idiocy, Mrs. Gibbons’ lawyer, a Sudanese Muslim himself, carries a weapon because he has received death threats, merely for representing this lady in court.

I know a few Muslims, and of those I don’t believe any of them hold these extreme views. That said, some of them were not outraged at the 9-11 attacks, and a couple of them seemed to be pleased that the US got hit. This seems not only strange, but more than a little dumb, given that they came here willingly to earn a good living providing healthcare to Americans. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

I believe that those attitudes are due to some of the fundamental views of Islam toward non-Muslims. They may not support terrorism and other extremist activities such as this one, but neither do they condemn extremist activities.

Does that mean that most Muslim’s religions beliefs dominate all other aspects of their life? And if so, does that tell us anything about the tendency of Muslims to fight the terrorist tendencies of the Islamist extremists?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Medical Malpractice

My college student son Ryan recently expressed some difficulty in finding sources addressing the history of medical malpractice, which brought to mind how important a factor lawsuits are in the cost of healthcare and the perception of the quality of the US healthcare system. My association with the local hospital as a long-time board member, quality committee chair, and a three-year stint as director of a few departments and internal functions provides me with some first-hand experience on med mal and its attendant problems, which I will share with you. For the record, I confess a slight bias for healthcare providers in this debate, but fully support compensating patients in cases of actual malpractice.
Here are some factors about medical malpractice that might be helpful to you:

People are sometimes injured by healthcare providers:
When people are injured or sick they go to the doctor or to a clinic or hospital in the hopes that medical professionals will be able to treat their injury or cure their illness. Most of the times these injuries and illnesses are treated successfully, but sometimes people have very serious conditions and cannot be treated successfully. It isn’t unusual for patients to be allergic to drugs or to have existing conditions that makes treating them more difficult. Sometimes patients are harmed in the process of being treated for whatever ails them.

Most doctors and healthcare personnel are competent and caring people who try to do their jobs well:
Medical professionals study for years to learn their trade, especially physicians, who attend years of medical school, internships, residencies and specialty training. Like people in other professions, they want to do their job well, to advance, and to earn a living; hurting people is something they want to avoid.

Some bad medical outcomes aren’t anyone’s fault:
Medicine is both art and science. Each of us is different in sometimes subtle ways, and sometimes in not-so-subtle ways. When we get sick or hurt, those differences play a role in how we are treated and in how we react to that treatment. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, a patient won’t recover fully, or sometimes they won’t recover at all. That doesn’t mean that they were the victim of medical malpractice; it means they had the deck stacked against them due to their general physical makeup in combination with their injury or disease. No one can guarantee any of us that we can be cured and be made whole following a serious injury or illness. Bad luck is a reality, a natural part of life that we have no control over.

Some people truly believe they are due monetary awards for their medical outcomes; sometimes they are:
There is a fairly significant portion of the U.S. population that believes that if the results of their medical treatment are less than optimum, somebody owes them money. After all, their quality of life has been affected and their ability to earn a living may have been affected, and perhaps as a result their cost of living may go up to pay for drugs or medical devices and care. It’s not their fault that they got sick or hurt, and somebody should have to make that up to them. In cases where a doctor or a hospital made a mistake, they are probably due some compensation. Otherwise, they aren’t.

Some lawyers will sue a bus if they think they can earn a fee:
Just as most medical professionals are competent and caring, most lawyers are honest, ethical and make an honest living. Some, however, will take any case that they think will generate a fee, and that means that there are cases in the court system that are frivolous, or are otherwise without true merit. More than a few of those are medical malpractice cases.

Juries frequently rule in favor of a plaintiff out of compassion for their situation because they feel the doctor/hospital/provider has plenty of money:
Whether juries are truly a panel of peers is a topic ripe for debate, however, under our system juries are (often/usually) chosen from among registered voters, and the likelihood that six or 12 people on a jury will be more likely to identify with a person who has had a bad health-related experience are much higher than that the panel will identify with a doctor or a hospital. Thus, the chances of the jury making a “there but for the grace of God go I” decision are fairly high. Consequently, even though no true negligence has been proven, juries often out of sympathy will award a plaintiff some amount of money because of the situation the plaintiff finds himself in, even if no one is to blame for that. This raises the cost of malpractice insurance and the cost of healthcare, but does nothing to right a wrong, since no wrong was committed.

Some doctors are not competent in their specialty, and finding instances of their previous medical practice problems when credentialing them is quite often impossible:
Having worked to verify physicians’ credentials I have learned the hard way that the best efforts are insufficient to learn about doctors’ past experience; it is often difficult and sometimes impossible to find out about the ones you need most to know about. Because of the possibility of legal action, hospitals are reluctant to report events of a doctor’s practice that you need to know, but which are not part of any official record. For example, a doctor who has done something wrong may never be formally disciplined for it, and therefore there is no record of what he did, and no hospital is going to report something like that to the data bank or to a hospital that is looking into the doctor’s credentials. So, the next hospital that the doc applies to for privileges will have no clue that the doc might have a problem.

The “standard of care” is a prime element in determining whether medical personnel acted appropriately in med mal cases:
The most common legal definition of standard of care is how similarly qualified practitioners would have managed the patient's care under the same or similar circumstances, but is not an absolute, which means that sometimes deviating from the standard of care does not indicate negligence or incompetence. Because each patient has the potential to present unique characteristics, it is a risky proposition to attempt to blindly impose a particular method of treatment for every case of the same disease or injury. Consequently, lawsuits are frequently filed for the sole reason that the standard of care was not followed, regardless of whether there were good and justifiable reasons for deviating from the standard of care. “Let’s sue, and the jury can sort it out” is a not uncommon approach; attorneys and plaintiffs are quite willing to roll the dice. Once a jury gets a case, there are potentially a number of factors that may lead to awarding the plaintiff monetary damages, even though (as mentioned earlier) no medical provider did anything wrong.

Expert witnesses have become a staple of med mal trials, giving testimony regarding the way the case was handled:In many med mal cases, it is not clear that a patient’s bad outcome was the result of poor care, and each side will have medical experts testifying about the course of treatment from their point of view, given the particular patient and circumstances. Some—some—medical experts will testify to anything an attorney chooses for them to testify to. This factor and the standard of care factor are sometimes more than a jury of average people can adequately sort out.

Insurance companies and defendant’s attorneys often recommend settling malpractice cases for reasons totally unrelated to whether the defendant did anything wrong:
Settlements are often made because the time, inconvenience and total cost of trying the case may dwarf the amount that a plaintiff will settle for; it’s an economic decision, not an admission of delivering poor care. In the case of a sympathetic plaintiff, the bad publicity (“the big, bad hospital” or “the high and mighty doctor”) and the possibility that a jury will be sympathetic to the plaintiff sometimes pushes defendants to settle, even though they may believe they did nothing wrong, and even in cases where they can show that they did nothing wrong.
In a perfect world, malpractice awards would be made only when a patient has been injured to a significant degree by the negligence, carelessness or incompetence of healthcare providers. In the real world there are quite a few other reasons why plaintiffs receive monetary awards, and all of them are a disservice to the rest of us, because they create a skewed picture of the healthcare industry through the increased amount of negative publicity, raise the cost of healthcare through increased insurance costs and “defensive medicine” practices, and force providers’ to focus too much attention on avoiding lawsuits, among other factors.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The Canterbury Tale

A post on a site I visit regularly, the Kashmiri Nomad's site, featured the lambasting of the United States by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Wilson.

Among other comments quoted on the Nomad's site, the Archbishop said the following:

"It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalizing it. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the British Empire did -- in India, for example," he was quoted as saying.

"It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together -- Iraq, for example."

One wonders, after reading the Archbishop's comment, just what cave he's been living in for the last four years. He apparently hasn't noticed that the United States, as well as forces from other nations in the coalition, are still present and Iraq supporting with the lives and well-being of their military personnel the fledgling Iraqi government as it attempts to "put it back together" rather than, as the Archbishop said, "clear the decks and move on."

If Archbishop Wilson has any doubt that the United States is doing in Iraq precisely what he said the British did in India, all he needs to do is to read, watch or listen to the American media, as Americans complain regularly and loudly about the amount of money spent in Iraq after the brutal dictator Hussein was deposed.

This is yet one more example of how people who are ideologically opposed to the Iraq war automatically turn off their ability to see the reality for what it is, and replace it with what they would like it to be.

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Funny Story

The 2007 Darwin Awards: THE WINNER!!!
[Arkansas Democrat Gazette]:

Two local men were injured when their pickup truck left the road and struck a tree near Cotton Patch on State Highway 38 early Monday. Woodruff County deputy Dovey Snyder reported the accident shortly after midnight Monday. Thurston Poole, 33, of Des Arc, and Billy Ray Wallis, 38, of Little Rock, were returning to Des Arc after a frog catching trip. On an overcast Sunday night, Pooles pickup truck headlights malfunctioned.

The two men concluded that the headlight fuse on the older-model truck had burned out. As a replacement fuse was not available, Wallis noticed that the 22 caliber bullets from his pistol fit perfectly into the fuse box next to the steering-wheel column. Upon inserting the bullet the headlights again began to operate properly, and the two men proceeded on eastbound toward the White River Bridge . After traveling approximately 20 miles, and just before crossing the river, the bullet apparently overheated, discharged, and struck Poole in the testicles.

The vehicle swerved sharply right, exiting the pavement and striking a tree. Poole suffered only minor cuts and abrasions from the accident but will require extensive surgery to repair the damage to his testicles, which will never operate as intended. Wallis sustained a broken clavicle and was treated and released.

"Thank God we weren't on that bridge when Thurston shot his testicles off, or we might both be dead," stated Wallis. "I've been a trooper for 10 years in this part of the world, but this is a first for me. I can't believe that those two would admit how this accident happened," said Snyder.

Upon being notified of the wreck, Lavinia (Poole 's wife) asked how many frogs the boys had caught and did anyone get them from the truck???

(Though Poole and Wallis did not die as a result of their misadventure as normally required by Darwin Award Official Rules, it can be argued that Poole did, in fact, effectively remove himself from the gene pool.)

Comment: I have seen this one before, and have serious doubts about its authenticity and veracity. It does, however, make a good story.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Economic Worries

Pundits have been forecasting a U.S. economic "collapse" for a couple of years, and the economy has continued to confound these "experts." This continual haranguing in the press has the effect of influencing public opinion and casting a pall over attitudes, even as the economy itself pretty much ignores the doom and gloom predictions.

The difficulties in the housing market have fueled recent hysteria, primarily because journalists either don't understand how minimally important the housing problems are in the whole economic picture, or because it suits some nefarious purpose to promote existing fears of a recession.

Another area frequently cited as a sign of impending doom is that oil prices have moved close to $100 a barrel, up from near $60 at the first of 2007. This is another instance where a poor understanding of economics and the lack of historical perspective combine to create a false sense of catastrophe. Oil prices are high, yes, and oil has never cost as much per barrel as it does today. However, on an inflation-adjusted basis, the price of oil is not as high now as it was in the late 1970s. That's not to say that things aren't uncomfortable and might not get worse, of course, but we aren't there yet, and even if we get there, oil is only one of many factors that make up our economy, and many of them are still strong or at least at acceptable levels.

One writer who doesn't buy into the media's gloomy predisposition commented that while many Americans feel poorer, as home values fall and fuel costs more, positive factors also exist. For example, employment is high, the economy has continued to grow at a decent rate, productivity is up and stocks have posted significant gains for the year, despite a couple of price dips. That is a perspective you don't read often.

Some commentators put a great deal of emphasis on what happens in retail sales in December. Reflecting the negative bias of much of the American media, an Associated Press story Nov. 24 ran under the headline, "Despite economy, malls and stores jammed." The underlying assumption of the writer is that the economy is bad enough that it really should have kept people out of the stores. Scratching her head trying to figure it all out, the reporter continued, "Malls and stores were jammed for pre-dawn discounts on everything from TVs to toys on the official start of Christmas shopping as consumers shrugged off worries about rising gas prices and falling home values." "It's crucial," another writer opines, "that the Black Friday euphoria lasts throughout the season, [which is] expected to be the weakest in five years." Message: things are bad so you shouldn't spend much this Christmas, but if you don't the economy is going in the tank.

So, get off your backside and go out there and buy a lot of Christmas gifts; our economic survival depends on it!

Recessions come and recessions go; they are a fact of economic life. Depending upon whose data you use, the US has experienced as many as nine since 1950, which works out to one every 5.6 years. But, just what is a recession, anyway? One definition is: A period of general economic decline; specifically, a decline in Gross Domestic Product for two or more consecutive quarters. U.S. GDP growth has historically averaged about 2.5-3% per year, and the last several years has seen the GDP growth rate as high a 5% in 2000 to as low as 0.3% after 9-11-2001, but about 3.4% at the beginning of 2007, and 3.9% in the third quarter of 2007, well within the expected and acceptable range, and pretty strong in the face of predictions of a recession.

We'll see how the Christmas purchasing season goes, but according to most economic indicators, recession isn't on the horizon. Someone should tell the media.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Being Well Informed

We were having dinner with some friends Wednesday night, just talking and laughing, the first time we had been with these four folks at the same time in over a month. One of them began making negative comments about President Bush and the overall horrible conditions in the United States currently, particularly the economy. The third man in the group said something like, "yeah, employment is up, inflation is moderate, the economy is pretty strong: you're right, things really are horrible." The first fellow retorted that he is very disappointed in George Bush; that he had voted for him twice, but thought he was doing a pretty poor job as President. I agreed that I was pretty unhappy with his performance in some areas, too, but that he was doing just fine in others. "Like what?" he asked.

I said that things in Iraq are improving, to which he said something about a quagmire, and it was the worst thing to have happened to the US in decades. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but I feel like opinions, to be truly worthy of one's holding them, ought to be based upon something concrete where possible, and the situation in Iraq is an example where there is concrete information available. I responded that even The New York Times recently reported the obvious improvements in Iraq, at which point he bailed out of the discussion with a joke: "Well, The Times is just a conservative rag."

The silliness of that comment aside, this incident pointed up to me how many people are uninformed, poorly informed or misinformed. And just to be clear, those three conditions are different from each other: Uninformed means people don't try to know what's going on; poorly informed means they haven't tried hard enough to know what's going on, they take what's easily available, or what suits their preconceptions; misinformed means that their sources of information are sloppy and inaccurate, or deliberately slant their reporting. And, yes, there is a possible/likely connection being poorly informed or misinformed.

This isn't intended to be a "the liberal media is shirking its responsibility, and millions of Americans suffer as a result" rant, however, it is difficult to objectively look at news reporting in the US and not believe that the liberal media is shirking its responsibility, and millions of Americans suffer as a result. Poorly informed and misinformed Americans are victims of media malpractice.

My friend probably is genuinely opposed to the Iraq war, and that's just fine. However, I just wonder to what degree that opposition has been colored by or created by the dishonesty of reporting the events in Iraq by the major American media? After all, if things are better in Iraq, as The Times says, did that happen over night, or has it been a more slow, steady improvement. The latter is likely, which begs the question, "Why are we just now hearing this from The Times?"

Stipulated: Iraq is far from a perfect situation; the economy has trouble spots; the average temperatures in the northern hemisphere are rising; and George Bush has his problems.

However, answer these questions:

1. What war followed a predictable plan and did not involve serious errors in planning and execution, and take longer than expected to run its course? Does the American Revolution come to mind?

2. Why don't we hear as much about low unemployment and low inflation and the increase in income among poorer Americans as we do about gasoline prices and problems in the housing industry?

3. If humans actually cause global warming, why is there such wide-spread disagreement about that among the scientific community, and why do the humans-cause-global-warming advocates have to lie and distort data to make their case?

4. Why is the coverage of George Bush more focused on his language than his reasons for doing things the way he does, and how he thinks about things?

I just wonder how the poll results on a wide range of issues might change if there was true balance and honesty among the media?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Talk About Differences

As I sit here trying to think of something right about I'm looking through the headlines of stories in the news. And among those stories I came across one headline that read, "Saudi gang rape victim is jailed." Following is an excerpt from the story from BBC News:

An appeal court in Saudi Arabia has doubled the number of lashes and added a jail sentence as punishment for a woman who was gang-raped. The victim was initially punished for violating laws on segregation of the sexes - she was in an unrelated man's car at the time of the attack. When she appealed, the judges said she had been attempting to use the media to influence them.

Seven men from the majority Sunni community were found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years. The attackers' sentences - originally of up to five years - were doubled.

But the victim was also punished for violating Saudi Arabia's laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man.

Now, there are injustices in the United States, too, of course. And maybe in one of the more extreme cases a rape victim in the United States actually is punished. However, instances such as reported in this story are not uncommon, and in fact must be very common occurrences.

For us in the United States and in the western world, such things as this seem foreign and bizarre, even mindless and stupid. They do not fit into the Judeo-Christian culture in which we live, and which we believe is so decent and so right that everyone else ought to think the same way as we do. They are part of a culture that is so different, so alien, that we cannot conceive how such things now or ever were acceptable. And though there is a cultural element to this behavior there is also a religious element to it.

And that makes it all the more inconceivable. How, if there is a supreme being who created all of what we know, can it be acceptable to punish those who were victimized or to kill those who disagree with you?

Well, the philosophical debate aside, it turns out that the woman has vowed to challenge the ruling in the case. Good for her. And I hope she prevails.

Comments invited.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rethinking the Penal System

For all the great things the United States is and offers to those that live here, its culture has lost much of its substance, including many of its traditions of thought and behavior that served the nation well for 200 years before being abandoned starting in the late 1960s. Specifically, we Americans have allowed our embrace of self-reliance and our sense of personal responsibility to fade away.

I often defend the laws/rules of Christianity and Judaism for the simple reason that a society that follows these rules will be a healthy and stable society. America is no longer a healthy and stable society, and I maintain that to the degree we have thrown off the Judeo-Christianity morality we have lost that health and stability. Some will disagree.

One thing a stable society must have is a set of rules, formal and informal, that guide behavior so that the society as a whole will remain healthy, as ours did up until about 40 years ago when its downfall began. In trying to draw up social standards there are inevitably conflicts between personal freedom and social stability; what is desirable for the individual is often at odds with what is good for all of society. However, when we draw the lines between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, when we identify those acts that we deem beyond debate, but inarguably unacceptable, such as murder, theft, violence against others, and so forth, we then must set forth some punishment for those who commit those prohibited acts.

We have a Constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and I maintain that depending upon what someone has done the definition ought to be loose enough to allow the perpetrator of horrible acts to be punished as horribly as the act he or she committed. One may believe that by being less horrible to criminals than they were to their victims we are being "compassionate" or somehow "better" or "more human" than the criminals, but the reality is that by treating the cretins better than they deserve we are showing weakness, not compassion. The punishment for a violent crime ought to be awful enough to make the perpetrator regret his deeds and have remorse for what he did, and it ought to be bad enough to give those who have not yet committed some heinous act a reason to rethink doing so before doing it.

Given the soft-headed approach we have adopted to punishing the most loathsome individuals in our society, I have instead advocated death for the worst offenders: the killers, the rapists, those who commit violent acts against innocent victims. Those people are flawed; they are grossly imperfect; we don't need them in our midst. And we darned sure don't need to spend $20,000 or more a year keeping them alive in an atmosphere that provides them three good meals a day, a decent place to sleep, a gym to bulk up so they can attack fellow prisoners and guards, TV to entertain them and a law library where they can learn how to file lawsuits to clog up the court system and deny swift action to deserving citizens. (A recent story on the West Virginia Penitentiary, an unpleasant place to live because of its inhospitable environment, noted that it was taken out of service because it was no longer suitable for housing prisoners. It should be put back in service, and its awful environment replicated across the nation.)

Previously I said that I would abandon my preference for the death penalty in favor of life imprisonment at hard labor where the prisoner lived a bare existence with nothing more than the basic necessities of life and a day of physically difficult work. Such an approach might assuage the guilt of those who believe that taking the life of another individual is wrong, no matter how vile, disgusting and intolerable that individual's acts might be. Some of those people won't like this approach, either, however.

But we also have to reexamine the crimes that earn imprisonment for the perpetrator. Prison space must be reserved for the worst of our society, the violent criminals. White collar criminals should be made to ply their trade with society as the beneficiary of their work. A doctor who has defrauded the Medicare system shouldn't be in jail, he or she should be providing medical care for those needing medical care. A lawyer who violates his fiduciary duty should provide legal assistance to people who can't afford it and his income should go toward repaying those he defrauded, whether it is the government, or his clients. Put people with useful skills to work for society, not in a jail cell. Jail is always a mis-step away, however, and the more miserable jail time is, the harder people will work to avoid it.

To paraphrase Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona: This is jail, not a country club; if you don't like the way we do things here, don't come back.

Unless we make jail time awful enough that inmates don't want to come back a second time, they will continue doing things that will end them up in jail again and again.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Idiocy Running Rampant

My friend Steve from “A Whitesnakes Bitesent me a story from an Australian newspaper announcing that there will be no “ho, ho, ho” this Christmas because someone “might” mistake the “ho, ho, ho” as a term derogatory to women. Now this story has hit the US, where such idiocy has a long history. Australian Santas have been advised to say “ha, ha, ha” instead.

Not to be outdone in the “we’re bigger idiots than you” category, a school in the US, or perhaps bunches of them, has banned hugging because some kids were making out at school. In another school a young student was suspended for drawing a picture of a water gun, breaking a no-tolerance rule against guns in schools. So, a friendly hug between two people who have nothing more in mind than a friendly greeting has been equated with making out, and an elementary student has been branded as a potential murderer because he drew a crude picture of a pistol.

I’m sorry, Steve, but as goofy as Australians sometimes may be, we Americans make you look pretty smart. But keep trying.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Tips for Air Travelors

I don't know about you, but I have all but abandoned air travel. No, I'm not afraid of flying; I have several hours of flight training under my belt, and I've flown more than a few miles over the last 15 years. It's just that with the increased airport security and the effects they have on getting to the gate, and with the recent difficulties airlines have getting off the ground and to their destination, I just wonder if it's worth all the trouble and the potential delays to fly somewhere.

All the flying Diane and I have done since the early 90s, and there hasn't been that much of it, was uneventful. But a recent flight from Cincinnati to New Orleans was delayed long enough to cause us to miss our connection in Atlanta, and the return trip was delayed in Dallas, causing our flight to arrive an hour late in Cincinnati. Previously, a trip with our two teenagers ended with none of our bags arriving at our destination on the way home.

In short, air travel is increasingly a crap shoot; you never know what is going to happen. Here are some tips to help lessen the trauma. Go here to read the complete article.

Check in at home

A frequent flier's best friend

Never check bags!

Airplanes are flying buses; take responsibility for your comfort

Yes, it's a race; Walk fast

Jump to the front

Hands off the call button

Ever seen how bags get handled? Take a photo of you bag(s)

Someone gets stuck with the middle seat. Always reserve a specific seat when you book a flight

Airport security for beginners: Think about what you must do to pass security

Go self-service

Got a big carry-on? Be at the front of the line for your boarding group

If we learned one thing from JetBlue's recent meltdown... assume you're going to spend at least the next three hours in your seat

Airports charge a fortune for parking. Twenty bucks a day is $140 a week

Call someone who cares: "cell phone parking lots" are wonderful creations

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