The First Victim of Fundamentalism is Irony

"An Iraqi militant group led by al-Qaeda has threatened to massacre Christians in response to remarks about Islam by Pope Benedict XVI that have caused offence across the Muslim world. The Pope quoted a 14th Century Byzantine emperor who criticised the teachings of Mohammad for endorsing the use of violence."

The Times of London.

Whacking Waste: A Hopeful Sign?

So, America now has a Healthcare Administrative Simplification Coalition. Anyone who has been to a doctor recently knows administrative simplification is sorely needed. Patients in the "American healthcare system" are already familiar with the endless but very unsystematic duplication of data input, output, and storage. So it is no surprise that a study [conducted by the MGMA Center for Research] recently revealed that "the increasing complexity and redundancy on the business side of healthcare is costing the industry billions of dollars a year." As an example, for a 10-physician medical group, those wasteful ways translate into nearly $250,000 annually.

Much of the waste generated in our system is a result of administrative busywork or redundancies that add no value to the patient, provider or payer,” said William F. Jessee, MD, president and CEO of the MGMA. “By reducing administrative complexity, we can reduce costs and enhance access to care.” Click here for more.

BTW, the new coalition is made up of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Health Information Management Association, and the Medical Group Management Association.

One thing healthcare in America has plenty of is organizations with long names. Hopefully they can do something about the mindless mess that free market philosophy has made of health care management.

Weasel Words Will Come Back to Bite You

When you avoid telling the whole truth, using "weasel words" to shape the facts to your own agenda, your credibility may perish as a result, never to be resuscitated. It is now pretty clear to all but the most rabid George W. Bush supporters that our President shaped the truth like an explosive charge to launch his war on Iraq.

One of the many blowbacks from GW's atrociously misguided attempt to manipulate reality to his own ends is that a lot of people now believe he is attempting to rig the November 2006 elections by manipulating gas prices. Gallup found 42 percent of survey respondents agreed that the Bush administration "deliberately manipulated the price of gasoline so that it would decrease before this Fall's elections."

At times like this a president needs a good front man, which White House spokesman Tony Snow clearly is not. He said the survey raises the question, "if we're dropping gas prices now, why on earth did we raise them to $3.50 before?" Duh! Anyone who is in that 42% is likely to fire back "To deliver windfall profits to the oil companies so they can fund Republican candidates in the election." Snow seems about as fit for his job as Brownie was for FEMA. And Bush now has zero credibility with at least 42% of the country. Admittedly, two thirds of that 42% are registered Democrats. But a third are not. These are people for whom the joy of paying a lot less to fill up the car is not enough to overpower the sense that they have been duped.

Further proof that if you keep twisting the truth, people won't even believe you when you give them a straight answer.

Wally World of Wonder Drugs?

Okay, so I've been griping about the high cost of my blood pressure medication and then Walmart announces $4 drugs. And they are starting this pricing in Florida, where I spend quite a bit of time. Could that solve my problem?

I take six pills every day and they cost me $414 per month. Walmart's pricing would cut that to $24 if, and this is a big IF, the drugs I take were generics. Well, it turns out that two of my pills are generic. A third is a non-generic only because I take a time-release version (adding time release capabilities to a drug is one way that the drug companies extend their patent protection on proprietary drugs--like the time release version of Prozac that Eli Lilly came out with about the time that the original formulation came off patent).

So, it turns out that if I shift to Walmart in January, I could cut my monthly pill bill from $414 to $332, still way out of line IMHO, enough to lease a very nice Nissan.

However, I am seeing my cardiologist next month and will be pressing him for answers about the two most expensive drugs I take, Diovan and Inspra. The latter makes me feel ill (heart palpitations) and I am not taking it right now. (Let me know if you want to buy my excess supply--and if you are the FDA, try prosecuting me for it, the cause of citizens seeking sane health care pricing would love the publicity--middle-aged white arrested for selling heart drug.)

I will also ask my cardiologist what Diovan does for me that a generic cannot. If I could get a generic alternative to Diovan, substitute a generic statin for Lipitor, use something like Tenoric for the Atenolol and Inspira, I would achieve a $20 monthly pill bill at Wally World. Wahoo!

A Mercedes or Meds?

I just got back from buying a month's worth of drugs at Target. Price tag: $414.00. No, I don't have AIDS or cancer. I don't have diabetes. I am not overweight. I have high blood pressure, described as "essential hypertension" by doctors because they have essentially no idea why my pressure is higher than "normal."

My blood pressure has been on the high side of normal since 1987. For almost two decades I have taken pills every day. The number and price of those pills has risen from one 15 cent pill per day to six pills costing $13.80 per day. I don't feel any better now than I did when I first found out I had high blood pressure.

Of course, those pills might be keeping me alive, but they are also stressing me out. In today's paper I see that I could lease a nice Mercedes or Cadillac for $414 a month. Who knows, driving a nice car might do more for my blood pressure than the pills.

A Nice House or Health Insurance?

Yet another analyst is trotting out the claim that 17 million Americans who do not have health insurance live in households with annual incomes above $50,000 and "could likely afford health insurance."

Oh yeah? Maybe if they had inherited a house to live in. Devon M. Herrick of the National Center for Policy Analysis should consider this: Coverage for myself and my wife is costing me $1,096 per month, enough to pay the mortgage on a median-priced home in many cities in this country.

Don't believe me? Well the National Association of Realtors provides handy charts of median home prices. Suppose you and your spouse are both responsible, self-employed, fifty-something professionals. You have decent credit. With a down payment of just $6,000 and a 30-year fixed mortgage at 6% APR you can buy $188,200 worth of house.

That is the median price of a home in the South. You could afford to go above the median price in such desirable locations as Durham (NC), Pensacola (FL), Nashville (TN), and Atlanta (GA). Remember, median means that half of all houses in those places are going to cost less to buy than health insurance.

But what if you are making somewhere in the range of $55,000 per year? If the cost of your health insurance is equal to your mortgage it could disqualify you from buying a house.

Think of it. A nice house or health insurance? Surely that is proof positive something is seriously wrong with health care.

Segway Recall

A broad definition of "gyroscopically stabilized vehicle" might include the Segway. It certainly illustrates some of the questions that arise from gyro control of ground transportation systems, such as "What happens when the gyro control fails?" In the case of the Segway, the answer would seen to be "You fall off."

Falling off a Segway is apparently a real problem and a large recall was recently issued as a result. And it not the first. For more discussion check here.

Another question raised by the Segway is "Why?" I guess I am one of those people who just doesn't see the point of the Segway. I grant that it is an impressive technological achievement, but so was the hovercraft. That doesn't automatically make the technological useful (try running a hovercraft on a dry day in the country and you will find out how dusty the great outdoors really is). Maybe I will post at greater length on this issue. In the meantime checkout this great page on building a balancing scooter.

America's Healthcare Crisis

At the risk of upsetting some people I consider friends, it is high time that I started blogging the unholy, heartless, mindless, money-grubbing mess that is "healthcare" in America today.

For my first post, two connected items. We start with the rate that Blue Cross and Blue Shield are now charging my wife and I for basic health insurance ($1,000 deductible and various other limits): $1096.00 per month. In other words, about the size of a mortgage payment on a median-priced home in this part of the country (North Florida). And we think we are pretty healthy! I have high blood pressure but it is controlled by medication, diet, and exercise. My wife smokes but is trying to quit. She also has migraines (for which the medical establishment has failed to find effective treatment). But we don't have diabetes or cancer or any other serious health conditions, and we take an active interest in staying healthy.

The second item is proof that we are not alone. A report by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that sponsors independent research on health and social issues, reveals that 89% of working-age adults who shopped for health coverage in the individual market over the last three years were rejected for health reasons or found it too expensive.

See: Study Says Individual Insurance Too Costly
by Lisa Girion, Times Staff Writer, September 14, 2006
(may requires registration, but I find the LA Times do not spam registrants)

The full report is available as a Adobe Acrbat pdf here. I urge you to read it. The health of the nation and its citizens is clearly at risk.

People Will Mess Up Every New Technology for Profit

Classic examples are the mess that spam has made of email, and before that, the mess that viruses made of popular computing. The latest is the mess that splogs are making of blogging. Check out the wired articles I blogged here.

p.s. Glad to see the Treo post worked, and yes, we made it home safely, but there must be a better way for mobile posting than all the screens I went through--some added by Google as it takes over Blogger for profit.

4 of 5 Minivans

...don't move out of the fast lane, even when the driver in the vehicle behind them makes it very clear he or she would like to get past.

(Okay, not a profound rule, but I wanted to test blogging from my Treo 650 while in the car--no, I am not driving while I type this.)

Some of the gyro sites

Here is a very cursory list of sites that have gryo car info:

This is a very useful collection but it would be nice if they acknowledged that they took the scans of the Gyro-X car from my site. [Note: I humbly stand corrected by site owner Douglas Self--he assures me, and I concur, that he obtained the material quite independently of my efforts--and I applaud his continuing efforts to marshal more of the historical data regarding these vehicles].

For example, Douglas has the best collection of data available--to the best of my knowledge--on the amazing Schilovski car.

More on the Schilovski car via the Wolesley UK connection.

Info about a gyroscopically stabilized car in the sixities by inventor Louis Swinney.

More info about same vehicle, actually written by the inventor.

The "large wheel" approach to a gyro car, nicely illustrated.

Wikipedia entry for the Ford Gyron.

You Can't Defeat Terrorists

Losing the War on Terror: Why Militants Are Beating Technology Five Years After Sept. 11, by Ahmed Rashid, Washington Post, Monday, September 11, 2006.

All that money, all those lives. All that rhetoric, all that false hope. Why oh why won't world leaders come out and admit that you can't beat terrorists, then move on?!!

Well there are some obvious reasons why world leaders won't admit that you can't beat terrorists. A lot of 'leaders' are are more politican than leader and for them terrorism is a crutch, a raison d'être. Where would the ratings for George W. Bush be if were not for terrorists? They would be a lot lower than they are now. Heck, if it were not for 9/11 he probably wouldn't even be president. Or he would be facing impeachment for his utter failure in the face of hurricane Katrina.

Just watch the brilliant Brazil and you will see how it is done. The under-pinnings of that movie are the symbiotic relationship between Maggie Thatcher and the IRA. That's right my fellow citizens, the British did not defeat the IRA, they talked to the IRA, legitimized through the political wing, Sinn Féin. Ironically, it was the bombing of New York on 9/11 that put the final mail in the coffin of the IRA's bombing campaign. American support for such action evaporated in the firestorm that consumed the Twin Towers.

I can only hope enough people will take Mr. Rashid's article to heart and be brave enough, courageous enough, to realize that you can't defeat terrorists, but you can win the war on terror IF you are prepared to:

a. Negotiate with the political arm of terrorist groups (e.g. Hamas, which has shown willingness to form part of a legitimate government).
b. Negate the motivation of the terrorist base (e.g. enable Palestinians to transition from refugees to citizens of a viable country with a sustainable economy).
c. Take religion out of the equation (e.g. accept that nobody has a god given right to any piece of land--the alternative is eternal warfare).

And please, please, may we have some leadership on this planet instead of politicians!


Alice Smith CD

Wow, that's some funky stuff. The woman has talent and a very cool groove. Impressive pipes on "I Do." And I love the funky breaks, even trumpets. I swear there is some Arthur Lee influence in there. Thanks to my grrrl Summer for turning me on to this artist.

BTW, does anyone know why the audio and video on MySpace is so good? What technology are they using? The trailer for 'our movie' plays better there than on the official web site.

Money can't always buy votes

A Republican primary race for St. Johns County Commission seats in Florida may seem an unlikely place for me to find a great big ray of hope, but the defeat of two well-funded incumbents in this race is one of the most promising signs I have seen that citizens can be trusted to call the shots. Check these stories for full details:

Basically, well-funded incumbent Stern had raised $197,470 but narrowly lost to Sanchez, who only raised $7,720. Incumbent Maguire raised $140,000 yet was solidly defeated by Manuel, who had only raised $8,860. In others words, and contrary to received wisdom in cynical political circles, you cannot count on reelection just because you have a lot more money than your opponent (bear in mind the total voting age population of the county is less than 125,000).

What lost the election for these two commissioners was a rising tide of discontent about the way they had mishandled growth. For years they both tended to vote the way big developers wanted, and they both took big chunks of money from big developers. At the same time they seriously neglected the growing need for affordable homes and well paid jobs.

Then they showed hubris in the face of criticism. During the race, Commissioner Stern declared that "Over the past five to six years, the Board of County Commissioners has done a commendable job in negotiating with the developers to provide infrastructure improvements." Clearly this is not what most voters think. Those in her own party disagreed enough to express themselves in the voting booths.

I only hope that this trend can be generalized and in November people across the country will vote the way they feel about the following statement:

"Over the past five to six years, the Senate/House/President has done a commendable job of __________ to provide __________."