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[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 10, 2013 by admin in Editorial & OpinionThursday, January 10th, 2013
The US military probably spends more on golf courses and toilet seats than NASA spends on launch prep. Let’s take a look.
I want to go to Mars. No. Really. When I was a kid, I was pretty sure I was going to be an astronaut or aerospace engineer. This was partly the result of seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey at the age of seven, which led me to study some pretty fancy math before I was ten. By the age of eleven or so, I could measure an object, figure out its drag coefficient , and tell you how high it could go on X amount of thrust. My family basically lived in terror and amazement, always watching my rocket launches, but secretly wondering when I would weaponize them or otherwise bring ruin to the family farm by way of some tragic accident. But by the time I was a teen, the US space program was fizzling into the tin can in the sky called Skylab, followed by the arguably ill-conceived Space Shuttle. By the time I was in my teens, it was clear that there was no way in the world we’d be making regular visits in luxury passenger shuttles to one of those huge circular space stations in orbit by the year 2001. So my life veered off in other directions. But the passion for space exploration has always remained. And now that the space program seems to have new juice from the private sector, it looks like I would even stand a chance of being able to go to Mars if I wanted! Anyway, in spite of my frustrations with the way the space program evolved, I still always thought it was freakin’ awesome, and will vigorously defend any money the US government flings its way. So today, when I got in one of those pointless debates about defense spending vs. NASA spending with a friend, I briefly distracted him with a debate feint about how many golf courses the US military operates. Then I took about thirty minutes to whip up the graphic below: Read the rest of this entry »
[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 4, 2013 by admin in Editorial & OpinionFriday, January 4th, 2013
If you take the time to read the book “Deadly Spin” by a former Senior VP of CIGNA, you may decide not to!
For a long time, I’ve said (among other things) that “buying insurance is like giving someone money to protect you from something that’ll never happen so that they can not protect you when it does.” A lot of friends and acquaintances look at me as if I’m either ignorant or insane when I suggest that the single biggest thing wrong with America is the insurance industry. But finally – after the publication of Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans – I feel vindicated. One of my key assertions for some time has been that insurance is pretty much the sole reason that health care is as expensive as it is, which – given its tidal-wave-like ripple impact on the economy – should be reason enough. But it goes much deeper. The insurance industry as a whole is a ridiculous con game rife with greed, corruption, and deceit, and if you don’t think so, you probably haven’t had to make significant legitimate claims on a policy. Or don’t pay attention to the news. If the personal experiences that I’VE been involved in were the only stories out there, I might think that I and my small circle had just had bad luck. But the horror stories of insurance companies are everywhere.
Love or hate Michael Moore (I lean a little to the latter, for the record), his movie Sicko was a fact-based eye-opener mostly focusing on the now-common insurance industry “innovation” called rescission. Which in a nutshell can be defined as “hiring a bunch of people to figure out how to not pay on policies you’ve sold“. If you have doubts about the veracity of Sicko’s stories, read in Deadly Spin about the PR panic it caused at the highest levels of the insurance industry. The author was right there on the inside working on damage control.
My personal stories range from a hospital charging almost a QUARTER MILLION DOLLARS A WEEK for a standard room during my now-deceased mother’s hospital care, to a series of attempts by companies trying to weasel out of paying for business associates’ obviously legit claims, to a few stories from friends who had adjusters showing up while they wept over their smoldering homes, with a check in hand to help them out. How thoughtful! Unfortunately, they were checks for a third of the legitimate value of the claim. That’s a classic industry technique. Look like the good guy up front while you screw the customer from the other side.
Even former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott had a run in with the industry. And lost. Like many homeowners in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Lott was shocked to find that his insurance company didn’t think wind had destroyed his house, but that water did. That meant they didn’t have to pay. Lott played the “Don’t you know who I AM?” game, and lost. We’ll never know all the facts there, but we DO know that when he tried to wield the power of Washington and Homeland Security, the industry didn’t flinch. And that appears to have riled him up so much that he may have resorted to behind-the-scenes intimidation and bribery.
So if the power of a senate leader doesn’t scare the insurance industry, what will?
Pretty much nothing. Although different reasons are typically offered for Lott’s eventual resignation, the real reason probably is that by stepping down when he did – two weeks before new legislation that would have prevented him from becoming a lobbyist took effect – he was able to get into the business that he’s now in, i.e.: lobbying. Apparently Lott learned where the REAL power in this country is the hard way.
But I’m rambling on all pitchfork-and-torchy here. Don’t take MY word for what an appalling monstrosity the insurance industry really is, let an old man who worked at the top of it for decades and couldn’t live with himself any more tell you. You’ll probably be stunned at some of the things you learn, and even if you you don’t care about the immorality of it all, Wendell Potter serves up a lot of simple facts about the history of insurance in America that will probably surprise you. It was once a brilliant idea for spreading risk amongst many, and has become a bizarre tool for enhancing the extravagant wealth of a very few.
[ Comments Off ]Posted on October 18, 2012 by admin in Editorial & OpinionThursday, October 18th, 2012
Mitt Romney is glad to hear you’re voting third party in 2012.
One thing I don’t think I’ve heard a Republican say since 1968 is “I don’t know if I like our guy. I think I’ll vote third party or just sit this one out.”
[ Comments Off ]Posted on August 19, 2012 by admin in Editorial & OpinionSunday, August 19th, 2012
Why none of the crimes of the financial services industry will ever be punished.
If you want to commit a crime and get away with it, one way to do it is to make it an EPIC crime, surround yourself with lots of fall guys, and remain utterly unrepentant. Nixon understood this in the Watergate scandal; his abuse of office was remarkable, and he had no qualms about letting his underlings dangle. Reagan & Bush understood this in the Iran Contra affair; mixing billion dollar drug and weapons deals to negotiate the extended enemy-state-sponsored kidnapping of American citizens to win an election was a stunning exercise in criminality that went largely unpunished. In fact one of their fall guys is now a high-paid “journalist” with Fox News. And in a recent bizarre example, the US government dropped charges against a fugitive doctor wanted in a multimillion dollar international racket selling prescription drugs online, simply because the evidence against him was using too much space on federal servers.
Another way to achieve your goal is to create a legitimate business that so insinuates itself into people’s lives that they feel they can’t live without it, and then charge them enough to buy deregulation for yourself, so you can basically get away with murder, price-fixing, repossession of property, Read the rest of this entry »
The decline of the American Empire will be hard for some of us, but I for one welcome our new Chinese overlords. And the opportunity to brush up on my Mandarin.
A long time ago, I managed a Chinese restaurant for a couple of years, and found myself quickly adopted as a sort of Honorary Asian. I have to say, I honestly feel much more at ease with a lot of the cultural vibe of Chinese people than that of most American people. I won’t bore you with all the reasons why; but this will certainly come in handy in the impending econopocalypse. Someone observed back in the late 90′s that if China kept buying US treasury bonds at the rate they were, they’d own them all by 2018. But as a result of our self-destruction as a country over the last fifteen years or so, this has become kind of a moot point. China is now routinely discussed as a possible replacement for America as the world’s next superpower. The US dollar as the global standard for currency exchange is no longer a de facto assumption, and the trade balance between the US and China is… well…let’s just say that if the two countries were Facebook friends, their status would say they’re “In a relationship, but it’s complicated”. But I’m not here to get granular about the specifics of China and the US in relation to global finance, I’m here to help ease you into the future, by pointing out in broad strokes the things that have made it more or less inevitable that soon we’ll all be celebrating the New Year in February, buying our groceries with Yuan, and speaking Mandarin. At least the smarter of us will be speaking Mandarin, anyway. You’re much more likely to end up in management that way. So if you need to bone up and take things beyond the “ni hao” and “xie xie” stage, they say Fluenz Mandarin language software is the latest and greatest. But it’s also almost 400 bucks (about 2500 Yuan), so you might want to check out the trusty old Rosetta Stone, at a mere 150 bucks (or 950 Yuan). Anyway, below are the things we did to ourselves, and the reasons you may just want to sign up for that Mandarin class NOW. Read the rest of this entry »