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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Not in the Cards

It wasn’t in the cards for the Cards tonight.  Still, they should hold their heads high.  Four pennants in last ten years—2004,2006,2011, 2013.  Plus two more memorable years.  2005 had 105 victories but they lost in the playoffs.  2012 had a 3-1 lead over San Fran in NLCS and didn’t win pennant.  At 18 pennants they are the winningest National League team.  And they didn’t even start winning pennants until 1926.  So in 88 years they have won 18 pennants.  They are the most copied franchise in baseball for their ability to bring up new talent, and thus they win with bargain basement payrolls against teams that spend sometimes twice as much.  Beginning with the radio era when Branch Rickey decided to put them on as many stations as possible and they became America’s team, they have been a business success.  I noticed that Fenway Park in Boston a huge Budweiser sign over right field.  Buy another one and send the money to StL!  I remember listening to ESPN, the voice of the coasts in sports who couldn’t hide their disdain for the Redbirds when pitchers Motte, Carpenter, and Garcia were lost for the season.  Ha! The 'Birds reloaded!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Your doctor-patient relationship changes

“What people don’t realize is that under Obamacare, your doctor-patient relationship will drastically change,” were his words to me.  That caught me off guard and so I investigated. A few days ago the MGMA did a survey of its docs. 29% plan to participate in Obamacare.  15% will not.  56% are still up in the air.  Now if we just take 15% of our docs off the market to most people, think what that means for ability to find a doctor when needed.  And why were so many uncertain if they would participate at all?  That caught me off guard so I investigated.

“While everyone yaks about the healthcare website and higher premiums, let me tell you about the real impact this will have on physicians and patients,” he went on.  

What is happening with Obamacare is that payments to individual doctors will be much less than to the large hospital corporations. Hence doctors are relinquishing individual practices and joining hospitals to be paid on a piece basis for patients seen and procedures performed.  The docs get paid more and the hospital covers their malpractice insurance.  Why wouldn’t a doc join a large healthcare provider instead of slaving away on  individual practice?  Right now it takes 5 support personnel for every individual practice doctor and roughly 3 are involved in paperwork.  That may double or triple as new bureaucratic agencies take control of healthcare practice.  The bureaucrats will tell your doc what to do and what not to do if he wants to get paid.

Why does Obamacare want to squeeze out individual doctors?  Socialism.  It’s easier to deal with a few large corporations to control the industry, as the national socialists used to note.  So you push everyone into a group/union.  Unionism, groupism (in Mussolini’s Italian it was fasci, “group or union”). 

It gets worse.  Obamacare pays hospitals and corporate providers better if they simply contract an ACT (I think that is the correct acronym).  This is a program where they take limited responsibility for keeping you somewhat healthy.  The corporation is paid by the head.  Maybe $2000 a person is the blanket coverage.  You can only go to their facility unless you apply for a hardship (should you turn up at a hospital in Nicaragua)  The corporate doctor you often see is rewarded, not for healing, but for low-cost maintenance. “Here, we will subscribe a pill for that old broken knee of yours.” (Knee surgery costs big money. Pills are cheap.)  Hence your doc will be like an arm of insurance doing minimal to fix your health.  He won’t be allowed to look at you like a doctor, but like an insurer/bureaucrat.

Now are you seeing why so many docs are saying they simply won’t take Obamacare or may not?  Here’s one doctor’s way of putting it (anonymous quote from Heritage Foundation).


“These new boards and commissions under Obamacare will tell doctors: “These are the procedures you will do, and these are the ones you will not do.” Treatment will be restricted, reimbursement will be further decreased, more doctors will retire early, as I have already seen with many colleagues.

People need to think carefully when they say “Obamacare will offer health care to those who have none.” It promises to offer health insurance, but what sort of health care results when Obamacare adds even more government busywork and approvals to an already highly regulated system?”


Welcome to the brave new world.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Don't save, just gamble

The IRS noted that it is sending out 25% of EITC refunds that are bogus. How do they manage to accomplish it?  EITC is the refund that gives poor people, who make small money a big refund, much more than they paid in taxes.  So EITC recipients are 1040EZs with a couple small W2’s, right?  And then the employers have to file their forms to the IRS listing who got which W2, correct?  This is not rocket science.  So all the IRS has to do is have a computer check the math on the form and crosscheck the W2’s.  Bingo—an audited form and a correct refund.  Oh, one disqualifier.  No one who is in business can collect EITC.  That’s apparent from the tax form, however, as per the line “business income or loss”. But as the feckless, lazy girl once said, “Unh! This is hard!” the IRS claims they cannot get this done right.  Try not to think about  how they might handle your health insurance with Obamacare.  You know, the insurance with the cardiac riders and the knee surgery continuance and the high blood pressure medication?  The one with an 80/20 PPO and 50/50 non-provider clause.

The debt ceiling fight left Republicans without hope of ever winning public office again, according to the pundits.  Why the Dems will be gleefully calling the Republicans obstructionists and they will always win!  Hmm.  Seems to this writer that refusal to raise the debt ceiling is tantamount to telling Washington to live within their means.  Why didn’t we call it “Live within your means” instead of Shutdown.  It was hardly a shutdown.  It was just a 14% trim of federal services. (Just try not filing your taxes during said Shutdown and see if IRS is forgiving.)  But I now understand why the R’s got socked in the polls.  We were headed to Wichita to get some supplies and decided to drop in for the buffet at the Kansas Star Casino.  From where we parked, we had to walk through the casino to get to the dining room.  You know, through the valley of the blackjack tables and through the forest of the slots.  The two of us don’t gamble.  Lost enough money through legitimate business and gambling seems no amusement whatsoever.  But what I saw there explained to me why R’s lose the argument.  All the gamblers were old farts with white hair or none at all.  Aren’t they worried about security in their old age?  I wanted to ask one old duffer in a power chair, “Sir what will you spend the money on if you win? A power chair with more horsepower?” But before I could say anything, my Lady whispered, “This is Social Security at work.”  Indeed, they must have gotten their checks.  And anyone who dares suggest that the monthly allotment is in jeopardy is surely a Bad Guy! Get an entitlement and you don’t need to save or plan. If this is how the elderly act, how will the youth? We are doomed in the polls.

I don’t see the coming debt crisis as necessarily happening as a direct cause from something in America.  It is sufficient for a couple of big southern European countries to default to the point where the EU can’t bail them out.  The fright of bondholders will then spread around the world in a market panic.  In the end, it will be the countries without much national debt that will have low interest and be sitting pretty.  Those like USA and Japan who are like the PIIGS countries of Europe, will be hit hard, with high interest rates and economic meltdowns.  And then the same guys who cussed the R’s for obstructionism will be walking around in shock asking what happened and why does the government not have enough money to give them a nice check anymore.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Washington's soldiers

I have been caregiver for the past two days as she had cataract surgery.  It got me to thinking how blessed we are to live 200 years after Washington.  Eyeglasses in those days were rare.  At the end of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress was broke and officers in the army hadn’t been paid in two years.  They were near rebellion.  Wives left at home tried to manage the farm or store. Limbs had been lost and so had best friends.  So the officers prepared a demand for pay, wrote their grievances and met in force to present them to Washington.  They were close to mutiny.  But then the commander reached into his coat and produced a set of this new oddball device, eyeglasses.  He apologized for his bad vision and said the war had ruined his eyes among other things.  At that point many soldiers hung their heads, and some began to weep in sympathy with their general.  The entire meeting ended in a fizzle with soldiers admitting that everyone had given up so much for his country.  They never got paid. 

            About 1980, I was visiting with a friend who was head of Department of Human Services in Kay County.  I made some sort of remark about a lot of poor people being his clients.  Jim stopped me and said, “We have only 135 family units on assistance in a county of over 40,000.  Yes, I know there are lots of poor people, but they have pride and won’t take government assistance.” So there, I had been told.

            All this makes me think that I must live in a different country.  Today we have polls which blame those in Congress who are trying to keep spending from ruining us.   We can survive Obama.  We can’t survive a populance that is so addicted to government checks that they can’t stand it when14% of the government is shut down.  The ones who work for the federal government have seen three weeks of furlough for which they will get paid despite not working.  Isn’t that called a paid vacation?  Why do they howl?  And you tell me, if 93.6% of the workers who work for the EPA are “non-essential” why don’t we just downsize EPA?  If that was a private business, they’d downsize by 93.6%.

            The 14 richest counties are the ones surrounding DC.  Maryland is the richest state with a median household income of over $71,000.  Why? Do they have rich mineral wealth?  Manufacturing?  High Technology?  Banking and Finance? What do they produce, regulations and tax laws?

            America was growing 1-2% a year in the seventies.  Then along came a leader who said, “Get the government off the people’s backs” Despite a spendthrift congress of another party, he cut taxes and spending growth and was rewarded with 4-5% economic growth. USA became the miracle of the world—a developed country that grew like a developing one.  We produced an insurmountable military, iphones and personal computers, ebay and brewpubs and 401Ks.  But over the intervening years America started spending far more than it made in revenue. Now we are like the guy who does not ask, but demands a loan of his banker.  He makes $29,000 a year but spends $38,000 and has debt of $170,000.  Still, he demands his banker lend him more and stop limiting his spending to 5% a year increases (via Sequester) but raise it back to 8%.  Just add 8 zeros to see America’s numbers.  And if the banker doesn’t give him a clean continuing resolution, he’ll start calling names.  Hostage takers! Terrorists! Spouse abusers! Extremist kooks! Obstructionists! We can survive Obama, but not a populance that sees no wrong in this.

            I want my America back, the one with Washington’s soldiers and Okie poor folks.  If nothing else, tell that city to give us back Washington’s good name and name your darned city something else.  We may be a long ways away, but we can see from out here what’s happening, glasses or not.      

Monday, October 14, 2013

Go, Thinskins!

The controversy continues. What I can’t figure out is why no one points out that in 2004 they did a poll on full-blood Native Americans and asked if they were insulted over the Redskins name.  90% weren’t.  You’d think that would be the end of the matter, but it keeps going.  The Redskins owner has no intention of changing the name, so you’d think that would end the matter.  But it keeps going. You don’t demand Red Lobster change their name, do you?  Moreover, I remember reading—but I can’t recall source—how some tribe on the east coast called themselves Redskins prior to the coming of Europeans.  Astounding! How could you tell the subtle skin tone when that’s all you were used to?  Plus, a cosmetics field rep once told me that Indians do not have a red tone, but more of a reduced yellow, which makes them somewhat olive, like Italians and Greeks. 

            So who doesn’t like this?  Has to be progressives who think they have discovered a racist moral lapse, and typically, are out to prove their superiority to the world.  But then those same people go around labeling everyone as white or black in an attempt to use group politics (group in Italian is fasci which labels the type of socialism that tried to be popular by using group politics to control people).  I rather liked Rush Limbaugh’s quip that they should rename the team the “Thinskins” in honor of those who don’t like “Redskins”.

            Not the first time controversy has surrounded a Washington team.  The old Washington Bullets were an also-ran until that year they became the only team with a losing record to win the NBA.  Their coach had grown up around opera as a child and he famously said, “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” Indeed it wasn’t over for the Bullets who hit a hot streak at the end of the season, made the playoffs and managed to win it all.  Thereafter, the team became the center of attention and the Thinskins made management change the name.  Argus Hamilton said it well.  “Because of controversy surrounding the suggestion of criminal activity in the name of the Washington Bullets, hereafter the team will be known simply as The Bullets.”
           Okay, so it's the Washington Chippewattomies.  Next is to change the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  Why are we so prejudiced to think that Irish fight?  Why pick on the Irish? Maybe it should be the Formerly Pugnacious Potato-Eaters.  And  maybe the Bethany Mad Swedes should be the Sanity-Challenged Northerners.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dog Balls

            So when are they going to start teaching Civics in school again?  You listen to people on the street interviews and they are all fed up with Washington because “Congress doesn’t run the government right”.  Wait.  It is not Congress’ job to run the operations of government.  That’s the job of the executive branch. It’s called separation of powers.

And then you listen to another person say, “I don’t see why the Republicans want to shut the government down.”  Wait. The legislature’s job is to make laws and approve budgets. R’s and D’s get into arguments all the time, and that is the way things are supposed to be run.  That’s how laws and budgets are made.  It is clearly not the responsibility of Congress to rubber stamp spending.  We have been going for 5 years without a budget, because the Senate won’t take up budget items passed by the House, even 2009-10 when the House was being run by the Dems.  A Continuing Resolution, a blanket continuance with an 8% or 5% (Sequester) automatic raise, has been the way things have been funded contrary to the Constitution.  It violates Article I, Sect. 7 when budgets approved by the House aren’t even taken up by the Senate and together with the President they try to blackmail the House into approving a Continuing Resolution. You tell me, if a business never looked at its budget but just continued to blindly add 8% increases each year to every department, would it still be in business in 5 years?  Moreover, the “shutdown” is actually 83% business-as-usual and what’s at issue is whether the feds should deficit spend or live within their means.

Then a financial analyst, who is supposed to be someone who knows something about economics, warns that we might default.  Well, if there is a default, it is the choice of a President. The incoming revenue is far in excess of interest on federal debt.  So government should be able to cover it, unless the guy in charge of decision-making decides, like some ghetto-rat renter, they he is not going to pay the landlord.  Then there will be default.

“Beam me up, Scottie, there’s no intelligent life down here!”  Or at least no civics.  Or maybe we are chosing to neglect the Constitution.  What I have just written about is #39 of my list of things to impeach our President over.  This latest refusal to negotiate with the House and demand quite publicly that the Senate must not consider separate budgetary items, is trying to coerce unconstitutional (Article I, Sect. 7) results.  Number 38 is related.  Obama tried to shut down state highways leading to national parks.  Violation of Amendment 10!  The feds cannot tell states what to do with a state-built road.  Same goes for shutting down private monuments like Ford’s Theatre.

I catch myself thinking about those farmers to whom the Federalist Papers were written.  Those guys with wooden tools, farming with oxen, storing the milk in a spring-house cave to keep it cool, understood the Constitution yet somehow we can’t.  So when are we going to teach Civics again? We can survive Obama but how will we survive a populance of bozzos?

My very incomplete list of impeachables grows almost every week.  Sept 16, Obama ignored a law (“It’s already on the books and you should stop fighting it!” as he says about Obamacare.) that forbids US from arming global terrorist organizations in order to arm Al Nuzra and Al Qaeda in Syria.  So when a President disregards, violates, or changes the laws of the land, duly passed by a Congress and signed by a President, he violates Sect. II, “shall take care that the law is faithfully executed” and Section VI. If the ploughboys of 1789 had heard about the stuff happening today, they’d have taken up pitchforks and scythes and somebody would probably have been swinging a rope as they descended on Washington.  And it wouldn’t be because someone didn’t sending their government check on time.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act specifically required Congress to be considered as private citizens who must have and pay for insurance by the individual mandate.  Obama slyly offered to pay their way and they took the bribe.  Once again, violations of Art. II and VI.  In fact, Obama games and changes laws at will when he gives 2500 exemptions and delays the employer mandate from the specific start-up date of the law. 

So why does this stuff rarely get mentioned by the pundits or the citizenry?  The farmers of 1789 would be incensed and talk of tyranny would be rife.  The farmers I grew up with had a saying, “as plain as the balls on a short-haired dog.” Are we just pretending that we don’t see tyranny?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What not to plant

I married a gardener who has a horticulturalist for a best friend.  Thus our back yard is full of all sorts of things that no one else plants.  But the record low of 2011 and the record heat and drought of 2011-12 has left a lot of dead things in yards all around town.  My rentals get little or no special care and so I thought I would pass along observations about plants and especially trees that didn’t make it in the drought.  Here’s what not to plant if you want low maintenance.

Silver Maples.  We have dead ones all over town due to the drought.  Some are only half dead, but only a few show no signs of suffering.  They are a shallow-rooted tree famous for raising sidewalks.  One guy told me he planted one under an inoperable car and as the years went by it high centered the car.  When the ground got dry the silver maples couldn’t take it.  The Sugar and Red Maples were okay.  They have deeper roots. Japanese maples really suffered but if babied they survived. 

Sweet Gum.  Likewise there are many dead sweet gums and many others with many dead branches.  The only one in town that did not suffer, I believe is a giant old gum tree at one of my rentals that has tapped the sewer lines and sits adjacent a drainage creek.  Besides, the gums drop a horrific number of balls which you have to rake.  Both the sweet gums and silver maples have nice fall color—otherwise no redeeming social value.

Colorado Blue Spruce.  We had blue spruces that had to be 50 years old which died in some locations.  There are practically none alive anywhere in town now.  Just too stinking hot, I guess.  Plant blue atlas cedars instead, which can take the dry, the heat, and in normal summers, can take the humidity without promoting blight.  Interestingly the Colorado aspens seemed to have faired fairly well.  Aspens are shallow rooted and hate heat, but have a root system like rhizomes of Bermuda grass, which gives them survivability. 

Birches.  The white birch can’t take the heat and was never recommended for this area.  I know of two in town and both died, despite ardent attention by the owners.  There is a Korean birch which has white bark and supposedly can survive, but it takes water.  So does the River Birch which is often planted.  Many were half dead or dead this year. Another water lover, the weeping willows seemed to survive when they were watered.  Corkscrew willows and native willows made a comeback without much attention.

Some version of Arborvitae, not the usual one, died flat in 2011.  You’d see large hedgerows of this tree that were 20 years or more old and they just turned brown and croked. 

All the native trees one associates with  moisture—sycamores, elms, mulberries and “low-cussed”—did just fine.  So did the hillside native trees of eastern red cedar, hackberry and redbud.  My peach tree did okay as well, although the fruit trees here are subject to borer attack so you never know what happened to a fruit tree by just driving by and noticing a dead tree. Katalpa trees have a lot of dead branches from drought but see few that are dead. Oaks did just fine.

Sometimes people will say you shouldn’t plant Japanese boxwood or crape myrtle because of winter kill, but these didn’t show bad signs of our -24F winter in 2011. Plant that keeps shocking us for its love of hot summers is the silver gray artemesia.  It even looks fairly good in winter. The native butterfly bush also thrives.  Savanna grass winter killed somewhat.  Ajuga that was doing swell for years up and died from lack of moisture.  Creeping red fescue found it hard to keep going when it got very dry in summer.