Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Michelle Obama and the Academy Were Disgusting

Unexpectedly, arrogantly, and bullishly Michelle Obama showed up at the Oscars and announced the best American Film Academy movie of 2012 (Argo).

The fact that the movie selection was political was one thing but to have the wife of the POTUS show up as if she had anything to do with the movie industry (or as if she were a movie celebrity) and announce it was insulting to the veiwers' intellect.

As soon as Michelle showed up on the screen I turned the TV off as I could not take even 1 second of the falseness and charade displayed by the Academy.

Shame on you, Michelle, and shame on the Academy for playing so blatantly open political games. Disgusting and lame and nothing more.

Michelle, go back to your White House vegetable garden and mind the tomatoes and onions, please.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Art and Process: Process Always Wins

Germans know how to follow processes. They have a plan, devise a strategy, and then they write precise instructions to be followed. They reward people, groups, companies, and governments that follow processes. They are great engineers and have precise expectations on how thing should work and be. The outcome is almost always as expected.

Germans are group driven.

French people are artists. They follow instincts and 'je ne sais quoi' to attain objectives. To achieve their objectives the French may need a process but the precise process can be/is optional. Instructions are for the 'weak'. This is why they have amazing gardens, architecture, and unparalleled food. They have spontaneity and a lot more serendipity.

French people are individual driven.

In the long term the Germans always win when compared to the French. Large economies value fungible and easily exchangeable goods/ideas compared to unique goods. Econ 101. Only auction houses like unique items.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Medical Billing Is Dreadful

Today I was reading an article on Time magazine about the byzantine way the medical billing functions in the 'greatest' nation on the planet.

It is beyond belief we do not have a set of laws to address the fact that any American hospital can charge any amount for any procedure/materials/medication as they see fit, using an arcane instrument called 'hospital chargemaster'.

We do have a law that dictates how much the government pays for procedures under Medicare and I think that this provision should be made universal. No medical bill for any given procedure can be higher than a Medicare bill. The bill will not undermine the value of healthcare and will afford most people access to any medical procedure without the fear of bankruptcy.

Another legal change should be made to stipulate that no medical bill can result in bankruptcy and, furthermore, can affect the credit score. All medical related bills should not even be reported on individual credit scores.

A 3rd legal change should force hospitals to post prices for each procedure online and on clearly visible spots at their intake rooms. Prices listed on these documents can only be changed, at the very most, twice a year, and only after a review by a Federal agency.

The 3 legislative provisions highlighted above have the potential to fundamentally alter the face of healthcare billing abuses in America.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Juventus Beat Celtic 3-0 in Glasgow

On Feb 12 Juventus Torino beat Celtic FC with a categorical score of 3-0. This was the best tactical game I have seen this year.

Celtic FC attacked constantly and Juventus defended impeccably. All 3 goals Juventus scored came from counter-attacks and there was nothing Celtic could have done differently.

This is a game that needs to be taught in soccer academies as Juventus played a precise, perfectly timed game. Matri, Marchisio, and Vucinic scored without much fuss and with efficiency.

Awesome game! Molto grazie, La Vecchia Donna!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Obama, Meat Cleavers, and Sequestration

Today Mr. Obama suggested that the budget sequestration due to take effect on Mar 1 was tantamount to using a meat cleaver to chop away expenditures. I imagine he would have liked to have access to a scalpel or perhaps a laser guided instrument to extract savings out of our $3,600 billion yearly expenditures.

Well, Mr. Obama, you yourself have signed the sequestration bill you are currently labeling as 'meat cleaver' into law (with your own fingers). You have no moral authority to demand that it be repealed when we have so many other laws and bills that demand the attention of our representatives.

We need tax reform and true healthcare reform and we need a stronger Union as we have gaps in education across our country. A kid in DC gets a better education than a kid in Mississippi. Why should that be? We also have gaps in geographical well being and access to public services and you are mandated to help all of us become a stronger nation, and not to forever fix laws that were not meant to take a hold of our political life to begin with.

Get to do some real work, Mr. President. What are you waiting for?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sequester Cuts and the Federal Budget

The US government spends about $3,600 billion a year. The sequester, which is supposed to start on Mar 1, is supposed to cut $85 billion out of that amount. So, it is less than 2.4% of the total outlays. This means that 97.6% of the expenditures can be done as planned.

What is the big deal about the sequester given its marginal impact?

It is mystifying to see that the law that instated the sequester (i.e. it was passed by the Congress and signed by the president) gets to be revised so fast when there are so many other laws that are more deserving of the legislature's attention.

'Surviving from fake crisis to fake crisis', this seems to be the governance motto of this political age.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Horse Meat in Europe 'Scandal' (British Media is Rubbish)

Last week, yet another scandal emerged in England around mislabeled 'lasagne'. (BTW, who, on this planet calls lasagna 'lasagne' but ignorant Brits?)

Apparently the bolognese sauce was supposed to be all beef when in reality was either all horse meat or, at most, partially beef.

Most -if not all- British papers quickly -and stupidly- pointed their fingers at Romania via a media bullying campaign. After all, it is much easier to bully the new kid on the block than do some real journalism and get to the bottom of the problem.

As it turned out, a French firm and some intermediaries from Cyprus and the Netherlands (as well as British firms) were the real culprit for the selling of horse meat as beef and the British immediately changed their tune.

Romania was not to blame anymore as this was an 'European' problem. As if Romania were not a part of Europe. The real problem is not that people have been eating 'lasagne' with horse meat for who knows how long but that they did not know about it. Really? Is that a problem that warrants such a big over-reaction? Nobody got sick or died after eating horse meat and instead of having a debate about perhaps eating horse meat on an open fashion we are having a scandal about whether food labels are accurate.

In my opinion this affair was labeled a 'scandal' only because the meat originated in Eastern Europe (and perhaps Ireland).

Food mislabeling is not that uncommon as it was portrayed (see this or this for blatant examples of fish mislabeling) and the fact that the British media can be allowed to be so openly and aggressively anti Romania is tantamount to mass hysteria at best and ignorance at worst.

Food labels have been inaccurate and uninformative for a very long time.The British media thought that they had found a bloody gem of a problem to attribute to Eastern Europe (mainly Romania) to satiate their appetite for barbaric ideological practices.

British media has proven yet again to be junk media that plays inhumanely dirty games against transiently weak members of the European Union. Shame on you, Britain!

Meteor in Russia (Reveals Our Utter Ignorance and Arrogance)

This past week in Russia a meteor landed in Chelyabinsk and caused serious damage with about 1,000 injured people. 

The most astounding issue on this landing is that nobody anticipated it in spite of the billions of dollars in resources spent for space research. We are basically wasting money if, after spending it with aplomb, cannot issue warnings to people living around the predicted meteor impact zones.

Everybody was surprised by this meteor: scientists, lay people, and clergy. Yet the event could have been predicted just like hurricanes are, with an impact zone cone and evacuation routes. And it was not. Why do we allow ourselves to be so ignorant in the face on an event that can cause serious damage and injure or kill thousands of people?

Carnival Triumph Was a Disaster

What a week! The story of Carnival ship Triumph losing all power and creating a nightmare for all on board is absolutely incredible.

How is it possible for a company that sells 'experiences' disguised as 'vacations' to have absolutely no back up plans for losing all the power on board? Triumph lost power on Sunday due to a fire and all power was lost. Even power to critical systems, like navigation, sanitation, and emergency systems.

Over 4,200 passengers and crew were left in their own filth for 5 days without working bathrooms, without running water and with a very poorly designed food distribution system. It is not conceivable for a person to pay money expecting the experience of a lifetime and get the trauma of a lifetime.

Many think that Carnival did the best they could but I believe they did nothing to prepare for such an event. You expect the best and prepare for the worst but in cruising one expects that the preparation part totally belongs to the cruise line. If I pay money to prepare for the worst then what expectations can I have?

The business model of the cruise industry has to change to reflect the reality that catastrophic failures do happen and they need to have serious contingency in place to be able to better insulate passengers and crew from preventable (and, in the case of fire in the engine room, not very rare) events. 

I have never been on a cruise before and I will never go on a cruise. I would rather depend on loosely distributed systems for my security and well being than a singularly controlled web of systems (mostly when there is no redundancy built in).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Billed for unused ambulance service

I was reading today about a case where an individual's family was billed for a late arriving ambulance. By the time the ambulance arrived the patient died. The actual story can be found here.

Given the current state of health care costs in our country I make a promise to myself to never, ever call an ambulance. I would 100% prefer to die than to have to deal with the insurance and health care providers and their insane bills.

When I pay my insurance premiums and taxes -they are both withheld directly from my paychecks- I never have a choice to make it difficult for the insurance company or taxing authorities to get their hands on my money.

However, when I need access to healthcare and government services the government and insurance companies are equally difficult to deal with, even though my money got to them painlessly. Why is this relationship so skewed in the favor of the big 'thugs'?

Our government is a monopoly and I sort of understand that they can do whatever they want, or pretty close to that. But why would insurance companies -that are run by private interests, which are supposed to be responding quickly to consumers- want to be in the same category as the government?

I think it has to do with a monopolistic collusion between government and insurance companies. Government regulates healthcare quite a bit. Insurance companies need to obey the regulations and also make a profit.

So, when I become a healthcare user -by becoming sick, for instance- I become a target of regulation. As such, I am captive and not able to exit the healthcare 'box'. Hence I'd prefer to die than deal with the American healthcare system. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Just like in any other 3rd world country

To my total amazement, during the 2013 Super Bowl game, the lights at the New Orleans super dome went dead for about 30 minutes. This type of power outage, during the biggest game/event of the year, does not happen in a first class nation, and yet it's just happened in the US of A. Can the US continue to claim to be a top class nation? I am not sure. Not at all.

The most ironic part of this power outage was that after the power had been restored -it took about 35 minutes- we were being shown TV commercials that blatantly touted the technological advances in the US of A. Yet we are not able to keep the lights on during a football game. The biggest game of the season, no less, with hundreds of millions of people glued to their TVs. A large part of theses viewers is all around the globe and they will talk about it, and not in a positive manner. We quickly become famous for reasons that mimic the ones found in 3rd world nations.

Kids being randomly shot in schools while attending courses, stadium lights going out during big events, effective gun laws extracted in a bizarre way from the 18th century, lack of access to medical care for a significant portion of the poor, representation in Congress that reflects political maps that look like cancer cells, and the list goes on and on.


Super Bowl half time show with Beyonce was simply atrocious

This year Beyonce was the performer elected by the NFL to entertain us during the Super Bowl half time.

Beyonce's performance just ended a few moments ago and I found it bland, boring, and a tad insulting.

I could not fully stand to watch her performance as it appeared sexist -I am a man after all- and targeted only to women audiences, or, at the very best, to teenage boys.

No doubt, Byonce has an amazing body, but that fact alone cannot make a Super Bowl half time show, unless you go to a strip club.

NFL made a poor choice with giving the entertainment keys to Beyonce and I am thrilled that I have the ability to switch channels quicker than Beyonce can shake her booty and/or hair.

Friday, February 1, 2013

COX Communications - Part 3

Cox Communications has decided to give me $65 instead of $50 for the 'inconvenience' they have caused when they erased forever all my messages from my e-mail accounts with them.

So, after they lost my pictures and documents that were worth perhaps $2,000 they decided to compensate me with a 'free' month of internet service. It is hard to believe that they can get away with that.

Cox Communications behaves like a true monopoly. The US government does absolutely nothing about it. The US government should force cable companies to open up 'the last mile' to competitors. This will bring the internet and cable TV prices down in no time. Cable companies have too much power because the government allowed them to get it, one little rule at a time.

The government works for the people more than it works for cable companies, no doubt about that.