November 30, 2014


I don't know about you, but I'm still reading and listening to commentary and news about Ferguson and all that we must now associate with that word, which used to be meaningful (from my point of reference) as the last name of long-time family friends. I'm sure some have given up already, out of frustration or agreement or because it's NIMBY (not in my backyard) or because they simply can't stand it anymore.

'It' is a combination of love and loss, hope and hatred, desire and despair, wistfulness and willfulness, optimism and pessimism, and countless other juxtapositions.

Much of what I'm seeing in traditional media are the 'haves' (privileged white folks) talking about the 'have nots' (folks who live in Fergusons large and small, where police over-reaction, racism, brutality, and lack of respect for blacks is at least perceived, if not actually happening.)

The haves are giving us the message we are supposed to hear, that we deserve to hear - that racism is alive and well in America in 2014, and that the deck is stacked against blacks, because of our education system, our economic system, our culture, and our collective upbringing that over-privileges whites at every turn and disadvantages blacks at each of those same turns.

The irony should not be lost on us, that people making millions of dollars a year reading the news are lecturing us on the great divide between white and black at the hands of, well, at the hands of rich white people. They might be right, but as prime examples of the very privilege they lament, they could sure be less smug about things and give us a little less hand-wringing, a little less head-shaking, a little less guilt-ridden narrative, a little less editorializing.

I'm suspect I'm not alone in thinking that it won't be long before the millionaires who swept in to Ferguson will be packing up and leaving town and we won't hear so much anymore about it, because the next Hannah Graham is out there, we all just know she is.

November 26, 2014

Wondering, on Wednesday (v12)

Random thoughts this Thanksgiving Eve, which have got me wondering on Wednesday.

If no one showed up for Black Friday sales, whether they happen the Friday after Thanksgiving or on Thanksgiving itself, would stores stop having them?  And if it really mattered to us that everyone had Thanksgiving Day off, wouldn't we all get our grocery shopping done by Wednesday?

If you were to go out shopping for that one great deal, what would you be shopping for?

I wonder if the Macy's ad this year will include the "there's no greater way to show your love" $99 engagement ring they had last year?

Speaking of ads, there was a little box in the paper the other day, telling me that my Thanksgiving paper would cost more than a usual Thursday paper, because it had all the ads.  It won't come postage due or anything, but my subscription will end sooner because of it.  I'm wondering, since the difference in price is not a full day's worth, if they're going to put a self-destruct timer on my paper sometime next spring?

Is it really possible that a pardoned turkey could have been eaten by the Pardoner-in-Chief? Egads!

And who knew that those articles on the cost of Thanksgiving Dinner were so out of whack? I mean, it doesn't even include mashed potatoes! Or that the survey is done before Halloween, when everything is full price?  The 16-pound turkey the article says cost $23.36 would cost $7.68 at most grocery stores in my neck of the woods.

If the male turkey is named Tom, what's the female's name?

Happy Thanksgiving; may you, your families and friends all travel safely, arrive on time, and don't forget to tell whoever did the cooking that everything was delicious. Celebrate what you're thankful for, and try and add to that list each year; it's one that can never be too long.

My Middle Aged White Lady Perspective: Juries Do Their Best

No indictment for Officer Darren Wilson, but a huge indictment of our justice system?  It might have been the right decision, or it could have been the worst decision in recent memory?  So many questions, still, after the announcement that there was no probable cause to charge Wilson with any of five different crimes in the death of Michael Brown.

My middle-aged white lady perspective is that when you get into an altercation with a police officer, such as the one that was described by Wilson and witnesses, you stop being merely 'an unarmed teenager' and start being a criminal. And should such an altercation occur, and the suspect were to flee, I would expect the officer to pursue and arrest the perpetrator. The district attorney, who would have the clear intent of obtaining an indictment against the person who assaulted the officer, would present evidence to the grand jury, and if it got that far, a jury trial could occur.

I've been on juries three times, never a grand jury.

One was an attempted murder with related felony charges. I was a kid, only in my twenties. The families of the victim and the alleged perpetrator were going at each other, shooting comments back and forth during jury selection. They were staring and glaring at us as we sat during voir dire, mumbling comments about us, and continuing their snarking back and forth at each other.

After several admonitions from the judge, which fell on deaf ears, the spectators were removed; there was a physical altercation outside as everyone left. When we were excused for the lunch break, we were harassed in the hallway by the perpetrator's family, more comments and dirty looks, and we were escorted down the hall by the court attendants. The people harassing us were all black. Most of us were white. We all were scared.

We came back after lunch to find out that that the two sides had settled during the break and that our services were not needed.  On our way out after being excused, the two families were going at it, and we were hurried out of the way again by the court attendants.  Once we were outside, we all expressed gratitude that we didn't have to see it through, although emboldened by not having to, we all were very confident that we could have done it.

My second criminal trial was a felony DWI case. The DA did a horrible job presenting his evidence; the defense attorney did a good job presenting his, and we found the gentleman not guilty.  After being excused, we were harassed in the hall outside the court room.

By the DA. Who told us we were idiots because clearly this guy was a drunk and we should have locked him up because he was a threat to humanity. And while that might have been the case, the evidence did not show that and we told the DA that.  He ended up being shoved down the hallway, still growling at us, by others from his office.

We did what we were supposed to do as trial jurors, and decided the case based on the evidence presented, even though we all suspected that he was a repeat offender (hence the felony charge) and there was a good chance he had been drinking that night. In the interest of full disclosure, after the trial, the defense attorney bought us all a drink.

The third one was a civil trial involving a fender bender in the parking lot of an ice cream parlor, much less glamorous, but again, based on the evidence presented, the six of us made our decision and assigned blame to both parties proportionally.

In Missouri v. Darren Wilson,  the grand jury was not presented a case where the clear goal was to obtain an indictment; to me it was more of an investigative effort. They heard evidence from not only witnesses, investigators and the alleged perpetrator, Officer Wilson himself, but they also saw media reports and personal video and audio recordings. This was not a trial, and it was not intended to be one. Some seem to think that was the point, and so from that perspective, the justice system failed. I disagree.

I haven't read everything yet -- it's all online, including Wilson's incredible statement that he "felt like a five year old holding onto Hulk Hogan" during the altercation with Brown in the police car. That shocked me - I mean, doesn't that sound more like something a middle-aged white lady would say, rather than a comment from a cop?

There are 24 volumes of grand jury testimony alone, as well as another 24 documents labeled Reports and Forensic Evidence, and 30 Law Enforcement Interviews. There are many conflicting statements, conflicting between Witness A and Witness B, as well as conflicting between Witness A and Witness A -- the same witness making different statements at different times. And there are many statements that conflict with the forensic evidence from the crime scene itself.

Ultimately, that is why I think the grand jury did what they did.  Asked to make a decision as to whether Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown, based on all the evidence presented, they said no.

It doesn't make them racist.

It doesn't mean they're glad Michael Brown is dead.

No one is, including this middle-aged white lady.

November 25, 2014

Tuesday's Number: $255,748

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

Each week, I track health care related filings. I include anything that is clearly a debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

·         This week, there were 21 new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers totaling $245,762.

·         There was one satisfied judgment, for $9,986.

·         And there were no healthcare related bankruptcies.

New this year, I’m tracking filings for each of the four Syracuse hospitals. Here’s the breakdown for this week:

·         Crouse had eight, totaling $84,305
·         St Joe’s had five, for $44,598
·         SUNY Upstate had nine, totaling $126,845
·         Community General, a part of Upstate, had none.

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

November 22, 2014

Trustiness is Next to Truthiness

I really did not want President Obama to act unilaterally on immigration. 

Unlike 99.999% of the people who are commenting on the constitutionality of his action, I freely admit I don't know if he had the authority to do it; the Constitution (and the Bible, by the way) can be interpreted to mean what you want it to. That's one thing that 99.999% of us do know to be true. 

The argument that a boatload of Presidents before him have taken some kind of executive action on immigration doesn't really matter all that much to me, because (as noted above) I cannot speak with any authority on the legality or constitutionality of those actions either, and because, as they say, two wrongs don't make a right. And two rights don't necessarily make a right either, because of that whole interpretation thing.
Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone
Even though I think we need some kind of action on immigration, and pretty much everyone admits that, even the staunchest, most hate-spewing, build-a-giant-fence-around-the-country right-winger and the most open-armed-give-them-all-citizenship-welfare-and-healthcare-on-day-one left-winger, I do not believe this was the right way to go about it. Why?  

Because within the current Congress, or with the 'mandated by the majority of the 37% of voters who actually gave a damn and bothered to show up on November 4th' Congress that will start in January, there seem to be very few folks on either side of the aisle who can keep the gang from going any further off the rails because Obama 'stuck his finger in their eye' or because he 'played with matches' and so has to get burned, or because he 'poisoned the well' on immigration reform (and tax reform, and climate change, and jobs and trade and the economy) for the rest of his presidency, or because he won't be able to 'build trust' with the new Congress. 
Every two years the American politics industry fills the airwaves with the most virulent, scurrilous, wall-to-wall character assassination of nearly every political practitioner in the country - and then declares itself puzzled that America has lost trust in its politicians. ~Charles Krauthammer
He is not going to be able to build trust with the new Congress, in part because they neither seek nor want his trust, but mostly because:
  • The leadership of the new Congress is the same as the old: Crying John Boehner is still somewhat in charge of the House Republicans, and Grumpy Old Mitch McConnell is still somewhat in charge of his cadre in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi is still in charge of her troops, and Harry Reid of his. And we all know, nothing says "trust me now" like a long history of not trusting me yesterday.  
  • Because the first thing Boehner wants to do in his chamber is (drum roll please) vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act! He's already led his troops to do this some 50 times, at a cost of about $1.5 million each time he does it. Yep. $75,000,000 of your tax dollars trustfully put to work. 
  • And oh, by the way, they just sued Obama over the ACA, something they have long planned as a trust-builder with the President. 
  • Because this Congress just released its seventh report on Benghazi(or as they say on Fox News, BENGHAZI!) which found that there was no failure of the CIA and the military. But wait -- there's still one more investigation to go, she said trustingly.
  • Because over the years, there have been bipartisan efforts galore - Simpson-Bowles on a host of financial reforms, and the Gang of Eight, who did immigration reform - which have been ignored by Congress and the President with equal relish. Gee, that trust stuff is tasty, isn't it?
Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words.Trust movement.~Alfred Adler
Had President Obama come out immediately after the midterm election and moved towards action, had he embarked on a campaign of his own, about his agenda for the next two years (including comprehensive immigration reform), I would have heartily approved.
Our distrust is very expensive.~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Had President Obama stood in the White House this past Thursday and asked Crying John to set aside his first plan of action for the new Congress (voting to repeal the ACA yet again) and instead make holding a vote on the the Senate's bipartisan immigration bill the priority, I would have supported him.  

Had President Obama used his personal Twitter feed, and the White House Facebook page, and all of the other communication vehicles at his disposal to address the lack of action on the part of Congress, and begged them to do the job they were elected to do - to serve the American people -- he would have me in his corner. 
We're all born brave, trusting, and greedy, and most of us remain greedy.~Mignon McLaughlin
At this point, I guess we have to hold out hope that there are enough people in Congress who are greedy enough, who want to be successful, who want to have a positive legacy, who want to be the ones to actually accomplish immigration reform, and that they can exude enough 'trustiness' to convince their colleagues to go along. 
Government is an unnecessary evil. Human beings, when accustomed to taking responsibility for their own behavior, can cooperate on a basis of mutual trust and helpfulness. ~Fred Woodworth

November 19, 2014

Wondering, on Wednesday (v11)

President Obama announced today, in one of those casual-leader videos we in the business world see so frequently, that he'll be talking to the country tomorrow about his plans to use his legal authority to make changes to some part of our immigration policy. The announcement came on the White House Facebook page. In reporting on it, NBC's Nightly News announced that the major networks would not be carrying the President's address. Seriously. According to an article on Yahoo TV, the big four have confirmed they won't be broadcasting the speech, expected to last for about 1.25 inches of Lake Erie lake effect snow.
The administration said today that Obama will be speaking live from the White House at 8PM ET on Thursday. But ABC has the fall finale for Grey's Anatomy on at that time, while CBS has ratings powerhouse The Big Bang Theory, NBC has reality show The Biggest Loser and Fox has Bones. As of right now, none plans changes to there regularly scheduled Thursday night November sweep schedules for the approximately 15-minute speech. 
Say what you want about Obama, immigration reform, executive authority, and the rest - he's still the President. I'm wondering, on Wednesday, shouldn't we at least pretend that it's as important for Americans to hear what he has to say as it is to watch a bunch of people get yelled at by personal trainers?

Bill Cosby's art collection is on exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington DC.  Everything else about Bill Cosby is on exhibit in the papers, on the news, on social media. In an almost surreal life-imitates-art situation, several women - fourteen? fifteen?  have come forward with accusations that Cosby drugged then molested or raped them, going back years, decades even. Cosby is not answering questions about any of this, and has lost at least two deals, one with Netflix and one with NBC.  The only similar situation I can think of that comes close is our old friend Tiger Woods, another guy who couldn't do much other than stand silent as accuser after accuser came forward, and you have to wonder with me, why the hell do these guys do this?

And then there's Tommy Chong talking about Jonathan Gruber on Fox News. I don't even know what to wonder about that one.

November 18, 2014

Knock Knock. Who's There? Tone-deaf Politicians

Tone-deaf politicians who?

Tone-deaf politicians who are so out of touch with reality that they actually think what they say they're going to do, or threaten to do, or promise to do, or promise to NOT do, makes sense.

There's practically a cast of thousands to choose from, so I can only provide a sampling. And, given that I'm an equal opportunity kind of gal, I promise we'll have representation from both political parties.


I have to start with Dems in Washington, who are not allowing one of their members to vote by proxy for the upcoming House leadership positions.  Tammy Duckworth, who represents folks in Illinois, is eight months or so pregnant, and her doctor has restricted her travel.  Duckworth asked to be allowed to vote by proxy; this is simply not done, apparently. Seems the thinking is that once you do it for one person, it'll open the floodgates of proxy-vote-wishers and heck, Congress will be a mess. Or something.  The congresswoman is being the better person in this one, I think. I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the Dems the party of women? The ones who are all about workplace equality?  The party that brought us the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act ? Not for nothing, but it seems if you want women to be treated fairly in the workplace, perhaps you should set an example by treating them fairly in your own workplace.

Staying in Washington, let's talk about our tone-deaf President and Congressional leaders, Barack Obama, Crying John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell.  For someone who was such a strong communicator and messenger in the beginning, POTUS is demonstrating a clear lack vision, and a lack of understanding of what people want, or don't want, in the shadow of the mid-term elections.  Remember, Mr. President, turnout was only 37% - so no, you don't have a mandate to do something on immigration at this point, and the the Republicans don't have a mandate to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  The three of them need to share more than a glass of bourbon - they need a leadership seminar instead. I can't imagine they'd come out worse than they went in.

And lest you think that tone-deafness is a Washington-only affliction, let's turn our attention to New York Republicans. You recall that the Rs gained a slim majority in the State Senate, holding 32 seats now.  Naturally they re-elected Dean Skelos as their leader, and also continued with Southern Tier area senator Tom Libous, who is under indictment for lying to the FBI, as second-in-command. Apparently having ethically-challenged leaders is OK with the Republicans. But the real winner for the Rs is that Skelos believes it's time for a pay raise for the politicians in Albany. That's right -- their part-time base pay of over $79,000 (and average pay of around $100K) is not enough, and they haven't had a raise in 14 years, and well, it's about time, don't you think?

Um, no. It's not time to keep pregnant women from fully participating in elected office, and it's not time for crazy action by leaders in Congress, and it's not time for a pay raise for New York legislators.

It is time for these folks to start treating women fairly, time to listen and collaborate instead of bloviating all over our nation's capital, and time o pay attention to the people who can only imagine in their wildest dreams what they'd do with an income close to that of an Albany politician.

Tuesday's Number: $1,194,567

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

Each week, I track health care related filings. I include anything that is clearly a debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

·         This week, there were 41 new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers totaling $1,180,504.

·         There was one satisfied judgment, for $14,063.

·         And there were no healthcare related bankruptcies.

New this year, I’m tracking filings for each of the four Syracuse hospitals. Here’s the breakdown for this week:

·         Crouse had one, totaling $7,912
·         St Joe’s had four, for $51,477
·         SUNY Upstate had 34, totaling $1,007,053
·         Community General, a part of Upstate, had none.

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

November 12, 2014

Wondering, on Wednesday (v10)

Everyone's still talking about the election, how few people participated in it, what will happen in what's left of this illustrious Congress, and oh, about the stupidity of the American voter.

Several of the ads that were run in support of Republican John Katko in his defeat of incumbent Democrat Dan Maffei in the NY-24 talked about "Pelosi" and it wasn't until the very last week that one of the ads appeared to have been changed to refer to Nancy Pelosi. In states with actual races for Senate, Harry Reid was the one taking the hits. Almost none of the local ads mentioned President Obama, except in passing (as in 'Obamacare').

I'm wondering, on Wednesday, whether the rank and file in Washington will turn Reid and Pelosi out of their leadership positions. I think it's time now for the Democratic Party to turn to the future, to someone who might have a snowball's chance of working with the Republicans, and more importantly, of lighting a fire under the voters (and the President).

Speaking of voting, it appears the epic failure of the Dems in the races was topped only by the epic failure of Americans to vote: turnout was the lowest in decades, with fewer than 37% actually bothered. There are many schools of thought on this; on the one hand, Republicans have more 'passion for the cause' so they are more reliable than Dems, who are more complacent and only turn out during Presidential years (presumably for the Obama phones?).

I heard two actual registered voters express their opinions on this today on the radio. The first pointed out that it's too hard to vote in her state; her husband had to work twelve hours on Election Day, and the polls were only open for twelve hours, so he missed out. The second caller pointed out that he's registered but hasn't voted in some time; he's lived in multiple places and his issue isn't with having time to vote, it's all about having candidates worth voting for.

I'm not sure how to solve the problem for the second guy, but maybe there's a solution for the first one. I'm wondering why we don't have Election Day coincide with Veterans Day? It's already a government holiday and perhaps if we spent time focusing on the country, our veterans, and our future, it might make a difference.

And then there was the comment about "the stupidity of the American voter" which was made by the 'architect' of the Affordable Care Act. Supposedly the bill was written in an opaque way, rather than a transparent way, to fool voters into thinking it was a good thing, that the individual mandate was not a tax, and so on. Call me crazy but I'm wondering how many bills aren't written as obtusely as possible to hide one truth or another?

Take voter ID laws for example, or bills that say once you're in line to vote, you can't leave even to go to the bathroom.  If the bills were actually written to say that the intent was "to make it harder for people who tend to vote for Democrats to vote at all", would they pass?

Or redistricting bills: if they were written to say "we're carving up the state into districts that are almost unrecognizable, to make it nearly impossible to get us out of office once we get in" would people be in favor of them?

Or 'birther' bills, or gambling legislation, or ethics committees, or economic development programs.or gun laws.. There's nothing new here, folks. The big news is that people think we're stupid enough to think that politicians will ever be transparent and honest about anything of any significance.

November 11, 2014

Tuesday's Number: $807,738

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

Each week, I track health care related filings. I include anything that is clearly a debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

·         This week, there were 37 new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers totaling $706,773.

·         There were no satisfied judgments.

·         And there were two healthcare related bankruptcies, for $100,965.

New this year, I’m tracking filings for each of the four Syracuse hospitals. Here’s the breakdown for this week:

·         Crouse had 16, totaling $147,196
·         St Joe’s had one, for $92,833
·         SUNY Upstate had 21, totaling $559,577
·         Community General, a part of Upstate, had none.

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

November 9, 2014

Poll Watch: Post Midterm Edition

Here's a smattering of what's happening out there, according to what we tell pollsters.

Most of it is political, given that we've just come from 'that election' last week, which 'shellacking' falls short of adequately describing.  Dems lost the Senate, several gubernatorial races which they thought they might have had a chance of grabbing, and a couple others, including Massachusetts.

On the other hand, it was not all a lost cause; progressive initiatives such as raising the minimum wage scored a few wins, and legalized marijuana scattered a few more seeds of change.

Now, before anyone gets too overwrought or overjoyed with the results, here's some food for thought from Rasmussen Reports:
  • President Obama's overall approval rating has actually improved three points since the election, up to 48% from 45%.  The media and political consultants tried to make this election about the President and his negative rating, but here's the thing they don't tell you:  for 56 of his 70 months in office, his total approval rating has been between 45% and 49% --  including all of 2010, 2011, and so far in 2014, two-thirds (eight months) of 2013 and three quarters (nine months) of 2012. 
  • Yes, Americans voted in a Republican majority in the Senate, and expanded the majority in the House but a majority of us (59%) think that the new Congress will be a disappointment.
  • Not sure whether there's a correlation, but 35% of us have a drink at least once a week. Of the imbibers, 25% of them drink several times a week or every day.  The questions didn't include "have you had a drink today?" but one can only figure that, if political candidates were surveyed last Tuesday, the number raising a glass to that question would have been very high. 

Remember Ebola? You know, that "issue" facing America that surfaced in ads from the right-wing interest groups right before the elections?  That "issue" that right-wing anti-czaristas like John McCain felt needed an czar? Yeah, turns out not so much.  According to a Fox News poll from the end of October, most Americans were not on board with that. 
  • When asked whether they thought appointing an Ebola czar was a PR stunt or a serious attempt to address the problem, only 23% thought it was a serious attempt.  That would be Republicans elected officials, apparently.  Two thirds of us know better.

The Pew Research Journalism Project took a look at media habits of folks, and have some interesting findings on which media sources are trusted, and by whom.  
  • Not surprisingly, 47% of people who identify as consistent conservatives get their news from Fox. Consistent liberals are all over the map, with CNN (15%) NPR (13%), MSNBC (12%) and the New York Times (10%) sitting on top of the heap. 
  • When it comes to trusting media sources,  the consistent conservatives trust more than distrust only these: The Wall Street Journal; The Blaze (Glenn Beck's outlet) and Glen Beck himself; Fox News; Sarah Palin-favorite Breitbart News Network; the Drudge Report; Sean Hannity; and Rush Limbaugh. Consistent liberals, on the other hand, trust most than distrust 28 of the 36 media sources, including both The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Which at least reaffirms they have a sense of humor. 
  • Everyone apparently trusts more than distrusts The Wall Street Journal. Of the news sources mentioned, it's the only one that received a 'trust' from all groups, which in addition to consistently liberal and consistently conservative also included mostly liberal, mostly conservative, and mixed. On the flip side, Buzzfeed is the only one distrusted by folks of all stripes. 
  • Of the major networks, only ABC captured trust ratings from all but the consistent conservatives. (Note to NBC: perhaps paying hiring inexperienced children of former presidents is not helping your credibility as a news organization?)
  • I wonder what the trust score would have been for Inforwars, home of the false flag?

Speaking of  mostly distrusted Buzzfeed, they're sharing access (with the afore-mentioned highly trusted ABC News) to Facebook's 'sentiment analysis' data, which aims to analyze user preferences based on what gets posted. Looking ahead to 2016, here's a sampling of who's hot:
  • Pianist/golfer/former Bush Administration hawk Condi Rice (72%), Medicare-slashing budgetarian and former Veep candidate Paul Ryan (65%), union-busting governor Scott Walker (57%) and Rand Paul (56%) on the Republican side
  • Literally Joe Biden (67%), Hillary "what difference at this point does it make" Clinton (57%), Elizabeth "a better Hillary than Hillary" Warren (56%) and our own Sonofa Governor, Andrew Cuomo (56%).  

As I said, liberals sure do have a good sense of humor. They're going to need one for a while.

November 5, 2014

Post Election Musings

Presidents usually lose ground in midterm elections, and this was no different, really, except Obama is such a polarizing figure and so that makes everything bigger: the Republican victory is bigger, the Dem loss is bigger, the whole mess is bigger. You'd think we were all in "Texas, Texas, Texas" as Rick Perry put it on his way out.

The well-paid pundits will be working hard to earn their salaries in the coming days; heck, the Sunday news shows are going to be worth a million bucks as the hosts fight to get the best interview and lure the most viewers.

Here's what it looks like from my spot in the cheap seats:

  • Dems did not own their successes, and they allowed Republicans to have their way with Dem failures. It's been a signature of the Dems under Obama, and it is likely a big contributor to the outcome. 
  • Republicans were able to take advantage of general malaise, but they cannot forget that they are a huge contributor to that malaise. Polls for months show that people are even less enamored of Congress than they are the President, something they can ignore at their peril.
  • It was noted that Republicans worked very hard this time to get candidates who were well coached on how not to appear too extreme during the campaign so as to be 'electable.' Which means even the people who voted for them have no idea what they're actually going to do now that they've been put in the majority. I'm thinking their true colors will come out, and that it won't take long.
  • If the Republicans lead on what they won with, we will spend the first few months of their majority dealing with Ebola, ISIS, saving Medicare from the Affordable Care Act, and spitting the word "Pelosi" over and over and over again.  I don't see that as a winning strategy, and hope there's more to it than that.
  • Republicans will likely have a cast of dozens again for the 2016 presidential campaign; Dems cannot sit on the sidelines waiting for Hillary to make up her mind. You may ask "what difference, at this point, does it make?" and I'll tell you it makes a heck of a lot of difference, if no one dares challenge her or at least ramp up her decision making, so we can get on with the next step.
  • I wonder who will be the leaders -- the real leaders, not the designated ones -- who will make the first move and try to get something done before the end of this Congress. Anything, really -- at this point it could be agreeing not to chew gum on Tuesdays while the House and Senate are in session. I'm so desperate for consensus on anything, I'd take that. 
  • And of course, who will be the first one to actually reach across the aisle in January? Will we see another State of the Union data night, where they actually physically cross the aisle for a one night stand and pretend they'll still respect each other in the morning?
  • We now have a 30-year old woman from Upstate New York going to Congress.  Wonder what it will fee like for her working with people who have been in office longer than she's been alive? And will some of the old-timers take the hint and make room for new blood?  
  • Republicans made a lot of promises, but they don't have a veto-proof majority. If they cannot deliver on their promises, do we suffer from even more 'uncertainty' than they say we've had in the past six years? 
  • And will their first official act be a repeal vote on the Affordable Care Act? 
  • This election cost some $4 billion. That, my friends, is an embarrassment. Is there even a chance that we'll get our money's worth?
What's it look like from your vantage point?

November 4, 2014

Tuesday's Number: $1,226,910

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

Each week, I track health care related filings. I include anything that is clearly a debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance.

·         This week, there were 54 new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers totaling $1,171,594.

·         There was one satisfied judgment, for $18,352.

·         And there were three health care related bankruptcies, for $36,964.

New this year, I’m tracking filings for each of the four Syracuse hospitals. Here’s the breakdown for this week:

·         Crouse had 28, totaling $474,776
·         St Joe’s had eight, for $282,652
·         SUNY Upstate had 20, totaling $457,940
·         Community General, a part of Upstate, had one, $11,542

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.

November 3, 2014

The Election Eve Post, 2014

It's that time again - the night before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. That means it's Election Eve, and time for me to encourage you to vote.

We don't have a Presidential race this year; we know there is a President, because his name is all over the political ads, even if he's not making the scene most of the time. Dems are OK with that; they don't want a whole lot to do with him, it seems. In Kentucky, the Democratic senate candidate won't even say whether she voted for him (not that there's anything wrong with that).  

In New York, every seat is up for grabs, even those where no one would face the incumbent. Some newcomers are making quite a bit of noise in the Assembly races, which is nice to see. Our Sonofa Governor Andrew Cuomo is running on his record as a tax-cutting, union-antagonizing Republican er I mean Democrat in his race against Rob Astorino.  Howie Hawkins, our perennial Green Party candidate, is looking to improve on his performance of four years ago, and will likely do just that. 

And of course, we have the NY-24, always a hot mess, and this year is no different. Another Republican newcomer in a bare-knuckles fight against the Dem, a guy that people either love or hate, there's not a lot of middle ground with him.  Tons of money, tons of negativity.  And the robo calls -- good lord, ten calls so far today (many of them asking for my vote for people not even running in my district or even my part of New York). 

And yet, I still plan on voting.  And I want you to vote, too.  Not because I say it's important; you should vote because it IS important. 

As I do every year, I offer the following motivation, in case you need it: 
After some thought, “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” (1) Actually “The idea of an election is much more interesting to me than the election itself…the act of voting is in itself the defining moment.” (2) And why is it that “When the political columnists say ‘every thinking man’ they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to ‘every intelligent voter’ they mean everyone who is going to vote for them”? (3) 
We know it’s true that “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who didn’t vote” (4), and that “A citizen of American will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election.” (5) Do we still not realize, after all these years, that “lower voter participation is a silent threat to our democracy… it under-represents young people, the poor, the disabled, those with little education, minorities and you and me”? (6) 
After all, “the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men” (7) and “to make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not just observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” (8) And complain we do, after every election, when the wrong guy wins. If only people who actually voted complained, it’d likely be a lot less noisy. 
Some folks may not vote because they don’t know how to pick the right person. There are a couple different schools of thought on that. On the one hand, some might think that “politics is the art of the possible” (9) while others may subscribe to the thinking that “politics is not the art of the possible, it consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. And it is true that, the great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter the chance to do something stupid.” (10) Said another way, a “Vote (is) the instrument and symbol of a freeman’s power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.” (11) But that’s OK – “personally, I believe that our American system works as long as you participate in it. You must vote and make your voice heard; otherwise you will be left out.” (12) 
It’s generally true that if you “ask a man which way he’s going to vote and he’ll  probably tell you. Ask him, however, why – and vagueness is all.” (13) But voting’s really easy; and “all voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong.” (14) And just about everyone likes to play a game every now and then, right? 
The bottom line is, “voting is simply a way of determining which side is the stronger without putting it to the test of fighting;” (15) “voting is a civic sacrament;” (16) and “the future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter.” (17) If all of that seems like too much pressure, you have an out: “Vote for the man who promises least. He’ll be the least disappointing.” (18) 
Please, vote. It really does matter, this year and every year. If you need information on where to vote, or other assistance, visit or contact your local Board of Elections. 

(Thanks to these folks for their words of wisdom: 1 - Charles DeGaulle; 2 – Jeff Melvoin; 3 – Franklin P Adams; 4 and 13 – Andrew Lack; 5 - Bill Vaughan; 6 - Nancy Neuman; 7 - Lyndon B Johnson; 8 - Louis L’Amour; 9 – Otto Von Bismarck; 10 – Art Spander; 11 – Ambrose Bierce; 12 - Mari-Luci Jaramillo; 14 – Henry David Thoreau; 15 – H.L. Mencken; 16—Theodore Hesburgh; 17 – Dwight D. Eisenhower; 18 – Bernard Baruch)

November 2, 2014

Turn it Over on Tuesday

This year, New Yorkers, you have to remember to #TurnItOver and vote on the three ballot initiatives.

I think it's pretty clear that there's not a lot of rip-roaring support for them in the halls of Albany, given how dry and boring the language is for these three. I mean, they're nothing like the one for casino gambling we had the last time around, which practically came with it's own marching band and parade floats:
The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the constitution would allow the legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?
Here are the three initiatives; for detailed information on each, including positions for and against, I encourage you to check out Balletopedia - there's some really good information there.

(1) Revising State's Redistricting Procedure
The proposed amendment to sections 4 and 5 and addition of new section 5-b to Article 3 of the State Constitution revises the redistricting procedures for state legislative and congressional districts. The proposed amendment establishes a redistricting commission every 10 years beginning in 2020, with two members appointed by each of the four legislative leaders and two members selected by the eight legislative appointees; prohibits legislators and other elected officials from serving as commissioners; establishes principles to be used in creating districts; requires the commission to hold public hearings on proposed redistricting plans; subjects the commission's redistricting plan to legislative enactment; provides that the legislature may only amend the redistricting plan according to the established principles if the commission's plan is rejected twice by the legislature; provides for expedited court review of a challenged redistricting plan; and provides for funding and bipartisan staff to work for the commission. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

(2) Permitting Electronic Distribution of State Legislative Bills
The proposed amendment to section 14 of Article 3 of the State Constitution would allow electronic distribution of a state legislative bill to satisfy the constitutional requirement that a bill be printed and on the desks of state legislators at least three days before the Legislature votes on it. It would establish the following requirements for electronic distribution: first, legislators must be able to review the electronically-sent bill at their desks; second, legislators must be able to print the bill if they choose; and third, the bill cannot be changed electronically without leaving a record of the changes.  Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

The SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT of 2014, as set forth in section one of part B of chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed Internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, and to install high-tech smart security features in schools.  Shall the SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT of 2014 be approved?

The choice is ours. We can only make it if we remember to turn the ballot over.