October 31, 2015

The Comic Book Debate

It's a rare day that I find myself in agreement with Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Jeb! Bush, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican candidates - it takes the moon, stars and planets being in complete disarray, I think. But that's exactly what happened the other night.

If you watched, listened to, read the transcript or heard anything about the CNBC "debate" I think you'd find yourself in agreement with them as well.

Let's set the stage first: according to CNBC, this debate featured "the best team in business"  and it was "the first debate focused on Your Money, Your Vote" - you know, tough economic issues like the shrinking global economy, growing national debt, beaten-down middle class and all that. So naturally I expected questions on the candidates' tax plans, job plans, deficit reduction ideas, and so on.

It was no surprise then, that the opening question from Carl Quintanilla was this:
This series of debates is essentially a job interview with the American people. And in any job interview, you know this: you get asked "what's your biggest weakness?"  So in 30 seconds, without telling us that you try to hard or that you're a perfectionist (cue the giggles) what's your biggest weakness and what are you doing to address it?
I was seriously afraid the second question was going to be "If you were a tree..." But it was worse than that.  Here's John Harwood:
Mr Trump, you've done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build a wall and make another country pay for it. (Trump agrees). Send 11 million people out of the country. Cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit. (Trump agrees). And make Americans better off because your greatness would replace the stupidity and incompetence of others. (Again, Trump agrees). Let's be honest. Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?
Now, I get that media folks are having a blast with the whole "Republican clown car" campaign thing, and I get that Trump's ideas are presented in an entertaining way, with lots of hair and bluster and waving hands and scowling and all.  But how seriously should a candidate take that kind of question? Here's where Trump started:
No, not a comic book, and it's not a very nicely asked question the way you say that.(veritable pastiche agrees) 
There's more. Like Carly Fiorina trying to make the point on tax code simplification; she wants us to reform the entire thing., and expressed frustration with the fact that there's been zero progress on tax reform for years.
Let me just say on taxes, how long have we been talking about tax reform in Washington? We have been talking about it for decades. We now have a 73,000 page tax code.  There have been more than 4,00 changes to the tax plan since 2001 alone.  There are load of great ideas, great conservative ideas from wonderful think tanks about how to reform the tax code. The problem is we never get it done.
Enter the giggling Quintanilla again.
CQ: You want to bring 70,000 pages to three? 
CF: That's right, three pages.
CQ: Is that using really small type?
CF: You know why three?
CQ: Is that using really small type? 
No, Carl, you moronic comic book moderator (I wish she had said).
Because three pages is about the maximum that a single business owner, or a farmer, or just a couple, can understand without hiring somebody. Almost 60 percent of American people now need to hire an expert to understand their taxes.
Same on other tax plans. Complete doubt from the best-in-the-business moderators, without really even allowing the candidates to speak to their plans, because the 'experts' have determined that mocking questions are "hard questions" and that we'll find out what we need to know if they act like jerks and treat the candidates as cannon fodder.

The next question on the economy, jobs, taxes, growth, entitlements and the rest of the Your Money, Your Vote conversation was this one, again from Quintanilla, for Marco Rubio:
You've been a young man in a hurry ever since you won your first election in your 20s. You've had a big accomplishment in the Senate, an immigration bill providing a path to citizenship the conservatives in your party hate, and even you don't support anymore,  Now, you're skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first or at least finish what you start?
Rubio's answer referenced all of these: people living paycheck to paycheck with no raises and costs going up, struggling small businesses, a world out of control, our weakened military, a 'bipartisan' $19T debt, and our borrowing from 'countries that don't like us' to keep things running. So, naturally, Quintanilla's followup question was exactly on point:
So when the Sun-Sentinel says Rubio should resign, not rip us off, when they say Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job, when they say you act like you hate your job, do you?
Do you, Mr. Jones?

John Harwood again, questioning Jeb! on his falling poll numbers ("you're at the fifth lectern tonight"), posed this thoughtful question:
It's a question about why you're having difficulty. I want to ask you in this context. Ben Bernanke, who was appointed Fed chairman by your brother, recently wrote a book in which he said he no longer considers himself a Republican because the Republican Party has given in to know-nothingism. Is that why you're having a difficult time in this race? 
I'm not kidding, That really was the question.

Becky Quick, the third alleged moderator, did her part to glean key strategic information from the candidates as well. She had a 146-word question for Fiorina, which boiled down to this:
You know, we look back, your board fired you, why should we hire you now?
Quintanilla, asking Cruz about  his opinion on the bill to raise the debt ceiling and prevent another government shutdown:
Does your opposition to it show that you're not the kind of problem-solver American voters want?

And Quick, asking Trump about his plans for our future economic security:
Bankruptcy is a broken promise. Why should the voters believe the promises you're telling them now?
There were more. On the question of Wall Street bankers not going to jail, and GM's issue with the faulty ignition switch, this question was posed to Christie:
As a former prosecutor, do you believe the people responsible for the switch and the cover-up belong behind bars?  
Not sure how that impacts my personal financial growth or my retirement fund; pretty sure I can't figure out why asking Marco Rubio why he liquidated his personal retirement account after he made a million bucks on a book deal has anything to do with my 401(k) and Social Security, but yes, that question happened too.

Here's another totally irrelevant question on hot-button economic issues, and a perfectly relevant answer. Harwood again, and Huckabee:
JH: Governor Huckabee, you've written about the huge divide in values between middle America and the big coastal cities like NY and Los Angeles. As a preacher as well as a politician, you know that presidents need the moral authority to bring the entire country together. The leading Republican candidate, when you look at the average of national polls right now, is Donald Trump. When you look at him, do you see someone with the moral authority to unite the country?
MH: You know, of the few questions I've got, the last one I need is to give him some more time. I love Donald Trump. He is a good man. I'm wearing a Trump tie tonight. Get over that one, OK?
Quintanilla further cemented his lightweight, incompetent, media-clown-car designated driver persona with this question for Jeb!
Governor Bush, daily fantasy sports has become a phenomenon in this country, will award billions of dollars in prize money this year.  But to play you have to assess your odds, put money at risk, wait for an outcome that's out of your control. Isn't that the definition of gambling, and should the Federal Government treat it as such?
At one point, Chris Christie allowed as how Harwood was being rude, even by New Jersey standards.

A friend of mine, when we come across things that are just mind-blowing at work, has a go-to phrase that I think is completely appropriate to summarize this 'debate':
You just can't sit around a campfire and make this crap up.
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- we deserve so much more, and so much better. What CNBC tried to pass off as a debate was a mockery -- and you don't need to be a card-carrying liberal to see that.

I'm going to stay on this topic for another post or two; I hope you'll stick around.

October 28, 2015

Wondering, on Wednesday (v41)

Tonight, on a cable news channel far, far away, there are a couple of GOP presidential candidate debates.  As with the previous two, there's an under card, featuring the candidates who are in the race for reasons known only to them. The 'happy hour' debate, as some call it, featured Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Lindsay Graham, and Rick Santorum, who have about as much chance as I do of getting the nomination.  The rest of the gang is on the main card.

I won't be watching, because we have basic cable, and CNBC is not one of our thirteen channels. I know, I know - that's completely un-American, but it's the choice we've made. Similarly, we missed the Fox News Republican debate, and the Dem & Rep debates on CNN.

I'm wondering though, if these 'cable only' debates are an accident, or by design?

We knew the first debate had to be on Fox - that was a given.  But CNN and CNBC?

Is the Republican hierarchy trying to limit who can see the debates, the same as they want to limit people's ability to vote by changing the rules for early voting, in-person voting, leaving the line to go pee while you wait to vote, and so on?

Or, I wonder, are the giant media companies behind the shift to their cable affiliates? Do they really figure the network prime time lineups are way too important to interrupt with something as silly as, you know, a debate between people who want to be leader of the free world? Especially when they can force interested viewers to their cable channels, jack up ad rates, and rake in a few extra million bucks for democracy's sake?

I don't know about you, but I think we can - and should -- do better.

These debates should not be money-makers for the networks, they should be free-for-all free-for-alls, open to all Americans who are interested in watching them. The last thing we need is to have media conglomerates gerrymander the debates the same as the politicians gerrymander their districts.

October 27, 2015

Tuesday's Number: $36,023

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.

Since mid-2012, I’ve been tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is likely a patient 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

·         five new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers, totaling $36,023
·         no satisfied judgments and
·         no bankruptcies.

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:

·         Crouse had three, totaling $21,341
·         St Joe’s had one, totaling $7,861
·         SUNY Upstate got the last, for $6,821

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

October 21, 2015

The Update Desk 10/21/15: Joe, Paul, and Dough

Back on September 13th, I suggested that Joe Biden shouldn't run for President. Today, he agreed with me.

In a brief Rose Garden speech, Biden conceded that it was now simply too late for him to mount a realistic campaign, as his family's grieving process took the time that Biden would have otherwise spend building a campaign structure, raising money, and getting everyone's skin thickened up for the inevitable landslide of attention, both good and bad.

I'm glad he's out - and I appreciate his intention to not sit idly by, but to speak out on issues as his term as Vice President winds down.
While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent. I intend to speak out clearly and forcefully, to influence as much as I can where we stand as a party and where we need to go as a nation. 
He might not be in the race, but at this point I'll take help from anyone who can help shape the debate.

Paul Ryan, on the other hand, has decided to put his hat into the ring to be Speaker of the House, a job he does not want, does not need, and won't take unless the entire Republican contingent in the House agrees to his terms.

Which is kind of funny, when you think about it, given that Crying John Boehner is out and the heir apparent Kevin McCarthy is out because they did not agree to the terms of the alleged Freedom Caucus, a group of some 40 hard line conservatives who are trying to shift the House to, oh, I don't know -- what's further right than the Pacific Ocean?

One of his big 'requests' is that he needs more time with his family, including his three young children. The Speaker historically has spent a lot of time criss-crossing the country raising money for the party and House members, something which Ryan will not do in the traditional way, should he be selected for the leadership role.

At least in that regard, he has something in common with Biden.

And now for that guy Dough. In my post Big Money in Little Politics earlier this week, I shared some info from a NY Times article on a relative handful of folks, some 158 families, who (through June 30th) had given $176,000,000 to candidates or their super PACs, and lamented, as I have before, the role that money plays in taking folks like you and me out of the political game.

That little $176M is a mere drop in the bucket, folks.  According to OpenSecrets.org, there are huge sums of money going to candidates in the 2016 cycle.
As of October 21, 2015, 1,207 groups organized as super PACS have reported total receipts of $303,520,383. 
Here's just a sampling:
  • Right to Rise USA (Jeb Bush): $103,167845
  • Unintimidated PAC (Scott Walker): $20,022,405
  • Conservative Solutions PAC (Marco Rubio): $16,057,755
  • Priorities USA Action (Hillary Clinton):$15,654,457
  • Keep the Promise III (Ted Cruz): $15,000,000
  • Keep the Promise I (Cruz): $11,007,096
  • America Leads (Chris Christie): $11,003,304
  • Keep the Promise II (Cruz): $10,000,000
  • Opportunity and Freedom I (Rick Perry):$10,000,000

$303,520,383. So far. And that's just this bucket of contribution, it's not all of it.

It's kind of fun to note how much money has gone to folks who are either doing poorly (Bush, Rubio, Christie and even Cruz) or are out of the picture completely (Walker, Perry).

What's that saying about a fool and his money? 

October 20, 2015

Tuesday's Number: $652,103

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.

Since mid-2012, I’ve been tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is likely a patient 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

·         31 new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers, totaling $490,576
·         one satisfied judgment, for $12,543 and
·         three bankruptcies, for $174,070.

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:

·         Crouse had twelve, totaling $102,413
·         St Joe’s had six, totaling $49,147 (including credit for the satisfied judgment)
·         SUNY Upstate added another fourteen, for $319,801, and
·         Community General, a part of Upstate, added one, for $123,631.

This week brought us only the fifth filing of the year for Community General, the other four having come in the first quarter.  A rehab center ($50,810) and a medical group ($6,301) make up the difference between the overall and hospital totals. 

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

October 18, 2015

Big Money in Little Politics

veritable pastiche photo
Think of the last holiday party, class reunion (or even a family reunion), or offsite (business meeting) you attended. Think about the hotel conference rooms or banquet rooms you've been in, and try to picture what a room full of 150 or so people looks like.

Now that you've got that picture in mind, picture this: according to a story in the New York Times a week or so ago, 158 families, along with their companies, have donated over $176 million dollars  -  just through the end of June  -  to presidential candidates.

That's an awful lot of money, for what's really a small pool of beneficiaries - the two dozen or so folks who are running for president.

One hundred fifty eight families. One hundred seventy six million dollars.

Almost half of all of the money contributed to the candidates through June 30th came from just a few more people than attended the average wedding last year. Eight families from the same elite Houston neighborhood donated $7,780,000.  I wonder whether the ones that only coughed up $250,000 feel overshadowed by their neighbors, three of whom have already given $2M each?

One fracking-rich family in Texas ($15M) and a NYC family, hedge-fund rich ($11M), gave $26M in support of  Ted Cruz, currently in fifth place. Another family gave $5M to Scott Walker, who is now on the sidelines. And yet, they're hugely successful in business - heck, they've probably already made enough to cover these bets.

Does this much money, this early, from so few, bother you?  Is this what you consider a 'representative democracy' or is this something else entirely? Is this 'freedom of speech' or is it trying to buy an election? How can any candidate pretend that there is not something in it for these huge donors?

I'm sure the folks who want to be president are all like New York's Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo, who sleeps well at night knowing that he's pure of thought and deed and can't be bought. But, as I noted back in 2014, this kind of money buys something, or else it wouldn't be donated.

The little people -- me and everyone I know, for example --  cannot compete with the likes of a Russian-born billionaire who became an American citizen two years after I got out of high school with close to $2M to burn trying to influence the presidential election, or a Hollywood studio magnate or a Northern California tech mogul, or sports team owners (including the Walker supporters mentioned above), whether their money is going to Republicans (138 of the families) or Democrats (the remaining 20).

We can't compete with these folks, and we shouldn't have to. Rather than pricing you and me out of the market, however, we should have priced them out of the market.

A listing of the families, and their contributions, is here

October 13, 2015

Tuesday's Number: $372,440

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.

Since mid-2012, I’ve been tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is likely a patient 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
·         27 new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers totaling $377,676
·         two satisfied judgments for $16,817
·         one bankruptcy, for $11,581

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:
·         Crouse had four, totaling $18,542, including a credit of $7,636
·         St Joe’s also had four, totaling $44,574
·         SUNY Upstate added twenty-two, for $309,144, which includes a $9,181 credit

As always, when there are any, I apply the satisfied judgments to the hospital totals. 

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

October 12, 2015

Grains of Salt (v2): This Does Not Compute

A little bit of this and that, from Syracuse and Central New York.

Back in July, the administration of Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner blocked the Common Council from using the city's computer systems, because the Councilors did not sign the city's new computer use and access policy.

Is anyone surprised that they're still fighting about this?

The policy, which seems similar to the one that many of us who work in the business world sign, is designed to 'encourage' good computer use, discourage personal use of taxpayer assets, and help ensure that the systems are safe from malicious activity.  For example, it discusses hot-button issues such as:
  • preapproval of software and hardware used on the system
  • protection of trade secrets
  • limited confidentiality (administrators can access what you do)
  • FOIL and legal discoverability
  • passwords are not to be shared and need to be changed regularly
  • non-usage rules (porn, love letters, political campaigns, games, solicitations, streaming websites and the like)
  • access, including only accessing what you're supposed to
  • safeguarding the equipment
  • an anti-retaliation provision
While the policy had been in place since 2013, this year was the first time that folks were asked to formally sign and agree to the policy. They had two months to take the momentous step or face the consequences.

One of the issues with the policy, from the Common Councilor's side, is that it doesn't include any provisions for elected officials - everyone is considered an employee, and subject to the same rules, requirements, and oversight.  And that last word -- oversight --is the one that really has everyone up in arms. Here's what the policy says:
Please be aware that City computer, device, and system activity, including but not limited to files accessed, email, and Internet activity may be monitored at any time.  All personnel are advised that the City possesses and may utilize at any time, activity monitoring software capable of capturing keystrokes and screen shots of a member's computer, device, and system activity. Activity reports may be furnished to the user's Department head. 
What this all means, from the Council's perspective (and the City Clerk's perspective, as he's also a non-signer) is that Mayor Miner can have the city's taxpayer-supported IT Department spy on the taxpayer-elected representatives, preventing them from being able to have confidential conversations with city employees, constituents, attorneys, and the like, or that she will make life miserable for them in some other way, shape or form because - well, because she can.

And so since July when many Councilors refused to sign, we've been watching the legal tab run up while they tried to get things worked out. In September, six of the Councilors announced that they were going to pursue a second lawsuit against the city (the first having been thrown out on a technicality) and are authorizing up to $25,000 on top of the "thousands" they've already spent, and on top of the $7K or so that the City has already spent.

That lawsuit was approved by a 5-4 vote.

Folks, this is ridiculous.

Lots of people chomp at the bit when asked to sign policies like this. But for everyone to have their panties in a knot at the thought that the City can fire Common Councilors who misbehave or misuse city assets is nuts.  Stephanie Miner must know she can't do that. The Councilors know she can't do that. Taxpayers know she can't do that.

Equally, everyone knows that the relationship between Miner's administration and the Council -- heck, with lots of people -- has not always been the best. I have friends who I likely can't even pay to say anything good about her -- so it's also understandable that the Council would want some separation between the two sides, and I agree their should be separation.

Even given that, the fact that they can't get out of each other's way to solve this, after several months, is silly.

More importantly, the inability of the two sides to negotiate something as seemingly simple as this does not bode well for their ability to lead us forward. One possible solution would be to have the City Auditor own monitoring the IT policy as it applies to the Council and any other elected officials, and issue an independent report to taxpayers annually(or as issues arise). To me, that makes more sense than the Council investing you guessed it - taxpayer dollars -- to 'Clintonize' the situation and get their own server. There are likely lots of other ideas out there, if anyone was interested.

All politics is local, they say - and if this is the example our local leaders set, it's no wonder people choose not to vote. If we want that to change, we need situations like this to change. It's time for everyone to get over themselves, solve this problem, and get back to work.

October 9, 2015

Is There a Speaker in the House?

Great balcony. Wonderful guests. But that's not enough, it seems, to get a Speaker.  

Crying John Boehner doesn't want the job anymore; he announced that right after he hosted Pope Francis on the balcony.

Kevin McCarthy doesn't want the job anymore. McCarthy was next to Boehner, not crying at the time but almost certainly doing that now, especially after his confession about the Benghazi committee being a 'defeat Hillary' plot, and allegations of an extra-marital affair with a fellow Representative.

Paul Ryan is the front-runner for a job he doesn't want. He'd much rather be Chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, which is probably a more important role than Speaker of the House, even though the office is less ostentatious. 

Actually, the only people so far who want to be Speaker are the ones who likely can't get enough votes to actually win the job -- and they're also the ones behind Boehner stepping down in the first place. 

Members of the Freedom Caucus, the 40-odd rightest of the right wing, have created a questionnaire for potential Speaker candidates, and that might be the reason why people don't want to play. Among the issues addressed in the questionnaire:
  • making sure that conservatives have appropriate representation on House committees and some changes to House rules allowing for more transparency
  • ensuring that conservative members are not retaliated against - stripped of committee spots, for example - if they don't toe the line 
  • ensuring that amendments put forth by the conservatives are accommodated (even though they will almost certainly doom legislation)
  • supporting another vote to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act by the end of 2015
  • putting forth budget bills which include 'structural entitlement reform' and which defund Planned Parenthood, the ACA, immigration amnesty, and the Iran nuclear treaty
  • impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen
  • support for the First Amendment Defense Act, which allows the federal government to be sued for damages if a person (and by that I mean person, corporation, not for profit organization church or any other entity that can hold a personal belief) if said person believes they were discriminated against because of the opposition to marriage equality
While some of what they're asking about seems reasonable - committee representation, transparency, and the like -- what they're also asking for is the Speaker to relinquish power, commit to unpassable legislation, refuse to engage with the other side of the aisle, and so on. In effect, they want a Speaker who listens only to them.  

Is it any wonder no one wants the job?

October 6, 2015

Right Meme, Left Meme, Gun Meme

As is typically the case, when we have a mass shooting such as the one last week in Roseburg, the memes make their way onto social media sites.  Left meme, right meme, left meme, right meme, marching across our Facebook and Twitter feeds, collecting likes and dislikes, upwardly pointing thumbs and middle fingers held just as high.

Yeah, we can't have an actual conversation but we sure can meme!

Here are a few I've seen in the past couple of days.

This one's absolutely correct - making drugs illegal did not stop everyone from doing them. But it did give us the opportunity to get lots of drug dealers off the streets, and lots of meth labs out of our back yards.

Laws against drunken driving don't keep every idiot from getting behind the wheel when they're impaired either - but it has helped, as have speed limits and seat belt laws and a whole bunch of other laws that are not obeyed by every single American - only by most of them. Does that mean that we shouldn't try?

There was also this one. I never met God in any school I attended, and I suspect most people who didn't attend some kind of religiously-affiliated school didn't run into God in their school either.

Sure, we said the Pledge of Allegiance (which only added "under God" in the 1950s, in response to the scourge of Communism, by the way), but we did not collectively pray or practice religion in any other way. Nothing stopped anyone back then, or anyone today, from having a silent prayerful moment of their own.

I recall the Catholic kids leaving early, I think it was Thursday, for religious ed, and us heathens -- the Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and the rest -- stayed behind and played King Chase Queen with erasers on our heads and stuff like that. But even then, God wasn't in the school, I think He was down the street at St. Pat's.

Besides, doesn't God only give you what He thinks you can bear? So, whether He was in the schools or not, would He have stopped any of these mass shootings, or would they still have happened under the theory that our faith needs to be tested, and strengthened, in the face of terrible tragedy?

And then there's this meme, posted by many, including former Minnesota Congresswoman and permanent RWNJ Michele Bachmann.

Because we all know that the only reason why people shoot up schools is because they are 'gun free zones' right?  Or churches, not a lot of guns there or even in movie theaters. Yeah, when the angry people, the grudge-holders, the racists, the whatever-you-want-to-call-them are looking to shoot someplace up, they specifically read the signs in the windows looking for one that's a gun-free zone.

Stop it.

You know why they choose schools? It's because they're students there, or recently were; it's because they know the lay of the land, where the exits are, where the people they don't like are, what classes the teacher they hate will be in, and, more importantly, it's because they know they'll get the attention they seek if that's where they commit their heinous crimes, compared to, say, shooting up a Walmart.

But, by far, my favorite gun meme is this one:

Tuesday's Number: $210,382

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.

Since mid-2012, I’ve been tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is likely a patient 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

  • nine new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers totaling $194,480,
  • no satisfied judgments, and
  • one bankruptcy, for $15,902.

Here’s the breakdown by hospital:

  • Crouse had four, totaling $31,439
  • St Joe's had one, for $15,902
  • SUNY had four, for $38,688

A local rehab facility had the last filing, making up the $124,353 difference.

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

October 4, 2015

Nine Dead in Oregon

Sing it, and it sounds just like Ohio, the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young anti-war anthem about the murder of four students by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University 35 years ago.
Nine dead in Oregon (nine dead) Nine dead in Oregon (nine) Nine dead in Oregon (how many?) Nine dead in Oregon (how many more?) Nine dead in Oregon (why?)
This time, it was a lone gunman - lone and lonely, it seems - killing eight of his fellow students and a teacher at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. And so we add another town to the lore and legend of mass shootings in the US.

Supposedly there's some kind of manifesto, and allegedly the killer was asking people if they were Christian before deciding where to shoot them, which may have cost some their lives and saved others. Nothing's been said yet about motive, or about the shooter's religion; those details will come later, I'm sure, once law enforcement officials review everything. We can be sure, though, that the shooter's mental health will be an issue.

This was the 294th mass shooting in the US this year. The definition is met, according to the folks at Mass Shooting Tracker,
when four or more people are shot in an event, or related series of events, likely without a cooling off period.
The 294th. This year.

Being the overachievers we are, we're ahead of schedule: in 2013, number 294 didn't occur until 10/18; last year, it  took until 11/19. If you're curious, here are some additional numbers tied to the 294th mass shooting for each year:
  • 2015: 375 killed, 1089 injured, total 1464
  • 2014: 326 killed, 1096 injured, total 1422
  • 2013: 382 killed, 1042 injured, total 1424 

Yay, us. 

Tuesday's Number Quarterly Recap

This past Tuesday’s Number brought us to the end of the third quarter, so it’s time to take a look at our progress.

I'm a little later with this post than I said I would be, and than I had hoped to be, but we were on vacation and it was hard to focus on writing after spending long days surrounded by the beauty that blankets New York's Adirondack Mountains during peak foliage season. If you ever have the opportunity to visit at this time of year, I highly recommend it. 

Here are the totals for the quarter: 
  • Judgments:$3,660,766, up $370,314 
  • Satisfied judgments: $ 174,727, up $66,858 
  • Bankruptcies: $311,948, down $9,713 
  • Grand total: $3,797,987, up from $293,743

And the year to date numbers:
  • Judgments: $12,132,206 
  • Satisfied judgments: $443,104 
  • Bankruptcies: $1,094,508

How does this quarter compare to the 2nd quarter?
  • Total filings were up, but only by 19.  Judgments were up 22 and satisfied judgments were also up, by five; bankruptcies were down by eight.  
  • Satisfied judgments and bankruptcies are going in the right direction – judgments, not so much. 
  • Satisfied judgment dollars were higher this quarter than any time since Q4 2014, which is a good sign. Bankruptcies continue to trend lower, which is also a good sign.

I would have preferred to see an improvement in all three buckets this quarter, but I’ll take two out of three.  What does make me feel a little better about the direction we’re going is how this year compares to last year; it’s a measure of success in the retail and food industries, and it gives us a good look here as well:
  • Judgment dollars are down by 45%
  • Satisfied judgment dollars are up by 51%
  • Bankruptcy dollars are down by 28%
  • Total filing dollars are down by 47%
  • Total filings are down by a third.

Is the improvement because of the Affordable Care Act and more people having insurance?  A result of the the improved economy? Simply because people are being more responsible? We may never know for sure - but these are good signs for our community and for the hospitals and medical professionals that provide us with care, and jobs.

I'll continue to be optimistic as we go into the last quarter.