Archive for May, 2013

h1

AMAZING WHAT MAKES THE NEWS

May 30, 2013

AMAZING WHAT MAKES THE NEWS…..

I heard it first on the nightly network news.  And when most Americans only GET 10-15 minutes of impactful updates in any given program, one should be safe in assuming what we hear is important, right?

Then this morning I read about it in the Strib A section –that part of the paper that reports REAL NEWS.  And there I spied it- on page two – positioned next to two pretty impactful topics:

1)      Should we decontaminate all patients in attempt to reduce hospital infections as a precautionary measure despite the risk of increasing germ resistance to antibiotics

2)       A report that genetically modified wheat has been found growing in an Oregon farm…posing another colossal risk to US wheat industry as many countries around the world will not accept imports of genetically modified foods.

What was this third “important “piece of information that caught my eye?  Apparently, Adam Levine from the VOICE, thinking the mike was off, expressed his frustration at two of his team members being eliminated by popular public vote mumbled “I hate this country”.

Careless?  Yes; Embarrassing: Yes; Caught in the emotion of the minute? Yes; Newsworthy? NO!

Surely we have more real threats to be concerned about than this! 

SCOOPS COUNTER-BALANCED BY SUCCESS STORIES….

Fortunately, that BIG yet insignificant “scoop” was balanced by some great success stories….the success of the advocacy program for American Indians at HCMC; a new emphasis at Boys and Girls Club with teaching social and emotional skills, not just academics to help kids learn resilience, creativity and             “stick-to-itiveness”; Mark Andres push for city use of renewable energy through solar panels on city, park and school buildings; the ranking of Minnesota as the # 1 healthiest place in US for seniors; Swiss Banks  have agreed to allow disclosure of US clients with hidden accounts to evade taxes,  and Rybak’s latest push to upgrade 55 miles of Minneapolis roadways including a new bridge over Bassett Creek to link the North Side to downtown.

A little “food for thought” for those blocking Obama’s national push for infrastructure improvements-  they may want to ponder RT’s reasoning:  It’s like your teeth.  If you don’t fill the cavities, you’re going to have an expensive and painful root canal.”   

On a personal note at least, it helps a little to see that snow-bird destinations do not measure up to Minnesota health-wise;  Arizona is ranked 22nd; Florida- 30th; and Mississippi 50th.  Unfortunately as I have ranted about in past thoughts, these “entitled” seniors  put up with unhealthy locations to avoid paying for taxes that create the healthier atmosphere here….and then when they are sick and ailing, they return to Minnesota  to reap the benefits .

 

AND, A LITTLE PERSONAL EXONERATION

The article detailing the combining of the Courage Center with Sister Kenny as part of Allina Health contained an impactful statement:

People who are permanently or temporarily disabled whether by birth, accident or illness, have to navigate some of the most fragmented and difficult-to-access services in the health care realm…not surprisingly this group spends a hefty chunk on healthcare services.”

Yes, that hit home.

 I depleted my lifetime savings and retirement fund during my recovery battle after my fall in 2002, as I struggled for more than four years to overcome the physical damage.  And what I saved in the ensuing five years from 2007-2011 was negligible as it took until 2010 to repay family and friends that offered financial help as I struggled during the initial battle.

So the emergency fund was quickly depleted one more time over these last two years as I fight the “residual” effects of that fall – ten years later.  I think I am winning the physical battle one more time, but what “emergency” money I had, is gone.   I struggle daily with feeling financially irresponsible to find myself in this position – so, on occasion, it helps to read that perhaps I have been impacted by extenuating circumstances –outside my control!

And today was one of those days.  Putting my own issues aside, it is encouraging to learn that the positive changes reported today in the Courage Center/Sister Kenny/Allina Health system were sparked by the Affordable Care Act. Yes, hospitals will be financially judged on how well they keep people healthy and out of the hospital – not just for providing treatment.

And according to Jan Malcome, Courage Center’s CEO and now Allina’s VP of Public Affairs who is overseeing this merger, the long term goal of this new relationship was to “make that whole rich set of resources flow in a seamless way for clients and families…without artificial financial incentive pressures or ownership barriers in the way.”

Sound familiar?  You may have heard me communicate similar thoughts in comparing the Mayo Clinic system to the problem-ridden healthcare system I have experienced in Minneapolis. – So thanks go out to those that initiated this!

FINALLY, SOME INNOVATIVE THINKING ABOUT AN EYESORE…

Could there be a possible use for the big mistake of Block E?  I’d be all for a practice floor for Lynx and Wolves.  Having done a few big events on the Target Center playing floor, Block E refigured as a basketball court might help correct the original problem….When Block E was originally built, it took AWAY a great site downtown  to hold events.  An indoor practice field might just return that amenity to downtown.  No, not someone’s idea of a permanent pretty event space, but a blank piece of real estate where one can create from the ground up the custom space you need to house your event –when it is not needed for practice space.  Of course, SOME elements would be helpful…..infrastructure like power and internet access , sound, water, loading dock, catering prep, restrooms, maybe outdoor access during nice weather  and a whole lot of room for imagination…I can see it now!  J

Advertisements
h1

ON MY MIND….

May 29, 2013

The GOOD thing about the weather we have been having is that it has provided the  excuse for me to catch up on books and reading materials.  I am slowly savoring the articles in the summer issue of “thirty two”; “The New Next Economy” by Jessica Conrad is FILLED with good food for thought and more evidence that it is happening appeared in the STRIB today in a feature about the Pack and Give Back Project at the University that resulted in establishing the ReUse Center….more to come on this later.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD:  The Supreme Court dealt a setback yesterday to the campaign to “defund” Planned Parenthood….At issue was how far states could go to prevent indirect subsidies for abortion.

Generally, Congress forbids the spending of federal money to pay for elective abortions.  But unsatisfied, conservatives tried to push for more restrictive laws within their states and have now been denied.  Indiana’s attempt to do this was struck down by the Supreme Court  because “defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violating its patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.”

Not only will that impact Arizona as well, it moves this issue back where it belongs—personal choice.  For me, that also includes a personal responsibility to scrutinize any organization I support financially.  If there is ANY evidence that the organization is attempting to deny or influence Planned Parenthood rights for any reason, they will not have my support.

DISTRUST OF AMERICANS:  Another issue to ponder is the suspension of a four-day UN polio vaccination program in Pakistan, when a female polio worker was killed.  The reason for her death?  The gunmen think the workers are US spies and that the vaccine makes people sterile.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where polio is still endemic…and yet, the world’s population continues to accelerate at unsustainable rates. So it should be apparent that sterilty from vaccination is not a concern!

So what is wrong with this picture?  Or perhaps a better question is what caused Pakistanis to think this, and what do we do to overcome it?   

A SAD STORY…of the Crystal Sugar Lockout:  I admit, I have not followed this controversial two-year fight in any detail, but the resolution peeked my interest.  After two years out of work, the striking workers accepted the original offer.  Only problem?  The original 1300 employees were reduced to 400 before they caved in.  There has to be a back story here that I am missing…what happened to the other 900?  Yes, I know, many exercised initiative and found new employment – did they find better pay, or better conditions or simply move on?  Why did it take so long to resolve?  What was the loss to not only the workers, but also the company?  We know workers held out as long as unemployment benefits were being paid – which certainly was a big investment for all parties that share those costs – even Crystal Sugar.  And if one assumes the striking workers with initiative were the ones that found a new source of employment, what did Crystal Sugar gain in the hold out? 

WALMART…one more time.  A new marketing campaign has saturated every TV channel I watch, accompanied by significant print press ads; a new head of marketing has just been announced which signals there will be more to come.  And being the anti-Walmart consumer that I am, I cannot help but question why.  I cannot believe that they just decided one day to change their ways and become cheaper and better citizens; so I am opting for the prejudiced explanation that they have suffered from some of the exposure and have now decided to get better at tapping into the average consumer gullibility as part of a new “damage control” campaign.

Just yesterday, they pleaded guilty to several federal charges (after a long argument blaming employees) to improperly handling and disposing of hazardous materials.  The fine?  $81 Million.  A drop in the bucket-hardly sufficient incentive to mend their ways.

But then, what is their incentive to change?  Their standard operating procedures that result in travesties around the world continue to be “hidden under the rug” as the money and government aid continues to flow into their coffers.  I have given up all hope that governments or consumers will ever gain the upper hand with these folks…a PERCEPTION of a bargain trumps all.

NEW TECHNOLOGY CHANGES:  Today I learned that by 2015, I will be among the minority….one more time.  PCS are diminished; I-Pads rule and tablets will take over market share – with an expected 45% growth from today to 2015.

So decisions to make.  Do I remain the dinosaur or switch?  Maybe I should start with taking advantage of a few more apps on my smartphone.  Unfortunately even that creates a little personal anxiety, so you can imagine how a second article in the STRIB featuring self-driving cars shook me up!  I definitely need to give this all more thought.  Intuitively I am perfectly happy being one of those old boomers I complain about…e-mail and phone conversations are ok with me…and yet, there is that part of me that continues to whisper…stay on the cutting edge; do not become the caricature of Boomers you so dislike and cling to 20th century technology when a whole new world lies ahead.   A dilemma, for sure!

h1

IT’S STILL RAINING….

May 28, 2013

IT’S STILL RAINING-.

So more thoughts of the day instead of a walk this morning:

THE MIDDLE EAST:

Interesting McCain secretly went off to Syria; can’t wait to hear his “spin” on what he learned.  Too bad he did not stop in Iraq on the way home to admire all the “good work” we accomplished there.  1150 killed this April-May alone.  But maybe I am just being suspicious….maybe since our allies have determined they will supply arms to select rebel troops in Syria, McCain will choose to join the collaborative efforts  of US and allies instead of criticizing and lobbying for a new US war.

Whatever, my question remains….WHEN are the angry old boomers going to get it? Korea is still not resolved; Viet Nam was a disaster; Iraq had no positive impact on peace; and Afghanistan?    Normally, it’s three strikes and you are out…we have given these guys a bonus strike and we still do not have a winning hit.  After 60 years , the war-loving Boomer Republicans have had their chance.  Now it is time to let new thinking experiment with new options.  They can’t do any WORSE than what we’ve done in the last 60 years!

AMERICANS OTHER OBSESSION:

Finally, after who knows how many years, we are having a discussion at least about the potential impact of the American obsession with germs and all that is anti-bacterial in the world!   I wish I had saved some of my old “rants” from years passed, so I could say, “SEE, I TOLD YOU SO!”

This morning we learn that the general consensus is that we are too concerned about cleanliness and it is impacting our immune systems perhaps to the point that those that suffer so from allergies are a RESULT of this out of control obsession.

Now that this has finally come under scrutiny at least, we need to figure out a balance because it is becoming clear, neither extreme is effective…not to humans; not to the environment.

Having just finished Dan Brown’s latest book INFERNO,  I can only think that perhaps it should become required reading for all…although it’s fiction, and really heavy into Italian art and culture of middle ages, it does examine some pretty heavy issues along  these same lines.

ABUSE OF POWER

A big YES to Army Major General Robert Shadley and his new book  “The GAMe:  Unraveling a Military Sex Scandal”.

He sums it up well….”In my mind, it’s not about sex, it’s about the abuse of power.”

 Well said and amen to that. So many memories come flooding back from similar battles fought and sometimes won in the business world in the 70s, 80s – and personal memories of situations I was fortunate enough to maneuver through for the most part – but not without a lot of pain and suffering that even today, give me a very queasy stomach just to think about. I cannot imagine the horror if my own tame-by-comparison experiences had taken place in the very skewed military environment.

So I agree, zero tolerance is the goal and the only alternative  to stop this abuse in all arenas of our world.

 

h1

IRS TARGETS

May 27, 2013

When Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor to Vice President Biden, recently addressed the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, he said:

“Public Policy is a study in imperfection.  It involves imperfect people, with imperfect information, facing deeply imperfect choices, so it’s not surprising that they’re getting imperfect results.”

The more I learn about the IRS “scandal”, the more I think Sullivan’s  theory of imperfection is probably right on target.

I am with the majority; it is disconcerting that political groups were “targeted” by the IRS-even if the targeting originally happened as part of an attempt to speed up the process created by over-whelming 501(c) (3) -charity and 501(c) (4)-social welfare applications.

These groups are NOT allowed to conduct political activities-at least as a majority of their efforts, and certainly the IRS is prohibited from targeting political groups.

But as I read more about this, I am wondering if the cause of all this “scandal” may lie in the charitable and social welfare organizations themselves.  As I understand it, these organizations normally (with some significant exceptions) do not have “significant income subject to tax” but are often established because they do not have to reveal donor names.

The situation becomes complicated by a couple factors:

Not only the dollar amount, but things like volunteer hours supporting specific candidates can jeopardize the 501(c)(3) status; and thus when reviewed by the IRS, questions get asked that are not strictly financial in order to validate compliance in terms of volunteer use, for example. 

Learning this, I began to wonder if this is another example of tax laws not carefully thought through at implementation that have run amuck and been abused, followed by inappropriate “targeting” by the IRS.

And then this morning, we learn that several of these organizations from California to Alabama to Ohio,   when examined by the IRS were found not to be in compliance with regulations.  The organizations very visably supported specific GOP candidates and activities. Then, when they were examined by the IRS, they cried “foul” and were among those that complained they were targeted and unfairly treated…and the current “scandal” was born.   However, the IRS reviews were based on actual election activity that provided a legitimate basis for closer review.   And in these cases, the IRS had “cause”.

In fact, it appears that some election lawyers maintain that in view of the high stakes of the 2014 election (and the poor current position of the Republican Party) these very groups subject to review and audit were the ones that raised the issue cloaked in half-truths to derail the legitimate audit. And they did a very good job in the derailing, didn’t they?!!

Only patience and time will reveal the truth, but I am beginning to think the IRS Scandal may, like, Benghazi, have its roots in the desperation of the Republican Party to cast dispersion one more time upon the Obama Administration as a means of regaining a political foothold – or perhaps a hope that scandals that stick to Obama may at some point TRUMP the biggie – the scandal of Iraq. 

Who knows at this point what the thought process or motivation is, and after a lot of huffing and puffing, we may  come to the conclusion that Yes, there were errors and mistakes that require review with the intent to improve systems and processes going forward but it was not a secret plan hatched in the White House.  Most likely, it will become yet another unfortunate situation innocently caused by human error – not malevolence!  

One more time:  Sullivan’s description may prove to be the best explanation we have:

“Public Policy is a study in imperfection.  It involves imperfect people, with imperfect information, facing deeply imperfect choices, so it’s not surprising that they’re getting imperfect results.”

 

h1

WINDING UP THE MONTH OF MAY

May 27, 2013

TAX AVOIDANCE or RESULTS of our ENABLING TAX CODE?  I’m not a fan of big business manipulation of tax codes nor of their sense of entitlement.  But if Apple, with their “Think Different” slogan, has become the impetus that leads to a serious discussion of tax reform, then I will have to give them credit.  Whether Apple’s actions are “brave” or not can be judged in the future…but if their actions have started the ball rolling to evaluate why US companies are holding more than $1 trillion overseas and won’t bring it home unless US tax rate is lowered, then it may indeed be a good thing…and a first step in that evaluation of how/why businesses in the last quarter of the 20th century took a sharp turn away from good citizenship and emerged with a single mission – stockholder profitability.  As for Apple, I judged them harshly once – back in the day when I thought they must be a “cult” with their funny Apple machine…so I am very cautious about judging them again.  There’s that old saying,” fool me once….”

NORTH SIDE CRIME FIGHT:  The North Side beat with more officers on the street is a good innovative step…and I was glad to read the initial steps and ideas were not cast in concrete but are fluid, subject to input and review on all sides…Perhaps some day this initiative will become the new success story.  Remember when the cost of the small police station and Elliott, our neighborhood beat copy were adopted by the neighborhood of NE/East Hennepin Assn?   Today, the fund-raising is an annual event that continues to bring the community together….perhaps a similar sense of ownership can be built on the North Side that drives the fear away and helps build the foundation of a new community.

NEXT GENERATION MINNESOTA CARE:   I liked the Strib’s stand in the May 25 editorial”

“For all the heated rhetoric about the Affordable Care Act being a rigid, top-down approach to healthcare, the 2010 federal reform law in reality gives state’s abundant opportunities to innovate, and often the additional funding needed to make it happen.”

Good, some recognition and the story of what that means in Minnesota.

FIREWORKS:  As I sat here writing, I kept hearing “explosions”….and was beginning to think that we voted to blow up the St. Anthony Falls lock and dam instead of just close it.  Slow on the uptake, it took me a while to look out the window.  The winds must be just right, as the sound is not coming from just under my window facing the riverfront “backyard”; but instead from off in the distance to the east…It must be Memorial Day fireworks at the Capitol. So, rather than continue, I think I need to sit back and enjoy the display…and will get back to this tomorrow!

 Happy Memorial Day to all – here’s hoping this is the LAST of the cold dreary weather and as June dawns next weekend – it is filed with sunshine and warmer days!

 

h1

MINNESOTANS “Feeling Good” ABOUT TORNADO RELIEF

May 26, 2013

I know it make us “feel better” to do something-anything to help those in need, so once again, Minnesotans conducted a food drive for disaster relief for those harmed by the Oklahoma tornado last week.  What about the plea from Oklahoman officials themselves on the very day the tornado struck did we not understand?

They asked specifically that those who wanted to help should donate cash to the Red Cross instead….and on that same day, they took the time to explain why.  This is an issue – wherever it takes place- that is dear to me because of lessons learned when I was involved twenty-five years ago with Second Harvest and “Taste” activities here in Minnesota. And every time I watch it unfold, I ask myself “When are we going to listen?!!!”

It is a fact.  When “feeling good” is compared to financial and operational efficiency, “feel good” loses.  I am not suggesting that we put down that “need to help” response; I just wish the press would aid in delivering the message that might someday allow us to redirect those good instincts to something that actually HELPS those in need.  But once again, that truck we sent to Oklahoma filled with “stuff” was proudly featured on all the news channels this past week.

So once again, here is some “food for thought” in hopes that someday, somewhere, logic will trump “feeling good” and we will learn to help those in need in a more efficient manner!

Add up the costs of donated food vs. what could have been purchased by professional buyers with expert knowledge about needs for disaster relief.  When compared to what is spent buying wholesale or less…”Feel Good” loses.

Add up the nutritional value of donated food-usually canned or boxed and individual portions of plastic-bottled water  vs. those items purchased by professional buyers with access to fresh and frozen goods…”Feel Good” loses.

Add up the out-of-pocket costs that food drive just created.  Think in terms of dollars for the truck rental, the driver and gas to move the contributed items from Minnesota to Oklahoma.  How much more focused assistance could have been purchased if these dollars had been channeled to efficient experts in disaster relief?…”Feel Good” loses.

And when that truck arrives?  Who pays to organize these amateur trucks?  Who unloads?  Who sorts and stores and pays for warehouses and labor rental just to get our gifts organized and directed into the on site distribution system?  Why do we insist on adding steps to the process that create inefficiency?  Single bags and boxes get shelved manually – not via a computerized system aided by fork lifts and an inventory system to track what arrived, what’s available and what has been eventually been redirected to those in need. Another burden piled on those in need and those experts working to help them…so “Feel Good” loses.

Did anyone think how individual or family size portion “gifts” would be used by people who have no homes, no kitchens, no stoves or even can-openers?  How much of what was sent was purchased in industrial use quantities so it might be redirected to temporary shelters?  Once again, “Feel Good” loses.

How much do all those single plastic water bottles and food cans/boxes contribute to waste…needing to be picked up by garbage collectors that may not even be in service yet?  And those in service have as a priority cleaning up storm debris.  They and any waste land fills in the area are already pretty “stretched” with the task at hand.  So again, “feel good” loses.

I know I sound like Scrooge.  I do not mean to at all.  I just wish that we would listen to the experts and to those in need, and instead of organizing so we “feel good” will organize based on need and efficiency and provide what the victims have asked for and can use.

 

 

 

h1

ROTISSERIE CHICKEN

May 25, 2013

I keep trying to ignore this and adapt an attitude of “each man for himself” and too bad if you are silly enough to be taken in….but today a serious discussion in STRIB about whether super market prepared foods should be required to post calories like restaurants do  pushed me over the edge. 

To base the argument on “leveling the playing field” is silly.  Let’s be honest – it is a health issue. 

Sometimes it does amaze me…as people rush off to the “the club” to work out….and then feeling good about themselves for doing it, they often stop at the grocery store en route home for a rotisserie chicken-one of the LEAST healthy things you can buy in a grocery store!

Do they really think its the rotisserie “method” that creates that enticing and almost intoxicating smell?!!

Next time you are tempted into fooling yourself, think injections of unidentified chemicals and other ingredients carefully concocted to draw you in.  Frankly, the SODIUM alone should be enough to scare you away but the unidentified elements are probably just as worrisome.

You will quickly turn your attention to “cook it at home” chicken products if you are concerned about your health.  Really, how difficult is it to turn on the oven….and if you must, rub it with a spice blend identified in several grocery stores as “chicken seasoning”.

And with that, I am off to the Farmer’s Market to buy some asparagus and salad greens – and maybe some mo-mos from Gorkey Palace to dine on later!