View 745 Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Back from my second MOHS job with some other errands like getting a blood and urine sample taken and stopping on the way home for the ingredients of a chicken salad dinner tonight. As usual, my experience with Kaiser was about as pleasant as something like that could be. They seem well organized and competent and the staff is almost invariably cheerful. I wish I could say the same for their pharmacy paperwork: when that works it works fine, but this was the month for the rollover of my credit card, and I have three times informed them on-line to use the “new” credit card – same old one, but different expiration date – and they have three times on line accepted that, only to then generate an automated telephone message, delivered in a soft voice that cannot be heard by people my age, which makes me jump through hoops to prove who I am before the inaudible voice tells me that there is a problem with my credit card. So I go back on line and it is as if I had never told them to roll over the credit card, and we go through all this again; meanwhile, the pharmacy at Kaiser won’t fill the prescription because the system says it was already mailed. One presumes that when it “accepts” the new credit card it also marks the subscription as filled – then when the system loses the credit card update it stops the shipment, but meanwhile it is shown as already shipped. And since it’s sleeping pills they are extremely cautious about it all. Thank God this didn’t happen when I was getting the radiation therapy and needed Vikodin. I’d probably still be ordering that.
Attempting to telephone them gets a round robin of automated systems each one imploring you to listen carefully as the options have changed, each one demanding numbers and other information to be sure that it’s you before putting you through to another layer that wants the same thing.
At some point I’m going to call and keep insisting on a human being who speaks loud enough that someone my age can understand. I figure that will take a couple of hours. Once I get to explain the problem to someone who can fix things I suspect it won’t take five minutes.
Kaiser is wonderful if you can get to a human, but they work pretty hard at protecting the human employees from the patients. I can understand why, I suppose, but it’s still maddening.
Or, I could take up one of the starving attorneys who bombard me with offers to sue people for me. Do I have Bubonic Plague? There’s a suit for that. Or food poisoning? Which kind? There are suits for salmonella, e coli, and at least three other forms of food poisoning, and one firm offers to sue for my dog in case she got sick from some kind of dog food. One firm of attorneys has sent me 28 offers in the last two days. I have no idea whether they are real live attorneys of course, because I am not about to visit their web site or answer their lawyerspam, but barring a couple of grammatical errors these are the works of, well, if not educated people, then at least people with some exposure to higher education. They might be lawyers. And my computer bombards me with advertisements from more lawyers who want to sue someone – nearly anyone – in my name. And there are radio advertisements for law firms. And California has some new propositions making it easier for the plaintiff bar to sue farmers and farmer markets that don’t properly label what they’re selling. I presume the big produce markets are financing the initiative, since it’s clearly designed to put any small competition out of business and confine the food service industry to those who can afford to keep lawyers on retainer.
I wonder if the people of California are stupid enough to fall for this one? They fell for a proposition putting up $6 Billion in bonds to build a high speed rail from Los Angeles up the San Andreas Fault and over the Temblor mountains and through other mountains to the San Joaquin Valley and on to San Francisco. So far the studies have cost a billion or so, the price is now above $100 Billion, and not a foot of track has been laid; and the first track to be constructed will be out in the San Joaquin from someplace no one want to be to another place no one can find. High speed rail from Bakersfield to Corcoran comes after that. And nothing can kill it. So long as there is a dime left of the bond money, there will be engineers and architects and cubicle workers to spend it until they retire. And there are other propositions for California to raise taxes so that we can pay the pensions, since pension funding commitments now amount to about half the unfunded debt for the state – and soon enough pensions will account for something like 40% of the annual budget. Since that can’t actually be sustained, it does look like interesting times ahead, what with California having top bracket sales and income taxes already, and even with our ‘stabilized’ property taxes we’re in the top half on that too. Next will be the pressure to raise property taxes.
And they never catch wise.
And Greece hates Germany because Germany won’t give Greece more money for pensions and holidays and insists that if the Germans are going to bail out Greece, Greece has to cut its profligate spending. Austerity programs, the Greeks shout, as they dress up in Nazi uniforms to denounce the Germans for not giving them more without making them spend less.
We do live in interesting times. But of course it’s a rank calumny to note that there is this tendency for democracies to vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. The Tytler Calumny, one prominent science fiction writer has called it. Since the notion comes from the time of Aristotle and almost no one has heard of Tytler this is rather odd. If you care at all about this, http://www.lorencollins.net/tytler.html has just about everything known about the subject. I warn you, it’s long and fairly dull, and I for one don’t understand why it’s important to know who said what on the subject: it was clear to the Framers of the US Constitution that a national democracy would literally vote itself everything it could get, which is why so much was left to the states; the notion of a federal republic seemed one way to allow competition in the size of taxes. Then the Feds discovered Federal Taxation with Block Grants and we got things like “Federal aid to education” with all the great benefits from that including rising illiteracy rates and high school dropout rates and the other obvious improvements brought about by federal education policies, and I think I’d better stop. That’s probably the anesthetics wearing off.
Anyway my MOHS Nose is done for the day and they’ll call tomorrow to tell me is they have to scrape off any more. But they think they got it all this time.
I understand that the President is mocking Mr. Romney for wanting to shoot Big Bird or something of the sort. Instead we should continue to borrow money so that we can spend it to keep Big Bird. Of course Big Bird doesn’t need the money: his outfit gets less than 10% of its income from public subsidies, and it’s a $200 million dollar outfit, flush with cash. Big Bird is doing just fine. So are the bankers who are loaning money to the US to spend on Big Bird.
But it hardly matters. The point is that nothing ever gets actually cut. The Bunny Inspectors got raises this year (and increases their pensions, too). All that will have to be paid with borrowed money. Of course the costs of Bunny Inspectors – paid adult civil service inspectors who go to magic acts to see if the magician uses a rabbit in the act, and if so, if the magician has a federal license for that rabbit. (If the magician feeds the rabbit to a snake as part of the act, then he doesn’t need a license; it’s only if he keeps the rabbit as a pet that puts him in license jeopardy. Or if you have rabbit hutches in your back yard and you sell pet rabbits: then you need a federal license. If you raise rabbits as pet food you may not, but the inspector needs to know about it so that –
I wish I were making all that up, but I am not, and we borrow money to pay people to do this. And yes it’s a trivial part of the budget, but we can’t stop doing it.
I seem to recall a man named Obama promising to take a laser like view of federal spending and eliminate everything that we don’t really need to be doing. I suppose that will happen during his second term?
Today’s Wall Street Journal has a review of Flynn’s new book Are We Getting Smarter http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444180004578018480061824600.html about the Flynn Effect. The Flynn Effect is the name given to the phenomenon that average IQ scores seem to be rising, although it’s not at all clear that populations are necessarily smarter. Of course in the US the courts have prevented the use of intelligence tests for any practical purpose like hiring – I exaggerate but not by much – and the hatred express toward The Bell Curve has made it difficult to get funding for IQ studies as well as professionally dangerous to get into that field, so we know less than you might think about all this.
I’ve ordered Flynn’s book and I’ll do a review of it in due time. It’s actually a matter of importance. But I do not think we are getting smarter, exactly.
Bill Powers, President of the University of Texas at Austin, presents hie defense of using race as an admissions factor. An Admissions Policy That Prizes Diversity” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444004704578032164147209262.html It’s about as good a defense of the policy as I have seen. Mind you, I am still of the opinion that the law ought to be color blind, but at least he presents his reasons for his view.
The Congress is the Grand inquest of the Nation, and it is fitting that it hold an inquiry on just what went wrong at Benghazi. I look forward to the results. I can think of a dozen simple answers, but I doubt any of them is sufficient.