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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Happy Independence Day, Kansas!

"Tomorrow is July 1st (the start of the new fiscal year), which means Governor #Brownback's sales tax hike officially takes effect. Starting tomorrow, you will pay more on everything you buy so the wealthy and big corporations can enjoy an average tax cut of $26,000."
--Kansas Representative Paul Davis on Facebook earlier today.

Gas across Western Missouri

From Springfield to Kansas City, Friday to Saturday this weekend:

Springfield:  $3.28/gal

Higginsville (least expensive anywhere I saw):  $3.10/gal

Independence:  $3.12/gal

Raytown (not far from Indep):  $3.22/gal

Roeland Park, KS:  $3.35/gal

Interesting.  (To  me, anyway).  Quite a spread in price.

Screwed up priorities

On Capitalism, life and living today

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Corporations are crushing America and Americans

I spoke to a woman, the manager of a "dollar store", this morning.

Turns out she was alone in the entire store.

Whenever I find that the case--that a person is working a retail store, anywhere, all by themselves--I am invariably stunned. All it would take is one person, walking in the door, seeing the situation and realizing what a vulnerable situation it is for that worker, male or female, and how it could be exploited, however illegally or worse.

She and I started up a conversation. Turns out she's the manager, apparently. I told her I emphasized.

It got worse.

She said it really was bad.

Not only was she working alone, vulnerable and really, potentially dangerous as that was and is, she also had to get and keep the stocking up, of course, all by herself, the entire time.

Then she'd have to also wait on the customers, of course, and keep them happy.

And then there was the watching for shoplifters.

She added that she had a monthly inventory coming up in just a day or two so that pressure was also on.

Then there was the pay. 

$7.25 an hour.

Then there was the fact, as though that isn't enough, that she was there, alone, for 6 hours.

Added to all that is that she couldn't step away during all that to go to the bathroom.

This is what we've come to in America.

Business is in control. It's all about profit.  And profits.  Forget the people.   Forget that $7.25 isn't even a true working wage. Nowhere close to it.  How do you make only $7.25 an hour and still keep up a car and a good, safe place to live and keep food on the table?  It can't be done.  Not in America.

This was a dollar store but it's widespread across companies in this country.

I've written before how 24 Hour Fitness hires far more people than they need but all at far less than a full 40 hour work week so they don't have to pay health care and/or other benefits.  And the starting pay there?  In the neighborhood of $9 per hour.  It's not much.  Not enough, again, to make a good, true living.

We've known about Walmart and how they do this and how horrible that all is. My point is, it's far more widespread than just that one very large company.

The companies, businessmen and corporations are in control.  And it's crushing America.  It's crushing Americans. It's shrinking the middle class, quickly, thoroughly and effectively.

The Supreme Court, just this week, made a few more rulings, too, supporting the companies and corporations over the people, over the workers and individuals. Justice John Roberts and his Right Wing cohorts have been and are still being very effective in ruling, time and again, for the wealthy, for the rich, for the corporations and companies, repeatedly.  It's very disheartening.

If you've got money and a company behind you, you have it made.

You and me?

We're screwed.

We simply HAVE to start the push to end campaign contributions.

We have to end the big, ugly, corrupting influence of the money from the wealthy and corporations that, at present, own our government representatives and their legislation and so, our laws and finally, our government.

It's the only way we'll get our country back for the people.

McDonald's could be a much better corporate citizen--quickly and easily

A friend of mine goes to McDonald's each and every morning for breakfast and I've joined him at times (for the oatmeal, hold the brown sugar, thanks very much) so I've been reminded lately who they are and what they do. It had been some time--years, really--since I'd been in.

And a few things occurred to me.

The first is that how much each of them, separately, and then all of them, together end up putting into the waste dumps in the country and world daily and yearly.

Then, a great, easy, intelligent solution to it all also occurred to me.

All the McDonald's across the country need to institute plastic and paper recycling programs and as soon as possible.

If you think about it, everything they generate, from their meals, is either plastic or paper, right off those trays.

If they were to recycle all that, can you imagine the millions of pounds of both they could recycle each year?

It would be fantastic.

And the great thing about it is that it would be simple and easy for them to do.  Think about this. They have all those waste receptacles, already in their restaurants (using the word very loosely, no disrespect meant).  If they were simply and inexpensively labeled "Plastic" on one and "Paper" on the one next to it, the patrons could--again, quickly and easily--dispose of each in the respective container. Then, the employee whose job it is to keep up with the dining room could pull out those bags from the containers, collect them and have them placed in the restaurant for pickup.

So simple.  No additional cost, either, with the exception of the small signs needed.

Then, for McDonald's, what a public relations boon for them. Total win.  They could advertise that the people could come get the same food they always did and now, with this, it could also be a far greener experience.

Will it happen?

I doubt it.  I hope it but doubt it seriously.

It's got to start somewhere. 

This would be a great time and place.

The insanity of what we allow for the obscenely wealthy NFL owners

The NFL, as I pointed out here earlier, is, first of all, a monopoly, each and every team. Second, each team and each owner has TOTAL TAX-FREE STATUS (did you know that?) and third, finally,  insanely, we also allow them, these teams, to have "blackout Sundays" so people can't watch their games if they haven't already, additionally paid to see the games.

Why do we do this?  Why do we allow this insanity to go on?

They make huge, obscene profits.  When they want their stadiums updated, they go to the local people and their governments, with their hat and hand out, as though they're poor, as we here in Kansas City found out not that many years ago.

This is crazy.

It's stupid.

It's grossly unfair.

What's more, it's immoral.  Truly immoral.

How NOT to do a convenience store

Service with a snarl.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Link:  Kum & Go :: 24-Hour Convenience Store

Friday, June 28, 2013

Questions of the day

1)  Where is midtown miscreant?

2)  When will he be back?

3)  WILL he be back?

4)  Is he okay?  (We assume he is. Naturally, we hope he is).

Inquiring minds want to know.


You out there, buddy?

Things that I'm sure are grossly over-priced in America

Just what it says, a list of things in America I'm certain are grossly, grossly, obscenely and even immorally overpriced:

1)  Cable television

2)  Most eyeglasses

3)  Prescription drugs

4)  Gasoline (we can all agree on that, right? Even though it's so much lower here than, say, Europe)

5) Construction equipment

6) Diamonds, specifically

7) A lot of jewelry

8)  Candy

9) Health care in general since it's the most expensive in the world

What else?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Government by filibuster

Good news and then bad this week, out of Texas, on women's rights and abortion law.

First there was the good news:

One Ms. Wendy Davis stood up to the Texas Republicans and legislature and filibustered yet one more proposed piece of legislation restricting women's rights and their legal abortion rights in that state.

Good for her.

It was, of course, the right--very right, very just thing to do.

Now, the bad, from last evening:

It seems Governor Rick "I Can't Remember" Perry isn't about to let this go so he's spending yet more of Texas' tax money, calling the legislature back for a special session so they can get their precious abortion bill.

It's insane.  It's irresponsible.  It's not surprising but so it goes.

This, on the heels of the terrific ruling from the US Supreme Court, just hours earlier. The highs and lows of government in the US, I suppose.

What concerns me most about the incident in Texas with Ms. Davis and her filibuster is that it seems as though a sort of "filibuster fever" is beginning in America.

First, months ago, there was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul's very famous and public and, as it turned out, too, successful filibuster on drones earlier this year, in March:

Rand Paul filibusters the domestic drone

It was very big at the time and it got him widespread coverage. His supporters were naturally very pleased.

As proof, check this out.  I just found this article, again from last evening, about Rand Paul and yet another filibuster he's threatening:

Rand Paul threatens to support filibustering immigration bill

It seems to make my point. That is, it seems we are at the beginning, possibly, of more--and more frequent--very public filibusters as a way to effect change in legislatures in the nation both on the state and national levels, instead of getting good government by 2 sides compromising.

And each time a filibuster is "successful", coming, as it does from an already very polarized society, it only polarizes us all the more.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is not good.  It is patently not good.

This is no way to run a government.

Ot nation.

Or state, for that matter.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Such great news today

Equality, coming to America:

I'm naturally reminded of the line straight from the Bible, Amos 5:24 that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. made so famous in his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Washington Monument August 28, 1963:

"But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

So look out, Missouri and Kansas. Equality is headed your way, too, like it or not.

More links:

Analysis of Gay Marriage Rulings

On the Supreme Court's Affirmative Action vote yesterday

And the Republicans should know that and respond accordingly.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On the Supreme Court, fairness and Affirmative Action today

Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent, Vermont.

He's so right.

Quote of the day--on imaginantion

"Evil is not imaginative. It seeks to destroy, and destruction takes no imagination. 

Creation takes true imagination, the making of something new and wondrous, whether it's a song or an iPad, a novel or a new cooking surface more durable than Teflon, a new flavor of ice cream or spacecraft that can travel to the moon. The vibrant imagination of a fry cook with free will should easily trump the weak imagination of a demon, anytime."

--Dean Koontz, from his book "Deeply Odd"

Links:  Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz - Wikipedia

Dean Koontz bibliography - Wikipedia

The Oh-So Hypocritical Political Party

The political party that says it wants to "shrink government" wants to DOUBLE the number of border patrol agents to our South from 21,000 to 42,000--after it was already doubled once, earlier.


Got it.

It was that same political party that created the bloated, totally unnecessary and extremely wasteful Department of "Homeland Security."


Small government.


Rep. John Boehner, hypocrite extraordinaire

Channel surfing a few days ago, I saw where Representative John Boehner gave a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers on the economy.  Here's a link to the original:

“We Are A Nation of Builders”: Congressman Boehner Delivers

Her's video for it (if you can stomach it):

In it, he complains, at length, repeatedly, in different ways, on how slow and weak our economy is.

Seriously.  He actually does.

When I heard it, when I heard him whining about how poor our economy is, part of me wanted to laugh, sure, but far more of me wanted to scream.

For Rep. Boehner or ANY Republican to complain about a weak US economy and not enough growth or jobs would, in fact, be laughable, if it weren't so tragic and, in the case of the Republicans, hypocritical.

Not once, since 2008, since Democratic Party President Obama took office have any Republicans introduced even ONE bill in our Congress to create jobs. Not one.

Not one jobs bill, not one construction bill, not one bill proposed to update our infrastructure nationwide which, I think it's safe to say we're finding is taking us down a decidedly bad path both for that lack of jobs but also for the highway maintenance and updating and expanding we need.

I say again, we all know all too well how badly Missouri needs our Interstate 70 improved and updated, and that's from Illinois and St. Louis on the East, all the way to Kansas and Kansas City on the West.

And then, of course, there are the two bridges that collapsed in the last year--the first in Minneapolis and the other in Washington State.

Yet he--Mr. Boehner--has the nerve, the unmitigated gall to lament on and complain of a lack of jobs in the country and the weak economy.

What chutzpah.

The putz.

Missouri, Kansas rankings on annual "KIds Count" survey

Here's where you stand to date, Missouri and Kansas on the things that are important, overall, for the children of our respective states (click on picture for easier reading):

Missouri, number 27, overall and Kansas 16.

We have work to do, folks.  It's for our children.

There is a TON of great, hard data here, too. Here's a Yahoo! News article on it, with links:

Best—and worst—states to be a kid

Here's a link to the actual organization that compiles the data:

Kids Count

and this:

KIDS COUNT - Annie E. Casey Foundation

And their Facebook page, since I'm kind of supporting them here:

Finally, information on the group as to who they are and what they do:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Kansas City and our Supermoon, featured prominently

If you hadn't heard or seen, last Saturday evening we experienced what they call a "Supermoon" effect. The moon was 13 or 14% bigger in appearance, depending on the source you read, and brighter, all because it was 16,000 miles closer to Earth, in its orbit than usual.

With that, naturally, photographers from all around the world took to their cameras. As luck would have it, a local photographer, one Charlie Riedel, shot that beautiful orb over our own Kansas City downtown and NPR, National Public Radio, picked it up on their website as one of a dozen great shots of it:

And so, here's the pic (click on it for larger, easier, better viewing):

So kudos to the photographer, Mr. Riedel, and to you, Kansas City.

You look pretty darned good.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Twinkies will be back, all right

Announced today:

The executives fleeced the company, blamed it on the workers in general but the Union, in specific.

They won, the executives won. They took home big paychecks, screwed the workers and Union and Union members so we all lose. Now they'll have new, different employee, likely.  And they'll pay a lower wage, to them, to boot.

Those damn Union members wanted--get this--a true, living wage.  What chutzpah.

But at least we get Twinkies back, eh?


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sprint prominent in NYT today

Seems crazy they'd let a national communications company be purchased by a company outside the States, security and all.

A huge, overlooked possibility of time travel

Imagine if, one day, there really were such a thing as a time machine, time travel, stepping through a "wormhole" to another time.

Imagine putting it to REALLY good use.

Imagine if the person went back and--forgive me--killed Adolf Hitler in, oh, what?  1925?

Now that's a beautiful thought.

Have a great weekend, y'all.

Quote of the day--on the minimum wage

"Nick Hanauer, one of the nation's most successful businessmen, proposed yesterday that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. But wouldn't that cause employers not to hire workers who were "worth" less, and thereby lead to higher unemployment? No, says Hanauer. 

By putting more money into the hands of more people, it would stimulate more buying -- which would generate more jobs than any jobs that might be lost. 

Hanauer understands that the basic reason the economy is still limping along is workers are consumers, and workers continue to get shafted, which means consumers lack the purchasing power to get the economy off the ground. A minimum wage of $15 an hour, combined with basic worker standards such as paid sick leave and a minimum of 3 weeks paid vacation per year, should all be in a national campaign for better jobs and a better economy in the 2014 election."

--Robert Reich,  American political economist, professor, author, and political commentator.

Links:  Robert Reich

Robert Reich - Wikipedia

Robert Reich | Facebook

Edward R Murrow on America

Famed reporter, journalist and author Edward R Murrow on America and our history:

"They were ahead of the law, ahead of education and established institutions. They made their own...There grew up a tradition of violence and lawlessness... They fought a four-year civil war. And the status of the still one of the greatest problems facing the nation. I believe we lynched only three or four of our black fellow-citizens last year, which is some improvement...

We...engineered a frontier incident with Mexico. We took that huge territory of Texas, and what is now California... Later on, we were to land marines in Nicaragua and Haiti, narrowly avoid war with Germany over Venezuela, and create a heritage of mistrust amongst the South American peoples as a result of high-handed methods and dollar diplomacy. Cuba and the Philippines came into our Lebensraum...

And all the time we were despoiling a continent. We cut the top off it, and sent the timber floating down the rivers. We ploughed the prairies, wasted our soil... Later on in this series you will hear about the New Deal, our racial problems, and how we came to be a nation of which one-third is ill-clothed, ill-housed and ill-fed. You will also hear something of our achievements."

--Edward R. Murrow from his "Meet Uncle Sam" series.  Quote taken from the book


Links:   Edward RMurrow - Wikipedia

Our future?

One of the best things about the next, upcoming generations is that they're so open-minded and inclusive and can't even imagine, for the most part, discriminating against a person for their race or sexual preference or whatever.

If there's a bad thing it's that, if we're ever invaded by a foreign nation, I expect and fear they'll be so distracted by the latest technology and also highly likely, chewing on Cheetohs and/or KFC and too preoccupied in too many ways to notice.

To borrow a quote from another local blogger:  "YOU KIDS GET OF MY LAWN!!"

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What on Earth happened to Christianity?

I have no idea what's going on in Europe or any other nation in the world but I have to ask, truly, what on Earth happened to Christianity in this country?

It's gone crazy. It's gone looney.  It's fully, unquestionably out of control.

Jesus said, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

You wouldn't know it today, judging by the people I see in real life, both on the streets and on television and what they say and do.

One of the absolute worst examples of what I'm saying can be witnessed daily--no, wait, hourly, minute by minute--on one of their television stations called Daystar Television .

The wackos come out to play constantly on this thing.

This one woman comes on her program apparently daily, an elderly woman with VERY blonde hair, and she riffs on current, national news. It would be funny if she weren't a) sad and b) horribly uninformed or misinformed. She knows truly nothing of national or international politics or geopolitics but merely sneers, repeatedly, at anything that isn't against President Obama and/or for the good old US of A.

Be clear on that point, too.  They REALLY don't like (if not hate) President Barack Hussein Obama and they make sure, at different times, we all know it.

The one that really gets me, however, and that I think is truly, singularly dangerous--and actually,  I think the entire station is that, dangerous, for the country--is the man and his program John Hagee Today with Dr. John Hagee.

This guy just rails against anything and everything that isn't the way he thinks it should be. He seems like a very clearly angry, judgmental, judging, hateful, bitter old man. From the pictures of him I saw on a Google images search, when it's a portrait, he smiles but when he's preaching, he's got his angry face on.

And he has that angry face on A LOT.

The one thing he said one time, as I was channel surfing past (really, I swear I was), was how bad Socialism is.

Seriously.  He was dissing Socialism.

And he yells.  A lot.

However patriotic I'm sure he'd insist he is, he apparently knows nothing, to this day, even in his advanced old age of keeping church and state separate, let alone why it's good for nations and their people.

One thing I saw on this station, however, that just purely tickles me silly is the show they call Discovering the Jewish Jesus with Rabbi Kirt Schneider.

It's a real hoot.

You're got this seemingly 100% Jewish man, standing there in his yarmulke and shawl, looking very much the committed, Jewish rabbi, menorah in the background, of course, yet he's talking about Jesus this and Jesus that.  I'm telling you, you can't want for amusement if you catch that show. It is alone in humor on this station.

Fortunately, there is one other redeeming quality to them all, too, and their TV station and that is that occasionally, but only occasionally, as nearly as I have seen so far, they put on a token black person, just to show how magnanimous and "inclusive" they are. Most of the time, you won't find anything on their station that isn't 100% bleached white and a great deal of them Southern, too, naturally. It's pretty blatant and stunning though I'm sure they'd deny any racism or white domination.

Haven't heard enough?  Check out their advertisement for this program:

Freda Crews

If that doesn't make you want to tune in, nothing will.


She is Dr. Freda Crews, just to let you know.

That's another thing, too.  Being all Biblical, virtually all the programs are given by men, again, naturally.  (Or rather, unnaturally, but that's another matter).  They let a few women have theirown shows but we're not going to have any female domination here, so sirree, Bob. Let those women have some control and next thing you know, they'll expect equality or something.

So very few black Americans and very few women.  Some, sure, okay, BUT JUST NOT TOO MANY, lest things get all out of control and all...

If you can and/or do go to the station, be prepared to see a LOT of men who look like charlatans.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

The thing is, I thought Jesus was supposed to be about love.

Wasn't he?

And leaving what is Caesar's, to Caesar?

And running the money-changers out of the Temple?

From the looks of virtually every minute of this TV station, they ARE the money changers.

And a lot of them are still darned angry.

If you can't or don't get the station--and I couldn't and didn't until this past week--consider yourself extremely fortunate.

Side note:  Lest you think this post today is just too dark or negative or ugly, even though I did try to throw in SOME humor, you can go here and possibly have a chuckle:

Links:  Daystar (TV network) - Wikipedia

8 Most Un-Christian Things the Christian Right Has Done Recently

Quote of the day--on opening one's mind

“All too often, those big ideas run up against the challenge of the everyday: in particular, how to find work that pays the bills. A lot of the time, meaningful work becomes necessary work, and passions are forced to fade. The easy part is knowing that you should follow your heart and do something important; the hard part is coping with the world as it is today at the same time as you invent how it should be in the future.
But inventing the future — in spite of the greatest recession since the Great Depression — is exactly what our generation does. If there’s any core attribute that connects you to me to everyone else of our age, it’s this conviction that we do not have to take the world as it is; in fact, it’s up to us to make it what it should be. ...
The "money quote"--one thing more and more Americans would benefit from greatly:
If there’s one thing you do after graduating today, create some habit that makes it easier for you to get out of your bubble. Follow someone you disagree with on Twitter. Buy a subscription to a newspaper or a magazine that will tell you the most important news of the day. Install an app on your phone that doesn’t just filter the news by your social network, but by what you need to read. Not only will these habits make you a better citizen, they’ll make you a more interesting husband or wife, and certainly a more informed job applicant.”
--Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and owner of The New Republic in his commencement speech this Spring at Georgia State University

Link:  In Looser Tone, Speakers Urge Graduates to Take Risks and Be Engaged

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Quote of the day--on our current American socio-economic system

From a commencement speeck by Ben S. Bernanke, Economist and Fed Chairman at Princeton University this Spring:

“A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate — these are the folks who reap the largest rewards.
The only way for even a putative meritocracy to hope to pass ethical muster, to be considered fair, is if those who are the luckiest in all of those respects also have the greatest responsibility to work hard, to contribute to the betterment of the world and to share their luck with others.”       

I love the new ad slogan for Apple Computer

That's beautiful, isn't it?

Clearly a shameless ploy to get us thinking it's all done here in the States.

The second part of the ad should closely follow with:

"...still made by near-slave labor in China."

Thank you, Tim Cook.

Kentucky: It sucks to be you

How embarrassing would that be to have Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul as your state's two senators in Washington, supposed to lead you while also having the nation's and world's only "Creation Museum"?

That's gotta' hurt.

Their state motto should be "We're Not Mississippi, But We're Trying."

Link:  Tea for 2? Kentucky Senators in a Marriage of Convenience

Yet more good indicators on "Obamacare"

Every article that comes out, showing how states and the people of the country are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, aka, "Obamacare" warm my heart and give my hope, both. There was another one Sunday in The New York Times :

I won't  bore you with much of the article but just a few of the good things that are coming from that much-needed legislation are:

The early indications are that most Americans will be pleasantly surprised. Millions of people, shopping and comparing prices on the exchanges set up by the states, are likely to get far better coverage for the same — or less — money than they pay now. The law, as honest conservatives predicted, before they orphaned their own idea, is injecting competition into a market dominated by a few big names...

In Washington State, nine companies have filed paperwork to offer policies in a region that has long been controlled by three big entities.

“The surprise is that, for many in the individual market, the premiums will be lower and the benefits so much richer,” said Mike Kreidler, the state insurance commissioner in Washington. “Eventually, I can see the Affordable Care Act being embraced like Medicare, because once people get used to this kind of coverage, it’s going to be a pretty abhorrent thing to try and take it away.”

In Oregon, brisk competition will mean real choice for consumers. Starting in October, a 40-year-old resident of Portland can choose between one insurer charging $169 a month or another asking $422 for the same plan. When these rates were first posted not long ago, some of the companies requested a do-over so they could submit lower rates. Yes, lower rates. So much for a government takeover.
In California, 13 companies will compete for the business of 5.3 million or so people expected to purchase insurance through the new exchanges. Officials say the average monthly premium will be $321 — that is, $110 less than the national average predicted by the Congressional Budget Office.

And one of the odd, ironic, possibly even hypocritical things about all this is that the Republicans and Conservatives and Right Wingers and Libertarians and all the Obama haters out there are likely deeply FOR "competition in the marketplace" but against this, which is bringing just that--competition for health care insurance premiums and so, lower prices.

I love the smell of Republican hypocrisy in the morning, don't you?

Protecting chimpanzees, at last

I saw this article in The New York Times  this past Sunday:

And suddenly, suddenly it also occurred to me how blatant and obvious this is, that we shouldn't be killing these beautiful animals or any longer using them for scientific experiments.
And how insane it all was that we ever did.

Monday, June 17, 2013

One billion dollar weather disasters in the US

Listening to the Weather Channel last evening, with a lot of thunderstorm warnings all around my new 'burg--yet again--the announcers mentioned that the last several years has seen a great deal of $1 billion dollar weather disasters in the US. They seemed to softly suggest that it was likely due to global warming and/or climate change.

So I Googled:

Billion Dollar U.S. Weather Disasters, 1980–2013

Source: National Climatic Data Center
The U.S. has sustained 123 weather-related disasters during the 1980-2012 period in which overall damages and costs reached or exceeded $1 billion at the time of the event. Twelve occurred during 2011 alone—the most for any year on record, with total costs being approximately $52 billion.

Then I searched some more:

According to NCDC’s 2012 weather and climate disasters information, 2012 saw 11 weather and climate disaster events each with losses exceeding $1 billion in damages. This makes 2012 the second costliest year since 1980, with a total of more than $110 billion in damages throughout the year. The 2012 total damages rank only behind 2005, which incurred $160 billion in damages due in part to four devastating land-falling hurricanes.

The 2012 billion-dollar events included seven severe weather and tornado events, two tropical cyclone events, and the yearlong drought and its associated wildfires. These 11 events killed over 300 people and had devastating economic effects on the areas impacted. With 11 events, 2012 also ranks second highest in total number of billion-dollar events behind 2011, which had 14 events.

The two major drivers of the damage costs in 2012 were Sandy at approximately $65 billion and the yearlong drought at approximately $30 billion. Sandy’s large size, with tropical storm force winds extending nearly 500 miles from the center, led to record storm surge, large-scale flooding, wind damage, and mass power outages along much of the East Coast.

So it begs the question: at what point do we learn?

At what point do our nation's leaders stand up, recognize the situation we're in and lead the people, lead the country to what we need?  That is, how soon until they guide us onto a path of far more sustainable lives and living?

We need to get started.

Links: Billion Dollar U.S. Weather Disasters, 1980–2013 |

Billion-Dollar Weather/Climate Disasters

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Entertainment overnight

Go here:

What Americans don't know about health care

There is a terrific article today in The New York Times about health care in America--and Sweden.  I contend that virtually all Americans should read it--with an open mind--and so few will.

Just a small bit from the article:

The United States spends more than $8,000 a person per year on health care, well more than twice what Sweden spends. Yet health outcomes are far better in Sweden along virtually every dimension. Its infant mortality rate, for example, was recently less than half that of the United States. And males aged 15 to 60 are almost twice as likely to die in any given year in the United States than in Sweden.

Not that Americans are about to learn anything--anything--from Sweden or anyone else (heck, learning alone is a problem for us) but it would be nice if we could read or study these other country's situations--gasp--and, as I said, learn something.

Just a few comparisons:

Doctors in the two countries also face different financial incentives. In the United States, under the fee-for-service model, they can bolster their incomes, often substantially, by prescribing additional tests and procedures. Most Swedish doctors, as salaried employees, have no comparable incentive.
Another important difference is that, unlike many American health insurance providers, the government groups that manage Swedish health care are nonprofit entities. Because their charge is to provide quality care for all citizens, they don’t face the same incentive to withhold care that for-profit organizations do...
The Swedes also provide drugs and other treatments only when evidence establishes their effectiveness. People can spend privately on unproven treatments, but the government refuses to impose their cost on taxpayers.

Clearly, the Swedish health care model is far more humane and moral than our profit-based one.

There was an excellent program on PBS a few years ago that did just that, too--compared other country's health care systems, one to another to ours:

This one, here, above, compared our system to the Netherlands, which is highly successful both in keeping costs down and in getting good outcomes from the health care paid for.

And then these two, from 2009 and 2012, again on PBS, comparing our costs which, by the way, are and have been the highest in the world for decades now:


Here's just one very indicative chart from this article:

And then there's this tidbit, from that same article:

Life expectancy at birth increased by almost nine years between 1960 and 2010, but that's less than the increase of over 15 years in Japan and over 11 years on average in OECD countries. The average American now lives 78.7 years in 2010, more than one year below the average of 79.8 years.

Another fact:

When we look across a broad range of hospital services (both medical and surgical), the average price in the United States is 85 percent higher than the average in other OECD countries.

If anyone in this country thinks we don't or didn't need the Affordable Care Act--aka "Obamacare"--when we spend grossly more than any other nation on the planet for that care and our results are worse than any the other, top 17 industrialized nation, they are badly and sadly mistaken.

More PBS links on health care (in case anyone out there actually does want to learn about us and our health care system:

Toyota-inspired approach to improving care and bringing down costs.

What steps can you take to make your next hospital stay safer and cheaper?

They illustrate what the U.S. could buy with the $750 billion wasted in American health care each year, and, in a separate post, our partners at Kaiser Health News examine the "Top 7 Drivers of U.S. Health Care Costs."

In a "Reporter's Notebook," Betty Ann Bowser examines Virginia Mason's decision to eliminate a staple of the American hospital: the waiting room.

What inefficiencies have you seen in the U.S. health care system?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, your US Congress

The following productivity--or, rather, lack of it--comes to us all courtesy of our own US Congress:

This, among other things, is what campaign contributions and splintered, uncooperative political parties and politicians get us, as a nation, as a people.
And we must put an end to it.
We must fight to end campaign contributions.
As soon as possible.