Music Monday: Happy New Year


In Closing: My new favorite blog; disgraceful; AC saves lives; damned if he doesn’t sound reasonable; no deal may well be better than a bad deal, but it doesn’t matter because there will be no vote tonight; yeah, that does sound kinda dumb when you put it that way; Baby Boomer Nuns; they wouldn’t be there if they could farm it legally; we never had a chance; even a broken clock is right twice a day; and somebody must write a sci-fi epic based on this picture.

I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time

USA Today tells us that thanks to patient surveys, hospitals are kissing our butts:

Special air-blowing vests keep patients warm pre-surgery. Private rooms are the norm. Staffers regularly check in with patients to anticipate their toilet and showering needs to cut down on call-light usage. Patients are given clear discharge instructions. Cleaning is no longer done at night. Patients are taught the difference between “pain-free” and “pain-controlled.”


Amenities such as free lattes and valet parking are not new to hospitals. They began offering them years ago in a high-stakes fight to lure patients. However, what hospitals are doing now is, for the most part, tailored to the survey questions they know patients will be asked.


“The problem is America is a free-market economy,” [Rajesh Balkrishnan of the University of Michigan] said. “We need to give patients a way to speak on what they think about health care, what works for them, how health care professionals work for them, because those factors go into determining whether treatments are successful.”

I don’t think any of us have a problem with the idea that they are trying to make a hospital stay a more pleasant experience. It’s hard to recover from whatever when there is too much noise to rest, for example. It’s great that staff is making a better effort at explaining what’s going to happen. Anticipating needs? Well that is mighty fine customer service. However, I think now we are starting to go too far.

For one thing, who the heck is paying for these valets, lattes, and pre-surgery warming vests? In the end, you and I are through higher premiums and taxes. Could we perhaps make do with a clean blankie and a coffee maker?

Second, all this nonsense loses sight of Reality. In Reality, people choose a hospital based on two factors and only two factors: What hospital will my insurance company pay for? or What hospital is closest to the site of the accident? The overwhelming majority of people don’t have the luxury of saying “General Hospital has a better record of surgical outcomes” or “St. Elsewhere has free espresso drinks!” Let’s stop pretending that any of this is considered by Joe and Jane Average when Joe’s having chest pain.

Speaking of Reality, I understand that Obamacare means more insured patients means more demand for physician services. But where exactly does Stacy think she’s going to find doctors for that medical office space she’s trying to rent out?

In Closing: it would be nice if reporters would actually read scientific studies before telling us what they say; light up crosswalks; they had to get water from somewhere; college readiness may be more than academic skills; some taxes are going up regardless of what gets decided about the fiscal cliff (at this point I’m mighty tempted to say let’s just go there and watch the backpedaling); OBEY; and the ultimate helicopter parents.

Music Monday: Happy Birthday from The King, to The King.

Edit: something happened to the video but now it’s fixed.

Yes, I am aware that the historical Jesus was most likely born in the Springtime. Stop being a Grinch.

When I was in college, I had a job working as a church musician. I eventually worked my way up to Music Minister. Every year we had an evening service on Christmas Eve. At the end, everybody would have lit candles, the lights would be turned off, and we would sing Silent Night. After the first year, I remembered to have my own light on the piano so I could see the music! Things evolved over time. I started bringing frankincense and myrrh incense from a curiosity shop near my home owned by this guy. And I don’t know whose idea it was, but the last few years I was there after Silent Night we would sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and have a birthday cake.

Gridlock and Opportunity

The next session of Congress is either going to be complete gridlock, or an era of great bi-partisanship. I say this based on this chart from Nate Silver. In case you’ve forgotten, that’s Nate “the man who got all the numbers right when everybody else got them horribly wrong” Silver:


Let me point out the obvious. It takes 218 votes to get most things done in the House of Representatives. Neither the mainstream Republicans nor the Democrats (with or without the Blue Dog crowd) have those votes. The Tea Party has become a de-facto third party. To get anything done, there will have to be a coalition and/or a compromise: either between the two parties, or with the Tea Partiers. This should be obvious to both Mr. Boehner and Ms. Pelosi. The President already said it out loud. As Mr. Silver points out, on this and pretty much every bill in the next session, Mr. Boehner “will need to win the support of at least some liberal Democrats. And a bill that wins the support of some liberal Democrats will be an even harder sell to Mr. Boehner’s Republicans. For each vote that he picks up from the left, he could risk losing another from his right flank.”

Nobody knows if the glass is half-empty or half-full. Was Mr. Boehner’s ill-named “Plan B” a symptom of his increasing irrelevance, or an attempt to enter a Post- Norquist political world? Will the 113th Congress be a more sane and bi-partisan body, or a place where the right hand and the left hand quite literally don’t know what the other is doing? Let’s hope for sanity.

In Closing: military research saving lives on battlefields and eventually on American streets; why re-invent public education with things we aren’t even sure work when we can just crib off Massachusetts?; yeah, it turns out there were good guys with guns at Columbine and it didn’t help (at least the good guys didn’t injure more students); and maybe this deserves more thought.

Music Bonus: Apocalypse Someday

Happy Solstice! Since you are reading this, it would appear that the world did not in fact end today.


Have some bonus links about Christmas.

In Closing: TSA; diet and diabetes; I bet we could create some jobs building and repairing infrastructure (nah, that costs money!); political suicide; don’t confuse us with facts; and how nuts do you have to be to get fired from Al Qaeda?

Take a deep breath

Yesterday, two terrible things happened.

In Connecticut, a nutcase broke into an elementary school and killed over 20 people — most of them little kids — with guns.

In China, a nutcase walked into an elementary school and injured over 20 people — most of them little kids — with a knife.

Disclaimer: I do not own any firearms. I do own multiple knives and assorted other items that can be used as weapons.

So first off, let’s stop pretending that guns themselves are the problem. The shooter could just as easily have used other weapons. Ok fine, the knife was a little less lethal.

The guns were stolen from his mother — whom he killed first — and it wasn’t legal for him to buy these weapons, so let’s stop pretending that more strict gun control laws would have prevented the tragedy. Not even better enforcement would have helped. The sad truth is that gun control laws work on the premise that someone who is planning to break one law will inexplicably follow another. “Oh, a 3 day waiting period to buy a gun? I guess I won’t hold up the convenience store after all. Maybe I’ll get a job instead.”

What we need to get serious about is mental illness. We don’t yet know what this young man’s problem really was, and since he is dead we may never know. What I think we can say without fear of contradiction is that sane people don’t shoot up kindergarten classrooms. But getting serious about mental illness is hard.

It’s hard because of Rosemary Kennedy. It’s hard because of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s hard because asylums used to be terrible places where the mentally ill were warehoused. It’s hard because legislators closed those awful facilities and offloaded mental health to unprepared communities decades ago. It’s hard because rules and laws that would make it easier to put truly mentally ill people in hospitals would also make it easier to put many eccentric-but-normal people in hospitals, drugged against their wills. It’s hard because some school administrators think black trench coats are a sign of possible violent tendencies. It’s hard because mental hospitals were dumping grounds for “rebellious” and “troubled” teens (and adults) as recently as the 80s, and those same mental hospitals were more than happy to make up fraudulent details to keep insurance company money coming. And it’s hard because that in turn has made insurance companies wary of attempts to make them cover mental health — it took an act of Congress and even then it took 2 years to implement the rules.

My heart goes out to every family touched by these awful events.

However, the availability of weapons among the U.S. population is does not in itself suffice to explain the often exasperating massacres that occur there. Nations like Canada, Sweden and Finland also record high levels of per capita weapons ownership without leading to the type of mass murders that systematically shock and terrorize the United States. This suggests a kind of collective propensity toward barbarism in that country which has never been explained, and which should start to be discussed as quickly as possible.


In closing: Arnold loves to pay taxes; mastodon bones; and historically accurate penny.

A Really Bad Week for Music

In the last week, we have lost a bunch of fine musicians.

First, Dave Brubeck.

Then, Jenni Rivera — with whom I was not familiar prior to her unfortunate death.

Yesterday, Russian born Soprano Galina Vishnevskaya.

And today, Ravi Shankar. Apparently, somebody forgot to tell him these things happen in threes.

In Closing: turns out the Feds did good on this investment; the return of on the job training (waaah, it costs more than miraculously finding people who already have the skills!); the right to work for less; record period of no freezing in Vegas couldn’t possibly be because of global warming!; reinventing the wheel; even Wal-Mart is feeling it; if you can, give a hand to JP; and congrats to Ornery Bastard.

Music Monday: Happy Hanukkah

Comrade Misfit already posted the Adam Sandler Hanukkah song, so here is something different….


In Closing: staying in shape while traveling; what?; duh; it never was the union’s fault; backfired; surprise, most doctors are bad a math; and 10 things you probably didn’t know about Christmas.

On the Jobs Numbers

So I have some open tabs that I’ve been saving for a discussion on employment, unemployment, and job creation. Luckily for me, job creation and unemployment numbers came out today. Unemployment does continue to go down, and it looks like we [barely] create enough jobs to keep up with demand. However, many of those new jobs are low wage jobs that don’t actually help our nation at all. Wages are still kept artificially low, even though corporate profits are riding high (I bet higher corporate taxes would encourage those companies to pay people fairly).

But there’s a couple of things missing from the official figures. Well over half of employed people have their eyes open for better employment opportunities. There’s over 3 times as many job applicants as jobs to apply for.

That’s not the only reason it’s important to create more jobs. It seems that when people have jobs, they pay taxes.

In Closing: Russian small arms; depressing; Common Core; austerity; resume tips; good for her!; um no, it’s the blue “welfare” states supporting the red states; and irony.