The Little I Know

Monday, February 23, 2009

As if you needed another reason to think that McDonald's just sucks.

The Raw Story | McDonald's: No workers comp for employee shot protecting patron

McDonald's: No workers comp for employee shot protecting patron
Muriel Kane

Fast food giant McDonald's has denied workers compensation benefits to a minimum wage employee who was shot when he ejected a customer who had been beating a woman inside the restaurant.

A representative of the administrator for McDonald's workers compensation plan explained that "we have denied this claim in its entirety as it is our opinion that Mr. Haskett's injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Damn, this feels like Christmas - Not all those who wander are lost indeed

and occasionally, some who we thought gone forever briefly return to share a little more of their magic.

Obscure Tolkien book to come out this spring - MSNBC Wire Services-

NEW YORK - An early, long-unpublished work by J.R.R. Tolkien is coming out.

"The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun," a thorough reworking in verse of old Norse epics that predates Tolkien's writing of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, will be published in May by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"It would be good if someone remembered her next time we are invited to hate an abstract."

Discrimination hurts -- more so in hospitals - Leonard Pitts Jr. -
Your wife is dying.

One moment everything was fine. You were in your stateroom on the cruise ship -- it was to be an anniversary cruise -- unpacking your things. The kids were in the adjoining stateroom playing with your wife. Suddenly, they banged on the door crying that mom was hurt.

So now you're in the hospital -- Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital -- waiting for word, and it's not coming. They tell you, Joe (we'll call you Joe), you can't be with her. You plead with them, to no avail. No, Joe, sorry, Joe, we can't tell you anything.

One hour turns to two, two to four, four to six. Your wife is dying, and no one she loves is there.

Finally, in the eighth hour, you reach her bedside. You are just in time to stand beside the priest as he administers last rites.

The comments are just amazing in their extremes of compassion versus ignorance.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What Business are you Really in?

I got this from a friend and thought it too good not to share.  What a summary of the differences that have gotten us to this point.
My husband and I were having a conversation the other day, and he said something that went right by me at the time, but it's been haunting me ever since. I think it might be a big part of What's Wrong with the economy-- and hence, it might offer an interesting clue on a direction for change.

My husband has been creating ways for people to recover from addiction for more than thirty years. He's published a number of books that are highly respected in the field. He's developed more than a few facilities and programs targeted at particular needs of particular kinds of people. He's very good at what he does, even if it's me you're hearing it from.

A few years ago, a colleague he'd worked with some years back asked him to take on a tough project: The company his colleague worked for (I'll call him 'Jim,' not his real name) had purchased a facility in New Mexico that treated people with multiple mental health and addiction diagnoses. The facility was running in the black but ARS (not the company's real name, either) felt that its clinical program had problems, the physical plant was in bad shape, and that with good leadership it could be even more profitable. Jim recommended my husband for the job and we moved to New Mexico.

The facility, which I shall call Transformational Healing Center, or THC (not it's real name, of course) had plenty of problems, all right, but as Jim had suspected, they were the kind of problems my husband had encountered many times before. With modest support and some capital investment from ARS, he could sort things out. THC ran in the black the entire time he was there and he maintained its margin of revenues over expenses in the twenty-five to thirty percent range. The staff started coming together as a team, the administrative problems were working out, and progress was made on the physical plant in spite of an on-again/off-again commitment from ARS.

Jim, who's in recovery himself, knew that the facility was making solid improvements. But he kept telling us that "Corporate" wasn't satisfied-- they needed even more revenue growth and better EBITDA, because ARS was being bought by Moroni Capital (no, not its real name either,) for nearly a billion dollars and there would be an IPO soon if they could manage to do enough additional acquisitions and show enough additional growth.

So for two years, my husband worked his ass off to create a solid clinical program, a safe physical plant, a smooth administrative infrastructure, and a large revenue over expense margin at THC. He did extremely well at all those things, but it was never good enough for "Corporate." ARS management, under the gun from the new Moroni board members, was doing everything they could to pump up "growth" figures-- acquiring more facilities (including some real dogs), demanding that facilities add more beds, increase daily census, demonstrate GROWTH!

In spite of higher revenue-to-expense ratios than ever in THC history, fewer incidents and problems, decreases in seasonal census fluctuation, new marketing strategies that diversified referral sources and produced steadier admissions figures, it just wasn't good enough for ARS. The management style from "Corporate" was becoming increasingly hostile, demanding, and unrealistic. When it was time for his contract to be renegotiated, my husband and ARS decided that the relationship was over.

That was a first for my husband, who has previously had nothing but respect from those who employed him. He left a wake of highly successful programs designed and established, troubled programs turned around, new revenue sources, better facilities, and satisfied customers-- until ARS came along. It was hard on him to feel as though he hadn't reached the goals, even though he knew that the goals had been wildly unrealistic. He went through a lot of soul-searching and some depression. He's still not happy with the whole experience, and it left us with some real financial and career issues to resolve. New Mexico is not a great job market for any field, much less his.

He's currently working on a new short-term consulting contract, and we were discussing it over dinner the other night. I referred to ARS, and he remarked, "But they weren't in the recovery business. They were in the acquisition and growth business," and went on to respond to my point.

And I've been thinking about that ever since. ARS owns dozens of treatment facilities. Everything from methadone maintenance clinics in inner city neighborhoods to posh spa-type spreads for the self-paying elite. They're in more than a dozen states. They have hundreds and hundreds of employees whose job is to help people recover.

But they're not in the recovery business.

He's right. They didn't give a rat's ass about people who need to recover from addiction and mental illness, except as success stories for marketers to generate more business to promote GROWTH! so they could make that IPO and Moroni Capital could get their billion dollar investment back and everyone's stock options would make them rich.

There is something fundamentally flawed about the whole model. It's NOT CAPITALISM. At least, not as Adam Smith envisioned it. It's not about creating a product or service people want or need, doing it superbly well, competing successfully against others who offer similar products or services. It has nothing at all do do with creating satisfied customers in order to compete more successfully. It's about creating the appearance of a certain type of success that impresses, not the "customers"-- people who need to recover and their families, insurance companies, physicians, and other referral sources-- but other financial manipulators who want to fill a niche in a portfolio of assets to increase the value of the holding company.

People like my husband are in the business of creating real value: Services and products. They take pride in the quality of what they produce and strive to do it better and better. They try to innovate, to make their services and products available to more and more people who might need or want them.

But the people who control the financial machinery that is supposed to facilitate all that don't give a rat's ass about it. They are in the business of creating, not value, but the perception of value. In order to sustain a vast, complex network of intangible products and paper instruments that theoretically relate to real value, but actually IMPEDE the creation of services and products.

No wonder things are falling apart so fast. People who can create products and services, WANT to create products and services, care about what they do, care about the quality, care about the satisfaction of the customer, the end user... they don't matter. They don't have any power in the marketplace. And now that the house of cards has come tumbling down, they have no means of doing what they can do, what they want to do, what the rest of us need.

However we end up re-creating the economy, we have got to ensure that never again does it get so far removed from the fundamental principles of REAL capitalism.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What cooked the World's Economy?

What Cooked the World's Economy? - page 1 - Village Voice
What Cooked the World's Economy?
It wasn't your overdue mortgage.
By James Lieber
Tuesday, January 27th 2009 at 2:46pm

It's 2009. You're laid off, furloughed, foreclosed on, or you know someone who is. You wonder where you'll fit into the grim new semi-socialistic post-post-industrial economy colloquially known as "this mess."

You're astonished and possibly ashamed that mutant financial instruments dreamed up in your great country have spawned worldwide misery. You can't comprehend, much less trim, the amount of bailout money parachuting into the laps of incompetents, hoarders, and miscreants. It's been a tough century so far: 9/11, Iraq, and now this. At least we have a bright new president. He'll give you a job painting a bridge. You may need it to keep body and soul together.

The basic story line so far is that we are all to blame, including homeowners who bit off more than they could chew, lenders who wrote absurd adjustable-rate mortgages, and greedy investment bankers.

(fantastic summary of what went wrong at the link)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Grab a box of tissues first, then watch this powerful film.

A straight actor's gay education: Scott Bailey on his "Prayers for Bobby" experience |
FROM REAL LIFE STORY TO BOOK TO FILM: Prayers for Bobby is based upon the true story and critically acclaimed book by Leroy Aarons about a young gay man, Bobby (played by a heartbreaking Ryan Kelley), who because of his religious beliefs and family pressure, sets out to cure himself of being gay. The attempted cure tragically ends with his suicide which instigates questioning by his mother, Mary Griffith (played powerfully by Sigourney Weaver), of her blind-faith regarding homosexuality. She eventually becomes a gay rights activist and attempts to break this cycle of needless tragedy by telling her story. Mr. Aarons read bout Mary's heartbreak in an article in his local paper, contacted her and she shared with him Bobby¹s journals which chronicled his struggle. From that moment on, Mr. Aarons knew he had to write this story.


It was admittedly a learning experience even for me, an actor, living in Hollywood, with many close gay friends. I learned that the suicide rate is 4 TIMES higher amongst gay teens than straight teens. I also learned that homosexuality is definitely not a "choice" or "preference" or even something that can be taught yet it is widely feared and viewed askance! Hopefully, films like this can reveal the ongoing discrimination for what it is, show examples of how life can be, and by doing so provide a beacon of hope to homosexuals and their families.
If you missed it last night, Lifetime is going to re-air the movie Sunday night at 8pm EST or Tuesday at 9pm.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For those who miss the Far Side

An online group has gone on a mission to photoshop all the old Far Side comics from actual digital images. I miss that series.