Thursday, January 29, 2009

Health Care, Health Cure?

Many people have their opinion about Health care. I have seen too much to know that the answers are not easy. But doing nothing is worse. We are closer to a collapse than you may think. There are two factors involved in causing our Health Care crisis. Overcrowded Emergency Rooms, and the costs associated with Health care. You have no idea how this has affected Emergency care in Los Angeles. But you could find out when you have a Medical Emergency. Wouldn't that be the worst time to find out?

Why are these Emergency Rooms overcrowded? Two reasons. First, consider what has been happening in Los Angeles for the last 20 years. The population has grown exponentially, and yet Emergency rooms have closed down. The biggest blow recently, was the closing of MLK Hospital in Watts, and secondary to that, Daniel Freeman in Inglewood. Second, people without the ability to pay for Doctor visits, wait too long for Medical care, and end up in Emergency Rooms for their treatment. What was a simple case of the flu that could have been taken care of by a Doctor in a Clinic, has now turned into something more serious, and needs a visit to the Emergency Room.

Why does Health Care cost so much? Well, you pay higher costs in Health Care to make up for people who can't pay. How? To simplify things, lets say a Hospital buys a bottle of 100 Asprins for $100. That comes out to $1 per Asprin pill. Just to break even, if 100 patients need 1 Asprin, they will charge you $1. But that's not the way it is. 50 people may pay and 50 people may not. So the Hospital, just to break even, has to charge $2 for a $1 Asprin pill to paying customers. Add trying to make a profit, needing to pay Employees, expensive diagnostic equipment, and other overhead, and you may end up being charged $100 for that $1 Asprin.

What is NOT an option, is to provide Health Care only to people who can pay. No matter how cynical you are, no matter how much you can hate another person, you can not let them suffer and/or die from lack of Medical care. Not in America.

So what is the cure? Some say Universal Health CARE. I don't think that's the answer here. Socializing the Health care system in a Capitalist system may not work. We need to somehow create Universal Health INSURANCE for everyone. It makes sense.

Think of how Auto Insurance works, you pay into a pool of money created to help an individual who needs to pay for damages due to an accident. The individual can not assume the payment of the damages and the liabilities because it costs too much. He ends up paying a reasonable deductable, and his car is repaired and his liabilities are taken care of. How? Everyone pays into the system, whether you get into an accident or not, and more money ends up coming in than going out.

How about Flood Insurance. What if everyone in the Country had to pay Flood Insurance, even if the area you live in will never flood? The answer is, flood insurance will be cheap.

That's what we need for Health care. People pay thousands of dollars in Health Insurance premiums AND in Taxes to support Medicare and State sponsored systems, and pay extra in fees to Hospitals to make up for non-paying patients.

Take all of that money, and funnel it into a Universal Health Insurance system, and you could provide Health Insurnance for all. With everyone having Health Insurance, Hospitals will be paid, and costs will go down. Emergency Rooms may re-open, and Health Clinics may sprout up to take care of non-emergent problems. Believe me, Doctors want to work, but they have to make money, not lose it. Hospitals want to stay open and make money, not lose it. Payment of medical costs is the answer. How we go about it, is the question.

Yes, we will have to make adjustments on how we pay for this insurance. A combination of premiums and taxes, handled by private insurance companies and regulated by the Government. Also getting rid of all the different layers of health care. Payments into the Worker's Comp system can be included as well. Will it work? The current way, whether you think it is or not, is not working. And when the status quo does not work, we need to find another way.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Trickle Up

I am a strong supporter of the Trickle DOWN theory. What is the best thing for all? For everyone to have a job, pay taxes, buy things, and keep the economy rolling along. By allowing Businesses to keep their money by giving them tax breaks, it would allow them to trickle it down to workers, hiring more, giving raises.

Back then it was better than what was going on, people getting lazy and living off Welfare checks.

But what happened was not true Trickle Down. Businesses were given breaks, but there were no contingencies to make sure that they trickled any money down. Most of the time, they kept if for themselves. Giving the CEOs more pay and outrageous bonuses.

But that wasn't enough. Businesses cut costs from payroll to help pay even more money to the CEOs. And instead of doing what was best for Employees, who actually run the businesses, the emphasis went to rewarding the Stockholders. How does cutting health care costs to Employees help anyone? It doesn't. But the company made more profits and distributed more funds to it's Stockholders, and CEOs and that's what was important.

But it's not good for any Economy for a select few to have money. It is better for many people to have some money. And it's better for the Economy for a business to build and sell 100 $25,000 cars than 25 $100,00 cars.

So here we are now. Years of greediness have caused our current Economic crisis, not anything else. Instead of making sure that the "workers" were taken care of, only the select few were rewarded. Now the select few will be called upon to pay more taxes to pay for Welfare to the very Employees that they short-changed.

What we need now is to reverse what has happened. The Economic Stimulus plans are not working. Why? They are doing the same thing, rewarding the select few. Take ALL of that money, and fund Home Loans. Have all people who have had their homes foreclosed on, and anyone who is threatened to lose their homes to be able to refinance at a FIXED rate, for what ever amount of time it takes. 4.0 rate for 60 years instead of insanely adjustable rates for 30 years? Might be doable.

You think I'm crazy? No, think about it. What drove our Economy for the last few years? The housing market. It helped provide the most important thing in our lives, and the Government's. A home for us, and Taxes for the Government.

Still think I'm crazy? Let's see what might happen.

Government uses Bailout money to buy bad home loans and allows homeowners to refinance at more favorable rates.

1. Government has steady income from repayment of loans AND from payment of Property taxes. And if anyone can't make the payments, the Government owns the land. They can eventually sell it for profit. It wouldn't hurt so much to hold onto.

2. People will pay less money for their mortgage and they will have money freed up to buy things, thus stimulating the Economy. Give more money to more people, and more people will buy things.

3. With people in homes and paying less, they are more self sufficient, and they will not end up homeless or in need of Government assistance, which would cost those not in dire straights more in taxes and in other financial ways. People will turn to crime, costing more in insurance.

4. Removing bad loans from the Banks will free up Credit, and in turn they will start lending money again. Businesses will be able to get back in business and give people jobs.

This would be the "Trickle UP" theory.

Some of you may think I'm a Liberal, or a Democrat for thinking this way. Everyone needs to work and pay taxes. That is more Conservative and Republican. But I'm neither. I'm a realist. People out of work and in the streets and on Welfare is NOT good for me, good for you, good for the Economy or good for the Country.

In the 1990's the same thing happened to Japan. Japanese Banks and Businesses invested a lot of money in Real Estate, in Japan, and abroad. When the Real Estate market went down, so did the Japanese Economy. Japanese banks were burdened with bad loans. The Japanese Government spent their money on a Economic Stimulus plans by giving money to Banks and Businesses, instead of relieving the banks of their bad loans. The Japanese Economy never recovered. Lesson heard, but so far, not learned.

Imagine that. We've come full circle. We're almost back to where we were when the "Trickle Down" theory was poorly implemented. People that work will start paying a lot in taxes for people out of work and needing Government assistance, or Welfare.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Customer Dis-Service

I'm not rich, but I can afford a nice car. But I'm not the type to need a nice car. Oh, if I could afford to own 4 or more cars, at least one of them would be a very nice car. But I am a truck person. I feel at home driving a pick-up. If there are Red-neck Asians, I guess I'm one of them. Yee-haw, where dem doggies at?

I do like fast and/or sporty cars. I have experience working on cars too. I'd like to think that if I had the time and money, I would have several old cars and trucks in my backyard, in various stages of repair, or dis-repair. Probably dis-repair.

For 6 years, I had a GMC Sierra, Full size pickup, extra cab with 4 wheel drive. It did everything I wanted and needed it to do, except for one thing. It got 13 miles per gallon. 16 mpg if I went on a long trip and only drove at highway speeds. Not enough when gas prices were headed towards and eventually over, $4.00 per gallon, and I rarely used the 4 wheel drive.

So, before gas went over $4.00 a gallon, I traded my faithful truck in for a 2008 Mazda 3, 5 door hatchback. I should have kept my truck, because I have had a need for it since then, and I got hosed on the trade-in value. But that's a whole nudder story.

My Mazda is fun to drive, holds most everything I want to haul, and gets a minimum 25 mpg. I just about doubled my mpg! When I went to Big Bear for a day trip, I got just under 30 mpg. Overall I like my car. But I don't love it.

The competitors of the Mazda 3 are the Toyota Corolla, and the Honda Civic. Both get at least 30 mpg, with 35 hwy mpg. And though I haven't compared the standard equipment lists, I bet they both have automatic headlights when it gets dark, and automatic door locks when you put the car in gear. Heck, my truck had those as standard equipment. My Mazda doesn't do those things. AND I bet they both are made with higher quality assurance than Mazda.

I have some complaints about quality issues. And this is where the point of my story starts. Today, I took my car in for it's first scheduled maintenance. As a gift for purchasing the car from CLIPPINGER Mazda, a relatively new Mazda dealership in West Covina, I was told my first maintenance service would be free.

Though they did hose me on the trade-in value of my truck, the salesman and the experience I had was not that bad. I would have given them at least 4-5 stars if I was still on Yelp. Maybe they're lucky that I'm not on Yelp anymore, for I would give them the minimum for what happened today.

I drove to CLIPPINGER Mazda, and pulled into their Service Dept. I told them I purchased my car there and it was due for it's first service, and reminded them that it should be free. Then I told them about the 3 things that I wanted them to address.

1. A lighter was not given to me before I left with my new car, and I did inform them of this as soon as I noticed it. I don't smoke, but come on, there's a hole there. I might put my finger in it and get an unpleasant surprise.

2. There is a mark on the windshield. Every windshield is actually two pieces of glass and somewhere in between these two pieces, is a half inch mark, probably made with a grease pen.

3. The front passenger window seems a little "loose" and does not track right when closing. It is minor but has become much more visible after I had the windows tinted. Now you can plainly see how it "tilts" forward before closing.

On the first issue, they told me they couldn't do anything about it, and it would be up to the Sales Department to give a lighter to me. Okay, I guess that's how things work within the system, but wouldn't it have been much better Customer Service if the Service Department did that for me? Answer: YES.

On the second issue, the service writer seemed apathetic. He acted as if there was nothing that anyone would do about it. Sure, it is minor, but a windshield is supposed to be 100% clear, not 99.5%. I would have been open to negotiate some kind of compromise instead of a replacement of my windshield, but now, I may just ask for it. Conclusion: Act as if you care, and that you are there for the customer.

The above had me thinking that they were not going to be sympathetic to my issues. I started thinking that they would start giving me the run-around, give me some excuses, then send me on my way with nothing fixed.

On the third issue, the service writer got in my car and worked the windshield. Up, down, up, down. He saw exactly what I was talking about. But he was unsure of what to do. He called over another older service writer, or mechanic. This guy told me that it could be due to my windows being tinted.

Already thinking that they were going to give me the run-around, I called bullshit on that right away. I said that there was no way that the tint could cause that, and that I wasn't dumb enough to go for that. He immediately became angry with me and told me not to have a bad attitude and gave me some excuses as to how a tint job could affect my window.

Excuse 1. Some shops remove the window from the door and tint it.
Excuse 2. Water could have leaked into the door and affected the window motor.
Excuse 3. The door panel could have been removed and the Tinters did something to the track.

Anyone who has ever had their windows tinted knows how it's done. A little of it is placed under the INSIDE lip of the weather stripping, then laid onto the INSIDE part of the window, and then trimmed to fit the INSIDE measurements of the window.

Tell me how that process can cause excuse # 1 & 2, and even if they did # 3, and removed my door panel, how that affected the window track.

So after a little heated argument, that would have died had they learned anything from their Customer Service handbook, the last thing the older service person said to me was, "If you want me to work on your car, you need to have a better attitude."

"I" needed a better attitude? Obviously, I didn't know how privileged I was to have my car serviced by CLIPPINGER Mazda. I didn't know that there was a line of people there to have their car serviced, or that there were throngs of people in the dealership buying their cars. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with the economy, and CLIPPINGER Mazda does NOT need loyal customers.

That was it. I got back in my car and drove away. If I was in a restaurant, the waiter would have spit in my food. I wasn't going to get service here, I was going to GET serviced. But not in a good way.

Sometimes I wonder. I have had better service from service people, but mostly when I owned cars with a higher MSRP. When I owned a "cheaper" or more entry-level car, I didn't get treated as well. It must be the perceived wealth that a person has by the car they drive. And Automotive service people usually don't argue with people who buy cars with a higher MSRP. I guess if you buy a "cheap" car, and get treated that way.

If you own a Mazda and think that you might be lucky enough for them to want to work on your car, go to CLIPPINGER Mazda on Citrus Ave in West Covina just North of the San Bernadino (10) Freeway.

If you are a no good low-life with a bad attitude like me, go to Sierra Mazda in Monrovia. They won't argue with you, and they will say "Thank you." You don't need that.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Okay, so far the New Year has gotten off on the wrong foot with me. Due to my trying to be a good guy, and a mistake in the paperwork I filled out required to be this good guy, I ended up working 60 hours from 6:30 am January 1, to 6:30 pm January 3rd, 2009. And I missed out on 2 great dinners.

Let me try to explain this. It is very convoluted, so pay attention.

Here are some rules to help explain things.

1. You can trade work hours with another person on another shift, in increments of 12 hours.
2. You can be Forced to work at any time, so long as you don't end up working more than 48 hours straight. It is possible to turn down Forced overtime in certain situations.

My regular shifts were 12/30, 1/1, and 1/3. My friend on the other shift who's regular shift started on 1/2, wanted it off. He had worked 12/28-12/31, 4 days straight with a horrendous New Year's Eve, when the whole City was busy responding to the all the revelers bringing in the New Year. He asked if I would trade work days with him, his 1/2 for my 1/3.

After working the 4 days straight, he wanted 2 days off in a row to recover. But I had dinner plans for that night. Since he could not find anyone to work for him, I told him I would work half of his shift in the morning, so that he could get a good night's sleep. He would then come in and work the night shift and my morning shift, and I would come in for the night, 1/3.

That night, 1/3, was also the night one of my co-workers was having his 10-year anniversary dinner. It is a tradition in our Fire Dept that everyone pays for and cooks a dinner for the people he is working with on their 10 year increment Anniversaries. We do this also when you finish probation, get promoted, or retire.

So, I did the paperwork, but made a clerical error. I put down that I would work 12 hours for him in the morning, and instead of him working 12 hours for me in the morning, I put down 12 hours for the night half. This could have saved me, if I knew what I did.

My co-worker hurt his back while off. That put him off duty, so they had to find someone to replace him to work the night half on 1/2. No one was available or volunteered to work. The Dept had to go into the FORCED overtime mode. I was up for forced overtime. BUT, had I known I made that clerical error, and was scheduled to work the next morning, instead of the next night, I was eligible to decline being forced to work overtime. Make sense? See rule #2 above.

So there I was, thinking I was going to work 48 hour straight, get 12 hours off, and come in for 12 hours. But because of my clerical error, it turned out I had to work the morning of 1/3, turning that 48 hours to 60 hours straight. UGH!

I didn't have to work that night. They could have forced someone else to work. I could have gone home, had dinner as I planned, and come in the next day for my co-workers 10 year anniversary dinner.

The final tally in this SNAFU, was that I had to work 60 hours straight, missed my planned dinner, the 10-year dinner, got very little rest, and will be paid for only 12 hours of overtime. Yeah, I know, but if you;re going to work 60 hours, you'd hope more than 12 of that would be overtime pay.

This New Year hasn't started off for me very well. I need to pay more attention to what I do, so that I don't get put into situations that I don't want to be in.

Maybe I can have a do-over and start my New Year on Chinese New Year in February.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 A Year in Review

2008 had it's ups and downs. I can't say it was the best year I ever had, and not the worst, but I just didn't feel it last year. I do remember 2007 being much better than 2008, but I can't tell you why. Not that I don't want to, I just can't come up with a reason.

So here's a recap of some Highlights and Lowlights of 2008.


In June, I left Yelp after a bit of turmoil. I guess I could have gone out differently, with a little bit more class, but I was angry because I felt betrayed after believing that the very people who run Yelp did things that could have included being the very trolls that confounded me and my friends who had left Yelp before me. Maybe this is a highlight because Yelp seems to have gone downhill and is not the same anymore.

A year of feeling run down, and being lazy because of that. Could be health reasons. Could be age. Probably all the calls I have to respond to after Midnight, resulting in an average of 4 hours sleep on work days. Unfortunately, most were not emergencies. After 10 years working 99.9% on a Paramedic Ambulance, in the busier sections of Los Angeles, my sleep patterns are so messed up, I can't seem to get a good night's sleep anymore. Not even when I'm at home or on vacation.

People I have worked with, or know, that were too young to die. Willie Dunn was one of the nicest persons around, and had the best attitude as a Paramedic. And it's not so much his death, but the fact that I didn't get to see him before his death. Heck, I didn't even know he was ill. The last time I saw him was when he was working at his last assignment in the Valley.

An almost complete change of the people I work with. Because of promotions and transfers, I'm one of 2 out of 10 still left on my shift. It's a whole new crew and I've got to get used to them.

I gained a few pounds, and now weigh 205. I think I'm anywhere between 10-20 pounds overweight. I have to get out of this sleepy/lazy spell and workout again.


I became a Landlord to some very good people. Everything is working out fine, so far. They haven't found the dead bodies I buried in the backyard.

I was able to buy some investment property. Hopefully it too will soon be rented out. If you ever see me on TV being arrested, it's because of my being a slumlord. Oh, and um, maybe the dead bodies.

I bought a new car, though if I had waited, I probably would have gotten a better deal. But, that's just the way it goes. It's fun to drive, and gets decent mileage. And I can fit 2 or 3 dead bodies in the trunk.

Even though the US is going through some tough economic times, I feel safe and I'm sure I will have a job until I retire. Will I have a retirement fund? I hope so.

Though I am sleepy/lazy, I am in good health. No need for extra Doctor visits, or taking pills for any chronic illness, or that other problem some old guys have.

Having great friends, good friends, and friends in general. One of them finally made me some cupcakes. Thanks, I know it takes a lot of patience to know me.

And lastly, and the most important, people who say they read my blog. Thanks for faking it all this time. I guess it's like having a girlfriend who fakes her orgasms all the time. It's beats laying there all quiet. Um, er, NOT that I would know......

Let's hope 2009 is better than 2008 and has more surprises in store for all of us. Good surprises.