cleveland3We are now situated in our home for the next three days. It is in a DoubleTree Hampton on the 15th floor overlooking Lake Erie. It will be nice not having to pack for the next few days. Nice views from the 15th floor.  We spent the day at the Cleveland Zoo and Rainforest. It was an interesting time. Of course photos are attached here.  The Rainforest was pretty nice; lots of beautiful flowers and such. The Zoo was pretty good but not up to par with our hometown one in Indianapolis.

We will be spending much of the day tomorrow with some high school  friends who are giving us the royal tour of the city. They both graduated from colleges here after attending our alma mater high school in Indiana and have been living here for 30+ years. I have seen them a few time but this will be the most time we have spent together since we were classmates almost fifty years ago.

cleveland5When we left the zoo for the hotel in downtown Cleveland I punched the name of the hotel into my iPad mapping program and it set up a route for me.  Unfortunately it was the wrong location. I didn’t discover it until we were more than ten miles beyond where we needed to be. You gotta keep an eye on these gps programs :)

I am spending the evening trying to come up with a restaurant for our anniversary dinner on Saturday. Since my wife and I have such differing tastes it proves difficult.  We were going to try the Lola which is owned by the famous chef Bobby Simone but the menu wasn’t compatible with my wife’s tastes or our budget and it was already filled for the entire weekend. So I am still on looking for one.

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Tomorrow we will likely see the Cleveland Clinic along with many sites in the University Circle area. More on that tomorrow.

Youngstown3As noted in yesterday’s post we spent the day at Youngstown. It was everything I expected it to be. The Youngstown Historical Center was of course all about steel. I took about forty pictures of the exhibits and will give you a few of them here.  I didn’t realize that there were actually seven mills running here during their heydays in the 1960′s. They started shutting down after the Japanese started flooding the market with sub-cost steels in the early 1980s and Ronald Reagan didn’t do anything to stop them. As a result they disappeared very quickly along with thousands of good paying middle class jobs.

There is little there now of any of the big buildings. About all that is left is the soot they produced. Youngstown is a dirty town similar to Pittsburgh but there are signs of life with new business. But never enough to keep the blighted neighborhoods in the background.

Youngstown1When we are in areas like this we try to visit the local food establishments. I got on Yelp and found a few good ones but of the three I had chosen all were closed. One appeared to be open on weekends only. We finally did find a really nice italian delicatessen.  The help there was very patient we my wife and her picky diet.

There is another thing that surprised me about the Cleveland area and that is just how diversified it is. There are many different ethnic restaurants and such around. But when I got to studying the exhibits in the historical center I remembered that many people throughout Europe and Russia immigrated to work in the mills.

After the historic center we had enough time to also visit the Butler Institute of American Art. It was a first-class place and totally dedicated to American artists. Homer Winslow was one of the most celebrated ones there.  Of course no photos in the museum so no pictures to show of that.

Youngstown2The temperatures continue to be in the 30s today but they say it will be in the 50s tomorrow. I certainly hope so as we plan to visit the Cleveland Zoo and particularly the rainforest area. It is supposed to be world-class.  More on that tomorrow.

Yes, we decided to visit the Cleveland Ohio area for our April vacation this year.  As expected we spent most of the day in the car. I don’t know why even after 27 years this Friday of being married I haven’t learned to lie about the time I want to leave.  I told Yvonne we need to be on the road at 9:00am so of course as usually it was about 9:30am before we left.  Why didn’t I say 8:30?

We took almost all interstate roads to get here to Macedonia Ohio. After seven hours on the road the most significant thing I can say  about our trip is that almost all the roads we took were in serious need of repair; there were bumps and potholes everywhere. I heard we are about number 18 in the world and rapidly dropping in maintaining our infrastructure and I can believe that after today. If we don’t spend some taxes on them soon they will be gravel roads again like they were 100+ years ago.

Tomorrow we will be visiting a historical center in Youngstown Ohio.  For those kids out there Youngstown was famous for its steel mills in the 1960s. About the only thing still there are the skeletons and history places.  I have never visited this area of Ohio before so I didn’t see it in its glory but I do remember hearing about the Cuyhoga River catching on fire in the last 60s.  That proved to be the turning point for our finally seriously attacking air and water pollution in this country. We will be going over that river tomorrow. I’m sure it will looking nothing like what it did back then.  I wonder what similar event will finally trigger our seriousness toward global warming?

I can’t believe the difference between today and a year ago when we were on the road. Last year it was in the 70s and 80s and farmers were out in groves plowing and disking.  Today in never got out of the 30s.

We will spend a couple of days around the outskirts of the city and then move into our fancy hotel in the downtown area for our anniversary weekend. I hear the Cleveland Zoo has a rather elaborate rainforest area. We are hoping to see that maybe on Thursday.   More on that in tomorrow’s post.

On The Road Again….

April 1, 2013

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on the roadStarting tomorrow we will finally be on the road again. These last six months seemed longer than most. Cabin fever was really getting me down.  I know several of you really enjoy my “On the road reports”. I thought about not doing them this time and instead taking a hiatus from blogging but I realized that I really do enjoy writing the reports. They allow me to sit back and think about how my day was and to record things in a “Travels with Charley” format similar to what John Steinbeck did about fifty years ago.

So my daily posts will be coming out at the end of the day instead of the beginning as it usually does. In one way I am taking a step back from blogging in that I won’t even attempt to do any aside posts in the afternoons as I have in the past.

See you tomorrow evening with the first report of a week-long trip.  I will leave it a mystery as to where we are headed this trip for the first post tomorrow. I don’t think anyone could guess where we are going.  Since these “on the road” reports are pretty much posted as they are written I hope you will excuse me in advance for the typos and such.

Warren Elizabeth“Most big corporations trade well above book value,” Warren said, referring to the measure of a company’s assets minus liabilities. “But many of the Wall Street banks right now are trading below book value. And I can only think of two reasons why that would be so. One would be because nobody believes that the banks’ books are honest, or the second would be that no one believes that the banks are really manageable.”

Warren’s comment on bank accounting came after she repeatedly — and apparently rhetorically — asked a panel of top regulators to cite the last time they had hauled a big Wall Street bank into court rather than settled. There were mostly halting responses and promises to get back to Warren with more information at a later time.

That question — why there has not been more accountability for top bankers in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown — taps into a deep vein of public anger on both the left and right. And it is Warren’s most potent political weapon.

Source: Elizabeth Warren strikes fear into Wall Street – Ben White – POLITICO.com.

I don’t think I am the only person who is shouting hooray for Elizabeth Warren, the new senator from Massachusetts. Ms. Warren is a former Harvard Law Professor who is currently taking the banking sector by storm or maybe I should say tornado. She is striking fear in the banking sector of both the big bank CEOs and the regulators. It is about time someone struck back for the people.

When the financial sector did an almost meltdown in the last year of the Bush administration there was rage throughout the country. Especially when the government had to fork over billions of bucks to keep them afloat. It seemed the “too big to fail” tag put on them by both the Bush and later the Obama administrations varnished over the severe faults found in the banking sector.  No one was prosecuted or otherwise punished for the gross risks they took in the pursuit of profits or for the regulators who were derelict in their duties in allowing them to do so.

People screamed about the “too big to fail” mantra for a few months and then  our government seemed to move on to the next  disaster without really addressing this one. Within a year the CEOs and upper management of the big banks were back at the trough getting their million dollar bonuses. It was not until this Harvard law professor went after them that anyone seemed to notice.

I loved the way Senator Warren chastised the regulators who were supposed to protect the taxpayers  for not doing their jobs either before or after the meltdown.  When she asked them how many Wall Street banks were prosecuted in court they were too ashamed, or maybe a better word was embarrassed, to say that none were; they settled all the matters out of court with usually a slip on the wrist. To me and I hope many of you, I don’t see any difference between what these guys did and a guy who goes into a local branch and robs it. That guy is probably behind bars for the next twenty years  while all the bankers are back to doing almost the same things they were before.

Here is to you Senator Warren. Keep up the attacks. I hope you can land some of these guys in jail. That would be the only way that future bankers would learn that actions have consequences and those consequences are jail time for them.

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You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi

For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead… Thomas Jefferson

Remember, we learn nothing by speaking. St. Francis of Asissi

I thought I would pull up three inspirational quotes from some of my heroes for this inspiration Sunday.

Gandhi was a man of simplicity. He lived his life with very few luxuries. But his words were full of riches. We can’t just complain about something in life. Doing only that is a worthless task. Instead of complaining work to find a solution.

Thomas Jefferson left a huge legacy of writing for us to learn from. He spent his life as a seeker of truth. He questioned everything. Like me, that got him in trouble with some.

I bring out a quote from St. Francis of Asissi in honor of the new pope.  Even though I am no longer a Catholic I wish him the best of successes.

Favorite Barn Picture….

March 30, 2013

Barn Picture FavoriteOctober 2009 — This is one of my favorite barn pictures and I have over a thousand of them. It was taken in central Wisconsin

Feeding the Cynicism….

March 29, 2013

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I have been thinking about all the partisanship and our legislative process lately.  We seem to be in a gridlocked pattern that is almost impossible to break. Washington is completely out of step with the rest of the country.  Poll after pole tells us that we the people want them to get off their butts and do something.

Doing nothing in the U.S. Senate feeds the cynicism in the country which enhances the Republican view that government can’t do anything right. The filibuster is the latest major tool used  to accomplish that task. All it takes now it for the representatives of about 10% of the U.S. population to shut down all activity in the legislative branch.

Congress used to work 45 weeks a year in the 1970s. They now are only in session for about 32 weeks. Last year set numerous records as being the least productive senate in our history. Only 2.5% of the bills submitted were even acted upon. When I think about this I get upset.  There are so many things that need done. But then again maybe doing nothing is what is right for these times.  We need to move both of our political parties back to the center. What it will take to do that is anybody’s guess.

Source: Are you getting overcharged by your hospital? Time to become a Smart patient | VentureBeat.

Time Cover  MedicalIf you’re a patient represented by Medicare or Medicaid, you’re well served because these programs have significant market muscle: They negotiate prices below what it costs to treat patients. …..

With few exceptions, private insurers tend to be relatively weak when bargaining with hospitals, so that hospitals can extract from them prices substantially in excess of the full cost of treating privately insured patients, with profit margins sometimes in excess of 20 percent.

Finally, uninsured patients — also called “self-pay” patients — have effectively no market power at all vis-à-vis hospitals, especially when they are seriously ill and in acute need of care. Therefore, in principle, they can be charged the highly inflated list prices in the hospitals’ chargemasters, an industry term for the large list of all charges for services and materials. These prices tend to be more than twice as high as those paid by private insurers.

A fellow blogger clued me in on this report about why our medical bills are so high. I now have an electronic copy of this Time issue and plan to do several posts on it in the coming weeks.  We have a major problem with out present healthcare system. We are currently spending twice as much as any other country in the world on our healthcare and actually more unhealthy and dying earlier than most.

It seems that most in Washington, especially the conservatives, want to solve our problem by denying care to those who can’t afford to pay the full bills. They want to reduce coverage for those on Medicare and Medicaid and want to repeal Obamacare; they say that will fix our problems.  That and suggesting that people die early if possible. The Time article above shows us a very different scenario of the causes for our exorbitant spending.

I certainly hope that the results of this study are taken to heart by our legislatures. But since the article basically puts much of the blame on our hospitals and caregivers I doubt it will get much response from them.  The medical lobbies in this country are among the strongest around; they spend millions every year to keep these sort of reports in the background of life.

The quote above is the crux of the problems that are further explained in the article.  The guy that can afford it the least is the one to bear the brunt of hospital overcharges as they have no market power. While Medicare and Medicaid patients are “well served” as the quote says there are still many ways to reduce costs even further. The most obvious one that the Republicans in Washington so object to is the ability of that system to bargain with the drug manufacturers for reduced rates. That seems a no-brainer to me. It would reduce costs in those systems by several billion dollars every year.  It is indeed a low hanging fruit in healthcare containment that has been left untouched because of lobbying power.

Somehow or another we need to convince our lawmakers and regulators to start looking at cost containment instead of service denial.  I will be posting several more times about what this article found on “why medical bills are killing us”. I hope you will be as astounded by the facts as I am and possibly spurred to some sort of action.

About Gerrymandering….

March 28, 2013

Banner - Aside 2Source: Republicans Win Congress as Democrats Get Most Votes – Bloomberg.

gerrymanderingThe 2010 elections, in which Republicans won the House majority and gained more than 700 state legislative seats across the nation, gave the party the upper-hand in the process of redistricting, the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional seats. The advantage helped them design safer partisan districts and maintain their House majority in 2012 — even as they lost the presidential race by about 5 million votes. Also nationwide, Democratic House candidates combined to win about 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Gerrymandering which is what is described by the article above is something that subverts our democratic process to such a degree to jeopardize our country similarly to what the filibuster has done to the Senate. I know gerrymandering totally takes place at the State level and is endemic of almost all fifty States by the political party in power.  Instead of eliminating the Civil Rights bill as the SCOTUS is likely to do they should be enlarging it to cover gerrymandering.  But since the Supreme court seems to have a deaf ear, like they do so many other things now, on this issue that is unlikely to happen.