Sunday morning, caffiene driven newspaper musings

Lobster, lobster everywhere and “market price” menus 

We’re gonna need a bigger butter boat!

The lobsters are running wild off the coast of Maine.  Lobstermen are bringing to market so many of the popular crustacean that prices have dropped dramatically.  As of last week lobster – once selling for as much as $4.00 a pound – is down to $1.35 per pound.

But what is especially good for those of us in plastic bibs, toting buckets of melted butter is not necessarily good for those who sweat out the challenges of supporting a family from the dangers of Old Man Sea and the unpredictable mechanics of supply and demand.  These lobstermen find themselves working even harder to bring in the quantities needed to offset the low price, supply driven market.  It’s an inescapable cycle.

The lobstermen’s problem should be a good thing for lobster lovers at the other end of the lobster pipeline however.  The words “market price” on restaurant menus is always a cause for pause when cost-conscious diners consider dabbling in the finer culinary seafood options.  One never wants to be embarrassed by asking what the “market price” is, when the answer is likely to be “too much”.  So now would seem to be the best time to take advantage of more diner-friendly market conditions. 

At the very least, you can find out whether your chosen dining establishment really lives by the “market price” mantra or simply uses it to fleece uninformed customers.  If you get the chance to investigate, let us know what you find! 


The hidden reality of the Affordable Care Act

For a nation already experiencing physician shortages, the new healthcare law is likely to widen the gap.   The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2015 the country will be short over 62,000 doctors of those needed to provide sufficient healthcare options to its citizens.  By 2025, the estimated shortage will be 100,000 doctors, and that’s before any consideration is given to the effects of the ACA (Obamacare) will have on doctor demand.

An example is the case of California’s Inland Empire, a region that covers the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino.  The Inland Empire has grown by 42% since the turn of the century.  (2000 that is, not 1900.)  The increase of over 640,000 people comes along with a jobless rate of 11.8%! 

In view of recommendations that any given region be serviced by 60-80 primary care and 85-105 specialists for every 100,000 in population, the Inland Empire barely makes do with an average of 40 primary care physicians and 70 specialists per 100,000.  The region has a more complicated problem attracting doctors, being in such close proximity to Los Angeles and Orange County where doctors prefer to work due to the prospect of better paydays.

The real kick in the teeth for Inland Empire healthcare is the 300,000 new patients that will be seeking routine medical care when the ACA extends coverage to them in 2014. 

Normally these individuals would seek care at hospital emergency rooms, which is not the most cost-effective way to meet their needs.   And the purpose of this post is not to suggest that extending healthcare coverage to them through the ACA somehow creates a cost issue from nothing.  But it does point out another rather interesting effect.

Once healthcare coverage is extended to these individuals, they will seek the preventative, health-maintaining care they used to neglect.  Again, all good things … Any effort to see doctors when healthy and before medical problems develop will reduce the overall per capita cost of healthcare.  The question though becomes what happens to accessibility and convenience of healthcare once the shortage of physicians is exacerbated by the sudden increase in better insured patients?

As Mark D. Smith, head of the California HealthCare Foundation, suggests, “It’s going to be necessary to use the resources that we have smarter in the light of the doctor shortages.”  For those living in areas like The Inland Empire, the prospect of de facto rationed medical care has to be the real concern, as it will be anywhere doctors are in short supply already.  Longer waits for well-care doctor appointments, more trips to emergency rooms for less-than-urgent medical issues, and substantial backlogs for tests and other treatments are a very real possibility.

In the end, supply driven rationing could very well be the unavoidable consequence of the Affordable Care Act.


Mike’s lazily delicious ribs …

As I sit here writing this, I am cooking up a batch of short ribs on the barbecue.  I’m a notoriously lazy griller, but my comment cards indicate that many who have partaken are generally impressed.  As a lazy griller, I refuse to deal with the muss and fuss of charcoal.  I have not built a stone and mortar Cathedral of Grilling in my backyard.  I choose a gas Weber that’s push-button easy to use and even easier to maintain.

My ribs are slow cooked, wrapped in aluminum foil and seasoned with whatever flavorings I can find in the spice rack (as a minimum onion, pepper, garlic, oregano, and a bit of crushed red pepper).  At 400 degrees of indirect heat, it takes two hours for my ribs to be perfectly cooked …  roasted throughout without the annoyance of falling apart, yet melt-in-your-mouth juicy and fall-off-the-bone tender. 

Once the ribs are done, remove from the foil.  Place on the grill curved side down, coat the tops thoroughly, and let grill for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat by half; flip the ribs; coat the insides and grill for five minutes.  Then one more flip and re-coat for another five minutes.  If they do not turn out well-cooked and delicious, you messed up the easiest rib recipe on earth!


The Bear on the Delaware

A $1 million lawn sprinkler?

For a good chuckle read the story of the Union Fire Company in Bensalem, PA and their new $1 million boat toy, paid for by the taxpayer via the Department of Homeland Security.  It’s an interesting tale of inter-Township jealousy and pettiness, poor boatmanship and weekend showboating, officially licensed largesse and fiscal mismanagement.

But the real horror is a Homeland Security budget that allows for the disbursement of $1 billion a year that encourages pushing money out the door with little obvious investigation and even less judgement as to what’s really needed and where.  The good news is, if you lose an IED (improvised explosive device) somewhere along the Delaware River above Philadelphia, the Union Fire Company can help you find it with their $37,000 sideview sonar!


Lastly, another iteration of my most recent,  favorite discussion topic – Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law …

It’s been fun watching the Democrats in Pennsylvania throwing a fit over the new photo voter ID law.  It seems to matter not that the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the subject in its 2008 decision on Indiana’s version of the law.  They somehow think the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hold a softer view of their complaints that the law is an unreasonable burden and barrier to voting rights.  It’s telling that they are forgoing the federal USSC route, which is usually the very first route taken when it comes to alleged civil rights violations.

Their biggest weapon in trying to prove the dark underbelly of the law has been the Commonwealth’s own data relating to mismatches between voter registration records and PENNDOT driver licenses. 

Holy poll tax, Batman!  750,000 Pennsylvanians might be “disenfranchised”!!

Uh … not quite …

As I argued here earlier, the numbers cited by the Pennsylvania Department of State are seriously flawed.  And The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s own look into the numbers showed some very interesting inconsistencies.  Some of the individual cases of “disenfranchisement” were downright amusing.   Names found on the mismatch list included former Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode and his son WWG Jr., four Philadelphia Councilmen, and former Veterans Stadium drunk court judge, Seamus P. McCaffrey.

The funny part?  All of them have valid Pennsylvania driver licenses!   What’s a panicky Democrat to do?!?  Why keep on truckin’ of course!

The problem – as one can imagine when it comes to record-keeping and government – is in the details.  Seems the Commonwealth’s databases and operating systems have a real issue with the nuances of people’s names.  Apostrophes, hyphens, capitalization, and even spacing threw its PENNDOT-voter registration for a loop.  Many of the names showing as mismatched are really nothing more than the fallout of poor programming and inconsistent inputs.

But one note should make the Democrat Champions of the Disenfranchised feel a bit better.  In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate, describes information passed to her by an anonymous insider purporting to show that the data on potentially endangered voters skews no further Democrat than it does Republican, with many voters living outside both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (i.e. more likely Republican) also being affected.  But of course, Ms. Bazelon also jumps to the conclusion that this initiative was an effort to disenfranchise Democrats overwhelmingly more so than Republicans.

At least now the whole picture is finally coming out, and it supports a politically neutral law designed to facilitate a more secure vote!

6 thoughts on “Sunday morning, caffiene driven newspaper musings

  1. OK – I’ll admit I didn’t read the full text re: the Affordable Care Act above, because I wanted to rush to the comments and let you know that my husband and I received a letter from our insurance company letting us know that they owe US money and we will be receiving it via check or applied to our next month’s premium. You might have to eat your keyboard!


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