Friday, November 20, 2009

Good Morning, again. We might get some sun today. That would be real nice. My mood always perks up when the sun is shining no matter what the temps.

Kay commented on the post yesterday. In answer to her speculation about the story involving illegals--yes, most of the exploited workers were illegal and some of the ones exploiting them were also. The similar stories from Europe also involved illegal migrants from Eastern Europe forced into near slavery conditions in Italy and other Western European countries. The problem in both cases was that the systems punish the migrants harshly but don't have much impact on those who exploit the migrants. Three or four weeks ago our local news ran a story about the exploitation of children as young as five on some of the fruit farms of Michigan. State and Federal authorities are now investigating some of the largest producers. I have mentioned our economic race to the bottom before. The key to that race is price. The only way to increase a market (or market share) in an economy like ours is to price your product at a level where almost anyone can buy it. That squeezes everybody involved in the sale, transport and production. Notice I haven't said anything about quality here. Quality is only a marginal selling point. Once, some time ago, when I was in an academic history program, I read a good a lot of the 19th century apologists for slavery. The constant refrain in these writings was the need to use inhumane force to get work out of slaves. It sounds to me the same principle is working in modern 'democratic' America.

This story doesn't really surprise me. Citi is just bringing out into the open what had been beneath the surface of the credit card business for some time. The real money was not in extending what were, essentially, short term loans for a specified interest. The profits came with the fees and penalties, and the interest accrued over a long term. Some time ago I saw a news story on this topic and the person interviewed for this piece said that the industry term for those card holders that paid off their accounts each month was 'deadwood.' Be cause they did not pay interest or penalties. So, at a time when we need a more responsible approach to credit, Citi finds it more profitable to encourage the misuse of credit.
As you can tell I started this on Friday and it is now Saturday. We had yet another technology problem--this time with the cell phones. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since both are at least 5 years old. We pushed them just like we pushed the old iMacs. So we spent the afternoon looking at cell phones, choosing new cell phones and learning to use the new cell phones. That is the worst part of new technology. The nicest part was dealing with the people at the Verizon store. Once we told them what we wanted they steered us directly to the most appropriate (not the most expensive) phones. We didn't get any of the usual pressure to move into a higher price selection.

I just finished a book that might be of interest given the recent MRSA infection stories. It is Rising Plague: The Global Threat From Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal To Fight Them by Brad Spellberg, MD. I was often irritated while I read this book because the author came across as condescending. He frequently included unnecessary parenthetical remarks to explain something that didn't really need explaining, to me at least. Others may not have that problem since they may not have two degrees in biology/zoology and may not have kept up on the growing incidence of antibiotic resistance over the last few years. Most of what he had to say was no surprise and he did have some interesting stories to illustrate his points. Chapter 5 (Lack of Antibiotic Development) did surprise me. There Dr. Spellberg recounted his involvement with a committee which analyzed the leading drug companies development and research investment over the last half century. The situation can be readily summed up: as drug companies have invested ever larger amounts of money in research and development none of that money has gone toward developing new antibiotics even as the incidence of drug-resistant bacterial resistance has exploded. As the good Doctor pointed out over the last period examined in the study (which ended, I think, in 2008) only five antibiotics were under development which was about half the number designed to treat bladder hyperactivity, two less than the number to treat acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome, and only one more than the new drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. Most of the big drug companies don't even have programs to develop new antibiotics any more. This is troubling for another reason. I wonder what programs they have to develop new anti-viral drugs now that several flu strains are showing resistance to Tamiflu???

Archcrone at The Crone Speaks has posted a most sensible item concerning the new guidelines for mammographies and pap tests. Part of the problem with these new guidelines is really poor timing. There is no way they can not get tangled up in the controversy over health care reform. Another part of the problem, related to the first, is that we have a whole group of people who can only function, it seems to me, if they are fear mongering. They led the charge into Afghanistan and Iraq inflaming the fears of terrorism. Now they are leading a charge for the status quo inflaming the fears that some government bureaucrat somewhere will deny some woman somewhere needed medical care. Of course they are ignoring the fact that there are other bureaucrats in allegedly private corporations who are already on a daily basis denying needed care to some man, woman, or child somewhere. I was really pleased to see the medical expert (an MD, by the way) take those idiots to task in very certain terms. If the goal is to reform the system so that individual patients can consult their individual physicians, agree on a medical course of action and then follow through with it, what we are doing now won't get us there.

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