WHAT SAY YOU?


Have you ever wondered why your antibiotic is so expensive? The answer is not as simple as it would seem. The answer is much more simple. The drug company is doing the imperative of every company in the capitalist paradigm. Making the maximum return on investment  is the paramount objective. If the company is privately or publicly owned there is no difference.

A key component of profitability is the company’s ability to have “pricing power” in the marketplace. In lay terms, can the company price its products to maximize profits per item? A key component of pricing power is the presence of or not of competition. Competition reduces pricing power; without which pricing power can be maximized. Consequently, the ability to decrease competitive risk is vital. A not often examined part of the profitability paradigm is the patent system.

Most of us know enough about patents to continue to support their continued presence and influence over our economy. Unfortunately, what we know is inadequate to make good decisions. The patent system was designed to give inventors the ability to protect their work for a finite period from theft while allowing others to see the details of a novel work. At the birth of the system it was argued that it would encourage inventors to develop on the works of others while allowing the original developer to have protection from loss of economic benefit. It can be argued that the system has worked very well. However, the current incarnation of the American patent system has drifted significantly away from the original intent.

With the only goal of modern corporations being to maximize profitability the patent system as been adjusted significantly to make it work for big business. The protected period as lengthened over the years. Various legal and technical methods have been used to extend the protected period. This time is used to maximize pricing and profits from the protected product. This is not a bad thing for the company that is benefiting. It is following the primary objective of capitalism, maximize return on investment.

For the individual that is not a shareholder the system is not as beneficial. There are two things that disadvantages the individual, she is deprived of the potential of a better product from the work of another developers improvement on the original and she is deprived of making a better return on her resources secondary to the excessive cost of the product she is buying. The lack of competition is further detrimental to the community as a whole for the same reasons. Even the company that is doing all to maintain its competitive edge by excluding others from the marketplace is losing. The company loses by the loss of the competition that would push it to bring a much improved product to the marketplace.

If the system is objectively examined there is only one conclusion, the patent system as significantly deviated from the original design and should be abolished. I would completely abolish the patent system and unleash real competition into the marketplace. What say you?

MANAGEMENT IS A CONTACT SPORT


Employers have for too long been stuck using coercive methods to get employees to complete the requires task.
These methods have in general been a failure for both employers and employees. The resentment created leads to low productivity. This low productivity as resulted in employers requiring more work for the same pay resulting in even more resentment, malaise and apathy. The foundation of the problem is in a management class that often has inadequate direct experience in the industry that they are supposed to manage. This leads to unrealistic goals being set.

The lack of coupling between the persons establishing goals and the persons required to accomplish them is road block that has not adequately been challenged.
The failure to do so is more systemic that individual. The frustration of managers in not meeting their goals is understandable but does not engender sympathy. Employees are not sympathetic because they are the ones being asked to do more with less and managers often dig in and reach for the old solutions bucket.

A meeting is called to discuss the problem and most often no solutions can be agreed on and another meeting is scheduled. Before the meeting is adjourned a subcommittee is established to discuss and report to the next meeting. The committee is often too large and composed of the persons with the least creativity. In addition the committee is often given poor instructions and is without the power required to make the changes that would be most beneficial. A fuzzy deadline is set and the problem is considered solved.

The committee reports and one of two things happens, the recommendations are ignored or the committee asks for more time.
The endless committeeing of problems is a recipe for paralysis. We all recognize the problem and further we all recognized that the endless committees is not a route to a solution, but what alternative do we have?

I do not have a better way, but I would suggest that we often know what the problem is and what should be the solution. Where we go astray is trying to accommodate the wants of the many and not their needs. Good solutions are allowed to wither to accommodate the disruptive behavior of our friends or the influential. Even worse, good solutions are not used to solve a global problem, but used to punish the disliked. Such is the influence of work place politics.

If we want to solve problems and create more efficient work places we need to remove the pettiness and the politics. The question is, how do we do that? This is where effective management is vital. The goal of leadership is to; create a work space conducive to efficiency, identify problems in the system, and support the best solutions. Unfortunately, most of the management class gets side tracked by their goals and fail to realize that their primary function is to get the best out of the talent that is available to them.

You may think the people subordinate to you should answer to you, but you are grossly mistaken. You are answerable to them. Leaders are answerable to the people they lead. It is the function of the leader to create an environment in which goals can be met. The constant attention to the petty and insignificant takes the focus away from the real problems.

Keep the focus on the tasks that you have been assigned. Keep the people under you focused on the larger picture. keep the personal life of your staff out of the discussion. Keep focus on the tasks. Employees can be like delirious patients, their behavior is erratic and will not be corrected by restraints. The only solution is frequent and directed re-orientation. It is time-consuming but needed. Management is a contact sport. Lets play.

GIVE THEM THE FACTS.


I have been thinking about where we are going as a country and I do not like the trajectory. In spite of it I think we are not lost. There is still time for a late rescue. Examining the most recent employment data both encourages and worries me. The overall number and trajectory is good, the devil is in the details. Most of the jobs created are in sectors that have been and continue to be low paying. These jobs are low skilled and some would call them dead-end. The service sector is growing and has produced more jobs than it lost during the great recession. Job creation is great, except these are not the jobs needed to create a viable middle class. These are the types of jobs that create short-term corporate profits and shareholder value.

Many pundits with their ideological blinders on have “trashed”  the report while hailing the profitability of wall street without acknowledging the interdependence present. They are correct to be worried, but they have not taken the next step to discern the reasons. It is easy to say the government of the day has not provided the incentives for the creation of high paying jobs and that maybe correct. However, where are the high skilled workers? Why are there many high skilled job vacancies? I would like to suggest that the dearth of high skilled potential employees is a result of our ambivalence to and in many sectors disdain for scientific education.

We are a country of magical thinking and low expectations. Many believe that the magician from the heavens created everything and do not encourage their children to learn the foundations of science. These same people have been elected to positions of leadership and continue to lead many into the darkness of ignorance and scientific illiteracy. Our ignorance has allowed for the export of many potential jobs to countries with much less dependence on magical thinkers.  We need to put the work in that ensures that all our children receive a myth free first world science based education.

I am hopeful for America because our young people are willing and able to take on the challenge of a more competitive world. They will deliver if we are willing to allow them access to education without the misleading influence of our pervasive mythical belief system. I do not worry about our kids, I worry about the ignorance of the adults charged with guiding them. Our children are a reflection of the education we allow them to access. Educate them well and we will all reap the rewards.

GIVE THEM THE CASH NOT THE TOY.


I have a difficult relationship with children’s toys. My difficulty maybe born from the fact that I did not get many toys as a child. At least I do not remember getting many. What I do remember is making “stuff”. I was never really good at making “stuff” but it was fun. I never felt deprived, I just did not know any other way. I do remember once asking for a plastic pickup truck. I received it and promptly took it apart. I am sure I got more than that, but I do not remember any others. What I remember to this day is the “stuff” I tried to make and the “stuff” I succeeded in making. The experience was my reward.

How to replicate that experience with my two daughters is going to be a challenge. They already have more toys that I had in my entire childhood and they continue to receive more. I hate toys not just because I consider them a waste of hard-earned resources, but because most toys are disposable objects of materialism. Most toys teach our kids to be comfortable spending money on goods that are disposable in content and quality.

The peer pressure to give our kids toys is immense and unrelenting. It is ever-present and both subtle and obnoxious. The subtle pressure is suggesting to us that not allowing our kids toys will make them stand out as different, that it will harm their self-image. This suggestion is without evidence and contrary to the facts. The challenge to all parents is to prepare our children for the full breath of experience that is adult life. How we execute that charge will determine our children’s chance of success in life.

How do we face down the pressure and give our children that running start? I would suggest that we embrace the toy giving culture. It may seem counter to what I have said so far but we can always use popular culture to our advantage if we look carefully for the diamonds in the rough. I suggest that we give toys sparingly and only items that are educational and multi-dimensional. All toys should meet these criteria; teach scientific facts, have varied uses and be challenging and reuseable.

Toys should be special treats. They should be significant and memorable. One or two memorable toys per year should complement a year filled with memorable experiences.

Go make some memories while finding those extraordinary toys.

ENJOY THE CLIMB.


It was a long arduous climb but I had gotten to the peak. The view of the valley was breathtaking. As I looked around the beauty of the valley below stood in sharp contrast to the plainness of the mountain top. The wide open expanse of green was awe-inspiring. The many hues of the expansive forest reminded me of why I loved the hike. This was a very special day. It was the challenge of my life and I had gotten to the top by mastering my fear of failure and confronted the ultimate question. Was the effort worth it? Feeling the warming of the sun and the cool air placed my challenge into perspective. The risk of my climb would have been in not taking the challenge. I am glad to had taken the climb.

We all have a challenge, will you embrace it? Will you be able to look down the valley of your life and see the beauty of the experience? Will attaining the peak be your prize or will the journey be the ultimate gift to yourself? I want the journey to be the prize. The risk of life is in not living. How we live is in our hands.

The ultimate question is, will your valley be lush and colorful or barren and gray? I want my life to be about the memories created, not the things left behind. I want to turn the tables and do the unexpected. I want always to be hungry for the next challenge. I want to be willing to take the risks since the reward is in the experience and not the contemplation. Once we get to the peak there is no next time. There is only today and yesterday. Live, for the risk in life is not taking the risks as they come.

GIVE ME ONE HOSPITAL BILL PLEASE.


A funny thing happened on my way to pay a medical bill. I have paid the same medical bill twice and as such have decided to not pay any bill until I get the second notice. So a few day ago I decided to pay the latest bill in the hospital instead of mailing a check to the billing company out-of-state. After much effort I found the correct billing office and presented my bill. I them got what I thought at first was a pleasant surprise. The clerk told me that she did not see a balance owed in the system. She repeated “You do not owe anything on this account”. I was perplexed since the bill I had in hand clearly stated that I owed a significant outstanding balance. As I left the office I began to wonder how many times this situation occurs. What would have happened if I had mailed a check to the out-of-State billing company? How many bills have I paid that were in a similar situation?

This experience has allowed me to revisit an idea that I have expressed to others in the medical community before. I would like to see the morass of medical bills be corralled and only one bill be sent to the patient. Broadly this is how I see it working:
a. all bills are processed by each provider or facility within 20 days of discharge of services,
b. all bills are presented to central biller within 30 days of discharge of patient,
c. one bill presented to patient within 60 days of discharge,
d. all patients have 30 days from receipt of bill to arrange payment.

 

IT IS OUR MORAL DUTY.


The curious nature of the American electorate once again fascinates me. The ongoing discussion of health care coverage and delivery is schizophrenic at best. The most recent pools show a population in need of health care coverage but the same group most highly skeptical of the most recent attempt to improve their ability to access coverage. Furthermore those who are most in need, and treated the most poorly by the current system are still willing to hold onto the failed system. It is unfortunate but the same the tactics developed and used by the cigarette industry to convince us that cigarettes are safe are being used to undermine the ACA. Many are against the ACA without investigating the potential benefits.

The cable talking heads have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have so muddled the facts that it seems no one has a grasp of the services that will be improved. The problem with that assumption is that it is far from being a fact. The data are there if we as consumers would only look beyond the imbeciles on cable T.V. The problem is that our attention is firmly planted on the imperfections and not the goals. We are not being true to the fundamentals of American cultural strength, the belief that we can do it if we want to. I can only suggest that the opponents do not want Americans to succeed. The success of American Corporates is not the same as the success of Americans.

The intellectual dishonesty of the talking heads and those in charge of the news media is disheartening. They have no regard for the uninsured. The consequence is that the people who need help the most have been convinced that there is no help to be had. The truth is not deceptive nor is it hidden. The ACA is good for Americans. The ACA aka Obama Care is good for American business and will be a success. Success will not be achieved overnight, but will be a long hard fight. The fight is against those who do not believe that government has any part to play in the delivery of services and those who do. The battle is against the deceitful. The battle is against the business lobby. The battle is primarily against the ignorance that parades in fine suits on 24 hour cable T.V.

Those of us objectively looking on need to not only look but need to shout down the liars and the dishonest. How do we inform those that need the information the most? I would suggest a grassroots election style campaign. We need to start by informing ourselves. Each of us needs to study the benefits and pitfalls of the law. Without in dept knowledge we cannot be effective advocates. Go advocate, it is our moral duty.

WE ARE ALL ADDICTS.


As a society we have and continue to be beset by many addictions. Some of these are more problematic than others. The essential question is what constitutes a tolerable addiction. I suggest that we have a highly immortal relationship with addicts and addiction in general. I further suggest that if we truly examine the definition of addiction we would quickly reconsider our methods. I hope you will at least consider a re-examination of our cultural stand.
The essential addiction of affluent societies is affluence itself and the indulgences that are attendant. The most problematic of which is our addiction to poor food choices. We all know what best food practice is but we have not organized our cultures to make those choices palatable or convenient.
The  road to affluence is paved by a brisk market of buyers and sellers that provides goods and services at optimal times, place and cost. The pressure to succeed in the marketplace can led to dubious choices, both from the point of view of the producer and consumer. Market pressure has not so far encouraged the easy and convenient availability of healthy choices. The problem here is that the market is about maximum profit, not healthy choices. Furthermore, the consumer does not know how to influence the availability of better options. This juxtaposition of circumstances has led to the situation we are in today.

We are indulgent to the death of us. We eat poorly and excessively. These choices are not accidental. We continue to consume excessively in spite of the consequences of obesity and poor health. This is the definition of addiction. I suggest that out most problematic addiction is to food. Let’s start addressing this addiction by closing our mouth and using our dollars more prudently.

LIVE HEALTHIER FOR LONGER.


Humans are curious creatures. We do not seem to see the conflict in our nature. We want  all the best things without putting in the required effort. We answer the hard questions with easy platitudes and self-serving mumble-jumble. The essentials are ignored for the comfortable. The danger is that those answers will and have started to create a false uncertainty. There is no uncertainty. We know what needs to be done.

Do you know what needs to be done for a healthy life? Many of us will answer no, but that is an intellectually dishonest answer. Most of us know what needs to be done but we have refused to do the heavy lifting. Furthermore we have created a society where doing the correct thing is not rewarded. Poor choices are praised and the better choices are stigmatized. The bulk of our daily routine encourages mediocrity.

A recent study has quantified the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The behaviors that define a healthy lifestyle were defined as daily exercise, low body weight, low alcohol intake, not smoking and a healthy diet. How difficult is that? We have known the necessary ingredients for a long time. Our question is, when will we adopt and internalized what we know to be correct?

OBAMACARE


There is a time and place for everything and I think it is time for us to all look in the mirror. Our government has impaled herself on her own sword. The truth is that there is only one person to blame. No, it is not the President nor is it members of congress. You and I are to blame. We are the idiots that believe the garbage spewing from the despicable talking heads on radio and TV.

The continued pretense that there is always two sides to a story belies the continued mass delusion we live under. There is not two sides to every story. The imbeciles that continue to repeat that lie are in my view the worst thing that has every happened to our country. This pretense is used to confuse and demoralize the masses. This pretense allows the well dressed liars to continue to manipulate the low information voter. We all need to stop buying what the snake oil man is selling.

The current big lie is that Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act is going to bankrupt the country. The system as we have known it was doing that already. The honest among us will acknowledge that health care inflation was already running rampant. Obamacare has nothing to do with it. The honest among us will admit that there was always a problem and that Obamacare is an attempt to solve it. The most insidious lie of this whole fiasco is the that Obamacare is proposing something new. It is not. If we were paying attention to the health care debate of the mid to late 90’s we would recognize that this is exactly what was recommended by the right-wing think tanks. But the liars among us continue to deny and obfuscate.

The level of dishonesty is mind-blowing and disgusting. The people we expect to know more continue to disappoint. The dishonest continue to lie to the low information voter and said voter continues to send dishonest representatives to Washington. The deeper problem with our country is that the majority of the population lacks the willingness to do what is necessary to be considered a ‘informed citizenry’. Help us all.