Author: Robbie

From Room 112

Someone I’m very close to, who’s my elder by a generation and then some, had a stroke a couple of weeks ago. The posts here on the site have been fewer and further between as some things got sorted out and others remain unresolved, and temporarily there’s a little less wiseass in this wiseguy.

Observations and understandings arrive unexpectedly and in a downright disorderly manner:

1. She’s one of the lucky ones, if there’s such a thing among stroke victims. She’s Medicared up with a good supplemental plan and an ace internist who’s well liked by the staff at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious hospitals. I guess if things are unfair but they’re going your way there are times to accept your good fortune in a bad situation without protest. This seemed to be one of those times. I spent 12 hours the day of the stroke periodically looking through a window out to the waiting room, which was filled with people looking for acknowledgement, a hopeful prelude to treatment. She, however, was ushered right in, and had a pretty comfortable private room within the interior section of the ER while tests were administered. CAT scans, MRI’s , blood tests; if it helped, she had ‘em.

Talking about every American having health care because they can find their way to an ER is a posture that would be shameful and ignorant coming from a thick-headed redneck. From the President of the United States, who muttered words to that effect a few months ago, it’s whatever’s beyond shameful and ignorant. If I was in Kannon mode, I’d follow that with something like “big surprise there”, but I’m not in Kannon mode, so I won’t.

2. Don’t get sick on a Saturday. Even in the rarefied environ she’s in now, an unresponsive hand which turned out to be a muscle cramp of sorts from the week’s rehab work, but which could have been stroke related, took 4 hours to be assessed by one of the few residents on the premises that day. I think a decision to go into high end medicine and reap what are still the substantial and relatively reliable rewards from that profession should also come with a commitment to foresake the conventional weekend on a regular basis. A virus, a cancer, and a blocked artery don’t know or care what day it is. A specialist shouldn’t either.

3. About a decade ago, she was in the same facility recovering from a hairline fracture of the pelvic bone. For older people a break like this can be the beginning of the end, in terms of both mobility and spirit. But the insurance company and Medicare reps saw the big picture and took the high road, which both allowed her to recover fully and not bother the gatekeepers again until now. They did right, and saved some coin by not being penny wise and pound foolish. As the social worker explained to me, the times they’ve been a-changin’, so tomorrow’s the first day of the Battle of the Band-Aids. The experts on the team present their reco’s , which are going to be firmly in favor of extending her stay in order to give her a shot at returning to independence, and then the government and insurance types consult their indecipherable rule book and pass down their verdict. The image of the recently deceased Mr. Heston receiving commandments atop a Hollywood mountain comes to mind. He received and accepted the dictums that came from above. I may not.

4 . Life is going to be inexorably different. Spirits have waned and then, hopefully, will bounce back, even if the body doesn’t completely follow. Potatoes can be baked and grandkids can be welcomed from a walker and a wheelchair.

Good luck one and all.

Putin Has Gas; Uses It

Ukraine and Georgia (the one in Eastern Europe, you silly American) were on track for membership in NATO. Ukraine lies on a portion of Russia’s western border. Too close for Vlad’s comfort. Clearly word came down to the European heads of state that the pipelines carrying Russian natural gas westward to France, Germany, and the rest of industrialized Europe might have a valve or two shut down if NATO proceeded to welcome these new comrades.

Welcome mat withdrawn.

The possession of energy and how and to whom it’s doled out have become the king and queen of the international chessboard. No greater argument can be made for a sane mad dash towards energy independence.

Post-haste and tout suite.

LK Flip Flops and Waffles, Kind Of

Let’s forget for a moment that the Fed is using taxpayer money to bail out a private investment bank, usurping the free market that’s the foundation of our economic system, admittedly a massively imperfect system but the best that large groups of humans have come up with as long as they’ve been walking the planet. Let’s also forget that the fats cats whose irresponsible risk-taking precipitated this mess may no longer be obese (witness Jimmy Cayne selling out his BS shares for 61 mil rather than the 1 billion+ they were once worth) but the cats are still plenty husky.

That’s a lot to forget. But let’s do it for a moment.

Let’s suppose that, if BS (I prefer this nickname to “Bear”, for reasons that should be obvious) folded, it would have been the first in a line of well arranged destructive dominoes. In this case, the 30 billion dollars in possibly garbage collateral that we taxpayers are holding in exchange for the money we lent JPMorgan in order to entice them to bailout/steal BS, is a roughly $100/person insurance policy against the losses that might have resulted if BS imploded and led to a financial black hole in which assets beyond imagination were swallowed up.

Looking at it this way, my $100 portion of this risk ($30 billion divided by approximately 300 million US citizens) to insure against a possible economic catastrophe doesn’t look much different than a life or home insurance policy.

Accepting this as a valid reason for what looks suspiciously like a get out of jail free card is a stretch, but I’m willing to consider it if the Fed requires the irresponsible responsible parties at BS (and they and the financial community know who they are) to be stripped of their assets to the tune of retaining nothing more than the average American has saved.

If the Fed can usurp the system like a bunch of drunken super-delegates, then it has to work both ways. Rescue the institution, but punish the evil-doers. Iran and North Korea have nothing on these guys.

Wicked Irony

A video I thought was both very funny and a bit too close to the truth was dropped on me by someone with an acute finger on America’s pulse.

A lot of my friends, and in particular those in the financial community, who normally have a wicked sense of humor, didn’t find it so funny. To each their own.

Can’t wait for Lou Dobbs to see it.

World’s Gone Wild

Money that should be used to assist unwitting victims of predatory lending is instead going, with unclear legal status, to bail out brokerage houses and the bovine blowhards that ran them. Into the ground. McCain and Hillary chortle behind closed doors as the populace is distracted by Obama’s pastor. Obama , whose foresight has been 20/20 nearly everywhere else, displays a longstanding and possibly lethal blind spot. Bush and McCain invoke the spirits of both Orwell and the naked Emperor by declaring with bully pulpit certainty that things that are undeniably evident (like, say, instability in Iraq) are in fact not there, and things nowhere to be found (like, say, gradual stabilization in Iraq) are staring us in the face.

Up is down and down is up and black is white and white is black and no one with a Doctorate in Glib writing on the front pages of the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times should convince a sane citizen otherwise. There’s a case to be made here for not paying taxes, as the government collecting them is shedding legitimacy like a snake sheds skin. It’s times like this that make me wish I had gone to law school, so I could puzzle out the constitutional grounds for refusing to fund lunacy.

K-Shot: Ben Stein In NYTimes

Even if you don’t usually curl up with the business news, Ben Stein’s article on page 6 of Sunday’s NYT business section is a good and must read. It’s the most easily digestible piece I’ve seen summarizing the current economic waters and the bottom dwellers that swim in them. And Stein’s a Republican who wrote speeches for Reagan and supported the Gipper’s economic policy.

When he nibbles on the hand that fed him for so long it’s worth paying attention.