Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Low-cost insurer leaves bills and a bitter taste - The Boston Globe: Reading this about MEGA, I can't shake the refrain from a '60s folk song, now running through my head: "When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?" An excerpt--

"They are insured by Mid-West National Life Insurance Co. of Tennessee , whose low-cost health insurance plans have generated similar complaints from other consumers. Mid-West National Life and a sister corporation, MEGA Life and Health Insurance Co. , are subsidiaries of HealthMarkets , a for-profit national company based in Texas.
The companies provide health insurance to only about 30,000 Massachusetts residents, but that number might grow. Some state officials say MEGA Life and other insurers that offer low-cost policies to small businesses could play a role in the state's attempt to expand healthcare coverage to all residents. The reform law requires all Massachusetts residents to purchase insurance.
Last week, MEGA Life was sued by Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly's office, which alleges the company used deceptive marketing, failed to cover mandated benefits, and improperly denied patient claims. Also, MEGA Life and Mid-West are the subject of a multi state examination by insurance commissioners, as well as the focus of a separate examination by the Massachusetts Division of Insurance ."

extracting public opinion, not forming it

What Do Women Want? Just Ask - New York Times: There's a huge change going on in the way we interact and transact all sorts of business. This article talks about extracting opinions in a very efficient way. This is part and parcel of the type of dynamic we have in the blogoshpere (is it one "g" or two?) and in enterprises like MTB. Here's an excerpt--
"The overhaul began at a real estate conference in 2003, when Shane Wenzel, the builder’s namesake and its head of sales and marketing, heard a speech about the tremendous buying power of women. That moment, Mr. Wenzel recalled, was an “epiphany.” He set up small “listening groups” of women to tap into the needs of people who actually lived in his company’s homes. What Mr. Wenzel heard wasn’t pretty. “The ladies never held back once,” he said. “They were brutally honest.”"

Saturday, October 28, 2006

US seeks pension in fraud case

US seeks pension in fraud case - The Boston Globe tells us a story here about possible recapture of the pension of a government employee who took money from the public, from "we the people." Could this be the start of a trend of exacting restitution?

Friday, October 27, 2006

I need help with something really scary: My Issue 3 Costume

I have to figure out how to dress up as something REALLY SCARY, and I need your help, gentle readers.

Tonight, Gloria and I have to attend a Halloween costume party over at Dennis' old haunted library at 55th and Broadway, and I woke up just now with a costume identity crisis. Yesterday, I did an informal poll of everybody I talked to, asking them what's the scariest thing out there this year, and the answer was a standard "Issue 3." So, my problem is, how do I dress up as Issue 3?

Should I be a tired old whore, all tricked out in my pathetic best, trolling for dollars?

How do I dress tonight to drive home the point that I'm not really what I would like to seem to be?

Anyway, I'm "sitting here wondering what dress to wear" (what song is that?) and putting my costume together all day today, and I need your help. I implore you, I beseech you, tell me how to dress. I have very little experience with this sort of thing. If need be, contribute to the cause--you can drop pieces of whore suits off at the Tower Press Building, suite 109, all day. If nobody's there, just leave the tawdry things outside the door with a note. I will return all items that people want returned. I will then wear all that I can wear to the party tonight, and bring along what I can't so others can play scary old whore dress-up, too. To help you gauge things, I'm probably about Jane Campbell's size, but with nicer legs and a bigger chest (46-48").

So, leave your comments here, leave the old-whore get-up gear at suite 109. Each contributor to my outrageous outfit will have a free ticket waiting at the door of the old library Halloween party at 6 PM tonight (catered by Massimo's, by the way). The contributor of the most outrageous piece gets the last dance (last dance, not lap dance, silly).

Is this in bad taste? Surely. But what is Issue 3? Please, be offended. I'll even strap something on to show what Issue 3 really intends to do to Ohio. Think of Aubrey Beardsley's Lysistrata illustrations. Take it from there.

Wanna see something really scary? Help me today. Be there tonight.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

There's an attitude going around. So sue us.

We’re Google. So Sue Us. - New York Times: Interesting stuff; pertinent to what's afoot in NEO, and elsewhere. Read the whole thing--here's the lead-in--

"As Google has grown into the world’s most popular search engine and, arguably, the most powerful Internet company, it has become entangled in scores of lawsuits touching on a wide range of legal questions, including copyright violation, trademark infringement and its method of ranking Web sites.
Any company that is large and successful is going to attract lawsuits, and Google’s deep pockets make it an especially big target. But as it rushes to create innovative new services, Google sometimes operates in a way that almost seems to invite legal scrutiny. "

Monday, October 16, 2006

the PD: in the advance party

Learn and Earn: Yes--This is a disappointing endorsement, but not unexpected--I can pretty much look forward to being let down by our one local newspaper.

I always thought the proliferation of whores and the underground economy came about after the honky-tonks were in place, but apparently the editors of THE PLAIN DEALER (time for a name change?) and the members of The Greater Cleveland Partnership are in the advance party.

They've already sold themselves, and now they want to sell you out, too, and put your kids and grandkids to work for them in the underground economy, where all the real money goes to only 9 entities, and the state, and they want to change your constitution to do it. They think we're really dumb and hard up and will jump at anything to bail ourselves out. They've helped put us in the position we are today, and now they are poised to enslave us forever, offering a pittance to educate only a few of our kids.

This whole situation is shameful. Read the proposed amendment itself. Vote your conscience.

This gangsterism forcing gambling into our economy will do untold permanent harm to our state. If it passes, the poor get poorer, the middle class get poorer, and only 9 entities and the state get any positive long-term economic benefit at all.

armchair voting

I just voted yesterday, Sunday, by absentee ballot, and I do believe this is the wave of the future. If everybody likes the convenience as much as I do, standard polling places should be a thing of the past within the space of a few election cycles.

I was able to ponder my decisions without pressure--I had to go nowhere in particular and nobody was waiting behind me in line--and I was even able to leave a few choices blank and double back on them after I conferred with my wife. We're tired of canceling each other's vote needlessly. On a few issues, we tried together to make sense of the verbiage of the issue. Be advised and forewarned that the two smoking issues are confusing, and one is a full-blown amendment.

I was also able to savor voting for my favorites--it just felt good to be taking the time to completely fill in the oval space with my ballpoint pen, and it had a salutary effect much like coloring. I love armchair voting.

Friday, October 13, 2006

“Invest in Ohio, We Don’t Have Gambling”

Crain's Cleveland Business: Here's a great idea, brought to you in an odd way by Joe Roman of the GCP (Greater Cleveland Partnership, which has not yet solicited my membership):

"“Invest in Ohio, We Don’t Have Gambling”

Being a clean place to live adds value. Having the honky-tonks across the border keeps our state wholesome.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Shazam, Bambi!

Google's biggest deal yet could be its riskiest -- and smartest - MarketWatch--Today, Bambi Francisco is the purveyor of good news, about GoogToob, or GugTube, or GoogTube, as she would have it.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

shameless self-promotion?

Hincapie-Bianchi-Dasani elite cycling team---- Geri Mewett is our son-in-law, and we are quite proud of him. We also think a lot of his cycling career. This is a new website for his team, so we're sharing it while it's under construction.

if I ran the city...the series, #2: midnight baseball

Three weeks ago, I began the series about what would happen if I ran the city, or the county, or the state. As with most city things, it's taken a long while to follow through with a second effort, but, what the heck, at least from me, you see a second effort. Today, I address the curious pastime of "midnight baseball."

Do you remember the hoopla over that benighted idea of Mike White's, the midnight basketball program? That's the program that was designed to keep the young people ages 18-25 off the streets at night, but which also had the effect of keeping them off the streets at 5 and 6 in the morning, when other people were getting up and going to jobs, or getting out looking for jobs. Well, the enterprising yoot (youth) of our neighborhood have done Mike one better with the concept of midnight baseball, and it seems to be picking up in popularity, from all I can see.

It's an interesting concept. The yoot merely roam the streets with baseball bats, looking aggressive, wearing their game faces, and see what all happens. I guess they're looking for some sort of pickup game, or something, and I don't recognize them as being from our neighborhood, so they must be the visiting team. What I can't figure out is what these enterprising yoot are going to do once they find a game, because none of them ever has a ball or a mitt, but maybe their other equipment is lurking somewhere in those baggy pants.

Anyway, if I ran the city, I would make sure these yoot had their balls or mitts in plain sight when they were cruising looking for a midnight baseball game. If these accoutrements weren't in plain sight, I would instruct my police to stop them and make sure their collective pants were loaded with enough equipment to last 9 innings and field a full two teams--police are always great for supporting yoot sports events. Even if they did have their game balls on display, sort of like they do their boxer shorts, I would have the police stop them and find out when and where the game was, so we could all come out of our houses again and begin walking our dogs again over to the midnight baseball field, where we would watch our yoot do something intrinsically American and sportsmanlike and constructive, and root, root, root for the home team, our own little home boys. I still don't know how they're going to round the bases without getting all tangled up in those pants, and most of their hats are too big to make it with them all the way down the first base line, but maybe they know something about wearing these new clothes that I don't.

We had about 80 yoot up the street here on Denison near Fulton last night and early this morning, and we really as a community have to get over to them and give them some special coaching. They're confused. They don't know the difference between midnight baseball and midnight track. Some of them must have thought they were at a track meet, because I heard their starter guns go off a good many times, and there must have been some false starts, because some of the reports of the starter pistols were really close together. The police coaches from the Second District came over to make sure they didn't have so many false starts, but then the police coaches left and the false starts cranked up again soon after. Perhaps they're uncoachable. I can't really say too much more, because none of the kids were from around here, and I don't know them. Also, they need to learn how to stay in their lanes, and how to point the starter pistols in the air and not at each other.

Another thing--I wonder where their parents were, and whether the kids weren't so tired they couldn't get up for church this morning. And where are all the priests and ministers and social workers when you need them? Seems like they preach and evangelize and prescribe but then go home at 5 every day and get a paycheck, too, while the yoot just seem to run around without direction, all confused, and we have to use the public dollar to get the police coaches to intervene. The clergy and the social workers should have been out helping clear the streets last night, so that the wayward yoot could get to church today.

So, if I ran the governments, my social workers would live in the middle of the people they ministered to, so they could take care of minor confusions 24 hours a day, my police-coaches would be instructed to stop and check confused yoot to make sure they had all the proper sports equipment for the big pickup game and to find out the ever-changing game schedule, and I would gradually change the midnight baseball and midnight basketball and nocturnal track schedules to make sure everybody would be able to get a good night's rest and get up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work at 5 AM the next day, except on Saturday, when I would make sure they could make it to sunrise services.

I would do this all up close and personal, and I'd get to know each and every one of them. They are part of our community, they are a big part of our future, and we must become a big part of theirs--24 hours a day. This is no longer a situation where everybody goes home at 5 and considers the job done. Somebody has to be there in the neighborhoods to set the example, perpetually. That's what a healthy community's all about--integration of all levels, not separation by economic class.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

T. J. and Alvin reframe the dialogue

Tribune-Chronicle: The Land of Cleves should listen to what's coming out of the Town of the Young, on The T.J. and Alvin Show. I figured I'd couch it in a cartoon format since this is Saturday morning, and that's what Saturdays are for--or used to be, anyway. We didn't call it "Saturday," in our house, we called it "Cartoon Day." But back to reality--

"Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles, said the choice belongs to its residents, and an answer could lie in lengthening the school year.

‘‘We can say the global economy hurts us — and it has hurt us — but if we act like victims, we’ll be abused like victims,’’ he said in a passionate speech at the Chamber’s 15th annual Mahoning Valley Growth Awards breakfast at the Holiday Inn Metroplex in Liberty.

The key, he said, can be found in how well the area innovates and educates, not in pointing fingers or setting up huge government bureaucracies that follow 20th century thinking.

He pointed out that Korean children attend school 220 days in a year, while the Ohio school year is 40 days shorter. The difference amounts to two and two-thirds additional Ohio school years over the 12 years a state resident is in school.

‘‘A hundred and eighty days puts us at a disadvantage in the global market,’’ he said. ‘‘Let the discussion start here.’’

The second-term congressman said he recently met with prominent ‘‘futurist’’ author Alvin Toffler to discuss Toffler’s latest book, ‘‘Revolutionary Wealth,’’ which studies new global economic trends.

Ryan, whose Mahoning Valley and Akron district has been hard hit with job losses in the ‘‘old economy’’ manufacturing, said Toffler met him for an hour in Ryan’s office. He then canceled meetings to talk another 1 1/2 hours.

Toffler’s message was government and others have to change their views on the economy, Ryan said.

‘‘We approach it from the industrial age. Our government is built for bureaucracies — labor laws, taxes,’’ he said. ‘‘We can be a place where people all over the world look to see best practices, where the next Bill Gates is from.’’"

Old Grandma Hardcore

Old Grandma Hardcore--I just discovered this local blog today, when it popped up in the sidebar of BFD. Timothy St. Hilaire is hilarious, but I guess that might go with the territory of having the name he does. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Upcoming.org: Midtown Brews/i-Open Networking at Webtego (Thursday, October 5, 2006)

Upcoming.org: Midtown Brews/i-Open Networking at Webtego (Thursday, October 5, 2006)--I'm planning on being at this one as part of the Meet.The.Bloggers* contingent, or fan club. You are all invited. In the past, I've found these I-Open events quite valuable and productive. It's a good crowd.

When: Thursday, October 5, 2006, 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Webtego, 2530 Superior Avenue, Suite 600, Cleveland, Ohio 44114
Description: On Wednesday, October 5, Meet.The.Bloggers* will meet the Midtown Brews at Webtego. During the event, the MTB team will provide a brief overview of how we provide Ohio with informed citizen journalism. After that, the floor will be open for discussion.The unique event asks just one thing from you: bring a sample of your favorite brew with you.Midtown Brews is a service of I-Open.Parking is available behind the building. Use the elevator on the west side of the loading dock to enter the building.

note the second finding, and be about as happy as you make up your mind to be

Old but Not Frail: A Matter of Heart and Head - New York Times: The article makes some good points--boomers are pondering how to stay productive. Read the whole thing. There's a "frailty factor" chart, too.

"Now, though, scientists are surprised to find that, in many cases, a single factor — undetected cardiovascular disease — is often a major reason people become frail. They may not have classic symptoms like a heart attack or chest pains or a stroke. But cardiovascular disease may have partly blocked blood vessels in the brain, the legs, the kidneys or the heart. Those obstructions, in turn, can result in exhaustion or mental confusion or weakness or a slow walking pace.
Investigators say that there is a ray of hope in the finding — if cardiovascular disease is central to many of the symptoms of old age, it should be possible to slow or delay or even prevent many of these changes by treating the medical condition.
A second finding is just as surprising to skeptical scientists because it seemed to many like a wrongheaded cliché — you’re only as old as you think you are. Rigorous studies are now showing that seeing, or hearing, gloomy nostrums about what it is like to be old can make people walk more slowly, hear and remember less well, and even affect their cardiovascular systems. Positive images of aging have the opposite effects. The constant message that old people are expected to be slow and weak and forgetful is not a reason for the full-blown frailty syndrome. But it may help push people along that path."

Dayton has the weirdest news...

Police: Man threatens to shoot wife with an arrow--I subscribe to the Dayton DAILY NEWS morning email, and it might be merely the way they write it up, but Dayton seems to have just the weirdest news. Or maybe it's something in the water.

Subscribe, find out what's going on downstate, begin to feel more normal, relatively.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Breuer office tower--another obligatory public hearing

cleveland.com: Weblogs: "The Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects will hold a free public forum on Thursday, Oct. 26, for a discussion on whether a downtown Cleveland office tower designed by the famous Modernist architect Marcel Breuer ought to be razed or renovated."

I don't know if there are any other city or county governments out there that are so wasteful. Here's another hearing we need to spend our time attending because our elected officials don't manage too well. Wasting this asset makes us look sort of foolish, again. Why do we let them embarrass us? Why do we let them compromise basic principles of thrift, conservation and heritage? A third-world country on a spending binge is the only correlation I can make to our Cuyahoga County management.

I think another issue we need to bring up is the existing County Administration Building, and how we spent extra for it when we built it so that it would be expandable. Why haven't we heard anything about the fact that it can have extra floors and banks of elevators added, as was planned when it was designed?

Yet another issue is why the county government is expanding into growth-and-acquisition mode when everything else is contracting.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Public Meeting for Real--and really costly, too

Gloria Ferris » Blog Archive » A Public Meeting for Real--Gloria's been working for the past week on compelling transparency and accountability from our public employees on the issue of the Fulton Road Bridge restoration, which has now turned into the Fulton Road Bridge demolition, after our public employees systematically wasted the public asset.

On this Fulton Road Bridge thing, Gloria and I combined have over 100 hours invested, documented. If we billed out at only $10 an hour, which we don't, this would be a considerable chunk of change. If we worked only 40 hours a week, which we don't, this would be 2.5 work-weeks. That's what a lot of people get for a vacation allowance, in a regular job. We're self-employed. We haven't had 2 weeks of vacation since the 1980s.

These 100 hours do not include time we've spent questioning the quite-questionable demolition plans for Wirth House/Art House, trying to discern the actual facts and divine the processes on the Gillotta Building and that bridge near it, working to hold the city accountable in the Ladder 42 public-safety charade, calling the police on the drug boys, and otherwise trying to protect our lifestyle, our property, and our neighbors.

It's really expensive to live in Cleveland--there's lost time, lost income, and the cost of lost opportunity--suburbanites staying away in droves because they're afraid to set foot within the city limits or to get off the freeways. We who would continue to live here, pretending to be cosmopolitan in the middle of an emerging third-world country, keeping a stiff upper lip until help shows up, need to start talking among ourselves about the true cost of ownership here, and who's been eating our lunch.

Monday, October 02, 2006

eradicating debt

Curing the Debt Addiction - New York Times:
"Mr. Paulson recently told reporters that the nation’s deficit in trade and other international transactions — on track this year to reach $800 billion, or nearly 7 percent of the economy — is actually a sign of strength. America has kept the world prosperous, he said, by buying global goods.
Come again? America’s borrow-and-spend ways have indeed juiced the global economy. But the resulting indebtedness makes the country vulnerable to the protectionism Mr. Paulson wants to avoid, as well as to broader economic disarray. "

We need to start talking and thinking about these issues--read the whole piece. Debt reduction is a first step towards economic health. Debt eradication and building equity confer a degree of immunity for what's to come. Does anybody know the stories of Ben Stefanski in Cleveland and John Galbreath in Columbus during the last Great Depression?

more on the banks as bad guys

Fastow a Key for Plaintiffs in Bank Suits - New York Times: "Mr. Fastow, Enron’s former chief financial officer, was sentenced last week to six years in jail for stealing from Enron and devising schemes to deceive investors about the energy company’s true financial condition. In his last weeks of freedom, he spent long days giving plaintiffs’ lawyers his account of the role that banks played in helping Enron disguise how much debt and how little cash it had.
Lawyers have already won settlements for $7.3 billion of the $40 billion investors claim they lost in Enron’s collapse. Most of that money has come from banks, like J. P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Seven other banks have not settled."

It's all starting to shake out, about how the banks and their loss of principle (there may be a pun there) may be the root cause of a lot of our society's current problems. Our friend Callahan on the next street is coming at the bank problem from a different angle, with the help of Becky Gaylord.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

where's Sherrod?

Pamela Taylor and Eames Yates - New York Times: "“Pam knows everyone — the superwealthy, all the inner circles,” said Sherrod Brown, a guest. “She could have had any man she wanted. And she has chosen to spend her life with someone who makes her laugh.”"

I got down to the end of this really cool wedding story and found Brown. Somehow, it reminded me of the sort of "aha" that goes with a Where's Waldo? epiphany, but that's just simple old cross-wired me.

HUGE NYT article featuring Wild Bill O'Neill

Campaign Cash Mirrors a High Court’s Rulings - New York Times: "...Judge William O’Neill, is making contributions an issue.
“We have to stop selling seats on the Ohio Supreme Court like we sell seats on the New York Stock Exchange,” said Judge O’Neill, a Democrat on the 11th District Court of Appeals in Warren, in northeast Ohio. He says he will not accept contributions."

This article is huge in many ways--it's long, it's vitally important to the future of Ohio, and it features a friend of ours who participated in the MTB process this past Bastille Day. After you've pored over the NY Times, take a little more time to get to know Wild Bill through the podcast. He's a fascinating guy, and we're glad to see he's having an impact. It's extremely gratifying. It makes it all worthwhile.