Category Archives: Editorial Letter Rants

Visa, I was about to be sympathetic, but then I read this…

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I want to make it clear that, although I support Wikileak’s and their mission, I in NO WAY condone attacks against anyone in their name. That is just as bad as what is being done to Wikileaks; the attackers are just as bad as the repressive organizations they hate.

Dec. 8th NYTimes Lede blog>

‘Operation Payback’ Attacks Fell Visa.com

By ROBERT MACKEY

I started reading this article with the thought “now they’ve gone too far. Is this the world we really want?”. However,  as I read further, I became more & more disturbed at actions taken by multinational corporations, such as Visa, who have targeted smaller companies they believe (or know) support Wikileaks.

Visa, now you’ve gone too far!

Once a company starts involving itself in international politics – especially in an arena where it should (theoretically) have no particular interest. After all, aren’t they the ones who want to be accepted everywhere?? Why are they now rummaging through their files  & spending time threatening businesses – who are using their service & making them money? How far does this go, and where does it stop?

Money police?

Visa & MC have set up a virtual global monopoly on money transfe r, along with eBay‘s more evil twin, PayPotty. They are throwing their collective weight around, in an attempt to shut down an organization that some governments don’t like. (OK, hate, despise, fear, etc) Who’s tail is wagging these big dogs? Or are they the tail?

Here are a few of the key paragraphs from the blog that, shall I say, pissed me off?(my bold)

The move against Visa comes after a Web services company in Iceland, DataCell.com, which has supported WikiLeaks and still hosts a Web page facilitating donations to the organization, complained that the credit card company had tried to force it to stop working for the non-profit media site… the company also hosts the Web site Wikileaks.ch.

…Mr. Sigurvinsson told Iceland’s national broadcaster RUV that “he finds Visa and MasterCard’ s request that DataCell stop serving WikiLeaks highly distasteful, asking what business two private companies have dictating terms to another private company.” He added, “It is clear that they will never close WikiLeaks except by taking the whole Internet down.

The chief executive of DataCell, Andreas Fink, explained in a statement that his company has been operating “a payment gateway so people can donate” to WikiLeaks for two months. On Tuesday, Mr. Fink said that Visa had asked DataCell to stop accepting payment details from Visa cardholders who wanted to donate money to WikiLeaks. The company declined to do so, because, Mr. Fink explained:

After discussions with our lawyers, we have decided that we can not honor such requests based on the pure simple fact of untrue and unverified accusations.

Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship and/or limitation. The right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law. Furthermore freedom of speech is recognized in European, inter-American and African regional human rights law. (US courts can’t argue with this, now that they’ve pronounced corporations “people” in terms of $ = free speech)

It is simply ridiculous to even think WikiLeaks has done anything criminal. If WikiLeaks is criminal, then CNN, and BBC, The New York Times, The Guardian, Al Jazeera and many others would have to be considered criminals too as they publish the same information. Nobody even tries to touch them though. You can still buy a New York Times subscription and pay with your credit card I guess.

On Wednesday, Mr. Fink added an update to his statement, in which he said that Visa and MasterCard had stopped processing all online payments facilitated by DataCell, affecting up to 3,000 clients, apparently to ensure that no money would make it to WikiLeaks. Mr Fink added that his company was taking “immediate legal actions to make donations possible again.”

He also wrote:

The suspension of payments towards WikiLeaks is a violation of the agreements with [Visa’s] customers. Visa users have explicitly expressed their will to send their donations to WikiLeaks and Visa is not fulfilling this wish. It will probably hurt their brand much much more to block payments towards WikiLeaks than to have them occur. Visa customers are contacting us in masses to confirm that they really donate and they are not happy about Visa rejecting them. It is obvious that Visa is under political pressure to close us down. We strongly believe a world class company such as Visa should not get involved by politics and just simply do their business where they are good at. Transferring money.  They have no problem transferring money for other businesses such as gambling sites, pornography services and the like so why a donation to a Web site which is holding up for human rights should be morally any worse than that is outside of my understanding….

This is not about the brand of Visa, this is about politics and Visa should not be involved in this.

I knew there has to be more than one reason I don’t use credit cards… besides keeping out of debt & out of their great greasy paws….


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Will the “Feds” Just Bury That Stinking Corpse?

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Has we make some progresses?  Is they gonna be smoked by Uncle Sam?

Wanna take a sucker bet?

(My insightful, snarky, childish, cynical and/or totally disillusioned & disgusted comments are in Orange. Yeah, just like this! I was thinking about using full-color photographs of drowning victims to illustrate this post, but I felt it was horrifying enough by itself – so I’m just using the usual annoying gifs  & poignant photos stolen from other internet sites….)

From the Nov 25 News & Observer:

“Feds launch probe of N.C. mental health system”:

RALEIGH — The U.S. Justice Department has opened a formal investigation into North Carolina’s struggling (Too late. It already drowned) mental non-health system, the first step in a process that could trigger a federal edict for sweeping reform. They need an exterminator ,  not a broom.

The probe is the result of a complaint filed in July by the advocacy group Disability Rights North Carolina(the heroes!!), which contends that the state is violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (DUH) for failing to provide proper housing for people with mental illness. Is there a “Someone in the state government must have a brain” act?

Nearly a decade after the state Department of Health and Human Services (oxy-morons ) closed thousands of beds, (thinking, somehow, if they close them, the nasty crazy people would go away???) in government-run psychiatric hospitals as part of a reform effort, more than 6,400 people !!!! w ith s evere mental illness are housed in adult care homes scattered across the state, living in sometimes (usually) squalid and dangerous conditions. And the rest? Under the Bridge. If they’ re lucky. Remember the Bridge?

The mental patients, their care typically (always!) paid for with taxpayer money, are often far younger than the  elderly residents with whom they are housed.  In the last two years, at least four residents with mental illness have been killed by fellow patients who had histories of severe mental illness and violence.

That’s one way to cut the budget, isn’t it, Bev?

Vicki Smith, (Our struggling Heroine of this pitiful saga) the executive director of Disability Rights, after she stopped jumping up & down from the morsel that had been thrown her way, said the federal investigation could force the state to take actions to fix the mistakes (nice word for complete & utter incompetent failure) made during North Carolina’s 2001 reform effort (reform? really? effort?), which has also resulted in people with mental illness routinely languishing for days in emergency rooms, eating nothing but graham crackers & ginger ale, because no bed in a NC psychiatric facility is available. (exists)

And these are just the adults. Don’t even get me started about the kids!!

Word of the federal investigation also comes as the state (the state, as in “state of confusion”? ” state of oblivion”?) is debating further cuts to the state’s (already non-existent) mental health system and moving to close Dorothea Dix Hospital, because they don’t need to take care of “those people”, the communities will, won’t they?.

“Now DHHS is going to have to answer a whole series of questions about why mental health reform has failed,” Smith said. “This is huge, from our point of view. Huge.” Poor deluded woman.  Bet she believes in Santa Claus & the Easter Bunny, too… But she IS our heroine, so hush!

The Justice Department informed the state of its pending investigation through a five page letter received by DHHS administrators in Raleigh on Thursday.  However, because of the low literacy rate of DHHS employees, there was a delay while the letter was translated into simpler language by Bert & Ernie, so the state department did not (could not, would not) reveal the news until it issued a three-sentence media release earlier today, hours before the start of the Thanksgiving Holiday. Cowards.

Renee McCoy, a spokeswoman (ie patsy) for the state agency , said there would be no comment beyond the media release, which said the state will “work with the Department of Justice to provide all necessary documents and information in response to the complaint.” Can you believe that’s all one sentence?

There no longer is a NC Mental Health System.

All there is left to do is clean up the bloated, stinking corpse.

WRAL also reported:

The United States Justice Department has notified North Carolina that it plans to investigate claims made in a complaint filed last summer by Disability Rights North Carolina.

The advocacy group alleges that mentally ill people are being housed in adult (demented old people who have been left there to rot) couldn’t care less homes

(building marginally meeting housing codes) that lack the qualifications (the Homes?? you mean run by, um, I was going to say “people”, but that’s not the appropriate word in this context.  I’ll just leave that to your imagination…) to care for p eople (under the age of 70 who can’t be tied into a wheelchair) with psychiatric  disabilities (including brains fried from crack, booze & fetal alcohol syndrome) ….Disability Rights claims thousands of people with mental illness do not have appropriate alternatives for care (back to that Bridge again, huh?), a situation which they say violates federal law.

There’s a law against Bridges now?

Where do I send my great big DUH?

It’s now very, very early Monday morning. Today, the press pack will be on the hunt, attempting to tree those ol’ sneaky DHHS  ‘coons.

They best be careful; lots of rabid raccoons around the area recently…

When will they eeeeeever learn?

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New update:: 12/04/2010 —- All my graphics have disappeared!!!  I suspect it has something to do with, well, I don’t have any idea what!!  I know some were hosted on a German server, so maybe it’s the Wikileaks Witch Hunt Effect….  Please be patient & read this post with the understanding that it is meant to be highly illustrated… Meanwhile, I’ll pull my hair out hunting down the graphics…. 😦

This was originally posted in October 2008. I decided to update it with an addendum & more current graphics, since it is just as relevant today as it was 2 years ago! Sigh… OK, here’s the deal.

Another mental hospital in NC has lost its federal funding. DUH!!!

This news runs right along side the article about the current gov’s wife flying around overseas   and otherwise spending money that belongs to NC taxpayers (not to mention the juicy State job she got with a outrageous salary… )

I’m a community shrink in NC. Of course I had to write a comment on that article – I kept this one brief: “I agree, codeblue. It’s not rocket science.  It’s a matter of compassion versus greed. Sad, no, despicable but true. The mentally ill, the staff at the hospitals & MH workers in the community get the shaft while the administration dances in the aisles of their airplanes and says let them eat pork. I’m sooo angry with the current administration that I, a hardened Democrat & mental health professional, voted for (AAKKKHHH!!) the Republican for Gov. The devil’s having snowball fights! We can only hope that the whirlwind of coming political changes (and the clear breeze of reason Obama represents) will drop a house on the Wicked Weasleys of the North (Carolina)…”

(((Multiple Sighs))) Alas, this debacle didn’t start this year – or last year – or even last decade. It’s the tragic consequence of a nation-wide decision peyote-chomping pot-smoking morons   made in the 1970s.  In a massive group hallucination, it was revealed to them that mentally ill people shouldn’t be in hospitals.  They should be free!  Free! Free! Free!~ (Oh sorry…)

The local communities would open wide their collective arms and embrace these poor oppressed beings, providing them with care and love and housing and doctors and medications and caseworkers and therapists…and dance ring-o-round-the -rosie  and sing happy songs. Quite a hallucination, Huh? Why did they think these people were in the hospital to begin with?

Granted, there were some who were unfairly warehoused, who really weren’t that severely ill or left in back wards.  This was NOT true for the vast majority of patients. NC was blessed with a system of state mental hospitals that were some of the most humane in the country.  Dix was a shining example. It became a community in itself.  Patients worked a farm, providing them with productive lives and occupations well suited to their situations.  They also ran the kitchens, recreational programs and pretty much operated at whatever level they were able.  All this in a setting of supervision and stability.

 

Then came the wonder drugs!  Lithium. Thorazine. More antipsychotics. More drugs for bipolar illness.  Shazaam!!  Another group hallucination – if we just give these patients medications, they’ll all be better and they can be normal and they can just see a doctor once a month and any child can grow up to be president of the united states and tinker bell and the tooth fairy are our friends…..  Yeah. Right.  Of course.  Why didn’t any one think of that before?  I love the tooth fairy!!  He tastes like chicken…. They missed the part about what happens when you evict people from the only home they’ve known for decades.  They missed the part where the patients have to get and actually take their medications.  They missed the part about no jobs in the community, no doctors, social workers, case managers, housing…..

 

Some of the more clear-thinking in the pack saw the need for mental health care in the communities (’cause believe me, there weren’t none!) and worked to set up the community mental health centers. North Carolina did a great good job of this (in terms of what was actually done, anyway).

Although totally inadequate to fill the entire gaping hole of need, the young idealistic psychiatrists   (cartoon :Jung at heart) (sry. Really wanted to use that cartoon!) and therapists provided as much care as they could to as many people as they could reach.  Case managers often had to drive miles out into the country to pick up indigent patients without transportation (none of those in NC, are there??), they held group sessions for patients when there weren’t enough docs to see them all individually.  There was substance abuse treatment.  In the best cases, there was coordination with other services for the patients, such as voc rehab and/or developmental disabilities.

They had their fingers in the dam.

Nothing went right in this misbegotten scheme from the very beginning. Disoriented people “liberated” from their “imprisonment” wandered into communities no more prepared to take care of them than to launch a rocket to Mars. Communities recoiled in horror that “those people” were returning.

They all rushed to provide housing and jobs and transportation and love… OH. Wait. That’s the wrong fairy tale….

More homeless. More slumlords. More slave-wage laborers. Aunt Mitzi returned to being locked in the back room. Medication?  Doesn’t that cost money? Why should they take it? Insight does not mix well with mental illness! Alcohol, pot, cocaine – all readily at hand and, boy, are they better than that Haldol!! Crime, violence, drug addiction. …  all the fault of those crazy people they let back into the community, right?

 

Throw more money at the problem.  Funny how none of it seemed to get to the people who could actually use it.  The administrations of the mental health authorities swelled like a young man in lust….  Only the most dedicated mental health professionals (along with others who couldn’t find jobs elsewhere) would work in the system because the pay sucked – but the bore-o-crats were well paid on state employee scales, with state health plans etc.

Meanwhile, growing numbers of homeless appeared in the parks and on the sidewalks of towns & cities. In the rural areas, the poorer they were, the more squalid the circumstances and the further from any services they lived.

Enter the hallway bully, NC State Government.  Look! Look! A pot of money!    What can we do with this pot of money? Oh! Oh! It belongs to the mental health system!  Too bad!! Give us your lunch money!!  Look!  Over there!  A bird!! Ten million dollars?  What ten million dollars??

Not an isolated incident.  Just part of the hemorrhage.  The dam was leaking in too many places.

Meanwhile, where was the housing?  Where were the jobs?  Where was the transportation?

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHa!!!!….sorry, I had to stop before I peed my pants…..

The hospitals became dumping grounds for those too ill or too addicted to lay quietly on the sidewalk. (The following is based in about a thousand true stories) After Joey knifes Uncle Bud in a paranoid rage , well, then maybe we’ll have the cops take him to Dix before they take him to prison. Can’t commit them unless they are dangerous to themselves or others.  The week before: What’s that you say?  Joey said he was hearing voices?  Said they we’re telling him there were demons hiding in people?   Well, has he done anything?  No?  Well we can’t commit him; there’s no proof he’s dangerous. Oh, sorry Uncle Bob…

Hmmmm…Now where’s that hallway bully?  Oh, look, there’s a bird!

Public mental health system? What public mental health system?  No.  You must have been hallucinating.  We can’t afford a public mental health system…

Look! Look! See the private companies who want to “take care” of all the poor!  See no services provided unless they are reimbursed by medicaid. See the happy corporate CEOs stuffing all that money in their pockets. See companies pull out of the mental health business after the public system was dismantled because they can’t make enough money exploiting the misery of the mentally ill. See people lose their jobs. OH! OH! There’s a crisis!  We must do something! ….

Silence. (picture: Johnstown flood) Sound of water flowing through the total breach of the dam.

We know what!!  We’ll take better care of our mentally ill by reducing the number of beds in the mental hospital! We’ll take better care of our mentally ill by reducing the number of beds in the mental hospital! We’ll take better care of our mentally ill by reducing the number of beds in the mental hospital! If we repeat it enough times, won’t it become true?

Oh, the hospitals we already have aren’t adequate already? Eh?  Did you say something?  Speak up!  We can’t hear you!

Oh, it’s just those mental health advocates.

No, wait!  There’s a voice: No more money until you fix what’s broke! Who’s that?  OOOOO NNNOOOOO!  It’s Uncle Sam! The only one the hallway bully is afraid of….

We be smoked. They figgered out we been employ’n high school drop outs t’ cares fo’ our crazy folks. They figgered out we couldn’t give a crap about thoz crazy ‘uns.

What?  Who died?  Look! There’s a bird!

 

9/27 /2010  Update: Former  Gov E  & the little woman are both under investigation. She lost her cushy job. They are trying to close Dix. Again. Nothing has improved in the NC mental health system. Medicare & medicaid cuts are making it harder for people to find care. As the “recession” continues, there is less $ to hire mental health professionals. Lalalalalala….

12/4/2010: graphics still missing. definitely a conspiracy….

The Internet…it’s not just for entertainment anymore!

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Sunday Morning, I was reading an article in my daily NY Times on-line technology Bits section about “how many many web services can one person use?”.  They were really talking about web apps and social networking sites.  There were bunches of comments about how people use these sites, and how many they feel is enough, or too much – Great!  To the Point! – OH, Wait! What’s this? A comment who’s 1st line says “the vast majority of the uses of the internet are entertainment…”

To be fair, here is the entire comment (as written, completely un-edited by me despite the tremendous temptation):

The vast majority of the uses of the internet are entertainment…

With the financial crises the easy money is gone and a significant percentage of these entertainment services will not find enough dollars to pay for their bandwidth within just a few months…

In fact much of what passes for popular culture is under financial stress and will not survive the coming financial storms… When people start missing on paying the rent, they will not be keeping high speed internet and an I-phone under contract…

Another issue is the ‘grownup’ who uses the net… I am one of those old folks who is actually competent with a PC… I was writing machine language code before most of the facebookers were born… While I use computers heavily every day for a number of things, some of them quite technical and arcane to the average web dweller, none of what I do is on a social network… I have enough friends, thank you… I am not looking for groupies to go get stoned with… I am not cruising for casual sex… I don’t have an avator… And I am not gaming with 12 year olds from Australia and Japan… I have disposable income… Best be that the internet businesses pay more attention to folks like us than they have as we continue to spend, even during financial hard times…

Dr. O

Now, you know this set me off! What rock did he crawl out from under???  What planet does he think the internet comes from?  The Planet of the Porn King? or the Valley Girls??? Has he ANY clue what the ‘net is about?  Sounds like he’s never tried to shop on-line (like with OnlineAuction.com – the true face of Cyber Independence!!)  or even find a support group for “elderly neanderthal brained techy snobs”.

So, as ususal in these cases (yeah, this happens now and again, seemingly with ever increasing frequency…) I spend way (and I do mean WAY) too much time Sunday crafting a relatively cogent rebuttal of his little tirade – the Bits editors must have thought it was appropriate and coherent, because they published all of it.

Here is my rebuttal to Dr O Butthead (With apologies to you other Buttheads who don’t share these opinions and don’t wish to be identified with Dr Butthead’s comments):

I believe Dr. O has totally missed the boat. Daily, plenty of us “grown ups” are here on the ‘net for eCommerce, business, communication, & information. I’m not sure where he got the idea that “the vast majority of the uses of the internet are entertainment”, but I beg to differ. Looking “for casual sex” or “gaming with 12 year olds” – WHAT???. In our house, my 78 yo retired pastor father does genealogical reseach, home-schooled 12 yo son has a vast world-wide library of knowledge (no gaming), and husband monitors bank balances & bills, researches new cars, medical info & computer-based CME. At college, 21 yo son is a pragmatic ‘net user; IM allows group conversations while doing technical computer work.

In my practice, I look up drug & diagnostic data, patient education info & referrals, plus business email, CME & participating in Sermo, problem solving networking site. Most docs use electronic billing; soon MC/MC will require on-line medical records for provider sharing. My cell phone is critical; I don’t use an office land-line & am almost always on-call.

I’m partly disabled & use “couch” time for my on-line business: HTML app programming, listing, cross promoting, networking,  …it’s known as “viral marketing”, the new face of eCommerce. With 3 Stores, a blog, personal web site, RSS feeds, the social site kaboodle is just another marketing tool. I have real friends with similar talents, background & interests on-line; we support each other, cover each other when we’re sick, & have great conversations about anything & everything. It is a small group, but they are as “real” as my local friends; plus I can keep contact with face-to-face friends if I’m too sick to socialize.

Computer maintanance requires a knowledge of underlying processes & structure plus lots of visits to tech sites for fixes & patches. Dr O grossly underestimates the tech knowledge of “the average web dweller”. Access to high-speed internet can be as low as $8/mo in places. People aren’t going to give it up when money gets tight; they’ll use it to buy essentials cheaply.Even homeless people can go to the library and use the ‘net.

My background is “computer rich”: fortran with punch cards in college, graduate thesis on Apple II while pregnant with my 1st child, & work as an information professional & database programmer. But “the next generation” has us baby boomers beat.That 1st child had computers in kindegarten & got her 1st pc when she was six. Today 3 pcs and 2 LTs in the house for 5 computer users, (& in their apts, daughter has PC & mac, older son has PC) and all our peripherals: iPod syncs with  iTunes, cell phones access the web, web cam and digital camera provide almost instantaneous sources of video, 160 gB external drive holds millions of megapixals for photo storage.

At 24, my daughter is tech-savvier than any of us. She has a complex web site, etsy store, pod cast, & a presence in a virtual world. Drawing on her art tablet & IM are like breathing. She’s fluent in HTML, Java and who knows what else. She’s made great friends, male & female, all over the world; she gets to meet some at anime/sci-fi cons. (I’ve met several). At her science & math HS, she learned vidio editing/production; has produced several anime/music videos. She’s not a “computer potato” she’s a forester! She handles “high tech” aspects – training techs in the field to take GPS data from timeberlands, collating data, mapping, presenting data to corporate clients. Next year she’s going to school in environmental law, forestry & public policy. She uses NO social networking sites; she used the word “despise”.

Dr O, I hope I’ve shed some light on how a huge number of people are using the ‘net.  Social networking sites are only one phenomenon in a complex on-line world.  Like other web apps, survival of the fittest will prevail.  The ones that are the most useful will survive.  The silly ones will fade as their users out-grow them.

Probably make  no difference at all to Dr O.  For all I know, he printed it out and used it to line a bird cage – if he even bothered to go back and read any more comments – he sounds like a guy who doesn’t want to be confused by the facts….  But I sure felt better knowing that, some where some place, someone might actually read my comment and say “Boy, is she right or what???”

(and then share it with their FaceBook, Digg, Twittr, Stumble, MySpace, etc etc friends

and I’ll be famous!  BAWAAHAAHAHAHA!)

Oh, Um, Sorry.  Tried to keep that in. Nevermind.