WHERE ARE THE 50,000 CHILDREN AT THE TEXAS BORDER?

The world is going around too fast for me. One day the Dallas Cowboys have no chance of doing anything and the next day they are going to win the Super Bowl. One day Benghazi is going to destroy the political power of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and now, it is in tiny letters on the internet sites, if it is there at all. Yes, and where are the 50,000 children who were going to infect us with diseases and take up all our resources to take care of them? What happened to those kids? What happened to the Ukraine, Russia and Crimea? What is happening with Bashir Assad? How about Israel and the rockets from Gaza and the invasion of that piece of land? Is anyone really watching these stories?

If you are even a casual visitor to news stories, you must be blithered by the rapid change in what is important in the world. Have you ever watched BBC. They have such a different take on things around the world, including us. They are straightforward, cover things in places that our news never does and are articulate about what’s really important. No, I don’t want us to become a member of the British Commonwealth. I really want to know what happens next. Stop all of the jumping around and the hysteria about certain subjects. Right now we are ready to crawl into our underground bunkers because of EBOLA. The stories are myriad. We should stop all of those people coming here from west Africa. We should quarantine everyone that has any kind of relationship with anyone who has come in contact with ebolaized people. Even zombie movies are being reissued to augment the screams from the newscasters.

We now have semi-articulate doctors from CDC and experts on diseases talking to us about how we should be afraid and then not afraid. Meanwhile, stories about school shootings, President Obama’s lack of a birth certificate (via Donald Trump) are moved to the back of the bus or are thrown into the street. What happened to the mid-term elections? Will they be the next EBOLA? If any of the political parties get control of a house that they did not have before, will that be the big story?

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WE CAN’T TOP THIS

We have over 1100 scholars who went through the McKelvey and Lenfest Scholarship programs. It may still be the only two scholarships for rural students that do not rely on grades or merit. Both of them were open to rural students in some of the neediest areas in Pennsylvania (West Virginia and New York). There were certainly qualifications, but nothing like other programs.

We are so lucky to be in contact with many of them. Last night, two of those scholars from the Lenfest program came to dinner at our house with their fiancés. We have known these two women since they were 13. They are now both 26.

Although we had seen one of them just a few months ago, it was like having a present given to you for some good reason. The two gentlemen were exceptional. They were both delighted to participate in the conversation, sometimes silly when recalling particular events. Erin is a bio-medical engineer and has a supervisory job at a lab that deals with cleanliness at hospitals. Kaye-Lani works for Children and Youth in a nearby county. You can imagine that Carol and I peppered them with questions about what their jobs entailed.

These two women are exceptionally articulate and have a worldview that is both mature and clear. Their fiancés were both of the same ilk. One graduated from college and has spent time in the service in Afghanistan, Egypt and Kuwait .The other young man has a history that took him to Hershey School. He was very clear about how he got there and both the negative and positive results from his three year stay. He has a degree from Point Park College in Pittsburgh.

By the time the evening drew to a close, Carol and I both came to the same conclusion. We were incredibly fortunate to be involved with these young people. Although both of the young women came to the program with pretty deep family problems, they came through the scholarship program as competent and complete human beings.

Yes, we were both teary. We have some more scholars who want to meet with us for dinner or lunch or something of that sort. We are both looking forward to each of them.

I JUST LOVE BUREACRACY

Yup, I have been a bureaucrat. Maybe not in the sense that you are thinking. As a school administrator, I have been called far worse than a bureaucrat, but there have been those who have thought that I was the person who stopped things from happening. I have never felt that I was a bad person or one who spent his waking hours figuring out how I might screw citizens out of their rightful requests. I am sure that there are still some community people in places where I was in charge, who feel that I was a stone wall of bureaucracy.

May I tell you that I could never compare to the professional bureaucrat, whose modus operandi is to stop anything from happening. I ran into a few of those yesterday in my search to find a way not to pay a gigantic amount of money for a medication.

Last year, I was hit with a bout of bechuana tummy (see Grahame Greene). After a sojourn with three gastroenterologists, I happened on a doctor who was so frank with me that he admitted he had no idea what was wrong with me. He discounted acid reflux, irritable bowel (a weird name for a disease) and Crone’s disease (since I wasn’t a crone, I could not have had it). In his final moments with me he said,” I am giving you an anti-spasmodic for your peristaltic rush and I want you to go gluten free.

Since I had no idea what he was talking about, I left the office wondering about the state of medicine in the United States. I went to the pharmacy to pick up my medication and began a regimen of gluten free life.

Would you believe that it worked? For the past year and one half, my tummy has been normal so that I can concentrate on all my other ailments. However, I was bothered by the fact that my medication was not covered by my prescription plan. I really never thought about it until I would have to pay for it at the pharmacy. I do know that there are certain more serious meds that cost $10 a pill (not Viagra) and that I was being petty and unconcerned about my stomach. So, I paid it and asked the pharmacist each time, why my insurance would not cover it.

Eventually, the question seemed to bore the pharmacist and I needed to know more than what she was telling me. I had heard of the word formulary. It is a list of acceptable medications that would be covered by insurance and medicare part D. You young folks will learn about these things later in life. I finally got up the courage to call my medigap insurance company. That’s the company that fills in the gaps that medicare won’t cover.

They are really pretty good and don’t ever bother me. I get scads of papers from them which I place in the garbage just above the cat poop (and that’s a bunch, we have three cats). So, I ventured a phone call to them. After an interminable wait, I was told that they really did not handle prescriptions, but they had farmed it out to a company called Optum Rx. I had never heard of them. I was aware that there had been, in the past, a company called Prescription Solutions (a solid name if I‘ve ever heard one). So, I called Optum Rx and after a time got a rough sounding voice asking me, at least, 12 questions about my identity and my family background.

Finally, I was able to insert my question about why my medication wasn’t covered. The voice said, “Let me do some research and I will be back to you in a moment.” The moment lasted about fifteen minutes, with intermittent questions of whether I was still alive. The final answer was that the medication was not in the formulary. As to why it was not, he did not know. He suggested that I call Medicare Part D and ask them.

I did call Medicare Part D after spending about 30 minutes trying to get their phone number. I got a pleasant enough woman from Jacksonville, Florida who eventually told me that the medication wasn’t covered because it was not in the formulary. I tried to elicit why it was not in the formulary. She really did not know, as did her supervisor. She told me to call Optum Rx and ask them whether there were any errors on the request for the medication.

So, after about 3 hours, I was back to Optum Rx. There, I got some answers. A young woman told me that the doctor who had prescribed the medication had made a mistake in the diagnosis and that his identification number could not be found in the system. I sure wished that I was told that when I first started on my journey.

So, I was back with my pharmacist, who is a person with infinite patience. She took all my information and told me that she would run my prescription through using good doctor numbers. When I returned a few hours later, she told me that it was not the numbers that were incorrect and that she used other numbers to see if they went through and they did not.

I asked her about comparable medications, which she then tried to no avail. I was now at the end of my journey, or so I thought. The pharmacist then told me to go back to my Gastroenterologist and get a new prescription and that would determine whether there was any chance to get my meds through Part D.

Fortunately, the doctor was just a few blocks away. The receptionist was great and I got a prescription in a few minutes.

I brought the prescription back to the pharmacy (I know this is boring) and was told that I had to have a diagnosis code and a wet signature. Further we were not going to submit this under Part D, but Part B. If you have lost me at this point, think about how it all struck me. I went back to the doctor’s office. The nice receptionist was not as nice as before. I gave her the prescription she had given me and told me to check back on Tuesday when the doctor was in. I await that moment.

Nice thing about going through all of this, it now makes me an expert on these things. So, if you are having a problem getting your own meds reimbursed, for heaven’s sake DON’T CALL ME.

KILL THE COLLEGES THAT SERVE RURAL STUDENTS

Over the past year and more recently this week, it is apparent that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is trying to reduce the number of state colleges that cater to rural Pennsylvania. Other than Cheyney University; the others- Stroudsburg, Mansfield, Clarion, Edinboro, and California are those that house most of the rural students in Pennsylvania.

There is a certain logic to these moves by these schools administration (or maybe from a central source) to make up for their lack of enrollment, or redundancy in programming, or other factors. From an outsider’s point of view, eliminating programs for educators and business majors and telling them that they can go to other state schools is a viable alternative.

I am not sure that any of the decision makers have any idea of where these schools are. The nearest state university to Edinboro might be Clarion or Slippery Rock. Take a look at the map and tell me how an Erie student is going to commute there in the winter. Those schools were put in place by people who actually knew what the state looked like on a map.

Getting rid of business programs seems like an illogical move in this world of international economies. Mansfield’s history of turning out business professionals is startlingly good. As for dumping the education program, true, we have just eliminated 20-30,000 education staff over the past 4 years, however, we may be entering into a new era this coming year. It may well be that we will need more teachers than we have now. Who will replace those who will be retiring?

Will the program that Edinboro has that caters to are visually challenged go by the boards. It’s the only one of its kind in the state?

Hold the presses. A peaceful protest by students at Mansfield has resulted in a backing away from a moratorium on these two programs. What that means, is that anyone in those majors will now be permitted to finish up at Mansfield. The reason for the change is that while Mansfield was relying on Middle States (an accreditation organization) said it would be o.k., the PASSHE rules do not allow a program to be put into moratorium until all the students are finished with the program.

Further, it appeared that the person, who did most of the research on these actions, has resigned. There are some strange things about the resignation. Maybe one day, we will find out.

The central office in Harrisburg is now fully involved and will study the entirety of the state system to see where they want to go with individual programs. Some of the numbers that have been thrown out into the public’s eye like there are 12,000 students in education programs and only a need for 3,000 teachers sounds logical. However, where do these numbers come from? Getting that kind of number from the 500 school districts is very difficult. If things work out for Philly, those numbers could increase dramatically.

Keep tuned to this channel at 11:00 for the news.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FIRE LOTS OF PEOPLE

I am not a person who issues disclaimers very often. I am going to do it this time because I am way out on a limb with absolutely no skill in the area that I am talking about. As Lewis Black says, “If economics was so important, why did they schedule it at 8:00 a.m.” That is a very fair question. I took most of my econ. and accounting courses at either 8:00 a,m. or 3:00 p.m. I guess that was because my professors were all working stiffs and did their own work between those hours. Later on I found out that one of the profs was best friends with my future father-in-law, also a CPA.

I have noticed over the past decade or so, that there is a race by large organizations, both private and public to “downsize.” There is a pride to these actions. Let’s see how many people we can let go so that we can increase our “bottom line.” The term “efficient” has come into view as the euphemism for cutting staff at all levels. As top management salary and bonuses seem to expand, lower ranking hoi polio seems to be fewer and fewer.

Is it all because we are now an international economy and whatever happens overseas affects our bottom line and therefore we need to be as efficient as possible? Maybe we are automating at such an extent that people are not really necessary to provide service or to manufacture physical items? Is there any proof that firing lots of people increases sales? Seems to me that increasing sales is a function of advertising or salespeople. The technological advances don’t seem to be able to run themselves or change direction at a moment’s notice. I believe that people are somehow involved in these actions.

I have heard recently that there are many jobs going begging because we have not been able to produce workers who are able to think creatively or do math or read properly. Where have these jobs been advertised? One company that I know of says that they have had as many as 150 openings for “engineers” and can seem to find no one available in this country or state. Therefore it is incumbent upon them to go overseas to hire people and bring them here. Funny that the salaries paid these “engineer” is much lower than what is paid in equivalent jobs across the country.

There is also the great devil in our economy. It is called “The Union.” It is unions that are the bane of our existence, the reason why manufacturing has dropped off the edge of the earth. Those avaricious unions who have bankrupted the car industry, the education system and a host of other companies. If it weren’t for those unions, we could be leading the world in mostly everything.

Strange that at a time when 35% of the workforce was unionized, our economy was booming. Now that the unions are 7% of the workers, they are blamed for almost everything including the deterioration of our country. So, let’s get rid of the right to unionize, or show that states with right to work laws are doing better than union allowing states.

All of that stuff above is a bunch of bull. Even a novice in economics, like me, can see through these specious arguments. Of course, I will now be accused of starting something like a class war, where the lower classes in cahoots with the government form a bond to get rid of the Kulaks. By the way, where is the middle class?

INTERGENERATIONAL SQUABBLING

I was just treated to an interesting colloquy between someone who has been my friend for many years and a group of young people that he works with in a youth and government program. Since I am somewhat older that this gentleman (let’s call him Bob), I can kind of see where he and the young people are coming from.

It all began when Bob wrote on his Facebook page, that he was astounded that the internet and its children allow foul language to abound. Yet he says, we are into political correctness when it comes to the name of the pro football Washington Redskins. I could see that he was very angry at what he thought were hypocritical contradictions in not being incensed about the foul language, but be troubled by the name of the football team.

The young people countered with arguments about how the foul language is a person’s choice and does not seem to hurt anyone, except maybe their feelings. However, the term Redskins is a somewhat vulgar reminder of what we have done to Native Americans throughout history. This is not political correctness, but a slam against an entire ethnic group.

Counter arguments were made about how short people might be offended by jokes about ones height and other kinds of physical descriptions. The answers were that someone who is offended by being called a negative about their height did not go through the years of discrimination against Native Americans and their death at the hands of our ancestors.

As you can see, this was something that meant a great deal to both parties. I do understand Bob’s feelings about not using the words Oriental, or Indian, or other current terminology. We have been using those words for most of our lives and it is hard to condition yourself to use the term issues, rather than the word, problems.

I am wondering if the generation that preceded us had the same kind of problem (notice I am using that word). I can recall when all of the new dances of the 1950’s started to become popular. My mom thought that they were awful, as were the names. They were not the Rhumba, Foxtrot or Tango. They were just garbage dances invented to make someone money. Yup, they were.

We also had to get used to using new names for groups of people. We could not use Kraut, or Jap, or Mick or Wop, or Chink or Spic or Polack. Some people were saddened that they could no longer use the words Kike or Sheeny. If you believe that was the beginning of political correctness, you are probably correct. In other 20 or so years, the current vernacular will change and the youngsters of today will probably not like it.