Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Big Money

I normally don't read Frank Rich because he usually irritates me no end, and life is too short to be irritated. However, his column in last Sunday's New York Times got my attention. I did have to get past his arrogant first paragraph, but once I got past it, I found something that frankly I don't like.

Evidence that more BIG MONEY is all up in our political process.

Rich links to an article in The New Yorker about the Koch brothers of Kansas. These guys are rich beyond our wildest dreams, and have been huge contributors to the "Tea Party Movement," the supposedly grass roots movement from the right of the political spectrum. They are quiet in their contributions, but the contributions are substantial. The left has its own big contributor in George Soros, bankrolling all kinds of liberal causes.

So is there anything real out there? In other words, is there a candidate, movement, organization or website that is not floating around in a bunch of money donated by someone with ulterior motives? Is there some grass out there or is it all Astroturf?

Interest in politics and current events is probably as high as its been in a long time. President Obama has moved people. Some to work for him, as evidenced by what we saw in the 2008 election, and some to work against him as seen by the "Tea Party Movement" and other conservative/libertarian organizations working to get more conservative candidates elected. How does anyone, left or right, maintain integrity and purpose in the face of all the special interest money floating around? And the higher you get in the political chain, i.e. from local to state to federal, the more money is floating around and the more temptation there must be to sell out to a special interest or lobby.

Just one more reason why it is hard to find GOOD PEOPLE to fill political offices.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Following Up Some News

Some follow ups on news items we have featured here at The Observer.

Murder solved! Last week, a man whose fingerprint was found in the Ford belonging to Nick Dutcher confessed to murdering the TV producer. Antonio Grandison, 20, confessed to breaking into Mr. Dutcher's home to steal things. When Mr. Dutcher came home unexpectedly, the suspect fought with and eventually strangled the homeowner. Grandison made a court appearance today. His capture was a great relief to the family and to the community. Here's the story on KSHB. The suspect needs to spend a nice long time in jail, don't you think?

Building plan altered--not everyone completely happy. The Polsinelli Shugart law firm altered the plans for the new headquarters building so that the "Balcony Building" would not be demolished. Essentially, they kept the same design, but changed the set back from the street so that the Balcony Building would be preserved. The apartment building would still need to be torn down, and the building was still pictured as an eight story structure. It does improve from the last plan, as it preserves the street level view and feel, but the building makes no nod towards the Spanish influenced architecture of the Plaza and still remains rather large and out of scale. I'm going to state this plainly, for those who think that everyone who opposes this building is against change and growth and for governing the private use of private property: Polsinelli Shugart can build any building they like on their lot, as long as it follows zoning and covenant rules. Just because they can build any building does not relieve them of the hope and expectation that they will do right by the community that they and their building are a part of. Respect the design and historical nature of the Plaza in your plans and you will reap a bounty of good will that will pay off in the future. The story, with comments galore and links to other stories and opinions in the Star.

Hickman Mills C-1 consolidation appears to be smoothing out. I was at the football game last Friday, and talked to the people there, trying to get a feel for how things were going with the consolidated school. From what folks said, and from the general tenor of the place, it seems the kids took a great deal of the lead, deciding that they were not going to have trouble be a part of the consolidation. I am sure that there are still troubles during the course of the day, as there are in many public schools these days, alas, but no one related any big events or difficulties. Friday night also passed without incident, despite the large numbers and high energy of both students and non-student young people. All I can say is, keep it up kids, and keep learning and looking to the future.

And that is your follow-up round-up with a little opinion thrown in.

Images from the Kansas City Star.

Oh, yeah. I joined Facebook. No, really, I did. See the little thingy there? I don't know what possessed me!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Giggle

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

"Oh, I don't know about this...uh oh, slipped in... wet feet, wet feet, wet feet, wet feet, WET FEET, WET FEET!!!"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Katrina: Five Years Later

I experienced Katrina most vividly through the stalwart reporting of Dan Verbeck, Entercom radio station KMBZ's fabulous street reporter who retired in 2008 (though not completely; he can now be heard on public radio station KCUR.) He was lent to WWL, Entercom's station in NOLA to do reporting and help man the critical radio station during the disaster. He would report in to KMBZ by phone as part of his days in NOLA, giving us in Kansas City a very inside view of what New Orleans was like in those days.

As you remember, Katrina hit New Orleans Monday, August 29th 2005 with its wind and rain, towards the evening hours. Mr. Verbeck reported on what the wind sounded like, and what it felt like as the hurricane passed by. As morning came the next day, Tuesday, Mr. Verbeck came on and was the first to report that the city was flooding from the broken levies. I still remember the tone of his voice as he reported the flooding, the water inundating everything in the lowest parts of New Orleans. He was the one that reinforced for me the fact that if the levies had held up, Katrina would be remembered for the way it devastated the Mississippi coast, rather than what happened in New Orleans. He reported on the initially only sparsely flooded streets in the immediate aftermath of the storm, and then, as official and unofficial reports of levy breaks and flooding waters came into the radio station, came on to let the world know that the bowl of NOLA would be filled with water.

Aaron Barnhart interviewed Mr. Verbeck shortly after the hurricane. Here's a link to his blog entry, which includes a link to the MP3 of the interview. It is "must listen" stuff, the stuff of history. As were the original reports--I do hope they have been preserved somewhere--I believe those reports were some of the best reporting I heard or saw from New Orleans in those difficult days.

Image: photo of Mr. Verbeck, from a google search.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Musings on the Economy

Well, this has been kicking around in my head for a little while, how it is that we can get this economy going and get people back to work. At the risk of exposing my ignorance, I am going to muse on the economy and the fixing of it. Following are three themes that emerge over and over in the discussions of experts as far as I can understand.

1. Give the people and businesses tax cuts and cut the government budget.

2. Raise taxes and cut government expenses to get the deficit down.

3. Raise taxes and use some more government spending, such as a stimulus package, to get people employed.

Yesterday I was listening to Rush sub professor of econ Walter E Williams and he mentioned that the federal government up until 1920 consumed around 10% of the GDP. After that it has been 20% or more. Prof Williams argues it is because the federal government is doing things it was not mandated to do in the Constitution.

Read Paul Krugman in the New York Times--he is insisting that the country needs a stimulus package to get people back to work, and continued benefits to unemployed to make sure they have money to spend.

As we have gone through this economic hard time, we are relating back to the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Everyone has an opinion about what got this country up and out of that hard time: FDR's programs or World War II. Some now believe we have more in common with Japan in the 1990s with the tight money supply and unwillingness to spend.

I do not believe that we can go back to the kind of economic system this country had in the 1800s--which often appears to be what conservatives want. One thing is very different about our country now--there is no expanding geographic frontier. Actually, as I consider this, barring a huge technological revolutionary find, there is no frontier--period. There is no area of expansion.

There will be no recovery or slow recovery if we cannot get people back to work. Those working do not spend much money. Those underemployed are not spending. Those unemployed are certainly not spending.

Businesses do not want to hire because they are not sure of the future. They are not sure about the impact of the terrible health care bill. They are not sure they can pay any new hires and still be able to stay in business.

Nobody wants to spend or lend money.

Many do not want the government to start spending a lot of money, to either support people, or to try and stimulate the economy. Others swear that this is the only way we will get out of the recession cycle.

I am not educated enough in economics to have a strong opinion. I get conflicted. Part of me knows that if you keep taxes low, and leave more money in the pockets of business and individuals, that money will be invested and used. Part of me knows that there are some people out there who are going to need assistance--sometimes I think we just make unemployment contingent on doing some work that needs to be done to maintain the community. We give you a bit of money, you help with road work, or upgrade the computers at DMV or something.

In the end, I think we are going to end up in a different place. Our economy is going to be different from the economy that was based on consumption that we've had for the past 40 years. Also, that transition is going to hurt, regardless of whether in the end, we look more free market or more socialist/government oriented.

Yeah a really encouraging rah rah kind of post...I know.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Respect the Historical Context of the Plaza

The law firm of Polsinelli and Shughart is planning to build a new headquarters on Kansas City's Country Club Plaza. They would take down a 1920s vintage original plaza building and an apartment building on the corner of 47th Street and Broadway, and build the new building. That sounds pretty cool on the face of it, economic engine and all that.

Until everyone got a gander at the architectural renderings. There was almost a universal WTF reaction to the eight story glass and metal structure. Both the law firm, and the owner/developer of the plaza, North Carolina's Highwoods Properties, have heard an earful from frustrated and upset citizens about the design and plan.

The Plaza is constructed with a Spanish architectural theme, reminiscent of Seville and the proposed building does not even make a modern bow in the direction of that theme. Furthermore, it is out of scale for the area that it sits in, down the hill, towards Brush Creek and 47th Street/Cleaver II Boulevard, where most of the buildings are 2-3 stories tall.

The Plaza, despite the age of many of its buildings, is not on the historical registry. The restrictions of the registry on the kind of alterations that retail sometimes demands is something that didn't work for the Plaza in the past. There are zoning and development restrictions on the height of buildings in certain places on the Plaza.

While Polsinelli can build any zoning compliant building they would like, they need to reconsider this design, which now they are saying was highly preliminary and released prematurely (sounds like excuse making to me, but never mind) and create a design that is more compatible with the look and feel of the Plaza as a whole. If they can't do that, then they should consider a site north of the Plaza, rescue the lost West End project, or consider down town or the Crossroads districts of Kansas City. I suppose if they are feeling especially spiteful after the outcry over this design they can decide to move to Johnson County, Kansas, but if they are really the civic citizens they are trying to make themselves out to be, they will be willing to compromise on either design or location and remain in Kansas City, MO. I, for one, would applaud them for that compromise.

Right now, both Polsinelli and Highwoods look arrogant and greedy, all about making a show and making the benjamins. The ball is in their court now.

The Kansas City Star Irate Plaza fans object to law office building plan. The illustration and photo are from The Star.

Of course, there is a Facebook page, Save the Plaza

Friday, August 20, 2010

Another Stormy Friday Night

Viewer submitted photo to KSHB from the storms this evening. Taken at Kansas City International Airport. Wow...

On President Obama's Religion

The topic of President Obama's religious preference and practice has been hot and heavy for several days in light of the controversy over his statement with regard to the mosque proposed for near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, the site where the World Trade Center stood until 2001. The results of polling by the Pew Foundation which was actually done prior to the statements about the mosque indicated that 31% of Republican self identifying people believed that Barack Obama is Muslim in his religious belief and practice. The amount of talk on this topic since has been just unbelievable. From the White House to Rush Limbaugh to CNN and Fox, it's a topic that has had substantial legs to it.

The great coach John Wooden said, "If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me."

It's funny, if you think on this from the Christian point of view, any judgment of Mr. Obama becomes a tricky and ironic thing. We are instructed by Jesus not to judge. Jesus says that we should not be trying to get the speck out of our neighbor's eye while we have a board in ours. (Matthew 7:1-5) That doesn't mean we can't ever speak out, it just means that we speak our piece knowing that we too are sinners in need of prayer. Another biblical recording of Jesus' words strikes me as applicable now--John 15, where Jesus speaks of fruit and vine. Jesus calls Himself the true vine, and the disciples the branches, and instructs them (and us!) to remain in or attached to Him to bear fruit as His disciples. (While that "fruit" is never specifically described, both Christians and non-Christians know Christian fruit when they see it.)

You know, it's funny, and this is why I don't think I would ever go into politics. You are screwed either way. If you wear your faith on your sleeve, as President George W. Bush did, you are accused of being too "religious." If you show little or no tendency towards religious observance, as President Obama has, you may find yourself trying to explain your spiritual life to a skeptical public.

Now, for my honest opinion, having watched and listened for the past two plus years. I think the most important thing in Barack Obama's life is Barack Obama. I do not believe that any faith he has in a "Higher Power" is more important to him than the care and feeding of his own needs, wants and ego structure. I do believe that this is something that all people in public life, and especially those in the political life are prone to. I may have said enough with that to get me into trouble, but truly I don't really appreciate a whole hearted embrace of Christianity. And I doubt he has embraced Islam. Really, when you consider it, we may have our first spiritually/religiously "post modern" president here.

What I want out of my president, and what everyone should be looking for, is that he/she is looking to do the very best for the United States of America as far as he/she can humanly understand. I would prefer my president to be Christian, since the Christian faith played such a part in the founding of the country and is still the majority faith in the USA. There are aspects of Islam that would clash with our Constitution, e.g. many aspects of the Sharia Law that is a part of many Muslim sects. There are parts of Christianity that don't work in our secular representative republic either. And a raging ego, like that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, can damage a country badly too. So in the end, my president can be of any religion or none, but he/she needs to manage and lead the country in a way that will benefit the majority of its citizens. How exactly that is done, that managing and leading, is the rub now, isn't it. And the differences in opinion about the country's path are what give rise to these types of discussions, as instead of truly talking about solutions and problems, we talk bad about each other.

Boy, this post was hard to write! I hope this helps someone out there!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

BoyCat Update

BoyCat at the vet hospital.

Well, the BoyCat is doing much better. His urinary catheter was removed this morning, and his IV taken out this afternoon. I got a chance to visit with him this afternoon around 1700. He recognized me and wanted pets, and to headbutt me--he loves doing that. While I was there, he took a whiz! He should come home tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone for the prayers and well wishes. In order to pay for his care, I'll probably have to go into a retirement savings. There will be a tax penalty for that, so I'm not happy about that, but I might take out enough to deal with some other issues too.

I am going to look into Pet Health Insurance, at least some sort of emergency coverage so I never have to consider euthanasia for an acute and dangerous but treatable problem in a young healthy animal ever again.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

There Is No EMTALA for Pets

We could have lost our blog mascot. The Observer kitty aka BoyCat had a urethral obstruction. To put it crudely, he couldn't pee.

Of course, this happened after hours so we had to go to the Emergency Vet. Now, unlike a human hospital, vet ERs will do a wallet biopsy before treatment. BoyCat's mom--that's me--was found wanting, both in current funds and credit. So we could only do a stopgap measure--remove the urine that was in his bladder at that time. The Vet ER does no financing or payment plans. My vet will. However, I would not be able to take BoyCat to the vet until 12-1300ish, as I had work.

Well, work wrapped up a little early, with the outcome that I was at the vet's one hour before I thought I would be, and it was a good thing because BoyCat was starting to look like a sick cat.

The good news is that the vet agreed to remove the obstruction and work on BoyCat and we would make arrangements for payment. Good thing, because his little bladder was super full. His blood work was OK and it looks like the stinker will live to see another day.

I really disliked the way I had been treated at the Vet ER, which was disappointed, because I had been there before and had liked the care. But I had more money then. This time, they were perfectly willing to not treat my cat--urinary obstruction is life threatening in cats--and let him die. It seemed that way, a lot. I was very blunt with them, and quite clearly indicated they were giving me the opportunity to have to choose to euthanize BoyCat, or take him home and watch him suffer. I will admit that I was not at my best--sometimes rather sarcastic and snarky--but I thought they were awfully heartless.

Now I understand that they run a business, yada yada...but until the doctor talked about buying time so that my cat could be seen by my regular vet, and going into problem solving mode, instead of "You have no money" mode, it seemed very very cold and totally concentrated on money, not compassion or caring.

As much as we bust on EMTALA at times--and in some ways, it is a very bad law--to know that an ER cannot do this to a human with a life threatening condition is a reassuring thing.

Last time I saw BoyCat, he was sedated and sleeping. I got a report later that he was starting to sit up and be more alert. He may have been wearing a Cone of Shame to protect his IV and urinary catheter.

This was not a good experience.

Photo of his handsomeness, by the Observer, with the BB.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One Year of Blogging

Today marks one year of blogging here at the South Kansas City Observer. I started this blog because I had opinions and I needed some place to put them. Little did I know that this would lead to...

attending more community meetings then I ever have in my life!

Taking in local high school sports!

Going to City Hall!

Along the way, we've met lots of adorable Waifs!

and seen some beautiful cars!

We became a part of the effort to save our world class EMS service. Alas, we did not succeed, but we're keeping our eye on things over there at the FD.

And we made note of lots of interesting Midwestern weather!

We learned to write more in the active voice (passive voice is the voice of choice for the medical record), we learned how to kype photos off the net, to take and use our own pictures, and to loosen up a bit with regard to the writing process. (Still kind of slow, but getting better!)
We've written some opinions, and with that, found out where our beliefs are firm, and where we're a little mushy, or need to think things out more. We've found great online friends and readers, and great online writers too. We've done a lot of thinking and learning in a year.

So thank you to my friends, on line and off, and to all my readers for your support, and I am looking forward to another great year!

Wow, did I do all that?

Monday, August 16, 2010

News From Wayside Waifs

Last Spring, as you might recall, the dog adoption area at Wayside Waifs was redone. Now, it is the cat area's turn for a sprucing up. The plans are to open the area up a little more to give more light and make things easier for feline and human to get around the space.

Already one of the entryways into the main cat cage area has been changed. The back hallway will have windows put in that look out onto the hallway that runs along side the room, thus letting in more light, letting humans look in and cats look out.

The hug rooms are being improved also, and new cages will be brought in. It's hard to portray what is happening now, as it is not just one big area like the dog kennel room. Word is, it will all be done and ready in three weeks.

Meantime, cats and cages, volunteers and staff have moved to the community room at the shelter. It's cramped, but adoptions are still going on. Here these two twin sisters have just adopted two cats. (See the glowing eye in the carrier?)

Feline Fridays are still going on, with some great deals on cat adoptions. Come on down and visit--you might find someone you can't go home without.

Meanwhile, back in dog land...when you have a Great Dane/Malamute cross, what does that mean? It means it's a big sturdy looking dog with pointy ears and a winsome expression, that what it means.

Wayside Waifs is at 3901 Martha Truman Road in south Kansas City, MO. On the web at www.waysidewaifs.org.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hot Around Here

The weather has been very hot here in the plains for about a week now, and I am ready to be done with it. This week, every time I have visited the Kansas City Star's website, it has had this ugly yellow banner across the top--see the screen shot. The glum news is that this isn't even accurate; our excessive heat warning goes til Saturday at 9:00 pm. We are also under a severe thunderstorm watch until 11:00 pm tonight. Note the temp near the mast head--102 degrees.

This is not my favorite time of year anyway. Hot, muggy days and nights, but with shortening amounts of light--this time of year I find it hard to maintain energy. It is helpful to know this, even if it means I'm counting the days until the weather becomes crisper. Some years I manage to get away to Vermont around this time, but not this year.

Everyone stay cool and dry, and have a nice weekend!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Report: Not Smooth Sailing During First Day of School

It's not coming up much in MSM yet, but apparently the start of the 2010-2011 school year in the reorganized and consolidated Hickman Mills School District was not a winner. From mom/journalist Crystal Booker writing on the site Mass Appeal News--she reports disorganization with schedules, and a fight at Ruskin between students. KCTV 5 reported on problems with bus schedules and delays getting into the new junior high building. Fox 4 reported on the use of the theme of unity at the high school. There is no doubt, this is going to be tough going, with a lot of pain. The high schoolers are really going to have to step up and act their age instead of their shoe size. Barring a huge influx of new people and money, this is the way it is going to be. Administrators, too, must step up. If, as Ms. Booker writes in her post on Mass Appeal, they were not attired appropriately and didn't plan as they should have--after all, they had all summer!--then maybe we need us some new administrators.

As a patron of C-1, a property owner, and a taxpayer, I expect our schools to be run professionally. I'm going to be watching and my expectations are high. In many ways, a community is as good as its schools. Everyone--students, teachers and administrators--needs to take that to heart, and do this right.

Comment I hope carries the day--and the year:
From Sylvia Ross Ruskin 2011, reacting to the Fox 4 story:
with all the negativity being past i would like it to be known that ruskin isnt bad as the media portrays it to be. with alll of it, i feel that combining the schools, gives us a chance to meet new people of our community and become a stronger more powerful district. for anyone who has bad things to say about this idea and new experience you might as well stop. we are intelligent young adults, and we can prove to you all that hickman and ruskin can combining is one heck of a money saver.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Customer Is NOT Always Right!

I am not even sure how to start this. I have so much understanding of how this could happen. Well, let's just go with the facts first. It seems that when a JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh landed in New York at JFK airport on Monday afternoon, one of those dweebs that insists on getting up and taking things from the overhead compartment before the plane has stopped taxiing, insisted on getting up during the taxiing process. When asked to stop by flight attendant Steve Slater, the dweeb dropped the f bomb and the lid to the overhead bin on Mr. Slater. The lid hit Mr. Slater on the head. The f bomb hit him in the brain. (Editor's update: There seems to be some variation in when this happened. The bin lid hit may have happened at the start of the flight, with Mr. Slater having to referee between a female dweeb and a male dweeb fussing over overhead bin space, and the cussing in New York was simply the coda.) Whatever. There was at least one passenger acting like a spoiled-brat over-entitled self-absorbed asshat on JetBlue Flight 1052. Did you know that if you leave the "l" out of "flight," it becomes "fight"?

The plane by then had taxied to a stop. Mr. Slater then got on the intercom, dropped a few f bombs of his own, thanked the considerate passengers, then collected his personals, popped the emergency chute on one of the jet's doors, slid down it, ran to the terminal, grabbed the shuttle to parking, got in his car and drove to his home in Queens. One hour later, the police arrested him there.

OK, I should not be laughing, but I am, as I review the news about him that has come out this day. So many times you have these half formed asshats, running around all self absorbed and self important, wanting everything their way. As I consider this post further, I have a couple of things bouncing around in my head. 1. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, in the book Nuts, recounted times that he told unhappy customers that maybe Southwest was not the airline for them, and that they really should use another carrier. 2. There was a story, posted on MSNBC, about how ER nurses are being assaulted in greater numbers by patients in their ERs. 3. That the general comportment of people has become ruder and ruder over the years, with less and less consideration and respect for others. 4. The capacity to correct said rude behavior has become less and less. 5. Generally, people seeing the stories on line are supportive of Mr. Slater, understanding why he finally snapped.

These photos, taken from his My Space page, do not look like the photos of someone who does not like his job. Both his My Space and LinkedIn spaces appear to reflect pride in his work, which he has done since 1990. He was active on committees in the workplace as well. So what happened to cause this man to basically risk his career? Well, he did have stressors outside the workplace. His mother has ALS. His father died recently. But why is there someone acting so self-entitled, self-absorbed and spoiled that he/she/it ended up standing on Mr. Slater's very last nerve?

The accepted philosophy is that the customer is always right. That philosophy needs an update. The customer has a right to have his requests considered. The customer has a right to be treated with consideration. The customer does have a right to get what he paid for. The customer does not have the right to act like an asshat. Back in March, Dr. Edwin Leap blogged on how people behave in the ER, acting in a way they would never dare to act elsewhere. The post garnered several comments, including one that noted that some concerns would rather put up with this behavior than risk losing a customer. I think that is just wrong. Customers are not in the right when they act inappropriately, and they need to be told so. Customers that physically assault those trying to serve them need to be arrested. Customers who repeatedly abuse the people who try to serve and help them should be "fired"--and issued restraining orders to stay away if they can't act right.

Steven Slater did not do right. When you get that angry, it is best to step away. Go do a task that does not involve contacting the public. Take many, many deep breaths. Whatever it takes to step away from that line of breaking. But the idea that it is OK to push service people to this brink of losing it, well, that is not OK either. Mr. Slater is charged with felonies, and could serve 7 years in prison. My guess is this will be pleaded down. If I were the prosecutor, I would take one misdemeanor (for blowing the emergency chute inappropriately) and have him pay some amount to JetBlue. If I were JetBlue, I would take him back, perhaps suspend him for a bit, insisting on counseling, and then expose him slowly to the flying public again. That last is not likely in this litigious time. I hope Mr. Slater makes some money of his 15 minutes. If I had any I'd donate to his defense fund.

I'll end with a sign that a nurse blogger proposed should be put on the walls of every hospital--particularly the ER, but not just the ER. Maybe we need signs like this all over--not just in health care venues.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Another Tough Weekend

We have to admit it. We have a problem with excessive violence in this town. Especially on weekends. Add ETOH and other intoxicants to the change of routine that the weekend presents and people get killed. Three more people were murdered over the weekend and one more person was found dead under suspicious circumstances Monday. This brings the homicide total to 67 for the current year.

It hurts our city to have this much killing. Check these stats out.

Chicago, IL: population 2,833,321. 2009 homicides: 458 Rate: 16.2 homicides per 100,000 people.
New York, NY: population: 8,214, 426 2009 homicides: 471 Rate: 5.7 per 100,000 people. Kansas City, MO: population: 447,306 2009 homicides: 110 Rate: 24.4 per 100,000 people.

Chicago has had 229 homicides in 2010; New York has had 305 homicides in 2010 and Kansas City has had 67 homicides in 2010. New York had a very good year in 2009, but even if the number was to go up to 600 for this year, it would still be fewer killings per 100,000 than Kansas City. New York, in fact, has a lower murder rate than both Midwestern cities--I find that very interesting. What is New York doing that Chicago and Kansas City are not doing? What does New York have that Chicago and Kansas City do not have (or vise versa)?

Let's find out, because we need to face this horrendous murder rate head on, and do something about it.

Logo is from The Pitch--and depressingly correct.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Triage In the Emergency Department (or Room, Whatever...)

A recent blog post by Warm Socks got me to thinking about life in the Emergency Department of your average American hospital. The question "What is an emergency?" comes up on a regular basis. Due to laws (mainly the Emergency Treatment and Active Labor Act--EMTALA), if you present to a hospital ER requesting treatment, they must treat you. This means that people are deciding on their own when to go and be seen in the ER. And what that means is that all those people have to be sorted out, so that the sickest get the care they need in a timely manner, so that life and limb are preserved. About 40% of people who present to the ER come with non-emergent and non-urgent problems. The sorting is called triage and it is one of the most challenging aspects of emergency medicine, both in the hospital and out in the field.

Most triage has been done on a three level tier, typically labelled Emergent, Urgent and Non-Urgent frequently represented by the colors displayed here. The problem with this system is that in the middle, between the patient getting CPR and the patient with the sprained ankle, it can get difficult to sort out and assign the right spot in line for patients. In the late 1990s, 5 tier triage systems began to be developed and tested/used in hospitals in the US and elsewhere. The five tier system that is the most common is called the Emergency Severity Index or ESI. ESI allows for categories 1-5, from most sick to least, in triage assignments. At the risk of getting overly technical, this is the algorithm for ESI triage decision making. Click on image for larger view.

ESI level 1 patients are basically anyone who is going to die without the immediate full bore attention of both ER nurses and doctors. If the answer to the first box's question is "yes," you are looking at a bona fide emergency.

ESI level 2 evaluations get a little more technical and rely a little more on the triaging person's clinical skill. It swings on the question, "Can this patient wait much to be seen?" Three questions are asked to determine the patient's "waitability": 1. Is the patient at a high risk of getting worse without treatment? 2. Are they newly or acutely confused, lethargic, disoriented? 3. Are they in severe pain, distress?

Patients who do not merit a "yes" on any of the above, and can wait a bit to be seen, are then are evaluated again in a third step. How many "resources" will they need? A resource is something that may be done to evaluate the patient--an x-ray, a lab test--or to treat/help the patient--intravenous medications or fluids. It must be noted here that the physical exam and evaluation by the doctor is not a resource. Patients presenting needing no other resources, or one resource for the evaluation and care of their complaint are categorized ESI 5 and ESI 4, respectively. Those needing two or more resources become ESI 3, unless they have vital signs that are markedly abnormal--that can kick them up to a ESI 2.

So, out of our 5 categories of patients, ESI 1 and ESI 2 need to be in the ER. ESI 1 patients compose 1-3% of ED patients. ESI 2 patients compose 20-30% of ED patients. ESI 3 compose 30-40% of ER patients. Some ESI 3 patients definitely belong in the ER. ESI 4 and 5 compose 20-35% or perhaps even more of the ED's patients. The exact mixes of levels is variable, due to differences in a community's demographics, the type of ER (for example, trauma centers will see more ESI 1s), and medical resources.

I just reviewed Warm Sock's entry. Her son fell, and had tenderness, deformity, pain and limited motion to his arm after his fall. We know right away that he will be at least an ESI 4, as he will need an x-ray. Assuming no circulatory compromise, he can wait a period of time to be seen. He could need an ortho consult or a pain shot, which would make him a ESI 3, but he is stable and not likely to become unstable. The main difference between an ESI 2 and an ESI 3 is in the waiting. ESI 3's can wait both in the waiting room and in the ER itself.

The drunk girl in the room with Socks and her kiddo sounds like an ESI 5. She could walk and talk. I don't know why parents take their drunk kids to the ER. Parents of girls seem particularly prone to this. I also don't know why docs give these girls IV fluids. They should wake up to the nasty hangover they deserve... OK, sidebar over, back to our topic.

So, did Warm Socks need to take her kiddo to the ER? Let's look at the resource he needed--an x-ray. He did need an x-ray, preferably within hours of the injury. Where can you get an x-ray done and read in America? Most doctor's offices do not do x-rays. The ER becomes the place for this. He then will need a doctor's expertise and physical care for the injury. Where can you get this done in a timely manner? Not most primary care providers. PCPs are usually not able to take unscheduled patients. They send them--oh, where?--to the ER! So people who could be seen in another setting are routinely seen in the ER--perhaps in a Fast Track or Urgent Care setting within the ER--but still in the ED.

Well I hope this little peek inside the world of the triage nurse was helpful. If you are just dying to read more about triage using the ESI system, here's a link. Feel free to use the comments to ask questions.

In the end, the ER was the right setting for our klutzy young friend due to its easy access to the resource(s) he needed. If there was a realistic option for timely evaluation and care other than the ER, that could have been used. However, just ask a concerned mother with a kiddo making "ouch" noises and a bend in his arm that God did not put there to wait for more than a couple hours...yeah, I didn't think so.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Funny

Check out this incredibly flexible kitty!

Some kitties, I swear, are made out of rubber!

Louie Wright In Trouble?

For a guy with a lot of push in this town it's hard to find a picture of him on line! This is from pictures of an award ceremony back in 2008 when Louie Wright was celebrated as "Labor Representative of the Year." (Link here if you are interested.) However, in 2010, Mr. Wright may be in trouble. Currently he is president of Local 42 of the IAFF--the firefighter's union. It is believed that much of the momentum behind the MAST/KCFD merger came from Mr. Wright, in order to have more power down at City Hall.

The issue of the pensions is proving to be a problem in the MAST take over. MAST pensions were more like that of a private company--401 (K) and the like. Firefighter pensions are classic government pensions. Folding the two, without causing an imbalance and perceptions of unfair treatment has been more difficult--and expensive--than the city anticipated. (Many of us who were not in favor of the MAST/KCFD merger pointed at this as a potential problem. We were humored and ignored.)

In addition, Mr. Wright supported candidates with Local 42 money and they all lost in Tuesday's election. And his efforts to get members of the Jackson County prosecutor's office into Local 42 have not borne any fruit. And the firefighters haven't had a raise in a while.

So at the union meeting on August 4th, a move was made to remove Louie Wright as union president. Per the reporting of Tony on TKC, the vote was a majority, but legal maneuvering during the next meeting on August 5th rendered the vote moot and the members' voices mute. Except for the chatter on the internet, there was lots of that.

I have never worked in a union shop. Never had to see the machinations of the union up close. So I am no expert. But it sounds to me that Mr. Wright is in trouble. His move with MAST and his backing of losing candidates may end up being his undoing. I don't know what has to happen to remove him from his office. But I would bet it is going to happen and IAFF local 42 will have new leadership soon.

Is it too much to hope that it is someone who puts the members of the union first, and the interests of the city and its citizens a close second and his/her ambitions for power and prestige way on the back burner? Yeah, probably.

Tony's coverage--link here. And Yael Abouhalkah of the Kansas City Star got wind of it and editorialized.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Election Reflections

You just know that any elections are going to be analyzed to death this year, it being the middle of President Barack Obama's term. As I sit down to add in my 2 cents worth, what considerations do I have?

Well, we turn out piss poor for elections, for one. Election officials are estimating turn out in Kansas City, MO to be under 20%. For the state of Missouri as a whole, the estimate is around 25%. For the state of Kansas, who had plenty to vote for, especially in Johnson County, the percentage was in the 20s, not reaching 30%. That is just pitiful. Considering all the resources around for getting informed, the prolonged voting hours and advance voting, there is no reason or excuse I can think of for not voting. People have died so you can fill the oval. That's the scolding for today.

With regard to Prop C there has been a lot of analysis by writers more knowledgeable than me, but I will say this: it's passage by a landslide indicates that there are a lot of people who do not like the health care bill that was passed. I bet if you asked those people about their opinion, many of them would say that our health care system does need some work, but that the current bill is terrible in so many ways. Both dems and repubs need to pay attention. Dems, though, are in more immediate danger of being voted out based on people's unhappiness with the health reform bill.

Some are making note that voters said yes to retaining many local city taxes. They are saying that this is evidence that voters are willing to pay higher taxes. This is not a concept that completely flies. Most of these issues are for very specific items or projects--sewers, parks, transportation. Raising taxes for rising entitlements will not fly. People are willing to pay a little extra for infrastructure care and needed upgrades to services. People are not willing to indulge the habit of some for spending Other People's Money.

In general, commentators are thinking that people are ready to "throw the rascals out." However, incumbents Cleaver, Skelton and Graves won their US house primaries easily. Familiar political family scions Blunt and Carnahan won. Spouse Stephene Moore won over in Kansas. Except for the seats vacated by retirement or change, it looks like many of the same characters will be headed for Washington. On the local front, it was a mixed bag. Arbanas withstood Riley's charge, but H. Rizzo lost. There were a few primary upsets, but very few. When it comes to pols, sometimes people end up voting for the evil they know, rather than the unknown entity.

So, for November, we have one very interesting US Senate race (Mo), one potentially very interesting US house race (Ks 3rd) and a few scattered contested local races. Potential issue votes include a referendum on the 1% earnings tax in Kansas City (and St. Louis) and a tax proposal for public safety in Kansas City Missouri. So put away your pencils for now, and we will see you in November.

Oh, the Missouri 40th House district? The election board will probably be counting votes again soon. JJ Rizzo won by a whole 6 votes over Will Royster. 650-644. I can't imagine this will not generate a recount.

Sink Hole Closes Holmes Road at 110th Street

Well, another day, another water leak down here in the southland. This was a big one, that created a sink hole in the middle of Holmes Road. Water crews are working as we speak to fix up the problem. Holmes Road is closed except for local traffic, starting at 109th Terrace to the north, and Red Bridge Road to the south.

According to news reports, and a visit with a resident near the break, the water started flowing about 0600. It did undermine the pavement, creating the hole full of water you can see on the news video, as well as a lot of other damage.

The culprit was a 12 inch main breaking. The resident I visited with said he called the city about a week ago to report water on the street. The problem is there is frequently water on Holmes Road, although I would have to say not usually this far south--but I bet no one in the water department got very excited about the report.

It's not just the main that will need repair--the buckled street will also need fixing. Holmes Road will not be normal for several days.

Just what we needed with many people using it as an alternative with the Triangle problem.

Cell phone pics of the crews at work this muggy day. From the top: view of the work area looking south, some of the damage to the pavement, hoisting out the broken main, and preparing the new main. You can tell how deep that hole is from the ladder in it. It is deep enough that you can only see a man's head if he's standing in it, plus it required shoring.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Election Results Thus Far

Well, the polls have been closed for about an hour and a half and results are starting to come in. Here's a quick run down of what's going on so far.

1. Holy crap! I do believe that most Missourians do not like ObamaCare. Results thus far: 42,201 (72%) YES 16,668 (28%) NO. However, this is a statewide race, so this could narrow as more votes are counted.

2. Crystal Williams and Henry Rizzo neck and neck in Jax 2nd at large. Sort of a surprise, since Williams has little experience. I think she knows a lot of the right people and got some of the right endorsements.

3. Terry Riley losing to Fred Arbanas badly in Jax 3rd at large. Basically, it's 60% to the incumbent and only 40% to the KC councilman. That surprises me, I figured this would be closer race.

4. Jerry Moran with semi-comfortable lead 50% to 44% over Todd Tiahrt in Republican primary for KS senate (Sam Brownback's seat). This one may not be over for a little while.

5. Kansas House--contesting for Dennis Moore's seat--his wife, Stephene, is blowing away the competition 80% for her. On the Repub side, Kevin Yoder looks like the winner with 49% of the vote, nearest competitor, Patricia Lightner, has just 35%

6. Look forward to lots of nasty ads--Robin Carnahan and Roy Blunt to contest for the senate seat of the retiring Kit Bond.

7. Looks like Jacob Turk will get to lose to incumbent Emanuel Cleaver again in Mo US House 5th District.

8. As of 2044, not a single vote has been counted in Mo House 40 race between Will Royster and JJ Rizzo. Hmmm, what's going on there?

9. Looks like both Kansas City questions will pass.

And that is a very quick snap shot of how things are right now at 2045. We'll know more at 2200 when the newscasts start up.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weather Forecast: HOT!

Well, today, may have been the hottest day of the year. At Kansas City International Airport, which is away from the city (so no "urban heat island" effect) a high temperature of 99 was reached this afternoon around about 1600 or so. The dew point was 75. That's hot.

For the municipal airport, situated just north of downtown, on the Missouri River, they held the 100 degree reading for 4 hours starting with the 1500 reading. The dew points ranged from 73 to 70. That's hot.

The high for Lee's Summit, MO airport was 97 and for Olathe, KS 98, both with dew points around 75. That's hot.

The forecast for tomorrow? Per the National Weather Service, a high of 99. Needless to say, an excessive heat warning is in effect, until 2100 CDT tomorrow.

Now, we will find out if August heat affects voting turnout like November rain.

Election Tomorrow--Republican Ballot

You can tell this is the land of the Democrat machine. Many of the local races have no Republican candidate. If you want a say, you have to take a Democrat ballot. I've done that myself. The only problem is then you have no say in the Republican primaries at the top of the ballot. Too bad the local races aren't run as non partisan races like the KCMO mayor's election. The races are edited for Southland interests. I'll link to the ballot for all at the end.

R. L. Praprotnik
Hector Maldonado
Kristi Nichols
Roy Blunt
Deborah Solomon
Davis Conway
Mike Vontz
Chuck Purgason
Tony Laszacs

Allen Icet
Tom Schweich

5th District: Patrick Haake
5th District: Ralph Sheffield
5th District: Jacob Turk
5th District: Jerry Fowler
5th District: Ron Shawd

8th District: Bryan Pratt
8th District: Will Kraus
8th District: Gary Dusenberg

10th District: No Candidate Filed


45th District: Nola Wood

46th District: Rodney Williams

48th District: Gary Cross
48th District: Bob Gough
48th District: Pam Osgood

50th District: No candidate filed

Robert A. Stringfield


2nd District At Large:
No Candidate Filed
3rd District At Large:
No Candidate Filed


4th District:
No Candidate Filed

Link: Republican KCMO sample ballot See my previous post for links to Mo House and Jax County info.

Election Tomorrow--Democrat ballot

The Democrat ballot is where most of the action is locally. Most races have no Republican filed to run. So this primary election is the chance to make your voice heard with regard to the local representatives to the state and county. This is edited for the Southland voter. You will find a link to the KCMO ballot for all at the bottom, along with other useful links.

Francis J. Vangeli
Robin Carnahan
Richard Charles Tolbert

Susan Montee
Abdul Akram

5th District: Emanuel Cleaver, II

8th District: No Candidate Filed

10th District: Jolie L. Justus
10th District: Jim Lepper

Again, I have edited this for Southland voters. The districts are highly gerrymandered. For example, Grandview has two State Rep districts within its city limits. Your voter registration card will tell you which district you are in. None of our races are as interesting as the District 40 contest between John Joesph Rizzo and Will Royster in the old Northeast of KCMO.

45th District: Jason R. Holsman

46th District: Darrell Curls
46th District: John T. Maloney
46th District: Kevin McManus
46th District: Geoff Gerling

48th District: Gavin Fletchall

50th District: Bill Clinton Young
50th District: Michael R. Brown
50th District: MD Alam Rabbi

Mike Sanders

This is really quite odd. The way the Jackson County Legislature works is that there are 6 districts and then there are 3 at-large districts. The boundaries for the at-large districts lay over the boundaries for the 6 districts. Very confusing. Who thought up this mess? Again, edited for the southland.

1st District At Large:
Ray Salva Jr.
1st District At Large:
Theresa Garza Ruiz
(OK, at first I thought we didn't vote in the 1st District at-large race, but then, why would Theresa Garza-Ruiz waste money and time with a sign at Red Bridge and Holmes?)

2nd District At Large:
Henry C. Rizzo
2nd District At Large:
Crystal Williams
2nd District At Large:
Patricia Flucas

3rd District At Large: (The majority of South KC is covered by this at-large district)
Fred Arbanas
3rd District At Large:
Terry M. Riley


4th District: Dan Tarwater III

Election Tomorrow--Issues

State of Missouri
Proposed by the 95th General Assembly
(Second Regular Session) SS SCS HCS House Bill 1764

Shall the Missouri Statutes be amended to:
Deny the government authority to penalize citizens for refusing to purchase private health insurance or infringe upon the right to offer or accept direct payment for lawful healthcare services?
Modify laws regarding the liquidation of certain domestic insurance companies?
It is estimated this proposal will have no immediate costs or savings to state or local governmental entities. However, because of the uncertain interaction of the proposal with implementation of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, future costs to state governmental entities are unknown.

AUGUST 3, 2010
Shall the Jackson County Charter adopted by vote on November 3, 1970, and as amended in public vote on August 8, 1978, April 2, 1985, November 4, 1986 and August 2, 1994 be repealed and the Proposed 2010 Jackson County Charter, as filed in final form on May 25, 2010 with the Clerk of the County Legislature, be enacted in lieu thereof as the 2010 Jackson County Charter?
AUGUST 3, 2010

For the purpose of reimbursing the City for expenses related to the regulation, inspection and issuance of permits for tire dealers and waste tire sites, shall the City of Kansas City, Missouri, be authorized to charge an annual fee of $250.00 for each tire dealer permit and each waste tire site permit, including renewals, and charge a fee of $100.00, that may be adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index, for second and subsequent re-inspections of any tire dealer or waste tire site after failure of an annual or complaint inspection and the first re-inspection?

For the purpose of reimbursing the City for expenses related to the enforcement of nuisance and property maintenance ordinances, shall the City of Kansas City, Missouri, be authorized to charge a $75.00 re-inspection fee (for each re-inspection), that may be adjusted annually by the Consumer Price Index, to a violator who fails to correct the nuisance or property maintenance violations within the time frame provided in the written notice, to be used exclusively to provide funding that will supplement current funding for enforcement of nuisance and property maintenance ordinances so funding shall not be reduced below the amounts in the Fiscal Year 2010 – 11 Budget, unless overall percentage reductions are imposed on all other General Fund supported City departments?

These are the questions that all voters within the city limits of Kansas City, MO will see. Our friends in Grandview will have a tax question to consider. Other municipalities also have ballot issues. The country will be watching Missouri for the outcome of Proposition C with regard to health care. A large number of Missourians voting for Prop C may be a barometer of negative feelings towards the health care plan passed by the US Congress earlier this year.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Plenty of Car Shows and Cruises Left to Go

There have been plenty of cruises and car shows this summer--and there still are plenty more to go. Despite the hot, occasionally rainy weather, there have been lots of owners bringing out their pride and joy for everyone to enjoy. I have a huge back log of car photos, so I thought I would break out some today. Even though it is just the first of August, there are signs of summer's winding down. I stopped in a Walmart today to pick up cat grub, and the back to school shoppers were already at it. So, without further ado...

2009 Hurst Dodge Challenger. Slick gold paint, special engine package (of course it's got a Hemi) and Hurst pistol grip shifter.

1962 Mercedes 190 SL. I spent most of my years under 10 rolling around on the back platform of a two seater like this one, as my parents had a 1959. That one was red with a white interior.

1962 Plymouth Fury. Set up for racin'

Another Plymouth, I believe a 1969 or around that time.

Mock up of 1970 Dodge Charger winged NASCAR racer. A really nice job on this car, very close to the original, which was driven by Charlie Glotzbach in that year.

The car in action in 1970, against another winged MOPAR at the 1970 Daytona 500 125 mile twin qualifier. Unfortunately, the driver of #78, Talmadge Prince, lost his life in the race in a bad crash. NASCAR took measures later to reduce the speed of these cars around big tracks like Daytona. Check here for more pictures of winged warriors.

So everyone have a really good Sunday and week and oh, by the way, Happy Birthday Bobby G...