Tuesday, June 30, 2015

White House & Iran

For whom


IF WE CAN AGREE THAT the U.S. State Department does, or at least should, do the bidding of the President of the United States, a/k/a POTUS*, then we understand that two recent State-related events originated at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (the White House).

Item 1:

    A Wall Street Journal report revealed that the US expedited the release of several Iranian convicts (including arms smugglers) in an effort to pave the way for negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. In 2009, Iran reportedly passed “a wish list” to the US detailing actions the US should undertake to improve ties with Iran. The secret list included the names of Iranian prisoners it wanted the US to release. In 2010, Oman brokered the release of three American hikers who had accidentally crossed into Iran from Iraq and had been arrested by Iranian authorities. In the following years, the US assisted with the release of two Iranian convicted arms smugglers, a retired senior diplomat and a prominent scientist convicted of illegal exports to Iran. However, today, four American citizens remain imprisoned or unaccounted for in Iran. (Emphasis mine.)

    The administration’s actions demonstrate a pattern of acceding to Iranian demands. While the US originally demanded a “full suspension of uranium enrichment as required by multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the US is now permitting Iran to continue enriching uranium with 5,060 centrifuges. The US originally insisted that Iran shut down Fordow but now over 1,000 centrifuges will remain in this underground facility largely impenetrable to attack. Similarly, while restrictions on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles were once considered an important part of any deal with Iran, now they appear to be excluded from the deal. President Obama’s objective that Iran should not “have the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon” has been downgraded to limiting Iran’s breakout time to one year, a period of time analysts believe is too short to effectively detect and diplomatically respond to a breakout attempt. Finally, recent reports that the US may be caving on the essential issues of sanctions and the disclosure of Iran’s past atomic military research has compounded the sense that the emerging deal is deeply flawed. Former director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, Michael Singh, and former Senior Advisor on Iran at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, Ray Takeyh, have both argued that because US objectives have shifted, the emerging deal adheres closer to Iran’s red lines than to our own.

Item 2:

    The State Department today refused to allow a reporter for the Washington Free Beacon to attend a press briefing given by lead negotiator Wendy Sherman and threatened to call security to have him removed.

    The Free Beacon article continued:

    Two State Department officials booted the Free Beacon from a room where Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, was talking to reporters, despite the Free Beacon’s being credentialed by the Austrian government for the ongoing Iranian nuclear talks. … Melissa Turley, a State Department official, approached a Free Beacon reporter and demanded that he leave the room. … “You have a press pass from the [European Union], not from me,” Turley said, after being informed that the Free Beacon was officially credentialed to cover the event.

    Both Turley and a second State Department colleague threatened to call “security” to remove the reporter. The Free Beacon cited Western observers at the talks who attributed the State Department’s behavior “to jitters over media coverage revealing a still growing list of concessions being made to Iran by the Obama administration.” Such concessions include the administration’s reported willingness to allow Iran to limit inspections of military sites, which many experts consider a necessary element of verifying that Iran’s nuclear program is strictly civilian.

Given the constant acquiescence of POTUS to the ayatollah, the question must be asked: "For whom is POTUS working?" The U.S. and its supposed allies, or Iran? It would appear to be Iran.

No matter the answer, the U.S.' credibility has been reduced to zero; how far we've fallen since Theo. Roosevelt sent the "Great White Fleet" to show the flag in support of of his "Speak softly and carry a big stick" diplomacy.


* POTUS is not to be confused with the recently popular SCOTUS, Supreme Court of the United States. Alphabet soup lovers, rejoice!

Monday, June 29, 2015


Shame on America,
We've let the vets down


THE OTHER DAY I SAW AN APPEAL by the Wounded Warriors Project on tv.

I was ashamed.

Why should the victims of our wars - the wars we fight for others - have to beg for aid? Why doesn't our government - regardless of party In power - take care of the men and women who were wounded - physically and mentally - in combat to protect, in too many cases, people who later turn against the people making sacrifices for them?

Unfortunately, this scandal is not new in the United States.

I DON'T KNOW HOW other countries treat returning soldiers and frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a tinker's dam(n)*.

I know the wounded warriors have rights to Veterans Administration service. Based on recent exposes we know that while they have RIGHTS to the services we know they often lack ACCESS to the services.

Or maybe the Wounded Warriors Project is a scam.

But I don't think so.

When I was in the Air Force I worked at a military hospital (1360 USAF, Orlando AFB FL c 1960s). Times were different them. The active and retired military had access to on-base medical care when a VA facility was distant; in Orlando's case, the nearest VA hospital was in St, Petersburg (by all accounts a good facility). Officers, active and retired, paid all of a dollar and a dime ($1.10) per day for in-patient care; enlisted paid nothing; dependents cost the military sponsor $1.75.

That's all changed, as have many other things since I wore a Shade 54 (i.e., Air Force Blue) "Ike" jacket. Yes, it gets chilly in Orlando.

Earlier I wrote that the vets' plight is nothing new. Getting - trying to be polite and "politically correct" here - ignored by our government is nothing new.

Back when we were still fighting England and its Hessian mercenaries**, Geo. Washington had to appeal to his troops to "soldier on" without pay promised by the Continental Congress. (See George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy, 1783)

After World War I - apparently there was little discontent in the ranks from Independence to World War I, or if there was, it was quietly suppressed - veterans were promised a bonus. The agre)ement, made in a time of plenty, was that the bonus would be paid in 1945 (when America already was involved in World War 2). Unfortunately, the Depression turned good times into bad and the vets needed their bonus money "now." The government stood by its agreement to pay in 1945.

The vets took up arms - and canes and crutches - and marched; The Bonus Army Invades Washington, D.C., 1932

The vets were greeted in D.C. by cavalry, tanks, and teargas.

Today, in addition to the Wounded Warriors Project, we see a Washington Times headline that reads: Pentagon puts budget concerns ahead of Fort McClellan troops’ welfare - Top Obama appointee says cost to notify soldiers of possible exposure to toxins too high

The poet Rudyard Kipling cobbled a couple of ditties appropriate for both his time (1865-1936) and - it seems - ours. While his work applies primarily to the English, it can equally apply to American military as well.

A Time For Prayer

    "In times of war and not before,
    God and the soldier we adore.
    But in times of peace and all things righted,
    God is forgotten and the soldier slighted."


    I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
    The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
    The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
    I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
    O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
    But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

    I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
    They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
    They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
    But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
    But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
    The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
    O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.

    Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
    An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
    Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
    Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
    But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.

    We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
    But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
    An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
    Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
    While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
    But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
    There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
    O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

    You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
    We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
    Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
    The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
    For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
    But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
    An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
    An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!


*: TINKER'S DAM(N)Something that is insignificant or worthless

** HESSIAN MERCENARIES He (King George III) is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.(U.S. Declaration of Independence)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Professional & personal
Risk Management thoughts


THING ONE: The Mlivbe.com reports that

    Contractors began removing asbestos on May 8, and three weeks later tests revealed elevated levels of asbestos in the air that workers and students breathe every day. The most logical way asbestos could penetrate multiple levels of this building is if construction crews unknowingly disturbed or attempted to improperly remove the substance.

    Asbestos exposure is very dangerous and the chemical should be removed by highly skilled workers with the proper training to prevent it from putting students and the public at risk. Fortunately, there are strict laws when it comes to the removal of asbestos.

Bottom line: using inexperienced people can be dangerous to your health - and wallet.

THING TWO: The Washington Post's Christie Aschwanden warns Check your health records: You may be able to avoid trouble that a review of your personal medical records may turn up some less than accurate information. (Personal aside: I checked my records and found several errors.)

ADMITTEDLY, reviewing personal medical records would NOT seem to fall under any Risk Management heading, but incorrect medical records are very much a risk, both to your health - as detailed in the Washington Post article - and to your wallet.

In the case of Ms. Aschwanden of the WashPost, she "discovered" that she had multiple pregnancies which came as a surprise to the childless woman.

She also discovered that her primary care doctor, a/k/a GP (general practitioner) was reporting discussions that never occurred. Not exactly fraud. But neither was it honest.

The article notes that Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), you have a right to view and obtain a copy of your medical record, Rachel Seeger, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, said in an e-mailed statement. If you find inaccuracies, HIPAA gives you the right to have these errors corrected. The caveat is that patients may be charged a "reasonable" fee to copy and deliver paper records.

LIKEWISE ADMITTEDLY, a Risk management practitioner probably lacks direct input into contracting practices for the organization.

However, the Risk Management practitioner should have input on the organization's policies and procedures, and hiring qualified, licensed, and insured vendors most assuredly IS part of a Risk Management practitioner's function.

"Things" still happen, but at least the practitioner's organization can show it did due diligence when government inspectors and insurance claims people show up at the door.

As the Mlive article boldly notes: The truth is, skilled labor isn't cheap, and cheap labor isn't skilled.

Akin to the old Fram commercial, "You can pay me now (for an oil and filter change) or pay me later (for an engine overhaul or replacement), it may cost more initially to hire qualified workers to do the job right the first time than it costs to pay to repair damage done by unqualified workers. (A bit like hiring a Risk Management tyro when an experienced practitioner really is needed.)

One of the differences I perceive between "business continuity" and "enterprise risk management" is that in most cases, practitioners only have input to policies and procedures in the latter (risk management).

Monday, June 22, 2015


Workers' compensation
Risk Management topic?


I followed a link from AdvisenFPN to an EHS article titled Affordable Care Act: Should You Treat Worker’s Comp Claims Like Crime Scenes?

At first blush, it would seem workers' comp falls outside the bailiwick of the Enterprise Risk Management practitioner.

But maybe not.

ACTUALLY WE SHOULD BE LOOKING at Workers' Compensation abuses

The EHS leed paragraph reads:

    An unintended consequence of the Affordable Care Act is that it’s making workers’ compensation a more-attractive option for employees who are injured while off the job.

The article , by David R. Leng (CPCU, CIC, CBWA, CRM, CWCA), continues on the EHS website - and others, see End of File (EOF):

    Workers’ compensation fraud has been around, one way or another, since the first slacker hurled a spear at a woolly mammoth and then complained to the tribe leader he couldn’t go out on the next hunt because he hurt his back, when in reality he just wanted to hang around the cave, painting on the walls.

    A “free” vacation long has been a motivation of workers’ compensation fraud, as is monetary rewards. But the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare) has dumped millions of additional bodies into the healthcare system, putting a significant strain on everyone’s budget.

As usual, the "bottom line" is how much someone - employee or employer - will have to pay, or, to put it another way, how much will the medical providers be able to charge?

Author Leng suggests that even though Obamacare may seem to be "cheap" coverage, the frequently high deductibles prevent many people from using the no longer affordable coverage. The fall-back is to claim the malady is work-related so the employer has to foot the bill.

Medicos also more inclined to welcome workers' comp claims since their payment is higher than under Obamacare.

The article goes on to list seven (7) ways that can be used to determine if the injury-causing incident actually happened on the job or was "brought to work" by the injured employee.

So what are the threats the Risk Management practitioner needs to consider?

    Increased workers' comp costs

    Lost productivity

    Visits from federal or state OHSA and similar organizations

It may not seem like a major issue compared to, say, an earthquake, but consider increased workers' comp costs and lost productivity in the same vein as a trickle of water over the years on limestone. It takes its toll.



Yellow Factory
Workers' Compensation Institute

Friday, June 19, 2015


Kind words
For a vendor


SOME TIME BACK I bought a two-headed device for my shower. Basically it’s a replacement for the fixed shower head, a diverter, and a hand-held shower head. The thing was on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond and it met the Boss' requirements.

Unfortunately it was made in China.

After about a year the diverter switch failed, so I hied myself back to BB&B and bought a new unit. Similar to, but not the same as.

BUT, I noted on the box that the device had a lifetime warranty.

So I wrote a paper letter to the company, Interlink Products International.

I EXPLAINED THE PROBLEM and asked how I could go about buying a replacement diverter for the currently installed unit. (I no longer had a receipt for the unit.) I fully expected to be told that I could buy the replacement diverter for $n plus shipping. Fair enough.

I got an email reply telling me a replacement diverter was in the mail (real mail: USPS). A little later a second email gave me a USPS tracking number.

No charge.

The email arrived on Tuesday; the replacement diverter arrived on Thursday.

NOW I HAVE TWO (2) COMPANIES that stand behind their products.

The other company with which I had a similar experience is Wayfair.com..

I bought a coffee urn from Wayfair via Wal-Mart. The Made-In-China device was imported by Buffalo Tools for its AmeriHome brand, but warranted by Wayfair. The device failed on first use. (See Of warranties & global warming for all the gory details, including Wayfair's positive - and quick - response.)

Would that ALL vendors were as customer-centered as Interlink Products International and Wayfair.

As a general rule I try - operative word is "try" - to avoid products made in China. That applies both to "hard" products (e.g., coffee urns and shower head diverters) and ALL food products. Actually, I'm even concerned with food products made by Chinese-owned companies in the U.S. (e.g., Smithfield), Israel (Tnuva), and other countries, fearing that in order to reduce production costs the newly acquired-by-China companies will eliminate any QA/QC.

Bottom line: If I MUST buy a Chinese-made product I will buy it from a vendor that stands behind the product and will make it whole when it fails.

Now, about those Obama CFLs that are supposed to last 10 years. We're lucky if they last 10 months, never mind years.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Answering machine
Answer to politicians


IT HAS STARTED - the political calls, that is.

The other evening I answered the house phone and heard "This is Jeb Bush Junior" before I disconnected.

Now I am not acquainted with Jeb Bush Junior, nor I am personally acquainted with ANY Bush (other than perhaps Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans). I am familiar with how the political Bushes operate having had two Georges as presidents and Jeb the elder as the governor of my state. (For the record, the senior Jeb Bush is not Jeb Bush Senior, at least I doubt his birth certificate lists him as Jeb Bush Senior.)

I know I need to be "politically aware" and knowledgeable for the coming elections so I probably will watch any debates, both intra- and inter-party, but I will as much as possible dodge calls promoting this or that candidate.

Like the advertisements, and - unfortunately the "news" as well - a voter cannot expect to get an accurate picture of the candidates.

Maybe I'll vote for the one with the LEAST negative campaigning; the one who disparages his opponents the least. I'm tired of negative politics; tell me what the candidate will do - or won't ; don't tell me what someone thinks the candidate's opponent will do - or won't do.

I realize the tv stations make their fortunes during silly season. Even the Post Office may get into the black with political mailings, although most probably are last class (as they should be) cheap rate. I'd line the rabbit's cage with them if I didn't fear for my rabbit's sanity.

The primary elections are more than a year away in my state and already the hopefuls are hot on the trail. At least we won't have to pay for any presidential trips at taxpayer expense to re-elect the incumbent; unless he changes his name to Roosevelt, he is a lame duck. (Course we - Americans of all political persuasions - will get to fund his stumping for his party's candidates, assuming they WANT to be associated with him. According to the Washing (DC) Examiner, we pay US$228,288 AN HOUR for POTUS to travel hither and yon; that figure is 27% higher than previous administrations.)

A recent campaign junket to south Florida was 50% funded by the Democrats; the taxpayers got to pay the other half because POTUS visited the National Hurricane Center in Miami. (And never mind how much it cost in dollars to provide protection and the inconvenience to people trying to earn the money on which they pay those taxes to fund presidential jaunts . . . the incumbent of those who went before.)

Pity the U.S. lacks a decent rail system. According to the Streets.MN site,
Across the Amtrak system, the full cost to operate a train tends to land in the range of $0.30 to $0.70 per passenger-mile, though that number is dependent on a lot of things, perhaps the most important being the number of passengers onboard. Nonetheless, all of Amtrak’s routes are less expensive per passenger-mile than any of the small-market airline routes listed above. (Amtrak’s worst performer by far in 2014 was the Chicago–Indianapolis Hoosier State at $1.14 per passenger-mile).

If I want to hear a politician, I'll go to a rally where the politician is speaking. If I want to know where a politician stands on an issue, I'll read newspapers that support the candidate and newspapers that support the candidate's opponent; somewhere between the two publications there MAY lie the truth.

But spare me the phone calls or be prepared to talk to the answering machine.

From now until a new president is crowned, all calls go to the answering machine.


Just where did Air Force One fly during the incumbent's reign? Among other places:

New York for a Tonight show visit ($2.1 million)

Vacation in Hawaii ($4,086,355)

Vacation to California ($2,145,907)

Vacation to Martha's Vineyard ($1,164,268)

Monday, June 1, 2015

No pride, no quality?

"Name" companies fail
To meet their promises


I LOOOKED UP AT THE CEILING LIGHTS and noticed that yet another Obama bulb had burned out, well short of its advertised 10 thousand hour functional life.

There are only a handful of companies putting their label on the Curly Florescent Lights (CFLs) sold in the U.S., not all of which are U.S. companies. (Phillips, for example, is a Dutch company with headquarters in Amsterdam.)

No matter what company’s label is on the box, ALL the CFLs are made in China. I have checked a number of stores and the country of manufacture always is China.

NO QA/QC IN CHINA. Americans should know by now that Chinese products, especially (a) low end products or (b) products that have no competition from U.S. and Canadian companies - such as CFLs - are notoriously shoddy; there is little, if any quality assurance or quality control in Chinese factories.

Back in the day, in the early 50s, Japanese products had a well-deserved reputation as shoddy. Cheap, but shoddy.

Some companies that imported Japanese products that cost more than a few dollars - $100 35mm cameras, for instance - performed their own QA and QC on the products once they arrived on the U.S.' shores.

Honeywell was one such company. If a camera had HONEYWELL stamped on the pentaprism, Honeywell stood behind the camera, knowing it passed its own U.S. based QA/QC inspection. (I owned a Honeywell Pentax H3v that survived my work as a reporter, then was used by a friend who eventually gave the camera to his son-in-law.)

Today, most Americans have confidence in Japanese-made products. They may not be innovative - the Japanese are great at copying other's ideas and then improving upon them - but they, generally, ARE reliable products - Nissan nee Datsun, Honda, Mitsubishi (cars and planes), and Toyota are Japan's flag bearers in the transportation industry. But, while once "cheap" in all meanings of the word, Japanese products now have both QA/QC and higher price tags.

The CFLs imported into the U.S. are SUPPOSED to be checked for compliance to Energy Star compliance.

According to the Saving Electricity web site (http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/cfl.html), under the subheding "CFL longevity," we read that

    It's no secret: the cheaper CFL's often burn out quickly. Sometimes even a batch of name-brand bulbs can be bad. I strongly recommend you buy only CFLs with the Energy Star seal or that come with a warranty. Energy Star bulbs have to meet strict specs for lifespan, and they have to maintain 80% of the initial light output at 40% of their rated lifetime.

    It's a myth that frequent cycling (turning lights and on off) greatly reduces CFL life. When CFLs fail, it's generally because they were cheap and poorly made, not because they were turned on and off too much. In Consumer Reports' rigorous testing, after 3000 hours with frequent on-off cycling, most of their CFL's are still going strong, and the Energy Star bulbs are lasting longer than the non-ES bulbs. And to get the Energy Star label, 5 of 6 test bulbs have to stay alive after being cycled for half the number of stated life-hours. For example, a bulb with a claimed life of 6000 hours is turned on for 5 minutes and off for 5 minutes, a total of 3000 times.

Even the Energy Star requirement of 80% of the initial light output at 40% of their rated lifetime is not encouraging.

The failure rate, at least in the bulbs in my use, seems to be excessive.

I HAVE returned a bulb to a retailer and the retailer DID provide a replacement, but any saving I might have enjoyed by using the Obama bulb was cancelled out by the cost of returning the bulb.

We no longer have a choice of light bulbs - we can buy ones made in China or we can buy ones made in China.

I suppose the old saw "You get what you pay for" holds true for the Chinese no-quality products; still, it would be nice of the companies putting their labels on the product cared enough about THEIR corporate image to take some responsibility for the products that bear their logo.

Honeywell had it right - back in the day.