Thursday, July 31, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The big news around these parts lately concerns the clandestine attempt by the Board of Trustees at the University of Central Arkansas to give its President, Lu Hardin, a $300,000 bonus. To make a long story short, the Board voted to do this in executive session so that the payment to Hardin would not be reflected in the minutes. Why they felt compelled to do this is anybody's guess. The proffered reason is that the Board wanted to reward Lu for a job well done and didn't want him looking elsewhere for employment.
Of course another bandied about theory is that it occurred to somebody, probably Hardin, that it didn't look good for him to be getting a big honking raise when the faculty was not getting one. Anyway, word leaked out and the press pounced. Hardin, in a bit of parsing that even Bill Clinton would admire, initially denied that the bonus amounted to a "raise" simply because the payment was agreed to when he signed his contract upon his appointment years ago.
No matter. He and the Board were exposed. And all hell broke loose. The Arkansas News Bureau's John Brummett explains it all here. He also takes the opportunity to take UCA for holding itself out in its advertising as "The Center of Learning" about which I want to elaborate upon today.
In the first place, you must think exceedingly highly of yourself as an educational institution to refer to yourself as "The Center of Learning." UCA ain't exactly Oxford. However, they did produce a Rhodes Scholar and he is currently reading the law there. I know this because they put the kid is one of their "TCOL" spots ( Come to UCA! Become a Rhodes Scholar!). Hell, Notre Dame doesn't even refer to itself in such grandiose terms and they think they are Harvard with rosary beads. Hendrix College, my Alma Mater, toils quietly on the other side of Conway, turning out doctors, lawyers and Methodist preachers as it has done for decades while referring to itself as, well, Hendrix College.
Grandiose bullshit aside-and that's the worst kind of bullshit-it occurred to me as I read John's column that referring to yourself as TCOL is not quite as complimentary as it sounds at first blush. "Learning" connotes a certain elementary acquisition of knowledge whereas "Higher Education" pertains to a more in depth and technical field of study. For example, I learned to read as a child. I read history and philosophy in college. Also, for the last couple of years I have had the privilege of being around folks who are hearing impaired. So I have "learned" a little sign language.
Get the distinction?
This had to have occurred to somebody at UCA when they concocted this ad campaign. My guess is that, despite the fact that they are really into themselves over there, referring to themselves as " The Center of Knowledge" was really a bit much seeing as how such a suggested title would cause the likes of a Princeton to blush. And UCA ain't Princeton either.
Listen, Lu Hardin is an allright kind of guy who by all accounts has done a bang-up job over there. He made a mistake. He gave back the money. He apologized to the faculty and to the Board. He praised the Board member who blew the whistle for having done the right thing. He seems genuinely remorseful. As far as I am concerned that should be the end of it.
In his column Brummett makes a valid point that this is the kind of thing that can happen when people forget that the institutions they serve are bigger than they are. And that we are all just temporary employees in the great scope of things.
True enough. In his amusing little book "On Bullshit," Princeton Professor Harry G. Frankfurt made another observation that is equally apt. He says that the bullshitter really does not believe himself to be lying even though his bullshit may not stand up to scrutiny. The corollary to this would be that the bullshitter tends to get into trouble when he starts believing his bullshit. Or as the old saying goes, "The con artist never believes in the con."
This "Center of Learning" stuff is bullshit. It would be bullshit if Stanford were putting it out. The larger point is that trouble like what went down last week is what can happen when you start believing your bullshit.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
This is last night's WNBA dustup between Detroit and los Angeles. What made this special for me was not the sight of a bunch of muscled up chicks throwing down all that was pretty cool.
What I loved was the sight of former NBA tough guys Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn and Michael Cooper acting as peacemakers in trying to break up the action.
I had just walked in the door last night as this was going down. I was transfixed. One of the best basketball fights I have seen in some time.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The Louvin Brothers, were an old Gospel act that specialized in gothic songs about what tragedy can befall you when you turn your back on Jesus, leave the farm and go to Knoxville. Many of the subjects of their songs tended to drown in the river. Which is what Baptists might confuse with irony.
Charlie and Ira Louvin have been described in one recent textbook on country music as "unhinged." Ira-the one on the left- exceptionally so. Just watch his eyes while he sings.
Anyway, this is how crazy Ira was.
His wife shot him 5 times. And he lived. He died in a car wreck three years later.
Only the genuinely smooth running crazy can pull that off.
Have a nice night. Hope you don't have bad dreams.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Really. 10 million so he could get clear to marry Chris Evert.
And somewhere, somewhere being not in the field of players after he-no!-failed to make the cut, somewhere John Daly is thinking, undoubtedly over a cold one:
" And they say I'm an idiot."
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I was talking to my friend Peter today. Peter III has just taken up the damn sport. Has played maybe 5 times.
You guessed it. Last week young Peter made a hole-in-one. Said it was a short par-3. He hit the front of the green and it rolled right in. Which is how you are supposed to do it.
I hate golf.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
At least not until last week.
My doctor scheduled me for a certain diagnostic procedure at a local hospital. He made the referral because he felt it was medically necessary to get some answers really fast based on some rather interesting symptoms that had popped up out of the wild blue yonder.
My provider sent a fax: Coverage Denied.
This particular physician is quiet and almost sphinx-like in his demeanor. Jim is gentle and kind. He is the kind of doctor who has this almost Svengali-like power over elderly patients who are drawn to his unassuming ways. Think Fred Rogers with an Ozark accent.
Ray, his nurse, called me the day before the procedure to give me the happy news. He said that a peer to peer teleconference between Jim and the provider's review physician had been scheduled for the morning of the procedure. One more thing. Ray told me Jim was pissed.
Wow. Guys like me uncork over any of a number of slights and injustices, most of them imaginary. You have to go some to light Jim's fuse.
OK. I wasn't real happy at this news. I mean, it's not like I didn't have the money. But it was earmarked for repairs to my deck. Not for a medical procedure. But it wasn't the end of the world. At least I could come up with it.. Little did I know that the screwed up way we finance medical care in this country would inure to my benefit in any event simply because I happen to be reasonably solvent.
The insurance lady at the hospital called me the morning of the test to tell me that the decision by my provider not to cover the procedure was under review. I told her that I knew that. And just so I would know, I asked her how much the procedure cost.
" Ummmmmm....generally around $3000.00," she said.
" Great," I said sarcastically. "OK. I guess I'll just wait for the bill to get the final amount." I hadn't planned on shelling out 3 grand this month on anything other than home projects and airfare to Chapel Hill. But then again, I hadn't planned on that trip to the ER earlier last week either. Stuff happens. Again, I am fortunate. I had $3000.00 that I could shell out if I had to. Lots of folks can't say that. You got to look at the big picture sometimes. You have to count your blessings.
" Well," the insurance lady said. " If you can pay cash today, we'll give you a 58% discount on the charge."
I was dumbfounded.
" Let me get this straight," I said. " If my provider changes its corporate mind and decides this thing is indeed medically necessary and not the equivalent of a face lift or something, y'all charge them the full rate and my copay is 700 bucks. "
" But if I just make an appointment, and show up to get a CT Scan of what passes for my brains, y'all will back off to (I did the math in what passes for my brains) around-what?-$1200 bucks?"
" Yeah. Something like that."
" No disrespect but that's insane."
" I don't make the rules, sir. I'm just reading off the screen here."
Think about it. Even if insurance covered the procedure, it would only pay what was reasonable and customary. So it wouldn't pay the quoted rate if it didn't want to. I wouldn't be charged the quoted rate if I could pay cash on the barrel head. And how did they come up with a number like 58 per cent anyway? Surely they meant that's all I would have to pay up front and they would bill me the rest later. But that's not what she said.
I've seen a more straight up pricing system on used car lots in Louisiana.
The hell of it all is that the only people that get charged the full rate are the uninsured. And they can't pay. But I guess that the hospital can then write off the full amount charged as bad business debt.
The good news is that Jim evidently beat the provider down. They covered it. My eventual hit is "fixed and liquidated" by the terms of my insurance policy and not governed by some arcane internal accounting practice which prices a procedure not based on what is worth but rather upon who is paying.
Like I said, I am fortunate and I know it. However this was going to shake out was not going to bankrupt me. But there's a whole lot of people out there who don't have insurance and some of these people typically can't come up with 3 grand either.
Surely to God there is a better way to manage medical care in this country.
Because, like I said to the insurance lady at the hospital, this is insane.
Friday, July 11, 2008
This reminds me of the time a friend of mine took up with a married doctor. He was in the process of leaving his wife for her. She said it was going to cost him about $250,000 bucks to get shed of the ex. She asked me what I thought. I, in turn, asked her to kiss me. She gave me a chaste peck.
"No," I said. "Lay one of your 'let's start some trouble' kisses on me."
She shrugged her shoulders and then proceeded to pull my adenoids out.
When she was through she stepped back. "How was that?" she said.
After my lips had regained their feeling I said, "That was a lot of fun. It wasn't worth $250,000 though."
I mean, even though Chrissie is depicted here wearing the hell out of that dress, she ain't worth 103 million.
Expect a bottle of Greg Norman Estates wine to go up.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Doc: " Where's he getting his money to buy beer?"
Mom; " I don't know."
" You giving him money to buy beer?"
"Nooooo! Lord no, Doctor! I ain't giving him no money to buy no beer!"
" Okay. Okay. Did you tell the folks up front that he drank 3 six packs of beer? My God!"
" No. He drank 3 six packs of Cokes?"
" At least that ain't no beer."
" No. Don't get me wrong. If he's gonna drink I would rather him drink Coke. But still that's a lot. Especially on top of all the beer he drank. Just because it's not alcohol doesn't mean it's good for him."
" Okay. I'm gonna order some tests. I mean, that's a lot of stuff. That's my point. Does he just sit around all day and drink stuff?"
" I don't know what he do all day. I got to work."
" Okay. I'll be back in a minute."
I heard the door open. I saw the Doc walking down the hall past the room where I was cooling my jets.
He carried the chart in his left hand. He was rubbing his forehead with his right.
I recounted this story to Nurse Bob.
" I hope to get back to ER work someday," he said. "It's hilarious."
After my Doc came in to make sure I was going to live, the Really Hot Nurse showed up to patch me up.
Me: " It's a lot calmer in here since I was last in here for stitches 10 years ago."
RHN: " What did you manage to do to yourself then?"
Me: "Kid rounded corner on a bike and hit me. Sliced shin to the bone."
Me: " Lots more action that day. There were a couple of guys wheeled in with gunshot wounds and there was one guy that had been stabbed a little. And one woman was being wheeled in on a wheelchair and she was giving birth. It's pretty calm today."
She looked at her watch.
RHN: " Welllllllllll, the shooters and their victims have not gotten out of bed yet. I have no explanation for why we haven't had a baby today. But that's why I like ER work. Never a dull moment."
With that, she took off her gloves and patted me on the back.
RHN: " Okay. You're good. They'll bring you your papers and a prescription."
She pointed her finger at me.
RHN: " You. Be careful.'
I left St. Vincents just as one of the chaplains read the morning prayer over the PA system.
And I was glad to be out of there.
Check it out here.
Only Wally could talk about the island of Majorca after the greatest Gentleman's Final in the history of Wimbledon and fail to mention that the winner, Rafael Nadal, is from Majorca. Maybe if he had ever heard of Rafa, or knew that Wimbledon was even being played, he might have asked the locals what they thought about the hometown boy. But that would require him to acquire an interest in something other than the Razorbacks, whatever Charles Cella tells him to write about, and his softball tournament. Which is way too much trouble and ain't never gonna happen.
You get the sports page you deserve.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Which ain't exactly what you are likely to hear from the pulpit at, say, Lifeline Missionary Baptist Church. Check out the story at the jump:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/06/world/middleeast/06stone.html?hp
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Friday, July 04, 2008
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
" What do you know, Miriam?" I said.
" Daddy used to say 'Not much save for Christ and Him crucified.' " she replied.
What a wonderful expression. I had never heard that before.
And I doubt that I would have ever heard it had I been situated much further North of Memphis.