Archive for February, 2017

Who Are The Thousands Of Ohioans Using Marijuana?

February 28, 2017

Cleveland.com just headlined “Who are the 700,000 Ohioans receiving health insurance under Medicaid expansion?” by Rich Exner (2-28-17). It is an insightful synopsis of a state report by the Department of Medicaid for the Ohio General Assembly. Along with the requisite statistics, like “Among the 702,000 added to Medicaid: 43.2 percent were employed. 55.8 percent were men. 71.5 percent were white; 24.8 percent were black. 13.1 percent had at least a four-year college degree. 15.7 percent were married.” there was something that jumped out. “Before [Medicaid expansion in 2014]: Until the change, Medicaid was generally restricted to adults with income of less than 90 percent of the poverty level and only if they were also a parent, pregnant or disabled. After: Medicaid coverage was expanded to Ohioans age 19 to 64 with incomes at or below 138 percent of the poverty level. The threshold for a single person in 2016 was $16,394. The state reported 702,000 people were insured as a result of the expansion.” In this post Analysis would like to make use of a term entitled “the blue laws”. Wiki gives “Blue laws, also known as Sunday laws, are laws designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities for religious reasons, particularly to promote the observance of a day of worship or rest. Blue laws may also restrict shopping or ban sale of certain items on specific days, most often on Sundays in the western world.” The day before Cleveland.com reported the statistics packed Medicaid report, the AP reported “Sessions: More violence around pot than ‘one would think’” by Sadie Gurman and Eric Tucker (2-27-17). In line with White House methodology on immigration and refugees, voter fraud, etc. the article states “”Experts are telling me there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think,” Sessions said. The comments were in keeping with remarks last week from White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who said the Justice Department would step up enforcement of federal law against recreational marijuana. Sessions stopped short of saying what he would do, but said he doesn’t think America will be a better place with “more people smoking pot.”” Before his confirmation hearings to become the US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions views were well known (as indicated in a previous blog posting). Upriver of that, before the November elections, the Ohio General Assembly staved off citizen’s initiatives by legalizing medical marijuana. In the same spirit of citizen initiative, the citizens of Newark voted to minimize the illegal status of marijuana possession within the municipality. As of the present (2-28-17) it is impossible to obtain or possess medical marijuana within the State of Ohio. The will of the Newark electorate is likewise irrelevant. “Before [Medicaid expansion in 2014]” those actually able to be covered by Medicaid were few and far between. Would it be fair to say that this was a “blue law,” “laws created to enforce strict moral standards.” (Wiki); a policy put in place at the time to “shame” the citizenry to claim ownership of their personal health? Some vehement agitation surrounds the current Medicaid debate. Little surrounded Sessions confirmation, nor surrounds the foot dragging and obfuscation of the Ohio Legislature as well as the actions of the Newark City Council and Mayor’s administration regarding marijuana legalization. Analysis finds the unifying force presented when blue laws are on the books to be a mystification. Was America great then because of “laws created to enforce strict moral standards.”?

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Creep

February 24, 2017

A fascinating article surfaced. “Big Pharma Quietly Enlists Leading Professors to Justify $1,000-a-Day Drugs” by Consumer Reports 2-23-17. The article is Yuuuuge and has the potential of several Analysis essays. A brief synopsis would be as follows: Drug makers have priced their products in the past based on the costs of marketing, production costs, composition availability, regulation, and research/development. All of these and the anticipated profit margin. “Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally justified their prices by citing the cost of research and development, but recent research on drug pricing has challenged this argument. Many of the largest drug companies spend more on sales and marketing than on developing their drugs.” But has this justified the $1K a day drugs? Turns out not. The companies are increasingly collaborating with academics who act as consultants to come up with a new pricing justification. One of these is “Precision Health Economics [which] has become a prominent booster of a new way of setting drug prices—based on their overall value to society. Value is determined by comparing the drugs’ cost with their effectiveness in saving lives and preventing future health expenses.” Precision Health Economics is composed of various academics who not only teach/do research at institutions of higher learning, but free lance as consultants for the large drug manufacturers, many of whom fund the research done at the universities the consultants are part of. According to Ohio’s Governor, this would be a win-win. The educational institution is working with the business sector and both are benefitting. Unfortunately, the academics at Precision Health Economics are arguing for and justifying the cost of drugs that are in most cases 3-4 times what they cost in other countries. The research squabble that ensues over the “overall value to society” ends up in the specialty academic journals, many of which are likewise published, funded or edited by Precision Health Economics (or one of its members) or the drug industry itself. The current brouhaha over Ohio teachers doing externships with businesses in order to renew their licenses, or mandatory unelected and “non voting” business membership on school boards misses the point made by the Consumer Reports article. Analysis finds this to be a kind of legitimacy creep in that at first, it is just the wonderful folks who run the local bank or car dealership who will “get involved with the kids”. Eventually this may end up with a reciprocal relationship, not necessarily chosen, elected or agreed upon where the business interests, policies and interactions are justified by their “community involvement” with the schools. Analysis leaves it to the reader to imagine the various different scenarios — from curricula to contractual services to real estate “opportunities” to product pricing as well as work force selection and grooming. Legitimacy creep is not entertained by “Aw shucks, we want what’s best for our kids” conversations.

“Gilead Sciences’ $84,000 list price for its highly effective treatment for the hepatitis C virus prompted dozens of state Medicaid programs and prison systems to restrict treatment to only the sickest patients. A congressional investigation in 2015 found that Gilead, which purchased the drug from a smaller pharmaceutical company, had set the price of the treatment at the peak it thought the market could bear, more than double what the drug’s original developers had suggested. “Gilead pursued a calculated scheme for pricing and marketing its hepatitis C drug based on one primary goal, maximizing revenue, regardless of the human consequences,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, when he presented the findings of the congressional investigation.” “Raising her two sons on her own, [Emily] Scott barely supports the family with her weekly income of about $350 from sewing shirts at an apparel factory. She is one of more than 11,000 Tennesseans on Medicaid who have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, according to the most recent state data. If all of them received the new medication, the state estimated that it would cost over $1.6 billion, more than double what Tennessee’s Medicaid program spends on drugs in a year.” ““The drug companies do not have people’s interest in mind, they have money in mind,” Scott said. “It’s not fair that they are playing with people’s lives.”” Analysis indicates this is something to bear in mind when promoting business persons on boards of education (Citizens United extends personhood to corporations) and collaborations between academics and businesses. The bottom line may creep into “the learning.”

Opposites Attract

February 15, 2017

The popular colloquialism is that opposites attract. During the run up to the presidential election, and beyond, presidential wannabe and Ohio Governor John Kasich has consistently put on the armor of righteousness, of being the adult in the room (on the debate stage, on the ballot, etc.). He has and continues to present himself as the sensible alternative, the opposite of the ilk of our 45th president. But is this actually the case? Analysis finds “Kasich: Enough with the ‘Rust Belt’” by Julie Carr Smyth (AP 2-13-17) to reveal some mirroring appearing within this self-aggrandizing differentiation. “”We’re a big manufacturing state. But we also want to change the image of Ohio into something from the Rust Belt to the Knowledge Belt,” Kasich said during an Associated Press forum this month.” The following day (2-14-17) the AP headlined Study Ranks Ohio Near The Bottom For College Affordability (Ohio Public Radio Jo Ingles). “A new study ranks Ohio in the bottom five of all 50 states in college affordability. The study also shows just over 4 in 10 Ohioans have a post-secondary degree.” “William Doyle with Vanderbilt University says the state needs to make more need based aid available. “Families making less than $30,000 a year would need to pay 81% of their income to attend a public four-year research institution in Ohio. That’s including the grant aid they receive.”” None to be found with the Ohio Governor’s recent 2 year “recession” budget. It certainly doesn’t reflect that, or consider those findings (“The group says without making college more affordable, the state’s economy will suffer from a lack of skilled workers.”). What does the Ohio Governor propose to form this “Knowledge Belt” with? Chrissie Thompson, with Cincy’s The Enquirer, headlines Kasich: Teachers should job shadow with businesses to renew licenses (2-14-17). “Too many students, he says, leave high school to pursue college degrees that cost a fortune and don’t prepare them for realistic, good-paying jobs. “Are our schools preparing our students in a real way?” he [John Kasich] said at a recent event honoring innovative schools. “Never let the education get in the way of learning.”” Chrissie Thompson asks “How much money schools would get under John Kasich’s plan”? She considers the very real existence of school districts without a plethora of successful (and hiring) businesses, as well as teachers (like kindergarten) that would benefit more from successful business owners coming to their class and “teaching” the kids about what they do (rather than the teacher spending the day at the plant). But Kasich’s budget proposals doesn’t make large increases in K through 12 education. Indeed, he would like to see state financial backing cut to districts that have fewer students (no matter that the actual geographic district hasn’t shrunk). With the national election run up he touted the miracle Ohio economic recovery while post election it is Gotham City gloom and doom recession (shades of the presidential inauguration speech Batman!). Does he know something he’s not saying? “Where Have All The Young Kids Gone? Many Ohio Schools are Experiencing Enrollment Decline.” SHP Blog Dan Roberts (4-24-14). “The student population in Ohio is dwindling. In a recent story appearing in a Sunday edition of the Columbus Dispatch entitled, “Shrinking Environment,” written by Dispatch Reporter Charlie Boss, the student population in Ohio is expected to be reduced 2% by 2018.” A clever way to promulgate Ohio’s “responsible”, “performance based” K-12 education funding while at the same time cutting back on spending! Now about that “Knowledge Belt”, is this as a hold up or as a fashion accessory buy out from the 45th president’s daughter’s collection?

New Life For An Old Structure

February 12, 2017

Remember the basket building at the edge of town? Of course you do. Commuters driving by rubber neck daily for signs of decline, never admitting any morbid interest, but looking just the same. After a visit to the place by “business leaders”, and an assessment of futures value by Cheri Hottinger of what a great place it is (would make a terrific office of tourism), nothing else has been heard. But the tax bill increases, even as the City of Newark elides taking responsibility (or ownership). How about turning it into a state wide immigration reception and processing center? The Ellis Island of Ohio, right here in the heart of the heartland, downtown, er, town’s edge Newark! Think of the jobs it would create with the various state and federal agencies dealing with immigration, the requisite housing for new arrivals in a controlled centralized location, as well as the conference facilities for immigration related events, maybe even a living immigration museum, telling the story of where it all began (for some) (for most). The tour busses would return! A tourism center? Fuggetaboutit. Besides, immigration and the big basket share a lot in common. Cincy may have an underground railroad museum, but the interdependent story of African Americans and Euro Americans is not that of the immigrant. As Hegel pointed out, the master/slave relationship is a weird dialectic of power, need and reliance, both spoken and unspoken. The story of the immigrant, like that of the basket building, is one of uselessness, not being needed or wanted, being totally powerless (Will the building eventually disappear? Will the immigrant do likewise?). The alien architecture of the basket building is not located amongst the church spires and bank buildings of downtown Newark. Rather, like the alien immigrant, it is relegated to a specially annexed borderland of the city, out of sight, out of mind. The only company this alien construct has is the long distance relationship with the giant chair across the road. The immigrant shares a similar heritage with the building that bears the Longaberger nameplate hearkening an inspirational past of thriving and belonging, one that is forever lost, never to be revisited or regained. Ever present mourning, nostalgia and angst is an integral part of the immigrant life; something experienced only occasionally by Heisey, or Longaberger enthusiasts. The entire work ethic and skill that spawned the immigrant and the basket building is still looked upon with skepticism and suspicion in today’s America. Hand making baskets is akin to speaking another language. Unlike the basket building, most immigrants do not stay useless for long (or all arrive useless for that matter). Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Rupert Murdoch, most quickly assimilate into the conservative mainstream. But that’s a whole other story, one that the current administration might do well to consider (City, County, State, as well as Federal). So call your city council representative, the mayor, and county commissioners to tell them Newark needs immigrants. Better yet, call the folks with their hand on the handles of the basket building, Cheri or her husband, and tell them Newark needs an immigration reception and processing center. Like them, most immigrants come with one or both hands gripping the handles of their belongings. And the basket building even has those. What better place than the vacant basket building? What could be more perfect?