Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Sopranos Return for Another Season on HMO

The Healthcare Insurance Reform Cicadas have risen once again after 16 years of underground silence.

The “Cicada HCIR” has shown itself to be a loud and highly irritating insect indigenous to the U-S-of-A since debuting in the 1940’s when Harry S. Truman first cleared his throat with the annoying HCIR hum he’d picked up from his predecessor, Franklin D.

While insurance protection in every imaginable form is as old as mankind, it doesn’t appear that modern day legislative regulation of the insurance industry has really influenced the hard core, down and dirty facets of the business overly much. And the most recent “Cicada HCIR” cyclical uprising has once again directed special attention toward the health insurance sector of the industry.

With all eyes now focused on the deficiencies in American healthcare coverage, we just couldn’t resist one look in the rear view mirror to observe the approach of a black Lincoln Towncar with ebony tinted windows as it pulled along the curb and parked. The sedan’s doors opened in unison and two piece-packing, black suited professionals sporting dark sunglasses stepped out onto the sidewalk with a job to do. The gangster collection agents were out in force to squeeze payment from the neighborhood in exchange for protection.

Strong arm collection styles are understandably believed by most to be outright extortion.

Nevertheless, there was a time long ago when buying this kind of insurance protection really meant buying protection, and the organization collecting premiums from the locals usually stood behind its protection promises because it kept out the competition and granted monopolized dominion over very valuable turf. The ‘organizzazione familia’ naturally kept all premium payments collected as profit for there were no shareholders to share with, no underwriters, no exclusionary clauses for pre-existing conditions.

There’s little question that the neighborhood had been made an offer it couldn’t refuse. Paying up meant insurance coverage was in force. Payment not tendered when the hood collectors banked on having their palms greased resulted in premature end of life issues that were finished off with assertive euthanasia lacking in the customary compassion or compunction.

Like “The Godfather Insurance” days of yesteryear, there still remains an honor amongst thieves, and all honor goes to bottom line profits.

American health insurance policyholders have also been made an offer they can’t refuse, except there’s no one ensuring that the protections paid for and promised are actually being provided. Instead, top priority goes to substantially increasing shareholder profits which are dependent upon the number of claims not paid and policyholders being denied essential healthcare services.

If Al Capone had been running the health insurance racket for the last century, would the industry be any different today?

For other profitable turf masters, see our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ January 13, 2009 posting "What Comes in 3’s?"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Salon Beyond (DS)

We had a dream……and in that dream we found ourselves ascending so swiftly that the Milky Way vanished in the blink of an eye as we made our way ever higher into the Great Beyond.

Moving with such great speed, we never expected the abrupt halt and free fall that deposited us directly in the middle of a grand opening celebration apparently in full swing. Regrettably we’d missed the silver cord cutting ceremony only two weeks earlier.

Above us flew a myriad of banners that were being pulled behind winged astral bodies like something seen at the beach in the summertime when those little airplanes fly along the coastline with banner advertisements for captive viewing sunbathers. These Great Beyond banners all read “CHANGE YOUR HAIR, CHANGE YOUR NEXT LIFE”.

By the looks of it, Farrah Fawcett’s new hair salon was the mane event. Personalities were lined up around Orion's Belt waiting for the rare opportunity to co-create either a do-over or a make-over of their next incarnation, and Farrah’s guarantee was hair to define you.

Some recent additions to the ethers patiently waited in line for their turn in the stylist's chair. We smiled as they peacefully submitted to Farrah’s angelic touch, and the vision of another walk around the wheel of life. One by one they came, and we listened as they ordered up their next experience:

Robert McNamara was poised to receive the full compliment of serving his country, and promptly requisitioned a Jarhead Buzz cut to go along with his new hard body for a lifetime of service on the front lines.

Ed McMahon decided he had absolutely no intention of going out broke the next time around and immediately ordered up “The Donald” Cotton Candy Comb Over.

Michael Jackson quickly grabbed his crotch before floating in backwards toward the chair in a moon walk. He knew for a fact that growing up sucks and requested the life of a little person with Shirley Temple ringlets.

Karl Malden got an ego boost with a sculptured nose job by Michelangelo which fit nicely with his newly styled Mullet because now it was all business in the front and party in the back. The Davidesque nose-Mullet cut combo augmented with a flaming farmer’s tan and new GM pickup would make him a babe magnet for sure.

Mr. Infomercial Billy Mays insisted on getting volumized with Blago Hair products not only because “It’s Bleep’n Golden”, but because he knew that if he could sell Oxi-Clean and Kaboom, he could sell a seat in the Senate without getting busted.

And then we woke up and wondered if the philosophy “as above, so below” holds true, then wouldn’t “CHANGE YOUR HAIR, CHANGE YOUR LIFE” work for us right now?

To be blinded by the spotlight, see our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ May 12, 2009 posting "The Boyling Point".

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Carnac the FMRI

As our industrialized nation and its citizens plummet ever deeper into debt and default, it’s heartening to see behavioral masterminds fast at work discovering new ways to squeeze blood out of a turnip.

It seems no line exists today that a bill collector won’t cross in its quest to wring payment from a distressed customer with a past due account. Evidence of this can be seen in the latest mass manipulation technique which involves the formulation of consumer psych profiles in order to diagnose individual lifestyle situations and preferences. These profiles are then extensively analyzed to determine how the information can be utilized and twisted to either emotionally extract payment or power market.

Should the reality of an unauthorized personal psychological profile not prove invasive enough, then perhaps it’s time we let it all hang out in a world where our private inner thoughts are secretly scanned, catalogued and interpreted for future use and without our permission. Well never fear, for Neuroscience has been busy in the background refining the art of mind reading with Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or FMRI, research.

In the rear view mirror we saw an atom split to create a distinct fork in the road of providence. The high road of providence seemed illuminated and benevolent as it offered the prospect of an advanced energy source and the opportunity to improve quality of life for the masses on planet Earth. The low road of providence, however, proved to be dark and sinister as its highway led promptly to the atomic bomb and the ability to render mass destruction in a fly-by. The bulk of the research money looks to have taken the low road.

This new wave neuro-technology has created another fork in the road of providence – a fork that cannot clearly offer an unobstructed view beyond the approaching horizon’s blind spots. And like the potential of a split atom, the road taken will undoubtedly depend on the motivation and intention of those providing the essential research funding. Or as some would say, just follow the money....

To ponder the intricacies of merely one person’s consciousness and the unique experiences that influence and form it, is mind boggling at best. The data now being compiled will ultimately require interpretation by some to-be-named professional qualified under some to-be-determined criteria, yet we wonder if it’s possible to really anticipate the perceptions and true intentions deep within a human psyche.

It was funny when Johnny Carson’s “Carnac the Magnificent” knew the answers before the questions had even been asked partly because it had no true basis in our reality of the time. Funny how the humor begins to fade as we witness the present day reality of a rapidly compiled comprehensive thought identification data base, and the prospect of undisclosed powers believing they know the answers before the questions have even been asked.

In true Sci-Fi fashion and resembling that of contemporary attempts to block covert interceptions of private wireless phone conversations, we suspect few will be surprised to hear whispers of an underground movement actively employing countermeasures designed to block or jam involuntary random mind-reading scans on the ground.

How our thoughts are interpreted and how that information will be used to manipulate us in obscure ways is sufficiently disconcerting, but what we really want to know is who's going to own our minds and the thoughts it produces?

Explore FMRI research further, click on “Mind Reading” by Lesley Stahl for 60 Minutes

For a little stroll down Memory Lane, see our ‘In The Rear View Mirror’ March 14, 2009 posting "Barbie, BFF".