Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor and Ricci v DeStefano

The Ricci v. DeStefano case came to my attention a month or so ago after a friend and I had a fairly lively (and unrelated) discussion about "reverse" discrimination, and subsequently caught an article about it on CNN. It's back in the spotlight today because it ended up in front of our newest Supreme Court nominee in the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit, which ultimately upheld the lower court decision. The case is now sitting in front of the Supreme Court.

Here's the background (from the Second Circuit documents):

In 2003, 118 applicants took examinations for promotion to Captain and Lieutenant in the New Haven (Ct.) Fire Department. 56 applicants passed the exam. There were 15 open vacancies. According to the City Charter, civil servant positions must be filled by individuals with the top 3 scores on the exam, which would have resulted in only 2 minority promotions(both Hispanic). Out of concern that the results might indicate that minority applicants weren't given appropriate opportunity, the results of the exam went before the Civil Service Board to be certified before the promotions could be awarded. The CSB held 5 hearings on the issue, and ultimately split 2-2 on the question of certifying the exam (the 5th member was recused, as her brother was one of the candidates up for promotion). As a result, no certification was approved, and no promotions awarded.

The group of firefighters who filed the suit say they've been discriminated against. The District Court decided that no racial discrimination had ocurred because ALL of "the test results were discarded and nobody was promoted" and because neither the city defendants or the CSB had acted with discriminatory motivation toward the non-minority applicants.

There's not much to glean from the Circuit Court decision about the case itself, nor the particular positions of the judges themselves (of which Sotomayor was one), as it is a simple one paragraph affirmation. Given the relative weight of the issues involved, there is some thought that it was dismissively brief.

Regardless of which side of the issue you fall on, it's a fairly fascinating case. Expect to hear more about it as the confirmation process ramps up.

Friday, May 22, 2009

the midwest is turning beige too

CNN published an article today about a county in Kansas that has become a majority-minority* county, according to numbers released by the the US Census Bureau last week, joining the other 300+ US counties (roughly 10% of the nation's counties) that share the same demographic distinction.

There's nothing new with this trend, but it is notable in that this isn't a county in a "border" state, like Texas, California or New Mexico which, in addition to Hawaii and the District of Columbia, are already non-white majority states (Starr County, Texas for example, has a minority population that accounts for 98% of the county's population).

The Atlantic Monthly published an excellent (if maybe contentiously titled) article on the subject earlier this year in light of the historic election of our country's first black President, which delves a little into what it will mean to be white in an America in which white is no longer a majority. Personally, it just makes me more convinced that I gotta learn Spanish.

It should also come as no surprise, I suppose, that some whites aren't real thrilled with this trend and who, in fact, see it as "the death of America". Do yourself a favor and stay away from their blogs.

* The U.S. Census Bureau defines majority-minority as a geographic area in which "more than half the population is made up of a group that is not single-race, non-Hispanic white".

Thursday, May 14, 2009

can you spot the difference

...between Twitter and MyLifeIsAverage? I'll give you a hint...it's intent, and that's pretty much it. The idea behind MLIA is to be as intentionally mundane as possible - a social network as my brother would've created it.

Example MLIA post:

Today I packed a lunch to take to class, but we got done early so I took it home and ate it in my apartment.

See...that's funny.

Example Twitter post:

I'm sitting in the airport/meeting/cafe with Joe/my Dad/a hampster, and really glad it's not raining.

Not funny.

Thanks to TechCrunch for bringing this to my attention. They'd be well served to develop an interactive quiz which presents viewers with a post and asks them to decide if it's from Twitter or MLIA. I bet it'd be impossible.

my already expired sympathy for american auto-makers just re-expired

According to papers filed in bankruptcy court this morning by Chrysler, they will shutter almost 800 of their dealerships in an effort to streamline the company into profitability, and emerge eventually from bankruptcy as a viable company. That amounts to about %25 of the company's 3100 dealerships.

While I sympathize with the owners and employees that will be forced to scramble to realign their businesses, resumes and finances...those dealerships only account for %14 of Chrysler's sales, so this is a decision that was probably over-due.

In fact, if Chrysler ranked all 3181 of it's dealerships based on sales, and closed the BOTTOM 50% of them, it would only sacrifice 10% of their total sales.

I haven't finished my correspondence program at WhartonBusinessSchool.com yet, but the fact that those 50% hadn't already been shut down seems like absurd financial negligence.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

a little collateral damage with your recession?

So it looks like my early retirement plan just took a recession fueled hit. A new gov't report released yesterday suggests that the current economic climate has taken another 4 years off of the expected shelf life of the Social Security trust fund, which will apparently be exhausted in 2037. That seemed like a long time in which to plump up my 401(k) until I remembered that it's been steadily heading the wrong direction.

On the other side of the economic progress coin, Exxon continues to make more profit than any company in the world. But they're not hiring.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ted Turner owns way more than you think.

Ted Turner gives away a lot of money. He's also lost a lot (billions, reportedly, just in depreciating AOL/Time Warner stock).

His path to success is well documented. He turned a company billboard business into a cable TV company. And then into Turner Broadcasting which included TNT, Turner Classic Movies, CNN, TBS and the Cartoon Network. Merged that company with Time Warner in 1996, which then merged with AOL in 2001 (Turner was Vice-Chairman of Time Warner until 2006). Bought the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks.

But did you know that he's the largest landowner in the country? The 2 million acres he's purchased over the last few decades is larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined (just one ranch in Montana is over 110,000 acres). Ted's motivation seems to be primarily related to his desire to return the american bison from the brink of extinction, although there are some entertaining theories as to what else his agenda might include, including suspicion that he's attempting to control water resources. And some indignation from ranchers in the west who are routinely outbid by Turner for land.

Help Ted out by having a bison burger at any one of his 57 Ted's Montana Grill restaurants around the county. Bison, apparently, is good. And good for you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Anatomy of a broken healthcare system

A chronic leg injury flared up for me during an attempt two weeks ago to run the first 10k of this young running season and, after not being able to walk all weekend and getting gentle pressure from my wife, I decided to make an appointment to have it looked at. Called monday morning, and got an appointment within the hour...which is were the efficiency ended.

The Dr. sent me to a Radiologist down the street to have x-rays (which would be the third time i've had x-rays done of my legs in the last 3 years) and said he'd refer me to an orthopedic specialist. That was all Monday.

Five days later, the referral came IN THE MAIL, while I spent the week limping and wincing. But when I called that doctor to make an appointment, I was told that they don't take my insurance (Cigna).

So Monday (9 days after the injury) I found a doctor that did, and called my PCP back to make a referral to THAT doctor. And scheduled the next available appointment, which was today (13 days after the injury).

Went to the doctor today, and they couldn't find my xrays on the website that the radiology office uses, so we did that again (4th time). This doctor wanted me to go have an MRI.

Called my insurance company, and asked them if I needed a referral for that (I do). They advised that referrals for MRIs go through a company called MedSolutions, and that the doctor who ordered the test had to call for the referral.

Called the Ortho office back, and they said they couldn't ask for pre-authorization from Cigna until I made the appointment, and that it requires 5 business days for that process to happen.

Called MedSolutions to see which of the list of facilities would be in-network for my plan and got a fax machine.

Called Cigna back to get the actual phone number (after looking, and not finding it on their website).

Called MedSolutions and was told that they can only look up facilities by tax ID#, and that the doctors office should call with that info.

Called the Ortho office back and they said that they still needed me to call first, but happened to know that one of the local facilites honored my insurance.

Called the MRI facility and made an appointment for next Wed (18 days from the date of my injury)

Called the Ortho office back and told them when my appointment was. They advised that they needed five BUSINESS days, and that they couldn't promise me that the authorization would get done in time.

In the end, I'll be lucky if I have a diagnosis 3 full weeks after I injured myself, all the while i've been limping and in pain. And the lesson I learned is that next time, I'll just go to the emergency room.