Maternal Healthcare Crisis as a Justification for Healthcare Reform

Today, I had an article pointed out to me published on the website of an organization called It was under the heading of Human Rights. The article,  A Maternal Mortality FAIL in the U.S., was written by a Harvard professor, Alicia Ely Yamin.

The article states that Ms. Yamin ” is currently a Joseph H. Flom Fellow on Global Health and Human Rights at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health.”

To support her thesis Ms. Yamin claims that “the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the U.S. is five times greater than in Greece.”

To further support her contention, she also claims that “African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. These rates and disparities have not improved in more than 20 years.”

Then she goes on to iterate Amnesty International’s assertion that “this is not just a public health scandal; it reflects widespread violations of women’s human rights, including the right to life, the right to freedom from discrimination, and the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Patterns of marginalization and exclusion in this society are exacerbated by a discriminatory and dysfunctional health system.”

After a little more haranguing, she finally gets to her point, “Join Amnesty International USA in calling on President Obama to establish an Office of Maternal Health to lead government efforts to reduce the appalling U.S. death rate for women having babies.”

If you click on this highlighted link, it will take you to an Amnesty International site where you can sign and submit a form letter. So, have at it, but … before you do …, think … and do a little of your own research.

A little “googling” will, fairly quickly, reveal some sites that present some data on maternal mortality. Maternal mortality (most recent) by country presents data gathered by UNICEF between 1985 and 1999 which was published in 2002. WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank Estimates of Maternal Mortality 2005 is self explanatory and more recent.

Data is data and, unfortunately, can frequently be cherry picked to try to prove one’s point … if one is so inclined.

For instance, let’s look at Ms. Yamin’s claim that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is five times that of Greece’s. She needs to check her math. A look at the 2005 data reveals that the U.S. rate is 3.67 times that of Greece, down from 8 times that of Greece in 2002.

A little “cherry-picking” of data will quickly reveal that while Greece’s maternal mortality rate between 2002 and 2005 has increased by 300%, the U.S. maternal mortality rate has only increased by 37.5%. Does this mean that Greece’s maternal healthcare system has collapsed along with their socialist economy?

And what does this prove? The incidence of maternal mortality is so minuscule in the countries cited that slight changes can produce exaggerated and preposterous claims. Between 2002 and 2005, maternal mortality in both the U.S. and Greece varied by two to three deaths per 100,000 births.

Frankly, comparing Greece’s rather homogeneous population of 11 million with the rather diverse U.S. population of 300 million is a bit of a stretch. Review of the data reveals that the U.S. maternal morbidity rate is actually on par with other industrialized nations which, quite frankly, is rather remarkable considering its diversity in many ways. And, I think the U.S. Constitution was designed to guarantee individual freedom with the right to make choices, good or bad, and not an inherent “right to the highest attainable standard of health” as conceived by and forced upon the population by a central government.

In 2002, U.S. maternal mortality per 100,000 births was 8 … the same as Germany and Japan. In the short span of three years the numbers changed to 11, 4 and 6 for the U.S., Germany and Japan, respectively. Does this mean that, in three short years, the U.S. has degenerated into a chaotic state of crisis brimming with anti-feminine discrimination, while Germany and Japan have become absolute models of virtue and feminine equality?

Of further interest, while, from 2002 to 2007, the birth rate in the U.S. increased from 13.9 to 14.3 per 1000 population; from 2003 to 2009, the birthrate in Greece declined from 9.79 to 9.45/1000. During the same period Germany declined from 8.6 to 8.18 and Japan declined from 9.61 to 7.64.

Could there actually be causes other than Ms. Yamin’s claimed U.S. “violations” of women’s inherent ”
right to the highest attainable standard of health” and “widespread violations of women’s human rights“?

For instance, illegitimacy, … excuse me … births out of wedlock, in the U.S. currently is 26% for Caucasians, 50% for Latinos and 70% for African Americans. The overall illegitimacy rate for the U.S. in 2007 was 39.7% compared to a reported 20% in 2004. I think that has something to do with “freedom of choice” along with  a lack of “responsibility”. Should the government control that too? And what does Amnesty International have to say about that?

In 2004, when the overall illegitimacy rate in the U.S. was around 20%, in Japan, it was about 1%. A current rate, although the year was unspecified, for Greece is 9%. The most recent data I could find on Germany was about 23% in the year 2000.

So, Greece, with a low illegitimacy rate, falling birth rate,universal healthcare and relatively homogeneous population has seen its maternal mortality rate triple. Germany, with a moderately high illegitimacy rate, falling birth rate, universal healthcare and, again, a relatively homogeneous population has seen its maternal mortality decline by half. Japan, on the other hand, also with universal healthcare, an extremely low illegitimacy rate, markedly falling birth rate and very homogenous population has only decreased their maternal mortality rate by 25%.

What does all of this prove? Nothing … the same as Ms. Yamin’s irrational, albeit Amnesty International inspired, rant against the U.S. But, it might bring to question some of Ms. Yamin’s more irrational contentions.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but … don’t women, as a rule, avail themselves of the healthcare system a lot more than men. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing women for following recommended guidelines regarding their health, but it hardly makes a case for the healthcare system discriminating against the very people who use it most frequently. It could also be the reason that the healthcare costs for women are more than for men. Anyone with a ounce of sense knows that it cost more to drive your car 20,000 miles than it does if you only drive it 10,000 miles. That doesn’t mean you didn’t need to drive it more, but you should expect it to cost more.

And, why would a system with an overwhelming number of women as a part of it discriminate against its most frequent users, women? If anything, the greatest conflict within the system is trying to balance the desires and needs of the changing lifestyles of the women that work in the system with the desires and needs of the changing lifestyles of the women that use it. Physicians, both male and female, in private practice frequently find themselves trying to work out this quandary of staff versus patients while frequently neglecting their own lives and families.

I do think that the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to make educated and informed decisions about her health. It would be nice if young women would wait to make important life changing decisions about their personal health and welfare until they are older and more capable of making more informed decisions. It might have a tremendous impact on the data. I haven’t seen the demographic breakdown regarding the ages involved in maternal mortality, but I was taught that a teenage pregnancy was “high risk” by definition. I wonder if that has anything to do with the data.

Shoddy, sophomoric propaganda, … even from a Harvard professor …, is still … shoddy, sophomoric propaganda. And picking Greece, a failing socialist economy with rising maternal mortality, for comparison was just plain dumb.

My Director of Medical Education would have filed this article under the heading of “worthless crap” … more suitable for brainwashing a class of first graders than being brainlessly assimilated by adults. But she does know her usual audience, right?

Amnesty International … it figures. Ms. Yamin, Harvard University … SHAME!!!


FCC Passes New Regulation Requiring Bloggers to Disclose Free Gifts or Paid Endorsements

Wow. I wish …

Well folks. It’s official. If a blogger gets free gifts or gets paid to endorse a product they have to disclose it.

Okay. Let me “fess” up.

Unfortunately, no one has given me anything … or paid me anything. Bummer.

Usually, I bitch and moan about a product or service. In the process, I may “inadvertantly” mention someone or some business that offers the same product or similar service but actually does it with more integrity based on my experience with that product or service. Nothing ulterior, nothing hidden, no freebies, nothing paid for … except by me … just my personal experience.

So … FCC … go eat a weenie … I mean hot dog. And leave me alone to bitch and moan in my own little corner of the blogosphere.

DISCLOSURE: No one paid me to write this … and No Freebies!!!!!!!

Beware eBay Buyers: eBay Blocking Negative Feedback for Sellers!!!

One of the things that I had presumed to trust in using eBay has been an honest evaluation of transactions by buyers and sellers. I realize that on either end of the transaction this may not always be the case. Using the feedback mechanism as a tool of retribution by both buyers and sellers has been a form of abuse over the years. But, in the past, a prudent purchaser through due diligence could frequently sort through the maze of charges and counter-charges and come to a frequently accurate conclusion of where the truth may lie.

Today, I encountered a situation that totally astonished and frustrated me. eBay blocked my multiple attempts to leave negative feedback.

On 9 September 2009, I purchased an item on eBay and, as usual I received an invoice for that purchase. Nine days later, around the time I was expecting delivery through media mail, I received a notice of “shipment”. That’s right. Nine days after purchase … with  no explanation of delay …, my item was shipped. Five days later, yesterday, 23 September 2009, I received the item.

I don’t consider myself an unreasonable person. As a matter of fact, I encountered a similar problem about a week before. Another seller took about a week to ship an item. But, at least, this seller sent a message at the time of shipment stating that the shipment had been “returned” as undeliverable and was being reshipped. I accepted these excuses or reasons and chose not to leave a neutral or negative feedback even though shipping information didn’t support his contention.

I don’t know who thinks that taking nine days to process an order and arrange shipping is reasonable but I don’t. Period. That’s my standard and no amount of communication with a delinquent seller is going to resolve that sentiment.

But, eBay won’t allow you to leave a “negative” or even “neutral” evaluation of the seller.

I went to the feedback discussion boards and quickly found an entry related to this problem. Following the chain of comments I found some lame reason or excuse that a person had to “wait seven days” before leaving negative feedback. Well, seven days from when?

After taking the time to enter your feedback; 1) rating the seller as either positive, neutral or negative, 2) entering a comment and 3) going through the star ratings, you then click on the button” submit feedback”. If you’ve entered a neutral or negative rating, you’re taken to a page where you have to check on of three comments; 1) that you’ve communicated with the seller to try to resolve the “conflict”, 2) that you’ve allowed enough time for the item to arrive or 3) that your comment is factual and you’ve avoided personal remarks.

Well, “Choice #1” was unnecessary and irrelevant as was “Choice #2”. I was unaware that the seller was taking nine days to ship until that in fact was the case and once the item was shipped it did arrive in a timely fashion. Choice #3 was the most appropriate. My comment, “The seller took nine days to ship.”,  and evaluation was correct and factual. I understand that thinking it’s totally reasonable for sellers to ship promptly is an opinion but it’s my opinion and that’s what the feedback is supposed to be about.

For some reason after repeatedly clicking on the “Continue and leave feedback” button, nothing happened. After going back through the “revise feedback” process, still a dead button. The little highlighted red arrow point to the evaluation line “positive, neutral or negative” glares at you like you’re committing some cardinal sin that is totally unacceptable to eBay. It won’t even allow you to change from “negative” to “neutral” … again a cardinal sin.

I understand that eBay is trying to protect its sellers from harrassment by unreasonable buyers, but where’s the protection for the buyers? Making buyers jump through unnecessary hoops to protect sellers is simply poor policy.

One of the comments was that this policy was designed to protect “high volume” sellers. Well, if high volume sellers are having acute or chronic problems with a high volume of disgruntled buyers, what protection is there for daily buyers on that seller’s site when complaints about the seller are being blocked or delayed for weeks and months?

This is simply a poor implementation of a poor and one sided policy, designed to protect shoddy and unscrupulous sellers from legitimate complaints. It makes the ratings provided by eBay, at best, suspect and more realistically worthless.

Whoever is responsible for implementing this decision should carefully consider the ramifications of their one sided policy. 70% of the American economy is based on consumer purchases. EBay’s business is 100% based on consumer purchases. If eBay can’t figure this out, all of their business is based on “BUYERS” …

No buyers = no sellers!!!

Blocking negative feedback will eventually come back to haunt the powers that be at eBay. Eventually, enough buyers will encounter a bad seller and try to leave negative feedback and realize that the ratings they are depending on for honesty are totally worthless.

And, they will stop using eBay. Then it will be “Goodbye, eBay”. No buyers … and no sellers.

Larry Swedroe of CBS Slams Jim Cramer

This is a hoot!!!

Here we apparently have a participant of a major broadcast network’s financial site criticizing a participant in another major network’s financial cable channel and website.

Like … who the hell is Larry Swedroe?

“Wise Investing”???

Giving his narrow arguments in his article, Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Jim Cramer – CBS, Mr. Swedroe pointed out some studies by TWO people, college professors, about individual investors that indicated they didn’t do that well. He also had a major gripe about Jim Cramer recommending at a luncheon that people should avoid index and mutual funds.

What I gathered from Mr. Swedroe’s warnings regarding Jim Cramer is that Mr Swedroe thinks individual investors are a dumb lot and are really stupid if they don’t allow people like him to manage their money for them.

Let’s see. Mr Swedroe works for the Buchingham Family of Financial Services, has written several books, and previously worked for Prudential Home Mortgage and CITIBANK … with more than 40 years of experience in “managing financial risks for major corporations and individuals”. It’s sounds like he is and/or has been a direct competitor of Jim  Cramer when Cramer was also a “money Manager” as someone mentioned in the comments.

I suppose Mr. Swedroe’s crystal ball is better than everyone else’s.

Like an awful lot of people, I listen to Jim Cramer and watch his show, on the average, several times a week. Sometimes, I agree with him … and, sometimes, I don’t. I think that, like those who generally do well who listen to Cramer, he isn’t my only source of information. Occasionally, I have gotten tips that have made money. I’ve found it’s usually extremely nice to be owning a stock when he recommends it on his show. Selling into the pop that usually occurs after his recommendation can turn a handsome profit. On at least one occasion, I’ve been one of those who bought a stock after hours on his recommendation and turned a very nice profit several days later.

I’ve also been on the receiving end of getting into a stock that he slammed and not being aware of his thumbs down until after my purchase. That was a costly lesson.

Some of the commentators of this article brought up the Jon Stewart episode where Cramer was shriveled into a contrite, castrated and castigated shell of himself on the Daily Show. I felt the pain and humiliation that Cramer was experiencing and couldn’t understand why Cramer didn’t just tell  Stewart to “shove it”. Since Jon Stewart is such an egocentric, self-aggrandizing prick, I kept thinking, “Who is he to criticize Jim  Cramer?”

Back to Mr. Swedroe …

So, we have a “money manager” working for a “financial services” company, working for a competing network and website, who has worked in the “mortgage industry” (Is this really something you’d want on you’re resume right now?), and who has worked for CITIBANK (another glowing item on his resume??) who is advising the public not to watch Jim Cramer of “Mad Money” on CNBC. Imagine that.

wow. (I left off the capitalization of the “w” on purpose. I’m underwhelmed.)

All I can say is that I’m one of those millions who have been watching Jim Cramer for a good while. Mr. Swedroe hasn’t convinced me with his weak arguments and tangential insults that I am guilty of being a moron for doing so. I learn things from watching Cramer and I am entertained. Jim Cramer isn’t my only source of information. To the contrary, I have found it can be costly at times NOT to watch Jim Cramer.

I’m not an NBC fan but CNBC dispenses a lot of useful information and the information is multifaceted, not monolithic. Frankly, CBS and anything associated with it has been sharply declining in credibility in my opinion since Walter Cronkite stopped doing the evening news.

Mr. Swedroe … go suck an egg.

“Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine” … !!!!!CAUTION!!!!!

MAJOR UPDATE: 25 January 2010

Has anyone received Issue #70 yet???

Just curious.

This evening I decided to check just to see how things were going with the magazine under “new management”, especially since the number of hits on this article have been steadily increasing since mid January. For the uninitiated, that’s when the next issue, Issue #70, was promised … three, not two, months, after #69 … which was about a year after #68 … all in a “bimonthly” magazine. That means every two (2) months, not three months, … not a year later, … and definitely not “never again” … until the smoke clears and we can catch a new batch of the unsuspecting.

I found it curious that there hasn’t been an “official” posting on the magazine’s Facebook page since … 9 December 2009 …, although there was a “complaint” by some one who had ordered a back issue a long time ago and still hadn’t received it as of yesterday. By the way, he was “promised” that the “back issue” issue was resolved back in October of 2009 by Mr. Foss.

Another curious thing …

When I clicked on the “official” web page of “Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine” a short while ago, I got … “PAGE NOT FOUND” …  hummmmm!!!

Maybe it was just a server error … or something.

It does appear though, if you still want to play Russian Roulette with your money, you plop the hard earned cash down for some back issues at It appears the last ounce of “sucker’s money” is trying to be squeezed out of this gambit.

Good Luck!!! I think I’d prefer to take my chances with a real revolver and a single bullet.

Well, am I just spouting some more “libel” … or … does the old adage of “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” seem to be appropriate?

So …

Has anyone received Issue #70 … you know the one that’s supposed to start this outfit off on a year of delivering a magazine every two months as promised … and paid for?

Just curious ….


(below written 5 March 2009)

Today, I got the distinct impression that I’m not the only person having problems with this outfit … or website, Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine.

This outfit also claims to produce “Bassics Magazine” for bass guitar players. Both are published by MI Media LLC.

Actually, I shouldn’t complain about the website. The design is great! Kudos to the designer!! Except, he doesn’t have anything to do with the magazine. He just designed the site.

Okay, I enjoy playing the guitar … or playing at it. And, I like books and magazines about things that I enjoy.

But …

What I don’t like … are people that take your money … and don’t even say “Thank You” … or even send you a receipt to acknowledge the fact that they’ve taken your money.

And …

We haven’t even gotten to discussing the product.

Well, I can’t honestly discuss the product … because I haven’t received it.

It’s been nearly three months since I paid my money and … no recognition of payment … no “Thank You” … and no product.  I think there’s a name for that. I won’t use it right now … but it’s one the tip of my tongue.

I’ve written their subscription department … no response.

I’ve called their subscription department … a message stating, “We’re having problems with the post office. Please leave your name and address and we’ll send you another issue of #68 our last issue.

Well, #68 was their last issue … last year. It’s March. What about this year? Let’s see … six issues a year. That comes out to … one issue every two months … right? And, it’s March. Sounds like there’s some catching up to do.

Oh … I also tried to leave a comment on their comment page. You know the blank space just below the place where they say, “We always like to hear from you.”  Well, I got some kind of “blocked server” error … several times. I’m hard headed and don’t give up easily.

Well, it’s a beautiful site … can’t argue with that … and it promises a lot … like a siren song above the crashing waves. Okay, you’ve been warned! It looks like there are some very sharp rocks and not soft sand beneath those waves.

By the way, if you guys at “Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine” have a problem with this, “Call me”. I left a message … and several e-mails.

And, you can talk to my credit card company … if you wonder where the money went.

Also, if you want a great guitar magazine, subscribe to “Acoustic Guitar Magazine“. They have a great magazine, e-letters, and a great website … that delivers on its promise. You’ll get your money’s worth … and they’ll say “Thank You”. They aren’t dedicated to “fingerstyle” but have a lot on it and you won’t feel like you’ve been “taken to the cleaners.

MAJOR UPDATE – 21 July 2009

The a comment posted on 21 July by Rich Merek included the following e-mail from an Alfred Foss who claims to be the new owner of “Fingerstyle Magazine”:


Thanks for your email regarding the status of your Fingerstyle Guitar magazine subscription.

I recently purchased the magazine from the prior owners, MI Media, 2 weeks ago and I am working to return the magazine to a regular delivery schedule. While I acknowledge the challenges prior ownership had experienced, I wanted to personally communicate to you that I have committed the necessary resources and management changes to make sure the magazine is properly supported.

I apologize for the delay of you receiving your next issue. You will receive the next issue in about 4 weeks (it is currently finished and in production) and your subscription will continue as usual.

I have attached a press release which was just completed and will be circulated at the CAAS (Chet Atkins Appreciation Society) festival in Nashville starting Wednesday July 8th. It highlights some of the initiatives new ownership will be undertaking to make the magazine better.

I appreciate your patience and loyalty during this transition period and hope you share the same excitement I have regarding the direction Fingerstyle is going. We have some exciting new ideas and content in store for the upcoming issues. If you have any questions please contact me.



Alfred Foss

Hopefully, things will get squared away with the magazine. Until that is more positively indicated, I would continue to exercise extreme caution in dealing with the magazine under any claimed management or ownership. Note that the e-mail was apparently written prior to 7/8/2009 since it refers to an “upcoming” event on that date.