Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Depressed in Utah

A recent men's magazine reported on the 12 happiest, and 12 most depressed, cities in America. Salt Lake City came in as the 11th most depressed in the nation, just after New York City.

The data was gathered by comparing the number of anti-depressants prescribed, and various surveys, across America. What's disturbing is that Utah has a rather high rate for rape, unwed mothers, and suicide as well. Why are we so screwed up?

One psychologist I heard on the radio mentioned that the rates could reflect the local attitudes towards depression. It could be that it is more accepted as a legitimate problem and so more people are reporting it, and being treated for it, that in other areas. That's great, but it doesn't explain the high suicide rate.

Other people, some of them social workers, blame it on the dominant religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They say that if the "Mormons" would just lighten up, and start behaving the way the rest of the world does, they'd be better off.

My initial response, as one of those "Mormons," is to firmly pick up my "siege mentality" and fight against the notion. To me it's not so much our strict moral standings in conflict with the "nature of man," but the world fighting against our moral standings to such a degree that we feel hurt by the fight itself. In other words, it's NOT living our beliefs that may be contributing.

On the other hand, I think there may deeper societal issues that are related to what many of these folks have to say. They may have a point, and it's not just on top of their heads.

Utah is notorious for its high work ethic, large families, and low pay rates. The cost of living, especially housing, is quite high when compared with people's salaries. There is great pressure on men to take care of their families, to be supermen, and pressure on women to be the perfect mothers and domestic goddesses. Because of economic factors, many families struggle with the idea that the mother's place is in the home, that she shouldn't pursue a full time career as long as there are children in the house. Economic realities don't always make that viable. So parents, and mothers in particular, are facing added societal stresses. The conflict seems to be between the depressed (and depressing) economy requiring some families to have a second income, vs. staying home to provide the best care for the children.

That doesn't solve the problem of the high rates of rape and teen pregnancy, but it certainly a social factor that may just be contributing to our collective depression.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The RIAA's New Comcast Fundraiser

Here's an absolutely frightening bit of information for you, if you're a Comcast user. If you've been downloading a lot of things from the web, you could be in danger of having your credit destroyed. At least that's what's apparently happening to one Seattle woman.

Rueters is running an article involving a Seattle woman who is suing Comcast for turning over her name and contact information, in violation of Comcast's privacy policies, to the RIAA. No court order was given. Comcast wasn't required to do anything. They simply buckled to the RIAA's demands.

What's even more vile is that instead of suing her in open court, they've handed her over to a collections agency demanding that she remit $4,500 for downloading music files over the internet, or face a lawsuit to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Is this a new fundraising technique for the RIAA, or something? Let's use intimidation tactics to blackmail people into giving us money? What did they do? Take a lesson from the Mafia in how to collect "protection money?"

Maybe it's their failure in open court to get the information that has led the RIAA to start doing this. They've already lost three suits (the original and two appeals) to force ISPs to hand over names back in January. No court order was given in this case either, so what does Comcast have to gain from it? Nothing that's been revealed so far.

Maybe what's happening here is that the RIAA is trying to take the law into their own hands, become the new vigilantes of copyright protection. It's the Despicable Duo! RIAA-man and Comcast boy! Saving the day for overpaid recording label executives!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Medical Costs Spiral

Here in Utah we have access to some of the best medicine being practiced in the world. It really is great stuff. The problem is, in this world you get what you pay for. Great medical care comes with a price that is more and more becoming out or reach for most people.

No big news here. Health care costs have been on the rise for years now. I'm no expert in the field, but it seems to me that greed and the "law of unintended consequences" is in full force when it comes to health care in America. Why are doctor's fees going through the ceiling? Why does medical insurance cost so much? It looks like a horrible cycle to me, kind of like a cat chasing its tail.

Our society has become lawsuit happy. Every offence, great or small, real or imagined, is ending up in our court systems. Doctors are getting sued left and right, and not just for things they mess up on. Some patients filing suits are saying that the only reason they are doing it is for the money. In fact, some have even expressed regrets when it ends up hurting the very doctors they were suing. "I was just doing it for the money," they say. "I didn't mean to get my doctor into trouble." Are you brain dead? If you sue someone it's going to hurt!

I'm not suggesting that all malpractice lawsuits are illegitimate. Bad doctors are bad doctors and that needs to be dealt with. But more and more I'm finding that many of these lawsuits are just plain unnecessary.

The proliferation of frivolous lawsuits raises the doctor's malpractice insurance rates. I was surprised to discover that many of doctors have to pay upwards of $100,000 a year for insurance. That's a huge chunk of change. So doctors are just greedy as well.

So doctors pass on the cost in higher medical fees to their patients, the medical consumer. That means medical insurance companies have to pay more out, so they raise the insurance rates to cover their costs, passing the higher costs onto the consumers. Wait a minute! Isn't it the consumers that are the ones suing the doctors in the first place? The cat chases its tail.

This spiraling cost is getting so bad that many companies and individuals are dropping their medical insurance because they can't afford it. Others have insurance, but can't afford the co-pays or deductibles, so they don't use it. What's worse is that many of these people make too much money to get government medical assistance, but too little to afford medical insurance. It makes me think that the "working poor" are on the rise.

This isn't the whole story though, by a long shot. I'll grip about the pharmacies later on, to be sure. Doctors and other medical professionals can get greedy looking at the dollar signs waived in their faces by the insurance companies as well. The insurance companies get greedy, the consumers get greedy and start suing . . . It's just a crazy cycle.

The only thing I know for sure is that the something has to change. I think it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better, though. Pray for those who can't afford to see their doctors in the meantime.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Greetings from the Basement

Hey everyone,

Wow, my first blog posting. Okay, not really. I've got another blog over at my website Random Tracks, but that's not a good forum to really get personal. That's what I'm hoping to gripe about here.

I find that there is a lot of inequality in the world. I'm not talking about super global issues of wealth management between rich countries, like America, and poor counties, like Haiti. I'm talking about more personal inequities right here in the good 'ol USA. Yup! That's right. I'm creating this blog as a platform to spout off on just about any form on injustice, real or imagined, that affects me personally.

Why from the basement? Well, that's where the majority of my computers are. Don't get the idea I've got a stash of supercomputer mainframes down there or anything. That's just where my den is, along with three very old and clunky computers. A Commodore Amiga 500 (yes, you read that right), a pre OS X Macintosh, and an old Wintel box running Windows '95.

The operative word here is old.
Kind of like how I feel some days.

Why don't I get rid of them? Search me. Maybe I'm just a pack rat when it comes to computers.

I told you I was griping.