User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: February 2011

"Our Liberties We Prize, Our Rights We Will Defend."

Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Farming the Web

Articles appeared on the web earlier this week describing Google's ongoing attempt to elevate the ratings of sites with "original" content and send to the Internet basement listings from so-called "content farms", which are owned by businesses that hire legions of part-time amateur writers to crank out articles for a few dollars apiece.

The operators of the content farms claim that their product provides an alternative perspective on the world because it is being produced by everyday people - usually stay-at-home housewives, rather than professional journalists who share similar backgrounds and have similar world views.

Google says that these articles are shallow, provide little value for the consumer and that the shear volume of the material causes it to clog up search engine results, which distracts web searchers and limits the value of Google as a tool for finding material from legitimate sources.

I believe the truth runs a little deeper.  The farm sites try to accumulate articles on subjects that provide hits on search engines and use these articles to link to advertisements.  In other words, they are basically advertising agencies and are competing against Google for the same pot of revenue.  Read---Google is trying to get rid of the competition, even if it also has a more altruistic model such as cleaning up the search process.

I happen to agree there is a problem with some farming sites, because they don't pay for material.  Rather they steal it from others then repost it as their own.  No, I haven't done my homework, so I can't list the sites that snatched my stuff, but it has been a problem since day one.  One popular thing to hijack is the address list on "Christie Contributors Outed".  Type in a search for a dentist, find one on the list and get a ton of ads for other dentists, not from Google, but from the pirate link.

On the other hand, the original stuff written by all those stay-at-home moms out there isn't always useless garbage.  In fact, I think a lot of it is insightful and better than my stuff.  After all, I am doing this for nothing, so how much time do you think I really put into cleaning up these articles.  My stuff gets its quality because a lot of what I write comes from personal experience and a lot of the research - such as the information I got on farm sites - has come from research I do anyway while on the clock.

Google says the written-by-housewife product is inferior because the writers put little effort into it.  (Sounds familiar, after all I am on Blogspot, Google's own content farm).  They say that since the women are trying to make a living at it, they can crank out seven or eight stories a day which means they put little effort into each one.

So I decided to put Google's claim to the test.  The biggest player in the farm business is an outfit called Demand Media.  They produce a variety of websites including .  I went to Cracked to see how bad this trash was.  I was impressed.  A lot of the stuff on Cracked is well written.  In fact I would recommend it. The material is not bad, and the site provides a source of income for people interested in becoming freelance writers.

The bottom line.  Don't ever accept anything that authority figures say at face value without doing your own research.  You just might be surprised how often you come to a different conclusion than the so-called experts. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Demonstration Tomorow

Friday Demonstration TomorowFebruary 25th 2011

In Front of State House

West State Street, Trenton, New Jersey

Starting 12:00 Noon

Sponsored by NJ AFL-CIO

Support Rights of NJ Public Employees

By Showing Up.

(If you are a New Jersey Public Employee, Bring Your Paystub.  You Will Receive a half-day's pay with your pay stub.)

Revolution Now.

Christie Says He Supports Wisconsin Governor's Walker's Plan
Outlaw Public Employee Unions.

Come Out To Show Your Support

for Public Employees.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Battle of Wisconsin Rages On

Earlier this week thousands of Wisconsin public employees occupied the state capital in Madison.  The result was quite unlike what Republican governor Scott Walker intended when he had a bill introduced to make workers pay more for benefits and eliminate the right of public employees to negotiate collective bargaining agreements with their employers through their unions.  He expected a quick rubber stamp vote for the measure since his party controls both houses of the legislature.  What he got instead was an event of international proportions.  Union activists have come from all over the country to assist in the occupation of the state capital building and reporters have come from all over the world to cover the events.  For instance, this photo was posted by the Manchester Guardian all the way from the United Kingdom.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker thought he was Billy Bad Ass.   The governor cut taxes last year, despite the fact that the state is operating at a deficit.  Governor Walker thought he'd out-Christie our own Governor Chris Christie, who has gained a national reputation for ruthlessly pushing around unions representing government employees.  He introduced legislation to make workers pay more for health insurance and pension benefits.  Nothing unusual here, this is being done all over the country as the recession caused state budgets to go into the red and politicians look for a way out that does not involve raising taxes.

Governor Walker went one step further, and decided to try to emasculate the unions which represent public workers.  His bill would deny unions the right to negotiate contracts with management covering wages and working conditions.  Unions would no longer be able to collect dues through deductions from employee paychecks and unions would have to conduct elections each year to maintain their certification as representatives of each workplace.  This law would effectively destroy the power of unions to represent workers.  It would apply to all public workers except police, which would retain their right to negotiate collectively.

Walker thought the move was going to be a pushover.  After all, it was his  bill and his party, which supports the measure, controls both houses of the legislature.  He overplayed his hand because he wasn't counting on two things.  First, the unions were not ready to quietly walk away into the dustbin of history and secondly the Democratic lawmakers figured out a way to outmaneuver the majority party.

The Republicans first tried to introduce the legislation in the Senate, but they couldn't  because all the Democratic senators left the state and vowed not to return until the governor agrees to negotiate with them about removing the language baring unions from the workplace.  The governor says this point is non-negotiable and sent the state troopers out to arrest the senators and bring them back to the state house so they could vote.

Since the senators were in Illinois, they could not be arrested by Wisconsin authorities.  Because they did not come to the chamber, the senate could not conduct business because they did not have a quorum.  This stalled the measure until the senators come back.  Wisconsin does not have the filibuster in their senate, so the only way the Democrats could stop the matter was to boycott the meeting.

The measure was supposed to come up in the assembly, which is also being boycotted by the Democrats.  If the lone Independent assemblyman shows up, the Republicans can consider the bill and pass it in the lower chamber.  However, if he does not show up, they have the same problem as in the quorum, so they can't vote there either.  As far as I can tell, nothing happened in the assembly yet either.

At the same time all this was going on, union workers occupied the state capital building and the surrounding grounds.  In order to prevent the governor from removing them without the use of excessive force, the unions have kept the area packed with workers both night and day.  (Thank God, this is not Egypt, we don't use bullets and tanks to clear out mass demonstrations.)  Unions from all over the country, most notably the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have sent in workers to keep the building packed while others go home for rest breaks.

All this has attracted national attention.  The protest caught the eye of President Obama who sent his expression of support.  Of course the Wisconsin governor told the president to but out of state business.

How is this playing out and who is winning the propaganda war.  Governor Walker so far has come off looking like a fool.  He has resorted to wild stunts like sending the state troopers out to arrest senators and has threatened to call out the National Guard should the unions call a general strike.  He has been powerless to move the measure forward.

The unions on the other hand have gained a national forum to educate the public about the value of organized labor and the need for unions in the government workplace.  They have shown that the Republicans are not unstoppable if workers choose to stand together.  They have served as an example for workers across the country so they will be motivated to act should their politicians decide to try to destroy unions in their states.

What is happening in Wisconsin is important for New Jersey workers.   Here too, the governor has been using legislation to set the terms and conditions of employment.  So far Christie has managed to be more successful than Walker because rather than trying to ban unions outright, he has been moving in piecemeal fashion to define the work arrangement through legislation so there is little for unions to negotiate.

For instance, Christie has proposed drastic increases in health insurance premiums and pension costs for public employees while at the same time reducing benefits.  He hopes to accomplish this through legislation, not at the bargaining table.  Unlike Wisconsin, our Democrats so far have lapdogs for the governor, largely because the governor has Senate President Stephen Sweeney as a messenger boy.  For instance, Sweeney, who is president of the Ironworkers union has introduced legislation to increase health insurance costs, and his buddy, Senator Donald Norcross, who is president of the state International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers introduced a bill which passed both houses that would require all future state employees to live in New Jersey.  Although other Democratic legislators have initially objected to some of the program being fed to Sweeney by the governor, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and others usually come around to support the senate president's proposals.

Why do Norcross and Sweeney want to sell us out if they union presidents.  The short answer is that the governor bought them out by pushing through economic development projects that provide work to construction workers in South Jersey.  For instance, work is expected to resume shortly on the Revel Entertainment casino in Atlantic City.  The project was stalled until the state agreed to advance a loan with taxpayer money equal to 20 percent of the value of the finished project.  The governor also recently sighed legislation to subsidize construction of a gas-fired electrical generating plant in Deptford and has promised $100 million in tax credits to any companies willing to manufacturing wind turbines in a state-owned industrial park in Paulsboro.

Perhaps these aren't bribes in the traditional sense because neither Sweeney nor Norcross are personally enriched by them.  But the governor has certainly used the power of his office to buy the loyalty of two Democratic senators and break union solidarity.

What is to be done?  We can only thank the Wisconsin Democratic legislators and the state's unions for what they have done.  So far, Christie has stuck to petty antics like the battle of Lincoln's Birthday (see previous post).  But since he hasn't even begun to negotiate a new contract with the CWA, there's no telling what he had in mind for July.  If Walker was successful, no doubt it would have been very possible that he would have tried to outlaw unions here too.  Make no doubt about it, Christie supports what Walker is doing.  If you don't believe me, see what Christie said in this article from

Since Walker has made a fool out of himself,.this is far less likely now.

What is going on in Wisconsin is part of a broader trend where governors aree trying to use legislation to snatch power from unions so they can cut benefits and hold down wages.  Politicians see workers and unions as being weak and that taking them on is the logical place to find more money for state services without raising taxes.  For more on this, see this article from CNN.Com.

We need to keep the heat on.  Force the governor to negotiate with us, rather than trying to legislate our benefits.  We also need to show the Democratic legislators in this side what side their bread is buttered on.
We can't replace all of them.  There's no need to.  In order to bring them around to our side, all we need to do is knock out Sweeney and Norcross in the elections in November.  I haven't checked, but if anybody is running against them in the June primary, you should vote for the opponent, no matter who they are.  New Jersey has a sore loser law and once a candidate loses a primary election, they can't run in the general election either.  And of course, if Sweeney and Norcross survive the primary, we must vote Republican and get them out.  True, the Republicans will also be hostile to us, but they will lack the power and union connections that Sweeney and Norcross have.  They would just be greenhorn freshman senators with little influence.  And of course, we can replace them with Democrats during the next senate race.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Go Ahead. Take Lincoln's Birthday Off. I Dare Ya

Abraham Lincoln was the first member of the Republican Party to be elected president.  He successfully presided over the Civil War and was assassinated by a Confederate sympathiser shortly thereafter.  You would think that a governor who prides himself on his Republican credentials would show more respect for the man who put his party on the map than he has in the following incident.

At the end of the day, Lincoln's Birthday was a normal workday for unionized civilian state employees this year, as it was last year.  However, Governor Chris Christie, who never likes to loose, decided to sow some more confusion because he lost the battle with the unions over the day after Thanksgiving last year.

So he could furlough workers during 2009 and the first part of 2010, Governor Corzine entered into an agreement with the unions called the Memorandum of Agreement.(MOA).  The Governor let us have most of what was in the MOA without any problem.  He didn't mind furloughing us six times in 2010.  He then gave us 8 extra days off to pay us back for being furloughed 12 times in the period from July 2009 to June 2010.

His problem came with the next part of the agreement, which said we got the day after Thanksgiving off and that we would work Lincoln's Birthday instead.  The big fat crybaby said the MOA was not binding and we would nave to work Black Friday.  The union sued and the courts said the agreement was binding and we got Black Friday off. 

However, Governor Christie, like any other schoolyard bully, is a sore looser.  To make his point he said that unionized workers could have Black Friday off, but non-unionized workers such as management, temporaries, and political appointees had to work.  All the big shots used their vacation time and took the day off of course, leaving low-level non-union people on the job.  That meant they had to heat and light the 13-story Labor Building at taxpayer expense for maybe 25 people on Black Friday.

Since bullies never give up, nobody really knew what was going to happen on Lincoln's Birthday until we got there.  Last week, as expected, the governor was back up to his old tricks.  Here is the full text of the memo from the Governor's Office dated 2/7/2011.

From:  Yvonne Catley
Sent:  Monday, February 7, 2011 12:59 PM
To:  Debbie Mahal
Subject:  FW: Lincoln's B-day

To:  All Employee Relations Coordinators and the Nine State Colleges and Universities
From:  Governor's Office of Employee Relations

This notice will address the observance of Lincoln's Birthday on Friday, February 11, 2011 for civilian Executive Branch employees.  Pursuant to 2009 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) entered into by the state and the State's civilian unions, the covered civilian Executive Branch employees received Thanksgiving Friday in 2010 as a paid day off and those same employees agreed to have Lincoln's Birthday in 2011 treated as a regular work day.  Because Lincoln's Birthday 2011 remains a statutory holiday, legislation was needed to change its status to a regular work day.  To date, there has been no legislation adopted to change the date to a regular work day for State Executive Branch employees in 2011.  Beginning in 2012, the law provides that Lincoln's Birthday will no longer be a holiday for state employees.
Although civilian Executive Branch employees, who normally have off on a holiday will not be compelled to worked that day, you should be aware that the Governor's office will be open and fully staffed that day and employees reporting to work will be allowed  to work. The Governor understands that this may create inequities, in that certain MOA employees will have received an  extra day off on the state after Thanksgiving 2010, pursuant to the MOA.  The Governor intends to address those issues in the future.  Law enforcement personnel, not covered by a MOA, will operate under the terms of their collective bargaining agreements.  (Italics and bold type not in original)

What's really going on here?  First, since we took Lincoln's Birthday off last year under the MOA as a mandatory furlough day, the problem isn't that Lincoln's Birthday has to be a paid day off.  The governor just seems to say that the day has to be a day off

And if that's the case, why is he forcing his employees in the Governor's Office to work.  They are not under the MOA.  They are non-union and should be entitled to celebrate the day just as any other state employee.

My guess is he wants the law changed so that the day is no longer a state holiday.  I don't know why.  The law already says that it will no longer be an official holiday starting in 2012, so what's the rush.

The only explanation is that he is a crybaby.  He wanted to try to bully the unions to work on Black Friday against our agreement with the previous governor and he lost.

What gives about the sentence in bold type.  The one that says  The Governor intends to address those issues in the future.   Everything before this says that everyone can take Lincoln's Birthday off except police and correction officers, regardless of the MOA.  Sure sounds like some kind of threat to me.  Just like the headline says, here is this holiday, you can have it off.  I dare ya!

What was the union's response to this memo.  Read their memo below:

To All CWA Members

As you know, under our MOA, we got the Day After Thanksgiving off and we agreed to work on Lincoln's Birthday.  The Christie Administration tried to violate the MOA and make everyone work on the Day After Thanksgiving.

Now, they have sent out a completely incomprehensible memo about Lincoln's Birthday.  Please be clear:

Lincoln's Birthday is a regular workday, and not a paid holiday for those who fall under the MOA.  We had off the day after Thanksgiving.

If you take off on Lincoln's Birthday, you need to be on approved leave.  If you have not been approved leave to be off on Lincoln's Birthday, GO TO WORK.

Now there is a first.  The management is telling people it is OK to take off and the union says go to work.  We live in a strange world, don't we.

On Wednesday, the labor Department's employment relations officer issued a memo which said that if you are non-union, then Lincoln's Birthday was a normal workday and that if you were nonunion, you could take the day off as a paid holiday.

This time we get the Indians reporting for work and the chiefs staying home.  Makes sense.  When the cat's away, the mice will play.  Now that's real efficient employee management for you.

Lincoln's Birthday was celebrated Friday February 10th.  What really happened?  Lots of people took off and we had about half our normal staffing.  Most people used their own time and took a 3 day weekend.  Management of course took the paid holiday off.

I don't believe too many people did not "get the memo" from the union and their immediate supervisors (who are also union members).  Practically all union people not on leave went to work like they should have.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Mooch

No offense to the people in this picture (I uploaded it from the web after doing a Google search for trailer trash), but you can take some people out of the trailer park but you can't take the trailer park out of the people.  And basically, many of the long-time residents still remaining in the formerly Slavic part of South Trenton are trailer trash living in row houses.
I was over a longtime friend's house last night.  He lives on Tremont Street which is a few blocks from my house, located off South Broad Street in Trenton.  My friend, I'll call him Joe here has known me since I got a job at the Trane plant on East State Street when I first came home from college in 1981.  Back then, General Electric owned the plant and it made central air conditioners and gas heaters for houses.

I remember when I got the job.  I just got done working a temporary job for an outfit called EWB Productions.  They were producing a promotional film for AT&T about their new computer operating system called Unix.  At the time Unix was super top secret stuff.  I had to sign a release agreeing to keep everything secret, a promise I kept for 30 years.  Since Unix is the operating system which makes the Internet work and that is common knowledge today, I feel I'm under no obligation to keep what I did secret anymore.

I was hired by EWB because they couldn't find a real secretary (makeup and curlers type) who knew how to operate an Apple II computer complete with Peachtree operating software.  They thought they would try a recent college grad.  Since I wrote for the Iowa State Daily when I was in school, they figured I was the man for the job.  You had to memorize codes to make Peachtree work, because back in the day, there were no mouses (mice) attached to computers.  Everything was done off the keyboard.

What I did was transcribe from a Dictaphone.  I got fired when I went on a job interview and gave EWB as a reference.  Then I learned it was a no-no to be a bad boy and job hunt when working for a temp agency.  (rub my nose in some cowshit please!).

Back to the job interview at Trane.  It was with Chuck Walker, a no-nonsense black guy who was a junior officer in Vietnam.  I don't know if he was a Lieutenant or Captain, but he was up front with the action.  Racial prejudice, is a time-sensitive thing.  The further back in time you go, the more prejudiced white people were, and I was pretty prejudiced by modern standards, but I kept my mouth shut. I told the truth on the job app and said I last worked as a secretary.  He told me there won't be any secing here, rather there will be a lot of sweating, and they were hiring me to lay me off.  I did get laid off four months later, long enough to get unemployment.

(forgive me for posting another half-finished article.  Come back in a day or so.  Promise to finish it.  Physical therapy is in an hour so I got to get out of here.)

Well it's the following Saturday and I have been back to work for a week.  Been really busy.

Back to the story about Joe and the characters on Tremont Street.

I got hired to work in the coil area as an assembler.  My job was to screw little metal plates to the coils so they could secure the tubes that carried Freon from the compresser to the coils that transfer heat from houses on central air conditioners.  At first I dantilly tried to put each screw into the holes and was falling behind.  Joe came up and said "grab a hand full of screws and shoot 'em in.  If they hit the floor, so what.  If you can't find a hole, press down and make a hole."  That was all I needed to know to keep up and we became friends.

Soon I went to his house on Jersey Street, met his girlfriend Lorrie and his son, little Joe and we began to regularly hang out together.  The relationship survived the time I got laid off at the plant.  We have been seeing each other ever since then.

Back then the first block of Jersey Street between Home Ave. and Tremont St.was a nice place/  Old ladies kept plants on their stoops, which they swept regularly.  Everything was neat and clean.  I liked going to the Jersey One Tavern on the corner of Jersey and Home and the Veterans' Tavern on the corner of Tremont and Jersey.

Even back in the 1980s when Joe and practically everyone else in the area of working age worked in the factories, heavy drug and alcohol use was the norm.  Lorrie used to tell her boyfriend to go down to the bar and get some crank.  I was like, "What's crank?"  Joe would say its shit that keeps you up and gets her off her ass so she will clean up and do some housework.  When she didn't want crank, she was looking for more cigarettes.

At parties there would be plenty of food on the grill and of course there would be lots of beer and shirtless, bearded men drinking it.  The pot would also come out and everybody would smoke until they got stoned.  In addition to these things, we'd occasionally break out some Jack Daniel's or some Spirytus alcohol.  Spyritus is something they drink back in Poland and the countries which formerly made up the Soviet Union.  It's 192 proof grain alcohol.  It has to be "rectified" to get to be this strong, meaning it is treated with lye during the distillation process, which makes it two proof stronger than Everclear which is only 190 proof.  Unlike Everclear, Spirytus can be drunk straight up because it has a much cleaner and smoother taste, kind of like vodka, which is what it basically is.  I have a buddy at work from Russia who tells me that in the old country, soldiers, students and other 20 and 30 somethings don't usually drink 80 proof vodka unless they are wimps.  Real youths in the old country drink straight up rectified grain alcohol when they party.  The old timers also use it to make a local version of brandy by mixing fruit and fruit juice with the booze and letting it ferment in the bottle for a while before drinking it.

No, you don't have to be Polish to drink the stuff, and this video proves it! (it also proves the stuff exists)  You can buy it at Landmark Liquors, at the Capital Plaza shopping center on North Olden Avenue in Ewing, where Foreman Mills is located.  To show you how badass powerful this stuff is, watch this clip. also, here's a clip about underage drinking in college that they would never put on Campus PD.  It features the closest thing made in the USA, which is Everclear.

Needless to say, exceptional indulgence in partying South Trenton style will rot your brain out.  That tends to knock most people who grew up around here out of commission by the time they reach middle age.

Fast forward about 30 years.  Joe no longer works at Trane.  He became an alcoholic and no longer works anywhere.  He gets SSI, for over $700 per month as well as food stamps.  He is 58 and qualifies medically.  He had prostate cancer and they fried his hips by giving him too much radiation.  He now walks with a limp and can walk only for short distances.

But he is not the real super mooch.  He's just a garden variety Trenton mooch.

It takes his neighbors across the street to take that honor.  There is a mother living with her daughter and they also have several roomers in the house.  Both mother and daughter are heroin addicts and they are both on SSI.  The roomers are on general assistance from the county.  Everybody gets food stamps.

The daughter is a crack whore and screws black gangbangers in the basement for drugs.  Everybody walks around with that expression that Stepinwolf once described in a song as "tombstones in their eyes".  All junkies itch like hounds from the heroin and have that thousand yard stare.

Mommy gets a rental subsidy from Section 8.  Basically, Uncle Sam pays the rent.  They get a subsidy from the state to pay their electric bill.  It shows up on your electric bill as "universal service surcharge".  That's what it is for, to subsidize gas and electric service for the poor.  They get heating assistance from the LIHEAP program on top of this.  They get free cell phone service from the government.  They advertise this program on local TV channels.  You get 250 minutes a month free.  On top of this, they have a caseworker that actually goes to the store and buys them groceries and transports them to their house.

Boy, wouldn't it be great to have the government put you up so you can live in a house and do drugs and alcohol all day.

As you guessed, that part of town is no longer so nice.  The park across the street from the Hungarian Reformed Church on the corner of Beatty and Home is better known as Needle Park.  The area has become a regular ghetto and shows up frequently in crime stories in the Trentonian.

Neighborhoods like this gurantee that there are many more welfare kings and queens like Joe's neighbors out there.  Maybe one reason why our taxes are so high.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Truth About Doctors

One of the advantages of being home sick for a month is that you get to see a lot of doctors.  I got to hang out in doctor's offices so much in January that it was almost as though I was working in one.  By spending so much time there I got to listen in on conversations between the staff and see how things really work.

This is my last week off from work.  Next Monday I get to go back to the office and put my repaired knee back to good use.  That's OK, because after a while even being home from the job gets to become boring. 

That's not to say that the last five weeks have been a complete waste. I got to do stuff I wouldn't otherwise have time for, such as frequently working on my blog.  I also got to hang out in a lot of different medical offices and listen in on the shop talk.  It's amazing what you can pick up by listening and observing.

When I went to the pulminologist on Tuesday, the place was packed.  I mean there was standing room only.  I asked one of the nurses what was up when I finally got in the back and she said that the people were all changing their appointments from Wednesday to Tuesday because they wanted to beat the ice storm.  New Jerseyians in general and the sick and elderly in particular are terrified by inclement weather.  I mean nothing either packs a supermarket or clears out a doctor's office like a New Jersey snowstorm.

I then got to see the doctor and got to discuss the results of my lung lavage.  He had to call the lab because they sent him the wrong report, without the information he was looking for.  When he got the results, it was just that I have simple chronic bronchitis which is a buildup of mucus in the lungs which gives you a chronic cough.  Nothing to worry about.  His solution:  he will order a nebulizer, which is a machine which pumps a medicated mist into the lungs.  He says that will clear out the mucus and make it easier to breathe.

What is going on?  Back when I was a kid, my family doctor told my mother that I had chronic bronchitis and was prone to getting something called the croup.  His test was simple.  Get out the stethoscope and listen to the lungs.  His remedy was to just put up with it,  Nothing really can be done, but you can take some cough medicine if the problem gets bad.

I went through life like this until I started coughing like I belong on a lung ward and my supervisor sent me to the doctor to bring back a note on what he could do about the problem.  My primary doctor sent me to a pulminologist.  I been to a few of them and also to ear, nose and throat doctors about the same thing over the course of my lifetime and no definitive answers.

So now I have been going to the same lung doctor for about four years and I still cough.  He came to the same conclusion that the old coot that my mother took me to when I was a kid came to.  The old guy was old in the early 1960s which means he graduated from medical school around 1910 or 1920.  And he came to the same conclusion that the modern specialist, with all his fancy tests and equipment came to.
Its just that it took the specialist about four years and perhaps $20,000 to get there.

Fact is that medicine is a business, and modern doctors are out to make money, plain and simple.  Can't blame the doctor.  He went to school for many years and has a lot of overhead because he has to rent the office and pay his staff and buy all the equipment.  You have a different agenda.  You just want your problem fixed.  You really don't care what it costs, after all it is all just insurance money.  You don't mind undergoing all those tests.  The insurance company is paying for them.  The inconvenience and discomfort many be worth it if modern science can assist the doctor in providing a solution.

But in many cases you don't get much real relief.  However, the doctor makes a lot of money.  Ever notice that when you go to see a specialist, you always have some condition that his speciality is qualified to fix.  I went to an ear, nose and throat doctor about the cough.  He wanted to operate on my nose to repair my deviated septum and open up my nasal cavity to get rid of my post nasal drip.  My lung doctor says my throat is clear and I don't have post nasal drip, but I do have sleep apnea and required sleep studies and a CPAP machine from a company affiliated with his practice.  It also looks like I can use a nebulizer from the same company, put probably will have the same problems afterward.

Fact is, doctors don't want to cure you.  If they did, you wouldn't come back.  What they want to do is manage your condition, so you get some relief, but still need their services for life.  Then you keep coming back again and again forever.

The tendency of specialists to want to fix almost any problem with some solution within their speciality so they can make money off you is why managed care health plans require you to get a referral from your primary doctor before going to a specialist.  The primary's job is not to cure you, but to make an unbiased guess on what condition you have so they can send you to the right doctor.  That way, you don't get the fellow in the picture above trying to fix you up.

This leads me to the second problem, which is insurance companies.  Private insurance companies should not be in the health insurance business at all because they have a conflict of interest.  The less care they provide, the more money they make.  Not good for you and not very good medicine.

One way insurance companies can save money is to cut reimbursement rates, or what they pay doctors for treatment.  That is a big problem in the physical therapy business because it interferes with their ability to provide decent care.  The therapy place bills at top dollar, but the insurance company doesn't pay that.  They pay what they want to.  Each company is different.  Horizon Blue Cross  managed care plans are notoriously bad payers.  Aetna is somewhere in the middle.  Blue Cross Traditional Plan is the best, closely matched by traditional Medicare.

One gimmick insurance companies have in the physical therapy business is they pay their full rate for the first exercise, three-quarters for the second, one half for the third, one-quarter for the fourth and nothing for the fifth exercise.  Some companies will also only pay for therapy to one body part each day, so if two parts are injured, you have to go to therapy on alternate days, one part or each day.  Stupid perhaps, but true.

Doctors have a way of fighting back against these tactics.  You pay me less per patient and each patient gets less time.  We'll keep up our revenue by pushing people through like cattle.  My therapy place so far has resisted this trend.  I get a full two hours per session.  But they say it is happening elsewhere.  They bill the same, but some places only do a half hour per patient.  Now you know why your doctor is giving you the impression of rushing you out of his office.  This makes it hard for him to figure out what is wrong with you.

Isn't the American healthcare system great!  Very expensive and not always very good.

Personally, I'd rather try to stay healthy in the first place by eating right and going to the gym.