Posts Tagged ‘nonprofits’

It’s Not Obamacare…it’s the Entire Health Care Industry.

November 11, 2016

This may seem amusing to those who have health insurance that somebody else pays for…but it’s not so funny.

This started in April 2016.

I was having  pain in my hip that I thought might be arthritis (it turned out to be sciatica), and also …a rash—like heat rash, that I could not get rid of.  I also had ‘trigger finger.’

I made an appointment with a doctor in my health plan…but not only did it turn out that she was no longer at the clinic, they called me two days before to cancel the appointment because my insurance would not cover it.  Never mind that I planned to pay for it out of my Health Savings Account.

So, I called the insurance company, and thy told me I was entitled to a Women’s Wellness Exam. This would cover  a PAP smear, a full body skin cancer check, and a scheduling  for a mammogram. The insurance would pay. So, I made another appointment with a  clinic picked  gynecologist.

She was an hour late, so she didn’t do the skin cancer check (so would not look at the rash), and could not address the pain in my hip, but she did take a PAP smear & scheduled me for the mammogram. I specifically asked her if I needed any paperwork.  She told me, “No, just go to Mount Sinai Hospital. You are in the system.”

This turned out to not  be true. I was in the system, but they still wanted paperwork, Thankfully, I had the clinic card in my wallet , and called them to FAX the paperwork.

Now, although I was in the system scheduled for the mammogram, I then had to go to Mount Sinai intake and have my contact info entered  again. Even though the  clerk had all my info in front of her, she managed to spell both my first & last names WRONG:  Robin Micheals—but I did not  see this until I was actually in the x-ray room.

It took over a month to get the mammogram, so I had to schedule a different visit at a different clinic with a general practitioner to look at my rash &  address the pain in my hip….and my finger.  I don’t doubt the doctor is a decent doctor, but the pills he prescribed  for the sciatica did not help at all, and the ointment he prescribed (yes—at $26 a tube) me  did not work, either.  He did tell me that if the problems did not go away in 2 weeks, to call him.  He referred me to another doctor  for the ‘trigger finger’, who gave me a shot, and told me it would only last 3—6 months.

Well, due to his being on vacation and  my taking a different job, a month went by.  I decided to see a chiropractor who was highly recommended by  neighbors who had had sciatica treated.  She really is good….but her treatments didn’t hold.

I did called the general practitioner about the rash, but could not talk to him directly. The clinic insisted I make an appointment to see him to get a referral to a dermatologist.  I haven’t been billed yet, but I went in, and he told me to wait and left the room.  About 1/2 hour later, he came back & told me that the clinic had to find a doctor who would accept my insurance plan.  I laughed.  I said, “This is ridiculous.  I have a $6000 deductible, I’ll pay for it out of  my Health Savings Account.”  He rolled his eyes and wrote down the name of a dermatologist.  A few days later, I got a letter with the name of a dermatologist in my plan.  I called, and could not get an appointment for 8 weeks!  Not until after….Thanksgiving!

I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “I had that—just get some Desitin.” Which I did. It took about two weeks to work.  I will cancel the dermatology appointment.

Meanwhile…I got a letter from Mount Sinai.  My mammogram was inconclusive. They tell me to call my doctor and have her reschedule another mammogram.  You see, I can’t do this myself, for some reason. So, I call that clinic…& they want me to schedule an appointment (and pay for it—or charge health insurance) just for her to make another appointment!

But wait—there’s more!  So the chiropractor suggests I  get an MRI to find out why the adjustments she’s making are not holding.  She tells me  that the cash rate will be $350—400.  That is no problem…but when I call  and ask if I can submit it  to insurance—they may pay (and—how can you reach your deductible if you don’t submit)…ah, no.  Because…they may charge the insurance company $1500, and if THEY DON’T PAY, I have to. That is the difference.

Now, why would an insurance company be charged  double or triple?  Well, that’s how it works.  When you add a step, you add ‘overhead’—and people on a payroll pushing papers, and filing, and a guy at the top who makes $28,000,000 a year.  This is how we create jobs.  They all have a vested interest, which is why they continue to pay our politicians to not have single payer, and allow this  waste.

As I write this, Trump has won the presidency.  He may replace the Affordable Care Act, but the health insurance industry has too much invested in Congress to  allow any changes. We are not going to get anything like single payer  for at least  four years.

I was telling a colleague about this, and she said, “It doesn’t seem like this should be legal.”  Well, anything that is not specifically illegal is legal.  It’s what makes America great.

Vacations for Animal Lovers

May 13, 2016
Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

Pariah dog sleeping at Ephasus in turkey

My passion is  working with animals.  From  before I could read, I knew volume #7 of the Encyclopedia Britannica had the dog pictures.  I used to love  pulling it out and looking at the dog pictures.  Growing up, I lived in a very middle class suburban (Skokie) neighborhood, where, if people had dogs, they were behind fences.  If I saw someone walking a dog, I went crazy. Part of this obsession was because my parents wouldn’t let us have a dog until we were  mature enough to take care of one.  My father  owned his own business,and my mother  had four kids  under 7 years old. Looking back, I  totally understand the logic.  What happened, however, was that my sister and I  took every dog book we could find out of the library. We finally got  our first dogs when I was  nine-years-old.  We  taught that dog all sorts of things.  I took every opportunity I could find to work with dogs. I learned to groom dogs.  I have also titled my pet dogs in performance.  When you work with dogs, you learn your limits.  At one time, I wanted to own a kennel and have a bunch of my own dogs.  When I started working in kennels, I learned that it is  hard to give quality time to more than a few dogs. So many dogs need homes, and many without homes need advocates. What could I do?  If I fostered a dog, I would be cutting into the quality time I spend with my own dogs. and it would change the dynamic in our household.  So, I looked for opportunities where I could help others who  care for pets needing help.

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

Reception at Lilongwe SPCA. in Malawi

There are many ways to help when you  can’t foster or adopt another pet.  Most shelter and rescues need help with accounting, marketing, and fund-raising, as well as recruiting  other volunteers.  Here in Chicago, I volunteer as a court advocate for  This means, when someone is charged with an animal related crime (neglect, cruelty, or dog fighting are the common ones), I go to court to make sure the judge knows that the community has an interest in this case.  Mostly, it is just being there.  We let the  prosecuting attorney know  we are there, and they make sure the judge knows we are there if the  courtroom is crowded. The police making the arrest also know that we are there.  This makes everyone take animal crime more seriously. Another thing I do is support pet rescues, especially pet rescues in  developing countries.  Now, due to the internet, where you can google ‘animal shelter/country, you can get linked up with  animal lovers in  most places.  In many places, you can even volunteer. I volunteered , via Cross Cultural Solutions, to work with a community based group in New Delhi, India, and some people told me about Frendicoes.  Friendicoes mostly does trap/neuter/release, and has a small shelter.  Virtually all the animals they have are pariah dogs and cats:  that is, they are true street  animals, and really not suited to be pets. Several years ago, I visited Turkey. Via networking, I was able to get in touch with  the people who run the Forest Sanctuary, outside Istanbul.  They had about 100 dogs at the time we visited.  Western Turkey is becoming very urbanized, but the Turks, for the most part, never  kept dogs in their homes.  Also, like impulsive people all over, many  buy dogs and tire of them.  Those involved in rescue are very pragmatic.  They do trap/neuter/release (and one reason for the  protest over loss of park land in Istanbul several years ago was not just  over loss of open space to a shopping mall…but loss of habitat for the street dogs and cats), but also care for  dogs at the Forest Sanctuary outside of the city. They work with a Dutch rescue, and ship many dogs suitable for homes to Holland. I’ve also  visited  ‘shelters’ in Hoi An, Viet Nam ( , and both Lilongwe and Blantyre, in Malawi.  They all welcome volunteers.  Soi Dogs, in Thailand not only needs volunteers, but  people who can accompany a dog (as a courier)  from Thailand to the USA.  The Sighthound Underground and Galgos del Sol also need couriers, and you can volunteer to work in the Galgo kennel in Spain. There are also  animal shelters in more ‘vacation oriented’ places.  can put you in touch with  many shelters needing assistance.  So can Norah Livingstone:  World Vets:  has volunteer opportunities in  Central America and southern Asia.  If you are more the type who  just wants to observe, or maintain habitat, Earthwatch programs, many involving habitat conservation or observation of animal behavior, overseen by scientists. Meeting  other animal lovers and sharing information is a great way to spend vacation time.

The 2nd Blog About Going Back to Africa

February 4, 2016

I’ve been doing research almost every day on transport, say, from Mua mission to Mangochi (in Malawi), and places to stay.  Google ‘Lilongwe to Lusaka by bus.’   You can get Lusaka to lilongwe, but not the reverse. Traveling in inland Africa  is so …difficult. Roads are bad, transport is badly regulated, bus companies go out of business or  radically change their routes.

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock's ethnic map of Africa

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

I paid for the airfare back in June 2015.  I did this after Zambia removed the requirement for a Yellow Fever shot. Having had 3…I would have gone to Hong Kong or  Costa Rica if the requirement was still in place (no word on Zika—now in the news…).

I sent my passport to the Zambian embassy for a visa in October of 2015—before the ‘holiday rush’, and checked the Malawian embassy website—still no visa needed. Apparently the requirements changed  just after I checked the website.  From $0 to $100.  How did I find out? By checking the Peace Corps Malawi Facebook page…someone just happened to post asking if anyone had trouble getting a visa!   This was now the middle of January, 2016.   So, I checked the embassy website again, and sure enough, yes, a visa is now needed. Why?  It’s only fair:  they charge  now for whatever country  charges their ‘nationals’ for a visa, and the USA charges $161.

So, I emailed the embassy.  All the emails bounced back. So I called…and they graciously returned my call, and told me, as the website says, they could get it done in 5 days…and to Fed Ex my passport.  I asked if I could get one at the border, and they said I couldn’t.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but I could picture having to get off a bus at the Zambian/Malawi border, and being asked for $100 & to fill out forms, and a bus not waiting,  and being stuck.

So, I got the application, flight info, photos, passport together and Fed Exed it.  This was on Jan.19.  It got to the Embassy on Jan. 20.  On Jan 28, I called to ask how things were going. Not well. Seems that—due to the blizzard that hit Washington, DC earlier in the week, the embassy had been closed, because the roads had not been cleared (let alone the sidewalks).  But, I was assured that  the passport would be sent out  on Friday, Jan.29.  But it wasn’t.  I checked the  Fed Ex tracking number—for the return envelope I had sent, and it was still sitting there!

Now, I’m frantic.  I can’t get on the plane without a passport.  I called my credit card company, Chase Freedom, because they insure  for ‘trip interruption ‘ when you pay on their card (my airfare).  Ah, no…they never heard of anything like this, but this wasn’t weather related as far as they were concerned. So, then I called the travel insurance company,, to see if I was covered.  No, If it is not explicitly listed  in their causes, no.  I am not covered.  I call Emirates asking about penalties for rebooking.
They tell me to call the travel agent to see about fees.  What to do?

I decided to call FEdEx and arrange a pickup at the Embassy for Monday morning. I even offered to pay overnight express.  Funny thing—they say the Embassy has already paid it on my tracking  number!  They just have not set it out!

Here’s the thing:  if your envelop is not ready to go, the Fed Ex driver will not wait.  Due to the embassy people being behind on everything, they  did not see that it was not picked up on Friday, then on Monday, they had a question about the address (I had it sent to a local receiver  due to my running around), but it finally got out Monday night.

So I have a few other questions & continue to email contacts in Malawi. What denomination bills should I get, as the exchange rate is Mkw 726.38 to  $1 USD…and do I need to bring my heavy  electric converter to recharge my cell phone.

You Can’t Miss it!

Since roads are often unmarked (but everyone knows what they are…)

Here’s an example of  directions I got for  Chishawasha Children’s Home outside Lusaka:

From Kathe Padilla: You will probably need to take a bus from the main bus station downtown out Great North road.  About 5 K out of Lusaka (going North) there is a
Police Checkpoint, where all the automobiles and trucks are checked.  A bus may or may not get checked, I am not sure.  Three K beyond that check point
on the left hand side is a large sign for the Chishawasha Children’s Home of Zambia.  It is quite a few years old by now, so it is looking old (presuming
it has not been re-painted since I was there in July of 2015).  Take that road (a dirt road named Minestone road, but there is no sign for the road) and walk
about 4 tenths of a kilometer and you will see the gate, which says Chishawasha Children’s Home and the school itself is visible from the road. FYI the school
is pink)  Go to the guard and tell them that Aunt Kathe invited you to come visit and the guard can direct you to the administration building.  You will want to
talk to Mary or Carol.
Another way of arriving at the same place is:  about 7 K from Lusaka (again on Great North Road a few K past the police checkpoint) there will be a large billboard sign on
the right side of the street for “Spinalong”.  When you see that sign look down the road (going North) toward the left side of the road and pick out the
tallest tree on the horizon.  That tree is located just at the road where you will need to stop (you should see the CCHZ sign before the bus stops).  Againwalk 4 tenths of a K and you will see the CCHZ gate.
Good luck.  It really is quite easy to find.
Directions on getting to  Friendly Gecko Rest House, outside Senga Bay, in Malawi:
Public transport is pretty straight forward from Lilongwe to Salima, and you can get minibuses from the main bus station.  From Salima, you will want to take a minibus, truck, or whatever transport you find towards Senga Bay, but make sure to let them know you want to get out at the Lifuwu turn-off (parachute battalion)If you get lucky, you’ll find a truck going directly to Lifuwu.  If not, when you get to the turn-off you can hire either a bicycle taxi or a motorcycle to bring you to the village.  When you arrive, you can ask anyone where the azungu cottage is, or pay your taxi a little extra to get you to our guesthouse.
And here are directions to Malawi Children’s Village:
I asked:
I plan to  come from the north—from Mua Mission.  If you are closer to Monkey Bay, there is no reason for me to go all the way into Mangochi—especially if I  catch a matola. So—-once I get to Mua, should I take  M10 towards Malemba?”  Then, towards Mzima Bay, or south then towards Club Makolola?
Response: We are south of Monkeybay Mangochi road.  From Club Makokola we are almost 3 kilometers going south.  When you catch Matola just tell them you are dropping at MCV.  Everybody knows this place.  We are looking forward to meeting you soon.

The Blog About Going Back to Africa

January 29, 2016
a colorized version of G.P. Murdock's ethnic map of Africa

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

One of my friends said I had to write about this, as just arranging this trip has been an adventure.  I was  a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi in 1992.  I was a town planner. Peace Corps Volunteers are not supposed to be in politically sensitive positions, and I  actually tried getting another agency (NGO) to pick me up, but the times were  pretty tense, as the European Community was leaning heavily on Hastings Banda (Kamuzu) to allow multi-party elections and a free press.

My job was actually development control…and I was briefly given an assignment  financed by UN Development Programme to organize residents of traditional housing areas (that is, residents of urban communities which allowed  squatter housing, or housing that would not pass building codes) to  have control over their water supply…but that didn’t work out due to the Malawi Congress Party, as well as the Europeans leaning on Banda, and the funding was withdrawn in about four weeks.

In any case, I lived in Blantyre and  at one point, the  Government of Malawi —at least through the office of President and Cabinet, wanted me to take  an illegal action and confiscate some land people had title to.  So, it was stressful.  But now it is  over 20 years later, and I want to not only see how things are, but I want to visit some projects I’ve been supporting (Zambian Children’s Fund in Chishawasha, a bit outside of Lusaka), the Lilongwe SPCA, and the Malawi Children’s Village  outside Mangochi.  I will also visit several other projects, and Victoria Falls in southern Zambia.


I paid for the airfare ($1268.36, Emirates Air) back at the end of June, 2015. Yes, the airfare has gone down a bit over $200 since, because the price of fuel has fallen…but that could not be guaranteed, so I really didn’t overpay that much, and I spend the night in Dubai.

Doing research on getting transport had taken up a lot of time, as you can’t get any info  directly from the bus companies, or it contradicts what everyone posts on TripAdvisor and ThornTree/Lonely Planet.  That’s how it is. Unless you  join a formal tour company for a ‘safari’, which is extremely expensive these days, you have to be flexible about how you plan to get around. Thankfully, all the NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) now have websites, and their people are very helpful about telling you where to stay and how to get there.  I will get into the itinerary.

I knew I had to get a visa for Zambia ($70 plus the certified letter costs), and I actually was thinking of going to Hong Kong this time  because I didn’t want to have to get another Yellow Fever shot—which was required for some time for visas to either Zambia or Malawi.  A Yellow Fever shot (I’ve had 3) will make you quite sick, and is not cheap—you have to go to a  specific travel medical center to get one, and they not only charge about $150 for the shot, but  $$$ for ‘overhead’.  No thanks.

So I sent my passport off to the Zambian Embassy, and it took them  about  two weeks, or did it?  I sent it USPS certified mail, and I got a notice that it was returned, but since I was not home, I had to go to the post office and stand in line…and then, it turned out the   mail person had ‘forgotten’ to take it out of the bag, so they told me they would deliver it the next day…and did not, so I had to go back on Monday, now having no receipt because I had signed it over, and they found it.  It was very stressful.

So, I’m set, just have to pack, but I am on Facebook (Peace Corps Malawi feed) & someone posts last week : “has anyone tried to get a visa to Malawi now that the rules have changed?” What?  A visa had not been needed for Americans or Europeans  since independence, but now the reciprocal deal is  that if  your country charges their nationals for a visa, they charge you (&  the US charges about $160 to Malawians)…so I tried emailing the embassy in Washington, DC, and none of their email addresses are  good. I downloaded the  application forms, and left a message—and the embassy called me back!  They said I could NOT get a visa at the border, to send my passport Fed-Ex and they would  process it & send it back!  So, that was $100 + the $55 to get it there and back.  HOWEVER, I will point out that the official Malawian Tourism site—run by the government—still has the old, inaccurate information on it.  What are you going to do?   What ended up happening is that I sent it, tried to track it, it got to the embassy, and…sat there because of the huge blizzard.  Most embassy offcies were closed, but I left a message and they told me a few people had gone in and would send it back tomorrow.

I’ve budgeted about  $3000 total for this trip. Some places are set up to take credit cards, which is good, and food and transport are still inexpensive by American standards.This is a 20 day trip including  air transit days. Minus the air fare, that’s $86 a day.  Can I do it?  We’ll see.

Big problem is  I am taking a lot of stuff to leave there. About  five  pounds of fabric to be made into clothes,  about 10 pounds of books  as gifts, and other odds & ends.  I never anticipate bringing that much stuff back, but if i can find  bone or malachite jewelry—or bowls, that would be nice.

So, this will be the last blog for a while.I will be spending all my energy getting around.


Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

August 21, 2015
a colorized version of G.P. Murdock's ethnic map of Africa

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

As many readers of this blog know, I have traveled in Africa several times. I was Peace Corps in Malawi in 1992.  Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Even though it has been the recipient of much foreign aid (from USAID, the European Community, and even medical personnel from Egypt), the government policy has been to NOT have it trickle down to the populace.  Who knows where it went. Consultants?    When I served in Peace Corps, literacy hovered around 35%.  Only 15% of households had access to radios. The incident of AIDS was 25–90% depending on how close you lived to a paved road.  Malawi is still very much a country of small holders:  small  farmers.  Many have been encouraged to  plant the cash crop of tobacco (hey—the Chinese still smoke like chimneys, as do the Eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners…), but then, due to quality issues, the  government  parastatal buying the tobacco to resell  will only buy a small portion of what small holders were selling…and you can not eat tobacco.

With access to the internet (via mobile phones, originally brought to Malawi by the Malaysians), more people are getting more information. However, in addition to AIDS, malaria is still a huge  problem, as is TB. So many Malawians do NOT live near paved roads that it is difficult to  get  information (so most of what you get is via rumor) or access to health care.  Primary school is free, but often teachers are merely high school graduates themselves, and don’t own any books for the subjects they are teaching.  You have to pay fees to go to high school.

Knowing this,  this is why  Kamkwamba’s story is so remarkable.  This book was written by  one of those kids who didn’t get to go to high school because his family could not afford school fees.  He feared for his future, of course, but  he was a curious kid, and thankfully, there was a free library in his town.  All the books were donated.

Farming is the type of job  where there are weeks of intense work preparing the soil and planting….and then you wait and hope and pray.  Malawi has  always suffered droughts, made worse in recent decades due to deforestation. This  story takes place  just after the turn of the century.  While Malawi was no longer rules by Kamuzu Banda, it turned out that the devil they didn’t know was worse, as Muluzi, the president at the time, was in total denial about  people starving due to crop failure due to the drought.  Kamkwamba does a brilliant job of describing how bad things were at this time.  It’s humbling.

He also describes the culture of the Chewa people very well.  The gist of the story is that he had a lot of time on his hands, as he wasn’t in school, so he borrowed books and taught himself physics.  He  found scrap parts, and built a windmill so his family could have electricity.  He becomes  famous in his village (one reason is that he charges villagers cell phones!),  Malawian journalists write about him, one thing leads to another, and  his education (having been interrupted for five years) is sponsored and he is asked to give a TED talk.  Very happy ending.

This is a marvelous book, available on Amazon (I’ve included a link), and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about Africa, resilience, perseverance, or who wants to make a difference and help others like Kamkwamba.  When I first became curious about Africa, the classic, “The African Child,” by Camara Laye, was recommended, and that is  a sort of idealized view of African childhood.  This book is better.  It would make a great gift for any child, and be a great addition to any school library.

I’ve included links for the African Library Project and Zambian Children’s Fund.  In the last century, I used to send books via ‘M’ bag, to schools in Malawi.  I sent several tons of books, but the U S Postal Service stopped this as it was too expensive (they had to pay to store containers until they were full). It you send books to  either organization, they  will send them in containers and make sure they are delivered.  I send the books UPS, because I know from experience that the USPS often is rough with boxes and empty boxes have been delivered.  The Africans  really need books on science, business, public health, first aid,  and teachers editions.  They can also use maps.

Who knows how many kids like Kamkwamba there are, who are curious, but don’t have access to books?

So…it Boils Down to This: Who is a pet

January 15, 2015


Bred by backyard breeder. This is a  Shih Tzu---Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

Bred by backyard breeder. This is a
Shih Tzu—Pit Bull cross. Why should the rest of us have to pay to euthanize unwanted dogs?

I have been active in my semi retirement on  trying to address  pet over population and  the view of what is humane,  and one of the things I do is flag animal sales on Craigslist. Bottom line is, the people selling puppies  on CL don’t think they are breeders.   But  it’s not just a Craigslist thing.  The ‘conventional wisdom is that   the backyard breeders don’t think of themselves as ‘breeders’ contributing to pet over population.

In addition,  irresponsible  stories like the feature National Public Radio recently ran on the ‘shortage’ in some area of adoptable dogs, is just appalling.  Granted,  in some  enclaves,  pet owners are more responsible and fewer dogs are dumped, but if you regard the country as a whole,  we will have too many areas where  people are uneducated,and have a totally different mindset about being socially responsible.  Hell, when a well educated (she had a Ph. D.) woman can cart around an unlocked  gun in her purse, and go shopping with a toddler, and think that is perfectly OK…and her community  regards this  accidental shooting by the toddler as  an unavoidable tragedy, we are not on the same page about anything.

This is a sample of a Craigslist post :

“I’m looking to rehome my puppy to a loving family. Jax is a 12 week old Chihuahua/Shih Tzu mix. He loves to snuggle and play and is as cute as can be. He will come with his carrier, jacket, puppy food, food/water bowl, training pads, new harness, leash, and collar. It’s heartbreaking to see him go but I just don’t have time in my schedule to care for this sweet little pup. Asking 370 OBO. Please only contact me if you are very interested as he needs to find a loving home soon. Thank you!”


So here we are—a puppy just into the teething stage.  My guess is she went to a pet shop/puppy mill outlet, and bought the pup and all the  junk (harness!  Ugh!!!), and  now is bored with the dog.  & why would this pup need a jacket?  So all the crap alone is probably over $300.  Or did she get the dog for free, had the stuff (or got it  deeply discounted), and is actually a puppy broker?  No matter.  There is way too much of   these idiots  buying and attempting to flip puppies  on Craigslist, as well as the backyard breeders.

Using Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas he  discussed in his book, The Tipping Point, we need respected change agents to address that this behavior is unacceptable. The people these idiots respect are veterinarians.

I have stated that all the activists who are currently railing against breeders—and they include the ethical hobby breeders who DO screen puppy buyers, do refuse to sell, and do take back dogs they sell, are not the problem.  Since the idiots are  dealing with  livestock breeders and brokers that they believe love animals, it is up to us to get to the next professional they will see—the veterinarian—and demand they address genetic issues, breed problems, not  spew out the hybrid vigor bs  regarding the designer dogs,and  promote spay/neuter at a mature age, and  being responsible for the pet.

While I am horrified that so many pet dogs become incontinent  due to  sloppy spay/neuters (which is why  they should really be done by shelter veterinarians who have lots of experience), I am more horrified by the many ‘accidental’ breeders who make excuses &  have convinced themselves they should not be responsible.

How would I address this? Several ways:

1.  pass a state law that mandates that anyone posting puppies, kittens, or rabbits for sale in Illinois (my state) have to  have their  litters individually microchipped before offering them for sale… if they did end up in a shelter, we’d know who to fine (yes—the breeders should have to pay—but pet owners  could have the chip changed to their contact information );

2. This would be enforced by  humane societies being licensed to train  volunteer investigators to contact people posting ads in newspapers and on Craigslist—and informing every licensed veterinarian in the state to make sure their clients  know the law;

3.People would also have to  ‘register’ every litter they bred with the state department of agriculture—pay a $50 fee. this is not a lot of money in relation to what hobby breeders spend on doing genetic testing, and paying for  showing their animals.

I believe that within  two years of such a law being enacted, we cut the number of dumped pets significantly.  I feel this way because most backyard breeders would either do a better job of screening  buyers, or they’d just  say the hell with it and stop breeding.

We would need all the humane societies and rescues on board, and we’d probably have to convince the  hobby breeders who breed for the betterment of their breed, but I don’t think this would be difficult.


The bogus non-profits (Better World Books, some animal rescues, United Way…etc)

December 14, 2011

I have decided to clarify this post because I got clarification from  Better Wold Books. Please bear with me.

Someone recently posted on Craigslist( in Chicago) that he noticed a  few pet rescues seem to charge an awful lot for the pets they offer for adoption, and  their members drive around in fancy cares.  He thought they were selling dogs, and making a profit.

I replied to the guy that  I didn’t think they were making a profit.  Most likely their expenses were high, and, most likely, they were  the type of RESCUE  that is private, and picks and chooses what they rescue…and has no problem getting a high adoption fee for the dogs they adopt out.  And—the people who could afford to support these endeavors had to be upper income—the types to drive fancy cars.

Shocking, but the fact of the matter is—-it costs a lot to own some breeds of dogs, and if you can’t afford the adoption fee (which goes towards the expenses of other dogs ), you most likely can’t afford to own that type of dog.  And—that  type of dog would most likely be a toy breed, a dog requiring professional grooming, or a brarcheocephalic  like a Bulldog, Boston Terrier, or Frenchie.

It got me thinking, however, about the really bogus nonprofits.  There are many.  The deal is that they are set up to not show a profit.  Or, if they do have a surplus , to show how it will be  reinvested in the mission.  They are (allegedly) open to public scrutiny (as opposed to being a closely held company answerable to nobody) but if you look closely, they are not not making a profit.

I think the colleges and universities are the biggest scams.  Don’t get me started on  special programs thought up, athletics, and  endowments. Meanwhile, people are paying higher tuitions to get an education.

One business just the other side of Kosher is Better World Wools.   As you will see from the comment, below, they are   social enterprice.  That means that, as a business, they hold themselves to  their own ethical standards.  They buy & sell used books, & what they don’t sell, they donate. Actually, many bookstores do this….but BWB is set up to take donations of books, and if you donate books to them (a  donation in kind), while you can’t take the tax write-off, you can feel good. Actually, most independet bookstores also take book donations, and spread them around. They have given books to me, to ship to community based projects in Malawi and Zambian, and  I also  take books to a project that gives books to women in prisons.    My 2 issues with BWB are:  1). Due to their huge marketing budget, they  make it impossible for small booksellers to survive—and  soon , due to this kind of practice, all we will have is chain stores in out neighborhoods.   That may be how it  (capitalism)works, but I don’t think that the people who donate books to them understand the larger picture.   Also—think about this…how socially responsible  can this business be?  We don’t know if the principals of this company  make 20 times more in wages than hourly workers. It would be interesting to find out.  I am not saying what they are doing is wrong…I just think that people who want to do good in the world  and who want to buy books should think about all the implications.

Another  rather shady outfit is The Humane Society of the United States.  Their names says they are a humane society—but they fund no shelters or rescues. They are basically a policy development/lobbying group. Granted, they are lobbying for better treatment of animals…but come on!  By misleading people into thinking they are a group that actually takes care of animals, they are draining donations away from local animal shelters that actually are physically taking care of animals. How ethical is THAT?

I met a woman who founded an organization —a non profit…which allows her to take her very well trained dogs  to local elementary schools and talk to kids about taking care of pets.  She does not charge the schools, but she solicits donations.  She  is very open about what she does, and that she has no employees but herself.  She gets some monetary donations, but  she raises money in a variety of ways, and is subject to audit by the state of Illinois.  I think it was very smart of her to  structure her ‘business’ in this way.    Very few schools are in a position to pay her, and very few teachers would take the time to  teach kindness and animal care.

I, myself, am a member of the Chicago Area Peace Corps Association. We are mostly returned  Peace Corps Volunteers…&  we say, “You never stop being a volunteer.”  We get together for monthly dinner meetings & networking (we have a listserv), we volunteer  with other social service groups, and we repackage money:  we give to partnership projects in our countries of service, and try to support other good works. We  are hopelessly inefficient and have no organizational memory.  We are what we are.

Unless you know  the missions of nonprofits, and know what they do, you really can’t address whether they are bogus or not.  Many are just small businesses with a mission—the  sfformentioned social enterprise.  But I know of at least  1 dog rescue that claims to be a registered nonprofit. The  director runs a small pet and grooming shop. Because  she  doesn’t keep good business records, she has been shut down by both the state of Illinois and the IRS several times. She also used to buy puppy mill bred dogs to resell. Somewhere along the line, she got religion, so now is attempting to work with the no-kill animal saving groups and adopt out animals.  I don’t trust her at all, but, in the general scheme of things, her operation is very small, and she tells potential adopters about the dogs’ issues (health, not being housebroken, etc).

I think we Americans have to learn to pick our battles & choose what to get out panties in a bunch about.

Update:Maximising donations-in-kind

November 2, 2011

I have posted  before on making the world a better place.  These past few years have been difficult for us all, but  we are not running out of stuff.  Since I live in a very  high density (some people would call it the ghetto, or slum…but they haven’t been to urban Africa or Indian…) neighborhood, lots of multi-unit housing,  I find a lot of stuff.

People move all the time, & they  have some very nice things they no longer want. But they don’t have the time to sell it or take it to people who need it, so they  put it by their trash bins. We  alley entrepreneurs take the stuff  to use ourselves or  to give to people who need the stuff.

Shoes & used clothing are the most frequently put out items, but  often I find cookware, small furniture and appliances, and books and toys.  I manage  to  find people who need stuff because we have many non-profit organizations that   provide assistance to the needy.  Some  specialize in  serving  homeless women, some teen mothers, some the elderly.  One  organization (I do some volunteering for them),  Heartland Alliance for Human Needs,  provides resettlement services for refugees.

It used to be that virtually all these people were eligible for  some sort of welfare:  Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or Social Security. Well, the fact it, eligibility has been greatly curtailed since the Clinton era…no joke.  By making it harder to get welfare, he appeased the Republicans (at the time) &  balanced the federal budget.  He also gave people  an incentive to make a way for themselves.  They may not be on the payroll to somebody, but that does not mean they are not earning money.

That’s neither here nor there.  I  don’t know if  mental illness preceeds job loss & displacement, or job loss & displacement preceed mental illness.  No matter.  People are in need.

In the early 1980’s, I was a founding board member or Uptown Recycling Station, in Chicago. We board members were coming to recycling from different interests. Some of us were particularly interested in environmental conservation, and several were interested in job creation for entry level workers.  We got  a loan from a religious order,  some assistance from the father of recycling in Chicago, Ken Dunn, and some help from the city.  This was under the Harold Washington administration. I doubt we would have gotten the help from the administration of any other mayor.  We turned a cute, hippie idea into 3 full time and several part-time jobs for entry level workers, and advanced the cause of recycling in Chicago.

But we did not all live happily ever after. It’s been slow going.  We managed to get the city to pay us a diversion credit.   What that meant was…for every  cubic ton of waste we kept  from going to a land fill, the city gave us money.  We barely made a dent.  We had to nag out elected officials for years to take recycling—for import substitution, seriously.

So, now it is 2011, and an idealist with a plan, Brittany Martin Graunke, got an idea to  put up a waste exchange—or , rather, a clearing house for  donations-in-kind, online.  It’s called   She gets nonprofits needing donations-in-kind to pay a monthly fee to post their wants.  I found her  by accident, but  I am hoping to help her  market the site an the idea to area non-profits.  This is not recycling glass/metals/paper/plastics, which is feedstock  for manufacturing, like we did at the recycling station.  It is  repurposing  value added stuff.

I have been self-employed  for a  good long time, and  the first thing my father taught me was, “Get a receipt.”  For years, however, I was  donating stuff  without thinking, and NOT  itemizing the receipts.   By chance, I found a book called, Cash for Your Used Clothing,” which is a client valuation guide approved by the IRS.  Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army, and yes, the IRS publish similar guides online.  If you itemize on your taxes, and aren’t an active stock/bond trader, you  must take advantage of every tax deduction you  can legally take.   If you don’t inventory your donations, you are most likely  undervaluing  your donation, and paying more taxes than you have to.  Your donation  is actually  whatever your taqx braqcket is.

Because I had managed  thrift stores for  two nonprofit organizations, I know how valuable the  donations-in-kind are.  Currently, Goodwill Industries  reminds their donors that by donating stuff, they are creating jobs for people.  It’s true. It’s a lot of labor to sort, clean, tag, and display stuff (I am sure anyone who works in a retail store will tell you this).  From a nonprofit perspective, I also know that  people donate cash to organizations that take stuff, as they have a social link with that organization.

From the perspective of a donor…I’ve just heard too much whining from  donors about how poor they are (this is a constant refrain), and they complain about their taxes, but I have to do a lot of ‘hand holding’ to get them to inventory and  categorize stuff to maximize a donation that can result in a significant tax deduction.

I know that, due to the  federal deficit, that  our lawmakers are looking to get rid of tax deduction loopholes, but I certainly hope the nonprofits  are vocal about the need to continue to allow this  transfer of ‘wealth’.  It is significant,  I am not in a position to give money at this time, but I know that generally I donate over  $2000 worth of stuff to area nonprofits. I know this, because I inventory and evaluate, and I sell a lot of stuff.

People give me stuff to donate all the time, as they know I would know  someone who could use it.  They ask what I will take. I tell them what I won’t take:  If it stinks, or sticks, we can’t use it.

If you support an  organization that needs more money, take the donations-in-kind and resell the items you  and your clients can’t use.  Encourage yur organization to network with other organizations.  Consider sponsoring a retail store, like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and  several other Non-profits in Chicago (The Ark, Brown Elephant, Save-a-Pet) do.  To me, if you throw away a usable item…you are throwing away money.

Our Civilization in Decline….

June 10, 2011

Ever since I sold a 500 gallon aquarium in less than 15 minutes by posting on Craigslist, I’ve been a user.  It’s a wonderful website—something someone should have thought of this before Craig  thought of it.

What’s particularly unique about the site is that there  is a huge  agreement—and warnings—about what is not legal to post.  However, since nobody monitors the site, the skanks  will always post the illegal stuff…ammo, drugs,  and live animals.  And—if they think you think you have maligned them—or—rather—cut into their income,  will post all sorts of  untrue posts, after their posts have been ‘flagged’ off. thinking they will hassle you.  & they are so sure it’s YOU who has flagged them off.

I have to admit….about a month ago—& I was not staying at home at the time….so it sort of backfired on them (except to annoy my roommate who finally shut off the phone) some skank posted my contact info  in the CASUAL ENCOUNTERS section.

You would think that the  average guy of average intelligence might  realize that most of the posts are from ex husbands & disgruntled ex boyfriends,  wanting to offend the woman who rejected them, but unfortunately, the average intelligence of the average guy in America is—-well—look how many are willing to join the military & die for the very rich?  Makes no sense.

My roommate, a really intelligent guy ( Ph.D. & bilingual Japanese & English), wanted to know why any guy would want a CASUAL ENCOUNTER.  Is he not sweet?  I told him  that many guys don’t want a girl friend—-too high maintenance, & they don’t want to masturbate. They’d rather risk getting robbed & shot, & AIDS.  Tough guys—& they vote Republican, join the military…& apparently breed herpetiles (snakes,monitor lizards, Bearded Dragons, etc) & Pit Bulls.

Huh? What?  That’s right. The guy who posted my contact info was someone who I asked  not to sell the animals that he bred on Craigslist.  They don’t  have to pay to advertise, & it’s a buy/sell/trade website that everyone uses. It’s just that the sale of live animals is not allowed.  Even  though the TERMS OF USE state that no animal sales are allowed and  you can’t post anything illegal, you can not only buy  baby animals, but endangered species, drugs of all sorts, ammo & guns, stolen goods…& law enforcement is clueless or too lazy to follow through, respond to the posts, & arrest thee people.  & to me, this is a no-brainer.   Craigslist even posts—in the terms of use—that you can be fined $10.000 per illegal or fraudulent or libelous post—but try finding a lawyer to take your case. You need at least $10,000 minimum to mount a lawsuit.

I  responded to one woman  who posted that she wanted to BUY A PIT BULL WITH A LOW FEE.  I asked her to check out  local shelters that always have Pit Pups—but she didn’t want a shelter dog, she wanted to see at least 1 parent dog—SOMETHING I SUPPORT SO MUCH!!! Just  not on Craigslist.  But something else…. even though there were puppies posted, apparently all the skank breeders were asking too much money for her taste.  How ironic!  So, she decided I was harasing her by responding to her email.  Ok, whatever… what she doesn’t understand is…..local police will not do anything unless they know for sure I am in their  policing area…& she can prove she was harmed.  I know this because I have contacted my local police about harassment.  I’ve talked to detectives.  The government is broke.  Harassment is legal. I don’t mean to harass.  Many people thank me for the info… telling them where to look for a healthy dog… but not the dog brokers.

The there is a family that frequently looks for  a dog on Craigslist.  They post ‘dog wanted’.  Since they post anonymously, I suggest they just respond to the posts. They told me to MYOB.  See. as I said–the people genuinely looking for a dog  email me & thank me—not the brokers.

Well….after weeks of searching, the family finally got the dog they wanted….but no—not really….he’s not working out, the seller won’t take it back, & I am harassing them by telling them to demand the seller take it back. & you know what? They will ultimately dump this dog via a Craigslist post—& post for another dog.  It’s easy enough to do, and totally legal.  &—I know this happens, because the idiot animal sellers—to harass me—often post that I am giving purebred puppies away.  I can’t imagine what these dimwits  are thinking.   I tell every caller that someone put up a scam post, that only bona fide shelters & rescues can post puppies because it is clearly posted in several places that NO ANIMAL SALES OR BREEDING ARE ALLOWED ON CRAIGSLIST—& they will not find a free puppy unless it is sick or stolen—and I can refer them to shelters, rescue, & hobby breeders who will be honest with them….& they thank me….

Why do I bother? I do know honest hobby breeders….& the economy will never recover to what prosperity we had during the Clinton years…& some  breeds of dogs are going to die out.  Not Pit Bulls, though. Pit Bulls are now the #1 breed owned in America. Why?  They are easy to take care of, good with kids, smart—and you can find them all over the place.  Too many are bred for the number of homes there are—& with the  ‘no-kill’ shelter adoption movement  encouraging people to adopt rather than buy—-& people wanting any dog that needs a home—that is what they get—because that is what is available.  A few Beagles, many Huskies (they are bred to run—so why would you get one if you live in an apartment & don’t have a huge fenced yard?).  In the small  toy breed, we are over run with Chihuahuas & Shih Tzus.

What annoys me more than anything is that our law enforcement professionals are not perusing Craigslist for all the illegal activity that really does affect most of us.  Illinois is in the hole for  several billion dollars. Granted, the fines most of the  illegal posters would face are only about $1000 per, but gosh, there are enough of them that it would be more than a break even proposition to  go after these  ‘libertarians’ & it would improve our quality of life:  fewer animals needing homes, fewer  animals in shelters for us to feed before we have to kill them.

I an not a professional profiler, but I have an undergraduate degree in anthropology…& it seems to me that the people who think it’s a good idea to raise pet animals as livestock in an urban environment haven’t thought the implications through. That’s obvious…but more—the rest of us, who let them get away with this, have a false consciousness. ‘We’ seem to think that somebody will deal with all these surplus animals (& the weapons sellers, & people trafficking women) and protect us from these thugs.  Well, guess what— in a bad economy, it is proven that there is more crime.    We already know the solution—tax the rich &  give grants to job creators.  It won’t happen. Why?  The wealthy—& that would be households worth over $500,000—have far more influence over politicians than you or I do. We are not vocal enough. We don’t tell them that  this is a crisis—and we don’t inform ourselves  about how to  fix this.

I’ve cited John Kenneth Galbraith,  Keynes,and Robert Reich in the recent past.  The wealthy have a vested interest in not only keeping  regular folks ignorant, but keeping us busy  taking care of pet animals—particularly the unwanted ones.

Pet Peeves

August 3, 2009

I am a cynical, curmudgeon type of person, and have little patience for the rude people in the world.
One of my favorite types to hate is the macho guys who sit on the machines at Bally’s Total Fitness. They are sitting under the guise of ‘resting between sets’, but they are hogging the machine. You ask if you can use the machine for a set—and they tell you they are doing just one more set—after sitting on the machine 10 minutes or more. They also hang their smelly towels on the machines to ‘reserve’ the machine they intend to use next. Nobody ever tells them not to rest on the machines. They are so rude—as though they own the place. It makes it very hard to work out sometimes.
Another kind of person I have no patience for is liars. People who tell you one thing & then swear they told you something else. I am at the age where I think, “Maybe I didn’t understand, or I got it wrong,” but when they do it to me over & over, I know it’s not me. It’s them. You can’t trust anything that comes out of their mouths.
Not fond of people who don’t follow through on projects.
I do admire, however, people who’ve been to Africa, seen a need, and found a way to help people in Africa organize themselves to improve their own communities.
One that I admire an awful lot is Malawi Children’s Village in Mangochi, Malawi, on the lake.
It was actually formulated by Peace Corps Volunteers who thought there might be a need for an orphanage in the area. When the PCVs started talking to people who lived in the area, they found that the families of the orphans wanted to keep the kids with them if they could, but they did need technical assistance in starting a health clinic, a community center, a vocational school, and a library. They also asked for help with school fees.
This is not a slick operation. Sometimes the website is up, sometimes it’s not. We’re not as sophisticated about fund raising & marketing as we could be, but we have been paying school fees for kids advancing a grade in school, and we did get the health & community centers, as well as the vocational school & library built and stocked. It’s real people to people aid. I am proud to have sent over a ton of books in the last 10 years.