He fought the law, and the law won…

Imagine for a minute your favorite restaurant buffet. Think about the range of foods on that buffet. You can probably tell that some of the items cost more than others. The Jello on the desert table costs less to the owner than say, the steak medallions in white wine cream sauce or the made to order sushi. To keep the doors open the restaurant owner balances the price of the buffet against the need to draw customers and the need to cover costs.

Over time, your favorite buffet may raise its prices because of improvements in the food or the overall dining experience, or in response to inflation, or other factors. This should all be fairly obvious so far. This is how restaurants work generally; those with more expensive foods, better service, and a nicer building will want to charge more to their customers. Restaurant owners are free to charge what they like and those that don’t get the mix right lose business or money or both and don’t usually last very long.

But that is not how the buffet down the street from my house does things. This restaurant has to get federal approval before it can raise its prices. Recently, the restaurant owner, we’ll call him Ray, applied to the Center for Buffet Services for just such approval.

Approval is by no means automatic and comes only after the regulators at the CBS are satisfied that Ray has justified his rising costs according to complex regulatory regime that is written in such a way as to be both vague and exacting, allowing the regulator broad discretion to decide what counts as sufficient justification. (That last part is really just my opinion, and Ray was actually very optimistic about getting his request approved.)

According to the specific regs involved, Ray must show ‘substantial and permanent changes in furnishing customer services.’ The restaurant has indeed seen such changes since it first opened nearly 20 years ago; as casual perusal of its buffet line makes obvious. On par with an Old Country Buffet during its early years, Ray’s Buffet now rivals offerings at many business class hotels. Top chefs manage the kitchen. Even the line cooks have significantly more training and expertise than average. The service is better too: more wait staff, a hostess, and valet.

The changing menu also demands more expensive procedures to maintain quality and safety, and the support staff to make it all work. As just one example, the full time supply manager purchases smoked salmon from special Norwegian suppliers and the orders come in via overnight air freight in specially chilled packages.

The language used in the regulations means that the restaurant must not only justify current costs, but show the changes in costs over time. This means providing data showing the food has gotten better and by how much, showing the process for handling and preparing the food requires more expensive equipment and better trained personnel, and even showing that the customers are coming in hungrier than they used to.

As I mentioned earlier, Ray felt confident about the application process. Ray keeps all his old menus, and has pretty thorough book keepers. In fact, for some odd reason, Ray has every year voluntarily requested an audit of his books by the Center for Buffet Services. As a happy consequence, he and CBS are in full agreement on his current costs – AND the rise in his costs over time.

However, some months after the application was submitted, it came back denied; no higher prices at Ray’s buffet. According to the letter he received, to justify the request Ray will need to produce additional information. CBS needs ‘all the receipts from all the customers that have ever eaten there.’  The letter continues, ‘each one must include the customer satisfaction survey… (and) the details of each customer’s serving preferences and portion sizes’ (including – he found out in a follow up phone call – how much they left on their plate at the end of the meal).

Unfortunately for the restaurant, they aren’t able to meet those requirements. A point of sale system the restaurateurs put in place a couple of years ago can provide fragments of that information, but not all of it, and not going back 20 years.

To compound the problem, the restaurant was hit by a storm that destroyed the few more obscure data points they did track in their early days. Adding insult to injury, the regulators have deflected Ray’s request for reconsideration by accusing Ray of intending to only temporarily improve the buffet as a way to trick CBS into getting the prices raised.

Ray had contracted with a consultant on a contingency basis to help with the application. But, as prospects for relief dim, so too do the consultant’s efforts. He has considered taking legal action, but the cost involved would be far more than his business can bear. Ray also considered lobbying congress, but he isn’t very well politically connected in Washington, and with the pay-off too uncertain, he doesn’t want to hire a lobbyist.

It has finally reached a point where the restaurant may need to scale back on the food or other aspects of the restaurant – forsaking a very loyal customer base in the process – or otherwise consider closing permanently.

Now, if this sounds absolutely insane, that’s because it is. However, it is not a restaurant that I am referring to, it is actually a hospital, Guam Memorial Hospital, and it is not the Center for Buffet Services, but the Center for Medicare Services.

Guam Memorial Hospital has been battling Medicare for several years over its criminally low – and yet legally mandated – payment rates. Even though the Hospital’s fleecing has been highlighted in annual audits, raised in public hearings, and been the subject of legislative resolutions, little public attention has ever been paid to the issue; most politicians instead preferring to pillory the private insurance carriers.

This past week has been different though, with most of the local news outlets – and even one in Australia – taking up the story.


GMH loses millions on Medicare

GMH Appeals to Governor, Congresswoman for Help in Convincing Medicare to Increase GMH Compensation Rate

UPDATE: Here is an ABC Radio Australia Pacific Beat piece

Guam Memorial Hospital says it’s losing 600 US-dollars a day for every Medicare patient it treats.


In an age of phony outrage, this man may be king…

In honor of Greg Gutfeld’s newest piece of trash, here are a couple of clips from a modern master of phony outrage:

“If Senator McCain and Senator Graham, and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the UN ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? And to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”

President Obama sounds like a tipsy frat brother defending his chick. Since when is the UN Ambassador off limits to political attacks? All else aside, if she can’t take the heat from couple of geezers in the Senate, how is she going to do when she’s toe to toe with world leaders?

And one more from the good old days…


“And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander in chief.”

GUAM: Civilian access to Marine firing range to be restricted only during live training

Map of all 7 preliminary Live-Fire Training Range Complex alternatives

No matter where the Marine Firing Range Complex is ultimately located, the site will only be closed off during live firing sessions. That is one of the messages being delivered at the Navy’s expanded SEIS scoping meetings this week.

According to information being provided at the public meetings, training will go on at the range about 39 weeks a year, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Weekends, most nights, and all of the remaining 13 weeks a year, the property will be unrestricted for civilians.

That civilian access will be maintained for any private or GovGuam land is an important point for the Navy, which faced vocal opposition to the originally proposed location along Route 15 at the Pagat Caves area of Yigo.

Muddled messaging during the initial EIS period led many in the community to believe that Pagat would be closed off permanently should the firing range end up there.

Reduced Marine footprint

Part of the rational for the expansion of the SEIS is that more of the housing and cantonment footprint may fit on existing federal property than previously thought, now that the size of the Marine force relocating to Guam has been scaled back.

The entire training complex and cantonment may now fit within existing DoD property at Anderson, Finegayan, and Big Navy; meaning possibly no additional private or GovGuam land will be required for the Marine move.

Expanded SEIS further delays buildup

The Department of the Navy issued its Notice of Intent in mid October to expand the scope of the ongoing Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Marine firing range to include the main cantonment, including family housing.

Under the expanded scope, the Navy expects to have the SEIS completed sometime in 2014, according to Department of the Navy’s official Guambuildup website. That timeline would push a Record of Decision on the SEIS, and thus the Marine Base Relocation, to 2015 or later, the website states.

Supplemental EIS

The Navy issued its Final EIS for Guam and CNMI Military Relocation in July 2010.

However, the preparation of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement began after local opposition and budgetary concerns at the federal level led to the decision to the change the location of the Live-Fire Training Range Complex.

With the announced downsizing of the base realignment earlier this year, the Navy decided to expand the scope of the SEIS to factor in those additional changes.

Public Scoping Meetings

To encourage stakeholder input on the scope of the expanded SEIS, the Navy is hosting three public scoping meetings this week. A schedule of public scoping meetings can be found on the Department of Navy website.

Public comment period for the scoping ends December 10, 2012.

Individual rights championed in 2012 ballot initiatives

Some big 2012 votes you might have missed…

Washington enthusiastically leapt into history Tuesday, becoming the first state, with Colorado, to reject federal drug-control policy and legalize recreational marijuana use.

Voters approved an amendment legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado on Tuesday, making this one of two states to end prohibition of the drug but also raising new legal questions and setting up potential court battles over the measure’s implementation.

Puerto Ricans have supported U.S. statehood in a vote that jubilant members of the pro-statehood party say is the strongest sign yet that the Caribbean island territory is on the road to losing its second-class status.

In a historic turnaround, the ballot box is showing America’s shifting attitudes about same-sex marriage. After gay marriage rights died at the polls dozens of times in the past, on Tuesday they passed in at least two states [and possibly a third].

Voters in [Louisiana] approved an amendment to the state constitution that strengthened the right to bear arms.

Voters in all but one of Oklahoma’s 77 counties approved a constitutional amendment that wipes out affirmative action in state government hiring, education and contracting practices. 

Florida voters on Tuesday defeated a ballot initiative that would have prohibited public funds from paying for abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.

Wyoming residents voted strongly against Obama’s signature health care reform law, commonly referred to as “Obamacare”, which requires individuals and businesses to purchase health insurance for themselves or their employees.

Kentucky voters amended the state constitution Tuesday to forever protect their right to hunt and fish.

My take on all of these? Voters are sending a message about rights; and they’re sending it to both parties. Pick your war (drugs, guns, gays, women, whatever), people are pushing back.

Banned word: ‘Fact Check’

Hey journalists, enough with the fact checking; just stop it already; stop saying you’ve ‘fact checked’ everything. Isn’t reporting the facts your day job, or is it secondary to campaigning for your agenda?

There was a time when it was the job of news outlets to track down the story and report the facts. They didn’t need a special section for reporting the facts. Reporting the facts wasn’t reserved for websites with fact check in their name or for special fact checking departments within an organization or segments within a broadcast.

But, of late it often seems as if reporting the facts has become a specialty in the world of journalism; it’s now called ‘fact checking.’

Worse yet, many journalists don’t even do it well. Particularly during campaign season, checking the facts isn’t about getting the story straight, it’s about overanalyzing the words of politicos to make sure you can put the best possible light on your favored political pugilist.

I caught an SNL recap of the presidential town hall debate. They basically got it right; which is awesome, and good on them. Apparently, that Obama said the word terror in some speech somewhere following the 9/11 Benghazi attack, means that he absolutely knew the attack was one of terror and never tried to conflate the attack with some protesters in another country. Candy Crowley took it upon herself to fact check Romney mid-debate using some sort of debased version of the word fact. (See it here at about 8 minutes)

As she demonstrated well, it’s no longer about the context, meaning, or intent of words, but about finding a particular, vague reading that fits your agenda, and then pushing that out.

Take as another (CNN) example the video below of Anderson Cooper fact checking a Romney ad about Obama’s so called ‘apology tour.’ According to AC, because the words sorry and apology did not appear in a speech, it is therefore not an apology tour. That is fine for that to be AC’s opinion. But it is not a fact one way or the other. To say otherwise – as he does – is ridiculous.

[cnnedition-video url=http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2012/10/26/ac-kth-romney-ad-truth.cnn]

Yet, AC felt very nearly obliged to call out Mitt Romney for such a “blatant falsehood” (also known as an ‘obvious lie’). Opinions are not lies sir, they are opinions.

I don’t know if it was an apology tour or not. That’s a matter of opinion. But that is the whole point. You can’t ‘fact check’ politics as if it is some objective reality. It doesn’t work that way. You can fact check facts, but you can’t fact check feelings.

So stop with it already. Please. Stop fact checking. Report, ombuds, editorialize. Just don’t tell me you’re fact checking. Because usually you aren’t.


[As an aside, even if we play by AC’s rules, he’s still wrong.

Here are Google’s definitions of apology:


  1. regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure: “my apologies for the delay”.
  2. A formal, public statement of regret, such as one issued by a newspaper, government, or other organization.

So Obama didn’t say the word apology. I don’t see in the definition that someone must say the word apology. He did say there was some ‘danger’ and ‘arrogance’ in America’s actions, and America made ‘failures’ and ‘mistakes’ (under prior, Republican, administrations, of course).

Now, presumably, he was saying these things because he wanted to acknowledge regrettable offenses. (The opposite of course would be that our ‘mistakes and failures,’ were somehow ‘fortunate benefits’ to our foreign allies. I don’t think that is what he meant.)

We often hear about no apology apologies from politicians and celebrities that have made unsavory comments. It usually goes something like this: “I’m sorry if I offended someone,” or better yet “Sorry if you were offended.”

But now, we have a different sort of no apology, apology. If the particular word apology doesn’t come forth from your lips then you obviously had not intention to apologize. But, by that logic, we have to accept as legitimate all those half-hearted apologies. We don’t get to have it both ways. If you say you’re sorry but don’t mean it, that’s not a real apology. But now, if you make a gesture of apology, but don’t specifically say I’m sorry, then your sincerity is meaningless? Wrong.]