Friday, 30 November 2012

Rick Scott

Rick Scott (otherwise known as Richard Lynn Scott) is the governor of Florida. For my money, he is proof that it’s not Dicks you have to watch out for but Ricks. Rick Scott, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum. Hmmmm, I sense a pattern.

Anyway, Rick (who will turn 60 this Saturday, December 1) is a businessman and the current governor of Florida. He is originally from the Midwest: born in Bloomington, Indiana, he grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Rick is largely a self-made man. His parents were not wealthy (his father was a truck driver and his mother a store clerk) and Rick joined the Navy and went to college on the G.I. Bill. Rick then attended law school and practiced law for several years in Texas. In the late 1980s, Rick and another man (Richard Rainwater) created Columbia Hospital Corporation and purchased some hospitals in El Paso. Finances turned around at those hospitals and things just got better from there. Columbia purchased more hospitals, even buying out corporations that already owned and managed whole strings of hospitals. In 1994, Columbia purchased the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). The company, Columbia/HCA, purchased more “chains” and by 1997 was “the world's largest health care provider with more than 340 hospitals, 130 surgery centers, and 550 home health locations in 38 states and two foreign countries”^  Wow.

But 1997 wasn’t all fun and games. The FBI, IRS, and Department of Health and Human Services began to investigate the company for fraud. The Board of Directors requested that Rick resign, which he did to the tune of a $9.88 million settlement and 10 million shares of stock (companies have that much stock to give to one person?). The stock was worth over $350 million.^ By 2002 the government’s case was wrapped up. Columbia/HCA (by then just going by HCA) paid over $2 billion in settlements, as penalty for overcharging the government on Medicare, making illegal deals, and a host of other fraudulent practices.   

But Rick persevered. He moved to Florida, started his own investment firm, and became a venture capitalist. He continued to dabble in the financial side of healthcare and has invested in pharmacies.

In 2010, Rick ran for governor in Florida as a Republican. Obviously, he won. His notable acts thus far include rejecting federal money to build high-speed railroads and signing a bill requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test. He claimed a higher percentage of people on welfare use drugs than in the non-welfare-receiving population, but data has not proven this assertion true.^


But old Rick is on my shit list because of the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform. Rick established this group in May because he “has said he wants to run Florida’s education system more like a business.”* One of the recommendations of this fine group is that universities should charge differential tuition. In-state tuition would be kept constant for strategic major for three years; other majors (such as the humanities) would be subject to different (presumably increasing) tuition rates. Naturally the idea is that higher tuition would drive people away from humanities majors. That is lame.

Also lame is the amount of “research” this group apparently did.

Task force chairman Dale Brill, Florida Chamber Foundation president and Scott’s appointee to the group, said the recommendations were based on “logic,” rather than research into which degree programs have proven to be the most beneficial to individual students and state economies. Defining “strategic” and “non-strategic” programs ultimately will be the work of the state legislature, he said.”

I believe “logic” is code for assumptions.

Anyway, I knew back in high school that I wanted to major in history, and I would not have appreciated having to pay extra for the privilege. Forcing people into majors (and then jobs) they don’t want seems to be a recipe for disaster. Plus, shouldn’t we allow the free market to dictate things? If college students really want to avoid unemployment and/or earn high salaries, they will gravitate towards science-y majors. Don’t punish those of us who are prepared to earn less money in order to spend our lives doing what we truly love.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I'm still thankful for Dicks!

Last Thanksgiving, I was thankful for a variety of Richards. Well guess what? I’m STILL thankful for Dicks.

Richard II

I’m still thankful for you, dear ole Richard. As my dissertation nears completion, we’ll be seeing a lot less of each other, but I want you to know: I’ll never forget you. You, and your inconvenient inability to have a child, have given me an entrance into the academic world. A little part of me will always cherish your memory as a way of expressing my gratitude.

Richard III

I will always be thankful for you. I know we’ve been seeing less of each other since I started researching Richard II, but you’ll always have a special place in my heart. You were my first Dick, and you never forget your first.

Richard and Mildred Loving

This couple was at the center of the Supreme Court case that struck down, once and for all, anti-miscegenation laws. That’s something truly worth being thankful.

That Richard Mourdock lost. The man was a Dick with both a big and a little d, so I’m quite satisfied that he didn’t roll on to victory.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Richard Turere

This Richard is a kick-ass kid in Kenya, who, at the age of eleven, invented a device that keeps lions from attacking livestock and homes.

Richard lives outside of Nairobi, on the border of Nairobi National Park, which is the home of a great many lions. Lions are an important resource in Kenya because they bring in lots of tourist dollars, but they can also be a threat. The big cats have been known to attack and kill livestock, thereby causing financial hardship for families that live along the edge of the national park.

Richard’s family was no exception. Even though Richard would lock the livestock (cattle, sheep, and goats) up at night, lions would still attack. Unlike most eleven-year-olds, Richard decided to fix the problem.

Using his keen observation skills, Richard realized that lions did not like flashlights because they associated the bobbing balls of light with humans – of whom lions are (rightfully) quite wary. Of course, it’s impractical for a small family to have a member stay up all night waving a flashlight around. So Richard rigged up a series of five lights, which flash in a sequence and give the impression that a human is outside swinging a flashlight. Even better: Richard has the system connected to a car battery that is powered by a solar panel! Altogether it took Richard about two months to develop his invention and it cost not quite ten dollars to make. This makes it a practical, affordable system that can be used by many Kenyans.

For the past two years (Richard is now thirteen), his family has been using his invention and have not suffered a single attack. Eventually, their neighbors noticed their good luck and Richard made anti-lion lights for them, too. At some point, National Geographic found out about these “lion lights” and Richard and his invention became a sensation. The National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, WildlifeDirect, and Friends of Nairobi Park are now working together to increase use of lion lights. Richard, meanwhile, was awarded a full scholarship to the Brookhouse School, one of Kenya’s best, in Nairobi. Richard plans to study engineering and wants to work on airplanes.

Richard, you are making all other holders of the name “Richard” proud. Congratulations to a little Richard who has already succeeded in a big way!

For more, see:

*I first read about Richard on