Friday, August 29, 2014

The Veterans Administration and McKinsey and Company

You have probably never heard of McKinney and Company.  It is a very large NYC based consulting firm and also very secretive. it is one of the hardest companies in the US to interview because of corporate secrecy.

It provides consulting services to both medical insurers and government organizations. One of its customer is the Veterans Administration and many high level VA and other agency employees have worked for this corporation. 

That would be people like Bob McDonald, the new VA secretary. Beth Cobert is the new deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.  Tommy Sowers, who oversees the public affairs office and other vital programs for the Department of Veterans Affairs, was a former McKinsey consultant.

McKinsey & Company desires a “very low profile public image.” It has a policy against discussing specific client situations and does not advertise. Members are not supposed to “sell” their services following attorney and accountant traditions from the early 1900s, 

MicKinsey does have medical insurance clients both in the private and public sectors. Many of these corporations practice  the three D's of  insurance claims: "deny, delay and defend" against them. 

If you have  submitted a VA claim, you might begin to understand why the average claim takes about 4.5 years. You might also understand why only 10-11 per cent of claims are appealed. People simply give up.

If you are fortunate enough to prevail in a claim, you will probably run into the fallback gambit;  a low ball rating that does not conform to the disability schedule in 38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part C.

The VA was established as a charitable organization during the Revolutionary War and greatly expanded  after the Civil War. Claims are supposed to be considered in a non-adversarial fashion. 

Enter McKinsey and Company. 

A 1993 profile story in Fortune Magazine said McKinsey & Company was “the most well-known, most secretive, most high-priced, most prestigious, most consistently successful, most envied, most trusted, most disliked management consulting firm on earth.

According to BusinessWeek the firm is "ridiculed, reviled, or revered . . ." 
The Wall Street Journal said McKinsey is seen as “elite, loyal and secretive" while The News Observer said McKinsey's internal culture was “collegiate and ruthlessly competitive” and sometimes described as arrogant.

Why would an elite company like McKinsey and company, who competes with Mitt Romney's Bain and Company, be involved in the VA? First of all, medical insurance is big business. According to McKinsey the average US household, spends more annually on health insurance than on its home mortgage.
The VA is one of McKinsey's success stories. Or is it?

[It] helped reorganized the Veterans’ Health Administration into 21 networks, each with accountable clinical leadership, across the United States. The program also introduced clinically relevant performance measures, with corresponding rewards, and new information systems, including one for electronic medical records. The VA soon became a leader in clinical quality: for example, the risk of death for men over 65 in the VA’s care is 40 percent lower than the US average. The satisfaction level of patients rose to 83 percent, 12 percent above the national average . . .

However, the new information systems never really worked, a problem that is still plaguing the VA today.  Likewise, the VA needed more major reforms in the 1995-2000 period. 

[T]he Veterans Health Administration (VHA) implemented universal primary care, closed 55% of their acute care hospital beds, increased patient treatments by 24%, had a 48% increase in ambulatory care visits, and decreased staffing by 12%. By 2000, the VHA had 10,000 fewer employees than in 1995 and a 104% increase in patients treated since 1995, and had managed to maintain the same cost per patient-day . . .

Does the VA need corporate sharks as consultants? That is the question. 

Certainly the record of McKinsey and Company has not been perfect. McKinsey had advised a large IT corporation that cell phones would be a niche technology. IT does not appear to be the company's strong suit.

In addition, several civil suits have been filed against home insurance and vehicle insurance companies after the insurers were advised by McKinsey, to allegedly low ball insurees for actual value of the property damage.

McKinsey was cited in a February 2007 CNN article for developing controversial car insurance practices that State Farm and Allstate used in the mid-1990s to avoid paying claims involving soft tissue injury.

State Farm and Allstate  are two of the worst companies in the US for paying medical insurance claims and are well known for their three D tactics.

These are tactics that should not be used by the VA. Or for that matter, in government at all.


Subscribe to the Rightardia feed: 

  Creative Commons License

Rightardia by Rightard Whitey of Rightardia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lenovo makes and excellent data backup option.

In the past I have used a Iomega Datastore to backup my data. I had purchased a used unit for under a $100 because the previous owner was unable to use it with Windows Vista.

The Iomega unit was buggy and hot and I had to default the unit many times. Eventually, the  redundant array of independent disks (Raid) array had to be reformatted, which destroyed all of the existing data.

Last week, I was unable to even connect  to Iomega Datastor on my network. It was time to buy a new unit. These units are called Network Attached Storage (NAS) because they have an Ethernet port and can be connected to a home router or cable modem.

There are many backup options in the market, some are the size or a smart phone. Many work off of a USB connection to a laptop or PC.
Lenovo IX2

Lenovo bought out Iomega and he new unit I received is called the Lenovo IX2
It has two hard drives and supports both Raid 0 and Raid 1.

 It is a big improvement form the old Iomega unit. It runs a lot cooler and the serial ATA drives are far easier to swap out. The embedded software is far more robust, too.
RAID 0 comprises striping (but neither parity nor mirroring). This level provides no data redundancy nor fault tolerance, but improves performance through parallelism of read and write operations across multiple drives. RAID 0 has no error detection mechanism, so the failure of one disk causes the loss of all data on the array.
RAID 1 comprises mirroring (without parity or striping). Data is written identically to two (or more) drives, thereby producing a "mirrored set". The read request is serviced by any of the drives containing the requested data. This can improve performance if data is read from the disk with the least seek latency and rotational latency. Conversely, write performance can be degraded because all drives must be updated; . . . the write performance is determined by the slowest drive. The array continues to operate as long as at least one drive is functioning. (Wikipedia).
The IX2 has two hard drives.

Raid 0 is great for serving media. If you want to push out You Tube or Amazon Prime videos to your TV, a RAID 0 setup is speedy. The downside is that if one drive fails, you lose all of your data. 

RAID 1 is far better for backing up data because if a drive fails, your data will be intact. When you replace the failed drive, data from the working drive will be copied to the new redundant drive. RAID 1 is slower than RAID 0, but it is a better option for data backup. It's slower because your data has to be copied to each hard drive in the RAID array.

However, the so-called personal backup devices rarely have more than one hard drive while the Lenovo IX2 has two 1.0TB SATA Hard Drives, which are easy to swap out. Raid 1 is a far safer option for your data than a personal backup unit with one drive.

With  NAS, anyone on your home network can access the unit if you give them permissions.

You can establish both users and groups through the embedded sever on the Lenovo IX2. .

If you purchase one of these units or any sort of backup device,  recommend you use it with an uninterpretable power supply (UPS). No backup device will last long with power surges, brownouts or drops.

If you shop around , you may be able to purchase a Lenovo IX2 for under $200. The units have many options including firmware upgrades and enhanced security. 

I was able to setup an administrative user and group quickly. I had no difficulty seeing the shared directories on my Linux desktop using Samba . However, initially I was unable to access any of the IX2 directories. Eventually it became clear that access permissions were needed to get to the default shared directories  Once I setup access permissions, I was able to backup my laptop to the Lenovo NAS using Linux Mint's Simple Backup Suite.

Don't forget to check Access Permissions for the data directorates

Had I used Windows, I would have been able to download the Acronis Backup Manager which is excellent backup software.

So far the only hiccup with the system is that I have to point my browser to IP address of the device with a manage directory such as:

You can also configure the unit to use https or SSL which is more secure.

The Lenovo IX2 has many features. The screen shot below shows about half of them.

If your files are important, you may need NAS with a RAID array,  

Can recall a story from a a local PC repair man. The business next to his store sold swimming pool supplies and equipment. The owners computer and point of sale devices were exposed to fumes from 10 per cent pool bleach (sodium hypochlorite) and muriatic acid every day. The PC man had tried to sell the pool store owner a backup system, but he had no success.

Then one day the pool store owner needed some data recovery help. His computers had all gone down and he PC repair guy indicated that all of his hard drives had been destroyed, Nothing could be recovered

It got worse. The state tax collector was scheduled to audit the swimming pool supply company the following week.

Subscribe to the Rightardia feed: 

  Creative Commons License

Rightardia by Rightard Whitey of Rightardia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Extending your home network

The best way to extend a network is to add an Ethernet switch with a cable segment. You can extend Ethernet 100 meters which is about 109 yards.

You  can also use wireless repeaters or extenders.  Today, this is a wireless-to-wireless connection to the main wireless router that is connected to a cable modem.

This diagram explains this. The the laptop is in the range of the wireless router or access point. A wireless extender or repeater is used to extend the home network to a part of the home that is outside of the range of the home wireless router.

When you connect  a wireless router to an extender, there will be a loss of bandwidth. The two wireless devices can also interfere with each other.

"A better option for extending wireless coverage is to configure a secondary box as a wireless access point, with a wired connection between a LAN port on the secondary box and a LAN port on the primary box (wireless router). If Ethernet wiring is not an option, an alternative is powerline networking -- AV500 technology is inexpensive and good. Wireless extender kits consisting of a powerline adapter module (connect to the wireless router) and a wireless extender module (integrated powerline networking and wireless access point) are available." (Wikipedia). 

Rightardia has not had great luck with Ethernet over power lines. If your house takes an occasional power drop, these adapters will eventually fail.

 Ethernet Powerline adapters

Make sure you purchase and Ethernet extender or repeater that supports 802.11n. The older 802.11g extenders could not support WPA2 personal AES encryption. The preceding  is the only way that Rightardia would recommend you ever set up wireless security

The only home wireless security options that are secure are 
WPA2 personal  with AES encryption

Use at an eight digit password with some upper case letters, numbers and special  characters such as $, %, ^, or <. Better passwords are 12 -14 characters long.

In the old days, you had to have an Ethernet cable connection to extend a wireless network. Some of the new repeaters such as the Netgear WN200RPT are wireless to wireless only. These units have Ethernet ports but they are for wired connections at the distant end of the house.

You can configure the Wn200RPT with a cable connected to one of its Ethernet port by pointing your router to However, you must have both a wireless Internet and a wired Ethernet connection up for this configuration to work.
                                 Netgear WnN2000RPT wireless repeater

An easier way to configure this device on a PC or laptop and look for a wireless
service set identifier (SSID) such as Netgear_ext in you wireless connections. Connect to it and point your browser to 192,168.250.1. You can also try the url,

Once you are connected to the repeater, the config is intuitive. You must identify the SSID on the home router's access point you need to to connect to. Recommend you use the same password on both the existing and new SSID you have just created.

The configurator  will suggest just adding _ext to the original access point's SSID. So if you existing SSID was Zucinni, you will now have an additional SSID such as Zucinni_ext.

At this point, the Netger_ext disappears because it had been overwritten and you have to connect to the new SSID you just created.

Once the wireless connection is complete, try to connect to the Internet by opening another tab on your browser.

The ports of the back of the unit are for wired Ethernet connections in the room the repeater is in

If you can connect to the Internet , the WN200RPT configurator will let you finish the config. Otherwise restart the configurator and try again. Remember this is a wireless to wireless connection. It does not connect to the main wireless router with a wired Ethernet connection. In fact, it will not work if this repeater has an Ethernet connection to the main router.


Subscribe to the Rightardia feed: 

  Creative Commons License

Rightardia by Rightard Whitey of Rightardia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Monday, August 4, 2014

Why the US has a welfare system

Since 1790, the US had had about 50 recessions. Our country really didn't officially track recessions until about 1920 and we didn't start keeping accurate statistics until after World War 2. These recessions include depressions in 1807, 1815-21, the long depression of 1873-79, and the Great Depression of 1920-21.

If you take a big picture view of the US economy. the US has a recession about every 5- 7 years Most of these recessions have been caused by banking institutions. In the past the failure of railroads, life insurance companies, strikes and securities failures have led to to recessions and panics.

Our vaunted free enterprise system in the US has been sputtering along for years, firing on 6 cylinders rather than 8.

This why we have programs like unemployment insurance, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). These programs are there as band aids to an inconsistent free enterprise system.

Of course, other systems haven't worked much better. Communism collapsed in Russia and socialism in Greece has been a failure. Libertarianism has never gotten off the ground and probably never will.

Most modern economics are a mix of free enterprise and social reforms to capitalism.

Finding the right mix of capitalism and social reform is the trick. Go too far in either direction and a recession may result. The Republicans rescinded the Glass-Stegall act with President Clinton's blessing and Hank Paulson further deregulated the big investment banks which led to the recent sub-prime mortgage crises.

"Further, the U.S. shadow banking system (i.e., non-depository financial institutions such as investment banks) had grown to rival the depository system yet was not subject to the same regulatory oversight, making it vulnerable to a bank run."

If the captains of industry were less greedy and did a better job of sharing the wealth and income, many welfare programs would not be needed. These social welfare programs are a reaction to the the failures of free enterprise. These welfare programs were not created in a vacuum. 

If free enterprise did a better job of managing the private economy, many welfare programs could be curtailed or cut back. Corporate resistance to increasing the minimum wage is a good example of corporate irresponsibility.

Corporations like Wal-mart and McDonald's have taken their greed to an extreme and have developed corporate models that depend on government welfare programs like food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Human beings may well be unable to break free of the dictatorship of greed that spreads like a miasma over the world, but no longer will we be an inarticulate and ignorant humanity, confused by our enslavement to superior cruelty and weaponry. --Alice Walker



Subscribe to the Rightardia feed: 

  Creative Commons License

Rightardia by Rightard Whitey of Rightardia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at