Crystal ball gazing and other holiday follies

t’s a holiday week, which makes it time to clear off the desk and use the best of it for a little short-attention-span commentary.

The common denominator is looking into the crystal ball. That’s actually been a bit of a Bell family tradition since my wife and I attended a command performance dinner with a couple of professional psychics a few years ago. But that’s a story only told after festive libations, i.e. not now.

Instead, we offer these random thoughts:

Small Business Saturday

It all started as a promotion for American Express. It was widely ridiculed as akin to Grandparents Day.

But as Black Friday grew wildly out of hand, Small Business Saturday found a niche. Retailers reported seeing some traction. And it’s grown steadily if unspectacularly ever since.

Small business is an important part of any community. And we’re in favor of anything that helps the little guy who offers an alternative to homogenized mega-retail.

So come Saturday, give yourself a holiday present and take a look inside that shop you’ve been meaning to visit. We’ll all be glad you did.


One of the great unfolding soap operas involves the NFL’s decision that the time has come to force the issue of returning to Los Angeles after decades away.

So we are treated to three owners – from San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis – circling the pay day, which is only big enough to support two.

Each has a claim on the market. In the case of San Diego, it’s clear putting two teams 90 miles up I-5 is fatal to the franchise. Moving the Chargers seems mandatory, since San Diego has failed to show much interest in building a new stadium. The Raiders and the Rams once played in LA and still have fans there. Oakland’s stadium situation is a mess. St. Louis wants to build a new stadium but the team owner, a billionaire developer who controls a tract near the old LA Forum on which a stadium could be built, is already California Dreamin’.

However it works out, it’s great theater and likely would fuel an uptick in sports book handle here in Las Vegas.

But it could be a raging pain for those football fans who live here.

It’s ridiculous that every major league baseball team within about 300 miles claims Las Vegas is part of their market, giving each team the right to black out their games here. Imagine what Sunday will look like with two teams in LA. We’ll get one team as the early game and one as the late game. Never mind who else is playing, we’ll be locked in to the LA teams. Even casinos may have trouble showing the best games.

And that’s a scary future for real football fans.

On healthcare

The guest column elsewhere on this page from the Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada raises some good points about the gray areas of Medicare payment data.

But it also got me thinking about the whole matter of healthcare costs.

I had a recent need to go in for a couple of X-rays. Everything came back negative — thanks for asking –except for the bill.

The medical facility, which shall remain unnamed, submitted a bill for $863. As James Kilber points out, there are a lot of costs in there – capital equipment depreciation, a facility charge, five minutes of a technician’s time, some materials, and 90 seconds of time for a doctor to read the film.

I amuse myself by thinking of the insurance employee laughing before applying the discounted, negotiated fees and cutting the somewhat smaller check. By my calculations, when everybody has paid their share, the medical facility will post gross revenue of $63.56.

Now, why do we do this to each other?

Healthcare shouldn’t work like used car lots or Black Friday at a big box retailer. The customer shouldn’t be fleeced if he doesn’t flash the right card.

With a little more transparency in the transaction, we might all understand the true cost of healthcare and become more able to find a solution. And it’s clear we need one. Obamacare was a start but it needs repairs that are hard to accomplish when the numbers don t add up.

Someday, we might actually fix the delivery of what seems the most basic human service.


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