About Mark Cathcart

I am an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Formerly I was an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm also the ride leader for Jack and Adams Bicycle shop rides; I own the new Austin Triathletes and ATxD Multisports, a sports management company.

The Usual Silence


The Usual Silence another great short from the Ogopogo Film Co. team, following on from their multi-award winning Moving Day – most recently won best Texas Short at the Austin Revolution Film festival. Please consider sharing, contribute, even as little as $1, please help me support independent film and share with your film friends.

Planned parenthood, arbortion et al

This weeks Congressional hearing on Planned Parenthood was pretty sloppy. Rarely little more than a bunch of privileged old white guys hectoring the President of Planned Parenthood. I watched some of it live, and read a number of reports afterwards, it seems to have achieved nothing, and garnered no new information.

I just saw this clip from Late Night with Seth Myers has the best summary.

Christie and Fingerprints


a good start by Trevor Noah, he does need to slow down a bit on responses, he had a great point on tracking people leaving the country and let it slip.

If the Government does use airline passenger data to track who is leaving the country, and when; then it would be useful to know. If they don’t, making non-USA Citizens provide bio-metric data is a waste of time and money since for the most part the government doesn’t even know they are in the country, let alone where… It would only be useful when the person was arrested for a crime… at which point its pretty easy to figure out anyway.

At least for my part, I had to undergo a medical, finger printing etc. as part of my green card processing, and I think for the Global Entry program, so again, either Chris Christie doesn’t know what he is talking about, or he is just bloviating.

“Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. ” < Cardinal Fang, Monty Pythons Flying Circus.

You’ve been Trumped

I’ve still not seen a good breakdown on Trumps claim or ability to beat the Chinese.

Although today we’ve seen Trumps’ tax plan, an attempt to burn the candle at both ends by appealing to the rich and the very poor, totally torn apart as poorly thought through and likely to cost the country trillions in debt. See the Huffington post here and the NPR report here. The NPR article is worth reading because it has highlighted the get-out excuses Trump will use when confronted with the debt. He just won’t provide details until it’s either too late, or will use them later as an excuse.

The problem with debt is that it has to be paid for somehow, and that is likely through things like tax hikes down the road, cutbacks, usually as soon as the debt starts to balloon; and all those things will likely lead to rapid inflation, which is an opportunity if you are rich and have money in the bank, but if you are poor or middle class it starts by hitting your mortgage rate, your credit card rate and then hits your job as companies cut back.

You've_Been_Trumped_poster[1]I’ve had a inbuilt distrust of Trump since back in 2008, and later in 2010 was one of the backers of of Anthony Baxters “You’ve been Trumped” about the Trump organizations development of the “World’s Greatest golf course”. The film shows exactly the same behavior by Trump, grandiose claims, with little supporting detail.

The interesting thing is that while his golf course got built, Trump lost against a number of truly individual people, and the Scottish Government. At which point he declared he was done with it, and moved on. The golf course is reported earlier this year(2015) to have lost $5-million in two years, and despite claiming to create hundreds of jobs, had only 66-people working at the course.

If Trump can’t buy out a man who “lives like a pig”, and can’t beat the Scottish Government, it is really hard to imagine he can buy-out an beat the Chinese. Watch the film trailer below to get a sense of the hubris and self aggrandizement of the man. For $2.99 watching the full film on vimeo is well worth the time and money.


You’ve Been Trumped from Cinedigm on Vimeo.

Trump vs China redux

I’m still waiting for any decent journalist to take on Trump on his China claims, no one asks for evidence of when Trump beat China; no one asks Trump how he’d solve these problems; how he’d get 3rd party countries to renege on their futures contracts that China already owns for 10-years and more.

Still, there’s this.

Trump vs China

In my last blog, I drew comparison between Texas and China, and claimed that China hadn’t had a big enough disaster to over shadow Texas. I thought it was worth looking at one example where China is way bigger that anything in Texas.

Just before that, in a “world collides” sort of moment, while Americans seem revere Donald Trump as some kind of Hotel, Apartment, construction and entertainment wizard who prints his own money; recently it was announced that Dalian Wanda, a Chinese company, had bought the iconic American endurance sport company Ironman, or more accurately the World Triathlon Corporation that owns and stages the Ironman Triathlon races including the annual Ironman Hawaii. As anyone knows me knows, I’ve done numerous Ironman and half-Ironman races.

How does this relate to Trump?

Dalian Wanda has operations split into two divisions: Real Estate, and The Cultural Industry Group. Real Estate has been the engine of Dalian Wanda’s growth. It owns more than 100 shopping malls in 100 Chinese cities, and owns over 70 hotels. To make it easier to score, in the world of hotels and real estate development somewhere between four and six Donald Trumps equal one Wang Jianlin. (*1)

That’s right. Some guy almost every American has never heard of, Wang Jianlin, is worth four to six times what Donald Trump is. And, Mr Jianlin is one Chinese entrepreneur, there are dozens of them. Yet, Donald Trump, says he will take on China and win. I’m guessing he means with our money rather than his own?

With that in mind, enjoy Mike Pesca taking Trump to task over Trumps tweet on ebola in this extract from Pescas “The Gist” podcast..

I’m of the opinion that the press indeed give Mr Trumps xenophobic rants, and chest beating an easy run. Before careful what is wish for.

(*1) From Slowtwitch.com retrieved 9/6/2015 7:46pm

China, still not big or bad enough

china chemicals

Back on August 14th, the Austin American Statesman carried an article from the NY TImes about the dangers of Chemical storage on it’s front page. It did so without even a footnote highlighting the fact there is little in Texas that, in 2015, prevents the same thing happening. You can read an updated NY Times article here, or the one highlighted above here.

Of course, we had the total disaster in West, Texas in April 2013. Since then there has been little to prevent the same thing happening. When he was Texas Attorney General, Governor Abbott restricted any information about Chemical Storage held by the State, as posted over a year ago.. He said at the time, you can always show up and ask what chemicals are stored on a site near you. A fine example of what the Tianjin residents would call “shuǎzuǐpí“.

Of course, as we are always being told, “everything is bigger in Texas“,  and when it comes to chemical explosions, China has a long way to go to match Texas. Consider the pictures below, pretty similar.

Chemical Explosion

The pair on the left are from the 1947 Texas City Disaster, where 581 were killed, and over 5,000 injured, with more than 500 homes destroyed. Believed to be the USA largest ever and most destructive industrial accident. It ranks among the worlds largest man-made disasters. The pictures on the right are from the Tianjin explosions which killed 147 people.

The primary difference being, as the updated NY Times article on Tianjin chemical storage shows, there were public records about chemical storage in China, not so much Texas. Freedom is an illusion.

Texas is an Ass

Just this week, Governor Abbott vetoed what many consider a key mental health provision, and given many of the continuing gun massacres are blamed on mental health issues, add that to guns in Texas, and a lot of people are upset with Abbott.

This post isn’t about guns, or mental health, or bashing Republicans. It doesn’t really matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, Texas pride aside. The Governor and Legislator are increasingly making Texas look like an ass.

I’m not talking about all the seemingly dumb laws on the books, or, the way and process the Governor has vetoed many key bills, or line items; or the fact the former Governor is still under indictment; or the way the current Attorney General is also facing potential federal charges. Nope, all that stuff can be passed off by one side or the other as “politically motivated”.

Nope, Texas is an ass because the world is changing, events happen at increasing velocity; social media is changing everything, and the Texas Legislature meets once every two years, passes a bunch of bills and then gets the hell out of dodge. The New York Times wrote this article about it back in 2010, nothing has changed.

Texas, like many states, has a constitution, written back in the 1876 has the legislature come to the capital every two years. Most states have moved away from that now. But here in Texas they spend 140-days prioritizing, bullying and cajoling their bills to the governors desk, assuming they can even get time to get their bills drafted and debated. Once they are done, the constitution gives them ample time to get back on their horses, in their buggys, or onto the stage coach to get back to their districts to converse with the people that elected them, before it’s time for a do-over.

As a reminder, Texas is bigger than Germany; bigger than France + large part of Spain and has almost as many people.

In a world where you can place a video call to almost anywhere, in a State where you can fly to a airport anywhere in the state in less than a day. With a legislature that raise significant amounts of money for election, don’t Texans deserve a legislative process that is on the ball, addressing issues as they arise, taking the appropriate steps to review, update and changes laws as Texas needs?

Instead what we have is an election, and then a rushed legislature that brings forward bills that pander towards just getting elected next time. As we’ve seen both from Governor Abbots ethics cry, and his veto pen, very few serious bills make it through. I get it, politics is hard, but Texans deserve more than this.

Sadly. as the New York Times report from 2010 says

The citizens of Texas inherently don’t trust government,” said Kip Averitt, who until recently served as a Republican state senator from Waco. He added, “I don’t think the public perceives it as a problem.

Who can blame them, given the problems highlighted above, and the fact that the general consensus is that the Old Boy network and pay to play are the two biggest problems with Texas Politics, perhaps if the legislature actually showed up and made a full time job out of crafting legislation, working to get traction, people would have more faith in their government?

No more riding into town, working on legislation that will get you elected next time and then leaving. Texas is an ass if they allow that to continue.

Out of control drugs

Of the many things wrong with the US Medical system, and there are a great many, not least it is the most expensive in the world, are the prices of ancillary parts of the healthcare system.

I’ve just been catching up on my bills, one of which was a visit to a chiropracter. A single visit, with a company provided insurance, my out of pocket cost was $485. Yes, it’s complicated, it involves deductibles, co-pays etc. and of course since it’s my only healthcare visit so far this year, I got essentially nothing from insurance. You then start to question what you got for $485. 10-mins with the specialist; 15-mins electrical stimulation; and about the same ultrasound. Sigh.

I have a mild form of psoriasis which randomly appears(stress?) on my right elbow, left thumb and a couple of other areas. It’s really no big deal, I use maybe two or three small tubes of Fluocinonide per year; in a couple of days and it’s gone. I went to get a replacement tube of cream from CVS recently. It’s a prescription cream, which comes with its own problems. The pharmacist gave me the cream and announced they’d changed providers and the price was now $8. No big deal to me, I can afford it. I paid and left.

Out in the car, I stopped and thought about it. I’d just been stung with 62.5% price hike. Seriously same active ingredient, same size tube; different generic brand. And there you have it, you have no control, no choice, no free market, it’s effectively too difficult to shop around because it’s prescription only. Yet, strangely you can buy it online for pets, it’s about the same price, meaning again, my drug insurance is effectively worthless.

The problem in America is that there is no effective control for the price of drugs. This report by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report, highlights how this is commonly exploited, let alone specific deliberate abuse.

The 50 hospitals, they found, charged an average of more than 10 times the Medicare-allowed costs. They also found that the typical United States hospital charges were on average 3.4 times the Medicare-allowable cost in 2012. In other words, when the hospital incurs $100 of Medicare-allowable costs, the hospital charges $340. In one of the top 50 hospitals, that means a $1,000 charge.

Of the 50 hospitals with the highest price markups, 49 are for-profit hospitals and 46 are owned by for-profit health systems. One for-profit health system, Community Health Systems Inc., operates 25 of the 50 hospitals. Hospital Corp. of America operates more than one-quarter of them. While they are located in many states, 20 of the hospitals are in Florida.

For-profit hospitals appear to be better players in this price-gouging game,” says Bai, an assistant professor of accounting at Washington & Lee University. “They represent only 30 percent of hospitals in the U.S., but account for 98 percent of the 50 hospitals with highest markups.

We all pay the price for this abuse. It’s nonsense to think that a single payer, public healthcare system would cost anymore. If we had it, there would be drug price control. Those against price control often argue that would stifle innovation and invention of new drugs, they role out the enormous cost of bringing out new drugs and using the profit of successful drugs to underwrite research, and failures during the process.

This is simply invalid. Anyone who thinks that humans won’t become involved because they are prepared to standby and watch their fellow citizens die, is just plain wrong. While medical innovations have progressed dramatically over the previous century, the last 20 years specifically have resulted in monumental advancements that substantially increased medical care standards and improved overall global health, but most of those advances didn’t actually come from the actual drugs(*), but from a better understand about the human body, how diseases spread and much about healthcare. The real ripoff in drug use is both at source, manufacturers, and those that sell the drugs.

Lets hope the next President take drug pricing as a priority.

* Not withstanding massive public health crisis drugs, like HIV, Ebola et al. These serve as exactly as an example of the invention that will still come.

Happy July 4th

MV5BMTM5MDY5MDQyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzM3NzMxMDE@._V1_SY1000_CR22,0,630,1000_AL_[1]This year is my 15th July 4th, as a Brit’ abroad, I take my annual message to the occupiers of the former British Coloney, now known as America, seriously. This July 4th, as you ponder the growing inequality, and the gap between the rich and poor, consider this quote:

this summer when you’re being inundated with all this bi-centennial, fourth of July, broo-ha-ha just remember what you’re celebrating- that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning aristocratic white males didn’t want to pay their taxes

from the teachers speech in the Linklater classic, Austin TX based film, Dazed and Confused. The film is set in 1976. Somethings never change.