Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why Not Simple?

From a discussion of "Cadillac health plans" likely to be taxed under one health financing bill:
But many not-so-fancy plans also qualify as "Cadillacs" under the finance committee's definition. That's because the term refers to total cost—not a particular set of benefits—and many factors—like the state you live in, the size of your company, and the makeup of that company's work force—can affect costs. Premiums tend to be significantly higher in Massachusetts than in Idaho, for example. (The employer/employee contribution also varies by state.) The smaller the business, the fewer employees who go into the pool, the less leverage the organization has to negotiate lower premiums. And if the workers have an average age of, say, 54, their premiums are going to be a lot higher than if the average is 25.

This is only one example of the mind-numbing complexity of the private insurance model for health care finance. Remember, the time and energy that goes into tracking and understanding the details is effort to not spent on health care.

A single payer system would not need to do this.

Think Occam's Razor.


Outlaw Bikers

Slate has an article about cyclists and traffic laws, what the author calls the gray area of law enforcement that lets me ride through intersections without heeding traffic signs and signals. Along the way the author touches on the uncertain position of bicycles on streets designed for motor vehicles. There's way more debate than I had thought about. I land somewhere in the middle, maybe more toward bike lanes and bike paths, but I am not unwilling to take my place in traffic when the situation calls for it.

In traffic I will use lanes as I need them, especially for left turns. I am scrupulous about following rules and, for the most part, I am doing so in circumstances where my slower speed does not hinder traffic flow. I recently figured out that I could use the 101 freeway west as a convenient connection for a bike route and have become proficient at making the left turn on to the entrance ramp,just like any car.

But I don't mind having bike lanes and I positively enjoy bike paths. Long bike paths, especially. The Chehalis Western Trail runs north-south for over 20 miles through Thurston County. It connects with the Olympia-Woodland Trail and makes all kinds of loops possible for me. Any time I can ride and not compete with vehicles is time when I can fully decompress and let the wind blow all the cobwebs from my brain.

Sooner or later, though, most every ride brings me back into traffic. I don't find cycling in traffic as intense as driving. Riding at 12 mph, my average speed, I have much more time to observe my surroundings and spot the driver who doesn't see me (I figure that's most of them.) I can stop on a dime, if need be. And since I am well aware that in any collision with a motor vehicle, I will likely be injured, I am extremely vigilant.

That's a long way of saying that I often use my own judgment regarding traffic laws. I'm no daredevil but I know my ability and the odds.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hopelessly Hopeful or Hopefully Hopeless

Now that the Senate Finance Committee has voted out its health care finance bill, the bargaining and deal making move to the floor of each house where I expect the process will be as ugly as before and the results equally disappointing. At this point I don't expect the final bill to be much of an improvement--just another jury-rig to a ponderous and inefficient system. No bill may be better than what this congress and president can come up with. When I read about health care in Germany with a public-private system that provides universal I wonder in amazement that any of the grotesquely complex proposals considered possible are the best America can do.

When I express my disappointment in Obama's leadership, I am told that he's cleaning up after eight years of CheneyBush, that I don't know his game, to wait and see, that we aren't out in the streets pushing back against the teabaggers and wingnuts. It's true that I don't know the inside details but I am speaking out. I've written letters, attended demonstrations and signed petitions. (I'll bet if I had enough money to hire Dick Gephardt, someone would listen to me.) Perhaps my greatest disappointment is in the many who voted for Obama not insisting loudly and strongly that he keep his promises.

I still hope something good will come of the US government--my government--in the coming years. I want the wars, economic exploitation, the waste of our national treasure to the benefit of a few to end but I see nothing in Obama's actions or in the Democratic congress that leaves me with much expectation. "Health care reform", as practiced in Washington is nothing of the sort. It's divvying up markets, resources and responsibilities with the advantage going to those with the most money to buy influence. So far neither this Democratic president or congress has shown any inclination to challenge the militarism of American foreign policy or militarization of domestic life.

Makes me wonder sometimes why I bother to vote. For hope? For the future? For show?


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Fear is a Terrible Thing to Waste

“It’s clear that there’s a real grassroots fear and concern out there...."

And no one knows better what to do with fear than a Cheney.


Monday, October 12, 2009

A Prize for All Seasons

Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize was probably as much a surprise to him as it was to the rest of the world. It certainly surprised me. Unlike the president's perpetual critics, I am not too concerned about it. My perspective on the Peace Prize changed greatly when Henry Kissinger won it for brokering a peace in the war that he savagely waged against Vietnam. It's not that the prize doesn't represent some deeper striving for peace--it does--but rather the prize represents a particular judgment about what contributes to world peace at a given time.

In that regard, not being George W. Bush IS a step toward peace. Maybe Obama hasn't achieved any major breakthroughs in his short time in office but, if nothing else, he represents a willingness to consider America part of a community of nations. I personally would not have awarded the prize to him but I wasn't invited to sit on the committee, so my preferences are moot.

For his part, Obama handled the announcement well. He referred to the award as an award for America as a whole, not his own accomplishments. I think he is smart enough to know that the award will have little consequence for his legacy. His legacy will depend on what he actually does in the next four or eight years.

I would like very much to see him win the Peace Prize again, especially if the next award is for ending American militarism and chokehold that the military mindset has on American policy toward the rest of the world.

THAT would be a peace prize to brag about!


If nothing else, Obama's Nobel is worth it just to see all the wingnuts with their panties in a wad.

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