Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I keep harping on heatlh care

I keep writing about our screwed up health care system, but like everyone else, it is easier to see the problems than find the solutions. It appears that America is not ready to move to a system like those in Canada, Britain or France, in part because the special interest groups with a vested interest in our awful system have been successful in scaring Americans into believing that folks in these countries are receiving no health care.....a pretty odd assumption since they generally have better outcomes than we do, and at half the cost.

Today's NY Times has another article, written by David Leonhart, about the problems with passing sensible changes. It is saddening. I am pretty sure that our gutless, scumbag politicians of both parties will do what is expediant and profitable, not what is right. Based on their behavior of the past, there is no reason to believe otherwise. That means we will either not make any changes, and allow the current system to bankrupt us while fewer and fewer get decent health care, or we will make superficial changes that don't address the tough cost issues, and bankrupt us in a different way.

Monday, July 20, 2009

We already ration health care!

I have been saying for years that the two most ridiculous arguments against government run health care are: 1) That health care would be rationed and 2) that a government bureaucrat will determine your care. Why? Well, because these 2 things are already occurring in our system, but in a way that is far less fair, moral, and efficient than in countries with universal coverage.

We already ration health care in this country, based on who can afford it. If you need, or want a treatment and have insurance that will pay, or can afford it out-of-pocket, you get it. Otherwise, good luck. You may get it in an emergency room, but only if it is an obvious emergency. Need your high blood pressure meds to keep from having a stroke and can't afford them, too bad. And as for the bureaucrats....well, what would you call the people who work at the insurance companies, and are hired to try to keep the company from paying for your care? I would call them murdering bastards, and I would prefer a bureaucrat to a murdering bastard!

That said, take a gander at the article in the NY Times Mag section this week by bio-ethicist Peter Singer. He maintains, as I do, that we are already rationing health care, but not wisely or fairly, and suggests some better ways to do it. In case you don't want to read the whole thing, here are a few relevant quotes:

On a blog on Fox News earlier this year, the conservative writer John Lott wrote, “Americans should ask Canadians and Brits — people who have long suffered from rationing — how happy they are with central government decisions on eliminating ‘unnecessary’ health care.” But as it happens, last year the Gallup organization did ask Canadians and Brits, and people in many different countries, if they have confidence in “health care or medical systems” in their country. In Canada, 73 percent answered this question affirmatively. Coincidentally, an identical percentage of Britons gave the same answer. In the United States, despite spending much more, per person, on health care, the figure was only 56 percent.

Health care is a scarce resource, and all scarce resources are rationed in one way or another. In the United States, most health care is privately financed, and so most rationing is by price: you get what you, or your employer, can afford to insure you for. But our current system of employer-financed health insurance exists only because the federal government encouraged it by making the premiums tax deductible. That is, in effect, a more than $200 billion government subsidy for health care.

A recent Commonwealth Fund study led by Cathy Schoen and Robin Osborn surveyed adults with chronic illness in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Far more Americans reported forgoing health care because of cost. More than half (54 percent) reported not filling a prescription, not visiting a doctor when sick or not getting recommended care. In comparison, in the United Kingdom the figure was 13 percent, and in the Netherlands, only 7 percent. Even among Americans with insurance, 43 percent reported that cost was a problem that had limited the treatment they received. According to a 2007 study led by David Himmelstein, more than 60 percent of all bankruptcies are related to illness, with many of these specifically caused by medical bills, even among those who have health insurance. In Canada the incidence of bankruptcy related to illness is much lower.

Singer goes on to discuss some methodology for determining what a life is worth, so rationing could be applied sensibly and fairly. Of course, we are no where near coming to any sensible conclusions about our health care system. Obama's plan is a small step in the right direction, but too small in my opinion. We need to blow this mess up and start over. And over at the GOP, they think the problem is that too many people have access to health care. They would like to return to the times of 100 years ago, when the robber barons worked people to death, then they just died and got out of the way.

Gay Marraige and the Constitution

Interesting Op-ed piece by famous lawyer David Boies in today's WSJ about the lawsuit he has filed attempting to overturn California's gay marriage ban. I personally do not understand how the equal protection clause, amendment 14, of the constitution does not protect the right of people to marry anyone they want. Right now, I have the right to marry a woman (not that I'm gonna!), but my sister does not (not that she wants to!). How is that equal protection?

This seems to be the approach that Boies is taking. A few quotes from his article:

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the right to marry the person you love is so fundamental that states cannot abridge it. In 1978 the Court (8 to 1, Zablocki v. Redhail) overturned as unconstitutional a Wisconsin law preventing child-support scofflaws from getting married. The Court emphasized, "decisions of this Court confirm that the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals." In 1987 the Supreme Court unanimously struck down as unconstitutional a Missouri law preventing imprisoned felons from marrying.

So the ban on permitting gay and lesbian couples to actually marry is simply an attempt by the state to stigmatize a segment of its population that commits no offense other than falling in love with a disapproved partner, and asks no more of the state than to be treated equally with all other citizens. In 2003 the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas held that states could not constitutionally outlaw consensual homosexual activity. As Justice Anthony Kennedy elegantly wrote rejecting the notion that a history of discrimination might trump constitutional rights, "Times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom."

There are those who sincerely believe that homosexuality is inconsistent with their religion -- and the First Amendment guarantees their freedom of belief. However, the same First Amendment, as well as the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses, preclude the enshrinement of their religious-based disapproval in state law.

Let's hope he succeeds, and we can put this ridiculous issue behind us, and the dinosaurs who promote these bans go extinct from having their heads up their asses.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Simpson's theme acapella

Okay, my posts lately have shown little thought, but it's summer. So enjoy this awesome acapella version of the Simpson's theme.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why it is good to live a mile above sea level!

Is Roger Corman making a movie in San Diego? Otherwise, how do you explain this headline:

Jumbo squid invade San Diego shores, spook divers

Read the whole story HERE.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You Gotta Watch This!

Watch this Bill Moyers interview with former Cigna executive Warren Potter, then tell me that our health system is not inefficient and immoral, and that insurance executives aren't the most eveil people on earth.

Sorry, no "embed" link, so you'll have to link to this amazing and scary interview HERE. Please watch and share with everyone you know!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Interesting Health Care Article

What's wrong with our health care system? I would say one of the big problems is that, having visited the doctor 3 times in June, and having blood tests twice, I have received 6 pieces of mail from the provider and my insurance company, all saying "This is not a bill". Meanwhile, the bill, which is under my deductable so will be paid by me, but I have not received a bill or paid a cent yet. But numerous dollars have been spent on paper pushing, none of which is making me or anyone any healthier.

Administrative insanity is one big problem, but economist David Leonhart writes about another silly situation in today's NYT. Why don't we know what treatments work best?

Super Joe Retires

Joe Sakic announced his retirement from the Colorado Avalanche earlier today, and the deserved tributes will be pouring in from all over. In fact, Sakic is a guy who I have NEVER heard anyone say anything negative about. Great player, hard worker, leader, great team mate, great guy off the ice. Even some of the folks around here who root for teams other than The Lanche and don't like them, can't find a bad thing to say about Sakic, other than he was injured and ineffective in his last 2 years. But Joe knew that too, and that is why he retired. If fact, Sakic was so respected by other players that guys like Paul Kariya signed with the team for less money just to play with him.

When I was at auctioneer school last year, one of the instructors was telling us about the fundraiser he had just done. Sakic was at his dinner table, and the auctioneer mentioned that Joe had never been in a fight. I corrected him, as I had seen Sakic's one fight, in the late 90's against Doug Gilmour. Not surprisingly, Sakic won the fight too.

Sakic played his whole career with the same team, won championships, is a future Hall of Famer and a credit to his sport. If was the role model for your kids that Charles Barkley said athletes shouldn't need to be. Unfortunately, I doubt sports fans will see many athletes replicate the life of Super Joe.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Final Tribute to the King of Pop

I don't know why I didn't think to re-post this when the King of Pop pooped out, but I remembered on my bike ride to work this morning that I had written an xmas poem about Michael Jackson back in 1996, and re-used it a few years ago when he again got in trouble for his priestly relations with boys. So, for the last time, here it is again, and this is the last time I will ever mention the talented nutjob on this blog.


Twas the night before Christmas, I was home at my place
Trying to decide how to next change my face
The stockings were hung by the chimney with glee
One for Tito, Germaine, my monkey and me
My guests had retired and closed tight their peepers
And were having the dreams of those cute boys in “Sleepers”

My wife in her nightgown and me in my glove
Were heading to bed where we never made love
When came from the roof some horrible sounds
I ordered security to examine the grounds
What in the heck could all the noise be
An angry return by Lisa Marie?
The guards moved like lightning, and in a flash
They’d captured the culprit and were kicking his ass

I had to go see who it was they had collared
I could hear all the screams as the intruder hollered
It was hard to believe when I saw who they’d caught
“Can it be that they’ve nabbed Father Christmas?” I thought

Oh yes, there he stood in his gaudy red suit
And on each foot he wore a black boot
His beard was more white than the skin on my face
And his fleshy midsection was quite a disgrace
He stood there before me with his bulbous red nose
(Maybe I’ll call my doctor and get one of those)
I called off the guards and said “How ya doin”
“Nice job” he replied, “ now your Christmas is ruined”.

I could tell by his scowl the old guy was pissed
It’s not very pretty when Santa gets dissed
“For roughing up Santa, you androgynous asshole
I’ll be filling your stocking with nothing but coal.
I had planned to load up the whole place with toys,
By the way, I know what you do with those boys!
And you know, your music was better back when
You and your brothers sang songs like “Ben”
Before you decided to make yourself white
and turned yourself into this horrible sight.
And about your new wife I must say it’s perplexing
How you fathered a child when you ain’t done no sexing
And I’d sure kick your ass if you were my elf
for the way you are always touching yourself
Now , schmuck, I’ll make you pay for your sin
I’ll take back what I brought you, which was a new chin…”

And on and on he went with his rant
to remember it all, well I must say I can’t
He raged on my life, going issue by issue
I wish Tito were there to bring me a tissue
And just when I hoped that his tirade was done
he said “Sit down wimp, this show’s just begun”
Two hours he yelled, that angry old guy
and all I could do was sit there and cry.
It was the worst thing that could ever transpire
worse even than having your hair set on fire.

When St. Nick had finished stating his case
he turned on his heels and stormed from the place
he jumped to the roof, and returned to his sleigh
And yelled to his reindeer to take him away
And he screamed as his rig moved high off the planet
“Your not half the man of your sister Janet”

Well it wasn’t a very good Christmas that year
not filled with joy, not filled with cheer
And to think of it now, well it just makes me twitch
Ah, screw the old bastard, who needs him, I’m rich!

Robert McNamera and "The Fog of War"

Robert McNamera passed away the other day. He was largley responsible for the failed US war effort in North Viet Nam, a failure that haunted him his entire life.

Back in 2003, McNamera made a documentary film with Errol Morris called "The Fog of War", during which he ticked off 11 lessons to be learned from the war. Coming out as it did just after the war in Iraq began, it was quite awful to watch, as it became obvious that the lesson he had learned had not reached the Bushies who started and screwed up the war in Iraq. You can read the text of the interview that comprised the movie HERE, or put it on your Netflix list and watch it. Great film.

McNamera screwed up big-time, and the deaths and destruction he caused haunted him the rest of his life. At least he had a conscience about it, and the brains and courage to admit he was wrong. I doubt we will ever see the same sort of contrition from any of the Bushies, since they are still sure they did everything right. And, of course they did, which is why the world is in such a peaceful and prosperous state now.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New Murder Photos

Every year brings a new murder mystery, and new photos of my friends and I in silly costumes. This year I the murder is set in 1959, and I am playing a bad movie director, hired to make a film about the founding of Gold Hill in 1859. Here are the photos. The last one of me and the cowboy in black was a reaction to the argument over which of us had the gayer costume. Feel free to cast your vote.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Even Orrin Hatch Makes More Sense than College Football

I live in a town where there is....well, used to be.....big time college football. And I have a lot of friends who think it is the greatest sport in the world, a belief that causes me to look at them as if they told me they just had sex with an alien. I was turned off college football back in the 70's, when the wishbone offense was boring people to death. And it's system to decide a "national champion" is, and has always been, complete and utter bullshit.

So it is with great surprise that I recommend anyone read something written by Sen. Orrin Hatch (Dinosaur, Utah). This is the supposedly moral Mormon who is responsible for scam artists being able to sell nutritional supplements to unsuspecting idiots without regulation ( my guess is he would defend the "magic elixer" lobby if they were from Utah and gave him money!).

But Hatch is part of a group of senators who think that the BCS System is crooked and unfair, and an illegal exercise of monopoly power, a stand I have been taking for many years. He and his committee are planning to hold hearings on it. He writes about why in this weeks Sports Illustrated.

Generally speaking, I think Congress should have better things to do than meddle in professional sports (and if you don't think college football is a professional sport, perhaps you should go back to your fantasy world). But the NCAA, and the BCS, have been running roughshod over people for too long, and somebody has to kick some ass on these crooks. So, go get'em Orrin!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Amazing Chart.

Again I am stealing from Barry Ritholtz, (buy his book so I fell better about stealing so much from his great blog) but this chart is amazing. It is the Case-Shiller home price index going back to 1890. Look at that spike from the mid-90's to 2006. And folks still wonder why there was a crash, and wait for their home value to return to "where it should be"? Ha!