Thursday, March 30, 2017

I didn't do it, nobody saw me...well, OK, maybe they did


As you may have heard, President Donnie John Trump is soon expected to sign a bill into law that will allow internet service providers to sell info on you such as your browsing history as well as other stuff you'd probably like to keep private.  So are you outraged?  Well you should be!

The only problem is, your outrage is about 30 years too late.  There have been companies around that long that do nothing but harvest information, build a profile of you, and then sell it to the highest bidder.  Do you think those "reward cards" you sign up for at the grocery store or the pet supply store are just their way of saying thank you for your business?  You do?  Well I have some good news then.  The Easter Bunny will be here in only 15 more days.  WooHoo! 

The truth is, when the information of your buying habits from those cards is compiled in a database along with all the other stuff about you such as what magazines you subscribe to, where you bank, which credit cards you have, which political party you most often vote for, etc, you have no privacy....NONE!

I've read that the average person is videotaped 300 times every day.  The next time you're in Target or Walmart or 7-11 or Home Depot, look up.  Those little dark colored half-round things mounted on the ceiling are cameras.  Many high-traffic intersections you pass through while running errands every day take a picture of your car and license number.  

Some shopping malls have security cars driving around mounted with license plate readers so they can track who is visiting and how long they stay.  They watch you go in and out of stores and which items you pick up and buy or put down and walk away from.  *Smile*

If you go out and buy a fishing rod or a shotgun, you can bet you'll start getting mailings from Bass Pro Shop and Cabelas, even if that isn't where you bought your new gear.  Coincidence?  Subscribe to Car And Driver, and in no time you'll be receiving special offers from Road and Track, Automobile, car aftermarket parts vendors, as well as anyone else whose products might fit your new interest profile.

"They" know who you are, where you live, the size of your family, your interests, what you like to eat, where you vacation, if you have hemorrhoids....they probably know things about you even you have forgotten.  "You" are the focus of a giant industry.

The sad part is, "they" aren't going back into their bottle.  Your privacy, like your innocence, is gone forever.  It's a little too late now to worry about your internet service provider looking through your keyhole. 

S


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

But Your Honor, I'm blind, and my VEEP doesn't speak English. I mean...er...Me Blindo y


I'm sure you've heard of the Fifth Amendment which guarantees citizens the right to NOT have give self-incriminating testimony.  If asked a question in court they can avoid answering by "pleading the Fifth".  This doesn't mean they're either guilty or not guilty, but just that they're not going to answer the question.  

Our American system of justice says everyone is (theoretically) considered innocent until proven guilty.  However, when a person pleads the Fifth over and over and over and....the average listener begins to think the person pleading it is indeed guilty.  The perception says "guilty" even if the evidence doesn't, and it's a hard perception to overcome.

That's essentially where President Donnie John Trump is today.  Every time he or one of his surrogates opens his mouth, smoke comes billowing out.  They say, "look over there" and "nobody's ever proven anything" and "I never said that", even when there's video of them saying that.  No fire has yet been seen, but now the perception is he's guilty.  He's to the point now that a vast majority of people think he's lying, even if he isn't.  

So what's up with RussiaGate?   I won't go in to all the suspicious things that link the Trump campaign / administration and many of his advisers to Russia, but they're all over the news if you wish to look them up. Virtually everyone above the level of the White House mail room kid is under investigation by the FBI.

You've heard the old saying, "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging", right?  So why does the Trump administration keep digging?  If they're truly as pure as the driven snow like they say they are, why don't they stop in place, open up all their dealings, and prove it?  And if there IS a rotten apple in the barrel, then get them out NOW!  They could turn a negative into a positive.  What's the point of keeping the smoke screen machine running flat out if all is well? 

Yet the Republicans in Congress give him almost universal lip support.  Virtually no thinking person buys hook, line, and sinker everything President Trump and his surrogates say, but the Republican's, with only a few defectors, will admit nothing is even at all suspicious.  They'll go out of their way to give him cover.  Is that smart?

If I was a congressman (R) *shudder* I think this would be a good time to go on a foreign junket.  Seems to me it's just a matter of time before the next Woodward and Bernstein (look 'em up kids) hooks up with the right whistleblower and the Shit Hits The Fan.  Or if there is nothing to blow a whistle about, that will come out, too.  But playing it safe, just in case the fan does start flinging poo, I wouldn't want to be known as part of Trump's regular golf foursome.  


If the SHTF there would be a lot of panicked rats trying to escape the sinking SS Trump.  Politics baffles me.  How can people that smart be so stupid?

S


Monday, March 27, 2017

You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours



Did you ever own a fully restored classic car?  No?  Me either....they were always waaay above my pay grade.  But I have known people who did, and they all told me their restoration was a gradual, evolutionary process that took years before their cars were trophy winners.

First they disassembled everything to see what needed to be done.  Then they rebuilt the engine and transmission while the body was being repaired and repainted.  Finally everything was put back together, with new re-chromed wheels and appropriately sized tires.  With a new convertible top and upholstery, it was ready to meet the show judges.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stay with me here....Now that a replacement for ObamaCare has fizzled it looks like we're stuck with the old ACA, and that's a problem.  By all accounts it's failing fast.  There are too few insurance companies to choose from in many areas, premiums are rising, and deductibles are so high many people can't afford to actually use the insurance they're paying for.  So instead of just walking away from it and watching it wither, and killing people (literally) in the process, why don't reasonable people work together to FIX IT?

Just like with a classic car, first you see what needs to be fixed.  Then piece-by-piece you clean it up and keep what you can, buy new, better parts as needed, and finally reassemble it to become something that actually works.  It's an evolutionary process, not an overnight quick fix.

They say there isn't enough competition between insurance companies, so why not allow them to compete across state lines?  The GOP campaigned on that idea, and if it can bring down premiums, why would the Democrats object?  (They've always said insurance companies were their archenemies, right?  Here's their big chance to spank 'em!Except for the health insurance company CEO with a mega-bonus at stake, why would anyone object to companies competing for your business?  Am I missing something?

They say the pharmaceutical companies are screwing us blind, which is another reason insurance costs are so high.  The Democrats on the Left and now the Tea Party on the Right have always wanted to come down hard on them, so why can't they bury the hatchet long enough to give Big Pharma an ultimatum?  "Get your prices here in America in line with the international market, or we'll free up consumers to legally buy their prescriptions overseas.  No more official government cover."

Line-by-line, read the ACA, keep it if it's working, and change it if it isn't.  Have an ongoing amendment process that keeps constantly striving to improve it.  The old system (pre-ObamaCare) was slowing failing us, so it was just a matter of time before something new had to be tried.

They say if everyone walks away from a negotiation just a little miffed, it was probably a fair deal.  Forget the concept of "all or none".  It's time for some give and take.  Americans seem pretty fed up with the extremists after their sorry debacle last week, so this might be a good time for moderates to get something done.

We have us one helluva mess.  Something has to change. 

S

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pinterest favorites update


Dogs

America's Cup

Girls and Guns

Mountain Drives

Israel (IDF)

Cool Cars
 
 Eyes
 
 F1

Small Houses

Beards and Mustaches

 Cool Guns

Europe

Cool Knives



Friday, March 24, 2017

Wha...what? Flying pigs?...Icicles in Hell?...



Stubborn as hell and it never forgets.

Do you understand what's happening with this on again / off again healthcare bill about to come to a vote in Congress?  I think I have it figured out.  Here's my take:

The Red State congressional parasites have promised their constituents a Trillion Dollar tax cut, cause, you know, their folks need more $$$.  The first step to doing that is to trash ObamaCare.

The Blue State congressional parasites have promised their constituents more healthcare benefits with ideally even bigger subsidies.  They don't care what it costs because their constituents by-and-large won't be the ones paying for it.

Right now ALL House of Representatives Democrats (the Blues) will vote "no" because it cuts too deep, and many Republican Tea Party-types (the Reds) will vote "no" because it doesn't cut deeply enough.  Talk about strange bedfellows!  The bill is expected to fail.  But if by some miracle it passes, what then?

Then it's on to the Senate, where it's even less likely to pass, for the same reasons mentioned above.  The Republicans want their tax cut, dammit!  There are yachts that need buying!  They don't care who they have to whack to get it.  The Democrats just want their blank check.  Stalemate.

So what if the few moderate Democrats along with the few moderate Republicans sat down together and agreed to strengthen the good points of the ACA, aka ObamaCare, toss out the parts of the ACA that smell, and try to keep the expenses fairly neutral....no blank check for the Dems, and no 1% welfare check for the GOP?  The fringes of both parties could just go to their respective corners and throw their little tantrums.

And to get President Trump to sign it, they can call it "DonnieJohnCare".  He'll love it!  He'll think it's FANTASTIC, just TERRIFIC!  What do ya think?

S

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I worry about my friends, Bob


And I owe it all to Hanz and Franz

Health-wise I've always been pretty lucky.  I've been told I come from a pretty healthy gene pool as very little has ever gone wrong with me....until recently.  I don't smoke, drink only occasionally and in moderation, no drugs, and I was always in pretty good physical shape, even though I never crossed paths with Ah-nold at any gym.  (I did wander into a gym once by mistake, though.)  

I did, however, have several back-to-back detached retinas a dozen years ago, and I came semi-unglued at age 64 when they discovered I had an immune system condition as well as heart arrhythmia (my heart was beating too slowly), necessitating a pacemaker.  Fortunately, thanks to my wonderful wife K, who had a corporate job with insurance (with me added as a dependent), those pesky little boo-boo's cost me surprisingly little out of pocket.  Not everyone is as lucky as me, though.  Here are a few examples of people I know personally who are in truly bad shape, both physically and financially:

My masonry contractor, let's call him Bob, has suffered mightily from kidney stones for many years now.  He's had all the tests, tried multiple doctors....everything....but they haven't yet been able to fix him.  They've given him pain meds and just told him to suck it up.  As his private health insurance carrier eventually jacked his rate up to $1,600 per month he had to let it go.  It was either food for his family or insurance.  

Bob is an American of Mexican heritage and still has relatives back in the old country.  Out of desperation Bob recently became a "medical tourist" (people who travel to another country to have needed surgery because it is so much less expensive than in the US).  He said the doctors and his hospital in Monterrey, Mexico were surprisingly good, but still, his surgery was only partially successful.  He's still hurting and still has no insurance.  I worry about my friend Bob.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I once had a window washer, let's call him Bob, who came to my house regularly to make sure I could see out.  I didn't mind washing my own windows, but all I ended up doing was rearranging the dirt.  Anyway, Bob was in his early 20's at the time, and in conversation told me he worked 20 hours a week at Kroger's (grocery store) in order to have insurance, and then spent the rest of his time washing windows.

A few years later I visited with him again and he said he had to quit his Kroger job as his window washing job became a 40+ hour a week career he couldn't pass up.  I asked what he did for insurance and he said he was without.  He said if he got sick he was just going to go to the emergency room and hope for the best.  At his age I could tell "getting sick" was the last thing on his mind.  I heard some time later that he was involved in an accident (I believe there was a motorcycle involved) and could no longer work.  I don't know where he is today, but I still think about Bob.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The foreman at the custom cabinet shop we used, let's call him Bob, was in his 50's when he had a stroke.  Like many small businesses, Bob's boss couldn't afford insurance for his employees.  Bob was airlifted to a hospital in Plano, Tx where they stabilized him, but he was left semi-paralyzed.  After several weeks there (and knowing Bob was going to be a charity write-off) the hospital finally worked with Medicaid to find a rehab facility that would take him.  The last I heard Bob was little improved.  I worry about my friend Bob.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are lots of "Bob's" in this country who are hurting and have no insurance.  Sometimes they have no insurance because they couldn't afford it, sometimes because they were foolish.  Notice I said all these people were working.  They weren't lazy bums who were looking for a handout, as many imagine uninsured people to be.  They just didn't have the good fortune of having a smart, hard working wife employed by a large, deep-pocketed corporation to carry them on their health insurance like I did.  Fate is too often fickle like that.

We have a lot of sick people here who compassionate Americans IMO shouldn't turn their backs on.  We're better than that.  But what to do?  I don't know the answer, but I'm confident that the Republican's Ryan/TrumpCare bill now making its way through Congress isn't it, nor is ObamaCare, which they say is now itself on life support.  To those who would rather have the Almighty Tax Cut a slimmed down healthcare bill promises so they can buy another shiny new gadget, I hope they'll think about my friends Bob when they're out toy shopping.

S

NOTE:  These are all absolutely real people I know.  If any of you reading this are actually named Bob, I suggest you stay inside today.  ;)


Monday, March 20, 2017

Decisions, decisions....




Yes, healthcare again.  NO, DON'T HANG UP!  THIS IS ACTUALLY PRETTY INTERESTING.

Congress (the House of Representatives) should be taking a vote this week on whether they'll be adapting Ryan/TrumpCare or sticking with ObamaCare, which it seems all agree will soon be/is on life support.  The Right is hoping for the former, and the Left (Bernie & friends) would prefer something more like the single-payer (universal) healthcare system they've had in the United Kingdom since 1948.

So what exactly is the UK's system (the NHS) like?  I'd heard the doctors and nurses, the technology, and the facilities are all first rate, but the wait time to be seen by a doctor was very long.  To get to the bottom of it all I corresponded with a British friend* and asked him to give me a quick overview.  I trusted him implicitly and knew he would give me the unvarnished truth to the best of his knowledge.  His response:

First, the NHS is a mandatory insurance scheme paid for by National Insurance contributions, a tax for all intents and purposes.  Almost all prescriptions are included for a flat fee of approx $10US each, with exceptions for the young (<16) and the "more mature" (>60), with a few other special exemptions, too.  One option is a Rx pre-payment plan costing roughly $125 per year which covers all your meds, regardless of how many you might have.

All doctor and hospital treatment is included, as are many optical and dental services.  Doctors, dentists, and "opticians" (optometrists) are all self-employed and may be either working entirely for the NHS under contract, entirely private, or a bit of both.  About 8% of the population also has private insurance over and above their NHS coverage, which generally gets them perks like quicker consultations, private hospital rooms, etc.  (He said it really amounts to not having to rub elbows with the common folk in the waiting rooms.)  Almost all feel there is no difference in the care received, although a few would debate that.  If a doctor has a good reputation and a thriving practice serving the 8%, he can probably make more $$$ by going entirely private than with a NHS contract.

The biggest grumble is indeed the wait time to be seen.  Of course all patients are prioritized, just like here, so emergencies get immediate attention while non-emergencies could be in for a fair wait.  Elective surgeries can take (many months) longer to schedule than here, so you might be hobbling around a lot longer on a bum knee, but at least there will be $0 due when you're finally patched up.  

Another common complaint is that the NHS is in places understaffed.  All this varies depending on where you live, just like service in the US varies depending on if you live in a big city or a smaller town.  On the plus side, paperwork there is nil....just show your eligibility card.  That's it!  *take note Aetna!*

My friend pointed out that, essentially, National Insurance and the NHS is a non-profit system that covers everyone.  The nature of the system means that drug manufacturers have to reach agreement with the NHS about what their prices will be, and as a near-monopoly the NHS can haggle for better prices than private hospitals or doctors can here.  This is largely why treatment costs there are so much lower....the non-profit side combined with the fact the NHS dominates the market.  In the US a very large portion of the money we pay goes to the sort of overhead that any privately-run system has....large salaries for health insurance and pharmaceutical company execs, dividends to shareholders, medical billing and the inevitable write-offs, and so on. 

Now for some numbers** :  The United States spends approx 17.1% of its GDP on healthcare (public and private combined), or about $9,403 per person, which still leaves us with about 12% who have the only option of going to an emergency room for care, which they will likely never be able to pay.  The United Kingdom spends approx 8.8% of its GDP on healthcare (public and private combined), or about $3,377 per person, which includes care for every legal resident.  

On a parallel track, the total tax burden on the average American is 26% of his income, and 32.6% for the average UK resident.  Essentially the top income earners here would come out ahead paying a lower tax rate, while the rest of us would probably do better paying higher taxes but receiving all-inclusive healthcare. 

Just as there is considerable political pressure to cut healthcare costs here, the same applies there.  The Republicans here and the Conservatives (Tories) there are looking to reign in costs (ie: coverage).  Both are having some success, taking some services off the table, although incurring the wrath of many voters in the process.  I will say that every single Brit I have ever heard discuss their system said they were overall "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with it.

It seems to me that if you have coverage here in the US (subsidized) by your employer, if you have ample financial liquidity to pay for all your prescriptions, the ever-increasing co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses, and if you believe your job is rock-solid stable (is there such a thing anymore?), you might want to just leave things alone.  But if your situation is anything other than that, the security of a British-style system might look very enticing.  Also be aware, as I understand it, those here over the age of 47 will be especially hard hit by the proposed Ryan/TrumpCare, so be prepared.

Finally, I ran across this article while doing my research comparing the UK and US systems by someone who has used them both.  It's definitely worth a read....very interesting.

Just something for you to think about.

S

* Thank you, Sir, for your invaluable insight.  :)

**  Exact numbers are hard to compare.  US, EU, various research groups, etc, differ slightly.  Some numbers, for example, are from 2015, and some from 2016.  Still, the variations are minor.  Tax liability numbers are as close to "apples-to-apples" as I can find.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Go do WHAT to myself? HOW DARE YOU!


So the Tea Party wants a new healthcare plan, and they seem to be pinning their entire case on allowing insurance companies to do business across state lines.  Right now, to my knowledge, each state has its own Dept. of Insurance that regulates the companies doing business there.  Fifty states, 50 Departments of Insurance.  

It's common for one or two health insurers in each state to control 50, 60, even 80% of the market.  The GOPers (Gophers?  *snicker*) think removing the state-to-state barrier will open up the market to much more competition, bringing rates down.  What I want to know is, why didn't we do this years ago?  Who is opposed to more competition?  Oops....I think I just answered my own question.  I can only think of two groups who would object:  The various State Departments of Insurance, and the insurance companies.  

Bureaucrats by definition like bureaucracy.  They just loooove to have more forms, more rules, more audits, and more papers to shuffle from "in" to "out".  It's their job security.  And the Chairman at each State Dept. of Insurance sees his department as his personal fiefdom.  The more people he's over, the larger his department, the more prestige he enjoys, and the larger the salary he can justify asking for.  There's obstacle #1.

And the health insurers no doubt just loooove it when they can have a HUGE market share in a state.  They can say "jump", and the doctors, hospitals, etc have no choice but to answer, "how high?"  When the insurers hold all the cards, they can control the game.  They can decide what is and isn't covered, how much they will pay for each procedure, etc, and the doctors and hospitals have little choice but to fall in line.  There's obstacle #2.

So if it's a good idea, why must we associate this increased "open market" ONLY with the new Tea Party/Ryan/Trump plan?  Why couldn't it apply to a new, improved ACA 2.0, or ScottCare, or whatever?  Why can't the Democrats and Republicans band together (for once) and just slap the ever-lovin' crap out of the (state insurance) bureaucrats and the insurance companies?  The bureaucrats can clean out their desks and go home, and the insurance companies can be told,  "NO MORE!  This is how it's gonna be from now on.  Y'all get lean, learn the definition of "customer service", and never forget....YOU work for US!  We have choices!"

Is there anyone else who has a motive to keep the system we have now?  Am I missing anything?

Like I've always said....no one has a monopoly on good ideas.  Open the market to more competition and let's see what happens, even if the Tea Party/Ryan/Trump plan dies en route.

S



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

You make HOW MUCH??


When I look at the issues that have our country tied in knots today, it seems to me that every single one can be traced straight back to income inequality.  Its beginning predates Citizens United (the court ruling allowing unlimited political contributions by corporations), it didn't get this way overnight, and we won't get out of it with just a few new Executive Orders.  It's WAY more complicated than that.

Without doubt my all-time favorite corporate CEO was Herb Kelleher, the (now retired) Chairman of Southwest Airlines.  His business model was simple:  "Take care of your people first, your customers second, and your stockholders last."  If you take care of your people first, they will be happy and give impeccable, smiling service to your customers.  Happy customers will come back time and again, ultimately giving your stockholders a handsome return.  Win-win-win.  While the airline industry has been in constant turmoil for years, with bankruptcies, mergers, and layoffs common, Southwest has had an unbroken string of profitable years with no layoffs, ever.



That's Herb in the red shirt with some of his ramp employees, and the photo was not staged.  He would on a daily basis walk around and greet his people, swap a quick joke, do some back-slapping (the ladies got a kiss on the cheek....times were different then!), and just in general tell them how much he appreciated them....and they worked their asses off for him!

In 1965 the average CEO made 20-times as much as his average employee.  By 2015 the average CEO made 303-times as much as his average employee.  (source:  Fortune magazine) 

Here's where I'm going with this:  While most airline CEO's of the day were making handsome 7-figure salaries, Herb kept his salary at around $350K (?) per year.  He was seen by his people as well paid, but still with his feet on the ground.  He made sure that ALL Southwest employees received yearly profit sharing, real health insurance, a generous 401K, and stock options.  (That's where Herb made his very sizeable fortune.)  If the company made money, so did he, and his model worked....there was never an unprofitable year.

This is critical....right after 9/11, when planes were flying virtually empty and other airlines were laying off as fast as they could, top executives at SWA said they would work without pay until the crisis was over, while their employees were never asked for any wage concessions.  THAT'S how you show solidarity with your people!  (As I recall, American Airlines was at the time cutting employee pay, all while they were quietly giving generous bonuses to upper management.  The rank-and-file found out about it and the s__t hit the fan!)

Today we have a dangerous divide between workers and the "One Percent".  The upper class has never had it so good, while the middle class is actually shrinking.  Their inflation-adjusted income has been stagnant for 25 years.  Too many don't have health insurance, or if they do, they can't afford the deductibles.  Large companies are generally not expanding here, and many are moving operations overseas.  Employees are scared.  Small companies are where new jobs are being created today, but many of those have modest or even no benefits.

Too many of our new jobs that we use to pump up our high employment figures are low-paying positions.  Part-time or contract workers are popular because they allow companies to skirt offering benefits, among other things.  Workers feel estranged from their bosses, and bosses can't empathize with their workers.  Distrust and hostility is the norm.  This income inequality/attitude now permeates how our country operates from top to bottom, and it's unhealthy.

I'm not looking for some sort of instant Robin Hood "rob from the rich/give to the poor" income redistribution scheme, for that, too, would cause resentment.  But our rigged tax laws and subsidies and sweetheart breaks for the rich need to be reversed.  We all need to be on a level playing field, where everyone feels like they're getting a fair shake.  

All I'm hearing from our leaders is promises.  The "haves" are trying to get even more for themselves by taking away what little the working class has left.  This is not good.  We should look to Herb Kelleher as an example of how we can ALL thrive if we pull in the same direction.

S


Monday, March 13, 2017

Healthcare in America....where are we headed?


Yesterday a friend of mine, who is in the healthcare field, asked on her Facebook page what should be done regarding the "repeal / replace" controversy now raging.  She and her other healthcare professional friends agreed some form of coverage for everyone is absolutely necessary, while her more "conservative" friends said "no way". 

First, a personal disclaimer.  I'm covered by Medicare, which has worked great for me, and my wife, who is now once again a full-time college student, has a group plan offered through her university.  And after her college days, as a last resort, she is a disabled veteran and has VA care available to her.  In short, I have nothing personally to gain or lose in this debate.

The argument I heard from the conservative "Tea Party-types" was that they resented being told they MUST buy insurance, and would be perfectly happy if it would just go back like it was pre-ACA / Obamacare.  My strong suspicion is that they have secure (for now) jobs and enjoy employer-provided insurance, or are older and are covered by Medicare.  Both see ACA as just a giant wealth transfer from them, the relatively affluent, to the poor.  There's no upside to them if there is a replacement plan.  They would prefer repeal, period.

Those in the healthcare field almost universally say they see the desperation every day on the faces of people who can't afford insurance or the ER medical care they've been billed for and are absolutely begging for their charges to be forgiven by the hospitals and doctors.

My observation is this:  The Tea Party-types know in general terms that poor people can't afford healthcare for themselves or their families, but they don't actually know any of them.  They just can't relate.  I can.  During my 40+ year career in homebuilding I saw on a daily basis plumbers, electricians, painters, roofers, etc who I'm certain didn't have health insurance.  

They may work 40 hours one week, and just 30 the next.  If the economy tanks, they may have no work for weeks at a time.  They're always on the brink of desperation.  They work hard....they certainly aren't slackers. They don't get a yearly two-week paid vacation, or have a 401K, or health insurance.  That's just the nature of the construction industry.  Are we just gonna kick people like them to the curb?

In the old days you worked 40 years for your company and retired with a gold watch.  Today if you have seniority, which probably came with yearly pay raises for decades, you're now at the TOP of the pink-slip list.  You're good as gone, to be replaced by a 25-year-old with a MBA who will work for 40% less than you're making.  And if you're 58 and find yourself with more and more ailments, and you're suddenly unemployed, how are you going to afford health insurance?  Who wants to insure you?

I know plenty of people who are / have been in that very position.  A secure job today is no guarantee of a secure job tomorrowRemember that!

"Oh", the Tea Party-types say, "they won't be able to deny you because of a pre-existing condition."  Isn't this a classic example of having your cake and eating it too?  They abhor the ACA, yet want to cherry pick the parts they want to keep....without paying for it.   Sorry, but life doesn't work like that.  "You'll still get a [smaller] subsidy" they say.  Again, they're UNEMPLOYED!  They have no income!  A [smaller] subsidy is worthless to them....it's like being promised a BIG piece of NO pie.

I laugh incredulously when they say they'll expand Health Savings Accounts that people can use to pay for their health insurance and deductibles. They just don't get it!  Lower income people don't have the luxury of putting a few hundred dollars a month into a HSA.  They're living hand-to-mouth as it is.  It's like Marie Antoinette telling her hungry French subjects "Let them eat cake."

The Tea Party-types ask how fair is it for them to pay into an insurance scheme that benefits someone else?  So let me ask, why should residents in West Texas pay higher homeowner insurance rates to make up for their fellow-Texans who have suffered hurricane damage on the Gulf Coast?  Why should I pay for an interstate highway in Ohio when I've never even been to Ohio?  Why should I pay school taxes now that my youngest daughter is 35 years old?  Because it's for the public good, that's why. 

If we average the cost of healthcare across all age groups around the country, the young will indeed pay more now than they could have before the ACA, but they'll make it up later in life when they'll need healthcare and get a sweet price break.  That's how a "risk pool" (insurance) works, and there's nothing more free-market than insurance.  

Yes, I hear those who point out that insurance is optional, but not buying in means no benefits.  Are they going to be the gatekeeper at the hospital door that turns away the hysterical mother with no insurance cradling her deathly ill child?  And if the mandate stays that requires hospitals to care for anyone who walks in, whether they can pay or not, how much longer will it be before marginally funded hospitals start closing? 

I don't know how this will ultimately play out, but times have changed, and we must change, too.  We need to find a way to provide healthcare for all our citizens.  They can't give healthcare away, I understand, but anointing some to enjoy the American "good life" while condemning others to always being on the outside looking in is not what America should be about.  America should not have a caste system.

Not everyone can have an enviable IQ, be well educated, have a secure, high-paying job with benefits, and just skip merrily through life.  If they could, who would be left to change our oil, or build our houses, or maintain our sewer systems?  *any volunteers?* 

It won't be easy, and it won't be cheap, but we will be a stronger, more internationally competitive country if we're healthy and working smart.  We MUST find a way to care for our own. 

S


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Jax is back!


My buddy Jax, my 4-year-old rescue "Schnoodle" (schnauzer/poodle mix) has been under the weather.  He had diarrhea a few days ago, then got better, but overnight got worse again.  We tried the bland boiled-chicken-and-white-rice diet, but it didn't do the trick.  Fearing it might get more serious before the vet opens on Monday morning, I took him to the 24-hour emergency animal hospital for an exam.  

Here's what I learned:  His diet is much too rich.  I told the vet that we gave him a supposedly high quality food, Blue Buffalo brand, and he just shook his head.  He said that the ingredients in Blue Buffalo are good quality, but that it is waaaaay too high in fat, which can lead to pancreatitis and maybe even canine diabetes later.  He said virtually all brands of wet food and most dry foods are too fat heavy.  I asked why then did all the manufacturers make food they know isn't good for their customers?  He said it's simply because it sells.

The vet said that dogs have a pretty bad sense of taste, but a very strong sense of smell, and dogs love the smell of fat in their food and just lap it up.  We owners think our dogs like the taste of it and keep buying it, not realizing what it's doing to them.  

He said it's similar to how we humans love a good marbled steak.  We have enough sense to understand that a regular diet of heavily marbled meat isn't good for us, so we eat it in moderation.  Dogs will just keep eating it as long as we put it in front of them, and that's what they're doing when we give them fatty dog food.  They might not look fat, and still be very active, but that fat is silently doing a number on their pancreas.  Fortunately, at Jax's young age, the vet said his pancreas can recover with a new, lower fat diet.

The ER vet gave him some shots and some pills and said I did right by bringing him in early. He sent us home with a few cans of Purina Canine EN Low Fat food, and said either that or Hills ID Low Fat, both prescription foods available from vets, are his recommended wet food.  He strongly advised that we switch Jax over to Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Formula (dry), which is low fat, readily available, and reasonably priced. He cautioned that that particular Purina formula is low fat, but that most other Purina formulas are just like everyone else's....too rich and fatty.  Be advised.

Just because your dog(s) like what you're feeding them doesn't mean it's necessarily good for them.  Suggest you have a talk with your vet and see what he/she says about it.

Jax is back home now and is sleeping off his meds.  He should be his old normal self again soon.  :)

S


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Let's put some lipstick on this pig....


For years now we've heard about how our enemies were eating the USA alive via cyber-warfare.  They (N Korea, China, Iran, Russia, Russia, Russia) have been relentless in getting into every nook and cranny where we might hide our intellectual jewels.  They long ago mastered corporate espionage, stealing plans for everything we design and make.  And now they've hacked into our CIA, revealing our most sensitive national security secrets.  They say the most recent WikiLeaks information dump dwarfs anything Edward Snowden ever thought about handing over to the bad guys.

Throughout all this I've wondered, "So what are WE doing to THEM?  Surely we're not gonna just sit still while they bend us over?  Please tell me our nerds are better than their nerds."

Our nerds are better than their nerds.  

Our nerds long ago figured out how to hack into every TV, tablet, cell phone, hearing aid, picture frame, Viagra bottle, and toaster in the world.  Our spooks can listen in on every two-bit terrorist in the sandbox as he whispers sweet nothings into his camel's ear.  The night shift at CIA HQ probably makes prank phone calls to the Kremlin and makes it look like it's coming from Kim Jong Fatty Fat Fat's little pink princess phone on his nightstand.  Yes, we're THAT good!

Now the bad guys have figured out how to get into our secret stuff.  Scary, but at least I now know we have nerds that can go toe-to-toe with anyone, anywhere, anytime.   Game on!  More lipstick?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Republican's new health care plan, whatever they care to call it, has already crashed and burned.  They're just putting on a show to make it look like they're at least trying.  Besides Speaker Ryan and Donnie John Trump, virtually no one else wants to be seen anywhere near it.

The Tea Party says it doesn't cut deep enough, that there are still too many poor swine getting gubment freebees.  The Liberals say they aren't about to turn poor people away from getting life-saving healthcare they otherwise can't afford.  Libertarians say "no" to any further "entitlements".  The American  Medical Association and various hospital groups are against it because they say poor people will lose their insurance and will all show up in emergency rooms again demanding to be seen for free.  The Old Folks...er...AARP says its members can't afford premiums 5-times as expensive as the younguns, on and on.

The only ones who like it are the US Chamber of Commerce, because their members will save a buttload, and those making over $200,000 a year who will save an even bigger buttload.

Even lipstick isn't going to sell this wagon load of shit manure.

D....O....A

S