Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Beer Diplomacy"

Ok, the absurdity of the whole Gates affair (Gatesgate?) has finally reached critical mass.


What we have is a police officer doing his job.  Unfortunately his job brought him to a race baiting Harvard professor who was, apparently, more than willing to turn a simple house call into a racial issue.  Too bad for him he tried to make a racial issue with a good cop.

Would the cop have acted the same way if it was a white guy in the house?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  “Sir, we received a call about a break in, can I see some ID to confirm you live here?”  Would he have asked a white guy that?  Probably.  If the white guy started berating the cop and making a scene, would he have been arrested?  Damn sure of it.  In fact, I can probably confirm that in just about 5 minutes.


Would Gates have acted the same way if it was a black cop at the house?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  My hunch is that it’s not only “maybe not”, but “probably not”, or even “almost certainly not”.  Too bad for him he tried to demonize a good cop.  Too bad for him that the more information that comes out of this thing, the stupider and stupider he looks.


And if the President had simply stopped with “I don’t have all the information in the case” and not gone on to make a value judgment about something he knew nothing about—an incorrect value judgment, at that—then we might still be talking about health care and not his (yet another radical and) racist friend.


So, we have this quote from an article from Gates’ attorney, Charles Ogletree:

Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, an attorney for Gates, said late Wednesday: "This will be an important opportunity for the moment to settle their dispute, but also create a springboard for a larger discussion about how law enforcement interacts with minority communities and how we can figure out a way to both enforce the law but also protect civil liberties and civil rights of our citizens."

Settle their dispute?  What dispute?  That if you impede an officer from doing his job you’re going to get arrested?  That if you dare be white and get all uppity to a high class negro, you’re going to be (wrongly) accused of being racist and the race-baiting powers that be will do everything they can to smear your reputation?  Protect civil liberties?  PROTECT CIVIL LIBERTIES?!?  This officer was doing his job, and for that Gates and those of his ilk have attempted to demonize the man, until they found out he was “one of the good ones”.  What about the cop’s civil liberties?   What about MY civil liberties?

Monday, July 20, 2009

The problem isn't healthcare

You see, the problem we’re facing isn’t health care.  It’s the lack of ability to pay for healthcare that’s the problem.  Most people pay for health care through their insurance.  Most people’s insurance is provided through their employer.

That’s fine and good, assuming you have a job.  Most people don’t have any problem getting in to see a doctor.  You call, make your appointment, arrive a little early, pay your insurance co-pay, and you’re in.  Done and done.  It’s not like you have to wait 3 months to get a physical or anything like that.  Access is not the issue.


If we take a couple of steps back, though, and look at that little transaction of “seeing your doctor”, more can be revealed.


On that little trip to the doctor, we pay between $25 and let’s say $100 for the co-pay.  The remainder of the bill—the other $25 - $100—is covered by the insurance company.  That’s what “co-pay” means.  And, of course, we pay our monthly premium either directly out of our paycheck or checking account to the insurance company each month.  Also all well and good if you have a job.


We pay our $400 per month in insurance ($100 from the paycheck, $300 from the company, or some other relatively equitable split where the employer presumably picks up the lion’s share of the tab) and make our co-pays to the doctor for the minor tune-ups and check-ups that stave off the serious problems on the assumption that the $400 per month is providing some insurance that when there is a catastrophic injury—such as a broken bone, heart attack, stroke, cancer, or other bone-chillingly frightening medical nightmare—payment for medical treatment will be available.  The treatment will be available, mind you, the thing that worries us is that the payment for the treatment will be available.


The insurance company’s logic, of course, is that there are enough well people paying premiums without requisite catastrophic medical treatment for a long enough time that the cost for the relatively few major medical treatments will be more than covered as they come up.


The flip side to that, however, is that an insurance company can avoid paying for catastrophic medical payment, and thus conserve its income and cash for profit generation and dividends to shareholders, simply by denying a claim, dropping an individual from coverage, or approving a procedure just a few days too late for the dead patient to actually receive any benefit.


The problem isn’t access to health care, the problem is access to payment for that health care.  If we spend $400 per month (or more) to insure that payment will be available (even if the payment for care is more than our premiums), then that payment damn sure ought to be there  Unfortunately, if the choice is between profit and corporate performance, and fulfilling its part of the insurance contract, well, the insurance company is going to make damn sure that the contract is written in such a way as to guarantee the company a way out of that obligation.  “Oh, Mr. Cancer Patient, I see on your form you didn’t put your title as “Mr.”, you put “Mr” without the period.  Because you didn’t fill out your forms properly you are in breach of your contract and we’re going to have to drop you.  However, because we’re nice we won’t bill you for all your previous insurance claims against your policy, but we also won’t be refunding your premiums, either.  Sure, it sucks to be you, but at least we’re not you.”  Thanks, insurance company!!


I don’t know if the “government option” is the solution to the thing.  There’s a fundamental flaw in a system that requires you to either be rich or poor to get the medical care you need, but if you have means to take care of yourself, you’re going to have to burn through every penny in order to get the care you need.  Medical care should not equal bankruptcy.  Let’s say you have a job.  Through that job you have insurance.  Then you get cancer and you have to take an extended leave to be treated and simply cannot work so, you lose your job.  You’ve also lost that coverage.  (Yes, COBRA is available, but only if you can pay for it.)  Now, you’re unemployed, uninsured, and have cancer to boot.  The good news is that in a few months you’re going to be indigent and able to get financial assistance for that medical problem.  The bad news is that in a few months you’re going to be indigent—and possibly divorced, and maybe even dead.


It shouldn’t have to come to that.


A person’s greatest fear is to pile up some cash for retirement, then have a catastrophic injury come along and wipe out not only the savings for today, but the means for today and the savings for tomorrow.  A broken leg shouldn’t cause you to be destitute.  The fact that it happens is a tragedy by itself.  The fact that it happens here in the US, where we can afford to buy aircraft carriers and moon rockets is a horrific tragedy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What fun!

I got to watch Barney Frank lie his ass off in front of Jon Stewart last night.  That was about as uncomfortable as I’ve seen Stewart get in awhile.  He’s got himself one of the “good guys” right there in front of him, lying his ass off, and Jon is just squirming around and giggling because he has the contradictory quotes right there in his hands.

If it was Jim Cramer, he’d have skewered him.

If it was anyone else…


But Jon let it go.  He just let it go…  it’s sad, really.  It would have been entertaining, too.  Well, it could have been entertaining.  Oh well.  There’s always hope that one of the evil ones will come on.  Well…  one of the OTHER evil ones.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Credit where credit is due

Nancy Pelosi actually did something that wasn’t despicable and was, in fact, quite commendable.

She told Shelia Jackson Lee to shut her fat mouth about a resolution honoring Michael Jackson.


Clap.  Clap.  Clap.


Now balance the budget.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

My ABS!!

Damnit, my abs are aching today.

I put in something near a mile and a half yesterday and my legs feel fine, but my abs are aching.  Ugh.


My plans for January are just about set.  Just need to finalize things.

Maybe I’ll hold a press conference.  Maybe every time I make a decision on anything I’ll call a press conference.  If stupid high schoolers can do it when they’re announcing what college they’re going to go to—big whoop—maybe I should do it when I’m deciding whether or not to run a marathon.


The press would be all “who’s this guy?”  That’d be cool.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Texas Independence Relay

It’s looking unlikely that I’ll be able to do the marathon.  There’s this space-time continuum thing that I’m having trouble rearranging for my personal purposes.

However, in March there’s a bigger event called the Texas Independence Relay.  It starts in Gonzales and ends at the San Jacinto Monument, near LaPorte.  It’s a relay, so you don’t have to run all 203.2 miles all on your own (but you could, if you’re a real man, it’d only be a 30 hour run at 9:00 per mile).

If you have an 8 man team (person?), then averaging 9:00 per mile puts you at about 40 minutes of running, then 5 hours of resting, then 40 minutes of running, 5 hours of resting, for a total of 5 iterations.  The total distance covered (5 legs, plus the pro- and epi- logues) is a little under 27 miles.

In 5 mile chunks.

Every 5 hours.


That’s not so bad.

Alternatively, you could double up the first 2 assignments and run approximately 10 miles—90 minutes—then rest for almost 10 hours, then run another 10, then rest another 10, then the last leg is only half that distance and you’re home.  That’s not so bad, either.


That said, I’ve never run 10 miles twice in the same 24 hour period (except for the marathon), nor have I run 5 miles 5 times in the same day (again, except for the marathon).  I would guess that there is a different dynamic when you’re napping in the back of a van between runs than when you’re smushing them all together at once, though.


I think I’ve just about talked myself into doing this thing.  Maybe I’ll go nuts and RIDE the route.  A double century would be a nice little trophy to put in my “badass” cabinet next to the MS150 medallions, marathon memories, and statistics trophy.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Marathon decision

The decision on the marathon is likely to be a “no”.  Logistically it’s very, very unlikely I’ll be able to even be in Houston at the time of the starting gun.  Although, if I’m to be completely honest, I must admit that I wasn’t exactly in the starting gates in 2006 when the gun went off, either.

Nonetheless, I’m looking at another, bigger race.  The Texas Independence Relay in March goes 203 miles across the State of Texas from Gonzales (where the first shots of the Texas Revolution took place) to LaPorte (near where the last shots took place).  It’s an event that caught my attention when it started a couple of years ago, but at this point I’m finally in a position where I can actually take part.  I’m thinking this might be doable.


Meanwhile, the summer heat is brutalizing the garden.  Expansion plans are on hold until I can muster up the will to get out there in the broiling sun.  This past weekend we cleared a couple of sections of the garden in preparation for the late summer/early fall plantings.  We’re going to have a LOT of beans over the fall.  Should be able to fill the larder to the brim, if everything goes well.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Running update!!

Ok, I’ve been running lately.  Something about the oppressive heat and stinging wind and drenching sweat really brings out the masochist in me, I suppose.

Anyway, there is a 1 mile circuit around my neighborhood that I’ve been running without the aid of technological doo-dads.  I have no idea what pace I’m keeping, but I am managing to do it non-stop, which is no small victory considering it’s been several years since I’ve run any significant amount.

The recent small victories have inspired me to attempt to scale a larger victory and take a long run this weekend.  I’ve got my eye on a 2.5 to 3 miler on Sunday morning (not sure of the exact distance).  If I get up early enough I’ll tackle it.  If I don’t, I may have to wait until later in the day.  Time will tell.


As for the marathon in January, logistics are working against me on that one.  I’m almost certainly not going to be able to manage the space-time trick of being somewhere 3 hours before I get there.  Even with a chip.


However, Austin’s marathon is February 14.

There is a beach to bay RELAY marathon in May 2010.

On January 9 the World’s Longest Causeway 10k run will be held, but I think I’m in South America for that one.

The Dallas Marathon is in December 2009.

And finally the San Antonio Marathon is in November 2009.


Maybe I can train up for the Dallas marathon…  or maybe Austin.  But Austin is hilly.  Yuck.


I don’t know.  Maybe a better plan is to just run now and decide what, if any, stupid human trick I’ll bother to do later.

Hey, isn’t there a Run the Woodlands next week?


Oh, yea, we cut off military cooperation with Honduras today, too.  ‘Cause, you know, it’s better to have a president who is trying to rewrite the constitution with a rigged election than a congress and supreme court that’s actually trying to protect the country from being remade in Venezuela’s and Cuba’s image.  Bravo.  Bra.  Vo.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Stuff I've liked

First, I know it’s hot.  But I still got on the bike for a little leisurely ride yesterday evening and I’m still hoping some kind of significant rain will come.  We got a little sprinkle the other day, but it wasn’t enough to make the dirt wet below the very tippy top of the soil.  Oh well, those are the perils of summer gardening.

This weekend I’m going to stake out the area for my corn patch.  I’m very VERY excited about getting corn next spring and summer.  Yum.


There’s been a lot going on the last month or so that I haven’t liked.  The lukewarm response to the protests in Iran, the limp wristed handling of North Korea, the refusal to stand by the Honduran congress taking a stand against a would-be dictator for life, the carbon tax and tax bill, the …  oh, it goes on and on.  But there have been some relatively recent developments that I liked.  Some that I liked a lot.


First, though, on the topic of Iran, it looks like the “revolution” might peter out.  No, there’s not a lot we can do other than to say that we are watching events unfold with interest and are hopeful that the Iranian people, when all is said and done, will choose for themselves a government that is more engaged with the world, including the US.  Were a movement to emerge that would seek such engagement, we would eagerly support it.

Unfortunately, the “opposition” doesn’t seem to be interested in that kind of engagement.  Mousavi is not a revolutionary, but a reformer.  He doesn’t want to take down the system, but work within the system.  THAT, more than anything, is why I believe this “revolution” will peter out.  Not because the people don’t want change, but the people’s leaders do not want change.  And, despite the platforms and party slogans, our own administration does not want change, but rather stability at all costs.  The same policies, by the way, that put us in the position of supporting despots and tyrants for so many years just so long they supported us right back.  Remember all the criticism about Saddam Hussein being our “friend” for so long, only find the end of his career at the loop of a noose?  But when the previous administration turned his back on these despots and, instead, supported freedom initiatives it was criticized as short sighted because, apparently, brown people don’t deserve democracy.  Sometimes positive change means short term chaos while supporting stability at all costs means supporting dictators and tyrants and kicking the inevitable revolution down the road.


Now on to the stuff I like.

The Kang Nam was shadowed by a US destroyer after it left its North Korean harbor because it is suspected of carrying illegal arms.  A couple of days ago it turned back and is heading either home or to another port near home.  That’s a big win.

We tested our own ICBM off the coast of California.  That’s also a big win.  I don’t have a problem showing North Korea that we know how it’s done.  Sure, they’re more bark than bite, and they can’t do all the stuff they think or say they can, but it only takes 1 lucky hit to make a point.  Nonetheless, with the missile radar and various defensive measures in place, I’m liking what I’m seeing.

The tougher rhetoric with regards to Iran is also good to hear.  Sure, it’s just talk.  Sure, there is no “revolution” going on, for now.  But if the regime keeps pushing the “reformer” may become a “revolutionary” and we need to be in a position to support…  if we want to even bother.  Hopefully, we want to bother.


I’m still a skeptic, and I disagree philosophically with the President, but I’m a hopeful skeptic.