Monday, July 30, 2007

Paul Krugman: An Immoral Philosophy

From today's New York Times.

When a child is enrolled in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example, after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of their attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likelihood of being hospitalized for the condition declines more than 70 percent.

Regular care, in other words, makes a big difference. That’s why Congressional Democrats, with support from many Republicans, are trying to expand Schip, which already provides essential medical care to millions of children, to cover millions of additional children who would otherwise lack health insurance.

But President Bush says that access to care is no problem — “After all, you just go to an emergency room” — and, with the support of the Republican Congressional leadership, he’s declared that he’ll veto any Schip expansion on “philosophical” grounds.

It must be about philosophy, because it surely isn’t about cost. One of the plans Mr. Bush opposes, the one approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate Finance Committee, would cost less over the next five years than we’ll spend in Iraq in the next four months. And it would be fully paid for by an increase in tobacco taxes.

The House plan, which would cover more children, is more expensive, but it offsets Schip costs by reducing subsidies to Medicare Advantage — a privatization scheme that pays insurance companies to provide coverage, and costs taxpayers 12 percent more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare. [See here on Medicare Advantage.]

Strange to say, however, the administration, although determined to prevent any expansion of children’s health care, is also dead set against any cut in Medicare Advantage payments.

So what kind of philosophy says that it’s O.K. to subsidize insurance companies, but not to provide health care to children?

Well, here’s what Mr. Bush said after explaining that emergency rooms provide all the health care you need: “They’re going to increase the number of folks eligible through Schip; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a — I wouldn’t call it a plot, just a strategy — to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care.”

Now, why should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children would lead to a further “federalization” of health care, even though nothing like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan? It’s not because he thinks the plans wouldn’t work. It’s because he’s afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can’t do the same for adults.

And there you have the core of Mr. Bush’s philosophy. He wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it’s hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed. . . .

There are arguments you can make against programs, like Social Security, that provide a safety net for adults. I can respect those arguments, even though I disagree. But denying basic health care to children whose parents lack the means to pay for it, simply because you’re afraid that success in insuring children might put big government in a good light, is just morally wrong. . . .

Sunday, July 29, 2007


We do NOT have the most advanced health care system here in the U.S. See the movie "Sicko" or the many articles I have referenced here. The U.S. is rated 37th in health care in the entire world, which is pretty sad, considering. We could be the best if we tried.

Late Late Saturday Night

Good comments here on the item linked to below in which a writer was putting the word science in quotation marks. I think it's telling that this guy graduated from Harvard during the Bush administration (2002). The way the Bush administration has gone about undermining science for political purposes has apparently exerted an effect in the highest echelons of our educational system.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday Afternoon

Made some great Beef Gumbo last night. I'd never made it with beef before. I think it's even better than the chicken or seafood. I started off with 3+ lbs. of stew beef. (Didn't bother to try to brown it in oil or fat.) Simmered that till tender (2+ hours) in one large can of tomato juice, a can of double-rich bouillon, and some water to cover, along with 1/2 chopped large red onion, 1 chopped stalk celery, salt and pepper, and a bay leaf. Removed the meat and boiled the liquid down a bit, adding another 1/2 chopped onion, a chopped bell pepper and a package of Andouille sausage, sliced up. When the vegs were done (and the sausage cooked), added 1/2 cup of rice, a large can of crushed tomatoes, a bag of frozen gumbo soup mix, a half bag of frozen okra (there was no fresh okra to be had), a small can of corn (drained), the meat, a lot of Louisiana hot sauce, two tablespoons of basil, and a little more salt. Cooked up perfect in about 20 minutes. (No, I do not use a roux. This doesn't need thickening.) After it sat overnight in the refrigerator, we heated some up for lunch. B. loved it. This has got to be a pretty healthy meal, notwithstanding the sausage--the stew beef is very lean, and it's loaded with vegetables.

"Progressive" vs. "Liberal"

From Steve Benen at Talking Points Memo:

In every national poll in recent memory, "liberal" always polls below "moderate" and "conservative." It's reinforced the notion that center-right politics have been in ascendance for quite some time.

But Rasmussen Reports had an interesting survey this week, which showed that when "liberal" is replaced with "progressive," the broader dynamic changes significantly. According to the poll, 35% consider "progressive" a positive description of a candidate, whereas 32% consider "conservative" a positive label. In other words, the left's label is now more popular than the right's. . . .

Read the rest here. Bill O'Reilly is already going after the "secular progressives," as he calls them. A while back, I made some remarks here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Are Friends And Family Making You Fat?"

CBS photo

Saw this story on CBS news tonight.

Here's some food for thought: If you're watching your weight, you may not be getting by with a little help from your friends. Dr. Jon LaPook has more on a study released Wednesday that says when someone packs on the pounds, his or her close friends and relatives often do the same. . . .

Tammy Faye R.I.P.

I lived in Montana for two years in the 1970s, since my lover was there. (Long story.) I lived in in the capital city of Helena, situated on the skirts of the Rocky Mountains near the Continental Divide, and ended up getting a nice job working in the State Capitol in the public information department of the state education agency--writing, reporting, copyediting, doing photography, layout, sketches, graphic design, etc.

It was beautiful in all respects. The winters were pretty cold, but I was already used to cold weather (for a Floridian), having lived a year in Germany and two years in Virginia. The first time I ever saw snow was on a bus in Germany, on a field trip from the Goethe Institute language school in Ebersberg (outside Munich) to visit Nuremberg. It was Albrecht Duerer's 500th anniversary, as I recall, and there was a huge amount of his work on display in his home town, which I found fascinating.

Anyway, I'm kind of a night owl and there wasn't a lot to watch on TV in Helena late at night. No movies or anything. So I watched the PTL Club, with Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye. I can't say I loved the program but I watched it since it was the most entertaining program on TV at that time of night. I always thought Tammy Faye was a trip. Honestly, she made it worth watching. That was before the "family values" theme/meme and all the Christian evangelicals made gays their number one enemy. The show was rather innocent (by today's standards) and Tammy Faye, outrageous as she was with all her makeup and her tearing up which made her makeup run, came across as a genuinely caring person. I never heard her say anything along the lines of "love the sinner, hate the sin," the polite way of saying "God hates fags."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Downtown Miami

This is one of the many new buildings going up in the heart of downtown. I think it'll look great when it's finished. (Note: The columns are "crooked".)

Heliconia, anthuriums, etc.

Healthcare Outrage

I just forked over a $50 insurance copay for 32 mcg of Rhinocort Aqua nose spray (120 metered sprays)! (It's made by AstraZeneca of Wilmington, Delaware.) I was at the doctor's today and he thought he had a free sample to give me, but he'd run out. I had a sinus infection a while back and my sinuses were starting to hurt again. I'm supposedly one of the lucky ones who has health insurance through his employer. What's the point if I still have to pay $50 for a tablespoon of nose spray?!

I asked the doctor whether he'd seen "Sicko" yet and he said he hadn't. He said he was afraid it would make him angry. He thinks healthcare should be taken away from the insurance companies. He should know. He said that since he began practicing medicine, the insurance companies have become greedier and greedier. He said that vis-a-vis his own practice, the insurance companies now (as opposed to then) acknowledge certain treatments as being medically necessary but nonetheless refuse to cover them. (Yes, the movie will make him angry.)

Friday, July 20, 2007


"That 'Hairspray' is good-hearted is no surprise. The surprise may be that this 'Hairspray,' stuffed with shiny showstoppers, is actually good." NYT review here. (Photo by David James/New Line Cinema)

Thursday Night

A contented cat.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Now that downtown Miami is becoming so built up, I can make it out from here. It's about 10 miles south of where we live. See highlighted box above (top) and below (center). It looks like a mini-Manhattan (or the Emerald City) looming in the distance. It's a bad shot, I know. I would zoom in on it but my old digital camera lacks a good zoom feature.

Tuesday Night

Tomorrow I have to go back to the dentist. I was there just 2 weeks ago. I'm taking 2 valiums this time (vs. one) for this procedure (the prescription having been prescribed by my doctor, who also medicates himself before he goes to the dentist).

Had a productive night tonight. No nap. Went to Home Depot and then Walgreens to pick up B's prescriptions. Did some needed touching up with appliance paint. This is boring, I know. Will go to sleep soon.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Presidential Candidates' Stands on Health Care

Via The Left Coaster, I found this article by Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., Jessica B. Rubin, Michelle E. Treseler, Jefferson Lin, and David Mattos: "U.S. Presidential Candidates' Prescriptions for a Healthier Future: A Side-by-Side Comparison." (Huffington Post, 9 July 2007.)

"The Medicare Privatization Scam"

Article by Trudy Lieberman in the July 16/23 issue of The Nation. (You might wish to subscribe.) This is something about which to contact your representatives in Washington.

[A]fter 2003 the government began shoveling huge sums of money into the Medicare Advantage plans [created under the Medicare "Part D" drug benefit] to entice seniors to leave the traditional program--in effect subsidizing privatization even more and bringing right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation closer to their objective of ending Medicare as social insurance. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make seniors bear future costs, sparing their benefactors the need to pay more taxes to keep Medicare afloat. This year the government will pay insurers on average 12 percent more than it costs to provide the same benefits to people who stay in the traditional program, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission . . ., an independent group that advises Congress. HMOs will get 10 percent more, but private fee-for-service plans will get a whopping 19 percent more, a subsidy that lets them offer rock-bottom premiums and lots of extras--at least for now. . . .

A report issued earlier this year by California Health Advocates and the Medicare Rights Center found that [health insurance] agents had misled beneficiaries about private fee-for-service plans. Although agents told them they could go to any doctor, many have had trouble finding doctors who would accept their coverage. In June seven insurance companies said they would suspend the marketing of private fee-for-service plans until they can prove to Medicare officials that agents understand the policies and their sales materials are accurate, a voluntary move unlikely to hurt the bottom line. Humana released a statement saying the suspension would affect 2007 earnings by no more than 2 cents a share. The move, of course, is a ploy to deflect attention from the real issue of overpayments. Pete Stark, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee's health subcommittee, said the move "will do virtually nothing to protect Medicare beneficiaries and is a pathetic attempt to pre-empt Congressional action."

The story of Humana is emblematic of a major transition in healthcare, to a more privatized system in which insurance companies can discard policyholders when they are no longer profitable. This raises the question: If the private market doesn't provide long-term, effective and efficient care, why does the government have $50 billion to subsidize companies while claiming not to have the same $50 billion to pay for care directly?

What a mess.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Cat In The Box

This is now Lucy's favorite place. The dominant (and fixed) male Bootsy "owns" the box and chases Lucy from it if finds her in it. Then he proceeds to mark it with his saliva. (Thank God he does't pee on it.)

More on "Sicko"

[SPOILER ALERT] Christopher Hayes, in a review of "Sicko" in the July 16/23 issue of The Nation, writes:

Sicko is far, far less partisan than Fahrenheit, but much more ideological. And as such, it is more consistent in what it offers--with one major caveat. The film's final half-hour, in which Moore takes 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba, serves only to reinforce the decades-old slander that equates social democracy with repressive socialism. It's a major miscalculation and nearly squanders the first hour and a half of the film in which Moore so deftly guts arguments that socialized medicine represents the vanguard of Marxism. . . .

I said I wasn't going to give the movie away, but I must say this. The point Moore was making is that the reviled "enemy combatants" imprisoned at the U.S. base in Guantanamo--including people who presumably had a hand in orchestrating the 9/11 attacks--get better (and of course, free) healthcare than the Americans who got sick working at "Ground Zero" following 9/11.

People are shown testifying before the U.S. Congress (I assume) as to how excellent the prisoners' medical treatment is. Moore and his group of sick 9/11 workers et al. go to Cuba to get some of this great, free treatment at Guantanamo and are turned away, of course. But as long as they're in the vicinity, they go to Cuba proper and get the (free) medical treatment they need.

Moore's point: Is it not ironic that the nasty terrorists at Guantanamo receive the best healthcare America has to offer, something denied to sick American patriots? What does it say about our healthcare system that the U.S. government gives better treatment to suspected terrorists than it allows for its own citizens?

The U.S. government puts the healthcare of its own citizens in the hands of profiteers whose sole purpose is to make money by denying people the healthcare they need.

Hayes goes on to write:

But that final section aside, the film functions as a compelling advertisement for an alternative way of ordering society, one in which, as in France, there's vacation, paid sick time, doctors who make house calls and even, amazingly, a state-supplied nanny who will come to your house and do your laundry after you've had a child. Who wouldn't want that? . . .

Friday, July 13, 2007

Message to Andrew Sullivan

I wrote this last night:

You might be interested in this [an article on Huffington Post which I cannot locate at the moment but which is excerpted below]. Please see attached excerpt from fact checkers at CNN. This contradicts what you wrote to me on 6/6 (and apparently believe):

yes, the govt helped some basic research. but the drug companies came up with all the drugs. and no country with socialized medicine discovered a single one.


Saw "Sicko" Tonight

I'm not going to give away any of it since I think too much has been given away already.

I rate the movie 5 stars out of 5. It was hilarious and also brought tears to my eyes. Michael Moore is brilliant. His irony cuts to the bone.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Healthcare and the Dry Drunk President

I thought this was excellent, from Digby at Hullabaloo.

I have no doubt that this lazy, privileged moron truly believes that his good health proves that you only get sick if you aren't a "disciplined" person like he is. (Never mind the fact that the man is an alcoholic who has substituted exercise addiction for booze.) Like most rich Republicans, his consciousness would only be raised if he or someone he loves got sick, at which point he would be the first to point fingers. They just don't have the empathy gene --- unless they personally know someone who's gotten sick from melamine poisoning or mad cow or tainted prescriptions drugs or e. coli, it just doesn't matter. (See: Nancy Reagan, stem cell research.) Geez, they don't even care about wounded soldiers . . . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Big Love"

What a great episode tonight. It took me a while to warm up to this series, to get over the "ick" factor, if you will. Now I hang on every word and savor every cinematic detail. I love all the characters and all the intrigue. "What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive," indeed. Tonight it got into the selfishness of the male lead (the paterfamilias pluribus, if I may) vis-a-vis plural marriage. He took off his wedding ring to flirt with a recently nationalized waitress from Serbia, while he has three wives at home, plus a bunch of children. I can't wait to see how that's going to play out.

Last night we watched the latest episode of "John from Cincinnati." Much as I try, I don't think I'll ever be able to get into this one. And, in this case, I don't think it's my fault. It doesn't speak to me. I guess I'll watch it, yawning (unless it gets better), till the end, just to find out what it's all about. Who is John from Cincinnati and where is he really from, why is surfer grandpa levitating, what's with the spontaneous healing, what the hell is going on, why should we care? Meanwhile, however, it's boring. The dialog, when it's not crude and vulgar and just a bunch of shouting, is inscrutable. The characters are repugnant. The plot is slow. It's really, really bad. But, as they say in Latin, de gustibus non disputandum. Taste in art is subjective. (I also like some artistic things that many probably consider bad, although I can't think of an example at the moment.)

No doubt this show has some avid fans, but they're probably people I wouldn't want to know, and who probably wouldn't want to know me. I have no special place in my heart for burned-out, drug-addled, wrinkled old surfers and their largely insane kin and acquaintances.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Healthcare Scare Tactics

Compare and contrast. From "Health Care Terror" by NYT's Paul Krugman (previous post):

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.” So declared F.D.R. in 1937, in words that apply perfectly to health care today. This isn’t one of those cases where we face painful tradeoffs — here, doing the right thing is also cost-efficient. Universal health care would save thousands of American lives each year, while actually saving money. . . .

From the NYT piece I linked to on Saturday, "What’s Lacking in ‘Sicko’" by Dan Mitchell:

WHEN it comes to economic decisions, there are always trade-offs. Gain one thing and you lose something else. This is particularly true in health care, a market in which a scarce good is ridiculously expensive, but needed by everybody. . . .

[Color added.]

Paul Krugman on "Sicko," Etc.

July 9, 2007

Op-Ed Columnist

Health Care Terror


These days terrorism is the first refuge of scoundrels. So when British authorities announced that a ring of Muslim doctors working for the National Health Service was behind the recent failed bomb plot, we should have known what was coming.

“National healthcare: Breeding ground for terror?” read the on-screen headline, as the Fox News host Neil Cavuto and the commentator Jerry Bowyer solemnly discussed how universal health care promotes terrorism.

While this was crass even by the standards of Bush-era political discourse, Fox was following in a long tradition. For more than 60 years, the medical-industrial complex and its political allies have used scare tactics to prevent America from following its conscience and making access to health care a right for all its citizens.

I say conscience, because the health care issue is, most of all, about morality.

That’s what we learn from the overwhelming response to Michael Moore’s “Sicko.” Health care reformers should, by all means, address the anxieties of middle-class Americans, their growing and justified fear of finding themselves uninsured or having their insurers deny coverage when they need it most. But reformers shouldn’t focus only on self-interest. They should also appeal to Americans’ sense of decency and humanity.

What outrages people who see “Sicko” is the sheer cruelty and injustice of the American health care system — sick people who can’t pay their hospital bills literally dumped on the sidewalk, a child who dies because an emergency room that isn’t a participant in her mother’s health plan won’t treat her, hard-working Americans driven into humiliating poverty by medical bills.

“Sicko” is a powerful call to action — but don’t count the defenders of the status quo out. History shows that they’re very good at fending off reform by finding new ways to scare us.

These scare tactics have often included over-the-top claims about the dangers of government insurance. “Sicko” plays part of a recording Ronald Reagan once made for the American Medical Association, warning that a proposed program of health insurance for the elderly — the program now known as Medicare — would lead to totalitarianism.

Right now, by the way, Medicare — which did enormous good, without leading to a dictatorship — is being undermined by privatization.

Mainly, though, the big-money interests with a stake in the present system want you to believe that universal health care would lead to a crushing tax burden and lousy medical care.

Now, every wealthy country except the United States already has some form of universal care. Citizens of these countries pay extra taxes as a result — but they make up for that through savings on insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical costs. The overall cost of health care in countries with universal coverage is much lower than it is here.

Meanwhile, every available indicator says that in terms of quality, access to needed care and health outcomes, the U.S. health care system does worse, not better, than other advanced countries — even Britain, which spends only about 40 percent as much per person as we do.

Yes, Canadians wait longer than insured Americans for elective surgery. But over all, the average Canadian’s access to health care is as good as that of the average insured American — and much better than that of uninsured Americans, many of whom never receive needed care at all.

And the French manage to provide arguably the best health care in the world, without significant waiting lists of any kind. There’s a scene in “Sicko” in which expatriate Americans in Paris praise the French system. According to the hard data they’re not romanticizing. It really is that good.

All of which raises the question Mr. Moore asks at the beginning of “Sicko”: who are we?

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.” So declared F.D.R. in 1937, in words that apply perfectly to health care today. This isn’t one of those cases where we face painful tradeoffs — here, doing the right thing is also cost-efficient. Universal health care would save thousands of American lives each year, while actually saving money.

So this is a test. The only things standing in the way of universal health care are the fear-mongering and influence-buying of interest groups. If we can’t overcome those forces here, there’s not much hope for America’s future.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Another Review of "Sicko"

This one seen on Michael Moore's website:

Kahn, for example, heads a group of physicians who tallied Georgia health-care expenditures for 2003 at $37 billion. By eliminating the insurance companies, Kahn says, we'd save $8 billion. "With that we could provide health care for everyone in Georgia, without decreasing what's paid to doctors and hospitals, and we'd still save at least 2 percent of that $37 billion," he says. "Everybody is covered and costs go down." U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has proposed a similar national plan.

Kahn also notes that criticisms of long waits for care in Canada and Europe are "just plain hokum. There are queues, but they're managed and managed well, based on critical needs. Everyone gets prompt and effective primary care. And the relationships are healthy; they're not based solely on the money and they remove the fear from the system." . . .

Daily Kos Critiques "Sicko"

Here, here and here. I didn't read the last one since it had a "Spoiler Alert" and I haven't seen the movie yet. (I'm afraid the second one is something of a spoiler, too.)

Firedoglake Critiques "Sicko"

Here. Via Atrios.

You see, the Canadians didn’t start by asking how we can get everyone insured, or how we could force employers to provide insurance. Instead, they started by asking, “How can we assure quality health care for everyone?” When you start with the right question, you get a very different answer. Moore then drives this distinction home with amusing scenes of him wandering around trying to figure out how his patient friends — who quickly get treated without question by the Canadian system — will be charged, how they will pay, what insurance forms they have to fill out, how they qualify, how they defend against insurance claim denials, and so on. The answer is: They don’t; none of that nonsense exists.

When you start with the right question, “how can we provide health care for everyone without hassle,” the system you get provides you health care for everyone without hassle. The patient needs care; the patient gets care. Questions about how it’s paid for are not something the patient ever deals with, other than participating/ voting in the political process to determine how taxes are raised and allocated for all government services. Because that’s what health care is: an essential public service to which every person (not just citizens) is entitled, just like police and fire protection, and health and safety inspectors, and schools and dozens of other essential public services. . . .

Hullabaloo Critiques "Sicko"

Hullabaloo's Digby and Dennis Hartley saw the movie yesterday and report. Hartley writes:

Does Moore conveniently fail to mention the “minuses” of the Cuban health care system (or the Canadian, British and French systems for that matter)? Sure--but who cares? The “plusses” greatly outweigh the “minuses”, especially when compared to the current health care mess in our own country (at least he’s showing enough sack to step up and give people some alternatives to mull over). Moore makes his point quite succinctly--the need for health care is a basic human need. It should never hinge on economic, political or ideological factors. As one of his astute interviewees observes, it is a right, not a privilege. . . .

Digby writes:

This movie is perhaps the opening salvo in a new movement for guaranteed national health care. I hope so. We don't need to reinvent the wheel. There are a variety of health care systems out there that work better than ours does for less money. All we have to do is be willing to set aside our misplaced pride and admit that this isn't working and we need to do something about it. There are experiments all over the globe with universal care --- we can pick among them and find something that's right for us. Even business is getting ready to jump on board because these costs are starting to kill them too. . . .

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Saturday Afternoon

Lots of talk about "Sicko." From a post--"Health Insurance Companies React to Sicko"--by Mary at The Left Coaster:

Bottom-line for progressives: now is the time to change a system that is deeply compromised by greed and waste, by realizing that insurance companies can't make a profit if they cover sick people, and the fact that our country made a bad choice thinking that an employer-based health care insurance could be an effective replacement for universal health care. Ask your congressmember to sponsor HR 676 (Medicare for all). It can be simple, cheap and effective. Seems like an idea that is waiting to happen.

The post links to a Blue Cross memo posted at Michael Moore's website. Michael Moore's take on the memo here. More on HR 676 here. We plan on seeing "Sicko" soon. It's playing at two places close-by.

The scare tactics begin at the New York Times. The writer worked at the right-wing Heritage Foundation?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Ceiling Fan Is Up!

(For more info, see "Kitchen Ceiling Re-Do" link at right.)

U.S. Telecom Monopolies Gouge Consumers

From Chris in Paris at Americablog.

Every time I talk with someone in the US about their cable TV rates I have to brace myself for some horrendous story about cost, which is always much higher in the US than here in "socialist" France. . . .

[I]n Paris customers can choose from a number of options for able/telecom/internet and mobile options (using free wifi) at costs dramatically lower than what can be found in the US. The current rate is still about 30 euro/month for unlimited internet, 100+ cable channels, video on demand, phone calls to roughly 50 countries in the world and various options for running your mobile phone over your wifi network. Even with the weak dollar we're still talking about $40, though 30 euro in local buying terms is like $30 in US buying terms. . . .tever happened to the long lost spirit of competition in America? Interesting how much of that disappeared during the GOP congress years, isn't it?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Aquatic Mitts II

By coincidence, I was watching a show on Benjamin Franklin tonight on the History Channel. It appears Franklin invented the aquatic mitts (see below). See here: "Ben Franklin, Inventor of Flippers and Paddling Gloves."

I guess I'm a little behind the times.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fireworks II

You can see these reflected in the swimming pool. While I was out on the terrace, Bootsy was watching from behind the sliding glass door. These particular fireworks across the way lasted till past 10. Alas I was never able to get a really good shot that captured the form and symmetry of the firework. (I even tried making a movie but that didn't come out well.)


You can see fireworks going off all over the place from here. They're tricky to photograph, however, since they last only a couple of seconds. Fireworks in Bal Harbour, above. On this other shot, I got colored balloons. Hmmmm. Pretty.

Aquatic Mitts

Who knew?


We enjoy living one floor above the pool deck. We see our neighbors mostly when they're half-naked. This guy is putting some kind of mitts on his hands before swimming laps. I've never seen anything like it.

4th of July

Mr. Puss's former keeper, our neighbor C., came over for lunch today. I fixed special hamburgers (mixed with finely chopped onion, Accent, etc.), macaroni salad with tuna, and fruit cocktail (from the can). (I also had a relish tray.) C.'s daughter and son-in-law are presently on their way from Fort Bragg to pack her up and take her back to N.C. tomorrow. They're supposed to arrive here in an hour or so. C. has been editing her possessions and gave us a few knickknacks, including this potted palm on a stand with dangling crystals. We think it's sweet.

Happy Fourth of July

Storm moving in here.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mr. Puss Rescued

This is a sad story I find painful to write about and which, by the way, has a lot to do with the sorry state of the health care system in this country--of people falling through the cracks, of which there are millions. A neighbor finds herself having to move out of state and is forbidden to take her cat companion of 10 years. Fortunately a friend of mine, who recently lost his own adult cat, has adopted Mr. Puss and will give him a wonderful home. Having to part with her cat almost got my neighbor into a serious depression, on top of her other health problems.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Beautiful Sunday

Article on Michael Moore's "Sicko"

(Can't wait to see it.) See here. We should all be on Medicare!

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 43.6 million, or about 15 percent of Americans, were uninsured in 2006. For the past five years, the overall count has fluctuated between 41 million and 44 million people. According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 people do die each year mainly because they are less likely to receive screening and preventive care for chronic diseases.

Moore says that the U.S. spends more of its gross domestic product on health care than any other country.

Again, that's true. The United States spends more than 15 percent of its GDP on health care -- no other nation even comes close to that number. France spends about 11 percent, and Canadians spend 10 percent.

Like Moore, we also found that more money does not equal better care. Both the French and Canadian systems rank in the Top 10 of the world's best health-care systems, according to the World Health Organization. The United States comes in at No. 37. The rankings are based on general health of the population, access, patient satisfaction and how the care's paid for.

So, if Americans are paying so much and they're not getting as good or as much care, where is all the money going? "Overhead for most private health insurance plans range between 10 percent to 30 percent," says Deloitte health-care analyst Paul Keckley. Overhead includes profit and administrative costs.

"Compare that to Medicare, which only has an overhead rate of 1 percent. Medicare is an extremely efficient health-care delivery system," says Mark Meaney, a health-care ethicist for the National Institute for Patient Rights.

Health Care

I'm lucky to have good health care where I work, at least for now. If I were to change jobs, however, I would have to pay my own insurance premiums for 3 months under the COBRA law, which would be exorbitantly expensive, and then there would be the possibility that my next job-provided health insurance would deny me coverage based on a "pre-existing condition." (If I were to be fired, I'd be totally screwed.) Thus I have a good incentive to stay at my present job, even though I might feel I could make better money elsewhere and put my abilities to better use (for the ultimate benefit of the U.S. economy). So, in my case and I suspect in the case of many others, the current health-care delivery system in the U.S. is essentially bad for business when people are not free to live up to their full potential out of fear of losing their health care benefits.

I just read this article about the health care mess in Massachusetts. I for one think all Americans should be in the same health-care pool, thereby spreading the risk over the entire country, and if necessary get insurance companies out of the health-care business. The reason why health care in this country is so limited and so expensive is that too many people (too many bureaucracies and CEOs) are making a killing off it. It's immoral.