Friday, September 11, 2009

Dangerous and Stupid

Watch this video. It has been circulating around FB a little and was originally posted on You Tube. The post won’t make sense if you don’t.

Why We Need Government-Run Universal Socialized Health Insurance

In a way, this video is been a microcosm of the national debate about health care. This video is the reason people who oppose the public option have been so hysterical (shamefully, I might add). Because Barak Obama and Nancy Pelosi know full well (because they aren’t idiots) that once a public option is in place, it is inevitable that it will eventually dominate the market, creating a de-facto national health care system. Anyone with the most basic understanding of economics would understand this. So I have to assume that any intelligent person, who is for a public option, is ipso-facto in favor of national health care.

First of all, the federal government does NOT pay for or run the Fire Department, Local Police, Water treatment plants or the Post Office. A preposterous over-simplification that immediately calls this idiots credibility into question. The first three are always run and financed by local government. This is a key distinction, as there is a world of difference between the efficiency and functionality of local governments and the federal government. The post office is a semi-autonomous entity that is not taxpayer funded. Did he really not know this? The last thing this debate needs is over-simplification by a left wing douche bag that thinks the fire department is run by the federal government.

And what does this wonderful, government funded fire protection system do for you once the fire is out? Nothing, of course. For that you have homeowner’s insurance provided by an evil corporation. Which you pay for. Where is the call for government-funded homeowner’s insurance?

If you honestly believe that 98 cents of every dollar paid into Medicaid goes to help sick people, I don’t know what to tell you. Whoever this jackass is, he is either grossly misinformed or a bald faced liar. The Medicaid system is rife with fraud and waste, which is also a point stipulated to by all reasonable parties in this debate.

As far as his point about insurance companies trying to protect profit by denying coverage, this is absolutely true and needs to be clamped down on. I fully support legislation that would require any pre-existing conditions or coverage exclusions to be spelled out in advance of contract signing and the formation of panels to serve as independent arbiters of coverage disputes.

Of course, the formation of a low cost public option will force insurance companies to cut costs even further, which will either cause more of these types of coverage denials, or worse, cause the insurance companies to dump all but the most healthy (and wealthy) Americans onto the public plan, which will place an even heavier burden on the taxpayer.

His point that most stockholders of insurance companies “tend to be wealthier people” is unmitigated, stupefying bullshit, and whatever credibility this water head had left goes out the window with this statement. Is that clear enough for you? Insurance company stocks tend to be highly rated, which means they are often owned by union pension plans or 401k’s. You know- school teachers and factory workers and all of those other “wealthy” Americans. What happens to the retirement and pension plans of these people when the public option begins to tear down the insurance industry?

Hospitals, by the way, are also for-profit corporations with stockholders. You know, hospitals- the places that employ all of the angelic doctors you so admire. This is why they over charge and over treat, a point stipulated to by all reasonable parties, to keep their profits up when insurance companies try to squeeze them. When the public option begins to erode their profits, the results will be devastating for level and quality of care.

All of this anti-capitalist, “profit is evil” nonsense is not only un-American, it’s dangerous. America has the finest, most-highly trained doctors in the world and is far and away on the cutting edge of the development of new drugs and technologies for a reason- we let people get rich. In fact, we encourage it. While it’s true that drugs here are much too expensive and are cheaper in Canada, it is also true that if it weren’t for the research and development being done by American Pharmaceutical corporations, Canada would have no drugs to sell. There is no money to made developing new treatments in Canada, thus no R&D.

A government takeover of health care would inevitably lead to caps on compensation and research funding that will fundamentally change the quality of life in this country and lower our expectations to the point where in a generation or two we’ll be writing articles about how happy we are with our health care system despite the fact that our loved ones died of cancer sitting at home waiting for treatment.

Spall's mother died of kidney cancer while waiting for treatment, but she said she is still a supporter of the NHS. "There are failings in the system but I'm not anti-NHS at all," she said, praising Britain's commitment to universal coverage.
AP 8/14/09

Gallup, ABC News and other well-respected polls consistently show that 80 to 85 percent of Americans are happy with their health care. Didn’t this used to be a democracy?

A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,001 adults in June that found that 83 percent were either "somewhat" or "very" satisfied with the care they receive and 81 percent felt the same way about their insurance.”
-Washington Post, 7/28/09

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Note To Self

When posting email strings, make sure to proof-read. Sorry for typos and grammatical errors in "Family Feud".

Monday, August 24, 2009

Family Feud

Decided to publish an email exchange with my wonderful sister from last week (with her permission, of course). It frames the health-care debate rather nicely. She tends toward the emotional, I tend toward the fanatical. She's really smart though- she writes books and stuff. Hard sometimes to believe we came from the same womb. As a partial explanation of my general bitterness- keep in mind that that almost everyone in my family agrees with HER.

It starts with my response to an article she sent me from

It's all good- she's my best person at my wedding this fall.




My final point:


Of course it has to change. But why is it always the insurance companies? How about doctors performing batteries of uneccessary tests? How about hospitals charging $185 dollars for a dose of Tylenol? How about juries handing multi-million dollar awards out for honest medical mistakes, far and beyond the actual damages to the patient? How about the government demanding 5 times more testing for new medical products than other countries, costing billions of dollars and delaying potentially life saving advancements for years?

What about person responsibility? What about obesity, smoking, bad eating habits of Americans driving medical expenses through the roof?

I know how expensive health care is. I spend $550 for myself per month. I also remember having a car accident with over $75k in medical bills (in 1985 dollars) costing me nothing. Why should Americans expect the highest quality of care in the world (which we get, no question, if you don’t believe this, do your homework) for free? Who the hell do we think we are?

It’s lazy to blame whoever is making money for whatever is wrong. The fact of the matter is that the formation of a government owned insurance provider puts the United States Government in direct competition with privately owned companies employing thousands and paying millions (probably billions) in taxes back to that same government. That is unfair, and downright Un-American.

No one is denying that health-care costs too much. A balanced policy that includes:

· more oversight of how doctors and hospitals are deciding on and charging for care

· tax breaks for employers who subsidize employee care,

· tort reform to partially shield doctors and hospitals from exorbitant jury awards,

· the standardization, simplification, and computerization of medical records and insurance forms

· the streamlining of the approval process for new drugs and procedures

· and yes (as hard as it for me to say) greater regulation of insurance companies abilities to deny claims and service

would accomplish anything this bill will without all of the slippery-slope elements that occur when the government gets into the health care business (or any other business).

Yes, doctors spend lots of time “fighting” with insurance companies. There, are believe it or not, two sides to this story as well. While insurance companies are certainly over-zealous about this and need to be reigned in, so do the doctors- who over test, over treat, and over charge on a daily basis.

Keep in mind that whether it be prisons, schools, hospitals, turnpike systems, or any other of hundreds of examples, the private sector always does better than the government. Any plan that wrests control of any industry from the private sector is doomed to fail, as has been proven over and over again.


Karen, making a good point that would be a lot better if surveys didn't consistently show that an overwhelming majority of Americans are happy overall with their health care:


You’re right. Poor people are able to get healthcare right now, but middle class, working people are not. Remember when employers paid for their employees and for a nominal monthly fee they could also have coverage for their families? Now people with kids are paying $600-$800 per month ( I know this is true because I know many of them) for family coverage. That’s absurd. And insurance companies do dictate what a doctor can and cannot do to treat their patients. This has to change. It simply makes no sense. This weekend I read a really heartfelt letter to the editor from a local (South Jersey) doctor who told the story from her perspective (all the time she spends fighting with insurance companies, etc.) and then bravely came out 100% for a national healthcare system. I’m not saying I agree with her, but I do know that something has to be done.


Me, getting downright snarky, and quoting from the article:


Not sure the point of this. I couldn’t possibly care less what people in Britain think about their health care, or right wing attacks (which I don’t support) on it. British people have lived with socialism their entire lives and have been forking up to 65% of their income to their government for 200 years. Why do you think so many rich British people have primary residences in the US? What they are willing to live with is certainly no concern of mine.

Spall's mother died of kidney cancer while waiting for treatment.

"There are failings in the system but I'm not anti-NHS at all," Spall told the British Broadcasting Corp.”

This from a presumably well off person whose mother died waiting for treatment. This is the United States you want?

An illegal alien with no money, insurance, or even identification, can walk to into an emergency room in the US and get the same level of care as a tax paying British citizen.



Karen, sending me a link to an article showing how happy the English are with their government supplied health car:




Me, in a rare moment of levity:


I look forward to discussing this with you in person. Just not at the wedding or Rona will throw us both off of the roof. In which case we will definitely need health care.


Karen, showing that she, like most other major party backers, has no real idea of what being a Libertarian really means:


We’re going to have to talk more about this in person. Believe it or not I have Libertarian leanings myself, but I do concede that many Libertarian ideals (even my own, like, we should never be messing around in other people’s countries—ever) are unrealistic. People need protection from entities that exist only to make a profit, insurance companies included. As a middle class person living in a modest house and living a healthy lifestyle I am unhappy with the current system and I believe that insurance companies are the root of the problem (and many other problems). I don’t know how to fix it, but I do believe there are others who know more about it than I do. I voted for one of them.


Me, again:


And by the way, we already have government subsidized health care here. It’s called Medicaid. This bill has nothing to do with helping poor people. It, like every piece of legislation put forward by this administration, is about providing government assistance to people living beyond their means. People who want to sit on their asses in houses they can’t afford and should never have bought, eat at McDonald’s, smoke and drink themselves to death, not leave room in their budgets for unexpected expenses, like health care deductibles. Who has the right to tell them how to spend their money?

Oh and I forgot “have kids they can’t afford to raise”.

Who has the right to tell them how many kids they can have?The American dream at a discount.




All comes back to personal responsibility. If you are a family, with two wage earners, making less than 40k per year, maybe you shouldn’t have 3 kids. And if you can’t afford $2,500, assuming you are allowed to pay if off incrementally over the course of the entire year, you need money management help.

Keep in mind that the $2500 deductible plan is completely free to the worker, no out of pocket cost up front whatsoever. So if you break it down, using the deductible as the cost, it comes down to around $208 month for comprehensive health care for your entire family. And that assumes you incur $2,500 in medical bills. If you don’t, it comes out less. That doesn’t sound like too bad a deal.

I have no problem with the notion that all Americans should have access to basic health care, regardless of their ability to pay. To suggest that anyone who opposes this plan thinks otherwise is disingenuous and unfair. There are specific provisions in the legislation that will limit paying customers’ options on coverage, plans and rates. There are specific provisions in the plan that call for the organization of government boards to make decisions on coverage options and rates. And nowhere in the legislation is there any mention of personal responsibility for the average American.

The legislation also places severe limitation on insurance companies’ ability to modulate rates between different customers. In other words, a 350 pound, alcoholic who makes 20k per year, smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day, hasn’t worked out in 27 years and has 4 kids, will pay the same basic rate for the same coverage as I, who have never smoked, drinks in moderation, has no kids and works out 5 times a week.

When the insurance companies stop making a profit, they will stop providing insurance. They have a responsibilty to their stockholders like every other company. Sorry, you live in America. And once that happens, the government will be responsible for all health care.




Sorry, we’ll just have to agree to disagree here. I stopped at the first point. I love the idea of a $2,500 deductible and everything else paid for, but there are many, many people who could never afford to pay $2,500 in doctor bills. There have to be alternatives for people who make less than $40,000 per year, which is a huge majority of this country. Healthcare should not be a luxury. It’s a basic human need that no one can afford, or is really getting, and yet insurance companies continue to make profits. I find that barbaric. I also know there are no easy answers.


My response to article:


It’s easy to paint opponents of the Health Care bill as right wing zealots, and it’s not shocking that a group like would choose to do so.

People who get their news from,, and, may be surprised to learn that there are plenty of thoughtful, reasonable people who have serious issues with this plan. Can we all trust that the founder of Whole Foods is not a right wing fanatic? If you took the time to read the original email, take the time to read this article:

If it doesn’t link from here, just cut and paste into your browser.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You.

I work as an independent consultant. That means I supply my own health insurance. I pay over $500 per month just to insure myself. And I am not a wealthy man. If anyone should be screaming from the mountain top for the government to do something about health care costs, it should be me. I'm not. Why? Because I know the alternative.

Government managed health care doesn't work. You constantly read stories about people who stay away from doctors because they can't afford it. The fact of the matter is, no one is turned away from an emergency room when they need critical care. Do they get to go to the Mayo Clinic? No, but they get the basic care they need. Which is about all a person with no means to pay for something should expect, no? Does the person on food stamps eat at Outback? No, but they eat, don't they?

I'm not saying the health care system couldn't stand a bit of a make over. I'm just saying that a radical plan, based on government subsidization, is not the answer.

In a single pay system, where the single payer is the government (and that reality rests not far down that slippery slope we stand atop now), everyone will run to the doctor for everything. Why not, it's free, right? Having to pay for something is the built in control in a financial system that keeps it from collapsing. Medical facilities will be overwhelmed, causing health care costs to explode, not decline. And since the government is paying for everything, who absorbs that cost? Substitute the word "taxpayer" for "government", and you will see where this is leading. Then, when the government has raised taxes as high as they can, and printed all of the money they can without the entire financial system collapsing, the quality of care will disintegrate.

So when you are paying 60 percent or more of your income in taxes and are forced to sit in the same dirty, broken down waiting room with someone who has never worked a day in their life, waiting the same stupifyingly long time for the same negligible level of "care", remember where you read it first.

And all that Xanax, Prosac, Wellbutrin, etc. etc., you take to keep yourself from jumping out the window? If you can afford to buy it on the black market, you may be OK. If not, forget about it, it won't be available. And when you do jump out that window, if you're lucky enough to survive, you better hope the one ambulance your town can afford isn't in the shop.

The only people that will continue to enjoy top flight health care are the very wealthy. Sound familiar?

One positive note- with the dissappearance of Viagra, Cialis, etc. for all but the wealthy few- old women throughout the country will once again be safe from their husbands.

Don't worry, once the government inevitably takes over health care completely, you can count on the same level of competent service you now recieve from stellar government operations like the IRS and FEMA, and the same level of financial soundness as Social Security.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Apparently, I'm A Criminal

I play poker online.  For money.  I'm not that good.  Someday, someone might name their yacht after me.  I harm no one but myself.  There are millions like me.  People all over the world exercising their natural right (notice I didn't say "God given" right) to do what I please with both my money and my time.  The only difference between me and  someone I may play against from Germany or Ghana or Antartica is that his/her government doesn't consider him/her to be a criminal.  My government, in their infinite wisdom, has chosen to waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money attempting to close down the sites we play on and freezing the assets of the U.S. banks that process our pay-ins and pay-outs. 

This is merely a symptom of a crippling hypocrisy: our government spends billions of dollars prosecuting american citizens exercising basic personal freedoms, while going trillions of dollars in debt to countries like China, who in my lifetime have imprisoned an entire people (Tibet) and rolled over their own citizens with tanks (Tianamen Square, anyone?)

Why do we accept this?  What the hell is wrong with us?  The cost v. benefit realities of government boondoggles such as the war on drugs, and crackdowns on gambling and prostitution are so clear and irrefutable that support of these policies on anything other than religious grounds (which, according to our constitution, is not relevant) is indefensible.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Great Swine Flu Pandemic

My Costa Rican housekeeper, Zinia Warrior Cleaner, asked me today if I had heard about the swine flu pandemic (OK- pandemic is a little out of her linguistic range, but I knew what she meant).  I was surprised to find out that my maid thought I lived under a rock.  Of course, she is greatly concerned.  Me, not so much.  This led to a spirited debate.  She couldn't believe I wasn't terrified of the swine flu and presented two arguments that would have been very compelling if there had been a shred of truth to either of them:
  1. Swine flu will kill ya within 24 hours of infection, and..
  2. There is no cure.
Boy, that does sound terrifying.  Utter Bullshit, but terrifying nonetheless.  I wondered aloud if she was aware that approximately 35,000 Americans die every year from complications related to plain old seasonal flu.  15,000 have already died this year.  This did not have the intended effect- which was to make her realize that the swine flu is no more dangerous or prevalent than lots of other stuff we live with every day.  Instead, I now fear I my housekeeper may never leave her own house again.   Which means my house could indeed become a very dangerous place to live.  

The point is, Americans love to be afraid of things.  The press feeds off of this, and now instead of worrying about any of the thousands of things that really endanger this country, we all stare up at the sky, waiting for terrorists to air-drop diseased pigs into our children's schoolyards. When did we become such a nation of weak kneed pussies?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Facebook: The Perfect Tool For A Tool Like Me

Rona and I are heading to Washington, DC, this weekend so I can play in the 45th anniversary alumni rugby game at American University.  This in itself is a somewhat astonishing development.  For nearly 20 years, I have made no attempt to stay in touch with, or reconnect with, anyone from my past.  There is a fairly simple reason for this- when I left high school, and subsequently college, I never really got the impression that anyone cared.  Or even knew that I left.  Or even noticed I was there.  

Also, I pretty much assumed this was how it worked.  Life goes in phases, one ends, another begins.  Who really has time to keep track of all of those relationships?  As it turns out, lots of people. 

Even more stunningly, turns out there was a whole bunch of people out there who did notice I was there, took note of my leaving, and wondered what the hell ever happened to me.  And all of these revelations came to me via a single source:  Facebook.  Got me 155 friends on there, yessir, and most of them are from high school and college.  Not an earth shattering total, I realize, but for a 42 year man carrying around all of the assumptions laid in out paragraphs 1&2, none too shabby.

The most surprising part is that the only one surprised is me.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Day in an NFL Owner's Office

GM:  Hey boss, I wanted to talk to you about this player who is coming off suspension.  Here’s a little fact sheet I put together. (hands sheet to owner)

Owner:  Hmm…..led his team to a couple of NFC title games I see.

GM:  Yeah, great athlete, tremendously skilled.

Owner:  I see here he did some prison time.  What’s that all about?

GM:  Yeah……well it seems he liked to do a little dog fighting.

Owner: So he had a dog and he would set up fights with other guys dogs?

GM: Well it was a little more involved than that.

Owner: How so?

GM:  Well, he kind of set up a whole operation, if you want to call it that.  He bought some land, built a house, build a bunch of out buildings to house and train a whole of bunch of dogs, hired some friends to run it, actually named it and everything .  “Bad Newz Kennels” he called it.  But it was kind of funny because he spelled news with a “z” at the end instead of an “s”.

Owner: Catchy.  Illegal though, right?

GM:  Apparently.  Hence the whole jail thing.

Owner: So you could say he was head of a pretty substantial criminal organization, kinda like Tony Soprano, right?

GM: (chuckling) Yeah, I suppose you could say that.  They should have filmed if for a reality show.

Owner:  Sounds right up Spike TV’s alley.  Sounds like lots of people do this, what’s everyone so upset about?

GM:  Well the shit really hit the fan when some of the details about what went on there got out. 

Owner:  People were surprised to find out dog fighting was violent?

GM:  There was a little more to it that that.

Owner: Jesus Christ, Tom, what do I have to do to get the whole story, torture you?

GM:  Funny you should mention torture.  Turns out, when a dog didn’t turn out to be such a great fighter they would “dispose” of them in some not so nice ways.

Owner:  Not so nice?

GM: Oh, well, you know,  swinging the dogs by their tails and smashing their heads into large rocks, holding their heads in buckets of water to drown them, hanging them from trees and beating them to death, nasty stuff.

Owner:  Yikes.  Anything else?

GM:  Umm….well apparently when there were no dogs to torture or dog fights to go to, they would amuse themselves by putting untrained house pets in with the fight dogs and watching them get torn apart.

Owner:  Wow, pretty sick dudes.  The player didn’t do any of this stuff personally, did he?

GM:  Well, turns out he did.  That part was kind of confusing though, because in court under oath, he said he didn’t.  It didn’t come out until much later that he actually took part in the killings.  He changed his story after his buddies ratted him out to the grand jury.

Owner:  Well I gotta wrap this up.  Playing golf this afternoon.  To summarize, you want me to consider signing a player that set up a dog fighting operation, oversaw and participated in the torture and murder of defenseless animals, and then perjured himself initially before finally admitting it?

GM:  Jeez, when you say it like that it sounds terrible.

Owner:  Anything else?

GM:  Well it’s possible he may have embezzled some money from one of his companies.   But that hasn’t been proven, and you know what they say.

Owner:  I think I am going to have to pass on this one, Tom.

GM: (sounding disappointed) Well, you’re the boss.

Owner:  One other thing, Tom.   For even suggesting I hire that sick, twisted animal to be the face of my franchise,  you can clean out your office and get the hell out of my building.

At least that’s how I hope it goes, 31 times in 31 owner’s offices.  If you read the details of what went on without Mike Vick’s name attached to it, it sounds pretty ridiculous that anyone would even consider signing him, doesn’t it?





Welcome to my blog

Yup, this is it.  My blog.  The title "Since No One Asked", says it all.  When someone says to me "who asked you", I've always replied "if I waited for someone to ask me, I would never get to say anything".  I have no illusions as to why I am so infrequently asked my opinion:  my opinions are seldom very much fun.  Snarky, a little sarcastic, and much more long winded than they probably need to be, certainly.  They also tend to be thought provoking and sometimes just generally provoking.  I will say in my defense that I save my strongest opinions for only those things about which I consider myself well informed.  

WOW- that paragraph makes me sound like an asshole.  I'll try to mix in some lighter stuff, too.  Stay tuned.