Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Insurers Try to Dodge Reform Law

Some of you may have heard me say or write in the past that I think the fundamental problem with our healthcare system is that it's overwhelming mission is not to provide quality care and coverage to people, but rather to generate maximum profit and to do so over short time increments...a quarterly basis.

My assertion is that until those two motivations are aligned - generating a profit by covering and caring for people - we'll always have a sub-par system that degrades our overall health as a nation and costs us more and more money as we go down the tubes.

Anyway, I saw an article today that underscores my fears about the health insurance industry and their motivations. Click HERE for a story that reports on recent attempts by insurers to get out of the provision of the new health reform that bars them from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.

Yes, they are trying to find a loophole in the new law so they can continue denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Why? Money. Instead of, like, 24% profit, they'll make, say, 19% profit under the new law because they now have to grant coverage to sick kids whose parents want to insure them.

This is a great example of what I'm talking about. Our system is set up so insurers actively look for ways to NOT provide coverage - even to the most in need people in our society. And, they do this even when the law says they cannot. Shouldn't they be extending the coverage to sick children and spending their time (and lobbying money) on ways to deliver care that helps/cures those kids so the then cost less to everyone over the long haul?

And if that means the insurance company takes a slight dip in profit margin such that the CEO doesn't earn a big enough bonus to buy a yacht to moor in front of his or her third home over at Lake Como, Italy...that's just fine by me.

In the end, the insurers may not win this one as it appears they may back down. But, they tried. And they may try again - either on this specific provision or on others. Why? Becuase they are motivated to by the system.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Law Enforcement Arrests Domestic Religious Terrorists

You may have read or seen on TV recently that the FBI has arrested members of a militia group in Michigan that was allegedly plotting to kill a police officer and then blow up mourners at the deceased officer's funeral with explosive devices similar to those used by the bad guys in Iraq.

Further, you may have read or seen that this self-described group of "Christian warriors" was training as a military group to initiate what they believed would be a war against the government of the United States.

These developments lead to a lot of questions, and certainly there are a many issues wrapped up in this story.

But a few things really struck me. In particular:
  • These people are least they are accused of doing and planning actions that if proven true would make them terrorists. The media calls them a "militia," or "para military group," or similar. But, these are people who are accused of planning to kill police officers and blow up innocent people. If the setting were Afghanistan and the people involved Muslim, what do you think the media would be calling this group?
  • They were caught by law enforcement. Solid police work nabbed these people and not, for example, a military operation in southern Michigan. Terrorism is an act. Terrorists are individuals or relatively small groups. They are not nation states and they do not act with armies, navies and air forces. Therefore, the most effective way of finding, catching and doling out justice to them is likely with aggressive law enforcement rather than traditional military force. This holds true here at home and, I suspect, would be the case in most cases overseas too when it comes to trying to capture key terrorist leaders and disrupt their networks.
  • Like most terrorists from the Middle East, these people are motivated by religion...but in this instance it's Christianity. Certainly this Michigan group, like those fanatics in the Middle East, are purveyors of a corrupted, warped version of their religion. But, it's religion none the less that is their motivation. This shows that it's not just Muslim fundamentalists who are capable of planning terrorist activity. Christianity has fundamentalists too, and in the U.S.A. they - like all citizens - have access to a LOT of guns and other weapons.
Anyway, I thought this story was disturbing in a number of ways, and found the above points to be particularly ironic and/or worth pondering.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What Government Can Do

With all the talk on the right about a "government takeover" of healthcare, it is my contention that most people making that charge, well, don't really know what they're talking about.

Usually the fears about government involvement in healthcare are made by people who subscribe to the false religion that government cannot do anything right and private business and the "magic" of the "free" market is the right way to go.

With that in mind, I thought the below piece written by a friend of a friend on Facebook was quite astute. If you are on Facebook you may be able to see it by clicking HERE.

If not, read and enjoy the rich irony in the text. Reminder...I did NOT write the below. I am passing it on because I think it makes some great points....

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I watched this while eating breakfast of US Department of Agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the US Naval Observatory. I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads built by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to send via the US Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After work, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all it's valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and post on and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

Text written by (I believe) Konrad Maziarz

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What Should You Fear More? Healthcare Reform or Right Wing Morons?

I wonder. What should everyday Americans fear more?

Option one...a healthcare reform law passed by the majority party in the Congress and signed by the majority-elected President that...while completely and totally keeping within the boundaries of a for-profit model...does mandate everyone has coverage, extends coverage to 32 million Americans, eliminates denial for pre-existing conditions, helps reduce the budget deficit (which was run to record high levels under Republican governance in the 2000s) and actually denies access to the system for illegal aliens?

Option two...a minority of irrational, immature, factually deprived morons who - having been fed and listening to out-and-out hogwash from right wing pundits - are willing to do violence against what the erroneously believe to be a "government takeover" of our healthcare system?

I think the bigger concern and fear is the second. But that's just me.

The history of the USA is clear and consistent. Socially progressive change has always without deviation been met with hysterical, violent and reactionary resistance by the right. This is again now what we are seeing. What will be the outcome? If history again proves a guide, the right thing will eventually be done...but at what price?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Country First? Or, Immature Crybabies Bent On Disruption?

Click HERE to see what Republicans mean when they talk about "country first."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Photos From Our Poland Trip - Auschwitz

I've uploaded the next batch of photos from our trip to Poland and Prague.

This time, the focus is on our solemn visit to the grounds of the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. Certainly, it's an unsettling subject for photography, but I firmly believe it's important to document...even all these decades later...the reality of what happened in places like Auschwitz so people will not forget, so they won't repeat the travesties and so still other people will not so easily be able to deny such a thing as the Holocaust happened.

You can see the pictures at the top of my Flickr Photostream by clicking HERE.

Or, you can see them as part of the now growing set of pictures from the trip by clicking HERE.

Taking the train from Krakow, we arrived in the now named Oswiecim - the Polish name for the nearest city to the Auschwitz camps. Yes, there were actually two Auschwitz camps - the original one usually referred to as "Auschwitz I" or just "Auschwitz," and the massive second one called "Auschwitz II - Birkenau" or just "Birkenau."

You can see for yourself from the pictures how huge, premeditated and deadly these camps were. Visiting these sites in person was extremely informative and also chilling - haunting to be in the place where so many people were murdered.

More of my thoughts on that experience are available from my post on the subject by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You Never Known When You're Gonna Go

From a very early age you simply assume that you will live a long life and die in your sleep at some advanced age. You think you know this, that you can count on it.

But you don't know that. And, unfortunately, everyday life gives us ample reason to re-examine those assumptions.

For an recent and tragic example, see the story HERE of a 38 year old guy jogging on a South Carolina beach who was killed by a small airplane that crash landed on him. You think that guy went on his trip to S.C. and in particular his jog that day thinking that he'd never get home or finish his run because he'd be smashed dead by a small airplane making an emergency landing? No way. Certainly not.

Our daily lives, our families and certainly the news are filled with all too real events that should give all of us ample reasons to think twice about the fragility of life.

Our society says go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house (and go into debt), have children, work for 40 years, save some money during this time for retirement, retire at or about 65 years old...and only THEN start doing things you really want because you have the time and means to do so.

I say that's a formula for missing out on a lot of life and our world, and it points out something that I've felt all along, which what you want now.

Cease the moment, capitalize on your youth to circumvent the expected progression of your life. Certainly don't be stupid with your money, time and safety...but also don't buy into the notion that you must postpone your dreams for "someday," because, well, that day may never come. And hey, if you do end up living a long life, guess what? You've filled that life with incredible experiences, people and lessons that you otherwise would have missed out on.

Am I saying that I think people shouldn't get married, have children or buy that house so they can travel, paint, write, surf or...well, do anything they desire? No. I am not.

But, I am advocating for finding ways to break out of the norm to indulge those desires now without postponing them to someday because, like the guy out for a jog on a South Carolina beach, you never know when you're gonna go.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CIA Dosed Citizens with LSD

There is a fascinating story in today's NY Post about the CIA secretly dosing innocent citizens with LSD back in the 1950s - both in the US and in France.

While it may be easy to dismiss as all too distant in the past and during the height of the Cold War, I think the fact that these experiments were conceived and executed without the knowledge of the greater government, military or citizenry shows what can happen in our country under our system of government.

For example: are you unconcerned about the government's ability to wire tap your phone under the Patriot Act because you have nothing to hide? Think again. What if they decide that instead of monitoring for terrorist activity, they'll monitor for people one way or the other, are in favor of healthcare reform, own a gun, or other issues? You think that can't (or hasn't) happened? Remember, ours is a system where government agencies have already done things like testing LSD on unknowing, innocent people.

Food for thought.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rock Hall of Fame Inducts New Members

I see that ABBA, Genesis, The Hollies, Jimmy Cliff and The Stooges are all going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. In fact, the induction ceremony is today.

Music is a subjective thing for sure. What I like you might not and vice versa. And certainly the term "rock and roll" has some very, very broad definitions...and even the whole notion of enshrining in a "hall of fame" the people, sounds and movements that are supposed to be anti-establishment is a pretty iffy proposition.

With all that in mind, here are my thoughts on this year's crop of inductees:
  • The Stooges - Definitely worthy of the recognition. This little band out of Michigan shocked audiences and inspired so many others worldwide with their sound and the attitude, antics and out of control nature of their singer Iggy Pop. They are a milestone in the development of "rock" music. They, along with fellow Michiganders the MC5 are the "missing link" between 60s style Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, Who, Clapton pop/psychedelic rock and aggressive 70s Ramones, Dolls, Clash, Pistols, Dead Boys punk rock. If you have not already, my recommendation is to check them out. Get their albums Raw Power, Fun House and The Stooges.
  • Jimmy Cliff - Another worthy musical performer for the Hall. Cliff was one of the originators of the reggae sound that came up out of Jamaica in the late 60s and early 70s. Perhaps best known for his performance and songs in the movie The Harder They Come, Cliff songs include "You can Get It If You Really Want," "In Limbo," "Many Rivers To Cross," "The Harder They Come," and others. My recommendation: You like Bob Marley but want some more reggae to add to your collection? Get Jimmy Cliff. He's the real deal.
  • ABBA - I am not a big ABBA fan. Catchy synth pop love songs are not my thing. But, I do recognize the impact this Swedish group had. For sure, they had huge record sales that make them one of - if not the -biggest selling band ever. And they certainly brought a sound to the airwaves that was not like anything before. I think you can also say that their sound inspired a lot of other performers - for better or worse. For these reasons I think they're worthy of the Hall of Fame. Recommendations: Check into them if they sound like your thing, but don't ask me to listen to more than SOS and maybe Dancing Queen.
  • The Hollies - Not too sure why The Hollies are getting into the Hall of Fame. Sure, they named themselves after Buddy Holly and sure founding member Graham Nash went on to be part of hippy band Crosby, Still & Nash, but I don't think they stack up with the greatest of all time. My recommendation: If you want mid-60s British invasion music, you need look no further than the Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Yardbirds and Them. That'll cover it. Those are the best.
  • Genesis - Yes, there is a reason I list these guys last. It's because I don't like them. Perhaps at some way early glam/prog/freakout incarnation of the band when Peter Gabriel was their leader and singer this bunch might have been considered avaunt guard and interesting. But, sadly, that early stage is not what these guys are famous or most known for. No...unfortunately, when Gabriel left in the mid-1970s, the world was introduced to one Phil Collins as he took over singing lead. What followed was a series of very safe, middle of the road, not-very-interesting music filler. This is why I say that they are not worthy of an induction into the Hall of Fame. Unlike the The Stooges, ABBA and Jimmy Cliff, these guys really didn't bring anything to the table. You can read more about my feelings on this band by clicking HERE to see my plan for creating a "Genesis-Neutral World." I think you'll find my thoughts on this matter pretty comprehensive. Recommendation: go out of your way to not listen to this band. Not worth it and so much better music is out there for you.

Photo Tripples: Green Pictures for St. Paddy's Day

With St. Patrick's Day coming up this week on Wednesday, below is a short set of "Photo Tripples" featuring the color green.

I've also put together a bigger set of "green" pictures that I've taken that you get into the holiday spirit by clicking HERE.

Pictures taken by Marc Osborn: Dancers at show in Xi'an, China; Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; Fields and Vinyards around Walla Walla, WA

Friday, March 12, 2010

Know Your History: In God We Trust

There was an interesting ruling today from the Federal Court system that upholds the inclusion of "one nation under God" in the U.S. pledge of allegiance and the inclusion of "In God We Trust" on our paper money because, in the court's assessment, these things do not violate the separation of church and state.

One might argue that premise, but without getting into the issues, I thought it might be worth a reminder that the "one nation under God" phrase of the pledge was added in the 1950s. Same with putting "In God We Trust" on our paper money.

That's right. Not at the founding of the country by the Founding Fathers...the 1950s. These religious phrases were added at the height of the Cold War as a way of "differentiating" the good old USA from the "godless communists" over in the USSR. That's it.

Often times people who don't know much about US history try and claim that our nation was founded and should be ruled under "God's laws" or that we are in some way "God's chosen" nation or similar. Without knowing their real history, things like the "In God We Trust" line or "one nation under God" passage serve this inaccurate notion all too well.

So, I thought I'd point it out.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Warsaw, Poland Pictures

At long last I've scanned all the film negatives from our 2002 trip to Poland and Prague.

You can see the Warsaw pictures at the top of my Flickr Photostream by clicking HERE.

The trip was wonderful and we really got to see part of the world that we thought perhaps we wouldn't. The journey had additional significance as we sought out the towns where my wife's relatives came from in Poland.

Over the next couple weeks, I'll add more online as I port images from the trip over from my computer into Flickr.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Photo Tripples: Street Art

Street art is cool, and it comes in many different varieties.

Below are three pictures I took of pieces of art made by artists who chose a sidewalk, a wall or a street as their canvas.

You can see other "Photo Tripples" sets of pictures I've taken by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE.

You can see my full Flickr Photostream collection by clicking HERE.

(Pictures taken by: Marc Osborn. Chalk drawing in Savannah, GA; wall art in Scottsdale, AZ; Chalk art in Savanna, GA)

Monday, March 8, 2010

2010 Oscars - My Comments

OK, below are my reactions to the Oscars last night. I acknowledge that there were many other awards than the ones I've highlighted with my opinion, but I'm just hittin' the highlights.

I'd give it about a B+. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were funny at times, but the overall show was a bit boring. Not embarrassing or super lame, but just kinda boring. I mean, what the heck was that 10 minute interpretive dance interlude in the middle of the program anyway? And, then there was a slew of technical awards that took up what seemed like a lot of time. I know that's part of Hollywood too, but who wins costume, makeup, technical effects and adapted screenplay is...well...boring. At least to me. Oh, and despite saying up front that they'd clipped out live musical performances for song awards, the show still ran more than 30 min. over.

Perhaps the two best moments from the entire show were:
  1. When the woman who won the award for best makeup got to the podium and said, "Well, I already have two of these, so..." That come across as pretty arrogant.
  2. The woman in the pair of winners for one of the documentary categories "Kanye West-ed" her collaborator and took over the microphone to ramble out her say while depriving the guy of any words to the audience.

I am glad "The Hurt Locker" won. It is a serious movie, about a serious issue that's all too real and of our times, and features serious performances by very good actors. There is drama, action, personal conflict and the story moves you to perhaps think about and understand the situation in Iraq and - more importantly - how the men and women fighting there experience it. There is no "honk your horn if you support the troops," "these colors don't run" bumper sticker mentality here. Nope. Despite being a fictional tale, this is much more real that those shallow demonstrations of "patriotism."

I would also say that in my opinion there were only a couple other movies that could have possibly won best picture - "Precious" and "A Serious Man." That's not to say that I did not really enjoy, say, "Inglorious Basterds" or "Up in the Air"'s just that I don't think those were the very best movies of the year.

The Dude abides. And last night he won an Oscar. Yes, Jeff Bridges...known for many great roles over his career, including as "The Dude" in the movie The Big Lebowski...finally scored a statue for his performance as down and out, over the hill and hittin' the bottle country singing legend Bad Blake in the movie "Crazy Heart." Oh, and he also sang all the songs that his character performed in the movie. Great movie, great performance, great music...easy choice for best actor.

Sandra Bullock? Really? OK, I have not seen "The Blind Side." And, I give big props for movies based on real stories. But was Sandra Bullock really better than Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious" or Meryl Streep as Julia Child in "Julie & Julia?" Was she really? I had to scratch my head and take another sip of Oscar Party wine when they announced this one.

Katheryn Bigelow winning for "The Hurt Locker" was good in my opinion. See my comments on the movie above. She's a big reason it all came together. I actually thought Tarantino might sneak in there this year with "Inglorious Basterds" as that was a directing tour de force in my book, but no issues with Bigelow winning at all.

I am glad Avatar did not win big awards, and that the awards it did win were for categories appropriate for a special effects show. I'll put it this way: If I want to play a video game, I'll play a video game. If I want to watch a movie, I want to watch a movie...not a video game dressed up as a thin, weak movie. The technology in Avatar may be cool, and everybody may well be buying 3D TVs, tuners, glasses and such in coming years, but that does not mean Avatar is a movie on par with, say, Precious, Hurt Locker and the other nominated films for Best Picture.

Also, one of our Oscar Party attendees mentioned that she thought there should be a Best Comedy category. I agree. Think about some of the really funny movies that came out in 2009 that were nowhere to be seen last night: The Hangover, The Informant, Bruno, Extract, The Invention of Lying and others.

OK, done. Next year, I'm sure I'll be commenting on the glorious victory for Best Picture for "Hot Tub Time Machine," but until then...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Photo Tripples - Detroit Steel

Here is another "Photo Tripple" set from pictures I've taken. You can see previous sets HERE and HERE.

This time, the showcase is on classic cars...

(Photos taken by: Marc Osborn. Ford Fairlane in Seattle, WA; Ford Thunderbird in Wilmington, SC; Chevy Corvette in Scottsdale, AZ)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Photo Tripples - On The Wall

For the next "Photo Tipples" set, here is a set of pictures I took that are items on walls...

(Photos taken by Marc Osborn: Spray painted fleur de lis in St. Remy, France; Poster art in Paris, France; A palmetto tree shingle in Charleston, SC)