Archive for August, 2006
Thursday, August 31st, 2006
“It’s no surprise that as a child Michael Kenna wanted to someday be a priest. The most esteemed person in his Northwest England industrial hometown, the priest embodied power, and inhabited that unseen presence inherent in the environment of the church, with its ethereal silence embedded in prayer. This all emanates in Kenna’s black-and-white images—of parks and power stations, bridges and Buddhist temples, Easter Island and Auschwitz. Though empty of people, his photos of intimate landscapes are filled with the evidence of humanity. Serene and mysterious, they pause at the interim of past and present, night and day, realism and abstraction, in scenes that invite reverie and reflection.”
Wednesday, August 30th, 2006
“Right now, after [the republicans] free spending congress of the last two, four, six years, there’s a part of me that would very much like to see the voters pick up the republicans by the back of their necks, slap them around a bit and say hey – ‘why don’t you live under speaker Pelosi for two years and then well see in 2008 if your ready to return to power and do what your supposed to do.’”
- Neil Boortz on Hannity and Colmes
Oddly enough I just picked up Boortz book on the fair tax on Amazon, haven’t had a chance to read it but I’ll post a review once I do.
Wednesday, August 30th, 2006
As I mentioned previously, the web site Porkbusters has been trying to track down the nefarious senator that placed an anonymous hold on the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. Well the left and right blogsphere have finally managed to find something to unite upon clearing a whole slew of senators, leaving a total of
5 4 culprits. Those left are no surprise and the odds on favorite is Stevens from Alaska, arguably the king of bringing home the federal bacon.
Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire)
Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Robert Bennett (R-Utah)
Stevens is of course famous for his Bridge To Nowhere. The question is will the MSM pick up this story and run with it? I wonder if the blogsphere has the viewer ship needed to turn a small band of pissed off bloggers into a big time public outrage. Overall though you have to love grass roots efforts like this fueled by the Internet. I’m proud to be a part of it.
Update – Oink Oink Oink Oink. It was the king oinker – Stevens. So I wonder what happens next?
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd admits that he placed a “secret hold” on legislation that would make uncovering the Byzantine world of federal contracting as easy as typing a Google search.
Byrd had a hold on it too, but released it today. Stevens is still holding up the bill. Oink Oink Oink.
President Bush has signed the bill into law.
Tuesday, August 29th, 2006
Damn, I had no idea this was in the works –
The Democratic-controlled Legislature is on the verge of sending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill that would create a state-run universal health care system, testing him on an issue that voters rate as one of their top concerns in this election year.
This is great, I’ve mentioned before that I think states need to step up and provide the services their people ask them to provide, instead of relying on the federal government. If this had passed years ago it would have served as a litmus test on the concept of a single payer, state run system. Unfortunately it’s too late in coming to serve in that role but still, good to see California stepping up and giving the people what they want. It’s also good to see it’s not happening in the state of Florida. I hope Californians have their checkbooks out and at the ready.
Proponents use the classic argument – that a single payer system will save money by reducing overhead:
“SB840 creates a system of comprehensive health insurance benefits for all Californians that guarantees free choice of doctors and hospitals,” Kuehl said. “It creates access for all Californians by steeply reducing administrative overhead and emphasizing preventative and primary care instead of endlessly cutting coverage and access to care or increasing consumer spending.”
Does anyone have a link to a site describing exactly what the California plan entails and how much they expect it to cost the state? I’m curious what the restrictions on health services would be. The article only mentions estimated costs:
The bill does not account for the costs of the program since it would take several years before any plan was up and running. The plan would create a commissioner and a blue-ribbon commission to examine how the structure would work. An analysis by the Lewin Group, an independent health care consulting firm, said the plan could be paid for with all of the money now being spent on health care.
That would mean combining all state and federal funds, along with business contributions and participant payments and co-payments. The report suggests that funding could come through an 8 percent payroll tax and a 3 percent individual income tax.
The system amounts to a large welfare program that provides healthcare (medical, dental, & vision) to everyone within the state, mostly paid for by those with upper incomes. I’m interested to hear what level of care the system will provide. If it’s mediocre, upper income earners will most likely seek supplementary insurance. Combined with a new and assuredly low
11%12% income & consumption tax increase, upper income families may be looking at very large increases in their health care costs, while those with lower income will enjoy benefits they previously did not have.
Found this proponent FAQ. Apparently private insurance will be illegal in the State if it passes. I guess that means supplementary insurance would be illegal too. This is interesting because Canada has been moving away from this same stance on the grounds that people are not receiving adequate care. SB840 proponents claim California’s system won’t be plagued by the same problems.
Interesting stuff! I wish it wasn’t going to take them 3 years to “plan” it out.
Gary sends a link to the bill itself in the comments.
Found a good summary of the plan from the Health Economics Consulting Group. Here’s how they see the final bill being payed for:
The total annual costs of CHIS are expected to be $167 billion (Sheils and Haught 2005). Financing is based on two direct sources: (1) continued funding of existing government programs for Californians, including federal, state, and local programs ($72 billion); and (2) new dedicated taxes ($95 billion). The bulk of the continued funding is Medicare and Medi-Cal ($55 billion). Newly created taxes will likely include an 8% employer payroll tax ($56 billion), a 4% employee payroll tax, a 12% self-employed business income tax ($8 billion), a 4% nonwage/non-business tax, ($4 billion), and a 1% surcharge on incomes over $200,000 ($1 billion).
I believe the “4% nonwage/non-business tax” is basically the same thing as a sales tax? If employers split the 8% employer tax with employees, as they commonnly do with healthcare costs, employees in the state will be seeing an 8% increase in payroll taxes, and a 4% sales tax, for a total of 12%. Assuming your average consumer spends 75% of their paycheck, and saves 25%, this represents a total increased income tax of 11%. So for a worker in California that makes 100K a year, they will pay an additional $11,000.00 per year for state run healthcare. Poorer workers will pay very little – a classic wealth redistribution system. All of this assumes the estimates are accurate. I think it’s safe to say the numbers or probably under estimated.
Honestly I’m probably being a little sadistic when I say that I hope Arnold Schwarzenegger passes this. When families see their income tax rates start to approach 65% – 70% of what they earn, I think we’ll see a taxpayer revolt. Besides, somebody has to take one for the team, it might as well be all too willing California.
One final note – I noticed in the wording of the bill that illegal immigrants will also be covered by this plan, yet they will pay litte into it. I wonder how something like this will effect illegal immigration into the state of California?
Tuesday, August 29th, 2006
Privately, Republican congressional leaders are bracing to lose 20 to 30 House seats — more than the net 15 gain that Democrats need to take control of that chamber — and to barely hold on to their Senate majority.
Still, the likely Democratic victory will have minimal significance for the 2008 presidential race and probably for legislation in the next Congress as well. The 1994 Republican landslide was followed by Clinton’s re-election two years later; Democratic successes in the 1982 and 1986-off year elections were followed by two embarrassing rejections in the next presidential elections.
“On Nov. 7, people don’t have to say they’re for Hillary Clinton; all they say is they’re angry,” McInturff
Even with a slight Democratic majority, the next Congress is likely to be just as stalemated on big issues such as reducing taxes or overhauling entitlement programs like Social Security. With Bush wielding a veto pen, Democrats aren’t going to enact any important domestic initiatives.
A group of Republican politicians gained control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time since 1952, and they did very little with it. If the Dems take control of at least one house, maybe we’ll see something happen in Washington, although I wouldn’t bet on it as the above article points out. Most likely entitlement won’t get solved in the next two years either – which is bad, really bad based on what I’ve been reading.
Tuesday, August 29th, 2006
The 41-year-old Lockheed Martin engineer had complained to his bosses. He had told his story to government investigators. He had called congressmen.
But when no one seemed to be stepping up to correct what he saw as critical security flaws in a fleet of refurbished Coast Guard patrol boats, De Kort did just about the only thing left he could think of to get action: He made a video and posted it on YouTube.com.
“This is an excellent example of the democratization of the media, where everyone has access to the printing press of the 21st century”
Monday, August 28th, 2006
Following this is my coverage and somewhat cavalier introductory commentary leading up to the United States most devastating natural disaster in history. My initial attitude was the result of having been pummeled by two major storms (Ivan and Dennis) and arriving on the other side of each unscathed. Needless to say, I ultimately learned a very valuable lesson. I’ve spent some time volunteering to help these folks out after the storm passed, I’ve also met quite a few of the people affected by Katrina who have temporarily relocated here to Destin. These are all good people, and I hope they and their states manage to recover fully. We here on the Gulf Coast all take a financial risk living here, but we don’t have to take a personal risk if we simply, well, try to be a little less cavalier.
Of course, I’ll probably take this risk in the future, because I really do love a good storm.
“I dated a girl in high school named Katrina, boy she was a fireball. I expect no less from this storm.”
“I can’t keep track of the number of times in the last year I’ve stared at a hurricane forecasting map that looked just like this. But hey, I’m a hardened hurricane veteran now… come on Katrina, let see what you’ve got.”
“If you live between New Orleans and Biloxi Mississippi, I’d suggest you start paying close attention to this storm. The farther west it goes, the more time it will have to sit out in the Gulf, where it can build strength.”
“Katrina is now a category three, and is expected to strengthen to a four or five before it makes landfall. Unfortunately, she’s painted her bull’s-eye directly on New Orleans, which has never been hit by a four or five.”
New Orleans Local Coverage
Additional Local Coverage
“Very very windy, little rain though. I’m about 200 miles from the center of the storm. We’ve had some power issues, but it always seems to come back on.”
“Looking at some of the footage of Biloxi, MS, I’m astounded.”
“I’ve always been fairly cavalier about these storms, most recently “getting in Katrina’s face”, but I’m thinking now – if Katrina had made landfall 135 miles to the east, Destin would look like Gulfport. My house, which sits a precarious 16.5 feet above sea level, would be sitting in anywhere between five and fifteen feet of water. I’d probably be one of those unlucky few who stayed and were either killed, or found sitting on top of their roofs the next day looking for rescue. Anyway, it’s a humbling experience for me, even though the storm made landfall quite some distance west of where I live.”
Monday, August 28th, 2006
No company should be above public scrutiny. But much of the political criticism of Wal-Mart is shallow and, if followed, undesirable. Wal-Mart doesn’t pay high wages and benefits mainly because it’s in an industry (retailing) where those are rare. In 2005, average hourly wages were $10.85 for food stores, $10.63 for clothing stores and $10.84 for department stores. As General Motors and Ford are now discovering, companies that pay above-market labor costs ultimately shrink and destroy jobs. The efforts of some local governments—notably the Maryland Legislature and Chicago city council—to mandate higher labor costs on Wal-Mart are shortsighted.
.. and anti-capitalistic.
Monday, August 28th, 2006
The computer models continue to slide Ernesto’s path to the east. To me this is starting to look a little bit more serious, but not for Florida, I’m more concerned with the east coast. If the storm slides far enough east, Ernesto could strengthen over the Atlantic and walk it’s way up the eastern seaboard, doing quite a bit of damage. This reminds me a little of Hurricane Gloria which hit the east coast back in 1985. Wikipedia has more on that storm.
Sunday, August 27th, 2006
Land seems to be having some effect, the storm has been downgraded. CNN correspondants seem noticeably bummed. More sensational news at 11.