Monday, July 30, 2007

Birthdays are hazardous to your health

We recently received a letter from our dear friends at the health insurance company informing us that as of Sept. 1, 2007 our premiums will go up approximately $150.00 per month.

Unless, that is, we accept a higher deductible. In that case, the monthly premiums would only go up $125.00 per month.

Looking back over the previous year, I see we have paid nearly $8,000 in insurance premiums.

Because we had to accept a high deductible to get 'affordable' monthly premiums the insurance company hasn't had to shell out a dime on us. All our medical expenses have been chalked up to that high deductible and came out of our own pocket.

The only thing I can figure is either we are being penalized for turning a year older, or - are you sitting down? - perhaps the insurance company is greedy.

I am really in the wrong business.

I have a hot breaking news alert for all presidential candidates, whether Republican or Democratic.

All the tax credits, health savings accounts, vouchers, integrated electronic record keeping, inefficiency digging, or other nibble-around-the-edges fixes in the world aren't going to help people get affordable health care unless something is done to stop the health insurance company gravy train.

The only candidate serious about fixing our shattered health care system will be the one talking government regulation of these bastards.

I haven't heard it yet, and I'm not holding my breath.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

National Day of the Cowboy

Saturday July 28th is the National Day of the Cowboy, which gives us all just two days to complete our arrangements for the celebration.

I suggest sitting around a campfire with your family and friends eating beans, which would provide appropriate accompaniment for singing the (unofficial) Cowboy Anthem:
He rode a blazing saddle
He wore a shining star
His job to offer battle
To bad men near and far
He conquered fear and he conquered hate
He turned our night into day
He made his blazing saddle
A torch to light the way...
...and so on.

If you'd like to celebrate the real thing, visit the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

If you'd rather check out the fake thing, you could go here.

Or read on.

The Collective Sigh International Headquarters being a very small house, my computer is right next to the television. Mr. Andante is an 'old' Western addict.

'Nuff said.....I've seen 'em all.

My favorites are those Western movies that are either outright comedies or at least incorporate comedy elements. I don't have a favorite movie, but I do have favorite and very fictitious characters.

Favorite sheriff:

Toughy, but I'd have to give it to -

Cleavon Little, Sheriff Bart in (what else?) Blazing Saddles.

It was a close contest....I love Robert Mitchum as the drunken Sheriff J.P. Harrah in El Dorado.

Second runner-up would be James Garner, Sheriff Jason McCullough, Support Your Local Sheriff

Favorite Deputy


Ken Curtis, Deputy Festus Haggen, Gunsmoke

There's a statue of Festus in Clovis, California, where Festus departed this life on April 28, 1991. That would be an appropriate place to celebrate National Day of the Cowboy, but if you can't make it - practice your Festus Speak.

Favorite Gunslinger

No contest.

This guy.

Favorite Bad Guys

Again, no contest.

That's the "Hash Knife Outfit" (Don Knotts, Tim Conway), The Apple Dumpling Gang.

Runner-up, proving I'm not a total idiot, Butch & Sundance.

Favorite character actors, sidekicks, varmints, ramrods, etc.

Hank Worden; Mose in The Searchers, Curly Fletcher in McLintock!, and a ton of movies from the '30's through the 1990's.

Very honorable mentions go to Jack Elam, Arthur Hunnicutt, and Ben Johnson.

Favorite Dance Hall Girl

As a refined Southern Lady, I can't acknowledge such creatures exist. I will, however, tip my bonnet to:

Amanda Blake, Miss Kitty Russell, proprietor of the Long Branch Saloon, Gunsmoke

Oh, I could go on forever.

Victor McLaglen's Top Sgt. Quincannon in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is classic and very funny. The Searchers has moments that crack me up every time, and I can repeat the dialogue right along with the actors in El Dorado.

They just don't make 'em like they used to.

But come Saturday, that's how I'll celebrate....wearing out the DVD's of my old Western favorites.


Monday, July 16, 2007

A little ammunition

Every time I get in a single-payer health insurance debate with someone the same old meme arises - "rationing". Krugman addresses is beautifully today.
...it's true that Americans get hip replacements faster than Canadians.

But there's a funny thing about that example, which is used constantly as an argument for the superiority of private health insurance over a government-run system: the large majority of hip replacements in the United States are paid for by, um, Medicare.

That's right...the hip replacement gap is actually a comparison of two government health insurance systems. American Medicare has shorter waits than Canadian Medicare (yes, that's what they call their system) because it has more lavish funding - end of story. The alleged virtues of private insurance have nothing to do with it.
(I wish I could provide a link, but it's behind the NY Times "Select" firewall and sent to me through the Health Care Quote of the Day mailing list)


Not only are hip replacements paid for under Medicare, but also most cataract surgeries, many cancer therapies, and many non-urgent procedures.

Commenting on the quote, the mail list submitter notes:
All systems ration care. Excessive rationing due to limited capacity is very easily remedied, as has been demonstrated in many nations with publicly-financed health care systems. Rationing by ability to pay, in contrast, results in suffering and death.
Amen, brother.

(Note: above post deleted and re-entered at a later time; apparently restoring the page to it's usual crappy format)


Thursday, July 12, 2007

No Quagmire Left Behind

I wish someone could explain to me why public school students and staff have to meet stringent 'benchmarks' or face penalties yet the Iraq occupation can flunk out on over half their 'benchmarks' and it shows "satisfactory progress".


Sunday, July 08, 2007

The wonder of it all

The votes are in, and despite my voting early and often for Stonehenge, it didn’t make the final cut for the Seven New Wonders of the World. Congratulations to the winners – may you long grace the earth and bring in the tourist dollars.

It got me thinking about the Seven Wonders of My Own World.

Now, this isn’t a comprehensive list and I’ve deliberately left out a few little things I’d be lost without - such as running water, electricity, automobiles and so forth. I’m restricting this list to items I didn’t have in my distant youth.

In no particular order (but pretty close), here's my list:

7. Microwave ovens
It's true....you never realize how much you love something until you've lost it.
6. Crock pots
An amazing kitchen appliance. Throw some meat and/or veggies in some liquid, set it on low, and go to work. When you come home you can sit down to a home-cooked meal without slaving over a hot stove. Much like Mr. Andante has done for the last 28 years.
5. Personal computer
While it’s true I’ve wasted countless hours on Freecell and strategy games, on balance the personal computer has revolutionized my life and way of doing business. It’s allowed me to keep in touch with friends and family, trace genealogy, arrange music, and efficiently (sort of) perform countless tasks.
4. Online transactions
This one is so life-altering it has to be included as a separate entry from ‘personal computers’. I used to spend a whole day each month balancing my bank statement, writing checks to pay bills, digging up stamps and envelopes, and so forth. Now I do it all in maybe five minutes without searching for the stamps and envelopes. Heaven!

And Christmas shopping? Wow…..what a relief to buy on-line and not have to contend with the holiday crowds and traffic. When I want to enjoy the holiday decorations and atmosphere at the mall, I can now do it without searching frantically for hard-to-please-people gifts.
3. Hormone Replacement Therapy
That roaring noise you hear is many, many ladies over a certain age hollering “AMEN!”, heartily seconded by their significant others.
2. Cell Phones
I have a no-frills, prepaid model that I seldom use. And I get really annoyed by people who drive with one hand and half a brain while yakking on a cell phone. But there have been a few times when I’ve been very, very thankful for the technology….like when I had a flat tire on a lonely country road after dark. Or when I came upon an auto accident with injuries.
And number one (drum roll.......)

1. Air Conditioning
Oliver Broudy has written a nice little essay for Salon, extolling the pleasures of a non-air conditioned home.

I guess I forgive him, since he grew up in Connecticut. I grew up inside the Beltway, where the temperatures and humidity easily top the 80's for a good 5-6 months of the year.

I now live in central North Carolina where the temperatures and humidity easily top the 90's for a good 7-8 months of the year.

His father-in-law has offered to buy him an air conditioner, but he's dithering and Mrs. Broudy has begun to get impatient with the hold up.

The subtitle of the piece is “I could buy an air conditioner -- but what would summer be without the romance of a shockingly cold beer, sweaty sheets and rustling leaves?”

Mr. Broudy may write a nice little essay, but I have a feeling he may soon be writing his name on divorce papers. Mrs. Broudy is quite understandably having a hard time seeing the romance in those sweaty sheets, and so do I.

Beer can always be made shockingly cold - it's called an ice-filled cooler.

If you need rustling leaves to lull you to sleep, there's a machine that makes those noises.

Sweaty sheets?! Give me a break....or rather, give me a pleasantly cool room and a bed with crisp, clean sheets.

Give it a try, Mr. Broudy...it will do wonders for your definition of "romantic".


Friday, July 06, 2007

Complicated for thee but not for me

Atrios makes an excellent point - universal life insurance doesn't need to be complicated.

For the American people...you know, the people it would benefit and who pay taxes....all it takes is signing up.

The complicated part is separating the politicians from all that insurance company money and staring down Big Pharma and Big HealthHogs.

That's the kind of thing the taxpayers pay the politicians to do.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Harry & Louise meet the jihadists

Back around 1994, all the hogs slobbering at the health care trough (the so-called "Coalition for Health Care Choices") blanketed the airwaves to defeat any possibility of meaningful health care reform:
To drive home the message, CHIC sponsored a now-legendary TV spot called "Harry and Louise," which featured a middle-class married couple lamenting the complexity of Clinton's plan and the menace of a new "billion-dollar bureaucracy."
Now "Harry & Louise" have another worry - islamofascist jihadists physicians and nurses.

Ya see, according to Faux News anything less than a private, for-profit health care system brings out the suiciders.

Have your barf bag ready and give it a listen.

Neil Cavuto must own a hell of a lot of stock in health insurance companies to make this big a reach.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Adieu, Bubbles*

One of the primary inspirations for thousands of aspiring singers has passed from this life. I wish I had a dime for every hour I spent in a practice room, trying to emulate just an iota of Beverly Sills' effortless, silvery voice.
Opera star Beverly Sills dies of cancer

Beverly Sills, the Brooklyn-born opera diva who was a global icon of can-do American culture with her dazzling voice, bubbly personality and management moxie in the arts world, died Monday of cancer, her manager said. She was 78.
Thank you, dear Bubbles, for brightening my life.

*an endearment coined by the doctor who delivered her, noting that she was born blowing a bubble of spit from her little mouth.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Score one for Chinese business

Chinese business has taken something of a beating lately over poisonous products and I'm certainly not making excuses for them.

But one Chinese business has actually declined to accept a chunk of American corporate welfare.
Lenovo declined the $154,000 it originally requested because it felt the county doesn't need another expense right now in its tight budget. The region also has the right labor force, transportation system and location for its business, said a company official and Dan Lynch, president of the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance.

The Chinese computer maker is a strong supporter of education, Lynch said, and it may want to play a role in rebuilding Eastern Guilford High School, destroyed last year in a fire. So taking county money would only run counter to that philosophy, he said.

He cautions, however, "I think it's dangerous to think all of a sudden this is going to happen all the time."

Incentives will still be the most important thing to many companies, but Lenovo was different, Lynch said.

"I give them a lot of credit for stepping back and saying, 'Wow! The county's got all of these financial balls they're juggling, there's other people who need this money more than we do at this time.'"
There's something you don't hear about every day. Wouldn't it be nice if an American company had as much regard for it's own country?

But hey - here's an American company stepping up!
Cigarette maker says it will give back N.C. grant and refund local tax break
Until you see that they were sort of embarrassed into giving it back -
Philip Morris USA said Thursday it will refund $750,000 in state job-creation money the company collected only weeks before announcing that its Concord plant would close and 2,500 jobs would be lost.

The cigarette giant also said it will refund a local tax incentive already paid by Concord and would research whether it will still collect future incentive money. The state and local money was promised in exchange for a $138 million investment at the massive cigarette factory over the past three years.

The company decided to return the money because keeping it would have broken the spirit of the original incentive agreements from 2004, which was to keep jobs and investment in Cabarrus County, said spokesman Brendan McCormick.

"I figured they probably would be embarrassed by it and they probably would return it," said state Sen. David Hoyle, a Gaston County Democrat who became incensed Wednesday when he heard about the May 25 payment of state grant money.
As the Lenova official noted, our area has "the right labor force, transportation system and location for its business", supporting education is in the company's best interest, and accepting incentive money only takes money away from needed infrastructure expenditure.

Psst....Lenova.....could you maybe persuade our government that universal health insurance would be a great business incentive, too?


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