Solving Sustainability Now


Posted on : 3/20/2010 12:17:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

From Megan McArdle comes the following about the pending health care bill, our many other social programs, and sustainability.

But there is one thing of which I am nearly perfectly certain: If we pass this thing, no American politician, left or right, is going to cut any of these programs, or raise the broad-based taxes necessary to pay for them, without any compensating goodies to offer the public . . . until the crisis is almost upon us. I can think of no situation, other than impending crisis, in which such a thing has been done--and usually, as with Social Security, they have done just little enough to kick the problem down the road.  The idea that you pass a program of dubious sustainability because you can always make it sustainable later, seems borderline insane.  I can't think of a single major entitlement that has become more sustainable over time.  Why is this one supposed to be different?
[emphasis mine]

Social Security is crashing.  Now.

Medicare has been crashing.  For years.

Entitlement spending has been driving deficits.  For decades.

The current health care "reforms" are arranged so that the taxes kick in early while the benefits kick in late.....if ever.

It is long past the time when we should have had a serious national conversation about exactly how much government spending we can live with.  It is long past the time when we should have had a serious conversation about spending priorities, and selecting which federal programs were going to be ended so that the ones we truly need can survive.

"None of the above" makes a lousy basis for a government budget.  Based on the current bunch of elected Congresscritters, that is the only option left after decades of "All of the above" legislation.

Who Cares....


Posted on : 3/19/2010 05:03:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

From Megan McArdle comes this pointed and accurate summation regarding the proposed health care reforms:

I think this is a fiscal disaster waiting to happen.  But no one on the other side cares, so I'm not sure how much point there is in saying that any more.

Everything that leads up to her conclusion is also worth reading......if you care about whether or not the proposed "reforms" have any chance of achieving what proponents claim will be achieved.

Profit Is Still A Good Thing


Posted on : 3/19/2010 08:15:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

A continual source of personal frustration in the health care debate is the repeated suggestion that health insurance companies are making bucket-loads of money.  That is the suggestion in this Ann Telnaes animation.  It was the suggestion on a recent edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross when Ms. Gross questioned whether mandated mental health screenings for post partum depression would do nothing more than give health insurance companies another way to make more money. Yes, I screamed. [loudly, like a little girl -ed.]

The fact is that the health insurance industry profit margin is currently 4.4 percent.  They come in at number 86 in a list of industries ranked by profit margin.

A truly single payer or nationalized health care system will not realize much, if any, savings in comparison with health insurance companies.  The history of single payer systems has not been reduced costs but instead reduced access to care.

Health insurance companies....their many faults being duly acknowledged by your dashing and insightful interlocutor....are not the source of waste.  They are not siphoning off riches that will cover the 30 million or so uninsured that the current government proposals claim to cover [eventually].

Profit drives innovation.  Profit identifies and eliminates waste.  And 4.4% profit is small potatoes. 

The money to "extend coverage" is going to have to come from taxpayers.  And we are covering quite a bit at the moment.  If the proposed reforms are so important, then perhaps there are a few government agencies that we might close [or shrink] to cover the bill?  DEA? NEA? Ag? Education? ??

Hell, even DoD could stand to lose a few pounds!

Almost As Good As Gold


Posted on : 3/18/2010 07:08:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

I found this new Chex Mix flavor the other day.  Mmmm, mmmmm, good!

Another Piece Of Invaluable Information


Posted on : 3/17/2010 08:01:00 AM | By : Dann | In : ,

Terry Gross of Fresh Air interviewed author Michael Lewis yesterday.  Mr. Lewis has written a book about the people that made millions, perhaps billions, from the recent stock market collapse.  He started his book, "Big Short", in an attempt to understand why these people has such a different perception of the market than was the case for the rest of Wall Street.

The interview is quite interesting.  One facet of the story that I thought was fascinating was that all of the people Mr. Lewis studied had attempted to warn Wall Street in one way or another.  They were ignored and the rest is history.

I continue to find these kinds of stories interesting.  There is no single cause for the 2008 collapse.  As we continue to learn more about what really happened and why it happened, we continue to find a variety of causes the confluence of which resulted in our current economic difficulties.

A cautionary note, I don't endorse Ms. Gross or her program "Fresh Air".  I spend a great deal of time screaming at my radio whenever I am listening to her show because of her lack of curiosity regarding some subjects and her outright bias regarding others. 

She occasionally has a gem of a program.  This is one of those occasions.

Another Run On The Water – Raisin Upstream Of Norvell


Posted on : 3/16/2010 10:43:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

It was on the 60's today.  The sun was shining.  The birds were singing.

And my kayak was begging to get wet.  What is a guy to do?

I packed up my kayak and gear after work and headed out.  Donald and I had been scoping out river locations on the way back from Cabela's last weekend.  We went through Norvell and saw that the Raisin River was flowing nicely.

As luck would have it, all of my usual partners in river mischief were otherwise occupied, so I really needed a spot where I could go out and back rather than running a river and needing to be picked up or dropped off.  Norvell is only about 10 miles from home as the crow flies.   So off I went.

As a side note, I passed by Little Wolf Lake.  It still is about 70% covered with ice.  There is a nice park there that will make a great starting point, or perhaps a start/end point.

Calling the entries to the Raisin on Austin Road "landings" is really being complimentary.  Both the north and south side have shallow, sandy areas that stay open only because people use them enough that the grass won't grow there.  Parking is fine on the north side of the road.  The traffic moves pretty quickly, so be careful when humping your 'yak to the south landing.

Being alone, I figured that it would be easier if I were to go upstream first.  In theory, that would make the return trip a bit easier than the outbound run.  So I dropped in on the south side of the road and began paddling.  Even with all of the snow melt currently running off, the current really wasn't all that bad. 

I knew that one half of the marsh went nowhere.  The other half leads upstream.  Care to guess which way I went first?  Good guess.

The water in most of the marsh is barely 2 to 3 deep.  In most of the places to the east, it was only 18 inches deep.  There are many reeds, cattails, and other flora in the middle to keep you guessing.  The reeds are home to Canadian geese, several species of ducks, red-winged blackbirds, muskrats, and who knows what else.  The geese and the ducks got mad at me and left pretty quickly.  I think I may have interrupted a couple of geese that were 'getting busy', if you know what I mean.  They were honking at me for half an hour after I passed their nesting area.  100+ yards from their nesting area.  You would have thought that I had pulled up right next to them.

The muskrats were a lot of fun to watch.  One got caught in the middle of a wide open area when I came along.  As luck would have it, he started to head back the other way as I went around him to catch up on the other side of the open water.  He dove and stayed down for a long time.  Eventually, I saw that he had popped up 15 yards away and much closer to the cover of the reeds.

Having explored the east half of the marsh, I decided to see if I could find where the river really was.  A swan came out of the reeds on the way back out.  He paddled off well ahead of me.  I had no idea that we had so many swans in the area.

Big tip here.....when in the marsh, pay attention to where the water is moving and which direction it is flowing.  Ripples started appearing in the water as I left the east portion of the marsh.  I shot through an opening and sure enough the river was moving here.

From here on out I had only two thoughts in mind.  First, paddle.  Don't stop.  Don't rest.  Paddle slower if there is no other choice, but paddle.  And second, watch for moving water.

There are a few locations where you might lose your way, but if you keep an eye on the ripples, then there shouldn't be any problems.  The stream wanders back and forth quite a bit.  After a while, the sun started to drop and my arms were asking for a break.

The run back down stream was quite a bit easier.  I was paddling most of the way, but I was doing a lot less work.

You can follow my meanderings on the map the follows.  If Google is to be believed, then my trip was about 3.5 miles long.  I was about 1.5 hours on the water.  That works out to 2.33 miles per hour.  Not a bad run!

A brief word on equipment.  Special thanks to Donald and Josh for my early birthday present, a floatation vest from Cabela's.  There is no padding on the sides, so paddling is pretty easy.

Also, I'm still very impressed with the stability of the Future Beach kayak hull.  Getting in, paddling around, and getting out were a breeze.

A brief word on safety.  The water at this point of the Raisin is currently pretty high.  Usually you would be able to float under the roadway and get squirted out the other side without any problems.  There is barely enough for an empty kayak to make it under that bridge.  Give that area a lot of clearance.

Happy paddling!

View Raisen from Austin in a larger map

The Biggest Hurdle


Posted on : 3/16/2010 08:08:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

I got into an online discussion the other day.....yeah, I know....with yet another individual that demonstrates a complete lack of understanding regarding our Constitutionally limited form of government. He thinks the phrase "General Welfare" is not simply a loop hole, but instead is a sixteen lane wide legislative highway for Congress to use to pass just about any old law.

That discussion motivated me to look up the following, for the next time I need it.

"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one ...With respect to the two words 'general welfare', I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." -James Madison