Monday, August 20, 2007

China,China, China.

My apologies for the lame Brady Bunch reference in this post's title (remember "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia"?), but lately China has been all over the news for even worse reasons than usual.

It seems the Communist bureaucrats, in what can only be a case of one-up-man-ship with the bureaucrats who pollute democracies, have decided to regulate reincarnation. That's right:
In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission.

Pundits stress that this is simply an attempt to control the naming of the next Dalai Lama.

This is the country that was awarded the summer Olympics? In 1980 the US, and other countries, boycotted the Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (how ironic is that?). Why are they not boycotting the games in China? Stupidity? Avarice? Cheap (slave) labour for US multinational corporations? Pathetic.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The US and Socialized Medicine

Back in March of 2006 I posted an article called "Health Care in Canada is Sick and Dying" in which I opined that the Canadian system has many flaws but also contrasted it with the incredibly expensive US system. An obviously American reader posted a comment, anonymously, in which he or she states that:
There's a reason health care in the US costs a lot. Because it's better.
Well, as Michael Moore has shown...not so much. The anonymous comment goes on to say that stories of people dying in the US because they could not afford health care are myths. Again, not quite.

Sure, there is such a thing as free emergency care, but only to people below a certain tax bracket. People with insurance are habitually denied coverage for various reasons. Let's face it, Insurance companies really don't want to pay anything out...this is how they make a profit. So they will try everything to deny a claim. People have declared bankruptcy because of sudden medical bills. This is a fact, though what is disputed are the numbers. Some studies show that half of all bankruptcy claims have some health care related factor. Whatever the number, the personal economic effect of vast medical bills is deplorable.

Some people can afford the insurance. Great. Once you or your spouse gets an iron-clad, gold class, health insurance policy through his/her employer, try leaving that employer and get coverage elsewhere if at anytime you have made a claim. Good luck.

Fred, at tackles this issue in a recent post. In hit he asks some difficult questions:

Now, what do we do with people who have obeyed all the fabled American rules, who have worked, perhaps at pathetic wages and no benefits, and never cheated, and been honest citizens, and then the bottling plant went to China and they’re old and have nothing? What?

We could be good social Darwinists and let them rot. They are not cutting edge people, not Verilog mechanics or optical engineers or hedge-fund managers. Who needs them? All right. If this is your position, say so. Look me in the eye and say, “Screw’em. I don’t care what happens to them and I’m not going to spend a red cent on them.” Say this, and I will understand you.

And later:
It’s different to Mary Sal Wooten in a decaying trailer somewhere on 301 South, with her retinas peeling like wallpaper from diabetic retinopathy, ankles swollen and darkening toward gangrene, and the hospital won’t take her because it isn’t an emergency and she can’t afford her medicine. Really, truly no-shit can’t afford it.

What do we do with people like her? People who just flat can’t handle the complexity of today’s world? It seems to me that anyone who wants to think about socialized medicine has to answer that question before starting.

Fred has more experience than many with the seedier underbellies of American society, and in the backwater towns that litter most of the US landscape. So his opinions have always seemed more valid to me than those of some upper-middle class columnist or blogger whose viewpoint goes little beyond their white picket fence, or through the windows of their Hummer.

His final thought:

What other solutions are available? Many say, “It’s a job for private charity.” This is another way of saying, “Screw’em, I ain’t paying a cent.” Yet others say cut taxes and the resulting economic boom will lift all boats. This is another way of saying, “Screw’em, I ain’t paying a cent.”

But let’s at least have the dignity to say what we mean. The truth is that large numbers of people cannot take care of themselves beyond showing up at work every day and spinning lug nuts on the assembly line. They aren’t going to invest wisely from youth because they aren’t smart enough. Employers aren’t going to provide retirements unless forced to. Hospitals won’t take them if they can avoid it. Do we say, “Screw’em, let’em croak”? Apparently. Then let’s say so plainly.

I believe in capitalism, but the US system is abhorrent.

'Nuff said.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bridge Collapse

The bridge collapse in Minneapolis is certainly tragic, but this is a more common occurrence lately. A bridge collapsed in Laval, Quebec recently as well, though I don't think there were any casualties, fortunately.

This is what happens when too many critical areas of a country's infrastructure is left solely to the state to maintain. Even in the sue-happy US, can you even take the city/state to court for something like this? You could if a private company was in charge of maintaining the bridge. Contracts should be extended to private companies and paid for with the same tax dollars that are already collected for roadwork (and bridge work). The private company would have the responsibility to maintain the safety and quality of the highways and bridges for which they have been commissioned. The proviso is that they can be sued if the road/bridge is kept in an unsafe condition...especially if a bridge collapses. For larger road/bridge works, allow them to charge a toll for their use.

There's a highway in Toronto (the 407) that is billed as the world's first all electronic open-access toll highway. If you use it, you can either be billed by using a transponder that shows when and how far you travelled on the 180 KM route, or, in the absence of a transponder, the highway uses a video system to track your license plate and you are billed by mail. The highway is privately run and is both well-maintained and efficient. I have no problem with it being a toll highway, and, in fact, would use this model to bring about more efficient highway systems everywhere else.

The kumbaya-singing, sandal-wearing hemp folk would scream about the evils of capitalism, but screw them. Government's can barely handle their own internal processes properly, let alone be in charge of something as large and complex as highway infrastructure.