Saturday, July 05, 2008

Tomorrow's Travels

We have some interesting travels ahead of us over the next few days:

Boulder, CO- My cousin Tom and his wife Juli live there these days, and as luck would have it, my Aunt & Uncle will already be there, along with my cousin Jennifer and her family.

Wyoming- Hard to say where all we will visit, but we're definitely driving through, and it looks like Thermopolis (think, 'city of hot springs') and Cody (Buffalo Bill) are on the short list.

Big Sky, MT- Site of Ame's conference. Let's hear it once again for the medical profession, for they know where to place their conferences. This stands in stark constrast to engineering, which lands us in Madison WI in January, and Pittsburgh any time. This is right near Yellowstone Park, and is said to be stunningly gorgeous. I'm up for that!

Yellowstone Park- Animals, forest, and Old Faithful. Isabel will love it.

On the Maybe List- Grand Teton Park, Idaho, Jackson WY. Hard to say. These are a bit out of the way, and we aren't doing the hi-miler hellride.

There will be postcards for Greg. My buddy and I send 'em to each other when we visit a state we'd never been to before. He sent me one reading "49" last year when he hit Arkansas. He'll get one marked "39" for Wyoming, "40" for Montana, and "41" for Idaho, if we get there.

Left on the list: Vermont, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii. The four grouped in the South are bound to be last. I have almost no desire to go to any of those states.

How's your list shaping up?
Angry Publican: David Hockney

Following up on the recent post on the effect of the smoking ban (among other things) on Britain's pubs, I happened across an article that was sent to me about a month ago by Steve Wainstead. Steve was a photo major, and turned me on to Hockney's photo collages, which was eye-opening for me. In turn, I began to shoot photo collages for myself.

Hockney is quite outspoken about the smoking ban, and all things "bossy". From an article in The Independent:
Some of the world's finest artists were lifelong smokers, he will happily point out, including Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Turner. Hockney does not smoke while he is painting because he needs his hands free, but when he steps back to take stock of his work, he lights up. And when the Government announced its proposed smoking ban in pubs and clubs, Hockney turned up at Labour's annual conference to lead a protest funded by the tobacco companies. "Death awaits you whether you smoke or not," he proclaimed. "Pubs are not health clubs. People go to drown their sorrows. We could save a lot more lives if we refuse to serve alcohol, you could argue. This is ridiculous. It's bossy."

Bossiness is one of Hockney's pet dislikes. He has a slogan: End Bossiness Soon – "soon" because he thinks "now" would sound bossy. "People should start standing up for themselves," he says. "Where has the awkward squad gone?"

I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the range of Hockney's libertarian beliefs. It's not what I expect from an artiste. But, it appears that Hockney finds the "for your own good" laws to be conformity, something many artistes once rebelled against.

let's hear it for Hockney!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Britain's Pubs Dying

Big surprise: two top causes are the smoking ban, and taxes on alcohol.

Link to CNN video

This may well be hailed as a good thing. Obviously, smoking and alcohol are bad for you. But, what about tradition? I once planned a trip to Britain with friends that included at least one London pub crawl, because to me, it just screamed, ENGLAND! (Sadly, the trip was scrapped due to work.)

Says British beer blogger Pete Brown, "If you took a guy from the 10th Century, and brought him forward in time, the only things he would recognize today are the churches and pubs."

So, another corner of the planet becomes more homogenized. Great.
IndyGo Chief Quits

Is it a glutton for punishment to go from head of the BMV, to IndyGo president? After six years in the latter post, Gil Holmes is leaving the Marion County socialized bus company. From the Indy Star report:
Gilbert Holmes took over leadership of the IndyGo transit system in 2002, inheriting an agency mired in turmoil after federal and local auditors discovered financial mismanagement and other problems.

He confronted a fiscal crisis in 2004 that nearly led to deep service cuts, but he landed a loan from then-Mayor Bart Peterson to cover much of the shortfall. Still, during his tenure, Holmes had to raise fares because of rising fuel and other costs.

At the same time, Holmes pushed a bigger vision for IndyGo, developing a 15-year expansion plan and adding express buses, Downtown shuttles and other features.

Yes, if it doesn't work, expand it. Whether it's a big corporation or a bus system, this seems to be the prevailing, destructive attitude.

I had the opportunity to debate Holmes on WXNT's "Abdul in the Morning" program last year, and Holmes' attitude was most interesting, indeed. He acknowledged IndyGo's greatly unbalanced balance sheet, and was unapologetic for it. He repremanded me for being philosophical and political in my opposition to taxpayer funding of public transportation, but at the same time used philosophical and political justifications in favor of the public transportation.

My blog post from the debate.
My NYC transit experience post, and a Holmes reference.
A Wayne County transit numbers post, and a Holmes reference

It's no secret that I think that at best, public transportation should be left not to government but to private operators, and at worst, it can stay in government hands but the riders should pay the full fare. I can understand a man such as Holmes, with an apparent deep conviction to the redistribution of wealth, taking the positions on transport that he does. I was mystified at the Republicans who are on the bandwagon. The only conclusion I can draw is that they have friends who stand to make a lot of money improving and building trackage, or building and supplying locomotives and cars.

Public transportation is just a bad sign to me. I understand it as a placebo for high gas prices. But like war, these days, public transportation is the health of the state.

Mass transit post on regionalism and "conservatives"
Master link to Kole's posts on "mass transit"

Monday, June 30, 2008

One Doctor's Insights

In my summer hockey session, there are fewer players, so the teams are all jumbled. All four of my linemates are guys I've never played with before. So, I try to get to know them a bit. After the game (a 6-1 win, and a goal by Yours Truly), I spoke with Dan, who is a family practice physician. It was eye-opening, to say the least.

As we were talking generally, he asked me my opinion of the state of health care. My response was simple: Insurance is the problem. It is a middleman taking a share of the cost without adding value, and it makes decisions where doctors should make them instead. I didn't say that I believe in the free market, that socialized health care is unjust, or anything political.

He thought this critique on the role of insurance was right on the mark. Among the loads of tidbits he threw at me, I hung on to these:
Medicare will be insolvent in three years.

Congress knows this, or should, and is passing this political football to the poor sap who is elected President.

The system will collapse because of insurance. It will be overhauled with Medical Savings Accounts, making people notice price for the first time in two generations.

The US devotes 19% of GDP to health care. Economists believe that any economy that devotes 23% of GDP to health care is unsustainable.

These are just one doctor's opinions, and I can't vouch for the precision of the numbers. But, being that these are largely things I had never heard before, or certainly don't hear very often, I found them exceptionally jarring and enlightening.

I found it most insightful that he told me he is glad the race is Obama & McCain, since both of them appear to him to be the kind of people who will shake things up- because the thing that needs to be said is this: "You know how we've been telling you that health care is a right? Yeah, we've been leading you by the nose on that one. It's a load of crap."

I agree with his assessment of the need to come clean, but I really don't think those Obama or McCain are the ones that would do it at all. Both of those appear to be the kind of captains that would be damn glad to go down with their ships- McCain, Iraq; Obama, who talks of expanding socialized health care. I let it go for now about Bob Barr, as there will be opportunity a-plenty.

He then went on about the lousy choices Americans make with regards to food, drink, exercise, and to a lesser degree, smoking; and the resulting Type 2 diabetes he sees regularly in people under 30. His conclusion- you can't have people be completely free of the responsibility to pay for their own choices and have people take on the burden of other people's choices. Economic collapse is the only possible result.

I think I'll have little trouble turning him on to Barr. I sincerely doubt the American people are ready for this news, in the face of all the other bad news raining on us these days.