Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why I support universal healthcare

I have a good job. I have quality health insurance for myself and my dependents, funded in part by my employer. I pay taxes, and might even see my taxes go up to help fund universal healthcare.

So why do I support universal healthcare?

Let's start with another question. Why do I have health insurance?
  1. By chance, I was born into a family that could afford to send me to college. Therefore I was able to obtain an education that enabled me to get a good job - the type of job that typically includes subsidized health insurance.
  2. My employer offers it. This is in part my choice: I might not choose to accept employment with a company that doesn't offer health coverage. But in a pinch, I imagine I'd accept a job just about anywhere if it meant the difference between home-ownership and foreclosure.
  3. By chance or luck, I'm relatively healthy. This means no expensive treatments or pre-existing conditions for which an insurance company could decide to cancel my coverage.
  4. Because my parents had health insurance. That's one reason that I'm alive today. After delivery by emergency c-section, I was transfused with blood to replace what had been lost. And one week later, I had surgery to repair an intestinal blockage that prevented me from digesting anything. Without those interventions, I wouldn't have survived my first month. If I had died, I probably wouldn't have health insurance today. My parents' health coverage was, again, not something within my control.
To recap, I have health insurance today for four reasons: birth into a family that could afford to give me a good education; an employer that provides benefits; my own health history; and my parents' health coverage. At least three of those reasons, and arguably all four, are not within my control.

So why do I support universal health insurance?

Because I suspect that the fate of the uninsured is no more within their control than my own.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

An iconic bird

Growing up in Atlanta, Delta Air Lines was my ticket anywhere I wanted to go. They owned about 80% of the gates at the sprawling Hartsfield International Airport, and there were direct flights to anywhere.

When I was in college, there was a time that I could price flights home to Atlanta from any of four cities (Boston, Providence, Worcester, Manchester) - all of which had daily nonstop Delta flights to ATL.

But I digress. As an aviation enthusiast and a fan of Delta's brand, there was always one thing that made me feel ever-so-slightly cheated. Since the 1970's, Delta has not flown the beautiful, iconic Boeing 747. Something about watching those enormous, graceful aircraft landing at JFK, BOS, IAD, just made all of those seem like more "real" International airports than ATL, despite Atlanta's secure spot atop the list of the world's busiest airports.

Well, consider this injustice remedied. With the Delta-NWA merger, Delta acquired a fleet of 747's in both Passenger and Cargo configurations. As the two airlines combine their operations, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out a remarkable milestone. The first NWA 747 to be repainted in Delta livery will begin scheduled service this week.

Check out the time-lapse video of the paint job:

And for those keeping score at home, keep this in mind: Each new full coat of paint adds about 1,200 lb. to the weight of a 747.

Friday, March 6, 2009

It pays to insulate

Back in November, I hired a handyman contractor to do two things: Fix the rotten wood on the roof, through which I suspected that mice were entering the house, and insulate our attic. The latter was something of a large job, as it involved removing the 50-year-old blown-in insulation, laying batts of modern fiberglass insulation, and laying a wood floor (for storage) over the new insulation.

After inspiration from a WSJ article sent to my by a friend - you know who you are - I decided to calculate whether my investment had paid off. I looked up government data on "Heating Degree Days" for Washington DC over the past three months, and compared it to my gas bills for the same time period.

Now, there are a number of reasons that this is unscientific:
  • The insulation was added in mid-November, so the full month of November isn't really a fair "baseline".
  • The weather data is based on the calendar month, while the gas bill is based on my billing cycle month. While they overlap for the most part, they aren't perfectly aligned.
  • I based the home heating expense on dollars, not BTUs purchased from the utility - so any variation in natural gas prices during this timeframe would skew the results.
  • This was an unusual time period for our house, since we had houseguests frequently staying during the week (when the thermostat is usually very low). If anything, this caused us to use MORE heat than would be typical for December and January.
Nonetheless, one thing is pretty clear: It got much colder outside, and our heating bill went down!

The data bears out my experience. Previously, the furnace was working very hard to heat a poorly insulated house. As a result, the temperature difference from downstairs to upstairs was routinely 5-10 degrees. Now, upstairs and downstairs are typically within two degrees of each other. And the furnace gets a lot more time to rest.

One more benefit: No more rodents since the roof was fixed!

Major hat-tip to Sam and Sons Services, who did the work. (Yes, their website is a little weak total disaster, but they do good work!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Democratic process at work

Most of the country voted in November. Some people got to vote again in January or February.

Some lucky residents of Fairfax County, Virginia may get to vote four times before all is said and done.

In November, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Gerry Connolly, was elected to congress. This left his Chair vacant, so Fairfax held a special election in early February to fill it. The winner, Sharon Bulova, must vacate her position as Braddock District representative on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors when she takes over the Board Chair.

So what to do about her seat? Another special election, of course. On March 10, Braddock District representatives will vote on a new representative to the county board.

The favorite in that election is currently on the Fairfax School Board. Guess what happens if he gets elected to the Board of Supervisors? That's right. ANOTHER special election to fill his seat on the school board.

And don't forget, there's a June primary for the Virginia gubernatorial election.

I wonder if voter turnout gets diluted when there's an election every month.

HT: WashPo

Monday, January 5, 2009

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Virginia results

Cool widget from the Virginia State Board of Elections shows real-time election results!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

If the world could vote...

This site allows people from the world over to cast their ballots for the current US Presidential election.

At the moment, with over 700,000 votes from 200+ countries, John McCain is winning in Albania & Macedonia.

And to any of my readers who choose a candidate based solely on his stance toward Israel - note which candidate 64% of Israelis so far have chosen.

McCain & Government Healthcare: Hypocrisy in action

John McCain and his Vice-Mouthpiece, Mrs. Palin, have been railing on about how Obama plans to create a huge, inefficient government bureaucracy to ensure health insurance for all Americans that want it.

Funny thing about that... I wonder who paid for the top-notch medical care that cured Senator McCain of his potentially life-threatening melanoma?

Government healthcare SAVED HIS LIFE and he's bloviating about how awful it would be if all Americans had the opportunity to have government healthcare.

Awful, indeed. Can you just imagine the impact on national elections if we were to close the racial life expectancy gap?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's still my blog!!

Just decided it was time for a new outfit.

Where do your Petrodollars go?

The Energy Information Administration, a department of the US Dept of Energy, publishes a monthly report listing all petroleum products imported into the United States, broken down by company.

There's some interesting stuff in there. Personally, I like to get gas from companies that import little or no oil from oppressive Theocracies. This report identifies them.

You can download the spreadsheet for yourself here (top link in the list), but I've prepared some quick statistics on the major-brand gas retailers. It's not 100% reliable because independent gas stations buy from a variety of importers & refiners - but rather directionally helpful.
Given, I arbitrarily selected Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. I left out several moderate Arab states like Oman and Kuwait. But through this lens, some things are starkly apparent.
  • ExxonMobil - more than 40% of their oil imports come from Saudi Arabia & Iraq
  • Chevron - not far behind, with 34% of petroleum imports coming from those two countries
  • Marathon - imports 28% of their petroleum from Saudi Arabia
  • BP & Valero - both get more than one fifth of their oil from Iraq, Libya & Saudi Arabia
On the flip-side, these companies import little or no petroleum from Iraq, Libya & SA:
  • Hess
  • Irving
  • Sinclair
  • Citgo (mostly from Venezuela; I'm okay with that)
  • Sunoco
  • Shell (imports less than 6% from Libya)
  • ConocoPhillips (imports 8.4% from the three, but only 1.3% from Saudi Arabia)
The experts say this is a goofy way to decide where to fill your tank - since there's a limited supply of petroleum, any intelligent company is going to buy from where there's availability - but I have to admit that the silver lining of filling my tank at Sunoco or Shell is knowing that not a penny of it is going to line the pockets of the Saudi royal family.

EDIT: And while all of this data is just for the month of August, I've pulled the report in other months and the percentages are relatively consistent.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bad week for Zoos & Aquariums

An angry rhino attacks and kills his cellmate at the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk.

The Georgia Aquarium experiences paranormal activity while hosting relics from the Titanic.

And, double-whammy for Atlanta - a pregnant elephant at Zoo Atlanta has died. After unexplained weight loss of 800 lb!!!!

Jews for Jesus: They want to rescue my soul and my vote, too! (A multiple-choice question)

A true email exchange.

Video from Jewish Syndicated Columnist
CreationsByTim@a* Mon, Oct 27, 2008 at 4:03 PM
To: Flipper

Please watch this short video by syndicated Jewish columnist.
shocking and revealing.


This clearly presents the positions of Obama. He is no friend of Israel
As a Jew, many people ask me who I am supporting in the upcoming Presidential election, my response has always been, and will remain, who will be the best supporter of Israel?
The United States position on the future and well-being of Israel is at stake and it is my Biblical responsibility to defend God's People, my people and His Land, I will support nothing less......If we Americans take care of the "Apple of God's Eye," then He will take care of America. There can be no compromise.
There is much at stake in the upcoming election, it is my prayer that you will prayerfully consider your vote as well.
Blessings Robin

Video from Jewish Syndicated Columnist
From: Flipper Mon, Oct 27, 2008 at 4:19 PM
To: CreationsByTim@a*

Who are you?
Where did you get my email address?

Read up.

The sensationalist crap doesn't work so well with me. I happen to know one of Sen. Obama's senior Middle East advisors personally.

Note - at this point, I also forward the original email to AOL's TOS abuse address to complain about being spammed.
Video from Jewish Syndicated Columnist
CreationsByTim@a* Mon, Oct 27, 2008 at 4:36 PM
To: Flipper

Your email is posted on your website. I too am Jewish. I am trying to get the truth out to my people. God forbid this man should get into office. Have you seen this?
YouTube - Gaddafi: Obama is a Muslim - Foreign Donations to the Obama Campaign

Video from Jewish Syndicated Columnist
Flipper Mon, Oct 27, 2008 at 4:41 PM
To: CreationsByTim@a*

Jewish, eh? Bridgeway Church is an interesting choice for a Jew...

(I, too, can Google)

And please turn down Rush & Hannity long enough to actually learn some facts.

Anything further from you is headed straight into my Spam folder where it belongs, so please don't bother.

Re: Video from Jewish Syndicated Columnist
CreationsByTim@a* Mon, Oct 27, 2008 at 4:49 PM
To: Flipper

Have you ever heard of a Messianic Jew....there are plenty of us out here.

At this point:

A. I respond with "HAAAA HAAA HAA Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!! Messianic Jew. That's funny."

B. I respond with "Given the paucity of actual facts in the sources you've sent, I deduce that your 'concern' for Israel is simply your presumption of the best way to prevent me from voting for a Pro-choice, pro-equal-rights candidate? You see, I have a degree in Early Christianity (or, as I like to call it, Messianic Jews (Pagans too) version 1.0). So I'm rather suspect of your motivations. And while it's certainly noble to think you can influence the outcome of the democratic process, Spaming with sensationalist BS is a pretty pathetic M.O. So I ask you, with all sincerity, to please get a life. Preferably, one that doesn't involve trying to convince others that their millenia-old heritage is bogus."

C. True to my earlier promise, I do not respond at all.

Okay, fine, it was C. And for the record - I found one blog post on Flippish in which I accidentally included my email address. I'd posted to the blog via email and forgot to erase my standard footer. Now remedied.

So... what do you think, folks?