Archive for October 2017

Ex-Catalonian President Flees Spain

Former Catalonian president Carles Puigdemon has fled Spain and arrived in Brussels where he had been promised asylum.

Lynyrd Skynyrd Killed in Plane Crash 40 Years Ago Today

40 years ago this evening the plane carrying the band, their backup singers, their tour entourage and two pilots ran out of gas and crashed into a heavily wooded area in southern Mississippi killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister and backup singer Carrie Gaines, both pilots and their tour manager. Tom Farrier, former director of safety with the Air Transport Association has a terrific write-up on the crash that silenced a band that defined the genre of Southern Rock.

Although famous for Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird, the song that stands the test of time best is Simple Man. As an aging parent myself there’s gold in those lyrics if you are patient enough to find it.

Related Articles: USA Today on the crash. Rolling Stone.

So How Are the Philadelphia Eagles Doing This Year?

For the first time in over 20 years I don’t have any idea, nor do I care. I grew up watching football and playing street games of it. I lost interest in high school and college years, but eventually came back to the sport after returning to the USA after living abroad. Living outside of Philadelphia the Eagles were my team, and I followed the team zealously through the Andy Reid years including the disaster that was the Super Bowl appearance in 2005. In 2013 I wrote, “But every season the game seems to lose some of its appeal. Maybe there are too many penalties in an attempt to make the game safe. Maybe it’s because I’m growing older and have seen some pretty bad things happen to people. Maybe it’s because I’m just turning into a big pussy. But there’s only so many times I can see a player get hit and lay motionless on the ground while holding my breath before I begin to think something is wrong both with the sport and my enjoyment of it.”

For several years I ponied up several hundred dollars a season to the NFL and DirecTV for the NFL Sunday Pass, but as the CTE scandal grew I eventually dropped the package before quitting satellite completely and becoming a cord cutter. As I wrote in 2014, “The NFL has denied the existence of CTE the exact same way the tobacco companies denied cancer caused by smoking. Recently the league has pushed the problem into the future by calling for “more study” just as the cigarette companies called for further research on lung cancer when the Science behind the causative link between smoking and lung cancer was unequivocal. What they’ve done is criminal but not surprising given the amount of money league owners have invested in the game.”

I quit watching the sport because of conscience, but I still read about it and followed the Philadelphia (and Dallas) newspapers to read about the Eagles and their dreaded rivals the Cowboys.

Then Colin Kaepernick and his protest against black oppression happened and spread through the league. Now millionaires were protesting against the very nation that gave them the opportunity to become wealthier than nearly everyone else in the country. And their billionaire bosses supported them.

What originally had been a matter of conscience became like so much these days political.

So poof! A lifelong interest in the sport is snuffed out completely. Perhaps the Eagles can pick up fans from Antifa, Code Pink, or the Democratic Underground.

I think my Euro-centric friends are right: soccer is much more interesting.

Why Is Gun Control Such a Sensitive Topic to You?

Because it’s difficult to imagine living life as another person, his needs or her situation. Our instinct is to assume our situation is the norm, so we think that if we don’t need an a gun (or an abortion, gender reassignment surgery, or whatever other hot-button topic you can imagine) then nobody does.


Society is incredibly diverse and there is a naive assumption that everyone is the same. We’re not, but different doesn’t mean bad contrary to another base assumption that humans hold.


We are talking about rights, and these were viewed as so important by the founders of the USA that they recognized their origin as coming from the Divine, not a government. So when you are talking about limiting those rights you’re going to anger someone, whether that’s the right to marry whomever you want, say whatever you want, or protect yourself and your family.


Americans have become so polarized that we’ve forgotten how to empathize with those who think differently. It’s a problem that goes far beyond the 2nd Amendment and touches the very fabric of our national identity.


 

The US could definitely fund a single payer healthcare and free college for all. Should it?

Your question combines 4 questions:

  1. Can the US fund a single payer healthcare system?

  2. If it can, should it?

  3. Can the US fund college for all?

  4. If it can, should it?

Let’s start with question #1 first: Can the US fund a single payer healthcare system? California, the largest state in the USA has a single payer healthcare system plan. Unfortunately this plan has gone nowhere. Why? Because the state cannot figure how to afford it. Single-payer healthcare could cost $400 billion to implement in California


The population of California is roughly 40 million and the US is 325 million. So extrapolating from California’s numbers, the cost for single payer to cover the entire USA would be about $3.2 trillion.


Here’s President Obama’s proposed budget for 2017.



Single payer healthcare would cost the country 3/4ths of the existing budget.


So to answer question #1. Can the US fund single payer nationwide? Not really.


Question 2: Should it? Having experienced single payer and socialized medicine first-hand I have to say that if the US could afford it, it should.


Many in the USA have idealized these systems to the point of absurdity. The poor still suffer worse care than the rich under these systems, and Americans have gotten spoiled with access to high-tech tests for minor problems and short waits that would disappear under these systems. But given the car-crash-in-slow-motion collapse of the current system I believe single payer is still worth considering.


Question 3: Can the US fund college for all? Bernie Sanders’s plan for free tuition to students of households making under $125k/year would cost $47 billion a year Here’s how much Bernie Sanders’ Free College for All plan would cost


That amount is a literally a drop in the bucket of a $4.2 trillion a year budget. Sanders proposed levying a “speculation tax” on Wall Street to help pay for it.


Can the US afford it? Yes.


Question 4: Should it? An underlying assumption of those supporting free universal college is that everyone benefits from the experience. Even in countries that have free or low cost college people recognize that not everyone must have a bachelor’s degree to become a contributing member to society.


In Germany 60% of students do not attend college after high school and instead go into vocational schools where they learn specific skills that are demanded by German employers. Called “dual training” these students become apprenticed in fields such as advanced manufacturing, IT, banking, and hospitality. Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers


Should it? Not as envisioned by Sanders and current supporters.


Most of the benefits would go to students who already can afford it, so this government program would be yet another federal subsidy to the wealthy. It would likely contribute to growing inequality, the exact opposite of the intent of many supporters.


Americans and American employers are increasingly concerned that American higher education is failing to provide the skills students need to succeed in the workplace. Kevin James, a research fellow with the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute who researches American colleges, writes in US News, “(I)t’s becoming increasingly clear that the system often fails to deliver the high-quality educational pathways that many students need to be successful in the modern workforce. For example… a recent Gallup-Lumina Foundation survey found that only four in 10 Americans agree that colleges are changing to “better meet the needs of today’s students.” Only 13 percent of respondents felt that college graduates are “well-prepared for success in the workforce.” https://www.usnews.com/opinion/k…


Americans need to wake up to the reality that not everyone is college material and that’s okay. Reviving interest in the trades and developing a “dual training” system like Germany would be a prerequisite before universal funding should be considered.


Both the health care and higher educational systems are in desperate need for reform in the US. But making them “free” is not the solution for either.