Garage Door Angst

I think garage door openers are one of the best inventions of the 20th century.  It probably takes my generation and older to remember a time before GDOs, when you actually had to get out of your car, open the garage door, get back in your car, drive it into the garage, etc.  Yep, royal pain.

Here’s the downside of the GDO.   Whether alone or together, Sally and I often reach the stop sign at the end of our street and wonder if we closed the garage door.   Many times it has meant  turning around and driving back to the house to check.  I’m guessing in 20 years, I’ve only left it open once or twice.  But there is always that doubt. [Read more…]

Atlanta’s transportation dilemma solved

If you live in Atlanta, you are well aware of our transportation problems.  Our roads are choked at rush hour (more like 8 hours per day), and mass transit is so fragmented and minimal as to be ludicrous.  Yesterday’s AJC article, “Long, winding commute”,  highlighted this fact.  The author compared two trips, one by car, and one by public transportation from northeast metro-Atlanta (Gwinnett County) to northwest Atlanta (Cobb County).  The trips made at morning rush hour took 1 hour 1 minute for the car traveling 28.9 miles, and 2 hours 30 minutes by public transit traveling 37.3 miles.  The reason for the longer public transportation trip being that there is no direct public transportation across the north end of the Atlanta.  The trip was a combination of buses and trains that interconnect in the center of downtown Atlanta. [Read more…]

Healthcare provider can’t afford healthcare insurance for its employees.

As reported in today’s AJC, Focus Counseling and Training, a private for-profit company, cannot afford to provide health insurance for its employees.  Focus Counseling and Training provides outpatient mental health services to children.  Focus has about 40 employees and its owner states, “I really wish I could provide it, but it would put me out of business.”  So why doesn’t Focus try to raise their rates and pass the cost of insurance along to their clients? Initially you might think it is the competitive nature of their business.  But if their competitors are in the same boat, they would have to raise their rates too.   Alas, Focus says they can’t raise their rates to cover health insurance because, ironically, the rates Focus can charge are fixed by the health insurance companies.   This is a nasty catch-22 for Focus and other companies in the same line of work, but it gets worse.

Focus wants to grow and provide more opportunities for employees and services for its customers.  Unfortunately additional Obamacare regulation kicks in for companies that hire 50 or more employees.  So for now Focus plans to stay at less than 50 employees.  My guess is there are lots of companies in the 40- to 50-employee range that will be faced with a decision to grow or not to grow simply based on federal regulation.   Obama really can’t have it both ways: socialize healthcare entirely or promote economic growth.  They really are mutually exclusive.

Blue Cross Blue Shield cozies up to state of Georgia

You may have heard through the grapevine that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia (BCBSGA) is jettisoning many of its smaller customers by jacking up premium rates at contract renewal time.  I knew there was some new strategy unfolding at BCBSGA, but did not know what it was until I read a July 24 article in the AJC, headlined “Blue Cross in line to win state contract, amid protests.”  I think BCBSGA has known for some time that the state contract would be theirs, and saw no reason to piddle around in the small company market.  They need all hands on deck to handle the more lucrative state contract that provides health insurance for 650,000 state teachers, employees, retirees and family members.

BCBSGA has apparently been notified by the state of “intent to award” the contract.  UnitedHealthCare, one of the companies currently running the state plan says that BCBSGA won the contract in “secret” bidding handled through one of Georgia’s contractors to the Department of Community Health (DCH).  DCH essentially admits this is true and that UnitedHealthCare and Cigna were not offered a chance to submit a proposal.  DCH rationalizes the process with the following government double-speak, “to solicit a response from a regional vendor to fulfill the state’s request for a potential contract for health coverage within certain geographical, cost and plan design requirements.”   That is some pure BS.  What they really mean is they wanted to “rig the bid.”

I am so fed up with the whole healthcare situation right now.  I suppose a lot of Americans once thought Obamacare would solve many of the health insurance problems we face, but Medicaid and Medicare were lousy government health insurance systems in the first place.  Why did some people think another huge bureaucracy would solve anything?

If you subscribe to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (AJC), you can access the full article here.

(918) 712-9493

If somebody asked me, “How does the U.S. compare to other countries in terms of economic freedom?”, I would have said the U.S. has to be in the top 5 and is possibly number 1.  Boy oh boy am I living the past.   By one measure the U.S. is #10, and some of the countries ahead of us were surprising: Chile(#7) and Mauritius(#8) for example.  How disappointing is this?  Very, especially for a person who has always viewed the U.S. as the leader of freedom for the world.

Here are the top ten from The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal’s “2013 Index of Economic Freedom.”

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Singapore
  3. Australia
  4. New Zealand
  5. Switzerland
  6. Canada
  7. Chile
  8. Mauritius
  9. Denmark
  10. United States

In my book this should be a focus for our politicians: How to make the U.S. number one in economic freedom.  This is worse than the U.S. losing in basketball in the Olympics.  This is worse than Hank Aaron’s homerun record being beaten by Mr. Steroid.  This is worse than the Pope taking a crap in his hat.

The full 2013 Index of Economic Freedom can be found here.

 

Profugos

Recently I ran out of my favorite TV shows on the DVR, and new seasons had not started for Justified, Dexter, etc.  So I went to HBO On-Demand and scanned through the shows looking for something interesting.  I saw a title that intrigued me: “Profugos”, so I decided to give it a try.  I suppose it attracted me because I had no idea what the word meant.  Though I knew it was probably Spanish, I didn’t want to look it up.  I wanted to figure out its meaning by watching the show.  It didn’t take long to confirm that it is Spanish and translates as “fugitives.”

profugosProfugos takes place entirely in Chile, and it is about a large drug deal gone terribly bad.  The main characters, los profugos, are a complex gang that morphs throughout the 13 episode season as some get killed and others are swept up into the maelstrom along the way.  Oh, I forgot to mention, it’s in Spanish with English subtitles.  (Sally hates subtitles, but as my hearing deteriorates I find like them more and more, even when the language is English.  Sally gets a great kick out of me watching a program like Dexter with closed captioning turned on and the volume turned up loud too.)

The scenery in Chile is out of this world, and I mean literally.  The Atacama desert looks like another planet.  In some ways the film is a travelogue as the profugos travel from one end of Chile to the other, with all sorts of  meanderings in between.  Chile has some really stunning natural beauty, varying from the seacoast to the Andes, but it also has its urban slums.  Minus the slums it really made me want to visit Chile, and it reminded me that my father did visit Chile on official U.S. Army business back around 1968 when our family lived in the Panama Canal Zone.  I was in high school at the time.  More on that later in another post.

The writers of Profugos also wove in a bit of recent Chilean history, involving communists, dictators, torture, and more.  Profugos got me so interested in the history of Chile that I had to dig deeper.  I had heard of Allende and Pinochet, but knew little more than Allende was a communist and Pinochet was a dictator.  Allende was Chile’s president, and  puppet of the Soviet Union, from 1970 until September 11, 1973 when a coup was staged by the Chilean military.  Allende promptly shot himself in the head.  Enter Pinochet stage right as the commander of the military.   Being the fun loving guy he was, Pinochet just started torturing and killing everybody that opposed him or thought about it.  He also cut off the head of inflation, which went from 1,000% per year (yes, you read that correctly) under Allende to 10%.  I recall my father brought me back some Chilean escudo bills that were originally 100 escudos and had been changed to 10,000 escudos simply with a rubber stamp.  That 10,000 escudo bill was probably worth a U.S. dollar or less.  Chile had hyper-inflation even before Allende.

So as you watch Profugos this should give you some insight into why some of the characters refer to each other as “comrade” and why torture figures into the action and psyche of the protagonists.  Throw in government corruption, drugs, sex, nudity, violence, and you have the ingredients for one of my all time faves.  If you are not an HBO subscriber it might be hard to find, but it is worth the effort.