The lessons of history.

Yesterday was December 16th. The date of the original Boston Tea Party was December 16th, 1773. On that day the colonists decided they could no longer put up with taxation without representation. A day which became the symbolic shot across the nose of the British government and the East India Co. The shot eventually led to the American Revolution.

Why is this important today? It's important because this moment in history is being invoked by those who would dupe citizens who care deeply about their country. Abusers and corporations are using this bit of history as the platform to convince patriots that healthcare reform automatically means all care becomes government run. They are even duping people into believing that Medicare, which many of them love, is somehow not a government run healthcare plan.

Now, I applaud the Tea Party cause of lowering taxes and watching how and why dollars are spent. I believe there should be more accountability for where my hard earned money goes. However, it seems that this one unifying factor is being manipulated and branched into other areas for the purpose of creating noise. For making the original will of the majority seem unthinkable.

When this whole process began, almost 60% of citizens and 70% of doctors supported healthcare reform. Among the citizens, that number has dropped dramatically. But consider that the healthcare industry now represents a full sixth of the United States' GDP. That's simply unsustainable. From personal experience, there is no doubt in my mind that we must have reform. For example, a physical that used to cost me $40 with blood work, now costs over $300. Out of pocket. This is personally unsustainable. Costs have spiraled out of control and I have never spoken to anyone that is happy about it. Including healthcare professionals. Doing nothing only perpetuates the ridiculous climb in prices.

So, what can be done? Sadly pure capitalism isn't working the way it's supposed to. Rather than lowering costs and increasing quality, things are going the exact opposite way. Why? Because there is no real competition in the market. The current condition of healthcare has become too much like four gas stations on a corner. One raises its price a penny. The others do the same. Another one raises its price a penny. They all do the same except one. Now he has the advantage, but it's only a penny. This process continues until gas is a full 15-20 cents more expensive on that corner and all the brands are within a penny or so of each other. This is basically price-fixing. Nothing is said, no coordination is involved but it's price-fixing. Which is illegal.

While unprovable, the same thing seems to be happening with healthcare. Costs continue to climb at an astronomical rate compared to history. Every provider has figured out they can charge more because others are charging more. And must charge more. Providers' focus has shifted from providing a service to their customers to providing a dividend to their investors.

The needs of the patient have become less important than the demands of investors. Which means Wall Street is effectively standing between you and your doctor rationing care. If you are profitable, please, by all means see a doctor. If you are not, please by all means die.

What's interesting about the gas station mini-monopoly is the parallel to the East India Company who had a monopoly on providing tea to the colonies. As the price climbed, because of both the monopoly and outlandish taxes, the people revolted. And the Tea Party was thus born. What's interesting though, is that the modern-day Tea Party is effectively trying to stop the actual tossing of the tea into the harbor. The only organization with enough power to stop the absurd price increases is the government. Short of going to actual war (American Revolution) against companies, the law, and thus real competition, is the only way to fix this mess. And yet the Tea Partiers are the ones attempting to stop the revolution.

How ironic.


Jon Stewart is news.

JS does it again. The best use of professional wrestling since the invention of professional wrestling.
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Common sense: A cool refreshing drink.

Elizabeth Warren sure does sound like she knows what she's talking about. I often wonder why things are more complicated than this.


SF Profile #9: Tom and his partner in crime

I'm lucky in that my major form of public transportation is a rolling historic landmark. To get home from the gym, I take two different Cable Cars that are the descendants of the originals created in 1873.

Well, while waiting for my ride yesterday, I got a glimpse of two men who've probably seen the city evolve around those lines.

As I stood at the start of the California line staring at the news on my iPhone, I heard a shout: "Tom, Tom, where are we going?" I looked up to see two men who have seen quite a lot of things and probably done even more, one ten feet behind the other. They were slowly shuffling along as fast as they could, "Tom" leading the way. Both were dressed sharply. They also wore scowls appropriate to their wrinkles of experience. The man who was following looked as confused as the man in front looked resolute.

And so they made their way past me and toward the underground mass transit station. Tom decided, to my surprise, to take the stairs. His friend nearly did too until he realized at the last possible second that an obvious escalator was right next to the stairs. He shouted to Tom repeatedly to come back but finally gave up and backtracked a bit so he could take the effortless moving stair case.

Nearly all of the 20 people around me were transfixed by these gents and their possible adventure. My Cable Car pulled up and as I rode living history, I pondered the two old men now riding modern mass transit. What were they up to? In some less guarded part of my brain, I hope they were off to spend their last dollars on much younger women. Good luck Tom and friend. You've truly crystallized in my imagination that age is a state of mind.


Prediction: The future is making a comeback.

(Every now and again, I'll make a prediction. There's really no way to measure the success of these, but I think it's fun to put some thoughts down with a date next to them and see what happens.)

Now that we've been through the downward muck of this economy, I think optimism is going to make a bit of a comeback. Even if the economy stagnates a bit over the next few years. (Please note, I'm in no way predicting that the economy is done sucking, I just think the population in general has some downward spiral fatigue.)

With the return of optimism, I think we will also see a return of the future. If you used to read Popular Science or other such magazines during the 80's and 90's, you probably remember the artists' renditions of moon bases and flying cars. Cartoons had sky cities, people were trying to build hovercrafts in their backyards.

Now while the early 2000's have seen some incredible innovations, especially in the areas of technology and medicine, we haven't seen as many innovations in the physical world we all interact with. Yes there are new robots, but those robots went from waving to you in the 90's to climbing stairs or playing a trumpet today. Meh. Yes it's cool that I could watch Carolina play football on my computer this weekend. It would have been cooler if afterward I strapped on my jetpack and picked up some lunch across town.

So, my prediction is that the future will make a comeback. We might not see actual jetpacks, but we will start to see more visualization of innovation and futurism. Particularly in pop culture.


Strikingly Brilliant.

I so admire Rachel Maddow's ability to find and deliver unvarnished truth about the healthcare debate. It seems in the joy of Barack Obama getting elected, I've taken too much of a honeymoon. Time to engage again in the national debate.

DRAT! Video was removed from YouTube.

Allow me to then recommend Rachel as a purveyor of perspective and truth. She's good at what she does.


Seperate and nowhere near equal.

During segregation, there was an excuse for the treatment given to African Americans. That excuse was that all things were equal. Buses were buses no matter where you sat, water fountains were water fountains and an education was an education.

This is obviously wrong. Equal is only equal when everything is equal.

It's time to stop treating any United States citizen differently simply because they are gay. If they wish the right to marry, they should marry. Why should we keep them from a 50% divorce rate?

The perfection of a bike

Bikes are perfect. If you need proof, notice that the essential design hasn't changed much since the addition of the chain. Two wheels, a triangle in the middle, another in the back, a chain and some gears to make it go.

Of course the materials have changed drastically. Steel is still available and has become quite fashionable with city bikes. Aluminum is a lightweight option and carbon has created the stiffest and most efficient frame. But outside of lighter, faster, stronger, the frame and design are timeless.

I think the design being so simple and so perfect, it creates a connection with the rider. Riding a road bike has become almost addictive. The speed that your legs can push you. The feeling of conquering a hill, beyond the obvious quad wrenching burn, and watching the miles add up.

Or of course it's just the endorphin rush and I need my fix.


Hitting the restart button.

If I'm going to be at all serious about posting to this blog then there's no time like the present. I've been lackluster at best and I realized that while a blog is not even a poor substitute for a good phone call or quick-witted email chain with a friend, it is important. Why? Because if nothing else, my parents still read this.

So, let's get going.

My man Nathan visited this past weekend. One of my favorite things about our friendship is that every time we see each other, it's as if no time has passed. We fall right back into our rhythm of conversation and enjoying each others company. It's good to have a friend such as this. I highly recommend picking one up if you have the means. So choice. (Bonus points to all who got the Ferris Bueller reference.)

We spent a great deal of time on bikes. For his first serious bike ride ever, Nate did spectacularly. I did everything I could to remember my first serious ride and be sure he had fun. We rode across the Golden Gate Bridge, down through Sausalito and back. The back part of course including the giant hill we had enjoyed racing down earlier. The grand total mileage: just under 27. I bitched and moaned the first time I did 18. Nate didn't say a word until we had dropped his back back at the shop. I was quite impressed. As I always am with him.

We also spent a great deal of time making a rather spectacular steak dinner. Nate put together a rather awesome grapefruit and apple sushi that I made a balsamic reduction for. My roommate Keith also covered sautéed broccoli in a decadent amount of cheese sauce, Steph put together a most excellent cheese plate and salad and Jess was quick with the wine glasses and the bacon crumbles for baked potatoes. Eating all this was not hard.

So, I also post this as an open invitation to any friend who might still be reading this blog. Please come visit. If you want to earn your dinner, we certainly can with a stunning ride. If you'd rather earn your dinner by eating other dinners, that's good as well.


What has fear done to us?

The recently released torture memos have made one thing very clear: Fear is the terrorists' greatest weapon. A bomb can't change our values. A plane flying into a building didn't change what we hold most dear. Instead, the threat of it happening again changed our values. Even the mere thought of it happening again makes our threat levels yo-yo between frightening and terrifying. All as a plan to keep the populous in fear. To keep us wanting to be saved. To keep us looking to our government for solutions.

See compromise happened. Our nation compromised those truths that we hold self-evident. We compromised our belief that all men are created equal. That all have the right to fair trail and the law. We compromised our belief that we don't torture. We compromised our right to privacy and habeus corpus.

Thus terror won. Thus, the terrorists forced us to look to those who are ignoring our constitution for our salvation. Thus they forced us to reckon with the idea that our constitution isn't all we'd believed. That was then. In the here and now, it's time to reclaim our morals. Our dignity. Our belief in the human spirit.

The reason? Because we proved ourselves to be right. We created the greatest nation on the planet. And we created it by doing the right thing, not by compromising our beliefs. We created a democracy that is possibly one of the best social experiments the world has known.

We must return to that. We must believe again. If we don't believe, if we don't be who we are, that's when terror wins. When we stop being us. When we stop being Reagan's shining light on the hill. When we stop being American.

And if you still believe torture is worth it. If you still believe that in special cases, in those moments where we must find the dirty bomb, torture is worth it, then read the following article. Those who know how to get information, and actually got the information we needed, don't believe torture works.

Torture does tear things down. It tears us down. It tears down our democracy.



The Most Important Network in News? Comedy Central.

Last night, John Stewart and the Daily show finally made sense of the utterly confounding economic situation and stripped bare for all to see how complicit the media and Wall Street have been in the entire meltdown.

If you haven't seen this interview with Jim Cramer, please watch. Stewart just got my nomination for a Pulitzer.



Snowboarding - Attempt #2.

Much, much, much, much better. Steph and I went back to Tahoe with some friends and went boarding again. I have to say, once you can start to turn, snowboarding is one incredible time.

I may never be quite as death-defying as my younger cousin Eric who seems bound and determined to master any sport where his feet are on a stick of wood, but I am having a good time. And in the end, what else matters?

There is also something about turning on a snowboard and getting it just right that is more satisfying than skiing. There's a rhythm to it that just isn't as much a part of skiing. The shift in weight, the kick and hold of the turn.

You're also more connected to the mountain. This is good and this is bad. If you get to a flat part, you're screwed. Take off your board and walk. This is also the beautiful part, you are entirely dependent on the mountain for speed. For providing the inertia that makes going where you want possible. It's a dependence that automatically makes you pay more attention and engage the mountain in a different way. This connection is what surfers must feel with waves. With skis, if you don't like where you end up, skate until you do. Now the reverse is also true. Ski boots limit you to walking to the toilet. Snowboard boots limit you to walking where ever you damn well please.

I'm sticking with the board.


George Bush and I finally agree on something

Believe it or not, it's true. George Bush actually gave a lot of money to fight AIDS in Africa. It's one of the only things I give him credit for.

I'm also doing something to fight this terrible disease. Getting my skinny self on an even skinnier seat and biking 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles. There's only one slight problem. I've got to raise $3,000 for the opportunity to punish myself like this.

This is rather daunting.

If you've got a spare fiver or thousand, click over to my fund raising page and do what you can. I truly appreciate it.



SF Profile #8: Queen of the Ten Dollar Bill

So today, while waiting for a friend to come by and pick me and Steph up on our way to brunch, I was treated to quite the spectacle.

While standing on the corner of Jones and O'Farrell, I see two cops go into a little shop. Soon after they come out with a woman in tow. She's screaming to high heaven about getting justice and how she wants to see the cops computer to look up her ten dollar bill.

An older black gent comes out of the shop and begins to regale us with the story. Turns out, she was trying to spend a fake $10 bill. I caught a glimpse of it when the cop held it up and I have to say, I was fooled.

Apparently she was too. By reality. She insisted that the cops show her their computer where they could track the bill and see who had given it to her. She knows, without any doubt apparently, that they are tracking her and know where she got the bill from so she can go and get justice. After the cops asked her a few more questions, it turns out most likely she got the bill from the local Jack in the Box. Seriously.

The gent then proceeds to inform us of how some of his "friends" can make a damn fine fake bill. How you starch the paper, how you press the fake paper between starched bills and then iron them so they all look new. And on, and on, and on.

I was quite thankful that 1. the cops didn't overhear our conversation and that 2. our friend Jay pulled up shortly thereafter to whisk away to brunch. I had some very authentic corned beef hash.


Apparently, I am the church type.

Church has never been that comfortable for me. I like the idea of community. I like the idea God's love without condition. I like the idea of celebrating life and our ability to live it. To me, that's not church. So many churches seem to try and draw lines between people. We're right, they're sinners. Our word is the only word, God told me so.

As a result, I haven't done a lot of church.

That may be changing. I think I've found a place that I can feel good about. A place that reads the Bible but also reads the Hebrew Bible. A place that is open to all sacred texts and what they have to teach us. A place that puts love and acceptance ahead of divide and conquer.

It's a church called Glide and they definitely take a different approach. All are welcome regardless of belief, sexuality or situation. They have a 60 million dollar budget that almost all of goes to feeding those in need, providing shelter for those who have none and job help in times that certainly need it.

Oh and these folks know how to sing. Loud. Not to mention preach. With fire. And in ways that you know in your heart is right but ways that aren't always easy to hear.

Next time I might even need one of the tissues they hand out throughout the service.

1 out of 2 wrists agree, snowboarding not fun.

Spent the days after New Year's on the slopes trying to do something I should have done when I was young and still made out of rubber: learning to snowboard. Those who snowboard say that learning takes three days. On day one, you get comfortable standing on the board and falling on your head. On day two, your sort of figure out where your edges are and start to turn. Usually one side is easier than the other. On day three, you link a couple turns together and you begin to understand why skiers become snowboarders and snowboarders don't really become skiers. Basically, when you're not being whipped onto your face, it's awesome.

Things heard on day 1:

1. To me while we're sitting on the lift: "Sweetie, did you know your nose is bleeding?" No, no I didn't.

2. From high above on the lift: "Ooooooooohhhhhh." You know you've wrecked good when you're upside down, on your helmet and you hear that.

I also managed to invent new four letter words when I landed on my right wrist several times. My first purchase off the mountain that night was a set of wrist guards. These were the only reason I made it through day 2 and 3.

All those complaints aside, I do own my board and boots so I guess I'm stuck with the awesome.