Friday, March 30, 2012

A Lot More to It

If you want to delve further into geezer viewpoints about “Obamacare” and the present Supreme Court consideration of it, see the comments after the previous post. Indeed, much more can be said about health care in the U.S.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trashing "Obamacare"

As it deliberates constitutional issues posed by “Obamacare,” the U.S. Supreme Court probably is using the proper name for the health insurance reform act, but no one else is. I'm not even sure what it is.

As children, we taunted verbal attackers with the chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  The sentiment was laudable, but the truth was questionable.  Words can hurt a lot.  Words intended to hurt a lot also can backfire.

Consider the “Cheesehead” label hung as an insult on Wisconsin football fans some years ago by rival team backers.  Rather than hunkering down and trying to ignore the name hoping it would go away, Wisconsinites enthusiastically adopted it. Now strange cheesy hats and slogans abound. Residents of the Dairy State are proud to proclaim themselves Cheeseheads.

“Obamacare,” coined by right-wing media, was embraced by Republican strategists as a derisive term they thought surely would help them gain followers as they try to overturn the administration’s health care reforms.  It’s not working quite that way.
Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) attacks Obamacare. Was that a mistake? (Wilson/Getty Images)

One of the Democratic Party’s chief strategists, David Axelrod, recently said, “Hell yeah, I’m for Obamacare.” He said that when stating his belief that millions of people will become strong supporters of the new health care provisions once they all go into effect and are fully understood.

Like Axelrod, many rank-and-file Democrats are starting to use the Republican term, proclaiming at every opportunity they are proud Obamacare fans.

Anti-Obamacare T-shirts have been around for a while. Pro-Obamacare T-shirts are on the horizon. Obamacare headgear?  That may be a difficult design problem.

The elevation of Obamacare to the Supreme Court caused many Americans who previously were uninformed about the provisions of the law to become aware of the benefits. We’ll have to wait until June or July to learn whether the court approves or strikes down the law or its key parts.  Some Democrats smell a political win no matter how the decision goes.

The court consists of five members who usually lean in Republican directions and four who tend to favor Democratic Party positions.  If the court scraps Obamacare, Democrats believe they will be handed a winner in the presidential election campaign as they blame Republicans for stripping away health benefits for millions who need a guaranteed way to get insurance.  If the court allows Obamacare to stand, the Demos will claim that the GOP’s most erudite adherents backed the Democrat’s health care plan when it was thoroughly examined at the highest level.

Which T-shirt will you be wearing?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Purely a Bailout

A happy group of owners and managers of resorts, hotels, sporting goods stores, and various tourist attractions has gathered this weekend to try to convince our governor to permanently cement their hands into our taxpaying pockets.

It is safe to say many of these entrepreneurs strongly opposed on ideological grounds federal taxpayer support for financial institutions that saved our, and probably the world, financial system just a couple of years ago.  Never mind that the banking loans have largely been repaid.  And don’t bother to mention that the federal government turned a profit by collecting interest on large chunks of the emergency money.  Bailouts are bad, say conservative business owners.

Apparently,  taxpayer financing is only “creeping socialism” outside “the proper role of government” when it goes to someone else.

The tourism conferees have gathered in Grand Rapids to consider “Delivering on the Pure Michigan Promise.”  Pure Michigan is a promotional campaign designed to lure vacationers to come to the state to experience Michigan’s wonders.  We do have many attractions, including great natural beauty in the coastal and northern areas. It seems only good and right that resources should be allocated to telling the Pure Michigan story. The question is: “Whose resources?”

State support for tourism is nothing new here or elsewhere.  However, with Michigan’s economy reeling from one job loss after another in 2008, Governor Jennifer Granholm took it big time.  She transferred $45 million from a job trust fund to finance the Pure Michigan ad campaign for three years.   The campaign went national. Now there’s talk about wooing international visitors.

Current Governor Rick Snyder, who is an avowed budget cutter in some areas, has proposed a $25 million budget item to continue the Pure Michigan campaign next year. The program is run by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Travel Michigan Division.  It claims to have created $2 billion in new tourism spending since 2006.

This year there’s a new wrinkle to the ad campaign.  Two cities, Mackinac Island, and the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn are chipping in several million dollars in total to assure they will be featured in some Pure Michigan ads. Aha, that’s a good thing.  Some of those who stand to benefit are willing to pick up a share of the tab.

The tourist industry has conducted a spirited public relations campaign trying to demonstrate that Michigan benefits from about $3 in tax revenue for every $1 invested in the tourism campaign. Wonderful.  Of course there is no mention that the owners of  tourism-related businesses are the chief beneficiaries of the taxpayer investments.  Other statistics show the Michigan tourism sector recovering at a rapid pace from the Great Recession.

Pure Michigan is such a good deal that the industry people now are pushing for a mechanism to ensure long-term state funding.  “Anything the legislature creates, they can uncreate,” the vice president of the Michigan Travel Council is reported to have said.  He said he thought the currently proposed $25 million budget item was “adequate.”

I say if the program is so wonderful those business owners, communities, and tourist attraction operators who benefit should be willing to pay for all of it.  This could be arranged over time with some simple legislation.  How about this:

Approve the $25 million budget item for next year only.  Mandate that it then will be reduced by $1 million each year for the next 25 years.  If those who benefit  want to maintain the program indefinitely, they could make contributions to replace the million dollar annual withdrawal of taxpayer money.

The tourism industry people would continue to enjoy their bailout for a long time, but their hands gradually would be withdrawn from our pockets.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Benefit of Age

We often dwell on the negatives of advancing years.  Prime topics are loses of strength, agility, keen eyesight, and memory.  The more-frequent aches and pains, unfortunately, not only hurt us but aggravate others when we feel compelled to complain about them.

Better to lie and respond with the traditional, “Fine,” when someone inquires about the status of our health.

My office--back when it was reasonably tidy.
And maybe we mature adults are just fine if we stop to think deeply about our situations.  For some weeks, I’ve been flogging myself mentally for not cleaning up the mess that has become my previously neat and tidy office.  Yesterday, I decided I should just forgive myself for the sloppiness and live with the litter.

We’ve recently moved away from most of our close friends.  Our only consistent visitors now are considerably younger family members.  They seldom have the temerity to criticize my actions, or lack thereof, at least to my face.

It’s a lot more fun to check out the latest computer game or crossword puzzle or take a walk in the woods than to spend any valuable time dusting, vacuuming, and putting things in order. Manana probably will be a better day for a cleanup project, anyway.

It’s a good thing to be a fully mature adult.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Brits Have a Word for It

For some time, I’ve been entertained by posts at created by “Big John.”  John liberally sprinkles British slang into his observations, which makes his wit even more delightful.

If, like me, you need a little help with meanings of some expressions tossed around in the UK, just as people who really speak English need help understanding “American,” here are a few tips to aid you with the article below.  The post is reproduced here with John’s permission.  “Nick” is a prison. “Old lag” refers to a convict.  “Banged up” means locked up in a cell.  John has defined one of my favorites, “starkers,” for us, and context explains “naughty bits” adequately.

John once described himself as a “born again atheist.” Knowing that helps in appreciating his post. Enjoy.

Should they go nude in the ‘nick’ ?

Posted by Big John on March 13, 2012

As one who thinks that the world would be a much better place without religion, I must admit to having a soft spot for the poor old pagans, as I can’t help but feel that history gave them a raw deal and a bad press with all that stuff about human sacrifice and dirty old druids chasing naked virgins by moonlight.

Even today they are discriminated against, as I found out when I learned a wonderful new word .. “skyclad” .. It means .. ’starkers’ .. and refers to the pagan practice of performing religious rituals while ‘au natural’.

Now I’m not sure why they need to display their naughty bits when dancing around their pentagrams, or whatever it is that they do, but it seems that some bloke in the ‘nick’ is a bit pissed off that he can’t; and another pagan ’old lag’ is upset because he is not allowed to wear a hooded robe.

I can’t see what harm would be done by granting these cons’ requests, for I’m sure that the members of other faiths are allowed to wear and use religious items, such as yarmulkes in the case of Jews and prayer mats in the case of Muslims. So why not banged-up ‘Ancient British believers’ ? .. Blimey ! .. It’s not as if they are asking for a megalithic monument to be erected in the exercise yard.

I bet the lawyers are queuing up outside the gates at this moment and booking flights to Strasbourg to appear before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of these ‘persecuted’ pagans, and, for once, I support them. In fact I’m thinking of organising a ‘skyclad’ protest march … When ? … Well, perhaps …

… when the weather gets a bit warmer.

Ancient stonework might not work well in a prison yard.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kalamazoo, Of Course

A couple of TV stars showed up in Kalamazoo last week, and of course there had to be some questions about the uniquely named city.

Jonathan and Drew Scott, the “Property Brothers” on HGTV’s home remodeling show, came to town for weekend appearances at the Home Expo, an annual event featuring local builders and various products offered to homemakers.  In a newspaper interview, Jonathan said one of the most frequent questions posed by their fans lately was, “Is Kalamazoo a real place?”

A view of downtown Kazoo. It's real.
How could anyone question the existence of Kalamazoo?  Didn’t Glenn Miller immortalize the place by writing and playing that big-band musical hit, “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo?” Weren’t those famous Checker taxi cabs manufactured in Kalamazoo?  What expert angler never cast for the big fish with a Kalamazoo-made Shakespeare reel? And, thousands of  music lovers strummed or listened to notes from Gibson "Banner" guitars, fine instruments made for years in Kalamazoo.

Oh, yeah.  Only fully mature adults are likely to remember those things.  So we can forgive a few youngsters in the 13 countries where “Property Brothers” is broadcast if they aren’t convinced of the reality of Kalamazoo.

The question caused the Geezer to reflect on advice in the old Associated Press Style Manual on how to present names of cities in news stories.  The manual said use both the city and state names in the first mention of the community in a story. After that, drop the state name.  But for a major metropolis, omit the state identifier altogether.  Write or say only “Los Angeles” or “Chicago,” not “Los Angeles, CA” or “Chicago, IL.”

Kalamazoo is no major metropolis, but its one-of-a-kind status ought to qualify it for the metropolis rule. Anybody who knows about it knows it’s in Michigan. When you've said Kalamazoo, you've said it all.

A precise location is a bit more difficult.  But, if you lay a ruler on a map on a line between Chicago and Detroit, measure the distance, and divide by two, you will hit pretty close to Kalamazoo.

Kalamazoo also is about 15 miles south of our home, but we’re not a landmark.  We welcome visitors, however.  Just turn on your GPS, set it on Plainwell, Michigan (yes, Plainwell needs a little extra identification) and let one of the marvels of the electronic age guide you to within five miles of us. We then can direct you here for a rest stop and a little visit and then precisely tell you the way to Kalamazoo. It is a real place, and a rather nice one at that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Phil's Phorecast

Phil and friend (AP Photo)
Today’s date: March 14. Today’s temperature in the shade of my backyard: 79 degrees F.  Puxatawny Phil’s shadow: seen on Feb. 2. Forecast: six more weeks of winter. Days since forecast: 41.  Forty-one divided by seven-day weeks: 5.86 weeks.

Not bad, Phil 

Now please don't dump a foot of snow on us next week.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Gas Pulls Ahead

A few days ago, when I filled the family flivver up in beautiful downtown Plainwell, MI, a gallon of regular cost $3.99.  Here comes $4 gas. Can $5 gas be far away?

My latest gas tab was $52.51.  I bought my first car, a 1929 Model A Ford, back in the early 1950s for $50. Even in its old age, the Ford was a dependable vehicle.  I drove it for about a year and sold it for $55. Nothing approaching a fifty dollar bill was needed to fill it up.  Gas sold for 26 cents a gallon back then.

There were no self-service gas stations, at least where I lived.  Attendants pumped your gas to order.  They also cleaned your car’s windshield and checked the air pressure in the tires.  Those services were free.  I don’t recall seeing anyone giving a tip to an attendant, so it’s fair to assume tipping was nonexistent or at least infrequent.

We young bucks often collected nickels, dimes, and quarters from our buddies, bought a “dollar’s worth’” of gas, and spent a long evening “cruising the drag.”  That was another way to say we were trying to pick up girls who might be walking down the town’s main street. We weren’t very successful, but we were persistent.  We logged a lot of miles.

Some Model A's Still Cruise
Transportation costs certainly have escalated, but they’ve not risen equally.  At the time I bought my well-used Ford for $50, you could get a nice, new family sedan for $2,000.  We bought our nice, new family sedan a few years ago for $21,000.  Do the math.  The modern machine cost 10.5 times what one went for 60 years ago.

Doing the math for gasoline, we find the price has increased more than 15 times over the same six decades. 

Those Canadians, Mexicans, and Nigerians who pump most of the “liquid gold” we use and those Arabs who set the world prices are doing a good job of picking our pockets.  Maybe they finally caught on after observing the machinations of wealthy Texas families on television.

Unfortunately, it’s more likely that oil supplies have started a downward spiral throughout the world. We probably are going to see huge price increases as populations continue to explode and industrialization advances to serve the new hordes of people.   

Put on your hiking shoes, and get that old bicycle out of the garage.  The heyday of the automobile as the centerpiece in American life soon will start fading away.  It may be a great time for innovation.  Would “cruising the drag” on a bicycle built for two (or even a low-powered motor scooter) prove attractive?

Don’t despair, though.  The U.S. has huge coal reserves and recently found ways to extract a whole lot of natural gas. We also are finally fully engaged in developing vehicles powered entirely or mostly by electricity.  The future may be brighter than it appears right now.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

He Said, She Said

Describing a not-so-proud moment in the history of a football star (Feb. 2 post, “Look Out, Here Comes Tony!”) reminded me of a similar exploit of my very own. It was not among my finest achievements, but at least I got a mild compliment when it was all over.

Years ago, son Lee and I made an evening trip to the hardware store to gather supplies for a home lighting improvement project.  Among other things, we bought a six-foot length of conduit, and Lee hung onto it through the open passenger side window of our Honda during the short trip to our house.

When we arrived in our garage, and Lee was getting out, somehow my feet got tangled up and I hit the accelerator instead of the brake.  I drove right through the back of the garage.  When the little car came to rest, it sported a flat tire and was hung up teetering back and forth on the concrete wall base. 

Sandy raced out to ask, "Did something explode?"  The next question was,  "How in the world did you do that?"

A wrecker was needed to extricate the car from the battered wall.  When the tow truck operator arrived, he chuckled a bit after inspecting the damage and asked who had been driving.  I confessed.

"Well, at least you're honest, " the towing man said, "The last six guys who did this told me their wives were driving."