Monday, August 20, 2007

And speaking of Greenpeace...'ve heard, no doubt, about the latest photographic "installation" composed by Spencer Tunick? 600 people stripped bare to stop glaciers from melting, or something like that. Oh, wait! It's a global warming protest, that's it!

Greenpeace has a slideshow, a "making of" movie, and Windows wallpaper here. I downloaded the 1440 x 900 wallpaper myself. I never want to forget the significance of this event.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Just keeping an eye on it for ya

The 2007 Atlantic storm forecast, that is. There isn't much one can say about the curve so far other than it's one ahead of last year which was a pretty average storm season.

I'm simply watching. The anthropogenic/anthro-centric global warming johnnies keep making noise about the horrible hurricanes and storms and heat waves that we're going to have. They had to have been severely disappointed that not a single hurricane made landfall in the U. S. last year...especially after 2005 more than fulfilled all of their hopes, and made Al Gore's movie a hit.

I'd say that we should keep our heads, as Bjorn Lomborg advises. He's the author of a fabulous book, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World, debunking the worst environmental scares perpetrated by the green crowd. Since he's a former member of Greenpeace, it might pay to listen to him.

Lomborg has a new book coming out next month called Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming. Here's what author Michael Crichton (The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Disclosure, State of Fear)has to say about it:
Lomborg is only interested in real problems, and he has no patience with media fear-mongering; he begins by dispatching the myth of the endangered polar bears, showing that this Disneyesque cartoon has no relevance to the real world where polar bear populations are in fact increasing. Lomborg considers the issue in detail, citing sources from Al Gore to the World Wildlife Fund, then demonstrating that polar bear populations have actually increased five fold since the 1960s.

Lomborg then works his way through the concerns we hear so much about: higher temperatures, heat deaths, species extinctions, the cost of cutting carbon, the technology to do it. Lomborg believes firmly in climate change--despite his critics, he's no denier--but his fact-based approach, grounded in economic analyses, leads him again and again to a different view. He reviews published estimates of the cost of climate change, and the cost of addressing it, and concludes that "we actually end up paying more for a partial solution than the cost of the entire problem. That is a bad deal."

In some of the most disturbing chapters, Lomborg recounts what leading climate figures have said about anyone who questions the orthodoxy, thus demonstrating the illiberal, antidemocratic tone of the current debate. Lomborg himself takes the larger view, explaining in detail why the tone of hysteria is inappropriate to addressing the problems we face.

In the end, Lomborg’s concerns embrace the planet. He contrasts our concern for climate with other concerns such as HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, and providing clean water to the world. In the end, his ability to put climate in a global perspective is perhaps the book’s greatest value. Lomborg and Cool It are our best guides to our shared environmental future.

Can't wait to get my copy.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Recent commentary: P-C Pro & Con -- Universal Health Care in WI: I'm against it

Universal health care isn't for U.S.

Government system more expensive, less effective

(published 13-Sep-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

"The government is good at one knows how to break your legs, and then hands you a crutch and says 'See? If it weren't for the government you wouldn't be able to walk.'" -- Harry Browne

That quote is so astoundingly appropriate to the universal health care debate one hardly has to say anything else. But for those that think the government makes great crutches, read on.

I must first make a sobering observation: we are going to have more government meddling in health care. The government juggernaut cannot help but roll over every aspect of health care delivery, covering the landscape with new regulations. This is not a guess. No matter how vehemently I or anyone else opposes greater regulation of health care, it is simply going to happen. If that makes you happy, then give three cheers because you're gonna get what you've always dreamed of.

All I can do is play Cassandra and, in my humble yet deadly accurate way, predict just what will take place.

First health care will get scarcer. That is, it will take longer to get any AND there will be less of it. When health care is "cheaper" because it's "universal" and the government is subsidizing it for the millions of people without insurance, the first thing that will happen is that you won't be able to see your doctor nearly as quickly as you do now because loads more people will start going to see her. It's the Iron Law of Economics and it works for health care just as it does for milk, iPhones, and mortgages: people will buy more of something at a lower price than they will at a higher price.

You say that you're OK with longer waits as long as everybody gets to have a chance to see a doctor without breaking the bank? Then please consider how long our neighbors in the Great White North have to wait for certain procedures. Canada's Fraser Institute does a survey every year to determine average waiting times for surgery and other treatments by specialists. The AVERAGE wait time in Canada is near its all-time high of 18 weeks -- over four months.

From the latest (Oct, 2006) report: “Canadians should not expect to see any dramatic improvement in waiting times as a result of the latest federal-provincial agreements regarding waiting lists. The long waiting times for medically necessary services are a symptom of a much greater problem: a poorly designed health care system.”

The totally government-controlled health care system in Canada is "poorly designed"...and they're talking about "medically necessary services", not Botox treatments. In other words operations that will keep patients alive can't be had because the waiting lines are so long.

If it weren't for the government you wouldn't be able to walk!

Second, doctors will leave practice early or will avoid certain specialties. There is already a crisis in 22 states with ob-gyn doctors: there aren't enough to go around because of astronomical malpractice insurance rates. Some hospitals have closed their obstetrics departments. Universal coverage will do nothing to bring ob-gyn doctors back. Not only that, but geriatrics as a branch of medicine is imperiled by low Medicare (government) reimbursements.

Third, more of the doctors that are left will refuse to take patients covered under the new regulations. If you think that the new "universal" plan will force a doctor to see patients, you must not have heard of Medicare and Medicaid. The American Medical Association's own survey done last year revealed that 45% of physicians treating elderly patients would refuse to take new patients after the January, 2007, Medicare cuts went into effect. Medicare already pays less than most insurance plans...and it's a LOT harder to shake down the government.

U. S. Representative Steve "Doctor Millionaire" Kagen -- the darling of the universal coverage set -- wrote in the Post-Crescent on August 8th: "We cannot fix health care without doctors, and the [Children's Health Care and Medicare Protection] CHAMP Act ensures doctors will be paid adequately so they may continue to care for their patients." He recognizes that government meddling has made for reduced availability of doctors because they weren't paid enough from the public trough. So he's going to put a pin in one of the legs that the government broke to see if it'll hold up without crutches.

He also says it's "fiscally responsible". It takes a big man to admit his mistakes, but what kind of metaphor applies to enormous government programs? What does it say about Medicare's multi-decade custodians that the program will only NOW be "fiscally responsible"?

Universal health care will definitely be more expensive, less available, more unwiedldy, and less effective than the mess we're already in. If you think that it's expensive now just wait until it's "free".

Friday, August 03, 2007

Recent commentary: volunteerism

Do you spend any time volunteering?

(published 6-Aug-2007, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Cub Scout leader, community theatre board, chess club director...all that's in the past. My full-time volunteer work continues: rearing two step-sons and a bio-daughter. Anyone who marries into an existing family makes an interesting – to say the least – volunteer commitment. There have been many times that I've tried to live up to the example of my own step-father. He was steady, fair, firm, and reliable. Not particularly warm and fuzzy, but he had plenty to handle with four of us reacting to him in a variety of prickly ways. I have half as many step-children so I figure my task is one-fourth as difficult (inverse square law). Every kid is different and my step-sons really aren't like my brothers and sisters. I only hope that they'll look back with understanding on my attempts to rear them when they become fathers and step-fathers themselves.