Sunday, October 30, 2016

News aggregators could set up per article charge system for paid content. My suggested revenue model for journalism.

I've noticed that more and more quality content on the internet, such as newspaper articles, are behind paywalls. Who's is likely to subscribe to such a large number of different publications just so an occasional link they find on Facebook or Yahoo works?

I got to thinking that large sites, like Facebook and Yahoo, could provide a subscription system where people would buy a supply of tokens that work on a whole bunch of participating media. Then, instead of having to subscribe to a hundred, or so, of different publications that one might only click on occasionally, the tokens would be available to pay for individual articles.

I've seen a few sites that use tokens to access participating sites, but it seems like a rare practice. This system could help with the problem of how can journalism be compensated in the internet age. Sites like Facebook and Yahoo are in good positions to provide this as they are, what could be called, multi site aggregators.

On another note, with more and more content disappearing behind paywalls, I appreciate the vast amount of free content and podcasts available from various radio stations, including NPR. Radio offers so much for free that I am spoiled.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Insurance company innovation?

I recently picked up a prescription where the pharmacist said it would only cost $9 if I paid out of pocket with the Rite Aid discount card. Going through the insurance company would cost me $23. He said it had to do with the complexity of insurance company policies. I said, "no wonder so many people want single payer." The pharmacist agreed.

Conservatives tend to worry that single payer would mean less choice, but it seems like "choice" is mostly figuring out which insurance offering one wants while wading through fine print.

The most important choices, related to health, are things like lifestyle choices. What one eats, exercise and so forth. They don't talk much about that.

Some people say that less regulation can allow insurance companies to innovate and provide incentives, to their policy holders. Incentives for things like diet, exercise, free gym memberships and discounts for non smokers. There is some of this, but, in most cases, the insurance industry reduces cost by not providing coverage to folks with preexisting conditions. Less regulated insurance companies throw people off their rolls if they have preexisting conditions, or at least only offering them coverage at much higher rates.

According to a recent Diane Rehm show, around 130 million Americans have preexisting conditions! Wow. That's a lot of people. Almost half of the American people. I don't think the private insurance market can deal with all those preexisting conditions very well; especially low income people with preexisting conditions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

True taxes can be clearer than hidden taxes in health insurance premiums

The Obamacare system is struggling, tho it isn't really the cause of the problems it faces. The underlying cause is high healthcare costs and the income gap in USA. The Obama solutions were, for the most part, designed by politicians, (I think) rather than economists. Politicians tend to try and make something look good on the surface with statements like "no new taxes." This often means taxes are hidden in the system, such as a tax on medical equipment, which eventually gets passed along in the form of the higher premiums to the higher income folks in the system. Lower income folks continue to be somewhat cushioned by the subsidies in the Obama system.

At the start, I think more could have been done to promote healthier lifestyles among the population, in general, and also to reduce overuse of healthcare. In some cases, people are over medicated. A clearer leveling with the American people could have taken place in the beginning. Yes, due to the income gap, some kind of income transfer is needed to provide universal access to healthcare. Call it taxes, or whatever, there isn't really a way around that.

The taxes wouldn't have to be that bad however. If healthcare reform works there are a lot of savings that can happen. For instance the savings caused by low income people having access to prevention instead of waiting to end up in the emergency room where the treatment is most expensive and those costs get shifted to others. That is what was happening before.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How do we cover lower income people with higher cost illnesses without taxes?

Here's an article, that was written by a conservative, which makes some sense, tho I still disagree with the author, Jennifer Rubin's, main premise. Ultimately, I think she feels that the taxpayers should not subsidize health insurance for the most part. Republicans, that are more thoughtful than Trump, do have some ideas about healthcare reform, that this author talks about, but I get lost in the weeds (so to speak) by their complex plans that are based on private enterprise. I actually don't think private enterprise can cover the large number of folks who are both low income and have high healthcare costs. I still think it would take a subsidy, from (most likely) taxes, to do the job. That should be what taxes are for.

The health insurance market, for individuals that are not covered by employer plans, has been messed up for decades. It's that troubled market for people who aren't able to have their insurance provided by group plans; such as employer plans. The Obamacare reforms have tried to fix this problem, but haven't worked as well as they could, ideally. The problems still persist, tho they are not as bad as they were before. For most people, the subsidies and Medicaid expansion, of Obamacare, cushions the blow. Better than in years past.

Folks with higher incomes, that aren't eligible for the subsidies or Medicaid and aren't on employer plans, are feeling the pinch, however.

The individual markets have been a struggle for years due to the economics of health insurance. Plans refusing to cover folks with preexisting conditions, spiraling premiums, companies withdrawing from the market; since the 1980s at least. Obamacare has tried to fix this, but has had its struggles as well.

I would guess that the problem is worse in states that refuse Medicaid expansion. That situation throws the whole thing out of kilter even more.

Seems like the problems were worse before the Obama reforms. Problems caused by the wide income gap in USA, the poor health of much of USA's population and the fact that large numbers of people have not been covered by our system that is based on employer provided plans.

Basing healthcare on employment status is a mistake that goes way back to the 1940s. I would guess the employer insurance system, we have in USA, should have never gotten started in the first place. Since lots of employers don't provide plans, that system has always been full of holes. Worse as time goes on.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Photographer captured the way I often stand with my feet at right angles

I'm standing on the street corner with Bruce and Martina as part of the Peace Vigil that happens every Friday.

Photographer captured the way I often stand with my feet at right angles. Done that since childhood. The 4-5pm Peace Vigil has been happening since before my time in Bellingham. 1966. Cornwall and Holly Streets.

I enjoy the gatherings as another social outlet even though I don't think to bring a sign. They also have signs that they provide, but I haven't bothered. My messages aren't easy to put in sound bytes, but I enjoy peaceful conversations with people who care about the world.

I now have a blog label about Bellingham Peace Vigil.

Second image taken by me at 10/21/2016 Bellingham Peace Vigil.

Below are three other images related to the 50th anniversary of Bellingham Peace Vigil. Images taken during July 2016 peace vigil contingent in Bellingham GLBTQ Pride Parade. Showing T-shirts made for 50th anniversary.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Products too cheap, housing and other things too expensive in the West

Some wonderful things from electric cars to smartphones use lithium batteries. To some extent, this abundance is on the backs of harsh conditions that miners face in poor countries. They toil procuring the elements so we can have our devices. This segment of On Point Radio looks into the problem. Very informative.

Related, but not necessarily discussed in the show, I have my own thoughts about how inexpensive so many of these products are compared to some other things.

Personally, I would be willing to pay a bit more for many products to create a better world. We live in an economy that brings prices way down for lots of things. Harsh conditions for a lot of people working in these industries around the wold. At the same time, many folks, in USA, are struggling as well. Lots of Americans are close to the edge financially. This creates difficult politics for adding more cost to the products we consume; for instance the hard politics around carbon taxes as cheap energy is another bargain we enjoy.

When one thinks about it, the struggle of Americans doesn't relate to the price of products, it relates to things like the cost of healthcare, housing and education. I have a theory that the prosperity, created by things like cheap energy and inexpensive products, is a big part of what drives the high price of housing, for instance. Prosperity, built on the back of abundant and inexpensive products, goes into inflating the price of things like property values in the rich nations.

It may take more taxes on things like carbon emissions to improve the world. It may also take higher prices for elements used in, for instance lithium batteries, to improve the world. At the same time, this might cool runaway prices in other sectors of the economy; such as real estate where extra money, from the prosperity, drives inflation.

The prosperity has been good and I would not necessarily advocate shutting it off, like protectionism in trade could do. On the other hand we would do better if we could figure out how to pay a bit more for these inexpensive products and, possibly as a result, pay a little less for the things, such as real estate, medical care and education, that are experiencing the inflation driven by this prosperity.

On another somewhat related note, I plan to vote yes on Washington State Carbon Tax Initiative 732 in November 2016.

Photo from WBUR website.

In this April 10, 2004 file photo, a young man carries wet Cobalt on his back at the Shinkolobwe Cobalt mine, situated 35km from the town of Likasi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Schalk van Zuydam/AP)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Should they scrap Obamacare and throw people with preexisting conditions under the bus?

Over the past couple of years, many health plans have become less comprehensive. Allowing for less doctor visits, dental coverage and so forth. Obamacare gets lots of blame, but an underlying problem is more the culprit. Healthcare, in America, is too expensive for a large percent of the population. This has to do, in part, with the wide income gap in society. Obamacare has tried to address this problem, but, to some extent has just moved the problem around.

One important change that Obamacare has brought to our system is forcing insurance companies to include people with preexisting conditions. This puts sicker people into the insurance risk pools forcing everyone else to pay more, or get less coverage.

On the other hand, denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions; barring the door and keeping out the sick and needy (like was happening before) is mean spirited.

As to my own situation, I went many years with no insurance. My low end employers didn't provide it and premiums on the private market were too high. More recently, working full time, I started having coverage. Most employees, where I work, were part time and didn't get coverage. Also, I was grandfathered in (so to speak) with coverage while even some newer full time employees didn't have it. For a while, there was a golden era when my coverage was fairly comprehensive. Most recently (the last two years) it has become less comprehensive. Many insurance plans offer less, but more people have insurance, these days, than ever before. One can say the plans we have now are more diluted. Diluted as sicker people are now included in the risk pools so the money has to stretch farther.

Luckily, my own health remains quite good from my bicycling and diet, for the most part, but maybe my diet isn't totally PC, so to speak. I do burn more calories than most people; especially my age.

There's an old phrase that goes, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Of course everyone isn't that fortunate. Some folks have, for instance preexisting conditions.

One place where Obamacare is hoping to save money is by having more people covered so they can have preventative care, rather than having to wait till they end up in the emergency room thus passing those costs to everyone. Maybe that part has worked, but there are too many sick people out there, so to speak. What do you do? Bar the door? I was one of those without insurance for many years.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Politics can be like domestic dispute

Interesting to note that Trump is now turning on his own political party. I've often heard the phrase, "we hurt the one's we love the most." Yes, domestic disputes can be bad. Trump has been an artist at this as, not that long ago, he said that Putin is a more effective leader than our own President Obama. Yes, the one's closer to us are the one's we tend to trash.

Many types of folks do this. For instance there's "black on black violence." Republicans have been prolific at this recently, however. After the tragedy in Benghazi, when the US ambassador and others were assassinated, much of the criticism has been focused on the supposed miss dealings of Hillary Clinton, in response to this tragedy, rather than the true culprits who were the terrorists. No one of course, not even Hillary Clinton, should be above scrutiny, but it does seem like Americans turn on Americans quite easily.

Similar things happen in romantic relationships. Seems like relationships are often a war zone. It must be a form of human nature to most likely hurt those that are in close proximity.

Some speculation about what might happen if Trump were to step aside.

He has no plans to do this, but sometimes people dig in deep and then suddenly announce the reverse. Years ago, I remember when Senator Bob Dole's presidential run looked like it was going on the rocks during the primary, reporters ask him the obvious question. He replied, "we're staying in, we're staying in." Seems like it wasn't long after that, he left the race. Of course that was still during the primaries, not the final election.

I hope Trump stays in as he does seem to be bad for the Republican brand. If he were to step aside, however, my guess is that Pence would be put forward as the Republican presidential candidate. Pence wouldn't be very good either, in terms of policy (my opinion), but his less volatile style would be seen as a safer bet. Republicans would see him as a way to try and unify that party because he's still part of the Trump ticket, but also more palatable to what is termed as the "Republican Establishment."

With Trump on the ticket, we (folks who lean toward the Democrats) can hope he looses, of course and also hope he can bring down many of the Republican's in Congress. Maybe the Senate will go back to the Democrats, or even both the House and the Senate.

Imagine Democrats controlling both Congress and the Presidency, but it has happened before and it didn't bring us to Nirvana.

I don't anticipate any politicians to be our total saviors, but it would be nice to see some gains made by the Democrats.

Big corporations aren't necessarily all bad

Big corporations aren't necessarily all bad. They can be powerful tools for organizing people to accomplish big tasks. It depends on how they are used. Corporations are like buses. They can be large with lots of people, power and inertia on board. It makes a big difference how buses and corporations are being driven. A bus can be driven off a cliff, driven into a crowd of people killing many or driven to a destination bringing the people where they want to go in safety and comfort.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bellingham Art Walk, also Herald sign in rainbow colors

Got a few pictures during October Art Walk in Bellingham. It's a monthly happening, first Friday of each month. See some of my other Art Walk photos and descriptions on Flickr. I visited the studio of Bellingham's new community radio station, KZAX LP FM.

Herald Building has a new sign. Due to technology, the colors can be changed. Red, blue, or how about rainbow colors? I was hoping they would make it rainbow for gay pride in Bellingham which happens during July. Wondering how open minded they'd be. Well, they've already done it. It's gone rainbow last weekend, but why?

Little did I know that there was an obscure little GLBTQ festival up at Western Washington University. Not that highly publicized, hardly anyone was there; which is very typical of Bellingham. I dropped by and chatted with several folks staffing info tables. At the festival I heard someone announce that the Rainbow sign on the Herald Building would be there till Sunday. Seemed like that person was in the know, so to speak, but not much was said about this (I assume) connection around our city. By the way, this post happens to be written on National Coming Out Day.

The sign is now back to all blue letters related to the WWU Vikings. Back the Blue.

Walking art downtown. A friend who wears bright lighted jackets.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Hang in there Trump. I think Pence would be worse. Trump can't be taken too seriously thus limiting the damage he could do.

Much of the problem is bankrupt conservative values.

Talk about sexual issues comes up in regards to both the Trump and Clinton campaigns. People remember, Bill Clinton's affairs back in the 1990s. There's quite a few differences for sure. One big difference is that Hillary and Bill Clinton are still married. Their marriage has lasted through thick and thin. Isn't that an important value? Trump, on the other hand, has had many divorces, so I gather.

Also boasting about assault of women is pretty bad. Bad, even though today he is repenting about his previous comments (for mostly political reasons) I would guess.

There does seem to be a revolving door between conservatism and sexual promiscuity. One hears about Catholic priests with little boys and situations like politicians who oppose gay rights being outed, in some sort of sex sting operation. That revolving door might have to do with folks turning to strict religion to fight temptation?

Underneath the posturing, most people are sexual animals. In our country's culture wars, there are competing value systems. There are liberal and conservative value systems. Conservative values frown upon extra marital affairs, but if one goes to extreme liberal values, eroticism outside of the context of marriage isn't necessarily always bad. Bill Clinton's biggest indiscretion is more likely his original lies about the affair, rather than the affair itself, according to many liberals.

Myself being pretty far to the left in the culture wars, I am familiar with the concept of polyamory. That's the practice of not necessarily being totally monogamous to one mate. Polyamory is different from polygamy which has more to do with exploitation of a harem. On thinks of some obscure branches of Mormonism here. As for liberal values and going as far as polyamory, honesty and communication is considered important. In some cases, there might be eroticism outside of a primary relationship, but it makes a big difference if there's honesty, respect and communication among all the people involved.

In all this political talk about sexuality, I still have lots of respect for the Clinton's who's marriage has lasted. I doubt they would think of themselves as poly amorous; especially given the politically charged environment they live in. They are, after all, "mainstream" and (for the most part) establishment people. Still, I prefer their liberalism to the casino style showmanship of a Donald Trump pandering to sexual conservatism. The problem isn't just Trump. It seems like many TV evangelists and right wing politicians are that way.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Trump signs mixing uncomfortably into the Friday Peace Vigil in Bellingham, WA.

Some Trump supporters insist on joining (so to speak) the sign holding Peace Vigil that happens Friday afternoons in downtown Bellingham. This annoys some of the peace activists, but I am not super annoyed even tho I am not a Trump supporter.

Today, one of the Trump signs was being held right over a peace banner from the peace activists. Peace activists are upset that the message is being contaminated, but I remember when supporters of Lyndon Larouche set up at the vigil. It's just a street corner where freedom of speech prevails and there's a tradition of folks holding signs that goes back to 1966. Larouche is (or was) an "outside the box" political figure.

Some of the peace activists may not be comfortable with my thoughts also when I say that both Jill Stein (Green Party Candidate) and Donald Trump have one thing in common; they both want to shake up the establishment. As people hurriedly pass by, they might think, "ya, Hillery Clinton is a war monger" when they see Trump signs mixed with peace signs. Some people think Hillary is beholden to Wall Street banks and money interests while Trump supposedly finances his own campaign and calls his own shots.

In this election, I do feel that Hillary Clinton is the best choice even as I disagree with some of my fellow peace vigil friends who plan to vote third party. Hillary isn't perfect, but neither are we. It seems like even most ordinary people are somewhat beholden to use of fossil fuels, finances, home equity, retirements, consumption and public safety. Do we really want to tear down our society which provides these things? On the other hand, as we change, society evolves.

Today, someone scowled at the Trump sign and the Trump supporter said something like, "peace through strength." In other words, a big military to hold the peace and protect public safety. My comeback would be, "ya, one has to pay taxes to have a big military." Trump defended the idea of "being a smart businessman" paying as little in taxes as possible when news about some of his tax forms being leaked came to light.

From a few months back.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

One of best one liners I have heard

One of best one liners I have heard. "The more you know, the more you know that you don't know."

A phrase of humility which we could use some more of in today's world.

Image of store window in downtown Bellingham.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Religion, more of an art than an exact science

One can say that religion is more of an art than a science.

A science implies definite and absolute answers. Evidence based, "the facts," objectivity. Art is more about freer thinking and creativity, personal experience, intuition.

When we look deeper, tho, science isn't all rigid either. There's relativity theory that we are still struggling to wrap our minds around. The truth of things like distance and time being relative to the observer. Then there's also the quantum realm. A realm where something can be in more than one place simultaneously. Multiple truths at once. Fuzzy logic.

At the level of everyday life, there are many seemingly rigid scientific facts and truths. We base a lot of our technology on these truths; like assuming electricity behaves in a certain way. This isn't the "be all and the end all of science," but it works to keep the lights on and to keep our lives running.

On the other hand, there are many things that science doesn't answer. It doesn't answer these things yet at least; if it ever will. Questions like, what started the universe, if there was a start. Is there a larger meaning to our lives? Seems like these questions lead to the fuzzier, quantum side of science. There's lots of room for creative thinking. Religion deals with these questions also.

Seems like we get into trouble when we try and put these unanswered questions into the realm of rigid, absolute fact; especially when we don't have definite answers. It just causes us to start fighting among ourselves.