Sunday, December 27, 2009

No F-ing Way

Oh, come on, now.

In addition to double searches of carry-on luggage and other random searches, we hear that for the last hour of a flight, passengers will be forbidden to hold anything in their laps -- blankets, books, notepads, and of course, laptops -- or to leave their seats. Let's examine this bright idea.

How many businesspeople will decide that a day at the office plus a video conference is more productive than spending maybe three or four hours in security, and then sitting on a plane unable to work? (Gee, didn't the airlines just spend money on making wireless Internet available on planes? Too bad.) How many trips to see family or go on vacation will be switched to cars, trains and buses? (I'm due to go to Chicago in January, and if this policy is in place, you can bet I won't fly there.) But that isn't the best part.

Picture a plane with 15 or 20 young children on board. For the last hour of the flight, none of those children may play with toy cars or Barbies or handheld games; hold their blankets, lambies or teddy bears; look at a picture book; color with crayons; curl up with a pillow; or go to the bathroom.

How long will it take until a flight attendant commits seppuku? or assaults a TSA official?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Senator Bayh and the Washington Post

The Washington Post opines that Senator Evan Bayh's recent record of "crossing the aisle" and breaking away from the Democratic lockstep "virtually ensures he will not be a serious candidate for national office." I'm not so sure. Yes, many Democratic primary voters will want someone with a purer devotion, but others will be worried enough at the party's sinking popularity that they'll hold their noses and vote for a centrist.

Here's the message I sent Sen. Bayh earlier today:


Dear Senator Bayh:

A Washington Post article today suggested that your relative "conservatism" and tendency to "cross the aisle" must mean that you were abandoning any Presidential aspirations. Well, that's the Washington Post for you.... I am quite skeptical about the notion that political moderation, and refusal to go along with ill-conceived and damaging legislation like "cap and trade", would disqualify a senator from nationwide recognition and support.

Whatever your plans for the future, here's one Hoosier and American applauding the independence you have sometimes shown, and urging you to go further in the same direction. Please assess, soberly and apart from partisan considerations, whether the current health care bill is well-conceived, thoroughly thought out, inclusive of all sensible reforms, and devoid of serious unintended consequences. If you cannot answer a decisive "Yes!" to all these questions, please stand up and vote against ending debate on the health care bill. If you do, I for one will hope to see you prove the Washington Post wrong.

Karen A. Wyle

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

still trying on health care

Well, here's the latest missive into the whirling void:

Dear Senator Bayh:

Some of the latest tidbits from the healthcare debate should give any moderate senator or voter pause about the current enterprise. The proposed legislation would make disproportionate cuts in Medicare's home care coverage. This could be in a Proverb Dictionary under "penny-wise, pound-foolish". To somehow compensate, an amendment is passed to say that no "guaranteed" home care benefits will be cut -- a word with no reliable content. A new program, the "Class Act", is set up, with premiums due for years before benefits, but with expected payouts far exceeding benefits. So those who are losing home health care from the Medicare cuts can now pay out premiums for years before receiving anything, under a program that will founder in a few years from inadequate funding.
This muddled and destructive approach to one aspect of healthcare cannot reasonably be expected to be the exception to the bill's overall quality and impact. How can you support this ill-conceived political behemoth?
Do you really have more to fear politically from the Democratic leadership than from Hoosier voters, if this bill or anything like it becomes law? As a member of what is supposed to be the more sober and deliberative legislative body, don't you owe it to your consituents and the country to call, "Whoa!" and give a more considered, less politicized process a chance?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Not just a pig

From my latest message to my Congressman, Baron Hill:

"The House’s health care bill: 1,990 pages, much of it in impenetrable legislative jargon. This isn’t just a pig in a poke – it’s a manure lagoon."

Friday, October 23, 2009

In other news, making Biden look good

Whodathunkit: in the context of the ineptness of the Obama administration -- junking the planned Eastern European missile installations, without prior notice to Poland, on the anniversary of the Soviet's invasion of that country -- Vice President Biden looks like a skilled statesman.

Still trying on health care "reform"

Since Senator Evan Bayh is one of my senators, I keep sending him messages about Obamacare and its siblings. I dunno how often is too often -- I hope my emails aren't being automatically roundfiled. Anyhow, here's the latest. The subject line was "impact of medical device tax -- another unintended consequence".


One of Bloomington, IN’s premier companies, Cook Medical, would take a serious financial hit from the proposed health care “reform” legislation. The 4% tax on medical devices would threaten a company that provides your constituents not only with thousands of good jobs, but with the pride of hosting a company whose products improve medical care worldwide. Other medical device companies face similar damage. There’s an irony – health care “reform” that undermines health-enhancing technology. This is just one of the unintended consequences that would flow from ill-considered, patched-together, politically driven legislation.

You are in a position to hit the brakes. Please do so, for the good of your constituents and your country. Give us a chance to accomplish real health care reform with the appropriate care, thoroughness, and bipartisan creativity.

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Pig in a Poke -- free meme....

Well, I just made my first Facebook Flair, and there it is. I'm going to do my feeble best to get this meme out there in the blogosphere....
If I can get my talented artist daughter to do a cartoon, I'll focus in particular on what a Conference Committee would turn out.
Although "Frankenstein" would be as good a label as "pig in a poke" for what would probably result....

Friday, September 25, 2009

Meanwhile, at the UN - a Contrast in Leadership

I do NOT wish I lived in Israel, but boy howdy, I'm up for a leadership exchange program.

Israel's Netanyahu gives a speech worthy of Churchill. It starts out focusing on Iranian Holocaust denial, and gets broader in scope as it goes along. It's an exhilarating defense of science and innovation, of freedom, of human potential.

Meanwhile, our very own President seasons his generality soup with a sprinkle of self-importance and a soupcon of stale apologies. Not to mention that he's all excited about closing Pandora's box -- whoops, I meant eliminating all nuclear weapons from the planet (I guess everyone will forget how to make them). Oh, and to prevent bad guys from getting hold of fissile material, he wants to have an "internationally supervised" nuclear fuel bank. Which would hold low-enriched nuclear fuel, which is easy to process into weapons-grade material. Russia and Kazakhstan have offered to host it. What could possibly go wrong?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Constituents of Gang of 6 -- Beware the Conference Committee

The constituents of the Senate Finance Committee's "Gang of 6" may be our only hope for stopping Obamacare. Whatever careful compromise the 6 think they've worked out, they will have no control over the last-minute deals made in the Conference Committee, and there will be enormous pressure on both houses to pass whatever Frankenstein that committee patches together and lets loose. The Gang's constituents need to bombard them with the message that they most hold the pass. (It might be better to come up with better-matching metaphors than I'm offering....)

Life's little ironies

(As opposed to the big irony about which I posted yesterday.)

I've been dieting and losing weight. I look slimmer, especially in pants, but what I didn't expect is that most of my skirts are riding lower and therefore look longer. Which makes me look shorter. Slimmer but shorter.

Since I mainly wear skirts in warm weather, and fall and winter approach, I'm OK with the tradeoff, for now.

Two cautionary tales

Yesterday my husband embarked upon life as a civil servant. (He will be aiding the national defense -- so he will be among perhaps a minority of civil servants who are performing functions authorized by the Constitution.) He immediately encountered two distinct instances of the federal bureaucracy fouling things up, in a way we may ponder as we contemplate a greater federal role in American health care and/or business.

As part of "in-processing", he took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. This was his first opportunity to do so, and he was proud and moved to make such a declaration. He was discomfited to discover that the form given him to sign, while properly allowing him to "swear (or affirm)", included the language "so help me God". He asked the lady in charge whether he could cross out the religious language and was told, "No, you can't change anything on a federal form." The form by which he was to declare his allegiance to the Constitution violated the Constitution.

He was troubled enough to do some research when he had the chance. As it turned out, a previous version of the form specified that, should the "appointee" choose to affirm, the words "swear" and "so help me God" should be stricken out. The fine print on the current form is less specific, and was perhaps intended to be less restrictive: "Note - If the appointee objects to the form of the oath on religious grounds, certain modifications may be permitted pursuant to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Please contact your agency's legal counsel for advice." The bureaucrat in charge of the procedure was unaware of this language, and her statement directly contradicted it. Even had she made some attempt to comply with it, the form gave her little guidance and no convenient way to obtain any.

Our next surprise concerned health insurance. My husband and I had both grown up hearing that federal employment offers particularly good benefits. This may be, but it turns out he is not yet covered by his new insurance. In fact, he -- and the rest of the family -- won't be covered for more than two weeks. None of his previous employers -- government contractors -- have left him out in the cold this long. This instance of federal management of health care has not inspired us to optimism where Obamacare is concerned.

Monday, September 14, 2009

One big crowd

So we have estimates from 60,000 to 2 million Tea Party protesters in D.C. on September 12, 2009. A time-lapse aerial view from 8 to 11:30 a.m., while not great quality, shows a Whole Lot of People -- and that's at a time when many were in very long lines for subway tokens and the like. I'm no expert, but I would bet a fair amount of money, which we are not flush with right now, that the crowd was well into the six figures. Over 200,000 would be my conservative guess, and over 300,000 would be my if-I-were-taking-a-flyer guess.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Still at it -- more emails to Congress

Here's my latest, sent to my senators and to the members of the Senate Finance Committee:


Dear Senator:

I am disturbed about some features of the emerging possible compromise on health care legislation. I read that this compromise is likely to include mandatory insurance for individuals, as well as requirements that insurance companies cover those who are already known to need continual expensive care.

There is something fundamentally un-American – not to mention unconstitutional – about the federal government telling people that they must purchase an expensive product for their own use that they do not believe they need. The comparison to auto insurance misses the mark, as that requirement is: (1) a feature of state, not federal law; (2) confined to those who choose to drive; and (3) mainly designed to ensure that the driver can pay for injuries or property damage his driving inflicts on others.

As for requiring insurers to cover all pre-existing conditions, this further distorts the already strained meaning of “insurance”. Insurance is a form of hedging one’s bets, protecting against unlikely events (e.g. fire, accident). Where known medical conditions will require extensive future medical care, “insurance” is a misnomer. Placing the costs of such care on insurers is a kind of tax, which will be passed on to all the insurers’ customers in the form of higher premiums. Such higher premiums are one of several reasons that people currently satisfied with their insurance cannot count on their employers’ retaining such insurance.

The question of how to help Americans pay for chronic health conditions is a difficult one, and we need a great deal more brainstorming on the subject. Greatly expanding the federal bureaucracy, either expanding or imitating existing bureaucracies that are financially imperiled and administratively lackluster, cannot be the best answer available.

There are good ideas already out there for addressing many other aspects of health care. By letting Americans use pre-tax dollars to pay for both health care and health insurance, we can disconnect health care from employment and let people be cost-conscious health care consumers. Health insurance could then fill its more appropriate role, instead of being used for predictable everyday health care. Allowing insurance companies to compete nationwide would greatly reduce cost and expand choice.

Please do not allow the push for a bipartisan solution [replaced in some emails with: the demands of party leaders] to obscure the merits of the issue.


Karen A. Wyle

UPDATE: Holy cow! My readership just jumped substantially. Hello and welcome, new folks! Please feel free to comment.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If we have 4 years to play with....

My email to my senators:

Dear Senator Bayh/Lugar:

In his speech to Congress last night, Pres. Obama said his plan would go into effect in four years, so that we'd have time to get it right. Conveniently, that gives him time to get re-elected before the actual effects of his plan become evident.
If we have that much time, how about starting over and getting the right bill? How about letting individuals use pre-tax dollars to buy health care and/or health insurance, and letting insurers compete nationwide? How about examining some of the interesting proposals various economists and other experts have been floating?
Please don't let yourself be stampeded into supporting a flawed bill that, according to the President himself, doesn't need to go into effect any time soon.

Karen A. Wyle

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Who gave you that microphone, Congressman?

Well, I attended the town hall meeting that my congressman, Baron Hill, finally decided to hold. It was informative -- I'd imagined that he might still be on the fence, or even inclined to live up to his Blue Dog label, but he'd clearly decided to support the Democratic leadership's approach, complete with public option if he can get it.

Hill tried to be fair about the way he ran the meeting, sometimes affirmatively looking for people who opposed his views and wanted to speak. I was, however, disturbed by one of his ground rules: no audio or video recordings except by "accredited news agencies". He was asked twice why he would not let audience members record the proceedings. I don't think he answered the first time, but the second time he replied, "This is MY town hall and I set the rules." That got an angry reaction, and he defiantly repeated that this was "MY town hall." (He also explained that he didn't want recordings showing up on YouTube, which was at least honest.)

So what does that mean, "MY town hall"? He was the one who deigned to hold a meeting. He's the one who is (for now at least) in Congress. But he's there as our employee and representative. We put him there. If we call on him to meet with us on how he's doing his job, is it really "his" meeting? or is it more like his performance review?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

An open letter to my Senators

Here's what I just sent Senators Lugar and Bayh:


Dear Senator Lugar/Bayh:

I know that you and your colleagues respected Senator Kennedy’s passion and dedication. I can understand that many of you may identify with a senator who desperately wanted to remain on the battlefield during a crucial fight and was unable to do so. I know you will be urged to honor his memory by ensuring that his removal from the scene does not defeat the cause about which he cared so deeply.

Senator, the issue of American health care’s future is too important to be decided on such grounds. Senator Kennedy’s vision of government-dominated, government-administered health care is wrong for this country. Polls show that most Americans agree with that assessment. Legislators across the country have been confronted with the fear and anger their constituents feel at the possibility of their choices being curtailed and their health care overtaken by a wave of bureaucratic interference.

The challenge of the day is to address the flaws of our generally enviable system without undermining what we are doing so right. There are ideas floating around that meet that test. They include:

--Disconnecting normal health care from insurance. Insurance is for the big bad things that we hope won’t happen – fire, flood, catastrophic illness. It isn’t an appropriate vehicle for dealing with ordinary and predictable expenses. Using insurance for normal health care also prevents people from being intelligent consumers of health care, because they are insulated from its actual costs. We can let people put some of their income, untaxed, into health savings accounts, and spend that money on health care, so health insurance can play the more limited role that’s appropriate to it.

--Disconnecting health insurance from employment. If health insurance has a smaller job to do – covering catastrophic health events – it becomes more affordable. When it’s more affordable, more people can afford it, themselves, rather than getting it as an employment benefit. If we open up insurance to nationwide competition, the costs should go down further.

--Tort reform. We shouldn’t eliminate malpractice litigation, but some limits are necessary. Huge judgments and correspondingly high malpractice insurance premiums translate into higher costs for medical care.

While you honor the colleague you have lost, please maintain your focus on those Americans who remain with us, and who will be deeply affected in the future by the decisions you make today.


Karen A. Wyle

Friday, August 14, 2009

Anniversary cards

I went looking for a couple of anniversary cards earlier this week (to give my folks for their 60-something'th, and my husband for our 20th). I found abundant birthday cards in every possible variation and specification. I found Congratulations, Thank You, Thinking of You, Friendship, and Carpool Lines. I finally found a very few anniversary cards, providing very little choice in style or sentiment.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. Fewer people married for fewer years, with years passing before any remarriage, means fewer anniversaries. I also suspect that people are less likely to send anniversary cards for friends and family who are on their second or subsequent marriage. I would guess also that divorced people, so numerous in this era, don't get much pleasure out of sending anniversary cards: "Congratulations on staying married when I couldn't!"

In the end, I bought a blank card for my husband, with a photo of a boy and girl dressed in wedding garments (she was kissing him). And I used one of my own photos, a couple in silhouette walking on a beach, for a card to my folks. I wonder how many people make do in a similar manner, and how many drop the idea of sending a card -- shrinking the market further.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

...and more about toilets

Re my earlier post about automatic toilets: I could be wrong, but it seems to me that in bathrooms with manual flush toilets, there are more unflushed toilets than there used to be. (I'm not talking about deliberately clogged ones.)

My guess: people have gotten used to automatic toilets doing their flushing for them, even though it doesn't always work. They've started to assume that all toilets are automatic, without checking. They no longer view flushing as their responsibility.

Again, an example and a symbol of larger trends.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Has anyone written this book?...

If someone provided me with a good researcher, I might undertake to write a book called something like "A Nation of Cowards: Raising Our Children in Fear". It would compare how Americans addressed risk fifty years ago with how we do it today. Of course, research might find some exceptions to the rule -- were we more germ-phobic in the late 1950's than we are today? On the whole, though, I expect one could document that my now-middle-aged generation was expected to accept many more everyday risks without a second thought, and society as a whole was more prepared to undertake risky endeavors (e.g. going to the moon).

But maybe there are several books like this out there already. Names, anyone?

The automatic toilet as symbol

The other day, I was in a mall bathroom with automatic toilets. Several had been left unflushed; the one I used was, as is common, both under- and over-sensitive, flushing before it should and not flushing when it needed to. It occurred to me that automatic toilets are both a symptom and a symbol of what ails this country (well, one important ailment).

Instead of assuming that people can take responsibility to the minimal extent of flushing away their own waste, we replace individual responsibility with a System. The System doesn't really do the job, failing at least as often (I'd guess more often) than the individuals did -- but its very existence leads people to assume that they no longer have to take any action. Thus the System's failures go uncorrected.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grudging Benefit of the Doubt -- Obama and Iran - UPDATED

Much as I'd like to join the chorus of those excoriating Obama for not unequivocally backing the Iranian protesters, I can't quite. Why give the mullahs a more credible opportunity to blame the unrest on outside agitators? If Obama actually had guts and a devotion to American-style democracy, wouldn't it be wise for him to walk pretty much the line he's walking?

UPDATE: OK, they're blaming us anyway, and Mousavi's spokesman didn't ask us to keep out of it. Time to man up, Pres-boy!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Where the Money Is

I don't remember which bank robber said he robbed banks because "that's where the money is". A similar principle appears to guide Democratic tax policy: tax the heck out of rich people because that's where the money is.

Trouble is, the economy needs rich people and their money. We need rich people's money for investment, for new businesses, for expansion of existing businesses.

Obama says he won't wallop the rich folks with taxes until the economy recovers. But what makes him think that recovery can be sustained without them?

Or maybe he figures there'll be plenty of money left over, and that it'll still get spent where we need it. Better hope so.

It is utterly obvious that I'm no economist -- but I don't think I'm completely missing the boat here.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Thursday morning, it was minus 9 degrees Farenheit at 8 a.m., and the radio cheerfully commented that it was "really chilly".

This is one way I know I no longer live in Southern California.

We are now in that interlude when there is melted snow on top of unmelted ice. This is awkward.