Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Fuhrer" Over U.S. Navy Building

This is one of the stranger stories I came across today. Apparently, the US Navy is spending $600,000 dollars to renovate a 40 year old barracks building in Coronado California. The reason? Satellite images of the building on Google Earth have revealed its shape to be that of a swastika!
The Navy said officials noted the buildings' shape after the groundbreaking in 1967 but decided against changing it at the time because it wasn't obvious from the ground. Aerial photos made available on Google Earth in recent years have since revealed the buildings' shape to a wide audience.

As a replacement for the swastika buiding, the Navy has decided to build three sister barracks side by side by side, which will be able to accomodate many more sailors. The first of the three buildings has been completed, and an aerial view is provided below:

I'm heading up to Whistler for the weekend, so no blog updates till at least next week. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Healthcare for Dummies

A few days ago, the AARP hosted a Democratic presidential debate in Iowa. One of the main topics of discussion was healthcare, a cause once championed by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. The debate itself was the usual mishmash of meaningless campaign slogans and promises to ensure a "better healthcare system" for all Americans. But there were a couple of things conspicuously absent - content and candidates.

Senator Barack Obama was invited, but declined to participate. Also absent was Congressman Dennis Kucinich, but not for lack of interest. In fact, Kucinich wasn't even invited to the debate. An odd decision, given that Kucinich is in favour of a truly universal healthcare system for all Americans, and would have added some much needed spark to an otherwise predictable evening. Why would the AARP exclude someone like Kucinich?

Turn out the AARP is one of the largest lobby groups in the USA. It has drawn critics from both sides of the political spectrum, at once accused of being too socialist and too cozy with big Pharma. The association was however a major supporter of Medicare Part D, a stance which angered many Democrats. Part D is an addendum to the original Medicare Plan, which ostensibly permits subsidies for prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. The program is seen by critics as a boon to the Pharmaceutical industry, as it forbids the federal government from negotiating drug prices (this practice is allowed by the Veteran's Association).
Medicare pays $1,485 for Zocor, while the VA pays $127. Former Congressman Billy Tauzin, R-La., who steered the bill through the House, retired soon after and took a $2 million a year job as president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the main industry lobbying group. Medicare boss Thomas Scully, who threatened to fire Medicare Chief Actuary Richard Foster if he reported how much the bill would actually cost, was negotiating for a new job as a pharmaceutical lobbyist as the bill was working through Congress.

The two frontrunning candidates present at the debate (Edwards and Clinton) both support some form of plan which would require all Americans to buy healthcare coverage - provided by a private insurer, and possibly subsidized by the federal government. In an open letter, Kucinich asks:
Is it appropriate for AARP to be sponsoring a Democratic Presidential debate on health care while excluding the one candidate who wants to dramatically change the system from which AARP profits mightily?

Kucinich was a co-sponsor of Bill H.R. 676, legislation that proposed the creation of a National Health Program that would provide comprehensive coverage for all Americans and prohibit private insurers from selling duplicate coverage. In today's political climate, it is of course unlikely that such legislation could get off the floor. The phrase "single-payer healthcare" has become the modern day equivalent of "communism", thanks to the concerted efforts of Republicans, private insurers, and big pharma. Even Senator Clinton was quick to reassure the Iowa debate audience that her plan was "NOT a single-payer system". Kucinich has little chance of becoming President, but his exclusion from the "debate" on healthcare is a sad example of the way in which progressive thought has become marginalized in the race for 2008.