Maine rocks.

Maine rejects Real ID

Maine overwhelmingly rejected federal requirements for national identification cards on Thursday, marking the first formal state opposition to controversial legislation scheduled to go in effect for Americans next year.

Both chambers of the Maine legislature approved a resolution saying the state flatly “refuses” to force its citizens to use driver’s licenses that comply with digital ID standards, which were established under the 2005 Real ID Act. It asks the U.S. Congress to repeal the law.

“Real ID” was a very stupid idea and terribly for privacy, with no real gain except in the size of the beaurocracy. Go Maine!

Bah humbug, part 2: Bush wants to take away employer-based health insurance

I’m just apalled by the health care situation in this country. It’s pretty rare that political issues hit home to me quite so obviously, but we need some kind of real single-payer national healthcare system now. Or, since the “right now” part has already expired while writing this, as soon as bloody possible.

A little over a month ago, I sat through our company’s open enrollment presentation discussing the benefit change for next year. Not many changes, and Guidewire has good benefits (just BTW, in case one of my readers is looking for a job. It’s a cool place to work.) That said, a big part of the presentation was talking about the combination of “High-deductible health plan” and a “Health (Medical?) Savings Account”.

Those seemed like a very broken way of providing health insurance to me, and inspired me to start a post which, until now, I’ve never finished; indeed, my original intent – arguing for single payer, will have to wait. But meanwhile I wanted to share the following news story with you in additional evidence that Bush’s goal, and that of the Republican legislators who were until recently in power, was to “reform” the employer based health care system out of commission completely.

Check this out: (Emphasis below is mine, quoting is selective, and I recommend reading the whole article.)
Bush Insurance Plan Gets Cold Reception

“Under the guise of tax breaks, the president is pursuing a policy designed to destroy the employer-based health care system through which 160 million people receive coverage,” the lawmaker said.

[The proposal] includes a trade-off. Contributions from employers toward health insurance would begin to be treated as taxable income. At the same time, a standard deduction for taxpayers with health insurance would be set at $15,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals

Giving a tax break to individuals who pay for their own health insurance, rather than only allowing it if it’s above 7.5% of total income seems only fair to me… after all, those of us who get it through our employers do so through either the employer paying for it untaxed or through a “cafeteria plan” pre-tax deduction. The fair way to allow people to deduct individually paid health insurance would be to do so through one of those special deductions that is separate from one’s regular, itemized deductions (as is done right now with student loan interest.)

Instead, what seems to be being proposed is just plain stupid. Fortunately, I think it is (as noted elsewhere in the article) a non-starter with a Democratic congress, but then again… didn’t the whole health savings account crap start under Clinton? Assuming that the Democratic party is on the right side of this issue ignores just how big a tent the Democratic party is, and how bad the Hillarycare proposal was (I vaguely recall my far-left friends/family calling it “corporate welfare for big insurance companies” at the time.)

If that’s not bad enough, we’ve also got the total fiasco that Governor Schwartzenegger (sp?) is proposing here in California. I’ve not been following that as well as I should, but I’ve been apalled by what I’ve heard so far (how, for example, will the individual requirement to carry health insurance be enforced? Filling the jails?) Calitics has had a good bit of coverage that I need to catch up on.

More to come on this issue, I hope.

Addendum: Here’s a link to the whitehouse fact sheet on the president’s actual proposal. Also mcjoan at Dailykos discusses this further, although with a rather different read on what the proposal means.

Bah humbug, part 1: AIDS group claims Viagra causes increase in HIV infections.

AIDS group to sue Pfizer over Viagra ads

Mon Jan 22, 2007 10:02am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A major U.S. AIDS treatment group plans to file a lawsuit on Monday that accuses drug giant Pfizer Inc. of illegally promoting recreational use of its blockbuster impotence pill Viagra.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) told Reuters it wants Pfizer to be barred from marketing Viagra as a lifestyle or sexual enhancement drug. The nonprofit organization said Pfizer’s actions had led to risky behavior by men and an increase in HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“Pfizer has created and contributed to the perception of Viagra as a safe, sexy, lifestyle, recreational drug, to be frequently used regardless of the degree, or even existence of” erectile dysfunction, the group said in draft legal documents.

While I sympathize about AIDS treatment costs, the case – at least as made in the news article (which is very much worth a full read) – is tenuous. Then again, I haven’t seen the ads in question.

Should the federales be suing Pfizer for welfare checks because of unintended pregnancies that might not have happened but for Viagra? It’s similar logic, though I doubt at $9/pill retail (and higher through the online vendors who cater to the recreational use market) that it’s making a lot of inroads among the very poor.

And why just Viagra? The other PDE-5 inhibitors (Levitra and Cialis) are essentially the same; indeed, both of the others for various reasons are better choices for a purely recreational user.

And yes, in one sense they’re right – Viagra is used as a recreational drug, especially heavily if you count people with real but intermittent ED. So what? It still require’s a doctor’s prescription, and the few risks a healthy individual (or otherwise-healthy individual with ED) takes in using it are theirs alone and relatively minor. The risks of STDs faced by someone using it are no higher than those by someone without ED, and indeed given the occasional complaints guys have about losing their erections when using condoms, one could argue that with Viagra may encourage safer-sex practices.

(I’m locking this one “no comments” because mentioning the big V will probably attract extra spambots. If you really want to comment, do so on Bah Humbug Part 2, to be posted shortly.)

Beware undead hamsters.

A post on Making Light tracks BBC “obsession” with hamsters, and this one story caught my attention:
Hamster back from the dead

Three-year-old Claudia had gone to the great cage in the sky. Or so it seemed.

For despite being buried in her makeshift coffin three feet below the ground, the plucky rodent was determined not to give up on life just yet.

She gnawed her way out of the box and burrowed up to the surface, before making her way back home.

via a post on DailyKos (probably C&J?)

Today’s roundup: Travel edition.

City Settles Flour-Filled Condom Lawsuit

(AP) PHILADELPHIA A woman who was arrested and jailed for three weeks on drug charges for what turned out to be flour-filled condoms has settled a lawsuit against the city for $180,000.

Scorpion bites man repeatedly on plane to Vermont

A scorpion bit David Sullivan on the back of his right leg, just below the knee, then crawled up and down his left leg, he thinks, before getting him again in the shin.

From various posts on Flyertalk. And one extra, from elsewhere:
Australia-bound tourist ends up in Montana

German man mistakenly books plane ticket to small oil town of Sidney

BERLIN – A 21-year-old German tourist who wanted to visit his girlfriend in the Australian metropolis Sydney landed more than 8,000 miles away near Sidney, Montana, after mistyping his destination on a flight booking Web site.

Toys for geeks with too much money.

Nikko’s nerdtacular Star Wars R2-D2 gear

These are probably the greatest gadgets I’ve seen at all of CES. Massive high-def televisions and supercharged gaming PCs are great, but they can’t compare to products fashioned to look and act like the galaxy’s greatest astrodroid.

Electronics company Nikko, best known for its remote-controlled cars, have announced a DVD projection system and a wireless, networked Webcam, both based on Star Wars’ R2-D2. The nerd truly is strong in these ones.

via a forward at work.

“[It] could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history”

This is why I’m glad I bought my new laptop BEFORE Vista came out… indeed, pretty much *right* before they started shipping the “free upgrade” coupons:

Executive Summary

Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called “premium content”, typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it’s not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server). This document analyses the cost involved in Vista’s content protection, and the collateral damage that this incurs throughout the computer industry.

Executive Executive Summary

The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history [Note A].

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