poisonwood's Diaryland Diary

Date: May. 01, 2008 . Time: 11:09 a.m.

gardening daily Entry:

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gardening daily

We went out for sushi last night, which was fun as always. I think one of the coolest things about my friend P's wedding is that she served sushi (among other things.)

This weekend, we'll probably go hiking again. I'm hoping to put many or most of my seedlings in the ground. My tomatoes haven't been happy with me lately, and I'm not sure if it's because they're not warm enough or they need to be fertilized or what. This happened last year as well, and they were much happier after being planted in the ground. All my available windowsills had been converted to plant-holders for the past several weeks - lots of tomatoes, squash, brussel sprouts, peppers, etc.

I put carrots, radishes and spinach in the ground a while back, but only the radishes are thriving. I think it may have been too cold for the others. So far, I've had a much harder time gardening in Washington than I did in Virginia. The growing season is shorter. There's less sun. And, believe it or not, in July and August, there's less rain, which means more watering. The biggest problem, though, has been the weeds.

11:09 a.m. - May. 01, 2008

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health care revisited

The WSJ had an article about how hospitals are now requiring payment up front.

Nataline Sarkisyan, a 17-year-old cancer patient who died in December waiting for a liver transplant, drew national attention when former presidential candidate John Edwards lambasted her health insurer for refusing to pay for the operation. But what went largely unnoticed is that Ms. Sarkisyan's hospital, UCLA Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital that is part of the University of California system, refused to do the procedure after the insurance denial unless the family paid it $75,000 upfront, according to the family's lawyer, Tamar Arminak.

Getting money from families that have it in advance is a fine strategy, but from those who are "underinsured" and don't have the money is another matter. Who has $75K in cash? As the WSJ points out, this especially sketchy with a non-profit hospital.

An Ohio State University study found net income per bed nearly tripled at nonprofit hospitals to $146,273 in 2005 from $50,669 in 2000. According to the American Hospital Directory, 77% of nonprofit hospitals are in the black, compared with 61% of for-profit hospitals. Nonprofit hospitals are exempt from taxes and are supposed to channel the income they generate back into their operations. Many have used their growing surpluses to reward their executives with rich pay packages, build new wings and accumulate large cash reserves.

They save the best for last - overbilling patients who don't have insurance by ridiculous factors over what the insured pay. This, in my opinion, is completely absurd and should be illegal.

On TV one night, Mrs. Kelly saw a news segment about people who try to get patients' bills reduced. She contacted Holly Wallack, who is part of a group that works on contingency to reduce patients' bills; she keeps one-third of what she saves clients. Ms. Wallack began firing off complaints to M.D. Anderson. She said Mrs. Kelly had been billed more than $360 for blood tests that most insurers pay $20 or less for, and up to $120 for saline pouches that cost less than $2 at retail. On one bill, Mrs. Kelly was charged $20 for a pair of latex gloves. On another itemized bill, Ms. Wallack found this: CTH SIL 2M 7FX 25CM CLAMP A4356, for $314. It turned out to be a penis clamp, used to control incontinence.

B and I went hiking this weekend. I am in major pain today as a result. The muscles in my arms are killing me! What sense does that make? Also, the snow is not even close to melting around here.

5:47 p.m. - Apr. 28, 2008

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simulating

The Republicans and the Democrats attempt to separate themselves, and one of the big dividers is the war, but are they really all that different? Everyone wants to end the war. Pres. Bush wants to end the war. Who wouldn't want such a thing? The only question is who is most capable of getting it done without leaving Iraq in civil war. Perhaps the Dems have quietly been saying that they will leave Iraq in civil war and that will be that. After all, Mr. O voted against it - don't blame him for what happens!

It seems likely Sen. Clinton will not be the nominee, and so we are left with McCain and Obama. As someone who avoids debt whenever possible, our nationally unbalanced budget makes me very uncomfortable. Will either of the candidates balance it. As for McCain, it seems unlikely. Obama? He is promising the moon, the sun and the stars. He will raise taxes whether it increases revenue or not, and then he will raise them some more. Obama may balance the budget, who knows, but we - meaning engineers who save - will pay for it big time.

Two things really get my goat about Obama. First, he promises not to raise taxes on those making less than 200K. Fantastic! Except that he plans to raise the social security cutoff from 95K. Note that we pay FOURTEEN PERCENT of our salaries in social security. At present, this change would not affect me, but I just think it is extremely dishonest. Obama should own up to the fact that he will increase taxes on those that make 95K or more. Maybe this is necessary - but justify it; don't lie about it. Hillary explicitly stated that she will not do this, so as far as we know, she'll stick to her promise not to raise taxes on those making 250K or less.

Second, Obama wants to raise the capital gains taxes for "fairness." It has been shown that increasing cap gains tax to 28% actually reduced revenue - not just immediately, but over the long term. The article I linked is a great article, but not easy to summarize in a couple of sentences. I tuned in to the recent debate, and Obama's words on taxes frightened me. The WSJ summed it up perfectly:

But Mr. Obama has also said he's open to raising indeed, nearly doubling to 28% the current top capital gains tax rate of 15%, which would in fact be a tax hike on some 100 million Americans who own stock, including millions of people who fit Mr. Obama's definition of middle class.

Mr. Gibson dared to point out this inconsistency, which regularly goes unmentioned in Mr. Obama's fawning press coverage. But Mr. Gibson also probed a little deeper, asking the candidate why he wants to increase the capital gains tax when history shows that a higher rate brings in less revenue.

"Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20%," said Mr. Gibson. "And George Bush has taken it down to 15%. And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28%, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?"

Mr. Obama answered by citing rich hedge fund managers. Raising the capital gains tax is necessary, he said, "to make sure . . . that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don't have it and that we're able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools. And you can't do that for free."

But Mr. Gibson had noted that higher rates yield less revenue. So the news anchor tried again: "But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up?" Mr. Obama responded that this "might happen or it might not. It depends on what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going." And then he went on a riff about John McCain and the housing market.

I've been running a lot of sims at work lately. It's killing me. But I'm totally up on current affairs.

5:16 p.m. - Apr. 23, 2008

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