Archive for April 2006

BREAKING: Two State Legislatures Introduce Impeachment Resolutions

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

This might be the talk of the nation real soon. Like, tomorrow morning.

Invoking little-known Section 603 (PDF file, see pp. 2-3) of the U.S. House rules, the Illinois and California state legislatures may set the impeachment proceedings against President Bush in motion. Both legislatures are Democrat-controlled.

Internet Relay Chatters on irc.freenode.net have set up a wiki to track the facts of the story.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: I should say that this may not go anywhere, since the resolutions have only been introduced and have yet to be voted on by the respective legislatures. And with the GOP in control of the House, the chances of it getting through are pretty slim. But once the mainstream media picks this up…boom. Like piranhas to blood.

After-Birth Decisions?

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

From the unusual news of the day department: Apparently, there are two things you can do with a placenta besides throw it with the medical waste.

You can bury it.

Or, you can eat it. (h/t The Moderate Voice)

Take your pick.

Indulging My Inner News Anchor

Wednesday, April 12th, 2006

Sorry for the long absence this past week. I’ve been dabbling in the world of podcasting. Well, sort of.

For a while, I’ve been contributing to the Wikipedia project, editing articles about anything and everything. Just recently, I’ve also discovered its sister project Wikinews which acts like a free news wire of sorts. A subproject of it is Audio Wikinews, which lets people contribute their recordings of the news stories on Wikinews…indulging their inner news anchors, so to speak.

So, armed with the free open-source audio editor Audacity, I thought I’d try my hand at it. I’ve recorded and mixed a few of the newsbriefs (you can listen here). Of course, I don’t think I’ll ever measure up to Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, or Peter Jennings in my delivery of the news. Or even Joe Moore, Shawn Ching, or any other radio or TV personality here either.

But I think it’s fun. I might continue to do it for a while. Of course, I’ll still be writing here regularly, don’t worry.

And who knows, maybe I might start a podcast of my own. The Pineapple Podcast, maybe?

Beware: Ala Wai Water May Eat You Alive

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

One word: Yecch.

When I read this story in today’s paper, it gave me the heebie-jeebies. A Honolulu mortgage broker, Oliver Johnson, is fighting for his life after a fall into the sewage-contaminated Ala Wai Boat Harbor gave him necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as the flesh-eating bacterium.

It reminded me of the story of a young five-year-old named Alyshia Shimizu who battled the same disease in 2000, though not under the same circumstances. She’s doing OK now, but will have to undergo skin grafts while she’s still growing.

Alyshia was lucky. Her case, which destroyed about a third of her skin, came about after a cut got infected. Johnson, however, fell into Germ Central on Friday, complained on Saturday about leg pain, was admitted to the hospital on Sunday and by Tuesday was on life support in severe septic shock. Johnson has already lost his left leg above the knee, and will likely lose the other leg and at least one arm.

Tourists: Even though the signs have been lifted, be really careful out there, and take a really good shower once you’re done swimming.

What You Can Do to Fight Illegal Immigration

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

1. Stiff the waiter at your local restaurant and pay the manager four times the bill.
2. Take a menial second job at one-fourth the salary to crowd out the job market.
3. Stuff 12 people into a studio apartment.

So says Ductape @ Enemy of the State. Hat tip to Linkmeister.

Massachusetts to Enact Universal Health Coverage

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Massachusetts has taken a big step toward providing universal health coverage (hat tip to Donklephant and The Moderate Voice):

The Massachusetts policy holds both businesses and employees responsible for health care coverage. Businesses with more than 10 employees that do not provide coverage for all staff must pay a $295 fee annually per uninsured worker.

Under the legislation, which is expected to be approved by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, insurance agencies would expand health care coverage by offering state-subsidized, low-cost insurance plans with scaled-back benefits.

Admittedly, my first thoughts were, “So what?” Requiring businesses to cover employees and providing low-cost insurance coverage through private insurers is nothing new in Hawaii. The Prepaid Health Care Act, enacted here in 1974 and the first of its kind, requires business who employ individuals more than half-time to provide comprehensive coverage for their employees. And in 1994, Hawaii introduced QUEST, which at the time was considered innovative. Several private insurers contract with the state to provide QUEST plans.

But despite all of this, 10% of our population remains uninsured. Below average but still too much. (Part of this is businesses taking advantage of the half-time loophole and hiring only part-timers. No full-timers, no need to provide insurance.)

So, despite what the media is saying, it’s not an entirely new idea. Hawaii has lived with aspects of this law for years. However, Massachusetts does go further in requiring individuals to insure themselves or face a penalty of 50% of the lowest cost health plan.

While I certainly hope Massachusetts’ experiment works (and I’m not just expressing sour grapes because our government couldn’t come up with something like that first), I do have some concerns. For instance, the so-called fine. $295 a year per worker? Come on. What kind of a penalty is that? There’s got to be more teeth in that law than that. Here in Hawaii it typically costs a business upwards of that to insure one person for one month. And our premiums are below the national average.

And not only that, the Prepaid Health Care Act’s monetary penalties are $25 per day (or $1 per person per day, whichever is greater). And, they can shut you down. Result? Near universal (if grudging) compliance.

Although I may not agree with this blogger’s opinion regarding the law, I do agree that the fine as currently set won’t have any deterrent effect. It would be cheaper to pay the fine than cover their employees, and that would be counter-productive to their goal.

I hope the Massachusetts experiment works, and if it does, I bet dollars to doughnuts that Hawaii will come up with something similar. Because, like it or not, we’ve got competition.

Disclaimer: I speak for myself, not my employer.

Strange Orb in Hawaiian Sky Causes Temporary Blindness

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Hospitals in Honolulu reported numerous cases of temporary blindness after patients reported seeing a strange bright orb moving from east to west across the sky on Monday.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said ophthalmologist Terrence Aki, MD. “All that light just stunned their eyes. Fortunately, I haven’t seen any cases of permanent damage.”

Said Cy Minn, “I just couldn’t help myself. That really bright light in the sky…I just couldn’t help looking at it.”

Weather forecasters report that it could be the long-awaited return of the sun, but some people remain skeptical. Says Morris “Mo” Chee, “Nah, cannot be. The sun disappeared six weeks ago and hasn’t been back since.”

Yes, it’s satire. Read the whole story here.

France: “Job Security at Any Cost”?

Monday, April 3rd, 2006

Ah, Paris. The city of lights, burning with the light of cars on fire. Again.

This time it’s over an employment law that would allow an employer to fire anyone under 26 for any reason within the first two years. Of course, here in the U.S. where anyone can quit or be fired at any time, this sounds like a really nutty reason to riot, but it’s a big thing in France. Says Michael Stickings at The Moderate Voice:

I think I’m with Chirac on this one (let me know if you think I’m way off). The modifications to the law seem quite sensible to me. They would prevent an employer from simply firing an employee under 26 at will. Whatever my general criticisms of Chirac, I think he does understand “the anxieties expressed by many young people across France” and I think his efforts “to defuse the situation” have been sincere. In addition, “has also told employers not to put the law into practice yet, as he wants to hold more talks with business leaders and trades unionists”.

Not that the opponents of the law will back off. This is now a cause. Once the French are in the streets, it’s awfully hard to get them off them.

Make no mistake, if the United States had 20% to 40% of its young people without a means to support themselves, for sure something would be broken.

Of course, I don’t know why Chirac just doesn’t bite the bullet and adopt, whole hog, the American system of nearly universal “at will” employment, where anyone can be fired or laid off for any reason, but on the flip side, anyone can voluntarily leave their jobs for any reason. I think it would definitely solve the problem of youth unemployment. I mean, here in the U.S., it’s older people who have trouble finding jobs after layoffs and downsizing. Young people have it better here.

Part of the difference seems to be the culture. In France, once you’re in, you’re in; layoffs are virtually unheard of. And employees will stay with their companies until they retire or expire.

By contrast, and using myself as an example, I’ve been at my current day job for about three and a half years. That’s the longest stretch I’ve ever been at a single company. And of those changes, some were entirely my choice, and others were forced on me. Such is the fluid, somewhat unstable nature of employment here in the U.S. But at the same time, that fluidity adds up to flexibility. People here in the U.S. will willingly uproot themselves in search of the Perfect Job.

Certainly, for a problem of this magnitude, there needs to be some sort of legal remedy. And Chirac backing down by making the probationary period only one year and basically saying that it has to be for a reason (not sure if it’s “for cause” in the way that phrase is used here in the U.S.) is a good step toward reconciliation. But what young French people should do, rather than rail against the change, is take advantage of the flexibility this provides. They should shop around and find the best job, and they shouldn’t be afraid to take the initiative and say, “J’arrête.” Of course, this is easier said than done, but that’s what it’s going to take…changing hearts and minds and a culture that worships job security at all costs.

France should do what it can to encourage job creation. Job security is an important concept too. But you can’t have job security without a job.