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March 2012 Archives

Health Care Debate Leaves Bad Taste

The Supreme Court is currently hearing debate among lawyers who have descended upon the Court to argue the Constitutionality of President Obama's 2010 Health Care Law.Reading the coverage of these debates, I've been surprised by how muddled the conversation about what's going on with this law has become; everybody has a different understanding. Such is typically the case in these cluttered media and information times - a subject like health care reform is so complicated and arduous that most of our eyes glaze over after reading two sentences about it.Bill Barrow of The Times-Picayune puts it well when he explains that, [Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul] Clement, representing Louisiana and 25 other states that sued to strike down the law, will argue that the minimum coverage requirement - commonly called "the individual mandate" - abuses congressional authority under the Constitution's Commerce Clause, which challengers say extends to Congress the right to regulate the circumstances of active transactions but not the right to compel participation."
Charles Pierce of Esquire says about the law that, "The [Obama] administration has sold it so badly that 72 percent of the American people believe the whole thing to be unconstitutional, and 25 percent of the country in one poll thinks the law already has been repealed." That's the dissonance that occurs when we discuss this particular law - it's been so unpopular and doubted for so long that most assume it's not even a law. But it is a law, and there's intense debate going on right now over its future.The key debate is a question over one provision of the law: Whether the law is Constitutional or not because it requires each American to purchase a health care plan (This has come to be known as the 'Individual Mandate'.). The Commerce Clause of our Constitution opens up the fundamental question: Can you, the government, create commerce?
The news today was not good for the future of the law. Jeffrey Toobin of CNN said, "This was a train wreck for the Obama administration. This law looks like it's going to be struck down." There are currently far too many questions regarding the Individual Mandate (they are outlined well in this post on the web site of The Atlantic), and Justice Anthony Kennedy - considered the "Swing Vote" in this case - came out strongly against the Individual Mandate today.There is something for every side to viciously fight over here. Supporters and detractors have both marched in Washington in front of the Supreme Court to voice their opinion. The only consensus anybody seems to be able to reach is that something must be done about the health insurance industry in the United States, but nobody agrees what that thing must be.Pierce puts it well when he says: No matter what they might argue to the contrary, the people supporting the law are also supporting the government-sponsored delivery of 30 million new customers into the arms of one of the most disliked industries in America. No matter what they might argue to the contrary, the other side was supporting the notion that government can do nothing whatsoever to ameliorate the circumstances of people who simply will sicken and die because they can't afford not to sicken and die.
That is ultimately the point and the problem. We must do something, but nothing can be done without going through a bureaucratic process that only pushes everybody farther apart. The best thing we can do about that, I think, is to find a way to cut through the noise and the politics and educate ourselves as to what's really going on.You can listen to today's Supreme Court proceedings HERE. 

Guest Blog: Healthy Cookie

Healthy-Cookie.jpgJust do it!As you know, I live a healthy lifestyle and want everyone else to take a step in that direction. It seems the main reason people don't exercise is the same excuse: Time. You may tell yourself you don't have time to work out, but adjust that attitude and make time for it. Whether it means waking up 30 minutes earlier, skipping some couch time to go on a walk or a jog, or working out during your favorite TV show, there's most certainly time to do it.Below is a quick 10-minute workout to blast away 100 calories. Do each for one minute:Jumping jacks
Running in place
Jumping squats
Marching in place
Walking lunges
Sit ups
Crunches to the left side
Crunches to the right side
Wall sittingExercising reduces your risk of heart attack, increases blood circulation, strengthens your muscles, and has many more benefits. Best part, however, is that it makes you feel better!So I challenge you to make time to work out today. 

New Orleans expands its traffic camera operations

The Times-Picayune reported last week that the city of New Orleans is making several important changes to its traffic camera program. Several months ago on this blog we ran a discussion forum on this topic to see how people felt about traffic cameras, and responders were overwhelmingly against them.The city is facing scrutiny from a fed-up public, but it's not exactly making changes that will be met with delight. Here are some of the important items in the report:The city will be installing 11 new traffic cameras. These cameras will mostly be concentrated in and around school zones, where the majority of citations are issued.A motorist will now have to be going more than 10 miles per hour above the speed limit to be cited by a camera. The exception will be during school hours, during which a driver can be ticketed for going one mile per hour over the speed limit.One-third of the people who receive traffic camera tickets don't pay the fine. The city's recourse has in the past been to 'boot' the cars of delinquent drivers. Now, however, people with fines exceeding $500 can be sued by the city.The traffic cameras have been heavily criticized because their tickets are so difficult to contest. Traffic camera tickets are treated as civil and not criminal matters. This is important because it costs $476 to file a motion for appeal in civil court, whereas a 'traditional' traffic ticket is free to appeal in Traffic Court. The traffic cameras also operate under the assumption that they are operating properly; that makes it nearly impossible to challenge a ticket on the basis of the camera malfunctioning.The reality is that New Orleans (and many, many other cities) rely on revenue from traffic cameras for their annual budget. A report in The Atlantic by Yonah Freemark detailed the conundrum many cities face when they start camera programs by contracting with private companies:The concept is straightforward: By increasing enforcement of these traffic violations, drivers will be less likely to commit the offense, which accounts for 2 percent of fatal car accidents in the country, or more than 600 deaths a year.
But the deals municipalities strike with the distributors of the cameras... may be putting the public in danger... The problem is that many of the contracts signed with these companies force cities to commit to standards that encourage the running of red lights...
Some of the contracts, written by the companies themselves and later signed by municipal governments, require each camera to record a certain number of red light-runners every year and for police departments to issue a minimum number of tickets. The companies, after all, have a fiscal incentive to have as many people as possible move through the intersection illegally, since they usually pocket a percentage of the ticket fee.
The reality is that there is very little data to support increased safety in areas monitored by the cameras. New Orleans continues to cite safety as its main reason for its camera program, but the facts tell a different story, one that has the city relying on dipping into the pockets of citizens with little positive effect for those same citizens.

Guest Blog: A Peak Inside My Cluttered Mind

A Peak inside my cluttered mind.jpgFor those of you still stressing out over the stress of your life... here are a few ways to help prepare for those times that you just know are going to be STRESSFUL.1. Visualize the event the day before - Mentally run through (like a movie) all the possible scenarios for what could happen, visualizing your reaction to each, that way if the worst does happen, you already have an appropriate response thought out.2. Address the most urgent need first - It's always going to get a bit crazy, but if you prioritize as you go, you will stay one step ahead of the game and the decisions that have to be made won't be a game stopped, but will just be another part of the day's activities.3. Listen- You have to be flexible and pay attention what people are saying. Often the group mind is more intelligent that any one perspective (including yours).4. Know when to take a breather - When you are on a deadline, the initial reaction is to RUSH to ensure you get it done. Sometimes, taking a break can actually help improve the results (fewer mistakes made) while still making that deadline.5. Block out anything unnecessary - Most of my pressure-filled moments come when big news breaks. On these days, there is so much information to consider that you can't process it fast enough to react appropriately. Knowing that you have other people as a backup will help make you more secure and confident to make those informed decisions. Most of the time making the right decision is more important that making that fast decision. Life offers no do-overs.Here's to living la viva calmly!by Beverly Lopez, contributor 

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