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Critical Mass Redux

Initially, I thought that both the driver and the cyclists who assaulted the driver after the driver ran over a cyclist should be charged and tried for the crimes they each committed. I even thought that the cyclists who attacked the car after the incident were really just shooting themselves in the foot, because without the damage to the car, the driver couldn’t have claimed that people were beating on his car before he drove over cyclists. However, based on the hugely biased police report that the Seattle Police Department appears to have no intention of correcting, I have grown pretty certain that even with no damage to his car, the driver would have avoided any charges.

The City of Seattle’s refusal to hold the driver accountable for his actions has, in my opinion, legitimized the vigilantism pursued by the cyclists. The City can’t expect its citizens to shun vigilante justice while the city itself shuns justice altogether. Maybe the cyclists who attacked the driver knew, from previous experience, that the city would not hold the driver accountable, so they knew they had to do it themselves. Or maybe the cyclists were just thugs looking for a fight. Regardless, in my mind, the cyclist’s actions have been justified by a government unable or unwilling to perform its most basic duty.

Interesting Articles On Transit Myths

Here is a very worthwhile article by Brad Templeton about some of the myths we hold about transit. Seeing empty buses roam around the Eastside most of my childhood, I always suspected that this was the case, even though it flew in the face of “common knowledge.” Its good to see that I wasn’t so far off in my suspicions.

The same guy also does a brief analysis of walking versus driving, with surprising results.

I Am Not a Ron Paul Delegate

Well, as it turns out, four people all managed to show up at the wrong precinct at the caucuses, so we all were disqualified — both myself and the alternate are not delegates to the legislative district caucus, although we can still have our names on the ballot to the state caucus (as can anyone); we just can’t vote on those ballots.

It wouldn’t really have mattered anyway, because the precinct we should have been at already had a Precinct Committee Officer (PCO) who is the automatic delegate the the legislative caucus.

When I first received the letter, I was a little pissed about it, but it appears that their reasons for disqualifying me as a delegate were legitimate. I guess this is how politics works — too much of it is about following the little rules and double checking to make sure you’re not missing something.

Oh well. We’ll do better next time.

Illinois versus Maryland

Ban Guns? 6 Dead in N. Illinois U. Hall Shooting

Or Ban Cars? Car Hits Md. Street-Race Crowd; 8 Killed

Maybe we just ought to ban people?

I Am A Ron Paul Delegate

I took part in my first ever Presidential Caucus today. Since my permanent address is still in Bellevue, I met up with my parents and arrived at Eastgate Elementary’s Gym just before 1:00. We spent a few minutes looking for our precinct among the dozens meeting at the same place. It turns out that we were the first from our precinct to show up, so we sat down with our sign and tried to make heads or tails of the situation. Eventually a fourth precinct member showed up, and we were under way. Since our precinct had no precinct committee officer (PCO), we first needed to elect a Chairman. My mom suggested me, and my Dad and our new lawyer friend agreed. I then appointed my Dad as the secretary, since he was already writing down what was going on.

After some discussion and an explanation of the process, we got down to business. First we nominated delegates. I was nominated, and I nominated Rando, the lawyer. After three calls for additional nominations with no names put forward, we voted. I (somewhat predictably, I guess) received three votes and Rando one. This elected me to the position of delegate for our precinct, with Rando as the alternate.

The process was extraordinarily easy, and, as the title says, I am now a Ron Paul delegate.

An Idea to Control Medical Expenses

Everyone talks about medical expenses spiraling out of control. While the notion is not entirely true for a variety of reasons, it is certainly true that medical expenses — even with insurance — can be very high. Let me first hedge by saying that I am not an expert on this subject. On the other hand, the experts certainly haven’t done us any good in a long time. So let me offer my idea on how to control medical expenses.

About a week after I tore my ACL, I went to the UW Roosevelt Medical Center for an MRI of my knee. At the time, I asked how much it would cost. “That will depend on your insurance,” came the quick, prepared answer. Yes, I pressed, but what about a ballpark? Again, “It depends on your insurance” with a little edge this time. Not wanting a confrontation, I accepted that and went on with it. The MRI itself was almost pleasant — listening to Pearl Jam and laying supine, I almost drifted off to sleep. I soon forgot about it.

Then came the surgery. It seemed so necessary at the time that I didn’t even think about asking the question of how much it would cost. Besides, I had insurance, so I was covered, right? Well, then the bills started showing up.

As it turns out, the MRI and Radiologist’s opinion cost about $1800 — most of it paid for by insurance, but not all by any means. Then there were the other bills. UW Medicine. UW Sports Medicine. UW Medical Center. Hospital Bill. Physical Therapy Bill. Bills for each of the two braces I now possess. A separate bill for the Cryo Cuff (which I thought I paid for at the time with a $95 bill to my credit card, but after much finagling, apparently not). The list goes on and on. I’m not quite sure at this point how much I have paid out (Quicken is my next activity), but it is certainly well above $1000 at this point — most of which I had absolutely no idea was coming.

Had it been fully disclosed what each part of the process would cost before making the decision to go forward, I may have still chosen to go through the process. But maybe not. And this, in my opinion, is why medical expenses are so high — people have no idea what they are getting in to when they go in for a procedure, and the people who might know either don’t know (because it really does depend on the insurance) or don’t care enough to help everyone figure it out.

Take, for example, a convenience store. What if no prices were marked on anything, but everything you put into your basket seems necessary to your health. Then when you check out, no amount is shown. The cashier simply tells you that the store and each supplier will send you a bill later on. Sounds pretty good until the bills start arriving and you find out that you’ve paid $30 for a book on exercise and $300 for a thermos. If this is how most stores worked, then everyone would be paying huge amounts of money for even trivial things. Without the foreknowledge of cost, rational economic decisions cannot be made.

So, my idea is simply this: state all medical expenses up front. Before the patient signs anything saying that he or she will pay, the form should say how much. There are enough paper pushers in every medical establishment to make this happen before the exam or procedure instead of happening only after the procedure as is now done. This way, people know what they are getting into before it is too late, and people can make better decisions about their own medical care.

But it gets better than a go or no-go decision. When prices are stated up front, the customer (like me) can then shop around. If I don’t like the $1800 MRI offered at the Roosevelt Clinic, then I can go down the street to Seattle Sports Medicine and see if they offer it for $1700. Or maybe $600. Who knows? By enabling customers to shop around, up-front pricing introduces market forces to the medical services world in a way that they have not had to deal with in a long time. The competition will force prices down, just like it does between QFC and Safeway. The consumer of medical services will be better off.

While this approach won’t work to lower the costs of products protected by government-granted monopolies (ie, patents on drugs), it will, I believe, reduce the cost of many medical procedures. I would not be surprised by a drastic reduction of up to one half of the current cost. Furthermore, it will let blokes like me know what they are getting into before they get there.

Above the Law

Few things really get my blood boiling like this video from an Austin. Cops like this who think they are above the law are a menace to society and make generally law-abiding people like me extremely wary of all cops. I’m sure there are some good ones out there, but my experiences with cops have been mostly negative*, and but for the grace of God I haven’t ended up like the poor person in the video. Apparently, all the cop got was a three day suspension. How about a felony assault charge and a life ban from any position of authority ever again? Thats what he deserves.

Now, I am totally in favor of law enforcement being able to get down and dirty with real criminals, but someone taking their time to get their drivers license because the cop is being a total dick is not a criminal activity. Another thing that makes me sick is that there are people out there that think the cop was acting properly. But I guess every despot has had followers.

* negative experiences include:

Being “pulled over” (I was on foot) by a Bellevue motorcycle cop for crossing a one-lane crosswalk against the signal. Ok, I can accept that I was breaking the law, even if it is a stupid law. But then the cop goes on to lie to me — he told me that “my parents wouldn’t have to find out” since I cooperated with him. Not that I cared — I told my mom just minutes later (I was walking to her office). What makes this whole thing a negative experience is that the cop proceeded to file some paperwork and my parents got a letter from the police telling them that their son had been caught crossing against the light! The lying SOB!

Being harassed with threat of arrest by a Bellevue cop for a phantom hit-and-run. My brother’s college roommate was visiting, and he was driving near downtown Bellevue; I was a passenger. On a hill, a car pulled up extremely close behind us (we even mentioned this fact to each other before the rest of the story occurred). The roommate attempted to start up the hill, but drifted back a small amount because of the steepness of the hill. He slammed on the brake, but we weren’t sure if we had hit the back behind us. So we looked  back at the lady in the car, who, it appeared to us both, was telling us to just drive on. She seemed annoyed that we were stopped, and made no indication that we had hit her. Apparently, that all changed in the several hours after the incident. So it suddenly became a hit-and-run, and a cop showed up to harass me and the roommate. He made it clear that he could arrest us both, that we had committed a felony, and that he meant business. Only the timely arrival of my dad got the situation back under control.

Another arrest threat, and being sworn at, by another Bellevue cop, for a well-controlled skidding maneuver, which the cop decided he could chose to interpret as “reckless.” At a party at a friends house in Newport Hills, a friend of mine was having a bad time and I noticed that he needed a break from the present company, so I suggested that he and I take a ride. Since some of the party-goers had been giving him a hard time, I peeled out in front of the house on my way out. The truck was in complete control the entire time, but it made a pretty good sound. I had been careful too – no cars were coming from either direction when I performed the maneuver. So when immediately after, a car was behind me, I knew something was up. I couldn’t see that it was a cop, but I had a very strong feeling that it was, so I drove very conservatively for several blocks with the car following me. I finally pulled into a parking lot and the car followed me again, and the cop finally revealed himself by turning on the light bar and the bright interrogation light that cops use to intimidate people (and occasionally to do something useful, like look for real criminals). Apparently his plan was to see if I was going to speed or do some crazy out-of-control stuff. Obviously I didn’t oblige him, so instead the cop tried to get a rise out of me and asked repeatedly if I was a “smartass” and told me he could arrest me for reckless driving (I was thinking that it would never stand up in court, but I just smiled and said, nicely, “I don’t think that is necessary”). Having me grovel for 15 minutes was apparently enough for him, and he eventually let me go, because he figured he couldn’t really make anything stick anyway.

There was the cop in Issaquah who pulled me over for doing five over the speed limit because he “didn’t see my brake lights” after I passed  him. I guess he got a rush out of seeing the power he had over people, and failing to get it from me, decided that he would force me to give him the rush by showing me that he could write a ticket for 5 over.

There was the State Patrol officer who gave me a ticker for “speed to fast for conditions” after a tire quickly deflated on the SUV I was driving, which sent me into the ditch. The same officer also told a fellow citizen with a wench that he could not pull be out of the ditch; instead I had to pay nearly $300 to wait an hour to have a “professional”  tow truck pull me out and take me to Les Schwab where I got the tire’s large but fixable leak finished. I would have preferred to spend that hour putting on a spare on and driving back to Les Schwab myself, but apparently the state police have a contract with this particular tow truck company. Yes, my friends, police corruption is alive and well in this country.  I later fought the ticket in court and won, in part because the cop had no idea what actually happened. The only redeeming part of the tow truck ride was the driver telling us stories about how he had towed cars that went off the road in snow and ice under the contract (of which he saw all of $12, he told us). In more than a few instances, the cops who had called in the tow truck and written the drivers tickets ended up in the ditch themselves. I imagine that they didn’t write themselves tickets. Above the law once again…

A regular sight on the highway is a solo cop in the HOV lane just avoiding traffic and speeding 10-20 over as well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cop not speed on the highway in fact, and always at speeds that would get any otherwise law-abiding citizen pulled over. I wonder if cops understand how much damage they do to their profession when they pull over good people who are only following the cop’s own example.

Next time: How to get back at the cops.