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Tulsa School Board to decide which laws they agree to follow – surprise?

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Tonight’s Tulsa School Board meeting is centered around HB3393, the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program act. First a presentation by Attorney Doug Mann and Super Keith Ballard, then the mandatory comments from the public (for all the good it will do), then a discussion by the Board of any possible action deemed appropriate – like joining several other area districts in deciding that they will not follow the law and instead spend countless thousands of your tax dollars, since they have such a surplus, in fighting HB3393 in the courts.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  “It’s not about the kids or about education, it’s about control.”
For a much more detailed examination of the act, it’s history and why it will not cost the local districts, by its author in the legislature, Rep. Jason Nelson, (R-OKC) , read his blog.

Also some very insightful reporting on the local aspect of this issue and legal costs and who might be representing these districts, see this afternoon’s post by Michael Bates on Batesline.

If you care about how your tax dollars are spent and misspent and who benefits,  you need to read these through to really understand it’s all about control, not education.

Lori Sears’ Portraits

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

For several years now my wife Lori has been creating some wonderfully beautiful and touching artwork, primarily portraits from her home studio here in Tulsa, OK.

Cambodian Boy - Oil

Cambodian Boy (From Innocents in Cambodia) © 2009 Lori Sears

Some of these are in oil, others in charcoal or conte. Recently we have created a site, lorisportraits.com, for her works. I think you will find that the pieces speak for themselves far better than words could. The pieces are of people from the past and the present.

Fixing health care for small business, self-employed and individuals — without tax money!

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

First of all, my solution for “reform” or actually trust-busting of healthcare for small businesses, self-employed and individuals does not involve tax money, subsidies, or much of anything else from government except mandating some rule changes. Most of these will be at the state level, though it would be necessary to make a small change in HIPAA at the Fed level.

The biggest single problem for all of us “little guys” (small businesses, self-employed and individuals) is the high cost to get into or maintain health insurance coverage, if we can get it at all. This is primarily because the insurance companies and groups, whether private for-profit or run by local or regional non-profit hospital groups, insist on dealing with small entities on a group-by-group basis. This means that a business with 10 employees that includes two or three with chronic conditions or a complicated pregnancy is going to pay a fortune in premiums.

In many cases, the employer simply cannot afford to include enough of the premium in their benefits to have anything left over to actually pay the employees. Since some employees may be able to get coverage through their spouse, the employer may be able to simply not offer healthcare and still attract enough workers. Nonetheless, many small businesses would like to be able to offer coverage to attract a larger pool of workers and perhaps to have group coverage for themselves as well.

This gets really tough if you are self-employed. Unless you are married with a spouse that has good coverage at their job, about the only option is an individual policy. Individual policies are not only very expensive, they also do not have to accept your pre-existing condition the way a group does under HIPAA.

It would seem that the obvious thing to do would be to organize some sort of group that various small businesses and self-employed people could join or affiliate  with so that the insurance companies had to deal with them as a group of say 500 people, rather than many small groups and individuals.  There would be one administrator for the insurance company to deal with and the risk would be spread out over a larger group, so that 2 or 3 people with chronic conditions no longer represented 25% of the group. This affiliation would also be a group under HIPAA, so those in it would have complete portability of their coverage from employer to employer, or  from employer to consultant/contractor.

Anyway, this grouping of lots of small businesses, self-employeds and free-lancers to get affordable health coverage sounds like a great idea, right? Not if you are an insurance company. This sounds like something that has to be prevented,  and that is exactly what has happened. Although it is possible to put together a group and negotiate with perhaps one carrier to give your group coverage based on some sort of membership or professional commonality, it is next to impossible to just get together a mixed bag of several dozen small businesses and free-lancers and define it as a group, then get coverage quotes and let your members make an annual choice on which of several competing levels of coverage they want. Why? Because it is highly profitable for insurers to demand that each employer be defined as a group and make the free-lancer/self-employed apply as individuals. This is especially profitable for them when dealing with self-employed people who usually have to buy individual policies because the insurer can exclude pre-existing conditions. If this were a group plan, the HIPAA rules would not allow them to exclude pre-existing conditions.

As more and more of us become free-lancers, consultants, self-employed, this is becoming a bigger and bigger issue and becoming more and more profitable for the insurers.

What needs to happen here is legislation to force the insurers to deal with independent groups on the same basis as large employers including full portability of coverage. If you have a group of 500 people, it really doesn’t matter whether you all work for the same firm or not as far as your likelihood of illness/disease is concerned, so why are the insurers able to insist that it does?

This is NOT a case of government meddling in private business. Ask anyone that knows me, I’m a raving Libertarian. What this is is getting both state and federal governments to STOP allowing the insurers to cherry-pick the group size and composition they choose to deal with and actually restore free enterprise.

Free enterprise is a wonderful thing when it actually is free. When it uses government to grant monopolies or let it play by “special rules” that no other business gets to play by, it is no longer free enterprise. This is the root problem of our health no-care system now. The insurers, drug-peddlers and various other health-industry lobbyists have so gummed up the works with “special rules” that is has no resemblance whatsoever to free enterprise.

The Democrat solution is take money from some to pay for the rest and the Republican solution is to keep telling us that the Democrats are trying to socialize healthcare, and preaching  status quo ante. Meanwhile both sides continue to rake in campaign cash from the healthcare industry and enjoy a gold-plated benefit plan that we are all paying for.

If small entities and the self-employed could get affordable coverage through groups or co-ops, the numbers of uninsured and underinsured would drop appreciably, without any tax money! Let’s try this before we throw out more $Billions.

New Orleans Jazz Fest – Wow, can these folks put on a festival

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Spent a long weekend in New Orleans, attending the first weekend of the 40th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Jazzfest runs for two long weekends, featuring seven full days of fantastic music, food, arts & crafts. Some of the biggest and best names in contemporary jazz, blues, zydeco, and other cajun music styles. A dozen stages – yes 12 of them, all running from about 11 am to 7 pm each of the seven days.

The first weekend, the big names were James Taylor, Dave Matthews Band, Robert Cray Band, Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Etta James, Johnny Winter, Pete Seeger.

Etta James at JazzFest 2009

Etta James at JazzFest 2009

Second weekend features Bonnie Raitt, Tony Bennett, Neil Young, Bon Jovi, Buddy Guy, The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, John Mayall, Poncho Sanchez Latin Band, among others.

This must have cost a fortune. Nah, $35 per day in advance, $50 at the gate. Food and drink prices were very reasonable. Best gumbo and etouffee I’ve eaten for $5 each. Big cups with way more meat and veggies than the cafe we tried on Rue Chartres in the French Quarter for a lot less money. Beers were $4 per can.

Guess what! They actually deal in real money at all the vendor booths. None of this Festscript crap that our city has accepted as gospel.

Being new to the area, we opted for the Jazz Fest shuttle. $14 each, roundtrip. Turns out it was a good buy as the parking was free and secured and the drivers knew how to avoid most of the traffic.

Now the real fun. There were untold thousands and thousands of people there and everyone we ran into was pretty darn decent. We had been told in advance by others to be shocked that Jazzfest would not be the drunken brawl that once was Mardi Gras. They were right. They was a large number of middle-age and older folks and we never did see any loud, rude drunks. We’re thinking that this may be due to having it all in mid afternoon and being done by 7 pm.

Past year’s Jazz Fest have had upwards of 350,000 total attendance. The Times-Picayune showed an aerial shot of the crowd listening to Dave Matthews that they said was “tens of thouands.” And the other 11 stages were also running, though obviously to a smaller crowd.

Bottom line here is that the folks that put this thing together clearly know what they are doing. Many, many people came and went, eat, drank, danced and chilled to lots of different musicians and had a great time. It’s no wonder that this gig is now in its 40th year.

Perhaps, just perhaps, some of our local fest organizers can admit that they don’t know it all and find out how to put together something that runs this smoothly year after year.

Music -James Taylor never connected with the crowd or us. After a few songs we moved to another stage and caught Johnny Winter. Taylor was probably good for those that forgot their lithium that day. Knowing that Dave Matthews would be seriously crowded, we opted for Etta James instead and were very glad we did. She’s on both of our iPods and still has the magic in person at 71. Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra were awesome. They played with Yacub Addy and Odadaa of Ghana. What a fantastic combination. Robert Cray also played an excellent set.

We will definitely go back. Tip – save some serious $ and stay in Slidell. It’s less than 30 minutes to French Quarter or Jazz Fest parking.

Outstanding firearms training right here in Tulsa

Monday, September 15th, 2008

I recently completed the Advanced Tactical Pistol I course at TDSA Tulsa and could not be more satisfied. I have been shooting handguns, rifles and shotguns for many years and competing for about the last six. I thought I knew the basics pretty well and often placed near the top in some of our club events. I am an NRA instructor for rifle and shotgun and a Range Safety Officer. I took this course on the advice of a friend who is a very active and successful IDPA competitor. My friend also went through the course again as well to sharpen up his considerable skills. My accuracy, smoothness and speed all improved dramatically, but most importantly I now have some solid techniques to practice that will help me keep my skills honed.

Marshall Luton has an excellent team. The instructors are highly skilled and also highly approachable without the huge ego that might be expected from their very impressive backgrounds. The material was presented in a very professional manner yet the overall tone still remained relaxed and sometimes humorous. The team clearly maintains a good balance between giving great instruction and making sure the students stay connected and interact. Click to continue »

Reconnecting with the Big Picture

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Last night I made an observation that helped me put things back in their true perspective. Looking up into the southwestern sky, I can see our big, bright, neighborhood giant, Jupiter. With only the aid of a 45x spotting scope I can clearly see several bright points around the large sphere. Those bright points are four of Jupiter’s moons. These four, the Galilean moons, are: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. These can be seen through a good set of binoculars, if you can hold steady enough.

Looking up and seeing these and knowing that these are the same four bright points observed by Galileo and others helps to remind me that this whole world is both tiny and yet long enduring, at least on man’s time scale. When I get too wound up about the latest plans of the local oligarchy to construct a great and wonderful downtown, whether we like it or not, it helps to step back, look up and think about the big picture. These annoyances about process in a supposedly free and open government will pass and we will likely eventually accept the completed trails, stadiums, carefully crafted developments and the like, even though they may be nothing like what “we” would have liked.

Do we really know or care about the volcanic activity on Io? Does Ganymede know or care that there are political conventions or stadium trusts on Earth? No, I think to both questions. So I remind myself to relax and remember the Golden Rule, “those with the gold make the rules.” Little has changed on the blue planet for thousands of years. Technology advances, but man is pretty much the same.

Back on the bitwaves

Monday, August 25th, 2008

The aRdent blog is back after a lengthy hiatus. Too much weirdness going on in the city and the world to keep silent any longer. More fair comment and criticism coming, along with pleasant observations as well. It’s just as important to point out the positive for praise as it is to critique that which looks negative from this perspective.