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Friday, June 30, 2017

3 fixes to Obamacare that the Republicans will never consider

      I know that this is the second time this week I have blogged on the Republican efforts to change Obamacare.  I use the word "change" because I don't see how their plans improve the program in covering more people with health insurance.  So here are the 3 Democrat ideas on improvement that we would be considering if not for the electoral college this past November.
    1) Develop a public option plan along the lines of a Medicare for all plan.  The federal government could use its collective negotiating power to lower healthcare costs the way it does presently for older people in Medicare.   I know critics will say that the Medicare program is going bankrupt but Obamacare added years to the solvency of Medicare.  When Republicans talk about adding competition to the healthcare market they never offer this choice which will have the best chance of bringing real competition to the market.
    2) Coming up with a constitutional way to get all states to expand Medicaid to more low income persons.  The private market place will never be a good place for persons on very limited incomes.
    3) Mandate that everyone purchase health care insurance and provide healthy subsidies to make health insurance affordable for everyone.  The only way the health care pools will ever control costs is for everyone, young and old, healthy and sick, to be included in the pool.  Now the pools tilt too much in the direction of the old and sick.
      Finally, the escalating costs of Obamacare insurance is related to lack of competition (see number 1 and 2 above) and having health care pools bringing in more young and healthy persons (see number 3 above).  Of course the real solution to providing health care is a single payer system and not just reforming Obamacare.  Bernie had it right.

     I tried to make the political arguments for not reducing the number of Americans who have health insurance.  What really bothers me is that so many Americans have bought into a political agenda pushed by Trump and conservative Republicans that shows a lack of concern about the well being of other Americans.  How can you in good conscious deny the care that so many others may need because you have values that place more value on tax breaks for millionaires than care for children born in low income families?  By supporting Trump and his values you are as morally impaired as he is and should recognize your lack of a social conscious.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

New possible expansion in Downtown Columbia will transform our town

     While many areas of our State and Country are struggling with growth Columbia seems to be moving ahead with expansion and revitalization of our town.  We are all familiar with the new buildings going up in Town Center.

      New MedStar Health building

Little Patuxent Square building

       Over the next couple of years the Crescent development will bring many new buildings to the Symphony Woods area.  Scott Kramer took these photos from the County helicopter that gives an aerial view of the progress on the Crescent development.

     Here is a conceptual drawing of the completed Crescent Development.

     Dr. Chao Wu, a CA Board member posted information provided to the Board on possible expansion of the dock area of Lake Kittamaqundi.  This was provided by Groundswell Design Group.  This are just recommendations for the Board to consider.

      Over the next 5-10 years many of the areas of Town Center that we have known will be replaced by new high rise development.  The American Cities building, the Copeland Restaurant site and Sterrett Place buildings will be replaced with new high rise buildings.  Ground parking in the area will be replaced with parking garages.  Recently Howard Hughes Corporation has put out information about possible changes.  Not since Jim Rouse made his presentation on the original Columbia plans have plans for development of our area been so significant.

       The drawing above is just one of the concept drawings presented.

    Plans for 100,000 square feet of new office space, 500 new residential units and 50,000 square feet of new shops and restaurants will dramatically change the look of  downtown Columbia.  To read the entire report click here.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The real winners and losers in the Republican "health care" plan


     It is easy to see the winners in the Senate Republican health care legislation.   Those couples making more than $250,000 or a single person making more than $200,000 will have a repeal of the 0.9% additional Medicare tax and 3.8% tax on investment income put in place with Obamacare legislation.   For someone with a million dollars in investment income that would be an additional $38,000 in taxes.   These taxes are to pay for the dollars to fund the subsidies given to lower and moderate income persons purchasing health care through the exchanges.
     While there are a variety of losers with the Republican health care bills there is one group that will probably be the biggest losers.    The Republican plan would have the amount spent on Medicaid over the next ten years at the amount spent in 2016.  Obamacare would have the amount spent growing by a little over 200 billion dollars in the ten years.    Before Obamacare Medicaid paid for medical care for elderly poor (mainly in nursing home care), the disabled, pregnant women and children.  Obamacare through expanded eligibility gave Medicaid to those making 138% the federal poverty level or $21,000 for a single person, $28,000 for a couple or $42,000 for a family of four.   Most of this expansion went to what we would call "the working poor."    Someone making minimum wage would make $15,000 a year and someone making $10 an hour would make $20,000.   With the Republican plan of no growth in Medicaid funding this group of working poor is where the cuts would be most dramatic.  The groups funded by Medicaid before the Obamacare will continue to have priority on the Medicaid dollars and it will be the working poor that will be most impacted by the reduction in funding.
       So there you have it.   People making over $250,000 get a tax break and the working poor lose their Medicaid coverage.  Sure these working poor can buy insurance in the health care pools but they will probably only afford the lowest level of coverage which has a $6,000 deductible every year.   This deductible will mean that most will go without any health insurance coverage.   Hospitals are against the legislation because they know that these working poor will be back using the emergency rooms for routine care that will be uncompensated care.

     Amazingly Trumps promises during the campaign seem to have fallen flat.  Here are some examples:
       1) You will get so tired of winning you will say stop I can't take anymore winning.   Here is his "winning" record.
        2)  If you elected Hillary Clinton you will have one investigation after another.  Now who should you have voted for if you were afraid of having a president under investigation?
        3)  What type of health care program does Trump want?  What plan does he deliver?  Obamacare still around over 100 days into the Trump Administration
        4) Trump accused Hillary Clinton of having too many Wall Street ties.
         5) Trump on destroying ISIS.  Has ISSI been destroyed yet?  Just like Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam War that lasted longer than his presidency.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Columbia turns 50 today

     50 years ago today the first residents of Columbia moved in.  While we have many examples of beautiful buildings and amenities in Columbia the fact that Jim Rouse gave us a great deal of natural beauty is what still defines Columbia at 50.

      As a 40 year resident of Columbia I can only image how the next 50 years will play out in Columbia but my hope is that our community will retain its unique qualities that adhere to the principles that Jim Rouse espoused so well at our founding.   It is a legacy worth passing on to our children and grandchildren.


Why Obamacare is not working well


    Contrary to what Republican opponents of the Affordable Health Care Act want you to believe the program is working well in areas that have multiple insurers offering insurance.    So why is there a problem in other areas?  Two factors are significant in the program not working.  First, states that didn't expanded Medicaid eligibility have less success offering affordable insurance.  Those people eligible for expanded Medicaid tend to be less healthy and putting them in the market pools raises the costs of those pools.  States that expanded Medicaid mostly have more affordable private market pools.   Second, the lack of a mandate to purchase insurance has kept younger, healthier people out of the private market pools.  These young people are likely to purchase insurance only after they have an illness.  It is like being able to buy home insurance after you had a fire.  Think about how healthy the home insurance market would be if you could buy the insurance after you needed it.
      What will come out of the Republican controlled Congress soon will not address either of these issues because their intent is not to fix the issues with the program but to propose ways that will further weaken the program so that they can kill the program and return us to the old situation of having millions uninsured.   Their talk of improving the program is just a cruel smokescreen for their real intent.  It seems that the United States will continue to be the only major Western democracy that doesn't view healthcare as a right.  I guess we have to take "comfort" in the fact that our budget priorities still give us the military capacity to "bomb the *hit" out of our perceived enemies.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"The Keepers" on Netflix is riveting in its story of sexual abuse by priests


    Whenever I hear someone talk about the "good old days" as a simpler, gentler time I can't help but think of the many bad things that were a reality in those "good old days."   Sexism, racism and physical punishment were acceptable facts of daily life.  I was reminded of this recently watching the Netflix show "The Keepers" about sexual abuse by two priests in Baltimore in the not too distant past.  The series centers around the murder of a nun who was ready to blow the whistle on the abuse. The fact that one of the priest was responsible for an Elkridge church makes the show even more relevant.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The heART of Columbia exhibit has opened

   The heART of Columbia exhibit opens on Saturday, June 10 at The Rouse Company Foundation Gallery at Howard Community College. The opening reception is Sunday, June 18 from 4 to 6pm. It is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 10am to 9:30pm daily.

Columbia Archives, in collaboration with Howard Community College, has gathered artifacts, photographs, documents and ephemera from a number of arts organizations and the Archives collection. Collectively, they tell the story of the importance of the arts to building the Columbia community. 

The exhibit begins with the commitment of The Rouse Company to providing a music venue and public art and how that continues to evolve, and it then highlights the growth of organizations such as the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society, Columbia Center of Theatrical Arts, Toby's Dinner Theatre, Columbia Orchestra, the African American Museum of Art, and the Faithful Quilters who created a Columbia quilt that Jim Rouse bought and was part of his personal collection.  

Jim Rouse believed in bringing art to the community and providing a platform for artists. The story of Merriweather Post Pavilion, public art, and the cultivation of arts organizations speaks to the achievement of Rouse's belief.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Highlight of the 50th Birthday Celebration starting this Friday: The Architects of Air

From the 50th Columbia Birthday Celebration Committee:

Architects of Air: Katena Luminarium
June 16, 17 & 18 | On The Columbia Lakefront Presented in Partnership with Columbia’s 50th Birthday

     The highlight of this year’s Free Opening Weekend will be the Architects of Air: Katena Luminarium, presented in partnership with Columbia’s 50th Birthday. Katena is a soaring structure that has been seen across the globe and is now coming to Columbia. A luminarium is an inflatable multi-room lighted sculpture that people enter for an encounter with the phenomenon of light. Those who enter the structure experience a spectacular and surreal world, touring visually stunning interiors. The installation awakens all the senses, creating a sense of wonder and enchantment for all ages. Visitors are transported and immersed in an amazing world of architectural beauty with subtle and saturated hues, creating a unique visual arts sensory experience, in ways you wouldn’t expect.

   The inflatable walk-in sculpture from the United Kingdom will be free and open to all, June 16-18, 2017. It is part of this summer’s Columbia Festival of the Arts free weekend Your Summer Starts Here! and Columbia’s 50th Birthday Celebration at the Columbia Town Center Lakefront . The three-day event includes live music, kids’ entertainment and crafts, a fine arts and craft sale, festival food fare, a beer garden, wine tastings, and a variety of activities for all ages.

    How to Enter
Katena is free of charge to enter and is accessible to wheelchair users and individuals with mobility difficulties. Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult (maximum 4 children per adult). There may be a short wait time before entrance is possible. There is no time restriction on how long you stay inside Katena, though we suggest 20 minutes as the maximum time, allowing other visitors to enter the luminarium. For the safety of the structure, guests are required to remove their shoes to enter Katena (with rare exceptions for medical reasons). For more information on the luminarium, visit

Hours of Operation:
Friday, June 16, 5pm-10:10pm
Saturday, June 17, Noon-10:10pm
Sunday, June 18, Noon-6:40pm

Parking and Shuttle Service
Free parking (including Handicap Parking) is available nearby at the Wincopin Circle and Sheraton parking garages. Visitors can also park at the Sterrett Place lot located at 5575 Sterrett Place.

Take the Shuttle to the Festival!
On Saturday, June 17, and Sunday, June 18, departing every 15 minutes, FREE shuttle service is being provided by Howard Transit between parking lots B and C at Howard Community College (located at 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway Columbia, Maryland 21044) and the Downtown Columbia Lakefront. For details visit

LakeFest Shuttle Schedule:

Saturday, June 17
Departures from Howard Community College: starting at 11:45 am; last departure at 11:00 pm.
Departures from Columbia LakeFront, Wincopin Circle: starting at 12:15 pm; last departure at 11:30 pm.

Sunday, June 18
Departures from Howard Community College: starting at 11:45 am; last departure at 7:00 pm.
Departures from Columbia LakeFront, Wincopin Circle: starting at 12:15 pm; last departure at 7:30 pm.

View this video to discover the experience of walking through an Architects of Air Luminarium

P.S. 1
     Video showing the exhibit going up.


Monday, June 12, 2017

A few Bill Mahr observations

   Bill Maher's Real Time HBO show is a must watch for any liberal these days.  Here is a little of his humor.

Is this just the way the World is rubbing our faces in the ground with their leaders?

French President Macron

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau

Our gloriously Electoral College elected leader

Bill has pointed out traits of Trump that resemble those of a dictator

1)  appoint members of your family as close advisors
2)  you hate the press and talk about jailing reporters and your political opponents
3)  blur the line between public duties and personal financial gain
4)  repeatedly lie even when there is evidence to the contrary
5)  people have to constantly flatter you to keep their jobs
6)  put your name on everything you do
7)  you love missile parades
8)  you have better relationships with other dictators than democratically elected leaders
9)  your rallies are really scary

Thursday, June 8, 2017

First exclusive pickleball courts in Maryland at Atholton Park

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, tree, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

     Last week Howard County became the first place in Maryland to have pickleball designed courts. Located in Allview at 6875 Greenleigh Dr, Columbia, MD 21046.  These courts are available anytime the park is open.  The Howard County Pickleball Association will be hosting some instructional sessions at these courts in the near future.  Here is a link to their website.

      Link to WBAL TV story on courts.

P.S. 1
      Pickleball play explained.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Admiral Mike Rogers on cybersecurity

     Last week I had a chance to hear Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, at a United Way talk about the threats we all face living in the digital world.  With all the craziness going on today about hacking and other cyber issues I didn't want to miss an opportunity to hear how Admiral Rodgers views this reality.  Admiral Rodgers will be testifying today at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russian hacking.
     The heart of what Admiral Rodgers said was that smart technology has given us amazing capabilities that we now carry around in our pockets.   We have access to information that even 10-15 years ago was unimaginable.  However with this technology we have vulnerabilities to our personal data that has to be fully recognized.  One example of this that you have never thought of is that with our appliances becoming "smart" information about our daily interactions may become known to criminals who want to break into our homes or harm us.  Maybe our microwaves listening to our conversations, like Kelly Ann Conway said, isn't as crazy as we thought.
     Of even more concerning is the ability of a hackers to infiltrate and shut down important part of our infrastructure such as the energy grid.  The way our energy grid is now connected to share energy among many suppliers makes it vulnerable to "bot" attacks and other threats that could cause disruptions that have life threatening impacts.   You can be sure that as our utilities attempt to build in protections against cyber attacks the attackers will be constantly testing any system for vulnerabilities.  The "cat and mouse" game moves to the digital platform.

      One humorous comment that Rogers made came when he was asked if NSA has difficulty recruiting talented cyber professionals when they will never be salary competitive with the private market.  He said "we tell recruits that working at the NSA will give them a chance to do things for which anywhere else they would get arrested."

P.S. 1
     And you thought they spent all their time laying eggs!


Monday, June 5, 2017

Summer nonfiction read


     I have just finished reading Steven Pinker's book "The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined."   If you asked people today if they think that violence has increased or decreased most people would say that it has increased and they would be wrong.  This book shows with statistics how we are living in a time with the least violence in history.   Do you know that school shootings are no more common today than they were in the past? The amount of attention given to violence by the media gives people the opposite impression.  Here is how the book describes the changes:

    "In this startling new book, the bestselling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. With the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps, Pinker presents some astonishing numbers. Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate of Medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then suddenly were targeted for abolition. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the people they did a few decades ago. Rape, battering, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse, cruelty to animals—all substantially down."

    Interestingly the most important reason for the decline in violence is community lack of tolerance to violence against certain groups.  This applies to once societal accepted violence against women, children, minorities and animals.  The human and civil rights movements of the past 50 years have had an impact on the use of violence on these groups.  The use of derogatory words and descriptions of targeted groups gives those with a more violent tendency the license to act out violently.  Think about that the next time you hear someone deriding "political correctness."


      Interesting quote from the book written in 2011, "While there is no such thing as the IQ of speech...political psychologists have identified a variable called integrative complexity that captures a sense of intellectual balance, nuance and sophistication.  A passage that is low in integrative complexity stakes out an opinion and relentlessly hammers it home without nuance or qualification.  It's minimal complexity can be quantified  by counting words like absolutely, always, certainty, definitely, entirely, forever, indisputable, irrefutable, undoubtedly and unquestionably."
     Now listen to this video.

Friday, June 2, 2017

How "Blue" is Maryland


    With Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords states and localities have to decide if they will position their jurisdictions to support the goals of the Accords.  A few states have already signaled that they will take the lead in following the goals of the Accords.  California, Washington and New York will work to reduce their carbon footprint in spite of what the Administration has decided.   The question is will Maryland, being a blue state, follow the lead of these states and join an alliance with other progressive states to counteract the stupidity coming from Washington these days.
      Our Republican governor has been caught in the middle between the Trump Administration and a progressive Maryland Legislature on a number of issues such as health care, sick leave and now climate issues.  Straddling that divide may provide politically tricky as his re-election comes up next year.  His popularity may take a hit if he is not seen as aligning himself with the progressive efforts that go against the current Republican Tea Party orthodoxy.  This is a tough time to be a "moderate" conservative in a blue state. 

     Thanks Syria for joining us in not signing onto the Accords.  They must be distracted at the moment with bigger issues.   While Syria not signing the Accords isn't a big deal as they don't make the list as a CO2 polluter the US is safely in the number 2 position in the world.   Why does it seem that the US generally scores high in the world in areas that are negative?

P.S. 1 
   A little humor from the New Yorker.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Our stupid obsession with lawns


     Recently the Freakonomics website had a podcast to listen to  about our obsession with lawns.  Here is a link to the site and the audio of podcast.