Massachusetts Medicine

As Congress debates national health care and health insurance concepts, it seems wise to consider the actual experience of one state that has a universal health care law and mandates that every individual have health insurance.  This article discusses the Massachusetts approach and some of the cost and revenue issues it has encountered.

Hail, Ulysses!

After 17 and a half years — more than three times its original life expectancy — the Ulysses space probe will be shut down. Ulysses, which was a joint effort of NASA and the European Space Agency, has studied the Sun, the solar wind, cosmic rays, sun spots, and other solar activity and has provided unprecedented and interesting data that scientists expect to study for years to come. Power produced by the spacecraft’s generators has declined, and it therefore will receive its shut-down command on July 1. The European Space Agency website has a number of interesting links on Ulysses and its activities.

The Ulysses Spacecraft

The Ulysses Spacecraft

I love science stories, and it is always exciting to see a scientific effort that pays great dividends and demonstrates the capabilities of our existing space program and the possibilities for future exploration. Ulysses posed huge engineering challenges during its 17-year run, and the project managers and engineers performed masterfully. Among other things, they came up with an inventive solution to a potential freeze-up problem that allowed the spacecraft to continue to provide data for another year longer than expected. The fine work on the Ulysses project hearkens back to the days when NASA, through the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, was a “federal agency that could.” Its activities promoted excellence, spurred many technological advancements, and encouraged many young Americans to become excited about science, math, and space exploration. For precisely those reasons, money spent on space exploration is money well spent.

So Shines A Good Deed In a Weary World

The title to this post is a quote from the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  At the end of the film, after all of the other children have been eliminated from the competition by their own appalling character flaws, only Charlie remains — but Willy Wonka refuses to give Charlie the prize because his conduct in drinking the experimental cola allegedly violated the fine print on an elaborate contract.  Grandpa Joe is outraged by this jerky behavior, but Charlie nevertheless returns to Willy Wonka a prototype everlasting gobstopper, even though Charlie has been told he could sell it to Wonka’s competitor, Slugworth, for riches untold.  When Charlie returns the candy, Willy quietly says:  “So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

I was reminded of that statement by a good deed that we personally experienced this week.  Last Friday we had a graduation card for Richard (with an enclosed gift) with us when we went to the outdoor graduation ceremony, but when we returned to the hotel room afterward we couldn’t find it.  Kish was afraid we had left it on the bus in the mad scramble during the rainstorm.  Sure enough, that is exactly what happened.  Earlier this week, I received a phone call from a manager at Chicago Classic Coach, the company that operated the bus, who reported that the bus driver had found the card and its contents and turned them in.  The manager then found me on the internet, sent me an e-mail, and after verifying my identity returned the card to us by mail.

In a time when we often focus on the negatives, it is wonderful to be able to commend a company and an individual for doing a good deed.  So, I say thank you to Chicago Classic Coach and the individual bus driver who found the card.  I salute and very much appreciate your honesty and integrity!  As I said to the manager, if I ever need a private coach in Chicago in the future, Chicago Classic Coach will unquestionably get my business — and I recommend it to anyone else who may need private coach transportation in Chicago, too.

Bills Unread, Duties Undone

The House has passed a 1200-page “climate bill” focused on development of new forms of energy and reducing “greenhouse gas” emissions. The bill will impose extensive regulations on a broad range of activities and on many different parts of the economy, and could have extraordinary long-term consequences for American society.

I admit that I am skeptical about the entire “global warming consensus,” simply because I don’t believe that real scientists try to quash debate — rather, they welcome it, because the process of testing hypotheses is precisely what leads to development of scientific truths. The bill’s acceptance of global warming as a basis for massive regulation, though, is really beside the point. What I find amazing about the “climate bill” is that so many of our elected representatives are prepared to vote for far-reaching legislation that they have not read, to which hundreds of pages of amendments were added at the eleventh hour. How many times have these kinds of last-minute bills been larded with amendments that reflect fundamentally corrupt political bargains and horse-trading? How many pet projects were funded through some unread provision added by a Rules Committee member?

Is it too much to expect that Members of Congress will at least read legislation before they vote on it?   Our Founding Fathers no doubt contemplated that elected representatives would read and understand the terms of bills and their potential consequences before they approved them — and, in this case, committed the nation to abrupt and extensive changes.