North To Danang (Or Hoi An)

Russell has left Ho Chi Minh City for the last time and headed north, to Danang.  Danang is located about halfway between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.  It is a major port and industrial city and the largest city in central Vietnam.

China Beach

Danang also is a familiar name to those who grew up during the Vietnam War.  The United States had a major air base there, and the last United States ground combat operations in the Vietnam War happened in the Danang area.  The beach American soldiers called “China Beach” is on the outskirts of Danang and was a popular spot for American troops on leave.  According to a 2003 Time magazine article, the beach was home to aggressive beggars that local officials believed caused the tourist trade to bypass Danang for other nearby Vietnamese cities where the begging was a bit less persistent.  It will be interesting to see whether Russell encounters any well-tanned panhandlers during his stay in Danang.

Edited to add:  Russell has just reported by e-mail that he has stopped in Hoi An, a neighboring city that is smaller and less industrial than Danang, close by China Beach, and known for making “made to measure” clothing.  I’d say its about time for Russell to get a tailor-made suit.

The Massachusetts Mess, Coming Soon To A Neighborhood Near You

The Wall Street Journal has published an article with the latest news from Massachusetts — the state whose universal health care program served as the model for the federal program that will soon be taking effect nationwide.  The news, to put it mildly, is not good.  The highlights (or rather lowlights):

*  The Massachusetts plan increased private employer-sponsored plan premiums by an average of 6 percent.

*  Massachusetts has the highest average premiums in the United States.

*  There is rampant and growing abuse of the state’s “individual mandate,” in which people buy insurance only when they are about to incur significant medical expenses and then drop the coverage after the expenses have been covered by insurance.

*  The state imposed price caps on insurance rates that had no actuarial support (but were politically popular), even though underlying state health costs are rising at a rate of 8 percent annually.

I am sure that all working Americans will welcome increased health plan premiums, to go along with the tax increases that will take effect starting in 2011.