Saturday, October 25, 2014

Craigslist Political Blogging

I've always been amused at some of the postings I've seen in the Craigslist local Politics and Local News and Views sections. As of late, though, it looks like those sections are giving our local bloggers a run for their money as far as hard- hitting commentary goes.

This one, posted Sunday, claims the Lost Coast Outpost is giving the Sheriff's Office the IP addresses of those making comments. He(?) claims Sheriff's deputies visited him after he made a negative comment about their anti- pot activities.

This one, posted Monday, claims city council candidates Chet Albin and Mike Newman are in cahoots with low life, ambulance chaser Jason Singleton of disability lawsuit infamy. They want to shut down more Eureka businesses.

He seems to really dislike local blogger, John Chiv. He goes after John Chiv in this second post from Monday. 

He doesn't like Rex Bohn either, according to this post, especially if he's in the company of John Chiv.

And from today's post, we find out the Lost Coast Outpost has aligned with Humboldt Citizens for Property Rights in a conspiracy to keep tourists away.

The ones above were from Local News and Views. He cross posted some of those to the Politics section, but this original one from Wednesday exposes the Lost Coast Outpost as a front for conservative voices including local "conservative"(?), Alan Dolllson.

Hard to compete with that sort of stuff, huh? He keeps this up he might run the rest of us local bloggers out of business (gulp!).

Obamacare Renewed

I wrote earlier this week about receiving notice from Anthem/ Blue Cross that it was time to renew my Covered California (Obamacare) health insurance plan. I had two main concerns: Why do I need to renew and what happens if I don't? Also, their cover letter seemed to suggest my monthly payment had been raised from $71.01 to $116.00. Are they really raising it that high so quickly?

I got another letter in the mail a couple days ago from Covered California. Basically it also said it was time to renew but, after giving all sorts of facts and figures, said if I didn't go to their web site and renew I'd automatically be renewed anyway. Naturally, I couldn't just let that go. I had to go see what the renewal process was if for nothing more than curiosity.

I went to the Covered California web site this morning only to find the same poorly done (imo) web page I experienced signing up at the beginning of the year. Tables overlaid over explanatory text and confusing navigation instructions, but I logged in and found my way in spite of that. After going back and forth a few times, checking a few boxes confirming one thing or another and signing with my digital signature, I guess I renewed my plan. No confirmation e-mail yet.

About the only thing of interest I found was one place where it gave a general description of my health care plan plus my monthly premium and the subsidy. The listed my monthly premium as $61 and change- about $10.00 less than I've been paying. Will I be paying the $61 next year, or the $116 that was mentioned in the Anthem/ Blue Cross letter? Only time will tell.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

CalPers Can't Understand?

Reason magazine reports how folks at the California Public Employee Retirement System are baffled that some aren't happy with their latest manipulation of public employee pay. Governor Brown attempted earlier on to at least slow down pension spiking- the practice of adding any number of various bonuses and such to their total pay thus giving the employee more for retirement. 

CalPers rose to the occasion by categorizing the bonuses and other perks as base pay so they could continue to use them to count towards their pensions. Goes to show relief for underfunded pensions doesn't seem anywhere in sight, especially since the state legislature doesn't want to touch the issue.

Interesting factoid in the article:

"The Times notes that pension contributions from the state and municipal governments within California have jumped from $1.9 billion to $8.1 billion in 10 years. That’s not even getting into the massive problem of growing health care costs for government employees."

Fullerton's Minimum Wage Plan

I see John Fullerton sent his alternative plan for a minimum wage increase in as a letter to the editor of the North Coast Journal. Good to see I'm not giving away any secrets. I saw it earlier on the No On Measure R Facebook page.

Here is his plan for a "responsible" local minimum wage increase. My comments follow:

1) Any increase MUST be countywide and not discriminate against any one city. 

 2) My plan would have two rates. The lower one would be the rate mandated by the State of Calif (currently $9 per hour). That rate would be for the following groups; A) Workers under age 21. This would help them get their first job. B) Tipped employees. Ex; waiters and waitresses, most of whom make more in tips than in salaries. C) Employees in their first six months on the job. This helps employers train new employees. 

3) The higher rate will be for everybody else and be phased in. $ 10 per hour starting January 1st, 2015 $ 11 per hour starting January 1st 2016 $ 12 per hour starting January 1st 2017 This will give the local economy time to adjust and not cost so many job losses. 

4) Finally I would give employers a credit for their cost of any health insurance or retirement plans they give employees. This would help encourage employers to offer health insurance & retirement plans to employees and doesn't that help everybody ? 

It is certainly better thought out than Measure R, but I'm not onboard and wouldn't support it. Just a few reasons:

#1. Even some opposed to Measure R say they'd support it if it applied countywide and not just in Eureka. As far as I'm concerned the objections to Measure R still stand if applied to the entire county. Humboldt County as a whole is a depressed area. I see nothing good in dragging the whole county down instead of just Eureka. 

#2. I like that he has a two tiered wage that recognizes minimum wage jobs as entry level positions. Having the option for a lower minimum for those new to the workforce makes it easier for younger folks to get that first job.

However, it doesn't take into account older, less skilled folks like myself that might need a job to make ends meet when we're no longer able to continue what we've been doing. That makes it harder to find a job if you're over 21, especially so if you're in your 50s or older.

Oh, and there seems to be no accommodation for non- profits which often rely heavily on minimum wage workers. Probably just an oversight?

#3. Whatever, although I maintain the state already raised the minimum wage this year and will raise it again January 1. That should suffice.

#4. The idea of employer credits is a good one regardless of, and even without, any minimum wage increases.

Fullerton finished by saying we need to defeat Measure R first, then work on getting a county wide measure. I agree with defeating Measure R, but I'll vote against a county wide measure as well. 

I do appreciate that he stepped up to the plate and offered an alternative after being challenged by Measure R supporters for one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kid's Pot Use Declines in Colorado

I'm not one to take polls or studies at face value but U.S. New and World Report reports that juvenile use of marijuana in Colorado seems to have declined after it was legalized. There's some mention of it possibly being the result of a long term trend that started before legalization.

I've been led to believe that drug use goes up and down among all groups regardless (or in spite of) changes in legal status. Then again, my best friend for a while when I lived in Tustin, CA told me he wouldn't smoke pot if it was legal. As far as I could tell he was totally serious. Anyone else know anybody like that?

I haven't smoked pot since the early '80s. I quit mostly because I didn't like the crowd that came with it, at least at the time. It also tended to aggravate my social anxieties (I've heard the same thing from some others). I suppose given the right place and time I might smoke it again but have no great desire to- legal or not.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Obamacare Renewal Time?

Got a thing in the mail yesterday from Anthem Blue Cross. It was from ABC but only for those with ABC Obamacare plans. It says it's "time to renew your individual health benefit plan". Renew it? I'd read something about enrollment periods starting up again in the news but I thought it was for people that weren't on Obamacare yet. Do I have to renew if I just keep paying the premiums as I always have?

It goes on to say they've made some changes to some of the individual plans. They attached a table to show the changes. 

Then they say if I want to renew to simply pay the $116.26 premium as it appears on my bill. What? I've only been paying $77.01. I'd heard Obamacare premiums might be going up depending on where you live. Am I one of those?

Hard to say. Checking the Anthem Blue Cross web site, it still shows my premium at $77.01, but the mail said the enrollment period runs from November 2014 to February 2015. Maybe the new premiums aren't in effect yet? Will my premiums go up, or down? 

This article from Reason magazine sorta explains the situation and tells us we won't know for sure until sometime after the middle of November. The Affordable Care Act folks held off on giving more info until after the election.

I guess I'll have to wait to find out the good or bad news. I'll expect the worst. But what changes have been made to my current plan? 

I only see two changes: They got rid of the $1000.00 co-payment requirement for out of network hospital visits. That seems like a good thing.  They also added a pediatric dental plan which wasn't provided before. That makes no sense at all for me as I don't have kids. Oh well. Overall the changes seem like a glass half empty, half full type of thing.

I guess I'll wait until after the election and see what bad news awaits me. Funny thing is, it almost doesn't matter since my health care provider, Redwood Family Practice, doesn't accept Obamacare.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Desalination 101

Another good article from the Sacramento Bee that pretty much tells all you need to know about seawater desalination. 

I keep hearing from some circles how California really needs to get going on desalination. What they don't realize is desalination is probably the most expensive way to get usable water. Even proponents admit the only way desal will become economically competitive is when the cost of other sources of water become expensive enough.

Not that I'm against desalination- Southern CA certainly should consider it- but for all the money these plants cost to build and run, they still only supply a relatively small amount of needed water- 7% of the service area is what the Carlsbad project will supply and that will be the biggest one in the state.

As someone in the article points out, they're making a commitment to buy the desal water whether they need it or not. It's a big decision to make when five years from now we might go back to wet winters and might not need all the water those desal plants provide. It's an expensive gamble even under the best circumstances.
Something I hadn't known before: I was always under the impression that the effluent from the desal plants is real salty, but that it quickly gets diluted back into regular seawater. The article says it is so salty it doesn't break down real fast in sea water. It's akin to oil and water so doesn't mix well. Still, over time it does or the water around Saudi Arabia wouldn't have as much life as it does. I've seen that myself.

Faro Hounds

I was out at Happy Dog Kennels on Jacob's Avenue Saturday. The first thing I see in the front dog run was what I thought at first were deer- reddish brown, long legs and big ears. A closer look showed it to be two dogs of a kind I've never seen before. There was an adult and a younger one.

I was intrigued. I was thinking maybe some kind of greyhound? I went into the office before I left and asked what breed of dog they were. The guy told me they were Faro Hounds, supposedly with origins in Egypt. More properly called Pharaoh Hounds, but a Google search for Faro Hounds worked. The kennel worker said they were the first he'd seen, too.

Pretty interesting looking dogs, but from what little I've read about them it seems their origins might be from Malta and not Egypt. Anyone else ever seen a Faro Hound?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

S.F. Chronicle Does The Freddy Wrong

I suppose it was inevitable. The San Francisco Chronicle seems to be working its way into a pay site. One of my favorite weekly columnists, Willie Brown, seems to be behind a paywall now. I checked a couple other stories and there doesn't seem to be a paywall on them. Maybe it's just a glitch?

Probably not. Maybe just the more viewed pages to start and the rest to follow. Looks like it might be $10.00 a month for a subscription. I can't find anything about rates for online only. Too expensive for me, regardless. I'm bummed.

Everything You Need To Know About Prop 47

The Sacramento Bee did a great job of summarizing Proposition 47. Prop 47 is the one that will reduce some felonies to misdemeanors and thus supposedly reduce incarceration rates. They tell what it does and doesn't do, along with who supports and opposes the measure (Paul Gallegos is listed as a supporter).

I filled out and sent in my absentee ballot yesterday. I voted Yes on Prop 47. I'm almost sorry I did. Maybe I should have just left that one blank? It wasn't the Bee article that makes me feel that way. I wrote here earlier I was giving it a grudging Yes vote.

It just strikes me as if they're saying some common criminals aren't as much of a criminal anymore because they've redefined their crimes, and that those same criminals are going to go on the straight and narrow now that they're only going to be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony. 

I have nothing against rehabilitation. I certainly don't want anyone languishing in jail for "victimless crimes" such as prostitution or drug use. I do have a problem with career petty thieves and the like and that there seems to be little we can do to deal with them anymore due to lack of jail space. Reducing the classification of their crimes doesn't stop them from their predatory behavior. 

Oh, well. My vote is cast. Whether it passes or not I suspect it won't change much, if anything, from the standpoint of crime victims.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Measure R Sign Wars

It probably shouldn't be called a war since in this case it's pretty one- sided. Seems the Yes On Measure R folks have been busy taking No On R signs around town. I noticed someone took one from a neighbor's yard the other day, although mine is still up. I think they took one I put up on I street a while back, too, but I'll have to go back and make sure. Maybe it just fell down.

Got an e-mail today from the Protect Eureka folks telling me that half their signs have been stolen so far, some up to four times after being replaced.

This should be no surprise to most of us. The Yes On R people do things like that. The No On R people don't.

Weird Mail

Anyone else notice mail being a bit slow lately? Maybe it's just me but it seemed as if at least some the checks I received as payments showed up a bit late this month. I'm wondering if they're already routing our mail through Medford(?).

Some of the checks I usually receive early in the month didn't show up. That's not too unusual. Then on the 15th I received maybe four checks. All were postdated the 14th but two of the checks were dated a week earlier, and that's for mail originating in Eureka. So, a week to get a letter from two blocks away. 

If it is the shutting down of the Eureka main office and re- routing to Oregon, it does strike me as odd. I believe Federal Express sends all their packages back east before delivering them locally.

Saw a news clip on a Bay Area TV station about it a few years ago. The guy was doing a segment on FedEx and had a FedEx delivery guy standing there with him. He asks the FedEx guy if he wanted to mail his package to a building across the street, where does it go after it leaves his office. The delivery guy said it went to their San Jose(?) center, then was flown to their main routing center in Pennsylvania(?) then back to San Jose where it would be delivered the next day. All that just to send a box across the street.

FedEx makes it work, assuming they're still doing it that way. Wonder why the post office can't? Not that I really care. When the checks get here, they get here. It's not that big of a deal. Just wondering