Health insurance

When I had a car accident 10+ years ago, I had to sue my insurance company to make them pay my hospital bills. After they settled and paid, they threatend to sue me for the full amount at any point they felt like over the next 30 years. They offered to accept 1/3 paid back to them immediately to settle. My attorney said that was a good deal. They stalled paying anything for 6 months. In the mean time, the hospital put debt collections out on me for $30k. I needed an attorney working several weeks to stop it.

I’ve changed insurance companies at least once a year, every year, since 1997. It was great while I was a government contractor, and my first year at a very nice software company. It always gets more expensive. It always covers less. My accident was more than 10 years ago.

While I’m looking for work, most jobs I’m offered (usually contractors) no longer offer health insurance plans, or charge me several hundred dollars per paycheck for basic coverage.

My healthcare for ADHD and related mental healthcare is even worse. Mental health coverage is not covered by the same insurance company, it is always outsourced to a third party not even mentioned in employee briefings. I pay several hundred dollars / month for that even with insurance, because therapy (considered mandatory by most doctors) has been covered for one year out of the past 20.

Same insurance for prescriptions, however. Under my wife’s insurance, I drive more than 20 miles one-way to get prescriptions because only one pharmacy at one location is covered. Almost always, the price of individual medications after insurance is higher than the price for the same medications in countries without health insurance (everywhere). My employers (who ultimately foots the bill for insurance) are charged several thousand dollars / month. That’s what I would pay without insurance. But I’m sure that’s never been relevant to me being picked during a layoff.

I usually go several days every 1-3 months without prescriptions because an insurance company demands that the medication be pre-authorized before the prescription is filled, without warning. For medications I’ve been taking for a decade. They’ll randomly decide that I need to switch to a generic (which usually works differently, for mental healthcare prescriptions), or decide whatever I’ve found that works is no longer covered at all. I’ve heard both that medications I were on were outdated and no longer the preference as well as too new / experimental simultaneously, 3 times. Whenever I switch insurance, I need to pre-auth nearly every prescription. That means going with prescriptions for several days. If you’ve never gone without ADHD medication and antidepressants it’s like this: stop smoking, stop being an alcoholic, cut out caffeine, and go to work with absolutely no sleep on the same day. There is also a risk of seizure, when suddenly stopping any psychiatric medication. No employer is ever sympathetic. No insurance company representative has ever been the least bit knowledgeable of any of those healthcare issues.

All of that is tied to an employer. So they try to get the cheapest plan, get a new plan every year, and there’s no continuation of coverage when I change jobs. If I’m out of work, I’m not getting any insurance for myself. I’m relying entirely on my spouse’s insurance. There is no competitive market, for the consumer of health insurance.

Health insurance is the worst possible way to pay for healthcare in the industrialized world. There are good reasons to make the way insurance companies scam customers illegal.

Thursday ~ August 22, 2019 by b

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This is me:

Thursday ~ April 25, 2019 by b

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Report from the Front

Dearest Kandice,

Today was a day that will weigh heavy upon my heart for years to come, God willing that I survive this night.

Colonel Sanders led the 501st Social Justice Warriors in an assault to retake the Chapel Hill Whole Foods Market. I was one of 17 vegans sent over the wall, and it was my job to secure the deli counter. I saw 5 of my fellow patriots fall to the onslaught of the usurpers stationed behind the fish counter. 11 more fell in the aisles within minutes. I staved off the attackers by hurling bottles of wine I can’t pronounce correctly at them. Soon the air was thick with the smells of blood, burnt gunpowder, overpriced alcohol, and chicken-fried tofu. I looked outside to motion for reinforcements, but all that I saw was a Prius and a Volvo in flames. Colonel Sanders must have ordered more waves of patriots into the store, as soon I was surrounded by friendly hipsters who offered me coconut water.

Tonight we ride to Asheville and regroup. Generals Ruffalo and Pitt are there, waiting for our reports. We expect casualities en route, as Chick-fil-a loyalists have stationed themselves shamelessly along the major highways. Our only hope is that so few of us are left that we might slip by unnoticed. We’ve mapped out the 14 Starbuck’s from Chapel Hill, in the vain belief that some still live to provide shelter for our weary warriors.

Yours forever,


What’s so bad about dairy?

What’s so bad about dairy, especially if you already avoid some animal products? This:

Wednesday ~ November 1, 2017 by b

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Why vegans even care

I’ve always felt it’s a good idea to explain the vegan rationale to people who aren’t yet vegan.

Here’s an explanation of why vegans care:

Tuesday ~ October 17, 2017 by b

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On leather

Leather is not vegan
Leather is probably one of the easiest things for a vegan to give up. It’s probably the proof that just refusing to eat animals doesn’t cover all the bases, and is part of a wider view. It’s often the first rationale for someone (vegetarian or omnivore) to consider being vegan.

Leather requires the death of an animal. Death and captivity are never in an animal’s interest. That’s the basic, most obvious claim of any veg*n.

But beyond that, it’s not a pleasant death. It’s not given by a potent toxin that causes animals to peacefully drift off. The animals are “harvested” by electrocution. There are almost no enforced standards for humane killing of animals for leather. Accidents, meaning not successfully stunning an animal before harvest, are both common and completely tolerated.

The label “genuine leather” isn’t a guarantee that a piece of clothing came from a cow, either. It’s quite possible (even likely) that it came from a dog or other, more readily-available animal. After all, animals used for leather are usually killed only for their leather and their carcasses converted to fertilizer.

Tuesday ~ October 7, 2014 by b

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culture v. ethics

Culture seems extraordinarily malleable, to me. It changes. I don’t think it can do anything but change. The exposure of two cultures to one another impacts both of them, and some bits rub off on each. Trying to prevent this is analogous to trying to stop a human being from learning. I don’t think it matters whether the culture is a place of employment, a religious sect, or a nation.

There’s a culture in the U.S. that promotes sharing meat as a sign of friendship. Fast food with friends, a baked ham at Christmas, a turkey at thanksgiving. Many people say these cultures are too dear to our identity to allow them to change. But there’s no longer venison on the table, the turkey is far from wild and hunted the day before, the ham did not require the head of the household to slaughter one of his/her best pigs. There may be meat, but it’s not like the food that was used when the traditions began. Convenience has replaced a hard-scrabble existence, to an extent. One result is that we consume far more meat.

The effects back at the real farm are rather gruesome. Factory farming is not the same as small non-mechanized farms. You can read about the effects in many places, they’re not difficult for the curious to find. It’s difficult to hide what happens to 65 billion animals.

Culture changed to worsen the problems of animal agriculture. Culture can change to fix those problems, as well.

Vegans have been been enjoying Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other feast in our culture for a long time. We don’t all live in a yurt compounds, sharing tips on dreadlock maintenance and recipes for home-made patchouli cologne. Vegan events tend to look remarkably like non-vegan events, corpses and animal bodily fluids aside.

But there’s always resistance, someone always makes the argument that some aspect of the culture (any culture) doesn’t work with being vegan. I’ve heard it for French, Russian, Italian, soul food, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Thai, Afghan, traditional American holiday, camping, road tripping, military service, any part of the country with bbq, and probably a dozen more cultures. Emphatically, in each case. Almost never by professional chefs, by the way. There’s no way to be vegan. Nope. Not at all. Sometimes it continues straight through the 2nd helping, other times it sharply ends after about 30 seconds of discussion over a menu.

Here’s the deal: every culture has non-vegan traditions. Even vegetarian. No culture is unique in that, and no arguments are new or suddenly convincing. The arguments sound repetitive and predictable, after watching them be made enough times. Culture is not nearly as fragile as commonly thought, trust me. People around the world have been calling themselves vegan for 6 decades. Our basic habits are as old as western civilization, with the ethics discussed by no less than Socrates. Vegetarians were at first said to follow “the Socratic method”.

Sometimes there’s a poignant clash, like over the running of the bulls in Spain. I’m partly tempted to say that’s another culture beyond my authority, and I’m not qualified to make some of the more detailed arguments firsthand. So? Democracy and human rights are also most frequently resisted by an appeal to local tradition – where is the validity of the argument? Insisting upon animal rights is not moral condemnation of a culture any more than insisting upon 1st[1] amendment rights is moral condemnation of a courtroom.

Also, food is generally the product of chemical reactions that don’t care whether the materials came from an animal or vegetable (or fungus). Amino acids (protein), starches, fats – the components of those reactions? Animals didn’t invent them. Animals can’t even make all of them, so we’re crippled compared to the plants and fungi.

[1] or 5th… [edit.]

Thursday ~ February 7, 2013 by b

Posted in dining,veg | Comments Off on culture v. ethics |

testing animalia

I have a gripe with testing medications on non-humans. In those cases where it might remotely be useful, the animals are most like us. They’re the animals who think most like us. Those who say they aren’t conscious or sentient or sapient (they’re all of the above, it’s considered standard knowledge) are ignoring the fact that their similarity in exactly those ways is why they were chosen. The scientists who are researching on monkeys disagree with the common folk who support it, and on the most basic ethical level. After saying this in various ways for more than 15 years, I’m still waiting for a strong counterargument.

In other parts of the world, there’s a movement to give chimps the status of personhood, in terms of what’s allowable in terms of their treatment. A lot of people skoff at the idea, but it’s probably not as radical as most might think. The basic fundamental rights inherent to being a person are actually rather limited, in any legal sense. And it rests partly on the premise that some species might best belong in the Homo genus, on a biological basis. The past members of Homo don’t seem particularly bright, yet we recognize them as our own. Evolution is a funny thing. We didn’t suddenly become human in one generation, rising up from the non-concious monkeys. We are monkeys, we haven’t really changed enough biologically to fit elsewhere. Given the write environment, they even talk to us in our own language. I’d have a hard time doing that with someone of a different nationality, on intellectual grounds.

My fave movie (I, Robot), has an interesting scene that drives home the point. In it, a detective questions whether a sentient robot (Sonny) deserves personhood:

Detective Del Spooner: Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a… canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?
Sonny: Can *you*?

For example, some monkeys can catch SIV, a virus that’s similar to HIV. Cats also can contract a similar virus named FIV. You’re never in any danger of catching either, because they can’t survive and reproduce and spread inside the human body. Yet were supposed to accept, as an unproven issue of faith that some the thing with stops SIV in apes will also stop HIV in humans. Nevermind that the two diseases have different sets of symptoms. It’s like saying I can be in the World Series because my brother hit a home run in a pick-up game last night. And then everyone begs: but the similarity exists. The burden of proof has never been met. in one hundred years of using the same techniques – long outdated – it was never conclusively proven to produce accurate results. So far we know chain-smoking 24/7 can cause cancer… if the soot is rubbed into the skin and never washed off. Show me a rabbit stepping outside for a smoke break. Because if the testing were conducted entirely within the human population, that’s the level of similarity required for useful results. We simply don’t do experiments like that, with such sweeping conclusions about the organism as a whole, in other scientific fields. Hell, even when drugs are tested on humans, the practical effect in a doctor’s prescription isn’t completely the same. The gold standard should be statistical analysis of a human population. The picky patient isn’t settling for anything less, today.

Laboratory testing is not actually wanted by the research companies. It’s expensive, and unreliable, and has negative political consequences. It’s no insulation against lawsuits for releasing harmful drugs, precisely because its inaccuracy is well-known and considered insufficient. However, it is legally required by the federal government. Those who disagree with the government touching your healthcare should take a step back to think about what they should really be saying wrt animal testing. It’s done for political reasons, to appease voters who don’t know better and have little relationship or understanding of how new drugs are created. A technique one hundred years old is unlikely to produce the fine-grained detail of the techniques designed to replace it. They pre-date pennicilin. By the way, those replacement techniques are used in every country with more advanced research than our own. Despite what politicians and well-meaning patriots say, the US is not at the forefront of drug research. We’re not even second. [document]. We provide a lot of money for it, but money is no substitute for skill. On the whole, they result in a much safer (to humans) set of drugs.

Thursday ~ November 15, 2012 by b

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Turkey Billboard from MFA

An animal rights (or at least vegetarian) group has put up a billboard near the small town where butterball turkeys mostly come from.

It sounds like a noble effort, and given that it’s only one billboard on a highway, relatively inexpensive. And seriously, it’s a billboard that is getting national press. Mission accomplished.

As far as AR billboards go, it’s fairly tame. No mention of violence, no chiding that “good” people are doing something the billboard recommends – even with the call to action, no trite sayings about how easy it is to go veg, no bold political statements, no pronouncements about society being evil. In short, the only way to make it less offensive would be to remove the allusion to vegetarianism.

Of course this means that the comments on the story (on websites that I’ve seen) includes complaints like the highly intelligent, open-minded, and incredibly humorous “gobble gobble” to “mind your own business”. Comments on the web are about as insightful and intelligent as comments in a jr high gym class.

MFA’s blog post about the billboard

I’m not sure how many animals are going to be saved by one billboard. Possibly even none before December. Critics might say that it’s futile, that the effort isn’t big enough to matter, and the usual other ideas presented by people who won’t act on them. To quote one of my favorite t-shirts… “Understand the Power of a Single Action”. In other words, a vegetarian doing something is not cause for an existential crisis. If it is, then perhaps you should be a vegetarian yourself. Just a suggestion, wouldn’t want to go overboard with the Big Brother angle. I never can get that balance right – the tension between ‘irrelevant’ and ‘mind your own business’. Frankly, in the minds of detractors of vegetarianism, the two extremes overlap. To those complaining it’s a billboard… it’s still just one billboard. If you can’t handle a vegan stating their viewpoint publicly once, you don’t understand how a democratic society actually works.

Also, the next person who says it’s too hard to got veg for a holiday meal will earn a full ten (10) minutes of silence. I’ve gone to thanksgiving meals in many houses for nearly 20 years as a vegetarian, more than once to a house in the middle of nowhere in which people cooked the same meals every year since birth. Thanksgiving is an awesome time to go vegetarian. If you eat only the veg fare on the average
table, your odds are still high of being stuffed. If there’s not veg fare, it’s likely because somehow puts ham hock or pig snout or cow ears or whatever in the beans. Easy fix: pour can of beans into dish, insert in microwave 5 minutes, salt to taste. There’s one replacement.

Of course, you can’t actually both eat the turkey and be vegetarian at the same time. You have to not eat animal products which you currently like the taste of, like every single other new vegetarian.

As far as the comments on news sites… vegetarians who abstain from eating meat because it comes from animals are technically doing it because of their ethical stance. Anyone who tells a person doing that to mind their own business grossly underestimates the important of the 1st amendment, never mind basic logic. Color me not surprise.

Sunday ~ October 7, 2012 by b

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On Pigs

part of a series exploring the specific harm presented by exploiting particular animals or by particular animal products

Pigs are cool. They’re more intelligent than dogs, for starters.

They also dominate animal agriculture.

Many parts are used for animal products. Not just meat for eating but also fat for lard, soap, fertilizer, testing of animal tissue destruction by firearms in the armed forces, cartilage and other connective tissue for gelatin.

Pigs in domestic agriculture live in crowded barns, with concrete grates for flooring. The grates are there so that their waste can be easily hosed down into the subflooring, where it is then pumped into a pond next to the barn. There’s no soft ground, dirt, or mud within sight. Just pig crap on steel. The barns smell bad enough that when you wear clothing into one, it must be washed several times to no long smell offensive. Pigs naturally live in clean mud, not their feces. They don’t sweat, so the mud is used to cool off. They actually go to great lengths to remain clean.

Most pigs in domestic agriculture receive a steady battery of drugs to plump them up. Unfortunately, many develop joint problems as a result and are effectively crippled. However, when pigs receive injuries on the farm (including broken legs), they do not typically receive treatment. A broken leg or two in the group is common when moving pigs between barns and trucks.

All baby pigs have their tails docked (by a red-hot knife) and molars removed (by pliers) without anesthesia. If their tails are left natural, they will eat each other’s tails when confined in an overcrowded barn. Piglets spend most of their time waiting in highly overcrowded pens.

Mother pigs (sows) spend their lives in a pen small enough that they cannot usually turn around. They occasionally crush a piglet without knowing.

Slaughterhouse conditions for pigs are nightmarish. The production lines of restrained pigs moves so quickly that many are not properly stunned and anesthetized before slaughter. Pigs who survive their intended slaughter don’t receive any sort of mercy killing by slaughterhouse workers. Some live until they reach other parts of the slaughterhouse, like where boiling water is used to remove skin.

So there’s a steady progression of problems that pigs face from birth to slaughter, when raised on farms.

Sunday ~ June 24, 2012 by b

Posted in advocacy,veg | Comments Off on On Pigs |

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