Leaving the driver at home

Ummm. About this robotic car business. Everyone says its day is near, and halleluia. Governor Jerry Brown, with a recent stroke of his pen, made it legal in California. According to the Los Angeles Times, driverless cars are already legal in Nevada anyway, and under consideration in Arizona, Hawaii, Oklahoma and Florida. (Further recent news from MVTrac suggests that if you fall behind in the payments on your robocar the repo guy might send a robotrack to snatch it back home. Clearly, people may become extinct.)

I am all in favor of driverless cars that allow passengers to catch up on business en route to that urgent presentation, or finish dressing the kids on the way to school. Computers are certainly less likely to kill me in the crosswalk than all the drivers loose in the land today who are eating hamburgers, concentrating on cellphone conversations or texting their buddies while I’m trying to cross the street and wishing they would notice.

But there are bugs to work out. Have the robocar people ever gone on vacation with two preschoolers who need to go to the bathroom right that minute? Do they have any idea how frustrating it is already to argue with the obnoxious GPS lady who insists you take Geary Blvd wherever you’re traveling east-west in San Francisco, when you know darned well the lights are timed on Bush and Pine? And can they figure out how to program a sudden rainbow, or the view of the beach just several blocks away, or even an aberrant pull-over to watch goats grazing in a field?

The Driverless Car Gets Stuck on a Curb
The Driverless Car Gets Stuck on a Curb (Photo credit: Melody Kramer)

 

The car manufacturing people say not to hold our breath for driverless vehicles. They’ll figure it all out, I’m sure, before this latest wonder comes to American roadways. But in case they need a consultant on really important details, I could make myself available. For a fee. And perhaps a drive down the coast.

 

 

One campaign, $68 million and counting

SUNNYVALE, CA - APRIL 27:  Former eBay CEO and...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

California gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman made a bundle as head of eBay. Where she spends it, her supporters say, is a matter of personal choice. She is currently choosing to spend it on buying her way into the governor’s office. Recent reports list her total costs closing in on $70 million — no big deal, since she has been quoted as saying $100 million on this phase wouldn’t pose any problem. This phase is still just the June primary.

Whitman has spent $68 million of her own money on the race so far, the Los Angeles Times reports. Whitman blasted the California airwaves with ads in March, according to the LA Times, but (opponent Steve) Poizner eventually made his own investments and gained traction with damaging attacks against Whitman’s stance on illegal immigration (he called her too soft on the issue). As a billionaire former business executive, Whitman was also hurt by the focus put on her ties to Goldman Sachs.

This space isn’t going to get into political endorsements or heavy-duty oppositions. And in any event, as a registered Democrat married to a confirmed Decline-to-state, votes from here are unlikely to affect the California Republican nomination.

But at what point does the investment of personal wealth throw up red flags about one’s motivations? Is wanting political office any different from wanting a Rolex watch or a ranch in Montana? When someone has no legislative experience, no known stands, no voting record (Whitman never bothered with voting much), how are we supposed to know what’s really driving the reach for power? Ross Perot spent about the same amount of his own money on his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Presidency in 1992 as Whitman has thus far on a gubernatorial primary race. Perot dropped a little less on a similar adventure in 1996. He did have somewhat of a record of his convictions, and he was defended both times with arguments that it is a personal right to do whatever one wants with one’s personal wealth.

That is undoubtedly so. It’s a personal right. Why does it somehow feel wrong?

Straight Talk Q&A on Health Reform

One of the best fact-checks re health reform I’ve seen lately was just sent out by Ricardo Alonso-Zalvidar for the Associated Press:

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a “death panel.” Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong.

Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes. Here are some questions and answers on the controversy:

Q: Does the health care bill promote “mercy killing,” or euthanasia?

A: No.

Q: Then what’s all the fuss about?

And here’s where it all started:

A: A provision in the House bill written by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would allow Medicare to pay doctors for voluntary counseling sessions that address end-of-life issues. The conversations between doctor and patient would include living wills, making a close relative or a trusted friend your health care proxy, learning about hospice as an option for the terminally ill and information about pain medications for people suffering chronic discomfort.

The sessions would be covered every five years, more frequently if someone is gravely ill.

Alonso-Zaldivar covers all the basics in this brief, to-the-point article. My personal favorite opinion is also in there. It’s a comment made by Monsignor Charles Fahey, 76, a Catholic priest currently chairman of the board of the National Council on Aging:

“What I have said is that if I cannot say another prayer, if I cannot give or get another hug, and if I cannot have another martini – then let me go.”

Maybe we should put that martini provision in the bill.

via Health care overhaul bill Q&A.