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Posts by Mike Briggs

America – SHUTDOWN

Are we really, "Closed for Business"?

Are we really, “Closed for Business”?

There is no one reading this that has not heard that our U.S. Government is, “SHUTDOWN”.

As of midnight on October 1, 2013, the U.S. Government went into shutdown mode because Congress could not agree on a budget for fiscal year 2014. It has occurred 17 times in the past, but this time it is different- and it will affect some students at PSU.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, ACA, which was put into law on March 23, 2010, PSU stepped up and revised its existing health insurance plan. The school is now offering a very comprehensive and affordable health care package benefiting many students. But some members of Congress do not like this law, ACA, and have made it a priority to have it repealed. They do not wish to approve a national budget unless the ACA is repealed. President Barrack Obama has refused to compromise with them and considers this action to repeal this important and existing law, “Unacceptable”. Thus, the government is in stalemate and our government in a shutdown mode.

Because of the current government shutdown many federal agencies have to furlough federal employees because they no longer have the money to pay them. Over 800,000 federal employees are being laid off now. Included in this are many employees of the Veterans Administration. This is the agency, which takes care of our veterans in terms of health care, educational assistance and disability payments. PSU students who are veterans and using educational assistance via the V.A. may have their benefits cut or even stopped until this shutdown is resolved.

This event is unique in our history. Congress has never before failed to pass a budget with the sole reason, “We don’t like this existing law. Repeal it- or we will not allow our government to function.”

In times past the government has shut down for a variety of reasons, a new bill before Congress, arguments over how the government spends its money (our money), etc. But it has never before gone into shutdown over an existing law.

Let us hope our Congress and our President can resolve their differences. Arrive at a compromise where our government does not have to, SHUTDOWN. And PSU students will continue to get excellent healthcare from the school and our veterans, who have given so much for this country, can once again receive the financial benefits due them.

CRC – Part II

Columbia River I-5 Bridge

Columbia River I-5 Bridge

The Aug. 11th, Vancouver’s, Columbian editorial, “It’s time to move forward“, was insightful and accurate. Like many, I was prepared to accept that the Columbia River Crossing was dead. However, it looks like there may be a glimmer of life left in the idea. More than $170 million, countless man-hours of expert engineering data, and nearly a decade of time is invested in this project. Our State and Federal leaders must exhaust all avenues before giving up. And so I was elated when I discovered Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is working on a last ditch effort, “Oregon Lite…CRC”, http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/08/crc_lite_oregon_should_build_a.html, to still work with the CRC project and breath life into this extremely important project.

What surprised me (yet again) was the apparent anger and resentment by the Republican coalition of the Washington state Senate to even consider another idea. Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, made reference to Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber as, “uncooperative”, for even bringing forth this unique idea. Our leaders should be looking at all ideas to fix a problem — not to kill a possible solution. Such attitudes and actions tell me people’s own agendas, or egos, seem to have more value to them than looking for compromise that can address this big problem that faces the largest roadway on the Western side of North America — Interstate 5.

To value ego over the possibility of a good idea to help find a solution to the I-5 crossing is not good leadership. It is not leadership at all.

We can and must do better.

Crossing the Columbia

InterstateBridge

In the Portland metro area there are only two ways by car to cross the Columbia River, the I-5 Bridge and the I-205 bridge. And that’s it for the foreseeable future now that the Washington state legislature has rejected funding a new bridge via a Republican controlled Senate coalition. Is there an issue about this commute to PSU that affects students and their decision to attend the university?

The current I-5 Bridge was built in 1917 with a twin section completed in 1958. As the only drawbridge on the entire length of Interstate 5, it has the only stop sign on this important freeway. Hundreds of thousands of cars cross it daily going either north or south, and 60,000 vehicles alone travel from Vancouver to Portland per day for employment. It is a crucial connection for greater Portland and the entire West Coast.

The design of the bridge, although an engineering achievement in 1917, is now being used far beyond its design capabilities. The bridge’s wooden pilings are not set in the bedrock beneath the river but in the sandy bottom, thus increasing many times, the damage an earthquake could cause. Hours-long traffic snarls occur on a daily basis.

How amy PSU students find commuting to the university hindered by this ancient bridge? How many students find they must attend another university because they simply cannot rely upon a commute to Portland utilizing this old bridge with its traffic nightmares?

Students, faculty or staff of PSU, what do you think?


Read more

DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON

With all of the recent natural disasters we have all been experiencing I think it might be timely to remind everyone of our own “disaster scenario”. This is not meant as fear mongering…rather, just a reminder to be aware of where we live and the types of natural disasters we all live with here in Portland.
 
“Geologists estimate there’s a 10% chance of a magnitude 9 earthquake in Portland over the next 50 years — and a 37 percent chance of a magnitude 8 or less. This is from an OPB article, “How would Portland fare in an earthquake”, 4.18.12, (see link) ~ “http://www.opb.org/news/article/how-would-portland-fare-earthquake/
 
 Are you prepared? Do you know what you would do…should do?
 
Below is what PSU has to say about this catastrophe:
 
Stay calm.  You must be able to help yourself and others.
  • Drop, cover and hold on. Move as little as possible.
  • Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. If you must leave the building after the shaking stops, use stairs rather than an elevator in case there are aftershocks, power outages or other damage.
  • Be aware that fire alarms and sprinkler systems frequently go off in buildings during an earthquake, even if there is no fire.

There is no perfect plan, no automatic behavior anyone can enact that will guarantee your safety, but I believe by simply being aware of where you are and what you can do- is probably the best advice any of us can rely upon.

 

What price freedom?

It’s a normal day on campus. The sun is out (always a welcome thing), the birds are singing, and the normal crowd is milling around between Cramer and Smith Union. ‘All normal.

I took a seat outside Cramer Hall facing Smith. I was tired. I had just gotten out of a history class, Greek 300, and I wanted to catch some fresh air before I crammed down a sandwich in the Smith cafeteria and trudged on to my next class, French 101.

It was then I noticed him. At first glance all seemed normal. A 20 -something male student, jeans, old Chuck Taylor All Stars, black-grey hoodie…but with the hood up. He had a cardboard box with him. He looked kind of pensive. Maybe he was waiting for someone? Read more

Speaking French

I presently speak no French. Or I should say, the French I did attempt to use with on a recent trip to France had the natives there staring at me and then turning to my wife, who does speak French asking her (translated here), “Madam, is this man your husband? What is he trying to say?”

When my wife, Janet, and I were discussing marriage six years ago, there was one caveat she placed before me that I had to agree to if we were going to marry. (At this point all kinds of things were racing through my mind–prenuptial agreements, mother-in-laws wanting to live with us, religious rites involving hoods, pet snakes, etc…) And then she said in all seriousness, “It has been my life long dream to move to France when I retire. If we marry you have to agree to move there with me. Do you?” Instantly a wave of relief washed over me. I put a big grin on and said, “Yes, but I don’t speak French.” She replied, “Yes. I’ve heard you try.”

So years later now and our France move is getting closer. I am busy working to finish my BA degree in Liberal Arts here at PSU. I know I need six terms of a foreign language to complete for this degree. I start French 101 next fall term.

Bon chance moi.

Au Revoir ~

Have Pen Will Travel

Are there any budding writers out there? Students who really feels they have something to say or simply like to give their opinions–maybe a restaurant, a favorite punk band, or perhaps a book or author?

There is a class being taught at PSU that may be right for you. WR 458, Magazine Writing, taught by Prof. Paul Collins. I am taking this class right now and I find it very interesting and useful…for if you follow the class closely, listen to an expert on the subject, you could in time have your own magazine articles published…AND be paid to do so. Read more

What would you do?

I am a student here at PSU just like you and I would like to know what you would have done?

Yesterday Feb. 13, I took MAX into PSU and returned from PSU, just like I do 2x per week. But this trip, I encountered a very uncomfortable situation on MAX that could have ended up with violence, or at the least, a very tense moment which would have left me and some other passengers in varying states of trauma.

On my trip into PSU, around 3:45, Max stopped at the 82nd street depot and picked up some people. Three of these were youths- probably 16-19 years of age, male. But these three were very loud…I mean they were shouting well above the normal din of a busy MAX commute. One chose to run up and down the car, jump up and grasp the stainless poles and swing around. His friends would cheer him on. At first I just ignored this rowdy behavior. But…it did not stop. When, like me, most people were ignoring this rude behavior the youth escalated his behavior. This signaled a change to me. This young man, encouraged on by his two peers, began to try and provoke a response from the rest of us. He began to make “charges” at some people, as if he was going to purposely make contact with people. I looked around and some of the passengers were now worried…you could see it in their faces. I was sitting next to a window and had a young lady sitting beside me. She was becoming upset. I decided to do something. I made an effort and caught the eye of one of the young people who was cheering on his physical friend. He was maybe five feet away. Our eyes met. I was not smiling. At first he looked seriously at me and then he did something I did not expect. He laughed. He laughed right at me. I felt the blood rush to my face. I felt my fingers curl into tight fists. I began to feel my legs move…but then I stopped. Was this action I was about to take going to solve anything? Instead of helping, protecting the others around me, could I actually be escalating this (now) dangerous situation? Luckily I did not have to contemplate those questions very long for we were pulling into the Lloyd Center depot and the youths made their departure.

When those three young men left the MAX car you could almost feel the sense of relief that blew through our section of MAX. Whew! But I was shaking. Really physically shaking. Not from fear but from anger and adrenaline. The young lady who sat beside me softly put her hand upon mine and just smiled up at me. And I felt better.

PSU’s Mandatory Student Health Insurance or “The Agony and the Ecstasy”

Q:  “I didn’t know we had to have health insurance and why is it Medicine symbolmandatory?”

A:  In short, it is the law of the land. Per the health care reform act recently passed by Congress and taking effect January 2014, all citizens will have some form of health insurance coverage. Portland State University must comply with this law for any domestic student taking at least five credit hours. But as Christi Zielger, PSU Student Insurance Coordinator states, “PSU does not have mandatory insurance because of the law…we’ve always had mandatory insurance, but this is the first time we have had such a robust plan and are allowing students to waive out if they have something else.” Like it or not our government wants its citizens (and students) to be healthy and to have the ability to pay for such services to remain so.

(PSU’s plan is in effect now) http://www.pdx.edu/shac/insurance-information

Q:   “But I already have insurance (I think) through my parents or my employer. Can I use my same doctor”?

A:  As long as you have existing insurance coverage, provide the applicable documentation, and submit a waiver to the school prior to the beginning of class, you will not be automatically charged for PSU’s health insurance. And yes, you can stay with your same doctor or with your own insurance carrier. You will have to see if your current doctor is in-service with Aetna, PSU’s insurance provider, or is considered out-of-service with Aetna. Either way you are covered. http://www.pdx.edu/shac/insurancewaiver. And if you wish a link for providers: https://www.aetnastudenthealth.com/

Q: “If I do not already have health insurance coverage, how much will this cost me? Is this a good price?

A: The cost of PSU’s health insurance plan is $560/term ($140/month annualized). This bill will be automatically applied to your account when you register for class (unless you file a waiver). Look at these monthly cost comparisons*:

  • PSU-                   $140
  • Reed-                  $133
  • Lewis & Clark- $225
  • U of P-               $178
  • Willamette-      $211

(*For comparison, this writer has health insurance through his wife’s employer. While it is good coverage—the price is $460/mo. for the two of us).

Q: “Is there a clinic on campus I can go to if I can’t get to my normal doctor”?

  • A: Yes there is. SHAC, Student Health and Counseling, and it is located at Univ. Center Bldg, Ste. 300, 1880 SW 6thhttp://www.pdx.edu/shac/ They are professionally staffed for:

Hospital Sign >

  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Mental Health
  • Testing

PLAN HIGHLIGHTS (not inclusive)

  • No Deductible
  • $20/$30/$40 Co pays
  • Inpatient/surgical/hospital coverage @ 80%
  • Outpatient care @ 80%-100%
  • Annual out of pocket max @ $3500
  • Annual max payout coverage @ $100,000
  • Prescriptions @ 100% (generic)
  • Free generic birth control prescriptions
  • Outpatient Mental Health/Alcoholism/Drug Treatment @ 100%
  • Women’s Health Care @ 100%
  • Preventive Health Care @ 100%
  • Diabetic Testing Supplies @ 80%
  • Elective Abortion Expense @ 80%
  • No Dental
  • No Vision
  • No Hearing

For more detailed and complete information please contact:

Christy Ziegler Student Insurance Coordinator

Christi Ziegler, PSU Student Insurance Coordinator, 503-725-2467, christi.ziegler@pdx.edu, campus @ SHAC bldg.   Or     http://www.pdx.edu/shac/insuranceplan

Guns on Campus

We’ve all seen on TV the horrific scenes from Newton Connecticut, the shopping mall in nearby Clackamas, a Regal movie theatre in Colorado…and sadly so many more incidents of guns taking lives in senseless murders. I am a student just like you. I know when I walk the dark walkways of PSU I now think of this deadly scenario. I worry that this might occur here too. I cringe at the thought and hurry along my way.

I know that I could probably obtain a concealed weapons permit from the county where I reside that is good for all of the state. I know then I might “legally” carry this gun, this piece of hardware that is created with one real purpose, to kill. But then I also ask myself, “Is this what I really want to do or do I feel threatened and worried, that my own life may be in danger and that is what is prompting me to think about actually carrying a gun?” And when I get past this question I also ask myself, “Is this who I am? Do I let fear run my life? Do I really want to kill someone?”

"Is this you?"

“Is this you?”

For me, I am not that kind of person. I have always believed in “live and let live”. I don’t want to be the kind of person that would kill another human being because I believe my own life is in danger. I believe we are an intelligent and resourceful people. I believe there are other alternatives for me, such as fleeing, calling 911 for help, not placing myself in vulnerable situations if I can, and believing that the school I attend, PSU, has taken all the precautions it can to protect me and my fellow students in our goal of receiving an education and becoming a valuable and contributing members of society.

I realize my choice is not for everyone. But having served in the military, having been in real life and death situations, I know sometime in your life you must find out who you really are? Do we give in to the TV and media hysteria? Do we allow ourselves to be manipulated into doing something we do not believe in? Do we really have to kill to live? Is that what our society, our culture, is really about?

I do not think it is.

Image

“Or…is this you?”
You really are the one to decide.

Note: The following is the current PSU policy on carrying a gun at our school and was adopted by the Oregon Board of Higher Education on March 2, 2012.

“…forbids students, employees, individuals with a business interest with the campus (such as vendors and contractors), event attendees, those who rent or lease University property, and campus visitors from carrying a firearm on University owned or controlled property…The prohibition is effective whether or not an individual holds a concealed handgun license.”

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