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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"The public option is dead"

Jesus wept.


Senators Reject Pair of Public Option Proposals
NY Times

WASHINGTON — After an intense debate that captured the essence of the national struggle over health care, a pivotal Senate committee on Tuesday rejected two Democratic proposals to create a government insurance plan to compete with private insurers.

The votes, in the Senate Finance Committee, underscored divisions among Democrats and were a setback for President Obama, who has endorsed the public plan as a way to “keep insurance companies honest.”

The first proposal, by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, was rejected 15 to 8, as five Democrats joined all Republicans on the panel in voting no. The second proposal, by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, was defeated 13 to 10, with three Democrats voting no.

The votes vindicated the middle-of-the-road approach taken by the committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana. Mr. Baucus voted against both proposals, which were offered as amendments to his bill to expand coverage and rein in health costs.

“There’s a lot to like about a public option,” Mr. Baucus said, but he asserted that the idea could not get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster on the Senate floor.

Proponents of a public plan said it was needed to compete with private insurers, and they said consumers would benefit from the competition, getting lower prices and better benefits.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roman Polanski

I heard some interesting perspectives on his arrest and I've changed my mind. I had first heard that the victim wants the case dropped so that she doesn't have to keep being involved, and it's 31 years ago now. But then I heard rape advocate Susan Estrich say that it's not a crime against a victim, it's a crime against the state. On the same NPR program, I heard studio exec Michael Medavoy say that Polanski has "made some great movies," like that excuses him. And something about one "moral lapse." And then I got kind of mad about it. It's just like listening to all the excuses made for Mike Tyson - if you're famous or accomplished, I guess it doesn't count. And I found myself thinking, "If the president does it, it's not a crime." Just not right. She was 13. Even if she looked older, he knew she was underage, and he knew she was not willing. That's a crime. He should face consequences.


Monday, September 28, 2009

R.I.P. Derrion Albert

This is so awful. This 16 year old young man was beaten to death with 2X4s on the street in front of a community center in Chicago while no one intervened. He was a good student and was not involved in a fracas that had started before he got there - he was just walking by.

Albert's grandfather, Joseph Walker, said the family was struggling to come to terms with why Albert was killed. "I don't know where all this anger come from these people today. That's just too much anger for someone to have in their heart. All I can do is I'm going to pray for these people, I'm going to to pray for forgiveness."


Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Imma let you finish"

Kanye is an internet meme now - there are tons of these interruption parodies, some funnier than others. This is one of the weirdest (and timliest!) that I've seen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"I've got a feeling"

I actually saw this amateur music video of the Black Eyed Peas hit featured on CNN. So, so fun! The organizers spent a month plotting it out, and then they recruited almost 200 people to participate. They practiced twice and shot the video twice. The result is so full of energy and verve. It makes me miss college! And as CNN anchor Tony Harris said, you have to love a song that includes "mazel tov"!

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Run this town"

My latest musical obsession is this song by Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West, which I first heard on the premiere episode of the new Jay Leno Show.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Census worker killed in Kentucky

I found this especially disturbing. He was hung and had "Fed" written on his chest. The local police said they could not rule it a homicide (!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Village idiots

I didn't hear this exchange, my friend Janet sent it to me. The last line is classic!

MADDOW: Mr. Schaeffer, thank you so much for coming back on the show tonight. ... I do not know what possessed this polling firm to ask whether or not people think the President is the anti-Christ, but they did. Does the response rate among conservatives surprise you? More than one in three saying yes or they don‘t know.

SCHAEFFER: Well, I was a child when President Kennedy was assassinated, and my mother thought, because he died of a head wound, foretold in scripture of the anti-Christ he would be resurrected as the anti-Christ. She thought this might be a possibility. So, those of us who come from the evangelical subculture have been weaned with our mother's milk on a changing cast list of villains. It might be Kennedy to one generation, Obama to the next.

But I think the larger point this brings up is that the mainstream — not just media, but culture — doesn‘t sufficiently take stock of the fact that within our culture, we have a subculture which is literally a fifth column of insanity, that is bred from birth through home school, Christian school, evangelical college, whatever, to reject facts as a matter of faith. And so, this substitute for authentic historic Christianity, and I may add as a little caveat here, I'm a church-going Christian, really brings up the question: Can Christianity be rescued from Christians? And that's an open question.

MADDOW: The birther thing has been disproven. The anti-Christ thing is — it's all another kettle of fish. But how do you work to move people off that position? It doesn't seem like facts are relevant in trying to move people away from these beliefs.

SCHAEFFER: You don‘t work to move them off this position. You move past them. Look, a village cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot. It's as simple as that.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

More healthcare misinformation

My friend Richard sent me this video of Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers expressing his outrage over the public option in healthcare reform (an idea that is basically dead in the water, but that doesn't stop idealogues from pounding the table over it).

Of the many ridiculous things that Mr Rogers says, the most offensive is his assertion that the current system "works" for 85% of the country. If it wasn't so infuriating, it would be completely laughable. Frankly, I seriously doubt that Mr Rogers believes that, but if he does, he's grievously misinformed for a federal legislator.

Take for example this poll, reporting that more Americans are dissatisfied with their healthcare than citizens of other countries:

One-third of Americans told pollsters that the U.S. health care system should be completely rebuilt, far more than residents of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the U.K. Just 16 percent of Americans said that the U.S. health care system needs only minor changes, the lowest number expressing approval among the countries surveyed.

Or the now frequently reported technique used by insurance companies to save money - rescission - dropping the coverage of people who actually file claims:

The Department of Health and Human Services put a spotlight on that practice Tuesday in its continuing campaign to build support for an overhaul of health insurance.

“When a person is diagnosed with an expensive condition such as cancer, some insurance companies review his/her initial health status questionnaire,” the HHS said in a posting at HealthReform.Gov. In most states, insurance companies can retroactively cancel individuals' policies if any condition was not disclosed when the policy was obtained, "even if the medical condition is unrelated, and even if the person was not aware of the condition at the time.”

“Coverage can also be revoked for all members of a family, even if only one family member failed to disclose a medical condition,” HHS said. The department cited recent research by the staff of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which found that three large insurers rescinded almost 20,000 policies over five years, saving $300 million in medical claims.

Wake up and smell the coffee, America - if we don't change the way we're doing things, healthcare expenses will consume our economy!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Great movie

I picked up this video, Cleaner, based solely on the cast - Samuel L Jackson, Eva Mendez and Ed Harris - but I had not heard of it before. Of course, my expectations were rather low, since it doesn't seem to have gotten a theaterical release, but it greatly exceeded them. It's a bit cliche, but I don't think that detracts from the movie at all. Excellent performances (including the girl from Akeelah and the Bee) and beautifully filmed. I recommend it highly, though not when you're in a dark mood - it's not a Feel Good movie, just a good movie, dealing with grief and trust and dreams deferred, all wrapped up in a fairly standard murder mystery. But not boring at all - very atmospheric and visually interesting and movingly portrayed.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Random randomness

Yesterday I cried in front of the kids, which I rarely do. Not about any particular thing, but just a lot of things that feel difficult and frustrating (including that I had yelled at them the day before). I didn't want to scare them, especially since I've noticed that they are both a bit more clingy and anxious when they can't find me or think I'm leaving (due, I'm sure, to Noah's passing). But it's hard, no, it's impossible, for me to always just soldier on.

I see the doctor in a few weeks; we talked about SAD last year. I don't want to go on medication, but I'm thinking of buying a full spectrum light. I've considered it for years, but it's expensive, and I couldn't bring myself to get one. I think that may be a more appropriate BD present this year than the books and DVDs that I want (2 full seasons of Mad Men among others!)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Three little words

"Are you o.k.?" Three little words, and not my favorite. Scary, powerful words. Because when someone asks you, and you're not o.k., it can open up the floodgates. It can make you think of everything that's not o.k., even if you hadn't been thinking of it before.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sit down and shut up

This morning I heard Chuck Todd, the whitest man in America, on Morning Joe going on and on about how Obama should stop "dealing" with race. I didn't know whether to laugh or punch the T.V. Like this is what Obama wants to be dealing with! He can't change the color of his skin (not that he would want to) or history or human nature, so he's kind of stuck with the topic, despite this great advice from someone who has absolutely no idea what it's like to be non-white.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Rationing healthcare

This article nicely sums up the issue. The last two clauses almost say it all.

Doctors Say Health Care Rationing Already Exists
Scott Horsley

In the debate over how to fix the nation's health care system, one of the big worries is rationing.
"I don't think many Americans want to start having to wait in line [or] start getting government permission for procedures," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said last month on CBS's Face the Nation.

Americans might be justifiably nervous about losing control of their health care decisions, especially if they think government bureaucrats will be in charge. But some doctors and economists argue that, in effect, the U.S. health care system is already rationing, in the most unproductive ways.

"In America, we strictly ration health care. We've done it for years," says Dr. Arthur Kellermann, professor of emergency medicine and associate dean for health policy at Emory University School of Medicine. "But in contrast to other wealthy countries, we don't ration medical care on the basis of need or anticipated benefit. In this country, we mainly ration on the ability to pay. And that is especially evident when you examine the plight of the uninsured in the United States."

Groceries Or Medicine?
Kellermann still remembers the young mother of two who came into his emergency room more than 15 years ago, suffering from a hemorrhagic stroke.

"We worked for 90 minutes to save her life, but basically she had burst a blood vessel in her head. She didn't have a chance," he says. "She had no health insurance, and when the money got tight, she had to make a choice — she could either buy the groceries for her kids, or she was going to buy the three blood pressure medicines she had to take every day."

Sadly, Kellermann says, for less than the cost of that futile, 90-minute effort in the ER, the woman could have had all the blood pressure medication she needed for the rest of her life. It was not a government bureaucrat who decided she should forgo treatment until it was too late — it was her own lack of health insurance that led her to make that choice.

A few years ago, Kellermann served as co-chairman for an Institute of Medicine committee that looked at the kind of care people get when they don't have health insurance. On average, he found, the uninsured get only about half the care that people with insurance do, and they tend to wait longer and get sicker before seeing a doctor.

"The cost of staying home and feeling a lump grow in your breast, to feel a squeezing sensation become more and more evident with shorter and shorter walks every day, hoping beyond hope that it will go away — that's an incredibly expensive choice to make when, had you been able to get the care you needed early, it could have been quickly and easily and simply taken care of," he says.

It's not only the uninsured who are affected. Americans who do have health insurance tend to get a lot of procedures after they're sick — not because bureaucrats dictate that, but because that's what insurance and Medicare pay for.

Five-Minute Visits

"We do lots of joint replacements, back surgery, cardiovascular procedures, imaging procedures, and we do lots of those because they're well remunerated," says Dr. Elliott Fisher, director for population health and policy at Dartmouth's Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

Fisher says those high-cost services are not necessarily the best way to improve people's health. And as the cost of providing those services rises, insurance companies often cut the very primary care that could keep people healthier.

"I think there's a very real sense that we are rationing payments to primary care, and what that leads to is poor care. It leads to five-minute visits that many patients are experiencing," Fisher says. "Many primary-care physicians feel like hamsters running on a wheel. And they have to run harder each time Medicare or the private payers cut their fees."

Wider Rationing

Rationing is not limited to the health care industry. No other country devotes as much of its economy to health care as the United States. While Americans might not think of that as a choice, it means they have less to spend on everything else. Government payments for health care come at the expense of schools, roads and other services. The extra money that employers have to pay for rising health insurance premiums is money they cannot put into workers' paychecks.

"No worker gets to say, 'You know what, make my premium $1,000 lower by getting me a more efficient health insurance package, and at the same time, give me $1,000 more in take-home pay,' " says Harvard economist Katherine Baicker, who has studied the impact of rising health care costs on employee compensation.

So while there is no government rationing board handing out coupon books for heart surgeries, more and more of the nation's resources are being gobbled up by health care, often with little choice for individuals, and often in ways that no sensible person would choose.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Seniors and healthcare reform

My latest beef is with seniors, who are protesting healthcare reform more loudly these days, according to multiple media reports. In fact, they are the demographic most opposed to reform. It's especially ironic that they should object, considering they already receive government healthcare. Of course, their concern is that they may lose some of their government bennies in order to pay for extending coverage to more people. And who is egging them on? None other than the Heritage Foundation, as reported here. It boggles the mind - libertarians who want to reduce government involvement are trying to get those who benefit from government involvement to resist reform. I can't even express it properly. I really just want to vomit most of the time these days.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Days of Awe

Went to a terrific program at the temple tonight in honor of selichot, a special service involving poems and the recitation of Psalm 145 (celebrating God's omniscience) which is supposed to begin at midnight. Traditionally, selichot is followed by an all-night Torah study session. One of the reconstructionist temples in Philadelphia had a fun event on this night, but I never went, and I've always blown off this gateway to the Days of Awe.

So this year, the new rabbi at Concord arranged for a super cool program to precede the service, with a panel of 3 psychologists addressing the issue of repentence. The audience was very involved and the conversation was lively. I really enjoyed it, but it made it more clear to me how ambivalent I am about the High Holidays this year. I feel weighed down by the loss of Noah. I had been thinking that participating in these ancient ceremonies would be a balm, but the closer it gets, the sadder and more distracted I feel.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Raise the red fist

I always said these people have no sense of irony, but this is more proof than even I needed! This was in the LA Times, though I heard about this column on Keith Olbermann.

Culture Monster
Christopher Knight

Ever since Glenn Beck took to the Fox television airwaves recently to offer a bizarre reading of the art commissioned 70 years ago for New York's Rockefeller Center, I've been puzzled by the graphic design element of his 9-12 Project. The logo (pictured) for his affiliated groups' rally in Washington, D.C., this weekend derives from century-old communist, socialist and other left-wing designs. Those were the motifs he railed against in his Rockefeller rant.

For the logo, three raised and clenched red fists are superimposed over the U.S. Capitol. Obviously the bloody fist represents the tea-baggers' themes of unity and resistance.

But do Beck; the corporate-sponsored astro-turf group, FreedomWorks, headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas); the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights; the private-property group, the National Assn. of Rural Landowners; and the rest of the march sponsors know the symbol's origins?

Unity and resistance are what the fist represented in 1917, when it was first employed by the Industrial Workers of the World, a union organization founded by socialists. And in the 1940s, when it stood for various nations' communist party organizations.

That's also what it meant when it was revived in the 1960s, appearing as a symbol for the SDS, as well as anti-war and feminist movements. It was the basis for the black-power salute given by John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. And today, it's the symbol for the Progressive Labor Party (pictured), a political outfit whose website says it "fights to smash capitalism."

Turnout for the 9-12 Project's Saturday march on Washington was a bust; 30,000 protesters signed up in advance (MSNBC reporter David Shuster tweeted that D.C. park police called that figure "generous"). But even if three times that many actually showed up, the number would fall far short of the hundreds of thousands (and even millions) claimed to be planning to attend. Even in that reduced crowd, however, surely someone recognized how odd the right-wing gathering's left-wing logo was.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Explain yourselves!

Hullabaloo cross-posted this from Pandagon (Amanda Marcotte). I would just add "insurance company stockholders" to "insurance company executives" ~

The people who value human lives over corporate profits aren’t the ones who should be required to explain ourselves. Our argument is sound. We believe all people are equal, and that the rich’s wallets are therefore not more important than your lives. We’re the ones who stick by the principles of our founding documents, and we’re the ones who steadfastly maintain that human life is valuable, even if the human holding it isn’t a rich insurance company executive.

It’s the people who are putting corporate profits ahead of human lives who need to explain themselves. They’re the ones who should be asked why corporate profits count more than lives. They’re the ones who should be asked why working class citizens should be forced to decide between paying for an insurance bill or paying their rent in order to make sure that no insurance company executive goes without a fresh supply of yachts and fancy cars. They should be forced to explain why insurance company executive yachts count more than your ability to avoid homelessness, or your ability to have a perfectly treatable illness actually treated.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tell 'em Barry!

I thought the President's speech was terrific. Assertive and coherent. Not perfect, and we all know that the devil is in the details, but at least took a stand and hopefully will create some momentum. I'm pretty happy tonight, after being damned discouraged these past few weeks.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

President's school speech

I was pretty mad that my 4th grader didn't get to watch the President's address to students, but then his teacher said that they are watching it tomorrow so they have time to discuss larger issues, including what the students would say in a speech if they were the President. Cool!! I listened to the webcast myself and I won't lie - I teared up a couple times. Very inspirational.


Argument for the public option

I just love Hullabaloo - she nails it every time.

Any plan that forces the uninsured to pay their hard earned money to wealthy private insurance companies under penalty of law is a huge political risk. These are the same companies that have brought us to this place where people are routinely denied the care they were promised, lied to about what was covered, scammed into paying huge sums of money for no security and no guarantee. Health insurance companies have dealt with their customers in bad faith for years and years and now we are being told that everyone must pony up and pay them even more. For all the talk of reform, when you whittle this down, that one fact comes roaring back at you and it sticks hard in the craw of anyone who considers themselves progressive.

The Democrats simply do not understand that as much as many people mistrust the government and believe it is inept and malevolent, just as many mistrust the private sector and believe it is greedy and malevolent . . . [that would be me!!]

. . . the for-profit health insurance business is in business to make money for its shareholders, period. And everybody knows that you simply can't expect Wellpoint to not act like a capitalistic enterprise and try to make as much profit as they can from that transaction. We've just witnessed the Masters of the Universe thumb their noses at any call to decent human behavior even immediately after they nearly destroyed the financial system. Corporations are not designed to give a damn about anything but profits and they have the political system so wired that regulation is just another bargaining chip.

In any case, the insurance companies may be regulated under the law, but the remedy for the average person is to hire a lawyer and take them through the legal system all the way to that wholly-owned industry subsidiary they call the Roberts Court. That's a rather inefficient way to ensure that costs come down and people are covered. Especially since the people who are suing are probably dead by the time they get there.

Aside from its (dubious) merits as a cost control measure (which relies on that notorious commie concept of competition!) the public plan at least ensures that the people who object to being forced by law to contribute to obscene CEO salaries could choose instead to pay their money to a highly regulated non-profit government program. That program, rather than putting profits into the pockets of executives and shareholders, would put it back into the system to pay for more health care and would be structurally in place for future improvements. Since the party took Medicare for all Americans off the table before we even got here, it's not too much to ask for at least that one paltry choice, especially since it actually solidifies the compact between the people and their government, something that Democrats should always be trying to do.


Monday, September 07, 2009

A pause for total non-news

I'm a bit surprised at the choice of Ellen DeGeneres to replace Paula Abdul as a judge on American Idol. I expected a "music" person, but she could be fun.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Mad Men

I'm still enjoying MM, but I have to admit, I don't quite get it anymore. I don't object to sybolism, but I yearn for the way they used to to things - Don tying Bobbi to the bed and saying "I'm nothing like you." Or tricking Roger into eating clams and then throwing up in front of the clients. Nothing symbolic about that!!! Now it's all boiling milk and stroking the grass. A little too French New Wave for me, but it's such a pleasure to watch - such great performances and such fabulous atmosphere, that I can't help myself.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Waste of money

So I had to go to the library and admit that I lost one of the DVDs I borrowed - Lust, Caution - the latest from Ang Lee. The good news is that I can get a copy online to replace it for half what the library will charge me. But the bad news is, I didn't like the movie enough to want to give my money to it. If I had to replace Who Am I This Time? I would have no problem doing it because I would hate to be a party to depriving others from watching it!!! But this movie . . . meh.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Sharp elbows

I'm listening to Diane Rehm and one of her guests is countering the argument that partisan debate is nastier than usual these days - he said that assertion ignores how "muscular" American politics has always been. I love that turn of phrase. And it reminds me of the famous quote about politics: "it ain't beanbags."


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Health care debate gets ugly

This is getting ridiculous:

Authorities are searching for a health care-reform activist who they said bit off part of a 65-year-old man's pinky during a scuffle at a MoveOn.org rally in Thousand Oaks, a city northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

It all started with their difference in philosophy over health care reform," said Senior Deputy Eric Buschow of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

The incident occurred about 7 p.m. Wednesday at a demonstration organized by affiliates of the activist group MoveOn.org, which drew about 100 supporters of President Obama's health care plan, Buschow said. The rally also attracted about 25 counterprotesters, he said.

During the rally, two men got into a heated argument and began fighting. "At which point, one man bit off the left pinkie of the other," Buschow said.

The injured demonstrator, William Rice, then drove himself to a hospital, he said.

"We're still trying to figure out who was the aggressor," Buschow said.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I can't believe they're still making these signs. What's wrong with "Work Area"???


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Good question!

Where's The Change? Gay Activists Ask

Vermont on Tuesday joined five other states that have given same-sex couples the right to marry. That situation was almost unimaginable a decade ago, when, after rancorous debate, the state became the first in the union to enact same-sex civil unions.

But despite the historic gains made by the nation's gay community, this year has largely been one of disappointment for many whose hopes were pinned on President Obama's promise of change after two terms of an openly hostile Republican administration.

"People were shellshocked from the last eight years," says Michael Joseph Gross, a New York-based writer whose recent piece about Obama and the gay community, "Hope and History," appeared in The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian newsmagazine.

Obama supports civil unions, but he has never come out publicly in support of same-sex marriage. Nonetheless, Gross says, the gay community saw in Obama a fierce ally in the White House. And as recently as June, the president pledged to "bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans."

"This was supposed to be the easy part," Gross says.

It hasn't turned out that way.

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