Tuesday Mashup (1/28/14)

January 28, 2014
  • I have to admit that I was a bit – how shall I put it? – nonplussed by the following concerning the recent Davos gathering (the recent “big story” is the alleged hardship of the “one percent,” and Philadelphia’s conservative newspaper of record is ON IT, PEOPLE!)…

    Some of the richest and most powerful people in the world were asked by Wharton researchers to assess a set of risks likely to disrupt life as we know it — risks that could bring the downfall of governments and destroy economies.

    Of more than two dozen catastrophic scenarios, the group of global titans said these were their biggest concerns:

    1) Income inequality, which threatens social and political stability as well as economic development.
    2) Increasing numbers of extreme weather events which cause massive damage to property, infrastructure and the environment.
    3) Chronic unemployment, which coincides with a rising skills gap and high underemployment, especially among the young.
    4) Climate change, specifically the failure of government and industry to take action to protect threatened people and businesses.
    5) The escalation of large-scale cyber-attacks.

    In response to #1, I give you this (and this).

    As far as #2 goes (which goes with #4 as far as I’m concerned), I give you this (lots of talk with no commitment to anything, of course).

    And as far as Davos and its supposed laser-focus on unemployment (#3), I give you this (it will take smart, targeted government spending, people, which is what it has taken all along – we did this under FDR and we did this under Bill Clinton…yes, I know this is a broken record).

    Oh, and as far as cyber security is concerned (#5), I’ll let the Davos geniuses figure that out on their own, since it apparently hits their pocketbooks more directly than the other items on the list (at least this post-Davos item was positive, though).

  • Next, it looks like the Repugs are having their retreat this week to figure out some new “branding” trick to try and confuse the American sheeple, to say nothing of our corporate media of course (here – made to order for “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” of course)…

    House Republicans will hear from legendary college football coach Lou Holtz, GOP message maven Frank Luntz, conservative journalists and pollsters and education experts at their annual retreat in Maryland this week.

    The House Republican Conference will also hear Rachel Campos Duffy — wife of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) — talk about “reaching every corner of America.”

    Of course they’ll hear from Frank Luntz (let’s see, maybe, instead of the “Tea Party,” we can have a “grass roots” gathering called the “Patriot Party,” with Rick Santelli yelling out the alarm as he once did here.)

    As far as Rachel Campos Duffy is concerned, she’s the wife of a guy who once said he “struggled” on his congressional salary of about $174 grand (and he spent more than $106 grand on personal use automobiles, both noted here). Her husband also got heat here (rightly so) for his vote to end Medicare (“voucherizing” it, despite what he said to a constituent) and continue tax cuts for the rich. And he also favored “immigration reform” without a path to citizenship here.

    And Lou Holtz? He’s a climate change denier, of course (here). He also was such a good sport when Alabama blew out Notre Dame a little over a year ago here (umm, maybe the “Fighting Irish” couldn’t “run the ball” because Alabama was kicking their collective butt…hard to do that when you’re losing). Besides, I thought he didn’t want anything to do with politics any more, having been quite rightly burned for endorsing former Repug Senator and race-baiter Jesse Helms here.

    I’m sure it doesn’t need to be pointed out yet again that this is nothing but more “kabuki” from the Beltway media-political-industrial complex. The party in power in the U.S. House has had over three years to come up with a plan to create actual jobs with a decent living wage and grow the economy for real. They haven’t. They can’t.

    And they never will.

  • Further, get a load of this from “Pastor” Gerson on the Affordable Care Law

    But even judged on the terms of (David) Remnick’s praise (of The New Yorker, who recently wrote an article about Number 44), Obama is in deep, second-term trouble. The president who embraces complexity is now besieged by complexity on every front. The U.S. health-care system has not responded as planned to the joystick manipulations of the Affordable Care Act. On the evidence of the article, Obama and his closest advisers are in denial about the structural failures of the program — the stingy coverage, narrow provider networks, high deductibles and adverse-selection spirals already underway in several states.

    How can the coverage be “stingy” when it includes an expansion of Medicaid to cover those who weren’t covered before (here, with the only obstacle being Republican governors who won’t allow Medicaid expansion, or, in the case of our own “Space Cadet” Tom Corbett, doing so with ridiculous strings attached such as proof of looking for employment)? And as noted here concerning “narrow provider networks”…

    About a third of insurance companies opted out of participating in the exchanges in states where they were already doing business, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Co. About half of states — which include about a third of the non-elderly insured population — will see a “material decline” in competitors, says McKinsey, while the other half of states will have about the same or more insurance choices on the exchanges.

    I read this as follows: as more enroll on the exchanges, more health care insurance providers will decide to offer plans on the exchanges. The carriers will go where the customers are, one of the things Gerson and his ilk are loathe to acknowledge, of course.

    As far as “high deductibles” goes, I give you the story of lifelong Arkansas Republican Butch Matthews here, who, after doing some actual fact-checking and research, discovered that “his local Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) provider confirmed that he would be able to buy a far better plan than his current policy while saving at least $13,000 per year (by enrolling on an exchange).”

    And I’ll be honest – I don’t know exactly what an “adverse selection spiral” is; if and when Gerson ever decides to explain it, I’ll update this post accordingly (and for what it’s worth, here is a link to Remnick’s article in The New Yorker).

    As noted here, though, I think it’s safe to say that Gerson isn’t exactly an impartial observer on this issue anyway.

  • Continuing (and sticking with health care reform), I give you the latest fear mongering from (who else?) Fix Noise (here)…

    Tom Gialanella, 56, was shocked to find out he qualified for Medicaid under ObamaCare. The Bothell, Wash., resident had been able to retire early years ago, owns his home outright in a pricey Seattle suburb and is living off his investments.

    He wanted no part of the government’s so-called free health care. “It’s supposed to be a safety net program. It’s not supposed to be for someone who has assets who can pay the bill,” he said.

    And after reading the fine print, Gialanella had another reason to flee Medicaid — the potential death debt.

    Cue the scary-sounding music (and leave it to the Foxies to fund somebody whose exceptional life circumstances dovetails perfectly into their “big gumint is baaaad” narrative).

    In response, I believe the following should be emphasized from here

    The Seattle Times published an article on Dec. 15, under the headline “Expanded Medicaid’s fine print holds surprise: ‘payback’ from estate after death,” that said: “If you’re 55 or over, Medicaid can come back after you’re dead and bill your estate for ordinary health-care expenses.” The Times is right that the state of Washington has this power, but it was not in the “fine print” of the Affordable Care Act (as the story itself makes clear).

    All states have had the option since Medicaid began in 1965 to recover some Medicaid costs from recipients after they die, as the Department of Health and Human Services explains in a2005 policy brief. In 1965, it was optional and states could only recoup Medicaid costs spent on those 65 years or older. That changed in 1993, when Congress passed an omnibus budget bill that required states to recover the expense of long-term care and related costs for deceased Medicaid recipients 55 or older. The 1993 federal law also gave states the option to recover all other Medicaid expenses.

    The Affordable Care Act did nothing to change existing federal law. It did, however, expand the number of people who are eligible for Medicaid, so there will be more people on Medicaid between the ages of 55 and 65, and, therefore, potentially more estates on the hook for Medicaid expenses after the beneficiary dies.

    Is this a problem? I suppose, but let’s address it constructively through legislation (yeah, good luck with that with those jokers in charge of the House) instead of fear mongering for a change, OK?

    And of course, this Dan Springer character, being a good little wingnut, tried to gin up more SOLYNDRA! nonsense here.

  • Finally, I just wanted to point out that we recently observed the 50th anniversary of the report from the U.S. Surgeon General linking cigarette smoking to cancer (and as noted here, cigarette smoking has also been linked to other ailments of varying degrees, including liver cancer, erectile dysfunction, and other bad stuff). The good news, though, is that (as noted here) about 8 million lives have been saved by prevention efforts.

    Like many other people I’m sure, this issue hits home. My dad smoked until his last days; I’ll never forget the look of anxiety on his face when he wondered whether or not I’d purchased his carton of Tareyton’s while I was out running other errands so he could break open a pack and light one up on the front porch (during the days near the end when it was dangerous for him to drive anymore because of a variety of ailments and my mom said he couldn’t light up in the house any more, partly because it got ridiculous having to redo the paint and wallpaper every few years from the stains of cigarette smoke).

    Yes, I probably should not have caved and tried to stand up to him on this, but I could tell that, though he was able to kick other bad habits, he would not have been able to do it with this one. And yes, nobody points a gun at anyone and tells them to smoke; there is an element of choice. But I don’t think that absolves us of trying to reach out to people if we think they can be reached on this subject (not as a would-be “reformer,” but as an interested and caring observer).

    And last year, we went through something like this with another beloved family member. My mother-in-law had been suffering with adenocarcinoma for the last year or so, but it got progressively worse as the cancer metastasized (unlike my dad, she had given up smoking years ago, though she had smoked for many years prior to that). It went from her lung to her liver and spread all over the place. There were multiple rounds of chemo and radiation which definitely bought time, but made her physically sicker in the bargain.

    The decline was gradual – first periodic hospital visits for procedures, then shorter stays, then longer stays and more procedures, then trying to do physical therapy to the point where she could endure more treatments, then finally to the point where she couldn’t even go through PT anymore, to the point where she finally couldn’t come home from the rehabilitation facility and slipped into a coma.

    It was truly hard to find anything positive in this experience, but one thing I can say without reservation is that she received fine care from Vitas at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia. We remain ever grateful to the staff for their constant attention to Mom during her final days.

    The day we said goodbye at Vitas (prior to the viewing and the funeral), we tried our best to console one another and go on with our lives in as normal a manner as we could. We drove off in separate cars, and as I left the parking lot, I saw a line of what appeared to be thin, twenty-something young women who (I assume) were done their shift at the hospital, standing in line in mid-afternoon waiting for what I guess was the 20 bus running up Roosevelt Boulevard.

    And at least four of them were smoking.

    If only you knew, I thought to myself, as I turned at the light and headed for home.

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    Friday Mashup (11/30/12)

    December 1, 2012
  • To begin, let’s take on the “crazy” right away with Joseph Curl of the formerly Moonie Times (here – a little behind on some of this stuff, I’ll admit)…

    Sure, the president got his minions to drop the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent a couple months before the election (“See? It IS getting better!”). But bam, just like you can be sure that the one relative who drives you nuts will absolutely make it to your house for the holidays, new jobless claims skyrocketed right after Nov. 6, jumping to 439,000 — up 78,000 from the week before the election.

    Oh yes, that Kenyan Muslim socialist pre-zee-zint cooked the unemployment numbers to win the election. Horrors!

    I thought this was a good response to the Ohio/Pennsylvania thing; namely, the state unemployment numbers are a week behind the federal numbers, and the state numbers in question weren’t released until November 10th – the federal Sandy-influenced numbers were released on November 3rd, with New Jersey being the 3rd-highest state in unemployment behind Ohio and PA…a fortuitous break for Obama to be sure, but definitely not an “OMIGOD ANOTHER SCARY MUSLIM BLACK MAN CONSPIRACY!!!” (what matters is whether or not the numbers turn out to be a trend or an aberration, and how much the numbers are attributed to OMIGOD THE FISCAL CLIFF THE FISCAL CLIFF THE FISCAL CLIFF THE FISCAL CLIFF!!!).

    With all of this in mind, Joe Nocera defends the Bureau of Labor Statistics here against the charge (made by Jack Welch and other greed heads) that Obama cooked the numbers (and I thought this was a good response also, with the trend lines providing the key details).

  • Next, this life form at clownhall.com tells us of the supposed “job killing” FDA-required menu labeling guidelines for calories stipulated in Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act (which allegedly requires chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, including franchises and perhaps some grocery stores, to post calorie information for all products on in-store menu boards).

    I’m not exactly sure how this could be deemed as an issue, since, as noted here, the FDA withdrew food menu guidelines as of January 2011.

  • Continuing, this article from the Murdoch Street Journal tells us the following…

    The former chief executive of Massey Energy Co. said in a rare interview that he has no immediate plans to return to the coal-mining business after a noncompete agreement expires at the end of the year.

    (Don) Blankenship has started a personal website and began posting again on Twitter.

    A controversial figure in the coal industry and West Virginia politics, (Blankenship) has largely kept himself out of the spotlight since retiring from Massey in December 2010, eight months after an explosion—the industry’s worst in 40 years—killed 29 workers at the company’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va.

    In recent weeks, the 62-year-old Mr. Blankenship has launched a red-white-and-blue-themed personal website and began posting again on Twitter, raising speculation that he might be preparing to launch a business venture or even a political campaign.

    Well well now, isn’t that interesting? Imagine the utter nightmare of a Senator Don Blankenship, people.

    In response, there’s a ton of garbage here on Blankenship, including telling us that he considers the science on climate change to be “humorous” (not surprising, given that Blankenship made his fortune in coal) and that mountaintop removal for coal mining is “small afterdamage”; we also learn that Massey disabled the mine methane monitors before the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners, so that the miners could “continue to run coal.”

    And speaking of the disaster, Massey under Blankenship also denied time off to the friends of the victims working at the mines so they could go to the funerals (nice).

    Gosh, the campaign slogan just about writes itself, doesn’t it? Vote for Don Blankenship To Risk An Unnatural Death While The Planet Slowly Suffocates.

    I’ll bet the Teahadists are already planning campaign rallies.

  • Finally, fresh off his victory over Dem Kathy Boockvar in the election a few weeks ago, I give you the following involving our wet noodle Repug PA-08 U.S. House rep (here)…

    Just two days after the November election, members of progressive groups filed into Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s office and called on him to oppose cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of any budget deal.
    On Black Friday, as shoppers lined up at Oxford Valley Mall, many likely saw a 30-foot banner at the Woodbourne Road I-95 overpass, compliments of Pennsylvania Working Families that stated, “Tell Rep. Fitzpatrick: Extend the Middle Class Tax Cuts.”

    In the meantime, large labor unions took out radio ads targeting Fitzpatrick and fellow Republican Pat Meehan to renew middle class tax breaks.

    Election? What election?

    Oh, I’m sorry – I forgot to point out that this column was written by Mikey’s designated stenographer Gary Weckselblatt (who apparently believes, like a typical Repug, that election losers ought to sit down and shut up, since their opinion no longer matters, as if it ever did to begin with…oh, and speaking of “what election?,” I give you this).

    Continuing…

    (Fitzpatrick) said Obama’s plan to raise rates on the wealthy “presents American families with false choices that lead to more economic stagnation.”

    He called for a “grand bargain” that resolves not only the expiring tax rates but a fix to avoid the Medicare physician payment cuts and the looming debt ceiling.

    “I will vote for a plan which is bipartisan in nature that does not cost jobs,” he said. “My district demands we consider all the options, and to earn my vote any deal presented to Congress must present a vision for putting middle income families back on the path for stability and prosperity. And it must not cost jobs.”

    Earlier this year, the Senate voted to extend tax breaks for all but the top wage earners. The House voted to keep the rates for all.

    Asked if at the deadline he would support a version of the Senate plan to protect a potential hit to the middle class, Fitzpatrick said “call me then … you’re asking me a theoretical question.”

    What a profile in courage, my fellow prisoners.

    In response, 350 economists called for investment in jobs instead of “austerity” (which Mikey is basically calling for more of) here (including passage of the American Jobs Act, which continues to gather dust due to inaction from Mikey and his Repug pals in the House). And this is actually better evidence than the prior link that raising the top marginal rate would help job growth, not hurt it.

    And in a related story, as they say (concerning the “A” word), Pastor Gerson pontificates as follows here

    America is entering a period of prolonged austerity. The entitlement commitments made by past generations have been rendered untenable by demographics and health cost inflation. The problem is no one’s particular fault…

    Pardon me while I gag.

    For the reality point of view in response, former Reaganite Bruce Bartlett tells us the following here

    Because of the large deficits Mr. Bush bequeathed Mr. Obama – on Jan. 8, 2009, the C.B.O. projected a deficit for the year of $1.3 trillion that didn’t include any Obama policies – Congress was deeply reluctant to enact a stimulus larger than $787 billion, even though President Obama’s economic advisers thought that one at least twice as large was necessary to turn the economy around. The opposition of every Republican to the 2009 stimulus was a major factor in its inadequate size.

    By way of analogy, suppose you go to your doctor with an illness. He correctly diagnoses it and prescribes the right medicine, but for some reason you are given a dosage only half as large as required. The medicine was enough to improve your condition, but not enough to cure you. You remain sick although you feel better and will remain so until you finally get a full dosage of the proper medicine or your body is able to cure itself, which might take years.
    Note that in this analogy the medicine was properly prescribed; only the dosage was wrong. It would be incorrect to blame the medicine because you are still sick.

    The Republican economists nevertheless blame the medicine itself for the failure of the economy to respond to President Obama’s prescription.

    But it was Republican policies during the Bush administration that brought on the sickness and Republicans in Congress who have denied the economy an adequate dosage of the cure. Now they want to implicitly blame President Obama for causing the recession and the failure of stimulus to fix the problem, asserting that fiscal stimulus is per se ineffective.

    There is a word for this: chutzpah.

    I can think of some words myself, but I really do endeavor to keep this a profanity-free zone, so I’ll just let that go for now (and this tells us that the development by “no one’s particular fault,” according to Gerson, is hammering state economies). And for good measure, Professor Krugman chimes in as follows from here

    …the economic doctrine that demands austerity also rationalizes social injustice and cruelty more broadly, and how this recommends it to authority, rings especially true.

    We might add an insight from another 20th-century economist, Michal Kalecki, who wrote a penetrating 1943 essay on the importance to business leaders of the appeal to “confidence.” As long as there are no routes back to full employment except that of somehow restoring business confidence, he pointed out, business lobbies in effect have veto power over government actions: propose doing anything they dislike, such as raising taxes or enhancing workers’ bargaining power, and they can issue dire warnings that this will reduce confidence and plunge the nation into depression. But let monetary and fiscal policy be deployed to fight unemployment, and suddenly business confidence becomes less necessary, and the need to cater to capitalists’ concerns is much reduced.

    And Gerson actually has the utterly contemptible gall to use the words “austerity” and “morality” in the same sentence of his WaPo screed.

    By the way (returning to Mikey), I’m still waiting for The Treason-Alleging Liar to renounce his “no new taxes” pledge to Grover Norquist, who, last I checked, did not reside in Fitzpatrick’s congressional district (maybe Mikey could be spurred on by some of his Repug playmates who’ve found a collective spine on this issue, as noted here).


  • Welcome To “Unemployment 101”

    July 31, 2010

    And your instructors are Mr. Grayson and Mr. Uygur (and Mr. Herbert).

    (I would be a lot more encouraged if the House chamber attendance wasn’t so sparse for what Grayson said, I should add.)


    Witness The Death Of The Middle Class

    March 7, 2010

    You want to know why I’m sick of hearing about how deficit reduction is supposedly the most important issue we face? Watch this clip and you’ll know why (and more info is here).


    Kyl “Supports” Our Troops Just Like The Unemployed

    March 2, 2010

    Smart move, Arizonans, to keep sending this clown back to the U.S. Senate; a shame he’ll pay no price for this until maybe 2012 at the earliest (and wouldn’t it be nice to give Kyl the opportunity to test his theory on himself?).

    Actually, I’m kind of getting second thoughts about showing this video. You never know; Kyl may say next that it’s better to shoot the unemployed as opposed to trying to revive our seemingly-forever moribund economy and spend the money to create jobs for them.


    Anybody Remember “Compassionate Conservatism”?

    November 20, 2008

    In light of this “Pap Attack” clip from September and this story, I think it’s an appropriate question to ask.

    Update: Looks like Dubya flip-flopped here.


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