Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pete Stark: "Medical Unicorns"

Why are co-ops a non-starter in the health care reform debate? Because they won't work. On Thursday Pete Stark blasted them:

there is no real example of either the regulation [of health co-ops], or how you would establish them, or where they would get enough people to have a purchasing base. So you might as well talk about unicorns.
From a paper released Thursday,
a public health insurance option could also lead to a more transparent market. As long as insurers conceal provider prices, price competition in provider markets is unlikely. As long as coverage protocols and utilization data are concealed, quality competition among plans is unlikely. The coverage protocols and provider payment rates of the public option, on the other hand, would be open to the public. And data on the utilization of health care services under the public plan would be available for expert analysis and reporting, just as Medicare data are now.

Finally, the public option is necessary as a backstop against risk selection. It takes more than simply prohibiting risk selection to stop it. Even with risk adjustment and strong non-discrimination rules, private insurers are likely to find a way to dodge people whose costs are expected to be high in order to protect profitability. The job of the public option, on the other hand, is to accept, not to avoid, risks and to be accountable to the public, not shareholders.
What mcjoan said:
That's what all the fuss is about, why this has become the key element of a proposal for so many people. We want the damned reform to actually work. Co-ops won't make it work, they just aren't going to be robust enough to do the job. Insurance reform is really good, and we very much need that, too, but it isn't going to be enough either. For one thing, does anybody seriously believe that our government could set up a strict regulatory scheme that insurance companies would actually follow? That'd be a first.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Barack Obama's Farewell To Ted Kennedy

From CBS here is the video from Senator Kennedy's funeral today and a truly magnificent farewell from the President.

Untold stories: thousands of American expats are medically exiled health care refugees

Moving testimonial about a little-known aspect of our current health-care system:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Cartoon Explains the Public Plan in under 5 Minutes

Great cartoon does an awesome job of explaining the proposed new federal health insurance plan:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

There And Back Again: An Inaugural Adventure

An Oklahoma meteorology student, Greg Blumberg, had almost the exact same experience at Barack Obama's inauguration that my daughter and I had, including

We got stopped here. This was the end of our trip.

Go take a look. The photos at the site explain better than I could ever do in words what horrendous crowd management conditions existed that day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What Health Care Overhaul Means For You

In this NPR article, What Health Care Overhaul Means For You, there is a good interactive visualization of what the healthcare public option proposal would mean for Americans with different levels and types of coverage.  One of the commenters there wrote:

It has been my experience that people who have a disdain for helping others have never really had the experience of bad luck or disaster. Though some people who experience difficulties become hardened or bitter against others, most don't. Once these people find themselves in a situation really beyond their control with their heads underwater and struggling to stay afloat, then they start to get the rest of us who have experienced some of the rougher waters of life and who have learned that many times those who suffer don't "deserve it". That’s why I believe in safety nets. …

I don't understand this reluctance of Americans to spend American money on our own people. People had no problem giving Bush/Cheney a trillion dollars for their "war" for a country on the other side of the planet, why aren't you willing to spend our money making sure our own are cared for? All Americans deserve universal health coverage. Every other country that provides health care to all (including people who get sick when visiting their country) provides this care and it costs them a LOT LESS than what Americans are paying right now - and we aren't getting universal care!

I could not agree more.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hillary Clinton Redefining State Department

David Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in the Washington Post writes

what is Clinton actually doing? Only overseeing what may be the most profound changes in U.S. foreign policy in two decades -- a transformation that may render the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush mere side notes in a long transition to a meaningful post-Cold War worldview.

The secretary has quietly begun rethinking the very nature of diplomacy and translating that vision into a revitalized State Department, one that approaches U.S. allies and rivals in ways that challenge long-held traditions. And despite the pessimists who invoked the "team of rivals" cliche to predict that President Obama and Clinton would not get along, Hillary has defined a role for herself in the Obamaverse: often bad cop to his good cop, spine stiffener when it comes to tough adversaries and nurturer of new strategies. Recognizing that the 3 a.m. phone calls are going to the White House, she is instead tackling the tough questions that, since the end of the Cold War, have kept America's leaders awake all night.
Clinton's State Department can take on a bigger role in tackling the problems of the future -- in particular, how America will lead the world in the century ahead. This approach is both necessary and canny: It recognizes that U.S. policy must change to fulfill Obama's vision and that many high-profile issues such as those of the Middle East have often swamped the careers and aspirations of secretaries of state past.

Which nations will be our key partners? What do you do when many vital partners -- China, for example, and Russia -- are rivals as well? How must America's alliances change as NATO is stretched to the limit? How do we engage with rogue states and old enemies in ways that do not strengthen them and preserve our prerogative to challenge threats? How do we move beyond the diplomacy of men in striped pants speaking only for governments and embrace potent nonstate players and once-disenfranchised peoples?

In searching for answers, Clinton is leaving behind old doctrines and labels. She outlined her new thinking in a recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where she revealed stark differences between the new administration's worldview and those of its predecessors: The recurring themes include "partnership" and "engagement" and "common interests." Clearly, Madeleine Albright's "indispensable nation" has recognized the indispensability of collaborating with others.
by most accounts, the administration's national security team has come together successfully, with Clinton developing strong relationships with national security adviser Jones and Defense Secretary Gates. Her policy deputy, Jim Steinberg, has renewed an old collaboration with deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon; the two of them, working with Obama campaign foreign policy advisers Denis McDonough and Mark Lippert, have formed what one State Department seventh-floor dweller called "a powerful quartet at the heart of real interagency policymaking." ...
At the heart of things, though, is the relationship between Clinton and Obama. For all the administration's talk of international partnerships, that may be the most critical partnership of all.

So far, according to multiple high-level officials at State and the White House, the two seem aligned in their views. In addition, they are gradually defining complementary roles. Obama has assumed the role of principal spokesperson on foreign policy, as international audiences welcome his new and improved American brand. Clinton thus far has echoed his points but has also delivered tougher ones. Whether on a missile shield against Iran or North Korean saber-rattling, the continued imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma or rape and corruption in Congo, the secretary of state has spoken bluntly on the world stage
What a refreshing change from the last eight years of "I'll-kick-your-ass" belligerance!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

"Take advantage of me and I will crush you"

Paraphrased: "You come straight at me and I'll come straight at you, but if you take advantage of me, I will crush you." Let's see some of this attitude against the Republicans in the health-care debate.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Paul Krugman on Obama’s Trust Problem

Paul Krugman a couple days ago wrote:

"it’s possible to have universal coverage without a public option — several European nations do it — and some who want a public option might be willing to forgo it if they had confidence in the overall health care strategy. Unfortunately, the president’s behavior in office has undermined that confidence.

On the issue of health care itself, the inspiring figure progressives thought they had elected comes across, far too often, as a dry technocrat who talks of “bending the curve” but has only recently begun to make the moral case for reform. Mr. Obama’s explanations of his plan have gotten clearer, but he still seems unable to settle on a simple, pithy formula; his speeches and op-eds still read as if they were written by a committee."
What we need most of all is for the President to cast this debate within the frame of the moral case for reform. It should have been so from the beginning.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, August 21, 2009

The PolicySpeak Disaster

I have long admired George Lakoff's ability and teaching on framing and messaging. In a post at Huffpo and DailyKos, George Lakoff discusses the Obama Administration's "PolicySpeak Disaster."

PolicySpeak is the principle that: If you just tell people the policy facts, they will reason to the right conclusion and support the policy wholeheartedly.

PolicySpeak is the principle behind the President’s new Reality Check Website. To my knowledge, the Reality Check Website, has not had a reality check. ...
To many liberals, PolicySpeak sounds like the high road: a rational, public discussion in the best tradition of liberal democracy. Convince the populace rationally on the objective policy merits. Give the facts and figures. Assume self-interest as the motivator of rational choice. Convince people by the logic of the policymakers that the policy is in their interest.

But to a cognitive scientist or neuroscientist, this sounds nuts. The view of human reason and language behind PolicySpeak is just false. Certainly reason should be used. It’s just that you should use real reason, the way people really think. Certainly the truth should be told. It’s just that it should be told so it makes sense to people, resonates with them, and inspires them to act.
In this health-care debate, the President's advisors have fallen into the classic policyspeak framing disaster to which we on the left are so often prone. The White House would do well to get a cognitive scientist like George Lakoff on board, and fast.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's About Corporate Money

According to one poll after another, a majority of Americans not only want a public option in healthcare, they also think
• that growing inequality is bad for the country,
• that corporations have too much power over policy,
• that money in politics is the root of all evil, and
• that working families and poor communities need and deserve public support when the market fails to generate shared prosperity.

But when insiders in Washington finish tearing worthy intentions apart, devouring flesh from bone, none of these reforms happen. Oh, they say it’s all about compromise, all in the nature of the give-and-take of representative democracy. That, people, is bull, the basic nutrient of Washington’s high and mighty.

It’s not about compromise. It’s not about what the public wants. It’s about money, the golden ticket to the “select few who actually get it done.” And nothing will change – nothing – until the money lenders are thrown out of the temple and we tear down the sign that they placed on government – the one that says, “For Sale.”

Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal, July 10, 2009

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Barack Obama: Superhero

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, June 19, 2009

Health Care Reform Countdown - The Wait is Killing Us!

God, please HELP us!

150 days, 14 hours, 0 minutes, and 58 seconds
have passed since the Democrats were entrusted with
total control over the government and promised us health care reform!

Deaths of people without Healthcare access 8,246

Total Deaths Today: 32

Since 9/11/2001, 175,451 have died due to lack of health care. That's the same as 62 nine-elevens.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why the next Justice should be a Woman

Ruth Marcus explains why it's important that the next Supreme Court justice be a woman:

As important, though, is the inescapable fact that a female justice -- like a justice who's a member of a racial minority, or who's served in elective office, or who's been in private practice -- brings a useful set of life experiences to the art of judging. Because it is an art; it involves the exercise of judgment, not scientific measurement.

Those from the umpire school -- funny how that's a male metaphor -- would prefer not to think so. In an interview with CNBC shortly after O'Connor's retirement, Justice Antonin Scalia said that "as far as the product of the court is concerned, it makes no difference at all. I don't think there's . . . a female legal answer to a question and a male legal answer to the same question. That's just silly."

Sure it is, phrased that way. But life experiences inform the act of judging, and the experience of being a female justice comes into play at certain moments.

Ginsburg, in an interview with USA Today, cited two from this term: one involving school officials who strip-searched a 13-year-old-girl, and another on pregnancy discrimination. In the strip-search case, some justices questioned the notion that the girl was traumatized by the event; Ginsburg suggested that they just didn't get it. "They have never been a 13-year-old girl," she told USA Today. "It's a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn't think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Inauguration Week Experiences in DC

My 15-year-old daughter and I had a wonderful time during our stay in DC from Saturday to Wednesday. We stayed at the home of a very nice elderly couple who offered a room for rent through their church, saw a college friend who came over from Baltimore with his family, went to the National Zoo, attended a "bash" at the Air & Space Museum sponsored by the California Democratic Party, saw the Holocaust, Natural History and International Spy Museums and National Archives.

On Inauguration Day, the whole atmosphere was one of euphoria all day long, with everyone realizing they were there to witness history and being all nice to each other. There were loud cheers by the crowd at many moments during the swearing-in ceremony. It was the only day of its kind in history, but I hope that we can have more days that approach this kind of euphoria in the months and years ahead with the Obama administration.

We had "silver" tickets, which entitled us to stand in the silver section on the west side of the Capitol Reflecting Pool. There were many thousands of ticket holders who never made it past the excruciatingly SLOW security gates because of the complete LACK of crowd control, signage, bullhorns, information, authorities and staff people and not enough metal detectors. This affected the purple, blue and silver gates. I pity the poor purple ticket holders who were stuck like sardines in a tunnel for hours with NO assistance whatsoever.

By going to an alternate security gate on the parade route (no tickets required), we waited in a crowd for only a bit less than two hours and finally made it in at about 11:00 a.m. There were only four metal detectors for the thousands seeking entrance there. We never made it into the silver ticketed section, a mere 30 yards away, because of police and barricades. We were across from the Canadian Embassy at 4th and Pennsylvania, where our view of the Capitol was blocked by the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. There were speakers across the street that were providing the NPR live commentary about the proceedings.

But using binoculars and a view that was partially blocked by tree branches, we watched a Jumbotron that was next to the Capitol lawn, then waited over 3 hours to see the parade and Obama's motorcade. The "crowd" was only one person deep on our side of the street, with three police officers lining Pennsylvania Ave. for every spectator in the area we were standing.

Then as the presidential limo approached, my video camera ran out of space to record (argh!). But then Michelle and Sasha waved at us, which was memorable. I could see Barack waving on the other side of the car. A block after they passed us, Michelle and Barack got out of the car to walk.

It was so cold, before and after this, that we left and did not stay for the rest of the parade. It was obvious that it would not finish until after dark. But as it turned out, because of all the police barricades, we had to walk up Constitution Avenue toward the Washington Monument to get out of the secured area, and the entire parade was lined up on that street waiting for the start. A few marching bands were practicing.

My daughter and I bought some souvenirs from the vendors and then got on the still-packed Metro train for the ride back to the National Zoo stop, where we had stayed nearby.

It was for us an experience of a lifetime that we will always hold close.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Great Obama Photo Gallery Covering the Last Several Years

Check out this photo gallery by Barack Obama's photographer, Pete Souza. He is now the new official White House photographer, and he was also Ronald Reagan's photographer.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]