Thursday, November 28, 2013

You Don't Know Jack, Current Events Edition

"Test your knowledge of prominent people and major events in the news by taking our short 13-question quiz. Then see how you did in comparison with 1,052 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions in a national survey conducted online August 7-14 by the Pew Research Center. The new survey includes a mixture of multiple-choice questions using photographs, maps, charts, and text."

See the Pew Research Center, The News IQ Quiz

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why the Republi-CONs Have an 'Ahab-Like Determination to Destroy Obamacare'

UPDATE V:  "Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, for instance, is going perfectly well in states that chose to accept it. . .

[I]ndeed, the argument for a broader single-payer health-care system is very much intact. Instead, the elements of Obamacare that are failing are precisely those market-based initiatives that Republicans most want to work."

Read Bloomberg, Obamacare’s Failings Undermine Republican Goals.

UPDATE IV:  The funny thing is, Republi-cons should want Obamacare to work.

"[T]he worst features of Obamacare are the very features that conservatives want to impose on all federal social policy: means-testing, a major role for the states, and subsidies to private providers instead of direct public provision of health or retirement benefits.   This is not surprising, because Obamacare’s models are right-wing models — the Heritage Foundation’s healthcare plan in the 1990s and Mitt Romney’s “Romneycare” in Massachusetts.

This point is worth dwelling on.  Conservatives want all social insurance to look like Obamacare.  The radical right would like to replace Social Security with an Obamacare-like system, in which mandates or incentives pressure Americans to steer money into tax-favored savings accounts like 401(k)s and to purchase annuities at retirement, with means-tested subsidies to help the poor make their private purchases.  And most conservative and libertarian plans for healthcare for the elderly involve replacing Medicare with a totally new system designed along the lines of Obamacare, with similar mandates or incentives to compel the elderly to buy private health insurance from for-profit corporations. . .

Read Salon, Here’s how GOP Obamacare hypocrisy backfires.

UPDATE III:  "It got buried beneath an avalanche of Obamacare scrutiny and anti-Obamacare spin, but the most revealing statement about the future of the Affordable Care Act yesterday came in the form of a flustered conversation between a CNN host and Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C.

[H]ere’s the short version.

An unusual arrangement in the commonwealth of Kentucky gave Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear the power to implement the Affordable Care Act almost by fiat. And he did it. The ironic consequence is that one of the most conservative states in the country, surrounded by states that have by and large tried to obstruct the law, now has one of its best functioning insurance exchanges, Kynect.

Because it was developed independently from — and because Beshear’s administration took great care to make the law work for skeptical constituents — Kynect customers seem to be happy and are signing up by the thousands.

Ellmers’ North Carolina doesn’t share a border with Kentucky but it’s safe to call it a neighboring state. Its population as a whole is less conservative than Kentucky’s, but it’s governed by conservative hard-liners. So it’s no surprise that Ellmers hates Obamacare and uses’s inauspicious launch to bolster the case that it should be repealed.

What’s revealing is that when asked to contend with Obamacare’s relative success across a couple of borders in Kentucky, she plunges into gibberish. She can’t even begin to grapple with it. . .

[These examples show that the U.S. may soon have a] two-tiered healthcare system. One, for most people, that would work pretty well. Another highly dysfunctional one for post-policy conservatives, which would either last until the feds get it right, or slowly shrink over time as states recognized how pointless the stand they were taking really was."

Read Salon, The amazing politics of failure.

UPDATE II:  "The classic definition of chutzpah is the child who kills his parents and then asks for leniency because he's an orphan. But in recent weeks, we've begun to see the Washington definition: A party that does everything possible to sabotage a law and then professes fury when the law's launch is rocky."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s Obamacare chutzpah

UPDATE:  Read also, The New York Times, Why the Health Care Law Scares the G.O.P.

"Washington was shut down because Republicans don't want Obamacare. On the other hand, Obamacare was nearly shut down because so many Americans wanted Obamacare. . .

This is, of course, precisely what Republicans were scared of: That a law they loathe would end up being enthusiastically embraced by millions of Americans -- and thus proving permanent. It's Obamacare's possible success, not its promised failures, that unnerve the GOP. . .

[M]illions of Americans have been waiting for something like Obamacare, and now that they've got it, they're going to want to keep it."

Read the Washington Post, This is what the Republicans were afraid of

Monday, November 18, 2013

I May Be Paranoid, But They Are Watching You

Want to know the extent of the massive surveillance of American citizens by 'our' government, read the Pensacola News Journal, Washington High student's bomb joke no laughing matter, which reported:

"What started out as an apparent joke over Twitter ended in a criminal investigation and the possibility of expulsion for a student at Washington High School.

Investigators were at Booker T. Washington High School last month after a student reportedly tweeted a friend that she 'would pay someone to blow up this school,' according to a Pensacola Police incident report.

'Sure. Where? When?' the friend tweeted in reply.

The Twitter exchange between the Washington student and a Pensacola State College student took place just before 11 a.m. Oct. 29, according to the report. The communication was intercepted by an outside agency. The actual agency that spotted the perceived threat and reported it to the school was unclear, local officials said. (Emphasis added in case you missed it.)

'It was because of the words that were utilized that they informed the school,' Pensacola Police Captain David Alexander said.

Once the school was notified, school officials contacted the police, who were able to track the tweets to an honors student at the high school and a student attending PSC, Alexander said.

'The next thing you know, they were the subject of an investigation,' Alexander said."

If this report doesn't worry you . . .

(The article did note that "detectives determined that the tweets posed no real threat, and no arrests were made.")

Also, read You Better Watch Out, He's Making a List, He Knows When You've Been Bad or Good, and It Ain't Just Santa and Uncle Sam's Naughty List.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Go Ted and the Tea Party, Go!

UPDATE:  Tuesday is a pivotal day for the Tea Party in their civil war with the Republi-con establishment.  They have already lost the battle in NJ, where "highly popular incumbent Chris Christie, who conspicuously spurned the tea party wing, is cruising to reelection. In Virginia, a seat that should be safely Republican has been put in jeopardy. . .

[The Democratic nominee, Terry McAuliffe] shouldn’t have a chance in this race. He’s a liberal from New York, a McLean millionaire, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who served as chief moneyman to Bill and Hillary Clinton. A company he led as chairman until last year, GreenTech, is under federal investigations, and he failed to disclose his investment in a Rhode Island insurance scam that used the identities of dying people."

Read the Washington Post,When the tea party jumped the shark.

Another battle is a special Republican primary runoff for Congress in South Alabama, piting “Bradley Byrne, a lawyer and former Republican officeholder” who is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against "Dean Young, the Tea Party-backed businessman."

Read The New York Times, In Alabama Race, a Test of Business Efforts to Derail Tea Party.
 FYI -- jumping the shark, coined to describe an episode of the 1970s TV show Happy Days, is an idiom "used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery, which is usually a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use [a cartoonish turn towards attention-seeking gimmickry] in a desperate attempt to keep viewers' interest."

"Polling released this week by the Washington Post and ABC News found the GOP’s unfavorability ratings among Americans at an all-time high of 63 percent.

But a closer look at the numbers reveals that this has been accompanied by a massive collapse in 2013 of the GOP brand among core constituencies important in midterm elections: Independents, women, and seniors. The crack Post polling team has produced a new chart demonstrating that in the last year — since just before the 2012 election – there’s been a truly astonishing spike in the GOP’s unfavorable ratings among these core groups:

 The interactive chart (run the cursor on the bars for numbers) shows the GOP’s unfavorable ratings have jumped 19 points among seniors, to 65 percent; 17 points among independents, to 67 percent; and 10 points among women, to 63 percent. Those are all key constituencies in midterm elections."

Read the Washington Post, The implosion of the GOP brand, in one chart.

And invite Sarah to join in too!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Republi-CON 'Health Insurance is Like Any Other Product or Insurance' Myth

UPDATE IV: "In 2009, millions of Americans lacked any health insurance whatsoever and millions more had private health insurance metaphorically designed to explode at the hint of any serious illness or preexisting conditions or exorbitant medical costs.  So, in 2009, 14,000 Americans were losing their health insurance every single day.  And medical bills were prompting more than 60 percent of all bankruptcies in our nation. In other words, many health insurance policies were patently dangerous and unsafe."

Read Salon, The right’s most loathsome Obamacare lie yet.  

UPDATE III:  "Obamacare's critics are going to town on the cancellation letters millions of Americans are receiving from their health insurers, informing them that their health plans won't conform to the new federal standards for health coverage as of Jan. 1. . .

Back in March, Consumer Reports published a study of many of these plans and placed them in a special category: "junk health insurance." Some plans, the magazine declared, may be worse than none at all.

Consumer Reports is right. Plans with monthly premiums in the two figures marketed to customers in their 30s, 40s, or even 50s invariably impose ridiculously low coverage limits. They've typically been pitched to people who couldn't find affordable insurance because of their age or preexisting conditions, or who were so financially strapped that they were lured by the cheap upfront cost. . .

An example from CR: A plan costing $65 a month held by Judith Goss, 48, a Michigan department store employee. When Goss was diagnosed with breast cancer, she discovered the drawbacks of the policy's coverage limits of $1,000 a year for outpatient treatment and $2,000 for hospitalization -- barely enough to cover a day and half a Tylenol in the hospital. She delayed treatment, so her cancer got much worse before she finally opted for surgery. Those sorts of coverage limits are illegal  come Jan. 1. . .

[Or c]onsider the case of Diane Barrette, the 56-year-old Florida woman whose cancellation horror story was reported by a credulous CBS News and picked up by Fox News, which has been a one-stop shop for your Obamacare misinformation needs. (We mentioned the Barrette case on Tuesday.)

CR's Metcalf examined Barrette's Blue Cross Blue Shield policy and made two discoveries: how junky it really is, and how badly her insurer may have misled her about her options. Barrette's $54 monthly premium bought her almost nothing. The policy pays $50 per office visit (which can run two or three times that) and $15 per prescription (which can run to thousands of dollars a month); above that she's on her own. Nothing for a colonoscopy. Nothing for mental health treatment. Up to $50 for hospital and ER services -- and then only if her treatment is for 'complications of pregnancy.' Nothing for outpatient services.

'She's paying $650 a year to be uninsured,' said an insurance expert Metcalf consulted. If she ever had a serious medical problem, 'she would have lost the house she's sitting in.'"

Read the Los Angeles Times, Obamacare hysteria: Don't believe the canceled insurance hype

UPDATE II:  "Republicans are outraged that some Americans must give up their current insurance plans because they don't satisfy Obamacare's new regulations for benefits and pricing. . .

But Republicans are also making a substantive argument here. It’s unconscionable, they say, that lawmakers would force people to give up their current coverage. . .

It’s good politics, I’m sure. It’s also breathtakingly cynical. Republicans have repeatedly endorsed proposals that would take insurance away from many more Americans—and leave them much, much worse off. . .

The real issue here isn’t simply Republican opportunism and hypocrisy—although, please, let’s not ignore that either. The real issue is about the true trade-offs of policy. Both sides offer them. With Obamacare, a small number of people lose their current insurance but they end up with alternative, typically stronger coverage. Under the plans Republicans have endorsed, a larger number of people would lose their current insurance, as people migrated to a more volatile and less secure marketplace. Under Obamacare, the number of Americans without health insurance at all will come down, eventually by 30 or 40 million. Under most of the Republican plans, the number of Americans without insurance would rise."

The New Republic, Guess Who Really Wants to Take Away Your Insurance: Republicans.  

UPDATE:  Speaking of winners and losers, under Obamacare "ninety-seven per cent of Americans are either left alone or are clear winners, while three per cent are arguably losers. . . 'no law in the history of America makes everyone better off.'"

Read The New Yorker, Obamacare’s Three Per Cent.

This is a great explanation of the nature of health insurance:

"[H]ealth insurance isn't like a toaster or, more to the point, . . . like other kinds of insurance.

Most insurance products are designed to turn an individual's risk of loss into a predictable cost. For example, your premium on homeowner's insurance should equal your expected average annual claims plus a profit margin for the insurer. If your home is in a high-crime neighborhood or especially susceptible to natural disasters, you'll pay more.

Because of this, we can more or less let people buy whatever kind of homeowner's insurance they like, or none at all.

But health insurance doesn't just allow individuals to turn risks into fixed expenses. It is also designed to shift costs across individuals, away from the sick and toward the healthy. If you have foreseeably high health costs, your health insurance premium will be less than your expected claims; if you're likely to be healthy, it will exceed them.

This system is a kind of shadow fiscal policy, redistributing income from the healthy to the sick. It can only work if consumer choice is restricted in such a way that many people are induced to buy policies that cost much more than they can expect to get back. . .

[As a  2006 paper from Georgetown's Health Policy Institute noted] 'these rules protect consumers from dramatic premium increases when they are sick, or at renewal after they become sick.' . .

That's a summary of the "private" health insurance system we have today: Subsidize and regulate to push as many people as possible into insurance pools, and shift costs among them so the healthy subsidize the sick. . .

"[C]onservatives will say that health insurance should be a normal insurance product and not a tool of fiscal redistribution. But we have this system for a reason: chronic health conditions are really expensive, and they can't be addressed through one-year contracts. Addressing the problem of uninsurability requires either heavy-handed regulation of the sort we have now and will have under Obamacare, or some other heavy-handed non-market alternative, like a single-payer plan for catastrophic health expenses. . .

[Thje fact is that] health insurance is not really a private product but a government program creating winners and losers, and the terms of the debate are about who will win and who will lose. Democrats want the poor and the sick to win. Republicans want people with existing coverage and high tax rates to win. Neither side is calling for a free market."

Read Business Insider, Here's The Truth About Your 'Private' Health Insurance — It's Already A Big Government Program

Obama, the Incompetent Nuclear Saboteur

"IT’S COMPLETELY TRUE, we read it on [on the Internet] . . .

[For the second time this month] a completely imaginary nuclear attack by Barack Obama has been foiled, and that the wingnut email network has carried the news far and wide. It’s got something to do with his plans to take all the guns and turn over the United States to the UN/Radical Islam/the Shriners or something. He is just the least competent nuclear saboteur to ever hold the position of Commander in Chief, isn’t he?"

Read Wonkette, We Are All Going To Feel Pretty Stupid When Barack Obama Really Does Nuke Charleston, South Carolina

And don't tell me it's not true, or what Snopes says, I heard the Pastor say it on WEBY, and we all know how accurate he was  reporting the Chinese missile launch over California, and his predictions of impeachment because of the fraudulent birth certificate and the soon-to-be apocalypse (to mention just a few of his many pronouncements).  He is not part of the fundamentalist subculture of ignorance that embraces 'discredited, ridiculous and even dangerous ideas'.