Friday Reads

blanco-jun-1933-frontGood Morning!!

It’s pretty common knowledge that the increasing cost of health care is the real issue that most economists see as the driver for increased federal and state deficit spending issues in the future.  Time Magazine has a good article up that discusses how rapidly increasing costs are an issue for governments and families alike. The information is surrounded by personal family stories that are heartbreaking.

When we debate health care policy, we seem to jump right to the issue of who should pay the bills, blowing past what should be the first question: Why exactly are the bills so high?

What are the reasons, good or bad, that cancer means a half-million- or million-dollar tab? Why should a trip to the emergency room for chest pains that turn out to be indigestion bring a bill that can exceed the cost of a semester of college? What makes a single dose of even the most wonderful wonder drug cost thousands of dollars? Why does simple lab work done during a few days in a hospital cost more than a car? And what is so different about the medical ecosystem that causes technology advances to drive bills up instead of down?

Recchi’s bill and six others examined line by line for this article offer a closeup window into what happens when powerless buyers — whether they are people like Recchi or big health-insurance companies — meet sellers in what is the ultimate seller’s market.

The result is a uniquely American gold rush for those who provide everything from wonder drugs to canes to high-tech implants to CT scans to hospital bill-coding and collection services. In hundreds of small and midsize cities across the country — from Stamford, Conn., to Marlton, N.J., to Oklahoma City — the American health care market has transformed tax-exempt “nonprofit” hospitals into the towns’ most profitable businesses and largest employers, often presided over by the regions’ most richly compensated executives. And in our largest cities, the system offers lavish paychecks even to midlevel hospital managers, like the 14 administrators at New York City’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who are paid over $500,000 a year, including six who make over $1 million.

Taken as a whole, these powerful institutions and the bills they churn out dominate the nation’s economy and put demands on taxpayers to a degree unequaled anywhere else on earth. In the U.S., people spend almost 20% of the gross domestic product on health care, compared with about half that in most developed countries. Yet in every measurable way, the results our health care system produces are no better and often worse than the outcomes in those countries.

According to one of a series of exhaustive studies done by the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm, we spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia.

Slavery is still an issue around the world.  It involves people of all ages and occurs in a surprising number of countries.  Why is slavery still thriving?

A lot of people are pretty excited that Mississippi has decided to join the rest of the nation in outlawing human bondage. But in these celebrations, we seem to have forgotten one thing: Modern-day slavery is still a thriving industry, both in Mississippi and in the dancer klimtthe rest of the nation.

In fact, Mississippi is something of regional slave transportation hub, according to the state’s special assistant attorney general Heather Wagner, who explains that the easy highway access to nearby major cities and the Gulf Coast ports make the state a trafficking corridor. The state recently passed rules requiring longer prison sentences for people caught enslaving and trafficking humans, such as the two Mississippi men who were recently indicted for selling or buying of children after being caught with a video that shows them enslaving and raping a girl about three years old.

To be fair, human and sex trafficking isn’t unique to Mississippi. According to the Department of Homeland Security, this industry–which the website describes as “ modern-day slavery”–is thriving across the United States. Recent examples abound: The 17 young women from Mexico who were brought to the U.S., held in captivity in New York State and forced to work as prostitutes; the firefighter in Baltimore who allegedly enslaved women in a brothel; the 20 Togolese women or girls who were transported to the U.S. and forced to work in hair salons in New Jersey. Nationally; an estimated 244,000 American children are at risk of being enslaved and forced into sex work alone–that doesn’t even include the thousands of additional people who are transported to the U.S., held in captivity and forced to work picking tomatoes or strawberries for WalMart. Globally, slavery recognized as one of the most lucrative illegal industries. An estimated 27 million are enslaved, generating $32 billion annually.And that’s just illegal slavery; state-sanctioned bondage is another thriving industry with that entraps millions of people and generates billions of dollars. With one of the most punitive states in the nation, Mississippi is a model of the incarceration nation

Minx fed my interest in graves with this discovery of a warrior’s grave in Russia.

Hidden in a necropolis situated high in the mountains of the Caucasus in Russia, researchers have discovered the grave of a male warrior laid to rest with gold jewelry, iron chain mail and numerous weapons, including a 36-inch (91 centimeters) iron sword set between his legs.

That is just one amazing find among a wealth of ancient treasures dating back more than 2,000 years that scientists have uncovered there.

Among their finds are two bronze helmets, discovered on the surface of the necropolis. One helmet (found in fragments and restored) has relief carvings of curled sheep horns while the other has ridges, zigzags and other odd shapes.

Derr-Herr-Magazine-Cover-from-1921 Radical Right Republicans and the establishment republicans continue to reject Karl Rove with a variety of insults and personal comments made public.  Here’s an example.  There are more at the Bloomberg.com article.

Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the Conservative Victory Project and American Crossroads, said the groups had “come to the conclusion that we need to increase the caliber of candidates running for office in Republican primaries, and our goal is to elect the most conservative candidates in primaries who can win” general election contests against Democrats.“We have made absolutely clear we are not trying to pick a fight with the Tea Party,” Collegio said. “We are simply trying to pick the best candidates available.”

That’s not how David Bossie, president of Citizens United, a Washington-based group that says it is “dedicated to restoring our government to citizens’ control,” sees it.

“I like it that voters get to decide,” Bossie said. “I think Rove is trying to defend himself and deflect from his failure. I hear from donors. I hear from grassroots people across the country who are offended by the very fact that Karl Rove thinks he knows best.”

“If American Crossroads has done a great job, why create some new entity with the name conservative in it?” Bossie asked. “So everybody thinks it’s good because it is from a conservative outfit?”

Hope you’ve stocked up on plenty of popcorn because this is certainly getting more interesting as their losing days wear on. There seems to be an amazing race in banana republican states to see which one can pass the most restrictive abortion laws.  Yes, yes.  Republicans are all about small government and less regulation.

A Republican-controlled committee in the Arkansas House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday that bans abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected, with exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and highly lethal fetal disorders. The law, if passed, would be the most extreme abortion restriction in the country.

The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee also approved a Senate-passed bill that bans abortions at 20 weeks after conception. Both bills defy the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which prevents states from banning abortions before the fetus is viable — usually between 22 and 24 weeks of gestation.

Opponents of the so-called “heartbeat bill” argue that it would prevent women from having abortions before many of them even realize they’re pregnant.

“Let’s call this bill what it is: bumper-sticker message legislation with no chance of standing up in court, designed to dial the clock back 40 years on women’s rights,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group. “This extreme ban will either force women already facing tough economic circumstances to travel to a neighboring state to access constitutionally protected health care or to turn to dangerous, clandestine options that could ruin or even end their lives.”

Well, this is certainly an interesting use of FBI resources.

Apparently FBI agents are mixing work with play a little too much. CNN obtained confidential internal memos scolding employees for a variety of violations, including bugging a boss’s office, paying for sex in a massage parlor, sending nude pictures to coworkers, and “a rash of sexting cases.” “When you are given an FBI BlackBerry, it’s for official use. It’s not to text the woman in another office who you found attractive or to send a picture of yourself in a state of undress. That is not why we provide you an FBI BlackBerry,”  FBI assistant director Candice Will told CNN. She added that though she thinks she’s seen it all in her time at the FBI, she continues to get files that surprise her.

With that, I turn the reins of discussion to you.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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30 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Charlie Cook at the National Journal argues that President Obama should not state his opinions on policy.

    Why Obama Should Sit Down and Keep Quiet

    Every time Obama takes a public stand on immigration, he makes it that much more difficult for Republican members of Congress to support it. Keep in mind that 94 percent of House Republicans are in districts Mitt Romney carried and that 34 of 45 GOP senators represent states Obama lost. As a result, most congressional Republicans are far more afraid of losing a primary to a more conservative challenger than a general election to a Democrat. It is a lot easier for them to support an immigration bill that has broad-based support in the business and farming communities (and that also happens to be supported by Obama and the Democratic leadership) than to back a bill so popularly identified with the other side. If the president really cares about enacting immigration reform, he will get off the campaign trail, depoliticize it, and keep as quiet about it as he can.

    To a hammer, everything looks like a nail; too often with this White House, the solution to any challenge is ramping up campaign-style events. Bad idea.

    Oh really?

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Great Krugman post this morning: Alan Simpson and Bernie Madoff

    But it’s not just the goldbugs who benefit from affinity fraud, a point driven home by Ezra Klein’s piece on Alan Simpson. Simpson is, demonstrably, grossly ignorant on precisely the subjects on which he is treated as a guru, not understanding the finances of Social Security, the truth about life expectancy, and much more. He is also a reliably terrible forecaster, having predicted an imminent fiscal crisis — within two years — um, two years ago. Yet he remains not only respectable among the Beltway crowd; as Ezra says, he’s lionized in a way that looks from the outside like a clear violation of journalistic norms:

    For reasons I’ve never quite understood, the rules of reportorial neutrality don’t apply when it comes to the deficit. On this one issue, reporters are permitted to openly cheer a particular set of highly controversial policy solutions. At Tuesday’s Playbook breakfast, for instance, Mike Allen, as a straightforward and fair a reporter as you’ll find, asked Simpson and Bowles whether they believed Obama would do “the right thing” on entitlements — with “the right thing” clearly meaning “cut entitlements.”

    • bostonboomer says:

      So what is it that makes Simpson the figure he is? Clearly, it’s an affinity thing: never mind his obvious lack of knowledge, his ludicrous track record, reporters trust and idolize Simpson because he’s their kind of guy.

      And think about what it says about them that their kind of guy is this cantankerous, potty-mouthed individual, who evidently feels not a bit of empathy for those less fortunate.

    • dakinikat says:

      It reminds me of the pre-Itaq war coverage frankly.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    I did not know that Sen. Ted Cruz of TX was born in Canada and is a naturalized citizen. Yet he presumes to judge who is a “real American.”

  4. Joanelle says:

    We also need to obliteratenthebpork that hangs from every stinking bill they pass. Of the $50 billion that is supposedly going to NJ Sandy victims only about 50-60% will actually end up going to mitigate the problems. AUURRGH! I’m on a task force raising and giving funds to those folks in need – driving though some of those areas and speaking with those left homeless and broken is absolutely heart breaking.

    • dakinikat says:

      Take it from a Katrina survivor … they will never do enough and a lot of it will go to cronies and never do any one any good. It’s still a mess down here in the neighborhoods.

  5. RalphB says:

    Been reading Steve Brill’s piece in TIme but I have to do it slowly and take breaks because the whole business of health care pisses me off too much. With their lobbying muscle, I despair of ever fixing anything.

    • janicen says:

      I worked on the payor end of healthcare for several years and I can tell you the entire system is built so that costs will continue to escalate, unfettered, until someone puts the breaks on. Only government can fix this problem. All of the private interests are profit driven and therefore cannot and will not control costs. Ironically, it costs private insurers more to investigate and control suspicious charges than it does for them to just pay them and pass the costs along to the consumers. Nobody is going to stop this until the government steps in.

  6. dakinikat says:

    More insane right wing “journalism”:

    Kuhner: Kerry Will Begin ‘Crushing Capitalism’ to Advance ‘Green Socialism’
    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/kuhner-kerry-will-begin-crushing-capitalism-advance-green-socialism

    In a column today, Washington Times writer Jeffrey Kuhner claims that Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent speech about the United States’ failure to confront the reality of climate change really represents a plot to destroy capitalism and America itself.

  7. dakinikat says:

    Did A Cross-Dressing Priest Sex Ring Bring Down Benedict XVI? | http://ow.ly/hXPqs

    According to several well-placed vaticanisti–or Vatican experts–in Rome, Benedict is resigning after being handed a secret red-covered dossier that included details about a network of gay priests who work inside the Vatican, but who play in secular Rome. The priests, it seems, are allegedly being blackmailed by a network of male prostitutes who worked at a sauna in Rome’s Quarto Miglio district, a health spa in the city center, and a private residence once entrusted to a prominent archbishop. The evidence reportedly includes compromising photos and videos of the prelates–sometimes caught on film in drag, and, in some cases, caught ‘in the act’.

  8. dakinikat says:

    What Future for the Women’s Movement? (Rosen) http://www.juancole.com/2013/02/future-womens-movement.html

    So, yes, we’ve come a long way, but without achieving full access to legal abortion, comprehensive childcare, or equal pay — those three demands from so many decades ago. Nor have we won the right to enjoy public space without fearing violence, rape, or worse..

    • Dak, I’ve got another link that is in line with Cole’s….only it is about women’s rights in Egypt:
      When Egypt Deletes Women’s Rights Heroines From School Textbooks – All News Is Global |

      It was a landmark day when prominent women’s rights activist Doria Shafiq bravely led a march of 1,500 women to storm the gates of the Egyptian Parliament on Feb. 19, 1951.

      After several hours of unrelenting protest, Shafiq was finally received inside Parliament, where the council agreed to consider the demands of Egyptian women.

      Along with her predecessors, including Hoda Shaarawi, Nabawiya Moussa and Ceza Nabarawi, Shafiq remains one of the 20th-century pioneers of the women’s liberation movement in Egypt. Her march to Parliament later led to the inclusion of women’s suffrage in the 1956 Constitution.

      But, despite her many feats, Shafiq is likely to be forgotten in the minds of future generations in Egypt.

      The 2013–2014 editions of the Egyptian National Education textbooks have been edited to delete the picture of Doriya Shafiq and pictures of those killed during the Jan. 25 revolution. Shafiq’s image was removed from the high-school textbook because she was not veiled.

      But, as the subversion of Egyptian women continues, local human rights activists have become more creative in their fight for women’s equality, representation and rights.

      Seen through local street art collectives like Noon El Neswa, the Mona Lisa Brigades and various independent efforts, a new wave of street art and visual campaigns seeks to challenge the low status of Egyptian women by painting them in a positive light.

      Read the rest, it is an interesting piece.

  9. bostonboomer says:

    If someone posted this already, I apologize. Bloomberg editorial says that the profits of the big banks are “almost entirely a gift from U.S. taxpayers.”

    • RalphB says:

      Shame we can’t even get Dodd-Frank implemented. We should reform the whole sector of banking regulations. Maybe after the GOP is dead?

  10. dakinikat says:

    UK’s credit rating downgraded from AAA to AA1 by Moody’s http://gu.com/p/3e2cn/tf

    wow, austerity sure helped the UK.

  11. bostonboomer says:

    Six underground nuclear waste tanks are leaking in Washington state.