Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Stories

matisse_woman_reading

Good Morning!!

Dakinikat has arrived safely in Seattle, where she’ll be visiting with her father, her sister, and her elder daughter Jean. I’m going to fill in for her tomorrow morning, but she’ll be back to her regular blogging schedule soon.

I have no idea what’s happening in the news, because I spent last night watching two PBS shows on the JFK assassination. I’ve still been plowing through JFK books too. But RalphB posted a very interesting link last night that I want to highlight. From Jonathan Cohn, via Bob Cesca, Jonathan Cohn explains How to Interpret Obamacare’s Low Enrollment Numbers for October.

According to HHS calculations, 846,852 people have used the site to complete applications. That means they have created accounts and submitted information to see whether they are eligible for federal programs or tax credits. Those applications include people applying for households with multiple members. In total, it represents 1,509,883 people. The federal government has processed applications for the vast majority of them—98 percent, or 1,477,853 people. Of those, about a third have actually selected a health plan or been deemed eligible for a program like Medicaid. That’s 502,466.

How does that half million break down? About four out of five (396,261) are in Medicaid. The rest (106,185) of them have picked private insurance plans. These numbers include both those who enrolled through the website that the federal government is maintaining (healthcare.gov) and those who enrolled through sites that states like California, Kentucky, and Connecticut are running on their own. The majority (three-fourths) of the people getting private insurance have done so through state sites. Just a quarter, or 26,794, have enrolled through the federal site.

But because the media narrative is that the the Obamacare rollout is “failed,” “botched,” and “worse than expected,” all we’re hearing is the 106,185 figure–as if getting people covered by Medicaid doesn’t count. Tell that to the previously uninsured families who will now be able to take their sick kids to a doctor! By the way, in the first month of the Massachusetts health care exchanges, only 123 people signed up. As Bob Cesca puts it,

because there’s an “Obamacare is a Failed Policy” script that must be serviced, the lowest number of the batch has to be quoted. That’s why you’ve been reading about 106,000 rather than 1.5 million.

Have I told you lately how much I think the corporate media sucks?

secret service badge

At a time when many Americans are remembering the JFK assassination and the lax security that contributed to his death, we’re learning about another scandal in the Secret Service. From The Washington Post: Two Secret Service agents cut from Obama’s detail after alleged misconduct.

A call from the Hay-Adams hotel this past spring reporting that a Secret Service agent was trying to force his way into a woman’s room set in motion an internal investigation that has sent tremors through an agency still trying to restore its elite reputation.

The incident came a year after the agency was roiled by a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, prompting vows from senior officials to curb a male-dominated culture of hard partying and other excesses….

The disruption at the Hay-Adams in May involved Ignacio Zamora Jr., a senior supervisor who oversaw about two dozen agents in the Secret Service’s most elite assignment — the president’s security detail. Zamora was allegedly discovered attempting to reenter a woman’s room after accidentally leaving behind a bullet from his service weapon. The incident has not been previously reported.

In a follow-up investigation, agency officials also found that Zamora and another supervisor, Timothy Barraclough, had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to a female subordinate, according to those with knowledge of the case. Officials have removed Zamora from his position and moved Barraclough off the detail to a separate part of the division, people familiar with the case said.

The misconduct wasn’t reported to the inspector general until the end of October after the WaPo had started investigating the incident, but

According to the Secret Service’s internal findings, Zamora was off duty when he met a woman at the hotel’s Off the Record bar and later joined her in her room.

The review found that Zamora had removed ammunition from the chamber of his government-issued handgun during his stay in the room and then left behind a single bullet. He returned to the room when he realized his mistake. The guest refused to let him back in. Zamora identified himself to hotel security as a Secret Service agent.

The report apparently didn’t explain why Zamora took a bullet out of this gun or why the woman refused to let him back into her room. We’ll all have to draw our own conclusions.

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen, Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Reserve, will be appearing before the Senate Banking Committee today for her confirmation hearing.

US News and World Report lists “three things to expect” from the hearing: 1.) Republicans talking about inflation, 2) “measured reassurances” to nervous Republicans about nonexisitant inflation from Yellen, and 3) “a jumpy stock market.”

USA Today offers “five things to watch for”: 1) “can she handle a national stage,” 2) “Will she sound like Greenspan or Bernanke?” 3) “How will Yellen reconcile the Fed’s dual mandate to boost employment while keeping inflation low with her own economic philosophy?” 4) “Will she drop clues on tapering?” 5) “How will she handle questions about “too big to fail” banks?”

If Yellen were a man, would USA Today be asking if she can “handle a national stage?” As for question 2, she’ll sound like Bernanke obviously. Read USA today’s speculations at the link.

On the stock question, markets are responding favorably so far. From the WSJ: U.S. Stock Futures Inch Higher.

U.S. stock futures held steady near record levels, as dovish comments from Federal Reserve chairwoman nominee Janet Yellen helped offset disappointing results from some blue-chip companies.

European markets rose as sluggish euro-zone growth figures suggested accommodative monetary policies would remain in place for some time….

Investors will be keenly focused on Ms. Yellen’s confirmation hearing before the Senate banking committee, starting at 10 a.m. In her planned opening statement, released late Wednesday, Ms. Yellen said that because unemployment is still too high, and inflation is running below target levels, the Fed is using its monetary-policy tools, even unconventional ones like asset purchases, to promote a more robust recovery.

“I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy,” Ms. Yellen said.

Investors will be listening to the question-and-answer period for any clues on when she might expect to start winding down, or tapering, the $85-billion-a-month bond purchase program.

From Bloomberg Businessweek: Yellen Says U.S. Performing ‘Far Short’ of Potential.

“A strong recovery will ultimately enable the Fed to reduce its monetary accommodation and reliance on unconventional policy tools such as asset purchases,” Yellen said in testimony prepared for her nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee today in Washington. “Supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy.”

Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairman, voiced her commitment to using bond purchases known as quantitative easing to boost growth and lower unemployment that remains above 7 percent more than four years after the economy began to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

“Her approach is, ‘Let’s do more QE now to get the job done faster,’ ” said Laura Rosner, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas SA in New York and a former researcher at the New York Fed. “Yellen is repeating her commitment to getting the job done.”

In three pages of prepared remarks for the 10 a.m. hearing, released yesterday, Yellen, 67, said unemployment is “still too high, reflecting a labor market and economy performing far short of their potential,” and that inflation is expected to remain below the Fed’s 2 percent goal. She also highlighted areas where the economy has improved, saying housing “seems to have turned a corner” and the auto industry has made an “impressive comeback.”

bodies

The situation in the Philippines is still desperate, according to the NYT: Traumatized City in the Philippines Begins to Bury Its Dead.

TACLOBAN, the Philippines — Pausing occasionally to dodge driving rains by hiding under loose scraps of plywood, a group of firefighters lowered unidentified bodies into a mass grave here Thursday, six days after the city was largely destroyed in Typhoon Haiyan.

For days, the bodies had sat in public. First they were uncovered on roadsides; then they were placed in body bags. After that, they were collected, and nearly 200 were stored at the biggest site, a government office. In the nearby City Hall, the center of local government relief efforts, the stench from the bodies could be powerful when the wind blew off the harbor….

The official death toll for Tacloban City rose to 2,000 on Thursday, but that covers only bodies that have been collected or visually confirmed by authorized officials. The visually confirmed bodies are those readily visible from roadsides, as relief crews have yet to start digging through towering piles of debris, much of it studded with nails.

There are also 3,000 injured, by the official tally, and 194 people for whom the paperwork has been completed for them to be declared missing.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

Up in Canada, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is still refusing to step down:

It’s clear now, amid more damning allegations and public embarrassment, that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has no intentions of relinquishing his post.

City council must decide how to continue operating after Wednesday’sdramatic pleas from councillors for the mayor to seek treatment for alleged substance abuse.

He faces yet another challenging day at City Hall on Thursday following the release of more police documents alleging disturbing details about the mayor’s erratic behaviour.

Ford, however, has repeatedly refused to step aside, even after admitting last week that he had smoked crack cocaine about a year ago possibly while drunk..

“I can’t change the past,” he said in council Wednesday. “All I can do is move on and that’s what I’m doing.”

It’s like a family intervention played out in public; but the target of the intervention is in control of a large city. “He continues to be the chief magistrate of the city; he continues to have signing powers,” says city councilman  Anthony Perruzza.

Ryan Ferguson

Ryan Ferguson

I’ll end with some feel-good news. I’ve been following the Ryan Ferguson story for a few years now. Ferguson is a young Missouri man who has been in prison for 10 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Yesterday he was finally freed. If you aren’t familiar with the case, here is some background from CBS News and a timeline of the case from KDSK.com.

From The New York Daily News:

Ferguson — who was serving 40 years for the 2001 murder and robbery of Kent Heitholt, an editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune — said he was still dealing with the shock of walking out of the clink.

“When I finally realized it was actually over, it was incredible relief because I was afraid,” he told the news station. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. They don’t really tell you a whole lot. It was a sensation like no other, and seeing my family right there and hugging them, and knowing that we were going to go home together — it was amazing.”

A state appeals court vacated Ferguson’s conviction after the panel found he did not receive a fair trial.

The panel found that prosecutors withheld evidence from defense attorneys and managed to get a conviction from two witnesses who later recanted their testimony.

Ferguson was arrested after his friend, Chuck Erickson, told cops in 2003 that the pair attacked Heitholt during a night of drinking. A night janitor, Jerry Trump, also said during the trial that he saw the two teens near the parking lot where the editor was killed.

Erickson later admitted that he lied about what happened the night Heitholt was killed and Trump told a courtroom years later that he was coached by prosecutors before he testified. Trump could face perjury charges.

So…. those are my picks for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day.


48 Comments on “Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Stories”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    It must be me, but I think if all my stupid behavior was spread all over the globe the last thing I would want is to remain in the public eye.

    But people like Rob Ford, Anthony Weiner, A-Rod, Bush/Cheney to name a few – people without souls or conscience – can still go about their lives as if the problem was yours not theirs.

    No shame. No remorse. No apologies.

    Perhaps in my next life I can come back free of a moral compass that would allow me to act the same without facing the consequences.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    And speaking of “shameless people” Whitey Bulger gets sentenced today.

    Another soulless creature taking up space.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Obama is going to talk about the ACA at 11:35AM Eastern. Later today he’ll be speaking in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

    • Dropped by to see comments… 😦
      I had hoped he would have gone onto the ACA site, compared some of the dropped plans and showed how the coverage price was better. Obama is going over the same talking points. Will check in later.

      • NW Luna says:

        WTF?

        Policy cancellations: Obama will allow old plans
        updated at 11:30 a.m. PST

        Bowing to pressure, President Barack Obama on Thursday announced changes to his health care law to give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled.

        The administrative changes are good for just one year, though senior administration officials said they could be extended if problems with the law persist. Obama announced the changes at the White House.

        Now that will really screw up comparison-shopping for people. Not to mention it shows, once again, Obama’s lack of backbone.

        • RalphB says:

          Blaming Obama for this is just wrong. This was done to head off a large stampede by the Democratic chickenshit caucus in Congress who had given the White House until Friday to “fix it” or else. Compared to Congressional Democrats, his backbone is frickin’ steel.

          What he’s done here is less damage than Landrieu’s bill would do and a world different from the Republican bill the House Democrats were going to support!

          • NW Luna says:

            Like it or not, POTUS has the bully pulpit and his desk is where the buck stops.

            I agree with WomanVoter’s point that he should have come out swinging. He should have shown the huge disparity between the cheap-premium, catastrophic “coverage” (policyholder pays 80%) plans and the ACA plans. And he needed to call the chickenshit caucus on their cowardice, plus their illogic.

          • RalphB says:

            Standing between a chickenshit democrat and a Yes vote for the nearest Republican bill would be suicidal. Not to mention hurting his own allies, which the Dems in congress never seem to mind doing.

          • RalphB says:

            Oh and like it or not, what you want him to do would amount to slow repeal once Upton’s bill passed. That’s flat wrong.

        • RalphB says:

          Speaking of the Chickenshit Caucus.

          The Democrats Need to Stop Freaking Out About Obamacare and Take Charge

          Republicans have tended to have tougher game faces, march more in lockstep, and not concede those crucial rhetorical inches that Democrats so often feel compelled to grant.

          Of course, we are at one of these moments now. Bill Clinton conceded those rhetorical inches to the right on Obamacare, which Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) seized on immediately. At least two blue-state senators, Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Jeff Merkley (OR), have jumped on the “fix Obamacare” bandwagon. A week ago, Majority Leader Harry Reid was not going to allow any changes to the Affordable Care Act reach the floor of his Senate. Now he’s probably going to have to.

  4. dakinikat says:

    Hi! Wow is it cold here!!! I’m going grocery shopping with my sister and dad this morning to stock up on provisions for next week. My dad just loves the big Safeway here in Belleview. My fur niece Tilly was excited to see me. She knows I’m a sucker for throwing the ball for her and filling up her treat ball. Dr. Daughter is coming in tomorrow night and my brother in law gets back from his business trip in Orlando about the same time. I’m trying to avoid catching my sister’s cold. Hopefully a good beach stay in Hawaii will clear her up but it’s the last thing I need here! Especially do not want it to get to Daddy. He’s getting very frail and his memory is getting really iffy these days. I’m going to spend the daylight hours with him so you’ll probably see me around later after Tilly drags me up the road from Washington Lake for her evening walkies! Take care! See you later!

    Love you all!!!

  5. RalphB says:

    She would be a great candidate and a great Lt Governor. Wendy/Leticia 2014!

    Texas Tribune: Van de Putte Will Announce Future Plans on Friday

    Sources close to state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, say she is poised to make an announcement on her political future on Friday. But the likely Democratic contender for lieutenant governor is expected to do what gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis did: reveal a future date for a formal announcement.

    “I can’t think of somebody who would be a better lieutenant governor for Texas,” Democratic consultant Glenn Smith said. “With her legislative experience, the deep care she has for Texas and its future, her work ethic, her honesty, I mean she’d be darn near perfect.”

  6. NW Luna says:

    Ballot counts are inching closer to a definitive answer. I’m rooting for Kshama Sawant!

    Sawant, in particular, has insisted she gained momentum in the election’s final days, thanks to campaign events and national media coverage.

    That’s one of the reasons the campaign was so confident Sawant could come back to win after being down on election night, spokesman Geov Parrish said this week.

    Sawant, who would be the first socialist on the nonpartisan council in recent memory, was carrying just 46.1 percent of the returns on election night, but kept gaining over the week, and by Wednesday night had climbed to 49.99 percent, narrowly ahead of Conlin, a four-term incumbent.

    On Wednesday, she won 52.1 percent of the 6,418 counted ballots in that race. About 15,000 ballots remain to be counted in the race.

    A mandatory machine recount will be triggered if the candidates are within 2,000 votes and 0.5 percent of each other.

    http://seattletimes.com/text/2022253572.html

  7. NW Luna says:

    The ACA enrollment is doing well on the state level, especially in states taking advantage of the Medicaid expansion.

    Even as the federal health-insurance exchange faces unrelenting criticism, Washington state continues to report steady progress enrolling residents in health-care coverage through its Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange.

    7,091 Washington residents had enrolled in private plans and 48,324 in Medicaid through Healthplanfinder from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31. Those figures put Washington third among all 50 states in the number of residents who have enrolled in private health plans through the online marketplace. Only California and New York reported higher enrollment figures.

    • RalphB says:

      Richard Mayhew at Balloon-Juice has a nice comparison post.

      Massachusetts Pace vs US Enrollment pace

      ust a quick note concerning Obamacare enrollment. Compared to the comparable time point of the 2006 Massachusetts experience, Obamacare Exchange enrollment pace is matching Massachusetts’ enrollment pace for private insurance during the Bay State’s 2006 open enrollment period.

      At 16% into the open enrollment period, 2,089 Massachusetts citizens had signed up. As a straight population adjustment (sum *48.75), that would translate into the national experience of roughly 102,000 people signing up. 106,000 people signed up via either the federal exchange or through state exchanges covering all but three Exchange jurisdictions according to the Washington Post. Three state run Exchanges have not reported their numbers so we can assume a slightly higher number.

  8. RalphB says:

    McClatchy may hang CBS out to dry. They’ve found all kinds of problems with the story.

    Questions about ‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi story go beyond Dylan Davies interview; CBS conducting ‘journalistic review’

  9. NW Luna says:

    Wonder if humans will turn this around in time to minimize the damage:

    The world’s oceans are getting more acidic at an unprecedented rate, faster than at any time in the past 300 million years, the report said. But it’s how this interacts with other global warming impacts to waters that scientists say is getting them even more worried.

    Scientists already had calculated how the oceans had become 26 percent more acidic since the 1880s because of the increased carbon in the water. They also previously had measured how the world’s oceans had warmed because of carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas. And they’ve observed that at different depths the oceans were moving less oxygen around because of the increased heat.

    But together “they actually amplify each other,” said report co-author Ulf Riebesell, a biochemist at the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Germany. He said scientists are increasingly referring to the ocean’s future prospects as “hot, sour and breathless.”

    The 26-page report released by the United Nations and several scientific research organizations brings together the latest ocean science on climate change, stemming from a major conference of ocean scientists last year.

    ….computer models predict the world will hit 8.0 in the next 20 years to 30 years and 7.9 in about 50 years, Riebesell said. At those levels shells of some mollusks, like clams and mussels, start corroding, he said.

  10. RalphB says:

    Further chickenshit caucus Obamacare adventures…

    Will The Obamacare ‘Fix’ Actually Accomplish Anything?

    The administration seems to have tried to thread the needle: Introduce a policy that will ostensibly honor the ‘keep your health plan’ promise without undermining the Affordable Care Act’s actuarial structure.

    “They made the best of a bad situation,” Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped draft the law, told TPM. “The key point that this debate missed is that the ACA is the least disruptive way to fix insurance markets. But folks wanted a ‘free lunch’. This is trying to hear those demands while minimizing the harm to the fundamental goals of the law.”

    The announcement was timed to undercut a Friday vote in the House on a Republican proposal that would attempt to address the same problem. But after Obama issued his new plan, some Democrats on the Hill indicated that they still might see a need to act on their own — so, even in the political realm, it’s hard to see exactly what the fix accomplished.

    Liberal Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) told TPM that Obama’s move “doesn’t go as far as I’d like it to go but it’s a step in the right direction.” Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) said on CNN: “I think we have to move forward on the legislative plan.” Of Obama’s plan, he said: “It’s not enough, but it’s a step.”

    • bostonboomer says:

      Oh boy, this doesn’t sound good. I haven’t really been following this. I’m going to have to get up to speed.

      I don’t get why the Dems would try to undermine the law after all this time!

      • bostonboomer says:

        It sure looks to me as if what Landreau wants to do could actually destroy the ACA. And Louisiana is one of the states that refused to offer exchanges and expand medicaid. My understanding is that the refusal of these red states is a big part of the problems with the rollout.

        • NW Luna says:

          It’s a big reason why many people in the red states will get screwed over in re: health care. It was free money from the feds to the states! Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! But the states that turned down the Medicaid expansion have governors and legislators who believe that they’ve got theirs and too bad for everyone else. Gawd must be teaching you a lesson by making you poor.

          • bostonboomer says:

            That’s true, but I think the Republicans knew this would put a lot of pressure on the federal website. I think that was part of the plan all along. Unfortunately, the Democrats don’t seem to understand how to plan long-term like the GOP.

          • RalphB says:

            The Dems are falling apart, just like Boehner told the National Review they would when he said Upton’s bill was step one to repealing it. He told them they would break the Dem legislative coalition with the hosed rollout and it looks like they did it.

      • Fannie says:

        Go figure………..they have had years now to deal with health care, and now they are going to cause people to turn away. They will distort the policy, and turn on the man that tried to give us results. It’s the line up for 2016…………Obama said he fumbled and reminded dems that the game is never decided in the first 10 minutes……………hell no, the dems punted, making it part of their advantage come 2014. I think they forgot that we voted for them to bring down the cost of health care, and to give the poor a card that reads “free treatment”……I mean, what the fuck, why should we pay $1500 for one single pill of Tylenol, and $55 per latex gloves. It’s a losing battle, kinda like losing Walmart a little bit. Everybody’s doctor is leaving town. Start looking for a new one.

    • RalphB says:

      Just watch. That is going to spread through professions and our larger society. What a termendous shame.

    • NW Luna says:

      They’re trying to turn the professions into production lines with productivity quotas and ratings on measures we often have very little control over. It’s administration job security — they keep thinking up more ways to micro-manage those who actually do the work.

      Increase the number of patients seen per hour, and decrease the time spent with each = “efficiency,” says admin. Oh, and document everything, but don’t take very long at it. In fact, document on the computer in front of the patient for “efficiency.” All that does is say the EHR/computer’s more important than the patient.

      Hey, you can do something well, or you can do something fast. Rarely can you do both.

      • RalphB says:

        Yep, “metrics” the magic word. MBAs are ruining the country.

      • dakinikat says:

        The entire thing is that they distrust us. They don’t think we can do our job without them looking over our shoulders and all the paper work proves they are necessary and superior and in charge. It makes you teach to a test instead of helping students learn and learn how to learn.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That was heartbreaking to read. That type of “education” is reflected on the college level too. Students don’t seem to enjoy being challenged anymore. They expect to have everything handed them in predigested form.

    • Beata says:

      Librarians, especially K-12 school librarians, are a dying breed. Most people have no idea that librarianship is a profession that requires a master’s degree. Academic librarians usually have a PhD in their subject area as well. Still people think librarians just put books back on the shelves. Para-professionals do things like that. Many libraries have gotten rid of their para-professionals, too, and replaced them with high-school students who work part-time, make minimum wage, and get no benefits.

      Marian the Librarian, R.I.P.

  11. RalphB says:

    I was just listening to Ezra Klein on O’Donnell’s show and it dawned on me that he was just mouthing various lobbyist’s talking points for the most part. I’m not even sure he even really understood what he was saying half the time. Wonder how often that happens?

  12. I was gone all day, in Atlanta…and then when I get online I see all kinds of shit on memeorandum…bout the ACA and “fixes” and shitfire and hell breaking loose. WTF happened today? I am afraid to click on any of those links.

  13. BB, what did you think of that PBS Nova special on the Magic Bullet. My mom was going on about that show today on the way to Atlanta.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It was interesting. They “conveniently” left out a lot of things that didn’t go along with their theory that Oswald did it alone though. Lots of cherry picking going on. I heard the one on CNN last night was horrible. I don’t expect any of the TV shows to offer much of value.