Friday Reads: Living in the Moment

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

The one useful thing that having 4th stage inoperable cancer and a 5 month old taught me was to live in the moment.  It’s taken Kremlin Caligula’s  rule of chaos to bring me back to that point again.  Well, that and the constant stress from the weather becoming increasingly volatile here and the increasing vulnerability of the land around me and the roof that’s mostly over my head.

I hold each of my friends and family as comfy pillows in my big ol’ blanket fort of calm.  I stay focused on what I can do right now to feel better.  Some times that’s wine and raspberry cheesecake gelato. Mostly, it’s focusing on all of the great people in my life and the fact there’s no wolf at my door right now.  Plus, I spend a lot of time combing through cabins with views of water and mountains and trying to figure if this is the path I can follow to Blue State Sanity.  We still have each other Sky Dancers and we’ve been through a lot!!!

It’s easy to focus on how miserable you feel when insanity is screaming at you with a contorted, bloated orange face surrounded by zombies in Phoenix, Arizona.  But, the insanity is also in the policy details that sneak out in fine print.  Remember, there are a lot of crazy people that pass as sane removing our neighbor’s ability to live in a civilized society in the beltway and in Red State America.

I’ve got some examples today from the usual Red State Governors and sneaky Republican appointees who hand over vital services and public assets to their patrons then brag about efficiency while people lose everything including their lives.  This cautionary tale comes via The Des Moines Register where dead Iowans can be pinned onto the collars of  two Republican Governors who handed the state’s Medicaid Plan over to profit-seeking death panels.  I borrow this term from the Republicans who think that it’s the government that institutes death panels but in fact, it’s handing key services to for-profit entities that do it.  You can’t turn a profit if you don’t cut things and in most cases, it is essential services and the people who provide them in for-profit land.

After handing over management of the $4 billion Medicaid program to three for-profit companies last year, Iowans have filed hundreds of complaints, including many about losing access to care. Health providers have closed their doors. Iowans with disabilities have filed a federal lawsuit against Reynolds, accusing the state of depriving thousands the right to live safely outside institutions.

Yet the new governor continues to insist privatization is a great thing..

 hopSeveral months ago she was quoted in a news release as saying Iowans with “high risk behavioral health conditions” were faring better under privatized Medicaid.

 Soon after, the Register editorial board reported the private insurers owed Southwest Iowa Mental Health System about $300,000 for services provided. We recently reported on a private insurer refusing to cover care for a mentally ill teen. This week Des Moines psychiatrist Jim Gallagher told an editorial writer that the private insurers were reducing payments to workers who supervise individuals in group homes, including a man with a history of pedophilia.

Yet Reynolds does not acknowledge such problems. Worse, she pretends there are none. An August 3 press release from her office referenced a questionable survey indicating Iowa patients’ satisfaction was among the highest in the nation.

 “Medicaid modernization improves access, gives patients more choices and brings accountability to the program,” Reynolds said in her statement.

There is zero accountability for state officials and insurers holding secret meetings about how much more public money to give the companies. And Tom Mouw, who died 27 days before the press release was issued, did not have more access to care or any choices. He had one option: moving from his home to an institution in another state.

After a vehicle accident left him a quadriplegic more than three decades ago, Mouw was unable to feed himself and needed a ventilator to breathe, this is why finding a Personal Injury Lawyer to help with your car accident claim and to get compensation is so iportant. State-managed Medicaid paid caregivers to provide daily assistance, which allowed the man to remain in his home all these years.

Then private insurers took over Medicaid. Amerigroup deemed Mouw’s longtime caregivers not qualified and refused to pay them. Eventually the inability to find in-home care forced him into a facility in South Dakota. He died six weeks later.

Cyndi Mouw blames her husband’s death on Iowa’s decision to privatize Medicaid. Though she has not reviewed all the medical bills, she is sure her husband’s care was far cheaper at home than in the facility where he spent his final weeks.

Now that he has died, he will not cost Amerigroup anything. And the insurer answers to no one about its actions.

The private companies have repeatedly refused to answer questions about Iowans’ horror stories. Though Cyndi Mouw signed waiver forms allowing Amerigroup to speak with a reporter about her husband’s care, the insurer did not.

Instead, the company’s spokesperson said there are “a lot of people” willing to share positive privatization stories — but then did not produce a single name. This spin tactic was also employed by the Branstad administration, which touted “success stories” without identifying the supposedly happy Iowans.

The Register frequently hears from Iowans who have lost health care, closed medical services businesses or are owed money by the insurers. And now we have heard from the widow of a man who died after the insurer refused to pay his caregivers.

I’m particularly interested in this today as a person that has been in more than her share of weather disasters lately.  My private insurer for my home has been a constant source of underfunding, dodging coverage, and increasing deductibles and costs.  Government Grants, the Red Cross and FEMA helped me more than any touchy feely money grabbing corporation after Katrina.  Harvey is headed to Texas and since it’s your basic zombie storm, it’s likely to reform and bother a lot more places.  Louisiana is under a state of emergency.  Dubya screwed up our Katrina response big time. I can’t even imagine what my friends and neighbors along the Texas Gulf Coast will face under The Orange Terror and his FEMA Director.

Brock Long knew it was just a matter of time.

“We’ve gone 11 years without a major hurricane land-falling in the U.S.—that’s a one-in-2,000 chance,” said Long, President Donald Trump’s administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in an interview at his office on Monday. “We’re gonna get hit by a major hurricane. I worry that a lot of people have forgotten what that’s like.”

The country is about to be reminded. As of Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Harvey was expected to hit the Texas coast as a Category 3 storm, with top wind speeds of 85 miles an hour and flooding as high as seven feet. The storm will be Long’s first challenge as FEMA director. He was sworn in just two months ago.

Long’s appointment was welcomed by experts on extreme weather, who praised him as neither overtly ideological nor hostile to the mission of the agency he was chosen to lead. Before being appointed to the top job, he was director of Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency from 2008 to 2011, as well as a regional hurricane program manager for FEMA.

“He is a rare Trump appointee who is a well-known professional in the field in which he was appointed,” said Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a Washington research group that promotes market-based solutions to climate change. “Every part of his reputation suggests he’ll take a careful, deliberate, technocratic approach to the job.”

If Hurricane Harvey is as severe as predicted, the toll will certainly test Long and his agency. It could even pose a political risk to the Trump administration, whose first budget proposal sought to cut FEMA’s funding by 11 percent.

There’s more to the devastation of public trust and resources happening.  Let me highlight a few. 

Republicans continue to the party of Religious Extremism. Women die because of this.

Gov. Henry McMaster issued an abrupt executive order Friday cutting off all public funding from abortion clinics in South Carolina.

He also directed the South Carolina Medicaid agency to seek permission from the federal government to exclude abortion clinics from the state’s Medicaid provider network.

“There are a variety of agencies, clinics, and medical entities in South Carolina that receive taxpayer funding to offer important women’s health and family planning services without performing abortions,” McMaster said in a press release about the executive order. “Taxpayer dollars must not directly or indirectly subsidize abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.”

Only three clinics offer elective abortions in South Carolina, including one Planned Parenthood clinic in Columbia.

The exact language of the new order bans government money from “any physician or professional medical practice affiliated with an abortion clinic and operating concurrently with and in the same physical, geographic location or footprint as an abortion clinic.”

Vicky Ringer, the South Carolina director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, issued a statement on Friday calling McMaster’s order “a political stunt.”

“While he spends taxpayers’ time and money on scoring political points,” Ringer said, “Planned Parenthood South Atlantic will continue to focus on providing the wide-range of accessible, affordable health care services that our patients, and his constituents, rely on.”

Fed Chair Jane Yellen has issued dire warnings about letting loose the Wall Street Dogs again. People driven by profits only do not make ethical choices.  That is something we very much know as economists.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday expressed openness to easing some financial rules imposed on banks after the 2008 credit crisis, but offered a stern warning to fellow policymakers: Don’t forget what got us here.

“The events of the crisis demanded action, needed reforms were implemented, and these reforms have made the system safer,” said Yellen in a speech at the Fed’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“Any adjustments to the regulatory framework should be modest and preserve the increase in resilience at large dealers and banks associated with the reforms put in place in recent years,” she said.

The Fed chief’s remarks are implicitly a pitch of how she would lead the central bank if President Donald Trump chose to keep her at the helm of the Fed; the 71-year-old economist’s term as chair ends at the beginning of February.

The likely Trump appointment to replace Yellen is said to have drafted a resignation based on Trump’s remarks over Charlottesville.  Gary Cohn is Jewish.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, has given an interview to the Financial Timesin which he in no uncertain terms criticizes the Trump administration’s response to the violence in Charlottesville at a white nationalist rally, which led to the death of a counterprotester and 19 injuries, after a car crashed into crowds. Trump has drawn criticism — including privately from his own aides — for insufficiently denouncing the white supremacists who organized the rally and suggesting they shared blame with others.

Cohn, who is Jewish, doesn’t call out Trump by name, but it’s crystal-clear what he is saying. A sampling:

  • “This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities.”
  • “I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position. … As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post … because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks.”
  • “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.”

While Cohn never says, “The president got it wrong and needs to do better,” he might as well have. Nobody else in the Trump administration offered comments suggesting any kind of equivalence in blame between the white supremacists and the counterprotesters. It was Trump who referred to there being blame “on many sides” and then days later “on both sides.” Other members of the administration tried to argue that Trump had offered a more forceful denunciation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis when he had, in fact, not. (He would later do so, only to revert a day later to his former “many sides/both sides” comments.)

When Cohn says, “Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK,” he is clearly talking about Trump’s “many sides/both sides” comments. There is no one else it could be about.

At least three national monuments are one the Endangered List.  Only the mega rich get nice things.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended Thursday that President Trump alter at least three national monuments established by his immediate predecessors, including two in Utah, a move expected to reshape federal land and water protections and certain to trigger major legal fights.

In a report Zinke submitted to the White House, the secretary recommended reducing the size of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, as well as Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, according to multiple individuals briefed on the decision.

President Bill Clinton declared the 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante in 1996, while President Barack Obama designated the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears last year. Cascade-Siskiyou, which now encompasses more than 113,000 acres, was established by Clinton shortly before leaving office and expanded by Obama in January.

The Mega Rich get nice things especially when they’re appointments of Trump and shameless about purloining. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin viewed eclipse from lawn of Fort Knox.  This is the man whose wife has a handbag that could be traded for a new car and calls a Portland Mother “adorably out of touch”.   I used to work for the New Orleans Fed.  We had a system wide rule about trying to hold meetings during the Mardi Gras season.  That’s strictly forbidden.

But a watchdog group and a lawmaker seized on a different issue: Did the millionaire couple fly to Louisville on Monday, on a taxpayer-funded plane, just to see the solar eclipse? Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) suggested as much in seeking records of the trip, saying it “seems to have been planned around the solar eclipse.”

It turns out that Mnuchin did view the eclipse while he was in Kentucky: Just outside the path of totality, from the lawn of the nation’s fabled Fort Knox, home to nearly $200 billion in American gold, according to an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

A post on McConnell’s official Facebook page, attributed to the senator, said Thursday that he and Mnuchin viewed the eclipse from the roof. “The U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and I in front of the main door to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox before we viewed the #solareclipse from the rooftop today,” said the posting, which featured an image of the two men, McConnell holding eclipse glasses.

After media reports about the Facebook post, including in this story, the Treasury Department said in a statement that the viewing was from the lawn.

“The Mint staff had originally suggested that the delegation watch the eclipse from the roof but the Secretary specifically canceled that part of the tour. They watched it briefly from outside before they entered (prior to the actual time of full eclipse),” the statement said.

McConnell’s office has revised its Facebook page to remove the reference to the rooftop and declined to say how the error was made.

Right.  And it looks like CROOKED and BIGOTED former sheriff Joe Arpaio will be pardoned. Has he no decency at all?

Arpaio was found guilty of some really disturbing illegal behavior. People that violate others’ civil rights should not hold positions in law enforcement.

He flouted the Constitution. He disobeyed court orders. And then he bragged about it.

To understand the building outrage, particularly among civil rights groups, over the possibility that President Donald Trump would pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one need only return to the July criminal contempt decision against him.

It followed a decade-long case against the sheriff for racial-profiling practices in Arizona, during which Arpaio was ordered to stop targeting Latinos for traffic stops and detention.

“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” wrote US District Judge Susan Bolton in the July 31 order finding Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt.

The 85-year-old sheriff who lost his run for a seventh term in 2016 is scheduled to be sentenced October 5. Trump has strongly suggested he would pardon Arpaio before then, and CNN has learned that the White House was preparing the necessary paperwork and talking points to distribute to allies.

My eyes will be on Harvey and the unnatural disaster that sits in the Oval Office today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list?

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29 Comments on “Friday Reads: Living in the Moment”

  1. dakinikat says:

  2. dakinikat says:

  3. Minkoff Minx says:

    Today is also the 25th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. It is eerie to think about that…

  4. Enheduanna says:

    I hope everyone is safe along the Gulf Coast and Harvey stays far, far away from NOLA. You’ve been through enough already.

    Thank goodness for the weekend.

  5. Minkoff Minx says:

    Dak, looks like NOLA is getting hit :

  6. NW Luna says:

    They must have been worried about being outnumbered x 100.

  7. NW Luna says:

    …..aaaand one more out!

  8. dakinikat says:

  9. NW Luna says:

    Dak, here’s another one for you! And for all of us.

  10. NW Luna says:

  11. NW Luna says:

  12. NW Luna says:

    Callous bastard, but we already knew that. Too bad Harvey isn’t headed for Mar-a-Lago.