Friday Reads: Republicans Raise a Nasty Tasting Beer in a Toast to my Early Death

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Be prepared to call your Senators! Mitch McConnell is a sneaky twisted bastard and we need to kill the abomination that just got passed in the House yesterday. The best thing I can say about this atm is that it has gone from so fast track that the CBO hasn’t even scored the law to the Senate Slow Lane.  It also puts a very large sign on the back of some Congress Critters that says ‘Kick my ass out of Congress voters!’

Can you imagine having a nasty can of Bud with anything let alone in celebration of the likelihood that over 24 million people will die much more quickly–and likely painfully–so you can bestow unnecessary tax cuts to billionaires and millionaires?  I am a basket of pre-existing conditions.  This bill will be the death of me and millions of others on medicaid and it’s likely to crash the Medicare system too.  It’s a bill that kills sick people, old people, and poor people so the rich can line their pockets more with the spoils of gambling. Plus, it shows us that very shortly they will be coming for our Social Security.

Passage of the House’s health-care bill gives the Obamacare repeal effort new life after months of wrangling, but key Republican senators are already pushing it aside to write their own bill with no clear timetable to act.

The narrowly passed House measure can’t get anywhere near the 51 votes needed as is, even though Republican senators insist they’re united on delivering on their seven-year vow to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Instead, they want to write their own bill.

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chairs the Senate health committee, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of GOP leadership, described the plan even as the House was celebrating passing its repeal after weeks of back-and-forth.

“We’ll write our own bill,” Alexander said in an interview, although he said senators would consider pieces of the House bill. “Where they’ve solved problems we agree with, that makes it a lot easier for us.”

The decision will delay the prospect of any repeal bill reaching President Donald Trump’s desk. Before the failure of the House bill in March, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had talked of taking it up and passing it in a week.

A senior White House official said the administration is ready for a slower, more deliberative debate in the Senate, where the main sticking point is expected to be how to address Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid.

The House bill, which squeaked through the House on a 217-213 vote Thursday, became an even tougher proposition for the Senate with changes made in recent weeks to win over conservatives. Those revisions raised potential procedural hurdles, and also sparked new Republican concerns over how the measure would affect coverage of people with pre-existing conditions.

President Swiss Cheese for Brains stood in front of the press in the Rose Garden and lied his ass off–or was totally ignorant of the bill–saying it would make premiums cheaper, insure every one, and preserve the right of those of us with pre-existing conditions to get health care.  It does none of these things.  Among the things it just might do is actually ruin employer-based healthcare too because with its ability to exempt coverage of all kinds of things it’s likely to gut every one’s plan.  So, no one is safe except those that can afford to outlay millions of dollars for what might happen to them during their lifetime.  This is utterly barbaric!

You knew that the American Health Care Act would turn the individual insurance market back into a bombed-out hellscape for the sick and old. But did you realize it could also ruin employer-based health insurance, at least for people whose companies worry more about cutting costs than attracting top-notch talent?

So reports the Wall Street Journal. The House GOP’s legislation—which seems likely to pass Wednesday (Update, 2:25 p.m.:The bill passed on a 217–213 vote)—would allow states to opt out from many of Obamacare’s insurance market regulations, such as those requiring carriers to cover a set of essential services or banning lifetime and annual caps on coverage. But even if states like New York and California don’t waive those rules, businesses operating in them effectively could for their own workers. That’s because the Obama administration released guidance in 2011 saying that employers could choose which state’s law they wanted to operate under when it came to required benefits packages. At the time, it didn’t matter much, since the Affordable Care Act created a single set of national standards. But now, per the WSJ:

Under the House bill, large employers could choose the benefit requirements from any state—including those that are allowed to lower their benchmarks under a waiver, health analysts said. By choosing a waiver state, employers looking to lower their costs could impose lifetime limits and eliminate the out-of-pocket cost cap from their plans under the GOP legislation.

The Journal cautions that some companies may be hesitant to slash their employees’ benefits, since they use them to recruit talent, and notes that most big employers didn’t impose coverage caps prior to Obamacare. “Even if self-insured health plans are no longer banned from imposing annual or lifetime limits, they’re unlikely to attempt to squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube,” one industry expert told the paper. “The benefits of reimposing limits are questionable.”

But back to Kremlin Caligula’s lies. This bill does everything he everything that he promised his voters that he would never do to our health care. It’s all in preparation to ram gigantic tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires through Congress to by pass laws that stop those kinds of actions because they explode the deficit.

Having run a campaign during which he promised to cover everyone, protect Medicaid from cuts, and replace Affordable Care Act plans with “terrific” coverage, Donald Trump is now behind a bill that cuts Medicaid, covers fewer people, and allows states to replace ACA plans with stingier coverage. Having promised repeatedly to protect patients with preexisting health conditions from insurance market price discrimination, Paul Ryan is pushing a plan that removes existing protections and replaces them with hand-wavy and inadequately funded high-risk pools. Having leveraged public discontent with high deductibles and rising premiums, Republicans are pushing a bill that will leave most patients with higher out-of-pocket costs for equivalent plans and bring back skimpy plans with even higher deductibles.

That’s all happening because the GOP is committed to rolling back the taxes that pay for the Affordable Care Act, delivering a financial windfall to high-income families even though Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin swore at his confirmation hearings that the Trump administration would not pursue tax cuts for the rich.

The bill is currently being rushed through the House at breathtaking speed with no time for a Congressional Budget Office score or for members to hear from constituents back home. Republicans are acting like their plan cannot survive even cursory scrutiny by experts or the public for the good reason that their own rhetoric strongly suggests that they do not believe the public would find this legislation acceptable if they knew what it did.

And for the pleasure of knowing they were likely killing millions of people with their policy, THEY THREW A PARTY.  I can imagine they iced their beer with what is running through their veins.

When the House Republican Conference gathered in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning, it was greeted by a couple of motivational songs: “Eye of the Tiger” and “Taking Care of Business.” On Twitter, the A.P.’s Erica Werner also relayed the message that the Party’s leadership sent to the rank and file, which was equally lacking in subtlety: “It’s time to live or die by this day.”

A number of House Republicans, especially those from competitive districts, weren’t overly enthusiastic about fulfilling the health-care suicide pact that Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, was forcing on them. Ultimately, though, a number of countervailing factors won out: loyalty to the Party, eagerness to score a legislative win, hostility toward Barack Obama, free-market ideology, and a reluctance to antagonize wealthy G.O.P. donors. On Thursday afternoon, when it came time to vote on the American Health Care Act of 2017, only twenty Republicans broke ranks, allowing the bill to pass by the slightest of margins.

In the most immediate of terms—congressional whip counts—that was a victory for Ryan and his ally in the White House, Donald Trump. On their third attempt at passing an Obamacare-repeal measure, and after much drama and humiliation, the House Republicans had assembled a majority. But at what cost? The vote represented a moral travesty, a betrayal of millions of vulnerable Americans, and a political gift to the Democrats. And if it ultimately costs the House G.O.P. its majority in next year’s midterms, that would be a richly deserved outcome.

Ryan and his sidekick, the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, pushed through a bill that, if it ever goes into effect, could upend one-sixth of the American economy and result in tens of millions of Americans losing their health coverage. Since the Republicans failed to give the Congressional Budget Office time to “score” the bill before voting on it, we don’t have any official estimates of its likely effects. But the bill that was passed on Thursday was an amended version of a bill that the C.B.O. had previously determined would raise the number of uninsured people by twenty-four million over ten years, and increase premiums for many others, particularly the old and the sick, as well.

I thought the gridlock in Washington DC was a sign that the system was broken.  Well, the system is more broken than ever before.  We have a new SCOTUS  judge that couldn’t get acceptance from the usual majority of the Senate that was the result of a virtual shut down of the approval process by the slim majority of Republicans in the Senate.  Now, we have bills shoved through that are worse than the one that just sent hundreds of thousands of Americans into the streets, on to the phones, and into town hall meetings.  It is time for more of that.  It is also time to prepare for the Mid Term elections.  These stinkers need to go!

Donald Trump had had it.

The Obamacare repeal bill that the president had just boasted was on the cusp of passage was suddenly in trouble again, and the president demanded to talk to the influential congressman who dropped a bombshell hours earlier with an announcement he’d be voting “no”: Michigan Rep. Fred Upton.

Sitting in the Oval Office Tuesday evening, Trump dialed Upton in his congressional office. The president raised his voice and swore at Upton several times during a 10-minute conversation, sources familiar with the call said. But Upton stood his ground. He explained that he, like Trump, wanted to ensure people with pre-existing conditions were protected, even quoting the president verbatim talking about the need to do so.

“I am not supporting this bill without a legislative fix,” Upton said, according to a source familiar with the conversation.

Trump did not want to talk about the merits of the legislation — he didn’t care much about those specifics, senior officials said. What mattered to him was how a failed vote would hobble his presidency and the ability to get other legislation through Congress.

He wanted a win.

There you go folks.  “He wanted a win.”  Kremlin Caligula had to have a win and no one around him would be spared his wrath if he didn’t get it.  So, 24 million plus people will lose their access to health care, rural hospitals will likely go under, and Medicaid and Medicare as we know it will die a painful slow death.  But the sociopath in the white house gets a win.

Oh, and the very rich would get a BIG WIN. This bill is likely to cost $800 billion dollars over 10 years and do nothing remotely about health care other than to fuck it up worse that it’s ever been fucked up before.  But the rich and President Swiss Cheese for Brains get richer and get a win. At what point does the Republican party either remove the skin suits and just be the demons that they are or do we get buckets of tar, lots of feathers,  thousands of pitchforks and a few sharpened guillotines and drive them back to the realms of hell?

The health care bill passed by the House on Thursday is a win for the wealthy, in terms of taxes.

While the Affordable Care Act raised taxes on the rich to subsidize health insurance for the poor, the repeal-and-replace bill passed by House Republicans would redistribute hundreds of billions of dollars in the opposite direction. It would deliver a sizable tax cut to the rich, while reducing government subsidies for Medicaid recipients and those buying coverage on the individual market.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is funded in part through higher taxes on the rich, including a 3.8 percent tax on investment income and a 0.9 percent payroll tax. Both of these taxes apply only to people earning more than $200,000 (or couples making more than $250,000). The GOP replacement bill would eliminate these taxes, although the latest version leaves the payroll tax in place through 2023.

The House bill would also repeal the tax penalty for those who fail to buy insurance as well as various taxes on insurance companies, drug companies and medical device makers. The GOP bill also delays the so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-end insurance policies from 2020 to 2025.

All told, the bill would cut taxes by about $765 billion over the next decade.

The lion’s share of the tax savings would go to the wealthy and very wealthy. According to the Tax Policy Center, the top 20 percent of earners would receive 64 percent of the savings and the top 1 percent of earners (those making more than $772,000 in 2022) would receive 40 percent of the savings.

Fuck you you ungawdly poor people!  And women!  And children once you get past the viability point in the womb we don’t care about you either! And any one unfortunate to ever have been sick before or born sickly!!!

Being a woman means you’re basically a pre-existing condition from the get go!  The Republican Party just called us all survivors of a deadly disease!

Obamacare contains many provisions to help poor and lower-income Americans.

Primarily, it expanded Medicaid to cover adults who earn up to $16,400 a year. The American Health Care Act would end the enhanced federal Medicaid funding for new enrollees starting in 2020. And it would curtail federal support for the entire program by sending a fixed amount of money per enrollee or by providing a block grant. States would likely have to either reduce eligibility, curtail benefits or cut provider payments.

All this could hurt not only poor adults, but also low-income children, women, senior citizens and the disabled.

Also, Obamacare provides those with incomes just under $30,000 with generous subsidies to lower their deductibles and out-of-pocket costs in individual market policies. The legislation would eliminate the subsidies.

Finally, the premium tax credits the legislation would provide would not go as far Obamacare’s subsidies for lower-income consumers

Folks making $20,000 a year would take the biggest hit at any age under the GOP plan, a Kaiser study found. A 27-year-old earning this amount would only get $2,000, instead of $3,225 under Obamacare, on average. Meanwhile, a 40-year-old would get $3,000 versus nearly $4,150. However, the biggest loser would be a 60-year-old, who would receive only $4,000, instead of nearly $9,900 under Obamacare.

In its review of an early version of the bill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 24 million fewer people would have coverage by 2026 as compared to current law. The majority of those would have qualified for Medicaid under Obamacare.

Major health insurance lobbying groups are concerned about the bill’s impact on all these folks, many of whom are their customers.

“The American Health Care Act needs important improvements to better protect low- and moderate-income families who rely on Medicaid or buy their own coverage,” Marilyn Tavenner, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said after the bill passed the House Thursday.

Not any organization having to do with Health Care supports any of this. This what they had to say about the last abomination of a plan.  Just wait until they finally get to read what just passed in all of its unread, unscored, and completely unready-for-prime time format.

The House GOP’s newly-released (and already widely maligned) Obamacare replacement plan has now made a trio of powerful medical interest group enemies: the AARP, the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA).

The AMA, the nation’s largest physicians’ group representing more than 220,000 doctors, residents, and medical students, was the latest to pile on against the so-called American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Wednesday morning.

“While we agree that there are problems with [Obamacare] that must be addressed, we cannot support the AHCA as drafted because of the expected decline in health insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations,” wrote AMA CEO Dr. James Madara in a letter to Congressional leaders. Madara also cited the bill’s cuts to major public health and preventative health funds as unacceptable to doctors.

The AMA opposition follows action from both the 38 million-member strong AARP, which lobbies on issues affecting older Americans, and the AHA on Tuesday. “This bill would weaken Medicare’s fiscal sustainability, dramatically increase health care costs for Americans aged 50-64, and put at risk the health care of millions of children and adults with disabilities, and poor seniors who depend on the Medicaid program for long term services and supports and other benefits,” wrote AARP senior vice president Joyce Rogers in a stark, and surprisingly detailed, letter to Congress.

Oh, they did already:‘In Rare Unity, Hospitals, Doctors and Insurers Criticize Health Bill’.

It is a rare unifying moment. Hospitals, doctors, health insurers and some consumer groups, with few exceptions, are speaking with one voice and urging significant changes to the Republican health care legislation that passed the House on Thursday.

The bill’s impact is wide-ranging, potentially affecting not only the millions who could lose coverage through deep cuts in Medicaid or no longer be able to afford to buy coverage in the state marketplaces. With states allowed to seek waivers from providing certain benefits, employers big and small could scale back what they pay for each year or reimpose lifetime limits on coverage. In particular, small businesses, some of which were strongly opposed to the Affordable Care Act, could be free to drop coverage with no penalty.

The prospect of millions of people unable to afford coverage led to an outcry from the health care industry as well as consumer groups. They found an uncommon ally in some insurers, who rely heavily on Medicaidand Medicare as mainstays of their business and hope the Senate will be more receptive to their concerns.

“The American Health Care Act needs important improvements to better protect low- and moderate-income families who rely on Medicaid or buy their own coverage,” Marilyn B. Tavenner, the chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s trade group, said in a strongly worded statement.

Now is the time to be overly friendly with your two US Senators.  I have the Congressional Black Caucus Chairman as my Rep so I am not worried about him, but I will be bothering Steve Scalise and writing checks to any on that takes the Sleazeball on in this upcoming election.  I will be making phone calls like a banshee screaming also.  Adopt a RepubiKlan Congress Critter to remove for the 2018 elections.

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

So, I think over 3200 words is enough for you to sense that I am outraged and appalled and take all of this beyond personally. I am the face of a pre-existing conditions. I did not ask to get Cancer while I was carrying my extremely high risk second pregnancy to term.  I did not ask to get Hep C from the resultant 30+ blood transfusions that I got when the Red Cross did not check its donors for the issue.  I did not ask to be born a woman.  I did not ask or do anything to deserve any of this.  I have anxiety and I have depression. That runs in my family. I’ve done nothing to bring any of this on.  I am the face of a walking basket of pre-existing conditions.  I am 61.  I am not sure that Purdue will provide me with insurance when they buy my current university which threw me on to the ACA the minute it was passed.  I’m on the Medicaid expansion now thankfully because I do not need anymore tax deductions and was not able to meet the premiums for private coverate.  It’s allowed me to get complete health care for the first time in over 5 years including medications without killer co-pays. I take an antidepressant to stop any recurrence of what happened during my divorce over 20 years ago.

The Republicans in Congress want me to die or kill myself. I’ve worked since I was 15. I am well educated and I paid more than my share of taxes. I am now an old, tired woman who chose to teach which isn’t a prestigious high paying job at all. I like urban universities and helping first generation college students get degrees.  That’s been my calling for decades. That career choice shouldn’t be an immediate death sentence in such a wealthy country.

I should mention that I’m doing something I’m doing because of my faith. You know that my city is having trouble with housing because we’ve been inundated with short term rentals (e.g. illegal hotels).  I have three people living with me. One is a 50 year old woman who has severe right brain damage from being hit by a vehicle as a pedestrian. One is a 36 year old black woman in 5th stage renal failure that needs a kidney and dialysis every other day.  The other is a young vet who is also a schizophrenic and is extremely sweet-natured. He gets rolled for his monthly check when he’s on the street.  I don’t know if you know how much medicare disability pays or what’s paid to disabled vets but it’s not enough to provide a home here in this city to people any more.  I am trying to move to Washington state but I feel as a Buddhist that I need to live my faith while I can.

There are basically 4 people right now in my house–including me–that will likely die or have a life that ends badly in quick order without the little they get right now from our system.  The Republican party wants us all dead and they raised a cold beer in salute to that yesterday.  We are all the face of pre-existing conditions.  I’m sharing this with you because I’d like you to put faces to what they just did to a huge number of Americans. They need to know there are faces like mine in the numbers.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Future of what?

 

Good Afternoon

Boston Boomer is under the weather today, so I’m bringing you the round up for the day.

First up I have to start this thread with a little tongue in cheek;

Okay, now let’s get serious.

Why do I get the feeling the passengers that were “randomly” chosen for United to “reaccommodate” perhaps had a little more than a random pick behind it?

Controversy over United passenger’s ‘troubled past’ – Business Insider

People are rallying around the passenger who was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight on Sunday, in response to what many see as attempts to vilify a victim.

On Tuesday, the Louisville Courier-Journal published an article reporting that the passenger, David Dao, “has a troubled history in Kentucky.” The article cites past drug-related felonies in the early 2000s, noting that the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure allowed Dao to resume practicing medicine in 2015.

Soon after the article published, many people took to social media to criticize the Courier-Journal for seemingly attempting to justify an incident in which Dao was dragged from United Express Flight 3411 by law enforcement officers. Dao suffered injuries to his face, and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

None of this man’s past has anything to do with the atrocious treatment he received…but I would not put it past the company to have orchestrated the chosen 4 for just this possible situation. I bet that is part of the protocol. Pick people that can be exploited negatively in the press if you need to…

Louisville’s Courier-Journal Gets Smacked Around For Piece About United Victim’s Past | Mediaite

More tweets of anger at CJ and support of David Dao at that link.

Onward to the shooting and murder of two people at a California primary school.

 

The next series of links will deal with Trump and Syria and Russia…Trump and North Korea…China.

I mentioned in a comment last week that my dad is part of this survival group, and that there was a rumor going on about the strike force heading to the Korean Peninsula…well, last night he told me the new rumor is that China is dealing with a huge number of refugees from North Korea flooding into the country because of the fear that tRump is going to blow Kim Jong Un off the planet.

I don’t know, the shit is hitting the fan.

 

I had to do it…

But here are some news links about all that shit.

Trump threatens via Twitter to ‘solve the problem’ in North Korea | MSNBC

North Korea Threatens ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ Over Approach From U.S. Navy Ships | Mediaite

Geez.

As for the Syria and Putin and Assad shit. (The word shit has become my go to expression for everything lately, you can take a look at some of these updates.

US plans to attack Syria and blame Assad, Vladimir Putin claims | The Independent

Somehow, Russia knew about Syria’s chemical weapon bombing before it happened – Salon.com

It is all so disturbing.

Did Trump Attack Syria For Personal Profit? | Crooks and Liars

At any other time, the questions raised by (fill in the blank) would be the scandal of the decade. Now, with Donald Trump as president, we call it Monday.

Thursday evening, Trump attacked Syria, a sovereign country, with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. This act of war was done without Congressional authorization, even after Trump’s August, 2013, tweet that “Obama needs Congressional approval” before attacking Syria in nearly-identical circumstances.

The following morning, headlines like this one appeared in the business press: Raytheon, maker of Tomahawk missiles, leads premarket rally in defense stocks:

Defense and energy stocks dominated the list of premarket gainers on the S&P 500 Friday, led by Tomahawk missile-maker Raytheon Corp., after U.S. missile strikes against a Syrian air base overnight.

Donald Trump apparently owns Raytheon stock. In May, 2016, Trump reported to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) that he owned Raytheon stock. Interestingly, this FEC report does not appear to include the extensive web of offshore anonymous shell corporations Trump uses to mask assets.

Since that filing Trump’s assets have not been sold with the proceeds placed into a “blind trust,” and there is no public record of his having otherwise sold the stock. Not only that, but Trump is able to draw cash from his “trust” at any time. He could literally have pocketed cash from his gains from attacking Syria.

Read the rest at the link.

But tRump is not only profiting on the attack in Syria. He is making money on his time off, away from, the White House:

 

Again, I can’t believe that nothing has been done to move forward with impeachment.

 

Just a few other links to make you cringe:

 

Trump and Ryan are planning to gut Social Security | Suburban Guerrilla. Susie Madrak

 

Federal Judge Rules That Texas Intentionally Discriminated Against Minority Voters | Mother Jones

The Sessions’ Justice Department had tried to stop the ruling.

Read This: The Handmaid’s Tale author on how Trump is too unbelievable for fiction · Great Job, Internet! · The A.V. Club

Margaret Atwood—author of The Handmaid’s Tale and dozens of other novels, short-story collections, children’s books, works of poetry and criticism, and the new comic-book series Angel Catbird—is the subject of a lengthy and insightful profile in The New Yorker. She speaks briefly on Donald Trump’s presidency, telling New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead, “If the election of Donald Trump were fiction… it would be too implausible to satisfy readers.” It’s an insightful viewpoint from the writer of speculative fiction (her preferred term over “science fiction”), who’s penned arguably the most influential speculation through the lens of patriarchy. Atwood goes on to say:

Fiction has to be something that people would actually believe. If you had published it last June, everybody would have said, “That is never going to happen.”

No shit. (See, I’m using that word “shit” for everything!)

This study looks like an interesting read….

No democracy without women’s rights | EurekAlert! Science News

Why did the Arab spring fail? Despite a number of revolutions in the Arab world, in the end only Tunisia emerged as a functioning democracy. Results from an interdisciplinary research project at the University of Gothenburg indicate that the problem might be traced partially to the lack of women’s civil rights in the region.

A new study published in the European Journal of Political Research discusses the importance of women’s rights for countries to become democratic. The researchers used a dataset developed by V-Dem, a research institution cohosted by the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) and the University of Notre Dame (USA). The dataset includes the state of democracy in 177 countries over the years 1900 to 2012.

The study demonstrates that countries do not become fully democratic without political and social rights for women. This is particularly true for the Arab Spring countries, where the failure to foster women’s rights compromised any attempt at democratic governance in the area.

According to Professor Staffan Lindberg, director of the V-Dem Institute, the result is important because it shows that democratic development is not gender blind: societies transitioning from authoritarian regimes strongly need women in order to develop functioning democratic governments.

This next link is for Dak, another grave for you.

 

The desert bloom from space….is something to see.

 

And I will end it on that note.

This is an open thread. I hope BB starts to feel better, and that y’all have a good afternoon.

 

 


Friday Reads: Death Spirals Real and Imagined

Good Afternoon!

It’s getting really difficult to find anything upbeat these days out there on the news front. Usually,there are several areas with persistent messes.  Today, things folks never thought we’d have to worry about are suddenly in play. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day nor did it fall in day. It seems like the US is on a downward spiral that rivals the speed of light or at least a hefty meteor.  Bets on how long we last at this rate?

Suggestions on how can we stop this?

Much of the destruction is going on inside the federal government while Kremlin Caligula puts on a show. We’ve learned that Trump and cronies are planting lobbyists and ideologues to cripple agencies.  The State Department appears to be one of the major functions of government that is in a death spiral. The Russian Connections between Trump and his cronies run deep. There’s no longer a need to connect the dots. It’s a four lane highway between Trump Tower with off ramps all over the place.
It appears that the Trump Syndicate may have been laundering money for Russian Oligarchs.  Here are some links to get caught up on the Russia fiasco.  Many of these are updates from stories that BB wrote about yesterday.

From CNN: “The super-secret division in charge of the Russia investigation“.

From the Palm Beach Post: “Trump in Palm Beach: Why did Russian pay so much for his mansion?”

From The American Interest: “The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections”

By the late 1990s the actual chaos that resulted from Yeltsin’s warped policies had laid the foundations for a strong counterrevolution, including the rise of ex-KGB officer Putin and a massive outpouring of oligarchic flight capital that has continued virtually up to the present. For ordinary Russians, as noted, this was disastrous. But for many banks, private bankers, hedge funds, law firms, and accounting firms, for leading oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, as well as for needy borrowers like the Trump Organization, the opportunity to feed on post-Soviet spoils was a godsend. This was vulture capitalism at its worst.

The nine-lived Trump, in particular, had just suffered a string of six successive bankruptcies. So the massive illicit outflows from Russia and oil-rich FSU members like Kazahkstan and Azerbaijan from the mid-1990s provided precisely the kind of undiscriminating investors that he needed. These outflows arrived at just the right time to fund several of Trump’s post-2000 high-risk real estate and casino ventures—most of which failed. As Donald Trump, Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in Manhattan in September 2008 (on the basis, he said, of his own “half dozen trips to Russia in 18 months”):

[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.

All this helps to explain one of the most intriguing puzzles about Donald Trump’s long, turbulent business career: how he managed to keep financing it, despite a dismal track record of failed projects.4

According to the “official story,” this was simply due to a combination of brilliant deal-making, Trump’s gold-plated brand, and raw animal spirits—with $916 million of creative tax dodging as a kicker. But this official story is hokum. The truth is that, since the late 1990s, Trump was also greatly assisted by these abundant new sources of global finance, especially from “submerging markets” like Russia

Paul Ryan power point meme1
Rex Tillerson is incapable of doing an actual job.  The State Department is in disarray and it’s hard to see how Tillerson is doing anything to change that.  Here’s some analysis from David Ignatius writing for WAPO.

Tillerson’s State Department has been in idle gear these past two months. He doesn’t have a deputy or other top aides. His spokesman can’t give guidance on key issues, because decisions haven’t yet been made. Tillerson didn’t attend important meetings with foreign leaders.

As a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, Tillerson is accustomed to a world where a visible display of power is unnecessary, corporate planning is meticulous and office politics are suppressed. But this is Washington

“I am an engineer by training. I seek to understand the facts,” Tillerson said at his confirmation hearing. That sounds reassuring, but it doesn’t fit the glitzy, backstabbing capital that spawned the television series “House of Cards.”

“He may pay some cost up front for not meeting Washington expectations,” notes Stephen Hadley, national security adviser for President George W. Bush and a Tillerson supporter. “The short-term buzz was that he’s out of the loop, but Tillerson is playing for the long game.”

Tillerson couldn’t even get his choice for a deputy pass President Bannon.

The Republicans in the House and Senate are using the chaos to cover up their end game. Obamacare replacementThey’re trying to dismantle everything from Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA, the EPA, Social Security, Dodd Frank, and just about anything used to protect citizens from the malfeasance of of short sighted, profit-oriented business practices which rule the US commerce landscape.  The GOP is planning a full scale assault on Federal Regulations.

There is a flurry of anti-regulatory legislation floating around Capitol Hill, but it is becoming clear that the key Republican vehicle to rein in rulemaking will be Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s Regulatory Accountability Act. A 16-page draft of the legislation obtained by POLITICO was significantly less radical than several aggressive bills recently passed by the House of Representatives, but industry groups have pinned their hopes on this one attracting support from enough moderate Democrats to overcome a Senate filibuster and make it to Trump’s desk. And even if the Portman bill won’t automatically ensure “the deconstruction of the administrative state” promised by White House adviser Steve Bannon, it could still dramatically curtail the power of government regulators in the long run.

Portman has not yet introduced the bill, but behind the scenes in Washington it is already the subject of furious lobbying by more than 150 public interest groups that oppose it as well as more than 600 business groups that support it. It is much narrower than a bill the House passed last month with the same name, but would still revamp and insert new bureaucratic hurdles into the federal regulatory process, which the Obama Administration used to enact tough new restrictions on coal plants, Wall Street banks, for-profit colleges and other corporate entities. The Portman bill would add new obstacles for agencies to overcome before enacting economically significant rules, require them to choose the most cost-effective alternative, and give judges more discretion to block regulations when the regulated interests object.

“When I visit a factory or small business in Ohio, one of the complaints I hear most from employers is that there are too many costly and unnecessary regulations that limit their ability to invest in their business,” Portman said. “We need a smarter regulatory process that promotes job creation, innovation, and economic growth.”

Portman and the Washington business community are portraying his reforms as a pragmatic approach to burdensome red tape, hoping to distinguish them from more extreme Republican bills that would give Congress a veto over all major rules, eliminate the deference that courts traditionally give to federal agencies, and even forbid those agencies from implementing rules until every lawsuit against them is resolved. House Republicans have passed five regulatory reform bills this year, and have introduced a dozen more, but insiders say most of them are doomed to die in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster. That’s why Portman is now negotiating over his more temperate language with Democratic senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who are both up for reelection in 2018 in states Trump won easily. Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida and independent Angus King of Maine have supported similar bills in the past.

Trump has not outlived his usefulness to the Republican Agenda of installing a warped Christian Theocracy and a kleptocracy capable of ruining the environment and killing people.  Portman obviously decided Trump was the way to sneak a lot of things through.

And then there’s Paul Ryan who thinks the only thing that should occur right now is decimation of the ACA regardless of the results.  It’s right there on his Power Point.  It pretty much looked like the Republican version was DOA yesterday but now Senate Republicans are actually talking about changing the Senate rules to get it shoved through one way or another.  This is despite the massive outrage about the repeal.

A growing number of conservative lawmakers on Thursday urged GOP leaders to push the limits of how much of the health law they can reshape under a powerful procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation — and to overrule the Senate parliamentarian if she doesn’t decide in their favor.

Such a gambit would require the unlikely buy-in of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a noted institutionalist who earlier this year avoided talk of changing his chamber’s rules to kill the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.

If the Senate changes precedent for what can be passed under reconciliation now, a future Senate — whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats — could enact a wide range of legislation with just a simple majority.

“There are limits to what we can do” on Obamacare while complying with the Senate rules, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senate Republican, said in a Thursday floor speech. Under reconciliation guidelines, bills can be passed in the Senate with a simple majority and cannot be filibustered, as long as their provisions have a direct impact on spending or tax levels.

I wake up every day in fear of what’s coming next.  It seems that everything I’ve ever planned my old age around is now collapsing around me.  The Republican Plan is a massive DumpsterFire. 53_192516Paul Krugman has some great analysis.

 Obamacare rests on three main pillars. Insurance companies are regulated, prevented from denying coverage or charging higher prices to Americans with pre-existing conditions. Families receive subsidies linked to both income and premiums, to help them buy insurance. And there is a penalty for those who don’t buy insurance, to induce people to sign up even if they’re currently healthy

Trumpcare — the White House insists that we not call it that, which means that we must — preserves some version of all three elements, but in drastically, probably fatally weakened form.

Insurers are still barred from excluding the sick, but they’re allowed to charge older Americans — who need insurance the most — much higher premiums.

Subsidies are still there, in the form of tax credits, but they’re no longer linked to either income (as long as it’s below $75,000) or the cost of insurance.

And the tax on those who don’t sign up becomes a small surcharge — paid to insurance companies, not the public — on people who sign up after previously letting coverage lapse.

Affluent young people might end up saving some money as a result of these changes. But the effect on those who are older and less affluent would be devastating. AARP has done the math: a 55-year-old making $25,000 a year would end up paying $3,600 a year more for coverage; that rises to $8,400 for a 64-year-old making $15,000 a year. And that’s before the death spiral.

For the combination of price hikes and weakened penalties would lead many healthy Americans to forgo insurance. This would worsen the risk pool, causing premiums to rise sharply — and remember, subsidies would no longer adjust to offset this rise. The result would be even more people dropping out. Republicans have been claiming that Obamacare is collapsing, which isn’t true. But Trumpcare, if implemented, would collapse in a Mar-a-Lago minute.

How could House Republicans under the leadership of Paul Ryan, who the media keeps assuring us is a smart, serious policy wonk, have produced such a monstrosity?

The only thing that’s been fun about this is the Twitter Attack on Paul Ryan and his Power Points.

So, I know a few people that have been basically kidnapped by their families and put into conversion therapy.  This story of a survivor is chilling reading.

TC, a 19-year-old gay man who spoke to The Huffington Post anonymously for this article in order to protect his safety, is a survivor of conversion therapy practices.

TC was subjected to conversion therapy in 2012 when he was 15 years old after his parents discovered he was gay. The conversion therapy practices took place in the basement of a church after school hours, and were explained to TC and his parents as having two separate components. He told The Huffington Post:

The first step ― which usually lasted six months ― [is] where they “deconstruct us as a person.” Their tactics still haunt me. Aversion therapy, shock therapy, harassment and occasional physical abuse. Their goal was to get us to hate ourselves for being LGBTQ (most of us were gay, but the entire spectrum was represented), and they knew what they were doing…. The second step of the program, they “rebuilt us in their image.” They removed us of everything that made us a unique person, and instead made us a walking, talking, robot for Jesus. They retaught us everything we knew. How to eat, talk, walk, dress, believe, even breathe. We were no longer people at the end of the program.

TC said that the conversion therapy sessions would take place every weekday, with shock therapy treatments lasting approximately an hour, and aversion therapy lasting three.

This is torture. Pure and Simple.

So, this is what they’d fund while getting Insurance 101 wrong.

Paul Ryan actually said “The whole idea of Obamacare is…the people who are healthy pay for the…sick. It’s not working, & that’s why it’s in a death spiral.”

No Speaker that’s a risk pool and it’s how insurance works.

011917coletoon

Everyone pays into the pot and draws on it when they’re sick. Younger people, who tend to be healthier than older people, pay for health insurance like everyone else. They’ll rely on it when when they need it, probably more when they’re older and there are younger, healthier people filing in behind them. It’s the same with car insurance

. Some people pay for decades and never get into an accident and never collect on their coverage (though the likelihood of anyone never using health insurance is unlikely).That’s what actuarial figures are all about, so an insurance system can assess the risks of segments of customers to determine what everyone needs to put into the pot so there’s enough to pay out when someone needs the money.

Ryan has perhaps been on taxpayer-paid health insurance for so long that he has forgotten how the concept works. He believes that’s only the way it works for Obamacare. “The conceit of Obamacare,” he said at his press conference on Trumpcare, is that “young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older, sicker people.” That’s why Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” he noted.

Twitter had a pretty predictable response to Ryan’s summary of health insurance: Duh.

Meanwhile, every one except the stupid, the greedy, the mean, and the crazy resist.

Well, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

coat-hangerGood Morning!

We have an interesting SCOTUS decision/nondecision just announced on the challenge to the Affordable Health Care’s provision for Birth Control.  Basically, they sent the case back to the lower courts.  I’ve noticed a lot of women’s groups are beginning to take notice of the assault on our reproductive rights.  Remember, Hillary Clinton will appoint the next Supreme Court Justice if President Obama’s selection continues to be the victim of right wing stalling.  This coming election means women’s lives are at stake.

In a surprise move Monday, the Supreme Court punted on a major Obamacare case challenging the law’s contraceptive mandate, and specifically, how it accommodates religious nonprofits that object to birth control. The Supreme Court sent the case back to lower courts to examine an alternative accommodation to the mandate that the court had been briefed on by both parties in the case after the oral arguments.

The move — which comes as the Supreme Court is down a justice with Justice Antonin Scalia’s death — allowed the court to avoid what looked like a split decision after March’s oral arguments. The Supreme Court was able to stay away from the thorny trade-offs between health care policy and religious freedom, a legal landscape that got much more complicated after the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2014’s Hobby Lobby case.

The challenge the court weighed in on Monday was Zubik v. Burwell. It was consolidation of cases brought by religious nonprofits, including The Little Sister’s of the Poor, who objected to the work-around set up by the Obama administration to provide contraceptive coverage to employees of organizations opposed to birth control on religious grounds. The non-profits said that even filling out the form or sending a government the letter declaring their objections to covering birth control was a burden on their faith, because it set in motion the process by which their employees received the coverage from their insurers, though that coverage was not paid for or part of the employer plans. Lower courts’ have overwhelmingly rejected the challengers’ argument that the workaround violated 1993’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), though one appeals court ruled in their favor. (That case was not among those consolidated for the Supreme Court).

In sending the case back down to lower courts, the Supreme Court signaled that it believed a compromise could be worked out that didn’t involve weighing the larger issues involved in the RFRA challenge.

“The Court expresses no view on the merits of the cases. In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest,” Monday’s opinion said. The opinion also stipulated that whatever was worked out should not affect “the ability of the Government to ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans” have access to contraceptive coverage.

RFRA was at the heart of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2014’s Hobby Lobby case — which said that certain for-profit companies that object to birth control could use the nonprofit workaround that was on trial in Zubik.

claire no more wire hangersLyle Denniston writing for SCOTUSBLOG called it “A compromise, with real impact, on birth control”.

One reading of Monday’s developments was that the Court, now functioning with eight Justices, was having difficulty composing a majority in support of a definite decision on the legal questions.  Thus, what emerged had all of the appearance of a compromise meant to help generate majority support among the Justices.  With this approach, the Court both achieved the practical results of letting the government go forward to provide the contraceptive benefits and freeing the non-profits of any risk of penalties, even though neither side has any idea — at present — what the ultimate legal outcome will be and, therefore, what their legal rights actually are under the mandate.

Those uncertainties are now likely to linger through the remainder of President Obama’s term in office, which ends next January.  The appeals courts may well order the filing of new legal briefs, and may hold new hearings, before issuing a new round of rulings on the controversy.  However, the entire future of the ACA, including its birth-control mandate, may now depend upon who wins the presidential election this year and which party has control of Congress when it reassembles in 2017.

The two issues that the Court had agreed to rule on, and then left hanging at least for now, were whether the ACA mandate violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act by requiring religious non-profits that object to contraceptives to notify the government of that position, and whether the move by the government to go ahead and arrange access to those benefits for those non-profits’ employees and students was the “least restrictive means” to carry out the mandate.

Doing on Monday much the same that it had done in several temporary orders at earlier stages of this controversy, the Court accepted that the non-profits already had given the federal government sufficient notice of their objection to the mandate, and that the government could use that notice as the basis for going ahead to provide actual access, at no cost, to the employees and students of those institutions.

The pictures you’re seeing are from a Friday night event where activists here in New Orleans1936210_10153730068918512_9068407566361312432_n –including me–assembled and composed Wire Hangergrams for Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards who is supporting a 72 hour waiting period here in Louisiana.  We just can’t seem to keep these dirty old men out of our private parts!!! They don’t think we can make important decisions either.  This is really getting disgusting.

The Louisiana legislature on Wednesday passed a bill requiring women to wait three days before receiving an abortion, tripling the state’s existing waiting time in one of the most stringent regulations of its kind nationally.

Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has said he plans to sign the bill championed by anti-abortion groups. It passed with wide support from the Republican-controlled legislature.

The bill requires a woman to wait at least 72 hours after a state-mandated ultrasound for the procedure. The current waiting time is 24 hours, the same as in most states with waiting periods.

Only five other states require 72-hour waiting periods: Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.

The measures are among a wave of laws being adopted by states as conservatives seek to chip away at the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion.

I voted for the man but just couldn’t bring myself to work on his campaign even though he’d promised to not mess with things like No more wire hangersPlanned Parenthood.  You may recall I was incensed about an ad he ran.  I found the ad appalling.  He just seems to be another example of a man drenched in patriarchy who can’t keep his personal need to control the women in his life away from the rest of us.

This is another weird tale on fellow New Orleanian Wendall Pierce who actually physically assaulted a woman supporting Bernie Sanders.  Pierce has been an outspoken Clinton supporter which is fine.  This action is beyond wrong.

Wendell Pierce, the New Orleans-born actor known for his work in the HBO series “The Wire” and “Treme,” was arrested Saturday in Atlanta after he was accused of attacking a Bernie Sanders supporter,according to the website TMZ and online Fulton County police records.

Pierce was at the Loews Hotel in Atlanta about 3:30 a.m. when he began a political discussion with the woman and her boyfriend, according to the celebrity news website.

TMZ said a hotel source reported that Pierce, a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, grabbed the woman’s hair and slapped her in the head after learning she preferred Clinton’s Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders.

On Sunday, the Atlanta Police Department confirmed that Pierce had been arrested at that hotel, where he was staying as a guest.

“The incident did not rise to anything significant, so no special notification was made … it was treated like any other arrest a patrol officer conducts,” police spokesman Donald Hannah told WWL-TV in an email shared with The New Orleans Advocate. “Mr. Pierce made no indication he was famous, nor did the officer inquire.”

Police records show Pierce, 52, was booked and released on Saturday. He was booked on simple battery and posted an online bond of $1,000, the records indicate.

Pierce, who now lives in Pasadena, California, was raised in Pontchartrain Park, the first African-American postwar suburb in New Orleans, and was active in efforts to rebuild it after Hurricane Katrina.

The actor and producer has been in more than 30 films and nearly 50 television shows and has performed in numerous stage productions, including Broadway productions of “The Piano Lesson,” “Serious Money” and “The Boys of Winter.”

He is perhaps best known for his roles as Detective Bunk Moreland in “The Wire,” trombonist Antoine Batiste in “Treme” and Michael Davenport in the movie “Waiting to Exhale.”

wire hanger gram boxThis primary season needs to end.  The shenanigans in Nevada have shown how little control the Sanders campaign has over its most zealous supporters.  Things are getting way out of control.

Ben Carson is beginning to leak the short list for Trump’s VP and it isn’t a pretty one.  Many folks think that it will most likely be Jan Brewer but Sarah Palin’s name is on it.  So is Chris Christie’s which is basically no surprise to me.  I really doubt either of them would bring anything to the ticket since they’re as nasty and crazy as Trump himself.  They also don’t represent any new votes.

Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon turned presidential candidate turned unfiltered pitchman for Donald Trump and now part of the presumptive nominee’s vice presidential search committee, sat in the back of a Town Car with his wife, Candy, on his way to a televised interview. He had just explained to the reporter riding along that he wanted no role in a Trump administration when news arrived of a new poll naming him as the best-liked of a list of potential running mates.

“Who else was on the list?” he asked quietly, maintaining his usual inscrutable calm. The most favorably regarded contenders after himself, he was told, were John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Chris Christie.

“Those are all people on our list,” he said.

Seriously!  Trump/Palin.  How much argle bargle could one country stand?

I’m making it short today because I have a long day so what’s on your reading and blogging list?  This is an open thread so please share!!!


Monday Reads in which I go there …

Good Afternoon!  Happy Martin Luther King Day!!

dr-martin-luther-king-jr-and-children-on-swingI’ve been spending the morning getting back up to speed on Health Care Economics which is something I never enjoy but never seem to be unable to avoid.  The facts on the ground never change much. What we know about single payer and third party payer systems remains pretty much the same.  The only thing that seems to change is the hostility in this country on the subject.  I keep having to dredge up the same information over and over with the new twists.

Well, here I go again …

There are three articles that BB sent me this morning that sum up the situation nicely.  I’m going to start with those and then finish up by reviewing the mini-case of the failed single payer case in the state of Vermont.  I’m not doing this because I don’t think single payer health insurance is a good deal ceteris paribus.  It obviously works in other countries.  As the Republicans remind us daily, we are not other countries.  Theoretically, it provides superior risk sharing and economies of scale on cost.  So, my theoretical economist side loves it.  My living in America with everything that’s already standing and Republicans who thwart everything at every turn except tax cuts for the wealthy and wars side has a different train of thought.

Yes, it’s time to heal those suffering badly from Berns. I’m going to be in good company because the public wonks are with me on both accounts.  We yearn for a simpler, cheaper, more efficient way of paying and getting health care.  But, we know the difference between brainstorming and an actionable policy.  I’m cursed with a heart longing for idealism but a brain that reins the damn thing in.  Bernie Sanders plan really isn’t a plan.  It’s a lofty goal.

Here’s Ezra Klein writing for VOX stating ‘Bernie Sanders’s single-payer plan isn’t a plan at all: Sanders’s long-awaited health care plan is, by 8871572turns, vague and unrealistic.‘  You should read these links fully if you can manage the time.

Sanders calls his plan Medicare-for-All. But it actually has nothing to do with Medicare. He’s not simply expanding Medicare coverage to the broader population — he makes that clear when he says his plan means “no more copays, no more deductibles”; Medicare includes copays and deductibles. The list of what Sanders’s plan would cover far exceeds what Medicare offers, suggesting, more or less, that pretty much everything will be covered, under all circumstances.

Bernie’s plan will cover the entire continuum of health care, from inpatient to outpatient care; preventive to emergency care; primary care to specialty care, including long-term and palliative care; vision, hearing and oral health care; mental health and substance abuse services; as well as prescription medications, medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics and treatments. Patients will be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs.

Sanders goes on to say that his plan means “no more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges.”

To be generous, it’s possible that Sanders is just being cynical in his wording, and what he means is that, under his plan, individuals have to fight with the government rather than private insurers when their claims are denied.

But the implication to most people, I think, is that claim denials will be a thing of the past — a statement that belies the fights patients have every day with public insurers like Medicare and Medicaid, to say nothing of the fights that go on in the Canadian, German, or British health-care systems.

What makes that so irresponsible is that it stands in flagrant contradiction to the way single-payer plans actually work — and the way Sanders’s plan will have to work if its numbers are going to add up.

Behind Sanders’s calculations, both for how much his plan will cost and how much Americans will benefit, lurk extremely optimistic promises about how much money single-payer will save. And those promises can only come true if the government starts saying no quite a lot — in ways that will make people very, very angry.

“They assumed $10 trillion in health-care savings over ten years,” says Larry Levitt, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “That’s tremendously aggressive cost containment, even after you take the administrative savings into account.”

The real way single-payer systems save money isn’t through cutting administrative costs. It’s through cutting reimbursements to doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and device companies. And Sanders’s gestures towards this truth in his plan, saying that “the government will finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively.”

But to get those savings, the government needs to be willing to say no when doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and device companies refuse to meet their prices, and that means the government needs to be willing to say no to people who want those treatments. If the government can’t do that — if Sanders is going to stick to the spirit of “no more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges” — then it won’t be able to control costs.

Krugman adds a bit more to this today.

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Put it this way: for all the talk about being honest and upfront, even Sanders ended up delivering mostly smoke and mirrors — or as Ezra Klein says, puppies and rainbows. Despite imposing large middle-class taxes, his “gesture toward a future plan”, as Ezra puts it, relies on the assumption of huge cost savings. If you like, it involves a huge magic asterisk.

Now, it’s true that single-payer systems in other advanced countries are much cheaper than our health care system. And some of that could be replicated via lower administrative costs and the generally lower prices Medicare pays. But to get costs down to, say, Canadian levels, we’d need to do what they do: say no to patients, telling them that they can’t always have the treatment they want.

Saying no has two cost-saving effects: it saves money directly, and it also greatly enhances the government’s bargaining power, because it can say, for example, to drug producers that if they charge too much they won’t be in the formulary.

But it’s not something most Americans want to hear about; foreign single-payer systems are actually more like Medicaid than they are like Medicare.

And Sanders isn’t coming clean on that — he’s promising Medicaid-like costs while also promising no rationing. The reason, of course, is that being realistic either about the costs or about what the system would really be like would make it a political loser. But that’s the point: single-payer just isn’t a political possibility starting from here. It’s just a distraction from the real issues.

The deal is this.  We have entire systems, institutions, and agents that have been functioning under multiple plans for quite some time.  This includes Medicaid, Medicare, SCHIP, the VA, and a myriad of private health insurance plans.  You just don’t wave a magic wand and expect that all to unwind costlessly and seamlessly.  You also don’t expect all those folks to be thrilled about it either or to seamlessly transfer their efforts and resources to a new system.  It takes big money and time to do that.   We’re not operating from scratch here.

That also doesn’t take into account politics.  Yes.  POLITICS.  Remember when we first got the ACA and how the majority of Dems and Republicans voted for a single payer plan when the Dems controlled Congress?  Remember how the ACA should work if SCOTUS hadn’t let so many states opt out of the system?  Yes, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.

480-martin-luther-king-children-are-not-born-to-burnDear Bernie Sanders-supporting Friends: Sanders is nice enough.  He’s got some good ideas.  But, no, I do not think he’s got what it takes to be President. He operates out there in gadfly paradise. Or, as Michel Cohen writes it: ‘Bernie Sanders doesn’t get how politics works’.

Now for my deeper impression of the debate: even with his rising poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire, I find it increasingly difficult to take Sanders seriously as a presidential candidate.

Maybe it’s the fact that he’s 74, would be the oldest man to ever become president, and yet couldn’t be bothered to release his medical records until a Clinton surrogate attacked him for it.

Maybe it’s that Sanders finds a way to answer virtually every question by turning it back to another predictable and one-dimensional attack on Wall Street and big money.

Maybe it’s that he gets away with proposing unrealistic policy ideas that have little chance of being passed even by Democrats in Congress, let alone Republicans, and then gets praised for being authentic. Sunday night Sanders finally released his single-payer health care plan, which is all of eight pages and provides little detail on how he’ll implement a complete restructuring of the US health care system. That’s at least an improvement over his plan for breaking up the banks, which is four pages and just as short on detail.

Maybe it’s that every time he answers a question on foreign policy and national security, it’s blindingly apparent that not only does he not understand foreign policy and national security, he simply doesn’t care to know more. I mean, only Bernie Sanders could answer a question about instability Middle East by pivoting to an attack on wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia, which he repeatedly says has to play a greater role in the civil war in Syria, as if no one on his staff could bother to tell him that Saudi Arabia is already playing an important role in the civil war in Syria.

It’s all that and something else — Sanders really does have a singularly naive and simple-minded understanding of American politics. He genuinely seems to believe — and I know this because he repeatedly yelled it at me during the debate — that money is the root of all evil in politics and that if you get the big money out, great things will happen. Sanders said that “a handful of billionaires . . . control economic and political life of this country.” He argued that Republicans and Democrats don’t “hate each other.” He called that a “mythology.” Instead, he said, the “real issue is that Congress is owned by big money and refuses to do what the American people want them to do.”

I’m sorry, but that is a maddeningly simplistic — and wrong — explanation of how American politics works.

Take single-payer health care, which Sanders claims has been difficult to enact because of a corrupt campaign finance system that allows the “pharmaceutical industry” and private insurance companies to spend millions in “campaign contributions and lobbying.”

On the one hand, Sanders is right — those are powerful interests. But so are doctors and hospitals, who’d pay a huge price if single payer became law; so are Republicans, who fought tooth and nail to defeat Obamacare and would do the same for a single-payer plan; so are Democrats, who couldn’t even support a public option for Obamacare and are unlikely to support single payer; so are Americans, who may not be inclined to support another restructuring of the health care system — a few years after the last one. It’s not just about money; it’s also about a political system constructed and reinforced to block the kind of massive reform Sanders is advocating. Money is important, but it’s not even close to the whole story.

How someone who’s been in Washington as long as Sanders can believe that all that stands between doing “what the American people want [Congress] to do” is something as simple as reforming campaign finance is stunning. Sanders, who brags the NRA gives him a D- rating, is the same politician who supported legislation giving gun manufacturers immunity from civil lawsuits and voted against the Brady Bill. Why? Perhaps it is because Sanders comes from a state that has few gun control laws and lots of gun owners. Yes red-state senators who oppose gun control receive contributions from the NRA. They also have constituents who oppose gun control measures and vote on the issue — like Bernie Sanders. It’s as if in Sanders’ mind, parochialism, ideology, or politics plays no role . . . in politics.

010_Protest_Fernandez-ADJSo, yes, we have the ACA (Obamacare) which is a “kludge” to borrow a turn of phrase from Krugman.  If we could start from scratch then single payer health insurance would be infinitely cheaper and better.   But, that’s not the way it is.

Krugman admits that Obamacare is far from perfect, an awkward, imperfect solution that does not work for everyone. But he thinks it would be a mistake for Democrats to expend political capital refighting the battle that gave them their biggest victory in decades. Here’s how he lays out his case:

If we could start from scratch, many, perhaps most, health economists would recommend single-payer, a Medicare-type program covering everyone. But single-payer wasn’t a politically feasible goal in America, for three big reasons that aren’t going away.

First, like it or not, incumbent players have a lot of power. Private insurers played a major part in killing health reform in the early 1990s, so this time around reformers went for a system that preserved their role and gave them plenty of new business.

Second, single-payer would require a lot of additional tax revenue — and we would be talking about taxes on the middle class, not just the wealthy. It’s true that higher taxes would be offset by a sharp reduction or even elimination of private insurance premiums, but it would be difficult to make that case to the broad public, especially given the chorus of misinformation you know would dominate the airwaves.

Finally, and I suspect most important, switching to single-payer would impose a lot of disruption on tens of millions of families who currently have good coverage through their employers. You might say that they would end up just as well off, and it might well be true for most people — although not those with especially good policies. But getting voters to believe that would be a very steep climb.

Bottom line for Krugman is that single-payer ain’t gonna happen. Like it or not, the fact that Obamacare did not disrupt the millions of Americans who get health insurance through their employers gives it a leg up. Then there is the fact that taxes would have to be raised on the middle class to pay for it, as even Sanders acknowledges. And even though the middle class would not doubt save even more on their health insurance premiums, Krugman comes down on the side that higher taxes on them would not fly politically.

I’d like to add something to all of this. It’s frequently nice to have test cases for policy change.  Massachusetts was the test case for ChaffeeCare/DoleCare/RomneyCare/ObamaCare.  It wasn’t perfect but it worked.

March 1965: Children watching a black voting rights march in Alabama. Dr Martin Luther King led the march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

March 1965: Children watching a black voting rights march in Alabama. Dr Martin Luther King led the march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

According to a new analysis, health care reform in Massachusetts, popularly known as “Romneycare,” didn’t cause hospital use or costs to increase, even as it drove down the number of people without health insurance.

Implemented by the state in 2006, and signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney, the reform is looked at as a model for the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” the sweeping and controversial health care law that Republican lawmakers in the House tried to repeal for the 37th time Thursday.

Amresh Hanchate, an economist with the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and lead author of the study, which he presented Thursday at an American Heart Association conference, says that the results of the study were surprising.

 “In light of the [Affordable Care Act], we wanted to validate concerns that insurance reform would lead to dramatic increases in health care use and costs,” he says. “We were surprised to find little impact on health care use. Changes we saw in Massachusetts are very similar to those we saw in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – states without reform.”

When it was implemented, about 8.4 percent of Massachusetts citizens were uninsured; by 2010, just 3 percent were uninsured. Uninsured rates fell most among minorities: In 2006, 15 percent of African-Americans were uninsured, in 2010, that rate was at 3.4 percent. Uninsured rates for Hispanics in the state fell from 20 percent to 9.2 percent during the same period.

Similarly encouraging news is found on the ACA even though it was seriously hampered by the SCOTUS ruling that allowed many states to opt out of the medicaid expansion and hosting local exchanges.  We have one state that tried to have single payer. It failed.  The state was Vermont.  Sanders was asked about it during the debate. He dodged the question by referring it to the state’s governor.  Well, there’s a lot of information out there on it.  I’ll start with NEJM. 

On December 17, 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin publicly ended his administration’s 4-year initiative to develop, enact, and implement a single-payer health care system in his state. The effort would have established a government-financed system, called Green Mountain Care, to provide universal coverage, replacing most private health insurance in Vermont. For Americans who prefer more ambitious health care reform than that offered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Shumlin’s announcement was a major disappointment. Was his decision based on economic or political considerations? Will it damage the viability of a single-payer approach in other states or at the federal level?

Shumlin’s exploration of a single-payer health care system, which included three assessments by different expert groups, was among the most exhaustive ever conducted in the United States. A 2011 study led by Harvard health economist William Hsiao provided optimistic projections: immediate systemwide savings of 8 to 12% and an additional 12 to 14% over time, or more than $2 billion over 10 years, and requirements for new payroll taxes of 9.4% for employers and new income taxes of 3.1% for individuals to replace health insurance premiums (see tableFinancial Estimates from Three Projections for a Vermont Single-Payer Health Plan.).

Two years later, a study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Wakely Consulting projected savings of just 1.5% over 3 years.2 Finally, a 2014 study by Shumlin’s staff and consultants predicted 1.6% savings over 5 years and foresaw required new taxes of 11.5% for employers and up to 9.5% for individuals. The governor cited these last projections in withdrawing his plan: “I have learned that the limitations of state-based financing, the limitations of federal law, the limitations of our tax capacity, and the sensitivity of our economy make that unwise and untenable at this time . . . . The risk of economic shock is too high,” Shumlin concluded.

Two factors explain most of the decline in the plan’s financial prospects. First, the anticipated federal revenues from Medicaid and the ACA declined dramatically. Second, Shumlin’s policy choices significantly increased the total projected cost of Green Mountain Care: raising the actuarial value of coverage — the expected portion of medical costs covered by a plan rather than by out-of-pocket spending — from 87% to 94%, providing coverage to nonresidents working in Vermont, and eliminating current state taxes on medical providers. Still, even Shumlin’s projections indicated that the plan would reduce Vermont’s overall health spending and lower costs for the 90% of Vermont families with household incomes under $150,000. Despite differing projections, all three studies showed that single payer was economically feasible.

In reality, the Vermont plan was abandoned because of legitimate political considerations. Shumlin was first elected governor in 2010 promising a single-payer system. But in the 2014 election, his Republican opponent campaigned against single payer. Shumlin won the popular vote by a single-percentage-point margin, 46% to 45%, which sent the election to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives; though the House reelected him easily in January, a clear public mandate for his health care agenda was nowhere in evidence.

maxresdefault (1)Here’s some slightly less academic explanations. This one comes from the Boston Globe.

Vermont took Obamacare a step further. In 2011, Shumlin proudly signed a bill to establish a publicly financed, single-payer system. The law required Shumlin to submit a detailed financial plan by 2013.

Shumlin missed the deadline, raising fears among supporters and critics alike that single-payer health care would cost much more than anticipated. Those fears were realized on Dec. 17, when Shumlin, two years late and just a month from narrowly winning reelection, released the financial analysis.

The numbers were stunning. To implement single-payer, the analysis showed, it would cost $4.3 billion in 2017, with Vermont taxpayers picking up $2.6 billion and the federal government covering the rest. To put the figures into perspective, Vermont’s entire fiscal 2015 budget, including both state and federal funds, is about $4.9 billion.

Shumlin’s office estimated the state would need to impose new personal income taxes of up to 9.5 percent, on top of current rates that range from 3.55 to 8.95 percent. Businesses would be hit with an 11.5 percent payroll tax, on top of 7.65 percent payroll taxes employer pay for Social Security and Medicare.

And even those tax increases might not have been enough. The governor’s office estimated the Green Mountain Care program would run deficits of $82 million by 2020 and $146 million in 2021. Shumlin said he feared the tax increases would harm businesses and the economy.

Okay, this is VERMONT, folks.  Now, try doing that in Louisiana and Kansas or try getting their elected officials in the District to buy off on it.

So, a lot of children just really like believing in Santa Claus and it doesn’t take much to get them to continue their buy-in. Then there was Doctor Daughter who figured out it was her Dad and me at an extremely tender age after careful empirical study then asked me if that was the case.  Of course, I said yes rather than try to lead her on like my parents did me for the sake of my sister. I just told her to go along if other kids believed and their parents hadn’t told them the truth yet.  She did so like a little Nixonian co-conspirator.

I will not lie to you.  Ceteris paribus.  I prefer Single Payer Health Insurance.  Ceteris paribus.  Bernie Sanders has some really nice ideas.

I have never been one of those theoretical researchers.  All of my stuff is empirical. I live in the land of empirical evidence.  Yes, folks socialized medicine works just fine in the UK and is fairly cheap and folks get turned away for stuff that would probably piss the average American off.  Yes, single payer health or a government option works great in Switzerland and other places.  But, this is a country where it appears that our options will be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Spare me the Santa Claus mythos or the Senator Gadfly mythos.

Sorry this is so long, but as you can see, I had a lot to say and prove.  I vote we try to improve on the ACA and for Hillary.  Just sayin’.

Mea culpas go to any one whose work I over quoted.  I love fair use but I also loved what you wrote.  I quoted and cited you.  Just sayin’.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Live Blog: Fourth Democratic Debate

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Tonight’s debate is likely to feature some fireworks and a good exchange of ideas between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders–as long as the moderators can keep Martin O’Malley from constantly breaking in with his patented line “I’ve actually already done that in Maryland.”

Mediaite has the basics on how to watch the debate. It will be available on line at the NBC News website and YouTube. It begins at nine and goes for two hours.

The back and forth between Hillary and Bernie this week has been interesting, to say the least. Hillary seems to have gotten under Bernie’s skin too, because he has now partially flip flopped on his vote to immunize gun dealers from liability, his campaign has promised to release specifics on his health car plan and how he hopes to pay for it “very soon,” and they’ve also said they’ll release a “doctor’s note” on Sanders’ health.

Just a couple of days ago the Sanders campaign announced they wouldn’t release the health care tax figures and they previously pooh poohed the need to release medical records.

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I’ve thought for awhile now that Sanders has begun to believe his own reviews in the media. After reading what he said on Face The Nation this morning, I’m convinced he has allowed the failure of the media to vet him and the adulation of his supporters to go to his head.

Sanders: I have a “good chance” to win 2016 election.

“I think we have a good chance to win both those states,” he said of Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to hold nominating contests. “I think we have a good chance to win this election.”

If he does win, Sanders predicted his campaign would come to be known as “one of the great political upsets in modern history.”

He is feeling so good, in fact, that the Vermont senator told “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson that while he was watching President Obama’s final State of the Union address last week, “the thought did cross my mind” that he could be delivering that address in the near future.

Then he caught himself.

“It’s a very humbling feeling,” he said, but added a moment later, “It’s a long way to go before we talk about inaugural speech, before we toss State of the Union speeches in.”

Hmmm…. he doesn’t sound so humble.

Bernie guns

I have a few other good links for you on Bernie.

First a diary from DailyKos (!) on the health care law that Sanders has proposed multiple times in Congress: Sanders’ Health Care Plan. The diarist simply reports the contents of Senate Bill 1782, introduced in December 2013. Please go read it.

The law would end Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, the Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Program, and TRICARE. The money that was going into those programs, and use it to fund a “single payer” plan to be run and partially paid for by the states.

We already know that Supreme Court is not going to force states to accept something they don’t want from the Feds. That was their decision on the ACA Medicaid expansion. Even if Sanders could somehow get this through the Republican Congress, it would never get past SCOTUS.

I can’t even imagine what would be involved in implementing this. Right now, Medicare has low overhead costs because it turns over administration of supplemental plans to insurance companies–which would be outlawed in Sanders’ alternative universe.

I’m on Medicare and I get help paying my premiums from the government. Those premiums are more than $100 per month. Basic Medicare only pays for hospital bills, so I also have a government funded supplemental plan with very high co-pays that I get “free.” At least I can go to a doctor if it’s absolutely necessary. What would happen to people like me when all that infrastructure is demolished?

Here’s another must-read that Babama posted in a comment yesterday.

GTY_Chelsea_and_bernie_mm_160112

The People’s View: Chelsea Clinton was Right: Everyone’s Health Care is Threatened under Bernie’s Plan.

Recently, Chelsea Clinton got panned for saying that Bernie Sanders’ health care plan – commonly heralded as ‘Medicare for All’ by the revolution-peddlers – would give Republican governors the opportunity to dismantle publicly funded health insurance for the poor and middle class, that is, Medicaid and the health insurance exchanges. Seems absurd to accuse a self-proclaimed socialist with a proclaimed demand for single-payer universal health insurance of trying to take away health care. Politifact rated Chelsea Clinton’s claims ‘mostly false.’

Politifact got it wrong. Bernie Sanders’ plan does, in fact, allow for states to take away health care from the poor and middle-income, if not most everyone in a state. Although, that shouldn’t be a surprise, given that Sanders’ plan itself targets the economically disadvantaged for punishment. As Politifact notes, Sanders hasn’t proposed a full health care plan for his presidential campaign, instead choosing to use a bill Sanders introduced in the Senate in 2013 without a single cosponsor, titled ‘American Health Security Act of 2013’ as the template.

Poltiifact notes it is in fact true that Sanders’ plan repeals all health insurance funding from Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance exchanges. But he would channel the revenue instead to fund the single-payer system! [….]

The problem is, what Sander’s bill “seeks to” do and what it actually does are quite different. Since Politifact helpfully pointed us to Sanders’ 2013 bill, I decided to read it. In short, it ends all funding to Medicaid, Medicare, SCHIP an the ACA insurance provisions, directs it to this single-payer insurance program, raises additional revenue on the back of those who can least afford it, and charges states with the job of actually running it.

Each state, in theory, would have its own program that follows basic guidelines and the vast majority of the funding (80-90%) is provided by the federal government.  Nonetheless, for states that refuse to run their own program, federal authorities – specifically, a Board – can do so instead. Sanders’ bill would also ban the sale of private health insurance.

Until I read that last night, I really didn’t understand how clueless Sanders really is. Please read the whole thing if you haven’t already, because Robert Reich is running around saying the plan makes sense.

berniesandersnra

One more Bernie link from Dean Barker at “Birch Paper.” This one has been getting retweeted a lot today. The piece takes us back to the early days of Sanders’ political career when he ran again and again for office, and always lost. Then he got smart and used guns to get into Congress.

Sanders repeatedly talks about how he lost an election because he supported a ban on assault weapons. What really happened is that Sanders did so well in a third-party run that he got Republican Peter Smith elected. After he got to Washington, Smith’s conscience bothered him and he ended up supporting a bill to ban assault weapons.

In 1990, Sanders ran for the House seat again, and defeated Smith with the help and monetary support of the NRA. So when Bernie went to Washington, he voted against the Brady bill–repeatedly.

You have to read that article! There are tons of good links in there too.

Hillary was on the morning shows today too, and she learned from George Stephanopoulos that Karl Rove’s super pac is running an ad in Iowa that supports Sanders attacks on her.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laughed off a new attack ad from a Republican super PAC run by Karl Rove during an interview Sunday on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos.

The web spot, titled “Hillary’s Bull Market,” was launched by American Crossroads, which is run by the Republican strategist and former President George W. Bush adviser. After watching the ad for the first time during her interview on “This Week,” Clinton just smiled.

“I think it shows how desperate the Republicans are to prevent me from becoming the nominee,” Clinton said about the ad, which goes after her ties to Wall Street. “I find that, in a perverse way, an incredibly flattering comment on their anxiety, because they know that not only will I stand up for what the country needs, I will take it to the Republicans.”

160117-clinton-omalley-sanders-1143a_18d87455d138f61dea0941583221caf3.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

CNN’s report on the morning shows: Hillary Clinton zeroes in on Bernie Sanders.

Hillary Clinton on Sunday sharpened her attacks on Bernie Sanders over the Vermont senator’s record on gun control, just hours ahead of their fourth debate as both vie for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I am very pleased that he flip-flopped on the immunity legislation,” Clinton told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” a day after Sanders, who had been hammered by her campaign for his past position, announced he would change course and back legislation to reverse a 2005 law granting firearm manufacturers legal immunity.

She then called on her rival to do the same with the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which allows licensed dealers, once they have initiated a federal background check, to complete the gun sale in question if they haven’t hears back from authorities after three days.

Good news for Hillary:

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Time: Poll: Hillary Clinton Leads Bernie Sanders Nationally By 25 Points.

Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders in a new national poll ahead of Sunday’s final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses.

The former Secretary of State is beating Sanders by 25 points nationally, according to according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of likely Democratic primary voters. Clinton is the top pick among 59% of Democratic primary voters, while Sanders has the support of 34%, the survey shows. Third-place candidate Martin O’Malley got the support of just 2% of likely voters.

Read the rest at CNN.

And From US News: Yes, Hillary’s Still the Inevitable Democratic Nominee She can recover even if she loses the first two nominating states to Bernie Sanders. Here’s why. Read about it at the link. It’s not easy find a brief excerpt to summarize the findings.

I’m putting this up a little early so we’ll have time to discuss these articles–or anything else you want to talk about–before the debate begins at 9PM. I look forward to reading your reactions to what happens tonight. This is the most important debate yet!


Wednesday Reads: “Brutal Baboon Battle” Winter came early for a family at zoo….

baboon on throne….a baboon family that is…after the big head mama dropped dead, a huge ass fight ensued over which top banana would take over the dead queen’s throne.

Actually, the fight has been ongoing, this past year there have been vicious attacks among the powerful females within the group, causing injuries…pretty bad ones at that. They have even had to close the exhibit and re-arrange the back enclosure to include additional, “escape routes.”

See this article from Toronto about the ongoing war:

Brutal baboon battle erupts for throne at Toronto Zoo after matriarch dies | Toronto Star

Medical records show numerous injuries among five of the six female olive baboons, from deep lacerations near their eyes to hair ripped out and tail injuries. At least two required surgeries to close deep gashes.

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The exhibit was closed for several days because “there were some injuries that we thought best to keep them at the back because our visiting public don’t know baboon behaviour,” said Maria Franke, the curator of mammals at the zoo.

The baboon house — the area not open to the public where the animals eat and sleep — also had to be modified to allow for more space and additional escape routes, Franke said.

Chris Dutton, the zoo’s senior veterinarian, said the animals are fine and are “incredibly tough and they heal incredibly well.”

Now, Dutton said, two females sit on the throne in an uncomfortable truce, with the rightful heir biding her time until the older one dies.

Baboons, both in the wild and at zoos, have societies that are run by females — and that dominance runs through family lines. So the oldest daughter of the matriarch is the rightful heir to become queen.

That’s what happened to Betty, the longtime queen of the 12-member troop who took the reins when her mother, Boss Lady, died.

But troubles began a year ago when keepers noticed differences in Betty’s behaviour, Franke and Dutton said.

“She was changing her naturally dominant behaviour and she was hanging out with the subordinates and starting to slow down a little,” Dutton said.

The medical records, obtained via freedom-to-information legislation, note Betty was “reported to be lethargic, losing weight and not eating well.”

By early December, Betty stopped eating.

So Dutton and his staff anesthetized her to figure out what was going on. An exploratory surgery revealed a tumour in her uterus that had spread to the abdominal wall. It was terminal, Dutton said, so they euthanized her on the operating room table on Dec. 5, 2014. She was 16 years old.

That’s when the brawling began.

So, in Canada…they need the freedom of information act to get records on…Baboons.

But I got distracted.

Let’s get on with the fighting, back to when the shit hit the fan:

Molly is Betty’s oldest daughter and baboon society dictates the throne was hers. But she was young at six years old, and not fully mature.

So Putsie, who at 18 years old is the enclosure’s oldest female, saw an opportunity.

“She’s fighting to be dominant because of age, I guess,” Franke said.

It’s unclear exactly who inflicted which wounds on whom, as the attacks happened mostly at night and away from the keepers. But over the course of the following year, Putsie had only one minor injury, while the remaining five animals fared worse.

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Molly and her sister, Susan, appeared to suffer the most attacks early on, according to the medical records.

Molly was attacked at least eight times over the course of three months. At one point, her left eye was swollen shut and she had deep lacerations above both eyes and a gash to the bone on her nose, the records show. Molly was anesthetized and one wound was stitched up.

By mid-month, Susan was attacked and suffered “severe lacerations” of the right side of her face that left the orbital bone exposed. The injury required surgery similar to Molly’s.

The eye itself wasn’t affected, the records say, “but the eye remains semi closed before and after suturing and cannot rule out muscle or nerve damage to peri-orbital structures.”

Three subordinate females, Kristina, Kate and Kalamata — all Putsie’s daughters — were also attacked. Kristina’s left eye was swollen shut after a fight, according to the medical records.

Kate had cuts on her face and several bites to her tail.

“Now all the aggression is occurring to the other animals, the least dominant, which is Kalamata,” Franke said.

Damn, the shit is getting real!!! Poor Kalamata is the one who is weakest, and of course, the one they are ganging up on.

“Most of the hair on top of her head has been ripped out,” the medical notes read. “This individual has been attacked multiple times within the last two months.”

She was attacked again this past October, Dutton said, when one baboon bit her tail.

Dutton and Franke only intervened when a baboon needed medical treatment. They were loathe to interrupt the baboon’s own game of thrones.

“You have to let their natural behaviour happen,” Franke said. “They have to sort it out. In the wild, a lot of times it’s to the death.”

She added a baboon has never been killed by another baboon at the Toronto Zoo.

Well, thank the gawds for that!

downloadA veterinary note that was attached to several baboons’ medical files suggests various interventions, including modifying the enclosure to add outdoor heaters and shelters so that the animals can have outdoor access at night without freezing.

The note also suggests looking into medical options for regulating aggressive behaviour.

Hmm, I bet you are wondering about pills right? Dope them up, eh?

As for medical intervention, Dutton said: “We don’t particularly want our animals on some form of mood-altering drugs of any kind because we don’t think that’s appropriate.”

I guess the Scientologist are pleased with that diagnosis.

 

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Earlier this week, the baboons lounged in the sun grooming each other and lazing around. Kalamata lay on a rock, a portion of her tail scabbed over.

Now, the name of the male in this next and last nugget of the piece made me laugh like hell….

Olive-baboon-jumping-across-waterThe only drama came when one male made a sexual play for a female.
Bwana Joe, the oldest and largest male, took offence and chased several baboons up the rock wall — but eventually succeeded in wooing one of the females himself.

I think we have a new nickname for Joe Biden…don’t you?

 

Today’s post is full of links, to a variety of stories. I am purposely not touching on the Planned Parenthood shooting, and the disgusting remarks from the fuckers on the GOP side. I can’t deal with it now, it will get me too upset.
My mind is in another place. Last night I read this headline, Unemployed Florida man tries shocking father to death – NY Daily News. You want to know what my first thought was? The guy coming out behind a bush or something and yelling boo! Seriously. I thought of that werewolf scene from High Anxiety:

High Anxiety Werewolf Scene on Vimeo

It never occurred to me that “shocked” meant…shocked, as in electrocuted.

After finding out he would get his father’s entire inheritance, an unemployed Florida man tried electrocuting his dad.

John Knudsen, 44, had a shocking ploy to take his 81-year-old father’s money — by killing him and reaping the inheritance. The Ormond Beach son learned that he would be the sole beneficiary of his father’s will, and pulled his charged stunt on Thanksgiving morning, according to reports.

maxresdefaultWith that in mind, here are your links for this Wednesday:

Black lives matter is in the news again. I was trying to explain to my parents the point behind #BlackLivesMatter on why they are not bringing up the black on black crime**…especially the most recent violence that we have seen in the news in New Orleans and the assassination of the 9 year old boy in Chicago (a supposed gang leader’s son). The point being that BLM is for the cause of certain specific things, i.e…..this:

Chicago police chief out, review launched over black teen’s death | Reuters

Chicago’s police chief was ousted on Tuesday after days of protest over a white officer’s shooting of a black teenager 16 times and the department’s refusal to release a video of the killing for more than a year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced during a news conference that he had asked Garry McCarthy, police superintendent since May 2011, to resign. Emanuel also said he was creating a new police accountability task force.

The white officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged a week ago with first-degree murder in the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald. The video, from a patrol car’s dashboard camera, was released on the same day.

High-profile killings of black men at the hands of mainly white law enforcement officers in U.S. cities have fueled demonstrations for some two years, stoking a national debate on race relations and police tactics.

96046-004-EA5AB482Illinois Attorney General Wants U.S. Civil Rights Probe Of Chicago Police

The Illinois attorney general called for a federal civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department on Tuesday, hours after Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the superintendent for his handling of an officer’s killing of a black teenager.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan sent what she characterized as an urgent request to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking that the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigate Chicago police use of deadly force and the department’s internal review process, and determine whether there is a “pattern of discriminatory policing.”

“Trust in the Chicago Police Department is broken, especially in communities of color in the City of Chicago,” Madigan wrote.

Male-olive-baboon“An investigation into whether there are patterns and practices of civil rights violations by CPD is vital to bringing about the systemic change that is necessary here,” Madigan continued. “Chicago cannot move ahead without an outside, independent investigation into its police department that moves toward improved policing practices and increasing trust between the police and the community.”

Images Appear To Show Police Viewing The Now-Missing Laquan McDonald Video

Nearly an hour and a half of surveillance footage from the night of Laquan McDonald’s death is missing from the security system at a Chicago Burger King near the scene of the black teen’s alleged murder, and new evidence obtained by NBC Chicago suggests police may have been the last ones to view it.

Jay Darshane, district manager for the Burger King at Pulaski Road and 41st Street, told NBC Chicago in May that his cameras were fully operational when police came in on Oct. 20, 2014, the night of the shooting. While he wasn’t at the restaurant at the time, he said he authorized the manager on duty to give the officers access to the footage. He suggested that the video wouldn’t show the fatal 16 shots, but it might contain details about what happened directly before and after officer Jason Van Dyke killed McDonald.

2361942764_d3b34c16efThe next day, however, Darshane discovered an 86-minute gap in the footage, from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m. Prosecutors say Van Dyke fired the first of 16 rounds at 9:57. Darshane — who testified about the missing video before a federal grand jury earlier this year, according to the Chicago Tribune — said he believes police deleted the key footage. But local law enforcement officials say they haven’t found evidence that the security system was tampered with.

Now NBC Chicago has revealed the two screen grabs below, which appear to show at least one officer reviewing security recordings at Burger King on the night of McDonald’s death.

Be sure to go to the links to those articles to read the rest of the stories. Especially the last one on the missing 86 minutes of tap, and the footage of officers reviewing the film at the Burger King.  I think that could be huge…in a holy shit sort of way.

In an interview with NPR last week, Chicago attorney Craig Futterman said he’d seen footage similar to the screen grabs obtained by NBC. He accused the police of erasing the key minutes.

“The officer went into the Burger King, and he erased all seven of those files,” said NAN5309Futterman, who aggressively lobbied for the release of a related video taken by the police dashcam. “The irony is, though, that the Burger King surveillance video was running while the officer erased them. And so there’s a videotape of the officer erasing the video.”

The grainy images don’t show exactly what officers are doing or for how long, but Darshane recently told the Tribune that police had come with their own information technology specialist and hung around the restaurant until about midnight. He also claimed that officers were having a difficult time operating the security system.

At a press conference last week, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez described the matter of the mysterious gap as closed. She said “forensic testing” had revealed no tampering, but refused to answer any further questions.

Also at the press conference, Garry McCarthy, then superintendent of Chicago’s police force, called allegations that his officers had altered the footage “absolutely untrue.” The missing video was the result of “technical difficulties,” he said.

Fuckadoodledoo!

baboons-gcooke480bAnyway, I tried to explain to my parents that the Black Lives Matter is focused on law enforcement and/or that kind of authority figures who many times get away with murder.

(I myself don’t understand the reason behind the BLM protesters attacking Hillary, when they should go after the assholes who don’t give a damn…like the GOP dickheads. But maybe someone can explain it to me?)

Then you have some in the black community who do speak out on such matters as black violence, like Spike Lee did a few weeks back: Spike Lee’s Comments on Black Lives Matter Might Piss You Off | News | BET

He says we “can’t ignore that we are killing ourselves, too.”

Spike Lee isn’t afraid to make people angry with his opinionated points of view, and he doesn’t disappoint when it comes to sharing his views on Black Lives Matter. The director, whose controversial film Chi-Raqhits theaters on December 4, tells CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he supports the movement, but that attention should also be paid to Black-on-Black crime.

“We cannot be out there” protesting police violence “and then when it comes to young brothers killing themselves, then mum’s the word. No one’s saying nothing? It’s got to be both ends,” Lee said, adding that he’s “all for Black Lives Matter,” but “we as a people can’t be blind” to Black-on-Black crime.

Lee said Black Lives Matter should focus on police brutality, “but you can’t ignore that we are killing ourselves, too. We can’t ignore that.”

Unsurprisingly, conservative blogs are picking up on Lee’s comments and using them to tout their own agendas, which will anger many who support the #BLM movement, but seeing that Spike has been immersed in the world of Chicago gun violence for at least the past year, his views are not that surprising.

Baboon+xgold+2013+genericOh, and those asses at the GOP really do use these words to their own advantage…just two words for you on that. Richard Sherman.

**As to the phrase, black on black crime: Myth of Black-on-Black Crime

Anyway, your thoughts on the subject?

Moving on, in a way: Bombshell: Alabama cops systematically framed blacks by planting drugs and guns for decades

And then, Black Friday breaks record with 185K gun background checks

More Americans had their backgrounds checked purchasing guns on Black Friday than any day in the on record, according to data released by the FBI this week.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 185,345 requests on Nov. 27, one of the largest retail sales days in the country.

“This was an approximate 5% increase over the 175,754 received on Black Friday 2014,” wrote Stephen Fischer, the FBI’s chief of multimedia productions. “The previous high for receipts were the 177,170 received on 12/21/2012.”

Previous spikes for background checks, conducted before a gun buyer can obtain a firearm, occurred after prominent mass shootings, like in December 2012 in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Other Black Friday shopping days in 2014, 2013 and 2012 occupied the FBI’s “top 10” list of the most background checks processed in a 24-hour period.

Since 1998, FBI data shows that the bureau has processed requests for more than 220 million firearm purchases.

Ugh.

I still think they need to regulate bullets. Like they do cough syrup…and Sudafed.

If there is a system in place to give over your license and sign in for OTC medicines like Sudafed, then by all means, make people accountable for the bullets they are buying. Fucking hell!

Baboon6_0427Did y’all see the latest shitfest from the GOP? This time a candidate from Iowa: Iowa State Sen. Mark Chelgren Suggests Death Penalty for Some Immigrant Felons – NBC News The dude wants to illegally kill immigrants that come back into the states:

An Iowa state senator running for U.S. Congress is getting blasted by both his Republican Party and Democrats after saying that immigrant felons who try to re-enter America illegally should be executed.

State Sen. Mark Chelgren’s controversial comments were published Monday by the Journal Express of Knoxville and Marion County, which presented his views on border security and immigration. The newspaper said the two-term state legislator believes in a fence to help protect the nation’s borders, and that if an undocumented person who committed a felony is deported and then tries to return to the U.S., he or she should be subject to capital punishment.

Damn, and it somewhat non-related news:

Annotated Hitler’s Mein Kampf to be published in Germany – BBC News

Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, with critical notes by scholars, is to be published in Germany next month – for the first time since the end of WW2.

The Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich says it will print up to 4,000 copies with some 3,500 notes.

IfZ director Andreas Wirsching says the text with expert comments will “shatter the myth” surrounding the manifesto.

But the move has been criticised by Jewish groups, who argue that Nazi works should never be republished.

I am concerned and don’t know how to feel about this. I think they should not publish it, but then free speech and all…I don’t know. With all this refugee stuff going on, and the anti-immigrant/migrant stance in Europe and here too…it could be dangerous.

Speaking of which: Few Syrians would choose to leave homeland for North America: poll | Reuters

1412956998089_wps_3_EXCLUSIVE_KRUGER_NATIONALIn other news:

O’Reilly Fact-Checks Trump on 9/11 ‘Thousands’ Claim, Finds No Evidence | Mediaite

Cuba Reimposes Limits on Doctors’ Departures From Country

Long-Hidden Details Reveal Cruelty of 1972 Munich Attackers – The New York Times

Senate GOP plans to beef up ObamaCare repeal package | TheHill – Jeezus, will they ever stop!!!

No More Domino Effect: Congress Must Renew the Tax Credits That Keep Families From Falling Down | Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner

How A Single Manhattan Bank Hijacked The Highway Bill

Bipartisan Talks Yield $300 Billion Highway Bill – The New York Times

vintage everyday: Pictures of Cost of Living Sheets in the Past Show How Our Life Have Changed

Just a few more links and we are through…

The next series of links are from the Independent. I thought it would be interesting to see what is up across the pond, and this is the news on one of Britain’s front pages:

Syria vote live: Jeremy Corbyn urges MPs to remember past wars as Cameron refuses to say sorry for ‘slur’ | UK Politics | News | The Independent

  • Tory defence chair Julian Lewis speaks against strikes, saying ‘instead of dodgy dossiers, we now have bogus battalions’

1127px-Olive_baboon_NgorongoroSaudi Arabia accuses Jeremy Corbyn of ‘distorting’ truth over terrorism funding claims | Middle East | News | The Independent

‘Britain is on the verge of entering into a long war in Syria based on wishful thinking and poor information…’ | UK Politics | News | The Independent

David Cameron refuses to apologise for calling anti-bombing MPs ‘terrorist sympathisers’ | UK Politics | News | The Independent

Syria air strikes: Public support for air strikes falls as Parliament prepares to vote | UK Politics | News | The Independent

Syrian air strikes: Labour MP Stella Creasy forced to walk out of Commons debate over abusive phone calls to staff | UK Politics | News | The Independent

Dammit…that is some hot shit going on there.

Note the last link in the series. Yeah. Right.

But across the globe, a new government is preparing to take power: In step towards power, Myanmar’s Suu Kyi meets president, top general | Reuters

And in regards to the question I submitted to you all up top, as to why BLM activist protest at Hillary events…. Will Hillary Clinton Do More For Black America Than Did Obama? Is That A Low Enough Bar? | Black Agenda Report

We are in the final dash now folks:

No need to say it again, Ted Cruz is a fucking asshole, and idiot…but he can’t be this much of an idiot, I think he is just a prick who doesn’t give a damn.

Birth Control Access Is Far From An ‘Utterly Made-Up Nonsense Issue’

Another day, another boneheaded not terribly nuanced comment from a politician about women’s reproductive health, this one courtesy of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. He believes Democrats are lying about GOP efforts to limit women’s access to birth control.

“Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America,” Cruz said in a campaign stop in Iowa. “Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila. So yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utterly made-up nonsense issue.”

Sadly for Cruz — and more pressingly, for women throughout the United States — that assessment is nothing short of absurd. The Supreme Court has ruled that some owners of private companies can deny birth control coverage because of religious beliefs. House Republicans have targeted family planning providers who provide health services to women, including pregnancy prevention. And Republicans have threatened to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides millions of women with contraception.

Because it unfortunately still needs to be said, for the 190,567th time, birth control is anessential part of women’s health care, and it is critical that women have access to a range of options. Sorry, Cruz, but the condoms you seem to think are readily available for 50 cents in every bathroom just won’t cut it. Here are just six reasons why:

We all know the reasons, so I won’t go there.

Last link, hurrah!

Who would have won the medieval Bad Sex in Fiction award? | Books | Culture | The Independent

 

That article is something you will have to just go to the link and read yourself!!!!!!!

What is on your mind today…