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?


Friday Reads from Louisiana La La Land

Good Morning!

So, I’m sorry but I have to go all local today on ya!  There are just so many deliciously nonsensical things going on here that I cannot resist.

First, you download (7)know about our “kissing Congressman” if you’ve been awake and on line for several days. I first wrote about Congressman McAllister back in November when he won the special election.  There were several things that separated him from the politics as usual up there in Crackerland Central.

First, he had never run for office before but he was rich enough from that old grifter business known as the funeral parlor to self finance and win.  Second his buddies the let’s get ducks all horny and shoot’em for fun dudes helped him with commercials and such.  Third, he’s been telling Louisiana that we really need to take that federal money and extend medicaid benefits under Obamacare.

Now, we already know that it’s worked for the poor folk in Kentucky.  The difficulty down here is that our Governor doesn’t govern, he prepares his resume for his next political office and he’s got a small, tiny hard on for at run a the presidency.    Which, brings us to Jindal Gate.  Some of us think some of his buddies leaked the photos of congressman kissy face with Mrs. Peacock in the Alley by the camera.

The day this story broke was basically a day the press jumped on the usual republican family values dude falls short kinda headline day. But, over on facebook, a bunch of us who watch Louisiana politics like most folks watch the Saints thought hmmmmmmm, this is a little weird.  Lamar–who actually manages to stay up later than me–got to writing the story first and he gets tremendous Scooby Snax for it.  His article basically went viral but it seems that some folks are still trying to get back to the Congressman up in your family values face who was caught on video passionately smooching a friend’s wife who was also one of his paid  staffers.

The deal is this folks.  Check out the date on the video that’s been every where.  The kiss happened before Christmas in his office with Mrs Peacock right in front of the security cameras which was also the office and the security cameras of his predecessor.  This is the predecessor that retired early so Bobby Jindal’s handpicked buddy could go to congress.  That hand picked buddy called McAllister a liberal for supporting the federal extension of medicaid that Bobby Jindal doesn’t like, won’t take, and has chosen as the first little policy roll out of his pathetic attempt to get national attention.  Then, notice how quickly Politico got the tape.  The story originated from the Oachita Citizen whose owner backed the opponent and basically runs a virtual small town paper that’s about as notable as the PTA minutes from your local elementary school. Lamar’s got a tick tock that really lays it all out for you.

The story was first broken at 12:19PM by The Ouachita Citizen, a fledgling website that claims to have a paid readership of more than 5,200 people but, based on third-party web traffic analytical data, likely has a daily audience of between 200-300 unique visitors. An hour and a half later, the story was on the front page of Politico. An hour later, it was covered by almost every national news outlet in the United States- Fox, CBS, The Washington Post, NBC.

With all due respect to John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman, the two Politico journalists who broke the story nationally, it defies logic that they somehow randomly stumbled on a story published on a website that even most Louisianians have never heard of and verified the authenticity and provenance of a blurry surveillance video (which, by the way, was behind a paywall) all within a span of 90 minutes. No, this leak was coordinated and planned, and more than likely, considering it was recorded nearly four months ago, it had been in the works for a long time.

Notably, The Ouachita Citizen strongly supported State Senator Neil Riser, calling Mr. McAllister a “liberal” in a bizarre, apoplectic rant, which, ostensibly was an endorsement of Riser but reads more like a scathing attack against McAllister for supporting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. In its report on the McAllister video, The Ouachita Citizen claims to have received the video from an “anonymous” source, but somehow, inexplicably, they were able to verify the video’s provenance. The Ouachita Citizen, in my opinion, bordered on recklessness in their reporting, publishing Mrs. Peacock’s home address and implying, without any evidence whatsoever, that she may have never actually married her own husband. It seemed, to me, nasty and personal, motivated by more than a mere desire to inform the public.

20140403-kiss-x600-1396549483So, the fun part started yesterday when the head of the Louisiana Republican Party and then Jindal got all in a righteous huff about the kiss.  They called for his resignation because you know!!!  Religious right wing indignation and all that!  Funny thing is that both these asses were not so outraged when Diaper Dave Vitter was found on the list of the DC Madam and his diaper escapades went viral on the internet.  So, blogger, journalism professor, and political junkie Bob Mann can’t help but wonder if Vitter’s wet dreams of being governor aren’t going to wind up in the diaper pail?  I’ll see your kiss and raise you a felony soliciting prostitutes.  You know, the same kinda thing that forced a New York Governor to resign. But, not David Vitter, he’s pathetic entitled lily white ass just keeps on going and going and going …

Vitter, as you will recall, was embroiled in a sordid sex scandal in the summer of 2007, finally admitting to a “serious sin,” which everyone knew meant he had paid prostitutes for sex.

As Louisiana Republican Party leaders from Gov. Bobby Jindal to the Louisiana Republican Party called for McAllister’s resignation, a logical question for many journalists and other observers was: “If simply kissing a female staffer is a moral outrage that should cost someone his seat in Congress, why is it a lesser offense for a U.S. senator to pay prostitutes for sex?”

It’s a very good question and one which neither Jindal nor party officials addressed today after condemning McAllister. Vitter, of course, refused comment, too.

I’ll save for another day a full review of the rank hypocrisy of Jindal and GOP leaders who think it’s just dandy for the morally challenged Vitter to continue serving in the United States Senate, but find themselves absolutely repulsed by the idea of McAllister’s on-camera lip lock.

That’s like forgiving a bank robber, and then throwing the book at someone who writes a bad check.

Regardless, the uncomfortable questions keep coming from reporters, from the Twitter-sphere and elsewhere. Sure, the questions will eventually go away once McAllister himself has gone away.

Yet, that almost every political observer in Louisiana – upon hearing about Jindal’s call for McAllister’s resignation – immediately thought of Vitter’s prostitution scandal should tell Vitter and his Republican allies something.

Vitter may have assumed his sordid past was behind him. It isn’t – and this time next year it may be front and center in the Louisiana governor’s race.

So what is Jindal all uptight about?  He doesn’t say ONE word about Vitter but wow, the kissing congressman should resign because he’s an download (8)“embarassment”. Rank hypocrisy stinks enough, but there are those of us that really think he’s known about this tape for some time, is dropping it to get rid of a problem, and that some one close to him got that tape.

“Congressman McAllister’s behavior is an embarrassment and he should resign,” Jindal said in a statement. “He says he wants privacy to work on his issues with his family. The best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.”

Notice Jindal’s response to Vitter’s gubernatorial aspirations and the one thing that really stands out in this announcement is what little issue here?

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R): “It is far too early for me to be making an endorsement.”
“I appreciate his working with us on an issue that I think is one of the most important issues in the state of Louisiana.” — regarding Jindal’s 2012 education overhaul.


“I also appreciate his steadfast opposition to Obamacare, to the ACA.”

Yeah.  Like I don’t smell that unique mix of Curry and Watergate salad coming from the Capitol City. Bobby and Diaper Dave may hate each other, but Jindal does not want any one messing with his foray into health policy wonkery.   I really really want the FBI to go for it, believe me. Just in case you want to see the response to the Vitter thing by Jindal.  Well, here it is.

While we are disappointed by Senator Vitter’s actions, Supriya and I continue to keep David and his family in our prayers. This is a matter for the Senator to address, and it is our hope that this is not used by others for their own political gain.

 

Wedding-candy-bulk-milk-chocolate-font-b-hershey-b-font-font-b-kisses-b-font-singleOther uber embarrassing things are just adding to my desire to see New Orleans ask France to negotiate a retake.  This one tops my list.  Please, please, please can some one read these idiots the first amendment with emphasis on the establishment clause?


Legislation
 that would make the Holy Bible the official state book of Louisiana cleared the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs with a vote of 8-5 Thursday afternoon. It will now head to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, originally filed a bill to declare a specific copy of the Bible, found in the Louisiana State Museum system, the official state book. But by the time he presented the proposal to the committee, he changed language  in his legislation to make the generic King James version of the Bible, a text used worldwide, the official state book.

Still, Legislators became concerned that the proposal wasn’t broad enough and did not reflect the breadth of Bibles used by religious communities. In particular, some lawmakers worried that singling out the King James version of the Bible would not properly reflect the culture of Louisiana. The Catholic Church, for example, does not use the King James text.

“Let’s make this more inclusive of other Christian faiths, more than just the ones that use the King James version,” said Rep. Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro.

A few committee members fought the bill vehemently, saying the legislation was likely to upset some citizens who are not Christian and open the state up to legal challenges.

“I am so bothered by this bill that I just called my pastor. My pastor just said that he thinks we are going to have a legal problem,” said Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, who voted against the legislation.

Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-Harvey, tried to amend the bill to declare “all books of faith” the official state books of Louisiana, but the proposal failed 5-8. When asked if he would be open to making “all books of faith” a group of official state books, Carmody was fairly adamant in his opposition.

Well not even New Orleans is exempt from the usual asshattery.  After being found guilty of basically emptying the city’s accounts for personal trips, home improvements, clothes, family vacations, and all kinds of meals and stuff, we now have a plea for a legal defense fund for Ray Nagin.  Yeah, try kiss-part-12not to trip all over yourselves helping him get more money from others.

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s legal defense fund is real, and it has at least one donation.

After rapper 9th Ward Gucci (@IAM9THWARD) tweeted a pic of a digital receipt acknowledging his donation, Nagin (@RayNagin) retweeted the shot, appended with a shout out. “Maximum respect. Donated, spoke out, not intimidated. U the man!”

Try not to spend that $10 all in one place Ray Ray!

I did want to point to a story about one recent story about a crime here in uptown near the Tulane Campus.  This crime is really strange for a variety of reasons.  Not the least is the name given to the victim by the perp.

She first encountered the man, who introduced himself as “Patrick,” on April 1. She was visiting the Carrollton home of a friend, and saw the man staring at her from behind cars parked in the driveway next door.

“He was this huge, beefed-up young guy,” she said, “and the neighbors are middle-aged. My friends and I are all in our 30s. This guy just didn’t fit in.”

She remembers him saying, “Hi, I’m Patrick.” Uninterested in engaging with him, she didn’t respond and he walked away toward Carrollton Avenue.

The next day, she returned to the Green Street home. She started getting out materials to finish painting the trim on her friend’s front porch. It was still daylight. She thinks it was 5:30 or 6 p.m.

Suddenly, there was “Patrick” again.

This time he approached within eight to 10 feet and began pestering her with questions, small talk, and overtures to go out. He even raised his tight-fitting T-shirt, trying to impress her with his hairless, hardened abs.

“I’m sure I rolled my eyes and probably snorted or something,” she said. “I can be pretty icy, but he just kept on. I was getting kind of pissy, because I came here to paint a house, not listen to some college boy chat me up. I’m old enough to be this guy’s mom, practically.

“He said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry if I offended you. Let me introduce myself.’ And I’m 90 percent sure he said his last name was Bateman.”

Patrick Bateman, she later learned, is the name of the fictional rapist, sadist and serial killer who narrates Bret Easton Ellis’ novel “American Psycho,” made into a 2000 film starring Christian Bale.

Tired of his advances, she packed up her paints and brushes and went back inside her friend’s house and locked the door behind her. She was alone.

The man in the front yard walked away, she recalled.

So a few minutes later, she went to the restroom, closed the door, and drew a bath. As she finished bathing, she heard the stereo turned on and assumed her homeowner friend was home early from work.

“But it was really loud, and it was NPR,” she said. “Like, who blasts NPR?”

The woman dried off and got dressed in a shirt, blue jeans and socks. Her boots, and a canvas bag with her cell phone, were left behind as she came out of the bathroom. She called out to her friend, then to her friend’s husband, momentarily forgetting he was out of town on business.

She came down the hall to find “Patrick,” staring at her impassively. A black rope was in his left hand.

“He looked so much bigger inside the house than he did outside,” she recalled. “This dude was massive.”

The woman — 5 feet, 5 inches tall and 130 pounds — says she has taken Krav Maga self-defense classes and is physically fit from a job requiring manual labor. “But this guy was probably 6-1 or 6-2, and he probably outweighed me by 100 pounds,” she said. “All that self-defense stuff just doesn’t work when somebody is that much bigger than you.

“It was like fighting a tree.”

It seems women and children are never safe.

Some times a kiss is not just a kiss.

 

Here are some other headlines that you may want to check out:

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Resigning via ABC NEWS.

CBS announces that Steven Colbert will be David Letterman’s Replacement and Rush Limbaugh gets the sads. “THE LATE

Some lady threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton in Los Vegas .

 Well,  that’s it from me.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads: Villagers Turn On Obama, Texas Tornadoes, West TX Investigations, and Boston Bombing News

tea6

Good Morning!!

It’s beginning to look like Obama’s second term is pretty much over before it begins. We’re facing years of Republican scandalmongering and “investigations” of a president who won’t fight back or even fight for his own favored legislation or judicial and government appointments.

What is Obama actually doing every day? Does he spend the time he isn’t fund-raising or doing meaningless public appearances deciding which “extremist” to drone strike next? Because he certainly doesn’t seem to be governing.

Maybe I’m wrong. Who knows. All I know is that the Villagers are finished with him. We got the news yesterday from Politico’s top gossip mavens Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen in one of their trademark “Behind the Curtain” posts: D.C. turns on Obama.

The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.

Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.

Really? if powerful Democrats weren’t “big fans” of Obama, why did they work their asses off to hand him the nomination in 2008 when they could just as easily have chosen Hillary Clinton?

Of course the “establishment Democrats” that Vandehei and Allen choose to quote in their piece are hardly current insiders, as Charles Pierce pointed out:

Not to minimize the inherent political savvy of Chris Lehane, one anonymous former Obama aide, one anonymous “longtime Washingtonian,” or Vernon Jordan — who, I admit, I’d thought had long gone off to peddle influence in the Beyond — but I think they’re pretty much camouflage here for the fiery tantrum summoned up by the authors.

(And, not for nothing, but “longtime Washingtonian” may well be the beau ideal of TBOTP sourcing. They should make it the company motto. And the two presiding geniuses are going to be shocked one morning when they look in the mirror and see Sally Quinn staring back at them.)

Nevertheless, the Villagers certainly pay more attention to Vandehei and Allen’s pontifications than Pierce’s. Here’s a little more of their venom:

Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.

This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”

Even Greg Sargent acknowledges that Politico probably speaks for the DC establishment, particularly the corporate media.

Read the rest of this entry »


Do Corporations Have the Right to Inflict Religious Views on Employees?

Here we go again with the christoban and their desire to force us all to conform with their narrow interpretations of human life.  Will a court grant a nonreligious corporation the right to inflict its religious views on its employees based on the owner’s “freedom of religion”? 

The U.S. District Court for Colorado on Friday blocked the Obama administration from requiring an air-conditioning company in Colorado to provide no co-pay contraceptives to its employees, as the Affordable Care Act directs.

It was, as Sam Baker points out, the first time a federal court has ruled against that provision of the health-care law.

It’s not yet, however, exactly a victory for the contraceptive mandate’s opponents: The injunction is specific to that one company, and it holds only until the judge can reach a verdict on the case’s merits. Still, it could mark the start of a long period of litigation involving one of the health-care law’s most polarizing provisions.

Hercules v. Sebelius is a case brought by Hercules Industries, a Colorado-based air-conditioning company. The four siblings who own the business say they oppose contraceptives — such medications are not included in their current health coverage plan — and “seek to run Hercules in a manner that reflects their sincerely-held religious beliefs.”

The health-care law’s required coverage of contraceptives without co-pay is slated to come into effect next week, on Aug. 1. Religious institutions that primarily serve individuals of their own faith got a one-year reprieve. Hercules, as an air-conditioning company, did not fall into that category.

Hercules is challenging the birth control mandate as a First Amendment violation, inhibiting its ability to practice religion freely. The company also argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, a law from the 1990s that is meant to afford greater legal protection to religious institutions from federal requirements that “substantially burden” their ability to practice religion.

Obviously, an A/C company is not a church or church-affiliated corporation so it can’t get access to the run-around that the Obama administration set up for catholic-based colleges as an example. But what can of worms would this open?  Does providing birth control for a few employees or their wives put a “substantial burden'”on the religious practice of the owners? Also, what other kinds of heinous practices would get protection should this argument pass muster with the courts?  Firing an GLBT employee  or a woman who doesn’t believe in submitting herself to a husband?  How about a Jewish person that doesn’t want to go along with a christmas party?

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the ruling.

“This is not religious freedom, this is discrimination,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, policy counsel for the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Real religious liberty gives everyone the right to make their own decisions about their own health, including whether and when to use birth control. It doesn’t give anyone the right to impose their beliefs on others.”

I’m sure these people would be screaming bloody murder to the courts if they were forced to recognize the beliefs and practices of other religions.  Suppose I decided I could fire an employee based on them say, eating animal flesh or using an exterminator because it goes against the Buddhist belief of non-harming?  My guess is that they scream about being placed under some form of Buddhist Shari’a.

 


Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Deadly Shallows

Wonk the Vote mentioned a great article today about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her commentary on the ACA published in New Yorker Magazine and written by Amy Davidson.  I wanted to follow up on this with some more information on the court’s sharpest mind.

“Staying power” is something that Ginsburg has. As Jeffrey Toobin says in this week’s Political Scene podcast, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seventy-nine. She is about five feet tall, eighty pounds, she has had every disease known to humanity. She is as tough as nails.” She made her way at a time when you could have a legal education from Harvard and Columbia and still be turned down for a job because you were a woman. She is not as loud or colorfully charismatic as Scalia—who is?—but neither does she seem to have learned to give up. (Those wondering about the liberal future of the Court might note that, on a point related to Medicaid expansion, Ginsburg was joined by only one Justice: Sonia Sotomayor.) We don’t know what happened inside the Court, or why Roberts voted the way he did. But by writing a scathing opinion, Ginsburg may at least have done him the favor of showing him what he might have looked like if he had signed on with Scalia: a political opportunist, and almost a fool.

She wasn’t the only one exerting that pressure, of course. But she is the leader of the liberal wing and the one who articulated what would have been the Court’s internal reproach.

Ginsberg’s writing on the case was full of gems including her use of Romney Care as one reason for upholding the Obama version.

In her opinion of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made note of Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care law as a reason why the individual mandate was constitutional.

While Ginsburg was a part of the majority opinion, she had differing reasons as to why the mandate was constitutional. The rest of the justices found that under the Commerce Clause, the mandate requiring all U.S. citizens to buy health insurance was not valid. They upheld it as a tax.

Ginsburg, however, said it should have been upheld under the Commerce Clause, and explained how Congress followed Massachusetts’ lead in preventing only sick people from signing up for health insurance:

“Massachusetts, Congress was told, solved the adverse selection problem. By requiring most residents to obtain insurance … the Commonwealth ensured that insurers would not be left with only the sick as customers. As a result, federal lawmakers observed, Massachusetts succeeded where other States had failed.”

Ginsburg continued, citing briefs “noting the Commonwealth’s reforms” and “noting the success of Massachusetts’ reforms.” She noted that the reforms reduced the number of uninsured to less than 2 percent, the lowest rate in the nation. 

“In cou­pling the minimum coverage provision with guaranteed­ issue and community-rating prescriptions, Congress followed Massachusetts’ lead,” Ginsburg wrote.

Ginsberg did not write an ideological screed like the opposition.  Instead, she actually focused on well known economic theories like adverse selection or the “lemons” problem and indicated a direct knowledge of the concept of externalties noting that broccoli was a private good.  It is a good that is separable from public benefits and costs.  This is the traditional microeconomic way of looking at how to determine if a good should remain in a basically unfettered private market or should be considered for regulation or public provision.  Scalia’s broccoli horrible indicates the man has no knowledge what so ever of basic market structures and economics. Ginsberg toasted his cerebral marshmallows on that one.

It’s the noxious “broccoli” argument, a Tea Party cock-and-bull story elevated to law by the chief justice of the United States. But as the unflagging Ruth Bader Ginsburg explains, in her often hilarious separate opinion, “although an individual mightbuy a car or a crown of broccoli one day, there is no certainty she will ever do so;” nor will she get broccoli for free “at the expense of another consumer forced to pay an inflated price”. Ginsburg calls this freshman slippery-slope reasoning “the broccoli horrible”, and she mocks her conservative benchmates for imagining that “a vegetable-purchase mandate” could bring down the healthcare costs of “lithe Americans”:

“The court would have to believe that individuals forced to buy vegetables would then eat them (instead of throwing or giving them away), would prepare the vegetables in a healthy way (steamed or raw, not deep-fried), would cut back on unhealthy foods, and would not allow other factors (such as lack of exercise or little sleep) to trump the improved diet.”

Unlike broccoli, healthcare is something everyone, but everyone, will need at some time. For Ginsburg and the other liberal justices, the individual mandate is not the unprecedented dilemma Roberts insists it is. There is nothing particularly new here. On the contrary, it fits in naturally with what Ginsburg calls “Congress’ large authority to set the nation’s course in the economic and social welfare realm”, and failing to recognize the legislature’s power to do so under the commerce clause is for her “stunningly retrogressive”.

Scalia was so played in her argument that he should blush every time he sees her if he had any intellectual honesty at all.

Again, the argument is insane. It’s even difficult to apply the term shark-jumping because that sounds too mundane for this leap to surreality.

What’s so horrible about eating broccoli?, the legal naïf might wonder. But then Justice Ginsburg comes back at him very sharply:

Consider the chain of inferences the Court would have to accept to conclude that a vegetable-purchase mandate was likely to have a substantial effect on the health-care costs borne by lithe Americans. The Court would have to believe that individuals forced to buy vegetables would then eat them (instead of throwing or giving them away), would prepare the vegetables in a healthy way (steamed or raw, not deep-fried), would cut back on unhealthy foods, and would not allow other factors (such as lack of exercise or little sleep) to trump the improved diet.Even in her brave opinion, Justice Ginsburg reveals the heart of the problem: nobody on the Supreme Court knows how to cook broccoli.

Speaking of intellectual dishonesty,Governor/exorcist/kidnapper Bobby Jindal took the leap to intellectual dishonesty infinity and beyond with this one. He obviously spent know time with the court’s opinion.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said Thursday’s “frightening” Supreme Court ruling could lead to penalties for Americans whose lives are out of step with government priorities.

On a call with reporters, Jindal said that the decision to uphold the healthcare law as a tax is a “blow to our freedoms.”

“What’s next?” he said, expressing concern for people who “refuse to eat tofu” or “refuse to drive a Chevy Volt” — a popular hybrid car.

He doesn’t even realize how he just got dumped into Ginsburg’s trap. But, that’s about what happens when you go after the crazy little Teabot vote.

She even managed to call Roberts an “activist” judge by reminding every one of precedent.

“Rather than evaluating the constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision in the manner established by our precedents, THE CHIEF JUSTICE relies on a newly minted constitutional doctrine. The commerce power does not, THE CHIEF JUSTICE announces, permit Congress to `compel individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product.’” This argument gets “no force from our precedent and for that reason alone warrants disapprobation.”

Jindal sure missed this one.

Ginsburg: Congress can’t do silly things like compelling people to eat broccoli or buy General Motors cars because that would violate the well-established reasonableness test under previous Supreme Court decisions. But even if it did, the voters would rebel.

“As the controversy surrounding the passage of the Affordable Care Act attests, purchase mandates are likely to engender political resistance. This prospect is borne out by the behavior of state legislators. Despite their possession of unquestioned authority to impose mandates, state governments have rarely done so.”

It’s a good thing we have a few true intellectuals and scholars around still. May we continue to be blessed by her fine mind.

You can read the entire ruling here.