Wednesday Reads: Passing the Death Bill …Hump Day Cartoons 

The assholes are determined to pass the death bill. Meanwhile, Dak is hunkered down amongst torrential rainstorms and tornadoes. 

So this will be a quick post:


06/21 Mike Luckovich: Ken gets real.



This is an open thread. 


Sunday Reads: ffather’s Day. Just a straight “fuh”…

👆🏼  See that image? I still haven’t spoken those two words together… and very proud of that fact.

It is Father’s Day…so let me first start out by wishing all the daddies the best on this special Sunday.

I was planning on writing a happy post, with happy links. Then I started to review the news and realized…who am I trying to kid? Such crap goings on.

That is why today’s ffather’s Day post is spelled as such…we have such an embarrassment in office, and in the administration. These dudes are fathers but look at what horrible pieces of shit they are…

They do not deserve a capital letter Father’s Day.

So let us commemorate it…which brings us to ffather’s Day.

Foreign Correspondent (1940) — (Movie Clip) May I Have Your Picture? 

Just a straight “fuh” …as in “Fuck you kid, can’t you see, the only person that matters is me!”

(Granted, tRump hasn’t been beheaded…but I think you will get my meaning here.)

Back to the “fuh”.

Case in point:

Here is the images if you can’t see this tweet:

Today’s tweets…44 and 45.



It’s enough to make you puke.

Have a look at some of the ffather’s out there…and the kind of legislation these assholes are sponsoring these days.

These horrid men, are not only plotting to kill millions, as they kill Obamacare: The AHCA Could Cause an Economic Downturn – The Atlantic

A new report argues that the Republican health law would slash jobs and perhaps trigger a recession.

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund and George Washington University researchers Leighton Ku, Erika Steinmetz, Erin Brantley, Nikhil Holla, and Brian K. Bruen finds that the AHCA would slash total jobs by about a million, total state gross domestic products by $93 billion, and total business output by $148 billion by 2026. Most of those jobs would be shed from the health-care industry, which would contract severely over that frame. Most of the losses in economic activity would come in states that have expanded Medicaid to low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How about some new form of discrimination…Using Birth Control or Getting an Abortion Could Disqualify You From Jobs in Missouri | Allure

Reproductive rights have been taking a hit left and right, and now folks living in Missouri may be facing another setback. Their state Senate has just voted to pass a bill this past Wednesday night after 10 hours of closed-door meetings that, if fully approved, could legally allow hiring managers to discriminate against those who have gotten abortions in the past, as well as applicants who use birth control.

Alison Drieth, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, told The Kansas City Star what she thought about the late night vote made by the Senate. “Passing further restrictions on women’s access to abortion in the dark of night is shameful, at best,” she said. “Republican senators know this, or they would have allowed the hundreds of people rallying at the Capitol on Wednesday take part in the process.”

Reproductive rights have been taking a hit left and right, and now folks living in Missouri may be facing another setback. Their state Senate has just voted to pass a bill this past Wednesday night after 10 hours of closed-door meetings that, if fully approved, could legally allow hiring managers to discriminate against those who have gotten abortions in the past, as well as applicants who use birth control.

Alison Drieth, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, told The Kansas City Star what she thought about the late night vote made by the Senate. “Passing further restrictions on women’s access to abortion in the dark of night is shameful, at best,” she said. “Republican senators know this, or they would have allowed the hundreds of people rallying at the Capitol on Wednesday take part in the process.”

If passed, the bill would put stringent and unwanted restrictions on abortion providers, as the bill would require state health departments to annually inspect clinics unannounced. The Kansas City Star reports, “It also would provide stronger whistleblower protections for employees of abortion clinics and new requirements for pathologists who provide services to abortion clinics.” Both employers and landlords would be allowed to put into place discriminatory practices based on applicants reproductive health decisions. There’s currently an ordinance in place banning this type of discrimination that the bill aims to nullify, based on the idea that it infringes on the religious rights of faith-based employers and landlords.

This bill is not law yet, however, so there is hope. The Missouri House will reconvene next week, and they’ll either ask the Senate to make adjustments to the bill or pass it up to the governor without any changes. We’ll just have to watch this one and see what happens.

 

Next up, bully kids. I wonder how many of these kids learned their bully tactics from their fathers:

White kids are bullying minority students using Trump’s words – Salon.com

This is Trump’s America: kids are mimicking the president in rhetoric and action

Donald Trump’s real campaign promise was that he would give whites back the power they imagined they’d lost. That message was stated not in dog whistles, but loudly enough that the entire country heard him, even children. The trickle-down effect of Trump’s campaign rhetoric and election is now being felt among kids in schools across the country. Bullying, according to a Buzzfeed News report, has taken on an “alarming twist . . . with white students using the president’s words and slogans to bully Latino, Middle Eastern, black, Asian, and Jewish classmates.”

Buzzfeed reporters analyzed data collected by the Documenting Hate Project, which catalogs reports of bias and bullying, and found more than “50 incidents, across 26 states, in which a K-12 student invoked Trump’s name or message in an apparent effort to harass a classmate during the past school year.” The incidents took place between October 2016 and May 2017. Here are just a fraction of the incidents cited by Buzzfeed investigators:

  • A group of white male students at a high school in Shakopee, Minnesota who surrounded an African-American girl and sang the national anthem, “replacing the closing line with ‘and the home of the slaves.’”
  • In a third-grade classroom in Louisville, Kentucky, a boy chased a Latina girl while screaming “Build the wall!”
  • On the school bus, a white eighth-grader told a Filipino classmate, “You are going to be deported.”
  • A white eighth-grade student in Brea, California, told a black student, “Now that Trump won, you’re going to have to go back to Africa, where you belong.”
  • An English teacher in Spokane Valley, Washington, describes discovering a “group of white students following a Latino student in the hallway, taunting him with chants of ‘the wall’s coming!’ and ‘Trump! Trump! Trump!’”
  • The Dallas, Texas mother of a sixth-grader reported that on Election Day, students at her son’s school harassed him and his friends with shouts of, “Heil Hitlary.” One of the bullied students was told, “One million of your lives is worth less than 30,000 deleted emails.”

These represent just a handful of the bullying incidents the Buzzfeed article lists. The authors acknowledge that countless incidents go unreported, and spoke to parents whose children had avoiding telling school authorities because of fears of social backlash. Kids are infamously cruel. And while some school administrators suggested the bullies in these cases may have been unaware of what their words truly meant — an excuse that’s believable for the youngest offenders — it would be naive to think Trump is the only source they’re learning from. While the president has certainly helped make the environment exponentially more toxic, parents, friends and neighbors feed the ugliness as well.

There is a new rally planned in Charlottesville, how many ffathers will attend this?

Talking about disgusting ffathers…Scalise has been listed in stable condition today. You must have seen this? In a funny sort of ironic way….Bigoted Homophobe Steve Scalise’s Life Was Saved by a Queer Black Woman

Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip who was shot by a gunman who attacked a congressional baseball practice on Wednesday, has kept company with racists. He was forced to apologize for speaking at an international conference of white supremacists, and reportedly referred to himself as “David Duke without the baggage.” Following Scalise’s shooting, Duke praised him for “defending white civil rights.”

Scalise has also been described as one of the most anti-LGBTQ politicians in Washington. He’s voted against LBGTQ rights over and over again. He also authored Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage. Like many of his ilk, he said he was only trying to protect “traditional” marriage.

So it is a point of especially delicious irony that Scalise, who survived the attack (and is reportedly in critical condition), may owe his life to a queer black woman.

Crystal Griner, a Capitol Police officer, was one of two special agents on Scalise’s security detail yesterday who helped take down shooter James Hodgkinson. People at the scene said that the two officers prevented an all-out “massacre” on the field that day, engaging in a firefight with Hodgkinson before killing him.

Griner sustained wounds in the fight, and she, like Scalise, was in a hospital recovering last night. By her side was her wife, Tiffany.

 

 

 

Horrible ffathers…

 

Just a few more links:

 

Huge forest fires in Portugal kill at least 60 | World news | The Guardian

Many died in their cars as they fled from huge blaze amid severe heatwave on Iberian peninsula

Brrr! How Much Can Temperatures Drop During a Total Solar Eclipse?

During the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, the moon will completely cover the disk of the sun from Oregon to South Carolina. During this period of “totality,” eclipse observers will likely report feeling a sudden drop in temperature. Just how much does the mercury drop during this celestial event?

During the total solar eclipse on Dec. 9, 1834, the Gettysburg Republican Banner reported that in some places, the eclipse caused the temperature to drop by as much as 28 degrees Fahrenheit, from 78 degrees F to 50 degrees F (25 degrees Celsius to 10 degrees C). During a total solar eclipse on the Norwegian island of Svalbard in March 2015, temperatures dropped from 8 degrees F to minus 7 degrees F (minus 13 C to minus 21 degrees C).

This weekend in Boston a wonderful thing to see….Tall ships!

 

 

 

Last link, and it is about damn time:

Olivia de Havilland becomes oldest ever Dame  | Daily Mail Online

She’s one of the last surviving legends of Hollywood’s golden age.

Her beauty and enigmatic smile saw Olivia de Havilland play alongside the biggest names of the silver screen – Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift.

Off screen she was romanced by the likes of Jimmy Stewart, John Huston and Howard Hughes – and reportedly turned down the advances of John F Kennedy. She won two best actress Oscars in a career spanning six decades and 49 feature films – many of them considered to be classics.

Dame Olivia pictured in Paris in 2011

But it is only now – two weeks before her 101st birthday – that the Gone With The Wind actress has been given a damehood for services to drama. It makes her the oldest woman ever to receive the honour. In a statement, she called it ‘the most gratifying of birthday presents’.

My aunt is on a little vacation on the Northwest coast…she sent me this text last night:

Funny eh?

What is going on in your Sunday…funday?

 


Wednesday Reads: Butkus or Buttkiss? Hump Day Cartoons 

Something tells me, that you will get a sense of where the title of this post is coming from…

…by the sample of these first few images and cartoons. 

Oh…shit. I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Let me post a few links, and then get to the cartoons. 

Aw, fuck the links. 

I wasn’t able to bring myself to watch the show yesterday. I think it is difficult for me to watch all this testimony going on, when I know the Senate is working behind those closed doors to kill my mother. 

Here is a cartoon with commentary from Pat Bagley:

Innit the truth. 

I can’t much wrap my head around anything else nowadays. 

Here are the rest of today’s cartoons…I hope you enjoy them. 

You will have to click on the link to see that one by Luckovich in full size. 

And remember as you look at many of these cartoons, they are from the foreign press/political cartoonist. 


And on that note…..This is an open thread. 


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: Depression, Anxiety, and Suicide Should Be Discussed Openly

Despair, Edvard Munch

Despair, Edvard Munch

Good Afternoon!!

Sorry to be so late again. But I think I have some interesting reads for you today, so I hope some of you will be able to check them out afternoon and evening.

I’m going to begin with a sad story that happened in the Greater Boston town where I live.

On Friday, August 31, a 15-year-old high school sophomore named Jeremy Kremer-McNeil committed suicide in the basement of his home using cyanide. So far there’s been no explanation of how he obtained the chemical, but according to The Boston Globe, police suspect he may have gotten it on the internet.

A hazmat crew had to be called in to decontaminate the house before the scene could be processed by police. At first the boy’s name was not released, but his family asked that it be made public. Here is the obituary Jeremy’s family submitted to the Arlington Patch:

Jeremy A. Kremer-McNeil, 15, Had a Strong Wish to Put an End to Human Trafficking.

Kremer-McNeil, Jeremy Alexander, 15, of Arlington, died on September 4, 2015.

Jeremy is the beloved son of Amy Kremer and Taylor McNeil, and brother of Emily. He is also survived by his grandmother, Esther Kremer; aunts Betsy (Kremer) Lane and Jenny (McNeil) Foerster; uncle Randall Kremer; and many cousins.

He was and is loved deeply by all his family and so very many friends.

Jeremy had a strong wish to put an end to human trafficking. To honor his passion, and to provide lasting comfort not only to his family and friends but to others in distress, we ask that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in his honor to The Polaris Project (www.polarisproject.org). In this way, he will live on in the good that is done in the world.

Ashes, Edvard Munch

Ashes, Edvard Munch

From The Boston Globe: Arlington teen apparently consumes cyanide, spurs hazmat response.

ARLINGTON — Hazmat crews rushed to a quiet street on Friday afternoon after a 15-year-old died by apparently consuming cyanide, officials said.

Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan said near the scene on Rockmont Road that police were called to the home at about 4 p.m., after a relative voiced “concerns” about the male victim, who lived in the home.

Ryan did not elaborate on the concerns but said that officers found the victim’s body in the basement of the home, and that observations led them “to believe that the deceased may have consumed cyanide.”

As a result, Ryan said, neighbors were evacuated from their homes and a hazardous-materials crew descended on the residence to begin decontaminating the area, as well as the victim’s body. Work injury lawyers in phoenix AZ were immediately consulted and hired for their cause.

The office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said in a statement that because that because the victim’s death does not appear to be suspicious, authorities will not release his name.

I was stunned to learn that there is such a policy in place. So many young people struggle with depression and anxiety; and suicide by teenagers and even younger children is not uncommon. So why the secrecy? People who are depressed and despairing need to know they are not alone.

The Scream, Edvard Munch

The Scream, Edvard Munch

The Boston Herald reports:

The apparent suicide of an Arlington teenager who school officials identified yesterday left the town shaken as the odd way he died drew attention to a death that police said would otherwise have passed by unnoticed.

“The manner in which this young man took his life was out of the ordinary — suicide itself is a quite common occurrence for us — and typically suicide incidents or suicide are not publicized,” Arlington police Chief Frederick Ryan told the Herald. “So the general public does not realize how frequent it does occur.”

How awful. No death by suicide should “pass by unnoticed.” This is a public health problem and the public needs to be aware of how many young people commit suicide. The family did the right thing by asking that his name be released.

More from Wicked Local Arlington: Editorial: Why we haven’t eulogized AHS teen.

In a little over one month, the town of Arlington has lost three young people to untimely deaths, tearing three holes in the fabric of three families and of this community. Two, Catherine Malatesta and Katherine Wall, were felled by aggressive cancers. The third, Jeremy Kremer-McNeil, killed himself in his parent’s basement using cyanide.

The deaths of Malatesta and Wall received significant coverage in these pages, yet the passing of Kremer-McNeil is only lightly covered. Does the manner of his death cheapen the life of a 15-year old cruelly taken from us? Is he suddenly undeserving of the same public mourning this paper has afforded his peers?

Suicide is undeniably a public health issue in the Commonwealth.

In MA, suicide was listed as the cause of death in 624 cases in 2012, the most recent year for which data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is available. On top of those 624 suicides, 4,258 people were hospitalized with self-inflicted injuries in Massachusetts in 2012, and the counseling hotline Samarateens responded to 187,849 crisis calls in that same year. As shocking as those numbers may seem, our overriding responsibility as a media outlet is to cover the broader issue of suicide, and not its individual instances.

Weeping Nude, Edvard Munch

Weeping Nude, Edvard Munch

By the way, there was a time when cancer deaths were hushed up as if somehow shameful or distasteful. I clearly recall when the mother of one of my high school classmates died very young of cancer. Her cause of death was whispered among the other students, but didn’t appear in her obituary.

Wicked Local’s explanation for the lack of press coverage:

Most responsible media outlets are mindful of the possibility that the greater the coverage and the more explicit the information published about a suicide attempt, the greater the risk is that the a suicide will be imitated. Research by psychiatric epidemiologist Madelyn Gould at New York City’s Columbia University shows that media attention around a peer’s suicide can make teens more vulnerable to killing themselves. Her research, as reported by NPR in 2009, showed that the increase in suicides following a suicide story is proportional to the amount, and the duration, and the prominence of the coverage of the initial event….

Despite the very public nature of Friday’s suicide, many aspects of this case are acutely private. In covering all tragedy, journalists must balance a family’s need for respect and privacy with the importance of the event. Those are pressures we feel even more acutely at The Advocate. The people we cover are not anonymous. They are our neighbors. In this case, we believed and continue to believe that the former definitively outweighs the latter.

Is this really a good policy? Are these media and law enforcement policies common around the country? Wouldn’t the suicide of a young person in a community be an appropriate time to educate residents, reach out to other local depressed young people, find ways to help them, rather than hush the suicide up and let depressed youngsters think they are alone in their struggles?

dayAfter_munch

I only wish someone had been able to reach out to Jeremy and help him get past whatever he was going through. Sometimes just a hug or an empathetic listener can be a step toward deciding to stay alive.

I know something about this, because I was very depressed when I was Jeremy’s age, and I frequently considered suicide. Somehow, I always talked myself out of it and was able to go onward. I have struggled with depression for most of my adulthood also. I became an alcoholic through my attempts at self-medication. Now as a senior with more than 30 years of sobriety, I expect to take an antidepressants for the rest of my life. Over the years, I have learned may tools for dealing with my depression, but I know that I must be “ever vigilant”–as they say in A.A.–because I have a chronic illness that is both physical (highly genetic) and emotional.

I’d be very interested in learning what our readers think about the issue of media and law enforcement silence when people kill themselves.

Of course it isn’t just high school students who suffer from depression and anxiety. For most of each year, the Boston area has a massive population of college students, and the local papers usually run lots of back-to-school stories in September. This year the Globe is focusing on mental health issues among college students.

From yesterday’s Globe: College kids are sad, stressed, and scared. Can their counseling centers help them?

When Ramya Babu thinks about her freshman year at Boston University, she remembers the day she stood alone in her dorm room and screamed in anguish.

Babu had been thrilled to start college. But just a few weeks into the school year, she began to feel like the world around her was simultaneously spinning too fast and leaving her dizzy, but also moving too slow in a way that made her feel like her loneliness and anxiety would never end. All of the overwhelmed emotions she had tried to suppress caught up to her, making her cry out in pain.

Frantic, Babu called a friend from home, who suggested she see someone at BU’s counseling center.

A counselor at BU’s behavioral medicine center diagnosed her with both depression and an anxiety disorder. Each week, at her appointments, Babu would talk through her feelings and concerns with her counselor and leave feeling like she had strategies that would help her survive.

But at the end of the semester, after only eight sessions, her counselor handed her a referral sheet and told her this would be their final meeting. She would have to find a new therapist.

“I had no idea what to do,” she said. “I felt like the support in the referral process was next to non-existent. I know they have a limited number of therapists, but this is a college campus with a mental health center and there I was trying to negotiate with outside practitioners I knew nothing about.”

Melancholy, Edvard Munch

Melancholy, Edvard Munch

When I was teaching at Boston University, I often talked to students who had terrible problems; many were obviously depressed and anxious. I always tried to listen to and empathize with the problems they shared, but there was little more I could do. I knew about the short-term counseling available at BU and most other universities, and always thought it was terribly inadequate. More from the Globe article:

From today’s Globe: ‘I didn’t need to pretend anymore:’ the fading stigma of mental illness at college.

Wendy Chang’s friends could recognize her laugh from a distance. Even if they didn’t see her right away, they knew from the boisterous sound that echoed down Harvard’s hallways that Chang would soon appear, her head thrown back and nose scrunched up with mirth.

Lanier Walker thought Chang’s constant laughter was a sign that she was happy. But Walker later learned that Chang hid what pained her most. The 22-year-old Harvard senior hung herself in her dorm room in 2012.

Walker was shocked and horrified that the life her friend lived didn’t match the image that she portrayed. Then she realized that her friends and peers didn’t know much about her own personal struggles, either.

Walker decided to take action.

After another Harvard student died by suicide in the spring of 2014, Walker felt overwhelmed by the need to do something. She wrote an op-ed for The Harvard Crimsoncalled “We Need to Talk” about her own struggles with depression and anxiety. By her sophomore year, Walker was having four to five anxiety attacks a week.

“Harvard doesn’t always make it easy to talk about ourselves,” she wrote. “It’s a place that demands perfection, and as a result, we feel compelled to present perfect versions of ourselves. We don’t talk about what’s really going on.”

Walker’s letter ended with a call to her peers to start talking, and to let others know they were around to listen. After the letter was published, she needed to take her own advice.

Read the rest at the Globe link.

Self Portrait in Bergen, Edvard Munch

Self Portrait in Bergen, Edvard Munch

I’ll end with this Globe article from May of this year: Parents of teen track star who took her own life: ‘It’s okay not to be okay.’

Madison Holleran was a track star at the University of Pennsylvania. She was smart. She was beautiful. She was loved. Her posts on Instagram depicted the kind of life that you looked at and wondered why yours wasn’t nearly as perfect.

But it wasn’t perfect. On January 17, 2014, Madison Holleran lept off the ninth floor of a parking garage and died. She was 19 years old.

“There are moments when the Hollerans are chasing the ‘why,’ still,” said Kate Fagan, who wrotethe in-depth article about Holleran’s life and death forESPN magazine’s May issue.

“Every time I talked to them, it came back to, ‘The reason we’re talking about it is because we wanted to let people know it’s okay to not be okay.’”

Those are such wise words! Yes, it is “okay to not be okay.” We need much more public discussion of depression and anxiety in this country. These illnesses–and they are illnesses–should be discussed openly. Of course the U.S. doesn’t have anything approaching a good system to address mental health problems either, and that has to change. If suicides are hushed up, that is not going to happen. The public needs to know the extent of the problem and the public needs to be the catalyst to bring out change.

The Wave, Edvard Munch

The Wave, Edvard Munch

I have a few more interesting stories to share–I’ll just give you the headlines and links and I hope you’ll check them out.

First, here’s an important story from the Winnipeg Free Press that Dakinikat linked to in a comment yesterday. I thought it deserved more prominent placement. It’s an edited interview with Jane Goodall in which she discusses climate change denial, research myths, and animal rights: Jane Goodall remains a road warrior for the planet.

A long article at The Atlantic that I haven’t read yet: The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

From The National Memo: Endorse This: Look, It’s Super-Jeb! by Eric Kleefeld.

Vanity Fair: NetJets Pilots Ask for Better Pay for Flying Millionaires.

Mitch Albom at The National Memo: Tape Tells Story In James Blake Arrest Case.

A terrifying case of race profiling that hasn’t gotten much attention: Kamilah Brock: Woman held in mental health facility because police didn’t believe BMW was hers.

What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: SCOTUS Plays Doctor (and God)

Good Morning!

retro_vintage_1950s_kids_playing_doctor_handmade_cross-stitch_pattern_35b72268I’ve got all kinds of personal reasons to hope that  when the Supreme Court decides King v. Burwell next month that one just one Republican-appointed justice will consider the complaint trivial and it will be dismissed.  That’s because I will be among the millions of people that will lose their health care.   Jonathan Chait-writing for New York Magazine--wonders if that’s really what Republicans want in the year running up to a Presidential election.

Next month, the Supreme Court will rule on King v. Burwell. If all five Republican appointees support the plaintiffs (there’s no chance any of the Democrat-appointed justices will take the lawsuit seriously), some 7 million Americans will quickly lose their insurance. The prospect that this will occur has induced a wave of panic — not among the customers at risk of losing their insurance, who seem largely unaware, nor even among Obamacare’s Democratic supporters, but among Republicans. The chaos their lawsuit would unleash might blow back in a way few Republicans had considered until recently, and now, on the eve of a possible triumph, they find themselves scrambling to contain the damage. It is dawning on the Grand Old Party that snatching health insurance away from millions of helpless victims is not quite as rewarding as expected.

Unlike the Obamacare lawsuit that failed three years ago, the latest case is not based on a radical legal theory. Instead it is based on a novel reading of legislative history. The law allows states to set up their own exchanges to sell insurance to those who don’t have it through employer coverage, Medicare, or Medicaid. If states don’t establish an exchange, the federal government sets one up for them and, as it does with the state exchanges, offers customers tax credits. The trouble is that the law authorizing tax credits defines the exchange as “established by the state.” This ambiguity — does “by the state” not also mean the federal government? — was a technical omission. Many other parts of the law indicate its intent to make tax credits available to customers on the federal and the state exchanges alike.

The plaintiffs are led by a Vietnam veteran in Virginia named David King who makes $39,000 a year and objects to having to purchase insurance on a federal exchange. He would be exempt from this requirement were he not eligible for the tax credit — his $275 monthly payment would rise to a disqualifyingly unaffordable $648 — and this exemption, his lawyers argue, was exactly Congress’s intent. Without tax credits, the insurance would be unaffordable to most customers, triggering an actuarial death spiral that would destroy the individual insurance market in any state that attempted it. The plaintiffs insist Congress created the threat of self-destructing federal exchanges to coerce states into creating their own. (Disregard the copious evidence that the law’s drafters, and officials at the state level in both parties, believed federal exchanges would include tax credits.)

The lawsuit works more on the level of an elaborate prank than as a serious reading of the law. And yet it stands at least some chance of success — it only needs to persuade Republican-appointed judges. That prospect has grown suddenly unnerving because, unlike previous Republican efforts to strangle the law, the current one comes as Obamacare is functioning extremely well. Premiums on the exchanges have come in well under projected costs, customers report higher satisfaction with their coverage than those who have employer-sponsored insurance, and overall medical costs have grown far below the projected rate. It is one thing to take away a scheduled future subsidy, of which most intended beneficiaries are unaware. It is quite another to take away a benefit they’re already using.

Can you imagine the optics of people being taken off chemotherapy, dialysis, or insulin shots? So, Republicans76f68857685129195adf6bfdddec8355 are gearing up a way to blame it on Obama or trying to find a way to get the extreme right to compromise and provide a short term extensions of the credits should SCOTUS agree with the plaintiffs.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has likewise warned that a successful lawsuit would create problems. “Chemotherapy turned off for perhaps 12,000 people, dialysis going dark for 10,000. The horror stories will be real,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. For decades, medical deprivation of this sort used to be a uniquely American fact of life, at least among industrialized countries. Obamacare has turned it into something different: an actual political problem for opponents of universal health insurance.

Neither Johnson nor Sasse has a real plan designed to stop those horrors from taking place. Instead, their aim is to give Republicans a way to divert the blame onto Obama. The party is circulating contingency plans to temporarily restore the tax credits in exchange for crippling the law in other ways. Phil Gramm, the former Republican senator turned conservative-think-tank “visiting scholar” and financial-industry lobbyist, has proposed that Republicans pass a bill to temporarily extend the credits in return for eliminating the law’s regulations prohibiting insurance companies from rejecting old or sick customers. Competing proposals by Johnson and Sasse would likewise weaken Obamacare’s insurance regulations, ultimately destroying the law’s functionality. Gramm evenacknowledges that his plan “would put Obamacare on the path to extinction.” Obviously, Obama is not going to sign a bill that puts Obamacare on the path to extinction. The purpose is simply to give Republicans a talking point — they can say they passed a bill and blame Obama for vetoing it. But odds are that Republicans will fail to unify around a bill that can pass both houses of Congress with only Republican votes, because some will deem even a bill that causes Obamacare’s eventual demise unacceptably conciliatory.

At that point, it will fall to the states to either establish their own exchanges or watch their individual-insurance markets collapse. Neither option is terribly attractive for Republicans. The former means surrender. Doing nothing means sowing chaos, deprivation, and death. Will Republicans let this happen?

Legal Analyst and Lawyer Jeffrey Toobin has a lengthy article in The New Yorker examining the issues.il_570xN.713327777_tkas

So that’s the theory: millions will suddenly be uninsured, and will blame Republicans. As Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, put it recently, “I don’t think they will [win the case]. If they do, that’s a problem that the Republicans have.”

No, it’s not. If the Obama Administration loses in the Supreme Court, the political pain will fall almost exclusively on the President and his Party. To paraphrase Colin Powell and the Pottery Barn rule, President Obama will have broken health care, so he owns it. To the vast mass of Americans who follow politics casually or not at all, Obamacare and the American system of health care have become virtually synonymous. This may not be exactly right or fair, but it’s a reasonable perception on the part of most people. The scope of the Affordable Care Act is so vast, and its effects so pervasive, that there is scarcely a corner of health care, especially with regard to insurance, that is unaffected by it. So if millions lose insurance, they will hold it against Obamacare, and against Obama. Blaming the President in these circumstances may be unfair, but it’s the way American politics works.

Republicans, of course, will encourage this sentiment. The precise legal claim in King v. Burwell is an esoteric one. It is not based on a claim that Obamacare is unconstitutional. (The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law three years ago.) Rather, the central assertion by the plaintiffs is that the Obama Administration violated the law itself. In any event, the subtlety of the issue at the heart of the case will surely be lost in its aftermath. The headlines will read, correctly, “Court rules against Obamacare,” and this will be all that matters. The Republicans will argue that the Supreme Court showed that the law was flawed from the start, that the Obama Administration is lawless, that a full repeal of the law is the only appropriate response to the Court’s decision—and that the millions who lose their subsides should blame the sponsor of the law. Watch for references to a “failed Presidency.” There’ll be plenty of them.

Understandably, perhaps, the Administration has courted this kind of reaction. Better than anyone, Administration officials know the scale of the problems that would be created by a loss in the Supreme Court. Advertising this possibility makes sense as a litigation strategy; Obama officials don’t want to make it easy for the Supreme Court to rule against them. In testimony before Congress and elsewhere, Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (and the defendant in the case), said that the Administration has no contingency plan for an adverse ruling in the Supreme Court. But playing chicken with the Justices only works if it works. If the Supreme Court strikes down the subsidies, the Administration will also have to answer for why it didn’t prepare for this possibility.

hqdefault “Conservatives” have tried to laugh off the concerns.

 A few weeks ago, the Heritage Foundation’s Edmund Haislmaier published an “Issue Brief” entitled “King v. Burwell: A Loss of Subsidy Does Not Mean a Loss of Coverage.” That’s a provocative title, considering 87 percent of the 8.8 million enrollees from federal exchanges receive those tax credit subsidies, meaning they have low or moderate incomes.

Haislmaier recently was seen saying it’s “premature” to conclude the huge drop in the uninsured rate since Obamacare passed is the result of Obamacare passing. In this brief, he correctly points out the Affordable Care Act and previous federal and state laws would enable current Obamacare enrollees to switch to some other form of health insurance if the lawsuit he supports succeeds in making their current plans unaffordable. (The brief also chides low-income people for using their subsidies to buy “king-crab-legs-and-steak” insurance rather than take the cheapest possible “powdered-milk-and-frozen-peas” plans.)

“In sum, should the Supreme Court’s eventual ruling in King v. Burwell result in people losing insurance subsidies, the affected individuals will have options for maintaining their coverage or choosing replacement coverage,” Haislmaier wrote. There’s even a chart.

Is that good news for people at risk of losing their health insurance subsidies? Maybe not. “Of course, some might still not be able to afford the unsubsidized premium even if they switched to a less expensive plan,” Haislmaier adds as a disclaimer. Of course.

That seems like it could be a problem, since 83 percent of Obamacare enrollees on the federal exchanges have annual incomes of 250 percent of the federal poverty level or less, which works out to no more than $23,450 for a single person, according to Avalere Health, a consulting firm. In other words, these aren’t Americans with a lot of extra money. And the average value of the tax credits they stand to lose is $263 a month, a substantial amount for people at this income level.

There’s a lot of variation in the price of health insurance, but a look at national average premiums and cost-sharing requirements illustrates what the “Let them eat Bronze plans” line of thinking ignores.

A 40-year-old at the poverty line, which is $11,770 for a single person, would pay $20 a month for a mid-tier Silver plan with tax credits. That amounts to about 2 percent of her annual income. Take away the subsidies, and her premiums jump almost 14-fold to $276 — or about 28 percent of her income.

What about dropping down to a lesser Bronze policy with higher out-of-pocket costs like deductibles?

That would cost almost 11 times as much as the subsidized Silver plan, at $213 a month, or about 22 percent of her income. Another person making twice as much money as her would see his premiums for the same Silver policy rise by 80 percent, which would eat up 14 percent of his income. His premiums would rise by 39 percent if he switched to a Bronze plan, which would cost him 11 percent of his yearly earnings.

Even opting for a slimmer policy might not make sense for lower-income people, considering how much more Bronze policyholders have to spend before their coverage kicks in. For example, the average deductible for an individual Bronze plan is $5,181, compared to $2,927 for a Silver plan, according to Health Pocket.

And this doesn’t even factor in the effects of a second type of subsidy only available to people earning up to 250 percent of poverty, which reduces their out-of-pocket health care expenses, and which also would go away in the high court rules for the plaintiffs.

Some are seeing this as the classic American “State’s Right’s” argument that has been responsible for–among 5388385143_aa5e7bbcc7_mmany other things–the Civil War.

But what may eventually prove to be the key line of questioning may have been kicked off by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who expressed concern about the consequences of a ruling for the challengers.  If a state’s residents don’t receive subsidies, she told Carvin, it will lead to a “death spiral”:  because a large group of people in those states will no longer be required to buy health insurance, but insurers will still be required to offer insurance to everyone, only sick people will buy health insurance.  And that will cause everyone’s insurance costs to rise, leading more people to drop out of the insurance market.  States will then feel like they have no choice other than to establish their own exchanges to ward off the “death spiral” – a scenario that is so coercive that it violates the Constitution.

Perhaps critically for the government, Justice Anthony Kennedy – who is often regarded as a strong supporter of states’ rights – also expressed concern about the possibly coercive effect of a ruling for Carvin’s clients.  There is, he told Carvin, “something very powerful to the point” that if the challengers prevail, the states have to choose between the death spiral and creating an exchange.  “There’s a serious constitutional problem,” he concluded.  (Carvin tried to downplay this concern by telling Kennedy that the government had not raised this issue, but Kennedy quickly retorted that “we sometimes think of things the government doesn’t argue.”)

Like Carvin, Solicitor General Don Verrilli – the government’s top lawyer at the Supreme Court – also faced questions about the challengers’ right to sue.  But between his acknowledgement that, as Carvin had asserted, a veteran who had only served a short time would not be eligible for free health care and the lack of certainty about the plaintiffs’ 2014 annual incomes (which would determine whether they would be required to buy health insurance at all), the issue didn’t seem to have much traction with the Justices.

On the merits of the challenge to the subsidies, Verrilli faced repeated questions from Justices Scalia and Alito, who were both obviously skeptical of the government’s arguments.  Scalia pushed back against Verrilli’s argument that the challengers’ reading simply doesn’t work, while – by contrast – the government’s interpretation accounts for the ACA’s structure and design.  The question, Scalia admonished Verrilli, is not what Congress intended; the question is what it actually wrote in the statute.  But in any event, Scalia queried a few minutes later, if the Court were to rule for the challengers, did Verrilli and the government actually expect Congress to “really just sit there while disaster ensues?”  (Based on Verrilli’s response – a dubious “This Congress?” – the answer appeared to be yes.)

Justices Alito and Scalia also contested Verrilli’s assertion that, had Congress actually intended to force states to choose between setting up their own exchanges and depriving their residents of subsidies, it would have done so more clearly.  Scalia asked rhetorically why, because the ACA is “not the most elegantly drafted statute,” would it “be so surprising” if Congress didn’t make the states’ obligations obvious?  Alito added that, if Congress didn’t want to limit the subsidies to the residents of states that had set up their own exchanges, it could have used more precise language to do so – as it did, for example, in making clear that the District of Columbia (which is not a state) nonetheless qualifies as a “state” for purposes of the ACA.

So, we’re down to brass tacks again. Will the ACA go down on a technicality which, essentially, is what the law is all about?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Are Things Really As Bad As I Think?

morning coffee book

Good Morning!!

I don’t even know where to begin this morning. I wish I could write a coherent diatribe like the one Dakinikat wrote yesterday, but I can’t do it. I have a sense that things are very wrong, but I can’t explain the feeling in any rational way.

As we head into the holiday season, I feel as if the country is leaderless. The public focus of the Obama administration and the media is on the glitches in a website; and yet in the background are terrible problems that are building  and growing more and more intractable as our political “leadership” fiddles with nonsensical issues like Obamacare and Benghazi.

As Dakinikat noted yesterday, there is a problem of growing poverty and income inequality become institutionalized and normalized. There is the issue of gun violence and our total failure to respond to it with any kind of rational regulations on guns. There is the devolution of education in the U.S., and of course there is the continuing attack on women’s autonomy and Democratic politicians seeming willingness to use women’s bodies as bargaining chips. Finally there are the already institutionalized problems of racism and hatred of immigrants. What have I missed?

As our real problem grow, it seems the American political and media classes, either don’t notice because as part of the wealthy 1% they simply aren’t affected, or because they’ve got theirs and they just don’t care about the mass of people who are struggling to survive in a poisonous system. And because of the obsessive focus on the end-of-year holidays, nothing will happen in Washington until we hit the next debt limit and our “leaders” mobilize briefly to kick the can of our economic and social problems down the road once again and so they can return to their focus on minutiae.

Is there any solution to the political and economic stagnation we find ourselves in? Is the situation really as surreal as it feels to me on this Tuesday morning? Am I nuts?

Anyway, here a some of the stories leading the news at the moment.

Jeff Bezos tells Amazon customers to expect home delivery by drones. NBC News reports:

Amazon.com hopes to deliver small packages to your home in just 30 minutes by unmanned drones within five years, chief executive Jeff Bezos said Sunday.

In an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Bezos was actually less optimistic than what his company said in its online announcement, which declared that tiny robot aircraft could be landing on front porches as soon as 2015.

Bezos said Amazon already had the technology in place and had even flown a working prototype, which he showed off in a video the company published Sunday:

He promised “half-hour delivery, and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.”

The rest of the work, Bezos said, is in quality control and getting the plan OK’d by the Federal Aviation Administration — something technology experts said was unlikely on Bezos’ time frame.

So basically, this is just a silly idea that has no chance of actually  happening anytime soon. But the media sees it as more urgent than poverty, income inequality, and people getting killed with guns day in and day out.

From the Washington Post: U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test.

Scores in math, reading and science posted by 15-year-olds in the United States were flat while their counterparts elsewhere — particularly in Shanghai, Singapore and other Asian provinces or countries — soared ahead, according to results of a well-regarded international exam released Tuesday.

While U.S. teenagers scored slightly above average in reading, their scores were average in science and below average in math, compared to 64 other countries and economies that participated in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which was administered last fall. That pattern has not changed much since PISA was first administered in 2000.

Gee, I wonder why this is happening? It seems like something that should concern our “leaders.”

The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to competitors in the global market and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.

“While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. The AFT released a video on Monday in which it implored the public not to blame teachers, the unions, parents or students for poor PISA results.

But were intentions really good? Check out these years-old headlines on profiteers (including the Bush family) who cleaned up after passage of the Orwellianly titled “No Child Left Behind” law was passed.

Bush Profiteers Collect Billions from No Child Left Behind (Project Censored: The News That Didn’t Make The News, March 30, 2007)

Bush’s Family Profits From `No Child’ Act (LA Times, Oct. 22, 2006)

No Bush Left Behind (Bloomerg Businessweek, Oct. 15, 2006)

There are plenty more headlines where those came from.

And yet, nearly a decade later, we’re stuck with that awful law and the damage it has done to our public education system. Why have Democrats done nothing to reverse it? Most likely because they too profit from the continuing privatization of education.

What about the latest media narrative on Obama care?

From the Washington Post: Health-care enrollment on Web plagued by bugs:

The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors — generated by the computer system — that mean they might not get the coverage they’re expecting next month.

The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.

The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies. The errors have been accumulating since HealthCare.gov opened two months ago, even as the Obama administration has been working to make it easier for consumers to sign up for coverage, the government and industry officials said.

Figuring out how to clean up the backlog of errors and prevent similar ones in the future is emerging as the new imperative if the federal insurance exchange is to work as intended. The problems were the subject of a meeting Monday between administration officials and a new “Payer Exchange Performance Team” made up of insurance industry leaders.

Okay, but what is with the bizarre impatience about some computer glitches from a media that couldn’t care less about institutionalized poverty, racism, and gun violence? And then there’s the Obama administration’s defensive response, as reported by USA Today: Obama to launch new health care law campaign

President Obama and his aides will seek to rally public support for his embattled health care plan in the coming weeks, starting with a White House event Tuesday.

Obama will promote the effort in a speech while surrounded by people who have benefited from the new law, according to an addition to the White House schedule.

The Affordable Care Act has come under heavy political attack since its rollout in October. Problems have included a malfunctioning website and the cancellations of polices that do not meet new federal standards.

In the coming days, Obama and aides will highlight what they call successful aspects of the law. They include provisions that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing health conditions, and allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26.

A few writers have tried to look at the “Obamacare crisis” slightly more rationally than the mainstream corporate media.

Here’s Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter: As Healthcare.gov Bugs Are Fixed, the ‘Obama’s Katrina’ Script Continues To Be Shredded.

It’s been 11 days since The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier wrote that Obamacare is President Obama’s Katrina. Oh, and it’s also his Iraq, Fournier wrote. Obama’s Katrina and Iraq. Both.

Since then, however, the Healthcare.gov website has been vastly improved and many of the bugs initially reported have been fixed, according to the administration late Sunday.

Back on November 20, Fournier made sure to provide himself with an escape hatch, though, noting that Healthcare.gov isn’t the same in terms of the actual events during and after Katrina, or throughout the Iraq War. Instead, Fournier wrote, the similarities had more to do with incompetence in the execution of a major policy initiative.

Yeah, so incompetence that lasted literally for years in both Iraq and New Orleans, leading to massive body counts on both fronts, is the same as a glitchy website launch. Okeedokee. Roger that. In reality, yes, both administrations made mistakes, but those mistakes were vastly different in terms of magnitude — not to mention that the Bush administration’s response to its mistakes was to, well, make even more mistakes. Again, foryears.

On the other hand, the Obama administration realized there were problems with the website and rushed to address those errors. Within two months most of those problems have been resolved, and, bonus, no one died.

For more rational perspective, read the rest of the post at the link.

I particularly like this uncharacteristically long post by TBogg at Raw Story: Are-We-There-Yet?-American [sic] just wants to go home because we aren’t there yet. Here’s just a taste:

You may remember that about a month ago, which is four score and seven years ago to the iPhone generation for whom a Japandroids download that takes over 20 seconds is an eternity times infinity, that the Great Socialism Project That Will Stomp America Flat (aka Obamacareor Communism) had some internet user problems which is why there are absolutely no healthcare services available in America right now so you should just rub some dirt on your burst appendix, suck it up,  and quit yer bellyaching. In an effort to fix what wasn’t working, the Obama White House brought in some better quality nerds who, fortified with 5 Hour Energy IV drips, promised to get it up and working by Dec 1 or GTFO.

Please go read the rest.

Charles Pierce also had a few choice words for Ron Fournier and the rest of the Obama-hating press.

Ace reporter Ron Fournier of the Associated Press has another scoop for y’all. There is absolutely no fking way on god’s green and pleasant earth that this Obama fellow will be elected president again. He has blown his chance for that third term, and probably the fourth and fifth as well. Ron would like the Pulitzer committee to leave the medallion on the doorstep. Watch out, Obama. The Horsemen ride at daybreak! [….]

I heard my friend Eric Boehlert on the radio this morning, warning us that the traditional end-of-the-year retrospectives are likely to sing in close harmony on the theme of the collapsing Obama administration, even though his poll numbers are pretty much where they’ve been for a couple of years now, and even though the Republicans in Congress continue to have the approval ratings of skin disease. I think he’s right, and I think Fournier, who’s been a tool so long they ought to sell him at Home Depot, is just trying to get a jump on things here.

More hilarity at the link.

And what’s with the efforts to deny that racism exists? From Raw Story: Black female professor reprimanded for pointing out existence of structural racism to white male students.

A faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Shannon Gibney, received a formal reprimand for her handling of a discussion about structural racism in her Introduction to Mass Communication course.

According to Gibney in an interview with City College News, a white male student asked her, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?”

She claims she was shocked, because “[h]is whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America.”

Gibney says another white male student followed the first, saying “Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?”

When Gibney attempted, again, to inform the students that they were mistaking a systemic critique for a personal attack, the students continued to argue. Eventually, she told them that “if you’re really upset, feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.” This is exactly what they did.

This probably has something to do with our f’d up education system too . . . . As far as I can tell, critical thinking has been banned.

Okay, I’ve ranted long enough. What interesting news have you been reading? Let us know in the comment thread.