Wednesday Open Thread

 

Just posting this open thread, because I am running late today due to a leftover migraine.

Also, I have new articles to research on Sanders…that fucker.

And…I need to cook for everyone…they are starving, so it will take a bit longer…just to state all of the above. My Wednesday reads will be coming up shortly. (Well, not so shortly.)

The picture above it Bebe’s puppy Hugo, out in his first snow.

 


Tuesday Reads: RIP Glen Frey and Martin Luther King Events

Winter landscape by Pieter De Hooch

Winter landscape by Pieter De Hooch

Good Morning!!

We lost another 1970s music legend yesterday. The Eagles’ Glen Frey is dead. The LA Times writes:

The Eagles’ Glenn Frey spun sun-baked SoCal ballads that will endure.

Few bands were better at distilling the vibe of Los Angeles in the 1970s than the Eagles, and as its singer and guitarist, Glenn Frey served as a sort of mellow ambassador of our city. Just as Liverpool is forever associated with the Beatles, Seattle claims Nirvana and Bruce Springsteen owns New Jersey, the Eagles embodied the bell-bottomed, feather-haired flair of Southern California.

Frey, who died Monday at age 67, co-wrote and sang some of the most commercially successful country rock ballads of the ’70s, including “Tequila Sunrise,” “Peaceful, Easy Feeling,” “Take It Easy” and “Lyin’ Eyes.”

Soft and twangy, his hits as co-founder of the Eagles defined the region like the vivid colors of orange crate art had during the city’s early boom years and as the Beach Boys had during the surf craze.

During the Eagles’ 2014 concert at the Forum, in fact, Frey compared the legacy of two uniquely Californian bands: “The Beach Boys were pioneers. The Eagles were settlers.” Which is to say, where the Beach Boys forged new sounds, the Eagles gathered up what was already there — country rock — and made it their home.

A youthful Glenn Frey

A youthful Glenn Frey

On Frey’s contributions to the group’s sound:

Frey’s best songs with the Eagles embodied that home, best known through the golden, sun-drenched silhouettes of palm trees on the cover of its classic album “Hotel California.” The dominant shade of the record sleeve is what Frey so brilliantly conveyed as “another tequila sunrise,” a muted orange, the color of the last wash of daylight or dawn’s first breath.

Where the Beach Boys reveled in a daytime spent surfing and having fun with the girls, the Eagles worked far later into the night. Frey co-wrote and sang songs about mysterious women, the loneliness of the outsider, unrequited desire and dangerous reflexes.

He did so, though, minus any hint of distortion or aggression. In “Peaceful, Easy Feeling,” Frey didn’t want to get funky or dirty. Rather, he spun visions of the simple pleasures in his adopted Southern California home as he sang of wanting to “sleep with you in the desert tonight/ With a billion stars all around.”

Take it easy corner in Winslow, Arizona

Take it easy corner in Winslow, Arizona

From the Washington Post: Glenn Frey and the mystery of the ‘Take It Easy’ corner in Winslow, Ariz.

[E]ach year thousands of people, usually on the way to somewhere else, make a stop in Winslow, Ariz.,about 60 miles easy of Flagstaff, thanks to Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, whose death was reported Monday. And, thanks to the Eagles’ classic “Take It Easy,” they go to a special corner, where Old Highway 66 meets North Kinsley Avenue, and just stand, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do.

It’s called “Standin’ on the Corner Park.” There’s not much there — a statue of a guy holding a guitar and a red flatbed Ford at the curb. They say if you look hard enough, you’ll see the girl from the song, too. In fact, they’ve made sure of it.

Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona, 
and such a fine sight to see. 
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
slowin’ down to take a look at me. 
Come on, baby, don’t say maybe. 
I gotta know if your sweet love is
gonna save me. 
We may lose and we may win
though we will never be here again. 
So open up, I’m climbin’ in,
so take it easy.

The 1972 song “Take it Easy” preceded the park by three decades, and you have to wonder why it took Winslow so long. Perhaps it’s because the city didn’t need it in 1972, when Old 66 went through the heart of town, only to be cruelly bypassed in 1979 when Interstate 40 cut it off — “bleeding Winslow dry,” as Kevin Baxter wrote in the Los Angeles Times a year ago.

Read much more at the link.

A couple more good links on Frey:

Washington Post: How Glenn Frey and the Eagles outlasted everyone who loved to hate them.

Rolling Stone: Glenn Frey: The Voice That Launched a Million Tequila Sunrises.

Black Lives Matter protesters on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco

Black Lives Matter protesters on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco

Yesterday on the Martin Luther King’s birthday holiday, Black Lives Matter protesters were on the streets in a number of cities. The most dramatic demonstration took place in San Francisco, where activists managed to shut down the Bay Bridge. CBS SF Bay Area reports:

Protesters announced just before 4 p.m. they had shut down Bay Bridge traffic heading into San Francisco. They posted photos of several protesters chained to cars stopped across the bridge.

Members of protest groups Black Seed and the Black Queer Liberation Collective took responsibility for the protest in a statement, citing recent police shootings.

“We are here to move towards an increase in the health and wellbeing of all Black people in Oakland & San Francisco,” the groups wrote in a statement.

They were demanding divestment of city funds in policing, investment in affordable housing, the resignation of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the termination of San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr and Oakland police Chief Sean Whent and the termination of police officers involved in several recent shootings.

Twenty-five protesters were arrested. Another Black Lives Matter group “commandeered” a ceremony in Denver. 

In a related story, the Boston Police Department released information on “nearly 150,000 civilian encounters,” and guess which category of people got stopped most often? The Boston Globe reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts had been asking for the data since September 2014 and sued for it last summer….

More than half of those stopped—56 percent—were black males. White males were the next most-stopped group, at 17 percent, followed by Hispanic males at 12 percent.

In their own analysis, Boston police said “nearly 59 percent of the FIO subjects were black.” But about 4.3 percent of the total reports don’t state a race, or the officer checked “unknown.” Taking out those blanks or unknowns, the actual percentage of black people stopped among those with a known race is 61.2 percent.

Boston’s population is about 25 percent black. More than 87 percent of everyone stopped had a criminal record.

The number one reason why someone was stopped? “Investigate, person.” More than 60 percent of the stops were made for this vague reason. Behind it, at 14 percent, was “violating auto laws,” like driving without a license.

Boston police clash with protesters at City Hall Plaza in December 2014

Boston police clash with protesters at City Hall Plaza in December 2014

This is interesting too:

One officer entered 2,904 reports, or nearly two out of every 100. Seventeen other officers had more than 1,000 FIO reports. Most of those officers are members of the Youth Violence Strike Force, a unit that is not on regular patrol but is tasked with preventing violence, which includes gang activity.

Boston police said that about 30 percent of the total reports were from the Youth Violence Strike Force. Of the 50 officers who generated the most number of reports, including the officer who had the highest number, 64 percent were Youth Violence Strike Force officers.

It sounds like they might need to take a look at the one officer who was so prolific in stopping citizens.

Hillary Clinton appeared at a Martin Luther King Day ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina yesterday. HuffPo:

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton praised South Carolina for removing the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds in Columbia as roughly 1,000 gathered to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

Monday’s “King Day at the Dome” celebration marked the first time the state has officially honored Martin Luther King Jr. Day without the racist symbol flying above the crowd. Civil rights activists had previously used the holiday to call for the flag’s removal.

“How wonderful it is to be here together without the Confederate flag overhead,” Clinton said. “That flag always belonged in a museum, not at the statehouse.”

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during 'King Day at the Dome 2016' ceremonies in front of the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, Monday. | REUTERS

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during ‘King Day at the Dome 2016’ ceremonies in front of the South Carolina State House in Columbia, South Carolina, Monday. | REUTERS

Hillary called attention to the roles of Gov. Nikki Haley and protester Bree Newsome in the decision to remove the Confederate flag.

Clinton praised Haley and the state legislature for taking swift action on the flag, but also credited activist Bree Newsome for taking the matter into her own hands and “shimmying up that flagpole.”

“Every year, you’ve gathered right here and said that that symbol of division and racism went against everything Dr. King stood for,” Clinton continued. “We couldn’t celebrate him and the Confederacy, we had to choose. And South Carolina finally made the right choice.”

That was the only article I could find on Hillary’s speech, but Bernie Sanders got quite a bit of media coverage for his appearance in Alabama. AP via ABC News: Bernie Sanders Courts Voters in Alabama on King Day.

With polls showing him running well in Iowa and New Hampshire, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took aim at what might be unusual territory for a self-described democratic socialist: the Deep South.

Yet a crowd of more than 5,000 packed into Boutwell Auditorium in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, Monday night to hear the Vermont senator, while nearly 1,000 milled outside in freezing temperatures.

“There must be some mistake, I heard Alabama was a conservative state,” Sanders said to an enthusiastic welcome.

Sanders said his message of raising the minimum wage, free college tuition and paid family medical leave cuts across regional lines but acknowledged that the work to get that message across was harder in a state like Alabama.

“We’ve got to go out to our white, working-class friends. We’ve got to go out to our brothers and sisters and say, ‘Stop voting against your own self-interests,'” Sanders said.

“Our brothers and sisters?” I guess that means black people. I wonder how many “brothers and sisters” were in the crowd. The article doesn’t say. The story says Sanders mentioned Dr. King and emphasized King’s activism on economic issues.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during a speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during a speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Donald Trump chose to give a speech at Liberty University on Martin Luther King Day, and he made some biblical boo boos while speaking to the packed “Christian” audience (Liberty U. students are required to attend appearances by guest speakers). Most disconcerting for the religious nuts was that he referred to “2 Corinthians” instead of the correct usage “second Corinthians.” Here’s Molly Ball at The Atlantic:

The Religious Right’s Donald Trump Dilemma.

There were many unbelievable moments over the course of Donald Trump’s speech on Monday at Liberty University, the evangelical college founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

There was his citation of the Bible: “Two Corinthians 3-17, that’s the whole ball game. … Is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that’s the one you like.”

There was the part where he ranked his favorite books, calling The Art of the Deal“a deep, deep second to the Bible. The Bible is the best. The Bible blows it away.”

There was his pledge to win the war on Christmas: “If I’m president, you’re going to see ‘Merry Christmas’ in department stores, believe me.”

And there was a delightful new twist on his oft-repeated claim that Americans will be overwhelmed with winning: “If I’m president, you’ll say, ‘Please, Mr. President, we’re winning too much. I can’t stand it. Can’t we have a loss?’ And I’ll say, ‘No, we’re going to keep winning.’”

Ball writes that Trump is creating division in the Evangelical community.

But the most breathtaking part of Trump’s appearance may have come before he spoke. It was his introduction by Jerry Falwell Jr., the school’s president and son of its founder, who praised the thrice-married, socially liberal tycoon at great length.

Falwell lauded Trump’s generosity and worldly success; he called him “a breath of fresh air.” He compared Trump to his father and to Martin Luther King Jr., who also “spoke the truth, no matter how unpopular.” Trump, he said, “cannot be bought—he is not a puppet on a string like many other candidates.” Though Falwell’s comments were, he said, not an endorsement, he repeatedly imagined a Trump presidency as a boon to America. “In my opinion,” he said, “Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others, as Jesus taught in the great commandment.”Many evangelical leaders, however, do not share Falwell’s affection. As Trump was speaking, Russell Moore, the Southern Baptist leader, issued a stream of disapproving tweets: “Trading in the gospel of Jesus Christ for political power is not liberty but slavery,” Moore wrote. He added: “This would be hilarious if it weren’t so counter to the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Read the rest at the link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!


Monday Reads in which I go there …

Good Afternoon!  Happy Martin Luther King Day!!

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

Well, here I go again …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krugman adds a bit more to this today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Live Blog: Fourth Democratic Debate

clinton-sanders-omalley

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

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

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

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

2016-01-16t00-07-49-733z--1280x720.nbcnews-ux-1080-600

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

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

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

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

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

Then he caught himself.

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

Hmmm…. he doesn’t sound so humble.

Bernie guns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GTY_Chelsea_and_bernie_mm_160112

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

berniesandersnra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good news for Hillary:

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

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

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

Read the rest at CNN.

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

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


Sunday Reads: A look at Miss Europa…before, during and after WWII.

Miss Europe 1930 (1)

Good Afternoon

Tonight is another Dem Debate…I am hopeful that I will be able to see this one live. But, the chances are unlikely if I can’t find a live feed online.   (Supposedly there is a live feed here: http://www.nbcnews.com/ Coverage starts at 8pm.)

How to Watch the NBC News-YouTube Democratic Debate – NBC News

First Read: Previewing Tonight’s NBC News-YouTube Democratic Debate – NBC News

We will have a live blog up and running.

Let’s get on with the post…I can’t take much of this political stuff now. It gets me worked up, I’d prefer looking at depressing pictures of war-torn nations and reading about the dickheads who are keeping women pilots from WWII out of Arlington National Cemetery.

The pictures you will see are images from the first Miss Europa Beauty Pageant 1930. A time when war was on the horizon, and the countries participating were bringing their best and prettiest young ladies to compete for a prize of Miss Europa. Is it ironic that Miss Switzerland was “withdrawn.”

As you look at these women, remember the beauty and pride they exude for their respective countries because only a short few years later, many of those countries were overtaken…and the image turned horrific.

I will show you some of the women, (not the same women of course…but women from the same countries several years later) the difference in the faces. Granted they are not “beauty queens,” but you can see the beauty of the women underneath.

I also have transposed with these images…pictures of women who show pride…in themselves, for different reasons. Not because of the ideal beauty that they represent in their country…but the pride that comes from their hard work and equality to men during wartime, as they represent their country fighting in the field, and at home. Doing the jobs men left behind, even though they were not paid the same as the men…but dammit they did a better job then the men. (Ya know it too!)

Now the images, from the blog Vintage Everyday.

vintage everyday: Beautiful Vintage Portraits of European Girls from the Miss Europe 1930

Miss Europe 1930 was the second annual Miss Europe competition. Miss Greece won and 19 girls from Europe competed in the pageant. Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Miss Turkey participated for the first time and one candidacy, that of Switzerland, was withdrawn.

Delegates:

  • Austria – Ingeborg von Grinberger
  • Belgium – Jenny Vanparays
  • Bulgaria – Konika Tchobanova
  • Czechoslovakia – Milada Dostálová
  • Denmark – Esther Petersen
  • England – Marjorie Ross
  • France – Yvette Labrousse
  • Germany – Dorit Nitykowski
  • Greece – Aliki Diplarakou
  • Holland – Rie Van der Rest
  • Hungary – Maria Papst
  • Ireland – Vera Curran
  • Italy – Mafalda Morittino
  • Poland – Zofia Batycka
  • Romania – Zoica Dona
  • Russia – Irene Wentzel
  • Spain – Elena Plá Mompó
  • Turkey – Mubedjel Namik
  • Yugoslavia – Stephanie “Caca” Drobujak

Miss Greece won the pageant. I think Miss Russia is absolutely gorgeous. The fashions are wonderful to look at…as I said, this is 1930, so take a look at each woman carefully…because many would be representing countries that no longer would exist (as these women knew them) within the next decade.

The above pictures are from these blog post. I urge you to check out every one of them because I have not used all the photos in the threads below…go to each link and learn and see the photographs.

vintage everyday: Interesting Photos of Women in World War II

vintage everyday: Inside Nazi-Occupied Poland, 1939-1940

vintage everyday: Black & White Photos of Daily Life in Campobasso, Italy in 1944

vintage everyday: Pictures of Collaborator Girls in World War II, Some are Shocking Ones!

vintage everyday: Rare Images of the Battle of the Bulge – WWII

vintage everyday: Ghostly Photos of Kaliningrad Looked Both in World War II and Now

vintage everyday: 50 Breathtaking WWII Colorized Photos Look Like They were Taken Yesterday

 

Vintage Everyday has countless numbers of blog post with shit-tons of images about everything you can ever imagine. Spend some hours over there, you will be going back to this wonderful site again and again.

 

These are the pictures of the women who fought and worked during the war:

vintage everyday: 20 Interesting Black and White Photos of U.S. Women in World War II

vintage everyday: Interesting Photos of Women in World War II

 

The point to all this, is the latest shit fest on the Hill. There is a bitter fight going on about the WASP, Women Airforce Service Pilots…and their rights to buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

 

Women Airforce Service Pilots: History and background on the WASPs

One thousand-one hundred U.S. women served as pilots for the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. This collection is the official WASP repository, containing digital photographs, letters, oral histories, and descriptions of personal and military records and memorabilia.

In the Beginning:

In 1939, on the day after Germany’s tanks rolled into Warsaw, Poland, pilot Jacqueline Cochran sent a letter to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt encouraging the use of women pilots in the armed forces. In May 1940, another pilot, Nancy Harkness Love wrote the Ferrying Division of the Armed Air Forces with a similar idea but the Army was not ready to put women in the cockpit of its planes. By September 1942, however, all that was changing.

 

The demand for male combat pilots and warplanes left the Air Transport Command (ATC) with a shortage of experienced pilots to ferry planes from factories to points of embarkation. The leaders of the ATC remembered Nancy Harkness Love’s proposal and hired her to recruit twenty-five of the most qualified women pilots in the country to ferry military aircraft. These outstanding women pilots were called the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron or WAFS.

WASP Facts and Stats
  • WASP served as part of the Army Air Forces from September 1942 to December 1944
  • 30 women invited to join the WAFS
  • 28 WAFS assigned to operational duties
  • 25,000 women applied for WFTD/WASP training
  • 1,830 were accepted
  • 1,074 graduated from the program and were assigned to operational duties
  • 900 WASP and 16 WAFS remained in service at the time of deactivation, December 20, 1944
  • 38 died while in the WASP program
  • 60,000,000 miles were flown
  • WASP earned $150 per month while in training, and $250 per month after graduation
  • They paid for their own uniforms, lodging, and personal travel to and from home

By September 14, 1942, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, also approved a program that would train a large group of women to serve as ferry pilots. The program was placed under the direction of Jacqueline Cochran, and named the Army Air Forces Women’s Flying Training Detatchment (WFTD).

On August 5, 1943, the WAFS and the WFTD were merged and re-designated the Women Airforce Service Pilots or WASP. Cochran was appointed the Director and Love was named WASP Executive with the ATC Ferrying Division.

 

The Atlantic has a good article on this battle that has gone on for years, too many mutthafukken years:

Female World War II Pilots Fight for Spot in Arlington Cemetery – The Atlantic

The World War II pilots fought for their right to be recognized for decades, but have been barred from being buried on the grounds.

Seventy years ago, Women Airforce Service Pilots flew 77 types of airplanes 60 million miles during World War II. Forty years ago, they won formal recognition for their service and were finally granted their honorable discharges. Five years ago, they received the Congressional Gold Medal. But last year,  the Secretary of the Army rescinded their eligibility to be inurned at Arlington National Cemetery. Now, the families of this dwindling group of veterans are fighting to ensure that the United States honors their service.The WASPs flew the heaviest bombers, fastest pursuit planes, and lightest trainers during World War II. They ferried planes across the U.S. and flew Army chaplains from base to base for services on Sunday. They test-flew planes that had been repaired to make certain they were safe for the male cadets who would learn to fly and fight in them. They trained gunners on the ground and in B-17s, towing targets behind their own planes while the men fired live ammunition at them. Of the 1,102 who earned their Silver Wings, 38 died during the war.
The WASPs served their country when it needed them and then fought to be remembered when their nation forgot them—over and over again.

 

The press on both the left and right are picking this up….

This female pilot was denied equal pay during WWII. Now Arlington Cemetery bars her remains. – The Washington Post


Elaine Harmon, a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program during WWII. (Family photo via AP)
Elaine Harmon and her comrades flew Army planes across the country. They helped train pilots on how to operate aircraft and instruments. They towed targets behind them while soldiers below fired live ammunition during training. Harmon was aware that her service could cost her life: For 38 other women, it did.But few people in 1944 wanted Harmon or women like her to be part of the military. Not Harmon’s mother, who believed that Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) “were all just awful, just probably loose women” and was ashamed that her daughter would be one of them. Not civilian male pilots, who felt threatened by the female recruits. And not Congress, which voted down a bill that would have granted the female pilots military status for fiscal and political reasons. As World War II drew to a close, the program was disbanded and largely forgotten. It wasn’t until the Air Force began accepting women for pilot training in 1970 that anyone remembered women had flown for the military previously, and it was not until 1977 that the female pilots were finally granted veteran status.Harmon, who helped campaign for WASPs to get that status, was at the first full veteran’s funeral for a WASP in 2002. It was a world apart from the brief affairs she had attended before, when urns containing a woman’s ashes were unceremoniously placed inside an outdoor structure at Arlington National Cemetery. It made Harmon proud to know that she also would be afforded full military honors when her time came — in April of last year.Which is why Terry Harmon, Elaine’s 69-year-old daughter, was angered when Secretary of the Army John McHugh reversed the old rule and said that ashes of WASPs can no longer be inurned at Arlington Cemetery.

Female World War II pilots barred from Arlington National Cemetery – Washington Times

Congresswoman fights ban on burying female WWII pilots at Arlington

Family Fighting to Allow Female World War II Pilots to Be Laid to Rest in Arlington National Cemetery – ABC News

AP via Fox: Women pilots who served in WWII can’t have ashes laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery | Fox News

The WASPs Are Being Denied Burial At Arlington Cemetery | TexasGOPVote

Meanwhile there is a bill just introduced that could change things:

LI Lawmakers Push Bill To Protect Cradle Of Aviation, Republic Airport « CBS New York

Each day we lose more and more of our World War Two veterans. Now, a movement is underway to preserve, mark and commemmorate unique sights in aviation history.

Long Island’s congressional delegation is backing a bill directing the government to preserve key sites and formally designate parts of Long Island as a unit of the National Parks Service, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.

“That federal designation would allow them to get funding and preserve the rich history, which is so criticial to the country’s history,” U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice said.

The bill designates three key sites: Bethpage, which was home to Grumman Aerospace, one of the largest manufacturers of planes during World War II; Republic Airport, formally known as Fairchild Flying Field in East Farmingdale; and Hempstead Plains, the “Cradle of Aviation,” which is home to three iconic airfields: Roosevelt Field, Mitchel Field and Curtiss Field.

(Credit: CBS2)

(Credit: CBS2)

Rice announced the bill at the Cradle Of Aviation Museum in Garden City on Thursday. She was accompanied by Jane Gilman, whose mother — Margaret Weber — served as a Women Airforce Service Pilot, or WASP, during World War Two.

“She was a tow target pilot , she would tow the targets the men would practice live artillery on,” Gilman said.

Garden City is also home to the site where the first U.S. Air Mail flight took off, leaving from the Nassau city bound for nearby Mineola. The short distance between the two villages — just a couple of miles–did not give the pilot enough time to land. The first U.S. Air Mail was literally dropped from this plane onto the roof of the Mineola post office.

The entire Long Island congressional delegation backs the national aviation bill.

Video at that link.

If you are wondering about what is a low target pilot, look to the Atlantic article and especially the WASPs website for more information.

Let’s make this an open thread….I will end it with a fabulous picture of a WASPs in front of one of her ferry planes…

Nancy Batson Crews, among the first women to advocate for WASPS to be recognized as veterans in the early 1970s, is shown with a P-38.

Nancy Batson Crews, among the first women to advocate for WASPS to be recognized as veterans in the early 1970s, is shown with a P-38.


Lazy Saturday Reads

Claude_Monet_-_The_Magpie_-_Google_Art_Project

Good Morning!!

WordPress is forcing me to use a new format for writing posts, and I’m pretty clueless about how to use it. For one thing, I don’t know how to insert captions under pictures. I also can’t figure out how to change the size of the images or put them on the right or left side of the post. The images in this post are winter paintings by Claude Monet. The one above is called The Magpie.

Before I get started on today’s news, I want to call attention to the Democratic debate that will be held tomorrow night at 9PM on NBC. Some information from USA Today:

Hillary Clinton,Bernie SandersandMartin O’Malleywill meet for the fourth time — and it’s their final face-off before theIowa caucusesandNew Hampshire primary. For O’Malley, a spot on the stage was no sure thing thanks to lagging poll numbers, butNBC announced Thursday that he made the cut….

The debate starts at 9 p.m. ET. It’ll air on NBC and will be live-streamed on the network’s digital platforms as well as on the NBC News YouTube channel. (If you’ve got exciting Sunday night plans, you can catch a re-airing of the debate on MSNBC at 11 p.m. ET.) ….

The debate, hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, will be held at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C….

Moderators are NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt and the network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell.

Winter on the Seine, Lavacourt

Winter on the Seine, Lavacourt

Is it just me, or does Hillary Clinton get far less media coverage than any of the other candidates in either party? It seems to me that Bernie Sanders gets much more press than Hillary and when the corporate media does cover about Hillary, the stories are mostly negative. I hope that’s just because I’m so sensitive to the way the media portrays her.

On Google news today, Bernie Sanders is number three under “Top Stories.”under Hillary Clinton is not listed. When I search for Hillary Clinton, I get this. Let me know if you find any positive stories there. Mostly what I see is articles about how Bernie is beating Hillary in Iowa and New Hampshire and other negative headlines.

Hillary has to fight against the media as well as the Republican candidates, Bernie Sanders, and Republican super pacs. I’m beginning to wonder if she can overcome this much negativity.

The New York Times has published two lengthy and positive articles on Bernie Sanders’ campaign organization and ground game recently:

Jan. 3: Bernie Sanders, Needing Early Lift, Builds Iowa Ground Operation.

Jan. 15: Looking at Later Primaries, Bernie Sanders Works to Strengthen Black Support.

The only article I can find about Hillary’s ground game is an article at the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 5 with a negative spin in the headline: Hillary Clinton Counts On Ground Game in Iowa. Democratic presidential front-runner tries mightily to avoid an early loss in caucuses this time around. The story itself focuses on what happened in 2008 and on Bernie Sanders’ ground operation!

The Road in Vetheuil in Winter

The Road in Vetheuil in Winter

Did you know that Hillary appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe yesterday? There was little media coverage of her appearance, but a few people took something Hillary said and twisted it into an “attack” on Bernie Sanders’ grandchildren!

Paste Magazine: Did Hillary Clinton Just Take A Strange Shot at Bernie Sanders Over His Grandchildren?

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s biggest challenger in the Democratic presidential primary, has one son. His name is Levi, and he hasthree adopted grandchildren from China. When Sanders married his second wife, Jane, she had three children of their own, and those children now have four children of their own. Sanders considers all seven his grandchildren, as anyone would, even though he’s not related to them by blood.

Clinton, conversely, has one daughter, Chelsea, and Chelsea has a baby daughter named Charlotte.

…Hillary Clinton appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to discuss her differences with “other candidates” in the field. Until very recently, she took pains not to mention Bernie Sanders’ name in her campaign, and to avoid directly engaging him in debates, and in this video she doesn’t mention anybody by name. However, when Mika Brzezinski asks her about her core message, there’s no mistaking the shade she throws:

For me this really is pretty straightforward. I don’t promise easy answers. I don’t promise things that I’m not…knowing can be delivered.”One of Clinton’s chief tactics in combatting Sanders has been the assertion that some of his proposals are pie-in-the-sky, and despite the idealism he may be inspiring, especially in young people, she’s the pragmatic candidate who can actually get things done.

The issue comes in the next part of her statement, mere seconds later (1:45 mark above):

And I guess at the end of the day, for me—you know, people talk about their extraordinary grandchildren, but I actually have one—and we’re going to do everything we can to give her opportunities…Whoa! My first reaction, hearing that, was “this can’t be what she meant…nobody can be that clueless.”

There was also a recommended (!) diary on this at DailyKos, which has descended into a hotbed of Hillary hate and Bernie worship that threatens to outdo what happened there in 2008. I can’t find the link to it right now, but here is a response:

Clinton Did Not Diss Sanders’ Grandkids.

There is a silly diary on the rec list right now calling out Hillary Clinton for… well… saying that her granddaughter is extraordinary. (Apparently Sanders has trademarked that word. Who knew?)

The diary uses an edited clip from the Morning Joe interview to capture Clinton saying:

I guess at the end of the day, for me… you know, people talk about their extraordinary grandchildren, but I actually have one. And we’re going to do everything we can to give her opportunities. But it’s not enough…

She actually has one. She doesn’t mention Bernie Sanders. But what is she getting at here? Why did she bring up her grandkid at all in response to the question “What is the message of your campaign?” That doesn’t seem like much of a message.

But wait, there was more (a lot more) to her statement. And here’s what Clinton said after the ellipses (in the part edited out by whoever made the video).

And I think too many people are forgetting what are some of the biggest determinants as to what happens to your children and grandchildren. The first being what kind of country we are and whether we’re still providing the opportunities to realize your promise and potential and what kind of world’s going to be out there waiting.

And I feel passionately that just because we had it in the past, doesn’t mean we’re going to keep it in the future. You shouldn’t have to be the granddaughter of a former president to have your American Dream realized. I think every kid should have a chance to live up to her god-given potential.

She says this stuff all the time. The idea that somehow now she’s taking a shot at Sanders grandchildren because she used the word “extraordinary” to describe her grandchild… smh.

Sigh . . .

The Tow Path at Argenteuil, Winter

The Tow Path at Argenteuil, Winter

On to other news.

I wonder how the Republicans will put a negative spin on this story.

Huffington Post: Iran Releases 4 American Prisoners After Months Of Top Secret Negotiations.

VIENNA, Austria — Four American citizens, including a Washington Post reporter, who have been imprisoned in Iran are set to board a Swiss aircraft Saturday from Tehran to an undetermined location, where they will be freed as part of a prisoner release deal between the U.S. and Iran. The agreement is the result of long-running, high-stakes secret negotiations between the two traditional adversaries.

“Our citizens have not yet been flown out of Iran, so we don’t want to do anything that could complicate it,” a senior administration official said Saturday. “But we are told the deal is done, that they will be let out.”

As part of the exchange, the U.S. will release seven Iranians who were being held in the country on sanctions violations. All were born in Iran, but six are dual Iranian-American citizens. The seven men all have the option to remain in the U.S.

The deal will bring home four Americans who have been imprisoned in Iran for years on trumped up charges, or in some cases no charges at all: Washington Post Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosrawi-Roodsari. The imprisonment of Khosrawi-Roodsari has never been previously reported.

Read more at the link.

View of Argenteuil Snow

View of Argenteuil Snow

We haven’t talked much about the “militia” nuts in Oregon lately. Here are some recent updates.

Mashable: Oregon militia has 4,000 artifacts in the building they’re occupying.

Thousands of archaeological artifacts — and maps detailing where more can be found — are kept inside the national wildlife refuge buildings currently being held by an armed group of protestors angry over federal land policy.

Ryan Bundy, one of the leaders of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon, says they have no real interest in the antiquities. Still, their access to the artifacts and maps has some worried that looters could take advantage of the situation.

“There’s a huge market for artifacts, especially artifacts that have provenance, where you can identify where they came from,” said Carla Burnside, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refuge archeologist.

More than 300 recorded prehistoric sites are scattered across the refuge, including burial grounds, ancient villages and petroglyphs. Some of the artifacts — including spears, stone tools, woven baskets and beads — date back 9,800 years.

About 7,000 artifacts and samples from the refuge are kept at a museum in Eugene, Oregon. But 4,000 more are kept at the refuge for research.

Only Burnside has a key to the room containing the artifacts and the maps. She’s since seen pictures of the occupiers in her office, adjacent to the room where the artifacts are stored. The group has been looking through government files at the site, but it is unclear if they’ve gone through the room with the artifacts.

Authorities have finally arrested one of the idiots. The Guardian reports: Oregon militia standoff: man arrested driving stolen government vehicle

The standoff with armed militia in Oregon escalated on Friday after police swooped in on one of the protesters to make the first arrest in connection with the two-week occupation of a federal wildlife refuge.

Kenneth Medenbach, who was arrested for unauthorized use of a government vehicle, is a chainsaw sculptor and longtime nemesis of the government with a history of previous entanglements with the courts over the occupation of federal lands.

He is the first militiaman connected to the armed occupation to be arrested since the bird sanctuary in rural Oregon was unexpectedly taken over on 2 January.

Medenbach, 62, was detained outside a Safeway supermarket in Burns, Oregon, some 30 miles from the Malheur national wildlife refuge, according to a statement from the Harney County sheriff’s office.

Skaters in Giverny

Skaters in Giverny

What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads: Late Edition

Good Afternoon!

download (2)I’m running really late today despite coffee and all the usual things I use to face the morning.  I seem to be in need of hibernation.  I’m not sure if it’s the ugly political situation or just the challenges of doing any little thing these days.  Have you noticed how businesses are basically set up to take your money efficiently and create hell for you under any other circumstance?  Calling them is to enter a hell realm.  Even when you do reach a person, there seems to be little they can do but offer sympathy and customer service surveys.  Why are businesses so damned rotten these days?  Is it because they are coddled while the rest of us have been basically dropped from the master plan?

I’m going to do a little sharing of local stuff juxtaposed on some national news because I’ve been noticing how difficult life is becoming for regular people.  Here in New Orleans, we’re chasing tourist dollars by destroying the culture that brings them here and basically driving off the workers that do the daily stuff of dealing with them.  I’m beginning to think that the entire plan of the Aspen Institute is to turn every major city into a seamless, architecturally bland, sea of guys sporting manbuns.  We seem to be selling our treasure to the highest out-of-town bidder who then remakes it into something totally new Portland or new Seattle or  new Brooklyn. Then, we all have to indulge boorish burbies in all the places we used to use to escape them.

Here’s a great example.  This nice old home used to be the equivalent of a hostel owned by a friend of mine. It was called the Mazant Guesthouse and was heavily used by Europeans because it had no A/C, a communal kitchen, and was extremely cheap.  The first thing the new owners did was try to tear down the backhouse.  Thankfully, the historic commission stopped them.  Now the entire property is just another reminder of the folks city government is trying to attract to all parts of the city including our personal, private backyards.   Asking price?  $1.65 million.  You could’ve bought entire blocks here for that just a few years ago.  So, you can imagine what that’s done to the rental market and what that’s doing to property tax valuations.

imageThis revitalization includes sanitizing the city’s really awful past as an outpost of the Confederacy and Lost Cause by removing statues that used to attract more pigeon shit than attention. We tear down a very historical Woolworth’s with an intact counter that was central to the Civil Rights Movement and no one mourns that at all.  We had an opportunity to put a great Civil Rights museum downtown for a real tourist experience.  But no, we spend time removing rather than preserving the sites to use them to elucidate the awful past.  We’d rather have a Dave and Buster’s than a National Jazz Park. 

Several items came to my attention today that show the master plan is to transform us into the destination of the manbun crowd  and that is having all kinds of unintended consequences.  The example sits right next door to me.  Two guys from NJ charge $180 a night for one side of a double that’s been redone to look like a badly decorated boutique hotel inside and barely maintains a semblance of its historical past outside.  It used to be home to two families.  Some NJ guy bought the family home across the street and it’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen now. It was an arts and crafts double but now it looks like some weird, awkward Cape Code monstrosity and it’s selling for way over $.5 million. Both homes were stripped of their historic architecture during renovation. My guess is some out of town rich people will Air BNB the arts & crafts double too which is currently illegal and against zoning laws. It used to be a rental when I moved here but was a single family dwelling until it sold.  A barber who worked down in the quarter lived there.  Regular folks that are renters aren’t here any more.  But, don’t take my word for it.  New Orleans now ranks second as the worst market for renters in the nation. 

New Orleans is gaining notoriety among America’s mid-sized cities as a place where renters must devote an increasing share of their income to housing expenses.

Make Room, a campaign by nonprofit affordable housing developer Enterprise Community Partners, extracted Census data to rank the top “10 worst metro areas for cash-strapped renters.” New Orleans was No. 2.

According to Harvard’s data, 35 percent of renters in the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner statistical area devote 50 percent or more of their income to rent and utilities, only slightly less than top-ranked Miami where the rate was 35.7 percent.

The Make Room initiative was launched in May 2015 to push for policy changes and additional resources for cities where the lack of affordable housing is acute. Angela Boyd, the campaign’s managing director, said the effort seeks, in part, to debunk misconceptions that affordable housing is an issue only for coastal cities and targets renters in need of subsidies or government assistance.

“Some people think affordable housing is for the homeless or residents of public housing, but it also takes into account moderate income (renters),” Boyd said. “These are people who are probably already your neighbors.”

I wonder how all those restaurants are going to find help when there are no more places for their employees to rent in the city at the wages they can pay?   While the city is hassling over statues and renting its lampposts to hang fetus fetish propaganda, there’s vladimir-putin-man-bun-funny-meme-hairvery little discussion of things that are really wrong here.  We may be good at attracting celebrities to film stuff and buy houses, but we’re absolutely forgetting the majority of our population in the rush to be cool for pennies on the tax dollar.

On Wednesday night, Douglas Brown allegedly jumped over the counter of a New Orleans Subway after ordering a sandwich, according to the Times-Picayune, but was foiled in his attempt to nab the cash register drawer because it was tethered into place. Instead, he grabbed a bunch of cash and ran. He was detained 25 minutes later.

 It’s unclear who will represent Brown. Yesterday, the Orleans Public Defenders refused to take his case. The underfunded office, which says it represents nearly 85-percent of all defendants in the parish but has a budget just half the size of the district attorney, simply can’t handle any more.

“Our workload has now reached unmanageable levels resulting in a constitutional crisis,” Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton said in a December statement, giving one month’s notice that they would start refusing some clients charged with felonies carrying long sentences. “As Chief Defender, I can no longer ethically assign cases to attorneys with excessive caseloads or those that lack the requisite experience and training to represent the most serious offenses.”

This week, Bunton’s office made good on that pledge and began refusing clients. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana last night filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Bunton and Louisiana State Public Defender James Dixon on behalf of plaintiffs who were assigned public defenders but then placed on a waiting list.

“So long as you’re on the public defender waiting list in New Orleans, you’re helpless. Your legal defense erodes along with your constitutional rights,” said Brandon Buskey, Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, in a statement. “With every hour without an attorney, you may forever lose invaluable opportunities to prove your innocence. You also may be forced into a crippling choice between waiting months for counsel or doing bail and plea negotiations yourself. The damage to your case can be irreparable.”

Mayor Mitch Landrieu maintains that while the city has increased its funding of the office that they have “barely kept pace with state funding cuts,” the Times-Picayune reports. The defenders contend that “the additional local funding is enough to stave off mandatory furloughs, but not enough to provide representation in serious felony cases that is constitutional or ethical.” Bunton and Dixon could not be reached for comment.

abraham-lincoln-man-bun-hairstyle-funnyThe total focus on re-imagining New Orleans  appears to include putting street cars everywhere and making sure no road goes unfixed endlessly as long as it is  uptown.  I’m not sure it includes a vision of much else.  We seem to be highly focused on accommodating a certain segment of American society to the exclusion of a nearly everything else.   From what I can see, we’re really not “winning” in any sense but Charlie Sheen’s or whatever it is Mayor Landrieu has in mind.  He did come to us as the LT. Governor whose sole job is to fixate on tourism.  Maybe that’s the issue he just can’t move beyond.  I really don’t know. But, as far as I can tell, the development we’ve been getting recently is really killing exactly what we’ve been good at doing for a very long time.

Does resilience mean dumping your core competencies and the things that make you unique for the latest trendiness?

What happens when a city because a laboratory for hair brained schemes like charter schools and whatever you call this urban development trend that seems to be making us some blander version of ourselves?  One of our issues has been the lack of health care for so many people.  I’m hoping that the state’s move to now accept the Medicaid Expansion will help these kinds of statistics.  Meanwhile, we can only look at the skeleton of Big Charity Hospital which was once the hallmark of a civilized nation.

Indeed, Place Matters for Health in Orleans Parish, a report prepared by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Orleans Parish Place Matters Team, in conjunction with the Center on Human Needs, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Virginia Network for Geospatial Health Research, noted that “Life expectancy in the poorest zip code in the city is 54.5 years, or 25.5-years lower than life expectancy in the zip code with the least amount of poverty in the city, where it is 80.”

I’m beginning to think the entire “sharing” economy is basic piracy.  I came across this at AJ and was appalled that folks would do this on both supply and demand side of AIR BnB.  I swear this corporation is just an international crime syndicate that makes money off of illegal and destructive activities.

Airbnb may be the next high-profile target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, following media reports this week that the online accommodation service includes listings from settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories that are advertised as being in Israel.

Anyone staying in an Airbnb-listed settlement property “facilitates the commission of the crime of establishing settlements and therefore aids and abets the crime,” said John Dugard, professor of international law, and a former Special Rapporteur to the UN on Palestine.

“The same applies to making money from property built on illegal settlements.” Airbnb takes a commission on property rentals, and so is profiting from Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.

Hosts who list properties via the company are required to provide accurate locations. As such, stating that settlements are located in Israel – when they are in fact illegal under international law because they are built on occupied territory – is a violation of the company’s terms.

I would like to think that just because you can make money off of something doesn’t mean that you should do it, the government should allow it, or there should be legal businesses encouraging it.  But then, it seems state and local governments are also doing anything to quit providing services to citizens while heavily subsidizing private businesses for whatever reason.  At what point do we decide that businesses and rich people should pony up their fair share of the bill of living in a civilized country,state and city of laws, institutions and regular people?

The city of Flint, Mich., is in the midst of a water crisis several years in the making. The city opted out of Detroit’s water supply and began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, part of a cost-saving move. Eighteen months later, in the fall of 2015, researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled.

The city reconnected to Detroit’s water system in October, but the damage was done. Water from the Flint River was found to be highly corrosive to the lead pipes still used in some parts of the city. Even though Flint River water no longer flows through the city’s pipes, it’s unclear how long those pipes will continue to leach unsafe levels of lead into the tap water supply. Experts currently say the water is safe for bathing, but not drinking.

A group of Virginia Tech researchers who sampled the water in 271 Flint homes last summer found some contained lead levels high enough to meet the EPA’s definition of “toxic waste.”

Economic theory states that we should tax nuisance activities heavily to both discourage them and to collect funds for the damages they inflict on the citizens around them.  (Think any kind of pollution.) Subsidies are to be given to those manbunwashingtonsquareactivities that won’t occur–even though they are highly beneficial to society–because they won’t provide profits to private businesses. (Think public transportation and education.)  It’s a really basic and simply theory that’s been proven useful time and time again. There are some things we really do want to tax the hell out of because we want less of it and we want to recover the damage it creates. Many rules and regulations exist to protect current property owners and stakeholders.   Here’s a brief little lesson on Pigouvian Taxes and subsidies that’s worth a watch that gives you a good idea of the costs and benefits.   I’m not sure why the entire concept has gone out of style.  Perhaps it’s because the Aspen Institute doesn’t find it trendy enough. Although my gut says it’s likely because lobbyists and political donors prefer to be enabled rather than held accountable.

Anyway, what I think I can say is that we’re making it difficult (e.g. taxing) for the wrong people to exist in society and we’re subsidizing the folks that are just making things worse.  I believe this is why there’s such disgruntlement at working, poor, and middle class income levels.

The question now, is how do we really change this?  When are we going to stop selling our society to any bidder for any sleazoid reason in the name development?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?