Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's a rich man's game, no matter what they call it

This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays are Joan McCarter and Stuart Zechman. This should really be interesting. I kind of fell down when I was on with Joan last time because she seemed to keep heading toward what's good for Democratic Party candidates, and Jay seemed to be going there with her, and I kept feeling like I'd just walked into a brick wall. I don't think Stuart will let them get away with that.

You know what would be a good deal? A good deal would be if Obama agreed to delay the individual mandate for a year (or forever) if the Republicans agree to get rid of the debt ceiling. Really. Look who thinks so: the old Barack Obama. Note his main point: The reason people don't buy health insurance is because they can't afford it. What he doesn't say is that they especially can't afford to pay for an overpriced product that doesn't do what they're paying for.

Ted Rall checked the website, and he's not finding any affordable options: "New York State's healthcare plans range from Fidelis Care's 'Bronze' plan at $810.84 per month to $2554.71 per month for something I didn't bother to look up because if I had $2500+ a month to spend on doctors, I'd buy a doctor and have him/her live with me and dole out pills like I was Michael Jackson. The deductibles - the amount you pay out of pocket every year before you the insurer has to give you anything at all - are outrageously high. Fidelis Care Bronze has a $3000/year deductible per person. I'm in pretty good health; it's a rare year I spend that much on doctors. After the $3000/year deductible, they pay 50% of your bills. So if you rack up $5000/year in medical bills, you pay $4000 and they pay $1000. Pretty damned crappy." That doesn't even qualify as insurance, it's just extortion.

"Obama: We're Willing To Fund Government With Republican Priorities [...] 'The bill that is being presented to end the government shutdown reflects Republican priorities,' Obama said, addressing federal employees at FEMA in Washington. 'It's the Republican budget. The funding levels of this short-term funding bill, called the CR, is far lower than what Democrats think it should be.'" Gosh, I wonder how we ended up there? That headline, by the way, is at Talking Points Memo, where I guess it's supposed to prove how amicable dear old Barack is, contrary to Republican charges. Which would be great if we had wanted a Democratic president so that he could give the Republicans whatever they want.

"The Obama Administration and the Press [...] 'I think we have a real problem,' said New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane. 'Most people are deterred by those leaks prosecutions. They're scared to death. There's a gray zone between classified and unclassified information, and most sources were in that gray zone. Sources are now afraid to enter that gray zone. It's having a deterrent effect. If we consider aggressive press coverage of government activities being at the core of American democracy, this tips the balance heavily in favor of the government.'"

"Judge recants own decision on GOP polling place photo id law later upheld by SCOTUS: This is nothing less than remarkable. The 7th circuit court judge who wrote the majority opinion in the landmark Crawford v. Marion County Election Board case, has now admitted he got it wrong! 'I think we did not have enough information,' Judge Richard Posner said in remarks today. 'If the lawyers had provided us with a lot of information about the abuse of voter identification laws, this case would have been decided differently.'" Richard Posner! That's twice this year that Posner has shown signs of being more than just a right-wing operative. I can't help but wonder where this sudden respect for liberal government came from.

"Edward Snowden says NSA surveillance programmes 'hurt our country': Video clips posted to WikiLeaks website show former NSA analyst speaking for the first time since July asylum plea. In short video clips posted by the WikiLeaks website on Friday, Snowden said that the NSA's mass surveillance, which he disclosed before fleeing to Russia, 'puts us at risk of coming into conflict with our own government'. [...] 'They hurt our economy. They hurt our country. They limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative, to have relationships and to associate freely,' Snowden said."

"Swiss to Vote on Guaranteed $2800 Monthly Income for All Adults: The Swiss really know how to kick us when we're down - while our congress is busy shutting itself down because it's run by soulless opportunists, the Swiss people have gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on whether they should guarantee $2800 in monthly income for all adults." You know, we should be doing this. (via)

"Vets and Seniors Are Ending the Drug War [...] Pollsters are finally accepting (though scratching their heads over the fact) that older Americans are the fastest growing segment of the population to support the Drug Peace era. The reason is pretty simple: in a pill-popping society, any plant that will, with negligible side-effects, reduce the number of capsules in the weekly pill box is welcome. [...] So that explains seniors. Guess what? The reasons the second 'surprising' group to support the end of the war on cannabis - military veterans returning from combat in harm's way - also feel so strongly, are nearly identical to those expressed by seniors across the nation. They are eager to be free of addictive or otherwise harmful pharmaceuticals after their service has ended."

"Democracy Alliance, Network Of Rich Liberal Donors, Signals Shift Away From Partisan Political Activity." Took their damned time.

@ggreenwald: "At some point, things like this [Edward Snowden should be put on kill list, joke US intelligence chiefs] - become a pathology, not a "joke" [Obama threatens Jonas Brothers with drone strikes] - [Time correspondent under fire for tweet suggesting Assange be killed in drone strike]"

I actually couldn't believe my radio Saturday morning. I'd managed not to pay much attention to the news Friday but it turns out the war on a free press is taking a giant step over here with the government's proposal that newspapers should have a royal charter. Then I just watched the previous night's Have I Got News For You and Ian Hislop was explaining that this law includes a provision that says that if someone sues your unchartered newspaper and you win, you still have to pay their costs. So if you run an unchartered newspaper, it's open season on you for nuisance suits.

In case you forgot, I'm a big supporter of being a big supporter of organizations that genuinely do good, and if you're going to pay for mobile phone service in the US, you could do a lot of good by signing up with CREDO - and that includes supporting Sam Seder by signing up through his site at that link. You might also want to get the free Majority Report app, which everyone says is really great. I can't tell you anything about any of it, because I don't live there and I hardly ever use my phone at all, so I have a dumb phone that, y'know, does a few rare phone calls and text messages and is pay-as-you-go so it costs me almost nothing every month. I listen to Sam's show at home on my computer. And, speaking of Sam, he did some great shows recently that included interviews with Digby, Becky Bond, and Guy Lawson of Rolling Stone (recommended).

100 years ago, America met modern art.

The Picture Book Lab

The history of movie popcorn

Freudian slip A; Freudian slip B

First Look at Game of Bones, the X-Rated Version of Westeros [SFW!]

"This anamorphic optical illusion is the most mind-bending thing you'll see today" - I think they should have added a pipe just so you could say - well, you know.

Telekineses seen in coffee shop.

Dolly Parton et alia


  1. Ted Rall, if you forgive me, is wrong. For many people there are subsidies, which do, for a broad group, bring the insurance into affordability.

    Now—this is an insurance plan, not a health care plan. It has affordability problems, as well as cost problems, especially at the income levels where people come of Medicaid into the exchanges, and where older people like Rall come off the subsidies and have to bear the full costs of the insurance.

    But the fact of the matter is, Rall is making it worse than it actually is. No fair.

    1. There are no subsidies available for people on the Bronze plan. Please explain to me how an individual earning too much to qualify for Medicaid but little enough that they opt for the Bronze plan and hope for the best manages $4500+/year in premiums plus $6000+/year in out-of pocket expenses if the worst happens.

      This plan doesn't have affordability problems, it has conceptual (as well as systemic) problems. Why spend time defending the ACA when that energy could be put to use supporting state-based single payer movements?

    2. There are subsidies available for the Bronze plans, as you can easily verify at the exchanges. The plans also provide discounts on care and prescription drugs. That said, I wouldn't recommend the Bronze plans for anyone over 30, or anyone who plans to have children. If you can afford anything better, honestly, better to get it.

      We will have the exchange plans in 2014; state single-payer plans won't be available until 2017 at the earliest. This is advice for people who want help at getting care at the best prices; it's not an endorsement of the policies of the exchanges.

    3. And that $4,500 figure is for people in their 50s.

      Look folks, let's not imitate the Tea Party Republicans. This isn't a great system, but for many people it will be an improvement over what they previously had. Let's not do the Tea Party's work by making it out to be worse than it is.

    4. As I understand it, insurers won't be required to offer the Bronze plan within the exchanges. But, let's face it, I don't understand it! No one does because it's a deliberately complicated plan, less like initiating water and sewage service than negotiating a Comcast package.

      I realize that you're not cheerleading for the design and I realize that, thanks to the ACA, states can't implement single-payer until 2017. I also realize that it's important to help people navigate the plan since it's what we're stuck with. However, if some of us aren't laying the ground for single-payer right now it's not going to happen in 2017 or 2027 and we can't do that while downplaying the flaws of the ACA.

    5. The Bronze plans are on the exchanges, as can be quickly verified at the California exchange, The site also does a pretty fair job of estimating and explaining medical costs as well as insurance costs. and many other state sites, unfortunately, are still experiencing teething pains, but those problems will be ironed out.

      No reason to spread fear, and make the problems worse than they are.

  2. Oh, yes. Berkeley Labor Center health insurance cost estimator:

  3. Neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who for years has served as CNN's chief medical correspondent and who might be remembered by some for his reports as an embed with the troops during the glory days of Iraq War II and his contentious back and forth on CNN with Michael Moore when Sicko first came out, put together a 45 minute documentary a couple of months back which is titled Weed, a video report which might have carried the subtitle The Charlotte Figi Experience.

  4. This should really be interesting. I kind of fell down when I was on with Joan last time because she seemed to keep heading toward what's good for Democratic Party candidates, and Jay seemed to be going there with her, and I kept feeling like I'd just walked into a brick wall.

    I recall Jay mentioning that, and had the same reaction.

    If you believe Obama is incapable of learning, twist yourself into a pretzel, ignore certain key decisions, and look at him sideways, you can believe that he wants the best for us all. And is simply a bad negotiator.

    Or, you can say: He saw Bill Clinton make $100 million for selling out the Democratic base, and came in from day one with that goal in mind. And this explains everything he's done, not to mention the things he's still trying to do (cut Social Security, pass the TPP, etc.)

  5. Like popcorn? Thank a First American.

    It could because some of us have self-medicated for over forty years. Remember VietNam? Some of us came home fucked up in the head. Nobody gave a shit so we learned how to take care ourselves. a shit now.

    No fear.

    1. You know, that was my first thought - an awful lot of vets learned to take drugs in the 'Nam....

  6. Richard Posner is always magnificently principled after it's too late to correct the atrocity he has created.