Paging Dr. Dynasaur!

For the benefit of younger readers: Back in the old days before cell phones, there were pagers. And before that, there was the overhead paging system. Not that many years ago, it was normal to hear things like “Dr. Jones to 4B nursing station, please” on the hospital public address system.

Ok. It’s law now. It looks like the health insurance reform bill that got passed and signed into law was neither as bad as it could be nor as good as it should be. There’s some benefits, and some stuff that’s absolutely odious. However, it is only a first step. At least two crucial things are missing.

First and probably most important is a non-profit health insurance option. The law, as it stands, requires us to all buy health insurance by 2014, which forces us to do business with the very same companies that got us into this mess. The best answer to this problem by far is Alan Grayson’s Medicare-For-Anybody bill, which has 80 co-sponsors so far (click here to sign the petition to demand a vote!). Howard Dean has even endorsed Rep. Grayson at least partly as a result. You remember Howard? The doctor who became a Governor and managed to get health insurance for almost every kid in his state despite the fact that they don’t vote? This bill is revenue neutral for the Government — it won’t raise the deficit a cent because it says the premiums will be set at what it costs to provide the insurance. Bringing this thing to a vote puts the opposition in a tough spot: if Medicare is good enough for Grandma, why isn’t it good enough for me?

The other thing it needs is a program I like to call MediKids. Regular readers have heard me beat this drum before, but we have a system where most health insurance is purchased by employers. And most kids don’t have employers. The existence of an automatic enrollment health insurance program for kids under 18 (and in my ideal dream world, any full time student under 25) would help almost every family in America. It would of course have a disproportionate effect on low income families that are likely to have inadequate insurance for themselves and their kids, if they have insurance at all. Moreover, by keeping our kids healthy, it would improve schools and the quality of our future workforce. Even if there were a modest premium associated with the program like there is for Vermont’s Dr. Dynasaur program, it would be worthwhile.

In Closing: Why aren’t you in school, you lazy bastards?; stupid banker tricks; three times more Chapter 7 than Chapter 13 bankruptcies; air worship is like air guitar for shrine visits (maybe the Catholics could try this? Then it doesn’t matter if the priest is a pedophile); as fast as financial reform made it through committee, I must wonder what political favors are embedded in it; and let Mr. Otis get you high. I mean, like to the 20th floor.

Shorties Row

Follow Up on Sexting Case: Remember a while back we learned about a Pennsylvania prosecutor who decided to prosecute girls whose pictures had been taken unless they submitted to a re-education class on what it means to be a girl? A judge has ruled that the parents have the right to block the prosecution. No ruling on the fundamental Constitutional issue of not letting anybody see the evidence.

Stick a fork in the airlines, they’re done: TSA official has gone on the record that full body scans will very likely become mandatory for airline passengers, despite the fact that the scanners don’t really do half of what they would like us to think they do towards deterring — let alone preventing — terrorism. That’s over and above the health and privacy issues. Heck, if they want to strip search everybody, just be honest about it.

In Memoriam: There will be a memorial garden in honor of the pets killed by tainted food. Scroll down for information and links on how to donate.

Why do we need Health Insurance Reform to stop this crap?: Fortis (and probably other insurers that just haven’t been caught yet) has been actively trying to find ways to cancel the policies of HIV positive customers. Stopping recission and punitive cancellation should be a simple, 3-5 page bill that should have unanimous support in both houses of Congress (or else), but no! They want to pass a monster-behemoth bill that nobody has read that’s loaded with oodles of political favors.

Hey Mister, Wanna Buy a Factory?: Factory utilization is near an all time low. This means we have lots of currently unused capacity. Pair that with the current unemployment rate and it sounds like an opportunity to make some stuff and get the economy going again. Maybe you could even get a piece of that new $38,000,000,000 jobs bill to do it.

Modest, by Billionaire Standards: Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, makes do in a 5000 square foot home.

Oh, you knew I couldn’t resist giving you some obligatory Health Insurance Reform items: Susie Madrak got to interview Michael Moore, and here’s part of what he had to say. Ok, the bill is supposed to cost roughly $940,000,000,000, but it’s supposed to save $1,300,000,000,000. Did the progressives win anything here? Enh, a little. This is why buying your abortion coverage separately is a terrible idea for every woman. Well, actually it’s only one of several reasons. And thankfully, Grayson’s Medicare-for-Anybody bill is up to 75 co-sponsors. I love the fact that it’s short, and politically difficult to stand against. It gives me hope that some things can be fixed with this turd in the punchbowl of a bill after it gets passed.

Where Health Care Meets the Scandal of the Day: Senator John Ensign’s office “organized a telephone call Wednesday night to thousands of Southern Nevadans represented by Rep. Dina Titus, where he spoke out against the pending health care reform bill and urged his audience to call her about it.” A local political scientist called the move “clumsy”. Rep. Titus, if you hadn’t guessed, is a Democrat, newly elected in 2008. Now, the interesting thing about this is that today, Senator Ensign got subpoenaed by the Department of Justice. Oh, and his wife. His Chief of Staff. His political advisor. A few local businesses. Probably the local power company. And a veritable “who’s who” of local political rainmakers. And they don’t just want stacks of documents, they want people to appear before the Grand Jury at the end of the month.

No Child Left Behind: What the heck went wrong? I mean, other than “better” as a standard, and rules designed to make even good schools fail.

You mean they want the banks to pay up? Crazy Talk!: It so happens that 82 of the roughly 700 banks that got TARP funds aren’t paying the dividends they owe the Feds.

And now, a moment of Spring: how to tell if last year’s seeds are still good.

And Now We Know

It’s official. The Obama plan for health insurance reform has been released. Anybody care to take a guess what’s not in it? The public option.

And what is in it? Mandatory insurance and an excise tax on plans that cost more than $27,5oo annually. “The plan includes a provision that allows low-income people who cannot afford health insurance to receive a waiver from the mandate,”  as opposed to some way to help pay for insurance, so basically it’s little better than what we have right now from the standpoint of covering the uninsured. Particularly in a recession, where states are cutting Medicaid because they have to balance the budget somehow.

Wow, Mr. President. Three strikes. As far as I am concerned, it’s outa there!

Now, to the plan’s credit, it does protect against insurance companies declining people with pre-existing conditions, but if it doesn’t regulate how much extra those people pay, say hello to the excise tax. It does regulate how much insurance companies can jack up the rates, and it does have an insurance exchange. I am unclear on how this “exchange” will be any better than websites like eHealthInsurance. It does close the Medicare prescription “donut hole”. Update: here’s a handy comparison chart; the President’s plan does prohibit rescission, which is an improvement over both House and Senate plans.

However, there is a very good likelihood that this bill will place limits on abortions. Since it’s very hard to know when an abortion will be a medical necessity, this is very shortsighted. Unless you want to be the dad who loses his wife to complications of pregnancy or the parents of a child doomed to die by his 4th birthday, this is a no-go.

In closing: secrets of the ER; credit card rules change today; on the job loss numbers; it’s not terrorism when a white guy does it, only brown people can be terrorists; even terrorists deserve a fair trial and even John Ashcroft says so; already up to 20 bank failures for 2010; and an update on the school that decided to spy on its students in their homes. They had better hope there are no outraged dads who decide that the courts are too slow for justice.

Public Option: Resurected or Zombie?

Let’s put the pieces together and see if we have something functional, or some kind of Frankenstein’s Health Insurance Reform. Americans are rightly disgusted by the thing that Congress has brought forth, mostly because it includes such odious things as mandatory coverage and taxing of “decent” health insurance plans. There is still a big health care reform “summit” next week, which is looking more and more like a circus the closer it gets. Health insurance premiums are continuing to rise steeply, and health insurance company profits are rising too, even though they managed to increase “political giving” — that’s legal bribes — 14% in 2009. Add the fact that more Americans are depending on Medicaid, while there is less money for the states to cover them.

Gee, no wonder Americans are disgusted by the idea of mandatory coverage and taxing plans that the tax code decrees too expensive.

Amid this backdrop, the President has finally announced that he will throw an official, Presidential seal of approval health insurance reform bill into the mix, and is planning on stapling it to a budget bill so it can’t be filibustered. He’s even indicated that he’s willing to back a public option — but only if Senator Reid will jump with him. Harry’s in a tough re-election race this fall, and could really use something to bring his polling numbers up. Ah, the real reason for his Nevada visit is out — it’s certainly not because the President feels he owes the Mayor a martini.

Perhaps the feds should start by killing two birds with one stone. If they fully fund Medicaid, the states will have an easier time making their budgets balance and all those extra people on the rolls (see above) will be proof that a public option can work!

But what about this new public option that might be under consideration? We don’t have any real details, so it’s hard to support it. Is it going to be a decent plan? Is it going to be cost competitive with the for-profit insurance companies or will it be a higher priced insurer of last resort? Is it going to have gutted provisions for women’s health so as not to offend the far religious right? Is it going to be available to all Americans, or only to a small percentage of us? Is it going to be saddled with triggers and means tests and all sorts of other crap that will cripple it?

In short, is it some variant of Medicare For All, or is it just another favor for insurance companies?

If this is the real deal — a resurrected public option — I will preach the gospel for it. But beware, if it is a zombie, I will be ready with my blogging boomstick to blow its head off.

In Closing: Getting ahead at the office and getting head at the office are mutually exclusive (I love the story of what was found in a certain executive’s office); a great t-shirt; there has to be some balance between what the community thinks education should be and what the educators think education should be; Japan has overtaken China as America’s biggest creditor; more people trying to ditch “too big to fail” institutions; Dude, where’s my stimulus funds?; class, race, and the War on (some) Drugs; TrueMajority; “Rich people create jobs, all we have to do is cut their taxes enough”? Might just as well wait for Santa to put one in your stocking; if this is true, the dumbest school administrators in the nation thought it would be a good idea to spy on students in their homes using the webcams in their school issued notebook computers; Catholic Charities has decided that politics is more important than that “helping the poor and the sick” crap that Jesus was on about (one more reason my charitable giving is secular whenever possible); and why people pirate DVDs.

The Water Bottle Saga

Last summer, we made some changes in our exercise routine, such that for the first time it made sense to actually consume some sort of “recovery drink.” A simple glass of water — or refilling one of those water bottles you get at the convenience store — was no longer going to cut it. My requirements for such a bottle included the following:

  • BPA free.
  • Dishwasher safe!
  • No stupid gasket that really should be removed for cleaning or it will get gross, but won’t really fit back in correctly should you manage to pry it out of there.
  • Mouth of bottle must be big enough to fit ice cubes, preferably from the door dispenser on the freezer rather than having to shove them through individually.
  • Must be easy to drink from quickly.
  • Must hold roughly a quart or liter of fluid (I won’t quibble over the small difference between the two sizes)
  • Must not be prone to leaking.
  • Must be translucent.

Why translucent, you may ask? We mix our own recovery formula so we can not only control the number of calories involved (here’s the nutrition panel for Gatorade dust; I can choose to make a “weaker” version). We can add a small quantity of glutamine to the mix, something even Gatorade’s scientists admit may be helpful [Update: here’s what we do and why]. If you can’t see through the bottle, you can’t know if it’s shaken enough. For that matter if you can’t see the insides, how the heck do you know it’s really clean?

So this seems to me like a reasonable enough list. I think most people would agree that these are good things to have out of a water bottle for sport/exercise use. Things like “using recycled materials” and other buzzwords are nice, but not if the product can’t do the basic job.

So then consider this list of “best” reusable bottles from HuffPo. What I see here are a lot of bottles you can’t see through, many of which have teeny necks that you have to manually force an ice cube through, and a lot of bottles that you have to completely remove the lid to have a drink. When you only have a 30 second break for hydration, that just won’t cut it. I actually went to REI (why do I bother, they never have what I need) to look at their selection. It was almost exclusively Nalgene and Camelbak products, and not a darn thing that met all my criteria. For what those products cost, I will not settle for “almost.”

As a stopgap — the bottle I had been using had developed a leak around the base of the drinking spout — I found a Rubbermaid bottle that was clear, dishwasher safe, and best of all cheap. However, it was prone to tipping and did have a gasket in the lid. Moreover, that opening looks pretty wide, but it’s a couple millimeters too narrow to avoid spraying ice cubes all over the kitchen. That’s just something you can’t tell in the store.

Yesterday I happened to be in a supplement store when I stumbled across something called the Blender Bottle. While this thing was really designed for some of the heavier protein mixers and such, it fit what I needed perfectly. The little spring thingy is really kind of optional when we’re talking about something as light as Gatorade. The mouth is wide, the spout generous and easily operated, no gaskets, dishwasher safe, even heat safe. So far so good on this thing.

In closing: on the national debt; here‘s obligatory health insurance reform links; the next incarnation of the iconic 747 flies; more reason to like Alan Grayson; the real filibuster-proof majority; the Social Security “reform” idea that just wouldn’t die; and two items on the changing face of employment. What a shame that someone doesn’t get that women are holding their jobs specifically because they often get paid less for the same work!

I can’t believe he said that.

By now I think everyone knows that Haiti had a truly horrible earthquake. Perhaps you have also heard that Pat Robertson said it’s their own damn fault.

How’s that? Did they have substandard building codes that led to needless deaths? Perhaps they didn’t heed some geologist’s warning? Perhaps corruption prevented people from reaching assistance?

No, they “deserved” this earthquake, this unimaginable destruction, because they allegedly made a pact with the Devil in 1804 to obtain their liberation from France.

Now, just so there is no confusion here, I do not want anything to do with a deity who kills innocent children because of something their forebears allegedly did 205 years ago! Maybe such a wild tale would be credible if this earthquake happened in 1805, maybe even 1810. But we are talking about divine retribution for rumored events of over 2 centuries ago. It seems to me an omnipotent God could have arranged a more timely comeuppance. After all, He destroyed Sodom within hours of confirming that the natives would rather gang-rape a couple of visiting men than a pair of underage virgins.

But here is my question. Where is the outrage from Christians?

Back in 2001, moderate Islam figures were encouraged to denounce the kind of extremist thoughts and behaviors that led to 9/11. Why aren’t we demanding that moderate Christian leaders denounce Pat Robertson as the lunatic he is? Can’t the United Methodists make a statement more official than a blog post? Can the Southern Baptist Conference do more than ask for money? Where is the outrage from the Episcopals? Whither the Church of England? Has the Greek Orthodox Church nothing to say? Christian Scientitsts? The Mormons? The Lutherans? How can the Pope remain silent about this inflammatory and theologically dubious rambling?

While I see much talk of help for the people of Haiti — which is both very Christian and very much needed — there is near silence of the issue of Mr. Robertson.

At least the Ambassador from Haiti has his head screwed on straight.

In closing: paid to be stupid; Americans are stupid part 2, many of us think airport security should involve profiling (I guess nobody remembers that Tim McVeigh was a white guy); conservatives and trade policy; real unemployment needs real solutions; with the money they spent on negative ads, the insurance companies could have provided health insurance to 3000 families; Junk Insurance Tax; a picture worth a thousand words on checked baggage fees (between the airlines and the TSA are they actively trying to get me to avoid flying??).

The Violent Shorties

Obligatory Health Insurance Reform front and center: Health care and the denial thereof as a way to control the masses; the good, the bad, and this POS reform bill (no, doesn’t mean “point of service” in this context, sorry).

Not as overt as Quiverfull: religion and women is an interesting read. And I don’t know what to make of this.

Study confirms what most of us knew: When Wal-Mart comes to town, the number of low-wage jobs they create are roughly equal to the number of decent jobs they destroy.

Most Americans are Idiots: Most approve of the use of full body scanners. These scanners are much like a virtual strip search with a side order of radiation. Oh, and they would not have found the Undiebomber‘s stash. Pfeh.

On Employment: America’s Low Wage Future; Are the Baby Boomers starting to retire?; Who are the unemployed?; 6.4 job seekers for every open job.

Mighty Joe Rollino: how many people can lift 635 pounds with one finger? The answer is now zero. Joe has passed away at the amazing age of 104 (insert obligatory comment about fitness and long life here).

Conan is classy: (No, not this Conan). Conan O’Brien’s resignation letter.

This is not news: I seriously do not give a shit where Bill Clinton hides his sausage. I can think of few bigger wastes of journalist time. Enough already!

And one last thought: Airplane accidents.

4 Thoughts on Health Insurance Reform

Notice I never call it health care reform? That’s because it isn’t. Very little of what is being discussed will change what happens between you and your doctor beyond how (and how much) he* gets paid.

As I see it, there are 5 points of view on the bill currently being rammed through the Senate:

1. It goes too far. This point of view has a problem with anything that might be called “socialized”. They are barely able to tolerate the idea that their tax dollars go towards schools where the people who will eventually sack their groceries attend; subsidies for buying insurance is way out! Let them get jobs that have decent benefits!

2. It does some important things, even if it’s a little too liberal. Hey, at least it’s making those lazy bastards buy insurance so they can go to a doctor instead of just sneezing their germs on me! In other words, it’s better than a lot of things and the bad things can be fixed later. Some people I generally respect hold this position.

3. It does some important things, even if it’s a little too conservative. Or, the Ezra Klein position. Hey, we’ll take out that Stupak thing in conference or something. At least there is some money set aside for subsidies to help people afford the overpriced and underfeatured health plans they will soon be forced to purchase. In other words, it’s better than a lot of things and the bad things can be fixed later. Huh, where have I heard that before?

4. It does almost nothing — except give favors to Big Insurance and Big Pharma. Or, the Howard Dean position. Progressives didn’t get anything they wanted or needed out of this bill. No public option. Pre-existing conditions can still be used to set rates. Corporations are still in charge, and because we are legally obligated to do business with them — that’s what mandatory coverage or “the coverage mandate” is about — there is no incentive for them to chance their ways.

In short, two points of view say “It’s better than nothing, and far better than it could have been,” and two points of view say “This is worse than nothing and should be scrapped.” While I appreciate where the others are coming from, I generally hold to view 4. What we wanted and needed was a short laundry list that included getting rid of abusive practices such as use of pre-existing conditions for coverage or pricing, rescission, and constantly rising prices, maybe 10 pages of law. What we appear to have is a legal requirement to bend over and take it, a law so long that the Republicans are threatening to make them read the whole thing out loud in open session.

And nobody is talking about not just the elephant in the room, but a veritable zoo: obesity rates raising the amount we spend on health care; baby boomers who will soon be on Medicare; obscene insurance company profits; a looming shortage of primary care physicians and experienced nurses to assist them.

* Um Yeah, that’s right, I said “he.” Not “he or she”, not “she.” Politically correct horsehockey aside, odds are very good your doctor is a dude. Don’t like it? Encourage women in your life to go to medical school. Just don’t get them any books on the subject like House of God. I can’t find the book that made me decide I wanted no part of medical school on Amazon, but this looks like similar content.

The Shorties Saga: New Moon

Merry Zappadan: It has been brought to my attention that Zappadan began last night. Felicitous greetings those who celebrate, and of course the admonition to dance like a fool and not eat yellow snow.

Can’t He Eat Dinner in the Toilet? Geez!: That is what some ignoramuses are really saying when they tell a lactating mother to go nurse in the bathroom. Get over your bad selves; the original purpose of breasts — God Given if you believe in God — is to feed babies. Why don’t you go eat dinner in the toilet?? Now that being said, most mothers try to be discreet: they nurse at home before going out, they use modesty covers, they pump. But **** you if you disagree, anyplace it’s ok for a baby to have a bottle, it’s ok for him to eat the all natural diet that was intended for him.

Banks do as they please, we pay the fees: 6 more bank failures yesterday. That brings us to 130 for the year and no sign of slowing down in 2010. But the surviving banks aren’t accountable to their customers — an obvious breach of free market thinking, wherein banks that screwed customers should be the first to fail as we take our business elsewhere. Instead, they have to be “pressured” to do the right thing, and “regulated” to keep them from screwing us harder. We can’t just take our business elsewhere because either our small local bank will fold and be sold off to Faceless Conglomerate Bank Co or our mortgages will be bundled and sold piecemeal to them. And while it’s easy to say “I’m not doing business with Chase, close my credit card account and move my checking account”, it’s hard if not impossible to control who owns your mortgage. How nice that B of A suddenly has the money to rid itself of its largest and most meddlesome investor. Since when doesn’t the Fed have the ability to regulate them anyhow?

Say goodbye to all this, and hello to oblivion: (obligatory) Escalation in Afghanistan is teh win… for the bin Laden anyway. Heaven forbid we should learn from those who tried to fight “the good war” there before us.

It’s the Jobs, Stupid: The people want to go to work. They want to work more than they are worried about the deficit or much of anything else, and that’s actually kind of smart: you see, working people pay more taxes than those who don’t work! If we don’t get these people jobs, we risk losing the middle class altogether. (Yeah, I know I swore off HuffPo, but it’s Elizabeth Warren). Here’s a handy fact sheet.

Obligatory Health Insurance Reform Roundup: Remember, if the insurance companies want it, it’s probably bad for consumers — and that’s what Forbes says! Women have unusually high stakes in this thing. Poor Aetna having to cut all those customers so they can remain fabulously profitable! And remember that when they talk about “cost controls” they aren’t talking about controlling your premiums, but rather what your doctor and hospital gets paid. Oh, and this clip, wherein Shatner wishes the Vulcan neck pinch and mind meld were real… and that Nimoy were standing behind his guest.

Why Police Confiscations Must Be Further Regulated: “We think your passenger is a hooker so we’re taking your car… Oops we’re mistaken, you owe us $1400 to get your car back!”

And Last: A handy Wall Street to English translator.

Thankful

From the Economic Policy Institute. See also, half of teachers report buying food for students with their own money.

We can’t even make sure all our citizens have food, yet obesity is a huge problem. We can’t even make sure all our citizens have food, yet Congress wants to force them to buy insurance. We can’t even make sure all our citizens have food, yet we dare to call ourselves the greatest nation on earth.

I am so thankful I could cry.