Friday, March 05, 2010
2) Clearly not a terrorist attack, cuz, you know, he was white.
3) I presume from the coverage I've seen, his body language and uncombative postures, that David Paterson will resign shortly.
4) The Oscars are this weekend. Yet another wasted Sunday night. I get the sense that George C. Scott was right to ignore them.
5) More than you wanted to know about touchscreen technology.
6) Why your next diet might include a glass of Lysol every day.
7) Bill O'Reilly: burrrrrrrrrrrnt!
8) Y'know, you think this is a "nanny state" issue, but read more closely: the kid had been warned on several occasions to stop pointing his finger and making *bang* noises. That the parents didn't tell the kid to quit it before he gets into trouble is abusive parenting.
9) Oh, so it WASN'T the urine that killed him? PRO-TIP to my younger, less-experienced-at-being-drunk readers: never pee near wires, even if they're insulated.
10) No, the man's name was not Jean Valjean.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Many obstacles and stumbling blocks remain in the way of health care reform. The House and Senate bills will have to be merged, and then the House and Senate both will vote on the final bill. We don’t yet know what will be in the final bill, or if the final bill will be passed into law. Passage will be especially difficult in the Senate, where it will need 60 votes to pass. It is still possible that after all this angst, just one grandstanding senator could kill the whole thing.
But just for fun, let’s look at what conventional wisdom says will be in the final bill and see if there is anything in it that will be an immediate benefit to people with peritoneal mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease.
It is likely that the final bill will provide additional funding for state high-risk insurance pools. Currently more than 30 states run such pools, which are nonprofit, state-sponsored health insurance plans for people who can’t buy insurance because of pre-existing conditions. The biggest problem with such pools is that, often, the insurance they offer is too expensive for many who might need it. Both the Senate and House bills provide $5 billion in subsidies for state high-risk pools to make the insurance more affordable.
Under the Senate bill, beginning in 2014, private companies would no longer be able to deny coverage to adults with pre-existing conditions, nor could they charge higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions. Until then, the state high-risk pools could provide some help.
Closing the Medicare Part D coverage gap — also called the “doughnut hole” — is another potential provision that could help some patients with asbestos-related disease. The “doughnut hole” is the gap between the coverage for yearly out-of-pocket expenses provided by Medicare Part D and Medicare’s “catastrophic coverage” threshold.
For example, in 2009 Medicare Part D paid at least 75 percent of what patients paid for prescription drugs up to $2,700. After that, patients must pay for all of their prescription medications until what they have paid exceeds $6,154. At that point, the catastrophic coverage takes over, and Medicare pays for all but 5 percent of the patient’s drug bills. The final health care reform bill probably will provide for paying at least 50 percent of out-of-pocket costs in the doughnut hole.
You may have heard the bills include budget cuts to the Medicare program, and this has been a big concern to many people. Proponents of the bill insist that savings can be found to pay for the cuts, and that people who depend on Medicare won’t face reduced services. But this is a complex issue that I want to address in a later post.
The long-term provisions probably will include many other provisions that would benefit patients with asbestos-related disease, including increased funding for medical research. Although there are many complaints about the bill coming from all parts of the political spectrum, on the whole it would be a huge benefit to many people.
— Barbara O’Brien
March 4, 2010
Michigan - $362 14.6% 16
Nevada - $362 13.0% 42
Rhode Island - $641 12.9% 2
South Carolina - $326 12.6% 21
California - $450 12.4% 11
Florida - $275 11.8% 8
North Carolina - $476 11.2% 15
Illinois - $511 11.1% 12
Alabama - $235 11.0% 27
Oregon - $463 11.0% 39
You'll note that of the top ten states in unemployment percentage (as of 2009) only two rank in the bottom half in population density (which also correlates to cost of living, which directly correlates with the amount in unemployment insurance.)
Alaska - $320 8.8% 50
Wyoming - $387 7.5% 49
Montana - $386 6.7% 48
North Dakota - $385 4.4% 47
South Dakota - $285 4.7% 46
New Mexico - $455 8.3% 45
Idaho - $364 9.1% 44
Nebraska - $298 4.7% 43
Nevada - $362 13.0% 42
Utah - $427 6.7% 41
Rhode Island - $641 2
Massachusetts - $628 3
Connecticut - $576 4
New Jersey - $560 1
Pennsylvania - $547 10
Minnesota - $538 31
Hawaii - $523 13
Washington - $515 25
Illinois - $511 12
Maine - $496 38
South Carolina 4
South Dakota 50
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
The problem with posting on the fly as I have to is that I can't really say what I want to say.
Jon Swift, or as we now know, Al Weisel, was a writer to envy, and I often did. His talent and dedication to both entertain while informing was unparalleled in Blogtopia (© Skippy, The Bush Kangaroo). He was always willing to lend a hand to a C-List blogger like me, and would sometimes comment here or email me if he thought a piece I had up was particularly interesting.
I envy him his ability to remain in character while writing words that thoroughly skewer that character's outlook. I wondered sometimes if he cringed at some of the things he was forced to say in order to get to his point.
He was Stephen Colbert, only funny without being a cardboard cutout. Clearly, he thought his way through positions he abhorred and found the comedy inherent in the ignorance it took to hold ludicrous thoughts.
He was a humourist's humourist. His ability to mine irony and poignance did not end with him. He died on the way to his father's funeral of a broken heart, literally. Not only that, but the last post he left us, almost a year ago, was acknowledging a friend's terrible tragic loss.
Its title? "Sometimes There Are No Words". It was on that thread that his mother notified us of his loss. I like to think that he looked down, cringed at first, then got the joke.
Here's to you, Mr. Swift, Mr. Weisel! A scotch in your honor, with a glass turned upside down.
Unless, you know, you'd like to return and share it with me...
"I think the disagreeable but sound thing to do regarding institutions that are TBTF (ed. note. Too Big To Fail) is to dismantle them over time into institutions that can be prudently managed and regulated across borders," he said. "And this should be done before the next financial crisis, because it surely cannot be done in the middle of a crisis."
Adam Smith would roll over in his grave to understand how perverted his elegant economic system, for all its initial flaws, has become, corrupted by the aggregation of money, power, and influence. He intended for small businesses to compete against each other to provide goods and services to consumers.
Indeed, our Founding Fathers had a great and long debate about even opening up a national bank which would serve as a 800 lb gorilla in the banking system to provide leverage against large business combinations attempting to wrest control of the national money supply. Inevitably, businesses of all sizes fail. It's just a question of time.
If a major multinational bank fails, it doesn't just hurt its employees and shareholders as we've seen. It threatens the entire nation, from its financial security right down to its physical security.
And that's not good.
"Too Big To Fail" is, quite simply, too big. Full stop.
We've discussed on this blog the marvels of distributed power generation. Money is power. Banks should be hacked down to manageable sizes that service the communities they are located in, with no direct entanglements in regions where they have no business being in, and I don't just mean geographic. I mean economic sectors, business sectors, even political sectors.
Will this harm the banking system? I don't think so. I think the system will evolve, perhaps parent corporations that can hold smaller banks under an umbrella, with governmental oversight to make sure there isn't as much crossover as there is now will be established.
One thing is certain: the banking system we have now is on the road to yet another collapse. Businesses fail. Industries fail. Banking will fail again unless we address the inherent flaws immediately.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
WASHINGTON—U.S. Postmaster General John Potter expects to deliver more bad news Tuesday to postal customers, employees and Congress, revealing forecasts for continued losses that can be stanched only with higher prices and reduced service.
Faced with mounting red ink, the Postal Service will seek to cut back mail delivery to five days a week starting next year, to raise rates on some postal services beyond what it's currently allowed to charge, and to impose emergency rate increases.
A plan the Postal Service will file with the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission later this month aims to scale back delivery in 2011 from the current six-days-a-week schedule. Discussions with postal regulators over rate increases are under way as well; increases being sought could result in sharp increases in some postal rates, including for newspapers and magazines.
The US Postal Service operates as a not-for-profit agency. This is a good thing. It keeps our mailing costs down.
The problem, to me, seems to come in the form of the admixture of a not-for-profit agency saddled with the burden of providing service to for-profit companies. Now, toss in the Internet, meaning e-mail, online bill payment, and online reading materials that used to be delivered by the USPS, and you begin to understand the problem.
There's enormous waste in the system that needs to be accounted for before we talk about cutting back services to five days a week. This wouldn't be the first service cuts imposed. Believe it or not, when I was a lad, the postman dropped off mail twice a day!
I know! Astounding, isn't it?
First thing we need to do is to reduce the volume of junk mail that clogs our mailboxes. Direct marketers, catalog operations, and other "snail spammers" ought to pay for the luxury of jamming my mailbox so full that sometimes I don't get urgent mail because it's been crushed into the bottom of my box.
A dual service, then, would be served by upping the bulk mail rate on non-periodicals. It would slow the tide of junk while providing a needed boost of cash. Trust me, catalog providers won't stop sending catalogs if we doubled the rate. Too, so many catalogs are now online that a smart marketer would send out fliers instead with a representative sample, directing people to a website.
Second, the USPS ought to get into tighter competition with the private carriers like Fedex. Fedex funnels their package services through central hubs like Memphis, TN, even if you're shipping across town. Crosstown packages could get a guarantee of overnight deliveries at prices deeply discounted from Fedex's. Hell, match Fedex pricing and promise same-day service, and the volume will jump (courier services charge a lot more, so the USPS would find itself in a mid-price point).
Third, encourage people to visit the post office more often. Open non-mail related kiosks, for one thing. How about a selection of greeting cards? Or newspapers, the same ones people get delivered? Give people a reason to go to the post office, and then give them a reason to buy there.
Those are just off the top of my head. Do you guys have any other ideas?
Monday, March 01, 2010
Her testimony, and other statements she and other WellPoint executives have made, suggests that insurers can't profitably manage through periods of high unemployment. They can't price policies in a way that keeps healthy young people in the same pool as older people, producing a mockery of the very point of indemnity insurance. Despite a decade of unobstructed consolidation, which was sold to regulators as a way to control healthcare costs by creating mega-insurers like hers, her industry can't control healthcare costs.
It's true, we as a nation are getting older, and sicker. We have an obesity crisis across the land that's had reverberations in diabetes, colon cancer, strokes and heart disease, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. A sicker nation means more spent on healthcare, and as we've learned in Econ 101, a higher demand forces prices higher.