Saturday, January 01, 2011

Jan 1: Major Health Care Reforms Kick In Today

MAJOR HEALTH CARE REFORMS KICK IN TODAY.... When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law last March, there were legitimate concerned that many of its key provisions wouldn't take effect for years. That said, it's wrong to assume major advances aren't already happening.

Almost immediately after the legislation received President Obama's signature, new consumer protections and benefits kicked in -- young adults have been able to stay on their family health care plan through their 26th birthday; children with pre-existing conditions were no longer facing discrimination; and "rescission" practices were curtailed.

But as 2011 gets underway, even more worthwhile changes are taking effect, starting today.

The new year will bring important changes to U.S. health-insurance rules, as new provisions related to last year's massive health-care overhaul take effect.

The new rules are designed to help those caught in Medicare's "doughnut hole," offer seniors more preventative care, and limit how much of their customers' money health-insurance companies can keep for overhead and profit.

They all go into effect on Saturday.

These reforms may not appear especially sexy or high profile, but we're talking about some pretty important provisions. Seniors who've been stuck in prescription-drug "doughnut hole," will, for example, receive a 50% discount on the price of brand-name prescription drugs starting today. On a related note, seniors will also be eligible, starting today, for free "preventive services" screenings, including cancer tests like mammograms, and annual check-ups.

Of particular interest, on a systemic level, is the introduction of the new "medical loss ratio," which sounds more complicated than it is. This new rule forces private insurers to spend 80% to 85% of the money we pay them in premiums on paying for* actual medical care to its customers, rather than everything else (profit, marketing, executive salaries, overhead, etc.). In recent years, some insurance companies were spending as little as 50% of their premium dollars on their customers.

Americans almost certainly won't notice the shift resulting from the new medical loss ratio, but it's expected to make a pretty big difference, and it's one of the provisions that drew the loudest howls from the insurance companies and their congressional lackeys.

Taken together -- the reforms that took effect in 2010, coupled with the measures that kick in today -- we're talking about some major positive changes to the system. All of these reforms, by the way, tend to be pretty popular -- the larger concerns about the ACA notwithstanding -- but are nevertheless being targeted by congressional Republicans, who want to eliminate the benefits entirely.

Good luck with that, GOP.

Change is a process, not an event.

Posted via email from

I’m Grateful

Click the link. Very nice tribute to Obama and reasons to be thankful the past 2 years.

Posted via email from

RE: New Year's Resolutions

"I feel that capitalism is very good at creating a void in people’s psyches. It will teach you that the only way to feel okay is to want more. It is so consuming." - Bai Di

New Year 2011: 43 Languages, One Message

Friday, December 31, 2010

Politico's 10 Worst Decisions of 2010

They must have seemed like good ideas at the time. But the politicos who made these bad decisions are surely looking back on 2010 and kicking themselves.

A bad decision isn't just a gaffe — something that slips out when your mouth runs ahead of your brain. It's something you do on purpose, like doubling down on that thing you shouldn't have said, talking trash about your own state or getting blown up by your own political grenade.

What follows are 10 choices that those involved would almost surely take back if they could.

Delaware Republicans' nomination of Christine O'Donnell:

It's easy to play coulda-woulda-shoulda with primary candidates, speculating about whether a primary loser could have won the general election. But few nominations so clearly cost their party the seat as the Delaware GOP's selection of the gadflyish perennial candidate O'Donnell over moderate Mike Castle. Overnight, Democrat Chris Coons went from sacrificial lamb to senator-in-waiting, and the GOP's hopes of taking the Senate were essentially dashed.

Jack Conway's "Aqua Buddha" TV ad:

Kentucky Democrat Conway was desperate for a way to halt the momentum of his opponent, tea-party-allied Republican Rand Paul.  So he cut an ad hitting Paul on his alleged collegiate pranks: "Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his god was Aqua Buddha?" In a state in which large swatches of the population reflexively view Democrats as suspicious heathens, painting your GOP opponent as a suspicious heathen might seem like a nice move. But it backfired in a big way. Paul accused Conway of attacking his religion and ended up winning by 12 points.

Eric Massa's tickle defense:

Upon the sudden announcement that the erratic New York Democrat was stepping down in March, word began to leak that he had been under ethics investigation for alleged sexual harassment of staffers. An indignant Massa insisted his retirement was for health reasons.  He didn't help his case any by going on Glenn Beck's show and describing the alleged groping incident as drunken horseplay: "Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe!" Massa later tried to claim the allegations were payback from Democrats angered by his health care stance, making him very briefly a cause célèbre on the right, until he became too radioactive even for Rush Limbaugh and faded into the woodwork.

Sharron Angle speaks to Hispanic high schoolers:

The tea-party-backed Nevada Republican was declining most mainstream press interviews and campaigning out of public view after her handlers realized she had a knack for sticking her foot in her mouth. So why did the campaign think it was a good idea for her to speak to a Hispanic students' group at a Las Vegas high school in October? Confronted about her ads featuring Latino-looking gangsters, Angle said she had no way of knowing that's what they were: "I don't know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me." She also claimed she'd been mistaken for Asian while serving in the state Legislature. Reid's campaign's attempts to paint her as an off-the-wall fruitcake couldn't have asked for a better Exhibit A.

***BONUS BAD DECISION: Harry Reid and Sharron Angle agree to debate: Normally, debates are an important means for voters to see the unfiltered contrast between two candidates, but "the dud in the desert" did neither candidate — nor the public — any favors.

Martha Coakley riles up Red Sox Nation:

The Massachusetts Democrat thought she was headed for an easy win in the January special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. But between derisively asserting she was above such political duties as shaking hands outside Fenway Park, and mistaking Red Sox hero Curt Schilling for a Yankee fan, Coakley couldn't have seemed more out of touch with the voting public. By losing to Republican Scott Brown in the bluest of blue states, she deprived Democrats of their 60-seat supermajority and ability to easily pass legislation — and put the party into the defensive crouch it would stay in all the way through November.

Joe Barton's BP apology:

The Texas Republican just couldn't stand to see BP CEO Tony Hayward take a tongue-lashing from the rest of the House Energy and Commerce Committee at a June hearing. So in a classic case of boldly standing up for the not-so-little guy, Barton, the GOP's ranking member on the panel, seized the floor to offer his regrets. "I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown," Barton said. Outrage over the apology was swift, dragging Republicans off their preferred message of populist anti-Washington fervor for several days. Yet it didn't stop Barton from making an unsuccessful play for the committee gavel after the election.

Joe Miller's journalist detention:

After winning the Republican primary in the Alaska Senate race, the tea-party-favored Miller should have had it in the bag. But amid reports that Miller's work as a local government lawyer was being scrutinized, security guards working for the campaign handcuffed a reporter for a news website and detained him for half an hour, apparently for the infraction of trying to ask the candidate questions. The Anchorage police promptly freed the journalist. The incident, meanwhile, only intensified the impression that Miller was an angry loose cannon, and Miller lost to primary loser Lisa Murkowski's long-shot write-in bid.

Sue Lowden's "Chickens for Checkups":

Nevada Republican primary candidate Lowden might have survived advocating "barter with your doctor" as one way to reduce health care costs. But it was when she chose to amplify and defend those remarks with a vivid image — "In the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor" — that a late-night joke was born. Lowden's unforced error paved the way for an ascendant Sharron Angle to win the primary, and Republicans' chances of knocking off Harry Reid took a possibly fatal blow.

Raul Grijalva's home-state boycott:

For a Democrat with a safe seat in the House of Representatives, this was a year to duck and cover as your more vulnerable colleagues got swept away by the GOP tornado. Instead, Grijalva stuck his head up: In response to Arizona's passage of a controversial anti-illegal immigration state law, Grijalva joined those calling for a boycott of his own home state. Cue the Republican bumper stickers: "Boycott Grijalva, not Arizona." His opponent, a 28-year-old first-time candidate, drew close in the polls, but Grijalva ended up surviving with less than 50 percent of the vote.

**BONUS BAD DECISION: MSNBC's Keith Olbermann donates to Grijalva (and two other Democrats) the same day the congressman appears on his show, earning a suspension when the donation comes to light.

Charles Rangel fires his lawyer:

Rangel, the longtime Democratic New York congressman, unexpectedly walked out of the first day of his House ethics trial last month, saying he deserved legal representation and didn't have it since parting ways with the law firm to which he'd paid $2 million in fees. It was a dramatic bluff, and the committee called it. Instead of giving Rangel the delay he sought, the panel decided it didn't take a trial to see that the charges against Rangel were "uncontested." The venerable 21-term representative was found guilty of 11 charges and later censured.

Posted via email from

Frank Schaeffer: We Are Survivors

"We find ourselves in the position of survivors of a shipwreck clinging to a life raft. President Obama is that “life raft.” Our young president is leading us at a time of extraordinary peril. He and we face overwhelming challenges including two wars and a financial crisis he had dumped into his lap by fools. When we hear that jobless numbers are going down faster than expected, that shoppers spent money over the holidays, that economic forecasts are being revised upward and so on, it’s time for a reassessment of the President’s critic’s claims of impending doom because of his many alleged “mistakes.” (These include such “facts” as the accusations that Obama “sold out” to Wall Street, is “too ready to compromise” etc., etc.)"

Frank Schaeffer (via azspot)

Obama gets knee-capped every step of the way by a useless opposition of “death panels”, Obamacare innuendo for total takeover of the health care industry, socialism as a moral disservice to America, taking “social justice” out of the Church’s mission, lobbyists and corporations in a blood contract to take as much profits as they can, and countless more willfully ignorant detractors.

Obama is not about perfection. Obama is about pragmatism in an age of distractions and greed. We are a cell phone culture, staring at a LCD screen, awaiting a text or email to change our minds or plans, continually searching for a bigger, better deal.

Instant is not quick enough for a growing section of the population. I can deal with that, the cell phone zombie culture of America needs tweets and Facebook updates to feel normal. That being said, when we look back on the long-term achievements of Obama, never forget the context to what, and how, he did things. I feel lucky just thinking about it.

Posted via email from

Thursday, December 30, 2010


THE CABLE NEWS NUMBERS ARE IN.... To note that the Republicans' cable news network is out in front of its competitors is an understatement. In 2010, Fox News had more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined.

But that no longer seems especially interesting. Indeed, it's pretty predictable -- Fox News has cornered the market when it comes to offering misleading, partisan propaganda that leaves its viewers more ignorant than if they received no information at all. It's been this way for quite a while.

Jay Bookman digs a little deeper, though, and finds some interesting related data.

MSNBC beat CNN for the second straight year among viewers 25-54, and for the first time beat CNN among total primetime viewers as well. The numbers for CNN are truly abysmal, not only compared to Fox and MSNBC, but compared to its own numbers of a year ago. Total primetime viewers of CNN fell by 34 percent compared to 2009.

However, Fox viewership fell as well, declining 7 percent in primetime and 8 percent among primetime viewers in the 25-54 demographic. And to put things in some perspective, "The O'Reilly Factor" drew an average of 3.2 million viewers a night. That makes him the king of cable news talk, but well behind network news shows. With roughly 1 percent of America watching, his numbers also put him well behind cable competitors such as his show's spiritual cousin, World Wrestling Entertainment, and Spongebob Squarepants on Nickelodeon, both of which often pull 5 million or more viewers.

In addition, "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart and "The Colbert Report" with Stephen Colbert both regularly outdraw O'Reilly among the younger demographic sought by advertisers. In fact, it's striking how old the O'Reilly audience skews (3.2 million average audience, just 781,000 of them between 25 and 54.)

CNN has to realize that its status quo is untenable. It has some credible programming -- Anderson Cooper really isn't bad -- but if there was ever a line-up in need of a major overhaul, this is it.

As for O'Reilly, I knew his audience was older, but I didn't realize just how skewed his audience really is. Long term, that's not really a recipe for success, either.

Steve Benen 9:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

Bookmark and Share

O'Reilly's 3.2 million, of which 3/4 are over 54 years old...he would have been canceled after a week on prime time network. I think the reach of these cable news shows is vastly over rated. He's preaching to a shrinking aging demo.

Posted via email from

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

10 Moments Comedians Made Us Think This Year/2010

#1. Jon Stewart’s closing remarks at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

Posted via email from

It Was "That Bad"

In the Weekly Standard profile, [Haley] Barbour marvelled at the fact that Yazoo City's schools were desegregated without violence, unlike in many other towns in Mississippi. But for Mangold, whose parents were both physicians in Yazoo City, another local institution is in the forefront of his memory of that era: the hospital.

Built in the mid 1950s with federal assistance, the Yazoo City hospital was, at the insistence of the local White Citizens Council, a whites-only facility, Mangold says. As a child, he had the nighttime assignment of answering the back door at his parents' home, where they had their medical practice (whites came to the front door, blacks to the back). He would often see black residents with grievous injuries requiring emergency care -- but they had nowhere to go.

"There was no hospital in town where blacks could go. They would have to go to Jackson 40 or 50 miles away and many died on the way," he says, adding that this state of affairs lasted for years.

Further, his parents became pariahs in town and their business was damaged because they had resisted the White Citizens Council petition that the hospital be whites-only.

"Threatening phone calls, dead cats on the lawn and other acts of intimidation combined to run my father out of town for two years," Mangold wrote in his letter to the Clarion-Ledger.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's (R) does not recall the 1950s, opining "I just don't remember it as being that bad."

I guess it's easy when you are not looking or caring for or paying attention to the real world around you, only the all-white bubble of your ignorance.

Posted via email from

RIP 2010: All The Great Musicians Who Passed

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"What's A Magazine?"

"We are not a nation that says ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We are a nation that says ‘Out of Many We Are One." 
— President Barack Obama signing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Matt Foley: Motivational Santa

A little P.M.A. for you on Boxing Day. Miss you, Chris Farley.

John and John: Who Really Flip-Flopped

"McCain and Kerry have quite a bit in common. Both long-term Senators, both lifetime “government employees”, both veterans, hell, they both married wealthy women (the second time around), so there’s some similarity even in their personal lives.

They’re also members of a very exclusive club. They both lost Presidential elections.

And that’s where the similarities end.

After John Kerry lost to George W. Bush, he returned to the Senate and simply did his job there, and he’s continued to do his job there.

Kerry lost, big, on climate change this year and he still rallied and led on START, rather than booking time on cable shows to bitch.

Kerry didn’t subject the country to two years of bitter griping, temper tantrums and petulant demands. Kerry didn’t pursue purely personal vendettas against whole groups of voters who (allegedly) “betrayed” him. Kerry didn’t flip-flop on each and every policy position he has ever held. He voted and votes the same way he always did. John McCain, remarkably, considering what we were told about him, has done all those awful things since his loss in 2008.

In the 2004 Presidential election, political media and pundits portrayed John Kerry as an elitist, foppish, slightly silly “flip-flopper” who lacked character and core convictions. The same political media and pundits lovingly and carefully nurtured the fairy tale that John McCain is a rock-ribbed, Country First, straight-shooter. Events since tell a radically different story."

Source: Balloon Juice
How can this be? Wasn’t this script supposed to run the other way? Could they have been more wrong?

How McCain can look himself in the mirror explains a lot about values of the elected Right.