Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Day in the Life of Jared the Forgetter

What It Must be Like to Live With Someone With No Memory

Every couple of days it seems that some item that Presidential son-in-law, chief Middle East negotiator on paper and all around novice in government affairs, Jared Kushner, has to amend his various government filings because he ‘just forgot’ to include stuff.  This includes millions of assets and investments and probably hundreds of meetings he had with foreign nationals. 

So here is pure speculation on what it must be like with Jared and his wife Ivanka.

Ivanka:  Jared the kids are not home, didn’t you get them from the birthday party last night?

Jared:  We have kids?

Ivanka:  Yes dear, and I took them to a party and you were going to bring them home.

Jared:  Well I think I forgot, but don’t worry, the Petersons would have just kept them, like they did the three other times I forgot.

Ivanka:  Yeah, I will tell the maids and the gardeners to look for the Petersons to bring them home around 10.  Oh, and the smoke alarm went off a few minutes ago.

Jared:  I think I forgot to turn off the stove.

Ivanka:  Not a problem, the cook’s assistant will take care of it.  And if we need a new stove Daddy will get us one.  He has stuff shipped out of the White House to his clubs all the time.

Jared:  I need to see your brother Junior this morning, he said I was at a meeting he hosted and that he would type up some notes of what I said.  I need to memorize them in case that horrible Bobby Mueller asks about the meeting.  No one believes me when I say I can’t remember.

Ivanka:  (sighing) If they lived here they would believe you.  And don’t forget to kiss Daddy’s ring when you go in to work, he hates it when you don’t remember that.

Jared:  I do kiss something every time I see him, I just don’t think it’s his ring.

Yes – By Some Measures Medicaid is as Good or Better Than Private Insurance

Yes- It Does Have a Reimbursement Rate Issue

To hear Republicans talk about it, Medicaid must be a disaster.  Because of low reimbursement rates Republicans have gone on the air to say it does no good for its beneficiaries.  This is totally false.  The argument that some health care practices do not accept Medicaid because it pays so little is true, the argument that this means those in the program do not get health care is utterly false.

Over at the great blog The Incidental Economist health care experts explain how Medicaid is even better than private insurance by some measures.  The reasoning is simple, under Medicaid the out of pocket cost for patients is very little, so they seek and receive health care and thus have better outcomes in some situations where if they had private insurance the out of pocket costs would be high and they would not get proper care.

So the problem with Medicaid is not the program, but the reimbursement rates.  There are two solutions.

Solution A:  Raise the reimbursement rates so that more practices participate.

Solution B:  Kill the program.

So who would be dumb enough to selection Solution B?  Oh, right, conservatives.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Insulin Has Been Available to Treat Diabetes for Almost 100 Years – It Should Be Inexpensive

But It’s Not – Because the U. S. Puts Drug Company Profits Ahead of Patient Health

Almost a century ago prescription Insulin was made available to treat diabetes.  And the people who discovered and patented the drug were pretty civic minded

When the drug was discovered in 1921, the original patent was sold to the University of Toronto for $1 so that no one else could patent it and “secure a profitable monopoly.”

So what has happened to change things?  Well new versions are now available and patented and the cost, well given the monopoly power of drug companies what do you expect?

Numerous improvements later, insulin is produced by a three-company oligopoly. When the first of the newer insulin “analogs,” Humalog, hit the market in 1996, it sold for $21 a vial. Today, vials of analog insulins, including Humalog, sell for about $300 . Patients with Type 1 diabetes typically require two or three vials of insulin per month, but patients who are more resistant to insulin, such as those with Type 2 diabetes, may require six or more.  

Well surely insurance and Medicaid and other types of protection exist.  Well, sort of, but a lot of complicated rules prevail to raise the costs.  The results according to the physician who authored the article, again what you would expect.

Because insulin is so expensive, some people take less than their prescribed dose, causing higher blood sugars, which may lead to preventable, very expensive complications such as kidney failure, blindness, amputation, heart attacks or even death.

Why can’t something be done?  Well in this nation we have profit making drug companies and nothing can interfere with their right to do so, not even patient lives.  Sooner or later America will have to make a decision, regulate drug prices and drug company profits or let people die.  Looking at the Republican health legislation we know which way they want to go.

Great News – Under Trump a 21 Year Old Can Get Health Insurance for $12.00 a Year

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

In a bizarre interview with the NYT on many topics, the incoherent and fact challenged President said this.

“You’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan,” Mr. Trump said. “Here’s something where you walk up and say, ‘I want my insurance.’”

Wow, that is a deal.  We knew the Republican plan would lower premiums, expand coverage, reduce co-pays and deductibles but never dreamed it would only cost $12.00 a year.

That’s a plan we all can get together, not like that awful plan the Republicans in the Senate cooked up.

Are There Any Democrats Left to Talk About Policy?

Republicans Are Wrong – But At Least They Go Out and Argue for Their Programs

On Sunday the NBC program Meet the Press took a holiday so the network could televise The Open.  Over at CBS Face the Nation had four guests.  Three of them were Republican s and one was an obscure Democratic House member.  This was not bias on the part of CBS,  apparently there are not any major Democrats willing to go public.  Even Bernie Sanders who is not a Democrat took the day off.

While we have no idea of what Democrats were doing as opposed to actually campaigning for their policies, here’s is what we think may have happened.

Nancy Pelosi:  The former Speaker thinks appearing on TV is beneath her, that she has many much more important social activities and besides, she did a lot of work on health care in 2009 so that entitled her to take a decade or so off.

Chuck Schumer:  The Senate leader of the Democrats decided he could hide better than Ms. Pelosi, so we have no idea where he is or what he is doing.  He did emerge to appear on ABC and talk about policy initiatives which neither he nor anyone else will follow up on.

Tom Perez:  The DNC Chairman won the job based on his position that he would lead the party.  He apparently thinks that this does not involve making public presentations, appearing on talk shows, recruiting candidates or raising money.  One must assume he is currently in the midst of a 6 month vacation leading up to taking off several weeks during the November/December holiday season.

Joe Biden:  The former Senator and Vice President is doing what almost all pols do, earn money for themselves.  Biden is writing a book and planning a speaking tour to promote it.  He may be contemplating a Presidential run in 2020 but is wondering if he is old enough.

Tim Kaine:  the VP candidate in 2016 has decided he wants to be the quiet voice in the Senate.  He is working on maintaining his silence.

Democrats have adopted a position that all they need to do to win elections is run against Donnie Trump.  After all, that worked great in 2016.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Kelli Ward – Today’s Worst Person in the World

Honoring Keith Olberman and Exposing a Nasty, Vicious Person

On his old TV show, the one he had before he talked himself off the air, brilliant commentator Keith Olberman had a feature he called the worst person in the world.  We are bringing that back because there are so many candidates.  Today’s winner(?) is Kelli Ward, who last we heard from fought and lost a primary challenge against Sen. John McCain. Now Ms. Ward wants Sen. McCain to go away from Washington, go home and die.

“I hope Sen. McCain is going to look long and hard at this, that his family and his advisers are going to look at this, and they’re going to advise him to step away as quickly as possible, so that the business of the country and the business of Arizona being represented at the federal level can move forward,” Kelli Ward, who lost to McCain in last year’s Republican primary and is now running to unseat U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), said Thursday during an interview with an Indiana radio station.

In a statement posted later on her website, Ward said McCain’s cancer is “both devastating and debilitating” and he “owes it to the people of Arizona to step aside” when he’s no longer able to perform his duties.

Of course, the reason for her position is straightforward, she wants to be appointed to his seat.

Asked if her name is getting “thrown in the hat” as a possible replacement, Ward said: “Well, you know, I certainly hope so. Because, you know, I have a proven track record from years in the state Senate of being extremely effective and of listening to the voice of the people that I represent.”

Sen. McCain has earned the right to do whatever he wants.  Ms. Ward has earned herself a ticket to Nowheresville.  Let’s hope she departs public life and slinks away to whatever place is so desperate for residents that they would have her.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Common Sense Starts to Prevail on Travel to North Korea – You Cannot Go There

Amazing That People Have to Be Prohibited From Visiting

An administration that seems to make mistakes hourly has come up with a policy they should have had on Day 1.  Americans will be forbidden to go to North Korea.

SEOUL—The U.S. government will ban its citizens from traveling to North Korea as tourists starting next month, according to two of the biggest travel companies that bring Western tourists to the isolated country.

Obviously most people don’t need to be told this.  But there is a group of people who think it is a good idea to (1) stick their hand in a garbage disposal, (2)  place a toaster in the tub with them, (3) try and slow down a chain saw by placing their fingers on the chain when it is running and (4)  tug on Superman’s cape.   Even conservatives would believe that government needs to protect these idiots  from their own folly.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sean Spicer - Today's Winner

Of the Happiest Man in Washington

A long vacation, a six figure contract to bloviate on Fox News, Home for dinner every night and he get's to sing "The Witch is Dead" everyday.

What Republicans Think of Health Care, What Junior Told Daddy

And Real News You Won’t Get Anywhere Else

The following is speculative, but that don’t mean it cannot be true.

  1. If Mitch McConnell, former boy genius, follows through on his threat to hold a vote on GOP repeal of ACA to make recalcitrants more vulnerable because of their opposition, he needs to think again.  Given the low popularity of the bill those opposing it will be heroes.

  1. It is almost certain that Junior Trump went running to Daddy Trump to tell him about his big coup in getting Russians to provide damaging info on Hillary.  And that is why Donnie went on to brag about big revelations about Hillary that were coming and then slink away when they didn’t.  Anyone who believes Trumpie didn’t know is busy buying that bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

  1. And anyone calling the soon-to-come Republican tax changes ‘reform’ probably says liver and onions is filet mignon with asparagus.

  1. Trump is reportedly mad about the collapse of the health care bill.  Just think how mad he would be if he actually knew what was in it.

  1. After saying that he would not own health care the President is expected to replace the sign in the Oval Office that says ‘The buck stops here’ with one that says “The buck don’t even come here’.

  1. Republicans need to raise the debt ceiling soon to avoid government defaulting on its obligations.  Watching Speaker Paul Ryan sweat and squirm on this one is expected to be must see TV.

  1. Democrats plan to spend the August recess searching for someone, anyone, who can actually go out and organize rallies.  Nancy Pelosi will say she would like to but she is having to go to dinner parties that month.

IRS Tries Private Debt Collectors – Again. Abuses Abound – Again

Refusing to Learn from Past Experiences

Debt collection firms use harsh and abusive practices.  They hire those so desperate for work that they have no hesitation to using false, unfair or just plain coercion to wring funds from people who just cannot pay (which is why they haven’t).  Twice before now the IRS has tried this, and this time it isn’t working any better than in the past.

The I.R.S. is owed about $138 billion, a sum that lawmakers are eager to reduce. To supplement the agency’s collection efforts, Congress ordered it to hire outside firms — an approach that was tried twice before, in 1996 and in 2006, and then abandoned because of cost overruns and concerns about abuses. Lawmakers hope the new program, which began this year, will yield better results; the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that it could net $2.4 billion over the next 10 years.

So how is the program working?

The call scripts those agencies are using — obtained by a group of Democratic senators and reviewed by The New York Times — shed light on how the tax agency’s new fleet of private debt collectors extract payments from debtors. On Friday, those senators sent a letter to Pioneer, the I.R.S. and the Treasury Department accusing Pioneer of acting in “clear violation” of the tax code.

In particular, they object to Pioneer’s “extraordinarily dangerous” suggestion that debtors use 401(k) funds, home loans and credit cards to pay off their overdue taxes.

Now if the government wants to get more money the best thing it could do is hire more examiners and examine more tax returns from the wealthy.  But that would mean more government spending and despite the fact that each dollar spent on compliance returns many more dollars in tax revenue no conservatives want to go that route.  It makes too much sense.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Illinois Republican Governor – Mini Donnie – Can Stand Losing a Political Battle

Appears to Turn Mean and Angry

Illinois is a basket case, and an example of government failure.  Much of the blame can be put on Democrats who have controlled the state for much of the past, but Republicans share that blame with their having held the Governor’s office for a lot of that time.  In 2014 a conservative, combative rich guy won the governorship and vowed to shake things up, get everything right by attacking the unions, cutting taxes and imposing the conservative philosophy on everyone.  It did not go well and he is not popular.

The state has not had a budget for several years, and did not pay vendors to the tune of billions.  So finally the legislature had enough, and Republicans joined Democrats to pass a budget over the Governor’s veto.  The Governor, that spoiled rich guy has not taken it well.

CHICAGO — Bruce Rauner, the most vulnerable governor in the nation, is cleaning house in a radical office shake-up that has members of his own party fearing the blue-state Republican is making a hard move to the right.

Since Monday morning, the first-term governor has fired his chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and his spokesperson, among other aides. At the same time, he pushed through the demotion of a GOP state House legislative leader. In another sign of the turmoil gripping Springfield, state Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, who helped lead a grand bargain attempt to resolve the recent budget stalemate, resigned from office July 1.

And instead of trying to work with everyone, he is turning hard right and alienating everyone including his own party.

Rauner is replacing his staff by opening the doors of the governor’s office to an influential — and controversial — conservative think tank: the Illinois Policy Institute. He hired its president, Kristina Rasmussen, as his new chief of staff, and its vice president of policy, Michael Lucci, as a deputy chief. He’s also bringing on Laurel Patrick, a former spokesperson for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, as his communications director, according to an internal office memo. More staffing changes are expected this week.

This think tank has a history, and not a particularly good one.

Privately, Republicans who have in the past allied with Rauner fear he’s straying from his personal principles and alienating lawmakers he needs by pairing up with a conservative group that’s out of step with many of their constituents. They blame the IPI for contributing to a toxic atmosphere on social media, so much so the institute issued a warning to its followers last week to keep the conversation civil.

It looks like an opportunity has been missed.  A constructive administration operating on a bi-partisan basis might have helped Illinois not become the poster child of ineffective governance.  But the ego of the man is not totally but large responsible for the mess.  Hmm, any parallels to Washington?

New York Times Comes Roaring Back From Second Place in Investigative Reporting to Take the Lead

Now Washington Post Must Step Up to the Plate and Regain the Lead

Years from now historians will look back on this year as a golden age of journalism.  The Washington Post and New York Times (and even once the Wall Street Journal) have been stellar in their reporting on the activities of the Trump administration and their calumny.  The Post had been in the lead, but by breaking the story on Fredo Trump and his brining Young Jared and Paul Manafort into a meeting with a well connected Russian the Times is now leading the pack.

This should worry the White House folks who are trying to bury the truth.  WaPo reporters are going to re-double their efforts, to the great benefit of the American people and to the horror of a corrupt and lying administration.  And the funny thing, Trump is an accomplice in his own problem.  He gave an interview to the Times that is making headline news.  And not in a good way.

Republican: Voters Sent Us to Washington to Repeal and Replace ACA ---Voters: The Hell We Did

Democracy in Inaction

One of the consistent Republican talking lying points on health care is that if they don’t vote to overturn ACA and replace it with some draconian measure they are going against the public that sent them to Washington to do just that.  But a Kaiser study shows just the opposite, an overwhelming number of voters don’t want ACA taken away and really don’t want the Republican plan.

·                           “The July Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that most Americans (61 percent) continue to hold unfavorable views of the plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including over four in ten (44 percent) who say they have “very unfavorable” view. The share of the public with negative views of the law has increased slightly in the past month, from 55 percent to 61 percent. Views of the Republican plan to repeal and replace the ACA continue to vary widely by party and a large intensity gap remains, with Democrats being nearly three times as likely to hold a “very unfavorable” view as Republicans are to hold a “very favorable” view (71 percent versus 25 percent, respectively).
·                           Nearly two-thirds of the public opposes (65 percent) major reductions in federal funding for Medicaid as part of a plan to repeal and replace the ACA, and most continue to oppose these reductions even after hearing arguments in support of them. About half of Republicans and those who approve of President Trump support major reductions in federal funding for Medicaid.”
Read ‘em and weep boys and girls of the GOP

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sen. Ron Johnson (R, Wi) Discovers GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is a Two Faced Liar

Apparently He Has Never Met His Party’s Leader

One of the more despicable tactics politicians use is to delay unpopular provisions of a bill and hope that they will not be blamed when the bad things happen.  In the case of the now brain dead health care bill Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R, Ky) went even further and said not to worry about the bad provisions.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), another Obamacare repeal skeptic, on Monday accused McConnell had committed a “breach of trust.”

The Wisconsin Republican was stunned to read in The Washington Post that McConnell was privately arguing that major reforms to Medicaid were so far in the distance that they would never take effect. Johnson said Monday that he’d confirmed through conversations with other senators that McConnell had made the remarks, which he said now puts a procedural vote on the bill in “jeopardy.”

“The reported comments from Leader McConnell before last Thursday about ‘don’t worry about these Medicaid changes, they won’t take effect,’ that’s troubling to me. I have talked to senators that basically confirmed that. I’ll see what Leader McConnell says tomorrow,” Johnson said on Monday evening. “From my standpoint, it’s a pretty serious breach of trust, those comments. I’m just troubled by those comments.”

Now anyone who has followed Sen. McConnell is all of this would not be surprised at his duplicity.  He drafted the bill in secret.  He refused to allow Democrats to be involved.  He ruled that there would be no public hearings.  And all of that was in direct contradiction to his stance when ACA was being debated.  And after saying he did not support repeal without replace, that he would not do that he is trying to do that.  So why Sen. Johnson thought McConnell would not sell him out is a mystery.    

Sorry Ron, when you lie down with snakes you are going to get bitten.    

The Concept of the Clean Coal Takes Another Hit

Clean Coal – See the Definition of Oxymoron

One of the many fables put out by Mitch McConnell and Donnie Trump was that the coal industry could be brought back to growth by using ‘clean coal technology to fuel power plants.  A technological disaster of epic proportions with regard to a ‘clean coal’ plant in Mississippi is putting one of the final nails in the concept.

A first-of-its-kind “clean coal” power plant that utility owner Southern Co.spent years constructing in Mississippi may end up burning no coal at all -- and instead just run like a natural gas generator.
After years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, Mississippi regulators on Wednesday called on Southern to work up a deal that would have the Kemper plant, now estimated to cost about $7.5 billion, fueled only by gas. The state Public Service Commission said in a statement that it’s looking for a solution that eliminates the risk to ratepayers “for unproven technology,” which involved converting coal into gas that could then be used to generate electricity -- all while capturing emissions.
A first-of-its-kind “clean coal” power plant that utility owner Southern Co.spent years constructing in Mississippi may end up burning no coal at all -- and instead just run like a natural gas generator.
After years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, Mississippi regulators on Wednesday called on Southern to work up a deal that would have the Kemper plant, now estimated to cost about $7.5 billion, fueled only by gas. The state Public Service Commission said in a statement that it’s looking for a solution that eliminates the risk to ratepayers “for unproven technology,” which involved converting coal into gas that could then be used to generate electricity -- all while capturing emissions.

Sorry folks, it just cannot happen, coal cannot be clean.  Reality bites.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Yes, Health Care in America Still Needs Massive Reform - But For Just One Days Let's Enjoy the Republican Fiasco

One Day of Joy in Six Months of Agony

It's not just failure of the Republican health care bill that took place in the last 24 hours, it was also the humiliation of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.  Trump held a dinner Monday night with key Republican Senators to get them on board, but he just happened to leave out two key Senators who spent the time they would have been at dinner crafting their statement dooming the Senate bill.

And then McConnell, who had previously said he would not support repeal and replace later then came out for repeal and replace later, only to be shot down immediately by three Senators who said no way, no how.

All of this is pure joy, the Washington Senators haven't been this bad since the baseball team of that name in the 1950's (Washington, first in war, first in  peace, last in the American league).

Why are these people smiling?  Well two out of three are, one just looks like a jerk.

Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, and Paul Ryan sit at dinner together.

Another Lie of Republican Health Care Exposed - No One on Medicaid Will Lose It

Except for the Six Million Who Will

Darn Numbers, and imagine what it will look like with just a repeal of ACA as Republicans may now try to do.

The JAMA has the numbers on Republican version of health care.  They ain't pretty.

Medicaid by the Numbers

  • Number of beneficiaries in 2017a
    • Total, 77 million
    • Children, 34 million
    • Parents and childless adults, 27 million
    • Elderly (≥65 y), 6 million
    • Blind and disabled, 9 million
    • Pregnant women, 2 million birthsb
  • Projected number of beneficiaries in 2026 (ACA)c
    • Total, 86 million
    • Children, 35 million
    • Parents and childless adults, 32 million
    • Elderly (≥65 y), 8 million
    • Blind and disabled, 11 million
    • Pregnant women, NA
  • Projected number of beneficiaries in 2026 (proposed legislation)d
    • Total, 71 million

  • So what's the difference between the 77 million benefiting today and the 71 million in 2026 that would be covered if the Senate passes their bill. Six million you say. But not to worry, maybe some of those people will needlessly die, so they don't count.

Trump Deliberately and Personally Attacks the News Media and Its People

Now Critics Are Attacking the Victims

The news media is not always accurate.  It cannot be because there is a huge amount to cover and it has to be done quickly.  Size and speed lead to mistakes.  But in America, other than Fox News when the news media makes a mistake they correct it, and sometimes if it is so egregious they fire people.  They are held accountable.

The President attacks the media because like all would be tyrants and bullies and liars he knows that the truth is his greatest enemy.  So his attacks make news.  And now some are, incredibly, blaming the press.

“The media’s impulse, which is understandable, is to keep the focus on his threats to the press, and not to let them become normalized,” Pope wrote. “But we have reached the point at which the media response has become counterproductive and even beneficial to the president and his lackeys in the White House, who have turned the West Wing into a megaphone for Trump’s faux media war and reporters in the White House briefing room into photo-op foils.”

Wow, it’s like that mugging victim should be jailed for walking down the street and getting mugged.  The speaker above is a professor at an ivy league school.  Okay, that explains his confusion and errors.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Does Jared K. Have the Lamest Excuse Ever in the History of Lying

Can’t the Most Expensive Lawyers in the World Come Up With Something Better?

The big problem, well one of the many big problems in Juniorgate is that Jared Kushner, Trump son-in-law and meathead is in the White House and was in the meeting with Junior.  But he conveniently and deliberately forgot and now had to amend his disclosure form.  But wait, he has an excuse.

According to Yahoo News, Mr Kushner’s legal team said that they sent in his SF-86 form for senior administration posts in January without mentioning any meetings with foreign government officials, because “a member of his staff had prematurely hit the ‘send’ button for the firm before [the form] was completed.”

And of course once they accidentally hit ‘send’ then it was too late to do anything but move one.  And if they ‘accidentally’ left off some incriminating info well in Trumpworld lying is a virtue so Jared gained some points with the big guy.

Trying to Be the Most Cruel People Ever – Trumpies Meet the Challenge

Arresting Parents for Trying to be With Their Children

It is hard to believe, hard to comprehend and hard to accept just how mean and cruel and inhumane people who are now in government can be.  But here is reality.

The Trump administration has begun a new tactic to crack down on illegal immigration, this time arresting undocumented parents suspected of having paid to have their children ushered into the country by smugglers.
When unaccompanied children are apprehended at the border — often after having been taken there by smugglers — immigration officials initiate cases for their deportation, a process that can take months or years. In the meantime, many of those children are placed with parents or relatives who crossed earlier to establish a foothold in the United States and earn money to send back home.
Until recently, those adults have not been priorities for arrest, even if they are in the country illegally.

Think about what this is saying.  Try to reunite your family, try to support your children, try to build up and increase family values, the government will throw you in jail. 

Can it get any worse?  Well yes, just wait.