Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keeping up the pressure


That's the number to call every day for the next few weeks. I personally think the health care bill in the House is still worth supporting, although it could certainly be strengthened.

For instance, the prospect of a "public option" that quickly becomes nothing but expensive dumping ground is deeply disturbing for reasons both pragmatic and political. Call the teenagers working for your Representative and your Senator and demand that they work to make the public option stronger. (Your background music will be like the comic relief in a busy day for Blue Dogs who already helped insurance companies win big and are now desperately working to deny care to immigrants and women needing abortions. No wonder they no longer answer their phones).


[As currently conceived] the public option would barely make it into the list of top 10 US health insurers. And the opt-out provision could cut enrollment by another 20%(2) or more.

Remember: No other insurance companies will be told where and how they can compete -- only the "public option." How is that a "level playing field"? The end result is likely to be something called a public option, which is used primarily to placate progressives -- and which provides the political cover needed to force people to pay usurious private-insurance premiums. When this pseudo-public plan fails to deliver savings, reform opponents will use its failures as proof that public insurance doesn't work.

That would make the watered-down "public option" worse than no public option at all. One suggestion: Write or call your Representative and ask that they...restore the robust plan...and while you're on the phone, here are a few other things you might mention:

The Wyden "Free Choice" Amendment:
The President and other Democrats told the American people they would provide "all Americans" with the choice of a public option. Instead, they've artificially restricted access to it (while leaving private insurers free to pursue everyone). The Wyden Amendment will deliver what the Democrats promised, and will lower overall health costs.

The Kucinich Amendment
: The so-called Kucinich Amendment would have allowed states to opt out of the Federal system to create intrastate single-payer plans. It was approved by the Education and Labor Committee, but was stripped from the final House bill. The end result? The Senate says states can "opt out" of the public option, but the House says they can't opt out of the private system. That doesn't seem right.

Tolerable premiums and out-of-pocket costs
: It's hard to ask a family of four living on $88,000 to pay 12% of its income in premiums, yet still face $1,500-per-person copays and total possible costs of $10,000 per year. (That's better than the Senate version, however.) These provisions have to be made less onerous for working families. Health analysts used to employ a guideline that said 12% of family income should be the total expense for healthcare, or the "ceiling" on possible health costs, not - as this bill would have it - the floor or minimum cost.

No dumping or foul play
: Many of the insurance industry's bad behaviors are banned by the House bill (which, complaints aside, has many good features.) But there need to be stronger protections against subtle abuses designed to drive sick people out of private plans. These abuses might include planned provider shortages in needed specialties (e.g. oncology, high-risk neonatology), delays in claims payment, and obstructionist use of prior authorization program.

Make drug costs manageable: Jane Hamsher describes the perils faced by breast cancer patients, and those with other conditions that require expensive patented drugs. Many of Jane's concerns will be addressed by the bill's caps on out-of-pocket costs, and by the elimination of lifetime maximums. But more should be done to ensure that drugs are made generic as quickly as possible, and to restrict the insurance industry practice of labeling them "experimental" and refusing to cover them.

Read more at: and, or something

At least they are trying to do something about raising awareness so that enough people can eventually threaten those few people with actual power to debate actually doing something inevitably half-assed and hopelessly compromised or lose some of their politician's perks about this so then near the end some corrupt Joe Lieberman can stand up and vainly bluff his intentions to fuck it all up while shamelessly lying through his teeth. By that time it will have been two decades late anyway so, so much for grandchildren...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chamber of Commerce

God Bless the Chamber of Commerce. More here and here. That's the flat-earth global warming-denying, Glenn Beck-and-HMO-loving, members resigning in protest right and left Chamber of Commerce.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stop the Presses

I just discovered, by accident really (I called because I missed talking to them), that Credo Mobile is offering a new cell phone plan so ridiculously good it really is a crying shame they can't seem to buy ads anywhere but The Nation Magazine. How about a World Series stretch, for example? One can only imagine they see their money better spent donated to progressive causes.

Anyway, I now get 1,000 minutes and 1,000 texts a month for $49.99. Permanently, with no hidden fees.

So you can suck it, anti-environmentalist and neoconservative-ass-licking Verizon and AT&T.

Just a reminder to those still thinking they are "stuck" supporting Republicans instead of Doctors Without Borders or the ACLU with their cell phone money (Credo donates tens of millions to exceptionally worthy progressive causes, based on democratic customer voting): Credo will not only pay your early termination penalties up to $200/person but will also give me $100 just for referring you, which I will split with anyone 50-50, absolute promise (already completed several times). Just mention my code: BVMGN or email for my phone number.

Their phones are great. Intelligent people work their customer service. Their network is just as good as Verizon's. Even if you don't feel like splitting $100 with me, there's really no reason not to switch, even if you're on a family plan. Credo's just a good deal all around. It seriously baffles me how many people are complacent in not doing the right thing when they make it so damn easy.

This American Life

Great and timely show on the health insurance industry. Must listen.

President Snowe

Reid has the votes in the Senate but Obama's still willing to trash the public option just to get one sole Republican's completely unnecessary vote? Come on, man. Sometimes you just have to piss a few random people off to get something meaningful done. What's up with these "democrats?"

Follow first link to sign the emergency petition, today.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

spalted maple floating shelves


Hill Aides: More Senators Would Back Public Option If Obama Actually Pushed For It

...You think!?
"There is a clear sense that it would be helpful," said one senior Democratic aide. "Throughout this entire debate the White House line has been 'We will weigh in when it is necessary'.... Well now we need 60 votes. So if it's not necessary now, then when will it be?"

"That gentleman, I assure you, does not have any business cards!"

A genuine civil rights movement is brewing in America again...It's a strong and genuine public option or bust. So get out and do something in your area now!

(via today's show, witness there the Yes Men absolutely brilliant, sending up the flat earth Chamber of Commerce).

"...that if literature stays away from evil soon becomes boring." -Bataille, on television...(via Scott McLemee, um, on Facebook).

ps. Everything you ever wanted to know about the word, "fuck," also courtesy of McLemee.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Art in the Park

Again this Saturday, all day in Pack Square. Visitors and hecklers welcome.

Update: So I nearly sold out, two weekends in a row...Perhaps I should do more of these!

A couple larger counter top and kitchen island projects may keep me busy through the winter, but still taking requests for custom small projects, blocks and table tops and shelves, as always...

Pelosi appears to be listening

Bravo, Speaker. Perhaps there is some hope yet.

Even conservative-enabler Harry Reid is beginning to utter half-truths. Update: If you have money to throw around, why not help pressure him where he feels it now. Surely he is positioning himself once again to earn the distrust and disgust of progressives everywhere.

Obama and President Snowe remain the only meaningful conservative opposition left to real reform, (along with Baucus and Rahm of course, and the entire ruling financial elite).

Otherwise we'll pretty much be left with what we've got:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

only ten years to end carbon emissions, entirely

Mark Hertsgaard in The Nation:

They say that everyone who finally gets it about climate change has an "Oh, shit" moment....

Schellnhuber and his WBGU colleagues go a giant step beyond the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body whose scientific reports are constrained because the world's governments must approve their contents. The IPCC says that rich industrial countries must cut emissions 25 to 40 percent by 2020 (from 1990 levels) if the world is to have a fair chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. By contrast, the WBGU study says the United States must cut emissions 100 percent by 2020--i.e., quit carbon entirely within ten years. Germany, Italy and other industrial nations must do the same by 2025 to 2030. China only has until 2035, and the world as a whole must be carbon-free by 2050....

Obama, like other G-8 leaders, agreed in July to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the preindustrial level at which human civilization developed. Schellnhuber, addressing the Santa Fe conference, joked that the G-8 leaders had agreed to the 2C limit "probably because they don't know what it means." In fact, even the "brutal" timeline of the WBGU study, Schellnhuber cautioned, would not guarantee staying within the 2C target. It would merely give humanity a two-out-of-three chance of doing so--"worse odds than Russian roulette," he wryly noted. "But it is the best we can do." To have a three-out-of-four chance, countries would have to quit carbon even sooner. Likewise, we could decide to wait another decade or so to halt all greenhouse emissions, but this lowers the odds of hitting the 2C target to fifty-fifty. "And what kind of precautionary principle is that?" Schellnhuber asked....

"I myself was terrified when I saw these numbers," Schellnhuber said. He urges governments to agree in Copenhagen to launch "a Green Apollo Project." Like John Kennedy's pledge to land a man on the moon in ten years, a global Green Apollo Project would aim to put leading economies on a trajectory of zero carbon emissions within ten years. Combined with carbon trading with low-emissions countries, Schellnhuber says, such a "wartime mobilization" might still save us from the worst impacts of climate change.

CNN "leaves it there"

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Bill McKibben: Earth to Obama: (via)
In the summer of 2007, sea ice in the Arctic began to melt dramatically, many decades ahead of the schedule that scientists had previously predicted. Before the summer was out, there was about a quarter less ice at the pole than ever before in human history. That scared scientists, who began revising their calculations of how fast we would need to move to stay ahead of global warming. And this growing understanding has, in turn, changed the political demands on policymakers very dramatically. Obama, for instance, had initially campaigned on a pledge to reduce U.S. carbon emissions 80 percent by mid-century, and the Waxman-Markey legislation was designed to, more or less, meet that goal. All of a sudden, that target didn't seem like enough to meet the demands of the new science--researchers were now throwing around numbers like 40 percent cuts by 2020 in the developed world, which would require not a speedy conversion to renewable energy, but a forced march reminiscent of the rapid buildup at the start of World War II. On a global scale, the old goal--still embraced by the Obama administration--was to aim for a planet where atmospheric carbon dioxide topped out at 450 parts per million (ppm), and the temperature didn't rise more than two degrees Celsius. Under the old estimates, that would have been enough to stave off "catastrophic change." But what 2007 showed was that our current level of 390 ppm and a one-degree rise in temperature was enough to melt the Arctic. And it wasn't just the Arctic--scientists were reporting that high-altitude glaciers, flood and drought cycles, and even the chemistry of seawater were all showing the same kind of ahead-of-schedule change. In January of 2008, NASA's James Hansen--at the very least, the most prestigious climatologist employed by the U.S. government--released a paper setting a new target for staving off catastrophe: 350 ppm. It was embraced that year by Al Gore and, this August, by the chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri. That is, the two men who have been awarded Nobel prizes for their work on global warming say that we need to be aiming for far lower emission levels than what Washington currently intends.

So here's the politics. In Washington, and in Copenhagen, political realism dictates reaching some kind of deal. And the pressure from vested interests--mostly the fossil-fuel lobby--combined with the political fear of annoying voters with higher gas prices or lifestyle shifts means that the incentive for anyone who has to run for office anytime soon is to take the easiest possible deal. Look at Waxman-Markey, which has been revised to cut emissions just 17 percent by 2020--and even that comes loaded with loopholes written to win over particular congressmen with particular coal mines. And it barely passed--by seven votes. Scientific realism demands much more.


The best case for swallowing hard and accepting an insufficient bill comes from Fred Krupp, longtime head of the Environmental Defense Fund. His argument: Our emissions reduction goals are critically important, but the most important thing is to get started now. If we set the ball in motion, industry will quickly find that it's cheaper than it thinks to move toward clean energy, and the ball will roll far faster than politicians expect. Case in point: the reductions of sulfur dioxide under the Clean Air Act, which turned out to be far cheaper than opponents had predicted--even Bush 43 kept right on pushing for deeper cuts, because there was no real reason not to.


Eighty-nine governments have embraced the 350 ppm target, albeit the smallest and most vulnerable nations on earth. A number of them see it as matter of survival--I was in The Maldives recently when President Mohammed Nasheed declared that a pact like the one envisioned by the West was a "death warrant" for his nation, which lies just a meter or two above sea level. Not only are the poor nations of the world demanding compensation for the damage we've caused, and expensive technical assistance to help them build a renewable energy future ("Trillions of dollars might not be enough" for Africa alone, the acting director of the African Union's economy and agriculture department said in August), but they're also asking for truly steep cuts in Western emissions to head off warming so great that they won't be capable of adaptation at any price. Governments will try to finesse these huge gulfs.


And, even if [Obama] does make [saving millions of lives from climate change] a priority, there's still the question of how hard he will push--whether he'll be talking old science (450 ppm) or the new, harder targets (350 ppm)


Alas, there will be no political imperative driving him to push for the toughest measures. He's already done more on global warming than the previous four presidents combined. He's not going to lose large numbers of votes for going easy on climate targets; if anything, the opposite will happen.

On the other hand, there are legacies, and then there are legacies. If, as many scientists believe, we're at the last possible moment to make a major turn, then Obama's decision may resonate in geological time. Eight months has been enough to teach us that Obama is a political realist, always unwilling to make the perfect the enemy of the good. What we'll find out soon is if he's a scientific realist, too, and therefore willing to make the necessary the enemy of the convenient.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

i say let him run with it

what an odd man. He's right about the rhetorical ugliness of "public option" though, a term seemingly designed solely to appeal to the insurance companies as benign/non-threatening instead of inspiring the population. As if the insurance companies wouldn't see through anything designed to limit future criminal profits. Maybe it's not possible to have an FDR in the oval office anymore; as a country we still miss him in a lot of ways.

Good luck, though.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Forget Palin, it's Pelosi

...the left feminist commentators/philosophers should be examining and eviscerating. As in, you know, someone with actual power...?!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

plutonomy: a sad story

Just returned from the theatre, where we teared up watching footage of Roosevelt promo his "second bill of rights" and realizing in general what this country could have been, were it not for Ronald Reagan and his corporate puppet masters. Those two strikingly honest "plutonomy memos" are here (pdf) and here (pdf) and worth the read (thanks).

Matt Taibbi addresses the inevitable flack. Pilots on food stamps is truly disturbing.



Saturday, October 03, 2009

the shoe

Of yore speaketh...

final push for something decent?

Shorter Kos:
So, Harkin..."Will it be a robust public option, or some piece of crap?"

"President Snowe," indeed. Don't try or anything until you've got a second term, ok Saint Obama? We'll enjoy making the rich richer or paying the penalties for a little while, yet.


Time to let the real heroes know that we stand with them.


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Oh, but at least journalism remains alive and well.