Thursday October 15th 2009
Hour One - Is the Economic recovery on thin ice?
Hour Two: Would trade tariffs make China clean up their act? Thom challenges Sallie James of the Cato Institute www.cato.or
Hour Three: Could it be that "Everything You Know is Wrong about Cryonics, Deception and Death?!" Thom gets the cold, hard truth from Larry Johnson, author of "Frozen: A True Story" www.frozenbook.com
Plus Should health insurers get the death penalty? Thom will be challenging Robert Moffit from www.heritage.org
Something has made me recall (I recall not what) a time when I was employed by a church, strange as it may seem. There were many ways of being that I needed to accustom myself to, and I must confess that I was mostly a miserable failure at my efforts to reform. For example, I couldn’t bring myself to remain silent when the young gentlemen of the Boy Scout troop poked hundreds of holes into the ceiling tiles of the basement meeting room with a broom stick; my failure caused much unwelcome discomfiture to the elder who happened to be the scout master.
Nor did I see it as particularly respectful when the neighbors brought their dogs onto church property to defecate on the sidewalks. Frankly, I wondered what was going on inside the heads of administration when they shrugged this off (it’s called “turning the other cheek”). But then again I was the one who had to scoop the shit up. After a few weeks of silent contemplation on this difficulty, I took matters into my own hands; I seized upon the idea of scooping the shit up with a shovel, carrying it over to the offending neighbors’ property, and tossing it onto their sidewalks and driveways. This solution proved remarkably successful, effectively ending the offending trafficking in dog poo. The church administration, however, didn’t quite see this triumph as a score for the dignity of the church, as I did. Needless-to-say, this incongruity in approaches to facing the moral and ethical challenges of the world helped to shorten my stay at the church.
There is a moral to this cautionary tale, I suppose. Skirmishing with wrongs and injustices often requires one to go against the tide, buck the wind, bang one’s head against the wall. Taking action doesn’t come without cost, particularly when the forces of reaction and the status quo hold sway. In the fight for moral supremacy, some jab with the right, others with the left; deciding who the winner is often determined by whose mind is less scrambled.
Drugmakers, Doctors Rake in Billions Battling H1N1 Flu
Swine Flu Is Bad for Victims, But Good for Businesses That Cater to Expanding Market
"When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist".
- Dom Helder Câmara
Breaking news - House Financial Services Committee moves to Regulate Derivative Trading - http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aOzNqW0GthZs
About freaking time ... :(
What this amounts to, however, is simply a requirement that if your "business plan" is to cover the risky bets of other investors, you must have sufficient cash-on-hand to pay off if those bets turn out to be losers. This is progress??!!
Just goes to prove the old joke ... if CON is the opposite of PRO, then what's the opposite of progress?
I heard on a local news report yesterday that Minnesota job numbers won't get back to pre-recession levels for 5 years. Meanwhile, the BBC reported that China is now second only to the United States in the number of billionaires it generates, up 29 (to a total of 130) from a year ago:
A Forbes magazine tally of the world's richest people, released in March, counted 359 billionaires in America, also increased from a year ago.
The Ongoing Cover Up of the Truth Behind the Financial Crisis May Lead to Another Crash
William K. Black - professor of economics and the senior regulator during the S & L crisis - says that that the government's entire strategy now - as during the S&L crisis - is to cover up how bad things are ("the entire strategy is to keep people from getting the facts").
Indeed, as I have previously documented, 7 out of the 8 giant, money center banks went bankrupt in the 1980's during the "Latin American Crisis", and the government's response was to cover up their insolvency...
Congress Removes Authority to Ban Riskiest Derivatives Trades Because "There Was Concern That A Broad Grant To Ban Abusive Swaps Would Be UNSETTLING”
According to Bloomberg, the original draft of Barney Frank's derivatives legislation:
would have given the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission joint authority to “prohibit transactions in any swap” that they determine “would be detrimental to the stability of a financial market or of participants in a financial market.”
Frank has now stripped that provision because it would be "unsettling":
“There was concern that a broad grant to ban abusive swaps would be unsettling,” Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said today as the panel began action on his measure...
Religion is not a choice but being gay is, GOP leader’s spokesman says
By Raw Story
Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 -- 2:37 pm
You were born a Christian, not born gay. Religion is not a choice.
Or so the spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) would have you believe. Questioned about why the House's top Republican opposes a hate crimes bill penalizing violence against gays, his spokesman said he "supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics," just not protections for things like being gay -- which conservatives occasionally claim is a choice.
"He does not support adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes," Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith added. The statement was made in an email to CBS News.
In other words, religion is a trait you're born with.
@DRichards - The way I heard it, Mr. Frank is not happy with the amended shape in which this bill left his committee. The Agriculture committee is also working on a derivatives regulation bill (gotta say,though, what this has to do with agriculture is beyond me), and Barney may choose to support the Ag bill over his own committee's.
Oh ... Thanx for explaining that, Mr. Boehner - it's these Jewish genes of mine that make me inferior to you. :P
Former bank regulator William Black, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One has a lot to say about the economic situation on Democracy Now today..
He says the moves to regulate derivatives since the collapse are ineffective. He's been a guest on Thom's show.
The second segment of the show is a real treat, but really is best when watched rather than just listened or read. It's an interview with Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Zizek.
You may not be familiar with Zizek, but he's well known in some circles. Here's a quote from Democracy Now's introduction to the segment.
"Dubbed by the National Review as “the most dangerous political philosopher in the West” and the New York Times as “the Elvis of cultural theory,” Slovenian philosopher and public intellectual Slavoj Žižek has written over fifty books on philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history and political theory. In his latest book, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, Žižek analyzes how the United States has moved from the tragedy of 9/11 to what he calls the farce of the financial meltdown."
Not only is what he says interesting, but he's just fun to watch. He's one of the most kinetic people I can recall seeing. Imagine the kind of motion a 3rd base coach goes through. But the fact is he's also very interesting.
From the Raw Story piece on Religion vs. Gayness, linked above by DRichards -
Republicans who oppose hate crimes legislation say they do so because they think it is criminalizing "thought."
Since when are Republicans in favor of thinking?? :D
ooooops.... I forgot to give the URL
I coined a new term the other day.
"It's a no Boehner"
I heard today that the military says that a 10% increase (over the previous level) translates to 4-6% increase in recruitment. They haven't had any problems in meeting their goals for a while now.
Here is an article from Glenn Greenwald.
we need to create a new American renaissance upholding the legacies of Emerson Thoreau and Whitman. my mentor Dr. Daisaku Ikeda stated using a phrase popular among transcendentalist, "for people to develop a self culture- one that people stay true to their deepest commitments and that transforms the very core of being." what flowers from this self culture is not the fragile ,forlorn bud of the smaller self but the majestic blossom of the larger self- with its boundless capacity for empathy and understanding" lets create a new American renaissance of intellectual sharing and poetic friendship.
@B Roll -
Not terribly surprising ... Military recruitment generally does rise pretty directly with unemployment.
It's a lovely thought, Brian.
Any suggestions regarding how we get the teabaggers on board with it?
The S-Word and Dr. Kevorkian's Accountant
Health care Rx from my socialist fire department
Thursday 15 October 2009
by: Greg Palast, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
Wendell Potter tells Greg Palast health insurers' dirty secret. (Photo: BobFest)
Tell me where it hurts, Mr. President.
What's killing you, Barack, is what's killing us all: an evil germ called "Medical Loss Ratio."
"Medical Loss Ratio" [MLR] is the fancy term used by health insurance companies for their slice, their take-out, their pound of flesh, their gross - very gross - profit.
The "MLR" is the difference between what you pay an insurance company and what that insurer pays out to doctors, hospitals and pharmacists for your medical care.
I've totted it up from the raw stats: The "MLR," insurance companies' margins, is about to top - holy mama! - a quarter trillion dollars a year. That's $2.7 trillion over the next decade.
Until the 1990's, insurers skimmed only about a nickel on the dollar for their "service," Wendell Potter told me. Potter is the CIGNA insurance company PR man who came in from the cold to tell us about what goes down inside the health insurance gold mine. Today, Potter notes (and I've checked his accuracy), porky operators like AIG have kicked up their Loss Ratio by nearly 500 percent.
The industries' slice is growing to nearly a quarter of your insurance bill. All of it just paperwork and profiteering.
President Obama is never going to pull the insurance company piggies from a trough this big, especially when the industry has made room for Congressional snouts.
So what's the Rx? Easy: Kill the pigs and call the fire department.
The only solution to Loss Ratio piggery is to kill the pigs: eliminate health insurers from the health industry entirely.
We can't cure our ills, as our president has attempted, by attacking the problem ass-backwards. No, Mr. Obama, we don't need HEALTH INSURANCE for everyone, we need HEALTH CARE for everyone. There's a giant difference. Instead of concentrating on PAYMENT, we need to focus solely on providing the health SERVICE.
From my London days writing for The Guardian, I can tell you the British do NOT have national health insurance. They have a National Health Service.
The government builds hospitals, hires doctors and, when you need the service, you just go and get it. It's kind of like the fire department. When your house is on fire, you don't call your fire insurance company, you call THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. We care first about the service, not the payment.
The British government hires the doctors, like firemen, and Brits use them, like firemen, as they need them.
It works. My mother-in-law, a nurse, on a visit to England, was stunned at the speed, quality and absence of mad paperwork to fix her broken arm.
But, you might say, that's, that's SOCIALISM! Well, yes, it is. And I'm not afraid to use the S-word: Socialized Medicine. Just like America's Socialized Fire Departments. (Fun fact: socialized, i.e. publicly funded, fire departments were 'invented' by the revolutionary Ben Franklin.)
And Yes We Can get socialized medicine passed into law.
Really. It's simple: we sneak it in with the kids.
We can learn from Lyndon Johnson's sale of Socialist Medicare. Johnson knew that no one could argue that Granny do without a doctor. Can the "Pro-Life" Republicans now tell us that pregnant moms and children ages 0 to 3 should be denied care? Therefore, to the Medicare program for those 65-or-older, we simply add "Kiddie Care," for those from Negative 9 months through age 3.
But instead of the wallet-busting Medicare system, in which doctors and hospitals are paid for each suture, bag of blood and pat on the head, Kiddie Care will be provided by Kiddie Care Service salaried doctors.
How do we get doctors (who now AVERAGE $240,575 a year) to take well-paid, but not pig-paid, posts? We grab'm while they're young. We pay doctors the full cost of their medical education; and we treat them as humans during internship, not as in the current system where interns are treated as medi-slaves. In return for the public paying for their medical education, the public gets the young doctors' ten-year commitment to work for the health service at a reasonable salary.
That's not my invention. The free-education idea for staffing a national health service had long ago been proposed by that wily old dog Ted Kennedy. (Damn, we miss him.)
Once the first wave of three-year-olds are about to turn four and their families face having to buy them health insurance, these millions of parents will become an unstoppable army of lobbyists screaming for the extension of Kiddie Care to age four, then to age five, then to age six and so on. Get it?
Yes, Mr. Limbaugh, I am another bleeding heart trying to sneak socialized medicine into America. Yes, I am trying to rid us of the "free-market" insurers who are causing the bleeding. Health insurers are as useful to our health care system as a bicycle is useful to a goldfish.
There ain't no such thing as a "free market" in medical care, as there is a free market in food. You can eat peanut butter instead of dining at Maxime's. But you can't tell the surgeon, "No thanks, I can't afford a new kidney this week - I'll just have a broken arm."
A free-market for-profit insurance system means that, when you need a new pancreas, your fate is left to an insurance company computer programmed by Franz Kafka, Dr. Kevorkian and his accountant. It's you versus the Medical Loss Ratio. Good luck.
In olden days, doctors would attach leeches to suck a patient's blood. Today, we have insurance companies' Medical Loss Ratio. Both can kill you. If Obama and America want to end this sickness in the body politic, start with Dr. Kennedy's sure-fire cure: a national health service for kids - and get rid of the bloodsuckers.
This person is the true face and person of 95% of our population.
One of the reasons I oppose troop increase in Afghanistan centers on my belief that we cannot win in Afghanistan. We will be so hungry for a victory somewhere that the true face of our country will accept screwball ideas. You can read this one.
CHANGE THIS AND THE PUBLIC OPTION MIGHT GET MORE SUPPORT
I recently heard or read that a major reason that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) is against the public option (besides his health industry campaign funding) is that North Dakota (along with Minnesota) are at the top of the list of states that have a very low Medicare reimbursement rate. Conrad is afraid that, if the public option becomes law, it will force North Dakota hospitals to CLOSE.
This also explains the concerns of at least one of my senators --- Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who mentioned MN's low Medicare reimbursement rates in a recent email she sent me.
If this concern could be addressed in the current legislation, it may help to bring more support to the public option.
I think you’re dancing on thin ice when you discuss race on your program, especially when you take a position of diminishing the magnitude of the importance of racism in our society and replacing it with a non-racial class frame. The nearly all white guest list of your show also undermines your credibility on this issue. Some people say that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week, but I’m starting to think that the three hours of the Thom Hartmann Show might actually deserve that title. I’ve raised this issue on this board for close to a year now and it doesn’t seem to have troubled you or your staff.
We’re half way through the tenth month of this year. I doubt that you could list 10 people of color who have been on your show so far this year unless you want to include Ravi Batra.
As for whether the issue is one of class or race, in this country there’s a very high correlation between the two, with blacks and Latinos having far higher levels of poverty than whites.
But income/wealth isn’t the only measure. The majority of those incarcerated in our jails and prisons are people of color even though whites are still a large majority of people in this country. People of color are underrepresented in our colleges and universities. I’ve heard experts in the field of education say that our schools are more segregated today than during the days of the civil rights movement, with public schools in some areas being almost exclusively non-white and the white kids in private schools. Yesterday I heard that there were three fatal police shooting in the last week in the black and Latino communities near where I live. How often do you hear of whites being killed by police? There are numerous examples of how race correlates with class in our society and how race can diminish the benefits of class in our society.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard whites callers to “progressive” radio shows express the belief that our society has moved past racism. Your position isn’t that extreme but seems like a shade of that argument.
P.S.: I really recommend that you watch GRITtv. You’d be surprised how many people of color Laura Flanders has as guests on her show and she only has one hour a day.
@Quark - The reason that MN's Medicare reimburesments are lower than many other states is that the existing medical system in MN (the Mayo model) is more efficient than that in, say, McAllen, TX, where they have the Tort Reform that the Rethugs say is SUCH a necessary part of a good reform bill!
Yes, I understand that. However, our efficiency has worked to our disadvantage.
@B Roll - Do you think that there are thousands of people of color out there who are clamoring for a segment on the Thom Hartmann show, and that he turns them away? Do you even think that there are thousands of people of color who have HEARD of the Thom Hartmann show??
@Quark - Not so much, really - It's just another way that the Rethugs distort the facts to fit their talking points. In reality, the people of MN are likely in MUCH BETTER shape because of their health system's efficiency.
It has been known for some time that the Medicare Reimbursement` Rates were out of date and arbitrary. Any plan, whether from the House or Senate which fails to address and fix obvious flaws in our health care system is either stupid or corrupt. This is low hanging fruit after all. Senators from states which are disadvantaged like Klobuchar and Conrad have every reason to raise awareness and work to reform this inequity. They do not however have a valid reason to obstruct progress for all. Senator Conrad has been an active and willing impediment to progress. Senator Klobuchar has been AWOL, hiding under her bed, for the most part. I believe both are fundamentally good people although I'm grateful that my life doesn't depend on that. If our fore fathers had to depend on such strength and courage they would still be negotiating terms with the British. Neither one need expect a call from the "Profile in Courage Awards" anytime soon.
I fear that if this problem of reimbursement were addressed properly, Sen Conrad is likely to find a new "major reason" to fight the public option and those timid others will disappear from the fray again. After all, isn't helping to see these side issues are included in a comprehensive reform bill part of these Senators job descriptions?
I do not believe the reason for Medicare reimbursement rates being set the way they are has much to do with the efficiency of the Mayo. If I'm not mistaken these rates were determined a long time ago and were actually related to rental/real estate /cost of living type calculations made in the sixties. We in the mid-west are fairly used to being short changed when it comes to federal dollars. Minnesota has traditionally been more generous in providing a social safety net until recently when Gov. Pawlenty began to single-handedly reverse this tradition. (Reductions to "Minnesota Cares" Program.) The Senate Finance Committee's bill apparently fails to give credit and in fact even works against those states which have been more responsible in covering its citizens health care needs. That this Baucus Bill has "fairness" problems should surprise no rational person, after all the insurance industry dictated the terms.
As soon as I can get around to it, I’ll explain why I think this is an important enough issue to raise over and over. I’ll post it on tomorrows blog.
Tariffs will only work if it leads to jump-starting manufacturing in this country, otherwise it will only lead to lighter wallets. The U.S. needs to regain its edge in research and technology, and keep a tighter grip on the products that result. Perhaps we need also to start getting serious about creating domestic jobs through "green" technology to replace those jobs that have been lost, never to return. A trillion dollars, instead of feeding the pockets of Wall Street millionaires and billionaires, could create 20 million jobs right now.