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ObamaCare Clusterfuck: The only part that works is the part that isn't really ObamaCare: Medicaid expansion

As everybody knows by now, the ObamaCare "marketplace" (the Exchanges) is a festering sore on the body politic: The ObamaCare website was a multimillion disaster and a management #FAIL at launch with a back-end that still isn't done, and the policies sold on the "marketplace" have narrow networks, narrow formularies, all of which lead to balance billing, and high co-pays and deductible. ObamaCare's policies are not high-quality plans dispensed upon a grateful populace by caring, high-minded "progressives"; they're crapified (especially compared to the single payer system on the very same continent with us. So the "progressives" are pivoting to defend ObamaCare by defending the Medicaid expansion that was also part of "the health care law," as they sometimes like to call it. WaPo's Greg Sargent:

DEMS SEIZE ON MEDICAID EXPANSION: The Hill’s Jonathan Easley reports on something that really deserves more attention: Even though the Beltway narrative has it that Obamacare is uniformly bad for Dems, they see the Medicaid expansion as a key issue in this year’s elections. The Louisiana example:

Sen. Mary Landrieu has launched a petition on her website urging Gov. Bobby Jindal to agree to the expansion, which she argues would bring health insurance to more people who cannot afford it. The issue is giving Landrieu a chance to run not only against her GOP opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy, who opposes the extension, but against Jindall as well. She argues the expansion would close “the Jindal Gap.” [...]

Americans for Prosperity, the group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, is making opposition to the expansion a top priority through a “Stop the Madness” ad campaign.

And so the Medicaid expansion — and the Koch-backed AFP’s support [sic!] for it — will become a major issue in the Senate race when it’s debated there this spring. Meanwhile, the GOP Senate candidate in Michigan came out for the expansion after Dem Gary Peters called her out over it, and in New Hampshire, which is moving the expansion forward, it could become an issue in House races.

Well, great. The only part of ObamaCare that works is the part that expands a simple, proven government-run social insurance program; not the part that includes the rent-sucking tapeworms of the private health insurance companies. What a surprise! And a question or two: Read below the fold...

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Indonesia, population 270 million, rolls out single payer system, 48% get free care

Christian Science Monitor:

Indonesia launches world's largest health insurance system
Indonesia is planning to phase-in the world’s largest single-payer health care insurance program between now and 2019. Under the new system, the government is committed to providing universal health care to its 247 million citizens, though employers and wealthier citizens are obliged to pay their own premiums.

The program was mandated by a law passed in 2004. But opposition from industry had stood in the way until now, since the law will require employers to pay premiums. The government also dragged its feet on implementation and was successfully sued in 2010 by a worker's rights group for failing to follow the law.

Still, it's a measure of Indonesia's ambitions and rising expectations that the government is trying to roll out health services for all.

Indonesia extended free health insurance to 48 percent of its population on Jan. 1. By the time the system is fully implemented in 2019 it will cover the whole country at an estimated cost of $15 billion a year – about $60 per Indonesian citizen and 15 percent of the central government’s budget.

Sheesh. It's like the United State is like a third-world country, or something. Oh, wait... Read below the fold...

So why not just read the secret CIA torture report into the Congressional record?

Mike Gravel did exactly that with the Pentagon papers, back in the day when it was possible to be a Senator and be a mensch. McClatchy:

WASHINGTON -- Democratic staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee obtained classified documents at the center of a bitter struggle with the CIA some three years before the agency determined that the materials had been spirited out of a secret facility and demanded their return, according to U.S. officials. ....

The alleged unauthorized removal of the documents, which is being investigated by the FBI, triggered the unprecedented battle over the authority of the committee, which was created in 1976 to oversee U.S. intelligence organizations in the wake of a series of domestic spying scandals. And what also remains unknown is what secrets about the controversial interrogation program might be contained in the documents now in dispute.

The CIA's refusal to provide the documents to the committee, several Democratic senators contend, is evidence that the agency has been trying to stymie the release of a potentially damning report.

Some people familiar with the matter have defended the committee staffers’ action as arguably within the legal and constitutional authority of the CIA’s congressional overseers, and they questioned the decision by the agency’s Office of General Counsel to seek a criminal investigation. ....

Separately, the CIA Inspector General’s Office asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into what committee staffers viewed as the unauthorized monitoring of the computers they used inside the CIA facility in which they reviewed the highly classified materials underpinning their report.

It couldn’t be learned if such a probe is underway. The Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA and the committee declined to comment.

The tug-of-war over the documents has stoked considerable uncertainty over whether the public will ever get to read any parts of the top-secret 6,300-page report on the CIA’s use during the Bush administration of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas “black site” prisons. The program was ended in 2006.

Or so we are told. Read below the fold...

Neo-liberal Brits prepare to gut the NHS

The vultures are gathering:

The NHS is embarking on its biggest and most wide-ranging outsourcing of services so far by inviting companies to bid for £1.2bn in contracts to provide frontline cancer treatment in district hospitals and care for the terminally ill.

The deals could see the private sector delivering all cancer and end-of-life treatment for children and adults across Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent. This will involve diagnosis and treatment such as radiology, radiotherapy, breast screening, chemotherapy, nursing and surgery for patients in hospitals, hospices and at home.

Due to start in July next year, the contracts have been given “pioneer” status by the NHS because of their scope and duration. ... Read below the fold...

Why demographics won't help Obama's smug, slothful, and passive Democrats (in the near term)

Quoting Frank again for the sheer pleasure of it:

This is the passage that so impressed me:

What is the pattern that connects these various obsessions of the progressive hivemind — the generational cycle, demographic advantage, racist robots, and gerrymandering*?

I've underlined the part that I recalled, wrongly, as a bulleted list of talking points; it's a comma-separated list of talking points! The same talking points we keep hearing over and over again, put into a box and then beaten flat with a big mallet (Franks also shows, in the original, why those arguments are wrong). So what is "the pattern"?

The answer: each of them is an excuse for doing nothing.

Exactly. "Do nothing Democrats."

Why bother getting out there and building majorities capable of sweeping the G.O.P. out for good? There’s no need, insist Democrats of the optimistic kind, who believe that the impersonal hand of history will soon deliver the world to their doorstep, tied with a bow. ....

The underlying philosophy is one of pure fatalism, of politics as a mechanical process. Everyone’s mind is already made up, insofar as they have minds. Vast forces propel angry white men this way and people under thirty that way. You and I can watch and deplore; we can blog and fund-raise, but we can’t do much more than that. Futility is a way of life for us.

Yep. And more:

The only faction really possessed of true human agency, according to this way of looking at things, is the right.

Agency which they are, unsurprisingly, exercising! Read below the fold...

Redistribution upward is always a good thing!

God bless the higher-income child:

Higher-income students get more public money for their education
Tuition tax credits and other tax breaks to offset the cost of higher education - nearly invisible federal government subsidies for families that send their kids to college - also disproportionally benefit more affluent Americans.

So do tax-deductible savings plans and the federal work-study program, which gives taxpayer dollars to students who take campus jobs to help pay for their expenses.

The tax credits alone cost the government a combined $34 billion a year, or $1 billion more than is spent on Pell Grants, the direct government grants for low-income students.

And even though only one-fifth of American households earn more than $100,000 per year, that group got more than half of the deductions for tuition, fees and exemptions for dependent students, according to the Tax Policy Center, an independent research group run jointly by the centrist, and sometimes center-left Brookings Institution and Urban Institute.

Who's got his own... Who's got his own. Read below the fold...

Stupidest "progressives" on the face of the Earth

A nuanced view of Ukraine from the ground

I suppose the question is what course of action causes the least suffering for the ordinary Urkrainian. I don't have an answer for that. I suppose another question is who's going to make Obama look good this time? Putin did that for Obama in Syria, but that's not likely to happen in this crisis; Angela Merkel? Tactless of Obama to bug her, then. Oh well. Then there's the question of realpolitik, the sort of discussion that citizen of great empires can have, and take seriously.

Anyhow, this is an excellent article from the London Review of Books; I'll pick out this paragraph about corruption, because that's part of life in Thailand, too, and although the fish rots from the head, is not (yet) the issue in the State that it might be. (We have education budgets so lousy that teachers have to buy supplies for the kids from their own salaries; but we don't yet have teacher so ill-paid they take "tea money" to place students or give them better grades. But there's always hope!) From the LRB (London Review of Books), which is the must-read the NYRB used to be, 30 years ago anyhow:

James Meek: Putin’s Counter-Revolution
Corruption is everywhere, high and low, in Ukraine as in Russia. Yanukovich’s son Olexandr, a dentist by training, quickly became one of the richest men in the country after his father became president. Just before the regime fell Olexandr Yanukovich’s companies were winning half of all state contracts. Dima told me about a friend who worked as a customs officer. His official salary was 250 euros; bribes took it up to 3000. Perhaps he was exaggerating. But people boasting about the size of the bribes they receive when they’re working for the state doesn’t bode well. In Donetsk I heard about the coal scam. Ukraine pours millions into subsidising deep-mined Donbass coal. It is subsidised by weight and so rogue strip-miners carve open-cast coal cheaply out of unlicensed sites, add that coal to a load of expensive coal, and collect a deep-mine subsidy for the lot. A miner’s daughter told how her father had been injured at work and needed an operation on his arm. The operation should have been free, but before the surgeon carried it out, he strongly suggested the girl’s father demonstrate blagodarnost – gratitude – in advance, to the tune of ten thousand Ukrainian hryvnia, about a thousand US dollars. Read below the fold...

PUTIN: "Knock knock"

OBAMA: Who's there?

PUTIN: Crimea.

OBAMA: Crimea who? Read below the fold...

Bernie Sanders on 2016 (and Clinton)

Raw Story:

“[Clinton] is a very, very intelligent person, no question about it, but I don’t know what her political future is, whether she’s going to run,” Sanders told TIME. “I don’t know what she’s going to say, but if you talk about the need for a political revolution in America, it’s fair to say that Secretary Clinton probably will not be one of the more active people.”

Well, no. In 2008 I saw Clinton as the last hope for some sort of reasonable domestic policy, if only because her base needed (needs) government to work for them in a way that the "creative class" does not. But that was then. This is now. Read below the fold...

Cliches are cliches because they touch on certain truths

Thai hot peppers drying in the sun, right?

Read below the fold...

Common Household Remedies Request


OK, thanks to all of you, I'm going off to have that vexsome tooth extracted.* I realize that in the great scheme of things, worry about getting a tooth pulled is definitely one of those #FirstWorldProblems -- heck, real men pull their own teeth! -- and nothing like surgery, at least since the days of barber surgeons, let alone like childbirth. Still, I've so far successfully avoided almost all voluntary contact with the health care system, and my childhood experience with slow-speed dentistry was no picnic, and then there were the last thieving corporate weasels I went to, who were running some sort of insurance racket. So I confess to having so far successfully suppressed my fear! Read below the fold...

The 12-point platform [beta 2]

Here's the lastest revision with no documentation -- no "bullet overlay"-- so we can see if the platform reads well, stand-alone.

The basic idea is to define "the left" operationally.

Whenever anybody claims that any major Democratic candidate is on the left, even a "neo-populist," we can test that candidate for compliance using the 12 Point Platform.

And when people on comment threads talk about "the left," we can say: "You want the left? Here's the left!" and then copy and paste in the platform below:

The 12-Point Platform
1. A Living Wage
2. Medicare for all
3. Tax the Rich

4. Job and Income Guarantee
5. Debt Jubilee
6. Retirement Security

7. Post Office Bank
8. Enforce the Bill of Rights
9. End the Wars

10. Slow Food (Too)
11. Clean Air and Water
12. Carbon Negative Economy

Supporting the 12 Points, and necessary to pass, implement, and sustain them, are 12 Reforms. Herewith, also copy and paste-ready:

The 12 Reforms
1. Net Neutrality
2. Fairness Doctrine
3. Local Ownership of Media

4. Public Campaign Financing
5. Electoral Integrity
6. Self-Organizing Web-Based Citizen Deliberation

7. MMT Macro-economic Policies
8. Preserve and Expand the Commons
9. More Co-operatives, Fewer Corporations

10. Fiat Justitia. Ruat Caelum
11. Strategic Non-Violence
12. Points and Reforms Are Indivisible

Finally, to explain, revise, or extend the 12 Points and 12 Reforms, One value:

The One Value
1. Public Purpose.

So there you have it. Shorn of all the explanations and refinements we've been talking about, and without subheads dividing individual items into buckets, does it all look appealing? How about each individual point?

Is there anybody who can't live with this the way that it is? Read below the fold...

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: About those penalties...

... or, as they are Orwellianly named, "Shared Responsibility Payments."* Bob Laszewski makes a good point:

Even if the administration gets 20%, or 25%, or 30% of the eligible group signed-up by March 31, that is nowhere near enough to create a sustainable pool. The long-time underwriting rule calls for at least 70% of an eligible group to participate in order to get enough healthy people to pay for the sick who will always show up first for coverage.

Supporters will cite the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections saying a third of the eventual participants will sign up each of the first three years. Why would they? If Obamacare, with all of the attention and promotion it is getting, is not attractive the first year, particularly because of its steep deductibles compared to the after-subsidy premium people must pay, then why would it be attractive in the third year?

The response might be that the fines for not buying coverage will eventually more than double and force these people to finally buy coverage. Think about that. People don't want to buy this and the solution is to fine a family making $60,000 a year $1,500? If the cancelled policies are creating an election-year nightmare for the Democrats, think about how politically problematic big fines for not buying an Obamacare policy that consumers don't want would be in the 2016 presidential election year.

"Think about that." Read below the fold...

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: CORRECTION: “Keep your plan” fix to be prolonged until just before the 2016 Presidential election (!!)

The first leaks said the midterms. But may as well be hung for a Presidency as the Senate, eh? The Times buries the lead, eighteen (18) paragraphs down:

A White House official said Wednesday that it would allow insurers to continue existing policies with renewals as late as Oct. 1, 2016, so individuals and small businesses could have noncompliant coverage well into 2017.

I dunno. Postponing the enforcing a law until after the mid-terms seems a little sketchy. But postponing it 'til after a Presidential election?! That seems a little over the top to me. Read below the fold...


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