Monday, August 31, 2009

'After Weeks of Health Care Madness, Public Support for Reform Drops... Somewhat'

From Brian Beutler at TPM here.

As predicted, August did not go quietly. But after a month of wild-eyed freak outs over death panels, and death books, and death wishes, and death threats, how much has the state of public opinion on health care really changed?

The answer probably depends on how you look at it: too much if you support reform, too little if you oppose it. Given just how raucous the last several weeks have been though--relative to over-the-top rhetoric comparing Obama to Hitler and health care reform to Nazism--the real change has been surprisingly modest. . . .

None of this is to suggest that Obama and Congressional leaders have an easy job ahead of them. Overall support is clearly lower than Democratic leaders would like, and much of the loss in support appears to have come from the independent voters that vulnerable Dems might need if they're to be re-elected in 2010. But still, the reality doesn't map at all on to the news coverage, which made it seem as if health care reform was under siege.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Credit Default Swaps, illegal before 2000, caused financial crisis

So much for unregulated capitalism. Actually, we learned this lesson over 100 years ago, in the wake of a stock market crash, and then forgot it (although the opportunists on Wall Street didn't forget it). A few years ago, Wall Street snookered the Congress into letting it regulate itself (again). The old "betting parlors" were back open on Wall Street. Look what's happened.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sunday evening

Back from gym and store. Just warmed up chili for dinner.

Bought some cubed steaks at Publix (on sale) and had one of them later. Made some for work also.

[Later] Watched "Design Star" tonight. Definitely the right person (Torie) was kicked off tonight. She messed up with the money, but Dan also messed up with approving the $10,000, boring gazebo. Couldn't the gazebo have been scaled down once they became aware of the budget problem? We don't know.

Torie also lacks hosting skills (but of course those can be learned, as David Bromstad has demonstrated). But her design abilities aren't strong enough to overcome that deficit. Antonio is an able and talented designer and a strong workhorse, but I don't see him hosting a show on HGTV. He comes across as surly and crude. I like Lonni, but she's the "one-trick pony" with her accent walls, although she very capably designed all the landscaping tonight (including a living accent wall). I predict Dan will win the competition, however. He's been the most creative so far and I think has the charisma necessary to host a show. But we'll have to wait to see what happens.

So looking forward to my vacation next week. The cats won't like it, however. But they'll be OK, I hope.

'Until Medical Bills Do Us Part'

Nicholas D. Kristoff's column is here.

Critics fret that health care reform would undermine American family values, not least by convening somber death panels to wheel away Grandma as if she were Old Yeller.

But peel away the emotions and fearmongering, and in fact it is the existing system that unnecessarily takes lives and breaks apart families.

My friend M. — you’ll understand in a moment why she’s terrified of my using her name — had to make a searing decision a year ago. She was married to a sweet, gentle man whom she loved, but who had become increasingly absent-minded. Finally, he was diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

The disease is degenerative, and he will become steadily less able to care for himself. At some point, as his medical needs multiply, he will probably need to be institutionalized.

The hospital arranged a conference call with a social worker, who outlined how the dementia and its financial toll on the family would progress, and then added, out of the blue: “Maybe you should divorce.”

“I was blown away,” M. told me. But, she said, the hospital staff members explained that they had seen it all before, many times. If M.’s husband required long-term care, the costs would be catastrophic even for a middle-class family with savings.

Eventually, after the expenses whittled away their combined assets, her husband could go on Medicaid — but by then their children’s nest egg would be gone, along with her 401(k) plan. She would face a bleak retirement with neither her husband nor her savings. . . .

The hospital told M. not to waste time in dissolving the marriage. For five years after any divorce, her assets could be seized — precisely because the government knows that people sometimes divorce husbands or wives to escape their medical bills.

“How could I divorce him? I loved him,” she told me. . . .

So M. divorced the man she loves. I asked him what he thought of this. He can still speak, albeit not always coherently, and he paused a long, long time. All he could manage was: “It’s hard to say.”

Long-term care constitutes a difficult and expensive challenge in any health system. But the American patchwork, full of cracks through which people fall, has a special problem with medical expenses of all kinds bankrupting couples.

A study reported in The American Journal of Medicine this month found that 62 percent of American bankruptcies are linked to medical bills. These medical bankruptcies had increased nearly 50 percent in just six years. Astonishingly, 78 percent of these people actually had health insurance, but the gaps and inadequacies left them unprotected when they were hit by devastating bills.

M. still helps her husband and, quietly, continues to live with him and care for him. But she worries that the authorities will come after her if they realize that they divorced not because of irreconcilable differences but because of irreconcilable medical bills. There were awkward questions from friends who saw the divorce announcement in the newspaper. . . .

The existing system doesn’t just break up families, it also costs lives. A 2004 study by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, found that lack of health insurance causes 18,000 unnecessary deaths a year. That’s one person slipping through the cracks and dying every half an hour.

In short, it’s a good bet that our existing dysfunctional health system knocks off far more people than an army of “death panels” could — even if they existed, worked 24/7 and got around in a fleet of black helicopters.

So, for those of you inclined to believe the worst about President Obama, think it through. Suppose he is indeed a secret, foreign-born Muslim agent who is scheming to undermine American family values while killing off as many grandmothers as possible.

If all that were true, why on earth would he be trying so hard to reform our health care system? We already know how to prod families into divorce and take a life unnecessarily every 30 minutes — all we need to do is reject reform and stick with exactly what we have.

See here too.

'Majority Rule on Health Care Reform'

"[I]nsurance reforms are enormously popular." Full NYT editorial here (recommended reading).

The talk in Washington is that Senate Democrats are preparing to push through health care reforms using parliamentary procedures that will allow a simple majority to prevail in their chamber, as it does in the House, instead of the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster that Senate Republicans are sure to mount.

With the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, the Democrats do not have the votes just among their 57 members (and the two independents) to break a filibuster, and not all of these can be counted on to vote in lock step. If the Democrats want to enact health care reform this year, they appear to have little choice but to adopt a high-risk, go-it-alone, majority-rules strategy.

We say this with considerable regret because a bipartisan compromise would be the surest way to achieve comprehensive reforms with broad public support. But the ideological split between the parties is too wide — and the animosities too deep — for that to be possible.

In recent weeks, it has become inescapably clear that Republicans are unlikely to vote for substantial reform this year. Many seem bent on scuttling President Obama’s signature domestic issue no matter the cost. As Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, so infamously put it: “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” . . .

Clearly the reconciliation approach is a risky and less desirable way to enact comprehensive health care reforms. The only worse approach would be to retreat to modest gestures in an effort to win Republican acquiescence. It is barely possible that the Senate Finance Committee might pull off a miracle and devise a comprehensive solution that could win broad support, or get one or more Republicans to vote to break a filibuster. If not, the Democrats need to push for as much reform as possible through majority vote.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Governors Island, NYC

Saturday night

Drove up to Sunrise Cinemas to see "Julie & Julia." Superbe! I pretty much agree with the review below, but actually I did find the Julie sections interesting, as they were about (among other things) blogging. And, of course, cooking from recipes, too. I've made quite a few Julia Child recipes myself, and I know what that entails. I, too, have made her Boeuf Bourguignon (which Julie calls "boof").

Even the author of The Joy of Cooking, Irma Rombauer, made an appearance in the movie (i.e., played by an actress). And The Joy of Cooking was prominently displayed in Julie's bookcase, right by the phone. (That's still the one cookbook I use the most.)

Apparently Julie had never heard about SiteMeter, since, at the beginning at least, she never knew if anyone was reading her blog.

I got to the theater a little early to buy my ticket for the 4:30 show. (I'd not been to a movie since before B. left here, which has been a year and a half now.) Then had a giant slice of pizza with everything on it at a little pizza joint in the shopping center there. (I didn't realize how hungry I was -- I'd had a hamburger at home for lunch.) My timing was perfect. Drove through an intense thunderstorm on the way home (about 10 minutes away) and the truck got washed. It had been getting a little dusty sitting in the garage. Then, after the rain stopped, I walked over to Starbucks for some coffee. The air was fairly cool at that point. It's been a hot month, and my electric bill shot up considerably (from the A/C).


Got to work early today. The bus flew right through the bottleneck. Also got home at the usual time.

I'll be glad to get out of town week after next. For one thing, the cats are driving me crazy with their pickiness about their food. Maybe I should stop giving them canned food altogether. (I don't see why not--I'll do some research.) They just get more and more demanding. If the food sits too long, they refuse to eat it and want fresh. (And it's not hot in here.) I've opened two cans of food since I got home from work, and now they expect more. They've hardly touched what they have (they take a few bites and lick the gravy up). I'm over the constant nagging and begging. It really irked me tonight when Bootsy was lying in the kitchen, waiting for more food, when there were 8 paper plates of food sitting all around him (four of which were from tonight). Fortunately, they do eat the dry food. They're going to have to eat more of that.

Anyway, looking forward to getting out of here for four nights.

This weekend I think I'll go see "Julie & Julia." It's playing nearby.

Tonight I found this on "Yahoo! Answers":

My cat loves canned food?

I only started giving my cat canned food once a day but that is all he wants. Every time I go into my room he sits by his bowl and I feel bad so I give him some and then throughout the day I give him so much. He has had diarrhea a couple of times and I feel bad. I want to start weaning him away from it so that I am back to just once a day, any suggestions would be GREAT!

Best Answer - Chosen by Asker

You are so lucky that your cat loves canned food and is not addicted to dry food! It will be so much better for his health. Any change in a cat's diet should be done gradually to avoid digestive upsets. Unless the canned food is really poor quality like 9-Lives, Special Kitty, or other store brand by-product based food, it is the best diet for your cat and should protect him from many serious health issues such as urinary tract illness, diabetes, obesity, and even kidney failure. Cats need protein and moisture in their diet. They are obligate carivores who naturally get their moisture from the prey they consume. Dry food is dehydrated and contains too many grains and carbs for cats.Try upgrading to a better quality canned food and use it as the staple of his diet. Good quality dry food (meat - not by-products or grain- as the first ingredient on the label ) can be offered for snacking.

I'll do more research. Right now, I'm feeding them Friskies, plus the dry food.

Meanwhile I'm keeping the phones turned off while I'm in bed this weekend. No more disruptions.

Ted Kennedy: Public Option 'Vital' To Health Care Reform

From Big Tent Democrat here.

In his last published piece on the subject of health care reform, Senator Ted Kennedy wrote on July 18, 2009:

I long ago learned that you have to be a realist as you pursue your ideals. But whatever the compromises, there are several elements that are essential to any health-reform plan worthy of the name.

. . . To accomplish all of this, we have to cut the costs of health care. . . . [O]ne of the most controversial features of reform is one of the most vital. It's been called the "public plan." . . . This will foster competition in pricing and services. It will be a safety net, giving Americans a place to go when they can't find or afford private insurance, and it's critical to holding costs down for everyone.

(Emphasis supplied.) Don't let the Third Wayers like Ezra Klein and Steve Pearlstein tell falsehoods about what Ted Kennedy thought about the public option. His words speak for themselves.

And there's this too.

Senator Kennedy . . . is not an easy compromiser on health care reform. In 1994, I [Lawrence O'Donnell] was in the room when he told the president that he believed the strategy should be a Democrats-only strategy and that we should not be trying to reach out and get Republican votes.

(Click on the image of Pres. Clinton and Big Tent Democrat (Armando Llorens) to enlarge.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

'Beware "inside sources" who say the public option is dead'

"When people inside the Beltway want to feel important, they repeat rumors. And rumors can become self-fulfilling." Robert Reich here.

Aug. 28, 2009 | Washington, D.C. is an echo chamber in which anyone who sounds authoritative repeats the conventional authoritative wisdom about the "consensus" of inside opinion, which they've heard from someone else who sounds equally authoritative, who of course has heard it from another authoritative source. Follow the trail to its start and you often find an obscure congressional or White House staffer who has seen some half-assed poll number or briefing memo, but seeking to feel important hypes it to a media personality or lobbyist who, desperate to sound authoritative, pronounces it as truth. In any other place on the planet it would be called rumor, gossip, or drivel. In our nation's capital it's called "inside information." The process would be harmless except that it creates self-fulfilling prophesies. Since most of our elected representatives would rather not stick their necks out lest they lose their heads, they tend to rush toward whatever consensus seems to be emerging -- which, of course, is based on authoritative reports about the emerging consensus.

In the last few days authoritative sources have repeatedly told me that the public option is dead, that the President won't be able to get a comprehensive healthcare bill, and that the White House and congressional leadership already know the best they'll be able to do now is move incrementally -- starting with insurance reforms such as barring insurers from using someone's preexisting health conditions to deny coverage -- with the hope of more reforms in the years ahead. The rightwing media fearmongers and demagogues have won.

Don't believe it. The other thing about Washington is how quickly conventional authoritative wisdom changes, especially when the public is still in flux over some large matter. Rightwing fearmongers and demagogues thrive only to the extent the mainstream media believes they're thriving. Although polls continue to show that while most Americans like the healthcare they're getting, they also dislike their insurance companies, worry that they or their families will be denied coverage, and are anxious about the increasing co-payments, deductibles, and premiums they're facing. Most are still eager for reform.

In addition, we've come to the point where healthcare incrementalism won't work. To be sure, the health-insurance industry is powerful and will fight reforms that threaten their profits. But they won't fight if they know their profits will be restored when everyone is required to have health insurance. (This isn't just conventional authoritative wisdom; it's political fact.) Obviously, in order to require everyone to have health insurance, tens of millions of Americans will need help affording it. The only way the government can possibly pay that tab is to raise taxes on the rich while also getting long-term health-insurance costs under control. And one of the surest ways to get long-term costs under control is to force private insurers -- which in most states and under most employer-provided plans face very little competition -- to compete with a public insurance option that can use its bargaining clout with drug companies and medical providers to negotiate lower prices.

In addition, we've come to the point where healthcare incrementalism won't work. To be sure, the health-insurance industry is powerful and will fight reforms that threaten their profits. But they won't fight if they know their profits will be restored when everyone is required to have health insurance. (This isn't just conventional authoritative wisdom; it's political fact.) Obviously, in order to require everyone to have health insurance, tens of millions of Americans will need help affording it. The only way the government can possibly pay that tab is to raise taxes on the rich while also getting long-term health-insurance costs under control. And one of the surest ways to get long-term costs under control is to force private insurers -- which in most states and under most employer-provided plans face very little competition -- to compete with a public insurance option that can use its bargaining clout with drug companies and medical providers to negotiate lower prices.

When you go through the logic, it starts to look a lot like comprehensive reform.

Years ago, as the story goes, Britain's Parliament faced a difficult choice. On the European continent drivers use the right lanes, while the English remained on the left. But tunnels and fast ferries were bringing cars and drivers back and forth ever more frequently. Liberals in Parliament thought it time to change lanes. Conservatives resisted; after all, Brits had been driving on the left since William the Conquerer's chariot. Parliament's compromise was to move from the left to right lanes -- but incrementally, on a voluntary basis. Truckers first.

Lest anyone in Washington repeat this story authoritatively, it's a joke -- but with a kernel of truth. Sometimes reform has to occur in a big way, everything or nothing, if it's to happen at all. That's the way it is with healthcare reform at this stage. Every moving piece is related to every other one. That's also why a public option is necessary.

So forget the authoritative sources. Mobilize and organize. We can get comprehensive, meaningful healthcare reform if we push hard enough. And we must.

(Emphasis added.)

Contact Bill Nelson

Here. I wrote this (but see here too).

Dear Sen. Nelson:

According to a recent article in The New York Times, "the United States had the most expensive health care in the world, yet was in last place among industrialized countries in preventing deaths through timely and effective medical care." Meanwhile, average premiums paid to large U.S. health-insurance companies have increased 87% since 2002; the profits of the top ten insurance companies have increased 428%; and the chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance are 7 in 10 (Harper's Magazine).

As one of your constituents, I strongly urge you to vote for health care legislation that includes a strong "public option" -- an "option of good conscience" -- to help put a brake on the excesses of the health insurance companies. It's bad enough that medical costs themselves are spiraling out of control (but are also being addressed in the legislation).

I really don't think an "incremental approach" is affordable, either in monetary terms or in terms of our nation's health. We need strong legislation at this critical time.

Thank you for your attention and for the work you do for Florida.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

'Healthcare Reform Named After Ted Kennedy Must Not Suck'

Rachel Maddow's "headline of the day," from a Huffington Post article by Bob Cesca here. (Good article, too.) I was going to say, if they're going to name the program after Kennedy, then it better have a public option.

See Big Tent Democrat here.

What Kagro said:

The temptation to name the health care reform bill after fallen health care champion Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) is as understandable as it is overwhelming. But with the bill currently still at the mercy of players who are, shall we say, not as clearly dedicated to a product that offers the kind of help Kennedy envisioned, I suggest that we not offer them the opportunity to attach his name to anything less than a bill he would have fought for.

So while it's undoubtedly in that spirit that the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and others have begun their drive to honor Kennedy's memory by demanding that the HELP Committee's bill be passed and named after him, I suggest that it serves us and the Senator's memory better if our essential element -- a strong public option -- carries his name instead.

To name the weak tea "reforms" endorsed by the Third Way (read Ezra Klein) as the Kennedy Health bill would be a travesty.

And speaking of cats, I knew it...

From the latest "Findings" in Harper's Magazine:

Researchers found that domestic cats use special "soliciting purrs," which contain urgent high-pitched cries, to get humans to do their bidding.

I then found this.

'Cat Outta The Bag'

From TPM here.

Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) says the GOP must find its "great white hope" to lead the party back to power in Washington.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health insurance reality check

From the latest Harper's Index:

Percentage change since 2002 in average premiums paid to large U.S. health-insurance companies: +87

Percentage change in the profits of the top ten insurance companies: +428

Chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance: 7 in 10

Portion of its membership that Washington State's subsidized health plan intends to lose this year: 1/3

Average percentage by which it is raising premiums in order to do so: 70

Wednesday night

Back from gym and store.

I slept well last night without the cats in the bedroom. I'd also taken an extra melatonin right before bed.

The cell phone rang while I was taking a brief nap before heading out tonight. This is usually one of B.'s nights off and I'd feared he might be calling after some kind of boozy altercation with the BF (they frequently go to Flanigan's on Wednesdays and have been known to stay for hours). (I often see the car parked there (out front in the handicapped space) on my way home from work and later when I go to the gym.) Fortunately, the call turned out to be a wrong number. But I was up. I'm glad I wasn't really tired to begin with. From now on, I'll turn the cell phone off before I take a nap. (I would normally ignore it, but not since the mess two Sundays ago.)

The traffic coming home tonight wasn't as bad as it was yesterday, i.e., it took a shorter time to get through the one-lane bottleneck. I was home almost at my regular time. I guess (hope) some of the motorists have decided to take other routes north. Also, I was only 7 minutes late to work. I emailed TPTB about the construction project and my supervisor said it's OK to make up time at the end of the day, when it's usually busier anyway. (Ordinarily I get to work a little early.)

Ted Kennedy R.I.P.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday night

They've started up another road project on my bus route. I was 15 minutes late to work and it took me 1 1/2 hours to get home (including waiting for my bus). There was a sign along the road giving a phone number to call for information on the project and also a website. I went to the website ( and found this:

Biscayne Boulevard [US 1] / Biscayne Boulevard Way / U.S. 1 / State Road 5 . . .
All southbound travel lanes will be closed daily from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Sunday through Saturday [?], 9:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., Friday and Saturday along the west side of Biscayne Boulevard from NE 35th Street to NE 28th Street and will remain this way for approximately six months while workers install temporary barrier wall, reconstruct the roadway, install drainage structures at various locations and replace sections of sidewalk and curb ramps. Traffic will be shifted over to the northbound traffic lanes and one lane of traffic will remain open in both directions at all times. . . .

Six months?! I hope some of the car drivers will take another route for a while. The bottlenecks are pretty bad (especially northbound).

I've lived through quite a few of these projects on US 1 already -- much longer ones, even.

I may start wearing a face mask on the bus. Anderson Cooper reports that up to 150 million Americans may be infected with swine flu this season. I wash my hands a lot as it is. Just located a bottle of Germ-X and threw it in my briefcase.

Finally got the medicine for Bootsy's ears from Administered it tonight. I'm going to give him a nice bath before I go on vacation.

Why they're crazy

See Firedoglake here.

Conservative media sources, including Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Matt Drudge, have been persistently misleading people about health care reform proposals. As a result their listeners, as the experience of a Georgia couple illustrates, have become victims of unjustified fear and needless anxiety, fed by the false impression that the federal government is planning to deny or ration their health care. [Link added.]

These conservative media efforts are provably dishonest, but despite having the facts repeatedly corrected and the distortions denounced by numerous experts, the conservative media continue to repeat the false information, leaving those Americans who rely on the sources even more anxious and confused.

Of course the health insurance companies are behind this whole phenomenon. See here.

Poll: More Arkansans Trust Limbaugh Than Obama

Are these people crazy? See TPM here.

Only 40% approve of President Obama's job performance, with 56% disapproving -- matching up pretty closely with John McCain's 59%-39% victory here in 2008. In addition, only 45% say Obama was born in the United States, with a strong 31% saying he was not, and 24% unsure. Among Republicans in Arkansas, the Birther question comes up as 23%-49%-28%.

On health care, only 29% support Obama's plan, with 60% against it. In addition, respondents were asked whether Rush Limbaugh or Barack Obama has the better vision for America: Limbaugh 55%, Obama 45%. And keep in mind that this is a state where Dems have both Senate seats and three out of four House members. . . .

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday night

Anthony Bourdain is going to Montana, where I lived for two years, in Helena. Worked in the State Capitol, Office of Public Instruction.

Very nice show, moving even. This guy was on it. Also this guy. (Jim Harrison and Russell Chatham.) The show was done in Livingston.

I'm trying to cut back on the cats' canned food before I go on vacation. I can't have my neighbor coming in three times a day to open cans. They're just going to have to go back to mainly dry food. I feel bad because they sit around begging. But it's best for Bootsy, because he's gotten fat anyway. And when I got Lucky, he'd been eating only dry food. I'd only been putting down more canned food to get Lucy to eat, and then she died. Then Lucky came along and I continued that. Now they're spoiled. My fault. (I know I've said this before.) They're going to have a rude awakening when I'm gone. I'm just trying to get them acclimated. They're very wasteful, anyway. I throw a lot of cat food away--canned and dry. The cats are going to have to clean their plates when I'm gone. It'll be a shock to them. I'm more worried about Lucky, however, since I've never gone on vacation and left him alone since he's been here. And he's a young foster cat and might have abandonment issues. (Bootsy, I think, would be OK. He's been through vacations before.)

I could board the cats at the vet, but I'm afraid that would traumatize them even more. Cats are very attached to their home (unlike dogs so much).

Anyway, I have a lot on my mind, especially with the vacation coming up. And B.'s BF calling here two weeks ago, threatening to call the police on him if he went back to his new home and expecting me to take him back, hasn't helped. It kind of opened up an old wound. And then B.'s old friend from Canada called on Saturday morning (and woke me up).

I just broke down and opened another can of catfood. I'm such a sucker. But they're not allowed in the bedroom tonight. They've been waking me up, too.

Neighbor whose cat I was feeding was back today.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday evening

Just back from the gym and the store. I ran into my gastroenterologist at the store. He said I was the fourth patient he'd seen there. We shook hands. He asked me how I was doing and I said fine. I asked him whether he lived in the area. He said he lived in Bal Harbour but was on his way home from the hospital.

Called up B.'s friend/co-worker. She said she'd talked to him yesterday and that everything appeared to be fine on the home front. That's good.

[Later] Did a little cleaning. No coffee or Sambucca today! Watched "Design Star." Again, I guess they kicked off the right person. I really didn't like any of the rooms that much.

My neighbor across the hall comes back tomorrow evening, the one whose cat I've been feeding. I haven't even seen the cat since I first went in to feed him, on Thursday night.

Checked out the county property records today. My place has depreciated 40% from last year, probably on account of foreclosures in the building (not that many, actually, but it doesn't take many to lower property values). Still it's worth more than what I paid for it. For a lot of people now, this isn't the case.

Sunday afternoon

Finally got to bed early this a.m. Cats were already out.

Even later

About time to call it a night. I shouldn't have had a cup of coffee from Starbucks at 11:00 p.m. But I do strange things on the weekend. Don't have to wake up in the morning. Today was out of whack with the phone call early this morning. But I wanted to make sure that person got B.'s cell phone number. That person could be a help to B. in his situation. Meanwhile I haven't heard any more about the situation and didn't expect to.

I think I'll turn the cell phone off tonight, just the same. [Done] It's bad enough that the cats try to wake me up (when their food is overflowing). But then I can shoo them out the door.

I think it's kind of rude to be calling people at 8:00-something on a weekend morning. A Canadian should know better.

I'll call B.'s co-worker/friend tomorrow or the next day to see what's up. She's really worried about his situation; she talks to him every day.

Having another Sambucca.

Late Saturday night

Today was good, despite the fact I got nothing accomplished. But I'm allowed to do that.

Tomorrow I'll go to the gym and the store. I'm out of the cats' favorite cat food (Mariner's Catch).

Had a Sambucca. Maybe I'll have another one.

The Republicans are now saying that for something as big as healthcare, which accounts for 1/6 of the economy, Congress should pass a reform bill with 75-80 Senate votes. (See here.) I don't see why that's necessary. The public has spoken loudly in electing both a Democratic president and significant Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Plus, according to polls, a majority of the public wants the "public option" in their healthcare reform as well. People may not be all that pleased with the way Obama is going about presenting the reform package (with all the Republican-backed scare tactics in play), but the public approves of Congress much less, and overwhelmingly does not approve of the Republicans' approach on the healthcare issue. Watch this.

Hope for California

From Hendrik Hertzberg at The New Yorker here. (See my previous post here.)

California, it turns out, is ungovernable. Its public schools, once the nation’s best, are now among the worst. Its transportation and water systems are deteriorating. Its prisons are so overcrowded that it has to turn tens of thousands of felons loose. And its legislature has spent most of the year in a farcical effort to pass the annual budget, leaving little or no time for other matters, such as—well, schools, transportation, water, and prisons. This is “normal”: the same thing has happened in eighteen of the past twenty-two years. But the addition of economic disaster to legislative paralysis may have brought California to a tipping point.

A good deal of the trouble may be fairly blamed on the Golden State’s tarnished initiative process, whereby laws and amendments to the state constitution can be proposed by petition and enacted by referendum. Adopted nearly a century ago as a great progressive reform—at the time, the California legislature was essentially a bought-and-paid-for subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railroad—the initiative process began to go seriously sour in the mid-nineteen-sixties, when frightened voters nullified a fair-housing law and passed a measure, sponsored by movie-theatre owners, to ban cable television. (Both were voided by the courts.) The nadir, some would say, came in 1978, when Proposition 13 essentially capped property taxes and made California the only state that requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature both to adopt a budget and to raise a tax. The decline in public services was one result. Another has been a distortion of the state’s politics. Conservative Republican legislators have little incentive to compromise or even to broaden their appeal; to prevail on most of what is important to them, all they need is one-third plus one.

California’s constitution, with its five hundred or so amendments, is so long that its full text would occupy every line of the magazine you are holding. Thanks largely to initiatives, many of them well intentioned, it is also wildly at odds with itself. It contains so many set-asides and mandates that the legislature can control only about seven per cent of the state budget even when it deigns to pass one. But California’s nemesis could soon become its salvation. Something remarkable is beginning to happen.

It started almost exactly one year ago, modestly enough, with an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. Echoing Jefferson, the author, Jim Wunderman, wrote, “It is our duty to declare that our California government is not only broken, it has become destructive to our future. Therefore, are we not obligated to nullify our government and institute a new one?” He then called for a “citizens’ constitutional convention” to do the nullifying and the instituting. Wunderman heads the Bay Area Council, a business group not normally considered part of the vanguard of the revolution. (Its board consists of C.E.O.s and other executives from companies like Bank of America, McKinsey & Company, Chevron, Google, United Airlines, and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.) But Wunderman’s op-ed manifesto engendered a broad response, and the response has engendered something like a movement.

That movement, called Repair California, is trying to put two initiatives on next year’s ballot. One would amend the California constitution to allow the voters to call a constitutional convention by initiative. (As it is, while specific amendments can be passed that way, it takes two-thirds of the legislature to call a convention. That will never happen.) The other would actually call the convention and specify its scope: governance, including the structure of the legislative and executive branches; elections, including the electoral system and the initiative process itself; the budget-making process; and the state’s revenue relationship with local government.

The genius of Repair California’s approach is twofold. First, it steers clear of “social issues”: no gay marriage, no abortion, no affirmative action. Second, the delegates would be chosen randomly from the adult population. (Appointed delegates, Repair California reasons, would be beholden to whoever appointed them; and if the delegates were elected, the elections would inevitably be low-turnout affairs dominated by money and the organized clout of special interests.) The convention itself would be an exercise in what is called “deliberative democracy.” The delegates would spend months studying the issues, consulting experts, debating among themselves, and forging a consensus. The result would be put to a vote of the people, yes or no, in November of 2012.

To have faith in such a process requires a faith in the good sense and sincerity of ordinary people—a faith that just about everybody professes. The beauty part is that no one can know what the delegates would come up with—which is why the idea has won such broad support. Besides the capitalists of the Bay Area Council, the center-left New America Foundation loves it. So does the left-left Courage Campaign, a partner of And so does the lame-duck governor. It’s “brilliant,” Arnold Schwarzenegger says.

The only limitation on the citizen-delegates, within their subject matter, would be the federal Constitution’s guarantee to every state of “a republican form of government,” which is to say a free and popular one: no hereditary kings, please. But the convention would be at liberty to choose from the full menu of democratic forms and structures, of which the standard eighteenth-century American model—a president or governor, a lower house or assembly, and a senate, all separately elected—is only one. If California has the courage and imagination to become a true laboratory of democracy, the experiment will be something to see.

A Public Option That Works

From The New York Times here.

TWO burning questions are at the center of America’s health care debate. First, should employers be required to pay for their employees’ health insurance? And second, should there be a “public option” that competes with private insurance?

Answers might be found in San Francisco, where ambitious health care legislation went into effect early last year. San Francisco and Massachusetts now offer the only near-universal health care programs in the United States.

The early results are in. Today, almost all residents in the city have affordable access to a comprehensive health care delivery system through the Healthy San Francisco program. Covered services include the use of a so-called “medical home” that coordinates care at approved clinics and hospitals within San Francisco, with both public and private facilities. Although not formally insurance, the program is tantamount to a public option of comprehensive health insurance, with the caveat that services are covered only in the city of San Francisco. Enrollees with incomes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level have heavily subsidized access, and those with higher incomes may buy into the public program at rates substantially lower than what they would pay for an individual policy in the private-insurance market.

To pay for this, San Francisco put into effect an employer-health-spending requirement, akin to the “pay or play” employer insurance mandates being considered in Congress. Businesses with 100 or more employees must spend $1.85 an hour toward health care for each employee. Businesses with 20 to 99 employees pay $1.23 an hour, and businesses with 19 or fewer employees are exempt. These are much higher spending levels than mandated in Massachusetts, and more stringent than any of the plans currently under consideration in Congress. Businesses can meet the requirement by paying for private insurance, by paying into medical-reimbursement accounts or by paying into the city’s Healthy San Francisco public option.

There has been great demand for this plan. Thus far, around 45,000 adults have enrolled, compared to an estimated 60,000 who were previously uninsured. Among covered businesses, roughly 20 percent have chosen to use the city’s public option for at least some of their employees. But interestingly, in a recent survey of the city’s businesses, very few (less than 5 percent) of the employers who chose the public option are thinking about dropping existing (private market) insurance coverage. The public option has been used largely to cover previously uninsured workers and to supplement private-coverage options. . . .

So how have employers adjusted to the higher costs, if not by cutting jobs? More than 25 percent of restaurants, for example, have instituted a “surcharge” — about 4 percent of the bill for most establishments — to pay for the additional costs. Local service businesses can add this surcharge (or raise prices) without risking their competitive position, since their competitors will be required to take similar measures. Furthermore, some of the costs may be passed on to employees in the form of smaller pay raises, which could help ward off the possibility of job losses. Over the longer term, if more widespread coverage allows people to choose jobs based on their skills and not out of fear of losing health insurance from one specific employer, increased productivity will help pay for some of the costs of the mandate. . . .

I think it's great they got waiters covered. They're usually always screwed when it comes to healthcare and other benefits.

Saturday night

Walked down to Flanigan's for dinner. The place was mobbed. I got a seat at the bar after a short wait. Today was their 50th anniversary. Who knew? A little band marched through a couple of times -- trumpet, tuba, drums, cowbells and whatever. I think they were traveling from Flanigan's to Flanigan's. People were handing out t-shirts (got one) and Mardi Gras beads. Very festive. I felt drunk when I left, though I'd had no alcohol. Earlier they'd had a Papa Flanigan look-alike contest. I wish I'd brought my camera. I got a bottle of Sambucca at Big Daddy's before I left. (Haven't touched it yet.) I haven't had Sambucca in years but all that put me in the mood (plus I heard someone ordering it in the restaurant). Vacation started today. (Actually, in two weeks I go to Savannah.)

(This is the Flanigan's I go to. It's right across Arch Creek. Looks tacky but it's nice on the inside. The liquor store's in the front.)

Talked to my friend in Canada earlier. He's driving to Quebec City first thing in the a.m. so he couldn't talk long. In fact we talked about an hour and said pretty much everything that needed to be said. I hadn't talked to him since before B.'s BF called up here. (B. and I had visited him in Canada, which has excellent healthcare, by the way.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The toilet is working again

Hallelujah. ("Small favors.") All this past week there's been a plumber truck in front of the building. Obviously when there are fluctuations in the water pressure, it affects the function of the toilets, etc. That's a big issue in this building. And they just got a new pump.

Around the time they installed the new pump, the pressure blew out the refrigerator water line and also the water heater connection, which caused serious flooding. (My neighbor was up to her knees in water.) I'd bought a new water heater last fall and had it installed by a professional plumber. Meanwhile the maintenance people in this building, who are not professional plumbers, have been tinkering with the water pressure and causing all kinds of problems.

Saturday morning

It's rare that you'll see me posting on Saturday morning, esp. this early. Someone woke me up, calling on the cell phone for B. An old friend from Canada. I was more than happy to give him B.'s new cell number. (He already knows where B. works.) So I'm up, for a little while at least. I think a Bloody Mary is in order. I'll make it with rum and V-8, which is all I have. Plus Worcestershire and celery salt.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday night

Didn't get much of a nap or go to the gym. ( Maybe I shouldn't have eaten all that Pork Romano.) I can go to the gym this weekend.

Here's where the Obama family will be spending their vacation.

See here too. Google map here.


Just had a quick dinner. I sliced one of those leftover boneless inch-thick pork chops in half horizontally to make two half-inch pork chops. Then topped with sliced ham, basil and oregano, leftover spaghetti sauce, grated Peccorino Romano cheese, and two mozzarella string cheese snacks, also sliced in half length-wise. Heated it up in the microwave till hot and the mozzarella was melted. Delicious. "Pork Romano." I'll make that again. For lunch today I had the pork tenderloin cutlets I'd fried up last night, with a chilled can of beets.

Guess I'll go to the gym tonight. I'll get a nap now, tho' I did doze on the bus.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday night

Almost TGIF. Whew. Two more weeks till my vacation. Meanwhile I'm taking care of my neighbor's cat across the hall for a few days while he's out of town. [I know there's lots wrong with that sentence.]

So Tom Ridge (former Homeland Security director) is saying (or implying) that the Bush administration was using the color-coded terrorist threat alert system for political purposes. I knew that!

Today I treated my supervisor to her birthday lunch (her birthday was last Friday and I'd given her an IOU on a free lunch). She had chicken quesadillas (excellent choice). She just turned 50.

Tonight I fried up some of those pork sirloin cutlets and will take to work. Came out great. I now always use a digital thermometer to test for doneness so I don't overcook meat. (Pork has to cook to 160 F., or well done.) My pork now turns out juicier than it used to. (It's still juicy at 160 F.) I think Leviticus also says you aren't supposed to eat pork, either. So should I be stoned in the public square or burned to death in a private family gathering?

One of my great-uncles was a pig farmer in Tampa and ended up selling his business to Lykes Bros. We stayed at the pig farm once when I was a kid. (He also had monkeys and maybe some other exotic animals.) My great-uncle cooked up pig slop every day for the pigs (smelled really good). It was made out of food waste (fresh daily) from restaurants in Tampa. The stuff was cooked for hours in an enormous vat and I'm sure was sanitary by the time it was done, at which point it was released into a long trough -- still steaming -- and the pigs all ran up to eat it, squealing with delight.

Letter to Dr. Laura

I thought this was funny. It came from a former co-worker (he's half-Jewish, half-Catholic).

On her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them:

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/ polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan.

James M. Kauffman, Ed.D.
Professor Emeritus Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia

New SurveyUSA Poll Shows Support For Public Option Hasn't Dipped

From Brian Beutler at TPM here.

After months of public jousting and smears--and an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing support for the public option had tanked--a new SurveyUSA poll shows that the public option still remains broadly popular.

Commissioned by MoveON, the survey asked 1200 adults how important they feel it is "to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance?"

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said "extremely important." Nineteen said "quite important": a total of 77 percent. The rest of respondents said the choice of a public option was not important or weren't sure.

The NBC/WSJ poll asked "Would you favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies?" Forty-three percent favored, 48 opposed.

The proper conclusion to draw? Perhaps that Americans like the word choice more than they like the government creating things. Or perhaps that they don't follow policy very closely. After all, despite broad support for the choice of a public option in the new SurveyUSA poll, 42 percent said they thought a public option would help ensure that all Americans receive coverage while 46 percent thought it was more likely that the public option would limit patients' access to doctors.

Unsurprisingly, the poll also found that opinions about health care reform are intensely polarized. Though 51 percent said they favored Obama's plan while 43 opposed, the supporters were extremely supportive, while the opponents were more extremely opposed. Seventy-nine percent of supporters "strongly favor" reform, while 86 percent of opponents "strongly oppose" it.

See here too.

Health insurance companies out to gouge you (& it's only going to get worse)


I have to say, I've been in some turmoil ever since B.'s BF called me Sunday before last, saying B. was now "homeless." But that's all starting to sink in now, and I'm OK with everything (and B.'s not homeless). As I'd said, my offer to rescue B. from his situation was not accepted (just as well, but I'd felt compelled to do it since I'd made a commitment to him and hope someday -- maybe after I'm dead -- he remembers that). (He'd also made a commitment to me, which apparently he forgot or was not in a capacity to make in the first place.) I also gave him the number of a gay men's domestic abuse hotline and recommended he talk to his doctor.

I would not have accepted B. back here unconditionally. The proviso was that I would have to be able to trust him. Under the present circumstances, I really can't, especially not with the BF in the picture. Which is fine since he's not considering coming back here anyway. (Before B. left, he was letting the BF into the apartment behind my back, and an Amazon credit card, which I only use at home, went missing, and there was a charge made on it I didn't make, etc.)

So everything's back in a steady state right now, and the air has been cleared somewhat. I know where I stand. It's a relief.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday night

Was at gym tonight.

Here's a Photoshop restoration project. The original was a total wreck. The restoration is still rough but I've fixed the tears and restored the tops of the kids' heads (with some guesswork). I may touch it up a bit more but this is basically it. It retains its "antique" character. (The child in the center is the father--now elderly--of a friend and former co-worker.) (Click on image to enlarge.)

Majority Supports Obama Health Plan

From Jonathan Singer at MyDD here.

Well isn't this surprising. While the good folks at MSNBC's First Read don't mention it in their "First Thoughts," which kick off their day's coverage, the NBC News poll (.pdf) released yesterday indicates that a majority of the country supports the President's healthcare plan.

Now I am going to tell you more about the health care plan that President Obama supports and please tell me whether you would favor or oppose it.

The plan requires that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. It also requires all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage for their employees, or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured. Families and individuals with lower- and middle- incomes would receive tax credits to help them afford insurance coverage. Some of the funding for this plan would come from raising taxes on wealthier Americans.

Do you favor or oppose this plan? And do you strongly or only somewhat (favor/oppose) this plan?

Favor: 53 percent (35 percent strongly + 18 percent somewhat)
Oppose: 43 percent (29 percent strongly + 14 percent somewhat)

Might it be worth a mention that when the public hears about President Obama's plan in language crafted by one Democratic pollster (Hart Research Associates) and one Republican pollster (Public Opinion Strategies), they support it by a fairly healthy margin?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday night

Watching "Real Estate Intervention," one of my new favorite shows. This is supposed to be a new one but I've seen it already.

This week there was a lot of pork on sale at Publix. Tonight I bought inch-thick boneless pork chops and sirloin cutlets. Baked the pork chops with Shake 'n' Bake (Original Pork). Came out excellent. Really juicy.

Little things are breaking down here, right before my vacation. (I'll address these after the vacation.) Last night the ice machine broke. That may be under warranty (I'll have to check). Buying ice is no big deal, but still... Also, the handle that regulates the hot and cold water for the bathtub (where I was showering) is broken. (It's hot water only now.) So I've been showering in the shower stall back in the other bathroom. And I already told you about the toilet.

I can't put up with Chris Matthews tonight. Also, I don't like the term "liberal Democrat." I prefer "true Democrat" or "Patriot."

Democrats Seem Set to Go Alone on a Health Bill

The Republicans weren't going to go along with anything anyway. New York Times story here.

WASHINGTON — Given hardening Republican opposition to Congressional health care proposals, Democrats now say they see little chance of the minority’s cooperation in approving any overhaul, and are increasingly focused on drawing support for a final plan from within their own ranks.

Top Democrats said Tuesday that their go-it-alone view was being shaped by what they saw as Republicans’ purposely strident tone against health care legislation during this month’s Congressional recess, as well as remarks by leading Republicans that current proposals were flawed beyond repair.

The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said of Republican lawmakers, “Only a handful seem interested in the type of comprehensive reform that so many people believe is necessary to ensure the principles and the goals that the president has laid out.” . . .

The White House, carefully following [Ohio Sen. Charles] Grassley’s activities, presumed he was no longer interested in negotiating with Democrats after he initially made no effort to debunk misinformation that the legislation could lead to “death panels” empowered to judge who would receive care. . . .

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Grassley said he had simply been repeating earlier comments that he would not support a measure that did not have significant Republican support. He said that raucous town-hall-style meetings might have made the job of reaching a compromise harder, but that he had not given up. . . .

The American people, fed up with business as usual, have elected 60 Democratic Senators--a 60% majority (almost unheard of). Why should a healthcare bill have "significant Republican support"? Again, who won? This is how the American democratic system works. The Republicans had their chance to get with the program and have refused.

Here's something they've added to the article since I first read it:

Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said the heated opposition was evidence that Republicans had made a political calculation to draw a line against any health care changes, the latest in a string of major administration proposals that Republicans have opposed.

“The Republican leadership,” Mr. Emanuel said, “has made a strategic decision that defeating President Obama’s health care proposal is more important for their political goals than solving the health insurance problems that Americans face every day.”


Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday night

Taking a break from the public option. Watching a new Anthony Bourdain (in Thailand). It's hilarious.

Lucky loves this rug. It's like a macro terry (gives you a foot massage). It's not new but washed and relocated to the bathroom adjoining the "computer room."

Now back to Rachel Maddow.

I just think the public option is a good idea. Insurance companies don't like people like me (even though I have good group coverage where I work). I have a chronic medical condition. The drugs for that condition alone (not including doctor's visits, lab work, other drugs and procedures, etc.) cost $27,000 a year. (I pay $90 a month in co-pays for those drugs alone.) And, for some mysterious reason, the price continues to rise. In January, the annualized cost was a mere $25,000 a year.*

If I found myself out of work, what would happen to me?

My father was in the insurance business. I think I know the mindset.

You can vote out your politicians if you don't like your public option. But you can't vote out the people running your insurance company, who are in the business solely to make money off you.

Why shouldn't everyone have a safety net like Medicare and Medicaid? All advanced (and some less advanced) societies have this. It's doable.

By the way, health industry stock prices soared today (in an otherwise bad market) on the news of Obama's perceived softening on the public option.

*The pricing of drugs in this country is a whole other story (and immoral).

Monday evening

This morning there was a plumbing truck out front, and the maintenance guys here were talking to who appeared to be the plumber. So something did happen last night.

I didn't receive any word today from the Democrats about cancelling my $1/day donations to the healthcare campaign, nor anything from the White House. As Robert Reich wrote today:

I urge you to make it absolutely clear to everyone you know, everyone who cares about universal healthcare and what it will mean to our country, that the bill must contain a real public option. Tell that to your representatives in Congress. Tell that to the White House. If you are receiving piles of e-mails from the Obama e-mail system asking you to click in favor of healthcare, do not do so unless or until you know it has a clear public option. Do not send money unless or until the White House makes clear its support for a public option. . . .

Howard Dean was waxing sanguine about the public option tonight on Keith Olbermann.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday night II

Watching "Design Star" now.

[Later] I think they kicked off the right person. Too bad, because he originally showed a lot of promise. He wanted to show off his furniture-building capabilities, which only bogged the whole project down. And the furniture wasn't that great--after all that. It looked OK but wasn't practical. The team could have bought something that would have worked better and not eaten up so much time for labor. Ultimately they needed the time for something else--to put a desk together, which didn't get put together. Plus, they totally screwed up the drapes. Overall, a lousy job by that team.

The other team did well, despite their squabbles over tan and brown and caramel.

Got a lot done today. Laundry, some cleaning, etc. Also made spaghetti sauce with chicken livers. Will take that to work tomorrow. That came out excellent.

No strange calls tonight from B.'s BF.

I have one toilet that was working fine last week, and now all of a sudden it's all screwed up. (I told you about the WD-40.) Tonight I replaced a rubber thing that goes over the hole in the bottom of the tank. At least the toilet works and is not wasting water. But it's not flushing right. I'm not going to worry about it until after my vacation.

So looking forward to my little vacation in Savannah next month. My neighbor across the hall will be looking after the cats. I emailed him to say I'd have his favorite liquor here if he'd like to come over and have a cocktail with the cats, since they'll be lonely. (Haven't heard back from him on that, though I know he enjoys a cocktail.)

I think it's good to have (at least) a yearly vacation, for mental health reasons. I read an essay in college by (I think) Bertrand Russell about the deleterious psychological effects of a lack of holidays. (I could try to look it up on the Internet right now but I'm TIRED.) The cats will have to fend for themselves without my company (but they'll have plenty of food, of course, and extra cat litter). I do hope my neighbor will take me up on my offer and spend some time with them.* But even if he doesn't, the cats will survive (I hope and trust). I'm mainly worried about Lucky. Bootsy has been through this before (vacations). Lucy went through it, also, but hated it. I hope Lucky will be OK. He's a tough cat.

P.S. There is some weird stuff going on with the water in the building tonight. A lot of noises, and now hardly any water pressure. I didn't do it!

*I would have asked B. to come over here and spend time with the cats (one of which belongs to him), but I wouldn't want the BF in here. I don't trust him at all.

Sunday night

I almost blew my stack when I heard about this ("White House Appears Ready to Drop 'Public Option'"). See here.

Hurray! Now all the Teabaggers will go home and tons of Republicans will get on board with health care reform, right? . . .

So Obama campaigns for 2 years with the public option as the centerpiece of his health care reform. He's elected by the largest majority in 20 years, and the public gives him 60 Democratic seats in the Senate and 256 Democratic seats in the House. Obama then publicly lobbies for said public option after he takes office.

Then Kent Conrad, who represents like 7 people, and a handful of corrupt Blue Dogs say "No way." And Obama caves.

Big victory! . . .

See here too ("Shorter Sebelius: We surrender").

So with a 60/40 Senate, the White House is willing to give corporate interests, three conservative Democrats, two conservative Republicans and a moderate Republican total control over the health care reform bill.

And in an update to that:

Ian Welsh is right: an individual mandate to buy private insurance with no public option is "a regressive tax which will rise faster than wages or inflation."

I was so pissed that I immediately cancelled my $1/day donation "till healthcare passes" to the Democrats. I then contacted the White House and told them.

What's wrong in California?

Good article by Peter Schrag in the September Harper's Magazine (which I can't paste quotes from). Typing from the article:

California's problems date back at least to the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which cut local property taxes by nearly 60 percent, restricted all future tax increases, and badly confounded state and local authority. Proposition 13 was followed by a series of voter initiatives that capped or eliminated other taxes, limited spending, and imposed legislative term limits while at the same time approving popular spending measures and spending mandates without the revenues to pay for them. . . .

In the 1950s and 1960s, California was celebrated for its progressive political institutions, its public university system, its ambitious water projects, its freeways and parks, and, most important, its sense of optimism. But over the past three decades, the state has been transformed into a spectacle of undisciplined plebiscitary excess and democratic failure. . . .

At bottom lies the paradox implicit in the hyper-democracy of an initiative process beloved by the voters and the antidemocratic constitutional restrictions that they have voted in. The most stringent, which dates back to the Great Depression, requires a two-thirds majority in each house of the legislature to approve a budget or, indeed, any spending measure. Today's voters can't be blamed for this law, but they can be blamed for refusing to change it. Proposition 13 even added a provision requiring two-thirds majorities for tax increases (but not, it should be noted, for tax cuts). No other state requires legislative super-majorities for both budgets and tax increases. It is hyper-democracy set against non-democracy.

The super-majority requirements have allowed California's "starve-the-beast" Republicans, despite their being a minority in the legislature, to exercise de facto veto power over any spending plan. . . .

American healthcare is in truth already rationed

"Growing up sick in the US, and being treated by a humane NHS here, has shown me that Britain's system is far better" (Complete Guardian story by Bee Lavender here)

I grew up in the US with a series of mysterious health problems, not least two different kinds of cancer. Everything in my life – education, choice of career, job mobility, decisions to marry or divorce, where I lived, who I knew, what I wrote or talked about – all of it – was determined by the paramount need to maintain health insurance.

In the United States there is no basic protection for working people. My fully employed, doubly insured parents were pushed to the brink of bankruptcy four times before my 15th birthday. I exceeded the "lifetime maximum" coverage before I was old enough to vote. My family paid huge sums for insurance, then 20% of the cost for treatments, without assistance from any public entity. . . .

My most significant childhood memory is knowing exactly how much I cost, and regretting the expense. . . .

The truth is, healthcare is already rationed in the states – by individuals struggling to afford even basic cover, by companies negotiating (or refusing) benefits, by government agencies trying to balance budgets. . . . But since it is America, you can shop around. Just across the border in a different state, the legislature decreed that pre-existing conditions could not be excluded or made the subject of increased charges under insurance plans, leading me and many others to migrate a few miles to get a better deal.

This underscores the inherent problem – that there is no consistent federal policy, and therefore no protection for the most vulnerable citizens. Or, if you pause to think about it, for anyone. . . .

Medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy. It is common to engage in fundraisers for adults diagnosed with something treatable but expensive, children who need wheelchairs, or in the worst cases, someone who has died, leaving behind huge bills their family cannot afford. In the US, the greatest restriction on personal freedom that I have ever encountered in my own life, or witnessed in the lives of friends, all comes down to health insurance. Creative, innovative, talented people are unable to change jobs because they need the insurance. Small companies collapse because they cannot afford employee insurance. People die because they do not have insurance. . . .

In the US I devoted a huge amount of time to chasing appointments, finding specialists, fighting with insurance companies. With the National Health Service I have never had any trouble getting referrals, nor have I ever had criticism of the services rendered. If anything, I have felt spoiled – especially at the start of the recent flu crisis, when men in hazmat suits showed up in the middle of the night to take my temperature. In fact, though I have private top-up insurance here in the UK, I've never had cause to invoke it.

The current proposal for US healthcare reforms has fallen victim to a misinformation campaign causing needless confusion and controversy. The plan is neither radical nor far-reaching, offering a bandage instead of a cure. It isn't enough, but it is necessary.

Sunday afternoon

Tamale Pie is excellent. Had two large servings for lunch. No salt added--it contains a whole can of small pitted black olives. In addition to a large can of Green Giant Mexicorn (has red and green pepper in it), the juice from the corn, 2 packages of Chili-O chili seasoning, 2 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce, and 2 lbs. ground beef. (That all simmers for 10 minutes.) (Actually, this time I added the olives afterwards, but I don't think it matters.) Then it goes into a baking pan, topped with a box of yellow cornbread mix (prepared according to instructions on the box). Bakes 40 minutes at 375 F. No fuss.

Doing some laundry. Have more of that to do.

So I guess the storm we had yesterday has now become Tropical Storm Claudette.

Saturday night late

I really enjoyed going to the gym today. I hadn't been there on a Saturday in a long time. Not that I actually enjoy the gym, but that going today was good. (There's a distinction.) It gave me a lift. Today I did my all-time least favorite exercise (among others less objectionable) -- leg curls. I still hated it. I only went today because I didn't go last night. I might go on Saturdays from now on, unless I have a big project (or something) on a Saturday and can't go. Friday nights the place is almost empty however, which I like. It was kind of busy in there today (at around 5:30). It closes at 7:00 on Saturdays and Sundays now. (It used to close at 8:00, but now it's open 24 hours Mon. thru Thurs., which doesn't benefit me.) (I used to go on Sundays at 7:00 when they closed at 8:00, which suited me.) The gym routine can become extremely monotonous for me, so I'm always open to varying it. (My second least favorite exercise is a type of arm curl machine. I can't find a picture of it.)

I felt great today after the gym and did a really good job shopping. Usually I feel a little lethargic on Saturdays, maybe from going to the gym the night before (and a hold-over "free-floating anxiety" from B.'s departure). (Saturdays were the worst day after he left.) Maybe I'm getting over stuff. It kind of perked me up when last Sunday I heard B. saying good things about me in his argument with the BF, even though they were both drunk and perhaps on drugs. There's something to be said for "in vino veritas."

I think it's overrated, however. People say and do so many unwise things when they've had too much. B.'s probably happier with this guy (even if he may be a drug dealer) than he was with me. The presumptive drug dealer is certainly a better companion if he doesn't "work" in the traditional sense. I always had to go to work in the morning, while B. works at night. We didn't see enough of each other. That was a huge part of the problem. Meanwhile he let himself bond with this person rather than finding something more constructive to do. He's in some kind of predicament now, I guess.

Canadian Healthcare: My Grandma’s End Of Life ‘Life Panel’

From Firedoglake here.

I'm a Canadian who used to live in the States and started my family down there before I came home again.

So I know how Healthcare works on both sides of the border.

I also wrote quite extensively about a fellow Canadian, and Universal Healthcare Haters' Club Inc. shill, Ms. Shona Holmes here, here and here.

But today I want to tell you about my Grandma, who died not long ago at the age of 91 after a long and full life that might have ended much earlier if it hadn't been for the Canadian Healthcare system...


Because my Grandma E. was 76 when she had her aortic aneurysm.

Now, I'm sure you all know the story of another much more famous Canadian, Neil Young, who also had an aneurysm, which is essentially the ballooning out of a blood vessel.

It happens when the wall of the vessel weakens due to disease, old age or, in the case of Mr. Young, because of a congenital abnormality.

'Congenital' means that you were born with it.

Which also means that it is a pre-existing condition.

Of course, despite the fact that he now lives in the States, Mr. Young didn't have to worry about any of that 'pre-existing condition' business because he is rich. . . .

My Grandma E. was most definitely not rich. . . .