Saturday, October 31, 2009

Later

I put a sign on my door, "Trick-or-Treaters Welcome." I expect they'll start coming around after sundown.

[Later] It's 8:00 already and no trick-or-treaters. :-(

Having dinner now. Top round steak, sliced thin (on sale for $3.59/lb.), and Stouffer's spinach souffle. Nothing could be easier. The steaks take about five minutes, tops, fried in a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, fresh ground pepper and a little reconstituted lime juice I always have on hand in the fridge.

[Later] Well, it's almost 10:00 and no trick-or-treaters! I'm disappointed. I'm closing at 10:00.

Saturday afternoon

Had sad news late last night from my friend in FTL/STL. His dog, who had largely recovered from paralysis after running into a sliding glass door a couple of years ago, passed away. Apparently she'd gone missing and then was discovered dead inside a hedge outside the house. I'll have to get more details. I'd known that dog since she was a puppy.

Friday night

Today I received my Fifty-One Trio Electronic Cigarette. I saw a special deal for $9.95 in an advertisement on TPM and ordered it. It's quite an attractive device and came nicely boxed. (It's the size of a regular cigarette.) I bought it to minimize the damage to my lungs from smoking and maybe as a precursor to quitting. The filter part contains nicotine suspended in water and propylene glycol (harmless) and also an atomizer to create "smoke" (basically water vapor with nicotine suspended in it). The white part is a battery and a "computer" that activates the atomizer when you draw on the filter part. It also came with a battery charger. I'd seen TV news reports on these devices.

I charged the battery as instructed. And then, no smoke. Apparently the atomizer unit is defective, or else the "computer" isn't activating it. I followed the instructions (of course) and tried repeatedly to make it work and ended up emailing the company (based in Miami) about what to do. (The thing is made in China, by the way.)

This video is from 2007. The technology has advanced to where the devices look more like real cigarettes (such as the one I bought).

Another one:

On a different note, see this.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher on Rachel Maddow, discussing Lieberman

Hamsher is a three-time breast cancer survivor and is promoting a public option for health care. See harrowing story here ("House Health Care Bill: A Death Sentence For My Fellow Breast Cancer Survivors").

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday night

Washing Halloween shirt now. It was a little misshapen from hanging from the hanger in the closet all year. (Washing other stuff also in that load, of course.)

Was at store earlier to buy the Halloween candy. Some of it even has vitamins (the Starbursts). Also got kisses with almonds and mini peanut butter cups. (You can see the werewolf hanging by the door. Click image to enlarge.)

Here's Markos on Lieberman:

When my daughter was born, my then-3-year-old son clearly felt neglected, as first children always do in such situations. And as always happens, my son started acting up in a play for attention. In his case, he regressed on his potty training, crapping his pants. In a bid for attention, that certainly worked.

Enter Joe Lieberman, and his successful bid for attention yesterday, promising to screw Democrats for the umpteenth time by joining Republicans in a filibuster of the Democratic health care plan. Whatever.

As much as our favorite boogeyman loves the limelight, there's one thing he loves even more -- being Senator. . . . [Recent poll in CT shows 68% favor public option (83% Dem, 33% Repub, 73% Ind)]

Lieberman can't afford to oppose his constituents on an issue of this magnitude and expect to have any hope of surviving reelection.

In other words, Lieberman is crapping his pants for attention. Call his bluff.

Laundry done. Watching "Project Runway" now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday night

Back at the gym tonight. Stopped by the store to buy some Halloween candy for the trick-or-treaters but there was some delay in the express check-out line so I left the candy and walked out. I can buy that another day. It was pushing 10:00 and I like to be back home by 10:00 to catch my show.

Had a really good nap after work. Maybe the (legally prescribed) Valium I took before going to the dentist at 4:30 had something to do with it. I had a cleaning today.

Tonight when I was going to the gym, I drove by Flanigan's (which is on the way) and saw B. getting into the passenger side of the BF's black Hummer, which was parked in the handicapped parking space by the door. That's where it's usually parked when they're there. (The BF is not handicapped.) I haven't heard from B. nor have I contacted him since before my vacation. He's on his own.

Cooked lean ground beef for lunch at work. Plus I still have a lot of chili.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday night

"Maid Green" will be coming Monday to clean while I'm at work. I'm paying $160 for a more thorough cleaning. They'll do their best with the vertical blinds. They'll be bringing a large canister vacuum, to clean the louvered closet doors, etc. I think there will be at least two cleaners. This place hasn't had a really good cleaning since before the kitchen work, which created a lot of dust. (And I did my part with my sander, even though it has a dust trap.)

Regarding Joe Lieberman's threat to the health care bill, see here ("Time to lay down the hammer, Harry").

My answer is that the public option's best bet remains with a power play, and that means either pursuing reconciliation or calling the the bluffs of senators like Lieberman by coming down hard on them if they don't get in line.

First and foremost, coming down hard on senators like Lieberman means being willing to publicly condemn them as obstructionists if they join a Republican filibuster. Remember, as much leverage as they may have over Reid, he -- and other Democrats -- have leverage over them, by threatening to make them accountable if they choose to obstruct health reform. Even senators like Lieberman don't want that label applied to them. Coming down hard also means stripping them of chairmanships, and in Lieberman's case, being willing to kick him out of the Democratic caucus, which would severely hamper his 2012 re-election hopes.

See here and here (includes video) too.

The Maid Green guy arrived a little late this morning (after calling and waking me up to say he'd be late) and then we walked through the place and made the deal. Before he got here, I tried to get a handyman from the condo to come in and undo the ceiling fan in this room so I could change the dip switches inside. (I don't have a ladder and the fan is heavy besides.) Handyman wasn't available. The fan is on a remote control, and I need to change the dip switches so that fan can't be turned on (or off) by a neighbor (or neighbors) who also has a fan on a remote control (which had been happening). (I know my next-door neighbor has one, but other neighbors could also.) Now, before I leave for work and also before I go to bed at night, I cut the power to this room at the breaker box to save on electricity. I used to come home from work and the fan would be running after I'd turned it off (or I'd wake up in the morning and the fan would be running).

Sometimes at night, when I'm sitting here, the fan will go off, and I get into a little remote-control war with someone. I turn it back on, it goes back off again, I turn it back on, etc., etc. until finally it stays on. I need to change the dip switches both inside the fan and also inside the remote (to match). (As you can see, fan needs cleaning, too. I made the grime prettier.) (I cleaned it not long ago -- it gets a lot of use.) (The fan was going in a blur when I took this picture -- the camera is good, no?)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday night

This is hilarious ("The secret diary of Sarah Palin's ghostwriter").

Aug. 16

SP calls on an urgent matter. Someone has told her that Rachel Maddow is a lesbo. "Is this true, Lynn?"

"I'm afraid so," I say.

I hear her gulp her energy drink. "Wait a second," she says. "Do her bosses know?"

* * *

Aug. 20

Just for giggles, we YouTube her sportscaster clips. That hair!

"And to think," SP says, "I once dreamed of blowing Keith Olbermann."

I think I'm going to be sick.

Was at the store tonight, since I didn't make it this weekend. Then I finished off that chili. Made a double recipe.

Anthony Bourdain is in Bulgaria. Next, Rachel Maddow. I missed the earlier broadcast.

Tomorrow at 9:00 I'm meeting here with "Maid Green" to discuss their helping me out with some cleaning.

So, Sen. Reid included the opt-out "competitive option" for the Senate health care bill. Whew! Now the bill goes to the Congressional Budget Office for analysis. Interesting what Sen. Wyden has to say about it on Rachel Maddow. Press release from his website.

Another "unseasonably" hot week here. My last electric bill (which included the recent heat wave) was the highest I've ever had while living here alone.

This weekend I took a break from cooking but thoroughly cleaned the kitchen. I spent over $40 on delivered food and today I bought a sandwich (the Eggs Foo Young from the Chinese restaurant were great for lunch but then I needed an afternoon snack, as I usually do, and didn't have anything store-bought). While I like to cook and keep the kitchen clean (since it's easy), I'm basically not much of a cleaner (though I do it in a pinch). It appears, however, it would be cheaper for me to have someone help out with the cleaning occasionally and for me to devote my time to shopping for groceries and cooking than to do all the cleaning myself and then have to order food out.

It's only me here now and I really don't have the time to do it all (on top of going to work and sleeping and going to the gym and doing laundry and cleaning the cat boxes and having some down time to sit here and relax). I don't like cleaning so much, while I do like to cook and take care of the kitchen. I'd rather eat my own food than most of anything I can order out. So I'm going to get some help with the cleaning and save my money on food. I can't do everything alone. It's too overwhelming. I need help. And B. and B.'s parents are no longer around.

Let's see what Chris Matthews has to say. Not much. Back to HGTV.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday night

I love watching my new TV, especially the HD shows (and commercials) of course. I don't even like "Brothers & Sisters" but it was fun watching it on the new TV. I just wish "Desperate Housewives" had been better. (But still it was fun to watch.)

White House: "Absolutely-False" That Reid And Obama Aren't On Same Page

Lots of rumors flying around. Even Digby is in on the act. This is from Huffington Post here.

The White House issued a statement Sunday evening reaffirming its commitment to a public option for insurance coverage and called reports that the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were pursuing different strategies, "absolutely false."

In a three-paragraph post on the White House's blog, Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer offered, what he called, a "Rumor Check" of those recent reports. . . .

(The Huffington Post I would expect to be in on it.)

Sunday evening

No cooking this weekend. I just ordered food from the nearby Chinese restaurant.

"60 Minutes." Medicare fraud in Miami -- "King of health care fraud." Bigger than the illegal drug business. "Tony" stole $20 million. He says of the 2,000 medical equipment suppliers in the Miami phone book, 95% are fraudulent. Doesn't surprise me.

I ordered assorted appetizers for two and eggs foo young. Taking the eggs to work for lunch. For dinner I had two spare ribs, beef teriyaki, an egg roll, a chicken wing, a shrimp, wanton soup (free with coupon) and some Chinese noodles.

Can't wait to watch "Desperate Housewives" on the new TV.

The picture was better than the show, until toward the end. Sounds like next week will be a good one.

(From "Brothers & Sisters", which I don't normally watch)

Sunday afternoon

Still up, but going back to bed soon. Replaced the third (in a row) light switch in the kitchen. This is a dimmer switch that controls the recessed lights. I hope this one lasts more than a year. I'm a pro now at replacing it, but it costs $15.

Had avocado marinated in vinegar with onion and salt & pepper. Delicious.

Sunday morning

Up early and will go back to bed eventually. Did some vacuuming. Honestly, if I didn't have the cats and cat litter, this place would be a lot easier to maintain. But who's griping?

I have to say, I really can't stand Facebook. Talk about dumbing down America. I got this latest "notification":

"Should the Obama Administration shut down Fox news? "
Choices:
1. Yes
2. No
3. It's unconstitutional
(Become a Fan | Settings) 8 hours ago

How ridiculous is that?

I also saw this on Wikipedia:

Disabling of sexual orientation search

As of Spring 2009, it is no longer possible to search a network based on "sexual orientation." As a result, searchers are no longer able to find gays and lesbians on Facebook, even within their own network.[citation needed][58]

Ruminations

I honestly don't think "moral hazard" figures much when it comes to getting health care through insurance (though it probably does for other types of insurance). Who really wants (or has the time) to hang out at the doctor's? Who really wants to be probed or irradiated or operated on perhaps unnecessarily and risk dying before their time? The pro-laissez-faire capitalist people use "moral hazard" as an excuse to try to get everyone to pay more out of pocket for their own health care (whereby the insurance companies profit).

Really the only people who have the time to hang out at the doctor's and who can afford to pay out of pocket for their health care are the idle, extremely wealthy. Especially the way health care and drugs are priced in the U.S. And the prices that only the vastly wealthy can afford are the standard for everyone now. Everything is priced at the very top of the market; the less wealthy are forced to have insurance to pay for it, since otherwise they could never afford it.

This is crazy. (It didn't use to be this way.)

See Andy Rooney from Sunday's "60 Minutes" here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday night

One cup of coffee later and I went in and cleaned the kitchen, except for the floor. (Apparently I jiggled the camera.) I still have to do the backsplashes but I'm taking a break from all that.

Going to do the floor now.

Done. The kitchen floor is easy to clean since there's no furniture to move around. Everything's clean but the grille on the refrigerator and the toaster.

Watching "48 Hours/Mystery."

Saturday evening

Well, the coffee got me motivated to request two estimates from local house-cleaning services to come in and deep-clean my apartment. I've finished that pot. Making another. Maybe now I'll clean the kitchen.

B.'s parents used to clean here (and were paid well). I figure I need a deep cleaning once a year (including the vertical blinds, of which there aren't that many -- just two floor-to-ceiling windows and a slider). And then general cleanings every couple of months.

A different kind of trigger

Was this the trigger TPM (Brian Beutler) was talking about as Obama favoring? From Daily Kos here. (Emphasis added.)

Last night on Countdown, [Rep.] James Clyburn [(D-SC)] said the House was considering a public option trigger, but before you jump out of your chair, the trigger Clyburn was talking about is a trigger with a twist -- and it might actually be a good thing.

Unlike the Snowe Trigger, which would trigger the public option itself, Clyburn's trigger (he called it a "hybrid trigger") was a trigger to go from a public option with negotiated rates to a public option with Medicare + 5. With a hybrid trigger, you'd have a public option from day one -- the thing that would be triggered would be its reimbursement mechanism.

Clyburn said that there are four forms of the public option being considered in the House. Two of them have a form of the hybrid trigger, listed above. Clyburn said that the White House "seemed" to support that hybrid trigger. If Clyburn is correct, that would mean the White House wasn't supporting the Snowe Trigger, but rather the hybrid trigger, which is far more palatable, because we'd have a public option from day one. Obviously, it would be a huge coup if the Senate passed anything with Medicare + 5 in it. Also, apparently, the House is not putting an opt-out on the table, at least not now. . . .

Rep. Clyburn appears 4 minutes into the segment from Countdown below.

See here also.

Saturday afternoon

Jus' chillin'. Received an email from my cousin and wrote her back. She used to write more often but she's been working Sunday and two weeknights at work (she's a public librarian) and is pooped all the time. It's always nice hearing from her. The other day I'd sent her some "People of Walmart" photos. She wrote that she is one of those people. I don't believe it.

Ordered a pizza from Bari. Had the "American Way" with green pepper instead of olives. It was excellent but I think I now like bacon on my pizza. From now on, I'll get the "Bari Pizza" with sausage instead of mushrooms. That's what I'd been getting. A large pizza was $22 including delivery and tip. I ate half of it and refrigerated the rest. Earlier I had a Stouffer's chicken in barbecue sauce with cheddar cheese potato bake with bacon.

Cleaned out the cat box. Having some coffee now. It'll motivate me to do something, what I don't know yet. There's plenty to do around here but sometimes I need to chill. Enjoying the new TV.

Billionaires for Wealthcare sing for the public option at AHIP conference

More on it here from Rachel Maddow.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Obamas sit for Annie Leibovitz in WH Green Room

Beautiful photo. From The Advocate here.

(Was unable to save the photo from the website and couldn't find it on a Google image search. This is created from a screen shot.)

Florida Leaders See Hope in Adoption Bill

From The Advocate here.

Gay rights leaders in Florida -- the only state that explicitly bars gay couples from adopting -- are hopeful that a recently introduced federal adoption bill will make the state rethink its discriminatory law.

California congressman Pete Stark last week introduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would cut off federal funding for any state program or agency that receives federal assistance for adoption or foster care placements but fails to comply with the nondiscrimination policies set forth in the legislation. Advocates hope that states will abandon discriminatory bans on adoption by same-sex couples if their funding is threatened by the federal government.

Florida's discriminatory adoption law, a remnant of the Anita Bryant antigay crusade of the 1970s, would be affected by Stark's bill should it pass. Civil rights leaders have been trying to reverse Florida's law for years; the state is currently appealing a Miami-Dade circuit judge's 2008 ruling that a Florida man's sexual orientation should not preclude him from adopting his two foster children. . . .

Friday night

Another bug had hatched out on the terrace today, as Lucky was quick to take note, keening for me to let him outside when I got home. I let him sniff the bug, then took some pictures and swept it off the terrace. (I'd promised better pictures if I could get them.) (You can tell how big the bugs are by the grout lines on the tile floor.) (He was also crawling on the jute mat.)

It's actually a pretty bug, but I still don't know whether it's poisonous or not. It doesn't act aggressive like a wasp. Actually, as I've said, they act a little awkward, like a newborn foal struggling to stand up, crawling and testing their wings in short spurts of flight, or at least that's what this one was doing today.

Well, the weekend isn't going to be as hot as they said it would be a couple of days ago. Whew. We're getting some rain.

Watching the repeat of Keith Olbermann. Lawrence O'Donnell is hosting. (Keith must be tending to his sick father.) O'Donnell is quoting the TPM story. (Rachel didn't.) Brian Beutler is kind of new to TPM; obviously not that reliable. And often his stories contain typos and similar errors.

So Sarah Palin is breaking with the Republican Party (including Newt Gingrich) to back a third-party, "Conservative" candidate in New York state. The party is splintering. So will a Democrat win this otherwise "safe" Republican seat? The Republican "brand" is at a 26-year low. And they expect a "come-back" next year? I would guess that the Republican Party rues the day they tapped Sarah Palin for McCain's running mate. She's tapping into the most extreme and wrong-headed manifestations of the conservative movement while bearing the Republican "brand." Normal people are not that extreme.

Had two cups of Earl Grey tea, one with lavender and one with bergamot. Mmmmm. I read on Captivate on the elevator today that if you drink five cups of black tea a day, you can quadruple the strength of your immune system. Too much tea for me, and my immune system is fine (the last time I checked).

Cats got some catnip tonight. I just made a cocktail (it's 10:35 now).

Watching a new "The Unsellables" on HGTV. They're in Leslieville in Toronto. Good show.

Looking to lose a little weight. Fridays at work we have breakfast food. I always have my own breakfast food (canned roast beef hash and V-8) but lately I've been having a toasted bagel with lots of cream cheese as well . Calories I don't need. Today I had only half a bagel with not so much cream cheese. We also have fresh fruit, which I enjoy. The cantaloupe today was really good. Pineapple is always good. The strawberries haven't been good in a while. Not ripe enough. But who's complaining! The Danish pastries are good (have to watch those). I also like the chicken croquettes. We used to have omelets and scrambled eggs and bacon and sausage and hash browns. I kind of miss that, but don't miss the cholesterol. (But I don't have a cholesterol problem, thank goodness, perhaps due to my modest alcohol consumption.)

Had a nice week wearing my new clothes and watching my new TV. Glad the Comcast cable box and remote are working again.

TGIF

It was so busy at work today I wasn't able to peek at the news.

So, the White House wants a trigger?

"Historically, 'trigger' mechanisms have not been successful, and they are not a substitute for a strong public health insurance option," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) in a curiously timed statement. "A 'trigger' simply delays price competition, which in turn will delay affordability for consumers and moves us farther away from the goals of health care reform. Already, we are seeing insurance companies threatening to game the system, by raising their prices in advance of reform. The only way to curb price-gouging by health insurance companies is with real competition on day one--that is the public option."

That makes sense to me. ("Curiously timed"?) As far as I'm concerned, the public option has already been triggered.

Then I saw this from 6:08 p.m. (in a comment on Firedoglake). (It's here too.)

The White House is denying reports that officials are pressuring Sen. Harry Reid to scale back the scope of the "public option" that'll be attached to the Senate health insurance bill. Talking Points Memo reported, based on unnamed sources close to the negotiations, that the White House is "skeptical" of a public option that includes a state opt-out choice, preferring -- and advocating for -- a public option that would kick in only if the private exchange failed to lower costs.

"The report is false. The White House continues to work with the Senate on the merging of the two bills," said Dan Pfeiffer, a top White House aide whose portfolio includes health care. "We are making good progress toward enacting comprehensive health reform."

I don't know what to think of TMP and Brian Beutler. Let's see what they have to say. (They've taken the story down from the top of the website and added an update to the story: "Late update: In response to this report, White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer issued the following statement. 'The report is false. The White House continues to work with the Senate on the merging of the two bills. We are making good progress toward enacting comprehensive health reform.'")

Rachel Maddow on now.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Names of the Dead

Rep. Alan Grayson's website here. See here ("Alan Grayson Unveils 'Names of the Dead' Web Site -- And Gets Punked With Joke Names").

Thursday night

Tired but stoked. My home-bound bus broke down at 54th Street, in the middle of my nap. Sounded like the transmission went out. Took the next express bus.

Instead of continuing with my nap when I got home, I called Comcast to get the cable box rebooted and the remote re-programmed. It turns out, the wiring diagram that came with the DVD recorder is wrong. The Comcast lady got that straightened out (and I corrected the diagram), got the box working and reprogrammed the remote for the new TV, including the volume control. So Comcast doesn't need to send somebody out here, which probably would have meant me having to take time off from work and wait around here. (Glad about that.)

Right when I got home, I let Lucky out onto the terrace and there was another one of those bugs. I took a picture of it (above). (I'd thought I'd taken a close-up but apparently not.) I swept the bug off the terrace before Lucky got too close to it (or it got too close to Lucky, since it crawling towards him). If I see any more of these out on the terrace, I'll try to take a better picture.

Having an Earl Grey tea with bergamot now.

That perked me up.

I've been happy with the weather so far this week. I wore a leather jacket to work on Monday, and a hoodie the next two days. It's supposed to be back up in the 90s over the weekend, however. Yuck.

[Later] So it looks like we'll be getting the public option. Been watching MSNBC. See here and here and here also.

All these months Baucus and the administration have been courting [Olympia Snowe] for this, she's waving her own veto pen. Presumably, it will be her trigger or nothing, but with momentum gaining behind a much stronger opt-out option, she's threatening to take her marbles and go home. Last week Tom Harkin asked whether 52 Democratic Senators should bend to the will of 5. But they should also be questioning whether the 52 Democratic Senators should be bending to the will of one Republican.

Amen. (From here.) Olympia Snowe is not for meaningful change. She's a tool of the insurance companies, planted into this scenario to thwart any meaningful change. She's not needed. (And Baucus is also largely a tool, poor guy.) ("Apoplectic"?)

Now I'll switch over the HGTV. So glad to have the program guide back. Also, for some reason, ABC only comes in clearly over the TV that's connected to the box (i.e., when the box is working). Last Sunday was a bitch trying to watch "Desperate Housewives" with the projection TV going out. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the old TV. I'll still call my friend. I haven't talked to him in a while anyway.

I had 2 1/4 lbs. of hamburger I'd bought last weekend that was turning brown but was still good, so I fried it up tonight. I'll make chili out of it but don't have chili fixings on hand. By the way, the cubed steaks simmered till tender in pasta sauce were excellent. Kind of super-easy Swiss Steak, which I love and which my mother used to make (and which I've also made, but not since B. left).

Enjoying "Property Virgins" now. Sandra Rinomato is in Toronto. I love this show.

Sounds like I'll have to watch "Disaster House" Tuesdays at 10:00.

I love my new TV. Now the programming has to spiff up to its standards.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday night

Was at gym tonight (though not store). Tired.

Glad to read this ("U.S. to Order Steep Pay Cuts at Firms That Got Most Aid"). Sounds like the right thing to do. Also, Barney Frank just said on Rachel Maddow that the House has written legislation that would disallow undeserved bonuses. Sounds right. We've got to stop this behavior by individuals who seem bent on creating perpetual dynasties for themselves and their progeny to the public's detriment. It's not right. Didn't we already decide that robber barons were bad for the country? (See more on the current "plutonomy" here.)

We had an insect incident on the terrace tonight after I got home from work (before the sun went down). I was sitting in here watching the NBC Nightly News and looking at email when I heard Lucky emitting an urgent meow in the living room. I figured he wanted to go out onto the terrace, so I put his collar on him and opened the sliding door . . . to watch Lucky go after a large, black winged insect (the size and shape of a wasp) with red markings. I'd seen these before, but not here. I then noticed there were a few of them. I immediately whisked Lucky back inside and shut the door -- I don't know whether these sting or are poisonous -- and proceeded to sweep three of them off the terrace with a broom I keep out there (hidden from public view, as per regulations).

Right as I was looking around for more of them, one dropped down onto my face from above. I immediately shook it off and swept it off the terrace. Then momentarily I noticed I was going blind and realized I had lost my glasses while I was shaking the insect off my face. I looked around and didn't see them (not that I could see much). I even looked down at the pool deck below, thinking they may have flown off the terrace, and didn't see them. Then I thought, well maybe I took them off inside (which I really would have no reason to do). But I went back inside anyway and looked around and didn't see them lying around anywhere I'd been since I'd gotten home.

Then I thought, they had to be on the terrace. So I went back out there and again didn't see them and again looked down at the pool deck. Finally, I spotted something linear behind a plant pedestal and grabbed it. It was the ear piece of the glasses. Thank goodness! (I didn't have to put on my back-up glasses to continue my search and was glad of that.)

I made sure there were no more of these insects around before I let Lucky back out onto the terrace.

It appeared these rather handsome insects had just hatched somewhere (on my terrace, I figured), since they were getting around a little awkwardly and their wings seemed to be a little crinkled, even though they could fly somewhat. They all acted the same, so I'm pretty sure it was a brood that had just emerged from the final stage of its development (pupa?). (It looks kind of like the insect in the picture.)

Calmed back down and took a pretty good nap before the gym.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday night

Did a lot of running around after work. Now I'm home. Moved the TV that was in here into the living room and hooked it up. It works. I watch TV in there in the a.m. (Today Show). Now I just have to get the Comcast box hooked up with the DVD and the new TV and do something with the old projection TV that was fading away...

Aha! (An idea.) I have an old friend from Sugar's who used to repair TVs, including large rear-projection TVs. I'll offer to give him the TV if he'll come over and hook up my cables. I'm sure he'd know how to do that. I'll have to call him soon. He doesn't live far away. (I hope he's still alive...)

[Later] By chance I located the instruction book on the DVD recorder and found the diagram for hooking it up to the cable box and the TV. I'll try doing it on Thursday night. (Tomorrow is gym.) I have all the cables. I don't feel like fussing with it now. I'm watching TV and cooking some cubed steaks in Paul Newman pasta sauce.

([A few minutes later] Actually, I did try hooking it up and it didn't work. I got a "weak signal" message on the TV screen, which is what I got last night. Maybe I have to get the cable company involved. But not now. It's almost 10:00 p.m.)

Since I spend most of my time holed up in here, I'll keep the new TV in here. If B. ever moves back . . . he can buy his own HDTV for the living room.

Now it's Keith Olbermann. I'll watch a little of this and then switch to something else.

I'd been reading on the Consumer Reports website (subscription) that LCD TVs can have trouble with black (i.e., not being black enough). This TV doesn't have that problem. The black is the blackest black. Watching Travel Channel now, Andrew Zimmerman, "Bizarre World" (?). Now they're in Tarpon Springs. B. and I were there a couple of years ago after we went to visit my father. He'd never been there.

Reworked and expanded the previous post, from last night.

Back to HGTV. Cubed steaks turned out great! (Two packages of cubed steaks [on sale] and one jar of Paul Newman sauce. Simmer till tender. They shrink.) This would be good with pasta, but I'm watching my carbs.

I love the new TV. Next they'll be coming out with 3-D TV, I assume. (I saw that in a movie. Which one?)

When Lucky goes out on the terrace these days, I no longer see him walking on the narrow strip behind the glass railing or sitting up on the ledge. Maybe he's learned his lesson from falling off the terrace a few times. (He hasn't fallen off in a while.) Thank God I live only one floor above the pool deck, and there's a plant bed below (but also some concrete).

WaPo Poll: Majority Wants Public Option More Than Bipartisanship For Its Own Sake

From TPM here. I really don't think people want to be forced into dealing solely with the for-profit insurance companies. They have their reasons.

You heard politicians mentioning the role of private insurance companies in Switzerland's health care system (it ain't so great). This is from Wikipedia:

In Switzerland, compulsory health insurance covers the costs of medical treatment and hospitalization of the insured. The Swiss healthcare system is a combination of public, subsidized private and totally private healthcare providers, where the insured person has full freedom of choice among the providers in his region. Insurance companies independently set their price points for different age groups, but are forbidden from setting prices based on health risk. In 2000, Switzerland topped all European countries’ health care expenditure when calculated as per capita expenditure in US dollar purchasing parity terms. [43]

The Swiss health care system is interesting as it was the last for-profit system in Europe. In the 1990s, after the private carriers began to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions—and when the uninsured population of Switzerland reached 5%--the Swiss held a referendum (1995) and adopted their present system.

(Emphasis added.) (Health care in the U.S. is even more expensive than that. It's the most expensive in the world, and we have over 46 million people uninsured, or over 15% of the population. (Source).)

From The New York Times here:

Swiss insurance companies offer the mandatory basic plan on a not-for-profit basis, although they are permitted to earn a profit on supplemental plans.

Our health insurance companies aren't going to offer that here. That's why we need the public option.

[Sent this to Sen. Reid tonight.]

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday night

Received a text message first thing this morning when I got to work, saying the TV was ready to pick up. Got home at the end of the day, changed, and drove up to Aventura Mall to pick it up. Had to drive around a bit to locate the merchandise pick-up area, though I'd been there before; it's kind of tucked away (not where you'd expect it to be).

I'd thought the TV might fit inside the cab of the truck, but no way. The box was humongous. It took up half the truck bed. Fortunately it wasn't that heavy, and I was able to unload it and drag it up to my apartment.

I'm happy with the TV. However, I may need to get help re-connecting the cables so that the Comcast box is functional again. I really should have made diagrams when I was disconnecting everything. (I should have left that all connected and tackled it another day, since the new TV was already working in this room.) (Things may even have to be connected a little differently with this brand-new component, which may be one reason why I couldn't figure it out. Meanwhile I ran out of time tonight.)

I just have to push the TV back into the corner here, since it's a little close. (Done.) (Much better.)

[Click on image to enlarge.]

New TV

I still have to hook it up to the cable box. I should have taken notes when I was unhooking the box from the old TV. There's also a DVD/VCR involved. At least I'm getting the cable programs, but I can't use the program guide, etc. Enough fussing with it tonight.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday night

Just got off the phone with my friend in Canada, following "Desperate Housewives."

The large flat-screen projection TV I've been babysitting for someone for years is going on the blink (haven't heard from him in years, either), so tonight I broke down and bought a high-definition TV online. Will pick it up at Sears in Aventura when I get a text message or email saying it's ready to pick up. I got a pretty good deal. I've never watched HD TV before. I think I got a good one (been looking at reviews). It's a Samsung LN40B550. I'll set it up here in the computer room, at least for now. I've read all about them.

Well, we're back to having nice weather in Miami for this time of year. Had the windows and slider open today, no A/C. Lovely. Was at gym and store earlier.

I have to say, I was really having enough of the oppressive hot muggy weather. Miami never used to be so unpleasant, especially at this time of the year. The place is warming. (See my analysis for October, which used to be a cooling down period, here.)

Concern Trolling from NYT’s Spokesman for The Rich

I got a kick out of this. From Firedoglake here.

Apparently Paul Sullivan, the New York Times Rich People Beat reporter who wrote about the problems of the super-rich a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t prepared for the waves of derision I predicted here. He’s written another column expressing sorrow that ordinary people not only don’t care about the problems of the super-rich, they are downright angry.

The vehemence in these e-mail messages made me wonder why so many people were furious at those who had more than they did. And why are the rich shouldering the blame for a collective run of bad decision-making? After all, many of the rich got there through hard work. And plenty of not-so-rich people bought homes, cars and electronics they could not afford and then defaulted on the debt, contributing to the crash last year.

Let me explain, Mr. Sullivan. No one is angry at anyone because they are wealthy. People are angry because of the damage the rich and their minions on Wall Street and K Street and in the Bush White House have inflicted on the political and economic system. These people changed the system to increase their profit at the expense of the dreams of average Americans.

They weren’t satisfied with the normal returns from the ordinary business of the country, new businesses, new processes, education and growth for the benefit of all of us. No. They gutted the regulatory structures and the tax system, reaping a huge unearned windfall. They took the capital accumulated in their hands from the sweat of the workers and invested it in other countries, putting millions out of work. They changed the rules to let them import educated foreigners to drive down the wages of middle class Americans. They took all the profits themselves, increasing wealth inequality to pre-Depression levels, as this infuriating chart shows. They left nothing for the workers and the middle class. Anger is the least they can expect.

In his first article, Sullivan justified this piracy with trickle-down economics. This time he offers even an even lamer explanation as to why we should care: the rich can’t fund a scholarship or new paintings at the Metropolitan. He wants us to care because so many of the rich are motivated by noblesse oblige, and might toss a few coins into the cups of us beggars on the street. This is the kind of argument only a real elitist would offer. It is particularly ridiculous because it is offered as an excuse to cover the thing the rich really worry about: tax increases:

The first is that any tax increase has a direct impact on the income they withdraw from their portfolios. More money going to the government means less to live on. “They’re very concerned about taxes going up,” said William Woodson, managing director at the Family Wealth Management group at Credit Suisse. “The percent that goes to taxes is significant if it’s a 15 percent capital gains vs. 25 percent capital gains. It makes a big difference.”

Yes it does make a difference. We are running huge deficits and borrowing the money. We pay interest on the borrowings. Who is buying that debt? Rich people. They not only don’t want to pay taxes, they want us to pay them interest for the privilege of running deficits which would not even exist if we had a fair tax structure.

Sullivan’s deep concern for the wealthy includes the fantastically rich people in the financial services industry:

“To revile the rich is to revile the American dream,” said Robert Clarfeld, president of the wealth management firm Clarfeld Financial Advisors.

Mr. Clarfeld, who manages $3 billion largely for financial services executives, takes exception to lumping all of Wall Street together. He said his clients felt that they had worked hard and honestly for their money and were now being unjustly judged alongside those who did not.

Let me make this crystal clear: selling trash securities, gaming trading systems, and insider trading isn’t hard work. It isn’t even work. Selling trash interest rate swaps to Italian cities, and to Jefferson County, Alabama, and misusing swaps to destroy customers isn’t honest. It’s corrupt.

Sullivan is concerned about the pajama-clad angry people:

if you spend your free time obsessing about the rich, you could end up in worse shape emotionally, personally and financially. “People who get caught up in this paranoia spend all night reading these blogs, and six months later they haven’t done anything to better themselves,” Dr. Dammann said. “Even if they’re right, there is a lot of wasted energy put into this. They need to look at the mistakes they’ve made in their life.”

Dammann bills himself as a Manhattan psychoanalyst. He probably runs a Castle Practice, where he treats people as out of touch with reality as he is.

Let’s call this what it is: class warfare. We are fighting uphill, as Sullivan’s propaganda pieces show. We will be fighting uphill until enough people realize that the position and status of too many rich people is the result of cheating, not merit.

What a sick state of affairs.

Too late

Thank God the weather is back to normal.

Citigroup's Shocking 'Plutonomy' Reports -- h/t Michael Moore

From Daily Kos here.

Share This

Sun Oct 04, 2009 at 05:10:58 AM PDT

I went to see Michael Moore's new movie, "Capitalism - A Love Story".

It was moving, funny, and educational, all rolled into one. It made me feel both, proud and sad, to be an American. ... but it's recommended viewing if you still want to take OUR Country back, from the Powers that Be.

There are many lessons to be learned from the film -- But the one that struck me, the one I'm motivated to write about now --

Is the Lesson of Plutonomy ... aka. that Top One Percent ...

Plutonomy, perhaps like me, you've not heard much about this term, except in the occasional poorly defined rant. Well it's a word we should all learn more about -- since it's one of the new "code words" the uber-rich use to maintain their "high stations" in life.

Plutonomy

n. An economy that is driven by or that disproportionately benefits wealthy people, or one where the creation of wealth is the principal goal.
[Blend of pluto- (wealth) and economy.]

http://www.wordspy.com/...


In a report called "The Plutonomy Symposium Rising Tides Lifting Yachts," Ajay Kapur, Citigroup's global strategist, says the balance sheets of the rich are "in great shape, and will get much better," which is why he recommends going out and buying stocks of companies that cater to that very select market.

Spending by the uber-rich overwhelms that of the average consumer and helps explain why the U.S. economy has continued to do well and the U.S. dollar hasn't collapsed even in the face of the current federal budget deficit, a negative savings rate, global imbalances and high energy prices, he says. The United States is one of the plutonomy countries countries whose economies are powered by a relatively small number of rich people.

- Angela Barnes, "Want wealth? Invest in the uber-rich," The Globe and Mail, October 2, 2006

http://www.wordspy.com/...


You see Michael Moore highlights a confidential report that Citigroup initially circulated only to its wealthiest customers. Those reports, since leaked, plainly discuss the power of the Plutonomy in America, and how it would only strengthen, as long as the "the rest us" (the non-plutonics) could be kept in the dark about the Plutonomy existence, its role, and its over-arching control in the American Economy.

Even though the Plutonomy (the top 1%) control over 50% of the net worth in America -- they don't control the Votes!

The thing they most fear is the principle of "one person -- one vote".

You see despite their extreme wealth and power, they only have 1% of the vote; "the rest us" control the other 99% of the votes. So if we ever caught on and, I don't know, maybe raised their taxes back to where it use to be (40-90% range), well maybe they couldn't have a Yacht in every city, or a Mansion in a half dozen states. Maybe they couldn't "lose count" of how many homes they owned.


Well I tried to locate the confidential Citigroup reports cited in the film, and think that these next two links are them. Remember these Reports were NOT meant for consumption by us "common folk".

Citigroup Plutonomy Report Part 1
Oct 16, 2005

- The World is dividing into two blocs - the Plutonomy and the rest.

The U.S., UK, and Canada are the key Plutonomies - economies powered by the wealthy. Continental Europe (ex-Italy) and Japan are in the egalitarian bloc.

- Equity risk premium embedded in "global imbalances" are unwarranted.

In plutonomies the rich absorb a disproportionate chunk of the economy and have a massive impact on reported aggregate numbers like savings rates, current account deficits, consumption levels, etc.

This imbalance in inequality expresses itself in the standard scary "global imbalances". We worry less.

- There is no "average consumer" in a Plutonomy.
[...]
Indeed, traditional thinking is likely to have issues with most of it. We will posit that:
  1. the world is dividing into two blocs - the plutonomies, where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few, and the rest.

Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S.

What are the common drivers of Plutonomy?

Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains,
creative financial innovation,
capitalist-friendly cooperative governments,
an international dimension of immigrants and
overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation,
the rule of law, and
patenting inventions.

Often these wealth waves involve great complexity, exploited best by the rich and educated of the time.

  1. We project that the plutonomies (the U.S., UK, and Canada) will likely see even more income inequality, disproportionately feeding off a further rise in the profit share in their economies, capitalist-friendly governments, more technology-driven productivity, and globalization.

[...]

  1. In a plutonomy there is no such animal as "the U.S. consumer" or "the UK consumer", or indeed the "Russian consumer".

There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the "non-rich", the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie. [...] i.e., focus on the "average" consumer are flawed from the start.

http://www.scribd.com/...

Here's the key part, mentioned in the Moore film, where CitiGroup frets about us pesky "laborers" could some day push-back, that we might demand fair treatment and pay for all our productivity:

Citigroup Plutonomy Report Part 2
Mar 5 2006

RISKS -- WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Our whole plutonomy thesis is based on the idea that the rich will keep getting richer. This thesis is not without its risks. For example, a policy error leading to asset deflation, would likely damage plutonomy. Furthermore, the rising wealth gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash. Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfrachisement remains as was -- one person, one vote (in the plutonomies). At some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich and there will be a political backlash against the rising wealth of the rich. This could be felt through higher taxation on the rich (or indirectly though higher corporate taxes/regulation) or through trying to protect indigenous [home-grown] laborers, in a push-back on globalization -- either anti-mmigration, or protectionism. We don’t see this happening yet, though there are signs of rising political tensions. However we are keeping a close eye on developments.

http://www.scribd.com/...

The arrogance displayed, as Citigroup sees their iron grip, slipping, yet scheming to hang on to that Plutonic Control -- is truly appalling ... and a bit frightening too. It's as if we, the other 99%, are merely the cogs in their grand design. And as long as any worker push-back, can be held in check -- well No Worries, then. They get to keep that Capitalistic Money Machine humming along fine, Cha-Ching!


This Citigroup message of catering to the needs of the Plutonomy, once it got out, hasn't been lost on the Wall Street Journal crowd, although our National News Media, hasn't really reported on it much, have they?

The Wealth Report
Plutonomics
Robert Frank looks at the lives and culture of the wealthy.
By Robert Frank, Wall Street Journal - Jan 8, 2007

It’s well known that the rich have an outsized influence on the economy.

The nation’s top 1% of households own more than half the nation’s stocks, according to the Federal Reserve. They also control more than $16 trillion in wealth — more than the bottom 90%.

Yet a new body of research from Citigroup suggests that the rich have other, more-surprising impacts on the economy.
[...]
"The Plutonomy is here, is going to get stronger, its membership swelling" he wrote in one research note. "Toys for the wealthy have pricing power, and staying power."
[...]
Of course, Kapur says there are risks to the Plutonomy, including war, inflation, financial crises, the end of the technological revolution and populist political pressure. Yet he maintains that the "the rich are likely to keep getting even richer, and enjoy an even greater share of the wealth pie over the coming years."

All of which means that, like it or not, inequality isn’t going away and may become even more pronounced in the coming years. The best way for companies and businesspeople to survive in Plutonomies, Kapur implies, is to disregard the "mass" consumer and focus on the increasingly rich market of the rich.

A tough message — but one worth considering.

http://blogs.wsj.com/...

Nice, eh!? ... well not really.

What was it they fear most, again?

The principle of "one person -- one vote"?

Say, NOW that's NICE! ... that could one day be the People taking our Country back.



......................... also posted on DocuDharma

......................... and on on ProgressiveBlue

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday night

Bought some new work clothes today at Macy's up at Aventura. I hadn't bought any in quite some time and was in need. I dread shopping for clothes but today went pretty well. Got four shirts and four pairs of slacks. I had no idea they were having a 20% off sale today, so I really lucked out there.

In between buying the slacks and the shirts, I caught a movie. I was hungry and thirsty by the time I'd bought the slacks and had planned to go to Johnny Rockets, which is directly across from the movie theaters. I quickly checked the movies and times. Michael Moore's "Capitalism" was starting up in 15 minutes, so I decided to go see it. Quickly grabbed a Kiwi Banana "Dutch Ice" and drank that out in the mall. In the theater, I bought a white cherry Icee and a hot dog.

I'd not planned on going to see this movie but I'm glad I did. (More on that later.)

After the movie was over, I had plenty of time to continue with my shopping. (Macy's closes at 9:30.) I was out of there maybe a little past 9:00 and then stopped by the BK at Loehman's (sp?) for a bacon double cheeseburger, another Icee, and potato Cheesy Puffs (I'd never had them before and don't recommend).

Washing my new clothes now.

[Later] Love my new clothes. Very muted and neutral stuff. I tried on loads of things.

What really grabbed me about Michael Moore's move was the idea of a "plutonomy." (See next post.) It's like a Dan Brown cabal, or something out of a James Bond movie. Ronald Reagan really did wreck this country (in addition to killing off a lot of gays by ignoring the AIDS health crisis). He was just a shill for the corporatists (the plutomonists) and a panderer to the Religious Right. He was an idiot.

It's time we got our democracy back in control of our lives. I highly recommend this movie. Maybe Michael Moore will get the Nobel Prize someday.

Obama's Saturday Address

'Good healthcare policy makes good politics -- and vice versa'

"Forget Olympia Snowe. Pass the right healthcare bill and voters will reward you"

Story by David Sirota here

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday night

Enough politics for now. Watching "20/20". Brutal killing spree in Sonoma 20 years ago.

Looking forward to the cold front coming in tomorrow. I'll blog it for sure.

More Health Care Tea Leaves From Harkin, Lincoln

By David Dayen here.

Ezra Klein writes today that the blending of the two health care bills into one for the Senate floor will be a true blend – those issues where both the HELP Committee and the Finance Committee weighed in will result in one compromise or other, and other issues where only one committee addressed them will largely go with the approach from that committee.

However, a couple issues may have to be solved on the floor, particularly with respect to financing for the bill. On a conference call today sponsored by Families USA, Tom Harkin, the chair of the HELP Committee (but not the lead negotiator in the merging sessions, because Chris Dodd largely shepherded the bill through committee at that time) suggested that Democrats would modify the excise tax on high-end insurance plans, which only appears in the Finance Committee version of the bill, and that they may look at the House provisions to fund the bill, including a surtax on people making over $350,000 a year.

This would come as news to President Olympia Snowe of the United States of Maine, who wants all the money in the bill to come from inside the health care system. But Harkin believed that Democrats would look outside the system as well for additional financing, considering the excise tax too punitive on middle-class workers who may have given up wage increases for better benefits, or those with long-term chronic illnesses who need stellar coverage.

The tension here comes between lowering the excise tax and wanting to ensure affordability of coverage for all Americans; the two necessarily conflict. Ultimately, the money for subsidies has to come from somewhere, one of the major battles in the debate.

Later in the call, Harkin gave a nod of support to the “opt-out” compromise, while maintaining a preference for a nationally available plan. And he made the case for allowing the interests of the majority to take precedence over the interests of a few in the caucus:

There are 52 solid Democrats for a public option and only about five Democrats really kind of opposed to it… One has to ask if the 52 should give into the five or if the five should come on board with the vast majority. I think the answer is clear.

Blanche Lincoln, one of those five in opposition, threw some support behind triggers to local reporters in Arkansas today, though she didn’t even fully support that. Again, nobody asked her the key question – would she invoke cloture, even if the bill didn’t include everything she wanted.

…Lincoln has an online chat with constituents about health care scheduled for tomorrow. Details here. Maybe some readers would want to ask the Senator something or other.

Time to Throw Some Elbows on Health Care Reform, Mr. President

From Firedoglake here.
It’s becoming obvious now that the protracted drama of the Senate Finance Committee, long feared to be the beginning of the end for meaningful healthcare reform, really was just the end of the beginning. Now that a version of the bill has been pried loose from Sen. “Max Tax” Baucus and his committee, the real negotiations — and posturing — have started.

That’s why Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh are making noises about not ruling out a filibuster — but hey, they can be bribed persuaded not to join one, too!– and why Jay Rockefeller and Chuck Schumer (and Nancy Pelosi, on the House side) are applying pressure in the media for a robust public option. Everyone’s jockeying for position.

Jon Walker’s post at FDL Action today sums up the state of play nicely with a quote from Tom Harkin:

There are 52 solid Democrats for a public option and only about five Democrats really kind of opposed to it…. One has to ask if the 52 should give into the five or if the five should come on board with the vast majority.

And you know what? That’s how everyone knew (or should have known) this was going to wind up back in January — with a handful of faux-centrist Senators threatening to sabotage a Democratic president for at least the third straight time, and everyone else wondering how to get around that obstacle.

But this also means that of all people, Barack Obama should have a plan for how to deal with this situation. I’ve been more naive optimistic than most of the writers here, holding out hope that Obama really does want a public option in the final healthcare bill — not out of his innate progressive nature or the goodness of his heart (always a bad bet when it comes to politicians), but due to his own stated recognition that whatever passes needs to work, or he’s going to pay the political price for the resulting fiasco just as surely as if the bill had been defeated.

That’s why I’m not surprised to read that Harry Reid is reportedly working behind the scenes “for the best possible public option coming out of conference” (though those last four words are worth noting, and perhaps being alarmed over), or to see Nancy Pelosi’s forthright defense of a public option yesterday just before appearing with President Obama at two events in San Francisco (where his praise of her would seem odd if she’d just thrown his alleged secret desire to kill the public option under the bus).

But now’s the time for Obama to stop forcing us to imagine what his real intentions are. We all know how solicitous he’s been of Max Baucus’s endless delays and whatever whim Olympia Snowe chooses to express on any given day, and not openly pressuring Democratic senators who have spoken against a public option. I’ve tried to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, figuring that he’s worked directly with these bozos colleagues in the Senate and knows what preening, obnoxious assholes they are how sensitive they are to being pressured.

At the end of the day, though, he’s got to persuade them to do the right thing. And the end of the day is rapidly approaching.

Rockefeller fires warning shot at Reid

Kos on Ed Show, talking about Harry Reid

Group health insurance up 131% in decade, 10% this year

Today hottest ever so late in year

Today was another scorcher in Miami. A new record was set for this date: 94 F. The old record was 90 F. back in the '80s. The weather man on local NBC 6 also just said that today was the hottest day ever so late in the year. What a crazy month!

We're going to have a low of 58 F. on Monday, high of 78 F. That's more like it.

This chart doesn't reflect the record highs we've had lately. (Click on chart to enlarge.) Miami is definitely getting hotter, and this chart is only for the month of October. Of the 31 days in the month, only 5 record highs were set before 1980. Seven record highs were set in the 1980s. Eight were set in the 1990s. And 11 were set in the 2000s. So it's not my sense of nostalgia growing up here or my imagination or just my increasing intolerance of hot weather.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Break up the health insurance monopoly

[for Vermont]

Dear [Moi],

Health insurance giants are fighting to keep their monopoly. I need your help to break it.

Please urge your members of Congress to support The Health Insurance Antitrust Enforcement Act today.
Email Congress

The health insurance lobby has worked behind the scenes for months to undermine congressional efforts to fix America's broken health care system.

Now they're pulling back the curtain, waging an outrageous public campaign to kill health care reform...again.

They're running new ads. They're threatening to raise premiums if Congress passes reform.

And now America's biggest insurance companies, represented by the American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) special interest group, are growing particularly concerned about our efforts to break up their monopoly.

Over 21,000 LeahyForVermont.com activists have already taken action, but we need your help today to keep up the pressure.

Please urge your members of Congress to support The Health Insurance Antitrust Enforcement Act, which will finally repeal the out-dated insurance industry antitrust exemption.

We held a very successful hearing on this pro-competition legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid testified before the Committee to express their strong support for a repeal of the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act.

They, like most Americans, believe insurance companies should be subject to the same antitrust regulations that virtually every other business in America faces.

I hope you'll join them, right now, and make your voice heard too.

Please urge your members of Congress to support The Health Insurance Antitrust Enforcement Act today.

The only real voices opposed to lifting this peculiar exemption come from the health insurance lobby. After all, if insurance companies are forced to compete, they will have a much tougher time denying you coverage and jacking up your premiums at four times the rate of inflation.

That's why AHIP's chief lobbyist, Karen Ignagni, recently sent me a letter to tell me the insurance giants she represents will oppose our efforts to promote competition and break up insurance monopolies.

Unfortunately for her, I came to Washington to fight for all Americans, not the narrow interests of one particular industry which has put profits before people for far too long.

But I need your help to make sure my colleagues in Congress know the American people are behind my legislation.

Please urge your members of Congress to repeal the out-dated insurance industry antitrust exemption today.

In the coming weeks, the full Senate will vote on The Health Insurance Antitrust Enforcement Act in the context of comprehensive health care reform, so please take action today.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Patrick Leahy
U.S. Senator

Unless It Gets Crazy

From Digby here.
Here's a little tidbit. Blanche Lincoln's Arkansas partner, David Mark Pryor, says he won't join Republicans in a filibuster of health care reform unless something "crazy" happens.

Mike Stark got him on camera:
Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, whose own stance on health care remains an open question, cautioned, “I think she’s been careful to say that she supports it coming out of committee, but no guarantees on final passage because it’s going to change quite a bit between now and then.”

This reporting seemed pretty useless to me, but it sounded vaguely ominous. I thought it would be a good idea ask point blank: would he support a filibuster of a Senate Health Care Reform bill? Here’s his answer:

[Watch video below]

It's an interesting back and forth, with Pryor clearly very wary of saying anything meaningful. But I think Stark's framing is excellent, especially since it got Pryor to say that he thinks that members of a majority party joining with the minority to filibuster a majority supported bill is not unprecedented --- after all, it happened during the civil rights debates to keep African Americans from having equal rights.

Now there's a tradition to be proud of...


Update: More interesting news from Arkansas:

First he was for it. Then he was against it. Now Rep. Mike Ross is back on board with a government-run healthcare plan. Sort of.

Ross (D-Ark.), who had emerged as a leader among centrist Blue Dog Democrats opposing the public health insurance option, has suggested something his colleagues consider even more drastic – opening Medicare to those under 65 without insurance.

He made the suggestion in meetings with House Democratic leaders and brought the idea to the closed-door House Democratic Caucus meeting Thursday.

"I — speaking only on behalf of myself — suggested one possible idea could be that instead of creating an entirely new government bureaucracy to administer a public option, Medicare could be offered as a choice," Ross said in a statement to The Hill.

Medicare would then compete with private insurers across the age spectrum. It would be open to those who don't have insurance through their employers, the same people who would be covered by the public option already under discussion.
That's a terrific idea. Let's do it.

After Tense Health Care Discussion, Dems Predict Unanimity On Reform

Also from TPM here.

After what Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) indicated was a tense health care discussion, Senate health care leaders declared, confidently, that the overhaul package that comes to the floor will earn every Democratic vote. However, they also made clear that the ultimate decision maker on key questions like the public option is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Reid's making these decisions ultimately, and I think he's listening and...I feel good about it," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

"Conrad spoke out for co-ops," Brown said, "six or seven people spoke out for [the public option]," adding later that the pro-public option senators were articulating a policy preference, and not pressuring Reid to act one way or another as he weaves two competing Senate bills together. Nobody, he says, spoke out against a public plan.

Brown's confidence springs from a belief that conservative Democrats do not want to be held responsible for killing reform. "No Democrat wants to be on the wrong side of history and vote on a procedural vote to kill the most important domestic vote of their careers," Brown said.

But Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus went even further and suggested that every Democrat would ultimately vote for the final bill.

"It's clear we're going to pass health care reform this year," Baucus told reporters. "Every Democrat will vote for...health care reform and I hope that some Republicans will as well."

That belief was echoed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who, without getting specific, said that he recently held discussions with two Republican senators other than Olympia Snowe.

"I've spoken to two other Republicans today on health care...we're not writing off the Republicans," he said. Reid has said, though, that if no Republicans ultimately support reform, Democrats will pass a bill alone.

The difference between Brown's prediction and Baucus' could be crucial. A health care bill that has enough support to win the support of every Democrat will likely have a harder time retaining a public option than will a bill that keeps Democrats united against a filibuster, but then loses some support on the final vote.

Asked how the public option would fare in all this, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) kept it short. "We're doing well," Dodd said.

[Emphasis added.] Better to get a good bill with only Democratic votes than a crappy one with a couple of Republican votes. What would be the point of that? Forget Olympia Snowe. She may want to be on the right side of history but she's still an ideologue.