Saturday, April 28, 2012

Behind the Ad: Yes, President Obama is very cool

By Richard K. Barry

Who: American Crossroads, a conservative PAC

Where: Nationally

What's going on: American Crossroads, Karl Rove's conservative PAC, is very proud of a new ad that many on the right think is one of the most clever things they have ever seen. I'm not so sure.

The basic idea is to attempt to use President Obama's strength against him. To admit that, yes, he is very cool, but does that mean he's the best person to be president? The implication as well is that Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, is dull as dishwater, but that this should not matter.

Cool equals incompetent. Dull equals competent.

I get the basic premise, I just don't know if it works.

Donald Trump, with whom I am not in the habit of agreeing, said on Morning Joe that he thought the ad was a Democratic ad, and that it was terrible for the Republicans. I at least have to admit that Trump knows a thing or two about marketing so I am inclined to listen when he speaks.

Yes, the ad ends with all the bad economic news we have been living with since George W. Bush put the economy in the ditch. Yes, it attempts to blame Obama for that. But, the argument that Obama hasn't fixed the economic mess the Republicans created quickly enough has never really been a very strong one, as far as I can tell.

As for the basic premise of the ad, which is that your opponent is cool, you are not, but vote for us anyway, I'm just not sure it works. I'm also not sure that most people think being cool implies being incompetent. There is no necessary correlation, unless you were one of those loser kids in high school who hated the cool kids who were also the high achievers, like Barack Obama.

At the most rudimentary level, maybe Karl Rove hasn't noticed that Americans really, really like celebrity. They real like cool. Thanks for reminding them, I guess.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Politics and war in America

By Richard K. Barry

Republicans are landing on President Obama with full force for having the audacity to claim credit for killing Osama bin Laden as a part of his re-election bid. How dare he politicize one of the signal events of his administration. That's not how politics is played. Certainly a Republican president wouldn't do anything like that.

I'm not suggesting there is nothing unseemly in crowing about killing another person, even if it is bin Laden, as part of a political campaign. I'm only saying that a GOP president would have created a national holiday to commemorate the event had he or she been able to get it done. 

Republicans are pissed off about this because they didn't get it done and a Democratic president did. That's all this is. When Obama's campaign team runs on the suggestion that Mitt Romney might not have made the same decision, it's silly politics, but it's only a fraction of how this would have been played if the situation were reversed.

When I think of George W. Bush's ridiculous moment aboard an aircraft carrier in full military regalia to announce "mission accomplished" in Iraq, I really have to wonder how stupid Republicans think the American people are. So, that wasn't "policitizing" killing people? And let us not forget, it was politicizing killing people based on a lie, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and the suggestion that they were somehow involved in 9/11.

I think what really pisses Republicans off is the effectiveness of the Democrat's slogan: “Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” It's a keeper.

More than that, though, Republicans hate it when anything runs against their understanding of the world, especially on military matters. President Barack Obama wasn't supposed to be the one to kill bin Laden, and they can't stand it. It wasn't supposed to be that way.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

The New York Giants pick David Wilson in the first round of the NFL Draft, RB from Virginia Tech

By Richard K. Barry

A couple of days ago, the NFL college draft began. Indy took Andrew Luck, as everyone knew they would. Washington took RG III, as everyone knew they would.

Then all the way at the bottom of the first round, the last pick, which is what you get for winning the Super Bowl, the Giants picked a running back from Virginia Tech.

David Wilson may end up being great for them. It's impossible to tell. It's impossible to know if Luck and Griffin will live up to expectations, which are ridiculously high for both of them.

The single most interesting thing about the NFL draft is how hard it is to predict success in the pro league.

Lots of hype, though, thanks to things like the NFL Network, a bit too much, actually.

Much as I love football, I tend to ignore the draft. There's just too much that has to happen before anything that happens on draft day can be seen as momentous.

Repeat after me: Tom Brady, one of the best professional quarterbacks of all time, was drafted #199 in the 2000 NFL Draft behind a number of other college quarterbacks you've never heard of. I could make a very long list of former first rounders you've never heard of.

I'm a New York Giants fan. I hope their first round pick works out, but I have no expectation that it will. Good luck to him. Good luck to all of them.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sarah Palin endorses Richard Mourdock in Indiana Senate race

Richard Mourdock is challenging long-time GOP incumbent Dick Lugar for the party nomination in the Indiana Senate race. Lugar is considered by many in the Tea Party wing of the GOP to be too moderate.

Sarah Palin is, naturally, supporting the Tea Party choice in an attempt to push Lugar out. With or without Palin's intervention, the nomination race will likely be close.

Any chance the Democrats have to steal a seat like this is based on the Republicans going rogue with their candidate. It would still be a long-shot, but it's good to see Palin stirring the pot. Thanks for the assist.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

American Crossroads - buying votes across America

By Richard K. Barry

In another news item to warm your heart, Crossroads GPS is, according to the National Journal, about to launch a $1.2 million ad campaign against five Democratic Senate candidates on Tuesday.

The Wiki entry on this, describes the group as follows:

Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation that works in conjunction with American Crossroads. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Crossroads GPS's primary purpose is the advancement of social welfare including public policy advocacy, although it is permitted to engage in political spending as well. Crossroads GPS is required to report what it spends, but it is not required to publicly disclose any donor information.

You need a lawyer just to make sense of any of it.

All you really need to know is that Karl Rove is an adviser to the group and this:

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's January 2010 Citizen's United decision, groups like American Crossroads can legally advocate for or against political candidates without restrictions on the amount of money they can raise from individuals and corporations.

About the campaign, the National Journal story states:
The ads are targeted against Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, and former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp.
Including this buy, the group's non-profit arm has spent $8.3 million on issue ads against Senate Democratic candidates so far this cycle, dating back to the summer of 2011. This is the sixth multi-state Senate buy that Crossroads GPS has launched; they've also hit individual senators, like McCaskill, in separate spots over the last year.

And the best news is that:
Both American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS are cash-flush heading into the 2012 elections, and are preparing to spend significant money in key battleground states, having raised over $100 million so far this election cycle.

No great surprise, but the ads will attack these Democrats on their record of "spending and taxes." Can't wait to see what kinds of lies Rove and his cronies will roll out.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Frustrations courting the youth vote

 By Richard K. Barry

When you're on the left, or even a Democrat, one of the more frustrating things about politics is how well you tend to do in public opinion surveys with younger voters. It's frustrating, of course, because so few younger voters, relatively speaking, get around to actually voting.

The latest Gallup poll tells us that President Obama has a 35-point edge over Mitt Romney among those under 30. Unfortunately, only 60 percent of that demographic is registered to vote, the lowest percentage among any age group.

According to The Hill, the percentage of young voters who say they will definitely vote is only 56 percent. Other age groups registered 80 percent or above.

Though this is hardly a nonpartisan comment, I would like to personally ask everyone, especially younger people, to vote. Please.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

Huffington Post's totally cool interactive Electoral College map

If you like interactive political maps, you're going to love the Election Dashboard at Huffington Post. You should check it out.

I know it's early, but things simply don't look that good for Mitt Romney. At this point, based on available polling information, this is how HuffPo breaks it down.

270 electoral votes are needed to win. 205 votes are in states in which President Obama is strong and 93 in states that lean towards Obama. That would add up to 298, or a bit more than 270.

They say there are 170 electoral votes in states where Mitt Romney is strong. They also say that, at this point, no additional states lean towards Romney.

70 votes are in states they consider a tossup. Tossup states with electoral votes noted are Arizona (11), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Missouri(10), North Carolina (15), Nevada (6), Virginia (13).

That would mean that if Romney took all the tossup states (70), plus states where he is strong (170), he would sit at 240 electorate votes with 270 needed to win.

I'm not saying Romney can't win, much too early to say anything that foolish. But if HuffPo is close to right in how they see things, Romney needs to win all the tossup states and then take about 30% of the electoral college votes (30 out of 93) in states where Obama is deemed to have an early advantage.

I guess we'll be looking at those tossup states and those "lean" states pretty closely as events unfold. And the campaigns will be doing the same thing to decide where to spend their time and money.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Karl Rove's thoughts on the quality of vice presidential nominees

By Richard K. Barry

A lot of people, me among them, like to vilify Karl Rove. After all, he had a large hand in getting George W. Bush elected president. If that's not a major mark against you, I don't know what is. He's also a nasty piece of work when it comes to doing whatever it takes to get his people elected. Mostly we vilify the man because he deserves it.

Much of what he has to say is partisan crap. You have to take it with a grain of salt, but, in politics, everything has to be taken with a gain of salt. It's a partisan exercise. Facts are never just facts. They are always intended to made a case with the electorate that your candidate is best. That's just the way it is.

But if you don't think Karl Rove knows his business, you are not paying attention.

He had a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days ago arguing, basically, that a running mate has rarely in the modern era helped win a presidential election. That being the case, a nominee should give political considerations less weight and issues of governance more.

Here's a bit of what Rove had to say:

Running mates haven't decided an election in more than a half-century. For example, research by Bernard Grofman and Reuben Kline, political scientists at the University of California, Irvine, suggests that the net impact of the vice-presidential picks in 2008 was roughly one-half of one point and is generally less than one percentage point. Presidential elections are rarely that close.

What about running mates helping to carry their home states? Political scientists Christopher Devine of Ohio State and Kyle Kopko of Elizabeth College argue the home-state advantage is often modest and almost never dispositive. Rarely does a presidential election come down to one state, as it did in 2000 (Florida) or 2004 (Ohio). In neither of those instances did either party field someone from those states.
A running mate's principal political impact is on behalf of the presidential candidate's themes or issues. The vice-presidential candidate helps reinforce what the presidential candidate is emphasizing. But if the top banana on the ballot isn't getting it done, the running mate won't be able to on his or her own.

His final point is that a nominee's job is "to select his best partner in the White House and a person the country would have confidence in if something terrible happened to him."

I can't vouch for the research he cites. It's certainly intriguing. I suppose there might be circumstances in a very close race in which a running mate would matter. Still, my gut tells me the research is mostly right.

Perhaps one of the more interesting things Rove writes is that "choosing a running mate reveals much about the presidential candidate himself. Though still only a candidate, this is his first presidential decision."

To Rove's credit, it's an interesting piece. Too bad his closing contention, "proof of his argument," is that Dick Cheney was the right choice for George W. Bush, despite the fact that Rove said he didn't think so at the time. I don't think Darth Vader ruling America would have been a good thing, but that's me.

Anyway, Rove never mentions Sarah Palin critically, but I have to think that this disaster wasn't that far from his mind when he wrote this. Despite the fact that John McCain was probably never going to win, it should give us pause. An older man with health issues chose the most unqualified running mate imaginable on the off chance it might help him at the polls. I don't think Romney is going to make the same mistake. Let's hope no one ever does again.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back from vacation

Hi all. It's been... weeks. This is the longest I've gone without blogging in the seven-year existence of The Reaction.

I was on vacation in Europe for three weeks, most of it in England, and successfully resisted the urge to write -- or even pay attention to politics. I just needed a break, particularly with the Republican primaries wrapped up and a very busy election season still ahead of us.

Anyway, I'm back home and ready to get going again, but I'm still pretty tired. I'll blog again soon, likely tomorrow. I'll also have some photos from my trip, including from Bruges (beer, chocolate, waffles, and frites in the best-smelling city I've even been to) and Vimy Ridge, the intensely moving memorial to the Canadians who died in World War I.

But before that I must send a huge, massive thanks to Richard for taking care of things here during my absence. I knew he'd do a great job, but he went well beyond that, keeping the blog going with typically excellent content and making sure everything kept running smoothly.

Okay, I must go. It's, like, 3:43 am in England.

Good night, everyone.

-- Michael


Bookmark and Share

President Obama to formally launch re-election bid on May 5th

It's hard to believe we're not already right in the middle of high campaign season in the 2012 election cycle, but I guess all things have their formal starting points.

RealClearPolitics is reporting that President Obama will "officially" launch his re-election campaign on May 5th with rallies in Columbus and Richmond.

A pithy and very accurate comment in the story is that this will be "akin to opening night after a thousand preview appearances."

After a lot of silly speculation that someone other than Romney might be the GOP nominee, from me too, Mitt's the one.

Here we go. Pre-season is over. Game on. Whatever other metaphor you can think of. There are a mere 195 days before Election Day. The political junkies among us are going to enjoy this. My apologies to the rest of you.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

This day in music - April 26, 1966: Dusty Springfield is at No. 1 on the UK charts with You Don't Have To Say You Love Me

By Richard K. Barry

This was Dusty Springfield's only UK No. 1, but what a hit. It reached No. 4 on the US charts.

Interestingly, the song was originally written with Italian lyrics, and was introduced in 1965 at the Sanremo Festival, a popular Italian song contest. Pino Donaggio co-wrote the song with Vito Pallavicini and his team partner, Jody Miller. The song took seventh place at Sanremo and was recorded by Donaggio, reaching No. 1 in Italy in March 1965.

The Italian title was "lo che non vivo (senza te)," which translates as "I, who can't live (without you)." Despite that fact that I'm Italian on my mother's side, I'm not going to pull an Alex Trebek here. I don't speak a word of Italian, but I can type it fairly well.

Springfield heard the song in Italian, loved it, had someone write English lyrics, and the rest is history.

You may recall that Elvis had a pretty good sized hit with it, No. 11 in the US in 1970.

I'll post both versions. Both great. (You may have to click through to the YouTube site to get the Elvis version).

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

Romney's bent sense of patriotism

By Richard K. Barry

Here's a line from a speech given recently by likely GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

There was a time -- not so long ago -- when each of us could walk a little taller and stand a little straighter because we had a gift that no one else in the world shared. We were Americans.

Here's what Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog had to say about it:

Let me tell you what would happen if there was a Republican incumbent president and a Democratic candidate said this: we'd spend the next several months talking about why the Democrat no longer believes Americans should take pride in their country. The candidate's patriotism would be routinely questioned and he'd be asked repeatedly why he thinks it is no longer true the American people should hold their heads high.
And yet there was Mitt Romney, effectively arguing that the only way to have national pride is to give him power.

But more than that is the obnoxious presumption that anyone failing to share Romney's politics, whatever the hell they are this week, doesn't love America and is responsible for her decline.

We have been living with this shit for a while. They say they want their country back. They imply that the 52.9% of voting citizens who made Barack Obama President of the United States somehow stole America from its rightful owners. And until they get it back, they argue, we can do nothing but hang our heads in shame.

You expect this kind of crap at a Tea Party rally, not from someone running for the presidency. Oh wait, there's no way to tell what to expect from Mitt Romney.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)



Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

John Steinbeck's Once There Was A War

By Richard K. Barry

For some reason I got heavily into reading books about war over the winter. I'm generally not a great fan of war, all that death and destruction. Still, as a concept it has played a fairly significant role in the shape of the world we know, as unfortunate as that is.

I'm reasonably certain that trying to understand war, the experiences of people caught up in it, and the geopolitical consequences of it, doesn't make me a hawk. I'm grateful that I have never had to be anywhere near it, but I am fascinated by it.

Anyway, enough explaining, apologizing, whatever.

In the middle of looking for things on the subject to read, I walked over to one of my bookcases and pulled down John Steinbeck's Once There Was A War. The book was published in 1958. It is a collection of articles written by Steinbeck while he was a war correspondent in Europe for the New York Herald Tribune from June to December 1943. The book seems to be categorized as a non-fiction novel.

Here's a very useful entry from the Wiki on the book:

Steinbeck did not report 'straight news', as he put it: he did not cover battles, or interview national or military leaders. As befitted the author of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck wrote about the experiences of the ordinary people, those who were doing the actual fighting, and those who did the vast number of unglamorous but vital support jobs which kept the armed forces operating.

Obviously, as these were newspaper dispatches, each story is quite brief. The entire book isn't 200 pages. As the entry also indicates:
Steinbeck's articles include descriptions of life on a troop transporter, an account of the liberation of a small Sicilian town, a description of how homesick US soldiers tried to grow their native vegetables in the English garden where they billeted, and an account of how a detachment of US paratroopers tricked the German garrison at Ventotene into surrendering.

I've read my share of Steinbeck, the ones that most people know. I hadn't come across this one, though it was on my shelf, not that it's unusual that I would be unaware of a book on my own shelf.

It's a great little read by one of the best writers of the 20th century.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

President Obama could be competitive in Arizona

By Richard K. Barry

Richard Carmona
For a while the Obama campaign team has been saying that Arizona is in play for them. I think some people have been thinking that this is a bit too optimistic, but, according to a recent poll, perhaps not.

A new Merrill/Morrison Institute poll indicates that Mitt Romney is barely leading President Obama in Arizona in a general election match up, 42% to 40%, with another 18% undecided.

Political Wire quoted pollster Bruce Merrill saying this:

The eventual outcome also may be dependent on whether former Surgeon General Richard Carmona can mount a vigorous campaign for retiring Sen. John Kyl's seat, a campaign that would stimulate turnout in the Hispanic community. While I think if the election were held today Romney probably would win, it appears Obama can mount a competitive campaign in Arizona.

One of the more interesting things about elections is how turnout is effected either by the main event or even the undercard and what that can mean for the electoral chances of one or the other.

Sometimes a presidential candidate's coattails can help congressional, senate or local race candidates. Sometimes the "lesser race" can have its own coattails, helping presidential candidates. Fascinating.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Could NY City Mayor Mike Bloomberg support Mitt Romney?

By Richard K. Barry

I see that Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain was in New York recently talking up presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

In a different political tradition, some would call Bloomberg a Red Tory - progressive on social issues, conservative on fiscal issues. I'm not unused to politicians like Bloomberg, but he is a rare breed in the U.S. these days.

He supports abortion rights, gay marriage, gun control, amnesty for illegal immigrants, stem-cell research and opposes the death penalty. He supports government action on climate change and state intervention to improve public welfare. On the other hand, he has been an immensely successful businessman, he's naturally strongly pro-business, calls himself a fiscal conservative and is a free-trader. He's kind of hawkish on military matters.

As far as I can tell, Bloomberg seems to be the sort of politician with whom you could have a conversation, with whom you could disagree, with whom you might be able to compromise, in short, the kind of guy with whom you could work in a political sense.

In other words, Bloomberg seems to be the kind of politicians Republicans don't much like. He passes few of their purity tests. He would never have gotten to first base had he decided, in a moment of insanity, to seek the GOP presidential nomination.

The point is that I'm not quite sure why McCain was sniffing around Gracie Mansion trying to, presumably, court Bloomberg's endorsement for Romney. Mayor Bloomberg is not much of a Republican either formally or informally.

His history is that he was Democrat before he ran for elective office. He then ran for mayor in 2001 as a Republican. He subsequently left the GOP over philosophical disagreements with the national party leadership and has been an independent ever since.

I don't know what Bloomberg is going to do. We're not in touch. But if he had problems with the GOP in 2007, I can't imagine he'd be thrilled with them today.

I guess if you're Romney, or a surrogate, you have to ask. I'd be disappointed if he said yes. Even if he and I are far from politically sympatico, he still seems far too rational to line up with Romney in the current climate. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

Probably Not The Way To Earn Respect

North Korea must have hired Baghdad Bob  as a speechwriter:
North Korea is boasting of “powerful, modern weapons” that can defeat in a single blow the United States, which it accuses of plotting a war against it.

Chief of general staff, Ri Yong Ho, gave no further details about the weaponry in his speech to mark the North Korean army's 80th anniversary.

People of a certain age (e.g. my age or older and don't you dare ask!) will recognize immediately the patois of the overblown.
See, we heard this sort of nonsense, from both sides, a lot during the Cold War. Basically, it boils down to "My dad can beat up your dad," or a threat that no one takes seriously except to note that it deflects attention from the real problem: the bully standing in front of you.
Or in North Korea's case, the idiot in the Central Luxury House. but I digress...
Bluffs like this only serve to point out the lunacy of aggression: much like teasing a Yorkie only creates a noisy yap that annoys the family and neighbors, aggressively asserting American exceptionalism and hegemony over nations that can barely field a soccer team, much less an army, ought to be beneath the greatest military power in history.
That said...
It is not inconceivable for North Korea to eventually develop weaponry that the United States could be caught unaware of. You'd like to think that any "powerful, modern weapon" would either be developed by us or our allies first, or we'd at least be aware of it and comprehend the science well enough to develop defenses against it.
And therein lies the rub: American culture has ceded technology and science to other nations, nations that do not necessarily have American interests at heart. It's one thing to say South Korea (just as a hypothetical) has our back and develops technology they share with us, it's quite another to assume that's always going to be the case with a burgeoning behemoth like China sitting on their doorstep.
I mention Korea because they've been accused of warping scientific ethics in the past, like bans on human cloning.
It's one thing to say India will never develop a weapon without sharing their technology, quite another to assume it when their realpolitik includes closer relations with Russia than with the US.
North Korea may be the only nation on the planet whose defense budget eats up a bigger portion of their GDP than ours. North Korea is an extremely secretive place which is the perfect breeding ground for a weapon of mass destruction.
They may not have the ability to develop this kind of weaponry-- that usually involves education and a populace that isn't starving-- but you never know.
People get lucky. All it might have taken to prevent the September 11 attacks was a bad thunderstorm over the northeast.
(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Philip Humber's perfect game

By Richard K. Barry

On Saturday, April 21, 2012, Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox became the 21st pitcher in Major League Baseball history to throw a perfect game. He did it against the Seattle Mariners.

Humber has played for the Mets, Twins and Royals previously, debuting with the Mets in 2006. He's 29 years old. He was claimed on waivers by the White Sox in 2011.

His major league record is 12 wins, 10 losses. In the minors he was 40 and 42, in case you were wondering.

Baseball is a very difficult game, but no matter what else happens in Philip Humber's life, he will have accomplished perhaps the most challenging feat for any player at his position.

Not a bad day's work.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

Being Keith Olbermann

By Richard K. Barry

I've always liked Keith Olbermann, at least the guy I saw every night on MSNBC when he worked there. Great politics, smart presentation.

In truth, though, I always felt like he would not necessarily be the kind of guy with whom I'd want to share a house or a workplace. Too high maintenance or, put a different way, too much of a pain in the ass.

You may have heard that Olbermann was sacked from his latest gig at Current TV for his "unreasonable and demanding behavior."

To me it doesn't sound like he can turn it off. That's too bad. And it's really too bad when a person can't distinguish between friends and enemies. At the end of the day you may still be glad a person like that is on your side, but just barely.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

Ron Paul says he's not quitting

By Richard K. Barry

To remind you, Ron Paul is running for the GOP presidential nomination, and has been for some time, perhaps decades.

You know, it gets pretty confusing when you have to be reminded that someone is still running in order to be told that they're not quitting.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

A Master Bait And Switch

By Carl
To no one's surprise, health insurance companies will rape us for every last cent:

The agreement required the companies to finance an objective database of doctors’ fees that patients and insurers nationally could rely on. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, then the attorney general, said it would increase reimbursements by as much as 28 percent.

It has not turned out that way. Though the settlement required the companies to underwrite the new database with $95 million, it did not obligate them to use it. So by the time the database was finally up and running last year, the same companies, across the country, were rapidly shifting to another calculation method, based on Medicare rates, that usually reduces reimbursement substantially. 

“It’s deplorable,” said Chad Glaser, a sales manager for a seafood company near Buffalo, who learned that he was facing hundreds of dollars more in out-of-pocket costs for his son’s checkups with a specialist who had performed a lifesaving liver transplant. “I could get balance-billed hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I have no protection.”

So what started out with good intentions on the part of Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-bag, NY) ends up actually injuring or worse those it was intended to help.

As the opening graf of that clipped quote implies, prior to this settlement insurers were using several arbitrary means of determining who got paid and what. It is certainly fair to say that the primary concern those HMOs and other companies had was their bottom line under the guise of controlling costs, whatever that means.

The idea behind an objective database was that doctors and hospitals nationwide could refer to the database to determine what they might expect as a reimbursement. No surprises. Under the old database, called "Ingenix" and owned by insurance giant United Healthcare, rates were tallied and supposedly adjusted by the term of art "usual and customary rates," (UCR) to reflect regional differences in costs of living and doing business.

In other words, rents in rural Kansas being lower than in midtown Manhattan, Manhattan doctors would receive a higher reimbursement to help keep their practices going.

You can sort of see where this morphs: indeed, even 25 years ago, I was battling my HMO to increase the settlement paid to an orthopedic surgeon based in New York who was paid a ridiculously low fee for surgery he performed on me. I can't imagine it has gotten any better. The insurer would undercut the UCR, and hope no one would notice. Indeed, cottage industries sprung up to appeal insurance decisions on UCRs alone.

Eventually, the insurer would pay out and everyone went about their business. The establishment in 2009 of the FAIR Health database was supposed to cut out the nonsense: One fee, adjusted by a percentage to recognize the UCR (60% to 80% of the UCR fee-- previously, it was 80% of the UCR but the UCR could fluctuate.) The patient is then responsible for payments above and beyond that reimbursement.

$95 million to estalbish this database, and then the insurance companies pull a fast one: they switch to Medicare rate-based reimbursements, using the base Medicare reimbursement and upgrading it by 140% to 250%, which would be fine if the Medicare reimbursement wasn't so damned low in the first place:

[A]t 150 percent of Medicare rates, it fell far short. In the case of a $275 liver checkup, for example, the balance due was $175, almost three times the patient share under FAIR Health’s customary rate, and three and a half times what it was five years ago under Ingenix.

I've known loan sharks who were more generous.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 23, 2012

Would Romney ask Jeb Bush to be his VP?

I saw Jeb Bush musing about his interest in being Romney's VP choice on the panel shows this morning.

I don't think Jeb would have much to lose if asked. If Romney wins, he gets to be VP with a good shot at the top job in eight years. If Romney loses, a more likely scenario, Jeb gets a big leg up for the GOP nomination in 2016.

But I don't think Romney will ask. So far "Bush" has been a four letter word few in the GOP have wanted to utter since before 2008. It will be pretty hard to avoid it if it's actually on all the campaign literature and right up there on the big signs.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Is Ohio Senator Rob Portman the leading contender for Romney's VP?

By Richard K. Barry

Rob Portman and Mitt Romney

According to one report, a consensus amongst influential Republicans is starting to form around Ohio Senator Rob Portman for Romney's VP choice.

As BuzzFeed tells it:

In an informal survey of more than half of the Republican State Chairmen and national committee people at this weekend’s State Chairman meeting at a resort here (Scottsdale, Arizona), two-thirds said they believe Portman is the most-likely and best-qualified running-mate for Mitt Romney.

Portman's credentials include the fact that he is a former Congressman from the Cincinnati area, was the director of the Office of Management and Budget during the George W. Bush Administration, and was elected to the Senate in 2010.

Presumably Portman's bona fides as an economy guy in the "W" administration are supposed to be a good thing for Romney. Not sure about that.

The funniest part, though, comes in a couple of comments about Portman by Republican national committee people at the meeting:

“He’s not going to be Palin — he’s not going to be fighting to get in front of cameras, [Portman] knows his place,” said one Midwestern committeeman. 
“He was born to be the guy standing next to the guy,” said another member. “He’s the type of guy who ran for vice president of his high school student council.”

I love that line: "He's was born to be the guy standing next to the guy." Let's face it, Romney will have to do some real hunting to find a running-mate who won't overshadow him. Looks like he may have found what he needs.

Big yawn.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Sen. Joe Lieberman is staying out of the 2012 presidential election

By Richard K. Barry

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) is taking his "independent" status seriously this presidential election season. He told Fox New Sunday that he was simply going to stay out of it.
I'm going to try something different this year. I'm going to try to stay out of this one.

You'll recall (how could you forget?) that Lieberman was Al Gore's running mate in 2000, and then supported Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) in 2008. In fact, if we are to believe the depiction in Game Change, McCain really wanted him as his running mate.

Here's some of the rest of what Lieberman had to say:
I'm enjoying not being involved in the nastiness of campaigning in America these days. I think this year, when it comes to the presidential election, I'm just going to do what most Americans do: go in the voting booth on election day and in the privacy of the booth cast my vote.

I remember Lieberman speaking at the 2008 Republican convention in support of John McCain and Sarah Palin so, that's fine, Joe. Stay out of it this time and take Senator Manchin with you.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

Sunday, April 22, 2012

From My Collection - The McGarrigles' Dancer with Bruised Knees

By Richard K. Barry

Kate and Anna McGarrigle (The McGarrigles) were a pair of singer-songwriters from Quebec. They performed as a duo until Kate's death on January 18, 2010.

Having lived in Canada for many years and as part of the Canadian folk scene for much of it, I have a special appreciation for the McGarrigles. The term is overused, but they are a Canadian treasure. It's difficult to explain their music if you have never heard it. Terrifically original material, wonderful family harmonies, traditional styles and more - in both English and French language.

As the Wiki states:

Their songs have been covered by a variety of artists including Maria Mulduar, Nana Mouskouri, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Bill Bragg, Chloe Saint-Marie, Judy Collins, Anne Sofie von Otter, and others. The covers of their songs by well known artists led to the McGarrigles getting their first recording contract in 1974. They created ten albums from 1975 through 2008.

Like a lot of people, I first heard them in their performance of a version of Wade Hemsworth's song, "The Log Driver's Waltz," which was the famous soundtrack for a 1979 animated film by the Canadian National Film Board.

Dancer with Bruised Knees is a 1977 album by Kate and Anna McGarrigle (writing credits noted):

Side One
Dancer with Bruised Knees (Anna)
Southern Boys (Kate)
No Biscuit Blues (William Dumaresq/Galt MacDermott)
First Born (Kate)
Blanche comme la neige - traditional, arrangement by Kate and Anna
Perrine était servante - traditional, arrangement by Kate and Anna

Side Two
Be My Baby (Anna)
Walking Song (Kate)
Naufragée du tendre (Anna/Philippe Tatartcheff)

Hommage à Grungie (Kate)
Kitty Come Home (Anna)
Come a Long Way (Kate)

If you are going to be anywhere near Toronto on June 15, 2012, you may want to check out a special concert at Massey Hall, part of the annual Luminato Festival, which will features the songs of Kate McGarrigle performed by a very impressive line-up.

This is from the write-up on the website:

Following all-star salutes in London and New York, Luminato brings together singer-songwriter legend Kate McGarrigle’s family and friends to celebrate her inspiring life and work. Kate’s sisters, Anna and Jane, her children, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, and her niece and nephew, Lily and Sylvan Lanken, and Anna’s husband, Dane Lanken, will be joined by Emmylou Harris, Bruce Cockburn, Peggy Seeger, and more than a dozen others. Additional performers to be added, stay tuned to this web page for more details.

The title of the featured song, from the album, is called "Walking Song."

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)


Bookmark and Share

Playing with words, Romney-style

By Richard K. Barry

According to The Maddow Blog, Mitt Romney claims to be a life-time member of the National Rifle Association. In fact, he fairly recently bought that designation, as one can do with any number of organizations if you pay enough or, in some cases, are elected to the position.

It's interesting, as well, because Romney has not always seen eye-to-eye with the NRA.

On the point of being a life-time member, though, that's a pretty cute trick. If you are not paying attention, you might think that being a life-time member means that one has already been a member of a given organization for much of their life, but, not necessarily. Starting today, you can pay to be a life-time member of Weight Watchers, Mountain Co-op, Gold's Gym, the Girl Scouts of America, and the International Atlantic Economic Society, just to name a few opportunities. I'm sure there are countless others.

And, by the looks of it, also starting today, you can become a life-time member of the NRA for $1000.

My guess is Mitt can spare the scratch.

The point is that politicians are always playing with words to suggest things that aren't quite true. Mitt Romney, however, raises this to a special art form, and for that we should listen very carefully to everything he has to say.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share