Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category
Good Monday, Widdershins. I hope you had a good International Women’s Day. I saw quite a few women wearing red at my client site last week in honor of “A Day without a Woman.” It was inspirational. I think there are several more actions planned from the organizers of the Women’s March, so stay tuned!
Now to the title of my post. This comes from some research I’ve been doing on the human brain, and the way it works to keep us alive and protect us from threats. This won’t be a super-science-y piece – more of a meditation on the state our country is in, and how it’s possible for sub-human cretins like Drumpf, Bannon and their minions to win even one vote, much less 60-odd million.
As I’m sure many of you know better than I, there are older, more primitive parts of our brains that only exist to make sure we quickly and instinctively respond to threats. From an evolutionary perspective, these parts of the brains are extremely important. They initiate the “fight or flight” response, which actually also includes a “freeze” as well, giving us microseconds to decide either to go to war, or to retreat.
After millions of years of evolution, we actually developed the capability to process these responses and evaluate them. Ah, the frontal lobe! Human beings develop this part of the brain in young adulthood. At least, some human beings do.
…It organizes responses to complex problems, plans steps to an objective, searches memory for relevant experience, adapts strategies to accommodate new data, guides behavior with verbal skills and houses working memory. Its orbitofrontal circuit manages emotional impulses in socially appropriate ways for productive behaviors including empathy, altruism, interpretation of facial expressions. Stroke in this area typically releases foul language and fatuous behavior patterns [bolding mine].
My argument today is that Drumpf and his supporters have either not developed their frontal lobes, or they have developed them, but are unable to use them. Their amygdalae are in charge, causing them to respond unthinkingly to perceived threats without the calming influence of the orbitofrontal circuit. This inability to counter the constant screaming of “Danger, Will Robinson!” makes them extremely susceptible to manipulation by other like-minded people, who deeply understand the constant state of anxiety in which these primitive brains exist.
In other words…they are stupid. And because they’re stupid, they’re evil.
On March 4th, The Thing in the White House sent out a bunch of angry tweets blasting the previous President for wiretapping Isengard Trump Tower. “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Then 30 mins later: “How long has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process? This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” When asked to clarify this insanity, The Thing’s minions really could do nothing but heee and hawww. The Thing read it somewhere, they said. NY Times! Louise Mensch! BBC! Naturally once reporters dug deeper, they found that NO, none of those reports talked about wiretapping. Mensch broke the story on her right-wing blog HeatStreet on November 7th about the FISA warrant, but all she said was that a FISC court granted permission to “examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.” In question was a mysterious communication between two Russian banks and a server in Trump Tower. (David Corn of Mother Jones broke the story of the two banks and Trump Tower, but all media dismissed it as a bizarre conspiracy theory a couple of weeks earlier.) In the follow-up reports to Mensch’s story, BBC and the failing NY Times confirmed a FISA warrant, but nobody mentioned wiretaps… except Breitbart and then The Thing in its Tweets. Ahhhhh, the plot thickens. Where did Breitbart get the information about wiretaps at Trump Tower and did The Thing just leak top secret information in a series of Tweets? Sure seems that way. Will anybody hold him accountable? LOL.
There are fleeing moments when it feels like Lady Lindsey Graham and Hero John McCain might hold The Thing accountable for the numerous impeachable offenses it has committed. Earlier today Graham tweeted: “An attack on one political party should be considered an attack on all. We must push back on Russian election interference at home & abroad.” That sounds great! However it should also be noted that Graham had lunch with The Thing earlier in the day.
“Great lunch meeting with @POTUS today. President Trump is strongly committed to rebuilding our military which is music to my ears. (1/3)
President Trump is in deal-making mode and I hope Congress is like-minded. (2/3)”
“How good was the meeting with @POTUS?
I gave him my NEW cell phone number.”
Somebody responded: “1-800-DOOR-MAT?” And then “You, sir, are a profile in courage.”
And that, folks, is Lindsey Graham summarized in a handful of tweets. We have to get used to the notion that no, Graham and McCain won’t hold The Thing accountable for anything until they’ve gotten what they want from him: tax cuts for the rich, bigger military, gutting ACA, etc. etc. etc. Then maybe, possibly, once that’s all done, they’ll throw The Thing overboard.
Speaking of handing out cell numbers, can anybody afford a new cell phone after Republicans pass Trumpcare? Jason Chaffetz, the man who investigated Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails to death, and who doesn’t think there is any reason to look into Trump’s connections to Russia, went on CNN to start selling Trumpcare to America.
Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so, maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions for themselves.
This is, of course, patently absurd. An iPhone unsubsidized by a phone company might cover one month’s premium for a single person. How many iPhones does Chaffetz think people buy? Of course, Chaffetz himself doesn’t have to buy his own phone. He gets one from work. His cell bill gets covered too. “How much does an iPhone cost” is the new “How much is a gallon of milk?” and Chaffetz doesn’t know the cost of either.
Overall Trumpcare is going to gut poor people into oblivion. It gives tax breaks to the rich, provides insurance companies with tax deductions on CEO salaries, will raise costs of premium, reinstate caps, gut preexisting conditions. Millions of people will lose their insurance. Many of them were Trump voters. Sadly many of them were not. But they will suffer also.
Why do Republicans hate poor people? It’s a question that has been asked often and there are many answers. As it came up again in the current Trumpcare discussion, I was reminded of a scene in E.M. Forster’s great novel “Howards End.” In the 1910 novel Forster explored 3 groups of people from 3 different classes: the extremely wealthy and conservative Wilcoxes, upper middle class but liberal Schlegels, and poor but aspiring for something bigger Basts. The Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen, try to help poor Leonard Bast, but their well-meaning interventions in his life, as well as not-well meaning interventions from the Wilcoxes, prove disastrous. He loses his job as a clerk in an insurance company after following bad advice from patriarch Henry Wilcox. When the impetuous Helen (played by Helena Bonham Carter in the magnificent film, with Emma Thompson as Margaret) tries to make her case for helping the poor to the condescending 1%-er Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins in the film), the following exchange takes place. Written in 1910, “Howards End”is still relevant in 2017.
From Chapter 22
He [Henry Wilcox] raised his finger. “Now, a word of advice.”
“I require no more advice.” [said Helen]
“A word of advice. Don’t take up that sentimental attitude over the poor. See that she doesn’t, Margaret. The poor are poor, and one’s sorry for them, but there it is. As civilisation moves forward, the shoe is bound to pinch in places, and it’s absurd to pretend that any one is responsible personally. Neither you, nor I, nor my informant, nor the man who informed him, nor the directors of the Porphyrion, are to blame for this clerk’s loss of salary. It’s just the shoe pinching–no one can help it; and it might easily have been worse.”
Helen quivered with indignation.
“By all means subscribe to charities–subscribe to them largely– but don’t get carried away by absurd schemes of Social Reform. I see a good deal behind the scenes, and you can take it from me that there is no Social Question–except for a few journalists who try to get a living out of the phrase. There are just rich and poor, as there always have been and always will be. Point me out a time when men have been equal–”
“I didn’t say–”
“Point me out a time when desire for equality has made them happier. No, no. You can’t. There always have been rich and poor. I’m no fatalist. Heaven forbid! But our civilisation is moulded by great impersonal forces” (his voice grew complacent; it always did when he eliminated the personal), “and there always will be rich and poor. You can’t deny it” (and now it was a respectful voice)–“and you can’t deny that, in spite of all, the tendency of civilisation has on the whole been upward.”
“Owing to God, I suppose,” flashed Helen.
He stared at her.
“You grab the dollars. God does the rest.”
It was no good instructing the girl if she was going to talk about God in that neurotic modern way. Fraternal to the last, he left her for the quieter company of Mrs. Munt.
“Don’t ever discuss political economy with Henry,” advised her sister. “It’ll only end in a cry.”
“But he must be one of those men who have reconciled science with religion,” said Helen slowly. “I don’t like those men. They are scientific themselves, and talk of the survival of the fittest, and cut down the salaries of their clerks, and stunt the independence of all who may menace their comfort, but yet they believe that somehow good–it is always that sloppy ‘somehow’ will be the outcome, and that in some mystical way the Mr. Basts of the future will benefit because the Mr. Brits of today are in pain.”
Also, in brief: Richard Steele, the British spy who wrote the infamous “pee pee” dossier, has resurfaced. While American Senators want to hear him testify about what he knows.
WikiLeaks is dumping top secret CIA documents.
And contrary to earlier denials that he’s never met the Russian Ambassador (a man nobody has ever met), a newly unearthed article in the Wall Street Journal from last April says that Trump met with the Russian Ambassador and greeted him warmly.
What’s on your mind Widdershins? This is an open thread.
Good (?) Monday Widdershins
Due to mb being very, very busy with real life and stuff I’m putting this post up to move things along and to provide us with some further topics of discussion.
His orangeness has decided to give D.o.D. a 10% increase in its budget because, you know, there’s never enough money to hand out to Lockheed Martin, Boeing Aerospace, Raytheon, General Dynamics and the like.
President Trump will propose a federal budget that dramatically increases defense-related spending by $54 billion while cutting other federal agencies by the same amount, according to an administration official.
The proposal represents a massive increase in federal spending related to national security, while other priorities, especially foreign aid, will see significant reductions.
Yeah because foreign aid is such a large part of the federal budget.
How much of the federal budget goes to foreign aid?
What’s your best guess? 10 percent? 20 percent? 1 percent?
If you’re like most Americans, you probably guessed wrong.
In December, the Kaiser Family Foundation polled 1,505 people. Only 1 in 20 knew the right answer: less than 1 percent of the $4 trillion federal budget goes to foreign aid. The average respondent estimated that 26 percent went toward assisting other countries.
What’s more, our ignorance colors the way we think about foreign spending. Fifty-six percent of the poll respondents thought the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid. Once they were told that the U.S. spends less than 1 percent of the federal budget on foreign aid, only 28 percent still thought the nation was overspending.
Going back to the WaPo piece:
“We are going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people,” Trump said. “We can do so much more with the money we spend.”
The White House did not specify how Trump’s budget would address mandatory spending or taxes, promising that those details would come later. The vast majority of federal spending comes from programs Trump can’t touch with his budget. Social Security costs were approximately $910 billion last year, and Medicare costs outpaced defense spending with a total cost of $588 billion in 2016. Medicaid, interest payments on existing debt, and miscellaneous costs made up an additional $1.2 trillion combined.
Ah the old familiar “do more with less” axiom. Generally it meant that shit just piled up and got backlogged as agencies tried to prioritize the elements of their mission.
More fallout from the alt-right/neo nazis?
Jewish facilities around the nation were rocked by yet another wave of bomb threats Monday, forcing evacuations in at least 12 states.
At least 20 Jewish community centers and day schools in Alabama, North Carolina, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia and Delaware received threatening phone calls, The Huffington Post has confirmed.
This is the fifth wave of threats JCCs have received since the start of the new year.
I just don’t understand it. What is the point in threatening children? You want to discuss terrorism Donnie, try the home-grown version.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said that sometimes Jewish community centers and day schools are either “co-located” or near each other. “It is deeply troubling to see that these anti-Semites are expanding their scope to target a broader section of the Jewish community,” Greenblatt said. “These JCCs often house preschools and elder care programs and they often house after-school activities for teenagers.”
There have now been more than 160 bomb threats made to over 60 Jewish community centers since January.
There’s much more at the HuffPo link including a graphic of the number of threats against JCCs.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (the turd) is already hard at work doing what he does best: turning back civil rights to the “golden era” say around 1850 or so.
The Department of Justice is reversing the federal government’s position in an important voting rights case, involving a Texas voter ID law. The switch was not unexpected following the election of Donald Trump and confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Both Trump and Sessions claim voter fraud is a major problem and have backed voter ID laws.
DOJ says it will file a motion later Monday asking a federal court to dismiss the department’s earlier claim that the ID law was enacted with the intention of discriminating against minority voters. That claim was made by the Obama administration as part of a broader legal challenge to the law, which is among the strictest in the nation.
I wish I had Adobe Photoshop or something similar so I could put Col. Cornpone’s face on a garden gnome since that’s about what he reminds me of.
In a written statement, Gerry Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center, which represents some of the plaintiffs, said, “I am appalled and disgusted that DOJ would abandon their claims, that they have advocated for the last six years, that TX’s photo ID law was enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose.”
A federal appeals court last year agreed that the law had a discriminatory impact, but asked the lower court to reconsider its findings that the law was passed with a discriminatory intent.
A few other news items in my RSS feed:
Yeah because 20 million people now having health care…SAD!
Alrighty folks. This was literally thrown together in about twenty to thirty minutes so ignore any typos, bad grammar or anything else that reflects a general sloppiness on the part of the writer.
Of course it’s an open thread.
Good Weekend to you Widdershins!
Well the talking yam has yet to take office but the congress critters have already started their session and naturally the first thing the Repubtards did, right out of the gate, was to start their “let’s kill obamacare” stuff. Paul “grannystarver” Ryan says things are too urgent and just can’t wait. Now that may be because he’s afraid of what folks and other congress critters might see. And indeed they would be correct in wanting to at least find a replace before they decide to repeal. Still, it’s going to be those angry folks who pulled the lever for Trump who will regret their vote the most.
Across rural America, the Rust Belt, Coal Country and other hotbeds of Trumpism, voters have repeatedly expressed frustration that the lazy and less deserving are getting a bigger chunk of government cheese.
I would say that getting some cheese is better than getting no cheese. What’s the old saying: Act in haste-repent in leisure? They’ll have plenty of time now for the new version: Act in haste-die without healthcare. So these folks are going to experience regret.
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Okay, those are my picks and I hope you will add some below.
GooooOOOOOOoooood Monday, all! Life has kept me from posting during this extremely fraught few weeks. It’s amazing to think back on all the things that have happened, but to summarize, the Orange Creamsicle has melted down.
I like to remind people that before the infamous Access Hollywood tape was leaked, revealing Drumpf as an self-described sexual predator, Hillary’s first debate performance had already started to cause the Donald’s precarious cool to dissolve into hot Tasmanian rage, and his poll numbers to tank. A dizzying and devastating tumble of bad news, including leaked tax returns, terrible 3 am tweets, 2 more awful debates, 11 women (so far) coming forward and stating that he did, in fact, molest them as he described in that tape, and unpatriotic whining about the election being “rigged,” applied so much heat he could no longer stand. “What a world, what a world, and what a nasty woman!” he cried from a puddle of man-tan, as he feebly swore to sue everyone and everything that had been mean to him. Yes, just like he sued the New York Times for “illegally” obtaining his tax return from 1995! Oh, wait….
So now that the inevitable Drumpf implosion has happened, leaving Our Girl up 6 points in the national average (and an unprecedented 12 points in one new poll), I think it’s safe to start imagining the possibilities of the Titanium Pantsuit attaining the office of the President of the United States, in a historic win as the first woman president ever.
***WARNING: This post is about mammograms, and contains many references to female breasts.
If you are not comfortable with either or both of these, please do not read further. ***
Good afternoon, Widdershins. Today, I’m going to take a break from political coverage, and share a recent experience I had while take care of my scary lady parts.
In January, I had my first mammogram. As a woman of 47 (soon to be 48) whose mother tragically died of breast cancer at the age of 54, I have been gently and lovingly pressured by my friends to start doing this yearly, “just in case.” So, I finally sucked it up and went through with it. I felt the smug satisfaction of the virtuous as I had my breasts smashed flat and x-rayed from every conceivable angle. Said satisfaction even managed to overcome the indignity and pain I suffered, but not the twinge of worry when the tech told me that because I had never had one before, it was likely I’d get called back for a follow-up visit. “Don’t freak out,” she told me. “It will most likely be precautionary.”
Sure enough, I received a letter a week or so later, telling me that I had something that maybe, possibly could be a concern. “A copy of this letter has been sent to your gynecologist,” the letter went on, “who will call you and explain what the concern is, and what further examinations you’ll need.” Easier said than done – it took almost a month for the hospital to send my doctor the information she needed, and then another week or so before we spoke and she explained what it was. “I’m 99% sure it’s nothing,” she said, “but you should go back. Just in case.”
Well, after a couple of failed attempts, I finally got an appointment that worked with my schedule. Even though my foot is broken, I have some mobility and can drive short distances, so last Friday, off I limped to get my two follow-ups – an ultrasound and a more focused set of x-rays. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Au contraire. I arrived at the hospital about a half hour early, as requested. I checked in and was kept waiting until about twenty minutes past my appointment time. I was then brought into the room by the technician, who began haranguing me about “waiting so long” to schedule my follow-up. I told her that I couldn’t have come earlier, but she interrupted me and started arguing with me. I said, “Wait a minute. Are you seriously stepping up to me because you think I could have come here earlier, based on nothing?!” This stopped her verbal attacks, but she took her nastiness out on my left breast, contorting and smashing it in more ways than I thought possible. It was quite painful and took almost 45 minutes. I staggered back to the waiting room to await the ultrasound. “Well,” I thought, “I’ve had ultrasounds before and they didn’t hurt. This is probably going to be fine.”
Wrong again! The ultrasound technician pressed hard and repeatedly on my left breast in just the areas that had been flattened and manipulated by the mammograms. This took about 15 minutes. She then called in the doctor, who did the same for about 20 minutes. After the doctor reviewed the pictures, she then came back and told me she felt reasonably confident that what she was seeing was scar tissue from my breast reduction, especially since it hadn’t grown for six months. But, since she didn’t have a baseline from which to work, she wanted me to have more x-rays. So, back I went to the kind and gentle mammogram tech, who continued gleefully and unapologetically torturing my poor beleaguered boob for another 15 minutes. Finally the doctor was satisfied, and I gingerly strapped on my bra and, in great discomfort, went back home to work.
Just in time for the “holiday season”, Wal-mart decided it couldn’t wait to hand out the lumps of coal to its employees. The company has decided it can no longer afford to offer health insurance coverage to its part-time employees. Further, they decided they also needed to increase the cost of coverage for their employees who will still have coverage.
The world’s largest retailer said it would raise health insurance premiums for its entire U.S. workforce beginning in January. In addition, Wal-Mart will end coverage for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, a change that will impact 2 percent of U.S. workers, or about 30,000 people.
Okay…fair enough. The company says it is experiencing “higher health care costs” and also “It said more people than expected had enrolled in its plans and its annual forecast for health care costs had risen by 50 percent.”. Okay, I think I get this now: Wal-Mart offered health care coverage to its employees…employees signed up for that coverage…Wal-Mart goofed and didn’t expect that many employees to sign up. (?) Huh..what? The largest retailer in the world doesn’t employee HR or finance people smart enough to guestimate how many folks would sign up for their health care plans? Well I certainly think heads should roll, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of their rank and file employees.
The decision to reduce coverage came a week before the company’s chief executive, Doug McMillion, is due to face fund managers and analysts at an annual meeting for the investment community. Wal-Mart has been struggling to boost profits, with U.S. same-store sales flat or declining for the last six quarters.
Wal-Mart said the move would bring it in line with many of its competitors. Target Corp and Home Depot Inc recently announced cuts to benefits in light of the Affordable Care Act.
Ah yes, the good ole A.C.A., aka Obamacare. Well I guess they had to blame it on something. Now, reading the article I could not help but laugh out loud at this:
Wal-Mart’s Welborn [senior vice president of global benefits] said on a conference call that the company had not yet figured out how much it would save by cutting benefits. The company said in August it expected to spend $500 million on U.S. healthcare this year, up from its estimate of $330 million just a few months earlier.
The yahoo article points out that the decision “would primarily hurt lower-income workers, many of whom are being left behind in the economic recovery.”. And that brings up another interesting little fact that I’m sure some of you are are aware of,, either by personal experience or stories from family members and it’s called the great wage slowdown.
The typical American family makes less than the typical family did 15 years ago, a statement that hadn’t previously been true since the Great Depression. Even as the unemployment rate has fallen in the last few years, wage growth has remained mediocre. Last week’s jobs report offered the latest evidence: The jobless rate fell below 6 percent, yet hourly pay has risen just 2 percent over the last year, not much faster than inflation. The combination has puzzled economists and frustrated workers.
The Times article goes into a lot of economic stuff which I’m just about totally unfamiliar with. The writer does say Obama gave a speech touting the unemployment drop and that surely good times will be here again soon. One thing I found ironic from the Times piece was this little nugget:
As for the other entry in the ledger, the biggest reason to think economic growth may translate more directly into wage gains is the turnabout in health costs. After years of rapid increases, they have slowed sharply in the last three years. Mr. Obama likes to give more credit to the 2010 health care lawthan most observers do, but he’s not wrong about the trend’s significance.
Ohhhhhkay then. So health costs have gone down (sharply?) yet they are high enough that Wal-Mart must stop offering coverage for some of its part-time employees. My head is spinning here. I guess the good thing for the Wal-Mart employees affected is that they will be able to look for health care on the exchanges since they won’t have company-sponsored insurance any longer. After all, Wal-Mart has got to watch that bottom line, especially if any of the Wal-Mart heirs still have company stock. And speaking of those Wal-Mart heirs…
When people speak of the uber-rich, they surely have the Wal-Mart heirs in mind.
Consider the Wal-Mart heirs: Since 1983, their net worth has increased a staggering 6,700 percent. According to a report released last week by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute, here’s how many American families earning the median income it would have taken to match the Waltons’ wealth in a given year:
- In 1983, the Walton family’s net worth was $2.15 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 61,992 average American families, about the population of…Peoria, Arizona
- In 1989, the Walton family’s net worth was $9.42 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 200,434 average American families, about the population of…Albuquerque, New Mexico
- In 1992, the Walton family’s net worth was $23.8 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 536,631 average American families, about the population of…San Antonio, Texas
- In 1998, the Walton family’s net worth was $48 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 796,089 average American families, about the population of…The State of New Mexico
- In 2001, the Walton family’s net worth was $92.8 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 1,077,761 average American families, about the population of…Chicago, Illinois
- In 2013, the Walton family’s net worth was $144.7 billion, equivalent to the net worth of 1,782,020 average American families, about the population of…The State of Louisiana
I just have to wonder if that’s what Mr. Sam had in mind.
Okay, this is an open thread. Talk amongst yourselves (if you wish!).