Thursday, December 31, 2009
Maybe Rush Limbaugh was brought down by these?: Spam-flavored macadamia nuts! Only in Hawaii...
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Awesome: Stockton, CA resident Scott Inoue finds an old 3rd-grade picture with pal "Barry" Obama: "Hey—whatever happened to that guy?"
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Happy holidays from all of us here at Yang Central: Jeff, Heather, Hudson and Skyler
We at Chez Yang are too cheap, lazy and/or ecologically sensitive to lick stamps and stick 'em on envelopes, so we usually send e-cards instead of paper season's greetings. Here's the latest Yang holi-mashup, featuring our two kids—six-year-old Hudson and 22-month-old Skyler.
And with that: Here's wishing that your holiday of religious or secular choice is bringing a smile to all those you love, in what was, generally speaking, a pretty crappy year!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
A holiday reminder that reform is a process, not a goal: Turning the "ugly duckling" of this HC bill into a swan, in 2010 and beyond
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Jane Hamsher has lost it.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
PLEASE READ & RT—from the WHY HC REFORM WILL STILL EVOLVE DEPT.: Harkin—P.O. to be revisited next year; Sanders's sneaky path to Single Payer
For everyone who's been running around with their hair on fire because this bill is far from perfect, here are some reminders that there's still plenty of work to be done -- and the energy being poorly spent to "kill this bill" should be going into doing it. THIS IS JUST SQUARE ONE.
- Sen. Tom Harkin says: Public Option will be "revisited" next year as separate legislation. This is what Intelleftual supporters of the bill have been saying all along: Pass this meh bill, and take the stuff we want and put it into future bills -- potentially passed through reconciliation (which requires just 50 votes plus Biden); the P.O. and Medicare expansion are ideal candidates for reconciliation passage, while all the other important change in this bill (eliminating denial for pre-existing conditions! stopping the practice of rescission! huge, huge, huge progressive subsidies for those who can't afford insurance!) is completely locked out from the reconciliation process, due to Byrd guidelines to that effect.
- Meanwhile, anti-bill progressives are overlooking the major stocking-stuffer that Sen. Bernie Sanders slipped into the Senate bill: $10 billion in additional funding for Community Health Centers (there's already $14 billion in the House bill). The additional CHCs will provide quality, nonprofit pay-what-you-can-afford dental, mental and primary care services AND low-cost prescription drugs to 10,000 more communities, or up to 25 million more Americans. It's what they have in Vermont (the state Sanders represents, and that Howard Dean used to govern) -- and people in Vermont love them.
They're not just used by poor and working class individuals, either; CHCs have become the mainstream day-to-day healthcare solution for nearly all Vermonters outside of major city centers. They're amazingly cost effective: Per Dan Hawkins, SVP for Public Policy and Research at the National Association of Community Health Centers, in 2008, CHCs "pulled down $3 billion from the Medicaid program and sent back more than $6.5 billion to the government for care provided to Medicaid beneficiaries." They also put a major focus on prevention: Since checkups are so cheap (and free to those on Medicaid), chronic illnesses and treated before they become major health problems, while acute ones are caught early before they become life-threatening; meanwhile, the healthy are encouraged to drop in for wellness visits (it's much cheaper to keep people healthy than to treat the sick). But the real reason why people should be excited about any additional funding to CHCs?
One word: Saskatchewan. That's the Canadian province that turned a similar program into such a success that patients in the rest of Canada demanded it be expanded to their regions as well. And guess what? Bernie Sanders also slipped into the Senate bill language that allows states to obtain waivers from participating in the national health care infrastructure if they can create an alternative that meets the same goals and benchmarks for care and cost savings. Now, the Republicans couldn't possibly hate that, right? It's essentially an opt-out for the states (assuming they can figure out other, better ways to provide universal care). But the reality is, very few alternatives to what's in the current bill could ever meet the bill's benchmarks -- other than more progressive options...like, say, single payer. Sanders has not hidden the fact that he's pushed the waivers so that single-payer could be put back on the table at the state level. His language is now in the Senate bill and Sanders is working with Sen. Ron Wyden to strengthen it (Wyden is also pushing for an expansion of his employee choice language, allowing a bigger percentage of working Americans to participate in the health insurance exchanges -- another significant advance). It's not currently in the House bill. And my guess is that Sanders and Wyden will demand that it be put into the combined end product. Which would give rise to the very real possibility that Vermont, with its preexisting CHC infrastructure, could rapidly evolve into America's Saskatchewan. And we'll just see what neighboring Maine, land of Snowe and Collins, thinks of that.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
INTELLEFTUALS: My progressive-pundit honor roll for 2009 (must-reads and should-listens--heavy on the wonks)
- Ezra Klein: One of the Washington Post's few non-heinous columnists, and the clearest and brightest voice on healthcare reform through the long, dark journey from January to now http://www.ezraklein.com/
- Nate Silver: Stats junkie and pollwatcher extraordinaire; made the 2008 campaign make sense, and has continued to use data the way it oughta be used ever since
- Matt Yglesias: Overtly political (sometimes shrilly so), but not afraid to take contrarian positions as needed, and invariably thoughtful in even his most opinionated writings
- Josh Marshall: Like Yglesias, a political animal, but driven by reality and real information; heads up Talking Points Memo, which has done some of the best investigative work and issues-tracking in the blogosphere; their Health Care Wire has been a necessary read
- Jonathan Cohn: A critical voice on healthcare, and the author of Sick.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Why my respect for Obama has grown, not ebbed, over his first year in office
As 2009 closes, I think I'm the only self-described progressive I know whose respect for Obama has, in a sense, grown over the first year of his office—if only because I never expected him to magically make everything better.He came into the job clearly defining himself as post-partisan by preference, pragmatic by nature, and focused on the long-term good of the nation (and, I might add, the world) over short-term political victories. Since then, he's taken a fusillade major hits, first from the right and more recently from the left—yet generally maintained composure and a clarity of purpose. Undoubtedly, he has been disappointing on a range of issues, first and foremost the failure to stem the bloody and costly wars in which we remain entrenched, but also on Guantanamo, intelligence transparency, LGBT rights, among other matters. In 2010, now that the economy has somewhat stabilized and his signature domestic policy item, healthcare reform, is moving ahead, he has to return to other things he committed to change, and follow through on his promises. But I don't think Obama has gotten the full credit he deserves for the really enormous things he's accomplished in his first year to date: The stimulus and bank bailout, which almost certainly saved us from total financial meltdown; refocusing U.S. attention on the environment and preserving and advancing global dialogue towards a deal on climate change; and yes, a healthcare reform act that, while far less than we wanted, is far more than we could have expected a decade ago—and that I firmly believe will only get better. He took on the presidency of a nation in near economic collapse, simultaneously fighting wars on multiple fronts, facing threats of pandemic illness and domestic terrorism, and while his results have been mixed, I think he has demonstrated the willingness and ability to thoughtfully adapt—and I believe that the years to come will be evidence of what he's learned from his mistakes and successes alike. Simply put, I'm proud Barack Obama is our president, and remain firm in the belief that history will judge him kindly—far more kindly, it's sad to say, than have many of the people who helped get him elected.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Yankees cut ties with oft-injured Taiwanese pitcher Chien-Ming Wang
Heartbreaking. It's easy to forget that Wang was the winningest pitcher in the AL from 2006 through mid-2008, when he went down with a foot injury and then re-injured his already-surgically-repaired shoulder due to mechanical problems stemming from that injury. The Yanks offered him a minor league contract, promising to promote him to the majors once he proved his shoulder was serviceable; he refused, with his agent suggesting that Wang was ready to "turn the page." Too bad: In his 2006-2007 prime, Wang had back to back 19-win seasons with sub-4.00 ERAs, and had established himself as the Yankees' ace. Now he'll look to prove that the Yanks' lack of faith in him (and his shoulder) was unwarranted.I met him when he was a short-season rookie on the Staten Island Yanks—he seemed like a nice guy, albeit a little lost in his surroundings. The next year, he had to have arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder. In 2002, he returned to the SI Yanks and racked up the second-lowest ERA in the team's history. In 2007, after Wang's third season in the bigs, the SI Yanks retired his number—41. Wang's number being retired:
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Why conservatives will love Disney's THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. Seriously.
- Tiana is a bootstrapping entrepreneur who refuses to ask for charity, preferring to work two jobs to make her small-business dreams come true.
- She castigates those who rely on others for welfare, and only changes her ruggedly individualist outlook when she's pointedly reminded of the importance of having a family—and finding a suitable partner in life.
- There's an amazing Messiah-metaphor moment that the Christian Right will swoon over—a moment that I will not ruin by describing, for those of you who prefer to ignore literary/political subtext. (Let’s just say that for the savvy, the name given to a particular heavenly entity in the film should be a dog-whistle foreshadowing of what happens at the film's climax.)
- And here's the kicker. The primary bad guy in the picture is a thin, jug-eared, light-skinned black man of mysterious origins who practices an "exotic" religion, manipulates reality to suit his ambitions, hides his true nature behind a charming and verbose exterior, and literally bleeds the elite to lift up the underclass. Furthermore, in the exercise of his villainy, he manages to run up a debt of cosmic proportions—a deficit he decides he can't repay without, uh, stealing from the rich.
Cue the horrific teabagger parodies now.
My new SF Chron column looks at Disney's gameplan: Step one—first black princess; Step two—?; Step three—profit!
Monday, December 07, 2009
The solution to this whole healthcare reform debacle? GIVE PEOPLE THE OPTION OF BUYING INTO MEDICARE AT *ANY* AGE.
Why is this the answer?1. IT'S A POLITICAL DAGGER. The GOP has been hypocritically building a fortress around Medicare cuts, even though they fought against its creation and still continue to attack "government run" healthcare out of the other sides of their mouths. So how could they attack a policy shift that allows younger American citizens to *support* Medicare by including their likely healthier selves into the Medicare risk pool and paying in a steady stream of premiums? 2. IT ELIMINATES ATTACKS REGARDING CREATING A "HUGE NEW HEALTHCARE BUREAUCRACY". You're working with a system and an infrastructure that already exists. Yes, it'll get bigger--but you're not inventing anything new. 3. IT BENDS THE COST CURVE LIKE NOBODY'S BUSINESS. Medicare has more buying power and greater efficiency than the best private insurance. And heck, Medicare rates are 5% better, obviously, than "Medicare + 5" (the "robust public option". You'd have to find ways to support providers in rural areas and build in more preventive care of course. This is fiscally prudent for the nation--addressing one of the biggest cost problems we face down the road. It helps seniors by strengthening Medicare. And it gives everyone a *real* public option to buy into if they can't afford a private policy.