Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Daily Scan

My daily scan of Internet sites has changed over the past year or so, since the election and Inauguration. I had a list of news and political gossip sites I hit one after the other obsessively during the campaign. I know I wasn't alone in that because the habit was satirized in Doonesbury.

But some sites were slow to make the transition between political gossip and news applicable to governing, which I thought was the point of winning the election. Without the frenzied need for every scrap of electoral info, no matter how dubious, I could afford to dump other sites that always had a questionable political pov, and as I watched the identity of other sites either come clearer or change (notably the Huffington Post), I eliminated them as well.

So off my list entirely are: Politico, Huffington Post, Firedog Lake, the Field and some others I don't even remember. I consult the NY Times and Time Magazine blogs much less frequently, the Boston Globe's and Sf Chronicle's hardly at all, Andrew Sullivan every few days, 538 maybe once a week. I have gone back to NBC's First Read recently, hungry for something a bit more than squibs.

I still start with Political Wire, and the only one I consult more often than I used to is TPM. I check in with Kos, and if I still have an appetite, I check Think Progress. Climate Progress is also in my daily scan, and I've got a start page of selected headline links, with a number of enviro sites on it, which I go to according to the story. I have another list of non-political sites I visit pretty much everyday as well, which includes Bruce Sterling's blog at Wired, but also the Post Gazette Steelers page, and the LA Times Lakers.

I've included one special site on my start page list of headlines, just to keep something of a reality check. Because the news is often so outrageous that these headlines fit in...almost. For example:

Obama's Embarrassing Ska Album Resurfaces
Tiger Woods Announces Return to Sex

These gotchas are from The Onion, and are hilarious once you realize that they aren't real after all. I don't think.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Despite attempted political blackmail by a "childish" China (D.L.'s word), President Obama met with the Dalai Lama in the White House on Thursday. Reuters: "Raising issues that quickly stoked China's ire, Obama used his first presidential meeting with the Dalai Lama to press Beijing, under international criticism for its Tibet policies, to preserve Tibetan identity and respect human rights there."
President Obama also went to Denver Thursday in support of Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, sounding like candidate Obama. If you've missed those days, check out this transcript--it's still happening. But with the benefit of experience: "Look, something you got to understand — for those who don't believe in government, those who don't believe that we have obligations to each other, it's a lot easier task. If you can gum up the works, if you make things broken, if the Senate doesn't get anything done, well, that's consistent with their philosophy. It's a whole lot easier to say no to everything. It's a whole lot easier to blame somebody else. That politics that feeds on peoples' insecurities, especially during tough political times — that's the easiest kind of politics."
So what's the solution? "And so Michael is running in a very tough environment, but he's got one very powerful advantage. He's got you. (Applause.) He's been fighting for each and every one of you in Washington. He needs you to fight for him now."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This is Why Popular Opposition to Healthcare Reform Never Made Sense

I can understand why health insurers don't want reform. They don't want to be forced to like actually insure anything, which involves paying out money as well as raking it in. They seem to regard premiums as poker chips to use in their acquisitions games. The only folks they don't resent paying are lobbyists.

But how can ordinary premium-paying people, let alone businesses dying under the weight of premiums, possibly be against reform? When those premiums continue to cost more money, take an outrageous proportion of income, while insurers do their damndest to pay as little as possible, and let the patients die where they may.

Then along comes the company that used to call itself California Blue Cross when I was paying them, and now is Anthem Blue Cross. Excuse me if I don't stand at attention and pledge allegiance. They announced a 39% rate hike for individuals, effective in March. Not all that different really from what they had been doing, though maybe more incrementally. They raised their rates by about the same percentage last year. I can't even imagine what it is now. They priced me out years ago.

However, this time there's a storm abrewing. Like JFK jumping on steel price hikes, and surprising the hell out of the steel magnates, the Obama administration is jumping all over this one, demanding justification, holding congressional hearings. Blue Cross has responded in its typical shrewd way--they've humbly agreed to recind the increase. Until May, presumably when the kerfluffle is over and people are paying attention to something new.

Meanwhile, AP reports that individual premiums are going up by at least 15% in four states. A family of four in Maine can expect to pay $22,500 a year in premiums (which if memory serves, was the yearly salary for a member of Congress in 1960.) And this is just the beginning of the latest wave:
"You're going to see rate increases of 20, 25, 30 percent" for individual health policies in the near term, Sandy Praeger, chairwoman of the health insurance and managed care committee for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, predicted Friday.

All of this should help a health insurance reform law get passed, but I'm not holding my breath. Because that would only make sense. And nothing about politics makes sense anymore.

People die because they aren't insured or otherwise are denied care. I may yet become one of them, and I long ago accepted that possibility. I'm not too surprised anymore that people could let this happen. But why people who are paying these horrendous premiums aren't demanding reform, is more of a mystery. Could it be that racism trumps all? I mean, is it just because it's being proposed by a black President? Or what?