Category: Culture

Two ways Republicans screwed people who need healthcare – and they’re still at it

expanded medicaid

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act — its expansion of Medicaid to low-income people around the country — must be optional for states. But what if it had ruled differently?

More than three million people, many of them across the South, would now have health insurance through Medicaid, according to an Upshot analysis of data from Enroll America and Civis Analytics. The uninsured rate would be two percentage points lower.

Today, the odds of having health insurance are much lower for people living in Tennessee than in neighboring Kentucky, for example, and lower in Texas than in Arkansas. Sharp differences are seen outside the South, too. Maine, which didn’t expand Medicaid, has many more residents without insurance than neighboring New Hampshire. In a hypothetical world with a different Supreme Court ruling, those differences would be smoothed out.

And that was the idea behind the Affordable Care Act. Before the law passed in 2010, the country had a highly regional approach to health policy and widely disparate results in both health insurance status and measures of public health. One of the main goals of the law was to provide some national standards and reduce those inequities by using federal dollars to buy coverage for low-income people in every state.

That’s the Republicans as bitter as they were a few days ago. The conservative fops on SCOTUS, the guardians of all that reactionary politics can provide to screw working people — are taking another shot at the ACA:

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90-year-old activist chef busted again for feeding the homeless

abbott-busted

…A 90-year-old activist and two pastors from two churches in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were arrested at a park on Sunday and then again on Wednesday for doing what they’ve been doing there for years: serving meals to the homeless.

On Oct. 22, the city’s commissioners passed a measure that requires feeding sites to be more than 500 feet away from each other and 500 feet from residential properties. Only one group is allowed to share food with the homeless per city block…

Arnold Abbott, the 90-year-old Fort Lauderdale activist, began offering food to the homeless living on the city’s beaches in the 1990s. Then he formed his own nonprofit, Love Thy Neighbor, and has continued to serve food twice weekly to the homeless at the beach and in a park.

“These are the poorest of the poor. They have nothing; they don’t have a roof over their heads,” Abbot said Wednesday. He added that a police officer ordered him to drop the plate of food he was holding, as if it were a weapon, the AP reported.

Obviously subversive. Actually living up to slogans like Love The Neighbor isn’t acceptable in Florida.

If convicted…Abbott could receive a sentence of 60 days in jail or a fine of $500.

“I know I will be arrested again, I’m prepared for that,” Abbott said. “I am my brother’s keeper, and what they are doing is just heartless. They are trying to sweep the poorest of the poor under the rug.”

Seriously, does anyone expect our politicians to support care for the poor?

Yeah, yeah, there will be the expected blather about trickle-down this and that; but, when push comes to shove, the Republican governor of Florida was just re-elected after he kept over a million poor Floridians from having access to Medicaid.

Safe sex in the slammer

“Do you guys want condoms?” Deputy Javier Machado, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, asks a dormitory full of prisoners in the Men’s Central Jail. “If you want condoms you need to get in line. If not, I need you on your bunk.”

A worker with the county’s Public Health Department places a box full of brightly colored condoms on a table and begins to hand them out, three at a time. Waiting in line, one prisoner loudly declares that he’s getting the condoms “for someone else,” drawing laughter from the others. The distribution takes only a matter of minutes, but the weekly act is hardly typical.

While Los Angeles has been handing out condoms in the county jail for more than a decade, it remains one of just a handful of jail and prison systems that do so. In September, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown took a step toward making condoms more widely available, signing a bill that will introduce them at the state’s 34 adult prisons. As in most states, the jails in California are short-term facilities run by county sheriffs, while the prison system, which holds prisoners after they’ve been sentenced, is managed by the state government.

With its new law, California is only the second state, after Vermont, to distribute condoms to inmates in state prisons…

Providing condoms to prisoners is controversial because many state laws prohibit sex between inmates…But some prisons and jails have decided to allow prisoners to have condoms as a way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

“It definitely is a balance,” says Capt. Joseph Dempsey at the Men’s Central Jail. “The Sheriff’s Department has taken the position that public health outweighs the concerns about sex in jail.” According to Dempsey, if prisoners are caught having sex, a criminal report will still be filed. But if the sex is consensual, he says, it is “not very likely” the district attorney will prosecute the inmates involved.

If it’s going to happen, you might as well make it be safe.’

I’m not close enough to California to know if good sense will prevail. The Morality Police are certainly active on the Left Coast even if they don’t rule as much as they might, say, in Texas or Mississippi.

But, like Captain Dempsey said, “If it’s going to happen, you might as well make it be safe.”

More victories for legal marijuana in 2014 elections

On November 4, several states radically altered their approaches to a drug once known for Reefer Madness. In Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, voters approved marijuana legalization measures. But in Florida, a medical marijuana amendment fell short of the 60 percent approval it needed to pass under state law. Here’s a breakdown of each state’s initiative, the latest results, and how the opposing campaigns pushed their messages to voters…


Yes, I live in a major stoner state

Chickenshit politicians were afraid to advocate legalization; so, grassroots campaigns got referendums on the ballot in Bernalillo County and Santa Fe County. They cover the majority of the state’s population – and the city of Santa Fe has already decriminalized weed. But the county commissions wanted a vote to cover their buns before passing new regulations.

Bernalillo County voted 60/40 and Santa Fe County voted 73/27 to decriminalize pot possession. Hopefully, this will inject a bit of spinal stiffness into our elected officials and appropriate regulations will be passed. The next step involves the state legislature and, yes, I expect nothing to be accomplished. But – there may be a legalization measure on the ballot in 2016 similar to those in modern states.

You can RTFA if you think you might see something new from the moral opposition.

Want to help poor kids succeed: make them actually go to school

Here’s a deceptively simple way to close part of the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students: make sure that poor students are in school as much as their richer peers.

A recent study found that absentee rates could explain up to 25 percent of difference in math scores between low-income students and less disadvantaged ones. Getting kids to come to school seems like an obvious way to help them score better on tests and eventually graduate. But it’s often overlooked in favor of more complicated, more controversial, and more interesting interventions. Here’s why attendance is incredibly important, and why it’s a tough problem to solve.

Going to school is required by law, and studies tend to assume that schools are following through. Schools aren’t required to report how many students are chronically absent, so very little national data exists on how often students miss school. Even the definition “chronically absent” varies, although the generally accepted definition is around 20 days of school per year…

Missing school means they fall even farther behind. Children who are chronically absent in preschool and kindergarten are more likely to be held back in the third grade. As early as sixth grade, whether a child is going to school is a good indicator for whether she’ll ever graduate high school.

The opportunism of New Mexico politicians is almost beyond comprehension. When it became obvious kids were falling behind – checking grades, accomplishments by 3rd grade, 6th grade – the solution that guaranteed the most votes for state legislators is called the social pass. If the school determines a child’s grades are so poor they shouldn’t be passed along to the next grade – that kid’s parents can demand a social pass and the child moves along to the next grade with their classmates – so their feelings aren’t hurt.

K-12 attendance can even predict college graduation rates: Johns Hopkins cites a study in Rhode Island found students who were chronically absent in high school, but still managed to graduate and enroll in college, were more likely to drop out during their freshman year than students with regular attendance records.

RTFA. Lots more of the same examined from different perspectives. My BITD look doesn’t surprise me because I saw examples of this laissez-faire crap starting up in the 1950′s into the 1960′s. Students graduating high school who were functional illiterates. They didn’t have to study literature, build reading skills, learning skills, if they didn’t feel like it. That was sufficient reason.

Just walk that along each decade through attendance, any other standards you care to examine.

The psychology of irrational fear

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Last week Sen. Rand Paul, a doctor, laid out the threat of Ebola in America thusly, to CNN: “If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party, they’re contagious and you can catch it from them.”

That statement is, of course, not true, unless the person is symptomatic, in which case he or she would not be up for hummus and chardonnay. But it’s not as untrue as what Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, also a medical doctor, wrote to the CDC:

“Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”

If Gingrey were to consult a map, he might be relieved to find that West Africa is several thousand miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. And that, Ebola being what it is, someone in the throes of the hemorrhagic fever would be unlikely to muster the strength to fly to Mexico and then sprint through the South Texas desert…

It’s a big time of the year for fear. Not only is it Halloween, a holiday more recently known for sexy hamburgers but originally famous for its spookiness, but also because the U.S. has had four (now one) cases of Ebola diagnosed on its soil. Maybe it’s the combination of the two that helps explain the abundance of ridiculous statements like the above in recent weeks…

Of course, Ebola is partly a stand-in for our ongoing collective anxieties, ever simmering and child-leash-purchase inducing. In calmer times, we might instead be wringing our hands over gluten, swine flu, or that illegal immigrants are coming here to “steal our jobs.”

A recent survey from Chapman University found that Americans are most afraid of walking alone at night, identity theft, safety on the Internet, becoming the victim of a mass shooting, and having to speak in public.

The study also found that Democrats were most likely to be worried about personal safety, pollution, and man-made disasters. Republicans, meanwhile, had the highest levels of fear about the government, immigrants, and “today’s youth.” It also found that having a low level of education or watching talk- or true-crime TV was associated with harboring the most types of fear. Despite the fact that crime rates have decreased over the past 20 years, most Americans, the survey found, think all types of crime have become more prevalent…

RTFA. A compendium of silliness we get to view every day of our lives in what is reputed to be the leading modern nation on this planet. I’m more certain of the silliness than the leadership part.

Thanks, Mike

Pic of the Day

nina pham & bentley
Click to enlarge

Nurse Nina Pham had a tear-jerking reunion with her dog Bentley Saturday after they both had been declared free of Ebola and released from quarantine.

Bentley was quarantined along with his owner after Pham tested positive for the disease. He has been cared for by Dallas Animal Services and his treatment has been covered mostly through donations. Bentley only had one more step before ending up back in the arms of his owner — a bath.

“I’d like to take a moment to thank people from all around the world who have sent their best wishes and prayers to me and Mr. Bentley,” she told reporters. “I feel like Bentley reentering my life is yet another reminder of hope and encouragement for me moving forward … with my best friend at my side again.”

Pham was released from the hospital on Oct. 24 after being declared Ebola-free.

With all the hysteria, opportunist politicians and mediocre journalism surrounding anyone and anything to do with ebola in America – it’s a pleasure to offer a happy moment. Realism in the midst of insanity.

Arizona coppers wake up pastor at 2 AM to see if he had Ebola


Shift change for Tucson Police Department

A Tucson Pastor, Michael Petzer, who returned from Zambia in early September, was awakened by two Tucson police officers pounding on his door at 2 AM. They wanted to know if he had Ebola.

It turns out that a woman from his congregation went to the hospital with self-described “possible Ebola symptoms” and she shared with doctors that her Pastor had been to Africa.

The hospital called the cops, and TPD sent out two officers to check it out.

The officers did a welfare check on Petzer after a request from UAMC, said Sgt. Chris Widmer, a Tucson Police Department spokesman. Officials with UAMC confirmed that was true, and said they followed protocol. The hospital did not contact the Pima County Health Department.

“The only way we could figure out if it was a real contact to be concerned about was to find out the travel history. That is why the police were sent out,” said Dr. Andreas Theodorou, chief medical officer at UA Medical Center. “The health department doesn’t have the capacity to do that.”…

“When a patient comes to the ER and has a fever and West African contact, it triggers the process, and we have to take it seriously,” he said.

Well, of course Zambia is not near the infected areas of Africa, and the good pastor was well beyond the 21 day period.

“I think this is hysteria, and a zero understanding of geography,” said Petzer, explaining that Zambia is in south-central Africa, about 2,500 miles away from the affected areas in West Africa…

“I traveled from a noninfected country to one (United States) where there are people in quarantine,” Petzer said. “I think this is an issue of public ignorance and not an issue of public health. People hear Africa, and everyone thinks ‘Ebola.’ Most Americans do not have a clue that Africa is a large continent and not a country. People have to stop the hysteria of it all.”

Please mail me a penny postcard when you bump into local officials, police or ignorant bumpkins who will admit they don’t know bupkis about geography, public health or civil liberties. Especially after they screw up like this.

Yes, that obviously includes hospital administrators.

Daylight saving time — probably worthless


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It’s that time of year again. Time to “fall back” an hour as we go around the house changing the clocks on the features of modern life – appliances and such like. The really modern stuff – computers, smart phones, weather devices boasting atomic clocks – seem to take care of themselves.

The extra hour of sleep that comes for many with the switch to standard time may be welcome. But daylight saving, said to have been thought up by Benjamin Franklin (to save candles) and first put into practice by German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II Emperor during World War I, seems to be becoming less popular.

Back in March (when most of us remembered to “spring forward”) the polling firm Rasmussen Reports found that “only 33 percent of American adults think DST is worth the hassle.”

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That is down from 37 percent last year and 45 percent in 2012. Forty-eight percent “do not think the clock changing ritual is worth it,” according to Rasmussen.

For one thing, the time switch may not be saving all that much energy, which is one of the main reasons for the tradition. As the Monitor’s David Clark Scott wrote at this time last year:

“Studies show mixed results. For example, The Christian Science Monitor reports that in Indiana, daylight saving time caused a 1 percent jump in electricity, according to a 2010 study. The energy saved from reduced lighting in the summer months was canceled out by an increase in the use of heating and air conditioning, the researchers from Yale University and University of California Santa Barbara said…”

Darkness kills and sunlight saves lives,” University of Washington Law Professor Steve Calandrillo, who has studied the effectiveness of different DST policies, told Time Magazine. “The question is ‘when do you want sunlight?’”

“At 5 pm virtually everyone in society is awake,” said Professor Calandrillo, who advocates year-round DST. “There are far more people asleep at 7 in the morning than at 7 in the evening.”

For now, the computers in my family life all dropped back to standard time this morning. As did DirecTV.

Most pleasing? For the 2nd or 3rd year in a row, WordPress has gotten my time zone right and this post will appear on time, today. I’ll check it when I get back from the first walk of the day with my wife and Sheila our young Australian Shepherd dog.

Thanks, Mike

Are clowns really scary? Ha ha aaaargh!

klown danger

When Australian singer and TV personality Mark Holden appeared as a clown recently on Channel 7’s Dancing with the Stars, his supposedly “bizarre” behaviour sparked furious debate and complaints to the network, demonstrating the problematic nature of the clown figure today.

The clown has a long history, ranging from the court clowns of ancient Egypt and imperial China, and trickster figures of Native American cultures, through the “sanctioned fool” of Renaissance drama and zanni of the commedia dell arte, to mainstay of the circus in the 19th century…

The decline of touring companies and vaudeville reduced the visibility of the clown in the later 20th century. While clowns still operate in the circus and theatrical entertainments, they are more likely to be found in children’s entertainment, therapeutic and community fields…

…It’s our awareness that there is an offstage self that generates much of our uneasiness around this figure.

In the early 19th century Joseph Grimaldi made the clown a star attraction of British pantomime. As he endured personal tragedies, alcoholism and chronic pain, he also became representative of the “sad clown”, of the clown as a divided figure, split between his comic on-stage identity and melancholic off-stage self…

So, when the jovial onstage figure, whose very existence seems designed to make us laugh, is revealed to be a depressed alcoholic (Grimaldi), or rage-driven killer (France’s Jean-Gaspard Deburau), or convicted sex-offender (Australia’s Jack Perry, the “Zig” of Zig and Zag).

Undoubtedly, the most notorious of such cases is that of John Wayne Gacy, an amateur clown who was convicted of killing 33 boys and young men in Illinois in the 1970s…

One of the most notable influences was Stephen King’s novel It (1986), filmed in 1990 with Tim Curry as the murderous supernatural being which takes human form as “Pennywise the Dancing Clown”.

The ubiquity of the “dark clown” trope is evident in itself becoming the stuff of comedy, as in Seinfeld episode The Opera, and the character of Krusty the Clown, a depressive with substance-abuse issues, in The Simpsons.

The context is unimportant; but, I spent a short while on the inside of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. I met Emmett Kelly there. Most clowns I ever met don’t like to break character as long as they are in makeup. And Kelly was always in makeup.

Which meant he never spoke to anyone – including everyone he worked with. Because Weary Willie didn’t speak.

You can build a scary plot just out of that.