CBO Report Disputes Conservative Scare Tactics Regarding Public Option

Conservatives have been showing a strange lack of confidence in the free market. They generally take the line that private business is always far more efficient than anything done by government but they now claim that private insurance would not be able to survive if forced to compete with a public insurance option. We see examples that their arguments are wrong every day. George Bush set up Medicare Advantage plans to compete with the government-run Medicare program (although he also did give them large subsidies in return for their past campaign contributions). Federal Express, UPS, and other companies are doing well despite competition form the Post Office. A new Congressional Budget Office report also disputes conservative claims that the public option would force out private insurance:

A separate budget office report made public Monday found that a health care reform bill that includes a public option sought by Democrats would result in 3 million more people enrolled in employer-sponsored coverage by 2016, compared with what would happen under current laws. The report, responding to questions from Rep. Dave Camp, R-Michigan, was not a final review, the office said.

Pelosi seized on its findings, declaring: “The CBO has … disputed claims made by the Republicans about what our legislation will do.”

Hoyer said the Republican claim that a public option would reduce health insurance choices also is wrong, according to the budget office analysis.

“Republicans are making ridiculous claims, frankly, about reform because they know that the status quo cannot be defended,” Hoyer said.

Glancing through the blogosphere I note a pattern with regards to conservatives paying attention to CBO reports. Many Republicans are ignoring this report as they also ignored the CBO reports before the Iraq war which showed that the war would cost far more than the Bush administration predicted.

Conservative blogs did heavily cover two recent reports which showed little in the way of cost savings in the Democratic health reform plans. There is certainly a strong argument, which I have made in the past, that the Obama administration has been overly optimistic about cutting costs. This is a bipartisan problem. George Bush went as far as to threaten Medicare officials with being fired if they testified before Congress about the real cost of his Medicare Part D plan.

The CBO reports are not really good measure of potential cost savings due to the way that their studies are conducted. The CBO can only include hard savings which are included in current legislation. They cannot include estimated savings from various restructuring of the health care system which are likely to result in savings  but which cannot be measured. They also cannot include savings which are promised by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries but which are not firmly written into law.

Appeals Court Rules Pharmacies Must Dispense Plan B

The Los Angles Times reports on an appeals court ruling which prevents pharmacies from refusing to dispense Plan B on due to religious objections:

Pharmacists are obliged to dispense the Plan B pill, even if they are personally opposed to the “morning after” contraceptive on religious grounds, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

In a case that could affect policy across the western U.S., a supermarket pharmacy owner in Olympia, Wash., failed in a bid to block 2007 regulations that required all Washington pharmacies to stock and dispense the pills.

Family-owned Ralph’s Thriftway and two pharmacists employed elsewhere sued Washington state officials over the requirement. The plaintiffs asserted that their Christian beliefs prevented them from dispensing the pills, which can prevent implantation of a recently fertilized egg. They said that the new regulations would force them to choose between keeping their jobs and heeding their religious objections to a medication they regard as a form of abortion.

Ralph’s owners, Stormans Inc., and pharmacists Rhonda Mesler and Margo Thelen sought protection under the 1st Amendment right to free exercise of religion and won a temporary injunction from the U.S. District Court in Seattle pending trial on the constitutionality of the regulations. That order prevented state officials from penalizing pharmacists who refused to dispense Plan B as long as they referred consumers to a nearby pharmacy where it was available.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the injunction, saying the district court was wrong in issuing it based on an erroneous finding that the rules violated the free exercise of religion clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Quote of the Day

“Sarah Palin’s most notable achievement as governor of Alaska was to increase the payout from the state’s energy tax take by $1200 per resident. Isn’t it odd then that she would use her farewell address to warn against the danger of government handouts?”–David Frum

Posted in Sarah Palin. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Culture Wars Impact Wine Labels

Gladiator Wine

The wine label above is too racy for Alabama. AP reports that Alabama’s liquor control agency has ordered restaurants and stores not to sell the wine:

A wine label showing a nude nymph is too racy for Alabama’s liquor control agency, which has told restaurants and stores not to sell the product.

The label on Cycles Gladiator wine, produced by Hahn Family Wines in Soledad, Calif., shows a vintage 1895 bicycle advertising poster with a nude nymph flying beside a winged bicycle.

The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board recently sent a letter to stores and restaurants telling them not to sell the wine because the label had been rejected by the agency. Alabama liquor regulations prohibit labels that are offensive or immodest.

Posted in Food and Drink. 10 Comments »

SciFi Weekend Part II: Star Trek; Alternate Realities on Lost and Fringe; Girl on Girl Action and Other Spoilers From Heroes

star-trek

Some more news from Comic-Con with some Spoilers included.

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are talking about possibly writing Star Trek XII and XIII as a two movie arc, similar to the the second and third movies, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek: The Search for Spock. Zoe Saldana quotes the writers as saying they are “germinating a script” which she interprets as meaning the script for the next movie is half done.

Juliet Lost

The reports on Lost are, as usual, vague and confusing. Juliet and Daniel Faraday will be back next season. Charlie and Boone will also be among first season characters who will return. Reportedly there will also be no more flashbacks or time travel and hints that the season will deal with alternative time lines.

Without flashbacks having an alternative time line seems like the most likely explanation for the return of dead characters. There will also be information on Richard Alpert’s back story (which would seem to be told best with flashbacks). Confusing matters even more, in other reports Faraday is described as “kinda dead” and Sawyer is said to give up the role of leader in response to losing Juliet. (Update: Other sources are saying there will not be further flash forwards but there will be flashbacks, including Richard Alpert’s back story. This sounds more plausible).

Fringe2

We have a new time line created in J.J. Abrams’ version of Star Trek. Lost might be dealing in alternate realities. Another Abrams show, Fringe, also revealed an alternative universe at the conclusion of the first season. Star Trek actually has shown multiple realities and we do not yet know how many alternative realities might exist on Lost. At least we have a count for Fringe. When asked about multiple realities, show runner Jeff Pinkner said there will only be the two different realities:  “our reality and alternate reality.”

Peter Claire Heroes

Next season Heroes joins a carnival. Claire engages in girl on girl action. Sylar’s personality will become dominant in what appears to be Nathan’s body leading to a scene where Nathan is shot, dumped in a garbage bin, and reemerges as Sylar. Hiro deals with a potentially fatal disease and travels back in time to correct mistakes he’s made in his life.

SciFi Weekend Part I: Doctor Who and The Prisoner

John Simm David Tennant the Doctor and the Master

There’s a lot of news coming out of Comic-Con this weekend. Because of all the news and a chaotic schedule this weekend I’m going to alter the usual format and post SciFi Weekend in installments, beginning with information on Doctor Who and the upcoming Prisoner miniseries.

Among the Doctor Who news, it does not look like the rumored movie is going to be movie, at least for now. The rumors that John Simm will return as The Master have been confirmed. Io9 has interviewed David Tennant about why his version of The Doctor acts as he does:

I think he feels guilty. I think he’s in a very difficult position. He has to make the hard choices, and he’s riddled with remorse for what happened to his people, and the part he played in that, which we’ll learn a little bit more about before I disappear. [Laughs] Not that much, just a little bit. It’s not the three-part miniseries staring [former 1990s Doctor] Paul McGann. But I think he’s tortured, and he travels time and space trying to make it better… but some of the side effects of that are not as we’d wish them to be.

After leaving his role as The Doctor,  David Tennant is being considered to play Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming movie adaptation of The Hobbit. That will be the strangest regeneration of all time.

s5filming3

A number of pictures of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan playing the next Doctor and his new companion are appearing on line now that they have begun filming episodes for next season. Additional pictures can be seen here and here.  Note that Alex Kingston is also in the above picture. Is she reprising her role as River Song to complete the story about her relationship with The Doctor? While it has been stated that Stephen Moffat is not likely to use the supporting characters from past seasons, the episodes with River Song were written by Moffat making it more likely he would use the character again.

amc-prisoner-comic-con-six

I09 also has a lot of information from Bill Gallagher who is writing the reboot of The Prisoner for AMC. He was asked if  he pictured original series lead Patrick McGoohan when writing the series:

No, I deliberately didn’t do that, I didn’t think of an actor at all… I won’t cast it in my head, because then I box myself in, and I can’t do that. It has to be this imaginary character. I didn’t have McGoohan in my head because [this Prisoner] is a different kind of Number Six, he’s a different character, he has different attitudes. In the beginning of the series, Six wakes up the middle of the desert, no idea where he is, no idea how he got there, no idea what to do, and immediately he’s hurled into an event, which is this old man is trying to escape, he’s being pursued by soldiers. And he rescues this old man. For me, in my head, that’s McGoohan, the old Six. And that old man dies. In my head, he dies to allow us to imagine a new Number Six. McGoohan said that the end plate on the old series should’ve said “The Beginning,” because the cycle goes on, and so in my imagination, [that scene is where] one cycle ends and another cycle begins. And so that scene allowed me to imagine my own Number Six.

There will be some reminders of the original show:

There are lots of little things. Some of them are visual, some of them are story, stories that we were inspired by, and also some of them are little lines of dialogue. One of the difficulties we have is that we’re aiming for 45 minute episodes and some of them come in very long, we have to cut for story, so some of that gets lost, unfortunately. But there’s still a good deal of it in the show. Partly as a way of building on that series, partly as a little fun thing, and partly thematic… This bloody place goes on and on and on, you know? In episode two, Six gets involved in a trip to a place called Escape Resort, and when you go to Escape Resort, it’s like the original Village, and people are dressed like they were in the original Village.

On the conclusion of the miniseries:

The final episode has a climax, it has a conclusion, there’s a reversal, and there’s explanations and revelations, but they’re not conventional, and I hope they’ll be shocking, you know, that people will not expect this ending at all. What I hope is that, what we get in the end is more disturbing than where we were at the beginning… When we get to the end, what I hope is that people will get challenged by it, and disturbed by it, in the way that the original challenged and disturbed. What I hope people will feel is that there’s a sense of, ‘I know what that’s about, I think I know, oh my God, this was that and that was this, so that’s how it works. But I don’t like it.

ObamaCare vs. HillaryCare

Health care reform died in the 1990’s for many reasons. Yes, the scare campaign from right played a big part but miscalculations by the Clintons were also a major factor. Despite the attempts of the right to attack health care reform today as ObamaCare and claim it is essentially HillaryCare, there are major differences.

HillaryCare went far beyond current plans. While I don’t entirely agree with Ezra Klein’s analysis, it does provide some perspective as to the differences then as compared to today. Among the differences, while managed care was around to a greater degree than it would seem from Klein’s article by the early 1990’s, healh care has changed considerably since then.

I agree with Klein’s basic premise that the emergence of managed care necessitated greater degree of government regulation to protect beneficiaries from the trend by insurance companies to deny coverage to increase profits, I disagreed with the idea of HillaryCare to cope with the situation with an overly bureaucratized and complicated plan.

The problem with Hillary Clinton was not only that her mind set was to deal with everything with overly complex government control, but that it had to be done her way. Her government philosophy is basically that of George Bush with more liberal tendencies is some areas. The health care plan was written by the Clintonistas in secrecy. Hillary convinced Bill to even threaten to veto anything which might be passed by Congress which differed, giving us essentially a choice between HillaryCare or nothing.

The situation is quite different now. The insurance crisis has become far worse with doing nothing no longer being a viable option. Obama is handling the crisis far different from Hillary Clinton. Obama is far more concentrated on seeing the problems fixed than on imposing any specific plan. Despite talk of ObamaCare from the right, the details are actually being worked out in Congress.

The unfortunate reality is that there is no perfect fix to health care. Every conceivable plan has its problems, but we need to compare plans under consideration with the problems we now face, now with a perfect world. The House Democratic plan (with all details not yet determined) has many aspects which I do not like but it is preferable to doing nothing. The plan is certainly not like it is being distorted by many scare stories from the right.

One question still out there is whether the House plan is our only option or whether other possibilities will be raised. There are still some supporters of a  single payer system but that appears to be a dead end politically in this country. The Republicans talk of offering a plan but they generally speak in generalities which are easier to support while they avoid answering the hard questions. There is one wild card remaining. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is still working on a plan which might achieve bipartisan support and nobody knows where he is going with this. A key difference from the Clinton years remains that, should his committee come up with a viable alternative, it would have a chance of being considered.

Top Ten Things Overheard At Sarah Palin’s Farewell Party

David Letterman couldn’t let the final days of Sarah Palin’s term as governor go by without notice (with no references this time to either slutty flight attendants or her daughter). Here is his list of Top Ten Things Overheard At Sarah Palin’s Farewell Party:

10. “More tiny hot dog appetizers? You betcha”
9.  “Don’t forget to schedule an appointment with Joe the Mover”
8.  “Quiet down! We don’t want to wake the Russians
7.  “Todd, I’ve always wanted to know — what do you do exactly?”
6.  “John McCain passed out in the dip
5. “Where can I check my pelt?”
4.  “Bad news — the new governor just quit”
3. “Please accept this gift from all of us at Lenscrafters”
2.  “Dancing with the Stars’ called, they got your resume”
1. “I haven’t seen you since the ‘Fire Dave Letterman’ Rally”

Bush Considered Domestic Use of Military

Bush advisers, as well as Dick Cheney, considered using the military in 2002 to arrest men suspected of plotting with al Qaeda in Buffalo. The New York Times reports:

Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials.

Some of the advisers to President George W. Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, argued that a president had the power to use the military on domestic soil to sweep up the terrorism suspects, who came to be known as the Lackawanna Six, and declare them enemy combatants.

Mr. Bush ultimately decided against the proposal to use military force.

A decision to dispatch troops into the streets to make arrests has few precedents in American history, as both the Constitution and subsequent laws restrict the military from being used to conduct domestic raids and seize property.

Housekeeping Note

I have to head out of town and posting will be lighter and possibly non-existent for the next few days.