Tag Archives: current-events

I need to get back home to cool, cool rain

Today’s musings: The Who Live! Mods and Millennials. Healthcare industry backs ACA. McCain chose Sarah but rejects Susan in confusion over the meaning of “qualifications.”

Love, Reign O’er Me

Only love can make it rain
The way the beach is kissed by the sea
Only love can make it rain
Like the sweat of lovers layin’ in the fields

Love, reign o’er me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me

Only love can bring the rain
That makes you yearn to the sky
Only love can bring the rain
That falls like tears from on high

Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me
Love, reign o’er me
Rain on me, rain on me

On the dry and dusty road
The nights we spend apart alone
I need to get back home to cool, cool rain

I can’t sleep, and I lay, and I think
The night is hot and black as ink
Oh God, I need a drink of cool, cool rain

Love, reign o’er me
Reign o’er me, o’er me, o’er me
Love, reign o’er me, o’er me

– Written by Pete Townsend, performed by The Who (1973)

I share this song because it’s still reverberating in my mind after catching The Who perform Quadrophenia live last Friday. Love Reign O’er Me is the final song in the 1973 rock opera. The musical theme surfaces in many of the songs–when it finally gets played in full there’s a huge emotional payoff.

The story involves a shallow and unreliable young Mod named Jimmy who takes too many amphetamine “blues”, can’t open himself to love, idolizes the wrong people, clashes with his family, and works his way toward suicide. Then, with nothing left to live for, he surrenders to the rain and finds a sort of redemption. As Townsend has said, “He surrenders to the inevitable, and you know, you know, when it’s over and he goes back to town he’ll be going through the same shit, being in the same terrible family situation and so on, but he’s moved up a level. He’s weak still, but there’s a strength in that weakness.”

The concert featured 10 players playing like 100 and some virtual treats. Long dead Keith Moon sat in to do the “Bellboy” vocals via film (Bell-BOYYY, keep me lip buttoned down) and poor dead John Entwhistle soloed mightily from a video screen above the state in the song 5:15.

After the Entwhistle solo Townsend ripped into his own solo with a sly smile on his face. While both Daltrey and Townsend get a little ragged on vocals at times, Pete’s  guitar playing was incredible. Happy that he kept up with his mate, we saw him mouth “Fuck Yeah!” as he finished.

There’s a lot in the album that ties to our modern life. In the early 60s England was hitting the kind of prosperity that allowed youth the capital and leisure to act out as Mods and Rockers. The old days of sacrifice in post-War Britain were willfully forgotten. Style ruled over substance.

It’s possible that this kind of comfort leads us (30 years later) to the Millennials,  Gen-Y young people little plugged into politics,  highly plugged into communications technology, and with a sense of entitlement regarding employment and success, in what we Boomers (and every generation before us) learns to see and understand as cyclical developments. Boomers, having falling short of the expectations of their WWII-era parents, decided to treat their children with unconditional love and support. Little Josh never had to actually color within the lines to get approval. Now he thinks his employer is there to nurture him with a rapid succession of promotions and raises in return for average performance.

Jimmy ends up disappointed in the Bell Boy, whom he’d worshiped as a Mod leader called “Ace Face.” The former star Mod winds up working in a seaside hotel–and liking it. “Ace Face” speaks to the idea of glory days and compromise that many of us face whenever we have too much time to think.

Republicans have had time to think and Obamacare repeal apparently has less appeal. I work in healthcare and I’ve seen that the industry is mostly pro-Obamacare. So regardless of the pundits and your cousin’s husband railing against the ruinous nature of the law at Thanksgiving dinner, I thought I could share some insider’s views.

My thoughts on this started out with a newsletter piece pointing to this article at USA Today. “Weak Obama Debate Showing Hurts Health Stocks.”  Most stocks in the hospital sector tumbled between 1.5% and 2.5% after the first debate and Obama’s poor showing. Of course, when I went back to dig into this by checking stock prices after each debate and the election (as someone who makes a living doing analysis is wont to do), I saw that the market moved after each debate and after the election. But guess what, the market is always moving. I quickly remembered that Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan (a book about once-in-a-lifetime events, not ballet craziness) wrote of this. He discusses an instance where he caught the same media outlet explaining market movements in both directions using the same bit of news:

When Saddam Hussein was captured, Bloomberg News offered the following headline: “US TREASURIES RISE; HUSSEIN CAPTURE MAY NOT CURB TERRORISM”. But a half hour later, Treasuries moved lower. The headline was changed to “US TREASURIES FALL; HUSSEIN CAPTURE BOOSTS ALLURE OF RISKY ASSETS.”

So I abandon the stock market angle except to say that if Obamacare was going to punish the for-profit hospital industry or insurers it certainly isn’t showing in their stock prices.

So let’s read what some industry leaders are saying about the ACA:

Susan DeVore, president and CEO, Premier: “Now that the elections are behind us, we need to, on a bipartisan basis, get back to the task of removing the barriers to transforming healthcare. The payment and delivery reforms in the Affordable Care Act provide a framework to move us in the right direction. We need to build on those reforms to align payment incentives and measurement with effective patient care. Patients and healthcare providers will be harmed by continual payment cuts unless we empower providers with the flexibility to improve care and drive out waste.”

Lloyd Dean, president and CEO, Dignity Health: “We think that healthcare in a country like ours is something this is a right as opposed to a privilege. We have been, as you know, supporters of the ACA because we acknowledge that right and we believe through the results of the election that momentum and actions will continue to full implementation of the act. We continue to believe that this will allow us to do something that is very important, which is to address and bring forward solutions to the national healthcare crisis in our country. … One thing there is no debate about on either side of the political spectrum is that the current status of healthcare, prior to some type of reform, was not sustainable. … Even if the act itself had been modified severely, we would still move forward with what we think is important to figure out a way to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, to raise the bar for quality and to increase access.

Dr. Robert Laskowski, president and CEO of Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.: “We’ve always been great supporters of the Affordable Care Act and the principle that it embodies; there’s always a few things in there that could be improved but overall the direction is clearly the right way. What the election did was clarified and made our lives simpler. … In the longer run the direction of the necessity for us to pay attention to value, to improve care and to make sure that the care is affordable to all citizens in the country—that was going to be independent of the results of the election. But there would have been rhetoric changes if the election had been different, and it would have slowed us up in the work that we need to do. So we’re happy for the clarity and think that taking care of our neighbors is vitally important.“

Dr. Donald Berwick, former CMS administrator under Obama, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress: “If Congress reads this as an endorsement from the public of healthcare reform, I’m hoping we can move into a phase of further exploration and adjustments of the law. However, the current breakdown between the House and Senate remains the same so the risk is if the opposition remains intransigent and uses funding to starve the implementation processes. … I hope that all of the states come on board (with the ACA’s Medicaid expansion). The people who would be covered under the expansion are getting care now—they’re just getting it late, when they’re sicker and their care is more expensive. For the states that turn down this money, it doesn’t solve their problem. It increases states’ burdens to care for these vulnerable people. It’s an unwise policy and it’s an incorrect moral stance.”

This is what you can take to the bank: Our current system is very expensive. We pay twice as much per capita as other developed nations and have fewer people covered and more people going broke. The incentives in the system are all wrong as we pay doctors per procedure and visit instead of for outcomes and quality. The ACA was a step in the right direction and to get to the finish line we need an honest dedication to the truth, not political gamesmanship.

LB_Rule

Bizarro World:

Senator John McCain of Arizona, said on Fox that he would be “very hard-pressed” to support Susan Rice if she were nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. In 2005, President Bush was considering a recess appointment for John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, McCain said: “I would support it. It’s the president’s prerogative.” Flip flop or pure hypocrisy?

One thing we should remember, McCain, by picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, forever disqualified himself from commenting on any nominee for any high office.

House Republicans try to drag Social Security into the budget talks.

The Boehner “counter-offer” seized on raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 and cutting back on benefit increases. Heaven forbid we raise taxes on a billionaire when we can save money by taking it away from thousands of fixed income seniors!  Why don’t they watch this and learn from their guru?

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And when you ask them, how much should we give? Oooh, they only answer more!

Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Some folks are born made to wave the flag
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief”
Oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no Senator’s son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one, no

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand
Lord, don’t they help themselves,
But when the tax men come to the door
Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale

It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one, no

Yeah, some folks inherit star-spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Oh, they only answer, more, more, more

It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no military son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one

It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one, no, no, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate son, no, no

–Written by John Fogerty, released in 1969

Fogerty and CCR’s first fame came from the song Suzie Q. on 1968’s self titled album, Creedence Clearwater Revival. The following year, 1969, they released 3 albums in rapid succession! That’s the kind of commercial push to capitalize on popularity that we seldom see nowadays. But churning albums was practically de rigueur for the 1960s as we see from many bands including The Beatles. Apparently, the song doesn’t have a particular target in mind when proclaiming “I ain’t no millionaire’s son” and “I ain’t know Senator’s son,” it’s been rumored to have been about Al Gore or George W. Bush, but is just based on Fogerty’s wounded sense of justice seeing the privileged sit out the Vietnam War while the average Joes paid the price (the draft was in effect but was deferred if the young man was in college or had a doctor to build a case against draft-worthiness. The well-connected might also have access to safe home assignments in the National Guard–as did George W. Bush–and serve while avoiding combat.) This song was an early recognition of the role of money and class in who the country sends to wage war.

That theme of the privileged who are oh-so-willing to spend the lifeblood of the average person has been more than evident in the debates this year. Governor Romney and Congressmen Ryan portray themselves as the tough guys while the president is on apology tours. In the bubble, this allows Iran to develop a nuclear bomb that they will use to annihilate Israel. These bombs will have to be extremely accurate to avoid the destruction of Israel’s Arab population and the Islamic holy sites like the Dome of the Rock.

Maybe they would attack the U.S. with it instead? Of course, that would be a case of “mutually assured destruction” without the “mutually,” as it would assure the destruction of Iran while only damaging the U.S. While many liberals object to Obama’s low-profile but ongoing war in the Mideast I am convinced that the intent has a logic to it, while I can’t buy the justification. We keep Al Qaeda from mounting highly organized attacks by continually targeting leaders. Sadly, the collateral damage we induce once again leads us to create the enemies we will fight in the future by maiming or killing their friends and relatives. Regardless, the GOP long ago learned that fear benefits their party. Whether the commies of the cold war, the evil Grenadians targeted by Saint Ronald, dark-skinned immigrants, or dark skinned-Islamists they just love cultivating fearfulness. The fear they manufacture drives the target demographic into the open arms of the exploiters. They dehumanize a group based on their religion and cash in on primitive tribal instincts instead of benefiting the evolutionary process by rejecting those instincts. Bonus: it has extra appeal to the evangelical arm that already sees themselves as Christian Warriors prepared to defend the “One True Way.”

Some in the 1% (which is better portrayed as the .1%) truly have a sense of privilege that leads them to believe that they are haughtily superior to the common folk–say, those making less than $5 million per year. From those heights it is difficult to distinguish between a doctor and a tailor. They are both there to serve personal needs. An article by Chrystia Freeland in The New Yorker called Super Rich Irony, Why do billionaires feel victimized by Obama? captures that Romney sense of privilege. You know, the self-exultation that would allow someone to approach the President of the United States in a debate with a sneer and a wagging finger claiming the President was an effing liar. Gov. Romney encourages the rich to bemoan their lost opportunities to be even richer because that… that… (with disdain) Obama character says “you are not paying your fair share.”

In the article hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman leads a Wall St. charge against Obama blaming him for portraying the 1% as the source of problems for the 99%. Let’s consider the level of the man’s sense of grandiosity. At an event “he handed the President two copies of ‘Inspired: My Life (So Far) in Poems,’ a self-published book written by Courtney Cooperman, his fourteen-year-old granddaughter. Cooperman was surprised that the President didn’t send him a thank-you note or that Malia and Sasha Obama, for whom the books were intended as a gift and to whom Courtney wrote a separate letter, didn’t write to Courtney.” After pressuring the White House through mutual friends Courtney did get a hand-written response from Michelle Obama. In Cooperman’s world, The President of the United States is beneath him (measly $400k per year) and slights him if he doesn’t get the attention he desires for his over-reaching granddaughter.

The article also reminds us of entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, whose TED talk is featured here. Hanauer maintains that since the Reagan era American capitalists have enjoyed a uniquely supportive set of ideological, political, and economic conditions. Of course, listening to  Mr. Romney or Mr. Ryan we’d be informed that Socialist Obama–who is in reality a business-supporting New Democrat like Bill Clinton–is the small businessperson’s enemy. But that’s the Orwellian world we live in.  So the wealthiest among us are now proponents of the self-advancing theme that their personal enrichment is a precondition for the enrichment of everyone else. Lower taxes for them are a social good, rather than a selfish perk.  Hanauer tells us. “The idea that the rich deserve to be rich is a very comforting idea if you are rich.”  And that somehow spills over into the concept that their low-taxation is good for everyone, not just themselves and their families.

Read more:
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/10/08/121008fa_fact_freeland#ixzz29qiLGFpU

Wait, Mitt Romney debates, the wealthy pay 60% of the taxes in this country! Since they pay a lower effective rate than the rest of the top quintile (which earns as much as the lower 80% combined does) then what does that tell us except that wealth disparity is out of balance and the leveling effect built into our taxation system has eroded to the point of being a joke. A 2011 report by the Congressional Budget Office found that from 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income. The 1% share of the total income pie more than doubled. The report is here.

Appearing on a North Carolina radio program, Tagg Romney — one of Mitt Romney’s five apparently not-so-truthful sons (“Look, I’ve got five boys I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true but just keep repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it.) — said that he wanted to rush the stage and “take a swing” at President Obama during the debates. He acknowledged , “But you know you can’t do that because… Well, first there is a lot of Secret Service between you and him but also because this is the nature of the process.” Repeating something that is not always true seems to be the GOP campaign mantra so Mitt shouldn’t be criticizing the boys about it. I’m not the first to note this, but the Romney boys could have had small roles in the Twilight films as vampires or werewolves. I’d like to own the hair products concession for that family.  They’ve got the total body manicure look. And that take a swing thing… I know EXACTLY what you are talking about Tagg–only it ain’t the POTUS I would punch.

The 67th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner on October 18th featured the candidates. The tradition is to make light of the campaign. Referring to the first debate, the President said, “I felt well-rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate.”  He told the crowd that “I learned there are worse things that can happen to you on your anniversary than forgetting to buy a gift.” He did get some shots in at Romney, “I went shopping at some stores in Midtown,” he said of how he spent his day in New York. “I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in midtown.”

Romney couldn’t rely on humor without adding in the recurring theme of victimization the right loves to portray. “Now I never suggest that the press is biased.” he said. “I recognize that they have their job to do, and I have my job to do. My job is to lay out a positive vision for the future of the country, and their job is to make sure no one else finds out about it.” and “And I’ve already seen early reports from tonight’s dinner, headline; ‘Obama Embraced by Catholics. Romney Dines with Rich People.'” Poor Mitt.

Again we see some irony. Regardless of Republican whining, the claims about the liberal media are overstated. It has been said that even though reporters may be personally liberal, expecting them to include a liberal slant in the work they do would be the equivalent of expecting the worker on the factory floor to decide what products should be made. In truth, the ownership of media is slanted toward the elite and the products of the media are slanted toward the elite. If they weren’t, the culture would be shaped around leveling inequality not around embracing it as morally superior. Noam Chomsky has said, “The difference between Republicans and Democrats is small — they are just two factions of the same party: The Business Party.” Similarly the vast majority of media only knows the spectrum of center to right and that center starts looking pretty left to people after a while.

“Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.” –Noam Chomsky

More Romney photo fun here.

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