Who ever would have guessed? So once again, Obama has proposed a Republican idea but suddenly, the GOP wants him to push more to the right. Meanwhile, liberals again are angry with yet another failed sell out. What a brilliant 2012 strategy.
Republicans were pleased, but they didn't want to sound too happy with something their arch-rival proposed. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the freeze "is both necessary and, quite frankly, long over-due."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the ranking Republican on the committee's federal workforce panel, called it "a step in the right direction. However, the proposal does not appear to curb step increases. If that is the case, this announcement is nothing more than a hollow press release. At the end of the day, this policy will serve only to frustrate current employees while doing nothing to curb our debts."
Republican MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tells the GOP in a Politico op-ed today that it needs to dump Sarah Palin, who he says “cannot get elected” president. Scarborough is particularly perturbed by Palin’s recent criticism of Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush. “Who wouldn?t agree that finishing third in the Miss Alaska beauty contest is every bit as treacherous as risking your life in military combat?” Scarborough asks.
Federal officials have begun an inquiry into whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws, in particular the Espionage Act, when his organization released hundreds of thousands of secret government documents. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department and Pentagon are conducting “an active, ongoing criminal investigation.”
The leaked results of a 10-month long Pentagon survey of enlisted troops asked about their opinions on lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly find that “a clear majority of respondents don’t care if gays serve openly.” 70 percent of respondents said “that lifting the ban would have positive, mixed or no results.”
Following this weekend’s arson attack against an Oregon mosque that a terrorism suspect frequently visited, the mosque has become a hub for community members and Corvallis religious leaders to unite “to offer prayers and support against the ‘abhorrent’ act of arson.” “This shouldn’t happen here — it shouldn’t happen anywhere — but Corvallis is a wonderful, open community,” said one community resident.
A federal judge temporarily blocked an amendment to the Oklahoma state constitution, passed by referendum earlier this month, which is aimed at stopping the use of Islamic Sharia law in courts. The judge said the amendment suggests “the state favors one religion or particular belief over others,” and thus violates the First Amendment.
Congressional Budget Office report released yesterday found that the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the $700 billion bailout for Wall Street’s top financial institutions, is expected to cost the federal government $25 billion. “Clearly, it was not apparent when the TARP was created two years ago that the cost would turn out to be this low,” the CBO report says.
Global climate talks began in Cancun yesterday, though as has been the case at many recent meetings, key issues remain unresolved with little hope of a breakthrough. Mexican President Felipe Calderon urged participants to reach an agreement: “It would be a tragedy if our inability to see beyond our personal interests, our group or national interests makes us fail,” he said. “Climate change is beginning to make us pay for the fatal errors we as humanity have committed against the environment.”
During a live chat with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, former President Bush explained his reason for appearing at the forum. “You’ve got a lot of people paying attention to us, and I’m trying to sell books” he told the audience, adding, “The truth of the matter is, I’m shamelessly marketing.”
And finally: Freshmen Reps. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Billy Long (R-MO) “may not see eye to eye politically…but the pair has found common ground in their love” of cowboy hats. The two members of Congress have dubbed themselves the ?Cowboy Hat Caucus,? and Wilson is attempting to change an archaic House rule that prohibits members from wearing hats on the house floor.
ThinkProgress is hiring! Details here.
Evidently President Obama is taking the wrong message away from the midterms. This morning's announcement of a federal pay freeze sends exactly the wrong message and plays into Republicans' hands. Seriously, what is he thinking here?
The early reviews of President Obama's plan to freeze federal worker pay are in -- and it gets a resounding "F" from just about everybody outside of GOP leadership.
Michael Linden, a budget expert at the liberal Center for American Progress, said the plan is small potatoes that risks driving away valuable civil servants with little budgetary upside.
"Bluntly doing it this way, we risk cutting off our nose to spite our face," Linden said in a phone interview. "We risk not hiring good people, we risk not giving a raise to people who deserve a raise, and we miss not cutting the pay of those who deserve a pay cut."
That more or less sums it up.
Of course, it doesn't matter to Republicans, because nothing short of firing every federal employee would make them happy. Just after he was sworn in today, Senator Mark Kirk declared his first priority would be to control federal spending. Speaker-to-be John Boehner sang a chorus of "Too little, too late", claiming a pay freeze without a hiring freeze was just not enough.
Of course, these are the same hacks who posture and strut about how extending federal unemployment benefits just cannot -- CANNOT -- be done without some budget cut somewhere else so they are paid for while they speak out of the other side of their mouths (or body parts, depending) about how the Bush tax cuts must -- MUST -- be extended with no provision for paying for them.
If Obama is playing for moderate Republicans, he's doing it stupidly. First, the election is over, and it proved there is no such thing as a moderate Republican. The ones with any sense have run away from the Republican party entirely and the rest of them are just batsh*t crazy. There are no votes to win with this nonsense, so it's all just posturing for the sake of looking responsible.
If Obama really wants to look responsible, he can start by giving serious credibility to the progressive proposals rolled out today for deficit reduction. They're practical, smart ideas that deserve consideration equally with all others.
In the world of Washington DC, it seems everyone operates on an assumption that things will not ever improve. With proposals like this, it's no wonder they operate on that basis.
Someone needs to give the President lessons in listening for pitch and timbre, because this move has to be the most tone-deaf he's made yet.
Anyone who has ever dealt with insurance companies in an attempt to get paid for services rendered. I have spent countless hours with a clerk in my office going over HCFA forms and superbillsto try to determine what hadn't been coded or filed properly and caused the insurance company to deny payment - and never on the whole bill, just an item or two, and there was rarely any real error, and they would pay it on the third or fourth submission.
Think about that...the insurance company shorts us twenty bucks on our reimbursement. The first person this inconveniences is the accounts receivable clerk who has to flag all the claims with outstanding amounts and take them to the person who files the insurance claims. That person will then have to sort through the unreimbursed claims and pull the charts for each patient and then go to the various departments and go over the claim form and the encounter form/superbill to make sure that everything is coded properly.
It doesn't take long to make it counterproductive to chase a fifteen dollar reimbursement if you are taking a $12-per-hour accounting clerk, a $15-per-hour insurance clerk, a $30-per-hour lab director or a $35-per-hour head nurse away from other tasks for fifteen minutes. Almost makes it not worthwhile. Indeed, I have worked in practices where they just let smaller amounts go and wrote it off - which I suspect is what the insurers are after in the first place with their specious denials.
Many, if not most, care providers have fumed privately and kvetched among co-workers about the millions of dollars the insurance companies were stealing, one nine-dollar-reimbursement-denial at a time. At least one state - California - sees it that way, too, and has levied fines on seven HMOs.
California's seven largest HMOs must pay nearly $5 million in fines because of unfair payment practices after an 18-month state investigation revealed widespread underpayments, valued in the tens of millions of dollars, for medical care provided by doctors and hospitals.
State auditors estimate that one in every five claims was the subject of dispute because of underpayment and other mistakes by the HMOs. Collecting payment often turned into a time-consuming ordeal for medical providers who serve the 22 million Californians enrolled in health maintenance organizations.
"Our clear and consistent message is that California's hospitals and physicians must be paid fairly and on time," said Cindy Ehnes, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, which levied the fines on the state's largest HMOs.
"Providers are struggling to stay afloat, as small businesses, in a very difficult business environment. Improper payment of provider claims runs the risk that our health care delivery system could grind to a halt," Ehnes said at at a news conference held at a Los Angeles hospital.
Anthem Blue Cross is being fined $900,000; Blue Shield of California, $900,000; PacifiCare, $800,000; Health Net, $750,000; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, $750,000; Cigna, $450,000; and Aetna, $300,000.
That is in addition to the $22 million that has been collected for providers - in California alone - since 2004. In addition, the seven affected companies are required to go back over every claim that has been filed for three years and pay doctors the outstanding amounts on those claims. They will also be required to submit new protocols to reduce/eliminate payment "errors."
Still, you can tally up the fines and reimbursements that will be forthcoming and toss the previously-collected $22 million in there, too, and we are still talking chump change for the big insurers. And unless the agencies that oversee them are vested with near-tyrannical powers to apply penalties with real teeth that will keep the house lawyers busy for months getting assets unfrozen, it is never going to change. Not in non-superficial ways, anyway, because it is just too damned profitable to keep stealing from your doctor.
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A friend of DCW sent along this mailing list post from Minnesota DNC member Rick Stafford:
"I returned Tuesday from a meeting of the DNC Executive Committee and a DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee in San Juan, PR.
BTW, the word on the street at the meeting is that Minneapolis is now the front-runner for the 2012 convention.
I still find it hard to believe the Democrats will go back to essentially the same city the GOP was in four years ago. (Yes, we know the GOP was in St. Paul, not Minneapolis). But this convention race seems wide open at this point. The winning bid is expected to be announced in December but we wouldn't be surprised if it's January.
News14 Charlotte has a (non-embeddable) story on Charlotte's chances.
On Nov. 21, the first U.S. soldier in two months was killed by hostile fire in Iraq. For all of 2010, the death toll for American troops there has been 59, by far the lowest fatality rate since the Cheney-Bush administration invaded the country on false pretenses nearly eight years ago. We've yet to see the last American to die for the U.S. "mistake" in Iraq, as Sen. John Kerry would have it. That death could easily still be a year away. But clearly the chances of an American soldier getting killed in Iraq are far smaller than they were a year ago, much less in 2007 when more than 900 American military personnel died in the occupation.
For Iraqis, too, the level of violence has declined since its peak three years ago. But the situation remains volatile and exceedingly dangerous. This is reflected in the failure of most Iraqi exiles to return home. At least 2 million fled the country, but only about 100,000 have returned, just 5 percent. And now many who have returned are leaving again because of violence and the wretched state of the economy. John Leland writes:
A second exodus has begun here, of Iraqis who returned after fleeing the carnage of the height of the war, but now find that violence and the nation’s severe lack of jobs are pulling them away from home once again.
Since the American invasion in 2003, refugees have been a measure of the country’s precarious condition, flooding outward during periods of violence and trickling back as Iraq seemed to stabilize. This new migration shows how far the nation remains from being stable and secure. ...
In a recent survey by the United Nations refugee office, 61 percent of those who returned to Baghdad said they regretted coming back, most saying they did not feel safe. The majority, 87 percent, said they could not make enough money here to support their families. Applications for asylum in Syria have risen more than 50 percent since May. ...
“There’s no security here,” [Amar al-Obeidi] said, ticking off his close encounters with guns and bombs. “I was near a female suicide bomber a couple months ago. Then I was in my brother’s truck when insurgents opened fire on a bridge. My friend was killed in front of me with a knife. I’ve been destroyed. My mother needs an operation for her eyes, and I don’t have money. We need someone to help us.”
“Feel my stomach,” he said. “It’s like a rock. It’s going to blow out.”
When the Cheney-Bush administration began its campaign of blood and torture in Iraq, there were millions of Iraqis living in places where they don't live now. By 2008, one estimate put the number of exiles at 4.7 million, 2 million of them scattered abroad in 10 countries, mostly Syria and Jordan and nearly 2.8 million internally displaced persons, IDPs. Some analysts quibble about the numbers, alway a difficult count in wartime, but everybody agrees it was the largest human displacement in the Middle East since 1948, another ideological slap in the face of the schemers who said the invasion would stabilize the region. Of course, they actually didn't get even a slap on the wrist.
Today, with Iraq practically invisible in the U.S. media, the exiles face not only an unstable security situation but also continued poverty, assault, kidnapping, renewed ethnic cleansing and murder if they try to go back where they came from. Therefore, few do. According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees:
The number of refugees who return permanently to Iraq has been very low with UNHCR having supported 163 to return to Iraq from Syria since the beginning of 2010. According to Iraqi government statistics, only 18,240 Iraqi refugees returned from exile from January 2010 to August.
And few others are likely to do so given the stories trickling out from returnees who have gone back into exile because of money troubles and continued ethnic and other cleansing. Most have a hard row to hoe. The vast majority have chosen not to register themselves with the UNHCR, cutting them off from legal protections and a small bit of financial assistance. While some exiles with a good education and professional credentials have managed to build a new, more or less comfortable life for themselves, at least economically, most are just surviving and waiting, doing unauthorized work if they can find something, living in constant fear of deportation.
As Steve Hynd points out:
If the Surge did anything more than paper over the cracks, these people haven't noticed. Their lives would be just as terrible if the Surge had never happened and the US had withdrawn all its troops in 2007 or if the US now stayed in Iraq forever. The only difference would be that billions of dollars and hundreds of other lives would not have been wasted providing a figleaf of cover to politicians and careerist generals, so that they never had to use the word "defeat".
And now, as Hynd says, we're being asked to stay the course in Afghanistan.
Hey, all you people who stayed home November second insisting it didn?t matter which party occupied the White House and Congress, how?s that no-step forward-two-steps backward workin? out for ya? Are you pleased with the kinds of people in leadership positions who promise a bright future for a country in an inertial lockstep that impedes rather than promotes innovative policy, sheltering what they define as the American way?
That ?way,? is characterized by a free market, fiscal free-for-all that awards greater control of capital to the few while squeezing out middle and lower-income earners who decry what they call ?class warfare? mistakenly believing they may join the ranks of the wealthy one day. They support candidates least likely to clear a path to the top because the campaign to ?take the country back? is in reality a cynical embrace of the status quo, or a deception dished up by intellectual lightweights like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the lady from Alaska, all guaranteeing a further erosion of our national brain-trust.
Right-wing pundits and pols spend most of their time attacking the president and Democrats in general when it would be ever so refreshing if learning their craft meant knowing something about the nation?s history and the Constitution instead of distorting facts to suit a partisan agenda. How did critics decide to waste even a second?s time challenging the president?s Thanksgiving message with a lot of gibberish about how the Indians experimented with socialism and the Pilgrims changed course and advanced the cause of capitalism?
It is more than a little disturbing to realize that we have reached a point in our history when entrenched partisanship destroys sensible dialogue and uninformed people with loud voices make dubious points to support anachronistic views that add nothing to discussions about the country?s founding or where it should be headed. One Republican caller to The Washington Journal actually suggested that Democrats were afraid of intellect, this from the supporter of a party that had the effrontery to field low-intellect, wild-eyed, radical candidates an alarming number of whom were unfortunately just elected. Another caller said it had taken Obama just two years to destroy the economy and thank heavens a new Congress would save us from fiscal ruin.
Do people like this ever listen to news reports other than the ones Fox News delivers? Is our education system so deformed that under-schooled zealots speak with authority about issues too complicated for far smarter, better-educated minds to resolve? The sad fact seems to be that some leaders of little intellect and diminutive educational credentials depend on the ignorance of constituents to elect them to positions of power.
Consider some of the Republicans vying for leadership roles in the new Congress and the ideological forces that seek to shape policy. The electorate has been bombarded with right-wing insistence that government be guided by the Constitution and, oh yes, religious principles, although the two positions are diametrically opposed to each other. No religious preference should ever be used as the basis for holding elective office says the Constitution but time and again groups like the Family Research Council direct believers toward a particular candidate or policy and some members of our governing bodies try to inject their religious preference into legislation.
Joe Barton and John Shimkus are joined in a contest to chair the House Environment and Commerce Committee. It would be hard to find two more inappropriate candidates for that position. Barton is your typical Texas-driven big-oil partisan who apologized to BP for the fund President Obama established from which parties injured by the oil spill could seek recompense - - what Barton referred to as a ?slush fund.? Shimkus on the other hand is a Christian fundamentalist who says man is not the cause of environmental fluctuations. Only God can destroy the universe as was made clear in Genesis, he says, when God promised Noah the world would not suffer another flood of his making.
And then there are the birthers still questioning Obama?s legitimacy. What a disheartening display of mindless partisanship and religious perversity. If we as a nation want to hang on to a shred of respectability and avoid becoming the laughing stock of the free world, responsible people will have to take a much stronger position on what it is we stand for as a people and stop acting as if intelligence were a non-essential element in our governing apparatus.
The biggest threat comes from inaction, which this CBO report shows is effectively what we have with the status quo. Every homeowner in America will suffer from falling housing prices due to mass foreclosures. Unemployment will increase as the housing[...]
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Please note: There may be calendar changes due to the Holidays. Call ahead if you have questions.
December 2 ? First Thursday of the month. Myrtle Beach Happy Hour. 5:00 - 7:00 pm. The location will be Tavern in the Forest, 4999 Carolina Forest Blvd. For additional information please contact David Canty at email@example.com
December 2 ? Thursday. This will be the combined November, December meeting of the West Side Dems. 5:30 - 7:00 pm. The location will be the Horry County Democratic Party Headquarters at 900 4th Avenue, Conway, SC 29526. For more information please call the office at 488-4237.
December 3 ? First Friday of the month. Grand Strand Horry Democratic (The December Grand Strand Horry Democratic is canceled. Please join us in January). Club will meet at Friendly's Restaurant, 4705 N Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach SC at 1 PM. Open to all who are interested in making a difference in the election of our public officials. The Grand Strand Democrats are organizing a food drive for the needy and homeless in the Horry County area. Any nonperishable food or other item will be donated to the poor and needy in the area. For further information please call Bea at 843-497-0119.
December 9 - South Enders (The December South Enders Meeting will be a Holiday Party). Regular meetings will resume in January. The contact person will be Steve Chand by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 10- Beach Dems Breakfast, (The December Beach Dems Breakfast is cancelled. Please join us in January) 2nd Friday of each month. 8:00-9:00am at Akels Pancake House, corner of 65th Avenue N. and Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. Each month will have a guest speaker. Breakfast Buffet is $7.00. For information contact Sally P. Howard at 449-1936 or email@example.com
December 14- 2nd Tuesday of each month. North Strand Democratic Monthly Meeting: 6:00 PM- 7:00. The meeting is at J. Bryan Floyd Community Center at 1030 Possum Trot Road, North Myrtle Beach, SC. For information contact Brian or Roberta at 272-6454.
December 14, Tuesday. 5:30PM ? 7:30PM - Democratic Women?s Council of Horry County is having a Holiday Happy Hour at the Liberty TapRoom, on North Kings Hwy, between 76th and 79th Ave. in the Northwoods Shopping Center in Myrtle Beach. Come and bring a guest. We'll provide a few trays of appetizers and drinks will be dutch treat. The upper level inside the bar is reserved for us.. For information contact Sally P. Howard at 449-1936 or firstname.lastname@example.org
December 16- Third Thursday of each month. Please see the notice above. (The December meeting of the DWCHC is cancelled. Please join us in January) Democratic Women?s Council of Horry County (DWCHC), 5:30 The meeting location is is Martin's Restaurant, 7200 North Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach (corner of 73rd and N. Ocean Blvd), Myrtle Beach, SC. For more information contact Sally P. Howard @ 843-449-1936 or sallyphoward@
December 23 - Thursday . (The West Side Democrats will not meet in December. Please join us at our January 27th meeting) West Side Democrats will meet at the Horry County Democratic Party Headquarters, 900 4th Avenue in downtown Conway. 5:30 -7:00 pm. For more information contact the HCDP office at 488-4237. January 6 ? First Thursday of the month. Myrtle Beach Happy Hour. 5:00 - 7:00 pm. The location for September?s meeting will be Tavern in the Forest, 4999 Carolina Forest Blvd. For additional information please contact David Canty at email@example.com
January 7 ?Friday. Grand Strand - Horry Democratic Club will meet at Friendly's Restaurant, 4705 N Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach SC at 1 PM . Open to all who are interested in making a difference in the election of our public officials. For further information please call Bea at 843-497-0119.
January 11- 2nd Tuesday of each month. North Strand Democratic Monthly Meeting: 6:00 PM- 7:00. The meeting is at J. Bryan Floyd Community Center at 1030 Possum Trot Road, North Myrtle Beach, SC. For information contact Brian or Roberta at 272-6454
January 13- South Enders 2nd Thursday of each month 6:00pm. We will meet at Damon's Restaurant, 2985 South Ocean Blvd. For more information about the meeting contact Steve Chand by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
January 14- Beach Dems Breakfast, 2nd Friday of each month. 8:00-9:00am at Akels Restaurant, corner of 65th Avenue N. and Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. This month?s speaker will be Bobby Bowers, Director of the South Carolina Office of Research and Statistics. He will speak about redistricting following the 2010 census. For information contact Sally P. Howard at 449-1936 or email@example.com
January 20- Third Thursday of each month - (New Location) Democratic Women?s Council of Horry County (DWCHC), 5:30. The meeting location is Martin's Restaurant, 7200 North Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach (corner of 73rd and N. Ocean Blvd) For more information contact Sally P. Howard @ 843-449-1936 or sallyphoward@
January 20 - Thursday. The Charleston County Democratic Party is hosting a Forum on Electronic voting, history, present and future. Panelists will include Susan Smith, Georgetown County Democratic Party Executive Committeewoman; Judge Vic Rawl, Democratic Primary Candidate for US Senate: Frank Heindel, election integrity activist and whistleblower and Sen. Phil Leventis who is hoping to reintroduce legislation protecting our votes. It will be held at the Town Hall, off Mall Drive (Tanger Outlet Mall). 2500 City Hall Lane, North Charleston, SC 29406. For more information, contact Susan Smith at 843 235 9937 (home), 843 833 3919 (cell)
January 27- Fourth Thursday. West Side Democrats will meet at the Horry County Democratic Party Headquarters, 900 4th Avenue in downtown Conway. 5:30 -7:00 pm. For more information call he Dem Office at 488-4237.
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Democrats goofed when reconciling the different versions of the health care reform law and left out the standard severability clause. It's not necessarily a fatal error, but it does give opponents of the law challenging its constitutionality more grist[...]
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