Tag Archives: health

Fear and Loathing in Washington D.C.

Washington DC Capitol - HDR

“President Obama will negotiate with the Syrian butcher Assad and erase his red line, will capitulate to Vladimir Putin, and he will negotiate with the happy face of the killer regime in Iran, President Rouhani, but not with Republicans over issues all presidents have always negotiated over.”

That quote – from American conservative radio host/shame-free liar and propagandist Hugh Hewitt – encapsulates how far the U.S. has to go to overcome the most embarrassing and pathetic government shutdown in the history of the country. Not every conservative in the United States is as crazy or deluded as Hewitt, but enough are to where an angry, xenophobic, racially charged minority, belonging to one faction in one house of government, has been able to manufacture a government shutdown threatening to destroy the US and global economy unless the party opposite capitulates to their bidding.

The truth is, no American president has ever “negotiated” repealing a duly enacted law [the Affordable Care Act] whilst being blackmailed with the destruction of his government, or indeed with the destruction of the global economy. But this line of baseless rhetoric has become the new mantra of the Republican Party and their apologists: repeat the lie until enough Americans have been coerced that they [Republicans] are not singularly to blame for the disastrous impasses the country continuously finds itself in (e.g. sequestration, shutdown, debt ceiling, etc.). This isn’t just a minority problem – it’s a party problem. The American Tea Party may be [entirely] comprised of callous fools and disgraceful opportunists, but we’re mostly here because “moderate” Republicans have consistently folded to these vandals rather than stand up to them.

It’s important not to forget that Republicans manufactured the U.S. government shutdown for one reason and one reason only: to stop poorer Americans from getting health insurance funded by cuts to Medicare and the taxing of the richest Americans. Let’s also keep in mind that Congress itself passed the healthcare law in 2010; the Supreme Court then affirmed its constitutionality through its landmark ruling earlier this year; and the majority of Americans want it – as proven when they re-elected the President who signed it.

In a few weeks (or sooner), the shutdown/default crisis will long be over and maybe even forgotten. The federal deficit will in all likelihood continue to fall, and growth will probably resume. But the long-term inadequacies of the U.S. political system will continue to be exploited by the Republican Party, creating a sort of dystopic future for American politics. The American people put pretty much all of the blame of the shutdown/default crisis on the shoulders of Republicans, but conservatives can still expect to hold enough seats in the House come the 2014 midterm elections (mainly because of the way district lines are drawn. Republicans were lucky enough to have had a huge win at the state level in 2010, which coincided with post-census redistricting or gerrymandering). Democrats may very well win the White House again in 2016 with Hillary Clinton or Papa Joey B, but the Congress will probably remain the same, meaning we’ll see more shutdowns/threats of defaults before it’s all said and done.

I’ve been able to gauge the puzzled, incredulous looks of my international friends at the LSE – many of whom come from democratic countries – when they hear that an extremist minority party caused the “most powerful” democracy in the world to close up shop. I tell them that American politics, as constructed by James Madison (“father” of the Constitution), was designed with stagnation, derision, and polarization in mind. But the country’s founders couldn’t foresee something as inane as the Tea Party (and warned against political party’s altogether); they couldn’t possibly expect the damning practice of gerrymandering districts or the influence of special interest groups both in elections and public policy.

Mostly, I’ve had to tell my foreign friends that what they’re currently seeing and reading about is not at all what American politics was meant to be. But they better start getting used to it, because it’s here to stay.

Photo: Nicolas Raymond


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Young Americans Aren’t Really Into Beer Anymore


Gallup finds that among the youngest Americans, beer preference is collapsing at an alarming rate:

Young adult drinkers’ alcoholic beverage preferences have changed dramatically over the past two decades. In the early 1990s, 71% of adults under age 30 said they drank beer most often; now it is 41% among that age group. There has been a much smaller decline in the percentage of 30- to 49-year-olds who say they drink beer the most, from 48% to 43%, with essentially no change in older drinkers’ beer preference.


Younger adults’ preferences have shifted toward both liquor and wine, but more so toward liquor, over the past two decades. Those between the ages of 30 and 49 have moved exclusively toward liquor. Older Americans now increasingly say they drink wine most and are less likely to say they drink liquor most.

So what’s behind the shift? Derek Thompson offers one of many explanations:

(4) Wine is delicious and affordable, and many Americans only recently realized that.

California’s wine grape crush has grown by 160 percent since the famous Judgment of Paris in 1976. It’s not just Americans who are ordering bottles in record numbers. Wine exports are growing every year, too. In this light, it’s not that Americans are turning against beer so much as our preferences are turning somewhat more European as our capacity to produce good affordable wine has caught up to the old continent.

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Obamacare Works Very Well When State Officials Want It To

Obamacare on the steps of the Supreme Court

The emerging pattern is simple: states that aren’t soliciting bids for next year’s healthcare exchanges will have higher premiums than states that do. Via Steve Benen:

In recent weeks, there’s been a proxy war of sorts when it comes to the projected rates on health care premiums. A “blue” state like New York will announce great news, which leads a “red” state like Indiana to announce poor news. Democratic officials in California say residents are going to going to have more money in their pockets thanks to the Affordable Care Act, to which Republican officials in Ohio say the opposite.

The pattern isn’t exactly subtle: if you live in a state where officials want “Obamacare” to work, the law looks great. If you live in a state where officials are actively trying to undermine the law, regardless of what it does to you, your premiums, and your family’s access to quality and affordable care, then — you guessed it — the news isn’t as encouraging.

That said, the emerging pattern nevertheless suggests folks in states like Maryland, New York, California, and other bluer-than-blue states are going to be immediately happier with the results of the federal health care law because they’re living in states where officials actually want the system to work effectively.

My question is, what happens in those red states when residents start looking across borders and they wonder to themselves, “Why aren’t my benefits as great as theirs?” In theory, this should prompt those folks to start asking their state officials to do more of what works.

All signs point to the pattern continuing, but it’ll be interesting to see what the final numbers look like. If the law is effective, I can’t see how this ends any other way than the whole country benefitting from lower healthcare costs, despite the best efforts of Republican politicians and their super-lobby of healthcare insurance corporations. Red-state constituents will eventually see that their blue-state counterparts are paying less, and will demand the same.

(photo by flickr user Will O’Neill)

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Step Aside Poland: The U.S. Is Ranked 28th In Health Care!

A new study in JAMA compares American health care outcomes with those in other rich, developed countries and finds that the United States basically sucks. Overall, the U.S. is in 28th place, trailing Chile and barely leading Poland. This chart shows where we stand, and also draws our attention to how we’re doing on things like diabetes (31st place), breast cancer (16th place), COPD (32nd place), and colon cancer (8th place):


Oh and if that wasn’t bad enough, Aaron Carrol dissects the study and finds that we not only suck, we’re getting worse:

Between 1990 and 2010, among the 34 countries in the OECD, the US dropped from 18th to 27th in age-standardized death rate. The US dropped from 23rd to 28th for age-standardized years of life lost. It dropped from 20th to 27th in life expectancy at birth. It dropped from 14th to 26th for healthy life expectancy. The only bit of good news was that the US only dropped from 5th to 6th in years lived with disability.

So, there’s that.

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The Best Of The Week On Left And Center

The most popular posts this week were The Youth Of Today Basically Can’t Read Anymore, Cato’s really awesome New Atheism’s Problem Is Our Problem Too, What Happens To Women Who Can’t Get An Abortion, and finally, my rant against the President’s plan to arm Syrian Rebels, titled Obama Caves On Syria, Betrays Us All.

Other popular posts from the week were Mnemosyne’s cogent argument about Why Authoritarian Leaders Can Have All The Fun But Not Get Away With It, my takedown of the now famous NSA leaker Edward Snowden: Neither Hero Nor Whistle-Blower, and Cato’s explanation about how The U.S Federal Government Is Making You Fat.

Other noteworthy posts that were lost in the haze of a crazy week were Drugs and Prostitutes: State Department Style, a new revelation out of Hong Kong that led me to ask Is Edward Snowden Handing Materials Over To China?, and finally, the newly posted Lord of the Rings analogy of the Iranian presidential election, Why It Doesn’t Matter Who Wins The Iranian Election.

Thanks for stopping by,


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The U.S Federal Government Is Making You Fat

good news to fat american sex tourists: you can still get your fill of burgers, fries, and frozen pizzas

Written by Cato:

Why are Americans so fat?

The answer might be simpler than you think.

Despite decades of fighting obesity with programs and literature like Food Pyramid or MyPlate — aimed at helping individuals understand their nutritional requirements — Americans continue to struggle with obesity. According to Scientific American, the US government undercuts its own efforts to fight the health problems stemming from obesity.
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Republican intransigence the biggest threat to Obamacare

#protectthelawRally in support of ACA in front of SCOTUS (cc photo by LaDawna Howard)

The key to any good and lasting public policy is knowing what works, and what doesn’t, and implementing new strategies and reforms to account for what doesn’t, while simultaneously expanding what does. That’s how complex laws work in this country, from the alteration of Social Security in 1939 to reforms made on Medicare in the years following its being signed into law, complex policies need a fair bit of trial and error, and time, to work effectively.

But few items have been as controversial, misunderstood, and as politicized than the Affordable Care Act, which is why it’s not so surprising to read today’s story in the New York Times where Jonathan Weisman and Robert Pear report how Republicans plan to block any effort to alter and improve the law going forward:

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The Weekly Roundup

24 | May | 2013

The Unblinking EyeThe Unblinking Eye: Taken at the October 24th, 2012 campaign event of Governor Mitt Romney at Reno, Nevada (cc photo by Darron Bergenheier)

Friday on Left and Center, Publius shared some background to the new Wikileaks documentary, discussed how California gave Obamacare some really, really good news, argued that the Republican Party can no longer honestly call itself a party of conservatism, mitigated a debate between Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald on whether or not the London beheading of a British soldier could be categorized as terrorism, and had a good laugh at a photographer’s hilarious depiction of toy storm troopers.

23 | May | 2013

Obama at the John S. Knight CenterObama at the John S. Knight Center (cc photo by Beth Rankin)

Thursday on Left and Center, Publius unearthed the government’s war on whistleblowers, considered a damning opinion by Martin Wolf on austerity, saw Mnemosyne weigh the efficacy of corporate self-regulation, relayed President Obama’s speech on the future of the war on terror, and shared a wonderful photograph of Wadi Rum – Jordan.
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The Daily Roundup

The Unblinking EyeThe Unblinking Eye: Taken at the October 24th, 2012 campaign event of Governor Mitt Romney at Reno, Nevada (cc photo by Darron Bergenheier)

Today on Left and Center, Publius shared some background to the new Wikileaks documentary, discussed how California gave Obamacare some really, really good news, argued that the Republican Party can no longer honestly call itself a party of conservatism, mitigated a debate between Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald on whether or not the London beheading of a British soldier could be categorized as terrorism, and had a good laugh at a photographer’s hilarious depiction of toy storm troopers.

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When conservatism left the Republican party

The Unblinking EyeThe Unblinking Eye: Taken at the October 24th, 2012 campaign event of Governor Mitt Romney at Reno, Nevada (cc photo by Darron Bergenheier)

Jonathan Chait does a really fantastic profile of 28 year-old Bloomberg columnist Josh Barro, who he labels as the “loneliest Republican”. What’s been a startling and troubling political trend these last few years has been how the Republican party has openly and damningly retreated from pretty much every single policy ground they once stood on. Parties evolve and ideologies adapt, but that’s not necessarily what’s happened to the so-called “conservative” party. Leaving aside the “why this happened?” for another time, the truth of the matter is that if you’re a policy wonk, and hold yourself to be a conservative – assuming you’re honest with yourself – you don’t really have a political home anymore.
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Apparantly, immigration reform is completely unacceptable if it is extended to gays.

120613-D-NI589-518Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) (cc photo by Chuck Hagel)

That’s the major takeaway from last nights Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where Senator Patrick Leahy (D) stood alone in support of extending immigration rights to gay married couples.

But the debate regarding gay immigration rights isn’t necessarily at an end. Instead, we may be in store for some really interesting political maneuvering in the lead-up to the 2014 election cycle.

Senator Leahy – the chair of the Judiciary Committee – previously proposed two amendments aimed at protecting the immigration rights of gay couples, but pulled them off the table last night when he received absolutely no support from members of either party – that much we know. Democratic aides expect, however, that Leahy plans to reintroduce the amendments when the immigration debate hits the Senate Floor, which will a the very least force a public floor debate on why so many Senators think straight married couples deserve more rights than gay ones.

The amendments probably wouldn’t pass, in any case, but the debate can theoretically provide Democrats a means of portraying Republicans as anti gay rights. Marco Rubio and Bubbles – sorry, Lindsey Graham – have warned that any move to involve gays in the conversation would immediately kill the immigration reform bill. Much of the reason that pretty much every single Democrat agreed to pull these amendments in the first place was because they believed the threats, and decided against calling the Republican’s bluff.

Something else that’s really interesting is that at some point in June, the Supreme Court is going to rule on DOMA. If they strike down the Defense of Marriage Act – many believe they will – then these issues will be solved for since the federal government will have to constitutionally extend recognition to legally married gay couples. So timing is important here: if the Democrats wait until SCOTUS rules on DOMA, they lose any political leverage they have regarding gay immigration rights; if they introduce the amendments on the Senate floor prior to the decision, they can force a public battle with Republicans on the issue of gay rights.

It’s unfortunate that these amendments will probably never see the light of day. But with the massive leaps gay rights has made over the past few years alone, there’s reason to be hopeful that – inevitably – Washington will soon lose the means of discriminating against people based on who they love.

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The Daily Roundup

The Reverse BlessingThe Reverse Blessing (cc photo by VinothChandar)

Today on Left and Center, Publius considered the new information out of the IRS office in Cincinnati and concluded that the scandal is really just an unfortunate case of incompetence, applauded the sanity of Americans to be able to discern between real scandals and fake ones, pondered who we should arm in Syria given the complex web of rebel groups vying for control of that country, lamented Peggy Noonan’s descent into madness and ridicule for her terrible journalism regarding Benghazi and the president, shared a study which found that only 27 percent of college graduates find a job related to their major, chose for the daily quote a great message from Obama’s commencement speech at Morehouse College, chuckled at a photo of an elephant blessing a pilgrim, and awed at a video of freestyle football champion Andrew Henderson taking us on a journey through London.

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Daily Roundup

Today on Left and Center, Publius lamented the outgoing IRS commissioner being made the fall guy, defended the president amidst a swell of politicized scandals, offered thoughts as to why the 37th attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act is important, chuckled at the president’s use of a Marine umbrella, shared a remarkable aerial shot of the Nā Pali Coast, kicked back to a cool Pianoworks video for the daily unwind, and finally, introduced Left and Center as the new title for our little blog here, saying goodbye once and for all to BaddiesBoogie, and our moose.

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Why the 37th attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act matters

The esteemed House of Representatives is set to try – for a 37th time – to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more affectionately known as Obamacare. After say, the 30th attempt, it becomes easy to write off these quixotic efforts as pure spectacle aimed at bringing a smile to otherwise joyless members of the far-right coalition. Republicans can go home and tell their peoples that did everything within their power to repeal the Stalinist attempt to force everyone to have affordable medicine. But there’s a point to all these attempts to repeal ACA: they fundamentally change both the way Americans perceive the measure, and how the law works.

Perhaps motivated by the many attempts to repeal this widely contetious bill, the Kaiser Family Foundation polled Americans last month to ascertain public knowledge regarding whether or not the bill is still in effect. Considering most Americans can’t name their state’s Senators, It’s not all that surprising that twelve percent of the public think that Congress successfully repealed Obamacare. Twenty-three percent didn’t feel up to answering the question.


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The Daily Unwind

By the Lake, Tasmania

“Phipps lives in a fisherman’s shack in Tasmania that his family’s owned all his life.
His front garden is a giant lake, brimming with 9lb trout; his neighbours are wedge-tailed eagles and possums and tiger snakes. This is a day in Phipps’ beautiful, quiet world.”

Created by: Robert F Coleman, Chas Mackinnon and Drew Dunlop.
Music: Pig Food – The Middle East
Camera: Red Epic + 5DMK3

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