Friday, September 18, 2009
1. It's all socialized medicine out there.
Not so. Some countries, such as Britain, New Zealand and Cuba, do provide health care in government hospitals, with the government paying the bills. Others -- for instance, Canada and Taiwan -- rely on private-sector providers, paid for by government-run insurance. But many wealthy countries -- including Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland -- provide universal coverage using private doctors, private hospitals and private insurance plans.
In some ways, health care is less "socialized" overseas than in the United States. Almost all Americans sign up for government insurance (Medicare) at age 65. In Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, seniors stick with private insurance plans for life. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the planet's purest examples of government-run health care.
2. Overseas, care is rationed through limited choices or long lines.
Generally, no. Germans can sign up for any of the nation's 200 private health insurance plans -- a broader choice than any American has. If a German doesn't like her insurance company, she can switch to another, with no increase in premium. The Swiss, too, can choose any insurance plan in the country.
In France and Japan, you don't get a choice of insurance provider; you have to use the one designated for your company or your industry. But patients can go to any doctor, any hospital, any traditional healer. There are no U.S.-style limits such as "in-network" lists of doctors or "pre-authorization" for surgery. You pick any doctor, you get treatment -- and insurance has to pay.
Canadians have their choice of providers. In Austria and Germany, if a doctor diagnoses a person as "stressed," medical insurance pays for weekends at a health spa.
As for those notorious waiting lists, some countries are indeed plagued by them. Canada makes patients wait weeks or months for nonemergency care, as a way to keep costs down. But studies by the Commonwealth Fund and others report that many nations -- Germany, Britain, Austria -- outperform the United States on measures such as waiting times for appointments and for elective surgeries.
In Japan, waiting times are so short that most patients don't bother to make an appointment. One Thursday morning in Tokyo, I called the prestigious orthopedic clinic at Keio University Hospital to schedule a consultation about my aching shoulder. "Why don't you just drop by?" the receptionist said. That same afternoon, I was in the surgeon's office. Dr. Nakamichi recommended an operation. "When could we do it?" I asked. The doctor checked his computer and said, "Tomorrow would be pretty difficult. Perhaps some day next week?"
Much less so than here. It may seem to Americans that U.S.-style free enterprise -- private-sector, for-profit health insurance -- is naturally the most cost-effective way to pay for health care. But in fact, all the other payment systems are more efficient than ours.
U.S. health insurance companies have the highest administrative costs in the world; they spend roughly 20 cents of every dollar for nonmedical costs, such as paperwork, reviewing claims and marketing. France's health insurance industry, in contrast, covers everybody and spends about 4 percent on administration. Canada's universal insurance system, run by government bureaucrats, spends 6 percent on administration. In Taiwan, a leaner version of the Canadian model has administrative costs of 1.5 percent; one year, this figure ballooned to 2 percent, and the opposition parties savaged the government for wasting money.
The world champion at controlling medical costs is Japan, even though its aging population is a profligate consumer of medical care. On average, the Japanese go to the doctor 15 times a year, three times the U.S. rate. They have twice as many MRI scans and X-rays. Quality is high; life expectancy and recovery rates for major diseases are better than in the United States. And yet Japan spends about $3,400 per person annually on health care; the United States spends more than $7,000.
Overall, researchers said American adults age 64 and younger who lack health insurance have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have coverage.
The findings come amid a fierce debate over Democrats' efforts to reform the nation's $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare industry by expanding coverage and reducing healthcare costs.
President Barack Obama has made the overhaul a top domestic policy priority, but his plan has been besieged by critics and slowed by intense political battles in Congress, with the insurance and healthcare industries fighting some parts of the plan.
The Harvard study, funded by a federal research grant, was published in the online edition of the . It was released by , which favors government-backed or "single-payer" health insurance.
A similar study in 1993 found those without insurance had a 25 percent greater risk of death, according to the Harvard group. The Institute of Medicine later used that data in its 2002 estimate showing about 18,000 people a year died because they lacked coverage.
Part of the increased risk now is due to the growing ranks of the uninsured, Himmelstein said. Roughly 46.3 million people in the United States lacked coverage in 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported last week, up from 45.7 million in 2007.
On Saturday, I spent the afternoon with America's new breed of angry conservative. Up to 75,000 protesters had gathered in Washington on Sept. 12, the day after the eighth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, sporting the now familiar tea-bagger accoutrements of "Don't Tread on Me" T-shirts, Revolutionary War outfits and Obama-the-Joker placards. The male-skewing, nearly all-white throng had come to denounce the president and what they believe is his communist-fascist agenda.
Even if the turnout wasn't the 2 million that some conservatives tried, briefly, to claim, it was still enough to fill the streets near the Capitol. It was also ample testament to the strength of a certain strain of right-wing populist rage and the talking head who has harnessed it. The masses were summoned by Glenn Beck, Fox News host and organizer of the 912 Project, the civic initiative he pulled together six months ago to restore America to the sense of purpose and unity it had felt the day after the towers fell.
In reality, however, the so-called 912ers were summoned to D.C. by the man who changed Beck's life, and that helps explain why the movement is not the nonpartisan lovefest that Beck first sold on air with his trademark tears. Beck has created a massive meet-up for the disaffected, paranoid Palin-ite "death panel" wing of the GOP, those ideologues most susceptible to conspiracy theories and prone to latch on to eccentric distortions of fact in the name of opposing "socialism." In that, they are true disciples of the late W. Cleon Skousen, Beck's favorite writer and the author of the bible of the 9/12 movement, "The 5,000 Year Leap." A once-famous anti-communist "historian," Skousen was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and introduced him to a receptive new audience.
Anyone who has followed Beck will recognize the book's title. Beck has been furiously promoting "The 5,000 Year Leap" for the past year, a push that peaked in March when he launched the 912 Project. That month, a new edition of "The 5,000 Year Leap," complete with a laudatory new foreword by none other than Glenn Beck, came out of nowhere to hit No. 1 on Amazon. It remained in the top 15 all summer, holding the No. 1 spot in the government category for months. The book tops Beck's 912 Project "required reading" list, and is routinely sold at 912 Project meetings where guest speakers often use it as their primary source material. At one 912 meet-up I attended in Florida, copies were stacked high on a table against the back wall, available for the 912 nice price of $15. "Don't bother trying to get it at the library," one 912er told me. "The wait list is 40 deep."
What has Beck been pushing on his legions? "Leap," first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers. "Leap" argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs -- based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith -- that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined. The book reads exactly like what it was until Glenn Beck dragged it out of Mormon obscurity: a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools like Utah's George Wythe University, where it has been part of the core freshman curriculum for decades (and where Beck spoke at this year's annual fundraiser).
But more interesting than the contents of "The 5,000 Year Leap," and more revealing for what it says about 912ers and the Glenn Beck Nation, is the book's author. W. Cleon Skousen was not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it. At least, that was the judgment of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, which maintained a file on Skousen for years that eventually totaled some 2,000 pages. Before he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen's own Mormon church publicly distanced itself from the foundation that Skousen founded and that has published previous editions of "The 5,000 Year Leap."
As Beck knows, to focus solely on "The 5,000 Year Leap" is to sell the author short. When he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen had authored more than a dozen books and pamphlets on the Red Menace, New World Order conspiracy, Christian child rearing, and Mormon end-times prophecy. It is a body of work that does much to explain Glenn Beck's bizarre conspiratorial mash-up of recent months, which decries a new darkness at noon and finds strange symbols carefully coded in the retired lobby art of Rockefeller Center. It also suggests that the modern base of the Republican Party is headed to a very strange place.
By Roger Ebert
There is something about the Jewish way of humor and storytelling I've always found enormously appealing. I memorized material by Henny Youngman and Myron Cohen at an age when, to the best of my knowledge, I had never met a Jew. I liked the rhythm, the contradiction, the use of paradox, the anticlimax, the way word order would be adjusted to back up into a punch line. There seemed to be deep convictions about human nature hidden in gags and one-liners; a sort of rueful shrug. And the stories weren't so much about where they ended as how they got there.
The serious man is consoled by the friend who has stolen his wife
I want to briefly discuss several films I've seen at Toronto his year, so this isn't the time for a full-dress review. But let me praise the brothers, Ethan and Joel, for making no attempt to "mainstream" the story in a misguided attempt to appeal to the goyim. Being specific makes their movie more accessible, not less, because there's some Larry Gopnik in all of us.
In the interview, Sibel says that the US maintained 'intimate relations' with Bin Laden, and the Taliban, "all the way until that day of September 11."
These 'intimate relations' included using Bin Laden for 'operations' in Central Asia, including Xinjiang, China. These 'operations' involved using al Qaeda and the Taliban in the same manner "as we did during the Afghan and Soviet conflict," that is, fighting 'enemies' via proxies.
- lukery's diary :: ::
As Sibel has previously described, and as she reiterates in this latest interview, this process involved using Turkey (with assistance from 'actors from Pakistan, and Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia') as a proxy, which in turn used Bin Laden and the Taliban and others as a proxy terrorist army.
Control of Central Asia
The goals of the American 'statesmen' directing these activities included control of Central Asia's vast energy supplies and new markets for military products.
The Americans had a problem, though. They needed to keep their fingerprints off these operations to avoid a) popular revolt in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan), and b) serious repercussions from China and Russia. They found an ingenious solution: Use their puppet-state Turkey as a proxy, and appeal to both pan-Turkic and pan-Islam sensibilities.
Turkey, a NATO ally, has a lot more credibility in the region than the US and, with the history of the Ottoman Empire, could appeal to pan-Turkic dreams of a wider sphere of influence. The majority of the Central Asian population shares the same heritage, language and religion as the Turks.
In turn, the Turks used the Taliban and al Qaeda, appealing to their dreams of a pan-Islamic caliphate (Presumably. Or maybe the Turks/US just paid very well.)
According to Sibel:
This started more than a decade-long illegal, covert operation in Central Asia by a small group in the US intent on furthering the oil industry and the Military Industrial Complex, using Turkish operatives, Saudi partners and Pakistani allies, furthering this objective in the name of Islam.
Of course, Sibel isn't the first or only person to recognize any of this. Eric Margolis, one of the best reporters in the West on matters of Central Asia, stated that the Uighurs in the training camps in Afghanistan up to 2001:
"were being trained by Bin Laden to go and fight the communist Chinese in Xinjiang, and this was not only with the knowledge, but with the support of the CIA, because they thought they might use them if war ever broke out with China."
Our collective effort to conserve water and power has been so prolific that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made a point of it in an Aug. 26 news conference: "Angelenos didn't just meet the challenge, they exceeded it." If watering less and changing our light bulbs can make such a difference, then imagine the impact we'd make if we all unplugged our refrigerators, one of the biggest energy zappers in the home.
That's what John Arndt and Wonhee Jeong of Studio Gorm propose with their Flow2 kitchen concept, currently on display in Portland, Ore., at the Museum of Contemporary Craft as part of the Call and Response exhibition. Dubbed a "living kitchen," Flow2 merges nature and technology to create a kitchen that efficiently tackles waste, water and energy. "It provides a space not only for preparing food but an environment that gives a better understanding of how natural processes work. A kitchen where food is grown, stored, cooked and composted to grow more food," they say in a joint statement.
Some of those features:
- Hanging dish rack: vertical storage saves space while excess water from dishes drips onto herb garden in planter boxes below.
- Evaporative cooling fridge box: used to store vegetables, fruit, eggs, cheese and butter. "The space between the double walls is filled with water, which slowly seeps through the outer wall and evaporates, causing the inside temperature to cool," the designers explain.
- Storage boxes: made from unglazed earthenware (porous properties said to extend life of garlic and onions) and beech wood lids, which double as cutting boards and have natural antimicrobial properties
- Cutting board: slides forward, allowing scraps of food to easily fall into composting bin below.
- Vermicomposter: worms break down food and paper scraps, turning waste into fertilizer that can be used in the herb garden.
- Drawers: used to store plates and utensils and made from salvaged oak.
- Gas stove: integrated floral pattern creates a cool spot to rest pot away from heat source.
- Construction: countertop inspired by carpenters' workbench with easy-to-clean stainless steel; structure inspired by timber frame construction and created with Douglas fir, which is in abundance in Oregon where the designers work
Over the decades, GPO has published print versions of this extraordinary resource every two years, with limited electronic versions available from 1992 edition onward. Although the Library of Congress has drafted the Constitution Annotated in XML for a number of years, that data is no longer present when it is published online by GPO. Releasing the treatise in XML would allow for the easy sharing of information between different kinds of computers, applications, and organizations, and provide a roadmap to the underlying data.
In addition to asking for The Constitution Annotated to be published online in XML, we are also asking that as the data is updated and made available to Congressional staff, it also be made available to the general public. For an example of what that could look like, see Cornell University Law School's transformation of the data.
Today is the 222th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution. In 1787, it was made available to the American people by the most modern technology of the day. We should do no less today, and provide the Constitution (along with commentary) in XML.
by Donald Mills
Fun for the whole damned family…
Introducing "Young People: The Trading Cards." Over 30 different cards available! Buy them today, collect them tomorrow and trade them with your friends for years to come.
A small sample:
Card #1: "The Stoner" (a classic "must have" card for any serious collector)
Card #7: "The Goth" (extremely rare and highly collectable)
Card #4: "The Skank" (a very common card and traded freely among friends)
Coming next– "The Wigger", "The Fatkid" and "The Slacker."
On December 31, three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that broadly expanded government surveillance authority in the wake of 9/11 are set to expire.1 The Obama Administration made clear in a letter this week to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy that although the Justice Department supports reauthorization of those provisions, it is also open to discussing modifications to the law "to provide additional protection for the privacy of law abiding Americans."
Today, Senators Russ Feingold and Dick Durbin along with eight other Senators have taken the Administration up on its offer by introducing the JUSTICE Act, which would rein in the worst excesses of PATRIOT and last year's FISA Amendments Act (FAA). The announcement of the bill's introduction, along with a fact sheet outlining the bill's details, is here; the text of the JUSTICE Act is here (the "JUSTICE", if you're wondering, stands for Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts").
The JUSTICE Act would renew two of the three expiring PATRIOT provisions, PATRIOT sections 206 (John Doe roving wiretaps) and 215 (FISA orders for any tangible thing), but would also add strong new checks and balances to those provisions and to the PATRIOT Act in general, especially those provisions dealing with the government's authority to issue National Security Letters. If passed, the bill would also establish critically important protections for Americans against surveillance authorized under the FAA. Of particular importance to EFF's clients in the Hepting v. AT&T case and to the preservation of the rule of law, JUSTICE would completely repeal the FAA provision intended to legally immunize telecoms like AT&T that illegally assisted in the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program. Last summer when Congress passed the FAA, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated his intention to revisit that law as part of the PATRIOT renewal debate, and we're very glad that Senators Feingold and Durbin have kick-started that process.
A bill could make it impossible for Obama to move any Guantanamo prisoners to the U.S. for any reason.
The bar on all such transfers was written into the Senate version of the Defense appropriations bill passed by the Appropriations Committee last week and is stricter than current law, which allows prisoners to be brought to the United States for trial as long as Congress is notified 45 days in advance of any potential risks.
The language, proposed by Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), underscores the impatience many senators from both parties feel over the White House's failure to settle on a site or a legal framework to detain prisoners who would have to leave Guantanamo in order to meet Obama's January deadline.
The Senate panel also omitted any money to close Guantanamo or build a new facility.
"We have not provided funding for the closure of Guantanamo, because the administration has yet to produce a credible plan," Inouye said.
"The Obama administration can't close Guantanamo without bringing some detainees to the United States, and Congress's actions show that the political price of doing so will be high," said Columbia Law professor Matthew Waxman, who worked on detainee issues at the Defense and State Departments under the Bush Administration. "Meanwhile, in emphatically barring transfers to the U.S., Congress undermines the administration's efforts to get other countries to take them."
Most folks go their entire lives without having a police officer hand them pounds of pot.
Matthew Zugsberger isn't one of those folks.
On Wednesday, Zugsberger saw the first portion of the 11-plus pounds of marijuana seized from him in February returned by Kent Police. Included in the bunch, he said, was a quarter pound of hashish of which Zugsberger remains quite fond.
A Californian with a prescription for medical marijuana, Zugsberger was arrested with his girlfriend at a Kent pharmacy after a police canine found the pot and a scale in the trunk of his car. In a claim not supported by police statements, Zugsberger says investigators accused him of hoping to import pot from Canada.
"They kept saying that I came to Washington to buy pot out of Canada," Zugsberger said. "Why the hell would I buy pot from Canada if I have a field of it in my backyard?"
Felony drug charges were filed, a deal was struck and Zugsberger ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession. Zugsberger was freed on three-months probation.
His marijuana, though, remained in custody.
At issue, attorneys for both sides allowed, was the variance in medical marijuana laws between the two states. While California and Washington both allow the medical use of marijuana, Washington allows patients to possess 1 ½-pounds pot while California permits them five pounds.
Late last month, Zugsberger's defense attorney Aaron Pelley filed a petition with King County Superior Court demanding that the pot be returned to Zugsberger. In a compromise, Pelley said, the judge ruled that Zugsberger would be returned his marijuana in 1 ½-pound portions at seven-day increments.
"To my knowledge, it was the first time anyone has asked for their marijuana back," said Pelley, who is active with the marijuana-law reform organization Cannabis Defense Coalition. "It's the weirdest case I've ever dealt."