Uncle Max's Musings on Politics and Culture

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Does Health Reform Do Anything About Costs? December 7, 2009

Filed under: Healthcare Reform — Larry E. Stuckey II @ 5:29 am

See this article for the latest about what Obama is doing to push the healthcare legislation

Also, as many of you know, I have criticized the legislation for not doing enough with costs.  However, this article made me realize a few items about the legislation that I had not read.  This article is a great read about how the current legislation could curtail costs.  Here are a few key points:

 – The Senate bill “maintains the two powerful institutions the Finance legislation proposed to promote these reforms and develop new ones. The one that’s attracted the most attention is an independent “Medicare Advisory Board.” Under the Senate bill, that board would be required to offer cost-saving proposals when Medicare spending rises too fast; Congress could not reject its proposals without substituting equivalent savings. Since the board would be prohibited from offering changes that raise taxes or “ration care,” and since the legislation initially exempts hospitals from its recommendations, it could choose to promote the sort of payment reforms the bill establishes. (More prosaically it might also clear away some of the expensive coverage mandates that Congress imposes on Medicare under pressure from different elements of the medical industry).

 – The bill also creates “a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation in the Health and Human Services Department. Though this center has received much less attention than the Medicare Commission, it could have a comparable effect. It would receive $1 billion annually to test payment reforms; in a little known provision, the bill authorizes the HHS Secretary to implement nationwide, without any congressional action, any reform that department actuaries certify will reduce long-term spending. While the House bill omitted the Medicare Commission (a top priority for Obama) it included the innovation center.”

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Chicago Theatre: GO SEE JACKIE HOFFMAN!!!!

Filed under: Divas Singing!!!! — Larry E. Stuckey II @ 5:01 am

This past Monday night I saw a HILARIOUS cabaret show by Jackie Hoffman: Whining in the Windy City.  Imagine it being the type of show Joan Rivers would give if she could also sing.  Anyway, here is a review that summarizes the show quite well.  She has three more shows (Dec. 7, Dec., 14, and Dec. 21).  Go see it!!!! (BTW – Here is an idea of what she does, it’s unique and irreverent.  Go to minute 3:50 to see what she does.  It’s a bit about how actors are always asked to do benefits, even though they do not always have lots of money, especially theatre actors)

 

The Reality Star I Cannot Stop Watching II

Filed under: Uncategorized — Larry E. Stuckey II @ 4:43 am

Well, it’s been awhile since the Sarah Palin/Oprah Winfrey interview.  Given the lapse in time, I will not make too many specific comments other than to say . . . I wonder what staffer will ever want to work for her ever after all the bashing she did of the McCain staffers, which makes me wonder how serious of a political candidate she could ever be.  However, if you did not get enough during the on-air Sarah Palin/Oprah Winfrey interview, here are some You Tube clips of some of the extras.

Oh – one other interesting point here . . . @ about the four-minute mark, Sarah Palin states that she did not council her kids before she accepted John McCain’s offer for Vice President.  However, in an interview with Sean Hannity she stated, “It was a time of asking the girls to vote on it, anyway.  And they voted unanimously, yes.  Didn’t bother asking my son because, you know, he’s going to be off doing his thing anyway, so he wouldn’t be so impacted by, at least, the campaign period here.  So ask the girls what they thought and they’re like, absolutely.  Let’s do this, mom.”

 

Climate Change Update: Cap and Trade vs. Carbon Tax

Filed under: Environment — Larry E. Stuckey II @ 4:24 am

As the world attempts to move to a green economy, governments have proposed several measures to accomplish this feat.  Two such months are implementing a cap and trade system and/or imposing a carbon tax.  Before I link articles that discuss further, let’s provide some definitions:

What is a cap and trade system? Per the Environmental Protection Agency, cap and trade is an environmental policy tool that delivers results with a mandatory cap on emissions while providing sources flexibility in how they comply.  Facilities that come in under that allowable limit because of air pollution control systems can then sell their leftover allowances to other facilities and organizations on the open market.  This trading allows the facilities that buy-up such allowances (pollution credits) to pollute more, because other facilities are polluting less.  A criticism of this system is that it yields more pollution in different areas of the country.  This year the House passed a bill for such an initiative. 

What is a carbon tax?  This item states what it simply is – a tax on carbon emissions.  A carbon tax is an environmental tax on emissions of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping “greenhouse” gas. The purpose of a carbon tax is to protect the environment by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, helping to mitigate climate change.

James Hansen, considered one of the grandfather’s of climate change since, asserts quite strongly that we must go the route of a carbon tax, “We are going to have to move beyond fossil fuels at some point. Why continue to stretch it out longer?” he said. “The only way we can do that is by putting a price on carbon emissions. The business community and the public need to understand that there will be a gradually increasing price on carbon emissions.”

 

My Reactions to Obama’s Afghanistan Plan

Filed under: Foreign Relations — Larry E. Stuckey II @ 3:55 am

I must admit that I did not watch all of Obama’s speech regarding next steps in Afghanistan.  However, I caught quite a few clips and I thought I would share a few thoughts.  However, I would first like to state what I see as the outcome of any strategy in Afghanistan.  Overall, I believe America’s goal should be to disorder terrorists networks that may harm the United States.  Let me state what I don’t think it should.  Fighting in Afghanistan is not about building a perfect democracy.  The realist in me simply believes that we do not have the resources to make this happen (it is the consultant in me – I’m all about scope control).  Anyway, here is a Republican blogger (yes, I read items from both parties), Liz Mair, that worked on McCain’s communication staff that I think states it best regarding a realist strategy in Afghanistain.  Here is the take-away quote:

“The objective should be to dismantle and disrupt terrorist networks and keep them weak enough to not take hold of Afghanistan and use it as a base from which to launch attacks on the US aimed at taking the country as a whole down– and if that is genuinely not achievable, then the objective should be to preserve our strength and otherwise secure ourselves by avoiding ongoing losses and engagement that will weaken us.”

In terms of actual strategy itself, I think Obama is placing faith in his military leaders to give them what they need so they can deliver on the objective I state above.  Here is a good assessment from Andrew Sullivan regarding Obama’s next steps in Afghanistan:

“By giving McChrystal what he wants and giving him a couple of years to deliver tangible results. If McChrystal delivers, fantastic. I will do a ritual self-flagellation and bow down to the man with no body-fat and a close relationship with 33 Kagans of various generations and genders. If McChrystal does his best and we still get nowhere, Obama will have demonstrated – not argued, demonstrated – that  withdrawal is the least worst option.

The far right will accuse him of weakness – but they will do that anyway. All he need do is remind Americans of what the far right version of “strength” is: engaging an enemy on his own turf, sustaining an insurgency by our very presence, draining the Treasury of trillions, sacrificing more young men and women to shore up one of the most corrupt governments on earth, and basically returning to Bush-Cheney land. And that will be a very telling argument in 2012: do we want to go back to Cheneyism? To torture and endless occupation and a third war with a Muslim nation, Iran?

On reflection, Obama was saying something quite simple: one more try, guys.”