consultants are sandburs

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Now for something completely different.

Science tattoos. This link.

Healthcare - An exceptionally fine argument favoring public option [not touching single payer or detail of specific "public option" proposals].

The link is from the "Health Affairs - The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere" blog, this specific link.

While I flag more items from that resource in the following post, this is a sufficient "crown jewel" to flag separately.

Please read it and see how much you can get from the links it provides. Please have a look at the "About the Health Affairs Blog," post, here.

This excerpt from the opening of the item is for giving a flavor of the argument - one of the most comprehensive I have seen:

Why A Public Health Insurance Option Is Essential
September 17th, 2009
by David Balto

The biggest flashpoint in the ongoing debate over the future of the U.S. health system is whether Congress should change the balance of power that now favors the private health insurance industry. Opponents of the idea argue that a public health insurance plan competing with private insurers would lead to inferior health care, harm providers, and drive the multibillion dollar for-profit health plans out of the market. Fears of Armageddon are without merit and inconsistent with reality.

The U.S. has a health care crisis created by the private insurance companies that some are so worried about protecting. Health care costs are out of control, threatening the viability of American businesses and the hopes of millions of American families. More than 47 million Americans are uninsured, and according to Consumer Reports, as many as 70 million more have insurance that doesn’t really protect them. In the past six years alone, health insurance premiums have increased by more than 87 percent, rising four times faster than the average American’s wages, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report. American families in the lowest income group spend 20 percent of household income on health insurance. Health care costs are a substantial cause of three of five personal bankruptcies.

The Broken Health Insurance Market

While opponents of a public insurance plan proclaim their fealty to consumer choice and honest competition, any who dare to take the economic temperature of the existing health insurance marketplace would find few markets so clearly lacking in them. Health insurance markets are extraordinarily consolidated at the state and local level, according to the American Medical Association. In 39 states two insurers control at least 50 percent of the market, and in nine states a single firm controls at least 75 percent of the market, the AMA found. In 2007 the group reported that almost 95 percent of more than 300 metropolitan areas are highly concentrated.

What has been the result of this lack of competition? Rapidly increasing premiums, declining service and escalating profits. As noted above, health insurance premiums have almost doubled in the past seven years, while the number of uninsured has escalated. Without significant reform, this situation will only worsen: premiums are expected to rise to nearly a quarter of the median family’s income by 2020.

Consumers have suffered while the for-profit insurers have had record profits. From 2000 to 2007, the 10 largest publicly-traded health insurance companies increased their profits 428 percent, from $2.4 billion to $12.9 billion annually. In addition to profit, the seven largest for-profit insurers boosted their earnings per share by repurchasing $52.4 billion of their own stock from 2003 to 2008—money that could have been spent on improving the health care system or cutting premium rates. These profit margins have come directly out of customers’ pockets in the form of escalating premiums and worsening service. The Congressional Budget Office found that overhead and profit account for 11 percent, on average, of private insurer’s premium revenue.

Moreover, one cannot expect that normal market forces will “correct” the problems in these markets. In a competitive market, one could expect that entry would occur when dominant firms exercise their market power. But in health insurance there has been little or no meaningful entry in the past decade into markets that are highly concentrated. The entry barriers to these markets are substantial: employers are reluctant to switch plans and information is not transparent making it difficult to compare plan offerings. The time and cost to switch plans is substantial. Moreover, dominant insurers make entry all but impossible by locking up providers through most favored nations arrangements or all products clauses that make it difficult for them to facilitate entry by making a more attractive deal with a new entrant.

That is high quality writing!

Read it all.

Send the link to your Congressional Rep. (unless you, like me, have Bachmann or Kline as Rep., where sending it there would be aiming upwind). Particularly send it if you live in District Five, Ellison's district.

Again, this link.

Healthcare - Thoughts after reading the Maureen Reed "cost containment" oriented op-ed on her website, from St. Cloud Times.

Reed's main focus was on cost containment, more-bang-for-the-buck possibilities. She wrote of how incentives in reimbursement policy from private insurers or under government programs can be tuned to lessen waste and unsound practice. Her focus seemed more on Medicare (but also on how its ripple effects relate to how private firms structure provider payments).

The Reed op-ed and one other item got me thinking on what academic [i.e., non-propagandistic, non-bombastic] material might be freely accessed online.

The second thing that got my attention is this opening excerpt, from this link:

How has opinion based reporting hurt the health care debate? To answer this, we must look at the way in which people get their news. We look to the 5 o’clock news or the cable 24 hour news sources. We trust that they are doing the work of fact checking before they put out information. But this is not necessarily the case

Take, for example, in the run up to the 2008 presidential election; we were bombarded with reports on the economy and Governor Sarah Palin’s choice of wardrobe as if they were of “equal importance” (Manderscheid, 2008). In his report discussing the need to seize the opportunity after the 2008 elections to reform our healthcare system, Ronald W. Manderscheid wrote:

We hope that the Obama administration will take on national health reform, involving universal coverage, system reform, and financing reform. However, if this happens, we will need to develop "new arguments" about health. For starters, we must ask how national health reform can help us rebuild the American economy.

Unfortunately, as the debate continued to intensify, we began to see propaganda pieces fill the airwaves. Everything from how reform would bankrupt the country, to public health care leading to the death of a loved one by a death panel.

Many of the elderly were quite vocal and concerned since such claims could directly affect them. This is a very real concern that is nothing new. We have been engaged in this fight for quite some time. Looking back to when Clinton was in office from 1992 – 2000, we have sought ways to get a hold of the increased spending. The fact that “Medicare is the biggest single source of payment for health care in America” (Binstock 1993) was true then, and is still true now, is telling. This highlights the need to get health care spending under control.

[...] by Malcolm X. Moore

Binstock, R H (July-August 1993). Older people and health care reform. American Behavioral Scientist, 36, n6. p.823(18).

Manderscheid, R W (Dec 2008). Change is coming! We must ensure our Agenda is on lawmaker's radars.(THE MANDERSCHEID REPORT). Behavioral Healthcare, 28, 12. p.36(2).

Particularly noteworthy, the three-way delineation, "universal coverage, system reform, and financing reform," brought the Reed item into focus: [1] as saying universal coverage is a worthwhile goal but little else about it, [2] dwelling on system reform, and [3] wholly ignoring financing reform [revenue generation - tax burden distribution to fund things on an ongoing reformed bases]. Once you accept her unwillingness to hit all three topics in depth, something hard to do in limited space op-ed guest publishing, what Reed said on system reform via cost containment was sound.

The approach of footnoting a "popular item" and the three-way viewpoint got me looking to see what helpful objective academic thinking might be accessible.

For those wanting a break from yammering rhetoric on the question, I present a few links (without excerpting, and without anything resembling full understanding of what is currently online free). Some things, as with Strib online, are open-access when fresh, but may be archived after a short time as for-a-fee material.

There is the following; with a focus on a single outlet, Health Affairs - The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere:

Homepage, blog, Web Exclusives, Issues Briefing.

In line with the Reed focus, that resource's page on "Bending the Cost Curve."

Details linked from there: an introductory op-ed item here, a Mayo Clinic view "The Hard Part is the Delivery System" here, one that I had always doubted when argued in favor of universal coverage - the more deaths annually than all of 9/11 from health policy, title, "Does Lack of Insurance Cause Premature Death?" here, public option thoughts linking to an item with abstract-only free availability here and here.

Looking a bit at PubMed there are health policy articles available via abstract and donwloadable pdf full files; examples being: here (and note the "related articles" sidebar for further search), here, here, and here.

I do not pretend to have downloaded and read a lot of that stuff. Also, more time searching might be needed to uncover better stuff. (Yet I am not expert enough to make too many "better stuff" vs "weak stuff" judgments.)

In effect, I present a few things, but I do not pretend to have the expertise to judge the relative quality of one item vs. another, within the medical policy area of expertise. I merely offer something as a break from the hum-drum of watching C-SPAN and wondering how some of those Senate committee individuals ever got elected, etc.

There is a host of stuff on the web, it is an interesting library, and I have started something readers could do on their own, but by my doing it and posting I might encourage others to have a look at things they might otherwise never see.

ACORN, Blackwater, and embezzlement.

The comparison between ACORN having bad apples, and Blackwater, with arguably bad policies top-down, and how the vocal right demonizes one and not the other has been mentioned in places on the web. One of the better posts that way, is this blog link.

Clearly ACORN is on the rightwing hit list.

They want it done in, not for the anectdotal YouTube video postings showing individuals in ACORN advising sting operatives on how to adapt abusive housing practices, as if that were widespread as a practice in the organization, or policy set at high levels in ACORN. Advice on navigating the system, and the line between good ideas and misconduct is indistinct, and nobody can suggest the wealthy do not game the system in ways they believe they can get away with and not face the risk of legal sanctions.

The uber-right wants ACORN done in for entirely different reasons. The uber-right mainly hates ACORN because it has been effective in its aims which fit neither the desires of the uber-right, nor of the wealthy, with those groups substantially overlapping at decision makiing levels.

ACORN's "sin" has been its effectiveness in the thankless task of trying to somewhat empower the poor - or trying to do so against massive counterforce of government and allied money interests wanting to keep the poor entirely powerless.

And voiceless.

And passive.

Anxious, uncertain and fearful.


And subject to arbitrariness and exploitation without recourse to tools that the wealthy have to protect themselves and their aims.

Try using the uber-right's logic against this clearly embezzlement riddled operation.

Doing that is kind of silly, isn't it. One bad apple, culled, does not toxify the entirety, regardless of what criticisms can be leveled against what the entirety actually is.

So, how is it different to give that "embezzlement riddled operation" a free pass while nodding approval for the uber-right attacks presently being launched in the media and elsewhere against ACORN?

The difference is the size of the wallets of those in one organizatin or the other, and on the voting preferences generally reflected in each, there being little other difference in terms of right to speak, and to associate freely, and to petition government seeking to right perceived wrongs.

Some might say one organization involves higher quality people.

That kind of thinking should be discouraged, and while I believe ACORN prevails that way, I do try to be open minded.

But not to a fault.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Patty Wetterling endorses Tarryl Clark.

There have been several Crabgrass posts today, including an earlier one, here, on recent developments touching upon the Maureen Reed and Tarryl Clark contest for the DFL party endorsement [Reed also seeking the IP nod].

This is huge because Patty Wetterling has not endorsed a candidate since she and Bachmann ran in 2006. Wetterling and Immelman represent the only two promising candidates I can think of since at least before the Mark Kennedy - Janet Robert contest. The Wetterling emailing says in relevant part:

Over the years, we’ve worked together for many important causes. Today, I’m asking you to join me again in an important cause for our community: new, sensible leadership for Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.

I’m proud to support my friend Tarryl Clark in her campaign for Congress.

Tarryl and I have worked together as advocates, as mothers, and as leaders to make real change on behalf of Minnesotans. Tarryl speaks passionately about the needs of our children and families. But what makes Tarryl effective is her willingness to roll up her sleeves to deliver on the issues that matter. Time and again, when her constituents or her neighbors have needed her, she gets the job done.

I hope you will join me today by making a contribution of $250, $100, $50, or whatever you can afford to Tarryl’s campaign for Congress.

Tarryl and I have traveled the 6th District together, going door-to-door, person-to-person, because both of us believe in the power of affecting change by working from the grassroots up. We believe that, by stretching across the community and reaching the real people in the 6th district, we can make a real difference.

[donor link omitted, italics emphasis added]

It will take a willing-to-work proven campaigner to defeat Bachmann, who campaigns hard.

Bachmann is shallow and stupid, and a known prima dona, but a proven hard campaigner.

Hence, the hope is that face-to-face campaigning as much as feasible by one who is more skilled and equally tenacious to Bachmann will overcome the expected toxic things the GOP operatives will be doing.

Lightweights or dilettantes need not apply.

And the hope is that sound and consistent in-the-trenches grassroots campaigning also will overcome those pernicious half-page orange cards that the forces of evil mail every cycle, saying "Vote GOP, the Second Amendment compels it."

The Wetterling endorsement is discussed in online reporting, here and here. There may be more, but it is all I have seen thus far; 5 pm, Tuesday, Sept. 29.
Wetterling photo from here, via Google images.

Today, this morning, SEIU Minnesota State Council endorses Tarryl Clark.

By email, (CONTACT: Luchelle Stevens, 651-271-7881), this message:

Tarryl Clark Earns Local Prominent Union’s First Endorsement in 2010 Election Cycle

St. Paul, MN (September 29, 2009) Citing her support for working families as a Minnesota legislator, and her leadership as the Assistant Majority Leader in the State Senate, SEIU Minnesota State Council today announced its endorsement of Tarryl Clark to represent Minnesota's 6th Congressional District in the United States Congress. The Service Employees International Union is the fastest-growing union in the country with 2.1 million members nationwide and 30,000 members in Minnesota.

"Tarryl has worked hard in the Senate representing working people in her District and now finally the 6th Congressional District has an opportunity to have a Congresswoman who works for the District and not for cable TV," said Carol Nieters, a resident of St. Cloud and Secretary Treasurer of the SEIU Minnesota State Council. "I volunteered for Tarryl in her Senate race. When I went door to door in the District for Tarryl, one thing was clear: voters really like her. She's proven she can win in a Republican leaning district."

"Whenever Minnesota's workers have needed her, Tarryl has been there," said Julie Schnell, President of the SEIU Minnesota State Council. "Whether inside the Capitol or alongside workers in the field, Tarryl has always stood up for the best interests of hard-working Minnesotans. We're proud to stand with her, and ready to get to work to win this election."

SEIU unites 30,000 healthcare workers, public school employees, and property service workers across Minnesota, and as the state's fourth largest union is a powerful voice for Minnesota's working families.

Paul Demko, Minnesota Independent, reports the endorsement.

Interestingly, there is one comment from a persistent Reed supporter there:

Well I’ll repost the comment I posted earlier today:
Tarryl Clark has done great work for the DFL. However, what that means is that she has voted for many major tax increases and has a very partisan voting record. It’s going to be impossible for her to run and win in the 6th District with her voting record.

If we want to unseat Michele Bachmann the candidate to back is Dr. Maureen Reed. Reed just had an editorial in the SCTimes and recently updated her website.

Reed has broad and extensive experience in Health Care, Business, Education, Environmental Issues and the Arts. She’s is able to tackle health care reform as a Doctor, Health Care Administrator, Medical Director, and Small and Medium Business CEO who had to purchase health insurance for all her employees. Reed is a middle of the road, Minnesota DFLer with the experience to be an effective legislator and a great candidate.

Whoa. If that's meant to convince me of anything, "Reed is a middle of the road, Minnesota DFLer," it convinces me further that Tarryl Clark is more appealing.

I don't want a middle of the road, IP, Tinklenberg type clone. I want a progressive. Clark could be a little more that way for my liking, but the district is behind times and too unresponsive to progressives, beyond ones like Amy Klobuchar, who carried it handily against the former GOP district Rep., Mark Kennedy.

By the way, I like Clark's voting record. It's too bad Maureen Reed lacks one, to measure her against Clark.

Finally, Clark has indeed stood with SEIU. In the cold. Reported ten months ago, this link, Paul Demko again the reporter.

Employees at Regina Medical Center walked off the job today, commencing a two-day strike to protest the hospital’s current contract proposal. The 230 employees, represented by Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota, include nurses’ aides, custodial workers and X-ray technicians.

The current three-year contract expired at the end of October, and there are no additional contract negotiations planned. Unlike most recent labor disputes, the chief stumbling block here isn’t health-care coverage, but rather employee retirement accounts.

“We are here to save our pensions,” said Jan Salo, (pictured at right) who has sterilized surgical tools at the facility for 20 years, at a rally this afternoon in front of the facility in Hastings. “Management wants to slash our pensions. We want to be able to retire with dignity and security, and we’re here to fight for it.”

Currently Regina Medical Center pays the equivalent of 8 percent of an employee’s salary into a pension plan if the worker has at least five years of experience and 4 percent for more recent hires. Under the medical center’s proposed change, the company would automatically contribute 2 percent into each employee’s retirement fund. If the worker then chooses to put part of his or her own salary into the plan, Regina would match that commitment up to an additional 6 percent of the individual’s wages for people who have worked there more than five years and 3 percent for newer employees.

To put this in concrete terms, if an employee currently makes $31,408 annually (a typical wage for a housekeeper), the company contributes $2,512.64 toward a retirement fund for anyone who has been working there for at least five years and half that amount for more recent hires. Under Regina’s proposed change the company would automatically contribute $628.16 to the worker’s pension plan each year. If the employee then chooses to put in additional money, the medical center would match it dollar-for-dollar up to an additional $1,884.48 for workers that have been there five years.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Senate Assistant Majority Leader Tarryl Clark (pictured), along with a handful of labor leaders from other unions, showed up at the rally to show support for the workers. “You’re just trying to hold on to your basic pension,” Clark told the crowd. “The administration needs to come back to the table. They need to be looking at other alternatives.”

Curbing medical care operating costs does not mean having to press harder on the employees in the system at the low end of the totem pole. There are better answers, as a recent Maureen Reed op-ed in the St. Cloud paper indicated.

However, Reed to my knowledge has never been out in cold weather in support of any striking workers.

Clark has.

Union rank and file, unfortunately in too many cases, do not pay sufficient attention to such things, i.e., to what is best for their bottom line, while employers pay attention to little else.

Rank and file inattention to their best interests, as in voting stupid, happens often more in line with what the NRA tells them instead of what their own leadership suggests.

The NRA wants to maximize profits selling firearms and ammo, it is their ownership's bottom line. And their GOP bias is staggering. How rank and file can be so stupid, and constistently so, amazes me.

Pitch the orange cards this cycle, the ones saying "BACHMANN," and try something different, guys. THINK.

With that screed over: Clark can duplicate the Klobuchar showing, in the district, and can do so without her own people calling her "middle of the road" about anything.

Sgt. Major King, 48, named head of Fort Jackson, S.C., drill sergeant school.

That is Sgt. Maj. Teresa L. King, a black woman, the first woman to hold such a post. NYTimes has the story, here. Their photo, below:

Tom Emmer? Come on. No, seriously, joking aside, who will the GOP offer? Tom Emmer?

While I have noted Mike Jungbauer, the State Senator from my district, is a GOP candidate for Governor, now there is reporting on Tom Emmer. Despite whatever fault I might find in Jungbauer, and I have been critical, I believe him sincere and most certainly he is more intelligent, thoughtful, accommodating, and capable than Emmer.

But does this currently reigning batch of GOP yahoos want any of that? That is the concern and the question. Suggesting they might not value such sagacious qualities, there is this:

If the major party endorsement battles in the 2010 gubernatorial race are looking a little like poker tournaments at this early date, it appears that state Rep. Tom Emmer is currently playing the hot hand on the Republican side.

The staunch conservative from Delano officially got into the race July 6. Going into the Oct. 3 straw poll at the GOP convention in St. Paul, he’s frequently mentioned as a favorite among the GOP activists who are likely to attend.

“He answers directly from his heart. He’s [for] very limited government. That resonates well with the delegates,” said Rick Weible, co-chairman of the 3rd Congressional District GOP, which encompasses Emmer’s House district.

Weible places Emmer at the top of the heap ahead of former state Auditor Pat Anderson and former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert.

“Tom Emmer will probably place first, and it will be a surprise first,” said Weible , who is an Emmer supporter.

Close to home, Emmer handily won the Senate District 32 GOP straw poll in Maple Grove earlier this month with 34 votes to Anderson’s 15 and Seifert’s nine. There were 17 “undecided” votes. This year’s state GOP convention is the next big stop.

Matthew Kirkpatrick, a young conservative activist who has attended several gubernatorial forums and will attend the convention, said he counts Emmer among the candidates likely to do well in the convention straw poll.

Kirkpatrick picks Emmer to do well at the convention because he has built a reputation as a fierce conservative. That ethos serves him well among supporters of 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul, who built up a movement within the GOP that played out during last year’s convention in Rochester.

Kirkpatrick and Weible both highlighted the intense passion with which Emmer pushes his beliefs.

Somewhat incongruously, Fitzpatrick compared Emmer to DFL gubernatorial candidate and longtime state Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia. “Both Toms are very passionate about what they believe,” Kirkpatrick said.

Nobody on the other side of the aisle mistakes where Emmer is coming from politically. One House DFLer referred to Emmer privately as the “angry face of doctrinaire conservatism.” The same legislator, however, wasn’t seething with resentment: “He’s a very likable guy until you put a microphone in front of him.”

That's an excerpt, the article says more, but the excerpt captures the main idea of the item. Again, this link, if you want to read the entire thing.

He's here, he's there, he's everywhere ---

CNN on the absentee governor of Minnesota, with occasional sitings being reported and logged, in Minnesota:

"The point is, I have the time and the energy and the ability to make some time to speak out to issues that I think are important to my state and to the country," Pawlenty said at the biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island, Michigan. He added that since this particular event fell on a Saturday he likely "wouldn't be doing the state's business today back in Minnesota" anyway.

The Democratic National Committee has set up a Web page devoted to "calling out" Pawlenty on what the DNC calls his healthcare reform "lies." The DNC even posted Pawlenty's main office phone number and encouraged visitors of the site to call and ask the governor to stop "lying" and "playing politics."

While they are at it, why not ask a leopard to change its spots?

If you want to find whats-his-name, Ol' Vetopen, where do you look? CNN suggests:

In a brief interview with CNN, Pawlenty said that he would "eventually" be in Iowa — traditionally the first caucus state — for political events, but also stated that it would likely be in his role as vice chair of the Republican Governors' Association "as opposed to anything else."

I think Mike Hatch would make a better president; and had it not been for the Hutchinson-Reed ticket siphoning off votes last cycle, a "better governor too" entry would have been on the Hatch resume.

Anoka County and a broadband initiative - what's up?

Strib reports, this link, and I only excerpt a few paragraphs - more focused on the how's it likely to be paid for dimension, but also noting the more basic question what's the demand and what is the optimal amount of bandwidth to provide in different parts of the county:

In addition to a questionnaire being sent to hundreds of businesses and a phone survey of 900 residents, the county has scheduled three meetings, beginning Tuesday at Spring Lake Park High School, to determine how eager residents are for high-speed access.

While $7.2 billion in federal stimulus funding is being made available for broadband initiatives nationwide, Anoka County's competition figures to be steep. The Blandin Foundation reports nearly 80 applications from Minnesota or with Minnesota connections -- from counties, cities, tribes, cooperatives and businesses. Other metro counties that expressed interest are Ramsey and Carver.

Two counties along Lake Superior have also applied for grants. Cook County is seeking nearly $33.7 million and Lake County is requesting an $11 million grant and a $22.4 million loan. Those counties, whose combined population of 16,200 is just a sliver of Anoka County's 327,000, are among the state's largest geographically, far more expansive than Anoka County.

"There's no way to compare our costs to theirs," said Jim Kordiak, the Anoka County commissioner who chairs the board's informational committee. "One estimate has this costing $10,000 per mile. But as far as what Anoka County's needs are, we don't know. And we don't know the cost.

[italics added]. It has the air of a fishing expedition - free money on the table, let's look at getting some. Certainly it is not as far along as the pioneering work of Monticello, this link. Those people are truly progressively entering the twenty-first century, and willing to fight for what they think right; having prevailed in litigation against their town phone service provider.

If this is a shot in the dark level to get free money more than a whole-hearted effort to provide bandwidth county-wide, then that is a situation which will show itself in how things unfold.

Absent from the article, who got the contract for the questionaire and phone survey, and was it awarded by competitive bidding; in effect, is there sweetheart stuff going on between the old boy ruling set, and others?

I look forward to seeing if the Anoka County Watchdog can sniff out any tomfoolery that might be afoot.

If the Watchdog does not sniff it, then it's less likely there to be traced.

Any reader with knowledge (and time to send an email or to add a comment) is urged to help us understand what services we might be attaining for county residents.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reed posts a St. Cloud Times op-ed she authored. Clark still has only a web video. - Steve Miles for Reed. Walter Mondale and another union for Clark.

Reed surges ahead of Clark on website content. Tarryl Clark only has a video, for those who waste time on that; not anything for those who prefer reading.

Next is an extended excerpt of the Reed oped, from the Reed website, here, since she does not link over to the published item:

In his recent address on health care, President Obama outlined his vision for wide-ranging reforms. He invited political leaders to improve on his plan rather than simply tear it down. As a candidate for the 6th District House seat, this proposal is offered in that spirit.

The president's plan provides for many things, including coverage for uninsured Americans, a laudable and necessary goal. However, it must go further to address the core issue of health care reform: reducing the cost.

Coverage and cost issues must be addressed at the same time.

If we extend coverage to all Americans before we reduce cost, we add massively to the national debt. And we increase the competitive disadvantage faced by our businesses in a global marketplace.

If we decrease the cost of care but do nothing to extend the insurance system, we leave 47 million Americans uninsured. And we expose most Americans to the risk of losing coverage if they lose their jobs.

Neither of these outcomes is acceptable.

Much has already been said about coverage. So let's talk about cost. Why are health care costs in America out of control? The diagnosis is pretty simple. Costs are out of control because the payment incentives are toxic.

Insurers do not have incentives for insuring the sickest people. They do better financially when they avoid the sick people and spend more on profitable administrative services. Doctors and hospitals are not paid for keeping us healthy or providing great care. They do better financially when they provide high-end, back-end procedures. Even worse, they are punished by a loss of income when they prevent disease and complications.

In the current debate, we've heard very little about reforming the toxic payment system. Yet there are many alternatives that have been used elsewhere in the country and right here in Minnesota. None are perfect, but all are better than the status quo.

My proposal for reforming the payment system and putting a lid on costs is twofold. First, legislation should ensure that the federal government's (i.e., Medicare's) payment system is changed to reward best care and best value. Second, Minnesota should seek a massive waiver from many of the federal bureaucratic rules that stifle creativity and penalize best care.

The bargain should be this: If Minnesota aggressively undertakes real health care reform that makes the insurance system work for all people, prioritizes prevention, covers everybody with a basic benefit set, and changes the way providers are paid, then the federal government will give our state all necessary flexibility.

This ducks or disfavors both single payer, and public option. I cannot support anything less than public option, much like Rep. Kieth Ellison's commitment. But it is cogently arguing for reform of the payment incentives structure for providers, and that is sound. Clark has yet to state a position, on her website, or for that matter to the best of my knowledge, in any public manner whatsoever.

This is from emailings, not from publications I can link to, but, Reed first:

My name is Dr. Steve Miles. I ran for US Senate in 2000. I lost and found other ways to serve.

I ask you to support Dr. Maureen Reed for US Congress.

The 2010 Sixth Congressional District is the most critical race in Minnesota. Maureen Reed has a strong background of community service, as a physician, as a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, as a business person and as a volunteer. She is the best of what Minnesota stands for. She is smart, well-informed, civic minded, has deep roots, and has a strong family life. She thinks before she speaks. She works on problems.
Maureen is the alternative to Michelle Bachmann. Unlike Michelle Bachman:

· Maureen will not call on the media to expose who in Congress is pro-America and who is anti-America.

· Maureen will not say that carbon dioxide is unrelated to global warming or charge that AmeriCorps might set up mandatory political reeducation camps.

· Maureen will be part of the solution, not part of the problem. She will work on health care reform rather than promise to fast against it.

Maureen Reed has the real world expertise to work on issues like affordable health care and affordable higher education. The Sixth District is neither Red nor Blue. It requires a centrist candidate with a big heart and a strong work ethic.

Maureen Reed has my support.

I respected Miles as a candidate, and know of one person from Ramsey I respect who went on from the DFL precinct caucus to the Senate District DFL caucus as a Miles delegate. For me the endorsement counts. Even though it is one doctor with ties to the profession supporting another.

Measured in terms of DFL ordinary politics and figures, Clark got more, via a Walter Mondale endorsement and a nod from the building trades, again learning this by email:

Together, we’ve supported lots of causes and campaigns over the years, many of them near and dear to our hearts. But few campaigns present us with the opportunity to make as significant a change as in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.

That’s why I’m supporting Tarryl Clark in her campaign for Congress. And I hope you’ll join me today.

I believe that Tarryl Clark can lead the 6th District in a new direction. She will unite us behind positive solutions – a stark change from the controversial comments and partisan rancor we’ve seen over the past few years. She will focus her time and efforts on listening to her constituents and turning ideas into action.

She’s already done it here in Minnesota. Tarryl is a vigorous campaigner and a tireless leader in the Minnesota Senate.

As a community advocate and then as State Senator, Tarryl has always stood up for Minnesota’s working families. From raising the minimum wage to ensuring our seniors aren’t scammed by predatory lenders; from ensuring access to early childhood education to investing in our state’s treasured colleges and universities; from building services to reintegrate our veterans to building our transportation infrastructure, Tarryl has always fought for the needs of families and our communities.

I’m proud to call Tarryl my friend, and know that she will make a tremendous Member of Congress.

That's it, for what I know of new individual endorsements. Then there is another Clark union endorsement from today's email:

The Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council announced today they have endorsed Tarryl Clark in her campaign for Minnesota's 6th Congressional District seat.

"In the Senate, Tarryl Clark has been a strong voice for Minnesota's working families," said Harry Melander, President of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council. "From fair wages to job creation, Tarryl has stood with us. We've worked together on legislation including bills which would create 'vertical' construction jobs, bringing Labor together with other community partners to stimulate job creation. We know she'll continue to stand up for hard-working Minnesotans in Congress, and we're proud to endorse her."

The Minnesota Building and Construction Trades represent more than 45,000 construction workers across Minnesota, including thousands in the 6th Congressional District. The Council has provided leadership and advocacy for construction workers in Minnesota for 60 years.


For a different race, showing that endorsement season is upon us even before leaves fall, there is this email:

I am writing to invite you to join me in supporting Senator John Marty for Governor.

As chair of the House of Representatives K-12 Education Finance Division, as well as a former teacher, PTA president, and school board member, I care deeply about the education of all students. That's why I enthusiastically endorse John Marty. His thoughtful, far-sighted education policies embrace a broad curriculum for educating the whole child - John's vision is exactly what we need to enable every child to graduate ready for success.

Among the gubernatorial candidates, John is peerless in his commitment to properly funding and reforming our E-12 education system. I cannot stress the urgency of this enough. We are not building a 21st century economy when current high school students are projected to have a lower graduation rate than their parents' generation, a trend seen in no other industrialized nation. John Marty is committed to reversing this trend through progressive reforms, including the New Minnesota Miracle.

John's bold, ethical leadership and progressive vision is exactlly what Minnesota needs. I urge you to join me in supporting John Marty for Governor!

Rep. Mindy Greiling
Chair, K-12 Finance Division, Minnesota House of Representatives

I like John Marty. This is not an endorsement, he is not the only good candidate, but I like him and Steve Kelley. Each knows the importance of maintaining the excellence of the U. Minn. Twin Cities Campus post-graduate programs in science, math, and the professions. All post graduate faculties take time to build to excellence, but can be dismembered quickly by funding interruption and lack of commitment. Pawlenty's been complacent that way. We need a governor more in tune with societal need.

I never have thought much about endorsements, it's sort of like saying "Brett Farve drinks Coors" to me, but it's there for those who care.

I give Reed the lead on getting something out on position, but really, saying cut waste and be sensible while looking to cover everyone, is a bit like jello. It jiggles a lot, rather than being really solid.

There is single payer.

There is public option.

There is beyond those two, wasting time.

So far, neither of the five candidates in the Sixth District [Bachmann and Immelman as GOP, Reed and Anderson as IP, and Reed and Clark as DFL] have taken a stance.

Thus far, I presume the batch of them favor wasting time. I await one to break ranks and say something.

Thanks to an anonymous comment to an earlier post, on the Reed op-ed update.

I have again read the Reed op-ed, and the gist of it is:

My proposal for reforming the payment system and putting a lid on costs is twofold. First, legislation should ensure that the federal government's (i.e., Medicare's) payment system is changed to reward best care and best value. Second, Minnesota should seek a massive waiver from many of the federal bureaucratic rules that stifle creativity and penalize best care.

The bargain should be this: If Minnesota aggressively undertakes real health care reform that makes the insurance system work for all people, prioritizes prevention, covers everybody with a basic benefit set, and changes the way providers are paid, then the federal government will give our state all necessary flexibility.

Her point is that management, her area of experience and expertise, can give a sufficient answer, along with State [not federal] will and capability, to fix things.

The word "Medicare" is used in context of asserting payment incentives are mis-prioritized, and that the paperwork and rules are too burdensome.

That fits with my claim, extend Medicare to all, and then look at what in Medicare is counterproductive and needs change. Extend it, then tune it.

The problem is she does not embrace the "extend it" part. She is vague about that, not suggesting it as a policy, but saying, as a hypothetical:

If we extend coverage to all Americans before we reduce cost, we add massively to the national debt. And we increase the competitive disadvantage faced by our businesses in a global marketplace.

The position is that fat is in the system and we trim the fat, thus avoiding how cash should be raised, i.e., who should be taxed differently to raise new revenue. There is the implicit claim that all can somehow be covered without raising more federal revenue. That seems unrealistic, but convenient. Also the claim about "competitive disadvantage" has implied presumptions about tax burden. That it would fall on corporations in international commerce. If the worker-unfriendly US practice of making insurance available on favorable terms through employers is changed people would be less - far less - fearful of losing a job. Employers, as a group would not like that. A docile uneasy labor force is preferred - by them.

In summary, if you buy into the premise that there is so much waste and fat in the system that trimming will allow everyone to somehow be covered without the need to adjust federal revenues [i.e., to increase taxes overall, and to alter tax distribution] then you are free to duck the revenue questions.

Creative thoughts, such as taxing insurers separately from the taxation of other businesses, and capping executive compensation via extreme taxation of higher brackets and revision of capital gains law to disfavor stock option management profiteering would raise income to match extending coverage. Together with trimming the fat, a more realistic picture arises.

Bottom line - if cost cutting were the only answer needed, a major question is how in the world so much waste got into things in the first place. Greed and lobbying power of the care providers, the HMOs, and of Big Pharma, clearly exist. Reed seems a bit unrealistic about that situation being easily reformed, on a permanent basis. If reducing waste is an entire answer then there need to be major systemic changes to the forces that, out of greed and self-interest, have quietly over time built waste into the system in a way that waste benefits their prosperity. They will not give it up easily, and if the system is changed those now gaming the system will find new ways to game things, under any set of new rules.

Bottom line - Reed has a grasp on a part of the answer, in very general terms, with a host of devils lurking to inhabit details. The big question, the relative roles into the future of federal government, private insurance, and state government she seems to answer in terms of State action, with no suggestion of specific change elsewhere, beyond rule changes and payment incentive changes in Medicare - without any suggestion or thought to extending Medicare to all.

Tarryl Clark needs to articulate a position. She cannot just skate on endorsements. Either Reed or Clark would be a vast improvement over the status quo publicity hound we now have. Clark needs to show she would be a better option than Reed, or that Reed somehow "cannot win" while she, Clark, can.

As to the incumbent, a breakthrough question is circulating on the Internet that awaits mainstream media attention. The effort is a name-one-thing-Michele-Bachmann-has-done-for-the-Sixth-District challenge to her supporters. So far, it has gotten comic results, there not being any positive response out of the Bachmannistanis.

See, here and here, for detail.

I will send an email to Eric Black, of MinnPost, a mainstream media person who has given the Sixth District some attention, and in it I will suggest he take that question to the Bachmann congressional office staff, to see if they have an answer. I believe he should at least cover the fact that the question is circulating around the web with, so far, no answer of substance provided by any Bachmann supporters. That is news, and it should be more widely reported. Strib and PiPress might even notice it and shift their biases enough to report the fact that nobody, so far, has proven able to name a single thing Bachmann has done for the district.

_________FURTHER UPDATE_________
A question -- With Reed saying she seeks both the DFL and IP endorsement for the Sixth District, has there been any news seen by anyone, about her IP end of things? For instance, it would be expected Peter Hutchinson of the IP would be endorsing her. Has that yet happened? If not, why would that be? He picked her as part of his ticket last cycle, that has to mean an endorsement would be pro forma, if she wanted that to happen. Does she not want him to speak up? Would there be a tactical reason for her to keep that end of her ambitions silent, for now?

_______FURTHER UPDATE________
Concerning Michele Bachmann - things are hard for those in the district. We need a worker bee, not a queen bee. The existence of the Bachmann Challenge suggests the old saying - all talk, no action. All sizzle, no steak.

I still see Tarryl Clark's proven ability to campaign hard and win belief and trust in predominantly "conservative" locales to be the biggest factor at play, this cycle.

That raises the question of where Reed will end up, while now saying she is seeking a dual endorsement.

One expects Bob Anderson to again run on the IP ticket as he did during the DFL's 2008 Tinklenberg experiment. Either Anderson will be the sole IP ballot choice [if Reed is DFL-endorsed or causes a DFL primary] or he will face Reed in an IP primary where, because of the governor's race and possible GOP and DFL primaries there, most primary voters likely will ignore the IP. As has frequently been the case except for Ventura, the IP is a complicating wild-card without strong chances for a win.

From his campaign website, this link, we can certainly see Bob Anderson is alive and well. And keeping himself in the thick of things, with respect to IP potential events and decision making. He still is in the hunt for the Congressional Sixth District seat, and not showing signs of withdrawing at this point. Have a look at the website. I think it would be very premature at this point for anyone to discount Bob Anderson as a viable IP candidate, again, in 2010.

________FURTHER UPDATE_________
Largely in line with the Reed op-ed, there is MPR reporting on thoughts arising from Mayo Clinic; this link. Things said in the reporting seem sound. I have seen with a family member where conferencing among a surgical staff together with informative non-cursory consultations between surgeon and patient led to an extended post-op stay but to an ultimately successful procedure, with conservative attention to other options prior to the patient-made decision to operate. Several informed decisions were made, and the system worked as it should. Luckily, the coverage was there - that's the only caveat. Were coverage lacking, who is to say what might have happened.

A "birch rod" for when UnitedHealth type firms misbehave against us. The benefit of a PUBLIC OPTION, in the 1932 words of Franklin Roosevelt.

A hat tip to the FiberNet Monticello homepage as source of this quote:

I therefore lay down the following principle: That where a community, a city or county or a district - is not satisfied with the service rendered or the rates charged by the private utility, it has the undeniable basic right, as one of its functions of Government, one of its functions of home rule, to set up, after a fair referendum to its voters has been had, its own governmentally owned and operated service. That right has been recognized in a good many of the States of the Union. Its general recognition by every State will hasten the day of better service and lower rates. It is perfectly clear to me, and to every thinking citizen, that no community which is sure that it is now being served well, and at reasonable rates by a private utility company, will seek to build or operate its own plant. But on the other hand the very fact that a community can, by vote of the electorate, create a yardstick of its own, will, in most cases, guarantee good service and low rates to its population. I might call the right of the people to own and operate their own utility something like this, a “birch rod” in the cupboard to be taken out and used only when the “child” gets beyond the point where a mere scolding does no good.

By: Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 21, 1932 Portland Speech

While that is in the context of having a "public option" for utility services available, as a means to keep the privately owned service providers honest, it fits healthcare, now. And while a national public option and not local community alternatives is called for to unify and fix the healthcare mess, nonetheless, seventy-five or so years after Roosevelt spoke, the words resonate as true now as then. And true for our nation, into the future.

Roosevelt was onto something we all can see as obvious, yet, he said it so purely.

I have criticized thousand page bills.

This site post, commenting on the Baucus committee's butchery; links to a committee posting of proposed amendments; here; a 348 page long smörgåsbord.

Then, this site post, cleanly summarizes things and links to the Baucus mark up, here, a mere 223 pages long; i.e., shorter by over a hundred single-space pages than the tedious string of dilatory amendments by the GOP together with the fewer reform amendments from Dem committee members.

571 pages, total.

Then, the previous link's author trenchently notes,

"Take a look at the Social Security Act of 1935 — cut and paste and put into Word (12 point Times New Roman), it’s a mere 33 pages long."

I welcome any reader wanting to email or post a comment in defense of the current bunch, their bunk, and the wordiness in which they hide their extreme collective mediocrity.

Or you can say I am too judgmental.

However, remember that I have 33 time tested pages vs 223 + 348 = 571 pages, in my favor.

I urge readers to search the web to learn the meaning of "death by a thousand cuts."

Make that death by a thousand paper cuts. Our congress, single digit public approval ratings and all.

__________FURTHER UPDATE_________
Remember the single sentence answer, "Medicare is made available to all citizens."

Or it can read, "Any citizen not satisfied with current provision for his or her healthcare, or for his or her family's healthcare, can, regardless of age, opt to enroll in Medicare for its coverage."

Then spend all the huffing and puffing on Medicare reform. For example, this past reform of Medicare, is suggestive of how the drug companies can be handled. It was fixing something wrong in the package, without accompanying sound and fury signifying nothing.

(links here and here)

Reflections on Bruce Nedegaard.

Nedegaard died Nov. 30, 2006, shortly after the 2006 elections; with being forced into bankruptcy while suffering ravages of cancer being an intermediate event between the elections and his death.

An interesting obituary publication, here, notes his long ties and beneficial efforts for Columbia Heights. Apparently he did much to improve things there, and his downfall was getting into the Ramsey Town Center promotion where he apparently was flim-flammed over whether there would be a Northstar stop in Ramsey. All the rhetoric preceding his commitment, out of Met Council and elsewhere, was of a "transit-oriented" thing, with walkability within and transit opportunity to reach greater distances.

He bought, at a premium price per acre, and then it happened that Ramsey was not accorded any Northstar stop; which remains the status quo.

Like starting to sit and having the chair pulled out.

Things mounted and press reporting suggests he did not have the most helpful or reliable bankers behind his effort in Ramsey.

Going broke on a risk is not any sin, and I urge everyone to read the item, again at this link, to have a perspective on other things he had done before meeting his Waterloo in yet one more risk-taking deal that was more hype than substance. More speculative hope, of some, than realistic thought or sound planning.

Bottom line. Nedegaard had a productive life and while battling a terminal illness he got entangled with wrong people in a wrong project at a wrong time with unrealistic if not wrong expectations. Others went down the same primrose path, more or less, but he was the one to put his wealth at risk in ways others avoided.

And the expectation of a train stop was handled in a way that harmed him far more than being anything like helpful.

We still have to see how, ultimately, the bone picking gets done, and who at what stage makes money off the RTC thing. And how over time such a thing comes about, is one thing we can all guess at now.

Then we wait and see.

Who will own what, acquired which ways once/if a commuter train stop is installed will be something we all can wait to see and learn from.

[photo from the linked item]

An interesting Canadian view of the rhetorical device of beating up on "socialism."

It gets into the specifics of individual Canadian public persons, in ways that suggest politicians are a universal lifeform that recently emerged from beasthood. As in lifting a rock and seeing the politicians underneath it.

This link, this initial short excerpt:

Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009 -- When did Socialism become a bad word?

My children attend public schools, paid for by taxes and run by the province of Ontario. When I go to the doctor or hospital, the services I'm provided with are invariably paid for out of the public purse. The police who enforce various laws, and the courts and justice system which uphold them...the entire apparatus is financed by levies, charges and taxes collected by various levels of government.

And yet I am constantly being bombarded with messages about the evils of socialism.

The U.S. media is full of them now due to Obama's continuing efforts to reform the world's most expensive health care system, a system which leaves tens of millions with no health coverage whatsoever. Well, costs may be out of control and millions of American children may not have access to even basic medical care...but at least its not "socialist".

I want to be clear on one point here, I do not view pure unadulterated socialism as a panacea for all of society's ills, far from it. Likewise I don't consider unfettered capitalism the answer either, we've been down that road before with work houses and child labour. There are areas of vital public importance that are best removed from the sphere that is dominated by the need for profit. And there are entities under government control that would benefit from the discipline market forces impose.

Then, this comment, where I also have been puzzled with people being wholly indifferent, even hostile, to what's best for them:

Like yourself, I'm beyond annoyed with people on both sides of the border treating socialism as it's a dirty little word. I'm also more than fed up with those same people promoting the free market.

Fear of socialism: folks think of Stalin or Mao, assuming they're literate enough to remember world history lessons.

If not, they have jumped on some strange bandwagon both feet first without even thinking. A good example is state side, some people are crying "Get your government hands off my medicare". Clearly the rantings of someone ill-informed & not stopping to wonder why he's on that side.

Pro Free market: they don't remember that General Pinochet of Chile murdered for the free markets.

I understood why rich people being ultra-capitalist (ie identifying with Ayn Rand's John Galt). I don't agree with them, but I get that. What puzzles me is why the working class or the disappearing middle class would be for it.

It looks to be a moderate blog of a thinking person, hence, worth reading, to some.

This is another recent post on that blog.


I am disdainful of so much of the rhetoric that passes these days for thought.

Try this, "conservative."

What does that mean?

Tell me what exactly they want to conserve?

I understand "conservationism" as wanting to shepherd natural resources in a wise way.

But isn't it the "conservatives" that were behind "Drill here, drill now, pay less," with that latter part the lie of their rhetoric? And with little "conservationism" to that silly mantra.

And then you have Ron Paul, being used by Michele Bachmann, with her glomming onto him now almost as tactlessly as she glommed onto President Bush after that one State of the Union speech.

Michele Bachmann calls herself a "conservative."

Can anyone explain what she means? I only see an opportunist who picked up first the anti-tax mantra being used by the rich who wanted their taxes lowered while having enough wealth to get by suitably, even with diminished government services for the public, and I view her motivation consistently to have been to sell her political candidacy, offering it in order to attain a bigger paycheck and better benefits than the private sector and her activities there ever yielded; but that's nothing beyond gunning for a cushy government job; wanting the "socialism" of the government paying elected civil servants more than she'd attained in "the market," that being in the market outside of including sitting in Congress as a part of "the market."

Am I wrong, did she not look at "the market" in its largest sense, and decide to pursue a "socialist" niche within "the market" as a more productive direction than the "private" niches she'd seen? Earlier being a tax collector - lawyer for the IRS, call it whatever you want, but it was doing "socialism" for a wage packet in my view.


And now this special politician-lady is glomming onto Ron Paul.

And Ron Paul seems to now be lacking the ability to discern what's best for his own credibility by letting her hobo along on his train.


I do not believe Michele Bachmann wants to "conserve" the decades-old precedent of Roe v. Wade.

I understand what Barry Goldwater wrote, but see little to nothing of it in Newt Gingrich; who as with Bachmann, appears to be more personal opportunist than anything else.

Certainly not anything deep, as if either had ever read Edmund Burke. My guess is Ron Paul, unlike Bachmann or Gingrich, has read Burke.

Again: What exactly does a modern-day self proclaimed "conservative" want to conserve?

It seems they consistently have wanted more to change things within a somewhat socially responsible status quo that existed after World War Two, more than to conserve anything.

We certainly can have differing views of what exactly motivated post-war domestic policies, but that is separate from the question ---- rhetoric aside, what's a "conservative?"

And in the rhetoric games, what's "socialism" other than existing things a "conservative" wishes not to conserve, but to alter?


To be entirely explicit - I would prefer that when policy A and policy B are being debated the merits of one over the other be the issue, with that issue debated free of rhetorical label mongering.

In current politics I suppose such a thought is "radical socialism," to be avoided at all cost.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Maureen Reed. Kieth Ellison. Different styles.

How big is the tent? Who belongs within it? I don't care which candidate kisses babies. Michele Bachmann can kiss babies for all I care. Tim Pawlenty can kiss babies. Bachmann and Pawlenty can kiss each other. At least we know where each stands on issues. How they stand together on issues.

Both screenshots were taken today, Sept. 24, 2009. Ellison Screenshot - this link. Reed Screenshot - this link.

Ellison, has thoughts to share.

That is generally expected.

Less than that, to me, seems as if it is deliberately insulting my intelligence.

Grassly effort to deliver on Obama's campaign promise, "If you like your insurance you can keep it, if not you can get coverage I have in Congress."

This link:

Proposal would end federal health benefits plan
By Alex M. Parker September 23, 2009

Several of the more than 500 amendments the Senate Finance Committee is facing as it begins a marathon markup of health care reform legislation would affect public servants' health coverage -- and one would end the federal government's health insurance program.

The provision, offered by ranking member Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, would force civil servants to leave the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and purchase insurance through the state-based health exchanges that are a centerpiece of the health reform bill. Employees would move to the exchanges beginning in 2013.

The idea behind the amendment is "to require that elected officials and federal employees purchase insurance in the same manner proposed in the [bill] for private citizens," according to a summary on the Finance Committee's Web site.

Representatives from Grassley's office did not return calls for comment.

[link in original]

Somehow, lowering the federal decency standard of government funded healthcare availability to a level playing field of insurance-industry dominated enhanced but ongoing indecency, making the indecency universal, is not how the Obama promise [not a suggestion but a promise] came across, not with the verbal inflection he gave it, and this is Grassly being who he is. Yet he is being himself in a way that highlights the promise Obama made, despite Obama being in retrenchment mode, concerning that promise as pivotal.

Good might come of the Grassly proposal. The public employees union knows how to squeal loudly when they care to; and about this they might care.

Let's hear a howl from the bureaucrats, arising from their niche cubicles like days of old, ready to the barricades to face the thuggish Pinkertons if needed in order to gain collective labor aims.

Visions of the Wobblies. All that. As in days of yore, when men were men and would get up, stand up, stand up for their rights. Not giving up the fight. Standing for what's right.

And because like Joe Wilson I criticize Obama's veracity, am I a racist? I like what Conyers and Ellison are cosponsoring, HR 676, the single-payer universal coverage "Medicare for All" proposal. I like every cosponsor of that effort, whatever their race or religion. I liked Obama's promise. Retrenchment (if not total abandonment of it) is what I do not like. It's not race, it's promise keeping. Veracity. Credibility. Progressivism. It is as if when the one South Carolina Rep., not Wilson, earlier said there'd be an effort to make this Obama's "Waterloo" that Obama began glancing back for a quick exit route off center stage. Live to fight another day, I suppose, is good politics. But it rankles. Going back on a promise suggests political expediency trumps commitment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Arkansas Blue Dog Mike Ross is to be trusted on healthcare reform. On a wisdom basis. Such business acumen. He must be super smart - or - something.

Sell a business, for perhaps a million, sell a non-compete covenant with it for perhaps half a million. And then stay in the driver's seat running the business.

That's special.

It was a pharmacy in Arkansas bought by a pharmacy chain.

Mike Ross. This link for this Arkansas Rep.

Olberman, on Ross, "And so far in your career, Congressman Ross, your total [campaign contribution and not personal] haul from the health sector is $921,000. That's 90th in the combined list of donations for the House and the Senate, sir, 90th out of 537," in context; this link. And that context is informative, so please have a look. People with probable agendas, spending, or call it investing - investing in their futures?

And Ross is shocked, shocked! that some speculate that influence peddling was part of the deal, with him now being the leading voice of Blue Dog posturing on what's to be done about healthcare in the US of A. As if the one is connected to the other. Sheer character assassination, obviously, is at play; and the question of how a growing pharmacy chain can grow doing business that way - if every purchase of an existing operation is that cozy to sellers - well, that question must be irrelevant. I would bet and give odds that Ross believes it so.

Form your own view, the online record is mainly:

Politico first reported details of the business deal. This link.

The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.

Ross sold Holly’s Health Mart in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 — an eye-popping price for real estate in a tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.

“You can buy half the town for $420,000,” said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.

But the $420,000 that USA Drug paid for the pharmacy’s building and land was just the beginning of what Ross and his wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly’s Health Mart. USA Drug owner Stephen L. LaFrance Sr. also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets and paid Holly Ross an additional $100,000 to $250,000 for signing a noncompete agreement. Those numbers, which Mike Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million.

And that’s not counting the $2,300 campaign contribution Ross received from LaFrance two weeks after the sale closed.

Holly Ross remains the pharmacist at Holly’s Health Mart under USA Drug. Neither she nor her husband agreed to speak with ProPublica for this story.

At the time of the 2007 sale, the county assessor’s office valued the pharmacy’s building and the land on which it sits at $263,000 — nearly $160,000 less than the Rosses got for it.

Because an assessor’s valuations don’t always reflect true market value, ProPublica hired Guthrie to appraise the property. He placed the current value of the lot and building at $198,000, substantially lower than the county’s assessment, which was raised from $263,000 to $269,000 this year. Guthrie explained the difference between his appraisal and the county assessment by saying county assessments have been running higher than actual market value.

Mike Ross frequently speaks for the coalition of House moderates known as the Blue Dogs, a group that helped force changes to the version of the health care reform bill drafted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The role has lifted him to national prominence in recent months.

Ross issued a statement, Politico included it and brief rebuttal detail. This link.

If you want more -- this Google.

For myself, I would never mistrust a guy like that. Just a smart businessman, after all. Savvy. Knows how to negotiate and close a sale. And Holly Ross, look at her dilemma - she cannot leave the pharma-purchaser paying her whatever the salary is, to go elsewhere in that tiny town to run a competing operation. A noncompete.

You have to give up something in any deal. But follow the Ross Rule.

Price it favorably.

In any event, no one is accusing Mike Ross of saying, "But what have you done for me lately."

I have not read any story, either, raising accusations of biting any hand that feeds him.

Mike and Holly. An all-American couple. Will they next be together, on Dancing With the Stars?

HuffPo, here, heaps scorn on Ross.

I say it's not just Ross.
It's Arkansas.

[Mike Ross photo, this link.]

Tim Pawlenty -- Not a moderate, you say?

You say that if you are Jeff Fecke, at MN Progressive Project.

This link.

It is a worthwhile read.

I thought about doing a post, "Tim Pawlenty is not a poseur and an empty stuffed shirt, nor a disaster as Governor of our State."

Not having too much to say that way, I ended up not doing the post.

Tim Pawlenty is not insincere. I thought of that one as a post. In each instance, saying it was easy enough, the GOP does that after all, so I could too. Each time, it was disturbing. I kept running into the evidence. Into the truth. One of those Jeff Fecke quotes, for example - the praying teacher one. Bingo. That's the man. Oh Timmy Boy, the Pipes, the Pipes are Calling ...

What's next after value voter summit exposure? Dancing With the Stars? Survivor?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some most unfortunate news. Canyon Grille in Coon Rapids is ceasing business for the present, at the present location.

[click the above image to enlarge and read]

Probably indicative of the declining economy for years, the decision has been made quite recently, and for now the restaurant is closed but the phone line is open for anyone wanting to wish the people there good luck into the future.

My expectation is a quality independent restaurant in north metro will be a winner, at some point, some locale, in an economic rebound.

The website does not presently indicate the decision to close, but it deserves a look from anyone unfamiliar with the restaurant to know what they did, and what they might be if and when they make a reopening or relocation decision.

The website link is here.

City of Ramsey's Mayor, Bob Ramsey, has an informational blog, worth checking out.

The link is here, with the most current item referencing mention of the city in a Strib report of municipalities that are cutting budget for next year. It also lists budget cutting steps the city has taken.

Have a look.

I have a comment to that post, currently under review, basically asking whether City of Ramsey still employs a legislative lobbyist. I have been highly critical of how past Ramsey officials have used lobbying regarding a presently defunct "Port Authority" that some in the city tried to foist off on the citizens during the James Norman tenure as City Administrator. See this prior Crabgrass post, for some history.

After wrapping up this post, I will put another comment into the moderation queue at the mayor's website, about whether there will ever be a Port Authority during his term of service if he can do anything to prevent it. I have been assured that the thought is disfavored by some on council, but I think it should be said on record.

Finally, I applaud Bob Ramsey's choice to open this communication channel. He runs a business and being mayor consumes much time in meetings and in document reviews prior to meetings, so taking the additional time to open an information channel outside of the official city website is praiseworthy. Perhaps others on council might follow the precedent.

Carl Jung and the Red Book.

There are these items returned by a Google News search = Jung Red Book. Actual publication of the facsimile edition will be in October.

Please follow the links for it is a beautifully illustrated work of a man with a cult following, and hence also with detractors.

Coincident with the item being published, Rubin Museum of Art will have it on display. This link.

NY Times has a ten page report of the anguish and doubts within the Jung heirs on whether to maintain the privacy of the work, or to allow it to be published despite the possibility of Jung critics being even more scornful and despite feelings of some in that set that the Red Book was a private work of agony that the man himself intended to always keep private, as a therapeutic thing helping him wrestle with his own unconscious. This link for the text. This link for images of a few pages.

IF that link gets you a registration filter page, the initial Google News link above should bypass that allowing unimpeded access.

Google, being Google, when returning news hits has the lead sponsored item, linking here, which indicates Amazon willingly will sell you the item and you can sign up for an email notice of when it will be publicly available through their distribution channel.

Whatever Angst the Jung family had over the item's privacy, commerce has hold now. In a way, the charm of a book withheld for decades from public and scholarly review, by family, has been lost and traded for the chance to see this thing. It is interesting to me, and pivotal to Jungians, and their lust for revelation will be fulfilled.

Being largely ignorant of Jung, an additional item for me was the Wikipedia page, where one sentence struck me, in context:

Jung returned to the United States the next year for a brief visit, and again for a six-week lecture series at Fordham University in 1912. He made a more extensive trip westward in the winter of 1924-5, financed and organized by Fowler McCormick and George Porter. Of particular value to Jung was a visit with chieftain Mountain Lake at the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.

Another noteworthy Swiss, Paul Klee, was reputed to say that he never had a complete sense of color until being in North Africa. It must be the quality of light there and New Mexico.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Michele Bachmann hurting the GOP?

That's the question. Here.

Then you can read about the Value Voter Summit. Here.

Bottom line: The GOP is hurting.

The GOP is hurting the GOP.

Bachmann is part of the implosion, on the freak show part of the GOP spectrum.

One comment at the first link said Bachmann speaks from the heart.

I see her entire act as being phony as a three dollar bill. All posing. A publicity hound, with a trained voice and a vacuous mind. Barbarians can be cunning, but little else. She belongs on one of those Capital One credit card commercials.

Asking, what's in my wallet? And, what's more for there? That's an impression, a feeling, and we all can disagree. I welcome any reader comment saying he/she would buy a used car from the Bachmanns. Good luck, if you ever do.

Here is my vision of art created with the GOP in mind [click to enlarge].

The Dems have their own disarray. They cannot cast first stones [click to enlarge].

Perhaps my view is politically incorrect by not choosing sides. By seeing demons and fools all over.

No. That could not be.

GOP image, from here. Dems image, from here.

Kathy Tingelstad is a nice person. But she is not worth $87,500 plus benefits. No way.

There's a duel on the web about Tingelstad, who declined to run again for her house seat in the north metro after getting a ration of chickenshit from the local GOP knuckleheads for her veto override vote on the politically motivated Pawlenty transportation tax veto. Then after a period of months took a lobbying job.

First the right wing challenge, read details at this link, the gist being discord and thinly veiled insinuation over Tingelstad's salary as if it were payback for a vote:

There was outrage among Republican Party faithful that GOP lawmakers might go against their Governor and their party on such a key vote. Of the six Republican House members that sided with the Democrats against the Governor, two chose not to run for re-election, two were defeated at the polls, and two won easy re-election.

Of the two who chose not to run, one stepped aside with little fanfare, seeming to willingly accept responsibility for her transgressions. No one suspected that a little more than a year later she would receive an almost $90,000 a year job offer: a plum position with Anoka County—a metro county that would gain tens of millions in additional transit funds with the passage of the bill.

Last week former State Representative Kathy Tingelstad of Coon Rapids was appointed Anoka County’s Chief legislative lobbyist with an annual salary of $87,500 per year. Not exactly Madoff money, but with healthcare, vacation, and an Anoka County credit card, certainly a step up from the $31,140 a year she made as a legislator.

Any skeptic would say this hardly amounts to a payoff. But consider that the Anoka County Board made this appointment without a job posting or candidate search. Was a position with Anoka County a done deal from the day that Representative Tingelstad pushed the “green” button? Or did Representative Tingelstad truly believe that Anoka County needed millions in additional transit funding each year?

There is nothing illegal about what Representative Tingelstad did or the Anoka County Board’s action. However, it is hard to believe this deal wasn’t hardwired. She was looking for a paycheck after she left the legislature and the Anoka County Board seemed more than willing to give her one.

Of that diatribe, the factual content, the nub of things is:

Last week former State Representative Kathy Tingelstad of Coon Rapids was appointed Anoka County’s Chief legislative lobbyist with an annual salary of $87,500 per year. Not exactly Madoff money, but with healthcare, vacation, and an Anoka County credit card, certainly a step up from the $31,140 a year she made as a legislator.

For the Tingelstad appologists, there is this link, stating in relevant part:

In a vile personal attack, Krinkie blatently accused former House Representative Kathy Tingelstad of trading her transportation override vote for an Anoka County job.

Incredible. And frankly, I think Krinkie owes Ms. Tingelstad a public apology.

Former Rep. Tingelstad accepted a position as chief legislative lobbyist for Anoka County recently and she will receive an $87,000 salary -- a significant increase over her compensation as a legislator (but then what private sector policy job wouldn't be).

But, as for Krinkie's accusation that, somehow, this was a quid pro quo deal...well, let's just say the facts don't begin to add up.

Aiming up wind, perhaps, but "vile" is opinion, and again the factual nub of the appologists is:

Former Rep. Tingelstad accepted a position as chief legislative lobbyist for Anoka County recently and she will receive an $87,000 salary -- a significant increase over her compensation as a legislator

There is agreement on the facts, [the applogist left out five hundred bucks of salary the attack piece mentioned along with a plush suite of benefits that might or might not be there]. Certainly the attack piece was more correct in mentioning benefits - raising the question of what the benefit package is, and how much it might be worth - on top of $87.5 grand. More gravy.

More importantly, if any reader thinks Kathy Tingelstad is worth $87,500 per annum plus benefits - please in a comment or email explain why.

She's a nice woman and tried to do her job diligently and in an informed manner while a legislator, and I will not dispute she earned that pay, given that running periodically is a cost off the top for that job, one absent from a lobbying job.

But what makes anyone believe her best effort is in the 90 grand ballpark?

She's smart enough to say "Yes," but that alone is not hitting the 90 grand level. Certainly she will have to wheedle bozo-brained legislators, but then that's what she did for much less, while in that group.

Give me a break. The question of whether the pay level is justified or wasteful was totally blown away by the anti-tax mavens, being too intent to sling accusations than to raise the question a thinking taxpayer would ask - is that wasteful, or wise?

Tingelstad was in the legislature for a decade, never reaching a high leadership position in the GOP, that can be said in her favor. For the county and her district, she pulled her weight, for example being lead author of this bill. That fits with the veto override vote, which one-tune wonder Krinkie continues to bristle over, that being his real basis for wanting to see Tingelstad an outcast. Her steadfast support of Northstar and having the sense, rare in the GOP, that if you want spending on a local pet project you have to raise revenue for it, and that means you either borrow [the Bush and Reagan way putting future generations in hock] or you tax, which is the responsible way to get matching revenue to fund your pet project and everyone else's. There's no bill without back-scratching.

Here is her legislative page, where committee memberships, bills sponsored, and bills authored can be reviewed.

Sponsoring Highway Ten lane expansion, touting Northstar, then voting responsibly to assure funding would exist for the transportation expansion she supported in line with Dan Erhart's views and aims, that is in the resume; and she got a ninety grand job, doing whatever, probably largely continuing what she did while in the legislature; but for three times the pay and without a vote. I am certain that Dan Erhart and many more of the old boys feel she is worth the "recognition" she is receiving. I am equally certain none will be posting a comment under their name explaining the wisdom and reasoning behind the appointment.

Hopefully, her having that job means Tinklenberg Group would not be getting a parallel lobbying contract, for doing the same thing.

______FURTHER UPDATE______
The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board lobbying pages, beginning link here, do not yet show that Tingelstad's been employed, unless I read things wrongly. Did you know that Anoka County had so many lobbyists as shown, here, here and here? It's news to me. It seems wasteful. That's eleven warm bodies unless I miscount, with Lona Schreiber double dipping (for the HRA and the county in general with a William Schreiber for the Rail Authority who might be kin). Are any worth a plugged nickel?