New Mexico hotel owner Larry Whitten is currently facing national criticism for demanding that his Hispanic employees change their names and stop speaking Spanish in his presence. Today on CNN, HLN host Jane Velez-Mitchell sharply went after Whitten, introducing herself as “Jane Velez-Mitchell. I hope you don’t mind if I keep using the word ‘Velez’ in my name.” She then went after him for asking his “Spanish” employees to anglicize their names:
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you, or did you not, tell someone who’s name is Martin (Mar-TEEN) to say that his name was “Martin,” or similar changes? [...]
WHITTEN: Yes, I asked Martin (Mar-TEEN) to change it to “Martin” to better understand it over the telephone.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You can’t understand Mar-TEEN? Do you know that the vast majority of people in the community where you have your hotel are Latino? So your customers, to a large extent, are going to be Latino. Now how do you treat the customers when they come in? Do you them also to change their names? Like if I came in, would Jane Velez-Mitchell — so you could better understand my name — would you ask me to change it?
WHITTEN: No, ma’am — [...]
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So the idea that you’re presupposing that people cannot understand Mar-TEEN, but they can understand Martin, really says a lot more about you, sir, than it does about your customers or anybody else.
Throughout the interview, as Velez-Mitchell pointed out, Whitten insisted on calling the employee by the anglicized pronunciation of “Martin.” Watch it:
Fred Hiatt seems to really want to drive the Washington Post’s circulation down to zero so that the company can focus on its core competency in standardized test preparation. He wrote a column complaining that it’s a bad idea to rely on a public option to reduce health care costs, because including a public option can (through magic?) prevent congress from adopting other cost control measures. Not only does this not make sense, but as OMB Director Peter Orszag observes, Hiatt seems unaware of what’s actually happening on the Hill:
Fred Hiatt in today’s Washington Post is the latest of these naysayers, writing in his column that the two biggest steps that can be taken to reduce the rate of health care cost growth — changes in health care’s tax treatment and an independent Medicare commission — are missing. I agree with Hiatt on the potential substantial benefits in terms of cost containment from these two changes. But a note to readers who have not read their Washington Post the past few weeks: the Senate Finance Committee bill includes both of these measures.
Cost-control is important. The House’s approach to cost-control is focused on a robust public option. That’s a good idea. The Senate’s approach focuses on the excise tax concept and the independent Medicare commission. Those are also good ideas. The final bill should include all three. There’s no reason to deride the public option as your means of praising the other ideas.
On CNN’s Reliable Sources yesterday, former Fox News contributor Jane Hall said that Glenn Beck’s presence at the network was a “factor” in her decision to leave Fox. “I’m also, frankly, uncomfortable with Beck, who I think should be called out as somebody whose language is way over the top,” said Hall. On his radio show today, Beck responded to Hall, calling her an “idiot” who wouldn’t be missed at Fox:
BECK: Well, don’t let the door hit you on the ass when you leave. I’m going to miss you, I am, whatever your name is. My language is scary! Since when did language become scary? Boy, I put a lot of that language in books. Maybe we should gather all those books together and burn them as well. Because there is language in there. I wouldn’t want to scare anyone. Read our Founding Fathers. You want scary language, read the Founding Fathers. We haven’t even gotten to the scary language yet.
A Fox News spokesperson claimed to Mediaite that “Hall’s contract was not renewed.”
This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the merged Senate health bill would establish a national public option that allows states to opt out of the plan by 2014. Reid did not indicate that he had 60 votes in support of the opt-out, but said that he would not submit competing public option compromises to the Congressional Budget Office. The answer suggests that the Senate would not use the trigger or any other compromise as an alternative if the opt-out measure fails to obtain the 60 votes needed for cloture.
Reid said that the final legislation will also provide seed money for states to establish consumer driven cooperatives:
As we’ve gone through this process I’ve concluded — with the support of the White House, Senators Dodd and Baucus — that the best way to move forward is to include a public option with the opt out option for states. Under this concept, states will be able to determine whether the public option works well for them and will have the ability to opt out if they so chose….We’ve spent countless hours in the last few days in consultation with Senators who have shown a general desire to reform the health care system and I believe there is a strong consensus to move forward in this direction.
Watch a compilation:
The opt-out compromise, initially floated by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), is loosely modeled on Medicaid, which originally allowed states to “opt-out” of the program and today enjoys the participation of all 50 states. Supporters of the plan believe that if the public option proves itself in states where it’s functional, then legislators from conservatives states would be hard pressed to exempt their states from the program. After all, why reject an option that offers lower premiums and saves the state billions in health care costs? Rhetoric about a ‘government-takeover’ of health care may sound good on television, but it loses its appeal when you’re trying to balance your books.
But whether or not the public option will actually lower health care costs will depend on how it’s structured and how it pays providers. The public option has to be large enough to sway large provider groups to lower health care costs and initiate delivery system reforms.
So what are the states opting out of? Below are two basic options:
- A national plan that pays 5% above Medicare rates: A robust public option that initially reimburses providers at 5% above Medicare rates and strongly encourages all Medicare doctors to participate, was originally part of the House bill. This kind of plan would take advantage of Medicare rates, providers, efficiencies and administrative simplifications. According to the CBO, a robust public option could save $110B/10yrs, lower premiums by 10%. A second alternative would allow the public option to reimburse at higher than Medicare rates but could trigger the lower Medicare reimbursements if costs increased. This plan could also initiate greater delivery and payment reforms.
- A national public plan that negotiates payment rates with providers: A so-called level playing field public plan that reimburses providers at market rates would take advantage of Medicare efficiencies and administrative simplifications, but would not piggy-back off of Medicare-established reimbursements or provider reach. This kind of plan was part of the HELP bill. According to the CBO, the option would save $25B/10yrs but would not lower premiums within the exchange. This plan could also initiate greater delivery and payment reforms.
POLITICO is reporting that currently, Reid “has between 56 and 57 votes for the opt-out, which is being pushed by Sen. Charles Schumer, according to Democratic aides. A public option with a delayed “trigger” — supported by the White House and Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe — has between 58 and 59 backers.” Reid dismissed competing public option proposals, telling reporters “We hope that Olympia will come back, she has worked hard, she is a very good legislator. I’m disappointed that the one issue, the public option, has been something that that’s frightened her.”
Of course, the other possibility — less likely given Reid’s reluctance to ask the CBO to score the proposal — is to combine the opt-out public option with a trigger — ensuring that states could only opt out of the public option if the private market offers meaningful and affordable coverage. Any opt-out proposal should also provide for a simple ‘opt-back-in process’ (mandating that state legislatures vote on the opt out every year, for instance.)
It should also be noted that 2014 may not be long enough for states to examine the effectiveness of the option. If Congress doesn’t extend the opt-out date, they need to develop a simple opt-back-in process.
,Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued this statement:
[President Obama is] also pleased that the Senate has decided to include a public option for health coverage, in this case with an allowance for states to opt out. As he said to Congress and the nation in September, he supports the public option because it has the potential to play an essential role in holding insurance companies accountable through choice and competition.
An opt-out clause would protect the public option, and would help secure the necessary votes to pass health care reform, without compromising on the type of coverage or level of affordability. This will still save money and provide a real public option for people, and I am glad Leader Reid is moving forward with this strong health care reform agenda.
“I fought for a strong public option – in the HELP Committee and in this merger process – because it is the best way to keep costs low and insurance companies honest,” said Dodd. “Majority Leader Reid has made a bold and right choice to endorse the HELP Committee public option, along with a provision allowing states to opt out.”
,Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is “deeply disappointed with the Majority Leader’s decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation”:
“I am deeply disappointed with the Majority Leader’s decision to include a public option as the focus of the legislation. I still believe that a fallback, safety net plan, to be triggered and available immediately in states where insurance companies fail to offer plans that meet the standards of affordability, could have been the road toward achieving a broader bipartisan consensus in the Senate.
I pointed out yesterday that even conservatives like Ben Bernanke agree on the need for congress to pass some form of “resolution authority” regulation, empowering the government to deal with failing financial institutions that aren’t covered by the FDIC process. That’s clearly a necessary step to dealing with the “too big to fail” issue, and some people even think it’s sufficient.
And then there’s Edward Yingling, the banksters’ top lobbyist, who’s against the idea on the grounds that it “could make it unnecessarily more expensive for them to do business during less turbulent times.” As Pat Garofalo observes “as for ‘unnecessary’ expenditures, I’d like to ask Yingling what he thinks of the $700 billion spent to pull the banking system back from the brink.”
But, look, this is just zealous advocacy on Yingling’s part. It’s clearly preferable for large financial firms that they be allowed to exist in a way that ensures the taxpayers have no choice but to cover their losses in the case of screwups. Anyone with any sense would jump at the chance to privatize profits and socialize losses. It’d just be insane of congress to let them keep getting away with it. Y
A terrific story by the AP’s Seth Borenstein, “Statisticians reject global cooling,” not only debunks that myth — it will make your head spin once again on error-riddled Superfreakonomics (coauthored by Levitt).
Have you heard that the world is now cooling instead of warming? You may have seen some news reports on the Internet or heard about it from a provocative new book.
Only one problem: It’s not true, according to an analysis of the numbers done by several independent statisticians for The Associated Press.
The recent Internet chatter about cooling led NOAA’s climate data center to re-examine its temperature data. It found no cooling trend.
“The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record,” said NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt. “Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming.”
Second, “In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented”:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will announce this afternoon that he plans to include a public option in the Senate health care reform bill and that it will allow states to opt out, “even though he’s currently short several votes” of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.
Yesterday on CNN, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) called the public option with an opt out provision “an interesting concept” but pointedly refused to endorse it. He said the “best approach” would be “to have not-for-profit insurance companies.” However, Webb also said that he will not let his personal views get in the way of the Senate having an up or down vote on the public option:
WEBB: One thing that I did say to the leader is that I will vote to proceed forward to debate. That doesn’t mean that I will necessarily at this time commit myself to voting for the result of that debate.
HOST JOHN KING: If [Reid] needs 60, he has your vote?
WEBB: We need to have the debate.
Last week, an aide to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said that Lieberman — who opposes a public option — is also “inclined” to vote for a motion to proceed. Similarly, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) recently said, “I’m not right now inclined to support any filibuster.”
But other Democratic Senators are on the fence. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) — who has gone back and forth on hints of support for the opt out provision — said on CNN yesterday, “I can’t decide about the procedural vote until I see the underlying bill.” A spokesperson for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) said “she will have to see the legislative language and cost first” before voting for cloture. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) has not indicated what his intentions are.
But when asked recently if he would support a GOP filibuster of health care reform, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) replied, “I don’t think you’ll see me or any other Democrats do that.”
At a press conference this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that “we intend to include” a public option in the Senate bill “with an opt-out provision for states.” Watch it:
“Just about not a week goes by that I don’t see the House physician staff with a gurney running down the hallway to address an issue affecting an American or tourist visiting the Capitol building,” said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Columbus. “I really do have a sense that the House physician’s office is more about providing immediate services during sessions of Congress, frankly the way the emergency room of a hospital would provide for any American. They’re on site. They’re already through security.”
Pence said he has used the office for physicals and stress tests while using his regular health insurance plan for more advanced procedures such as skin cancer surgery.
Pence seems to me to have this right in terms of his personal habits. And it also seems to me that establishing a nationwide network of quality public health clinics at which ordinary citizens could receive these kind of services would be very useful. There’s an element of medicine that involves deploying cutting edge treatments, and there’s a reasonable case to be made for keeping provision of that sort of thing in private hands (note that this is compatible with single-payer health insurance as in Canada) in order to keep innovation going. But a lot of medical care is about competent application of well-understood testing & treatment regimes. This kind of thing is often done quite well by public agencies when given the opportunity, and it’s an extremely cost-effective way of helping people out.
Grist has, alongside its environmental policy news and commentary, a running feature called “Ask Umbra” in which people ask for advice on ecologically responsible consumption. The answer almost invariably turns out to be “this hinges on an impossibly complicated set of considerations.” For example, is it better to buy frozen vegetables or steamed ones:
Grade A frozen foods are harvested when ripe and quickly taken to the freezing plant, where they are (even more quickly) flash frozen at extremely low temperatures. The modern industrial freezing process retains almost all the original nutritional value of the food (according to nutrition guru Marion Nestle’s helpful book What to Eat). Good to go on the nutrition angle. But it’s important to have an efficient freezer. One study using 1970s data found that the longer frozen foods sit in the freezer, i.e., are using energy in storage, the more they fall behind canned goods in the efficiency smackdown.
The canned goods are a bit less nutritious, but a study that looked closely at this issue found the differences between frozen and canned carrots to be insignificant. Carrots in syrup, or whatever they might put carrots in, would of course fall in to the category of dessert or a processed food, and cannot be favorably compared to fresh. As you know, the ecological issue with canned carrots is the steel can itself, which has high embodied energy costs. If a study assumes the recycling of the steel can, then canned vegetables can compete favorably with frozen vegetables on the sustainability index.
From a political perspective, this sort of thing underscores the need for collective action in the form of public policy that will put a price on greenhouse gas pollution. To realistically assess the total environmental impact of the choice between frozen carrots and canned carrots, you’d also want to know something about the land-use impact of your decisions, the transportation of the goods, the energy costs of keeping frozen food frozen in the supermarket, etc. You can’t really do this sort of thing through back-of-the-envelop calculations.
As Raw Story notes, the RNC finally took the photo down today, after readers at Democratic Underground first began discussing it on Sunday. While it’s likely that the RNC “wasn’t aware the racist photo was on their page and it wasn’t produced or posted by anyone at the RNC,” the group had attacked MoveOn.org for a similar incident in 2004. As Chris Harris at Media Matters Action Network notes, when “a web user posted a self-produced web video that compared President Bush to Hitler as part of a MoveOn.org video contest, the RNC acted as if the video had been produced by MoveOn itself.” According to the National Journal:
“This is the worst and most vile form of political hate speech,” Republican National Committee spokesman Ed Gillespie proclaimed. “MoveOn.org should apologize.”
Boyd did just that, expressing “deep regret” that the ads made it through MoveOn’s filtering process, and promising to scrutinize such material in the future. Pariser emphasized that MoveOn had not produced the ads, not aired them, not endorsed them in the voting, and had removed them from the Web site –adding that the RNC had put them on its Web site to score points. Still, the damage had been done.