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Posts Tagged ‘United States

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? – Quinn to Try to Take Over Healthcare in Illinois

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Enforcement

When you want to make sure you have access to quality health care, there’s only one place you turn.  The Springfield bureaucracy, right?

Unbelievable.

A task force appointed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn wants a state law forcing insurers to spend 80 to 85 cents of every premium dollar on providing health care, or pay rebates to customers.In its initial recommendations released Thursday, the Health Care Reform Implementation Council also recommends legislation giving state regulators the authority to approve or deny health insurance rate increases.

The enforcement would be, pardon my french, a motherfucking catastrophe.  Before we even get to the inevitable corruption of the regulatory process, what qualifies as health care?  Inevitably there would be some unaccountable regulatory board where the insurance companies spend god knows how much time and money challenging every line item claiming it qualifies as health care, which will drive prices through the roof and make providing actual healthcare next to impossible.

And like I said, that’s before we get to the inevitable corruption.  This is Illinois politics, and there are quite literally billions at stake.  Does anyone actually think the appointments to these regulatory positions are going to be apolitical?  Sort of like it’s just a coincidence the Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party is also the Cook County Assessor?  The political and financial power that would fall on this presumably unelected regulatory board would be massive, and when an insurer is faced with either giving $5 million in political donations or giving a $50 million rebate, what do you think it’ll decide?  Considering it’s damn near impossible to prove quid pro quo, it would be idiotic to think this wouldn’t happen.

These ideas were bad when they were included in Obamacare.  They are infinitely worse when it’s suggested to put enforcement in the hands of political appointees accountable to no one but their political bosses in one of the most corrupt political systems in the United States.

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Written by updowndownup

February 4, 2011 at 10:35 am

Snowmaggedon – The Fun Part is Over

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VERY cold

Two days ago was all about drinking and watching the snow fall at home.  Yesterday was all about going out and taking all sorts of crazy pictures of the city after the storm.  Today people start dying.

People actually started dying almost immediately, with one in particular catching attention.

At 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, near the height of the third-worst blizzard in the city’s history, Chicago police received a distress call: A man had been blown in, or had fallen into, Diversey Harbor.

The Police Marine Unit launched a rescue, but amid the blowing snow and high winds, it was impossible to enter the water. What’s more, officers couldn’t pinpoint the best location to dive. After several hours, “they spotted a hat near a dock,” said Officer Robert Perez, a spokesman.

The body of Peter Davis, 60, of the 2300 block of North Lincoln Park West, was pulled from the harbor about 4:35 a.m. in the 2800 block of North Lake Shore Drive. Officials don’t know why he was out on the lakefront Tuesday, but by Wednesday, Davis was being called the only known blizzard-related fatality in Chicago.

There were a few deaths yesterday from people who had heart attacks and couldn’t get to the hospital on time (for obvious reasons).  And although the major streets are going to be mostly cleared today, the city is just starting on the side streets, meaning there are still going to be quite a few streets where emergency care can’t get to you (so if you can, put off the shoveling until they plow your street).

ComEd says the places without power should have it soon, which is good, as it’s about to get very cold.

After getting hit with its third-biggest snowstorm on record, the Chicago area is now under a wind chill advisory. Temperatures are expected to drop to 11-15 degrees below zero Wednesday night, with wind chills down to 25 to 35 below zero.

“It will mark the city’s coldest weather since Jan. 15-16, 2009 when the mercury bottomed out at -13 and -18,” the Chicago Weather Center reports.

The arctic freeze comes as the Chicago area is still reeling from the blizzard: motorists are still stranded, the airports are virtually empty, major roads are closed, Metra trains are running on limited schedules.

I can’t reiterate this enough – if you don’t have access to a warm place tonight call 311.  People are going to freeze to death tonight.  Landlords also need to recognize that they are required, by law, to keep the temperature in units they rent at 66 degrees during the night.  If your landlord has a tendency not to fulfill this particular responsibility, now is not the time for faith in his/her ability to rise to the occasion.  Call 311.

Written by updowndownup

February 3, 2011 at 11:31 am

People Stranded on Lake Shore Drive All Night – I Bet Daley’s Pissed

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Legacy

Before the blizzard really hit Mayor Daley went out on an all-out news blitz about the efforts underway to deal with the oncoming storm.  Then it started to snow…

Before the city shut down the Drive, traffic had been crawling; it took upwards of an hour to travel only a mile. Many cars were without a full tank of gas, and ended up running out.

Evanston attorney Craig Roeder says he got on Lake Shore Drive at 6 p.m. and headed north. He says he crept and crawled until just south of Fullerton Parkway, when traffic ground to a halt around 9:30 pm.

And there he sat, in whiteout conditions for six hours, until 3:20 a.m. when WBBM Newsradio 780’s David Roe was interviewing him on the phone.

Jim Glonke was stranded near North Avenue for 11 hours. He told CBS 2 he left his office in Chinatown in the late afternoon Tuesday, and it was backed up. He arrived at North Avenue around 7 p.m., and traffic stopped completely for an hour or two. Glonke was told a jackknifed bus was to blame.

A CTA bus driver told CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole he had been stranded on Lake Shore Drive since 5:40 p.m. Tuesday. That was at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday.

The trains are doing better, but that’s a case of damned with faint praise.

Metra trains are delayed up to three hours because of switching problems and weather conditions and numerous trains are stopped throughout the suburbs, according to Metra’s website.

The CTA is reporting Yellow Line service has been suspended and the Blue, Red and Purple lines are experiencing “significant delays.” Some CTA buses have also become stuck in the snow.

Watching the news blitz last night I found myself thinking that the response to this storm is Daley’s last hurrah, which makes this stuff all the more aggravating.  Realistically, what did the people taking Lake Shore Drive expect?  Traffic sucks there during rush hour under the best of circumstances, dump a foot of snow and add 25 foot waves and 60 mph winds…did you really think you were going to get home that way?  If there was a screw up on the city’s behalf, it was failing to shut it down before these idiots got on in the first place.

The most important barometer of the city’s response to the storm is going to be the death toll, in terms of emergency shelters for the homeless, whether landlords kept to the temperature laws and if anyone dies of carbon monoxide poisoning.  We’ll see over the next couple of days, but unfortunately for Daley, people not dying is rarely considered news.

The other big test is going to be how quickly the roads are cleared and how quickly the CTA returns to being “on-schedule” (which is an extremely relative term for the CTA).

If people respond as they tend to do to weather disasters – poorly – this could be a tragically fitting metaphor for Daley’s legacy as Mayor.  Old time Chicagoans will point out how Chicago was before Daley came on, where you couldn’t walk around in the Loop at night for fear of getting shot, neighborhoods like Lincoln Park were warzones, and Chicago was seen much like a haven for violent crime.  Now it’s in many ways a world class city, and yet Daley may be just as remembered, if not more so, for the fiscal catastrophe he’s leaving the city in.  It’s fair, but it’s also tempting to lose perspective on how monumental his accomplishments have actually been.

Written by updowndownup

February 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Carol Moseley Braun to Watkins – “You Were on Crack!”

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The video really speaks for itself, so please watch it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Carol Moseley Braun to Watkins – “You Were on C…, posted with vodpod

Somewhere I’m sure Malcom X is very proud of the solidarity in Chicago’s black community.

Watkins fired the first shot accusing Moseley Braun of leaving public life for several years.

“I did not even know the woman lived in the city of Chicago because I haven’t heard her voice on the street,” Watkins said.

“Patricia, just because you didn’t know who I was for the last seven years is because you were on crack,” Moseley Braun said.

While Watkins admits she was a drug addict at 19, she says she was never addicted to crack.

“She could be sued for slander,” Watkins said.

Even with the threat of a lawsuit, Moseley Braun is not apologizing for her remarks.

“When someone slaps you like that then you have to tell the truth and that is what I did,” Moseley Braun said.

If you’re not familiar with Watkins, you’re not alone.  She’s been polling at 1%.  Apparently Braun thought that this 1% was so important it was worth it, though…

Written by updowndownup

January 31, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Maybe This Whole Thing Was Just What Rahm Needed – Rahm Finally Over 50%

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50%

I don’t know how I missed this, but yesterday there was an interesting poll on CapFax.  It’s a poll from We Ask America, sponsored by the Chicago Retail Merchants Association (so take it for what you will), and it shows not only people overwhelmingly want Rahm on the ballot, but he’s finally crossed over the magic number.  I guess it’s a case of don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

It makes sense, considering Rahm coming off the ballot made people look into the abyss and see there’s no one there they could even imagine wanting as Mayor.  It’s fitting that the number of undecideds gets a significantly bigger bump without Rahm than any of the other candidates.  The upside to this is that if Rahm stays on the ballot, this thing should be over with the primary, which means we won’t have an additional month and a half of this nonsense.

Written by updowndownup

January 27, 2011 at 8:47 am

Illinois’ Own Failed Stimulus Loses Its Funding

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Defunded

Back in January of 2009, hyped up on stimulus-feva, Illinois passed a $31 billion capital bill called “Illinois Jobs Now”.  Today, thanks to the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks and an Illinois Appellate Court a lot of the funding for it is now going…going…gone.

The Illinois Court of Appeals has ruled the General Assembly acted unconstitutionally when it approved funding sources for the state’s $31 billion capital construction program.

The lawsuit that led to Wednesday’s ruling was filed by W. Rockwell Wirtz, better known as Rocky Wirtz. His family is best known as owners of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. The foundation of their financial fortune, however, is Wirtz Beverage Illinois, a distributor of alcoholic beverages.

Used to getting their way in Springfield, the Wirtz family was infuriated when the legislature ignored their objections to the liquor tax.

A spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan estimated that the ruling eliminated at least 40 percent of the funding sources devoted to the state’s giant capital construction program.

The decision is available here.

Ultimately this is going to cause some big problems, largely for the same reason that this was found to be unconstitutional.  For some stupid reason when the package was passed the spending and revenue portions were put in separate bills.  The revenue portion, the part that was found to be unconstitutional, was found to be so as it violates Illinois’ Single Subject Rule.  The standard for this rule is whether there’s a “natural and logical” connection between the different aspects of a bill.  Had the spending and revenue portions been part of the same bill, the funding probably could have been sold as the natural and logical connection of funding the capital bill.  Instead, the only thing that connects the provisions in a stand-alone revenue bill is “revenue”, which has already been ruled to be too broad.

This also means that the spending bill is still law.  If Madigan’s projections of this cutting 40% of the capital bill’s funding, that would mean there is now $12.4 billion is newly unfunded spending.  This would erase all of the benefits to the deficit from the tax hike, and add an additional $5 billion to it.  In other words, there is going to have to be another tax hike.  Like, right now.

Considering the reaction to the last tax hike, good luck with that.

A lot of the problem could be dealt with by a stand-alone video gambling bill, but that’s going to be a tough sell.  Video poker, aka “the crack cocaine of gambling”, was a big issue in the last election in just about every Republican-leaning and centrist area of the state.  Most of the new guys ran against video gambling, and the survivors typically ran away from their vote and would be loathe to immediately show that those tacts were bullshit.  It could probably pass, but it’d be a lot rougher than it was last time (and it wasn’t pretty last time).

On top of that, back then the proponents of the package had the myth of jobs and stimulus and whatnot to help sell the bill.  Now they can’t.  Any stimulative effect has long since been priced in, and just as the conservatives expected, Illinois still sucks.  So instead of buying jobs, growth and stability, now it’s just staving off a budget collapse to pay for annoying road construction.

In short, get your popcorn ready.

Medical Marijuana – The Road to Legalization

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Medical marijuana neon sign at a dispensary on...

Progress

I’m of the school of libertarianism that finds laws banning pot not only ridiculous, but immoral.  Our imprisonment rates are like those under Stalin in Russia, and it has led to the deaths of thousands (if you consider more than 80% of the drugs smuggled over the Mexican border is pot).  Still, it’s not going to happen, at least not yet.

Aside from the confirmation received in, let’s say the greenest state, California when they voted down a proposition to legalize pot, polling shows it.  Aside from a few outliers, most polling over the past decade has reflected about a 40-55 split against legalization.  About 40% believe in the obviously discredited story of pot being a “gateway drug”.  43% think pot is worse than alcohol (not true) and 87% think pot is at least as bad as alcohol (also not true).  Only 22% of seniors support legalization, and the only age demographic where a majority supports legalization is the 18-29 demo (big surprise there).  Fewer than 1/4 Republicans supports legalization and less than half of Democrats do.  In short, not gonna happen, at least not yet.

For years different tricks have been attempted to shift the debate.  The “legalize and tax” argument didn’t work.  The “it’s by far the biggest cash crop in the United States, so it would be huge for the economy” argument didn’t work.  The “thousands of college students die every year of alcohol poisoning while it’s physically impossible to OD on pot” argument didn’t work.  And when you consider the polling above, it’s not particularly surprising.

There is one area where the door is slightly cracked open.  Between 70 and 80% consistently support medical marijuana.  About the same amount think that marijuana has genuine medical benefits.

This needs to be the issue.  It can’t be about college students or drug dealers or burned out stoners who are sick of the man harshing their buzz.  It has to be about cancer patients who are suffering at the hands of idiot puritanical bureaucrats who are blinded by puritanical idiocy.

There is room for movement on the fringes.  Nationally people break evenly on whether the cost of enforcement is too high or acceptable, and it’s safe to assume that these people aren’t evenly distributed nationwide.  This means there are going to be lots of places where pot can be “decriminalized” (although that term is horrible from a framing perspective), meaning the penalty becomes similar to that of a speeding ticket.  About 1/3 think pot would help the economy vs. 1/5 who think it would make it worse, which means it’s an argument worth making when talking to open-minded skeptics.

In terms of organized political action though, you all need to deal with the fact that it’s going to be a while before pot is legal, and focus on legalizing medical marijuana everywhere.  And when you do it, it’s never about pot, it’s never about the people opposing out.  It has to always be about the people who are suffering from horrible, painful and terminal diseases because pot’s not legal.  They are the only pot users who are currently sympathetic, and so it all has to be about them.

Once it’s legal medically, the baseline will shift.  People will become more comfortable with cutting penalties.  People will become comfortable with making legalization a local issue, provided their locality keeps it illegal.  Once an effective, accurate roadside test is developed to bust stoned drivers, people will eventually come around to legalization.

As it is now there are 15 states and Washington DC where medical marijuana is legal.  Out of those 16, 10 made it legal by ballot initiative.  Out of those 10, there was only one state where the vote was close (Arizona), everywhere else it passed with a range from 54% to 65%.  This stands to reason, as politicians are going to be far more loathe to admit to being pro-drug in any way, shape or form than people who don’t have to live in that kind of spotlight.

So right now, if you’re for legalization in any way, you need to work towards getting a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana.  And if/when the issue is political, never forget, it’s all about the sympathetic figures.