Any LGBT’s Out There?


The Screen Actors Guild, one of the unions I’m required to belong to, has sent its 2010 diversity census form to its members. There are just four questions, numbered 1, 2, 3 and (I swear) 3. The first Question #3 is: Do you identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender (LGBT)? Two additional questions leaped immediately to mind. I’ll call them questions number 1 and 1. First, and/or? The mind boggles at the and possibilities. Second, what does the parenthetical LGBT mean? Is that one of the “and/ors?” Well, it turns out (and, heck, you probably knew this) it stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. So it was just restating the options; a kind of internal redundancy (like ATM Machine–Automated Teller Machine Machine or PIN Number–Personal Identification Number Number).

Being somewhat sheltered, apparently, I was surprised to learn there was a catch-all abbreviation for the alternative lifestyles crowd. Like LOL and BFF, I can now add LGBT to my personal lexicon. It was a little like when a smarmy Anderson Cooper introduced me to the term “teabagging” on CNN. You’re never too old to learn.

Artisanal Sno-Cones


This morning on the Ricochet podcast we were talking about the signifiers that bind the members of the media together – the emblems of class and tribe one can reasonably expect from a middle-aged J-school grad. For some reason I thought of a New York Times piece on summer treats. Like popsicles, and how they can be ruined with a light glaze of faddish pretension.

Popsicles were once a a simple thing, with simple rules: the bag stuck to the treat, but yielded when you pulled. The popsicle could be cleaved on a metal porch railing, a countertop, or cracked with brute force. Sometimes it broke wrong; that was life. Banana was rare and highly prized. The last few bites always tasted of wood. That was enough, no? No: they’ll be ruined right after Sno-Cones. From the New York Times:

Kagan Hearings Day 4: Is the Roberts Court Pro-Business? As if!


The last day of the Kagan hearings arrived, and it was about as exciting as watching Paraguay play in the World Cup. Today’s was a collection of three panels of about 24 witnesses representing various supporters and opponents of Elena Kagan. The Judiciary Committee delayed the hearings until 4 pm, because of the memorial for Senator Byrd, and ran through the whole proceeding by about 8 pm. Like just about all of the other Supreme Court confirmation hearings of the last 20 years, the witnesses again played their expected parts — no new bombshells here.

The one thing to notice, though, is that Senate Democrats turned most of their time to a new theme: that the Roberts Court sides with big corporations over the little guy. As a former clerk on the Court (to Justice Clarence Thomas), this is just plain silliness — the Justices just don’t think about cases this way. They are far more interested in the interpretation of the Constitution than whether it happens to help a corporation or a “little guy” in any particular case. They don’t even think much about the workings of the free market, I am sorry to say — the Lochner period, in which the Court did invalidate legislation that infringed the individual right to contract, has been so discredited that none of the conservative justices have called for its return.

Kagan Hearings Day 3: Confirming Obama


After three days of hearings, the Senators couldn’t lay a glove on Kagan. The closest they came was the discovery that Kagan, as a White House policy advisor, had helped draft the expert opinion of a doctor’s group in opposition to a bill to ban partial-birth abortion. Even then, the questioning wasn’t over Kagan’s view of Roe v. Wade, or its extensions, such as the looming question of same-sex marriage.

This should come as no surprise. Kagan’s day job is to argue the fine points of the law with her future colleagues; the Senators never had a chance, especially with the limited time they have to ask questions and the, let us say, infirm grasp some of them have of constitutional law. Evading Senators’ questions should be child’s play compared to bobbing and weaving at the counsel’s table in the Supreme Court.

Obama on Immigration


This morning, President Obama gave his first speech devoted entirely to the topic of immigration reform.  As usual, the President talked out of both sides of his mouth and avoided taking a firm stance on any one approach to solving the nation’s immigration problems.  Predictably, Obama blamed Republicans for being partisan, and perhaps unpredictably, he acknowledged that his approach toward immigration reform would mirror his predecessor’s.

Over at The Corner, Mark Krikorian took a stab at analyzing the president’s speech:

For Spending Experts, Enough Is Not Enough


Ruh-roh. After sticking around 460,000 for weeks, jobless claims jumped to 472,000 last week. Economists had expected them to fall to the high 450s. That’s not a good sign in advance of tomorrow’s unemployment report. In fact, it’s not a good sign at all. My colleague Neil Irwin, who knows about these things, tweets, “Semi-Benign explanation: Pessimistic workers are quicker to file claims. Non-benign: Double dip time.” — Ezra Klein

Ezra cries that “the government did quite a lot — though not enough — to help.” But in a world where the government’s long train of outsized outlays is pegged to predictions that don’t hold, my prediction is that experts on Ezra’s side of the fence will be forced to insist that only more than enough is enough. How much more? The power to guess is the power to destroy.

Outing CIA officers


Wasn’t it only a few years ago that the press was baying for the head of my then colleague Karl Rove, when they thought he was the man who had leaked the name of Valerie Plame (turns out there was a lot less interest when it emerged the leaker was Richard Armitage.

Well, here’s the lead paragraph in a story about an explicit effort to unmask CIA operatives:

Washington DC Waste City


As Founding Director of The Foundation For Health Coverage Education, I have interesting access to areas of health care and health insurance others do not get to see. Our web site has the entire US health insurance system on line. Folks simply answer 5 questions and the program tells them the plans, public or private, for which they are eligible. It provides them applications, contact information and eligibility requirements. It takes about one minute.

As part of the healthcare reform bill, the US government is creating a copy of our web site. We have had over 2 million unique visitors to our site. We built the site over the last 6 years in order to help lower the uninsured numbers. We invested about $500,000 in software and information gathering. Our site is ranked the number one site in America for health insurance information by Kiplinger’s.

Do I look kind of orange to you?


I was just sitting here contemplating the silence (you are all, presumably, in your chrysalises, waiting for Morning in America), when I noticed with some alarm that compared to the other contributors, I look orange. In fact, my skin isn’t orange at all. Not that there would be a thing wrong with it if there were, I of course celebrate and cherish the vivid rainbow of our diversity, but in point of fact, my skin simply isn’t that color and I don’t believe any member of the species homo sapiens‘ ever has been. Could it be the color settings on my computer screen? Or do I look orange to all of you, too?

Riding the Storm Out


If anything exciting should happen as a result of Hurricane Alex, I should be able to provide a first-hand account, due chiefly to the inability of a dispatcher to read a map.  Yesterday I had the privilege of bringing a truckload of debris to Weslaco, TX.  Actually, it wasn’t called debris.  The bill of lading said it was lumber, and on close inspection it certainly looked like lumber.  People will attach it to their windows, after which the hurricane will remove it.   Once it is fully processed, it becomes debris, and no self respecting storm should be without a good supply of it.  I’ve often wondered, when watching television coverage of these storms, where all that debris comes from.  Now I know.  We truck it in!  I’m glad I could help in the effort to pre-position the debris. 

I was hoping to get a load assignment this morning that would take me out of the area.  After all, I wouldn’t want to haul all that debris back to San Antonio.  Instead, the little computer in my cab beeped this morning with an assignment to go to Brownsville, TX, to pick up a loaded trailer and deliver down the road close to Padre Island, even as the storm homed in.  I called my dispatcher to inquire what brand of glue they had been sniffing when he promised that if I could take care of that load, he would get me out of the area.  Of course, if he failed, it wouldn’t really be a problem since the storm itself could get me out of the area much faster than he could. 

Haiti, Medika Mamba, and the problem with foreign aid


Here’s a fascinating article by Pooja Bhatia about the unhappy fate of an indigenous Haitian peanut butter company.

Unfortunately, the Medika Mamba tale has been far too common in Haiti for years, emblematic of what has been wrong with foreign aid. Local producers can rarely compete with the influx of food, medicine, and other supplies that aid agencies bring. This is part of the reason why today — after decades of aid dependence — Haiti has almost no local economy for these goods.

An interesting study before health reform


Since our foundation was having so much contact with so many uninsured Americans, Stanford and The Wharton Business School were interested in doing a study on the impact of our site on the uninsured. They simply wanted to take 5k uninsured who knew about us and 5k who didn’t and see how many actually got signed up. Our advisory board thought it was a good idea, but like any good litigator we should have an idea of the answer before we ask the question. So we asked a prominent hospital system if they would ask all of the folks coming into the emergency room uninsured the eligibility quiz to discover who should have been liable for the bills experienced by the patient. Over two months the hospitals asked over 4000 uninsured patients. The results were astounding. 99% were eligible for either a private program or a highly subsidized State or Federal program. 75% were eligible for a State program that would be free or highly subsidized. About 22% were eligible for MediCal which is California’s Medicaid program.

What most people do not know is that the hospital and doctors are eligible to collect payment if they can show that at the time of service the patient was eligible for MediCal they can collect retroactively. It used to be acceptable for the provider to collect up to one year after the service. This gave them time to work through the system. As the budget got tighter and tighter they lowered the time from 1 year to six months and now 90 days. So while they are supposed to be able to collect, if the bureaucratic delay is greater than 90 days there is no payment. In almost all cases the delay was greater than 90 days so it has become impossible for the servicers to collect from MediCal. They simply treat and release the non-admitted patients, and try as hard as they can to collect on the patients who are admitted, but it is terribly difficult. In the next chapter find out how the service was when we called MediCal 50 times over two weeks during working hours.

The world’s most indiscreet secret meeting


The press is alive this morning with reports of the secret meeting between Israeli and Turkish ministers. Since this obviously isn’t a secret at all–every detail of the meeting appears to have been leaked to every organ of the Turkish, Israeli and international media simultaneously–I’m once again left scratching my head and wondering just what kind of game these crazy local kids are up to now.

Anyone up for another round of Ricochet Risk, Middle East Edition?