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December 2013

Obamacare: What happens once everyone is insured?

This HND piece enters territory that few others have covered, it seems. Accepting the absurd premise that getting everyone insured is the most important issue in health care, we dare to ask:  What happens next?

To clear the air, the most important issue in American health care is that we are paying far too much for mediocre outcomes. And, rather than creating a healthier population, we are creating an ever-older and ever-sicker group of drug-addled individuals who—it's true—are living longer, but that's about it.

Speaking of drugs, we offer a few anecdotes on recent screw-ups by one of the biggest in Big Pharma.

Read the complete article.

Secondhand smoke, third-rate science

Well, what do you know? All that hype about secondhand smoke turns out to be...hype, after all. A large prospective study, completed last summer produced this stunner:

Among never smokers, any passive smoking exposure and most passive smoking categories did not significantly increase lung cancer risk, compared to no passive exposure; however, passive exposure as an adult at home for 30 or more years was associated with increased risk, of borderline significance.

This HND piece gives you the details, and also looks under the hood at the so-called "evidence" behind the secondhand smoke scam. File this one under the Dan Ratheresque "fake but accurate" materials—intended to show the unwashed masses the proper way to live.

Read the complete article.

Obamacare and wellness...if only

This HND piece examines the so-called Safeway Amendment portion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). This is the name given to a ham-fisted "wellness" provision, that is every bit as bogus as were the grocery chain's overblown claims to saving big bucks on health care via would-be wellness programs.

To be sure, moving to a true health care, rather than a disease care model is the only way to control skyrocketing costs, but there is still plenty wrong with what is being passed off in the name of corporate wellness.

Read the complete article.

Sleigh Ride

This beloved Christmas classic was written by light symphonic composer Leroy Anderson (1908-1975). As his widow Eleanor related in 2010:

Leroy conceived of Sleigh Ride one hot July day in 1946. He was digging trenches in an attempt to locate an abandoned pipe that might bring water to a dried-up well that served our small Connecticut cottage. He didn't find the pipe, but he came in saying he had the idea for a new composition. He thought he would begin it with rhythmic sleigh bells. So, he didn't find the pipe, but he found Sleigh Ride instead.

However, the work was not published until February, 1948. The Mitchell Parish lyrics appeared in 1950. A truly gifted musician, Anderson was also quite the linguist—fluent in English, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, German, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

In a December 24, 1995 piece, Hartford Courant music critic Steve Metcalf noted that: "Sleigh Ride almost certainly holds the distinction of having been recorded by a broader aesthetic range of performers than any other piece in the history of Western music."

Here is Metcalf's quick analysis of the work...

It is 162 bars long, and takes, under the written tempo marking ("allegro con ritmo") just under three minutes to perform, start to finish.

After an energetic intro, the song's jaunty main, or "A" theme, written in the key of B-flat major, is announced, and then repeated, in the customary way for pop tunes. The middle or "B" section modulates to the relatively distant key of D, and then to C, before the "A" section returns one more time.

Most popular songs would conclude at this point, but here Sleigh Ride slides into an entirely new "C" section. In the vocal version this is the section that begins, "There's a birthday party at the home of Farmer Gray..."

This musical idea, in the even more remote key of G major, was actually the original motif that had come to Anderson on those first sultry days in 1946. But he thought the idea wasn't strong enough to qualify at the "head" of the tune, and so it was remanded to this secondary role.

"C" leads back to "A" once again, but because we've heard this twice already, Anderson now dresses it in a jazzy, syncopated feel. One more trip to the "B" section, then a final truncated "A," and then a small coda.

And at the very end, there is an Andersonesque touch that even today, after 50 years, sometimes brings forth titters from audiences: the first trumpet stands and makes a horse-whinny sound, signifying the end of the ride.

Although some years "Silent Night" is performed more frequently than Sleigh Ride, the latter is without question the performance champ of copyrighted works each Christmas season. The best version is probably the one recorded by Anderson himself in 1950.

There's also this nearly flawless piano duet version.

A simpler time, my friends...

Our cheeks are nice and rosy
And comfy cozy are we
We're snuggled up together like two
Birds of a feather would be

Let's take the road before us
And sing a chorus or two
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you

Further to previous posting

Subscribers to this blog got a special e-mail notification regarding the previous posting. I did receive a number of reply e-mails, and they were nearly all positive. However, since Holocaust imagery when used out of context can trigger strong emotions, it seems prudent to post this follow-up piece.

Most Jews assume a proprietary interest in all matters relating to the Holocaust, and while this is understandable, and while I have sympathy for this point of view, it is not unlimited.

The reason is that World War II, viewed dispassionately, was itself a mammoth holocaust—in which at least 50 million, and probably closer to 70 million souls perished. Moreover, by any rational reckoning, the vast majority of these deaths were all tragic, and the victims were innocent.

For every military man like the famous Georg von Trapp, who fled Austria rather than serve the Nazis, hundreds of thousands were drafted, and would either serve or be executed. Likewise, the vast majority of civilian victims were innocent, as well. To be sure, one can count up war criminals and vicious perpetrators, but set against a backdrop of 70 million, they are significant only inasmuch as they—not the rank and file—were the offenders.

A further problem is defending the notion of which deaths are more tragic than others. Remove the obvious cases of a three-year-old dying from leukemia versus the eventual death in prison of notorious octogenarian thug Whitey Bulger. Consider instead why an office worker dying in the Twin Towers on 9/11 is any more tragic than a motorist being killed in an accident in the Holland Tunnel on the same day—or any other day, for that matter.

By the same token, why is the individual death of a Jew in a concentration camp any more tragic than some Japanese civilian dying during the bombing of Hiroshima? Remove the politics from this, and you begin to see that these holocausts are almost inevitably the work of one or another government.

Which brings us to the relevance of Nazi imagery when one discusses Obamacare. Often suppressed from polite discourse is the glaring fact that universal government-run health care was started by none other than Adolf Hitler. He expanded greatly on the original program of Otto von Bismarck, which only applied to the poor.

And make no mistake. He knew exactly what he was doing. By controlling an enterprise that affects everyone, usually when they are at their most vulnerable, he could exercise even more of his precious fascist control. At the very least, treatment could be withheld from some, and forced on others. It is no secret that many of the Nazis' "best" methods of extermination were first developed in their government-run hospitals.

At its most benign, Obamacare is a gigantic power grab that rips the heart out of a good, if imperfect, American health care system. But it is far from benign in practice, and will facilitate massive fraud and many needless deaths.

No payment system? No problem

One of the many huge issues with the infamous website, that is only now getting the notoriety it deserves is this: There is currently no mechanism to get payments from the enrollees to the prospective insurance companies.

But, hey...No prob, bro. The insurance companies can simply submit their estimates to the Feds, who will get them the money—all to be settled up later.

Quoting from the article...

Health plans will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government. Once the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to "true up" payments, he said.

The fix puts an additional burden on insurance companies, already taxed by having to double-check faulty enrollment data from the system.

Now, companies need to quickly put together financial management systems to make the payment estimates, so they can be paid beginning in January.

Absolutely amazing, isn't it? Obama is so hellbent on launching this disaster that nothing will stop him. I'll go out on a limb here, and suggest that there may just be a few snags in this workaround. Any bets on which insurance carrier will drop out first?

As they used to say: Your tax dollars at work. And those of a certain age remember when this was not meant to be sarcastic.

Has the media become irrelevant?

Who can forget the heady days of 1972-1974 when the Watergate scandal dominated the media? I'm no fan of Richard Nixon, but compare how he was handled by the Washington Post to how this same paper is giving the kid gloves treatment to Barack Obama. No objective observer can dispute that the crimes of the Nixon administration pale in comparison—in both quantity and severity—to those of the current administration.

Finally, though, there are some negative pieces in WaPo, including a front page story on December 2nd noting that:

The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors—generated by the computer system—that mean they might not get the coverage they're expecting next month.

The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.

Kind of a bombshell, don't you think? Possibly as significant as a break-in at DNC headquarters, in a election where Nixon squeaked by with a 520 to 17 electoral vote advantage over the late and unlamented George McGovern? For those too young to remember, that event, and its ill-fated cover-up dominated the US media for two years!

Here's my take:

The media these days is irrelevant, except to a small number of enthusiasts. Think of it as the warnings recited during every pharmaceutical commercial on TV. Very often, death itself can be a side effect, but no one seems to care. Thus, the bad news is hiding in plain sight.

As such, WaPo can run the occasional story about Obama, and it won't change a thing. Even his most ardent supporters now realize that he is a smooth-talking incompetent buffoon, surrounded by more incompetent buffoons. However, they have way too much invested in this, and besides, since any criticism of any Black person for any reason at any time is always racist, who cares?

Most people accept that they can't do anything to stem the tide, and our best strategy is to wait for Obamacare, and the rest of his pernicious agenda to collapse under their own weight.