Archive for the ‘Financial melt-down’ Category

The Ayn Rand-Worshipping Sears CEO That Blew Up His Multibillion Dollar Empire

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

The invisible hand waves goodbye to America’s most delusional CEO.

 

Once upon a time, hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert was living a Wall Street fairy tale. His fairy godmother was Ayn Rand, the dashing diva of free-market ideology whose quirky economic notions would transform him into a glamorous business hero.

For a while, it seemed to work like a charm. Pundits called him the “ Steve Jobs of the investment world.” The new Warren Buffett. By 2006 he was flying high, the richest man in Connecticut, managing over $15 billion thorough his hedge fund, ESL Investments.

Stoked by his Wall Street success, Lampert plunged headlong into the retail world. Undaunted by his lack of industry experience and hailed a genius, Lampert boldly pushed to merge Kmart and Sears with a layoff and cost-cutting strategy that would, he promised, send profits into the stratosphere. Meanwhile the hotshot threw cash around like an oil sheikh, buying a $40 million pad in Florida’s Biscayne Bay, a record even for that star-studded county.

Fast-forward to 2013: The fairy tale has become a nightmare.

Lampert is now known as one of the worst CEOs in America — the man who flushed Sears down the toilet with his demented management style and harebrained approach to retail. Sears stock is tanking. His hedge fun is down 40 percent, and the business press has turned from praising Lampert’s genius towatching gleefully as his ship sinks. Investors are running from “Crazy Eddie” like the plague.

That’s what happens when Ayn Rand is the basis for your business plan.

Crazy Eddie has been one of America’s most vocal advocates of discredited free-market economics, so obsessed with Ayn Rand he could rattle off memorized passages of her novels. As Mina Kimes explained in a fascinating profile in Bloomberg Businessweek, Lampert took the myth that humans perform best when acting selfishly as gospel, pitting Sears company managers against each other in a kind of Lord of the Flies death match. This, he believed, would cause them to act rationally and boost performance.

If you think that sounds batshit crazy, congratulations. You understand more than most of America’s business school graduates.

Instead of enhancing Sears’ bottom line, the heads of various divisions began to undermine each other and fight tooth and claw for the profits of their individual fiefdoms at the expense of the overall brand. By this time Crazy Eddie was completely in thrall to his own bloated ego, and fancied he could bend underlings to his will by putting them through humiliating rituals, like annual conference calls in which unit managers were forced to bow and scrape for money and resources. But the chaos only grew.

Lampert took to hiding behind a pen name and spying on and goading employees through an internal social network. He became obsessed with technology, wasting resources on developing apps as Sears’ physical stores became dilapidated and filthy. Instead of investing in workers and developing useful products, he sold off valuable real estate, shuttered stores, and engineered stock buybacks in order to manipulate stock prices and line his own pockets.

Eddie’s crazy didn’t stop there. As a Wall Street creature fantastically out of touch with the kind of ordinary folks who shop at Sears, he inserted his love of luxury into the mix, trying to sell Rolex watches and $4,400 designer handbags through America’s iconic budget-friendly brand.

As his company was descending into Randian mayhem, Lampert continued to cheerfully inform stockholders that his revolutionary ideas would soon produce earth-shattering results. Reality: Sears has lost half its value in five years. Since 2010, Sears has closed more than half of its stores. Sears Holdings is financially distressed and Lampert’s own hedge fund has reduced its stake in the company. The Sears store in Oakland, California, open for business with boarded-up windows, has even been cited for urban blight.

– to the original story:  

 

No single rain drop thinks it is responsible for the flood

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

– That little saying is a favorite of mine.  

– Here’s a story from my city, Christchurch, New Zealand, that will illustrate the problem quite well.

– If you will, please, read the story below and then at the end I will tell you how it is all going to turn out – and you will see the point of the saying that “No single raindrop thinks that it is responsible for the flood”.

– dennis

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Big shakeup coming for Chch hospitals

New Zealand’s private healthcare system is set to be shaken up by the imminent arrival of a new hospital in Christchurch.

Forte Health, the multimillion-dollar specialist, short-stay hospital owned entirely by surgeons, is two months from opening and is already causing controversy.

The newcomer’s 25 shareholders are all specialist surgeons – absorbing every urologist in Christchurch, half of the city’s orthopaedic surgeons and most of its ear, nose and throat specialists, The Press understands.

Concerns have been raised about Forte’s shareholder-surgeons having a vested interest in shepherding patients towards their hospital for personal gain and health economists have criticised Forte’s short-stay model as “cherry-picking” the private market.

Christchurch’s two existing private hospitals are feeling the squeeze from Forte and will inevitably lose millions of dollars in revenue once it opens.

St George’s and Southern Cross hospitals both have 10 operating theatres in Christchurch and Forte will be adding another four into the mix, while gunning for the biggest volume of surgery in the market.

Forte is targeting the less-complex day surgeries from four key specialties: Ear, nose and throat; urology; gynaecology; and orthopaedics.

St George’s Hospital chief executive Greg Brooks said Forte’s arrival raised some difficult questions about the future.

Brooks was already investigating other potential revenue streams to help ease the loss of day surgeries.

“The challenge from our perspective is that as surgeons they can direct patients to their hospital and so it is a real risk for us,” he said.

Auckland University health economist Professor Toni Ashton said if a patient goes to a Forte surgeon for a consultation “of course they are going to direct them into their business, they are the shareholders for goodness sake”.

This new surgeon-shareholder business model will force Christchurch’s existing private hospitals out of the competition for day surgery, Brooks said.

And, if this model gains momentum, surgeons across the country could view it as a “vehicle for income opportunities” and this could lead to an upheaval of private healthcare in New Zealand, he said.

“We are all waiting to see what will happen.”

Forte Health chairman David Barker said the hospital had grown out of the earthquake-damaged Oxford Clinic and that it would be “replacing and enhancing competition” in the private market that was lost as a result of the quake.

Forte surgeons would continue to operate in the public sector and at the city’s other two private hospitals, he said.

The shareholder-surgeons were aware of their ethical responsibilities and would only direct patients toward Forte “if their surgery is suited to that environment”, Barker said.

Ian Powell, a senior doctors’ spokesman speaking in a personal capacity, said Forte was defining a niche within the market by targeting less complex surgeries, but “if I was in St George’s chair, I would see that as cherry-picking”.

The cost of running short-stay facilities was considerably less to other hospitals and New Zealand Medical Association chairman Dr Mark Peterson said Forte’s costs must reflect “that they are a lower-risk facility”.

“If they are charging the same rates for a lower acuity facility, I might have some concerns about that,” he said.

Southern Cross Hospitals chief operating officer Tau-Loon Ho said there had been recent increases in specialist owned short-stay clinics aimed at providing less complex care, but “what is concerning is the increasingly high cost of simple procedures being undertaken by many of these facilities”.

Academic Dr Michael Gousmett, who is an expert on charitable hospitals, said Forte would also put pressure on the public sector by “spreading our surgeons too thinly on the ground”.

Yet, CDHB chief executive David Meates said the establishment of Forte Health would not have any significant impact on the public sector.

The new hospital is expected to open on January 20.

QUALITY CARE OR PRIME CUT?

It is the lull before the storm for Christchurch’s private-health sector.

Come January next year, a new multimillion-dollar, glass-encased surgical hospital in Kilmore St will open its doors and cause a huge upheaval in the region’s health arena.

Forte Health is poised to enter the private-hospital realm with a small army of 25 specialist surgeons as its shareholders.

It will be targeting the biggest volume of surgery in the market – the short-stay, less-complex procedures – from four key specialties: ear, nose and throat, urology, orthopaedics and gynaecology.

It is understood all of the city’s urologists, at least half of its orthopaedic surgeons and all but one ear, nose and throat surgeon are shareholders in the venture.

The three-storey hospital will have 14 patient beds, four operating theatres and in excess of 100 staff and clinicians.

It is the most competitive beast to enter Christchurch’s private-health sector and, with the countdown on for open day, the city’s two existing private hospitals, St George’s and Southern Cross, are starting to sweat.

The newcomer will soak up hundreds of surgeries and million of dollars of revenue from their books.

Forte is less than two months off opening and questions have started to circle on the ethics of a private hospital owned entirely by surgeons who will have a vested interest in directing patients toward their hospital for financial gain.

Health economists and experts also query the way the new enterprise appears to be “cherry-picking the private sector” by targeting the easiest operations.

“This is a significant issue for us,” St George’s Hospital chief executive Greg Brooks said.

“The challenge from our perspective is that as surgeons they can direct their patients to their hospital and so it is a real risk for us.” Brooks said.

“What we need to be able to do is counter that by being able to provide good quality facilities so that the surgeons are encouraged to deliver their care here.”

Both St George’s and Southern Cross would struggle to compete for day surgeries against Forte because “our ability to influence the patients’ choice of selection is very small because the surgeon always meets the patient”, Brooks said.

This would leave St George’s and Southern Cross with the day-surgery leftovers and the more complex patients that Forte did not have the ability to care for.

St George’s was already actively looking at “diversification of revenue streams” to mitigate the birth of Forte, he said.

“You have to accept that competition comes and you have to adapt the business the best you can.”

If Forte’s shareholder-surgeon model gained momentum “and surgeons view this as a vehicle for income opportunities for the future”, it might be replicated all over New Zealand which would have a massive impact on our country’s health sector, Brooks said.

“We are all waiting to see what will happen.”

Southern Cross Hospitals chief operating officer Tau-Loon Ho said there had been a recent increase in the number of specialist-owned, short-stay facilities that were “geared toward the lower-cost, less-complex end of the spectrum”.

The cost of running such facilities was considerably less than more comprehensive hospitals, but “what is concerning is the increasingly high cost of simple procedures being undertaken by many of these facilities”, he said.

Forte Health was born out of the closure of the Oxford Clinic after it was damaged in the earthquakes.

The private clinic was run off the shareholder-surgeon model and, when it needed to relocate, other specialists in the city saw this as an opportunity to join forces and build a multimillion-dollar “larger and more comprehensive short-stay facility”, Forte Health chairman David Barker said.

The new hospital would be “restoring some competition in the private-hospital market which was lost as a result of the earthquakes”, he said.

The hospital’s surgeon-shareholder model was not an ethical issue as surgeons were aware of their responsibilities.

Patients would be directed to the most appropriate facility for their care, Barker said.

Surgical costs were still unknown for Forte but, Barker said, “we want to be efficient in all aspects, not just clinical but also financial”.

Senior doctors’ spokesman Ian Powell said Forte was smart to focus on the less complex procedures, but this could also be deemed as “cherry-picking the market”.

Powell, who is the executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists but was speaking in a personal capacity, said the private sector entered the market only when it could see a demand and “like a corner dairy, they will only put products on shelves that they know will sell”.

If the facility was set up only for easy, low-risk procedures, its prices should reflect this, Powell said.

Other hospitals around the country were run off the shareholder-surgeon model and there were strong ethical guidelines around this, he said.

“If they are deliberately directing people to use private services because of their personal advantage than that’s a no-no and, if people behave naughty, or in a way that’s unprofessional, they can put their employment with the DHB at risk.”

Professor Tony Blakely, of Otago University’s department of public health in Wellington, said there was a best- and worst-case scenario with the arrival of Forte.

The best-case scenario was that the new venture would provide cost-effective services in the most efficient manner possible.

The worst-case scenario was that it “merely serves to boost specialist incomes, divert specialists away from public delivery of services and cream skims off easier patients”.

To the original article:  

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– After reading the story, you can see that this is going to be good for the physicians that setup the new private hospital and it is going to be bad for the public healthcare system which is going to inherit the tougher in-patient cases while losing the more profitable out-patient cases.

– But, as an American, speaking from our history, I can tell you it will get worse than that in time.

– After these 25 doctors own this private hospital for a while and it becomes obvious that it is a successful and going concern, then either the urge to take it public will become irresistible or some existing corporation with deep pockets will simply come along and buy the entire thing.  

– In either case, the owner physicians will stand to make a huge chuck of money and the organization itself will pass into the hands of a public for-profit corporation.

– Sadly, we’ve seen this cycle in the U.S.  

– Originally, a few decades ago, most U.S. doctors had their own private practices.  But, after a time, running their own accounting, acquiring and owning their own medical equipment (very expensive) and each having his or her own office staff and quarters became burdensome.  

– So they began to band together into group clinics with shared medical equipment and receptionists.  They farmed their accounting out to specialist medical accounting services and they got down to just having to have one or two nurses on-staff.

– Eventually, they were ‘noticed’ by large American corporations who realized that these clinics were absolute ‘cash cows’ and they started to buy them up.  This buying up has now consolidated most previously independent medical practices in the U.S. into medical corporations.

– The doctors in the clinics were persuaded to join this consolidation by money and how easy life was going to be for them post-acquisition.   No staffing worries – it would all be handled by the corporate mothership.  No equipment worries.  Nice offices were provided.  All the insurance and other logistical nightmare would all be sorted out for them.   All they had to do after the acquisitions was to come into work and be doctors and see patients.   What a sweet deal.

– But, of course, the darker side was that corporation’s primary reason for existing was and is to maximize the return on their shareholder’s investments in them. 

– And implementing such maximization involves a few simple ideas:  minimize costs and maximize profits.  All good?  Then go around and repeat again.

– Hence the bean counters arrived and now every medical procedure, like an MRI or an optional lab test, had to be ‘justified’,  Justified not only on the physician’s thought that it was going to be a necessary part of the diagnosis but on the basis of whether or not it was justified in terms of being cost effective.  Is there a cheaper way?  How many patients might be lost they don’t receive the procedure or test?   How many can we lose and it still will be an acceptable rate?   And etc.

– I know a physician in the U.S. who was my G.P. for two decades and who became a friend of mine as well.  

– We were discussing this one day and he told me that each time he prescribes an MRI to investigate some issue or other, he has to fill out 30 minutes worth of paper work for each procedure to justify it and its the costs.   And since he is booked (mandated by the corporation for efficiency reasons) to see a new patient every 20 or 30 minutes all day long, there’s rarely any time during the work day to fill these papers out.  So, if he wants to order the tests, then he has to stay over at the end of the day to do the paperwork.

– He said that some days he’s just exhausted at day’s end and because of that, if a case is really marginal and the patient might be OK without the MRI, he might just skip it.  

– He told me that he worries that one or two of the folks he skipped might have received a life-saving diagnosis, if they would have had their MRI.  And thus they died unnecessarily.  And that this played on his conscience and he felt it was a direct result of medicine in the U.S. being turned into a for-profit corporate exercise wherein decisions were being made on a cost basis rather than on a patient health basis.

– So, when I say that the new private Christchurch Hospital will be worse that most folks can imagine now, this is what I mean.  

– Each doctor in the new hospital obviously sees a nice opportunity to make money by doing this.  And thus begins the dance that will end badly.  

– Thus I say, “No single raindrop thinks it is responsible for the flood“.

– How long will the New Zealand Public Health System be able to subsidize private hospitals like this?  

Why do I say ‘subsidize?  

– Because when the new hospital grabs up all the easy out-patient work and leaves the public system with all the harder and more costly in-patient work, that is an indirect but very functional form of subsidization.  The easy money goes to the private hospital and the public has to pony up for the addition cost born by the private system.

– We in the U.S. have been down that road before and New Zealanders should be warned by our example. 

 – dennis

 

LOBBYISTS FOR THE HAVENS: ICIJ’S GUIDE TO THE OFFSHORE SYSTEM’S DEFENDERS

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

– I’ve been following ICIJ’s work (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) since they broke their big story revealing the names of many of the rich and famous who hide their money in off-shore tax havens.

– And, while I don’t like taxes anymore than the next fellow, I applaud what they are doing.  

– If taxes must be paid, then the burden on all of us is lessened if everyone pays their fair share.

– The issue of what we are paying our taxes for is, however, a very different question.  I.e., are we paying our taxes to fund subsidies for the oil industry or for foreign wars?  Or, are we paying for services that improve the quality of life for everyone in our society.  Services like roads, food inspections and public schools.

– Here, ICIJ reveals who is defending the off-shore tax havens.  And how indirectly structured those defenses are.  The people funding the defense efforts don’t want to be seen as defending the havens.  So, they setup and quietly fund the defensive organizations while remaining quietly in the background.

– I say turn over all the rocks and let’s see what scuttles away in the light of day.  To see whatsort of creature causes all of us to have to pay more taxes to make up for their lost contributions.   And the irony is that most of the folks and companies doing this are not in any way stretched thin.   The vast majority of them posses wealth that most of us can only dream about.

– dennis

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Across the world, tax havens are under attack. Leading global organizations like the G20 and OECD have put cracking down on offshore tax avoidance at the top of their agendas. Ambitious plans for automatic sharing of tax data between countries are in the works.

But as ICIJ noted this week, reports of the demise of offshore tax havens have often been greatly exaggerated. Highly touted clampdowns in 2000 and 2009 yielded few results. In the last five years, two French presidents have vowed to wipe tax havens off the map entirely, but so far no one has come close to dealing a coup de grâce.

The resilience of offshore tax havens is not merely a result of clever financial tricks. Offshore havens and tax avoidance have influential defenders who have lobbied hard to maintain the status quo. Many of the world’s biggest corporations, accounting firms and law firms are pushing back against the latest efforts to curb the use of offshore.

Much of the lobbying is not done by corporations themselves, but by little-known business associations that represent them. Google, General Electric and Mitsubishi may be household names, but the U.S. Council for International Business and Japan Foreign Trade Council draw little attention from the public. “They want to have these arguments made on their behalf by others, because they have been in the spotlight and under fire for these things,” Nicholas Shaxson, the author of Treasure Islands, a book critical of offshore secrecy, said of the corporations that belong to these lobby groups.

ICIJ has consulted experts, reviewed media coverage and examined the comments made on proposed offshore reforms by the OECD in order to identify the groups that are standing in the way of the current round of offshore financial reforms. This roundup is far from complete, and we will update it based on news developments and suggestions from our readers.

Here is our rundown of six of the groups resisting reforms to offshore finance:

 – To read more:  

 

AND NOW THE REST OF THE STORY ABOUT OBAMACARE

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

ObamaCare – we’ve all been hearing a lot of ‘bad’ news about it (and all that bad news is well funded and backed by the very people (read big business) who stand to lose money if people in the U.S. actually got a better deal on healthcare).

– Well, here’s the other side of the story that you WON’T find on the big U.S. networks (controlled as they are by big business).  

– Thanks to my friend, Ron, at the Sky Valley Chronicle in the U.S. for writing this.

-dennis

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Just a few facts the nightly news left out

You would think that after the past few weeks watching the mainstream/lamestream nightly TV news shows and reading some newspapers that the screw ups with the rollout of the national website for the Affordable Health care Act (e.g. Obamacare) was of world importance.

Something right up there with global terrorism and young guys walking into schools, malls and airports with AK-47’s and commencing target practice.

Night after night (as modern Europe watches this surrealistic circus show and shakes its collective head in disbelief) Americans have been treated to lead stories about how horrible this terrible thing is/was/will forever be.

The screw up, we are led to believe is on the same par with the United States invading the wrong country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with the 911 terrorist attacks.

To find out how much that little number has cost you so far in your “hard earned tax dollars” and how much is still being rung up on the national credit card each second of every day, check here .

Makes the health care web site screw up look like a Pee Wee Herman movie by comparison.

And when it comes to right wing leaning media like Fox News, this government screw up is the equivalent of the end of Western Civilization.

According to Fox News there are as we speak roving bands of wild eyed, blood drooling socialists going house to house strangling with their bare hands women and children and little old grandmas.

And as they squeeze the last living breath out of them, the murdering socialists (who are probably atheists as well) look their victims straight in the eye and scream, “Obamacare sent us! And we’re gonna kill ya all!”

The world has come to an end. The sky is falling. Fade to black.

But is it possible, just barely possible that a few things are being left out of that story?

Let us look and see, shall we?

AND NOW, THE REST OF THE STORY

There is a woman most of you have probably never heard of as her story was one of many like it that perhaps never made it as a lead story on the nightly Big Three network news or at Fox News of late.

Her name is Lela Petersen and she is the owner of a small store called “Anything And Everything” in Flagler, Colorado.

She is one of millions of small business people across America that the GOP is always so concerned about. The GOP is forever saying this and that will “harm small business people.”

So the GOP will probably love this story because Ms. Petersen and her hubbie can now look forward to a retirement thanks to Obamacare.

You see, under the current spiffy “free market” health care “system” Petersen, 57 and her husband Mike, 60, have been stuck with God awful expensive health insurance.

The HMO policy they’ve had since 1992 is now costing $1,950 per month, just for the two of them. It is, and has been, eating them alive financially.

Lela told a reporter for National Public Radio (NPR), “When you pay $1,950 for insurance you might as well forget retirement. There’s just no way.”

Five years ago she was looking at early retirement but never in her wildest dreams did she imagine health insurance costing as much as the rest of her bills combined.

For Lela that free market health care boogie wasn’t working very well. But thanks to America’s new Affordable Care Act ,Lela expects her insurance bill will be cut by more than half in January

In case you didn’t catch that as the nightly news did not: a MORE than a 50% reduction in her family’s cost for insurance.

At the start of October she checked out Colorado’s insurance exchange and found the exact same policy from the same insurer for only $832 a month. “It’s dropping us down about $1,100 a month. We can retire. We can go fishing. We can actually see a future,” Petersen told NPR.

Here is what made the difference. Becoming part of an insurance “pool” created by the act helped Petersen reduce her cost. The federal law also forbids insurance companies from charging more for pre-existing conditions. That saved her a ton of dough and then federal tax credits brought the cost down even further.

Now, there are millions of small business people across this country who are in exactly the same boat as Lela was/is. See the significance?

MILLIONS.

Does it strike you as odd these stories weren’t part of the bombastic news coverage of late?

And according to NPR’s coverage, “The Affordable Care Act will bring big changes for a lot of people,especially those who want to retire before they’re eligible for Medicare.

A 2012 survey by Employee Benefit Research Institute found 53 percent of workers polled planned to stay in their jobs longer than they wanted to, so they could keep health insurance through their employer.”

Read more about Lela’s new lifeline to a retirement here .

THE HORROR STORIES OF OBAMACARE

Would it surprise you to know that some journalists have followed up on some of these horror stories of late about Obamacare that have been carried on the TV news and right wing media sites and found that…well, they only told part of the story?

A recent post on CNN noted, “Here are just some of the mythical stories journalists have helped dispel and the lessons we can learn from them about the reality of the Affordable Care Act.”

Among the stories was one about Deborah Cavallaro who “was making the rounds on television complaining about how her current insurance plan was canceled under Obamacare.”

So a Washington Post columnist named Michael Hiltzik talked to her. He found out her current plan cost $293 per month but had a deductible of $5,000 per year and out-of-pocket annual limits of $8,500. Also, the current plan covered just two doctor’s visits per year.

But in the California insurance exchange (that ol’ debil Obamacare) which Hiltzik helped Cavallaro check, she could get a “silver” plan for $333 per month — $40 more than she’s currently paying.

But the kicker is this: the new plan has only a $2,000 deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses at $6,350. Plus all doctor visits would be covered. Hiltzik writes, “Is that better than her current plan? Yes, by a mile.”

So the real story here is this: the tootie-fruitie fruit loop Cavallaro was suckering TV shows into letting her slobber all over the tube an untrue sob story about how Obamacare was hurting her – because she didn’t have brains enough to check things out herself – when the reality is Obamacare is saving her little tooshie money and getting her better health coverage to boot.

Or how about a woman named Dianne Barrette?

She shows up on a CBS News (that bastion of news credibility) report in which she bitched and moaned that her $54-per-month insurance plan had been “canceled” under Obamacare.

Then a woman named Nancy Metcalf at Consumer Reports looks into Barrette’s sob story and found that her current policy was a “textbook example of a junk plan that isn’t real health insurance at all.”

“According to Metcalf, if Barrette had ever tried to use her insurance for anything more than a sporadic doctor’s visit, “she would have ended up with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical debt,” according to the CNN report.

Do you still trust CBS News, the fabled “news” network “that Murrow built”?

Metcalf also found that Barrett’s plan, for instance, only pays for hospitalization in cases of “complications of pregnancy.”

“Instead, Metcalf found that Barrette could get a “silver” plan in the state insurance exchange for $165 per month that would actually cover Barrette in the case of any sort of serious or even moderate illness. Which is the very definition of insurance, isn’t it?,” says the CNN report.

Editor’s Note 11/9/13: A few days after this story was published, CBS News was forced to make a very public and embarrassing retraction of an “exclusive” news story it broadcast on the CBS news magazine show “Sixty Minutes,” about ten days ago as of this writing.

Why did the network have to retract it? Because much like the Dianne Barrette incident noted in this story that left egg on their newsie faces, the great journalists at CBS simply took somebody’s word for something without thoroughly checking that somebody out.

For the sordid truth about how CBS checks its sources go here .

Or how about this item from the same CNN report:

“According to a report by Dylan Scott at Talking Points Memo, a Seattle woman named Donna received a cancellation letter from her insurance company regarding her current plan. The letter steered Donna and her family into a more expensive option and said, “If you’re happy with this plan, do nothing.”

The letter made no mention of the Washington State insurance exchange, where Donna could find plenty of other more affordable choices, because the company wanted a convenient excuse to jack up Donna’s rates.

Had Donna “done nothing,” she would have ended up spending about $1,000 more per month on insurance than the cost of insurance she ultimately chose through the Obamacare exchange. In fact, the practice of trying to mislead customers has become so widespread that Washington state regulators issued a consumer alert to customers.”

You can find more such stories in that CNN report here .

Reuters ran a story recently about Mark Sullivan, a 31-year-old Texan who says he managed to sign up for coverage on the screwed up Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, and he says his new policy will save him enough money that he’ll l be able to start a new web-based business.

“A lot of reporters want to talk about the problems with the website,” Sullivan told Reuters. “I can understand that focus, but a lot are missing the bigger story” that many people in Obamacare will save money on their insurance.

Ah yes, the bigger story. What we called “the rest of the story” at the start of this piece.

Here is another part of that rest of the story. You’ve heard complaints from some people that their insurance companies are jacking up their rates or canceling their policies and blaming it on the Affordable Care Act?

The fact of the matter is insurance companies can do whatever they want in regards to raising your rates at the moment because the part of the Affordable Health Care Act that protects you from things like that will not come into fruition until 2014.

At that time the law will protect you from your rates being raised arbitrarily by an insurance industry that is not exactly known for looking out for consumers. (Look up the fun health insurance industry practice known as “rescission” – for years an industry secret – for an eye opener about this industry).

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: NOT A CURE ALL FOR A LONG SCREWED UP “THING”

And finally, it is good to remember that the Affordable Care Act does not fix every little thing that is wrong with a long screwed up, long out of control patchwork health insurance/health care thing (it’s not really a “system”) in this country. Far from it.

The Affordable Care Act is, after all, a huge compromise and one that was painfully made to satisfy Republicans and hard core conservatives who wanted nothing whatsoever done to fix America’s out of control health care nightmare, ergo their never ending false tales of “socialized medicine” and “death panels.”

You see by keeping the health insurance nightmare as it was, some people made a fortune off the misery of others.

Those people and corporations who made a fortune then spent lavishly on the campaigns of lawmakers who would in turn fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo — and make sure that millions of Americans never got access to affordable health insurance, even though they desperately needed it.

America is the only modern nation in the world where we make health care a game of winners and losers.

When all those European nations looked around at how to construct a health care/health insurance package for their citizens, it is telling that not one of them chose the system of winners and losers that was made famous in America

Not one.

Some think that if sensible minds had prevailed Democrats would have disregarded the GOP assault on health care reform and, when they had the votes in both houses, pushed through a simple, single payer system much like they have in Europe and that alone might have ended a good portion of the nightmare of health insurance in this country.

But even though it is a vast compromise, the Affordable health Care Act does make a huge difference in terms of offering better coverage to far more people and particularly women — such as eliminating co-pays for cancer screenings, adding in additional detection and prevention services such as mammograms and providing guaranteed treatment to women with preexisting conditions.

Many consider the Affordable Health Care Act as simply a first step, one of many, toward reforming health care in America so that it works for everyone — not just the rich, not just those who can afford it or have it supplied to them by an employer.

And in terms of women, over 45 million women have already taken advantage of the services provided to them since Obamacare was signed into law.

And for those who truly have lost a good health insurance plan they wanted to keep and will need to spend a bit more money due to requirements of the Affordable health Care Act – and there are some in that boat – President Obama has apologized that people are, “Finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me… we’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them, and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”

“We didn’t do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law,” Obama told NBC News.

THE LOWDOWN

Most people buying insurance through the state run health exchanges will be eligible for federal subsidies in the form of tax credits.

Taking into account these subsidies, the administration has said a family of four with an income of $50,000 will generally be able to buy a silver-level plan for $282 a month, while a 27-year-old with income of $25,000 will be able to get such coverage for $145 a month.

The government says in Washington State for example, 758,004 people (91%) of Washington’s uninsured and eligible population may qualify for lower costs on coverage in the Marketplace, including through Medicaid.

Here in Washington State the insurance-exchange marketplace went online October 1st as theWashington HealthPlanFinder which is designed to be a one-stop shopping site to help and guide those that need affordable insurance but are not covered by a health plan where they work.

RATES

A chart produced by the New York Times on costs of the plans, state by state, shows a 27-year old individual who makes $45,960 a year in Iowa will be able to afford to buy a quality health insurance plan for $189 a month and a family of four in the same state that has an annual income of $50,000 a year and getting subsidies will be able to cover the entire family with health insurance for $282 a month.

That state by state chart can be found here .

However there are some exchanges across the country that won’t be fully operational for weeks and in some cases months.

Any insurance coverage that is purchased through the exchanges won’t actually take effect until January 1, 2014 when the health care law starts requiring most Americans to have insurance or pay a tax penalty.

To be covered starting Jan. 1st, people need to sign up for coverage through the exchanges by Dec. 15th.

The first open enrollment period runs from Oct. 1 to March 31.

Gary Cohen, Director of the federal Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight said premiums will be generally lower in states with strong competition in their insurance markets.

In the 36 states where the federal government has primary responsibility for the exchanges Cohen said people will be able to choose from an average of 53 health plans.

More on how the new health care exchanges operate can be found here .

The Seattle Times has a comprehensive “users guide” to the changes that are going into effect today that you’ll find here .

– To the original story:

 

‘Uncomfortable’ climates to devastate cities within a decade, study says

Monday, November 4th, 2013

– This is what John Roach of NBC News has to say on October 9th, 2013

– But this has all been coming, writ large, for a long time.  

-It’s been coming since:

Lyndon Johnson discussed the CO2 we were putting into the atmosphere in 1965.

Since the Club of Rome discussions and their paper on “The Limits to Growth” in 1972.

Since the World Scientists issued their warning to Humanity in 1992.

– But it is only just now beginning to reach the evening news as plausible news.  

– We have just a few greedy, self-centered people and corporations to thank for the fact that their misinformation has been instrumental in delaying humanities waking up on these threats until it is virtually too late.  

Most recently, Naomi Oreskes showed us this in her book, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

– Some of us remember how Mussolini ended up.   I wonder, when the damages are finally appreciated, if these folks may fare the same.   I won’t cry any crocodile tears for them; that’s for sure.  

-By their actions many, many millions will die, cities and nations will fall, species innumerable will go extinct and most of our descendants will have less than optimal lives to look forward to; if they manage to live through the changes that are coming.

– dennis

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Lesser daysThe world is hurtling toward a stark future where the web of life unravels, human cultures are uprooted, and millions of species go extinct, according to a new study. This doomsday scenario isn’t far off, either: It may start within a decade in parts of Indonesia, and begin playing out over most of the world — including cities across the United States — by mid-century.

What’s more, even a serious effort to stabilize spiraling greenhouse gas emissions will only stave off these changes until around 2069, notes the study from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, published online Wednesday in the journal Nature. The authors warn that the time is now to prepare for a world where even the coldest of years will be warmer than the hottest years of the past century and a half.

“We are used to the climate that we live in. With this climate change, what is going to happen is we’re going to be moving outside this comfort zone,” biologist Camilo Mora, the study’s lead author, told NBC News. “It is going to be uncomfortable for us as humans and it will be very uncomfortable for species as well.”

– To Read More of this article:  

– Still with the doubts, Sweetpea?   Then please read this:

 

Naomi Klein: How science is telling us all to revolt

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

– I don’t think the best of our idealists are going to be going out on Greenpeace ships any more to protest politely.   Not when they stand to lose the most of their young lives sitting in Russian prisons for the crime of idealism and the crime of trying to wake people up to the stupidity and danger gathering all around us.

– The days or holding signs and protesting peacefully are withering away all over the world as people realize that none of that has been effective.   And now it is become downright dangerous.

– I first read that an ecologically sane world and the world of Capitalism may not be compatible bedfellows on this planet back in 2008 when I read The Bridge at the Edge of the World by James Gustave Speth; Yale University.   He is and has been a major leading light in all things environment in the U.S. and he’s been a team player all along.  So, this was a hard conclusion for him to come to.

– In the article, below, Naomi Klein tells us that others up and down the line are coming to the same conclusions.  

– If what we’ve been doing isn’t working and losing is not an option for those of us who love this world and our children, then quite simply, new measures will be needed.

– dennis

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Is our relentless quest for economic growth killing the planet? Climate scientists have seen the data – and they are coming to some incendiary conclusions.

In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.

But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).

Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”

There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on . . . how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”.

Plenty of scientists have been moved by their research findings to take action in the streets. Physicists, astronomers, medical doctors and biologists have been at the forefront of movements against nuclear weapons, nuclear power, war, chemical contamination and creationism. And in November 2012,Nature published a commentary by the financier and environmental philanthropist Jeremy Grantham urging scientists to join this tradition and “be arrested if necessary”, because climate change “is not only the crisis of your lives – it is also the crisis of our species’ existence”.

– More:  

 

Paris notes: 5 August 2013

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

I have to say that sometimes the news brings me down so badly.

I’ve been thinking about and advocating the idea that until humanity decides that its highest priority is to maximize the quality of life for all, we will inevitably fall victim to the default alternative which is that every individual’s highest priority is to look out for themselves.

And, by themselves, I mean both individual people and corporations.

Today, I read the August 5th copy of the International Herald Tribune and there was this:

In need of a new hip, but priced out of the U.S.” – A man went to Belgium and had his hip replaced for $13,600 USD. You’ll have to read the article to see how much it would have cost him in the U.S., and why.

I warn you, it’s going to be all about profits over the welfare of people.

And then this:

Nuclear scandal snowballs in S. Korea” – A story about how many of the tests and inspections that were intended to ensure the safety of S. Korean nuclear plants has been discovered to have been faked by the testing companies and the nuclear plant designers.

I warn you, it’s going to be all about profits over the welfare of people.

And then this:

As cost of importing food soars, Jamaica turns to the earth” – a little story about how the Jamaican government is now strongly advising people to begin to grow their own food.

I wonder if any of you saw the documentary entitled, ‘Life and Debt’ 10 or 15 years ago? It was about Jamaica, Mon.

It was about the arrival of “Globalization’ and how the low price of imported grain had driven most of the small farmers off their land and into the cities since they could not complete with the price of the grain being dumped into their market.

But, at the time it was explained, ‘Globalization’ was all for the good of all of us long-term.

Now that the Jamaicans don’t grow much food, it’s the time to hike the prices and squeeze them. And so the circle turns.

I warn you, it’s going to be all about profits over the welfare of people.

And that was just one issue of the paper on an apparently normal day.

And then when I tell people that the corporations, looking out for their own best interests, are steadily taking over governments and their regulatory processes – and I see that they think I’m peddling conspiracy theories to them, I’m stunned.

It’s as if I’m watching a line of cows entering the slaughter house and I’m warning them about where they’re going and they all laugh; sure that they are off to a Caribbean vacation.

I haven’t posted much here for awhile since I’ve been traveling.  But, not much need.   Nothing’s changed.

dennis

For Insurers, No Doubts on Climate Change

Friday, June 7th, 2013

If there were one American industry that would be particularly worried about climate change it would have to be insurance, right?

From Hurricane Sandy’s devastating blow to the Northeast to the protracted drought that hit the Midwest Corn Belt, natural catastrophes across the United States pounded insurers last year, generating$35 billion in privately insured property losses, $11 billion more than the average over the last decade.

And the industry expects the situation will get worse. “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term,” said Peter Höppe, who heads Geo Risks Research at the reinsurance giant Munich Re. “The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.” Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming.

“Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought,” Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, told me last week. “It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.”

– More…

World Bank Insider Blows Whistle on Corruption, Federal Reserve

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Nothing to see here ... move along

– I don’t think this is new information.  Just a confirmation of what many of us have suspected for some time.  

– But, the gathering awareness doesn’t seem to be enough to change things.  

– We are all too apathetic and ‘they’ have got far too much control at this point for anything short of a revolution or a major breakdown of the world’s structures to shake them loose (visualize blood-sucking ticks, and you’ll have it).

– dennis

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A former insider at the World Bank, ex-Senior Counsel Karen Hudes, says the global financial system is dominated by a small group of corrupt, power-hungry figures centered around the privately owned U.S. Federal Reserve. The network has seized control of the media to cover up its crimes, too, she explained. In an interview withThe New American, Hudes said that when she tried to blow the whistle on multiple problems at the World Bank, she was fired for her efforts. Now, along with a network of fellow whistleblowers, Hudes is determined to expose and end the corruption. And she is confident of success.

Citing an explosive 2011 Swiss study published in the PLOS ONE journal on the “network of global corporate control,” Hudes pointed out that a small group of entities — mostly financial institutions and especially central banks — exert a massive amount of influence over the international economy from behind the scenes. “What is really going on is that the world’s resources are being dominated by this group,” she explained, adding that the “corrupt power grabbers” have managed to dominate the media as well. “They’re being allowed to do it.”

According to the peer-reviewed paper, which presented the first global investigation of ownership architecture in the international economy, transnational corporations form a “giant bow-tie structure.” A large portion of control, meanwhile, “flows to a small tightly-knit core of financial institutions.” The researchers described the core as an “economic ‘super-entity’” that raises important issues for policymakers and researchers. Of course, the implications are enormous for citizens as well.

Hudes, an attorney who spent some two decades working in the World Bank’s legal department, has observed the machinations of the network up close. “I realized we were now dealing with something known as state capture, which is where the institutions of government are co-opted by the group that’s corrupt,” she told The New American in a phone interview. “The pillars of the U.S. government — some of them — are dysfunctional because of state capture; this is a big story, this is a big cover up.”

At the heart of the network, Hudes said, are 147 financial institutions and central banks — especially the Federal Reserve, which was created by Congress but is owned by essentially a cartel of private banks. “This is a story about how the international financial system was secretly gamed, mostly by central banks — they’re the ones we are talking about,” she explained. “The central bankers have been gaming the system. I would say that this is a power grab.”

– More…

– research thanks to Carol S.

Hackers ‘raid US weapons’

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Cultural Revolution

– If China doesn’t implode from its own internal pressures (the failure of the Mandate of Heaven concept), then it is likely that we’re all going to be living in a Chinese dominated world.

– Most of the rest of us are living in debt ridden societies with few realistic ideas of how to break the debt cycles. (Oh, yeah, let’s have another WalMart or Warehouse store so we can buy really cheap shit – that’ll sort things out).

– So here, the Chinese, apparently, have stolen the heart of America’s weapon system designs. They’ve denied it?   Well, what would you expect them to say?

– Clearly, they are winning the game against the west and they’ve used our own Capitalistic Systems and greed against us, brilliantly.

– All we can hope for is that their own greed, corruption, and their failure to understand that they too are subject to the consequences of pollution, climate change and global overshoot, is going to pull their system apart before they can take over ours.  

– Then, at least, we can all live equally in a ruined world rather than having to be serfs in a ruined world that they dominate.

– Do you think after reading this that I am prejudiced against the Chinese?  

– No, I’m not.  I differentiate between the people and their culture.   I know and value a number of excellent friends among the Chinese.  

– But their culture is another thing.  These are, after all, the same people that gave the world the spectacle of The Cultural Revolution just a few decades ago.  These same folks drive the Shark Fin markets, the Bear Gall Bladder Markets, the Ivory Markets, and etc.  

– They don’t seem to mind poisoning each other, and other nationalities, in their pursuits of profit.  (Granted, we’ve not been much better).  And, like other cultures before them (and here I very much include ours), they think they are superior, that they are right and that it is their mandate to rule.

– In the end, I think I’d prefer our own assholes to theirs.

– dennis

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Some of America’s key defence items compromised but the culprits are not known.

Designs for some of America’s most important and sensitive weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a confidential report.

More than two dozen key weapons systems had been affected, including missile defences, fighter jets, helicopters and navy vessels, the report said.

Among those listed are the advanced Patriot missile system, or PAC-3, the F/A-18 fighter jet, the Black Hawk helicopter and the V-22 Osprey, which is able to land and take off vertically.

It was not clear from the report, extracts of which were published by theWashington Post, when or how the designs had been compromised.

Its authors _ the Defence Science Board, an influential advisory body _ stopped short of accusing the Chinese Government of attempting to steal the information.

But senior military sources pointed the finger directly at Beijing, saying the security breaches were part of a “widening Chinese campaign of espionage against US defence contractors and government agencies”.

– More…

– Thanks to Kierin M for the Mandate of Heaven concept.