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unrepentant progress

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Name: Wouldn\'t you love to know?
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Home country: USA
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Member since: Sun Mar 24, 2013, 02:10 PM
Number of posts: 611

Journal Archives

Scooter Store Files For Bankruptcy After Overbilling Medicare At Least $47 Million

That got the attention of the federal government, and led to a raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The company’s CEO insists that The Scooter Store itself wasn’t accused of fraud. Just a few weeks later, the company furloughed all employees, then permanently laid off about 1,000.

An independent audit found that the company had overbilled Medicare and Medicaid somewhere between $46.8 million and $87.7 million. The company had agreed to pay back $19.5 million. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is one of the largest creditors listed in the company’s bankruptcy petition, which details about $50 million in debt.

The Scooter Store's tactics were loathsome, but there is another side to the story. The fact is that Medicare and Medicaid make these devices really hard to get, which is why a lot of people turned to companies like the Scooter Store. In fact, Medicare will only approve purchase of a scooter or powered wheelchair for use inside the home, and only if the patient's doctor attests that the patient is unable to get around at all insider their home. So if it's at all possible, no matter how much effort or time or pain is involved, for you to move around inside the home using a cane then no assistive device for you. As for going outside, well, you're disabled so what reason do you have for going outside? And of course, in the wake of the Scooter Store investigation, it's going to become even harder for people with mobility impairments to get help paying for scooters or powered wheelchairs. Overall Medicare is a fantastic program, but in many ways it is still a product of the mid-20th century culture that created it with a less than enlightened conception of disability. In the case of aids to people with disability it can often seem downright punitive.
Posted by unrepentant progress | Mon Apr 15, 2013, 04:43 PM (2 replies)

So now the talking point is that Obama destroyed chained CPI with his masterful brinksmanship.

So now the talking point is that Obama destroyed chained CPI with his masterful brinksmanship. You see, he never wanted it in the first place (never mind what he's been saying publicly since at least 2007) but by putting chained CPI in the budget, he got the Republicans to do the heavy lifting for him, and toss one of their favoritest things over the cliff. And all us emo-progs were just too dim to see his brilliant strategy as the most exquisite piece of realpolitik since Otto von Bismarck walked the Earth. Which is just as well, because our shock and horror and outrage were part of Obama's plan all along. Silly emo-progs, don't you know Trix are for grownups?

It's not that the left didn't see what Obama was trying to do, it's just that we were aghast at his willingness to play with millions of people's lives, and his glee in pissing off his base, as well as handing the right a key tactic for 2014: "Obama wanted to cut Social Security!" And then there's the further distortion of reality by continued conflation of Social Security as being part of the budgetary process. The fact that all the 501(c)s were making most of the opportunity to fleece some more cash out of their supporters is beside the point -- when have they ever missed an opportunity to fearmonger up some fresh dough? If Boehner expresses a preference for oatmeal over eggs for breakfast, MoveOn will squirt out an email begging for money to defeat the demonic spawn that wants to put all the chicken farmers in the poorhouse.

You can call it a victory if you want. I'll call it a disgrace -- just another crying shame in a long line of many.
Posted by unrepentant progress | Mon Apr 15, 2013, 01:45 AM (126 replies)

No Big Deal, but This Researcher’s Theory Explains Everything About How Americans Parent

Every society interprets its children in its own way: The Dutch, for example, liked to talk about long attention spans and “regularity,” or routine and rest. (In the Dutch mind, asking lots of questions is a negative attribute: It means the child is too dependent.) The Spanish talked about character and sociality, the Swedes about security and happiness. And the Americans talked a lot about intelligence. Intelligence is Americans’ answer. In various studies, American parents are always seen trying to make the most of every moment—to give their children a developmental boost. From deep inside the belly of American parenthood, this is so obvious it isn’t even an observation. It is only by looking at other societies that you can see just how anomalous such a focus is.

Looking back at her research, Harkness can trace the history of how we got this way. During interviews with middle-class Boston parents in the 1980s, she and her colleagues kept hearing about the importance of “special time” or “quality time”: One-on-one time that stimulated the child and that revolved around his interests. Nearly every American parent mentioned it, she says. “It was this essential thing that all parents seemed to think they should do—and maybe they weren’t doing enough of it.”

This seems obviously reasonable. I would likely say “special time” with ironic quotation marks, but I still feel pretty much the same way those parents did. How else would a halfway-decent parent feel? But when Harkness talked to other halfway-decent parents in other cultures, even other seemingly very similar Western cultures, they were oblivious to this nagging feeling. Harkness recalls that “in the Netherlands, a father said, ‘Well, on Saturday mornings, my wife sleeps late, I get up with the kids, and I take them to recycle the bottles and cans at the supermarket.’ ” That was their special, stimulating, child-directed time: recycling bottles and cans. Asked if an activity was developmentally meaningful, the Dutch parents would brush off the question as irrelevant or even nonsensical. Why think of every activity as having a developmental purpose?

What you notice reading these accounts is how much more intensive—how much more arousing—American parenting is. Harkness has characterized it as trying “to push stimulation to the maximum without going over the edge into dysregulation of basic state control.” This is true even if you think you’re different—that you’re not like those other parents at the playground. Culture operates at a deeper level than any individual parenting choice. In a survey Harkness and her colleagues conducted of parents in Western cultures, the last question was, “What’s the most important thing you can do for your child’s development right now?” “The American parents almost to a person said, ‘Stimulation—stimulation is what my child needs.’ Interestingly, even the attachment parents, who were very adamant about being different in a lot of ways—they still gave the same answer.” And all the parents meant a very particular sort of stimulation. The parents talked about themselves in almost curatorial terms: They’d create a setting for intellectual growth. It went almost without saying that the actual stimulation came from the toys.
Posted by unrepentant progress | Sun Apr 14, 2013, 05:07 PM (8 replies)

Leave the GOP? Really? Is that a threat or a promise?

"Much of the conservatives' letter to Priebus stresses the issue of gay rights, and challenges the logic of the Growth and Opportunity Project's advice to broaden the party's appeal. Holding the line against same-sex marriage, the letter argues, would allow Republicans to make better inroads, for instance, into more traditionally-minded corners of the African American community."

Dudes! How are you going to make inroads among more conservative African-Americans when you keep trying to stop them from voting?

My fantasy would be for real progressives and populists to take over the GOP so this country would actually have a two party system again.
Posted by unrepentant progress | Sat Apr 13, 2013, 09:56 PM (0 replies)

How ousted Sup. of Public Instruction Bennett stuck Indiana with $1.7 million of unwanted gadgets

Just three months before voters went to the polls to oust Tony Bennett as Superintendent of Public Instruction, Bennett bought $1.7 million of gadgets for his office including $80,000 of high definition touchscreen video conferencing equipment which doesn't work with the department's current video conferencing equipment, over a quarter million dollars of installation and training services, and three "black out" window blinds costing $1,500. There was so much equipment purchased that it's still being delivered! The cost alone could have paid the salaries and benefits of 24 teachers at a time when public school budgets were being slashed all over the state. Good luck Florida. You've got the crook now.

The three pitch-black blinds weren’t part of the original purchase; they cost an extra $4,500 collectively and cover a trio of modest-sized windows in the education department’s fifth-floor Downtown office. Custom made, the blinds are needed to accommodate the CISCO TelePresence TX 9000, a video conferencing system made up of three 65-inch screens that works properly only when all natural light is blocked out. The three-screen system cost the state $134,550 -- or, put another way, $11,000 more than the median value of a home in Indiana.

“This has put us between a rock and a hard place,” Galvin said, noting that it is too late to cancel the order but that using the equipment will cost taxpayers another $152,000 in annual software licensing fees. “Really, we’d prefer to not even have this stuff.”

Adding to the political drama, Bennett’s office signed the contract to buy the equipment about 18 months after his one-time chief of staff, Todd Huston, took a job as an education consultant and business development manager at CISCO. Huston, now a state lawmaker representing a Fishers-based district, continued to serve as a close political and policy adviser to Bennett while working for CISCO. In a recent interview, he said he acted as a facilitator between CISCO and Bennett’s office during the deal, but added that he earned no commission from it.

Huston defended the deal, saying it would ultimately help with professional development and allow what are essentially face-to-face meetings that would not require educators and others to drive to Indianapolis from far-flung regions of the state. Those individuals, Huston said, could travel to one of the nine regional service centers for a teleconference if the equipment is finally installed. He said the early installation hiccups will be worked out and added that the rumblings coming from the Ritz administration are a signal that “they don’t understand their job.”

Posted by unrepentant progress | Sat Apr 13, 2013, 09:16 AM (4 replies)

The new wingnut theory of banking crises: the people did it!

The Wall Street Journal credulously reports on a new paper by Columbia B-school professor Charles Calomiris on why we have lots of banking crises while our friendly neighbors to the north don’t.

Calomiris says that we’ve had 16 systemic banking crises since 1790 while Canada has had none. Like, zero, according to the WSJ’s weirdly bad graphic:

I’m no expert on Canadian banking history, but is it true that they’ve never had a banking crisis? Calomiris himself writes that “Canadian banks, throughout their history, avoided systemic banking crises - with the exception of two short-lived suspensions of convertibility in 1837 and 1839 in response to crises originating in the United States.”

But there was also a severe financial crisis in 1907 where the government had to step into bail out banks, and ninety percent of Canadian banks were insolvent in the 1930s but held afloat by regulatory forbearance, according to Lawrence Kryzanowski and Gordon S. Roberts.

Ryan Chittum goes on to note that Canada also bailed out its banks in 2008, yet somehow Calamiris in his paper "The Crippling Influence of Populism in U.S. Banking History" is able to deliver whoppers like, "the stability of Canada’s banks was accomplished with little government intervention, either in the form of prudential regulation or assistance to distressed banks.”
Posted by unrepentant progress | Fri Apr 12, 2013, 10:18 AM (0 replies)

Chained CPI: A broken link at NPR

Part of the reason voters are so confused in this country is precisely because NPR's coverage of important issues is nearly as bad as Fox News. The only difference is NPR's listeners tend to be more affluent, and better educated, but not necessarily better informed.

"Until recently, the media have pretty much ignored the Chained CPI, and when they have done stories about it, they’ve mostly taken the view that it’s a “technical adjustment”—a characterization NPR’s Scott Horsley allowed the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, to make, without adequately explaining that it is, in fact, more than that.


To some extent, NPR flirted with the “greedy geezer” meme about seniors and social benefits. Right after annoucing the president’s new budget, the story reported that “there are already protests about it from seniors and others who oppose reductions in spending for Medicare and Social Security.” That seemed to convey the notion the greedy geezers weren’t about to give up anything.


On one side was Marc Goldwein, identified as from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a group that operates with money from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. ... The critic from the other side was Max Richtman, who heads the advocacy group the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Horsley summed up Richtman’s thinking, saying “if anything, he says, the current measure of inflation understates senior’s costs, especially for things like healthcare.” Richtman didn’t do much to illuminate potential problems with the Chained CPI. The story became a political piece—with Richtman saying his members want no part in such a compromise, but without making the case why the Chained CPI might not be good for many of them.


So there you have it. Listeners in NPR-land may be as confused as ever about a change that maybe be moving beyond a Beltway story and into people’s lives. Surely NPR can do better helping them understand what the fuss is all about."
Posted by unrepentant progress | Thu Apr 11, 2013, 09:47 PM (2 replies)

47 members of Congressional Progressive Caucus won't promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare

Unbelievable. Exactly what does it take to be called a Progressive today? Not much, apparently.

As of today, after many weeks of progressive lobbying and pleading and petitioning nationwide, 47 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have refused to sign the letter, initiated by Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano, pledging to “vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”
Posted by unrepentant progress | Thu Apr 11, 2013, 07:12 PM (111 replies)

Most Want Businesses to Offer More Jobs to Those Without Degrees

51% of American Adults believe it would be better for our country if more businesses offered jobs to high school graduates rather than requiring a college degree. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 33% disagree.

One of the curious defenses of credentialization creep that I hear is the querulous query, "Well, gosh, how are employers supposed to know if an applicant has the right mix of submissiveness and agreeableness to do the job? A degree just shows that a person has stick-to-it-iveness and pluck."

I don't know. How did they do it before it took a BA to be considered for an entry level clerical job? Of course, I'm referring to a time when humans hired other humans versus today when computers hire keywords.
Posted by unrepentant progress | Thu Apr 11, 2013, 11:12 AM (1 replies)

“Saving” ≠ “Saving Resources”*

Many economists — mostly the freshwater/neoclassical/supply-side/conservative types, but also many on the left — hold in their heads a very peculiar model of how economies work. It’s a model of a barter/real-goods economy in which money only plays the role of convenience. ... That mental model, which is so widely prevalent, is a fundamental error of composition: confusing the individual with the aggregate. (And a confution of money-saving and real saving.) Sure, you’ve saved money for your (or your great-grandchildren’s) future. And when you don’t get a massage, others can sign up for that time slot, or buy a massage for a lower price. This is about competition among individuals, not how many resources we as a society produce and consume. If we all consume less, as a society we produce (and “save”) less — both for current consumption and for future production.

So in a very real (dynamic) sense, it’s the savers who are “taking resources out of society.” (And in a somewhat abstract sense, you can imagine those foregone resources being stored, hoarded, and rendered impotent in ever-growing and largely inert Cayman-island bank accounts.)

This is not really revelatory; I know these economists understand the paradox of thrift. But they ignore and eschew it in their real-good, barter-based mental economic models. I would suggest that the explanation for this error of composition is revealed by Scott’s words: “morally grotesque.” Moralistic beliefs about how individual humans should behave make it impossible for many economists to embrace an aggregate economic reality of which they are fully cognizant.

Posted by unrepentant progress | Tue Apr 9, 2013, 09:47 PM (2 replies)
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