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Posts Tagged ‘California’

One writer’s opinion of where Obamacare stands right now

By David Brooks of the New York Times

It was always going to be difficult to implement Obamacare, but even fervent supporters of the law admit that things are going worse than expected. Implementation got off to a bad start because the Obama administration didn’t want to release unpopular rules before the election. Regulators have been working hard but are clearly overwhelmed, trying to write rules that influence the entire health care sector — an economic unit roughly the size of France. Republicans in Congress have made things much more difficult by refusing to provide enough money for implementation.

By now, everybody involved seems to be in a state of anxiety. Insurance companies are trying to put out new products, but they don’t know what federal parameters they have to meet. Small businesses are angry because the provisions that benefited them have been put on the back burner. Health care systems are highly frustrated. They can’t plan without a road map. Senator Max Baucus, one of the authors of the law, says he sees a “huge train wreck” coming.

I’ve been talking with a bipartisan bunch of health care experts, trying to get a sense of exactly how bad things are. In my conversations with this extremely well-informed group of providers, academics and former government officials, I’d say there is a minority, including some supporters of the law, who think the whole situation is a complete disaster. They predict Obamacare will collapse and do serious damage to the underlying health system.

But the clear majority, including some of the law’s opponents, believe that we’re probably in for a few years of shambolic messiness, during which time everybody will scramble and adjust, and eventually we will settle down to a new normal.

What nobody can predict is how health care chaos will interact with the political system. There’s a good chance that Republicans will be able to use unhappiness with what is already an unpopular law to win back the Senate in 2014. Controlling both houses of Congress, they will be in a good position to alter, though not repeal, the program.

The law’s biggest defenders will then become insurance companies and health care corporations. Having spent billions of dollars adapting to the new system, they are not going to want to see it repealed or replaced.

The experts talk about the problems that lie ahead in cascades. First, there is what you might call the structural cascade. Everything is turning out to be more complicated than originally envisioned. The Supreme Court decision made the Medicaid piece more complicated. The decision by many states not to set up exchanges made the exchange piece more complicated. The lines of accountability between, for example, state and federally run exchanges have grown byzantine and unclear.

A law that was very confusing has become mind-boggling. That could lead people to freeze up. Insurance companies will hesitate before venturing into state exchanges, thereby limiting competition and choice. Americans are just going to be overwhelmed and befuddled. Many are just going to stay away, even if they are eligible for benefits.

Then there is the technical cascade. At some point, people are going to sit at computers and enroll. If the data process looks like some 1990s glitchmonster, if information doesn’t flow freely, then the public opinion hit will be catastrophic.

Then there is the cost cascade. Nearly everybody not in the employ of the administration agrees this law does not solve the cost problem, and many of the recent regulatory decisions will send costs higher. A study in California found that premiums could increase by an average of 20 percent for people not covered by federal subsidies. A study by the Society of Actuaries found that by 2017 costs could rise by 32 percent for insurers covering people in the individual exchanges, and as high as 80 percent in states like Ohio.

Then there is the adverse selection cascade. Under the law, young healthy people subsidize poorer, sicker and older people. But the young may decide en masse that it is completely irrational for them to get health insurance that subsidizes others while they are healthy. They’ll be better off paying the fines, if those are even enforced, and opting out. Without premiums from the young, everybody else’s costs go up even higher.

Then there is the provider concentration cascade. The law further incentivizes a trend under way: the consolidation of hospitals, doctors’ practices and other providers. That also boosts prices.

Over all, it seems likely that in some form or another Obamacare is here to stay. But the turmoil around it could dominate politics for another election cycle, and the changes after that — to finally control costs, to fix the mind-boggling complexities and the unintended consequences — will never end.

Regulatory regimes can be simple and dumb or complex and sprawling. When you build complex, it takes a while to work through the consequences. 


The Drive-By Blow Dry by Christine Doyle

The Drive-By Blow Dry by Christine Doyle

If you thought Carrie Bradshaw and Manolo Blahnik did a lot for shoes, wait until you see what two St. Louis Moms are gearing up to do for hair. Susannah Danforth and Lindsay Bush have figured out a way to bring that oh-so-finished look New York’s hippest Moms and Hollywood’s leading ladies have, here to the Midwest. For $35, you can have your hair professionally washed, blown-out and styled at their flagship salon, the Breeze Blow Dry Bar on Clayton Road in Ladue. That’s about a dollar a minute to put down your boar barrel brush and relinquish that tortured scene straight out of a sit-com as you stand there sweating in steam left over from the shower, unable to see or reach the back of your head while your hair is starting to curl up again because of all that humidity.

Whether you are heading to a meeting, an event or something up at school, I cannot think of a better cure for “tress stress” than the drive-by blow dry. For that busy woman, looking for a quick dose of posh pampering, you will find it here. The shop has a decidedly Tory Burch feel – it’s like being wrapped in one of her shifts – clean, crisp and above all else , hip!

What I love about this concept is that it was borne of necessity by two busy Moms who were doing the same things all of us spend our days doing. I used to marvel when I saw them, carting kids to hockey games, play try-outs or the grocery store, at a time when I knew Susannah was spending late nights studying for a law degree and Lindsay was trying to organize women voters across our state. They were also doing things like running the annual book sale up at school and chairing this or that good effort.  In other words, like most busy Mothers, neither one had time to think about, let alone do, her hair!

And while Susannah, a sassy brunette, and Lindsay, a California beach girl with golden locks, may have both fallen for guys from St. Louis, neither one loved the way their naturally wavy hair looked in this town’s legendary humidity. Hence, the concept of the blow dry bar.

The first time I went in, I got a kick out of the glamour shots lining the wall that were adorned with sayings like, “Sally’s kankles were grateful that her hair looked so damn good.” And, “Betty knew that striking a pose was so much easier when she was having a good day.”  I was also treated to an expert blow-out and even better chat with the Blow Dry Bar’s own version of Frederic Fekkai. In this case, it’s manager Josh Wagner. A native Missourian who spent time at the House of Bumble, styled models for fashion week and has brought all his inside New York stuff back to this swath of Clayton Road, I wound up showing him shots of the neon plastic pumps I took pictures of on South Beach and we became fast friends!

The drive-by blow dry. A must add to your self-care kit! Located at Lester’s Plaza at 9916 Clayton Road in Ladue. 314-692-BLOW or 314-429-2569.

How do children turn out who are raised by Gay parents?

Sandhya Somashekhar has an interesting article in the New York Times that talks about the impact being raised by two parents of the same gender can have on kids.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is widely considered the swing vote, called the topic “uncharted waters.” Conservative Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wryly asked, “You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cellphones or the Internet?”

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on Proposition 8, the law voters passed in 2008 banning same-sex marriage in California. Listen to the complete arguments in the case known as Hollingsworth v. Perry.

Indeed, gay marriage is a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. It has been legal only since 2004, when Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Eight more states and the District have legalized same-sex nuptials since, but it has been banned in 35 states.

Researchers have been delving into the effects of same-sex parenting only since the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the studies involve relatively small samples because of the rarity of such families.

Still, there is a growing consensus among experts that the sexual orientation of parents is not a major determinant in how well children fare in school, on cognitive tests and in terms of their emotional development. What matters more, researchers found, is the quality of parenting and the family’s economic well-being.

“I can tell you we’re never going to get the perfect science, but what you have right now is good-enough science,” said Benjamin Siegel, a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. “The data we have right now are good enough to know what’s good for kids.”

Siegel co-wrote a report issued by theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics last week when it came out in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The group looked at more than 80 studies, books and articles conducted over 30 years and concluded that legalizing same-sex marriage would strengthen families and benefit children.

The best study, Siegel said, is the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, which began in 1986 with 154 lesbian mothers who conceived children through artificial insemination. A recent look at 78 offspring found that the children did fine — better, even, than children in a similar study involving more diverse families.

Many opponents of same-sex marriage argue that the academy’s conclusions are premature. They point to some recent studies, including one from Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor from the University of Texas at Austin. Regnerus, who could not be reached for this article, found that adults who reported being raised by a person who had a homosexual experience were more likely to be on welfare or experience sexual abuse.

Regnerus has been the subject of intense criticism from mainstream researchers and pro-gay-marriage activists. But opponents of same-sex marriage say his work should provide a note of caution on an issue that has yet to be studied in adequate depth.

“What the social science makes clear, and it has for several decades, is that children tend to do best when they’re raised by their married biological parents,” said Jennifer Marshall, director of domestic policy studies for the conservative Heritage Foundation. “In the case of same-sex households, there is not yet evidence that [children] are going to be the same. There’s every reason to believe that different family structures will have different outcomes.”

Susan Brown, a professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio who studies family structures, said it is true that decades of research show that children turn out slightly better when they are raised by their biological parents, compared with those reared by single parents, or in “step” households.

But children raised in committed, same-sex couple-led households do not appear to do statistically worse, she said.

“One thing we’re finding that’s very important for children is stability in their family life,” Brown said. “To the extent that marriage is a vehicle through which children can achieve stability, it only follows that marriage is something that would be beneficial to children.”



Explaining the Ambassador’s assasination to kids

A lot of kids may be worried and anxious about the events in Libya. Especially now that President Barack Obama is saying the United States will seek justice in the slaying of our U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans there on Tuesday. Below we are featuring CNN’s six things you need to know about the attacks. It may help to tamp down some of the worry to identify what the movie was about that is being blamed for the attacks and to understand a little bit about the politics unfolding there post Arab Spring.



Six things to know about attack that killed Ambassador Stevens

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed Tuesday as gunmen set fire to and fought security forces at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The attack came as protesters outside the compound rallied against a movie that unflatteringly portrays Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. U.S. sources are giving conflicting accounts about whether the attack was planned before the protest and whether the attackers used the protest as a diversion.

If you’re new to the story and need to catch up, here are six key things to know about the incident.

1) What happened?

On Tuesday night, protesters were outside the consulate in Benghazi, demonstrating against the video “Innocence of Muslims,” which reportedly was made in California by a producer whose identity is unclear.

Eventually, a group of heavily armed militants “infiltrated the march to start chaos,” according to Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif.

Initial reports indicate the four-hour assault began around 10 p.m. as attackers pelted the U.S. Consulate complex’s main compound with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades . Within 15 minutes, the gunmen entered the building.

Four hours of fire and chaos: How the attack unfolded

The attackers set the consulate ablaze – it’s not clear how, though one senior U.S. official said a rocket-propelled grenade started the fire. American and Libyan security personnel tried to fight the attackers and the fire.

As the fire spread, three people Stevens, Foreign Service information management officer Sean Smith and a U.S. regional security officer were in a safe room, senior State Department officials said.

The three tried to leave when smoke filled the safe room. After the security officer escaped the building, he returned with others to try to rescue Stevens and Smith. Smith was found dead, apparently of smoke inhalation, officials said.

Stevens was missing. Libyans later said that bystanders found an unconscious Stevens and took him to a hospital, though U.S. officials could not confirm that account. His body was handed over to Americans at an airport; it’s not clear how he died.

Ex-SEALs, online gaming maven among Benghazi dead

Two other Americans, whose names haven’t been released, were killed and two others were wounded during a gunbattle between security forces and militants at the complex, a senior administration official said.

2) Who did it, and why?

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said on Wednesday: “At this stage it would be premature to ascribe any motive to this reprehensible act.”

But sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say a pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the Benghazi consulate is the chief suspect.

They also note that the attack immediately followed a call from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for revenge for the death in June of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a senior Libyan member of al Qaeda.

U.S. sources also have said they believed the attack was planned and used the protest as a diversion, though the sources could not say whether the attackers instigated the protest or merely took advantage of it.

A London think tank with strong ties to Libya was among those to speculate Wednesday that the attackers “came to avenge the death of Abu Yaya al-Libi.”

It was “the work of roughly 20 militants, prepared for a military assault,” the think tank Quilliam said, noting that there were no other protests against the film elsewhere in Libya.

“Jihadists will want the world to believe that the attack is just a part of the protests against an amateur film produced in the U.S., which includes crude insults regarding the Prophet Mohammed. They will want the world to think that their actions represent a popular Libyan and wider Muslim reaction; thus, reversing the perception of jihadists being outcasts from their own societies,” Quilliam president Norman Benotman said.

The significance of the timing of the attack, which fell on the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, is unclear.

3) What is this movie that people were protesting?

Again, it’s not clear whether the attack stemmed directly from outrage over the movie. But protesters outside the consulate did demonstrate against “Innocence of Muslims” before the attack, as did demonstrators outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, 700 miles to the east of Benghazi.

An online trailer for the movie depicts Islam as a fraudulent religion bent on getting rid of nonbelievers. Cartoonish scenes show Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer.

But the film’s actors and crew members released a statement Wednesday saying they were “grossly misled” about the filmmaker’s intent. An actress in the film who asked not to be identified said the original script did not include a Prophet Mohammed character, and that the actors’ lines had been changed post-production.

A casting call published in July 2011 in publications for actors identifies the working title of the movie as “Desert Warrior” and describes it as a “historical Arabian Desert adventure film.”

The Wall Street Journal identified the filmmaker as Sam Bacile. The Journal reported that, in its telephone interview with Bacile, he characterized his film as “a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam.”

But CNN has not been able to contact him, and a search of public records on Sam Bacile came up empty. Casting further doubt on the filmmaker’s identity, The Atlantic quoted a consultant of the filmmaker’s as saying Sam Bacile is a pseudonym and said “he did not know Bacile’s real name.”

Reaction to anti-Islam film fuels debate on free speech versus hate speech

News of the video, posted in July on YouTube, spread as Egyptian television recently aired segments and anti-Islam activists, including Egyptian-born Coptic Christian Morris Sadek, promoted it online.

Many Muslims find any depiction of Mohammed to be offensive  – a Danish newspaper’s publication in 2005 of Mohammed caricatures triggered riots – and derogatory depictions of the prophet are considered by some to be worse.

4) What will the United States do about the attack?

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States “will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act and make no mistake, justice will be done.”

A senior U.S. official told CNN that American surveillance drones are expected to join the hunt for jihadists who may be tied to the attack. The drones are expected to gather intelligence that will be turned over to Libyan officials for strikes, the official said.

A senior defense official said the drones would be part of “a stepped-up, more focused search” for a particular insurgent cell that may have been behind the killings.

In June, a senior Libyan official told CNN that U.S. controllers were already flying the unmanned craft over suspected jihadist training camps in eastern Libya because of concerns about rising activity by al Qaeda and like-minded groups in the region.

Two U.S. Navy destroyers  the USS Laboon and the USS McFaul are moving toward the coast of Libya, two U.S. officials told CNN. Both ships are equipped with tomahawk missiles that could be used if a strike was ordered.

About 50 U.S. Marines are headed to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, after the attack to beef up security in response to the attack, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The unit is specially trained to retake or guard diplomatic installations and other U.S. facilities in troubled regions.

The United States said it also would increase security at its embassies around the world.

5) How has the Libyan government reacted?

Libya’s leaders apologized for the attack. Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib called it a “cowardly, criminal act.”

U.S. and NATO warplanes helped a Benghazi-based rebellion drive on Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi last year. Gadhafi was overthrown.

The militants suspected in Tuesday night’s attack “are a very small minority” who are taking advantage of a fledgling democracy, Ali Suleiman Aujali, the Libyan ambassador the United States, told CNN’s “Amanpour.” “The good thing about this is the majority – 95, 98% of the Libyan people care not for this,” he said.

6) Who was Stevens?

Stevens served in several posts for the U.S. Foreign Service in the Middle East and North Africa before being named U.S. ambassador to Libya in May.

He was involved with Libya for several years, serving as the U.S. deputy chief of mission from 2007 to 2009. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent him to Benghazi to be an envoy to the rebels during the revolt against Gadhafi.

Stevens graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1982, then took a pause in his studies to join the Peace Corps, according to his State Department biography.

“Growing up in California, I didn’t know much about the Arab world,” he said in a State Department video prepared to introduce him to the Libyan people after his appointment as ambassador in May.

Slain ambassador warned in ’08 about extremists near Benghazi

“I worked as an English teacher in a town in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco for two years, and quickly grew to love this part of the world,” he said.

– CNN’s Suzanne Kelly, Sarah Aarthun, Michael Pearson, Moni Basu, Tom Watkins, Barabara Starr, Chris Lawrence, Jomana Karadsheh, Elise Labott, Nic Robertson, Jill Dougherty, Tom Cohen and Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

The Mom Vivant / The Glass Cliff

Newly minted Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s pregnancy confounded financial writers, with one saying the news was both “wonderful and awkward,” as they struggled to relay what her appointment means to the company’s financial future while acknowledging she may not be there for a spell. Beta Beat said that, having shot through the “glass ceiling,” Marissa Mayer is now balancing on the edge of a “glass cliff.” Other reports call her “the hottest CEO” ever. (Trust me, no woman hates hearing that!) And then there’s talk of a 59 million dollar salary. This is a woman other women could easily hate. But the only hater so far has been one commentator who Piers Morgan took to task after he doled out the unsolicited advice that Ms. Mayer should just stay home and raise her baby for a while! 

Bloomberg Business News pointed out that Marissa Mayer could be a role model and shine a light on maternity leave policy, especially after she reportedly announced she won’t be taking it.  But I would say in Mayer’s case, she doesn’t have to take it to be a role model. She could help publicize a program that California created to bridge the gap between the Family and Medical Leave Act. It’s a 1% payroll tax that most agree is working. It allows employees to get at least half their pay while out and the consensus seems to be that it is working. And more than 80% of businesses have said it isn’t creating an additional financial burden the way they feared it might. The problem is not enough people know about the program. What a wonderful opportunity for Ms. Mayer to redirect the conversation away from, “should she or shouldn’t she?” and do a good deed for all of the other parents out there who don’t realize they have this option available to them. We shouldn’t forget that the ultimate sexist reaction to Ms. Mayer’s news would be to assume that she should be able to be a CEO who has a fairly steep challenge in front of her job-wise, first-time Mom and someone who needs to get in the middle of the fight over whether to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act so that the Feds mandate paid leave. Two of the three assignments would be daunting for any of us. And at the end of the day, it’s about options and choice. And California has found a creative way, that appears affordable for everyone involved, to make sure women have fair choices in front of them.


Below are a couple of good links you might be interested in.

Piers Morgan calling out Sexist Sully

Marissa Mayer’s pregnancy is “her business.”