This reporter wrote here on April 17th about Susan Boyle, the British singing star discovered on Britain's, ahem, "American Idol" show. She sang the sad tale of Les Miserables' I Dreamed a Dream with an ancient soul ideally suited to her persona and her visage. (Ms. Boyle, pictured on left, the day after her spectacular performance.)
Your scribe's hope then was that she would be permitted to remain Susan Boyle, and not be recast to "improve," to "commercialize," or to "promote" her to the mass audience so smitten with the likes of Angelina Jolie (Oh God), Haley Berry (my oh my oh my), or Selma Hayek (oh dear, hoochy Mama). Well, your correspondent had the opportunity to meet Ms. Boyle during her brief stopover in Washington, D.C. where, just yesterday, she met President Obama. And this scribe can report that the Ms. Boyle encountered is indeed an unvarnished version of the Ms. Boyle anticipated. She has changed not a whit, and, to your reporter's eyes, she is everything one could desire in a singer or a woman. And more.
The meeting was arranged for me by an individual within the Obama administration who I happen to have a very thick file on. Ms. Boyle, of course, met your author at the fabulous Capitol Rotunda restaurant, The Disgruntled Toad, known for its exceptional cuisine and service, particularly to your scribe who has, for some reason, endeared himself to the friendly and generous management. With dinner running a D.C. affordable $38.95 prix fixe on weekday evenings, including dessert, what reporter could not be enchanted to use this site for his interviews? In any event, Ms. Boyle arrived promptly and was seated by the respectful wait staff, and we began to discuss her recent roller coaster ride to fame over on-the-house (!) flaming cocktail concoctions, the Flaming Federal Budget, that both seared my eyebrows and, candidly, knocked me right on my a-s-s, mentally at least.
So, in the event, please excuse that your writer cannot now make much sense out of his scrawled notes, and has little memory of anything your interrogator asked, or how Ms. Boyle replied. Your chronicler does remember, early on, asking Ms. Boyle, "How was your flight to D.C.?" However, my notes appear to indicate she slapped your writer viciously and called me a "boorish swine's bottom," or some such imprecation, so perhaps she misunderstood the question. That's pretty much the extent of your journalist's notes and memories of the conversation. However, one does recall numerous of those flaming cocktail concoctions, each of which further cooked your writer's eyebrows, and - somehow - at some point in the proceedings, burned a three inch wide swath approximately four inches up the center of my once thick hairline.
So, other than getting an odd reply regarding her flight here, your scrivener can report that he found Ms. Boyle a delightful visage (see photo on right). During the numerous times I was conscious, I could not fail to notice that Ms. Boyle's hair was styled slightly differently from her performance last week, now with a comely swept back elegance that reveals features we had missed or misinterpreted heretofore. Your reporter's a man's man, and no expert in these things, but her new hairdo accentuates her now apparently wide spaced eyes and brings the illusion that her eyebrows have been reduced in width from approximately 6 inches to about one-quarter inch. Quite apparent also is how her lighter hair color also influences the appearance of her nose. It now seems to be pert and attractive, not stout and, well, frightening to children. These hairstylists earn their pay, I say! How did they, through a simple application of comb and coloring, collapse what appeared to be three prominent chins into a singular entity? And I would not before have believed one could produce a heart stopping lower lip via simple barbering tools. When your reporter went somewhat beyond reportage and attempted to lick Ms. Boyle's now noticeable - and noticeably delicious - cheekbones, the interview came to a police-intermediated ending. This reporter in what he recalls of his statement at the D.C. jail blamed the hairstylists. By the way, the subduing and arresting police officers each have offered to testify on my behalf.
So, there you have it. Despite my somewhat off performance, what your commenter truly likes about the real Susan Boyle is that she is still there, in her innocence, in her everywoman appeal. A simple change in hairstyle - something we all do from time to time - has not hidden who she is. Your chronicler of human events as played out at the elegance that is The Disgruntled Toad restaurant is pleased that this time the marketing people, the changeover artists, and the money people didn't get their wrecking ball hands on her. Although a certain reporter, however, did.
Hail Susan Boyle. It's trite, but "don't never change"!
This reporter wrote here on April 17th about Susan Boyle, the British singing star discovered on Britain's, ahem, "American Idol" show. She sang the sad tale of Les Miserables' I Dreamed a Dream with an ancient soul ideally suited to her persona and her visage. (Ms. Boyle, pictured on left, the day after her spectacular performance.)
if like most of us, you've had to fight for a health insurance benefit and lost the fight, read on. And if you've fought for your benefits and won the battle, recall the headaches, the heartaches, and the family financial crisis it caused. Also, read on. Sue Meadows [firstname.lastname@example.org], an independent health benefits expert (and, thanks only to my dumb luck, my wife) is a Guest Poster whose many years of experience within the health care industry will help you navigate those rough waters. Her article below will:
-- first, introduce and dissect the health insurance system, and
-- second, in the other articles she's authored and linked to, she passes along tips about the methods used by health plans to deny your claims, or to try to provide less coverage than you're entitled to.
with follow-up questions,
for advice about resolving a health benefit problem you're having right now,
or with questions about your present or proposed health coverage.
with any healthcare plan, or health insurer, or health care provider.
And now, here's Sue.
by Sue Meadows, Health Benefits Adviser
Access to Medical Care. Getting your family medical care presents two problems. One, many areas of the U.S. don't have adequate facilities or physicians to fill the needs of the population. Two, far too many people cannot afford the care that is available.
As you know, anyone uninsured or underinsured is at risk of not finding needed medical care. Frequently practitioners will not accept Medicaid-covered or self-pay patients; they can't take the financial risk. Doctors, emergency rooms, and hospitals who are willing to treat this group often have overfull schedules, and dedicated as they are, quality of care suffers. The unemployed, self-employed, part-time employed, and those working for a small business that cannot afford health insurance benefits all suffer from want of medical care. Healthcare reform cannot be effective without improving access.
Receiving Medical Care. As you may have experienced, those who can access care - get through the front door - are not necessarily able to actually receive care. Problems here are commonly functions of time and money.
You or your family must coordinate care, especially if it involves more than one doctor or other health care provider, like rehab, dialysis, or clinics.
There are doctors orders, tests, and schedules that must fit in with your work schedules, daycare availability, care for aging parents, and more.
Mobility due to disability, as well as regular transportation, can be a serious problem, for you or your family, nuclear or extended.
Mental health services may be available at a long distance from the patient's home.
Providing the prescription medicines your family needs at a reasonable cost can be a tremendous burden.
Some care is not covered at all, or only in part, and that makes it unaffordable even if you have insurance. Hearing aids, diabetic test strips, mammograms, allergy shots, imaging studies such as CT or MRI scans, can all fall into the impossible-to-receive arena.
Paying for Medical Care. Then there is the most elaborate, crazy-making maze: paying for it all. Medical care is expensive was at one time true, now, however, we all know it's beyond expensive. And who pays for what part of it is less certain than ever. It's no joke anymore that you feel worse after you get you medical bills even if your actual medical condition is improved . . .
Services and technologies commonly used now, such as MRI scans and laparoscopic surgeries, were not available in decades past, and more expensive tests are coming every day.
Medications are being developed at a high rate and for a steep cost, but now permit treating illnesses and injuries that would not even have been addressed before.
The basic cost of an doctor's office visit has gone up due to inflation, specialist training, and the doctor's staff costs (ironically, often due to multiple insurance company paperwork the doctor must provide) . Although the basic office visit cost is not unaffordable for most of us, it these additions to the visit that have really driven costs beyond affordable.
Health Insurance Coverage. Make no mistake: The U.S. rations healthcare by economic means. You and your family get what they can pay for. This is not a "conservative" or a "liberal" criticism. YOU know well: if you cannot pay, you cannot get adequate health care, if any at all. And if you have insurance you pay monthly premiums, copays, and deductibles. Without insurance, of course, you're billed for everything. Only the wealthy can reasonably afford the bill if it includes a serious injury, illness, or any chronic condition, like diabetes and heart disease. (For details about the three basic kinds of health insurance available in the U.S., see the special section "Types of Health Insurance Plans" at the end of this article.)
Getting Insurance To Pay. And, if you have health insurance, it's no magic bullet.
Plans are set up with restrictive rules on what care is covered.
There may be limits on where you may receive treatment (no in-home treatment or nursing home care, for example),
or frequency (only twenty visits per year),
or prior approval required (hysterectomy, back surgery),
or there may be complete exclusions (no coverage for neuro-muscular disorders, or medical devices like crutches, or medications that are not on the plan's approved list.)
Then there's the next hurdle of the claims process. Health plans kick out claims that don't meet all the criteria required when the claim is submitted. You must then research the denial, which requires additional information from the doctor, or the hospital, or (Heaven forbid!) correction of computer data. All this, as you probably already know, is incredibly time- and energy-consuming, and often ineffective because you don't know the insurance system, its jargon, codes, and practices. And, I bet you know this - the insurers don't want you to their "language."
After all the initial claims filings, when your claim is denied and you resubmit it, this begins the wait-and-see. The insurers return more forms for you or others to fill out, they offer no payment for the services in dispute, and you are forced to choose care based primarily on cost.
Pinball Medical Care Payment. As we've seen, restrictions and denials of medical insurance payment claims trap both patients and health care providers. Every health plan has an elaborate system for identifying and evaluating claims. The process is akin to a pinball game, with the claim bounced from one maze to a tunnel and then to another maze (click on the pinball machine for a clearer image). Claims systems tend to be biased towards denying claims that might in any way be an exception to the rule. The denials are computer-generated.
Some insurance companies then send you the denial without further review, putting the burden on you to prove they should pay your claim. The time involved in documenting claims, treatment decisions, and the claims submission process is a costly administrative burden for health care providers. Also, comprehensive medical care services commonly involve more than one provider, each of which submits its own claim. The medical doctor, the laboratory, the radiology center, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the pathologist, the pharmacy, the therapist, each has its own claim demanding payment. For self-protection some medical practices require you to pay the entire deductible up front. Others simply do not submit insurance claims for you, but bill you directly for the full fee, leaving claims submissions for you, in you "free time."
The result of all this makes a pinball game look sedate and organized by comparison. The healthcare system generates great expense that buys no medical value, not a single aspirin. Without health insurance coverage a family is running the highest risks of untreated serious health issues and financial ruin. There are ways to minimize the risks and reduce costs somewhat, but they are not obvious or easy. For example, if you family is uninsured you don't benefit from rates that large health insurance companies negotiate with providers. The full, non-discounted rates can be an impossible cost, and those costs are "passed through" to you if you're uninsured.
The medical care mire in the U.S. is an ordeal with no value. People are trapped financially in its mud, and can't escape to the higher, dryer ground of solid medical care. President Obama's healthcare reform initiative offers promise. Until then, everyone needs to pull on hip boots and be careful out there.
As you trudge on in the mire, take a look at the articles below. They'll help you understand some of the "language" of the health insurance companies, and perhaps the next time you have to discuss a claim with them you'll know when they're misdirecting, misinforming, or just plain lying. And please, feel free to contact me at email@example.com for your own questions or for help with a problem you're having now or foresee down the road. I can help jiggle that pinball machine a bit in your favor.
- For help with medical care payment problems, see Payment Pinball: Your Medical Bills, where I uncover and explain the health insurance company processes used when processing - and denying - your claim.
For ways to get by with little or no insurance, or to reduce costs regardless of your insurance coverage, see Medical Care During the Recession and Beyond.
People who are eligible for and enrolled in a health plan can frequently choose among two or three plan types.
One is a managed care, HMO model that strictly limits which providers can be seen by the person / patient. Other providers will not be paid. Even providers within the HMO may be seen only with the appropriate referrals and authorizations. Managed care saves money on the administrative end. People enrolled in managed care plans, who have primary care physicians with whom they are comfortable can avoid frustration and receive good quality basic care, including medications and therapies as needed. The tradeoff is the loss of choice of providers. Even emergency treatment from a non-HMO provider can be denied reimbursement. For physicians the managed care model can be good: they receive a salary for their services and do not have to worry about running a business as well as providing medical care. Yet, managed care can also pose problems for physicians in that it places limits on decisions they make and discourages treatments they may find important for individual patients.
Another plan type is catastrophic care coverage, where the patient manages and pays all costs for routine care. Hospitals fees are generally covered with this plan type. This plan is the most affordable, but it works well only for the healthy adult. Pregnancy is not covered with this plan type.
The most commonly chosen plan type, PPS or POS, allows the patient to choose the providers to see. Providers can contract with the insurer, discounting the rate they charge and receiving guaranteed remittance more quickly in retrun. This plan pays most of the fees for medical care after a deductible is met. It has its own restrictions and rules to govern payment.
for advice about your health insurance problems,
or questions about your health insurance choices or present plan.
And the song she chose, I Dreamed a Dream, from Les Miserables. Most of us live that song - dreaming simple dreams, so often dashed and broken in the complexity of even the simplest lives. And here we have Ms. Boyle, who says she's "never been kissed," an unemployed charity worker who lives with her cat, Pebbles (lucky Pebbles). She spent years caring for her aged parents. Hollywood could not write this, this had to be written in the voice of a never again anonymous Susan Boyle, whose choice of a song about lost dreams is the perfect irony to the dream Ms. Boyle has now attained.
Please, keep the makeover artists, the smarmy agents, the crooks, the liars, and the shady producers from her door. I've lived a semi-long life and have witnessed so-called overnight phenoms, most of them of the Britney Spears variety. Ms. Boyle is the dream movie script made real. Let her be. Just Susan Boyle. Let her do, without artifice, what she was born to do - sing for a world so in need of soothing tones.
If you are one of the few people on our planet who has not seen this, sit back, and be enveloped by a too long hidden fame. Predictably, the ability to embed this has been removed by YouTube, so just click on this link. It will open in a new window or tab.
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung
No wine untasted.
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame.
I dream he'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms
We cannot weather...
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
so different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.
Show Me The Money. I've written a few time before about this issue, click here for the collection. Incredibly, my suggestion for a new constitutional congressional pay raise amendment was greeted with a summary squatting ovation. On the other hand, there are a couple of proposals that have moved along a bit, in fact, one, a Senate bill was passed by the Senate and now sits in two House committees awaiting . . . what? Probable death. However, we do have a chance to help influence the outcome, perhaps light a little fire under the House committees where I fear the Senate proposal and the House bill with the most sponsors will otherwise languish.
I do understand that this issue is not among the most pressing at this time of war, partisanship, and "decession"TM (my coined word for something not quite a depression but way too beefy to be called a recession). Yet it's important as a symbol. Here we have our elected representatives yelling about AIG bonuses, for example. Wanting them to regurgitate those wads of bonus cash they don't deserve. Trying to craft ways to get at them through the tax code, etc. "How," our Congresspeople ask, "can these Wall Streeters who got us into this kettle of rancid fish reward themselves with bonuses? That's like giving a guy a five year vacation in Barbados when he's convicted for bank robbery!" On and on they bloviate. And, in general, I agree with them; it's outrageous that these AIG wonks and wonkettes - the ones behind this massive fraud - are still at liberty and stashing away millions too.
Just Who Got Us Into This Mess? "The ones who got us into this mess" is the phrase that comes back to bite Congress in the butt. If that's their complaint about AIG, then it fits them too. In justice, like AIG, Congress has hardly earned its basic salary, much less a cost of living increase, which they like to euphemistically call a "pay adjustment." A pay "adjustment" for most of them is like giving a hefty tip to the waiter who spills the hot fudge sundae down the décolletage of your grumpy old Aunt Ruthie's favorite brown dress just as she becomes nearly but-not-quite sodden enough with elderberry wine to spot you a few hundred dollars to get through the next few weeks . . . Let's not forget, as much as AIG and others "got us into this mess," Congress did so too, via lax oversight and deregulation. So, their nearly 1,500 raise, though small in a relative sense, is huge in meaning. And we need to move them along towards some redemption . . .
First, the bill that passed the Senate in mid March, S. 620, would rescind the provision that permits Congress to receive its cost of living increase automatically, without a floor vote. S. 620 requires a floor vote, and as I put in my constitutional amendment suggestions, it requires a roll call vote. No simple waving of the hands, S. 620 requires a record of the vote by Member. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) said it well when he called for a Senate vote on the bill, "Especially in this hour of economic crisis, the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans would agree that we should end this practice of automatic adjustments." And Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), long an advocate of this approach, also observed, "Congress should have to act if it decides to award itself a hike in pay. This process of pay raises without accountability must end." So, without any contrary opinions, S. 620 passed by voice vote. Its next stop was the House of Representatives where, according to the rules, it was referred to two committees for further consideration, the House Administration Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Once there it promptly . . . languished, despite the outcry about unfair bonuses and executive pay heaped upon others.
Now, there is another bill that has some legs too, a House bill, although it has not been brought to the floor for a vote. Introduced by "Blue Dog" Democrat Henry Mitchell (D-AZ) on January 1, 2009, H.R. 156, entitled Stop the Congressional Pay Raise Act, would prevent Members of Congress from receiving any automatic pay adjustment in 2010. It has 113 cosponsors, and surprisingly, it's a fairly bipartisan group. The bill simply would rescind the automatic pay "adjustment" scheduled to begin in January 2010. A bill like this has been introduced in nearly every Congress in recent memory. Some have passed and negated an upcoming pay raise, but most have not, and again, as Senators Reid and Feingold pointed out, the automatic nature of the "adjustment" must come out into the sunshine of a recorded vote, not remain in passive voice, so to speak. Well, a House bill with 113 sponsors sounds like one with a head of steam. Like S. 620 it was referred to the House Administration and the House Oversight Committees to promptly . . . languish.
All Hands on Keyboard! What can be done? Well, the committees must be pushed to take up the bills for consideration, and my most recent look at their schedules shows no such plans. Then they must vote it out of committee. Then the Speaker (the primary force in the House) must move it to the floor. As we've seen, the committee process can be quick, slow, or nonexistent, with bills dying in committee. I'm concerned that without some good old citizen outrage this is the fate of S.620 and H.R. 156.
Here's my thinking and suggestions:
1. We contact the committees and the Speaker's office and demand that he bills be moved along post haste. (How-to below)
2. Moreover, we ask that the two bills be combined into one bill that (a) incorporates S. 620 in its entirety, and (b) incorporates a revised H.R. 156 which rescinds the upcoming pay "adjustment" in 2010, but also rescinds the pay raise already in effect for 2009, some $4,700 per Congressperson and Senator. Rescission, a nice term for "give it back, dude," can be accomplished in any way that makes sense, either by reducing their salaries for the rest of the year by an amount equal to the 2009 raise, or by use of the tax code (as many in Congress suggested for AIG bonus holders and others not themselves). Those who had already donated their pay adjustments to charity, like Rep. Henry Mitchell (R-AZ), would be able to leave that in place without penalty, but no sudden charitable feelings after a certain date would be permitted.
1. Here's a list of cosponsors of H.R. 156 who are House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members. They should be reminded - must be - to champion the bill they cosponsored. Their actions may get the bill on the committee agenda, although the Speaker and the committee chairpersons are the power centers. It's worth a try, though, to e-mail these particular committee Members (listed further below). Let them know you're looking to them to set the example.
But also contact your own representative. Note that Members of Congress are very district-oriented. They receive a lot of e-mails, etc., and have little time for messages from out-of-district voters. Like "earmarks," it seems parochial - wrong even - yet, if we think about it, it's reasonable. They were elected by their district voters and are in D.C. to represent them. So, try to contact only your own Congressmember. Here's the list of Members of Congress and their districts. To help you determine which district you're in here's a nifty interactive atlas for the 111th Congress, just choose your home state, click on where you live on the resulting state map, and it'll show you your House member and provide a link to his or her office website.
Here, though, are the "targets" who have the most influence on the pay raise bills. They're important because they are on the primary committee for S. 620 and H.R. 156 (the Government Oversight Committee) AND they are nine of the 113 cosponsors of H.R. 156. (I've not included the House Administration Committee because there are no cosponsors of H.r. 156 and they have less importance as a committee in this matter than the Oversight Committee):
Members who are on the Oversight Committee & are cosponsors of H.R. 156:
Dan Burton (R-IN-5) e-mail him
Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) e-mail him
Steve Driehaus (D-OH-1) e-mail him
Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) e-mail him
Bill Foster (D-IL-14) e-mail him
Paul Hodes (D-NH-2) e-mail him
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) e-mail her (non-voting Member, but very influential)
Todd Russell Platts (R-PA-19) e-mail him
Jackie Speier (D-CA-12) e-mail her
2. I'm not even going to suggest that you contact Speaker Pelosi. To her, this issue is not high on her agenda, if on it at all. Also, she receives so much e-mail that I have a feeling it would never get beyond her army of e-mail reviewers unless there were thousands of e-mails, and I know I can't deliver even a tiny fraction of that amount. I've never gone viral . . . But if you feel the spirit, and have a good form letter anyway, then shoot for the stars. Here's her Speaker of the House e-mail address.
3. Send this link to your friends, etc. Sure, I like having my writing get passed around, but I don't kid myself - I'm no Glenn Greenwald, or Digby, and never will be. This is an important issue in symbolic terms if not in real fiscal savings. If a few of your friends, colleagues, or family members have ever griped a bit about Congressional pay, then maybe they'd help out too. If I don't pick up a single subscriber from this, that'll be O.K., or at least will be after they talk me down from the ledge and fill me up with Valium.
Ahhhh. The Wonders of Cut & Paste. What do I say to these people? Well, first, they're out of town until late this month, so you have some time. But remember, most of their staff
members are in D.C.
As a beginning, you would not go wrong quoting Rep. Mitchell (R-AZ) when he introduced H.R. 156 on January 1, 2009:
When Members of Congress accept this pay raise, we send the wrong message. We should be tightening our belts along with the men and women we represent. Americans are suffering and instead of feeling that pain, Congress is quietly approving pay raises to further insulate us from it. If you want to know why people hate Washington and feel that it is out of touch, it is precisely because of moves like this. If we are going to talk the talk of fiscal discipline, I believe we need to walk the walk of self-restraint. . .Also, suggest that both bills be combined, with the addition of the rescission of the 2009 pay "adjustment" that already jingles in their pockets.
Remind them that, yes, AIG and other financial morons caused this debacle, but so did Congress through lack of oversight and dunderheaded insistence on deregulation, Democrats and Republicans alike, although it was the GOP that provided, by far, the impetus for deregulation.
Finally, you might include either a link to this post you like, or cut and paste potions of it into your text.
Give it a shot. Then let's follow-up in a month and see if they heard us.
It's been a couple of weeks since Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) was all over the news. His insistence that he will not apply for, nor accept, some $700 Million of federal stimulus Title XIV money for his state has rallied both fiscal conservatives in support and pretty much the rest of the world in opposition. I wrote here about it at the height of the controversy, suggesting that the Title XIV funds, related as they are primarily towards increasing the effectiveness of state public schools, ran counter the Governor's enmity towards public education, as opposed to his promotion of private schools, vouchers, etc. Why would he support funding for improving the public schools then? I still believe his primary motivation is not federalism or anything that ennobling; Sanford simply cannot afford to improve public schools at the expense of his "free market" choice: charter schools. My God, suppose South Carolina's abysmal academic records improved? Suppose South Carolinians began to believe in the public system?
In any event, time marches on. The state legislature and the governor continue to play a spirited game of rugby and neither side is giving an inch. Since my last writing on this topic legal opinions have supported the governor's ability to constitutionally refuse to accept the funds in question. Firstly, a nonbinding opinion of the South Carolina Attorney General sided solidly with Governor Sanford and an earlier Congressional Research Service legal memorandum expressing severe reservations about the power of the legislature to override the governor and itself accept the Title XIV funds.
[i]n the government of [South Carolina], the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other, and no person or persons exercising the function of one of said departments shall assume or discharge the duties of any other. . .Even the Obama administration agrees. agrees. A March 31, 2009 memorandum from Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), concluded:
Accordingly, only the courts possess the power to resolve this dispute between the coordinate and coequal legislative and executive branches. Should the Legislature choose to accept these funds on behalf of South Carolina, and appropriate such funds to the uses required in the Recovery Act, and should the Governor choose not to apply for and utilize the funds - as federal law gives him the power to do - a constitutional standoff would be created. Resort to the judiciary would be necessary to resolve the stalemate.
However, for a State to access its allocation of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the Governor must submit an application to the Secretary of Education, and there currently is no provision in the Recovery Act for the State legislature to make such an application in lieu of the Governor for a State’s allocation of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.The Governor's compromise is, to most, no compromise at all, but simply another exercise in GOP deconstruction of government under the guise of crisis. Sanford proposes that the state submit a budget that offsets the fiscal stimulus funds represented by Title XIV by debt reduction and cuts in other parts of the budget, a budget already under water by $1.1 Billion. In addition, he insists that the legislature accept his $270 Million package of budget reductions, with further cuts to be found later on to offset completely the $700 Million in Title XIV funds.
"Late Monday night, GOP Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman said of the governor’s plan: "A small portion of the debt, we might be able to do that. If he’s talking $700 million, he’s whistling ‘Dixie.’' Said Democratic Sen. John Land,'The governor of this state has put us in the most unnecessary crisis in the time I’ve been here,' (elected to the Senate in 1977). “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen and it makes no sense.”
With the hope for a political or judicial resolution to this problem remote, it's time for the people of South Carolina to do something they learned about the hard way in the 1960s: march. March on the Governor's mansion, sit in at public parks, expand the Sanfordville from a dozen residents to a few thousand. The political system in South Carolina, despite a determined effort by both Democratic and GOP legislators, seems defeated by a single intransigent man still pushing a supply side belief system in direct defiance of the mass of people in his recession-riddled state. Perhaps a mass of people on his front lawn might convince him otherwise?
Before you leave, please
Note: April 4, 2012: If you like the post below, I have just posted two other Tiger Woods posts you might also enjoy: Tiger's Back To The Future At The 2012 Masters Tournament, and 3 Quick & Easy Charts Of Tiger Woods' Ball Striking, Putting, And Accuracy Improvements Since 2009. Each link will open in a new window. For now, here's my 2009 post:
April 4, 2009.
My Rite of Spring. I'm about to immerse myself in my favorite rite of Spring, watching the Masters Tournament, televised in HD from Georgia's Augusta National Golf Club. And no, to me anyway, watching golf is not akin to watching paint dry. It's even more than that. It's a glimpse into athletic ability of the highest order, married to a pace that allows one a chance to savor.
And no, I am not anymore a golfer, whose primary interest in watching golf is to pick up swing tips. I was once afflicted with golf when a teenager, and showed some promise until my golf hero, Arnold Palmer, ruined my swing. I'm 59, so my experience with golf began in those magical years when Arnold dominated the scene, even when, to Jack's eternal chagrin, Jack Nicklaus was winning more often. Arnold was golf then. In those years of my mid-youth, his swing, with its animal energy and outrageous form, dominated my golf dreams. I decided at some point that I needed to add 30 or 40 yards to my drives, and Arnold was my model. The video below will show you what I was crazily trying to emulate . . .
A few years later now the owner of a swing completely ruined, I learned that Arnold's swing was Arnold's swing, a once in a generation gift of timing, strength, and audacity that was all Arnold and only Arnold. I struggled on with the golfer's most obvious sign of ineffectiveness, a massive slice, until I could take it no more. I absolutely hate taking part in an athletic event where I absolutely positively beyond redemption stink. It took years to finally put it to rest, mind you. I tried golf schools, golf books, golf instruction, golf prayers, golf novenas. In the end, decades ago, I realized that God, and man, did not want me to play golf, and one day finally realized my quest to fix my swing had ended when I found myself using one of my golf clubs as a gardening tool. Believe me, a smile crossed my face. I'd been delivered.
The Mastery of the Masters. Yet, my love of the game and its lore only increased. Having failed to master it, it mastered me. I knew by experience the exceptional athletic skill and neuromuscular mastery that it requires. I was adept at a number of sports in my youth, baseball, tennis, football. So I knew the requirements of each. Golf, unlike other sports I played, requires a perfection of physical sequencing that permits little room for error; in fact, it permits only millimeters of error. So many things - clubface, angle of attack, arms, hands, legs, hips - must arrive at the ball with near perfection. Even then one might reach the green admirably only to lack the fine motor skills and intelligence to get the ball even remotely near the hole on long putts, and then be unable to sink four foot putts for par. The game requires a control of one's power throughout the spectrum, from the sheer massive acceleration of a drive to the finest touch on the greens. I know, it's true that aficionados of athletics will argue convincingly that, for example, no athletic movements compare to the ones required in basketball, and the prowess of coordination and speed required of a third baseman is incomparable, as is, let's face it, the ability to hit a ball like Ted Williams. All true. But I've been around all of these sports and performed somewhat admirably in a few, and, for me, the skill argument begins and ends with golf.
This week, Masters week, is my favorite week of the year, and it involves nothing more than sitting and watching. I fight to keep this week clear. The Masters has always been my finest harbinger of Spring. The unusual beauty of the Augusta, Georgia course and clubhouse is among the first true signs that Winter has packed his bags. Azaleas. Forsythia. Dogwoods. Redbuds. There's little else as redolent of Spring. In golf history, as well, the Masters signifies the true beginning of the golf season, ending the cold weather tournaments that precede it. Golf is Spring. The Masters, many argue, is golf. And the Masters brings the first of the four yearly tournaments that comprise the "major tournaments." It's one that establishes the new season's first demi-god. Palmer, won four; Nicklaus, the "owner" of the Masters, won six; and Tiger Woods, at 31, owns four.
Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright. This year, Tiger is back from a nine month hiatus caused by a torn knee ligament. His uncomplaining and courageous win at the 2008 U.S. Open, where he could barely walk, forever ennobled his fourth Open win. After off season surgery and rehab he returned to the game this Winter, winning his last tournament, the Arnold Palmer Memorial, in a stupendous charge to the finishing 20 foot putt he needed to win. Concern about his knee resolved. Now the talk, as usual in the Tiger era, is not merely how many major tournaments he will win, but how do we "Tiger-proof" the courses on which he'll play. Google "tiger-proof golf course" and you'll get 650,000+ hits. If only a third are relevant, that's still more than 300,000 ideas. How's it working so far? No one's successfully answered, "How do we nullify to some extent Tiger's immense talent by course design? How do we make it possible of others to win?"
It's no different this year at the Masters. Actually, the attempt to nullify modern player's increased length off the tee, has centered on the Augusta course. Tiger is just the initial target. In recent years more and more players are simply outdistancing the fairway traps and other hazards that were "in play" during previous eras. There's a very good argument that something needed to be done. One still wants the less Paul Bunyan-like hitters to have a chance. They are often the finer shotmakers and putters. But to lack distance off the tee and in the fairways in the era of gargantuan drivers is to give up three to five strokes per round.
What do you do about Tiger then? Lengthen the course? Shorten the course? Well, he's proved scores of times that he'll win on a long course and on a short course. He wins when the greens are cut short to increase their difficulty. He wins when fairway traps are placed at distances from the tee that seem best named "Tiger trap." How does this happen? It's quite simple. He's the very best golfer in the world, under all conditions. For example, he's won 18 of his last 31 tournaments. That's quite a streak in baseball. In golf, it's utterly stupendous. Most professional golfers do not win a single tournament in their careers. Tiger's thrice won five or more tournaments in a row. May I say here, etcetera. The fact about Tiger is one that many cannot accept: there is no way to design a course that will Tiger-proof it. Not until his skills fade or his competitors improve.
So, despite the evidence against its success, how exactly might one Tiger-proof a tournament? Well, here one needs to think out of the box. Way out. I was discussing this with my stepson, Phil, the other day. We decided that the only thing left is to investigate Tiger's fears and employ them during a tournament. For example, perhaps Tiger has a fear of clowns? Perhaps he would be thrown by cows on the course? Of course, we'd have to find something that all the other players were not also fearful of. Clowns? Well, I for one would not even show up for a tournament where clowns roamed the course. Yet, I learned to my surprise, there are some - many - who do not fear clowns with a hyperventilating apoplexy. Some of these must be pro golfers. So, the presence of clowns, so frightening to Tiger, would be no difficulty for them. The same with cows. Now, for me, a large herd of cows on the course would be a nice pastoral scene, other than the care I'd have to take avoiding their well known "pies." But that's what you have caddies for, eh? So, cows would likely offer no problem for most pro golfers. If Tiger were afraid of clowns and cows . . . Then, then we'd have something that just might derail him. He's tee up, look down the fairway, and see a group of bovines chomping on the rough. He'd turn away, telling himself, "It's O.K. Tiger. They're just slow-witted animals. No threat to you." He's fortify himself only to return to his teed up ball to notice a few dozen clowns in the gallery. Tell me he would not freeze. Whimpering with fear he'd surely top his ball off the tee into the woods on the right and then be afraid to enter the woods. The cows, you know, lurk there. And the clowns. You never know where they'll show up. Even his well-known and physically challenging caddie, Steve Williams, would not be able to calm him. No doubt. He'd shoot two consecutive 120s and not make the cut. Something for Augusta National Golf Club to consider for next year's Masters.
way through a covey of clowns whilst fleeing the Masters Tournament this morning.
Before you leave, please
As always, I will direct you to what we call "primary sources" where you'll find the official versions of presidential memoranda, executive orders, speeches, press conferences, etc. Then you may decide how to interpret the information without it first being filtered through the media.
Also, I note that I have had many new visitors from India. I certainly appreciate your visits and hope that some will return again and again for Snoopers Tips, and other articles. New subscribers are always welcome! Thank you for your visits!
for our "Everything and Anything" Sale!!!
Those witnessing the initial meeting of the Queen and the First Lady noted a certain gleam in the monarch's eyes as she quickly embraced Mrs. Obama whilst merely shrugging off the President with a quick handshake. Far from the press accounts characterizing Mrs. Obama's embrace of the Queen as an impulsive breach of royal etiquette, observers today recalled hearing the Queen say "Hold me, touch me" as she shook hands with the First Lady. "It was an immediate, almost animal attraction," reports the Queen's Secretary, Lady Honoria Wooster-Glossup, "and getting the Queen to settle down at bedtime that evening was quite a sticky wicket."
The Queen's announcement that she and Mrs. Obama were "presently exploring a mutual attraction through the process known as dating" was met by consternation at the Obama camp, in London for the G20 summit. The First Lady, speaking through her closed London hotel door, asserted "No way, nada, never gonna happen." Mrs. Obama continued, "Now, she's a nice person, don't misunderstand, but even were I to entertain for a moment an extramarital affair with anyone, first, it'd likely be Sean Connery, a Scot, and secondly, it'd be on the sly, not announced to the world in general!"
The President, for his part, "completely supports Michelle's decision on this matter, and I hope that the Queen will understand that my own feelings for her are quite positive and strong, and growing stronger and stronger each day. In fact, for a short pudgy old monarch, she's pretty cute." Prince Philip, the Queen's spouse, responded that he'd be "pleased and permissive were a dating relationship to ensue between the Queen and Mrs. Obama or the President or among all three." The Prince then reported that he'd long had his eyes on "that Governor of Alaska who says 'You betcha'," (Sarah Palin) and "were the Queen, whom I love dearly, to take up with either the First Lady, the President, or both, I believe that royal precedent exists for me to present my credentials, so to speak, in Juneau, Alaska."
The Queen, according to Prince Philip, continues to hold out hope that Mrs. Obama will change her mind. "She's busy arranging a fabulous pajama party. Invitations have been sent and popcorn chosen. She anxiously awaits the First Lady's reply."
What better way to demonstrate that with Spring on the way, love is in the air? Despite the differing opinions on whether an actual relationship yet exists between and/or among the parties, it warms your reporter's heart to see that love, so absent from the scene today, may yet arise like a phoenix from its own ashes. Your scrivener says, "May the Queen, the First Lady, the President, Prince Philip, and Governor Palin reign in mutual affection, in whatever combination that may in the fullness of time ensue."
Before you leave, please
As requested, here's a Snoopers Tips Roundup! web page
that contains each of my Snoopers Tips.
I 'll post quite a few more Snoopers Tips (TM) in the next two weeks now that I have a good idea of the "warp & woof" of the Obama administration. I'll update the Snoopers Tips Roundup! page regularly, so if you bookmark it . . .
There is no "Read More"
"All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in [the Freedom of Information Act] FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA."
President Obama's January 21st memorandum initiated a radical departure from the Bush administration's presumption against disclosure. On March 19th, Attorney General Eric Holder issued his response to the President's call to action by releasing new agency guidelines regarding treatment of FOIA requests.
For eight years, under Bush, the presumption was contrary to the underlying philosophy of "sunshine" enactments. Known as the "Ashcroft doctrine," named after Attorney General John Ashcroft who enforced a policy that
**** Read more by clicking "Read More" below, right **** **** Start reading more here **** permitted agencies to deny FOIA requests if there was "any legal justifications for secrecy that he [Ashcroft] determined to be sound."
Holder's memo reasserts the openness that prevailed during the Carter and Clinton administrations:
First, an agency should not withhold information simply because it may do so legally. I strongly encourage agencies to make discretionary disclosures of information. An agency should not withhold records merely because it can demonstrate, as a technical matter, that the records fall within the scope of a FOIA exemption.His memorandum goes on to instruct agencies to act "proactively" by having effective FOIA procedures in place and by responding to requests quickly. Holder asserts, "agencies should readily and systematically post information online in advance of any public request."
Second, whenever an agency determines that it cannot make full disclosure of a requested record, it must consider whether it can make partial disclosure. Agencies should always be mindful that the FOIA requires them to take reasonable steps to segregate and release nonexempt information. Even if some parts of a record must be withheld, other parts either may not be covered by a statutory exemption, or may be covered only in a technical sense unrelated to the actual impact of disclosure.
At the same time, the disclosure obligation under the FOIA is not absolute. The Act provides exemptions to protect, for example, national security, personal privacy, privileged records, and law enforcement interests. But as the President stated in his memorandum, "The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears."
Openness is the key, and the President, on his first day in office, signaled a broader and more telling use of the openness policy his administration appears to be forthrightly implementing:
Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution.The phrase, "or a former President wants to withhold" takes on great meaning and potential for causing a certain former President a long period of Excedrin headaches, as well as the Karl Rove's he still tries to protect under what can only be called a "perpetual executive privilege."
permitted agencies to deny FOIA requests if there was "any legal justifications for secrecy that he [Ashcroft] determined to be sound."
Before you leave, please
The other day, with his decision to drop the indictment against former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), Attorney General Eric Holder asserted his authority over the Department of Justice in a way that indicates he will guide the department out of the swamp where it has wallowed for many years. It's a meaningful decision in a variety of ways.Statement of Attorney General Eric Holder
Regarding United States V. Theodore F. Stevens
In connection with the post-trial litigation in United States v. Theodore F. Stevens, the Department of Justice has conducted a review of the case, including an examination of the extent of the disclosures provided to the defendant. After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial. In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial.
The Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct a thorough review of the prosecution of this matter. This does not mean or imply that any determination has been made about the conduct of those attorneys who handled the investigation and trial of this case.
The Department of Justice must always ensure that any case in which it is involved is handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice. Under oftentimes trying conditions, the attorneys who serve in this Department live up to those principles on a daily basis. I am proud of them and of the work they do for the American people.
First, the AG could have simply gone to a new trial and cured the defects of the prosecutors in the initial case, such as their withholding of important evidence from Stevens' attorneys regarding a key witness's statements. However, Holder decided that the "totality of circumstances" warranted decisive action:
Government's Motion: "Given the facts of this particular case, the Government believes that granting a new trial is in the interest of justice. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). The Government has further determined that, based on the totality of circumstances and in the interest of justice, it will not seek a new trial. Accordingly, pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 48(a), the Government moves to set aside the verdict and dismiss the indictment . . ."Second, with this decision holder sends a signal to the Department of Justice that the AG's office is now a "hands on" operation, one that will insist upon prosecutorial standards of high caliber. Holder seems to be saying that political appointees will no longer send signals to the non-political appointee career prosecutors that laxness, or outright malfeasance, will be tolerated. Say what one will about Ted Stevens, for example, but he was entitled to a fair trial and the withholding of the important evidence that Holder mentions in his motion to the court would surely have influenced the outcome.
Third, by dismissing the charges against Mr. Stevens rather than pursuing a new, perfected, trial, Mr. Holder displays an admirable sense of justice and an ability to weigh the "totality of circumstances." Mr. Stevens, at 85 years old, although still cantankerous as ever, deserves a break, especially since the wrongdoing of the prosecutors was so egregious. Holder does justice here in the best sense of the word.
Finally, it's my hope that the forthrightness demonstrated by Mr. Holder will permeate the department and lead inexorably to investigations regarding allegations of Bush era wrongdoing in many areas, including domestic spying, politicizing the Department of Justice, and human rights abuses too numerous to chronicle.
Mr. Holder, what is good for Ted Stevens is good for America.