Ask Iris: Are you watching the State of the Union tonight?

Q. Are you watching the State of the Union tonight?

A. Of course not. HELLO?!

Loyal Readers™ will be well aware of my admonitions to parse with extreme skepticism any words emanating from the mouth of a politician, and to instead form your judgements based solely on their actions. (Actually this is really good advice for dealing with anyone and everyone; it will spare you many, many headaches and heartaches.) This is particularly important to note when someone’s words and actions are in conflict: their actions speak the truth about their values and priorities. If by now you do not know by his actions that Barack Obama is a True Believer in conservative economics, a Wall Street-serving corporatist, a radical and lawless executive, and an unrepentant, murderous warmonger very much like his predecessor, then you simply have not been paying attention.

Relatedly, there has recently been some media hubbub about our president “rediscovering a progressive agenda” (after six years in office, during which Democrats held one or both houses of congress). Why, gosh darnit, it’s about time we tax those billionaires! As I told a correspondent, this week I’ve witnessed people I thought were at least minimally politically astute sincerely wondering why the administration is suddenly proposing a bunch of lefty policies only after there is zero chance of passing any of them. The question contains its answer in itself.

So turn off the TV and have a nice evening. Lard knows I certainly will.

red&whitewinecheersCheers!

Behold the beauty of for-profit healthcare.

My last post touched briefly on the debacle known as Obamacare, which I have written about ever since I first started blogging and many times since. In a nutshell, my primary objection is that it entrenches and strengthens our wildly expensive, unjust, craptastic for-profit system, rather than providing any sort of bridge to transition the vast majority of Americans to a single-payer system. For-profit means just what it says: it puts healthcare in the business of producing profits, and not, you know, health.

See?

On several key measures, for-profit hospices as a group fall short of those run by nonprofit organizations.

The typical for-profit hospice:

●Spends less on nursing per patient.

●Is less likely to have sent a nurse to a patient’s home in the last days of life.

●Is less likely to provide more intense levels of care for patients undergoing a crisis in their symptoms.

●Has a higher percentage of patients who drop out of hospice care before dying. High rates of dropout are often viewed as a sign that patients were pushed out of hospice when their care grew expensive, left dissatisfied or were enrolled for hospice even though they were not close to death.

They also deny their patients palliative care they deem too expensive, like radiation treatments to shrink tumors.

Hospice operators have an economic incentive to provide less care because they get paid a flat daily fee from Medicare for each of their patients. That means that the fewer services they provide, the wider their profit margin.

Wow! Who would have thought?

Industry advocates warned against using the findings to rule out care from a for-profit hospice.

That’s because they are industry advocates, paid to advocate for the hospice industry. And they seem to be quite successful at what they do:

The number of hospice firms has risen rapidly, and over the past decade the growth has come almost entirely from new for-profit operations. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of for-profit hospices tripled to 2,196, according to federal figures, compared with about 1,500 nonprofit hospices, including those run by local governments.

Good job, industry advocates! And of course the ultimate villains in this story are never lurking very far away:

The expansion has been driven in large part by investors, including private equity firms, hedge funds and entrepreneurs. More than a dozen private equity firms have invested in businesses that provide hospice care, including giants such as The Carlyle Group, Kohlberg & Company, Summit Partners and GTCR.

“Hospice [mergers and acquisitions] market is red hot (peak valuation levels),” according to a presentation by financial analysts at Cain Brothers last year, which cited, among other things, the favorable U.S. demographics — more old people.

“Hospice continues to be of robust interest to Wall Street,” said Carsten Beith, a managing director at Cain Brothers.

The more neglect and misery inflicted on the elderly and terminally ill, the more money motherfuckers make. Red hot market. Robust interest to Wall Street.

If that’s not your cue to run far, far away from for-profit hospice care, I’d really like some of that (illegal!) medical marijuana you’re smoking.

Defenders of market-based healthcare generally and private medical insurance in particular—a.k.a. conservatives—would no doubt attack my reasoning here, perhaps by claiming that the real problem is too much regulation (nope: as the linked article notes, hospices are terribly under-regulated) or too much government interference in the Glorious Free Market™ that leads to such disparate outcomes between for-profit and non-profit hospice operations. Alternatively, conservatives might spin or deny reality, with which they maintain only the most tenuous grasp. That is because in the bizarre wasteland that is the conservative mind, the well-established fact that non-profits and single-payer health systems yield far superior health outcomes across a wide range of measures (and do so much more cost-efficiently) simply cannot be acknowledged as true. Thus stories like this one in The Washington Post must be dismissed or explained away by ever more hilariously absurd rationalizations, lest we all fall into a communist death spiral and ruin America.

medicare4all

Senate Democrats think I’m an idiot. They’re probably right, but not for the reasons they think.

Palace inbox alert: urgent missive!

From: “alert@dscc.org” <info@dscc.org>
Date: December 30, 2014
Subject: your membership (pending)

Iris — Your membership is going to expire at midnight tomorrow, and you only have 36 more hours to renew it for 2015!

Holy $#!+ you guys! I better get right on that. Wait, my membership in what is going to expire? The DSCC? Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’ve got the wrong Iris.

We’re starting at zero after this last election, and in order to bounce back and go on offense we need your urgent help. Senate Republicans are already threatening OUTRAGEOUS votes to roll back abortion rights and repeal Obamacare.

You know what’s outrageous? I will tell you what’s outrageous: using abortion rights to raise funds for Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN)—all of whom are anti-choice. And Obamacare is an obstacle to single payer.  Do I look like a fucking idiot? WAIT DON’T ANSWER THAT.

You can’t wait until later to become a member — it’s critical that you act now.

Oh no! It’s now or never! What to do, what do do… OMG THE PRESSURE!!!

President Obama and Democrats really appreciate all you’re doing to help!

Thanks for your support,
DSCC HQ

Hahaha. Sure.

If you’d like to stop receiving emails related to this campaign, please click here.

What, and miss these emails? Not on your life.

New Yorkers: 1, Motherfrackers: 0.

New Yorkers: 1, Motherfrackers: 0.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration announced on Wednesday that it would ban hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of uncertainty over the disputed method of natural gas extraction.

You’re welcome, New York! I don’t like to toot my own horn or anything, but it’s pretty clear the good governor really took to heart the letter I wrote him in July. I kid, I kid. He doesn’t give a flying fuck what I think. Hell, I didn’t even vote for the guy. And therein lies a lesson.

As New Yorkers may remember, Andrew Cuomo, the incumbent Democratic governor, faced a Democratic primary challenger on September 9: Zephyr Teachout. While it was universally acknowledged that she had no chance of actually winning, she put up fight with the backing of environmentalists (and other lefties who see Cuomo for the corrupt, conservative opportunist he is). While Cuomo continued to drag his feet and waffle on deciding the fracking issue, Teachout flat-out stated that she would ban it.

She had me at hello.

And oh, how I heard that I’d be wasting my vote, and/or to not even bother voting in the New York primary because after all, Cuomo was a shoo-in. And that was just from people who had heard of Teachout. More often the conversation started and ended with who?

Nevertheless, this upstart with a pittance of a budget went up against a Democratic icon with a massive war chest and the backing of a well-oiled party machine—and she came away with 33% of the primary vote. Not enough for a win, of course. But Cuomo is a scion of Democratic politics who harbors national ambitions, and, well, that certainly does not bode well for him. While he may not give a shit about me, or about New York’s ground water, he sure as hell gives a shit about that.

Environmentalists are fawning all over Cuomo:

Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, said Mr. Cuomo “set himself apart as a national political leader who stands up for people” over the energy industry.

But tonight I’ll be toasting Zephyr Teachout, and those of us who showed up on September 9 to vote for her. Especially in primaries, it doesn’t take a “win” to win.

By the way, if you want to actually waste your vote, just keep right on voting for the “lesser of two evils.” They’re counting on you.

Recent reads.

library417 Disgraceful Facts Buried In The Senate’s 600 Page Torture Report. Volsky, I., Think Progress (Dec. 2014). [Perhaps the most disgraceful of which is that—like NSA surveillance—the torture program did not stop a single terrorist attack. -Ed.]

Obama says CIA torture report exposed ‘brutal activity,’ won’t criticize Bush administration. Garcia, A., Raw Story (Dec. 2014). (“mistakes were made.”) [By war criminals. -Ed.]

Instead of prosecuting torturers, Obama prosecuted the guy who revealed the program. Lee, T.B., Vox (Dec. 2014).

Let’s not kid ourselves: Most Americans are fine with torture, even when you call it “torture”. Ingraham, C., The Washington Post (Dec. 2014).

Inconsistencies in rape victims’ statements about the trauma are understandable. Tetlow, T., The Times-Picayune of Greater New Orleans (Dec. 2014). (“Carefully trained officers recognize these symptoms as evidence of trauma. Most confuse it with lying.”)

The backlash to Rolling Stone’s story about rape culture at UVa. Reed, K., reedkath (Dec. 2014).

A Texas Grand Jury Recently Cleared 2 White Cops Who Beat a Black Woman in Jail. Brodey, S., Mother Jones (Dec. 2014).

Black Trans Woman Killed While Pounding on Door for Help. King, J., For Harriet via Colorlines (Dec. 2014). (“Anti-Violence Project issued a statement bringing attention to a rash of recent murders of transgender women of color…the organization has “documented 18 anti-LGBTQ homicides last year. Of those homicide victims, almost 90 [percent] were people of color, almost three-quarters (72 [percent]) of homicide victims were transgender women, and more than two-thirds (67 [percent]) of homicide victims were transgender women of color.”) [Fucking hell. -Ed.]

The Global Rich Are a Tribe with Their Own Folkways, Values & Mythology. Those Values Are “Pathological.” Publius, G., Down With Tyranny! (Dec. 2014).

Kinky*Cool. “Fucking the patriarchy with a rainbow strap-on.” [Rainbow strap-on added to shopping list: CHECK. -Ed.]

The Feminist Killjoy Gift Guide. The Belle Jar (Dec. 2014). [Needz moar rainbow strap-ons. -Ed.]

Dear White Allies: Stop Unfriending Other White People Over Ferguson. Spectra, The Huffington Post (Dec. 2014).

A Concise History Of Black-White Relations In The United States. Deutsch, B., Everyday Feminism (Oct. 2014). (Comic.)

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Some Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King for the Quotes collection. D00d is as relevant now as ever.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.

Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace.

We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

See also: Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did. HamdenRice, Daily Kos (Aug. 2011).

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Recent reading.

library4
There’s Been HOW Many Pipeline Spills in Alberta in The Last Four Months?? Gwennedd, Daily Kos (Nov. 2014). (“Our main media, CBC, does not provide any coverage of the many, many spills and gas releases that happen every month, nor the efforts to clean up the messes. They’re simply not considered news.”)

Darren Wilson Breaks His Silence: I’m Sorry, And I Would Shoot Michael Brown Again. Badash, D., The New Civil Rights Movement (Nov. 2014). [#sorrynotsorry -Ed.]

Near-collisions between drones, airliners surge, new FAA reports show. Whitlock, C., The Washington Post (Nov. 2014).

Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid: Violence works. Nonviolence does too. Coates, T.N., The Atlantic (Nov. 2014).

Do not judge a person, until you know their story. oldnerdybasterd, The Meta Picture (Nov. 2013).

The Feminist Vampire Movie That Teaches ‘Bad Men’ a Gory Lesson. Barcella, L., Jezebel (Nov. 2014).

The Debunking Handbook. John Cook, J. and Lewandowsky, S., Skeptical Science (Jan. 2012). (pdf)

‘I can’t think of a time when it was worse’: US abortion doctors speak out. McVeigh, K., The Guardian (Nov. 2014).

Women find their voice in Ferguson protest movement. Pearce, M., Los Angeles Times (Nov. 2014).

I Belong to Me: Learning Agency & Consent Outside Christianity. Kelly, D., Patheos (Nov. 2014).

Everything We Know So Far About The Oil Rig Explosion In The Gulf Of Mexico. Atkin, E., Think Progress (Nov. 2014).

Violence isn’t the answer, unless I’m asking the question. Cromwell, I., Crommunist (Nov. 2014).

Man stabbed 9 times after asking catcaller to stop harassing his girlfriend. Kutner, J., Salon (Nov. 2014).

Battered Victim Marissa Alexander Back In Jail On Plea Bargain – Florida Injustice Wins Again. Salzillo, L., Daily Kos (Nov. 2014).

No One Wanted to Talk About Bill Cosby’s Alleged Crimes Because He Made White America Feel Good About Race. Traister, R., New Republic (Nov. 2014).

Bad Teeth, Bad People: Another Way Privileged America Shames The Poor. Parker, E., If You Only News (Nov. 2014).

5 Thanksgiving Disasters You’re Probably Not Prepared For. Cheese, J., Cracked (Nov. 2011).

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Recent readz.

library4The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare. Taibbi, M., Rolling Stone (Nov. 2014). [Important reading, especially for anyone who mistakenly believes the U.S. is a democracy operating under the rule of law. -Ed.]

Top 10 Jesus Pranks. JUST FOR LAUGHS GAGS via youtube. [h/t SJ] [OMFG LOL. -Ed.]

Forget the 1%. It is the 0.01% who are really getting ahead in America. The Economist (Nov. 2014). (“Rising wealth inequality could presage the return of an 18th century inheritance society, in which marrying an heir is a surer route to riches than starting a company.”)

Nigel Farage’s new friend in Europe: ‘When women say no, they don’t always mean it’. Graham-Harrison, E., The Guardian (Nov. 2014). [I swear this article reads like an Onion satire, and this Janusz Korwin-Mikke d00d comes off like a comic book supervillain—and yet people vote for him. He says there is no proof Hitler knew about the Holocaust, and that Mussolini was trying to protect Jews; also FYI “the attitudes of men are passed to women by way of the semen which penetrates the tissue”; and he wants to convert part of the EU headquarters into a giant brothel. WHAT. He might actually be onto something legit about abolishing democracy, though, since it gives power to people like him. -Ed.]

Life Size Tyrannosaurus SkeletonHammacher Schlemmer (Nov. 2014). [Grab this year’s hottest holiday gift for each of your friends and family for the low, low price of $100,000! Treat yourself to one, too. -Ed.]

trex
CHAPPIE – Official Movie Trailer. Sony Pictures Entertainment via youtube (in theaters March 2015). [OMG OMG OMG I LOOOOOVED Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 and Elysium—plus there is no such thing as “enough Sharlto Copley.” -Ed.]

Even if you believe women “should” like cat-calling, that’s no excuse to do it. Marcotte, A., Raw Story (Nov 2014). (“My boyfriend doesn’t like eggs. My mom doesn’t like punk rock. These are things I like. Do I react to this difference of opinion by constantly shoving eggs in his face or blaring punk rock at her while saying, ‘You SHOULD like it and I’m going to KEEP DOING IT until you learn to like it!’ No, that would make me an asshole. So even if you think women should like being hollered at all fucking day—and again, I recommend having someone text you banalities 100 times a day to make sure you really think that it’s so wonderful getting all this attention before you open your fool mouth again on the subject—women told you they don’t like it. Persisting is clearly just an effort to hurt and punish them for not giving you what you want.”)

Separating Church and State Still an Issue in the US. Bader, E.J., Truthout (Nov. 2014). [h/t SJ] [Christ. This is just what we need: theocracies. Dear Lard, won’t someone think of the children? -Ed.]

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For the Quote collection, a new acquisition from the late, great Carl Sagan, whose birthday is today:

“If some good evidence for life after death were announced, I’d be eager to examine it; but it would have to be real scientific data, not mere anecdote. As with the face on Mars and alien abductions, better the hard truth, I say, than the comforting fantasy. And in the final tolling it often turns out that the facts are more comforting than the fantasy.”
Please join the Palace’s Carl Sagan Day celebration in The Bar today, where we will be serving Pale Blue Martinis.
bluemartini-with-twist-david-thompsonPHOTO: Blue Martini with Twist, David Thompson.
The Carl Sagan Pale Blue Martini:
Grey Goose vodka, Blue Curacao, fresh lime juice, twist.
Cheers for a man who inspired so many people to pursue science, skepticism and critical thinking. Our pale blue dot is a better world for having had him on it.

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Reads.

library4

Federal appeals court rules in favor of gay marriage ban. Sewell, D., ABC-TV Eyewitness News (Nov. 2014).

Americans Are Working So Hard It’s Actually Killing People. Kaplan, E., The Nation (Oct. 2014). (“businesses are not hiring new workers; they’re just expecting the old workers to work more, and spitting them out after they get injured.”)

Despite Election Losses, Obama Still Sees Hope For Bipartisanship. McMorris-Santoro, E., BuzzFeed (Nov. 2014). (Dear Lard, we are soooo fucked. -Ed.)

Could a common blood pressure drug completely reverse diabetes? Medical News Today (Nov. 2014).

Why Feminism Needs Men. Solnit, R., The Nation (Nov. 2014).  [h/t SJ]

The 5 Most Important Things They Never Taught You in Sex Ed. Thomas, M., Cracked (Nov. 2014).

Bats Make Calls to Jam Rivals’ Sonar—First Time Ever Found. Arnold, C., National Geographic (Nov. 2014).

Adam Savage on #Gamergate and Harassment of Women Online. Watson, R., Skepchick (Nov. 2014). [with VIDEO.]

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PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

A November joke.

On the way home from his successful fund-raising meeting, a powerful US Senator drives his car into a tree and dies. His soul arrives at the Pearly Gates, and is met by St. Peter. “Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, we have a special protocol for a person of your stature, to make sure that you are given appropriate accommodations.“

“No problem, says the Senator. “Just let me in and we’ll work it out.”

“Actually,” St. Pete says, “our process requires that you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”

“Not necessary. No need to waste my time. I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the Senator.

“I’m sorry, but those are our rules, and there can be no exception,” says St. Peter, who escorts the Senator to the elevator and hits the “Down” button.

The Senator gets anxious as the elevator wooshes waaaay dooooown.

The elevator stops abruptly, the doors open, and the Senator steps out into the middle of a lush resort. The sun is shining, there’s a beautiful beach, tennis courts, golf courses, yoga studios. At the main lounge, he finds all of his old friends and colleagues who greet him enthusiastically—everyone as healthy and charming as the day he met them. Also present is the devil, who turns out to be a very friendly guy, and who welcomes the Senator warmly. The Senator passes the day with the lot of them, frolicking in the sun and surf, and in the evening he joins his companions in a gourmet dinner, followed by drinks and dancing.

Before he realizes it, the day has passed, and he finds himself in the elevator, going up, up, up. When it stops, the door opens, and St. Peter greets him, saying: “Now it’s time to visit heaven.” So the Senator passes the next 24 hours with a small group of contented souls, going from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing his favorite Beatles’ songs.

He has a good enough time, which passes quickly, and before he realizes it, another day has gone by, and St. Peter returns.

“Well, then, Senator you’ve now spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Choose your eternity.”

The Senator thinks for a minute, then answers: “Well, I never thought I would say this, but, although heaven has been delightful, I think I would rather be in hell.”

So St. Peter puts him in the elevator and he goes back down to hell.

Now, when the elevator opens, the Senator is in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage, reeking of the foulest odors. He sees all his friends, covered in shredded rags, scrounging in the muck for offal. The devil himself comes over to him, puts his arm around his shoulders, and says: “Welcome to eternity.”

“I don’t understand,” stammers the Senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a beautiful beach, and beautiful people, and great food, and fun and dancing. Now there’s just a horrid wasteland full of miserable, tortured souls. The devil smiles at him and says: “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today, you voted.”

[via Greanvillle Post]