Frosty Start | Blarney 1952 | 7 New Cases | Relaxing Restrictions | Paula Schulze | Poppies | Barn Tarts | Mental Hospital | B Stigma | GP Squirrel | Cannabis Zoom | Not Happy | Water Rights | Steak Out | Arena Pharmacy | Cloudy Lady | Tanguileg Plea | No Engagements | Ed Notes | Yesterday's Catch | FBI Fingerprints | Hubris Nemesis | Begin Boarding | Biden Time | Gangster Squad | Comic Reality | Unsafe Idiot | Medicare Disadvantage | Not Golfing | Marvelous Marvin | Old Havana | TV Depression | Chicago River | Recall Letter
AFTER A FROSTY START, expect a fairly mild day today with at least partial sunshine amid southerly breezes. Gusty southerly winds will pick up later tonight, with rain and high elevation snow on Thursday with a cold front. Chilly showers will last through Friday night. A few showers may linger into Saturday, mainly north of Cape Mendocino. (NWS)
7 NEW COVID CASES and another death reported in Mendocino County yesterday afternoon.
MENDOCINO COUNTY MOVES FROM PURPLE TO RED
by William Miller, MD; Chief of Staff at Adventist Health – Mendocino Coast Hospital
On Friday, March 14th, Mendocino County moved from the most restrictive tier, Purple, of the State’s COVID containment plan, the so called “Blueprint for a Safer Economy”. We are now in the somewhat less restrictive Red tier. This is happening because of lower COVID positivity rates on surveillance testing in our county as well as statewide vaccination rates in underserved populations. Here is a run down of what we can do in the red tier:
Grocery stores: May now admit 100% capacity.
Retail stores: May now admit a max of 50% capacity.
Museums: May now have indoor activities with a max of 25% capacity.
Places of worship: May continue to have indoor activities with a max of 25% capacity.
Movie theaters: May now have indoor activities with a max of either 100 people OR 25% capacity, whichever is fewer.
Gyms: May now have indoor activities with a max of 10% capacity.
Restaurants including Wineries, Breweries and Distilleries serving meals: May now have indoor activities with a max of 100 people OR 25% capacity, whichever is fewer.
Wineries, Breweries, Distilleries (where no meal is provided): May continue to operate outdoors. Patrons must make reservations, staying for a max of 90 minutes.
Bars (where no meal is provided): Must remain closed.
Masks are still required in the community when persons are unable to maintain social distancing. Masks are NOT required when in the open and maintaining greater than 6 feet distancing, such as when walking on trails, bike riding, jogging, etc.
Another big difference is that hospitals and nursing homes can start having visitors again. The rules are slightly different for each, however, for both, any person who is actively ill with COVID symptoms or who tested positive for COVID within the previous 14 days will be asked to postpone their visitation. Here are the specifics for Mendocino Coast:
AHMC Hospital: One visitor per patient at a time (except for end of life visits in which all next of kin may enter). No time limit or appointment necessary. Visitors must remain masked at all times. Following Adventist Health’s desire to make our hospitals more welcoming and create a more nurturing and healing environment, we are eliminating visiting hours. After hour visitors will enter through the emergency room entrance.
Sherwood Oaks Nursing Home: Visitors must schedule their 30 minute visits in advance; for Thursday through Monday, a maximum of 2 visitors at a time, with no more than one visit daily for each family member. Masks must be worn by all visitors and the resident during the visit and remain at least 6' apart with brief physical contact allowed if both visitor and resident have been fully vaccinated. Pre-visit testing for COVID will not be required, but is encouraged.
Looking forward, what will it take to go to the next lower tier, orange? The tier system is complicated, perhaps needlessly so. However, that seems to be the way we do things in California. We must wait a minimum of 3 weeks in a tier before moving to a lower tier and maintain the lower tier’s metrics for two consecutive weeks. The positive test metric is 1.0 – 3.9 new cases per 100,000 population or 2.0-5.9 daily new cases per 100,000 population if the state meets its health equity goals described below.
The metrics are relaxed somewhat if the entire state meets its health equity goals of vaccinating underserved, at risk populations. The goal of 2 million vaccinations in this category was reached last week which helped us move to the red tier. The next goal is 4 million vaccinations to underserved, at risk Californians, which will help us move to orange.
If you are interested in a more detailed examination of the tier system, please go to the California Department of Public Health website: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/
(The views shared in this weekly column are those of the author, Dr. William Miller, and do not necessarily represent those of the publisher or of Adventist Health.)
MISSING SINCE 1995: PAULA JAN SCHULZE
On April 13, 1995 the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by a Laytonville, California resident who wanted to report the possible disappearance of Paula Jan Schulze. At this time, Schulze resided in the 1500 block of Branscomb Road in Laytonville and had not been seen by residents for a few weeks.
An investigation was launched and Detectives learned through interviews that Schulze was last seen sometime in the beginning of April 1995. Schulze was reportedly with two friends in the “Hot Springs” area of Lake County when a verbal argument ensued between her and one of the friends. Schulze reportedly walked away from the friends with her six dogs and was never seen or heard from again.
Anyone with information in regards to the possible whereabouts or disappearance of Schulze are asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office Tip-Line by calling 707-234-2100.
Age at time of disappearance: 45 years-old
Height: 5 feet 6 inches
Weight: 130 pounds
Eye color: Hazel
MCSO #: 95-1490
BOONVILLE BARN COLLECTIVE
Next Wednesday, March 24 - Tarts de Feybesse will be holding a pop-up at the Boonville Barn Collective! Their menu is listed below and is filled with breads, pastries, and a few savory treats. There's even a chocolate tart with our Piment d'Ville in it! There will be a few items available to purchase for walk-ups but they recommend pre-ordering by sending an email to email@example.com. Pick up will be from 1-4pm at the Boonville Barn Collective [10600 Anderson Valley Way - the big wooden barn at the end of the road].
WHO’S STIGMATIZING WHO?
by Mark Scaramella
Yesterday, we had some pointed questions for Supervisor Ted Williams, as yet unanswered, about his position that the problem in getting a PHF (Psychiatric Health Facility) going in Mendo had something to do with the people who voted for Measure B who, Williams said, were essentially hypocrites for voting for the Mental Health Facilities Measure but now some of them (mainly a few people/officials in Willits as far as we can tell) are supposedly resistant to locating a Psych facility in their neighborhood. We noted that the Ukiah Adventists had offered to use their existing old emergency room as a PHF more than a year ago but that even though Williams had appointed himself as the point-Supervisor for that idea, nothing had happened.
We did a little more digging on that Adventist option and found the following from the available Measure B Committee meeting minutes.
January 2020, Measure B Committee meeting, Item 3e:
* * *
The next Measure B committee meeting was February 2020 where Item 3e appeared:
“3e) Discussion and Update Regarding Approval of Request from Mental Health Treatment Act Citizen’s Advisory Committee for Board of Supervisors to Direct County Counsel to Conduct Legal Evaluation, Research Analysis and Assessment of Adventist Health Partnership Legality; Including Restriction, Necessary Control, Implications, and Compliance Regarding the Possible Use of Public Tax Dollars to Fund Operations of a Private Entity
“Presenter/s: Ms. Sarah Dukett.
“Sarah Dukett advised this is a carryover item from the last meeting. Acting County Counsel Christian Curtis provided a verbal update, advising the Committee that the opinion is not yet complete, but should be soon. Member Allman requested the opinion be distributed to the Committee as soon as it is ready. Counsel Curtis advised that if the Board of Supervisors waives privilege, the opinion could be made available to the Committee before the next Measure B meeting.”
* * *
The March Measure B meeting was cancelled, perhaps because of the onset of covid, but no official reason was given.
* * *
At the April Measure B Committee meeting Agenda Item 3j) appeared:
“3j) Discussion and Update Regarding Approval of Request from Mental Health Treatment Act Citizens Advisory Committee for Board of Supervisors to Direct County Counsel to Conduct Legal Evaluation, Research Analysis, and Assessment of Adventist Health Partnership Legality; Including Restriction, Necessary Control, Implications, and Compliance Regarding the Possible Use of Public Tax Dollars to Fund Operations of a Private Entity.” Presenter/s: Christian Curtis, Esq. - County Council [sic]”
This was more than four months from the original request for a legal opinion which was promised for February, then still not provided, so promised in March, but no March meeting. County Counsel Curtis, having labored mightily for more than four months with a highly anticipated request for a “Legal Evaluation, Research Analysis, and Assessment of Adventist Health Partnership Legality; Including Restriction, Necessary Control, Implications, and Compliance Regarding the Possible Use of Public Tax Dollars to Fund Operations of a Private Entity,” finally provided his “opinion.”
The minutes record Curtis’s response:
“County Council [sic], Christian Curtis explained that in general, it is legal to use public funds to pay a private entity as long as the partnership meets the needs of the public good.”
Nothing was written. No “evalucation,” no “research analysis,” no “assessement of Adventist Health Partnership Legality,” nothing about “restriction, necessary control, implications and compliance…”
The minutes then reflect that “Committee Member Riley asked about the status of the detailed proposal that had been expected from Adventist Health months earlier.”
“Member [CEO Carmel] Angelo explained that in 2019, the top Regional Executive of Adventist Health, Jason Wells, met with Mendocino County CEO, Carmel Angelo regarding the potential of creating a psychiatric inpatient service/program. Based on that meeting, [Committee] Member Ace Barash who is an Adventist employee drafted a letter of interest at the request of Jason Wells. No further business between the public and private entities has taken place.”
“Member Barash believes that Adventist Health remains interested in working with Measure B.Project Manager, Alyson Bailey [and] will attempt outreach to Adventist Health through Member Ace Barash. If successful, this outreach will produce a feasibility study/option for inpatient care funded by Measure B.”
(Ms. Bailey was fired from her Project Manager position in February of 2021. We have not seen whatever letter Dr. Barash may or may not have sent to the Adventists, but if a letter was sent it certainly didn’t have the imprimatur of the Measure B Committee or the County.)
On May 27, 2020 we wrote: “Although local Adventist CEO Jason Wells offered to remodel their Willits and/or Ukiah emergency rooms into a PHF, and the Supervisors wanted that proposal to be pursued and costed out, nobody has yet officially asked the Adventists for a cost estimate.”
Of course, no “feasibility study/option” was ever produced and, as usual, the Measure B Committee and the Supervisors never raised the subject again. Nevertheless, Supervisor Williams who had also volunteered to work with Mr. Wells for some kind of study, proposal or option, says the problem in getting a Psych facility into operation is a resistant public, which, the committee has implied several times in recent months is a result of the public’s “stigmatization” of the mentally ill.
The “stigmatization,” if any exists in the public at large, which we doubt, is toward the County’s mental health apparatus, and their inability to propose anything workable or compliant with local rules — not the mentally ill.
MENDOCINO COUNTY OFFICIALS AND CANNABIS ADVOCATES Discuss Next Phase of Legal Cannabis Cultivation in Virtual Town Hall
Yesterday afternoon, a panel consisting of Mendocino County officials and prominent members of the cannabis community met in a virtual town hall hosted by the Cannabis Business Association of Mendocino County to address questions from the public about the next steps in regulating the county’s legal cannabis industry, referred to as Phase III.
“Mendocino County Water Resiliency Task Force” Takes Proactive Steps To Secure Water Supply For Ukiah And Redwood Valley In Advance Of Potential State Water Board Actions
Ukiah, CA. March 16, 2021. – Leaders in the Mendocino County Water Resiliency Task Force have engaged with the State Water Resources Control Board to address the growing drought conditions in the Upper Russian River. Work is being done by Task Force members to identify the risks of water supply cutbacks, including possible State Water Board restrictions, and to craft solutions that will most effectively utilize the limited water resources forecast for 2021.
Task Force members include the City of Ukiah, Russian River Flood Control & Water Conservation Improvement District, Mendocino County Farm Bureau, Upper Russian River Water Agency, Resource Conservation District, County Water Agency, and others.
In response to low water supplies, the State Water Board can take action to impose restrictions on water rights holders. The State Water Board staff has indicated that without a significant and immediate increase in rain resulting in substantial improvement of storage levels in the local reservoirs, they may need to take action this spring to protect water rights and other beneficial uses such as ensuring adequate flows for salmon.
The State Water Board is open to considering voluntary conservation plans developed collaboratively with water rights holders in a watershed. Participants in the program can use their expertise in a complex watershed system to develop a proactive and voluntary plan that ensures efficiency of use and reduces diversions to meet an overall agreed upon conservation target. The State Water Board is encouraging Russian River water leaders to take this direction, with the aim of avoiding future regulatory actions.
“The Task Force invites water rights holders in the Upper Russian River to consider participating in development of a voluntary conservation program that may help protect their water rights from complete curtailment,” said Elizabeth Salomone, General Manager for the Russian River Flood Control & Water Improvement District, and lead for the Task Force. “We have the opportunity here to work collectively to manage our current water supply the way that works best for this region, rather than waiting for the State Water Board to step in and do it for us.”
The Task Force plans to hold a workshop to facilitate this discussion. Workshop details will be announced soon and interested parties are encouraged to reach out to the Task Force for more information.
“The reality is the State Water Board has sweeping powers to protect water rights, promote beneficial uses, and manage public trust resources,” stated Phil Williams, a water lawyer in Ukiah who is working with the Task Force. “Many of our neighbors have first-hand experience with the near-overwhelming power of the State when it comes to water. But there is a better way where we can have a say in how local resources are managed, and the State would likely welcome an amicable solution that works for everyone. Though it may be a hard pill to swallow, it’s far better than the alternative we are very likely facing.”
“The Task Force believes that the path to a bright future for the Upper Russian River includes a secure water supply for all of us. Water is truly at the essence of our community and every effort must be made to ensure a secure, reliable supply,” said Mendocino County Supervisor Glenn McGourty. “Every drop of water that can be protected in the Upper Russian River is a net gain for all of us.”
For more information on the Water Resiliency Task Force, contact Devon Jones at Mendocino County Farm Bureau (firstname.lastname@example.org), Elizabeth Salomone at Russian River Flood Control (email@example.com), or Sean White at the City of Ukiah (firstname.lastname@example.org).
MARK SCARAMELLA NOTES: Pretty clever. They managed to produce over 600 words about the water situation and never mentioned the word “grapes.” We bet the inland water people could produce a lot more words than that and still avoid the word “grapes.”
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
To the Editor of the Independent Coast Observer (ICO, Gualala),
The media are sometimes criticized for acting as little more than stenographers when corporate or political spokespeople make their pronouncements, which often are not intended to communicate but to sound impressive in their obfuscation.
The recent explanation of Avita Pharmacy for closing Arena Pharmacy is a good example as its reeks of “the changing landscape of healthcare and increasing challenges to pharmacies,” to which an inquiring reporter might have asked what they're talking about.
Two particular questions are appropriate: since Avita bought Arena only last June, were they shocked and surprised to find it financially not viable only months later? Does that reflect the typical quality of their due diligence investigations? And if local pharmacies are no longer viable, why did a new one open Gualala recently? Is it doomed from the start as people cited in the ICO story seemed to suggest?
There have been articles in national media during the pandemic pointing out that local pharmacies are often price competitive and superior in service to national chains. It is also not unheard of that large corporations will buy local competitors only to close them down. I don't know if that's the case in Point Arena, but one wonders. Since the questionable closing of an old local business matters to most local people, it would be reassuring if the local newspaper covered it more incisively.
TANGUILEG TAKES A PLEA
With his jury trial only a week away, defendant Sammy Joseph Tanguileg, Jr., age 45, of Covelo, requested Monday afternoon to withdraw his not guilty plea and, in lieu of a trial, entered a no contest plea in the Mendocino County Superior Court to recklessly causing a fire, a felony.
A no contest plea to a felony charge is the same under the law as a guilty plea for all purposes.
It was charged by the District Attorney that on July 19, 2020 the defendant caused the illegal burning of an abandoned Chevrolet Cavalier automobile near the intersection of Highway 162 and Biggar Lane in Covelo.
The defendant also admitted Monday that he has previously suffered a prior Strike conviction for attempted murder with great bodily injury, said conviction having occurred in 2000 in the San Joaquin County Superior Court.
To effectuate the change of plea, the defendant agreed to a state prison term of 48 months. He further agreed to waive all of his pre-sentence custody credits from the date of his arrest through April 7, 2021, the date now set for imposition of judgment and sentencing.
Also, because of the admission to the prior Strike conviction, any early release credits the defendant may attempt to earn while in custody of the state prison authorities will be limited to no more than twenty percent of the 48 months.
This will be the defendant’s third stint in state prison.
The law enforcement agencies that investigated and gathered the evidence supporting Monday’s conviction were the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and a fire investigator from the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority.
The attorney who has been prosecuting this matter in court is District Attorney David Eyster.
Mendocino County Superior Court Presiding Judge Ann Moorman accepted the defendant’s change of plea and the sentence bargain between the parties. Judge Moorman will preside over the sentencing hearing on April 7th.
“THE ONLY THING that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits.”
ACCORDING to the omnipresent Supervisor Willliams, there were no new covid cases reported Monday. I know it's spring and hope springs eternally, but the plague seems to be retreating.
CHATTING with DA Eyster today, he toted up the number of Mendo people stashed at the County Jail on murder charges — 13, a County record.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING: NomadLand starring the hyper-annoying Frances Dermond who, fair to say, is less annoying in this film, which is more like a documentary because it often focuses on real people who live nomadic lives out of their vans. The nomads include a lot of older, retired people who can't afford fixed addresses and lots of younger people who move around to avoid fixed addresses, funding themselves from temp jobs. There's a truly horrifying segment when Ms. Dermond takes a temp job in an Amazon warehouse, an experience that would cause most people to at least ponder flight as far away from Bezos as possible. Early in the film we get Bob Wells, the guru of modern-day vagabondage, delivering a surprisingly radical overview of The Situation. “The Titanic has sunk…” He goes on to cheer on his fellow van dwellers for shedding the usual entrapping obligations that fixed addresses people endure. Disencumber, America, and hit the road!
NOT RECOMMENDED VIEWING: The Trial of the Chicago 7. Not even close to the event or the times, an exercise in how to take an interesting subject and make it boring. Happened in the fraught year of '68. There are lots of documentaries on that time which are much more interesting. As a West Coast foot soldier on the left in that period, to me, these guys, the so-called leaders of the so-called Movement, the only movement in history that's moved steadily backwards, were what the Brits call “rum characters,"” opportunists who saw the left merely as one more photo op. (Except for Abbie Hoffman and Froines.) As things heat up again, we shall see what we shall see, but today's psycho-social context is a lot tougher, more dangerous than it was in '68.
CATCH OF THE DAY, March 16, 2021
CARLTON BACK, Willits. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JERRY DEGURSE, Willits. Suspended license (for DUI), paraphernalia, ammo possession by prohibited person, failure to appear.
THOMAS GALINDO JR., Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
SARA GODFREY, Leggett. Domestic battery.
SHANE JONES, Kelseyville/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ISIAH SILVA-FONNEST, Willits. DUI-alcohol&drugs.
DANIEL WOLDT, Fort Bragg. DUI, probation revocation.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Defeated and demoralized, many of us don’t even try to make sense of what’s going on. I know I don’t. I can’t. Since November, I don’t even follow the news anymore. Why would I? It’s one provocation after another. “Whatcha gonna do about it? You wanna say something?”
Consider Goliath: both major US political parties, the military, the spies, finance, tech, academia, mass media, entertainment, “science” and the never ending covid BS… am I leaving something out? And we’re what, David with a slingshot? That’s a feel-good story in a book full of them; it probably never happened and won’t happen now.
There’s no turning this Titanic around, there’s only building lifeboats. The main lifeboat is the people you know and the skills you have. There’s a sense of urgency. They are not kidding. Are we going to waste our limited energy in being outraged about this and that? Watching award shows? Preparing for the next election, “we’ll throw the bums out” etc? To replace with what, Jeb Bush? Trump again? The man had massive popular support and all he did was run his mouth and shoot himself in the foot. That game is over.
There’s only the people you know and trust right in your neck of the woods, and the skills you have. Hubris is always met with Nemesis. The hubris on display right now is massive. It follows that Nemesis will be gigantic, too, when it comes. Keep that in mind at all times, don’t be distracted by the outrage du jour, focus on what’s important: building community and mastering your skills.
"At this time, we’d like to begin boarding all the passengers who feel it’s soooooo necessary to, like, goooooo on vacation right now.”
I declared my reservations about Biden as soon as he ran for president. I said then I’d be happy to note any exceptions.
He has provided plenty. He’s the right man, right now, for the job. He has declared his desire to be president since he was a kid. Good for him, he got it, and he’s making the most of it. His foreign-policy report card sucks, but his domestic-policy one shines! I voted for him, and I’m glad to own it. He’s zooming around like a bat outa hell, doing things desperately needed, desperately overdue, and screaming LOOK AT ME as he does it.
Good on ’im! The self-promotion, aided by a jacked-up media, will, I hope, ensure a grand mid-term election, next year (I hope I hope I hope). That will cement the trend toward PROGRESS, and anything else is wasting time.
I grew up in an era of Democratic-Party dominance. Having now seen a Repug-Party spell, I join in the mood of elation that is everywhere afoot.
Nixon, Reagan, Ford, two Bushes and a Trump—Jesus freakin’ Christ! Reagan and Trump duke it out in their curious stupidity-cum-canniness realm. Bush2 may have done the most world harm of the lot. Trump will remain unchallenged forever in the mendacious, crazy and obnoxious categories, and he’s come closest to bringing the whole house down. Bush1 was a serpent, liar and coward and Jerry Ford was an absolutely typical (hypocritical – more dangerous than he appeared) Republican, who pardoned Dick and other monsters. Reagan, as the patron saint of Republicanism, wins the prize for Dead-But-Will-Not-Lie-Down.
The champions of the rich are an ugly lot, but they don’t all have the same degree of unspeakable, red-eyed malevolence for ordinary people. I leave it to you who would be scariest on a shelf in your basement.
The main difference between Dems and Repugs is that the latter are in it for themselves. Democrats, whatever their personal demeanor, tend to believe in cooperation, in helping each other. I’ve never seen the Democratic rationale go too far, only too short. A little taste of Republicanism is a little too much. Suck it up, Republican friends! Entertain me with your slanders and libels. I love the frustration you can't hide! A republic can’t survive too much of your mind-set. Look up “republic.”
I said when Trump got elected he’d never enter the Oval Office, that he’d be thrown out before his inauguration. It’s a bad thing that we permitted him to go there, to do that. He is an incubus.
But we got Sleepy Joe, who is wide awake and on fire. I like it I like it I like it I like it I like it I like it. The world needs our help, and our system needs an overhaul way deeper than he conceives of, but you gotta have your house in order to give the best attention to other people’s needs, and the Biden administration, so far, is doing a dazzling job!
Congrats all around!
I AM TRYING to put into my work the everyday human realities that I've never found in a comic strip yet, although Jules Feiffer comes the closest. It's an extremely difficult thing to do in the comic spirit medium. There are so many delicate little things that when I try to express them in comic strip form come out awkward. A lot of things, it seems, can only be gotten across right when you write them down, and explain them with words. I consider it a challenge though to be as human and real but yet interesting with my personal ideals toward life as possible in a comic strip. I've had a few debates with my brother as to whether you can express reality to its fullest in the comic strip. He says it cannot be done. I say I'm going to try it. So far I haven't really got to stark reality, the bottom of life as I see it, in my work. I might end up giving it up and going over to writing alone if it doesn't seem to be doing any good to try to do it in comic strips. But then who knows? I might succeed!
— R. Crumb, Letter to a Friend, November 5, 1961, age 21.
PERFIDY MEETS PUTTY: Congressional Democrats Betray Voters
by Ralph Nader
Do you remember the promises made by the Democratic Party’s presidential and Congressional candidates on universal health insurance? You can forget their pledges and somber convictions now that your votes put the Democrats in charge of the House and the Senate. The Democrats’ leaders are abandoning their promises and retreating into a cowardly corporatist future.
Here is the present scene. Leading Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have decided to spend tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the giant health insurance companies like Aetna and United Healthcare to “cover recently laid-off workers and those who purchase their own coverage,” as The New York Times reported. There are no price restraints on the gouging insurance premiums or loophole-ridden policies. That is why giant corporate socialist insurers love the “American Rescue Plan,” which gives them socialist cash on the barrelhead. The law lets insurers decide how and whether they pay healthcare bills with co-pays, deductibles, or grant waivers. All these anti-consumer details are buried in the endless and inscrutable fine print.
Whatever happened to the Democrats’ (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pramila Jayapal, etc.) demand for single-payer – everybody in, nobody out – with free choice of doctors and hospitals instead of the existing cruel, and profiteering industry for which enough is never enough? Senator Sanders often mentioned a Yale study, published on February 15, 2020, that found:
Although health care expenditure per capita is higher in the USA than in any other country, more than 37 million Americans do not have health insurance, and 41 million more have inadequate access to care. Efforts are ongoing to repeal the Affordable Care Act which would exacerbate health-care inequities. By contrast, a universal system, such as that proposed in the Medicare for All Act, has the potential to transform the availability and efficiency of American health-care services. Taking into account both the costs of coverage expansion and the savings that would be achieved through the Medicare for All Act, we calculate that a single-payer, universal health-care system is likely to lead to a 13% savings in national health-care expenditure, equivalent to more than $450 billion annually….” (See the study: Improving the Prognosis of Health Care in the USA, February 15, 2020).
Well, House Speaker Pelosi is discouraging House Democrats from supporting Representative Pramila Jayapal’s H.R. 1384, Medicare for All Act of 2019, the gold standard for single-payer. News reports indicate that Representative Jayapal (D-WA) and Representative. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) will reintroduce their Medicare for All bill next week. Speaker Pelosi is telling Democrats in the House to focus instead on the modest expansion of Obamacare with its corporate welfare, utter complexity and seriously inadequate coverage. Almost eighty million Americans are presently uninsured or underinsured – a level that will not be significantly reduced for deprived workers by tweaking Obamacare during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A modified Obamacare, with no price ceilings, will hardly reduce the tens of thousands of American deaths every year because people cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time to prevent fatalities. The Yale study also found that: “ensuring health-care access for all Americans would save more than 68,000 lives and 1.73 million life-years every year compared with the status quo.” Tweaking Obamacare does little to stem the relentless surge in healthcare prices and profits in our country, which is unique for not placing billing ceilings on medical procedures and drugs. This “get whatever you can” behavior by the vendors is so uncontrolled that healthcare billing fraud and abuse is costing people one billion dollars A DAY! Malcolm Sparrow, who is an applied mathematician at Harvard, estimates medical billing fraud amounts to at least ten percent of all healthcare expenses each year.
Obamacare does nothing to limit the perverse incentives of a fee-for-service system that includes unnecessary operations, over-diagnosis, and over-prescribing all of which increase the risks of preventable casualties. A Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine peer-reviewed study in 2016 estimates that close to 5000 lives are lost weekly due to such “preventable problems” just in hospitals (see: Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S., May 3, 2016).
It gets worse. Year after year, the corporate Democrats, along with the Republicans, are facilitating expanding corporate takeovers of Medicare and Medicaid. The giant and widening attack on Medicare is called “Medicare Advantage,” which more accurately should be called “Medicare [Dis]advantage.” Our corporatized government, under both Parties, has been allowing deceptive promotional seductions of elderly people to take Medicare [Dis]advantage – now fully 40% of all Medicare beneficiaries – which is just a corporate insurance plan with multiple undisclosed tripwires.
Former President Trump worsened what he inherited from the Democrats in outsourcing Medicare. He launched something called “direct contracting” that, “could fully turn Medicare over to private health insurers” declared Diane Archer, former chair of Consumer Reports, in her article on March 8, 2021. Medicare Advantage premiums can be pricey. According to Kay Tillow, Executive Director of the Nurses Professional Organization, “The Medicare Advantage Plans are smiling all the way to the bank. In 2019 each Medicare Advantage beneficiary cost taxpayers $11,822 while those in original Medicare cost $10,813 each – that’s over $1,000 more and over 9% more per person for the for-profit insurers!”
Where is the outcry among Democratic politicians to reverse completely the corporate takeover of Medicare? Last year, many Democratic candidates pontificated about the need for single-payer health insurance, but now in Congress, we are scarcely hearing a peep about this vital human right. Their campaign rhetoric is just distant memory. Tragically, it is now harder than ever for the elderly to get out of Medicare [Dis]advantage and go back to traditional Medicare.
Millions of elderly people are deceived by televised marketing lies and slick brochures. The hapless Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should investigate and end the deceptions. Congressional investigations and hearings are long overdue. As the authoritative Dr. Fred Hyde says about the so-called Medicare Advantage: “It’s not what you pay, it’s what you get.” That is, the corporate health plan works until they get sick, until “they want their doctor and their hospital.” Dr. Hyde was referring to the narrow networks where these companies park their beneficiaries.
More astonishing in this story of the rapacious corporate takeover of Medicare is that AARP promotes these flawed plans to their members, takes paid ads by big insurers in AARP publications, and derives income from this collaboration.
Imagine, over 50,000 SEIU retirees are automatically placed by their unions in these Medicare [Dis]advantage traps without first being allowed to choose traditional Medicare.
This whole sordid sabotage of the nineteen sixties Democrats’ dream, under President Lyndon Johnson, of taking the first step toward universal healthcare coverage for everyone, begs for more exposes. It begs for more clamor by the progressive Democrats in Congress who are strangely passive so far. I’m speaking of Representatives Jayapal, Raskin, Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), and the receding “Squad,” as well as Senators Warren and Sanders. If we can’t expect these stalwarts to start the counterattack that will save lives, save trillions of dollars over the years, focus on prevention not just treatment, and diminish the anxiety, dread, and fear, that the citizens of Canada and other western nations do not experience because they are insured from birth on, who is left to defend the American people against the arrogant health insurance corporate barons?
I’m sending this column to these self-styled progressive Democrats along with a two-page specific critique of corporate Medicare from the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) website. PNHP’s membership counts over 15,000 pro-single-payer physicians. In a comment on the PNHP site, Don McCanne, M.D., says, “Remember, the mission of private, for-profit Medicare Advantage insurers is to make money, whereas the mission of our traditional Medicare program is to provide health care. We are supporting a program that deferentially caters to the private insurers and their interests when we should be supporting a program that is designed to take care of patients. Those being deceived by the private Medicare Advantage marketing materials really do not realize the bad deal they may be getting until they face the private insurer barriers to needed care. Silver Sneakers won’t take care of that.” (See: https://pnhp.org/news/russell-mokhiber-explains-why-private-medicare-advantage-plans-are-a-bad-deal/)
If you care about this issue, tell your Members of Congress it is time to pass Medicare for All represented by H.R. 1384.
BOXING, THE LONELIEST SPORT
'Marvin Hagler had heavy hands and was very strong. He could knock you out with either hand. He had the balls, the heart, and the mind to win. He was ambidextrous. I consider Marvin one of the best that I fought. And I fought in the golden era of boxing.' - Sugar Ray Leonard
'I hit Hagler with a lot of punches and he just kept coming. I didn't find him as skillful as some of the opponents I faced but he was the toughest.' - Roberto Duran
'I hit him with everything but the kitchen sink. He continued and kept coming forward. I moved him but he just kept coming forward.' - Thomas Hearns
'His timing was first class, when he threw a punch he got you. He wouldn't throw and miss and he wouldn't be out of distance. He was very heavy-handed.' - Alan Minter
'My power would have woken up ancestors of other fighters I fought when I connected with the uppercut, but he barely wobbled after the punch landed.' - John Mugabi
'He truly was one of the greatest fighters to step into the ring. When he retired, they finally gave him the credit he deserved as one of the greatest middleweights of all-time. To have the opportunity to fight him twice, I think was an honour.' - Mustafa Hamsho
'Hagler knew all the tricks. He made it difficult to fight him because he was a southpaw and he was also tough. He could pick a punch, then he switched on you while you were fighting him southpaw style.' - Vito Antuofermo
WITHOUT TRUMP, IS A ‘DEPRESSION IN TELEVISION’ COMING?
by Matt Taibbi
Variety just published a graph that should horrify cable news executives.
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) March 12, 2021
This data, showing significant declines in all of the major primetime cable news shows, came in a piece called, “Cable News Ratings Begin To Suffer Trump Slump.”
Gavin Bridge of the Variety Intelligence Platform explained:
VIP has previously covered the initial ratings decline that Fox News, MSNBC and, most of all, CNN, saw in President Biden’s first week, as the nonstop controversies of the previous administration slowed down.”
Our prediction that audiences would perk up for President Trump’s second impeachment trial proved correct. But in the weeks after the trial ended, audiences for CNN have plummeted. MSNBC is seeing about half CNN’s drop, while Fox News is down single digits. It’s natural for news audiences to dip after seismic events like the January 6th riots. CNN had its best month ever in January, and individual shows like Anderson Cooper 360 jumped above 5 million viewers.
Still, Variety’s report showing significant ratings drops as we move farther away from the Trump experience is both predictable and fascinating. It’s not clear how media executives will respond to losing the best friend they ever had. They will either have to surrender to the idea of significant long-term losses — impossible to imagine — or find a way to continue an all-time blockbuster entertainment franchise, which doubled as the most divisive public relations campaign in our history, without the show’s main character.
Trump transformed news into a ratings Krakatoa, combining the side-against-side drama of sports programming with the amphetamine urgency of breaking news.
Moreover, the Democratic Party’s response to Trump — which involved multiple efforts to remove him, premised on the idea that every day he spent in the Oval Office was an existential threat to humanity — allowed stations to turn every day of the Trump years into a baby-down-a-well story (the baby was democracy). Between the Mueller investigation, two impeachments, the Kavanaugh confirmation, multiple border crises, the “Treason in Helsinki” fiasco, and a hundred other tales, every day could be pitched as a drop-everything emergency.
Add the partisan rooting angle, and you had ratings gold. Imagine three or four dozen Super Bowls a year, each one played in the middle of a category 5 hurricane, and you come close to grasping the magnitude of the gift that Donald Trump was to MSNBC, Fox, and CNN.
Six or seven years ago, it was common to see CNN or MSNBC fall outside the top 20 rated cable networks, below titans like Disney, USA, TBS, and the History Channel.
By 2020, the three top networks] on cable — not just news networks, but overall — were Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. The fact that news ate away so much of the market share of the entertainment business in the Trump years raises questions about what exactly we were watching.
Jump in your Dr. Who police box and go back to 2014, the last year Trump was not a major political figure. The cable news genre had what Variety described as an “overall down year.” It was a particularly grim time for CNN and MSNBC.
Total Primetime Viewers, 2014 Change
Fox News 1.779 million (even)
MSNBC 600,000 (down 8%)
CNN 528,000 (down 8%)
HLN 337,000 (down 16%)
CNN exemplified the pre-Trump dilemma. In 2011, the network’s average primetime viewership was 689,000. That dropped to 670,000 in 2012, and the year after that, in 2013, it fell all the way to 568,000, a 20-year low.
Imagine the pucker factor at Time Warner the next year, when CNN’s entire 8-11 p.m. programming slate dropped 8% off that 20-year dip. 2013 was CNN’s first year under the management of Jeff Zucker, whose career arc leading into the Trump years was a dazzling study in failing upward. He was named head of NBC Entertainment in 2000, and rode the successes of a handful of shows — including, notably, ‘The Apprentice’ — into a job as CEO of NBC Universal, where he presided over one of the most disastrous tenures of any TV executive in history. Under his leadership, NBC dropped to fourth behind ABC, CBS, and Fox, amid catastrophic decisions like trying to move Jay Leno into primetime.
When Zucker moved to CNN, he trumpeted a new plan to save the news. This is from Politico in 2013: “Zucker has told staff he wants to ‘broaden the definition of what news is,’ meaning more sports, more entertainment, more human interest stories — and, at times, less politics.”
That didn’t work out so well in 2014, though to be fair to Zucker, the ratings narrative started reversing at least somewhat before Trump jumped on the scene. But the first giant leap forward for the business as a whole came in 2015, when CNN's average primetime audience soared to 730,000, a 30% increase, in significant part because it hosted two Republican debates starring Trump.
The news business had never seen anything like the Trump effect. The first Republican debate on Fox drew 25 million viewers and was the most-watched non-sports event in the history of cable, while the second debate drew 23 million and was merely the top show in the history of CNN. Taking note of all this was Trump himself, whose poll numbers were dipping a bit at the end of 2015. Some were predicting his demise. To this, Trump snapped, “I’m not a masochist,” and promised he’d pull out if his numbers worsened. However, he said, if he did, “There’d be a major collapse of television ratings,” adding a poisonous prediction: “It would become a depression in television.”
I AM WRITING TO LET YOU KNOW that yesterday morning, we launched our campaign to stop the Republican recall attempt in California. I am not going to take this recall attempt lying down. I'm going to fight because there's too much at stake in this moment.
And today, I am asking you to join me:
First and foremost, I need you to know I am not going to be distracted from the critical work we have to move us forward in California. That means getting more vaccines in people's arms, more people back to work, and more kids back in the classroom.
But that means I need your help defeating this recall effort.
And let's call it what it is: it's a partisan, Republican recall -- backed by the RNC, anti-mask and anti-vax extremists, and pro-Trump forces who want to overturn the last election and have opposed much of what we have done to fight the pandemic.
If they are successful, it would mean risking the progress we are making to end the pandemic. We can't let that happen.
California cannot afford to be sidetracked by partisan political games. So we'll fight this recall for the reason I am fighting to get every Californian vaccinated -- because ending this pandemic as quickly as possible is too important to get delayed by Trump loyalists and far right-wing Republicans.
But I cannot do that alone.
Thank you for joining me in this effort. It means a lot to know that we're in this together.
All my best,
(PAID FOR BY STOP THE REPUBLICAN RECALL OF GOVERNOR NEWSOM.
Committee major funding from: California Democratic Party)