If it wasn’t for all those voters, we’d have won

One of Mitt Romney’s over-paid hacks weighs in on the politics of health care for women:

I don’t think it’s very controversial to suggest that a candidate who favors gay marriage and free contraception might have more appeal to a younger demographic. Does anyone want to argue that free contraception is seen as a more pressing issue to your average 21-year-old than to a 55-year-old voter…

Conservatives and media have successfully framed the preventive care provisions in the health care law as wholly about “free contraception” which is both inaccurate and insulting to the people who supported the health care law. I get that birth control makes these these super-savvy professionals snicker, but let’s review the facts, what actually happened.

Birth control is one of a long list of preventive care provisions that are covered without additional out-of-pocket costs in the health care law. That was a policy decision. It’s bigger than birth control. It comes from an idea about health care, an approach to health care. Here’s just part of that long list. I chose these randomly:

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm one-time screening for men of specified ages who have ever smoked
Alcohol Misuse screening and counseling
Colorectal Cancer screening for adults over 50
Depression screening for adults
Type 2 Diabetes screening for adults with high blood pressure
Tobacco Use screening for all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users
Anemia screening on a routine basis for pregnant women
BRCA counseling about genetic testing for women at higher risk
Breast Cancer Mammography screenings every 1 to 2 years for women over 40
Breast Cancer Chemoprevention counseling for women at higher risk
Breastfeeding comprehensive support and counseling from trained providers, as well as access to breastfeeding supplies, for pregnant and nursing women*
Contraception: Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling, not including abortifacient drugs*
Osteoporosis screening for women over age 60 depending on risk factors
Tobacco Use screening and interventions for all women, and expanded counseling for pregnant tobacco users
Hearing screening for all newborns
Height, Weight and Body Mass Index measurements for children

Immunization vaccines for children from birth to age 18
Oral Health risk assessment for young children

Why did the administration include birth control?

Previously, preventive services for women had been recommended one-by-one or as part of guidelines targeted at men as well. As such, the HHS directed the independent Institute of Medicine to, for the first time ever, conduct a scientific review and provide recommendations on specific preventive measures that meet women’s unique health needs and help keep women healthy. HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) used the IOM report issued July 19, when developing the guidelines that are being issued today. The IOM’s report relied on independent physicians, nurses, scientists, and other experts to make these determinations based on scientific evidence.

It was only after this policy decision that media and conservatives went batshit crazy and started babbling senselessly about sluts and aspirin. You’ll also recall that the conventional wisdom was that the policy decision on birth control would harm Obama politically. They took what was a sensible, physician-recommended policy decision and turned it into a political disaster… for Republicans. Obama didn’t do that, and the people who support the health care law didn’t do that. Media and conservatives did that. We all sat here and watched, first in horror and then with a kind of wonder.

Incredibly, they’re still doing it, with this wholly gratuitous smirking about young women voting for “free contraception.” Look at that long list of covered services. If young women were voting on “free” birth control, were older women voting on “free” osteoporosis screening and mammograms or were some other women voting on a “free” breast milk pump? There’s really no reason to treat this issue, or these voters, with so much disdain. I said this over and again in response to the conservative attempts to stop (some) people from voting, but it still continues to amaze me that there is a US political Party who firmly believe hectoring voters is a viable path to success.



Can we just please retire the word “reform”? It doesn’t mean anything.

Lawmakers discover that it is very, very difficult to re-regulate publicly-funded schools after they deregulated and privatized publicly-funded schools:

Ohio’s charter-closure law, which became effective in 2008 and was revised in 2011, calls for automatic closure of schools rated in Academic Emergency for at least two of the three most recent school years.
Oversight of these criteria primarily falls on authorized sponsors, which are responsible for evaluating and reporting on the academic and financial performance of their sponsored schools, and on ODE.
While Ohio law sets up charter school boards as the entity to be held legally responsible for a school’s academic and financial performance, it does not do the same for management companies, many of them for-profit that are contracted by schools to manage their daily operations. These companies are often in charge of making major decisions for a school, including hiring and firing teachers, assessing academic performance, contracting with vendors, budgeting, developing curriculum, and providing basic classroom materials. Yet the closure law places no penalty on CMOs when their schools meet academic closure criteria. This omission creates a loophole for managers to keep “closed” schools open and continue to receive public funds for failing schools.

Policy Matters has documented that of the 20 charter schools ODE has required to close for academic reasons, seven have essentially remained intact, skirting the automatic closure law. In other cases CMO-operated schools facing automatic closure were replaced by nearly identical schools, managed by the same company with much of the same staff. An eighth school, Hope Academy Canton, was ordered closed by its sponsor a year before it would have been shut down by the state. In this case, our investigation showed that by closing early and opening a new school in the same location with much of the same staff, the schools’ for-profit operator, White Hat Management, bought five additional years of life – and revenue – for a low-performing school.
In more than half the cases we examined, the new schools’ academic performance remained the same as the old schools’; five of the eight “new” schools are still ranked in Academic Watch or Emergency, while their management companies and sponsors continue to take in millions of dollars in public funding. For-profit CMOs – the Leona Group, Mosaica Education, and White Hat Management – run six of the eight schools we investigated.

Some background on the national privatization scene (pdf):

Education management organizations, or EMOs, emerged in the early 1990s in the context of widespread interest in so-called market-based school reform proposals. Wall Street analysts coined the term EMO as an analogue to health maintenance organizations (HMOs). Proponents of EMOs claim that they bring a much needed dose of entrepreneurial spirit and a competitive ethos to public education. Opponents argue that outsourcing to EMOs results in already limited school resources being redirected for service fees, profits, or both while creating another layer of administration. Opponents also have expressed concerns about transparency and the implications of public bodies relinquishing control or ownership of schools.

Comparisons could be made to our shambling, patched-together, fragmented wreck of a “health care system” which we’re now desperately trying to “reform” and make universal, except it’s worse in education, because we never had a universal public health care system. We DO have a public education system. Health care is going so well we decided to apply our health care system “principles” to an existing universal public system? Why would we do that?

The number of states in which for-profit EMOs operated was 33 in 2010-2011. The for-profit education management industry expanded into Alaska and Hawaii this past year for the first time. In 2010-2011, 35% of all public charter schools in the U.S. were operated by private EMOs, and these schools accounted for almost 42% of all students enrolled in charter schools.

For-profits operating in 33 states under the guise of “school reform”. Wow. You won’t hear about that innovative and exciting development during School Choice Week. I would think privatization of public schools would be a fundamental policy choice, a decision we make, not something we just belatedly discover has happened while we were busy hating on teachers.

I would think privatization of our universal, public K-12 education system would be raised and debated every single time an unelected or elected school reformer like Michelle Rhee or Jeb Bush or Bill Gates or the Wal-Mart heirs (or Arne Duncan and Corey Booker) appear on television, yet we never talk about the for-profits or maybe more importantly, their lobbyists. God knows we discuss public school teacher salaries often enough, so it isn’t that we don’t “follow the money” in education. Where are the discussions on the CEO salaries of these for-profit outfits? How much money is flowing out of public education and into the pockets of shareholders under “school reform”? Why aren’t school reformers, all of them, forced to address this publicly? Did they not anticipate that deregulation and the introduction of for-profits would lead to capture of lawmakers by those same for-profits? Why not? What do they plan to do about it?



“A Tradition Of Service”

That would be the motto for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  And it contains your full USDA recommended level of irony for the day.

Via BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin, we learn that the murder (so far) of three people by an ex-cop, which sparked a remarkable outbreak of shooting of folks accused of DWDBT (Driving While Driving A Blue Truck) is not the only news to come out of LA law enforcement this week. Get your heads around this:

Seven Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies have been notified that the department intends to fire them for belonging to a secret law enforcement clique that allegedly celebrated shootings and branded its members with matching tattoos, officials said.

The Times reported last year about the existence of the clique, dubbed the Jump Out Boys, and the discovery of a pamphlet that described the group’s creed, which required aggressive policing and awarded tattoo modifications for police shootings.

Investigators did not find that the seven had actually, you know, killed anyone with their arquebuses whilst on night patrol…

The_Nightwatch_by_Rembrandt

…but I can’t say anyone who might be on the receiving end of “aggressive policing” would feel much comfort in that:

One member, who spoke to The Times and requested anonymity, said the group promoted only hard work and bravery. He dismissed concerns about the group’s tattoo, noting that deputies throughout the department get matching tattoos. He said there was nothing sinister about their creed or conduct. The deputy, who was notified of the department’s intent to terminate him, read The Times several passages from the pamphlet, which he said supported proactive policing.

“We are alpha dogs who think and act like the wolf, but never become the wolf,” one passage stated, comparing criminals to wolves. Another passage stated, “We are not afraid to get our hands dirty without any disgrace, dishonor or hesitation… sometimes (members) need to do the things they don’t want to in order to get where they want to be.”

…”We do not glorify shootings,” he continued. “What we do is commend and honor the shootings. I have to remember them because it can happen any time, any day. I don’t want to forget them because I’m glad I’m alive.”

The only good news out of this is that the Sherrif’s department does seem serious enough to actually fire these guys.  I suppose you could file that impulse under “damage control,” but hell, I’ll take it.

I’ll add one more thing:   being a cop is a terrifically hard job.  It’s made harder by the unbelievable availability of firearms for any bad guy (or gal) to wield — which is why so many in law enforcement favor gun control.

But that job becomes harder, IMHO, not easier, the more you militarize the civilian act of policing.  Such militarization doesn’t merely include weaponization, tactics and all that; it’s a culture too.  And cultures can go very bad.

So I’m not calling down snark and thunder on everyone who does law enforcement.  I am saying that as in so much else humans undertake, being a good cop, or department is a matter of eternal vigilance and all that.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, known as the ‘Night Watch’, 1642



Going Postal On The Mofo

Last call for Saturday mail, folks.

The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service says it plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays, but continue delivering packages six days a week.

In an announcement scheduled for later Wednesday, the service is expected to say the cut, beginning in August, would mean a cost saving of about $2 billion annually.

The move accentuates one of the agency’s strong points — package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010. The delivery of letters and other mail has declined with the increasing use of email and other Internet use.

Let’s recall why the USPS is struggling:  because Republicans in Congress forced the agency to pay their retiree health care costs decades down the road up front in 2006, then refused to give them the money to do that.  As a result, the USPS made massive workforce cuts and forced thousands into early retirement, which of course means the USPS has to pay those health care benefits up front, putting them into a death spiral.

Read more



The First Rule Of GOP Fight Club Is To Blab To Politico Openly

Seems that the little tiff the GOP money people are having with the Todd Akin wing of the party that Anne Laurie was talking about this weekend is now turning into an outright donnybrook over at WIN THE MORNING.

Two powerful conservative groups reacted with scorn Sunday to a newly unveiled American Crossroads initiative, dubbed the Conservative Victory Project, that plans to work against Republican primary candidates it views as unelectable.

Crossroads president Steven Law told the New York Times that Crossroads allies are creating the new organization to oppose candidates such as former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who lost a once-competitive Senate race last year. “There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” Law said.

Both the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund – two of the most prominent groups that have boosted candidates on the right – mocked the new initiative as yet another hapless establishment-side attempt to muzzle the GOP base.

Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, branded it the “Conservative Defeat Project.”

“The Conservative Defeat Project is yet another example of the Republican establishment’s hostility toward its conservative base. Rather than listening to the grassroots and working to advance their principles, the establishment has chosen to declare war on the party’s most loyal supporters,” Hoskins said. “If they keep this up, the party will remain in the wilderness for decades to come.”

Yeah, this is going to be fun.  Both sides know that at this point that GOP races where the Republican has a shot to win in the general are completely determined by the amount of crazy that gets through the primaries.  Both sides want control of the primary process going into 2014.  Both sides are confident they’re going to win, the other side will knuckle under, and that the GOP will happily get back to taking over the country.

Of course, both sides of course are filled with reactionary mustache-twirling meatheads who thought Mitt Romney and Todd Akin were winners too.  Let’s watch the bloodshed, shall we?



Rosa Parks, or: Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History

A little Sunday morning inspiration. Charles Blow, in the NYTimes:

On the verge of the 100th anniversary of her birth this Monday comes a fascinating new book, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” by Jeanne Theoharis, a Brooklyn College professor. It argues that the romanticized, children’s-book story of a meek seamstress with aching feet who just happened into history in a moment of uncalculated resistance is pure mythology.

As Theoharis points out, “Rosa’s family sought to teach her a controlled anger, a survival strategy that balanced compliance with militancy.”

Parks was mostly raised by her grandparents. Her grandfather, a follower of Marcus Garvey, often sat vigil on the porch with a rifle in case the Klan came. She sometimes sat with him because, as the book says she put it, “I wanted to see him kill a Ku Kluxer.”

When she was a child, a young white man taunted her. In turn, she threatened him with a brick. Her grandmother reprimanded her as “too high-strung,” warning that Rosa would be lynched before the age of 20. Rosa responded, “I would be lynched rather than be run over by them.” …

She spent nearly two decades before the bus incident struggling, organizing and agitating for civil rights, mostly as the secretary of the Montgomery, Ala., branch of the N.A.A.C.P. But it wasn’t until Parks was in her 40s and attended an integrated workshop that she found “for the first time in my adult life that this could be a unified society.” This didn’t mean that she was eager for integration, though. She was later quoted as saying that what people sought “was not a matter of close physical contact with whites, but equal opportunity.”

And Parks was by no means the first person to perform an act of civil disobedience on a bus. She was very much aware of many of the people whose similar actions had preceded her own, even raising money for some of their defense funds. She also encouraged others to commit these acts of civil disobedience…



Maybe I’m too cynical, but it bothered me

Special prosecutor for Penn State scandal:

Pennsylvania’s new attorney general is set to name a special prosecutor in the coming days to investigate Gov. Tom Corbett’s handling of the case, specifically why nearly three years elapsed before criminal charges were brought.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat elected in November, confirmed her plans in an interview here. She suggested that when he was attorney general Mr. Corbett, a Republican, slow-walked the investigation of a longtime football coach at the center of the scandal while campaigning for governor.
Ms. Kane was elected by the largest margin of any candidate on the state ballot last November — even President Obama — and said she had no interest in challenging Mr. Corbett for governor in two years.
In early January, the governor brought a lawsuit to lift the stiff penalties imposed on Penn State by the National Collegiate Athletic Association as a result of the episode.It was filed six months after Mr. Corbett called on Pennsylvanians to accept the punishment, and it was widely viewed as calculated to win support from the legions of alumni who bleed Penn State blue and white. Many Pennsylvania newspaper editorial boards concluded that the action was transparently political.
Mr. Corbett’s approval ratings are historically low for a first-term governor of his state. “I don’t think there’s any doubt” that Mr. Corbett’s handling of the case is “a contributing factor in his poor job performance” in polls, said G. Terry Madonna, who directs the Franklin & Marshall College Poll Mr. Corbett declined to be interviewed for this article. He has denied delaying or mishandling any aspect of the investigation.

Corbett is unpopular, but his tanking job approval ratings could be related to any number of things. Perhaps his blatant, clownish effort to deny millions of people the right to vote in 2012 or his corrupt and failing public school privatization program, a privatization push that is so skewed towards selling charters to the public that it got the attention of even President Obama’s pro-privatization Department of Education. Arne Duncan once called Bobby Jindal’s public school privatization czar “a visionary leader”, so you know Corbett’s plan has got to be completely lobbyist-captured if even for-profit cheerleader Duncan is reluctantly regulating the visionary leaders in PA who cooked the books on charter school test scores.

In any event, Corbett’s prosecutorial role in the Penn State scandal occurred to me after the scandal broke, and the reason it occurred to me was this piece in the NYTimes that was printed in 2011, just days after the situation at Penn State was revealed:

For months, Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania had reason to suspect a sexual abuse scandal was going to explode at Penn State University. He also had no way to talk about it, or to prepare for it.
Mr. Corbett, as state attorney general, had begun an investigation in 2009 into allegations that a former Penn State assistant football coach had abused young boys, and that university officials might have covered up the scandal
“He was upset about the inaction,” said Kevin Harley, who worked with Mr. Corbett in the attorney general’s office and is now his press secretary. “He knew what witnesses were going to the grand jury even though he was running for governor. So then he became governor, and he knew at some point that this day would be coming. He just didn’t know when it would be.”

The whole thing reads like that to me, like a preemptive media defense managed by Corbett’s press secretary and that got me wondering at the time. Probably worth looking at, I think.