Monthly Archive: May 2014

May 31 2014

Random Japan

 photo sl-9_zpsc37e8a6e.png

Love sushi? Now you can date it, with this romance simulator available in English!

   Casey Baseel

Since most sushi is served raw, the flavor can vary wildly depending on the freshness of the fish and even the season in which you eat it. Granted, most of what’s available in Japan is reasonably tasty, but when all the factors line up just right, the mix of surprise, joy, and satisfaction that come from popping a really good piece of sushi into your mouth can be a borderline emotional experience, almost like falling in love.

If you’re a sushi-loving lady looking to take your relationship with the dish to an even deeper level, there’s now a dating simulator that lets you romance handsome anthropomorphized pieces of sushi.

The game, titled Hei! Renai Iccho!, which translates as Here You Go! One Order of Romance, was released for smartphones on May 28. Players take the role of a young woman who’s the only child of a sushi chef. When her father suddenly accepts a temporary overseas job offer, she’s left to run the family restaurant by herself, since, like all proper anime/video game characters, her mother isn’t in the picture.

May 31 2014

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness NewsWelcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Grilled Cheese for Grownups

Grilled Cheese for Grownups photo recipehealthpromo-tmagArticle_zpse4603dbd.jpg

On these nights I don’t want to get down another frying pan or saucepan. I crave a sandwich, and I turn lovingly to my toaster oven. I rummage in the refrigerator – there is always something, like greens I’ve blanched, a roasted red pepper, a box of mushrooms that are beginning to shrivel, or a hunk of butternut squash left over from another recipe test. I try to keep my refrigerator stocked with a few different cheeses – goat cheese and feta, a blue of some kind, Gruyère and Parmesan. This year, because my son went away to boarding school and I can’t go through a loaf of bread before it goes stale, I’ve begun to keep loaves of sliced whole-wheat country bread in the freezer, so that I can pull it out by the slice when I need it.

~Martha Rosle Shuman~

Roasted Mushroom and Gruyère Sandwich

Mushrooms add a somewhat meaty essence to this quick vegetarian sandwich.

Grilled Gorgonzola and Beet Green Sandwich

A satisfying dinner that can be put together in 10 minutes.

Grilled Feta and Roasted Squash Sandwich

The sweet and earthy flavors of roasted squash are a tasty contrast to salty feta.

]Grilled Goat Cheese and Broccoli Sandwich http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05…

The Middle Eastern nut and spice mix called dukkah is the surprise touch in this sandwich.

Grilled Goat Cheese, Roasted Pepper, and Greens Sandwich

Roasted artichoke hearts are an optional addition to this vegetable-filled sandwich.

May 31 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial Board: Mr. Shinseki Takes the Fall

The resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki from the Veterans Affairs Department was probably unavoidable, under the principle that a leader should accept full responsibility for a great scandal. But the department’s problem was not Mr. Shinseki. It has been broken for years. No one should expect his removal to be anything but the beginning of a much-needed process of change.

Time now to tune out the noise from the lawmakers who lately have been baying for Mr. Shinseki’s head. No doubt they will keep heaping abuse on President Obama, on the campaign trail, and at the hearings for whoever is nominated as Mr. Shinseki’s replacement. Empty posturing in support of troops and veterans is a staple of political life, and is far easier than actually helping veterans.

This should not distract anyone from the long list of things that need doing at Veterans Affairs.

Bob Kohn: How Book Publishers Can Beat Amazon

Amazon has caused no small controversy of late by refusing to accept presale orders on books to be released by the publisher Hachette and by understocking Hachette’s titles. These punitive maneuvers, which follow a dispute between Amazon and Hachette about e-book contracts, have led to significant delays in shipments of Hachette’s books to Amazon’s customers.

If you are wondering why Amazon would subject its customers to this inconvenience and wish to understand what’s really happening between Amazon and Hachette – and, indeed, all the major book publishers – you need to know the meaning of the word monopsony.

The Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, when sitting on a lower court, once described monopsony as the “mirror image” of monopoly. Unlike a monopoly, which occurs when a seller of goods has the power to unlawfully raise prices of what it sells, a monopsony occurs when a buyer of goods has the power to unlawfully lower the prices of what it buys. Each violates antitrust laws: As the Supreme Court has long recognized, they both result in a misallocation of resources that harms consumers and distorts markets.

Juan Cole: Mr. Kerry: Here’s Why Snowden Can’t ‘Make His Case’ in ‘Our System of Justice’

Secretary of State John Kerry said that Edward Snowden should “return home and come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case.”  Kerry seems to have a high opinion of the Department of Justice and the U.S. courts when it comes to national security issues.  I can’t imagine for the life of me why.  Kerry is either amazingly ignorant or being disingenuous when he suggests that Snowden would be allowed to “make his case” if he returned to the U.S.  No one outside the penal justice system would ever see him again, the moment he set foot here, assuming he was not given a prior deal.  He could maybe try to explain himself to the prison guards, assuming they didn’t stick him in solitary.  Here are some reasons Mr. Snowden would be unwise to trust himself to that system, given the charges against him: [..]

Kerry is a bright and informed man and knows all this.  I vote for disingenuous.  He is just trying to deflect Snowden’s obvious popularity with the public and is trying desperately to keep the NSA warrantless dragnet on us all in place.  I remember when he compared the U.S. military in Vietnam to the Mongol hordes.  He should take off those big black expensive shiny shoes once in a while.  He’d find feet of clay there now.

Danny Schechter: Where Is the American Spring? (or Sunshine on a Cloudy Day: A Screed)

Where are you, Temptations, when I need you most? [..]

The month of May is here and will soon be gone, with a May winter every other day here in New York following every occasional outbreak of seasonal warmth. We know the planet is warming, but I have yet to feel it with any regularity in my neighborhood.

Worse that that, the cold outside is not just the zigzagging temperatures, but the sense that we are stuck in a political Ice Age where change of the kind that we will soon be discussing, again and again, ad finitem, at yet another Left forum is more remote than ever. While the Left talks, the Right mobilizes, certainly in Europe, save austerity-devastated Greece. [..]

Here, the Tea Party wing nuts have all but conquered the Repugs, bolstered by new court rulings that allow their funders to buy what’s still on sale in our political oligarchy in this Republic of Fear.

The Obamanauts are done. They can’t steer the ship of state. They are even website-challenged and health care-damaged. Their Ukraine adventure boomeranged, leaving only half a country that needs to render unto Putin more than chocolate. They have driven the bear into his own China pivot, far more lucrative than ours, with warning bells now ringing on every front as the president still yearns for an American “exceptionalism” that is anything but, if not a mirage.

Their co-optation was a willing one, part of the game, and no longer even apologized for. Forget the Hopium. There is always a threat from the right to justify their moving right.

Who, among us, still has illusions?

Robert Parry: Obama’s Neoconservative Foreign Policy Vision

As American neocons continue to shape the narratives that define the permissible boundaries for U.S. foreign policy thinking, the failure to enforce any meaningful accountability on them for their role in the criminal and disastrous invasion of Iraq has become painfully clear.

In any vibrant democratic system, it would be unthinkable that the neocons and other war hawks who yahooed the United States into Iraq a little more than a decade ago would still be exercising control over how Americans perceive today’s events. Yet, many of the exact same pundits and pols who misled the American people then are still misleading them today. [..]

Thus, we’re stuck reading the Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl reinforce the myth that the Ukraine crisis was caused by “the aggression of Russian President Vladimir Putin,” when the reality is that it was the United States and the European Union that stirred up the unrest and set the stage for neo-Nazi militias to overthrow elected President Viktor Yanukovych and plunge the country into a nasty little civil war.

Yet, you’re not supposed to know that. Anyone who dares explain the actual narrative of what happened in Ukraine is immediately accused of spreading “Russian propaganda.” The preferred U.S. narrative of white-hat “pro-democracy” protesters victimized by black-hat villain Yanukovych with the help of the even more villainous Vladimir Putin is so much more fun. It lets Americans cheer as ethnic Russians in the east are burned alive by neo-Nazi mobs and mowed down by Ukrainian military aircraft.

Mark Weisbrot: IMF’s Insistence on Economic Austerity Could Derail Ukraine’s Chance of Survival

On May 25, the “Chocolate King” handily won the Ukrainian presidential elections in the first round.

Billionaire Petro O. Poroshenko is so named because he made his fortune in the confectionary business. The defeated runner-up, former prime minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko is sometimes referred to as “the Gas Princess,” since she struck it rich in the energy sector. [..]

Which brings us to today: the new government of the Chocolate King is committed to those same conditions, now spelled out in an IMF agreement released at the end of April. I would not want to be in his shoes.

After two years of almost no economic growth, the IMF is now projecting a steep recession for this year, with the economy shrinking by 5 percent. This is largely because of budget tightening that the government has committed to, amounting to about 3 percent of GDP over the next two years.

May 31 2014

The Breakfast Club (Torchwood)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgBonus points today if you can find the connection between Captain Jack and Sebastian but I’ll distract you further with a brief explanation of why I hate fiddles unless properly prepared.

Fretless instruments of doom, not only do they have no indication that you have struck the correct note but are weak and worthless individually which is why they are deployed in wide platoons across the entire face of an orchestra to be sacrificed to the crowd.  Indeed the most desirable of them are those that screech the loudest.  Their ‘harmony’ is an early example of ‘noise music’ or ‘sampling’ where the overall effect overcomes the non-musical qualities of the source made more difficult by the employment of a Bow more suited to starting fires.

Get a Guitar.

Yet for some reason I can’t fathom they remain enormously popular and many, many works for more reasonable instruments (don’t like rigidity of valves, try a trombone) are simply transcriptions.

Oh, the puzzle.  Sonata #1.

Adagio and Fuga

Siciliana and Presto

If you really like scraping cat guts, here’s two hours of it

Obligatory stuff below the fold-

May 31 2014

On This Day In History May 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

May 31 is the 151st day of the year (152nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 214 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1859, Big Ben goes into operation in London

The famous tower clock known as Big Ben, located at the top of the 320-foot-high St. Stephen’s Tower, rings out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, for the first time on this day in 1859.

After a fire destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster–the headquarters of the British Parliament–in October 1834, a standout feature of the design for the new palace was a large clock atop a tower. The royal astronomer, Sir George Airy, wanted the clock to have pinpoint accuracy, including twice-a-day checks with the Royal Greenwich Observatory. While many clockmakers dismissed this goal as impossible, Airy counted on the help of Edmund Beckett Denison, a formidable barrister known for his expertise in horology, or the science of measuring time.

Denison’s design, built by the company E.J. Dent & Co., was completed in 1854; five years later, St. Stephen’s Tower itself was finished. Weighing in at more than 13 tons, its massive bell was dragged to the tower through the streets of London by a team of 16 horses, to the cheers of onlookers. Once it was installed, Big Ben struck its first chimes on May 31, 1859. Just two months later, however, the heavy striker designed by Denison cracked the bell. Three more years passed before a lighter hammer was added and the clock went into service again. The bell was rotated so that the hammer would strike another surface, but the crack was never repaired.

Great Bell

The main bell, officially known as the Great Bell, is the largest bell in the tower and part of the Great Clock of Westminster. The bell is better known by the nickname Big Ben.

The original bell was a 16.3-tonne (16 ton) hour bell, cast on 6 August 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees by John Warner & Sons. The bell was named in honour of Sir Benjamin Hall, and his name is inscribed on it. However, another theory for the origin of the name is that the bell may have been named after a contemporary heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt. It is thought that the bell was originally to be called Victoria or Royal Victoria in honour of Queen Victoria, but that an MP suggested the nickname during a Parliamentary debate; the comment is not recorded in Hansard.

Since the tower was not yet finished, the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard. Cast in 1856, the first bell was transported to the tower on a trolley drawn by sixteen horses, with crowds cheering its progress. Unfortunately, it cracked beyond repair while being tested and a replacement had to be made. The bell was recast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a 13.76-tonne (13 1/2 ton) bell. This was pulled 200 ft up to the Clock Tower’s belfry, a feat that took 18 hours. It is 2.2 metres tall and 2.9 metres wide. This new bell first chimed in July 1859. In September it too cracked under the hammer, a mere two months after it officially went into service. According to the foundry’s manager, George Mears, Denison had used a hammer more than twice the maximum weight specified. For three years Big Ben was taken out of commission and the hours were struck on the lowest of the quarter bells until it was reinstalled. To make the repair, a square piece of metal was chipped out from the rim around the crack, and the bell given an eighth of a turn so the new hammer struck in a different place. Big Ben has chimed with an odd twang ever since and is still in use today complete with the crack. At the time of its casting, Big Ben was the largest bell in the British Isles until “Great Paul”, a 17 tonne (16 3/4 ton) bell currently hung in St Paul’s Cathedral, was cast in 1881.

May 30 2014

The Cost of Corporate Tax Dodgers

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz discussed the problem of large corporations using tax loop holes to avoid paying taxes and how by closing those loop holes could be a cure for inequality and a faltering economy.

Stiglitz tells Bill that Apple, Google, GE and a host of other Fortune 500 companies are creating what amounts to “an unlimited IRA for corporations.” The result? Vast amounts of lost revenue for our treasury and the exporting of much-needed jobs to other countries.

“I think we can use our tax system to create a better society, to be an expression of our true values.” Stiglitz says. “But if people don’t think that their tax system is fair, they’re not going to want to contribute. It’s going to be difficult to get them to pay. And, unfortunately, right now, our tax system is neither fair nor efficient.”



Transcript can be read here

Dr. Stiglitz’s paper, Reforming Taxation to Promote Growth and Equity, can be read here (pdf).

Seven Key Takeaways From Joseph E. Stiglitz’s Tax Plan for Growth and Equality

1. Raise Corporate Income Tax Rates While Providing Incentives for Investments and Job Creation in the US. [..]

2. Reduce Spending on Corporate Welfare [..]

3. Tax the Financial Sector [..]

4. Tax on Monopolies and Other Rent-Based Enterprises [..]

5. Ensure that Multinationals Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes and Have Incentives to Invest in America [..]

6. Tax Monopolies and Other Rent-Based Enterprises [..]

7. Make Dividend Payments Tax Deductible, But Impose a Withholding Tax [..]

                     

May 30 2014

The Breakfast Club: 15-30-4560

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

May 30 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Daniel Ellsberg: Snowden would not get a fair trial – and Kerry is wrong

Edward Snowden is the greatest patriot whistleblower of our time, and he knows what I learned more than four decades ago: until the Espionage Act gets reformed, he can never come home safe and receive justiceSnowden would not get a fair trial – and Kerry is wrong

Edward Snowden is the greatest patriot whistleblower of our time, and he knows what I learned more than four decades ago: until the Espionage Act gets reformed, he can never come home safe and receive justice

John Kerry was in my mind Wednesday morning, and not because he had called me a patriot on NBC News. I was reading the lead story in the New York Times – “US Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016” – with a photo of American soldiers looking for caves. I recalled not the Secretary of State but a 27-year-old Kerry, asking, as he testified to the Senate about the US troops who were still in Vietnam and were to remain for another two years: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

Paul Krugman: Cutting Back on Carbon

Next week the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new rules designed to limit global warming. Although we don’t know the details yet, anti-environmental groups are already predicting vast costs and economic doom. Don’t believe them. Everything we know suggests that we can achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at little cost to the economy.

Just ask the United States Chamber of Commerce.

O.K., that’s not the message the Chamber of Commerce was trying to deliver the report it put out Wednesday. It clearly meant to convey the impression that the E.P.A.’s new rules would wreak havoc. But if you focus on the report’s content rather than its rhetoric, you discover that despite the chamber’s best efforts to spin things – as I’ll explain later, the report almost surely overstates the real cost of climate protection – the numbers are remarkably small.

Thomas Piketty: My Response to the Financial Times

This is a response to the criticisms — which I interpret as requests for additional information — that were published in the Financial Times (FT) on May 23, 2014 (see FT article here. See also the other two articles published by the FT on May 23, 2014: here and there. See also my short response published here in the FT. Unfortunately I was given limited time to submit this response, so I could not address specific points; what follows is a longer response). These criticisms only refer to the series reported in chapter 10 of my book Capital in the 21st century, and not to the other figures and tables presented in the other chapters, so in what follows I will only refer to these series. [..]

Let me also say that I certainly agree that available data sources on wealth inequality are much less systematic than what we have for income inequality. In fact, one of the main reasons why I am in favor of wealth taxation, international cooperation and automatic exchange of bank information is that this would be a way to develop more financial transparency and more reliable sources of information on wealth dynamics (even if the tax was charged at very low rates, which everybody could agree with).

Dean Baker: Why Is It So Acceptable to Lie to Promote Trade Deals?

It’s not polite to use the “L” word here in Washington, but it’s hard not to be more than a bit disgusted with the frequency with which trade pacts are sold as great engines of job creation and economic growth, when they clearly are not. The latest offender in this area is Bruce Ackerman, a Yale Law professor.

In a Washington Post column Ackerman called on President Obama to push for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP), which he described as, “opening the path for job-creating opportunities for workers on both continents.”  Really, what evidence does Professor Ackerman have for this assertion?

Norman Solomon: An Assault from Obama’s Escalating War on Journalism

In a memoir published this year, the CIA’s former top legal officer John Rizzo says that on the last day of 2005 a panicky White House tried to figure out how to prevent the distribution of a book by New York Times reporter James Risen. Officials were upset because Risen’s book, State of War, exposed what — in his words — “may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.”

The book told of a bungled CIA attempt to set back Iran’s nuclear program in 2000 by supplying the Iranian government with flawed blueprints for nuclear-bomb design. The CIA’s tactic might have actually aided Iranian nuclear development.[..]

But more than eight years later, the Obama White House is seeking a different form of retribution. The people running the current administration don’t want to pulp the book — they want to put its author in jail.

The Obama administration is insisting that Risen name his confidential source — or face imprisonment. Risen says he won’t capitulate.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation calls the government’s effort to force Risen to reveal a source “one of the most significant press freedom cases in decades.”

Sadhbh Walshe: We have entered the golden age of pot. The US government should get with it

You can’t build a marijuana business in the 22 states where it’s legal if the Department of Justice is cracking down and Congress does next to nothing. This is ludicrous

To look from afar, or talk to people up close, we have entered the golden age of marijuana legalization. The city of Seattle celebrated its state’s first anniversary of legal pot last December by allowing a public “bring your own bud” event under the Space Needle. In Colorado, pupscale cannabis-themed dinner parties http://news.yahoo.com/colorado… where food is paired with weed in the same way it has traditionally been paired with wine, are all the rage. [..]

But where there is buzz, there is nearly always a buzzkill: as far as the federal government is concerned, marijuana remains a schedule-one drug on a par with heroin, LSD and crack cocaine and is subject to the same severe criminal sanctions. Early Friday, the House of Representatives voted, 219-189, to support a bipartisan amendment that helps bridge this divide by prohibiting the federal government from spending more taxpayer money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws – by way of DEA raids on legal operations.

May 30 2014

On This Day In History May 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

May 30 is the 150th day of the year (151st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 215 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1922, Former President William Howard Taft dedicates the Lincoln Memorial on the Washington Mall on this day in 1922. At the time, Taft was serving as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Taft remains the only former president ever to hold a seat on the Supreme Court. He served from 1921 to 1930. He recalled his time on the court as his most rewarding career, later saying in his memoirs, I don’t remember that I was ever president.

History

The Lincoln Memorial, designed after the temples of ancient Greece, is significant as America’s foremost memorial to their 16th president, as a totally original example of neoclassical architecture, and as the formal terminus to the extended National Mall in accordance with the McMillan Plan for the monumental core of Washington.

Demands for a fitting memorial had been voiced since the time of Lincoln’s death. In 1867, Congress heeded these demands and passed the first of many bills incorporating a commission to erect a monument for the sixteenth president. An American, Clark Mills, was chosen to design the monument. His plans reflected the bombastic nationalistic spirit of the age. His design called for a 70-foot (21 m) structure adorned with six equestrian and 31 pedestrian statues of colossal proportions, crowned by a 12-foot (3.7 m) statue of Abraham Lincoln. However, subscriptions for the project were insufficient and its future fell into doubt.

The matter lay dormant until the turn of the century, when, under the leadership of Senator Shelby M. Cullom of Illinois, six separate bills were introduced to Congress for the incorporation of a new memorial commission. The first five bills, proposed in the years 1901, 1902, and 1908, met with defeat; however, the final bill (Senate Bill 9449), introduced on December 13, 1910, passed. The Lincoln Memorial Commission had its first meeting the following year and President William H. Taft was chosen as president. Progress continued at a steady pace and by 1913 Congress had approved of the Commission’s choice of design and location. However, this approval was far from unanimous. Many thought that architect Henry Bacon’s Greek temple design was far too ostentatious for a man of Lincoln’s humble character. Instead they proposed a simple log cabin shrine. The site too did not go unopposed. The recently reclaimed land in West Potomac Park was seen by many to be either too swampy or too inaccessible. Other sites, such as Union Station, were put forth. The Commission stood firm in its recommendation though, feeling that the Potomac Park location, situated on the Washington MonumentCapitol axis, overlooking the Potomac River and surrounded by open land, was an ideal site. Furthermore, the Potomac Park site had already been designated in the McMillan Plan of 1901 to be the location of a future monument comparable to that of the Washington Monument.

With Congressional approval and a $300,000 allocation, the project got underway. On February 12, 1914, an inauspicious dedication ceremony was conducted and following month the actual construction began. Work progressed steadily according to schedule. However a few changes did have to be made. The statue of Lincoln, originally designed to be 10 feet (3.0 m) tall, was later enlarged to 19 feet (5.8 m) to prevent it from being dwarfed by its huge chamber. As late as 1920, the decision was made to substitute an open portal for the bronze and glass grille which was to have guarded the entrance. Despite these changes, the Memorial was finished on schedule. In a (May 30) celebration in 1922, Commission president William H. Taft dedicated the Memorial and presented it to President Warren G. Harding, who accepted it for the American people. Lincoln’s only remaining son, 79 year old Robert Todd Lincoln, was in attendance.

May 30 2014

Too Many Patients, Too Few Doctors

The recent scandal about the possibility of patient deaths, long waiting lists for appointments and falsified data in the Veterans Administration run hospitals across the country has it roots in a very obvious fact: too many patients and too few doctors.

At the heart of the falsified data in Phoenix, and possibly many other veterans hospitals, is an acute shortage of doctors, particularly primary care ones, to handle a patient population swelled both by aging veterans from the Vietnam War and younger ones who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congressional officials, veterans affairs doctors and medical industry experts say. The department says it is trying to fill 400 vacancies to add to its roster of primary care doctors, which last year numbered 5,100. [..]

But the inspector general’s report also pointed to another factor that may explain why hospital officials in Phoenix and elsewhere might have falsified wait-time data: pressures to excel in the annual performance reviews used to determine raises, bonuses, promotions and other benefits. Instituted widely 20 years ago to increase accountability for weak employees as well as to provide rewards for strong ones, those reviews and their attendant benefits may have become perverse incentives for manipulating wait-time data, some lawmakers and experts say. [..]

The precise role incentives and performance reviews might have played in falsifying waiting-list data remains unclear. In Phoenix, the inspector general’s office said, investigators plan to interview scheduling supervisors and administrators to “identify management’s involvement in manipulating wait times.”

But documents suggest that using the data in annual performance reviews may be commonplace. One review for a Pennsylvania veterans medical center director showed that a significant portion of the director’s job rating was tied to “timely and appropriate access,” which would include waiting times for doctor appointments. One of those goals would be met only if nearly all patients were seen within 14 days of their desired appointment date – a requirement not found in the private hospital industry.

While greed may well be part of the problem, it all stems directly back to the influx of new patients and the lack of primary care physicians to manage their cases. According to the article, primary-care appointments have increased 50 percent over the last three years while the department’s staff of primary care doctors has increased by only 9 percent. There are only so many hours in the day.

The other issue for doctors in the VA system is the pay disparity with the private sector.

V.A. primary care doctors and internists generally earn from about $98,000 to $195,000, compared with private sector primary care physicians whose total median compensation was $221,000 in 2012, according to the Medical Group Management Association, a trade group.

Privatization is not the solution. The private sector is no better equipped to handle to large influx of patients, especially patients with special needs that stem from the wars. It is also wildly unpopular with veterans and veterans groups. The Republicans in congress have other ideas because they perceive the VA as socialized medicine which they hate.

The Republican Party Has a VA Problem, Too: Privatization Isn’t Popular

By Brian Beutler, The New Republic

In light of the GOP’s decision to fold the Veterans Affairs scandal into a broader ideological crusade, I noted on Wednesday that in seeking redress, liberals shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the GOP’s answer to every administrative blunder is to dissolve whatever program or agency screwed up. The unspoken corollary is that, by using the VA scandal as a narrative building tool, they’ll face pressure to put up a “small government” alternative to the VA that would be a better deal for actual veterans. And that carries risk, because the Republican alternative is unpopular. And yet

 

The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is calling on the Obama administration to permit veterans waiting for care at VA hospitals to seek treatment outside that system, if they want.

   Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order that would allow those veterans to act on their own and charge the government for outside care.

As Brian pointed out, when Mitt Romney suggested that veterans be given vouchers, he was vehemently criticized by veterans. Romney, being the political coward, did an immediate reversal, proposing instead spending more money as demand increased. How liberal of him.

MSMNB’s Rachel Maddow did an extensive report on the VA crisis, highlighting the problems within the military medical care system and the new details outlined in the V.A. inspector general’s interim report. She also had interviews with Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association and Senator Bernie Sanders, Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.


I don’t believe that firing Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Eric Shinseki is the solution. The solution is hire more doctors and that would require making the position more competitive with the private sector.  

Older posts «

Fetch more items