Sniffer Report: Health Care Nuclear Option Radiation Detected

To my Dear Readers: Just wanted to let you know this is the first in a series of reports.

Here is my first Sniffer report in which I suggest I have detected indicators (radiation) that the opponents of health care reform are going to try to kill it.  I call it the “nuclear option,” an all out, once for all attack that will destroy any chance of true health reform being implemented, and to ensure that Universal Health Care never becomes a reality.   As I stated in my earlier post, I assumed the opponents would operate behind the scenes as they have always done.  So to provide myself a reasonable boundary against common every-day paranoia, I decided to search for evidence of what is not being revealed by sniffing for the presence of influence not being stated, which should have a distinct “odor.”  I can’t prove I’m right, of course, but I can look for the radiation being emitted as the nuclear weapon is assembled and prepared for deployment.

My exhibit “A” is this snippet from New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, posted on his blog on July 17:

Will the destructive center kill health care reform? It looks all too possible.

What’s especially galling is the hypocrisy of their claimed reason for delaying progress — concern about the fiscal burden. After all, in the past most of them have shown no concern at all for the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.

One sign of radiation is applying a delaying tactic.  The opponents want more time to not only maneuver, but to try to sway public opinion.  In this case they are desperate because they know 72% of Americans support health care reform that includes the public option.

Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report told ABC News on July 19,

“The deadline is artificial but it does reflect a reality and the reality is the longer this drags out, the less likely that the president will get exactly what he wants and all that he wants,” Rothenberg told ABC. “Look, there’s still a very good chance that we’re going to get a health care bill either later this year or a next year bill.”

“There’s going to be some sort of reform, I think most people believe, but in terms of the dramatic program, policy changes that the president wants, the longer this lasts the less likely that something dramatic is going to truly be passed and be signed,” he added.

Rothenberg, writing in his Report on July 16 stated,

Fundamentally, Republicans believe that while the Obama White House has been politically astute in promising that people happy with their current health care plan can keep it and that any new program won’t add to the deficit or require a major tax increase, the Obama plan will result in nothing less than government takeover of health care.

And Republicans think that time is on their side, which is why the Castellanos memo insists it is crucial for Republicans to slow down what it calls “the Obama experiment with our health.”

“Even voters who support a ‘public plan’ think Obama and Congress are moving too fast, with reckless speed, risking a huge part of our economy and our health care, when they don’t know what reform would really bring,” the memo says. “If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it, and advance real reform that will actually help.”

You can read the Republican Plan (all three pages of it) and come to your own conclusion about “reform that will actually help” by clicking here.  I thought the underlining was particularly helpful. . .

CNN reported on July 16, in an article titled “Real Battle Over Health Care About to Begin,” corroborates Krugman’s assertion:

Even some Democrats are up in arms over a recently unveiled health care reform bill in the House.

A leader of the conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats told CNN on Wednesday that he and other group members may vote to block the House Democrats’ health care bill from passing a key committee if they don’t get some of the changes they want.

Asked whether the Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee are considering voting as a group against the bill if it remains unchanged, Ross replied, “absolutely.”

“We remain opposed to the current bill, and we continue to meet several times a day to decide how we’re going to proceed and what amendments we will be offering as Blue Dogs on the committees,” said Rep. Mike Ross, D-Arkansas.

Ross said the bill unveiled Tuesday by House Democratic leaders did not address concerns he and other conservative Democrats outlined in a letter late last week to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The conservative Democrats don’t believe the legislation contains sufficient reforms to control costs in the health care system and believe additional savings can be found.

CNN goes on to report that the Soft Drink Industry is planning ads to oppose the legislation:

Special interest groups are also affected.

Beverage companies are running a TV ad opposing one congressional proposal that would pay for reform, in part, with a soft-drink tax.

“This is no time for Congress to be adding a tax to the simple pleasures we all enjoy … like juice drinks and soda,” the announcer in the TV ad says. “Taxes never made anyone healthy.”

This next item comes from the Insurance & Financial Advisor Web News.  They quote Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, from an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on June 7, 2009:

“If you think the government can’t run General Motors, why would you think they can run health care?…[A government-sponsored insurance company is] just the first step toward a national health system,” he said according to a transcript of the program. “I mean, they will absolutely use that model… to destroy all the insurance companies and get to a national health system.”

And now, an introduction to Rick Scott, who is very publicly leading the charge against any form of Government subsidized health care and health care reform.  This is from Washington Post staff writer, Dan Eggen:

The television ads that began airing last week feature horror stories from Canada and the United Kingdom: Patients who allegedly suffered long waits for surgeries, couldn’t get the drugs they needed, or had to come to the United States for treatment.

“Before government rushes to overhaul health care, listen to those who already have government-run health care,” intones Rick Scott, founder of a group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights. “Tell Congress to listen, too.”

Scott, a multimillionaire investor and controversial former hospital chief executive, has become an unlikely and prominent leader of the opposition to health-care reform plans that Congress is expected to take up later this year. While disorganized Republicans and major health-care companies wait for President Obama and Democratic leaders to reveal the details of their plan before criticizing it, Scott is using $5 million of his own money and up to $15 million more from supporters to try to build resistance to any government-run program.

The campaign is being coordinated by CRC Public Relations, the group that masterminded the “Swift boat” attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, and is inspired by the “Harry and Louise” ads that helped torpedo health-care reform during the Clinton administration.

In this piece, from MSNBC/Associated Press, Rick Scott’s “Swift Boat” ad is mentioned as well as two more players, Art Pope and James Miller:

The ad with Shona Holmes — who says she borrowed and saved money for a crucial operation in the United States — exemplifies how groups are intent on bending the debate toward their agendas.

Its sponsor, Patients United Now, is an offshoot of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a privately funded, Washington-based conservative group that believes in limited government and cutting taxes. Among its directors are businessman and conservative activist Art Pope and James C. Miller, a top Reagan administration official.

Slippery slope?

The group says it has spent nearly $1.8 million running the ad in Washington, D.C., and 11 states with senators on committees writing health care bills or ones seen as wavering. Patients United spokeswoman Amy Menefee says the ad is fair because giving government more control over health care would be a slippery slope toward increasing the federal role, and because some Democrats still favor government-only insurance.

Dominating the spending among opponents is Conservatives for Patients Rights, led and largely financed by Rick Scott, who was ousted as chief of the Columbia/HCA health care company during a fraud probe that ultimately saw the firm plead guilty to overbilling charges. Spokesman Brian Burgess says the group has spent over $4.5 million on TV ads that have run hundreds of times this year, mostly criticizing public health coverage.

Incidentally, The Canadian Broadcast Company (CBCnews.ca) ran this same AP story under the headline, “Canada Again Cast as Villain in U.S. Health Care Fight.

USAToday published an article, “Advertising Wars Escalate in Health Care Fight” that provides more details of the players entering the field in opposition to  reform in one respect or another:

This week’s entries have been the most pointed so far this year. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ran a full-page ad in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, opposing the employer mandate and public insurance plan. “Health care reform that punishes employers would be bad for the economy and jobs,” the ad warned.

The National Federation of Independent Business ran an ad in The Hill, a similar publication, and plans an Internet ad next week. “We need to make it really clear that a mandate will kill jobs,” spokeswoman Stephanie Cathcart said.

The GOP ad ran Wednesday on cable TV as ABC aired a town-hall-style meeting on health care from the White House. “When he says ‘government option,’ that means putting government bureaucrats in charge,” the ad intoned.

So far, insurers have kept their money on the sidelines. “It’s still early in the process,” says Robert Zirkelbach of America’s Health Insurance Plans. “We haven’t taken anything off the table.”

A group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, headed by former Columbia/HCA Healthcare executive Richard Scott, is launching a round of 30-second cable TV ads in 11 states next week. The ads target 14 senators who could help decide the fate of Obama’s public option. Scott’s group has spent more than $1 million a month since March, much of it his own money.

Last month, a group called Patients United Now joined the ad wars in opposition. It’s backed by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group headed by political strategist Tim Phillips that claims more than 22,000 donors. One of its founders was David Koch of Koch Industries; two of its current directors are Art Pope, a North Carolina conservative activist and businessman, and James Miller, former budget director in the Reagan administration.

It’s clear a lot of people are ponying up a millions of dollars to oppose either the parts of health care reform that will affect their industry, or are in opposition to Universal Health Care.

Here is my Sniffer “Radiation Detected List” for this post:

  1. Blue Dog Democrats wanting to slow down the process or expressing “concern” over parts of the bill.  How much of that is genuine–the bills are massive documents–and how much of that is lobbying influence to give the opponents more time to prepare the Nuclear Option?
  2. The so-call advocacy groups, like Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, Patients United Now (backed by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity) are ramping up their ads to influence public opinion and have, in the “Shonna” ad,  even succeeded in really irritating the Canadians.  There appears to be LOTS of money coming from somewhere and it is likely from donors with big bucks who don’t want their identities ever revealed.
  3. Americans Against Food Taxes is not a grass roots organization, but a huge corporate consumer advocacy group encompassing virtually the entire Grocery Industry, their national associations , plus the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  To their credit, however, they list all their members on their web site.  Their combined lobbying influence is simply huge.
  4. But here’s the comment in this post that sent the Sniffer Radiation Detector into the alarm mode:

So far, insurers have kept their money on the sidelines. “It’s still early in the process,” says Robert Zirkelbach of America’s Health Insurance Plans. “We haven’t taken anything off the table.”

The words, “We haven’t taken anything off the table” sent chills up my spine and set off the Radiation Sniffer like a red alert on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.  Just what are they planning?

So what’s missing here?  Big Medicine.  And, yes, I’m aware the AMA has announced it is coming on board in support.  But should I say I’m just more than a bit skeptical about their sudden conversion.  Watch for the next post!

The Sniffer at Work.  Photo Credit: Smith Detection, Inc., U.K.

The Sniffer at Work. Photo Credit: Smith Detection, Inc., U.K.

Post Script:  Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader, was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this morning.  The New York Times reported that he said:

Mr. McConnell declared that the United States already had the best health care in the world and did not need an approach that would have the country’s hospitals and doctors “working for the government.”

Here’s the actual quote from the Meet the Press transcript:

Let me, let me just tell you what I think, David, if I may, is flawed about the whole approach. They don’t seem to grant that we have the finest health care in the world now. We need to focus on the two problems that we have, cost and access, not sort of scrap the entire healthcare system of the United States.

Sen. McConnell–If you don’t have access to the finest health care in the world, then you don’t have the finest health care in the world, regardless of cost.

Radiation Sniffer: On Alert for the Nuclear Option

In my post of July 3, I made the bold suggestion that the various Big Medicine groups could very well be planning to “drop the bomb” on the whole effort toward Universal Health Care, either before the legislation was finalized and voted on, or perhaps even after.  I called this the “Nuclear Option.”

Do not assume for a micro-second they have given up. They are preparing the Nuclear Option. One all-out attack on universal health care, with no regard for collateral damage, just the health of America. In the Board Rooms of the Insurance Megacorps, Big Pharma, Corporate Hospitals, and dozens of other stakeholders firmly anchored in the Status Quo, they are planning to bring this down. Once and for all, to obliterate the very notion of universal health care so completely, that it will never threaten their companies and profits again.

The question is, in all fairness, even though my hypothesis using organizational theory predicts the likelihood of an attempt to prevent UHC from becoming law, or destroying it after it is passed, is there any evidence to support it?  I also stated,

The door for the Nuclear Option is now open. Why? Because the real-life environment to which we are applying my theory is not just one company; we are applying it to a multifaceted industry that has for decades successfully resisted and obstructed the move toward universal health care. And they know that by conspiring together and pooling their resources, they can potentially create a huge wall of resistance. This strategy has a flaw, however. A significant percentage of companies in the industry are supportive of UHC, and are already changing the practice of their organizations to successfully ride the transformative wave. This fact only serves to increase the opponents’ anxiety. Who has the most to lose?

The political and economic environment is volatile and turbulent.  What I needed was a “radiation sniffer,” so to speak, a virtual monitor that would look for “leakage” that might be evidence of the Nuclear Option being planned.  At the same time, I needed an operational definition for “sniffing radiation” that would naturally provide boundaries against my finding “evidence” under every rock just to prove my hypothesis.

That set up two basic choices.  One would be to look for evidence that claimed outright that this group or that was planning to use their version of the Nuclear Option.  The other was to look for evidence that the players known to be facing the biggest losses were playing their game very close to the vest; in other words to look for evidence where what was not being said was more important that what was.

I chose the second.  This is why:

Therefore, if the individuals on the [Big Medicine] Boards and their Executive Management fail to manage their anxiety about the turbulence and the implications of transformative change in motion, and as they realize their historical resources for influence (i.e., lobbying) are waning, they will tend to take the most conservative stance to defend the survival of the organization, and that stance will tend to be to preserve the status quo at all cost.

And, the status quo has been for decades to work politically behind the scenes through lobbying and other forms of influence.  The job of the Public Relations department is to create a public face for the organization that oozes altruism and the common good over the corporation’s true mission to make as much profit as possible using every Machiavellian principle in the book.

Preparing the Nuclear Option requires planning, stealth, subterfuge, and sleight of hand.  In Board rooms around the country listen for the clink of glasses filled with expensive hooch, accompanied by the toast, “They’ll never see it coming!”

Am I skeptical and mistrusting of organizational motivations?  Of course I am.

Here is my first example for possible radiation, in a piece written by David Herzenhorn and Sheryl Gay Stohlberg for the New York Times, July 7th, titled “Health Deals Could Harbor Hidden Costs:”

Rather than running advertisements against the White House, the most influential players in the industry are inside the room negotiating with administration officials and leading lawmakers, like Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee.

“The very groups we have been talking to have been the most vocal opponents of health care reform; they are now becoming the vocal proponents for health care reform,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.

How very “chummy” of them.  Sniff, sniff.

The Radiation Sniffer is now fully operational and on-line.  Watch for more to come.  Or if you find something interesting, send to me and I’ll check it out.

Universal Health Care Confronts the Nuclear Option

The Nuclear Option (just for those of you who are stilled mired in Bush-speak, it is pronounced “new-klee-ur” not “new-cue-lar”).  In this case I’m not talking about the U.S. Senate rule called “reconciliation.”

No, in this case I’m wondering what is going on in the minds of those who have so adamantly and vociferously have opposed Universal Health Care in the United States.  Yesterday, Paul Krugman New York Times columnist, wrote in his blog,

Yes, we can

Get more or less universal coverage, that is. The CBO scoring on an incomplete bill sent everyone into a tizzy — and also led to an avalanche of bad reporting, with claims that it said terrible things about the public option. (There was no public option in the bill.)

Now the real thing has been scored — and it’s OK. Something like 97 percent coverage for people already here, at a total cost somewhere in the $1 trillion range. Bear in mind that the Bush tax cuts cost around $1.8 trillion over a decade. We can do this — and have no excuse for not doing it.

In the minds of the opponents of UHC, however, nothing has changed.  That’s what worries me.  In fact, as the evidence mounts that assuring every American has access to health care can be a reality and not doom the economy (as they have so desperately hoped), the opponents are realizing the End-Game is upon them.  They are losing.  Not only has every traditional method of obstruction not worked, or not worked well, the vast majority of Americans are solidly against them.  Heard any good anti-health care spin from Rush, Karl, John Boehner, or Mitch McConnell in the past couple of weeks?  If they were gaining ground with their argument, neither the election in Iran or Michael Jackson’s death could drown them out.  Not even South Carolina Governor Sanford’s adventures in Wonderland would diminish their clarion call for Big Medicine.

Their voices have faded to background static.

Do not assume for a micro-second they have given up.  They are preparing the Nuclear Option.  One all-out attack on universal health care, with no regard for collateral damage, just the health of America.  In the Board Rooms of the Insurance Megacorps, Big Pharma, Corporate Hospitals, and dozens of other stakeholders firmly anchored in the Status Quo, they are planning to bring this down.  Once and for all, to obliterate the very notion of universal health care so completely, that  it will never threaten their companies and profits again.

Am I paranoid?  Well, even if you are not paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you anyway.

I’m not paranoid, actually.  I’m well read in organizational theory (it was the corner stone of my doctoral dissertation in educational policy and management), and I understand how organizations respond in unstable ecologies and economic turbulence.  When resources are threatened, the people running the organization will tend to react in predictable ways.  When the operational environment changes more quickly than expected, or in ways unanticipated, the predictable management responses are more and more stressed.  If those responses lack the ability to guide the organization through transformational change (like, oh, General Motors), the likelihood of the company failing is very high.

Keeping all that in mind, when the entire global environment, e.g., the country’s health care system, begins to collapse because of a rapid set of ecological changes so powerful the only way to survive is to change transformatively (an analog of the evolutionary concept of “punctuated equilibrium”), only those institutions that have the capacity to change at the same rate and direction required for survival will likely survive.

How, then, does the Nuclear Option fit in this model?  Organizations use their resources to influence and improve their ability to survive in the existing ecological conditions, and eliminate competition for both the resources they need to exist and to improve their chances for greater access to those resources.  But here’s the rub: Organizations are “communities of fate.”  They are actually aggregates of individuals whose investment (personally and professionally) in the success of the organization varies from person to person.  In a corporation, those who have have highest investment are typically the Board of Directors and the Shareholders.  But they have to rely on managers and workers, to both produce and protect their investment.

The managers and workers have a much different perspective on the degree to which they consider the company their community of fate.  When the organization encounters increasing turbulence in its environment, the willingness of the people actually doing the work to cast their fate to ensure its success is much less certain.  If the situation worsens to the degree the survival of the company is in question, the confidence the managers and workers have in the Board’s decision making ability to, specifically save their jobs, can change very quickly.  Some workers will leave the company and look for more stable employment.  Others will stick with it until the bitter end, if it comes to that.  But if you work for an Enron, the house of cards can collapse on top of you regardless of your loyalty.

The pressure on the Board and the managers to keep the organization both alive and solvent can increase rapidly, especially in the situation where the environment and resources are changing at a rate unprecedented in history.  Even organizations that survived earlier transformational evolutionary changes may not survive the current one.  Because of the anxiety generated by the environmental turbulence, the shareholders put more pressure on the Board and managers to preserve their investment and continue to pay dividends.  The workers who are loyal to the company also put pressure on their supervisors to help preserve their jobs.  But loyalty to the community of fate by the worker is always much riskier, because the Board and the managers can, at  any time, cut positions that can eliminate the most loyal employees under the stated intent of protecting the viability of the organization by reducing personnel costs.  This trauma to the community of fate, however, is no guarantee the organization will survive the changing ecology.  It may, instead, guarantee its demise.

Now, here’s the part, as I build the case for the Nuclear Option, that I as an organizational theorist suggest sets the stage:  The critical decisions of the Board over time to adjust to the turbulence is a not a function of taking the most conservative stance in context, but is a function of the individual members of the Board and the Executive Managements’ ability to manage their anxiety in the midst of the turbulence, and at the same time abandon the mimetic* solutions traditionally used to control that anxiety across the organizational or industrial environment.  [*mimesis: from “mime.”  A concept in organizational ecology that says Company A will observe Company B, and adopt a successful process to “avoid reinventing the wheel.”  Over time this mimed process may become an industry standard.  The down side is that when the environment changes, continuing to adopt the mimed process may limit innovation and increase the chances of organizational failure.]

Therefore, if the individuals on the Board and the Executive Management fail to manage their anxiety about the turbulence and the implications of transformative change in motion, and as they realize their historical resources for influence (i.e., lobbying) are waning, they will tend to take the most conservative stance to defend the survival of the organization, and that stance will tend to be to preserve the status quo at all cost.  As organizational rigidity increases, adaptibility and innovation are stifled.

The door for the Nuclear Option is now open.  Why?  Because the real-life environment to which we are applying my theory is not  just one company; we are applying it to a multifaceted industry that has for decades successfully resisted and obstructed the move toward universal health care.  And they know that by conspiring together and pooling their resources, they can potentially create a huge wall of resistance.  This strategy has a flaw, however.  A significant percentage of companies in the industry are supportive of UHC, and are already changing the practice of their organizations to successfully ride the transformative wave.  This fact only serves to increase the opponents’ anxiety.  Who has the most to lose?

The portion of the industry that opposes UHC has powerful political and social connections.  The Republican Party, although reduced in its influence at the last election still has significant resources at its disposal, as well as a core of voters, who for numerous reasons at least state they don’t want to pay for UHC.

This set of circumstances, powered by huge finances, politics, ideology, and desperation creates the possibility that those who have the most to lose as they perceive it are going to try and “drop the bomb” on the universal health care.  Whether they make their move before the Congress acts, or, have a strategy to destroy it even after it has been signed into law, I can’t tell.  But I believe they are well into their planning and will indeed act.

A final note.  Another principle, not from organizational theory, but from psychohistory, is also undoubtedly in play in this situation.  Speaking not literally, but figuratively:  “Violence is the final refuge of the incompetent.”

Health Care Happening: Paul Krugman Blog Post

Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, posted this very good news today on his blog, “The Conscience of a Liberal:”

OK, it looks as if major health care reform is actually going to happen. Democrats have agreed that if Republicans try to block reform in the Senate, they will use the reconciliation process to bypass a filibuster.

Republicans will, of course, scream that this is a terrible, terrible thing – something they themselves would never have done – except, of course, to cut food stamps, pass both major Bush tax cuts, and more.

We’ll still have to see what the reform looks like – especially whether the public plan survives. But kudos to the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership: this is the big one, and so far it looks very, very good.

Here is my reply to Paul:

This is extremely good news for the growing millions who have no health insurance.  I have written to Sen. Baucus several times urging him to move his plan forward.  The Republicans will of course blow tons of steam in outrage and consternation, but the historical opportunity to create a health care system that essentially establishes a right to medical care has to be made law.

And here is the Great Irony:  Every single Republican who objects to the legislation will now be covered by the new national plans.  Every Republican who has lost his or her job because of the Recession and now has no health insurance or is working but can’t afford it will be covered.  Every Republican who has been denied treatment due to pre-existing conditions will be treated.  Every Republican will have access to all the medical services and programs provided by the new system.  Every Republican will benefit from the elimination of billions, dare we say trillions, of dollars, of waste currently generated by the current non-system.

Even Rush Limbaugh, despite his vitriolic howling objections, will be covered.

Once the legislation is passed, how many Republicans will stand on principle and refuse to participate?  Can we speculate they will overnight become the “Party of Yes?”

Let’s get this health care legislation passed.

And, I want to add: Go, Max, go!

Health Care Now–Paul Krugman, NYT. A Reply

If you are a regular reader of Extreme Thinkover (here’s a shoutout to Eddie and Micki, two of my colleagues), you know one of my passions is health care reform and universal health care insurance.  We need it and we need it now!

This week Paul Krugman, who writes for the New York Times published, in his January 29th column, “Health Care Now.”

It’s a good piece, not only because he agrees with me, but that he presents a concise description of what is holding up getting started on the health care reform legislation in the new Obama administration, and then gives a Nobel-winning prize economist’s perspective why sooner is really necessary.

There is a bit of a mystery, though.  When the column was published over 350 people, including me, posted a reply.  After so many hours, the comment section was closed, which is standard NYT practice.  But then by the evening of the next day, the comments link was taken off-line.  Nothing from Krugman or the NYT as to why.  However, since I back up all my posts, and planned to put it on Extreme Thinkover, what follows is my reply to Dr. Krugman’s column.

^^^^^^^^^^

Paul–For some of us in the medical industry, the tsunami you call the looming health care disaster has already crested.  The hospital I work for, part of a Catholic health care system, incurred $66 million in uncompensated care last year (FY08).  That’s not waste or bad management.  That’s the amount of money we spent to treat every person who came to us, for which we could not recover a single dollar.  There are no golden parachutes or corporate jets in our health system.  And the administration says we are already $3 million ahead of last year.

Our mission is to treat the sick.  Anyone who thinks that not having access to health insurance or basic health care is overblown rhetoric or too expensive just needs to spend one day with me.

I cannot urge the Obama administration strongly enough to initiate their health reform legislation.  Nothing short of universal health care will work in the short or long run.  During the election I studied the various plans being touted (AARP, AMA, both candidates, the Catholic Health Association), as well as the legislation being introduced by various politicians.  I support the plan by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). Be assured, I have written him several times, urging him to act quickly.

I know the financial crisis needs immediate attention, but there is no reason for the groundwork not to be laid now to push hard for health care reform and universal health insurance in Congress as soon as possible.

We need it now.  We needed it for all those patients who came to us last year, requiring  immediate medical care, but who had no way to pay for what collectively amounted to $66 million to just one hospital.  They got the care they needed, anyway.  That’s what can happen when you believe that health care is a human right.  It would just be nice for those people to have insurance so they are not prohibited from exercising that right.  It wouldn’t be bad to get compensated for that care either.

Edge of the Abyss: Black Hole Event Horizon?

I just read New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman’s, piece on the actual plight of our economy.  It’s worse than I thought.  Here’s an excerpt:

How bad is it? Normally sober people are sounding apocalyptic. On Thursday, the bond trader and blogger John Jansen declared that current conditions are “the financial equivalent of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution,” while Joel Prakken of Macroeconomic Advisers says that the economy seems to be on “the edge of the abyss.”

Here’s the link to Krugman’s article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/03/opinion/03krugman.html?hp

A black hole event horizon is the ultimate “edge of the abyss” in the Cosmos.  As a black hole is created it forms a flattened donut ring around its mouth.  At the inner edge of that ring is a boundary past which neither matter nor light can escape.  Ever.

If You Like Political Drama, Baby, This is Your Week!

Holy meltdown bailout debate poll swing, Batman!  It’s only Wednesday and already the seismic activity from the financial earthquakes, political pyroclastic flows, and global credit meltdown has things rocking in the high sevens on the Richter scale. Sevens as in $700 bn, that is. And that doesn’t factor in the Presidential Campaign, the Veep debate, and whether the House of Representatives can find the spine to actually provide the leadership they were elected to give. Could we hit a Richter 10 by Sunday?  Could next Monday on Wall Street make this past one like a shallow pothole? Well, yeah, of course!  We’re talking the best political drama in my adult life. And I’m old enough to remember the whole Watergate thing.

I’m not an economist, and at the moment, I think I’m glad I’m not.  It’s not that ignorance is bliss, but this week it would be driving me nuts.  I’m not sure that any specific economic theory can fully account for the chaos being generated out of the international turbulence. Right now, the economist that seems to have the better handle on the forces at play is Paul Krugman.  Yes, I’m well aware that he is an unrepentant liberal, but he’s very smart and willing to look at all sides of the issue before he draws his conclusions.  Today in his New York Times blog “The Conscience of a Liberal” (see, I told you), he summarizes his grudging acceptance of the bailout/rescue/CPR with the paddles bill passed by the Senate as being forced to form the “hold your nose caucus.”  Works for me.  Sweet or not, I don’t think anyone really knows what kinds of aftershocks the legislation will ultimately produce, assuming the House gets around to passing something on Friday.

Actually one theoretical model does appeal to me.  Being an avid amateur astronomer, I’ve read a lot over the years about stars, and one of the most interesting things that some stars do is go supernova.  The processes that cause a star to blow itself into space leaving only a neutron star, a white-hot glowing diamond perhaps only a few dozen miles in diameter, or if the star has enough mass, to create a black hole, is bewilderingly complex.

Stay with me, now, I’m not going to go through the whole process.  If you want to read about it in lay terminology (sort of ) go read Stephen Hawking or Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But the basic process is this.  Stars have a life cycle.  A supernova is an event at the end of that cycle.  It’s this final stage that I think has parallels in what we are seeing economically.  Here’s what happens.  Stars have huge amounts of hydrogen that is being converted into helium through nuclear fusion.  That is its “capital.”  All its life this fusion has been  churning along, not only producing hydrogen, but (if you remember your high school chemistry periodic table of elements), other elements up through iron.  Those elements are, in a sense, its “products.”  And these are good. Our Sun, which does not have enough mass to go supernova, is producing these products too, and the energy forces by that process give us both light and heat.  Both are essential for 99.9% of all known life on earth, like you and me.

The production of these elements, however, comes at a price.  The star has a finite amount of hydrogen it can fuse into helium.  When it’s all used up, something has to happen.  And no, it’s not like when your flashlight battery runs out.

But for a supernova to take place, there is one (apparently) essential thing the star has to have.  A companion star.  Binary star systems are the rule rather than the exception.  Most binaries are far enough from one another that despite their being bound by gravity, they don’t exchange material (products) between them.  In a supermassive binary system, the two stars are locked together and the one with the more mass sucks stellar material from the other.  There is international (interstellar?) market exchange, but it’s all one way.

I think you get the picture.  Over time the big star gets bigger, but eventually still uses all the material from it’s internal processes plus the stuff it sucks off its companion.  This is not a good thing for either of them. The result is the supernova.  For the two stars, this is the end of their life cycle.  However, an incredible thing happens as the star blows off its hydrogen-depleted mantle: the death of the star creates all the other elements in the periodic table by the enormous heat, quantum forces, and gravity.  Remember Carl Sagan calling us “star stuff?”  This is what he was talking about.

This analogy is what I hope is going to be the result of the financial bailout.  The supernova forces in the global economy are supposed to recreate the very elements it takes to sustain life in the universe.  What I don’t know is if the bailout will follow the same predictable and positive results that a supernova does.  Let’s hope for the diamond neutron star scenario and not the black hole.

We are going to find out.