August 26, 2016

Vermont Health Connect: “Current wait times are 90 minutes”

We have had working health insurance coverage for the past couple of years (unlike in 2014), but now we have moved and need to change the billing address.

I go to the Vermont Health Connect web site and click "Report a Life Change" to learn: "These changes should be reported by calling Vermont Health Connect toll-free at 1-855-899-9600 or by logging into your account and reporting your change online." I log in with the result: "An unexpected error occurred. Please contact an administrator." And "Contact Us: Have questions or want to find out more? Tel: (855) 899-9600."

I call. I wait. I give up. I call again a couple days later, wait, give up. I call again and add my number to a queue to be called back "within 3 business days". [Update:  One week later, no callback.]

[Update, Sept. 12:  Two weeks later, no callback. The web site now says that one can report "life changes" on line. So I logged in to my account (trying Opera after receiving the message that "There was some technical error processing your request" in Firefox, and then in Opera being forced to reset the password), got to the irritating terms page, and clicked "Next" — to receive the message that "An unexpected error occurred. Please contact an administrator." Called: "Estimated wait time is greater than 90 minutes." Left another request for callback (an option that is offered only after a couple minutes of waiting).]

[Update, Sept. 23:  They called back! But we were out. That was on Sept. 15. Nothing since. Governor Shumlin defended the whole mess yesterday: "nearly 9 in 10 customers seeking to report a life change 'experience a smooth process,' he said." So I went on line again to report my change of address, and now I couldn't even log in. So I called again (to set up another callback). One of Shumlin's improvements appears to have been to no longer provide an estimated wait time, and after a few minutes there was no longer an option to request a callback. I was planning to wait 5 minutes, and just before that cut-off, someone answered! They have our new address!]

[Update, Oct. 21:  This month's premium notice was sent to our old address. I called VHC (no wait at all!) to confirm that they have the new one, which they do, so maybe it will arrive correctly next month.]

Meanwhile, this month's premium invoice was sent to our old address and instead of being forwarded to us by the Post Office it was returned to Vermont Health Connect who then sent it to our new address with a note about changing the address. We at last received it 1 day before payment was due.

So I called the telephone number provided with the invoice for credit/debit card payment. I should not have been surprised to learn that here, too, "current wait times are 90 minutes".

So I will send the premium payment by mail, trust the assurances from last year that there is a 90-day grace period before coverage is cancelled and current implications that a change of address does not require a complete new application. One also hopes that the address change manages to be made before next month's premium invoice goes out.

Again, before the "Affordable Care Act", so-called Obamacare, Vermont had an excellent functioning state-run health insurance program that through an income-based range of premiums provided near-universal coverage. It wasn't perfect, but it was a system that made living in Vermont very worthwhile. To improve on it, the state had long pursued a true universal single-payer system, electing Peter Shumlin as Governor in 2006 on the promise to implement it. Because of Shumlin's belief, however, that people could not handle the information that they would pay taxes for health insurance instead of paying more in premiums to private insurers whose business is to deny care, the details – and final legislative action – were continually postponed.

Then came Obamacare in 2010, with no provision for states with better systems to keep them. There was no effort by Shumlin or the state's Congressmembers to protect Vermont's system. So money and effort had to be spent to set up the "Obamacare Exchange" (which still doesn't work), and delays and ballooning expenses were justified by the 2-track project of preparing for the coming single-payer system. On May 26, 2011, Shumlin had signed the bill to enact single-payer health insurance.

Finally, Shumlin was re-elected (barely) in 2014 for a third term on the promise that the final plan was to be revealed in December (after the election). Instead, on December 17, he announced that single-payer was dead. It was dead because he was never ready to fight for the payroll taxes to pay for it. He pretended that the need for those taxes was a new discovery, but it was well known from the beginning that such taxes would be the means of funding it. Public advocacy groups had long been explaining to people that the new taxes would be substantially less than current premiums, but the state took no part in that information program. Business owners praised Shumlin, and a few months later he endorsed Hillary Clinton for President and then that he would not seek re-election in 2016.

Shumlin was elected to enact single-payer health insurance in Vermont. Instead, he killed it. Never trust a Democrat.

[Update, Oct. 24: Obama administration announces double-digit premium hikes for Affordable Care Act” (PBS News Hour): ‘Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. … Moreover, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles. … While many carriers are offering a choice of plan designs, most use a single prescription formulary and physician network across all their products, explained [Caroline Pearson of the consulting firm Avalere Health]. “So, enrollees may need to change doctors or drugs when they switch insurers,” [s]he said.’ (Our premium is going up 10%. [Update, October 2017: premium for 2018 going up another 10.8%.])]

[Update, Dec. 14:  The first bill for 2017: The amount due has increased by 291%! For no apparent reason, the "advanced premium tax credit" (APTC) was slashed to 38% of what it was throughout 2016, despite the renewal notice dated Dec. 7 stating that it would actually go up. I called and waited 10 minutes and was told that the new amount is what I accepted of the new year's APTC. There was no record of when I did that (because I never did). I arranged to accept quite a bit more of the APTC that we are eligible for, so that the monthly premium will now actually be less that the past year's, but I was also told to go ahead and pay the current bill and hope that the extra will be credited ...]

[Update, Dec. 20:  A second first bill for 2017, dated 8 days after the first one (see previous note) arrived, but now with the amount due increased 18% from last year. It does not reflect the APTC that I arranged to accept (see previous note), so it is only adding to the confusion and one more thing to hope: that ignoring this superfluous bill won't cause trouble.]

[Update, Dec. 21:  A second renewal notice for 2017, dated 12 days after the first one (see two notes above) arrived: nothing different from the first one (though slightly different formatting), just more waste and confusion.]

[Update, Dec. 27:  Notice of partial premium payment. Which in fact was an overpayment (see three notes above). Isn't this fun.]

August 14, 2016

Put on your big fat-pants.

Claims of being "adult" or "grown up" reveal the opposite: a reversion to being told what to do and think, and liking it. And self-righteously forcing it on others.

See: Further Notes on Nature-Guilt” by Eric Rosenbloom (2010)

August 3, 2016

The Dems Are Deluded.

Everything awful that Trump says is already policy. We already have a wall between the United States of Mexico and America. We already have judicial and economic systems that exploit immigrants and disproportionately target blacks, latinos, and muslims. We are already a racist and sexist nation. The Dems give lip service to changing that reality – as do the Republicans – but the fact is it does not change until the people change. Only then do both Republican and Democratic parties also change.

Everything good that Trump says is a threat to both Democratic and Republican policy. Cooperate with rather than antagonize Russia (and others). NATO is a cold-war anachronism. Make deals rather than threats. Protect jobs and personal dignity and security rather than corporate profits. Restore the separation of insured and speculative banking. Provide universal health care and maintain our infrastructure to reflect the success of an advanced democracy.

After Obama perfected the balance that Al Gore sought but couldn’t clinch – an embrace of Clintonism/Reaganism along with a prissy paternalism as the only difference from predecessors and rivals – as well as suave hypocrisy while pursuing both neoliberal and neoconservative agendas, it should not be surprising that people find Trump’s vulgarity to be refreshingly honest.

And after its diminishment for many people under the administration of the man who ran on the word, it should not be surprising that Trump’s populist rhetoric inspires hope.

As Bill Clinton instinctively grasped, people look for both hope and cheap entertainment in their figurehead: H.C.E. (cf. Finnegans Wake).

Trump, too, seems to grasp it intuitively, whereas Hillary Clinton tamps down hope and has but fear to offer. With her, the hope is only that she will dispel the fear that she herself invokes. Entertainment lies only in the cynical prospect of defeating the enemies she herself manufactures. It’s a never-ending spectacle of death and redemption.

But it’s not a game. Those enemies have human identities, and then they are ruined and killed. Between Trump and Clinton, only the latter already has muslim and black and latino blood on her hands and promises to spill ever more.

July 31, 2016

A selection of the DNC e-mails

RE: Donor Vet [former murderer of horses for insurance donating big to attend POTUS event]
email ID: 578

Fwd: State Dinner Countdown [donor whines to get state dinner invitation]
email ID: 2946

RE: Credit for HVF [demand for credit securing $200K to attend private dinner]
email ID: 17287

Re: $50,000 - Lawrence Benenson [desperation for money, contempt for donors]
email ID: 14700

Flag: AP: Eyeing Senate, Clinton directing money to 2016 battlegrounds [concern about story re Clinton campaign funds]
email ID: 7784

RE: Gloria Allred blast language for lawyers approval [thinking of ways to violate Hatch Act]
email ID: 20148

Re: FW: DNC LGBT Event [making fun of black woman’s name]
email ID: 17942

“I love you too. no homo.”
email ID: 425

Re: No shit [raising rumor that Sanders is atheist]
email ID: 11508

Flag: Bernie FR email on Politico / JFA story [DNC/Clinton vs Sanders campaign]
email ID: 6230

Video Request: msnbc right now [concern re MSNBC commentary on DNC-Clinton collusion]
email ID: 6107

“Fucking Joe claiming the system is rigged, party against him, we need to complain to their producer.”
email ID: 8806

Re: Chuck, this must stop [coordinating with Chuck Todd to counter Mika Brzezinski’s call for DNC chair to resign]
email ID: 8379

RE: Getting on same page [releasing story to cooperative reporter]
email ID: 12450

RE: Interview request [controlling Spanish-language news with “Preferred Bilinguals”]
email ID: 7102

“Off the Record Meeting with Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC”
email ID: 13762

Fwd: per agreement ... any thoughts appreciated [Politico writer Ken Vogel runs story by DNC before own editors]
email ID: 10808

Re: BuzzFeed and DNC connection [coordinating convention coverage]
email ID: 10933

Re: WaPo Party [secret (illegal) DNC party hosted by Washington Post]
email ID: 2699

Re: Washington Examiner delegate inquiry [DNC rejects request from “right wing rag”]
email ID: 5304

RE: FNS 4-24-16 [Clinton’s problems due to Sanders liberals, SOS email server, Clinton Foundation]
email ID: 8351

RE: need comms approval - craigslist job post [fake sexist ad for Trump business].
email ID: 12803

RE: For Your Review: Weekly Update [“LOT'S of Trump. For this week I think its ok, I don't want to touch what's happening on our side because its engendering negative feedback from Members …”]
email ID: 7586

RE: Action on DNC tomorrow (Immigration Raids) [conflicted messaging re White House actions]
email ID: 9736

Megyn Kelly is a bimbo [very conflicted DNC consultant]
email ID: 6087

Surrogate TPs from HFA [Clinton campaign providing DNC talking points]
email ID: 5254

Re: Alaska "Counter" Event [DNC spies in Sanders campaign]
email ID: 4776
email ID: 7793

RE: Bernie narrative [effort to blame Bernie for DNC conspiracy against him]
email ID: 14295

June 30, 2016

The complexities of greenhouse gases

A table of global sources of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄), and nitrous oxide (N₂O, also abbreviated as NOx) – is reportedly no longer readily available from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Here it is as reproduced by the US Energy Information Administration in the December 2004 report, “Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2003”.

The table shows that human (anthropogenic) CO₂ emissions in the 1990s were less than 3% of the total, ie, 97% of CO₂ emissions were natural, although more than half of the human emissions exceeded the amount that could be naturally absorbed. For the other greenhouse gases, human CH₄ emissions were 50% greater than natural CH₄, representing 60% of the total, and only 6% of the human emissions exceeded what could be naturally absorbed. Human N₂O emissions represented about 55% of that total, and 55% exceeded what could be absorbed.

One thing that the table does not indicate is the different greenhouse effect levels of the three gases. CH₄ has 20 times the greenhouse effect of CO₂, N₂O 300 times. Therefore, the annual increase in greenhouse gases by effect is about 88% due to CO₂, 3% to CH₄, and 9% to N₂O.

Combining that information with what the table indicates, to halt the annual increases in these greenhouse gases, humans would have to reduce CO₂ emissions to 51% of the level specified here for the 1990s, N₂O to 25%, and CH₄ to 94%.

If the annual increase in greenhouse effect were to be halted by reducing CO₂ alone, humans would have to reduce emissions to less than 43% of their 1990s level. If, however, human CH₄ emissions were halved (relatively easy to achieve by, eg, reducing animal agriculture and capturing leakage at natural gas wells), human CO₂ emissions would have to be reduced to 58% of their 1990s level.

Another important consideration is the very different half-lives of these greenhouse gases. Most strikingly, CO₂ persists for centuries, even millennia, in the atmosphere, whereas CH₄ persists for only about 10 years. In other words, changes to CO₂ emissions would not have an effect for hundreds of years, but the effect of changes to CH₄ emissions would be relatively immediate. (N₂O lasts about 100 years.) (It may well be that the climate change effects we are experiencing today are due to coal burning in the 19th century, which at the time was mitigated by the cooling effect of soot.)

In summary, halting the increase of greenhouse gas emissions remains a formidable challenge, let alone that of reducing their levels in the atmosphere. But N₂O and CH₄ are easy targets for reduction that must not be ignored, particularly because their reduction would have a much more immediate effect than reduction of CO₂.

June 29, 2016

Letter from Bakari Sellers to Democratic National Committee, June 21, 2016

Excerpts (emphases added). Complete PDF available at:

Every four years we come together as a collective and give our most thoughtful consideration to the ideals and values that define what it means to be a Democrat. In 2016, we do so at an especially critical time in our nation. Never before have the differences between the major parties been perceived to be so stark; so clearly a choice between hope and fear. ...

United States foreign policy in the Middle East is a critical issue our Party must address. Instability is mounting in that already volatile region. Repressive ideologies are on the rise. If the tide is to be reversed cooperation with our allies is imperative. We have no better ally than the state of Israel. ...

When it comes to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, our platforms and our candidates have always been clear. The 2012 platform rightly supported “peace between Israelis and Palestinians ... producing two states for two peoples,” while reiterating that there could be “no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met.” ... As the Secretary has said, “... America has an important role to play in supporting peace efforts and as president, ... I would vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution. including by the U.N. Security Council.” And, as the Party supports a negotiated peace settlement. it has long included, as it did in the 2012 Platform, a long established policy and reality, “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.

On Iran, ... we must do all we can to ensure Iran lives up to its obligations while confronting Iran’s malign activities in the region. As Secretary Clinton recently stated, “Tehran’s fingerprints are on every conflict across the Middle East from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen ...” She has been clear, that the U.S. “must also continue to enforce existing sanctions and impose additional sanctions as needed on Iran ... for their sponsorship of terrorism, illegal arms transfers, human rights violations and other illicit behaviors ...”

[A]nti-Semitism has been on the rise and it has taken a new form — the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS. ...

It is for all the aforementioned reasons, best stated by Secretary Clinton herself, that I join the attached signatories [60 as yet unrevealed African-American politicians], all lifelong Democrats, in asking that unwavering support of the state of Israel be clearly articulated in the 2016 Democratic Party platform.

Again, thank you for your service and leadership. It is an inspiration to us all.


Bakari Sellers

June 11, 2016

How to steal an election, Democratic Party edition

Election Fraud Watch 2016” has been documenting the reports of “irregularities” throughout the Democratic Party primaries and caucuses.

This information is not about the schedule and various rules established by the Democratic National Committee seemingly meant to reduce the chances of an outsider gaining ground. It is about how even with those inherent advantages, Hillary Clinton had to cheat to fend off the insurgent campaign of Bernie Sanders.

February’s posts are dominated by Nevada, where Harry Reid instructed casino union bosses the night before the caucus to make sure their members were given time to vote for Hillary. And Nevada arises again during its state convention in May, where Bernie now had more delegates, so the Party decertified more than enough of them to give Hillary the edge and then, just to make sure, made their count while people were still in line to get in and ignored motions for a recount, increasingly shredding Robert’s rules of order throughout the day until the chair, Roberta Lange, closed the convention on her own, fled, and called on law enforcement to clear the hall.

March’s posts are dominated by Arizona.

April brings in reports about Massachusetts (where former President Bill Clinton literally blocked people from voting at two precincts in Boston), Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois.

May’s reports include Maryland and Kentucky and more about Illinois and Nevada.

And June’s posts add reports about Puerto Rico and California.

Common “problems”: severe reduction of polling places, missing and incorrect voter registrations, and incorrect recording of votes. In California, 30% of the votes (>2.5 million) have yet to be counted at all.

There are several articles about the pattern of discrepancy between the usually fairly accurate exit polls and the official results in several states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

The writer also links to many other general reports, including: