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Marcy Wheeler on Risen-Poitras-Binney NSA story, and Walmart and Obamacare

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Marcy Wheeler, always worth listening to, was interviewed again on The Scott Horton Show on September 30. From the program notes:

Blogger Marcy Wheeler discusses the New York Times article ["N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens"] verifying the claims of NSA whistleblower William Binney; how the NSA achieved Total Information Awareness through multi-sourced metadata; the tightly-woven webs of information that get ordinary Americans caught up in foreign intelligence investigations; why the NSA can’t or won’t tell Senator Ron Wyden how many Americans have been spied on; and the good and bad aspects of Obamacare.

Podcast here, and transcript below the fold.

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Scott Horton Interviews Marcy Wheeler
The Scott Horton Show
September 30, 2013

Transcript

Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show here. I’m Scott Horton. It’s the show, Scott Horton Show, here on No Agenda. First up today is Marcy Wheeler, Emptywheel they call here on the Internet, emptywheel.net. She’s @emptywheel, of course, on Twitter too. Hi, Marcy, how the hell are you?

Marcy Wheeler: I’m good. Yourself?

Scott Horton: I’m doing great. Appreciate you joining us today.

Marcy Wheeler: Sure.

Scott Horton: You got a great blog. I don’t know how many hours a day you work on this thing, and I know you’ve got a couple of partners there helping you out, but boy oh boy do you cover everything and in such depth, it’s just incredible, I could just forget everything else and just read your blog. You keep me up to date on it all, it looks like here.

Marcy Wheeler: On the very narrow subjects we actually cover. (laughs)

Scott Horton: Well, I don’t know. Yeah, foreign policy and civil liberties, if that’s very narrow then yeah, I guess you’re very narrow on just covering everything that I’m interested in. All right, well anyway, enough praising you. So first of all, let’s talk about this little bitty no-big-deal story that came out in the New York Times by James Risen, their number one national security guy, and Laura Poitras, recipient of the original Snowden document leak there with Glenn Greenwald. They published this thing that I think basically proved that the NSA has been telling the truth about everything this whole time, right?

Marcy Wheeler: You mean Bill Binney, the NSA whistleblower, has been telling the truth the whole time.

Scott Horton: Oh, right, well that’s what I meant.

Bill Binney used to be one of the top people at NSA and after 9/11 he quit because we were doing so much spying on Americans, and especially last year he started saying that NSA has dossiers of Americans, and Keith Alexander, as he does, went out and said, “Oh, gosh, we don’t have any dossiers.” And that story, Bill Binney’s claim that the NSA was putting together these dossiers, was actually one of the rebuttal attempts that led to James Clapper lying to Congress.

Marcy Wheeler: Right. Bill Binney used to be one of the top people at NSA and after 9/11 he quit because we were doing so much spying on Americans, and especially last year he started saying that NSA has dossiers of Americans, and Keith Alexander, as he does, went out and said, “Oh, gosh, we don’t have any dossiers.” And that story, the dossiers, Bill Binney’s claim that the NSA was putting together these dossiers, was actually one of the rebuttal attempts that led to James Clapper lying to Congress, rocking back and forth between Ron Wyden and Keith Alexander and James Clapper. But basically what the New York Times reported is that in addition to – basically the NSA is trying to figure out whom the United States talks to, it's foreign intelligence targets. And by this it’s not just terrorists.

They’re collecting this phone metadata and location via some other means that’s not the business records FISA that we keep talking about, but they’re also getting your Facebook information and banking information and travel information and yada yada.

So it’s no longer if you don’t talk to a terrorist in Yemen you’re safe, it’s also things like do you talk to foreign diplomats, do you talk to people who might be proliferators? I mean, basically this covers all of their foreign intelligence collection target emphasis. And so if you talk to interesting people overseas, what they’re going to do is they’re going to put together a portfolio on you that includes not just who you contact, who your friends are, whether by internet or phone. And one of the things this story revealed is they’re collecting this phone metadata and location via some other means that’s not the business records FISA that we keep talking about, but they’re also getting your Facebook information and banking information and travel information and yada yada. So they’re collecting a broad breadth of information to figure out who it is that has interesting ties with their foreign intelligence targets.

Scott Horton: Mmmhmm. Well, and a big part of the story I guess too is how well they use this information, how they perfected how to put it all together. It’s sort of – it makes the kind of proverbial FBI file pale, right? They just hit Enter and all of their different computers and databases and data-mining machines and records of everything all assemble themselves on the screen in an instant. They don’t need to have the complete file. It just, it comes from its bits and pieces and then they can analyze everything about it. I think – I forgot, I don’t have it right in front of me, but I think they use the term “graph,” like they can represent visually everyone’s connections to everyone, and everything important about them, even who has ridden in a car with them down the highway before and all of these kinds of things, right?

This is Total Information Awareness.

Marcy Wheeler: Right. This is Total Information Awareness, but done not just for counterterrorism but for all of NSA’s intelligence collection programs.

Scott Horton: I think, you know, remember the Simpson’s movie where they have 100 million NSA guys sitting there spying on everyone and then the joke is that obviously it doesn’t work like that, they’re not spying on us all. South Park was like that too where, “Oh, we’re spying on this guy making arrangements to pick up dinner and the kid from soccer practice and whatever.” But they are. It just, it doesn’t take that much manpower to do it. It’s the computer.

One of the lines in that story which I thought was apt was, “This is the digital equivalent of tailing somebody.”

Marcy Wheeler: Um, right. I mean, and, you know, and they’ve got so many different data collection places that – but, you know, it’s just, they get – it’s just, it’s automated. One of the lines in that story which I thought was apt was, “This is the digital equivalent of tailing somebody,” of following somebody in real life and figuring out what they’re doing. Although, you know, the connec– every time we’ve been told that metadata is that much more revealing, what this shows is that they’re developing the metadata with focus on American citizens and they’re using – I mean, they’re bringing together all of these multiple sources of metadata, so it’s not just our phone records. You know, they’re tying the phone metadata in with our Facebook in with everything else and with our phone records, so it’s just this incredible rich picture.

Scott Horton: Now, I guess this sounds silly and I don’t even know if I have a point, but I’ve been meaning to mention this all along, which is that Dean Koontz, who I guess people consider him the knockoff Stephen King writer. Well, when I was in I guess in high school or just out of high school maybe, I read a book by him called Dark Rivers of the Heart where the antagonist is an agent who works for a government agency with no real title. I think he gets his paycheck through the Department of Justice and he works for the Deputy Attorney General but really he’s just a secret hit man for the deep state kind of thing, and he just opens up his laptop and types in the right code and he has access to every computer in the world basically. It’s the mama computer and by way of the National Security Agency it’s hacked into every other government database and every major private database and it’s basically this kind of Total Information Awareness, just, you know. And I don’t know how far into it they really were, so this would have been like, I don’t know, ’95 or ’96 or something like that I guess when I read this. I don’t know, you know, how sophisticated it was then, but certainly the premise was there that, you know, after all, that’s why they created, that’s why the government funded all this high-tech revolution over the last few generations in the first place, right, is to keep tabs on everybody, the Russians and the Americans too.

Marcy Wheeler: Right. Right. Right.

Scott Horton: I mean, the Ma Bell, AT&T was just a project of the NSA, if you want to look at it that way. I mean they built the entire telecommunications infrastructure of the United States and of the world from the bottom up. So, you know, of course they’re tapping the backbone, it’s their backbone! You know?

Marcy Wheeler: Yeah. Right. Right.

Scott Horton: But anyway, so the problem is this. There’s the old law that says that, “Hey, you can’t investigate me unless you got a predicate,” right? What ever happened to that? I mean, that’s really what we’re talking about here, isn’t it?

Once you’ve got that relevance language going on, which they do, then you’ve got this notion that they can do an enterprise investigation, which is, you know, “We’re just going to go out and try and find the terrorists,” but they can include us as targets in that enterprise investigation because of this kind of crazy haystack theory that they have. And then they’ve reapplied it to foreign intelligence. So, you know, that’s how things get out of control, but that appears to be what has happened.

Marcy Wheeler: Yeah, exactly. I mean, one of the interesting things is, also released yesterday, David Kris, who used to be in charge of national security division in DOJ and is one of the smarter people on this, he just released an article [“On the Bulk Collection of Tangible Things,” PDF] on the business records FOIA, not on this, but you know he provided the explanation of relevance that the government has been unable to provide. I think they’re going to all start stealing from David Kris’s article. But it was interesting because he was sort of like, you know, “These are enterprise investigations. This is what we’re supposed to be doing.” And the government has basically inclu– you know, once you’ve got that relevance language going on, which they do, then you’ve got this notion that they can do an enterprise investigation, which is, you know, “We’re just going to go out and try and find the terrorists,” but they can include us as targets in that enterprise investigation because of this kind of crazy haystack theory that they have. And then they’ve reapplied it to foreign intelligence. So, you know, that’s how things get out of control, but that appears to be what has happened.

Scott Horton: Well, so it’s confusing to me about that. Any connection to anything foreign leads to any American, basically, right? I mean, how many degrees of separation are we talking about, or how many Americans are they – do they say in here what percentage of us this accounts for? I mean, obviously some people don’t ever talk to anyone overseas even by a couple of degrees of separation, but pretty much everybody’s got a couple of hops, as they call it, right, this haystack theory that everybody could be caught up in this basically, right?

In other words, they’ve explained to themselves that they can collect on targets, so along with targeting that terrorist then they get a couple hops away from the terrorist and that’s when they get into journalists or human rights workers or what have you in the United States. But then having collected that information on human rights workers in the United States, they can go in and use it, right? And so I suspect that’s part of what’s going on, but in spite of Ron Wyden’s repeated efforts, the government claims, “We can’t tell you the number of Americans who are being searched on in that fashion because if we did it would be a privacy violation, among other things. And also we don’t have the resources to count how many Americans we’re spying on in this fashion.” That’s the answer.

Marcy Wheeler: Well, they could be – we don’t know. And I suspect that – remember that Ron Wyden keeps asking for the number of Americans who have been searched on because the NSA and one other agency, probably FBI, have the authority to take what’s called incidentally collected information and search on it for U.S. person data. And so I suspect that’s part of where this data comes from. In other words, they’ve explained to themselves that they can collect on targets, so, you know, that Yemeni terrorist, along with targeting that terrorist then they get a couple hops away from the terrorist and that’s when they get into, you know, journalists or human rights workers or what have you in the United States. But then they can go in and having collected that information on human rights workers in the United States, go in and use it, right? And so I suspect that’s part of what’s going on, but in spite of Ron Wyden’s repeated efforts, the government claims, “We can’t tell you the number of Americans who are being searched on in that fashion because if we did it would be a privacy violation, among other things.

Scott Horton: Yeah, exactly.

Marcy Wheeler: And also we don’t have the resources to count how many Americans we’re spying on in this fashion.” That’s the answer.

Scott Horton: Oh, they can’t? They would like to tell you but they don’t have the answer, and if they did have the answer then it would be a violation of your privacy to notify you that you’ve been spied on. Not even that! It would be a violation of “one’s” privacy, a mythical “one,” if they revealed the total number of Americans that they had spied on? I mean, that just sounds like a non sequitur, really.

It’s an excuse. When you get an answer like that from the government, a safe bet is that if they actually told us how many Americans they were spying on, then we’d be outraged and we’d make sure it was changed. The fact that they refuse to answer that question should be setting off alarm bells everywhere.

Marcy Wheeler: It’s an excuse. I mean, you know, when you get an answer like that from the government, a safe bet is that if they actually told us how many Americans they were spying on, then we’d be outraged and we’d make sure it was changed. So they’re not gonna – and the other thing about that is that if they can’t pull up the number automatically, it means they can’t audit it very easily because they can’t – you know, they’re not keeping well enough track of, you know, when people are actually spying on Americans to just pull up a number, right? So it just doesn’t, you know, the fact that they refuse to answer that question should be setting off alarm bells everywhere, especially given this New York Times disclosure, this new story.

Scott Horton: Yeah, well and you know, I mean it kind of sounds silly because I know nobody pays much attention to me. It’s not like I’m breaking major news stories here or anything like that, but I do recognize that in my own personal tale of chilling effect here that, you know, I talk to people who are former CIA officers, I talk to people who are real journalists who do have sources overseas that, you know, may very well be the focus of whatever type investigation. Right? This is like part of Chris Hedges’ lawsuit was, “Hey, I’m a reporter, I talk to Al Qaeda sometimes.” But, jeez, so what does that mean for me? Well, I’ve got Chris Hedges’ number in my cell phone probably still, it’s been a while, but so then does that mean that they’re keeping tabs of everybody I ever ride in a car with and by a hop a two? I got, you know, skater buddies of mine are now linked to Al Qaeda in the mind of the computers of the government of my country, you know?

Marcy Wheeler: Right.

Scott Horton: It makes me feel like well maybe I just shouldn’t be palling around either with my friends who are my true friends, or maybe I shouldn’t be palling around with these journalists who are doing good work. Maybe I’m, you know, responsible for getting somebody in trouble and I should stop doing something that I’m doing, even though I’m not doing anything wrong. And even though, as I said in the first place, I’m not trying to be extra paranoid. I know that I’m not all that consequential or anything, but I’m just saying, it occurs to me, you know?

Marcy Wheeler: Right. Right. And, you know, and they can use this stuff for espionage investigations, and you and I both have Glenn Greenwald’s contact in our cell phone, right?

Scott Horton: No doubt about it.

And can I just interject and say that I love the notion that James Risen and Laura Poitras are working on this story together, because that’s got to make the NSA pee its collective pants just by seeing their byline together.

Marcy Wheeler: Yeah. So it’s just, you know, what it demands is more disclosures and this is probably some of the stuff the NSA has been trying to hide most diligently from us. And can I just interject and say that I love the notion that James Risen and Laura Poitras are working on this story together, because that’s got to make the NSA pee its collective pants just by seeing their byline together.

Scott Horton: Oh, yeah, because in fact the article even starts out, that was how I captioned it when I posted it on Facebook too, cool byline, Risen and Poitras, I really like that. And then I think it’s paragraph two that says, “According to documents provided by Edward Snowden and interviews with senior officials –” yeah, that’s that James Risen connection there where he goes, “Oh, okay, so here’s a bunch of information. For context, let’s go to the very best sources that any journalists have in America on the national security beat.”

Marcy Wheeler: Yep.

Scott Horton: Sweet. Very good. And it also is, that represents the most severe investment on behalf of the most important newspaper in America too. I mean, Bart Gellman from the Washington Post, I love that guy and it’s important that he was in on it from the beginning, I think Edward Snowden made a very good choice in bringing him in on it, but now what are they going to do about it when James Risen is on the story? In fact, I thought it was kind of strange, Marcy. What did you think about when it started off it was just Scott Shane and it seemed as though like Risen was being excluded, or I don’t know. Was there something to that or are we wasting time when we should be on more important things?

What the New York Times did with the WikiLeaks cables is they went out of their way to basically tell the government what they had, sort of spying on themselves for the government.

Marcy Wheeler: You know I did a post ["How to Get the Government to Ease Up: Involve Scott Shane"] on that. I thought it was sort of interesting that Shane was included, just because Shane’s become, you know, and I blame the prosecutions of journalists’ sources as much as anything else, but Shane has become very much a way the administration gets out its official version of the story of late, and given what the New York Times did with the WikiLeaks cables where they went out of their way to basically tell the government what they had, sort of spying on themselves for the government, you know I just thought it was dubious. But hey, I’m really happy to see Risen working with Poitras. Sounds great.

Scott Horton: Well and I really want to see Charlie Savage on it too because, you know, he’s a very independent-minded kind of a journalist and also he’s like you, he’s really smart on this stuff. It all makes a lot of sense to him when he looks at it, where the rest of us are kind of scratching our head and waiting for Marcy to explain it kind of a thing. So, you know, I’d very much like to see him on the case. But anyway, plenty of time, and apparently plenty of documents still to come.

Marcy Wheeler: (laughs) Exactly, yeah.

Scott Horton: So, yeah, anyway, so that’s really good. All right, now, so let me ask you about Obamacare, because you did a lot of work on this, and frankly I probably agree with – well I wouldn’t say the right-wing critique but, you know, I got a libertarian critique of the whole thing, but I’m very interested in Greg Palast wrote Obamacare is 98% Cheney, and of course Greg Palast being, you know, total pro democracy, pro regulatory state, good government kind of a public utilities sort of a progressive kind of a guy, and he says, “This is 98% Cheney.” And I’m really more interested in a left-wing critique like that or a liberal or progressive critique like that than, you know, “Obama’s from Kenya and he’s here to turn us all over to Vladimir Lenin or Putin or whoever,” so I was wondering if you could tell us about some of the work that you did on the healthcare law and its origins and some of the likely consequences from your point of view.

Marcy Wheeler: Sure. I mean, I’ll tell you up front. There are parts of this that are unquestionably good, and those are the expansion of Medicaid, and I’ll put in a caveat in just a second, because until we get the poorest Americans actually receiving health care rather than emergency room care, the rest of us are going to be subsidizing them anyway. So better subsidize them in primary care than subsidize them in our hospital bills. So that’s one thing that’s good. The other thing that’s good is true Medicare, the government is trying to deliver services better. And they’ve been able to do this in the VA. I mean, you know, the VA actually has far better outcomes than even Medicare and certainly our private services, and so you know the goal is to deliver health care better and more effectively without, you know, without taking away our fake knees and stuff like that.

Basically what we’ve done is given huge employers an incentive to pay their people poverty wages. And we’ve seen that roll out.

So those are both unquestionably good aspects of Obamacare. But there are, you know, and I’ll go back to the Medicaid. One complaint I had from the very beginning, and I was screaming about it at the time, was that if you’re a corporation, the only way to get health care for your employees provided for free is to ensure that they are poor, that they stay under that 122% of poverty level that means that they can get Medicaid for free, because the Medicaid’s always going to be better than what they would provide, and they qualify. And we knew – I mean, Walmart was at the table when they were designing Obamacare, and we knew even then that Walmart relied on Medicaid in those states, and California is one of them, in those states where the qualification level was high enough such that people who worked could actually get Medicaid as well, so we had to expect that, you know, this was one of the primary things that Walmart was interested in doing. So what’s happened since? Walmart has moved a bunch of people to part-time, ensuring that they don’t qualify for Walmart’s own healthcare system, and also ensuring that they’re too poor, that they’re poor enough that they’re going to qualify for the Medicaid in the states where it’s been expanded. And so basically what we’ve done is given huge employers an incentive to pay their people poverty wages. And we’ve seen that roll out. And, you know, it’s not a surprise because I –

Scott Horton: And you’re saying that’s what Walmart was doing at the table was making sure that it was that way. This isn’t an accidental unforeseen consequence.

Marcy Wheeler: No, it can’t be unforeseen because it made perfect sense to me at the time and it matches Walmart’s past behavior perfectly because we knew they already were relying on Medicaid, and it matches what they’ve done since. So, you know it seems to me it was part of the plan, and I was screaming about it at the time and people were like, “Oh, you don’t really have to worry about it,” and I said, “I’m worried about it.” So, you know –

Scott Horton: Yeah, or they’ll say, “Even Walmart thinks it’s a good idea,” you know, “Even my enemy agrees with me, so I must be right” kind of a confirmation bias error, you know?

Marcy Wheeler: Right. Right, right.

Scott Horton: And this is the same thing that happens with the minimum wage, of course. They always push for an increase in the minimum wage. Well they already pay a little bit more than the minimum wage anyway so it doesn’t really affect them, but it does help bankrupt all the mom and pops, the last ones in town still competing with them who can no longer afford to hire high school kids with summer jobs anymore and that kind of thing, and, you know, it’s always an ulterior motive no matter how good they’re trying to make it sound, and of course maybe it’s just my confirmation bias, only (laughs) it seems like I’m right all the time that when they’re in on it, that, yeah, you’re right to be suspicious of them and their motives and to take it as confirmation that something underhanded is going on here.

Marcy Wheeler: Yeah, I mean –

Scott Horton: And of course didn’t you write about how, like the number one insurance company lobbyist in America lady was the primary author of the whole thing?

Marcy Wheeler: Right. But, you know, if you looked at the bill as it came out of Max Baucus’s office, it actually had this – Fowler is her last name. I’m trying to remember, I think Liz Fowler. The woman whose name was on the PDF file was this woman who had been vice president of, and I forget which insurance company it was but of one of the biggest insurance companies in the country, so –

Scott Horton: See this is why I love Marcy Wheeler. She went and clicked Properties, right clicked Properties on the PDF file (laughs) and went and saw the original author and there she was, right?

Marcy Wheeler: That one actually was one of my readers, but my readers are brilliant, so.

Scott Horton: Oh, but still. You guys are great.

What it did was give insurance companies a captive set of consumers without doing enough to kind of reel in the ugliness that is insurance companies, and you know we’re already seeing them find ways to get around the new rules placed on them.

Marcy Wheeler: But, yeah, that’s important to note that, like, and then she has since gone back to the private sector, so, you know, it’s this case of revolving door. It happened at a time when the insurance companies, because of the economic crash, were in a bunch of trouble because, you know, the financial – because I mean they’re basically, the insurance is just a way to get money to play on the stock market. That’s not entirely true, but I’ll just leave it at there, and so what it did was gave insurance companies a huge new batch of subsidized consumers while doing not enough – I mean there are means – you know, one of the other really good things about the bill, about the law, is something called “medical loss ratio” which limits how much the insurance companies can charge for overhead and executive salaries and so on. And, you know, it was implemented imperfectly. It was implemented with the rate set way too low, so in other words rather than 90% has to go to health care, depending on where you are and how much you’re getting subsidized, 75% or 80% has to go to health care. But that has already led to people getting money back. You know, so if the insurance company is spending too much on stuff that’s not health care, then you get money back because you paid, you know you paid – so it is good. It could be a lot better, but that is good.

The insurance companies still suck, and the Obamacare didn’t change the fundamental problem. You know, insurance companies are primarily regulated at the state level, those state commissioners tend to be well-funded insurance company lovers, so in very few states is there really effective regulation of insurance companies, and so you’re going to see stuff like this. You’re going to see insurance companies find ways to game the system. And until you use at the federal level real sticks to stop that from happening, we’re still stuck with really crummy insurance companies.

But nevertheless, you know, there were those kinds of limits, but with the exception of those limits, basically what it did was give insurance companies a captive set of consumers without doing enough to kind of reel in the ugliness that is insurance companies, and you know we’re already seeing them find ways to get around the new rules placed on them. So, just as an example, I’m a cancer survivor, and before Obamacare got passed, I have great insurance, my insurance company always paid for all my mammograms. Obamacare passed a must-cover-preventative-care which was sold as this will cover mammograms, but for people like me who have to get really high-level mammograms because I’m a cancer survivor, the first time it went through, the insurance company said, “Oh, this is not preventative care, it’s diagnostic care,” and charged me for it for the first time. And charged me, and because I’m, you know, a cancer survivor, I have to get the digital mammograms and yada yada yada, and so you know, the insurance companies still suck, and the Obamacare didn’t change the fundamental problem. You know, insurance companies are primarily regulated at the state level, those state commissioners tend to be well-funded insurance company lovers, so in very few states is there really effective regulation of insurance companies, and so you’re going to see stuff like this. You’re going to see insurance companies find ways to game the system. And until you use at the federal level real sticks to stop that from happening, we’re still stuck with really crummy insurance companies.

Scott Horton: Yeah, I mean the whole thing sounds to me like the ultimate in regulatory capture.

Marcy Wheeler: Absolutely.

Scott Horton: And I want to say real quick too because I meant to say it before but I forgot, but it’s an important point to bring up, which is that there are a lot of companies slashing hours like you were talking about with Walmart there, but it’s not because they want to because they’re evil like Walmart and whatever, it’s because they have no choice. And it’s going on all over the place. I see on my Facebook feeds the local YMCA cut everybody’s hours down to 35, and whatever it is, all over the place. And a lot of these bosses hate this. These are their people, you know? They’re human beings with personal relationships here. It’s not just as easy as, “Oh, yeah, sorry guys, cutting your hours,” but they have to follow suit because what else are they going to do? So there’s, you know, the unforeseen consequences, like you’re saying of course the insurance companies are going to continue to find every way to screw you that they can. My only hope actually is that the consequences are going to be so bad that they’ll have to repeal it because there’s just no way they’ll be able to blame it on freedom or whatever, like they like to, it’ll be so clear that this law is what set all the incentives even more perverted than before and raised everybody’s prices even more than before and that maybe eventually there’ll be a pushback, but I don’t know. There’s so many vested interests involved, you know?

Marcy Wheeler: Yeah.

Scott Horton: But anyway. Hey, listen, great work all the way around. I love your blog, and thank you again for your time on the show, Marcy. Appreciate it.

Marcy Wheeler: Take care, Scott.

Scott Horton: All right, everybody, that is the great Emptywheel, emptywheel.net, Marcy Wheeler. And also follow her on Twitter too, would you?

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Comments

Submitted by lambert on

Always nice to have another person talking about ObamaCare....

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

transcriber's picture
Submitted by transcriber on

Well I can't keep up with anything. You should get interviewed by Scott Horton so he can get your overview of Obamacare, it sounds like he's interested. I'm always glad when he interviews Marcy because I can't keep up with her posts and I lose the overview, same as I do with yours on the clusterfuck. I know you're doing amazing work and I gave up trying to understand it, it's all clusterfuck haze to me.

Submitted by lambert on

Marcy has a lot of interesting things to say! Readers, do you have more anecdotes like this? They have not shown up in the statistics, since Hugh has been watching for that (and now the BLS is shut down....)

And it’s going on all over the place. I see on my Facebook feeds the local YMCA cut everybody’s hours down to 35, and whatever it is, all over the place. And a lot of these bosses hate this. These are their people, you know? They’re human beings with personal relationships here. It’s not just as easy as, “Oh, yeah, sorry guys, cutting your hours,” but they have to follow suit because what else are they going to do? So there’s, you know, the unforeseen consequences, like you’re saying of course the insurance companies are going to continue to find every way to screw you that they can.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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Submitted by transcriber on

...like their aunt, poor thing, a widow, worked at a Staples for decades, xlnt employee, close to retirement, yet just got laid off with no severance, no nothing, is destitute. Was part of a pattern, I think, as it was told to me. I heard it a couple of months ago and it sounded like the clusterfuck.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

don't follow some topics closely enough to comment. I "follow" Wheeler on one of my Twitter accounts, and like her a lot. (She left FDL before I began blogging, I believe, so she was very new to me.)

I was a bit surprised at the comparisons of between the Medicare Program and the VA System.

We've spent decades in both private health insurance systems, received health care administered by both the US Army and the US Air Force (active duty), spent MANY years in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, and Mr A has Veterans Administration (VA) health care eligibility/access, which admittedly he hasn't used for a number of years.

But unless something has very drastically changed, I can't say that I see the comparison between the Medicare and the VA system. (with the exception of attempting to set up electronic records, perhaps?)

IMO, that comparison is not just apples to oranges, but "apples to watermelons" [from our personal experience.]

Of course, Mr. A and I are not eligible for Medicare, but we've had four parents (and all kinds of other relatives, of course) who were. And we did handle much of the paperwork for them. So, indirectly, at least, at one time we were fairly familiar with Medicare (policy and procedures).

Hopefully someone here has more "recent" experience with all these systems, than we do.

I would really be curious to see what comparisons, if any, that they see between these very different health care systems.

One of these days when I get on my soapbox, I'd like to give a couple of examples of the very excellent care that we received within the military health care system.

I imagine that a few readers would truly be 'blown away." And know that we were, initially.

Wheeler was spot on about the State Insurance Commissioners, etc.--the entire state-based system is a mess!

Thanks again for this post . . .

Alexa

“If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson

[Avatar Photo Credit: Conflagrate, jurvetson's photostream, flickr]

transcriber's picture
Submitted by transcriber on

..."the VA actually has far better outcomes than even Medicare and certainly our private services"

And state-federal, if Lambert does do an overview, I'd like to understand the state-federal thing better. The worse the feds get, the more I want to be free of their death spiral. Medicare for all in the boat, but what if the boat is going down? I like my governor and wonder if California could do better. Seems flawed though since we're dependent on dollars and can't create our own economy. My haze.

Thanks

Submitted by lambert on

(Note the little icon). I could never have done this.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi