Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book Review: Mitch Albom's Have A Little Faith

Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom

By Mitch Albom
Published by: Hyperion
Publication Date: September, 2009
Price: $23.99
254 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-7868-6872-8
Four Star Rating ****

“Will you do my eulogy?”
I don’t understand, I said.
“My eulogy?” The old man asked again. “When I’m gone.” His eyes blinked from behind his glasses. His neatly trimmed beard was grey, and he stood slightly stooped.
“Are you dying?” I asked.
“Not yet.” He said, grinning.
Then why-
“Because I think you would be a good choice. And I think when the time comes, you will know what to say.”
Picture the most pious man you know. Your priest. Your pastor. You rabbi. Your imam. Now picture him tapping you on the shoulder and asking you to say good-bye to the world on his behalf.
Picture the man who sends people off to heaven, asking you for his send-off to heaven.
“So?” he said. Would you be comfortable with that?”


“In the beginning, there was another question.
“Will you save me Jesus?”
The man was holding a shotgun. He hid behind trash cans in front of a Brooklyn row house. It was late at night. His wife and baby daughter were crying. He watched for cars coming down his block, certain the next set of headlights would be his killers.
“Will you save me, Jesus? He asked, trembling. “If I promise to give myself to you, will you save me tonight?”
Picture the most pious man you know. Your priest. Your pastor. You rabbi. Your imam. Now picture him in dirty clothes, a shotgun in his hand, begging for salvation from behind a set of trash cans.
Picture the man who sends people off to heaven, begging not to be sent to hell.
“Please, Lord, “he whispered. “If I promise. . .”’ Have a Little Faith, pp. 1-2.

Mitch Albom writes emotionally powerful little books that always leave you wanting to read more. A sportswriter from Detroit, Michigan, his heart tugging books are a surprise to those of us who have read his cold, calculating sports articles or seen his razor sharp analysis of sporting events on ESPN. The author of For One More Day, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Fab Five and Bo, he is best known for his masterpiece in human studies and the philosophy of death with his book, Tuesdays With Morrie. Tuesdays is thought to be his best work; well it was until this recent best selling true story was published, Have a Little Faith. By far and away this is the most fascinating prose that Albom has penned; a pure page turning joy from the first page to the last page. He covers the stories of two uniquely religious men; Albert Lewis, his old Jewish Rabbi and Henry Covington, a Detroit Evangelist, who is a convict gone good. The two story lines are separate but as Albom points out there are parallels in the nature of belief and the sacrifices these men make in serving their flocks.

Lewis is a Rabbi that is a master performer on Sundays; a man who can deliver a message with gusto; a happy, well-adjusted man who while Albom was a child, was the dominant figure in his synagogue. He has requested that Mitch write his eulogy and in return the two agree that meetings and discussions will be necessary. Albom’s meetings turn into masterful insights into the psyche of a deeply spiritual, singing, well-adjusted man who has moved seamlessly into the background of his group without loosing his kind and gentle nature. Beyond a writing assignment, a friendship develops, and fortunately for us as readers a deep vision into the soul of a man who at one time was asked to leave the seminary, but became a visionary due to his ability to communicate and make a difference. This affectionate tale of his unique ability to communicate, accept, and by his father like faith, overcome obstacles, and ultimately reinforce the faith of his congregation is a moving, inspirational tale. Albom’s book is a true tribute to man who as Albom says makes you feel like you are “in love with hope.” Albom’s ability to probe the human condition and find answers like with Morrie are razor-sharp here: “I laughed and he laughed, and he bounced his palms on his thighs and our noise filled the house. And I think, at that moment, we could have been anywhere, anybody, any culture, any faith- a teacher and a student exploring what life is all about and delighting in the discovery.”

A book about Lewis alone would have cemented Albom’s reputation as a great psychological writer; a book that contrasts religious leaders and emphasizes the tremendous faith they have in their interactions with others makes Little Faith a truly remarkable book. Covington, on the other hand took a radically different path to becoming a religious leader. A drug dealer and substance abuser, his initial conversion came while he was in prison. His prayers to be ‘saved’ are answered on several occasions in this book before it finally takes. His conversion is a sufficiently interesting saga in itself; his ministry is the stuff that Albom turns into magic. He runs a church in downtown Detroit, called the I Am My Brother’s Keeper Ministry. His flock is a group of homeless people and his church is an old dilapidated building, with no heat or lights and a huge whole in the roof. Nonetheless, Henry continues to minister to his group of converts. Albom does what any good investigative reporter does; he checks this guy and his group out. Persuaded that they are legit, he begins to write about Henry and his group, the old church and the hole in the roof, the blue tarp covering the hole. Albom’s writing leads to donations and the book makes a point of telling us the effect that this has on this group of people. This seems to be an outgrowth of Albom’s experience with his beloved Reb, the gift of teaching and motivating people to act and do the right thing.

This is a great book and a natural Christmas gift. Albom’s continual exploration into the human condition and the positive results he gets are a testament to his first rate skills as a writer. If this book does not move you, check your pulse; you may be dead. I love Mitch’s books. Better pick up two at the store: one to give as a gift, and one for you. Whoever you buy this book for is not going to lend it back to you to read.



Monday, September 7, 2009

Your Health Insurer Will Screw You

The Huffington Post
September 7, 2009
Peter J. Ognibene

Got health insurance? Think you're sitting pretty? Think again.

Health insurance companies fatten their bottom line not by helping people but by screwing them.

For-profit companies make money three ways:
First, they use medical underwriting, which is industry shorthand for finding ways to reject those applicants most likely to need care. Not only people with serious illness are denied insurance; so are individuals who may be 20 pounds overweight as well as those with acne or an old athletic injury.

Second, health insurers routinely weasel out of, or delay for months -- even years -- making payments for valid medical and hospital claims.

Third, they look for plausible reasons to reverse payments they have already made on your behalf. These reversals can occur one or more years after you thought your bill had been paid. And when a physician or hospital has to refund a payment, guess who gets the bill. You.
And it doesn't stop there. Investigative units routinely look at individuals who have been seriously ill to see if there's anything in their medical or prescription history they can use as a pretext to terminate their insurance. The industry term is "rescission."

Many large organizations -- municipal agencies, major corporations and labor unions -- have the negotiating power to eliminate exclusions of so-called pre-existing conditions from their employees' health insurance policies.

Small companies often do not. Worse still, individuals who lack the negotiating leverage that organizations exercise on behalf of their members wind up paying the highest rates for coverage and then are left to hope they won't get trapped by one of their policy's many exclusions or loopholes. When such individuals have the audacity to incur a major illness, you can bet the companies will look for ways to screw them -- with delays, payment reversals or outright rescission of their insurance.

Many who work for health insurers quickly learn that the surest way to get ahead is to screw as many policyholders as they can.

Recent documents obtained by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce indicated, for example, that Blue Cross of California awarded a perfect evaluation score to an employee whose efforts to rescind the insurance of thousands of policyholders saved the company nearly $10 million that would otherwise have paid their doctor and hospital bills.

This is no isolated case. If you get cancer or need expensive surgery, your insurance company is likely to investigate every medical claim ever filed on your behalf, the prescriptions you have taken at various points in your life and any lifestyle elements that might give them a pretext to reverse a payment or rescind your insurance.

In recent testimony before the same House committee, Karen Pollitz, Research Professor at Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, pointed out:

Representatives of the insurance industry have testified that rescission is rare and occurs in less than one percent of policies. Even if this estimate is accurate, it is not necessarily comforting. One percent of the population accounts for one-quarter of all medical bills. The sickest individuals may be small in number, but they are the most vulnerable and most in need of coverage.

Most individuals who have a job get health insurance through their employer. Yet, employer-based health insurance makes no sense in the modern world. It is an artifact of World War II when companies were desperate to attract and hire workers but were bound by federal wage and price controls from writing higher paychecks. So, companies competed for workers in other ways, including health insurance.

Two years ago, the Congressional Research Service issued a report, "U.S. Health Care Spending: Comparison with Other OECD Countries," which found:

The United States spends more money on health care than any other country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD consists of 30 democracies, most of which are considered the most economically advanced countries in the world. According to OECD data, the United States spent $6,102 per capita on health care in 2004 -- more than double the OECD average and 19.9% more than Luxembourg, the second-highest spending country. In 2004, 15.3% of the U.S. economy was devoted to health care, compared with 8.9% in the average OECD country and 11.6% in second-placed Switzerland. In assessing what drives the difference between U.S. health care spending and the rest of the world, some leading health economists responded this way: "It's the prices, stupid." Put more formally, a report from the OECD declared that "there is no doubt that U.S. prices for medical care commodities and services are significantly higher than in other countries and serve as a key determinant of higher overall spending."

Though Americans are paying ever higher premiums, they are not getting better health care for their dollar. Current projections suggest that the average annual cost for employer-sponsored health insurance for a family of four will rise from $13,000 to nearly $25,000 by 2018.

Appearing recently on Morning Joe, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D, NY), a leading advocate in the House for publicly financed health care, made these observations:

I have heard people say, repeatedly, 'well, if the public option is too muscular, the insurance companies won't be able to compete.' Well, if they can't compete, then they're not gonna get customers. They're not gonna get patients coming to them. Isn't that what we want? To give people that choice?

The problem that we have here is we're trying to jerry-rig this system so that insurance companies still continue to make healthy profits. Why? [They] don't do a single checkup; they don't do a single exam; they don't perform an operation.

Medicare has a four-percent overhead rate. The insurance companies take about $230 billion out of the system every year in profits and overhead. The real question is: why we have a private plan?

These costs drive up the insurance premiums of everyone with private health insurance. With universal health care, these costs will disappear. Even the insurance industry knows that.
In recent testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about the rescission of individual health insurance policies, Don Hamm, the president of Assurant Health, admitted: "If a system can be created where coverage is available to everyone and all Americans are required to participate - the process we are addressing today -- rescission -- becomes unnecessary because risk is shared among all."

What Obama will say in his address

What Obama will say in his address
By: Mike Allen and Carrie Budoff Brown
September 5, 2009 12:36 PM EST

President Barack Obama plans to reach out to Republicans and reassure — rather than confront — his liberal supporters when he addresses an extraordinary joint session of Congress at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday.

But he will warn lawmakers against seeking a perfect plan and then winding up doing nothing, as happened to the last Democratic president back in 1994.

The high-stake speech makes sense because Obama is such a gifted orator. But it is also risky because if poll numbers on health-care reform don’t improve after he speaks, it will be clear that the problem isn’t in the packaging, but in the proposal itself.

The contents of the speech were still being debated over the weekend. But here is what POLTIICO gleaned from conversations with top aides:

1) Obama will lay out a specific “President’s Plan,” even if he doesn’t call it that. He will make clear what’s on the table, and what he thinks warrants further debate, such as how to pay for the overhaul.

2) He will not confront or scold the left. “This is a case for bold action, not a stick in the eye to our supporters,” said an official involved in speech preparation. “That’s not how President Obama thinks. The politics of triangulation don’t live in this White House.”

3) He will make an overture to Republicans. “He will lay out his vision for health reform – taking the best ideas from both parties, make the case for why as a nation we must act now, and dispel the myths and confusion that are affecting public opinion,” the aide said.

4) He will make it clear that it’s better to get something done than nothing done. White House aides are reminding fellow Democrats that the party lost Congress in 1994 by failing to do any health reforms at all after Congress balked at the original plan by President Bill Clinton. “The lesson of 1994 is not that tackling health reform is politically perilous. It’s that failing to act could be devastating,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House deputy communications director.

5) Obama will try to reassure the left about his commitment to a public option, or government insurance plan. Aides said they are rethinking what he will say about this. He wants to thread the needle of voicing support for a public option, without promising to kill health reform to get it. But liberal congressional leaders were unyielding in their support for it on a conference call he held from Camp David yesterday, and he's going to meet with them at the White House early next week.

The White House line has been: “We have been saying all along that the most important part of this debate is not the public option, but rather ensuring choice and competition. There are lots of different ways to get there.” But now he’s going to step on the gas a little harder. One top official gave this formulation: “He has consistently said that he thinks the public option is an important way to make sure that there is both cost and competition control. He’s also said consistently that if someone can show him a better way or another way to get there, he’d be happy to look at it. But he’s never committed to going with another way. He’s always said he’d be happy to look at any proposal that gets to these goals, but that he thinks this is probably the best better way to do it.”

The speech was very much in flux over the weekend, because key decisions are being hashed out. Even the length is not yet set.

“He has not made any final decisions about the ultimate form of his package,” said a top official guiding speech preparation. “Anyone that tells you that he has is misinformed or extrapolating from conversations. He’s going to talk to a lot of people between now and next Wednesday. The president is in the process of deciding what his ultimate proposal will look like."

Also undecided: whether to follow up with nitty-gritty legislative language. “He has not made decisions about how he’s going to move this thing forward,” said a top West Wing aide.

Obama’s speechwriters were on the West Coast over the weekend for the wedding of Ben Rhodes, the deputy director of speechwriting. So the West Wing is coordinating the speech over a three-hour time difference.

On Tuesday or Wednesday, the leaders of the four liberal House caucuses will meet Obama at the White House. The meeting pledge came a day after progressives urged him in a letter to stand firmly behind the public insurance option.

Obama spoke by phone Friday with the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“Caucus leaders expressed absolute commitment to the idea of a robust public option, and said they expect it to be part of any health care reform legislation,” the groups said in a statement. “The president listened, asked many questions, and suggested that the dialogue should continue.”

© 2009 Capitol News Company, LLC

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Move On.Org video of people who cannot wait for health care reform

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Here is a link to write to the White House. Please write in support of the Public Option and Let the President know he should avoid the 'trigger' option.

Friday, September 4, 2009

This is a petition to the President to support the Public Option. Please read and sign.

This is a petition to the President to support the Public Option. Please read and sign.

PETITION TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: "We worked so hard for real change. President Obama, please demand a strong public health insurance option in your speech to Congress. Letting the insurance companies win would not be change we can believe in."

"We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. It will only grow louder. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story of America, there’s never been anything false about hope." -- Barack Obama

Saturday, August 29, 2009

RNC’s “Bill of Rights” is full of Holes-FactCheck.Org

RNC’s “Bill of Rights”
Republicans' rundown is a mix of false, true and misleading claims.
August 26, 2009

The Republican National Committee this week posted a “Health Care Bill of Rights for Seniors,” which RNC Chairman Michael Steele and others have taken to the airwaves to publicize. It contains a number of claims we’ve seen and criticized before, but also contains one new one that has some truth to it, and another fresh one that has very little.
• The RNC says that cuts proposed by Democrats "threaten millions of seniors with being forced from their current Medicare Advantage plans." That’s certainly possible. Ratcheting down payments to the private insurance plans in Medicare Advantage would likely cause them to reduce benefits or even withdraw from the market. That might force an unknown number of beneficiaries to find new plans or go back to the traditional system, which still covers 78 percent of the Medicare population.
• Another new wrinkle in the RNC’s "Bill of Rights" is a claim that Democrats have proposed raising TRICARE insurance costs for retired military and their families. This one is false. It was actually the Bush administration that most recently proposed changes in TRICARE, which the hospital industry said would cost hospitals $458 million in its first year.
The RNC "Bill of Rights" document also recycles claims that Democrats are proposing $500 million in Medicare cuts without mentioning that much of that is offset by proposed Medicare increases. It falsely says that a comparative effectiveness research panel set up earlier this year could limit care based on a patient’s age, when in fact the law expressly prohibits the council from issuing such mandates. And the RNC implies, wrongly, that seniors who meet with their doctors to discuss end-of-life care could have their treatment cut off involuntarily. In fact, these discussions would be voluntary and any directives limiting treatment would have to come from the patient.
At this particular point in the health care debate, we’re finding that there’s not much new under the sun when it comes to false claims being made about the overhaul proposals. But just in case pretty new packaging threatens to rope unwary citizens into believing some of these misrepresentations, we stand at the ready, and it is in that spirit that we tackle the Republican National Committee’s new "Health Care Bill of Rights for Seniors." RNC Chairman Michael Steele and others in his party have been touting the document all week; Steele penned an op-ed that ran in The Washington Post, and did interviews on National Public Radio, ABC’s Good Morning America, and Fox News Channel, among other outlets. Here’s what he said in the Post:
Steele, Washington Post, Aug. 24: The Democrats’ plan will hurt American families, small businesses and health-care providers by raising care costs, increasing the deficit, and not allowing patients to keep a doctor or insurance plan of their choice. Furthermore, under the Democrats’ plan, senior citizens will pay a steeper price and will have their treatment options reduced or rationed.
Republicans want reform that should, first, do no harm, especially to our seniors. That is why Republicans support a Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights, which we are introducing today, to ensure that our greatest generation will receive access to quality health care.
We’ll take the particulars of the "Health Care Bill of Rights" in the order they are presented.
Raiding Medicare?
RNC: PROTECT MEDICARE AND NOT CUT IT IN THE NAME OF HEALTH CARE REFORM: President Obama and Congressional Democrats are promoting a government-run health care experiment that will cut over $500 billion from Medicare to be used to pay for their plan. Medicare should not be raided to pay for another entitlement. As we noted in our article More ‘Senior Scare,’ the bill that’s currently pending in the House would indeed "cut" $500 billion or so from Medicare, but it would also increase expenditures in some areas. The net amount that would be taken from the program would be about $219 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s a 10-year figure, by the way. And any implication that seniors’ Medicare benefits would be cut is false. Rather, the bill calls for holding down payments to hospitals and other providers, other than physicians.
As we’ve noted before, Republicans are accusing Democrats of pretty much the same thing that Obama wrongly accused John McCain of doing last year, when the GOP nominee proposed to pay for part of his own health care measure with "savings" in Medicare. We called it a false scare tactic when Obama’s TV ads said benefit levels would be reduced. The RNC document doesn’t go quite that far, but fails to make clear that what Democrats are proposing isn’t a cut in benefits.
Government Boards and Rationing by Age?
RNC: PROHIBIT GOVERNMENT FROM GETTING BETWEEN SENIORS AND THEIR DOCTORS: The Democrats’ government-run health care experiment will give patients less power to control their own medical decisions, and create government boards that would decide what treatments would or wouldn’t be funded. Republicans believe in patient-centered reforms that put the priorities of seniors before government.
PROHIBIT EFFORTS TO RATION HEALTH CARE BASED ON AGE: The Democrats’ government-run health care experiment would set up a "comparative effectiveness research commission" where health care treatment decisions could be limited based on a patient’s age. Republicans believe that health care decisions are best left up to seniors and their doctors. Both of these claims have their root in fundamental miscastings of the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, a body created by the economic stimulus bill signed into law in February. The council isn’t an "effort to ration health care based on age," nor would it get "between seniors and their doctors." As we’ve explained repeatedly, the council was created to monitor government research on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of various treatments, and to help get the findings out to practitioners. But the stimulus legislation even specifies that no dictates would come from this body regarding coverage of or reimbursement for any treatments: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Council to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer. … None of the reports submitted under this section or recommendations made by the Council shall be construed as mandates or clinical guidelines for payment, coverage, or treatment." And just in case that wasn’t clear enough, the House Energy and Commerce Committee adopted an amendment to the House health care bill expressly prohibiting the comparative effectiveness research from being used to "deny or ration" care.
According to the RNC, the first claim also refers to something called the Independent Medicare Advisory Council, which the administration wants to create and imbue with the power to make an annual package of changes in what Medicare pays doctors. The President could only block them by rejectiing the entire package, and Congress could only do so by means of a congressional resolution. The idea is to take politics out of these decisions, which could indeed ease the way for unpopular cost-cutting measures and possibly for reductions in some future benefit levels. But IMAC is not a part of the pending bills.
Operative Word: Optional
RNC: PREVENT GOVERNMENT FROM INTERFERING WITH END-OF-LIFE CARE DISCUSSIONS: The Democrats’ government-run health care experiment would have seniors meet with a doctor to discuss end-of-life care that could mean limiting treatment. Republicans believe that government should not interfere with end-of-life care discussions between a patient and a doctor. This is a somewhat milder version of the claim that was going around in a chain email that the Democrats wanted to require seniors to undergo counseling every five years on how to end their lives sooner. Former New York Lieutenant Gov. Betsy McCaughey furthered the myth, and in former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s interpretation it took the form of so-called "death panels" that would decide whether elderly Americans are "worthy of care." We dealt with that in our piece False Euthanasia Claims as well as in Palin vs. Obama: Death Panels. It’s simply not true. What the bill would do is allow seniors to have counseling sessions on end-of-life care issues with their doctors, which Medicare would pay for once every five years. The sessions would be voluntary, and the discussions would only involve "limiting treatment" if that’s the sort of directive that a senior wanted to give, say, in a living will.
Medicare’s Private Plans
RNC: ENSURE SENIORS CAN KEEP THEIR CURRENT COVERAGE: As Democrats continue to propose steep cuts to Medicare in order to pay for their government-run health care experiment, these cuts threaten millions of seniors with being forced from their current Medicare Advantage plans. Republicans believe that seniors should not be targeted by a government-run health care bill and forced out of their current Medicare coverage. The vast majority of Medicare recipients would see little change in their interactions with the health care system under the bills currently pending. But it’s probable that some unknown number of the 22 percent of seniors, or more than 10 million individuals, who participate in Medicare Advantage programs would indeed need to pay more out of pocket, change plans, or face reduced benefits – though never less than participants in traditional Medicare receive.
A little background: Medicare recipients since the 1970’s have been able to choose to receive their benefits through private health plans, rather than through the traditional, government-run, fee-for-service form of Medicare. Medicare Advantage is the most recent incarnation of this alternative. Republicans have generally favored these private options more than Democrats, and in 2003 the GOP Congress and president increased the amount Medicare paid to the plans to handle Medicare beneficiaries.
At this point, government payments to Medicare Advantage plans are 114 percent higher per enrollee, on average, than the cost of traditional fee-for-service in a given geographical area, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. What do the plans do with the additional money? Often they use at least some of it to reduce premiums or cost-sharing for recipients. In some cases, though not all, seniors have been able to save money by signing up for a Medicare Advantage program.
But according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee, which is an an independent congressional agency, the additional spending for Medicare Advantage programs – which adds up to billions each year – is hastening the depletion of the Medicare trust fund. It has also meant higher premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Government Accountability Office, another nonpartisan arm of Congress. As GAO put it, "beneficiaries covered under Medicare FFS
are subsidizing the additional benefits and lower costs that MA beneficiaries receive."
Long recognized as a possible source of savings – and mentioned as such by Obama during the presidential campaign – payments to Medicare Advantage programs under the House bill would be reduced over several years until they are equal to the costs of traditional Medicare. (Medicare payments are calculated by county). The measure would reduce the growth of future Medicare spending by $156 billion over 10 years. The result, based on prior experience with tinkering with the payment formulas, could be that some plans decide to withdraw from the Advantage program, said Brian Biles of George Washington University’s Department of Health Policy in a telephone interview, leaving them to choose from surviving Medicare Advantage plans or return to the traditional Medicare fee for service program that currently covers the other 78 percent of beneficiaries.
Riling the Vets, Too
RNC: PROTECT VETERANS BY PRESERVING TRICARE AND OTHER BENEFIT PROGRAMS FOR MILITARY FAMILIES: Democrats recently proposed raising veterans’ costs for the Tricare For Life program that many veterans rely on for treatment. Republicans oppose increasing the burden on our veterans and believe America should honor our promises to them. The RNC tells us this refers to a budget proposal floated last spring by the Obama administration that would have allowed the Department of Veterans Affairs to bill vets’ private insurance companies for the cost of treating combat-related injuries. But as we noted earlier this year, the idea was quickly dropped and never made it into the president’s budget, due in part to protests from veterans. But more to the point, it had nothing to do with TRICARE, which is the Department of Defense health program covering active duty and retired military members and their families, or TRICARE for Life, which is for military retirees or family members who are 65 or over or otherwise eligible for Medicare.
In attempting to back up this claim, the RNC also cites a series of budget-cutting options issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last January. The ideas included raising out-of-pocket costs and other fees for veterans in TRICARE. But that was just one of 115 ideas for cutting costs or otherwise changing federal health care programs, and CBO made clear that "the report makes no recommendations." The TRICARE isea does not appear in the pending health care overhaul bills.
And in fact, one of the news articles the RNC cites in support of this claim mentions that it was the Bush administration that most recently proposed TRICARE cuts, which were protested by many hospitals. The news item speculated that "Obama also might follow the lead of his predecessor" and seek higher TRICARE fees, but so far Obama has not done so.
–by Viveca Novak
U.S. House. "H.R. 3200."
Obama, Barack and Joe Biden. “Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s Plan to Lower Health Care Costs and Ensure Affordable, Accessible Health Care Coverage for All.” Accessed 28 Aug 2009.
Philpott, Tom. “Obama Drops Vet Insurance Plan.” 19 March 2009, accessed 28 Aug 2009.
Rucker, Philip. “Obama’s Turnabout on Vets Highlights Budgeting Nuances.” The Washington Post. 21 March 2009.
Morgan, Paulette. “Medicare Advantage.” Congressional Research Service. 3 March 2009.
Steele, Michael. “Protecting Our Seniors.” The Washington Post. 24 Aug 2009.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Medicare Advantage.” April 2009.
Biles, Brian, Jonah Pozen and Stuart Guterman. “The Continuing Cost of Privatization: Extra Payments to Medicare Advantage Plans Jump to $11.4 Billion in 2009.” The Commonwealth Fund Issue Brief. May 2009.
U.S. Government Accountability Office. “Medicare Advantage: Higher spending relative to Medicare fee-for-service may not ensure lower out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries.” Statement of James Cosgrove. 28 Feb 2008.
Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. “Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy.” March 2009.
Posted by Viveca Novak on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 10:43 pm
Filed under Articles • Tagged with health care, medicare, Republican National Committee, RNC

Whats a health care co-op

McCain feels Kennedys absence in health debate.

Remembering Teddy

What does Kennedys passing mean for Obama

Guess what- We already have death panels.

Kennedy_ the liberal lion.

Kennedys health care misgiving-

Can Democrats capitalize on GOP floundering-

Coal industry caught faking supporters

Deadly threat from anti-choice hate groups.

For Kennedy tribute bill_ sucking not an option.

Rewriting history.

Smeared with the stain of stupid

Kennedys final speech was a great one

The lion's last speech was a beauty. RIP Ted.

Kennedys health care legacy

Great video about the contribution that Ted Kennedy made to health care in the US

Nation mourns Teddy Kennedy

Kennedys lifelong dedication to health care.

Great video in honor of a man who fought all of his life for health care for the least of us. If the measure of our country is indeed how we treat those who are less fortunate, then Senator Ted Kennedy is to be loved, respected and remembered for his consistent efforts in health care.

Schultz- Fight for a Ted Kennedy Health Care Bill

The neoconservatives worst nightmare: A Health Care Reform Bill that would honor the greatest fight for health care in American Senatorial History. This is a cause worth discussing, particularly since the Republican and Health Care Insurance Industry would prefer to make no changes whatsoever.

GOP saying anything to stop health care reform.

This is a great video about the extent that the health insurance lobby will go to mislead the American people and attempt to prevent an honest dialogue on health care issues.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stewart covers Obamas flip-flop.


Caving into pressure over public option

Battle over public option

Discussion over the public option and the concerns of the liberal members of the Democratic Party

Obama not tough enough

Good discussion about whether or not the bi-partisan discussion of Health Care Reform may or may not work. Check out Roger Simon's article on Politico. Is Reconciliation the best path to passing the Health Care Reform Act?

Obamas failure to communicate.

Whats a health care co-op

Will Democrats revolt over the public option

Discussion about the Public Option with Anthony Weiner, congressman from NY. I like this guy, he makes sense when he discusses the insurance model. Very intelligent distinction that the government wishes to change insurance companies, not the relationship that patients have with their doctors.

Will Democrats revolt over the public option

Discussion about the Public Option with Anthony Weiner, congressman from NY. I like this guy, he makes sense when he discusses the insurance model. Very intelligent distinction that the government wishes to change insurance companies, not the relationship that patients have with their doctors.

Let them eat fake- Corporate lobbies front as grassroots.

This is an important video. This is a discussion of a lobbying groups that are well-funded by neoconservative interests who use paid 'actors' to disrupt town halls and a genuine discussion about Health Care. These disruptors are not usually even residents of the district. Is this why the Republicans asked for more time to consider the bill in August? Things that make you go hmmmm?

Town halls and protecting the president

Guys with assault rifles and guns at a Presidential Event? Not illegal, but not too darn bright either.

Bipartisan problems plaguing health care reform

Discussion about how the Republican will never support any form of Health Care Reform. Perhaps the President should give up on the bi-partisan input in the Health Care Reform Bill? When do we give up on negotiations?

GOP slated for a 2010 revival

Is the public option still an option

Check out the polls in the first part of this video. Interesting discussion about how the Republicans are the only ones buying the lies about Health Care, watch Fox News and are in the minority of people in the country. Says something about trying to establish a bi-partisan relationship with this group,

Government co-ops- solution or Trojan horse

Discussion about private co-ops and how the Republicans do not agree with this method either. Problem co-op may not lower costs at all. Referring to this plan as a government take over. Check out the interview with Mr. Cohn from The New Republic.

Huffington- Obama plan needs to be defined.

Discussion between Keith and Ms. Huffington about the strategy the President must pursue with Health Care Reform to be successful. A bi-partisan bill may not be possible and making concession makes no sense.

Bill Maher on the GOP miniverse

Check out the polls in the first part of this video. Interesting discussion about how the Republicans are the only ones buying the lies about Health Care, watch Fox News and are in the minority of people in the country. Says something about trying to establish a bi-partisan relationship with this group,

Parable of the pizza order and health care reform.

Standing up for public option

Discussion of why the public option is need in the Health Care Reform Bill. Today the White House seems to be backing off its statement that the Public Option did not need to be included in the final bill. The liberals have started to fight back!

Monday, August 17, 2009

-Fox suffers from Beck backlash

Beck's advertisers have begun to pull out on him after he called the President a Nazi

Health cares back and forth banter

-Opposing views undercut bipartisan health care progress.

Palin slays own straw man.

Video speaks for itself. Palin has taken one position previously on the End of Life Counseling issue (in favor) and currently is calling it a 'Death Squad' provision

Pulling the plug on end-of-life counseling

Should the Obama administration remove the End of Life Counseling portion of the Health Reform Bill?

Congressman spreads martial law fear

The latest fear and hate speech from the Republican Party. The Georgia Congressman Brown now says that the President will impose martial law to pass the Health Care Plan

Limbaugh spreads Palins death panel myths

This guy is a liar and a jerk. For the record, there is NO get rid of grandma provision in the bill!! It is a living will provision that enables people and the families to make plans ahead while compensating the family doctor for his time in giving advice. There is no such thing as a death squad!

Limbaugh spreads Palins death panel myths

This guy is a liar and a jerk. For the record, there is NO get rid of grandma provision in the bill!! It is a living will provision that enables people and the families to make plans ahead while compensating the family doctor for his time in giving advice. There is no such thing as a death squad!

Limbaugh spreads Palins death panel myths

This guy is a liar and a jerk. For the record, there is NO get rid of grandma provision in the bill!! It is a living will provision that enables people and the families to make plans ahead while compensating the family doctor for his time in giving advice. There is no such thing as a death squad!

Limbaugh spreads Palins death panel myths

This guy is a liar and a jerk. For the record, there is NO get rid of grandma provision in the bill!! It is a living will provision that enables people and the families to make plans ahead while compensating the family doctor for his time in giving advice. There is no such thing as a death squad!

Limbaugh spreads Palins death panel myths

This guy is a liar and a jerk. For the record, there is NO get rid of grandma provision in the bill!! It is a living will provision that enables people and the families to make plans ahead while compensating the family doctor for his time in giving advice. There is no such thing as a death squad!

Obama heads West for health care reform

The President discussing Health Care Reform out west at his town hall in Montana. He does a great job of explaining the issues.

Obama heads West for health care reform

The President discussing Health Care Reform out west at his town hall in Montana. He does a great job of explaining the issues.

Obama narrows his health care message.

The President discusses the public option and co-opts as a possible solution to the health care crisis

There is real concern

The President fights back against the fake, staged protests at town halls. He expresses here that there is real concern for the Millions of people that do not have health care coverage. Some very good points are being made by the President at these events.

Cao, not a party to hype or hate

A Republican discusses why he may vote for the Health Care Reform Bill

Americans take inspiration from Springers ilk

Very funny comparison between the Health Care protesters and the behavior the audiences at the Jerry Springer shows

Americans take inspiration from Springers ilk

Very funny comparison between the Health Care protesters and the behavior the audiences at the Jerry Springer shows

Americans take inspiration from Springers ilk

Very funny comparison between the Health Care protesters and the behavior the audiences at the Jerry Springer shows

Even they dont believe what theyre saying

When you match up past statements about life planning and current statements, the current position some Republicans are taking does not add up

Lying right targets vets

Rep. Brouns consistent message of ridiculousness

This guy is a consistent idiot!

Making painful decisions

Discussion of what may go or stay in the Health Care Reform bill to get it passed. Does the President need Republican Senators' support to pass the bill?

You and what Armey-

You and what Armey-

Can the health care debate be healed

Has the right done so much damage that the debate is poisoned?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Palins paling prospects

"..She didn't want to prep, she was lazy, she was lazy, she was ignorant...she flubbed it enormously..[people are] shocked at how frankly incompetent she is..."

Richard Wolfee, Author of Renegade

Friday, June 26, 2009

Deepak Chopra on Jacksons Addiction

Jackson inner circle shocked

Final Days: The Mystery of Michael Jackson's Death
By Mike Fleeman
Originally posted Friday June 26, 2009 08:40 AM EDT

It should have been the opportunity of a lifetime for a Michael Jackson fan: a behind-the-scenes invitation to a rehearsal for the superstar's upcoming concert tour in the United Kingdom.

But when the fan got to the stage, she was horrified. "He is a skeleton," she wrote Monday in an email to other Jackson fans. Worse, she said, was seeing her idol surrounded by people she deemed too frightened to say anything. "I have to say: He may die."

Three days later, Jackson, 50, collapsed in his rented Holmby Hills mansion – with his personal physician on the premises. His heart stopped; he wasn't breathing. An ambulance raced him to a hospital just minutes away from his house, but despite another hour of frantic resuscitation efforts, the world had lost one of the most successful artists in music history. The Los Angeles County Coroner will conduct an autopsy, with some results expected as early as Friday, although the findings of other possible tests could take longer.

Some in the entertainment world are utterly shocked at the sudden demise of seasoned entertainer who was, by all accounts, focused on one thing alone: getting ready for a series of 10 comeback shows at London's 02 Arena set to launch next month. Jackson rehearsed at the Staples Center on June 24 in Los Angeles, the day before with "great energy," Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich tells PEOPLE. "He wasn't giving it full out. But vocally he had started to really project. I thought he was in great form," who was at the rehearsal.

Jackson had even signed on The Incredible Hulk's Lou Ferrigno as his personal trainer, although the two hadn't worked out together in two weeks.

Yet while many in the entertainment world expressed sadness and shock, a different, more unsettling reaction came from several people close to Jackson and his family, who describe Jackson as unavoidably thin and fragile.

Filmmaker Bryan Michael Stoller, who visited Jackson in April, was shocked by his weight loss. "I hugged him and it was like hugging bones," he tells PEOPLE. "After seeing him, I never thought he would complete the tour."

Says Dr. Firpo Carr, a friend and confidante of Jackson's, "I sensed something was wrong and, quite honestly, I wasn't terribly surprised when I got the news. I would get word from people in his camp that things weren't quite right."

A source close to the singer who didn't want to be identified adds: "Michael hasn't been feeling well. All last week he'd stopped coming out of his house to see his fans. He was doing that every day."

As part of his preparations for the high-stakes UK concert tour, Jackson had been training – hard. He has put in 10-hour rehearsals, a witness says, for the sort of stage spectacle fans had come to expect. Promoters insisted the 50-year-old entertainer was physically ready for the rigors of a full tour. But there was concern among some in his inner circle that Jackson might push too hard: "They didn't want him to overtax himself," family friend Kevin McLin tells PEOPLE. "You look back in history, he never completed all the dates of his shows because he gave so much in each performance – he would go non-stop for two hours."

And on Thursday, even before UCLA doctors declared Jackson dead, family attorney Brian Oxman, who huddled with the grieving family at the hospital, raised the specter of possible abuse of drugs prescribed for the singer's long history of physical ailments. "If you think that the case of Anna Nicole Smith was an abuse, it is nothing in comparison to what we have seen in Michael Jackson's life," Oxman told CNN.

According to the fan at Jackson's rehearsal who tried to raise the alarm among those who adored him, the combination of risk factors seemed dangerously close to claiming its victim.

"We all love Michael really much. We all want to see his shows. We all think about how we will be [in the] first row," the fan wrote earlier in the week. "How will you do all of these things if during the third concert he faints on stage, and if his heart stops during his way to the hospital? How will you feel when you will talk with other fans and will say: We knew he was too skinny to perform?"


Monday, June 22, 2009

The Proposal

Movie Review: The Proposal

The Entertainment Critic Movie Review
In Theatres Now Review
Opened June 19, 2009
By James Myers

Rating: 5 of 10

Director: Anne Fletcher
Writers (WGA): Pete Chiarelli


Sandra Bullock ... Margaret Tate

Ryan Reynolds ... Andrew Paxton

Mary Steenburgen ... Grace Paxton

Craig T. Nelson ... Joe Paxton

Betty White ... Grandma Annie

Denis O'Hare ... Mr. Gilbertson

Malin Akerman ... Gertrude

Oscar Nuñez ... Ramone

Aasif Mandvi ... Bob Spaulding

Michael Nouri ... Chairman Bergen

Michael Mosley ... Chuck

Dale Place ... Jim McKittrick
Alicia Hunt ... Coffee Barista
Alexis Garcia ... Immigration Clerk (as Alexis R. Garcia)

Kortney Adams ... Colden Books Receptionist

Sandra Bullock is back in a romantic comedy, The Proposal. It has been a while since her last one, 2005's "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous”, and judging from the box office this weekend, a record opening for Ms Bullock ($34.1 million dollars) the movie intrigued enough people to make it the number one movie for the weekend. I love Sandra Bullock’s films, but to be completely honest, this film was somewhat disappointing.

The film’s premise is not new. A ball breaking female publicist boss has a problem: she is a foreign national (Canadian?) and has failed to file the proper paperwork, leading to her deportation and job loss. In the midst of discussing this with her boss, she lassoes her male assistant (Ryan Reynolds) and announces that they are getting married. It is an age old premise for a film, and basically ends the same way; that is after several misadventures with his family from his home town in Alaska, she falls for him. She of course confesses that this was just a business deal right in the middle of the wedding, but before saying “I do”. He of course falls in love with her too and of course chases her to get her back. In the interim they are both being pursued by an overly zealous immigration officer, who at the end of the film questions them separately about their love affair with some mildly funny results. Here is my problem with the film: it has been done before (reminds me of a Cary Grant type of film, which by the way was much more original and definitely funnier). Did you see “Green Card” with Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell, which in my opinion was funnier and much more poignant.

Sandra said it herself when asked about romantic comedies, the scripts she was getting "were terrible, they were bad and they weren't funny," she says. "I love my comedy too much to bastardize it with a bad romantic comedy." Here’s hoping that she sticks with this formula in the future.

Movie Trailer:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bill Maher on pushing health care reform


“What makes a great president?” Marty asked him one day. “Well, I think that probably everybody who has been elected president was a great person in some aspect or another.” Barack began. “But what makes a great president, as opposed to a great person, is the juxtaposition of the president’s personal characteristics and strengths with the needs of the American people and the country. And when you are a president who happens to come into the office at that juxtaposition, there’s an environment for you to be a great president.” ‘Some presidents were great individuals with extraordinary talents, but their timing was wrong. The great ones were needed by their nation at that point in history.’ Renegade by Richard Wolfee, pp23-24.

Lost in the shuffle of the events taking place in Iran, last week the President gave a speech to the American Medical Association, and a group of doctors about his national healthcare plan. According to Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, he heard something he has not heard before…booing. It was not his healthcare plan with a government sponsored health care insurer that was booed but an issue near and dear to all doctors hearts, award limits on jury awards for medical malpractice cases. Somehow doctors have it in their heads that they are not subject to same rules as every other American citizen or specialized, educated, licensed professional (lawyers, accountants and many others) and somehow they fear the awards of juries. The idea behind most damage awards that comes from juries is the concept of compensatory damages, damages to put the injured party back in the position that they would have been in if the negligence act had not occurred; to attempt as closely as we can to force the wrongdoer to comply with the standard of care or to compensate the victim of his carelessness if he/she fails to do so.

If automobile accidents were being considered, then it is easy to accept that the careless party that caused injury should compensate the injured party for his loss. (Thus the mandatory insurance rules for drivers in most if not all of the states in the country). In our system juries makes decisions whether the accused wrongdoer was in fact careless and that this carelessness caused the injury and then and only then what damages are sufficient to compensate the injured. The concept works the same with medical malpractice. Only if the injured party can first convince the jury that the doctor did not comply with the standard of care, and that failure to comply proximately contributed to the plaintiff’s injury, does the question of damages even begin to be addressed. Then in my opinion, it is the jury’s unique responsibility to assess the damages that are appropriate. There were no caps on jury awards of any time contemplated by the writers of the Constitution, and caps on jury awards of any type far less on medical malpractice verdicts, in my way of thinking contradicts the natural process of awarding damages that juries make in any care. My feeling is that this is why the President told this audience up front, as he did during his campaign, that he wouldn’t consider malpractice caps. He is a Constitutional law scholar and that perhaps capping jury awards is unconstitutional as an unacceptable limit on the right to trial by jury.

Mr. Obama has made suggestions of what he does favor mediation and/or alternative to malpractice suits, where hospitals and doctors admit when they have made mistakes, correct them and compensate the injured party for their loss. Most plaintiffs seek an attorney only after they have exhausted every other avenue and usually do so out of desperation. Studies have shown that the mediation approach may work because most doctors do not admit fault, and this is the reason most people file suit.

I think Mr. Obama has to run a fine line in the pursuit of his health care plan and it will require a coalition of forces, including doctors to get it to pass, but I admire his courage and straight forwardness in discussing issues of interest to the AMA.

“Each time an uninsured American sets foot in an emergency room with no way to reimburse the hospital for care, the cost is handed over to every American family as a bill of about $1,000. It is reflected in higher taxes, higher premiums, higher tax bill costs. It is a hidden tax that will be cut as we insure all American. So, when you hear the naysayer’s claim that I’m trying to bring about government health care plan, they are not telling the truth.

“What I am trying to do with a public option or help to do is affordable healthcare within the reach of millions of Americans.”

I think this is a wise option also. Not just a single payer option, but a government sponsored health care program that those who do not have insurance can choose; millions of people that do not or cannot afford health insurance may finally have an option.

The long and the short of this blog is this: I am glad and proud to have President Obama as my president; Wolfee is right. He is the right man, for our times in that right place; a man who understands the value of trial by jury and necessity of a national health care option.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek-New Movie Review From James Myers, The Entertainment Critic

Movie Review:  Star Trek


The Entertainment Critic Movie Review

In Theatres Now Review

Opened May 8, 2009

By James Myers


Rating: 8 of 10


Director: J.J. Abrams

Writers (WGA): Roberto Orci (written by) &

Alex Kurtzman (written by)




Chris Pine         ...        James T. Kirk


Zachary Quinto ...        Spock


Leonard Nimoy            ...        Spock Prime


Eric Bana         ...        Nero


Bruce Greenwood        ...        Capt. Christopher Pike


Karl Urban       ...        Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy


Zoe Saldana     ...        Nyota Uhura


Simon Pegg      ...        Scotty


John Cho          ...        Hikaru Sulu

            Anton Yelchin   ...        Pavel Chekov


Ben Cross        ...        Sarek


Winona Ryder  ...        Amanda Grayson


Chris Hemsworth          ...        George Kirk


Jennifer Morrison          ...        Winona Kirk


Rachel Nichols ...        Gaila




            There is always a risk when you make a movie that is in effect a sequel to a legendary book, television series, and series of films that brings with it a unique subset of fans.  It’s even riskier when you take on a cult following of a series that refuses to go away and has achieved near biblical proportions.  The Hollywood solution to this problem goes back to Godfather II, where you show a prequel that fills in some holes, has younger stars and adds a 21st Century edginess to the legend.  After a reported $72.5 million dollar weekend for the legend, Star Trek has used this formula to perfection.  The film is expected gross in the $130 million plus neighborhood and that is a real good neighborhood to be in.  I loved this picture!  The young actors, the fresh plot, &  the special effects make this a true summer movie send off.


In the year 2387, a star near Romulus is on the verge of going supernova and threatens to destroy the planet and endanger the rest of the galaxy. The Vulcans, led by Ambassador Spock, build a ship to carry a supply of "red matter", which, once ignited, can create a singularity, drawing the supernova into a black hole. However, they are too late to save Romulus, and the supernova nearly wipes out the entire species. Captain Nero of the Romulan mining ship Narada, having watched his family and home world die, attempts to exact revenge on Spock, but both ships are caught in the event horizon of the black hole, traveling to the past and, through their actions, creating an "alternate, parallel" timeline from The Original Series.


The Narada arrives about 150 years before the incident, and lays siege to a nearby Federation starship, the USS Kelvin, firing its weapons and severely damaging the starship. Nero demands that her captain, Richard Robau, surrender, and learns that neither Spock nor the ship he was aboard has arrived yet. Nero kills Robau and orders the destruction of the ship. As the Kelvin is evacuated, acting Captain George Kirk is forced to stay behind to provide cover for the fleeing shuttlecraft, and dies shortly after his son, James Tiberius Kirk, is born. The Narada crew calculates that due to the event horizon, Spock will appear in about 20 years, and silently wait for him. When Ambassador Spock arrives, Nero captures his ship and the remaining supply of red matter, and banishes Spock to the planet Delta Vega near Vulcan, telling him to prepare to watch his home world die.


Without his father, Kirk becomes an intelligent but reckless and cynical young man. After getting into a bar fight with Starfleet cadets in Iowa, he is approached by Captain Christopher Pike. Pike sees a lot of potential in Kirk, and is dismayed that he is wasting his intelligence on his self-destructive behavior. He then challenges Kirk to outdo his father, who was captain for only 12 minutes but saved 800 lives. Kirk takes Pike up on the challenge, enlists in Starfleet and befriends Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy and Uhura. However, when Kirk alters the Kobayashi Maru test, he angers Commander Spock, who is still struggling with his human side's emotions. During the official hearing, after which Kirk is suspended, Starfleet receives a distress signal from Vulcan, and the fleet docked above Earth, is prepared to launch with the cadets helping to man the ships. Acting as his attending physician, Dr. McCoy manages to bring Kirk on board the USS Enterprise, while Uhura convinces Spock to transfer her assignment to the Enterprise as well, after being assigned to the USS Farragut.


The fleet warps to Vulcan, with the Enterprise trailing the other ships. Kirk connects information about the distress call from Vulcan with a Klingon signal Uhura had translated the day before regarding an attack on several Birds of Prey, and quickly warns Captain Pike that they are heading into a trap and will encounter the same ship that destroyed the Kelvin twenty five years earlier. Pike follows Kirk's advice in time, as the rest of the fleet has already been wiped out by the Narada.


The Enterprise maneuvers through the debris, sustaining only minor damage to the hull. The Narada is also drilling into the core of Vulcan, and the drilling machine is blocking all external communications and transporters. Nero hails the Enterprise, and encounters Spock, who this Spock hasn't met before, to which Nero replies that they will. He orders Captain Pike to surrender himself and Pike does, leaving Spock in command and Kirk as first officer, baffling both men in the process. However, Pike uses the maneuver to arrange for Kirk, Hikaru Sulu, and Chief Engineer Olsen to perform an orbital skydive onto the drilling platform and destroy it. Though Olsen, carrying the explosive charges, is vaporized in the attempt, Kirk and Sulu are able to stop the drill, but not before it drills to the planet's core. Nero launches a sample of the red matter into the core of Vulcan, causing the planet to start imploding into the black hole. Spock is able to rescue most of the Elders, including his father Sarek, but his mother Amanda Grayson is lost in the beam out as nearly six billion of other Vulcans perish on the surface.


After Vulcan's destruction, Spock estimates only ten thousand Vulcans are left and that they are now an "endangered species." Uhura, who is involved in a romantic relationship with Spock, attempts to help him cope with the loss. The Narada leaves on a course set for Earth, using Pike's Starfleet command codes, which he was forced to divulge through infection with a mind-controlling parasite, to bypass Earth's security forces.


Kirk attempts to convince Spock to travel to Earth to stop Nero from doing the same he did to Vulcan, but Spock instead banishes him to the frozen planet Delta Vega and orders the ship to rendezvous with the rest of the fleet. On Delta Vega, Kirk encounters the elderly Ambassador Spock from 2387, who relays the future events through a mind meld and insists that Kirk must become captain of the Enterprise. The two travel to a nearby Starfleet outpost where they meet the talented Montgomery Scott. Spock helps Scott refine his equations for "transwarp transportation" to allow Kirk and Scott to beam aboard the Enterprise while she is still at warp. After they are beamed aboard, Scotty is trapped in the Enterprise's water tanks. Only when Chekov detects the emergency valve being opened does Spock know that something has been beamed aboard. Questioned as to how they beamed aboard the Enterprise while it was traveling at warp, Kirk and Scotty refuse to answer. Kirk manages to anger Commander Spock, forcing him to give up command due to being emotionally compromised, and Kirk takes the Captain's chair. Spock, Scott, and math-whiz Pavel Chekov devise a plan to bring the Enterprise to Titan and take advantage of Saturn's magnetosphere to disguise their presence from the Narada, allowing them to beam Kirk and Spock aboard unnoticed.


While Kirk comes face to face with Nero, Spock retakes the future Ambassador Spock's ship, and uses it to destroy the drill and lure the Narada away from Earth. With the Narada safely far from Earth, Spock pilots the ship on a collision course with the Narada. Kirk, Pike, and Spock are beamed safely away before the ships collide, creating a black hole in which the Narada is caught. Kirk offers to help rescue Nero, but the Romulan refuses. As the Enterprise finishes off the Narada, she is able to free herself from the black hole's gravity well due to Scott's plan to ignite the ship's warp drive reactor cores in the black hole both to seal it off and to gain speed from the resulting explosion.


Kirk is promoted to captain of the Enterprise, relieving the newly promoted Admiral Pike, who is shown in a wheelchair. While searching for his father, Spock encounters his older self in the Starfleet hangar; Spock Prime is departing to help found a new colony for the remaining Vulcans in order to rebuild their society. Spock informs his older self of his intention to leave Starfleet to help in the rebuilding, Ambassador Spock tells his younger self that he and Kirk need each other and that he should remain in Starfleet. Taking his twin's advice, Spock does so, becoming first officer under Kirk's command.


As the Enterprise warps away, Leonard Nimoy recites a version of the "Where no man has gone before" monologue.


I think the thing that makes this film is the new, young talent.  Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, as a cocky, but smart tough misfit that matures before our eyes during the film is about as interesting a characterization as you can get.  He choose not to mimic William Shatner, but he does remind me a little bit of Harrison Ford’s early Indiana Jones character.  Pine holds our interest; Zachary Quinto as Spock is revolutionary.  A young Spock that grieves his mother, looses his temper, and has a hot girlfriend?  Just try to take your eyes off of him when he is on the screen.  His presence is stunning in this film.  Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy is a bitching cynic; Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura is perfect in her role and Eric Bana as Captain Nero is an obsessed, scary villain.  One thing about these ‘comic book-television series’ films is that if the bad guy is weak or uninteresting, the film fails.  Bana is a strong villain that makes you believe he’d wait 25 years to get even.  The characters make this film worth the price of admission. Welcome to the film summer of 2009.  Star Trek may be just the beginning. 



Movie Trailer:


Monday, May 4, 2009

The Soloist

Movie Review: The Soloist

The Entertainment Critic Movie Review
In Theatres Now Review
Opened April 24, 2009
By James Myers

Rating: 8 of 10

Director: Joe Wright
Writers (WGA): Susannah Grant (screenplay)
Steve Lopez (book)


Jamie Foxx ... Nathaniel Ayers

Robert Downey Jr. ... Steve Lopez

Meggan Anderson ... Paper Airplane Student

Halbert Bernal ... EMT

Matt Besser ... Commuter #4

Troy Blendell ... New young editor

Jayce Bradley ... Brawling Frat Guy
Pete Brown ... Composer
Michael Bunin ... Adam Crane

Joshua Cabrera ... Teenage Musician

Ralph Cole Jr. ... Enraged Homeless Man

Ingrid Coree ... Nurse

Paul Cruz ... EMT

Marcos De Silvas ... Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Aurelius DiBarsanti ... Paramedic
Paul Edney ... Driver
Nelsan Ellis ... David

S. Zev Esquenazi ... Sgt. Hendrickson

Angela Featherstone ... Commuter #1
Lauren E. Gates ... Ballerina

Marissa Ghavami ... Ballerina
Artel Great ... Leon (as Artel Kayàru)

Paul Greenberg ... Commuter #2

Lejla Hadzimuratovic ... Disney Hall Patron

Justin Rodgers Hall ... Sgt. Harris

Lisa Gay Hamilton ... Jennifer (as Lisagay Hamilton)

Richard Hansen ... L.A.P.D

Rachael Harris ... Leslie

Joe Hernandez-Kolski ... EMT #1

Tom Hollander ... Graham Claydon
Pete Ilarius ... Disney Hall Patron

Catherine Keener

Edward Kiniry-Ostro ... Craig
Francesca Kortesmaki ... Twin violinist
Therese Kortesmaki ... Twin violinist
Kitty Kreidler ... Skid Row Homeless woman
Heather La Bella ... ER Doctor

Hallie Lambert ... Ballerina

Kirsten Lea ... Awards Presenter

Susane Lee ... Marisa

Lemon ... Jeremy

Wayne Lopez ... Officer Hank
Wally Lozano ... Sign Spinner

Michael Maddigan ... Brawling Frat Guy
Ricky Marciano ... Cop

Justin Martin ... Nathaniel - Age 13-16

Annie McKnight ... Linda

George Meyers ... Cop

Rob Nagle ... Neil

Kai Nuuhiwa ... Brawling Frat Guy

Alejandro Patino ... Construction foreman
Palma Lawrence Reed ... ER Nurse

Stephen Root ... Curt
Franklin Ruehl ... Homeless man
Esa-Pekka Salonen ... Conductor
Jules Sanchez ... Skid Row Porta Potty Dweller

Sharon Savene ... LAPD Officer
Holly Sherman ... Juilliard student

Robyn Jean Springer ... Disney Hall patron

Janaya Sultze ... Ballerina

Jeff Sutherland ... Cowboy on Plane with Wife
Valentyna Svyatchenko ... Julliard Student

Patrick Tatten ... Paul

David Jean Thomas ... Jim Trotter
Karmyn Tyler ... Juilliard Party Guest
Ilia Volok ... Mr. Barnoff

Maggie Wagner ... Mrs. Villaraigosa

Charlie Weirauch ... Atheist

Troy Williams ... Cop - Hospital Scene

I wanted to see an adult film this weekend. Not an x-rated adult sex film, but a thoughtful adult oriented film, for you know---- grown ups. So I skipped the premiere of the X-man film and I decided to take in The Soloist with Robert Downey, Jr and Jaime Foxx. (I know, I know, I usually go see the obvious blockbuster and report on that; usually that is more interesting). I have been taking classes towards my MBA, and I missed the premiere during finals the last two weeks. (Financial Accounting final, a real nightmare that we’ll talk about another time; god, I hate math or concepts that have to do with anything mathematical). One other thing. As a reviewer, even as a blogger, I don’t usually read other reviews before I see a film. I want my mind to be “tabla rosé”, or totally blank; not in the sense that it usually is, but in the sense that I don’t want to form a pre-opinion about the film before I see it. I broke that rule before seeing this film as well. Some of the other reviews were well….. half way, half hearted and slightly disappointing. I am happy to report to you that I liked this film, despite the efforts to poison my mind against it; I wanted a grown up film, written, directed and played out for grown ups. What I mean by this is that the film did not have the predictable happy ending; Nathaniel Ayers, (the Foxx character) did not end up playing his cello at Carnegie Hall in New York, triumphing over his mental impairments; Steve Lopez (the Downey character) helping the handicapped man, and writing the Pulitzer Prize winning book. If you are expecting the typical Hollywood ending, go see the film and be amazed.

No, this film is not the classic Hollywood cures mental illness stick; this film probes the modern relationship between reporter and prodigy with more of a realistic, gritty, (for lack of a better word) messy result.

Steve Lopez is a divorced reporter who writes feature, human interest stories for the Los Angeles Times. The movie turns on a scene in the Times offices where it is disclosed that the newspaper is not being read as much by young people as the online version and hard news stories are not carrying the circulation at this time. The newspaper sells papers not on the day late news story that you get online or on your cable, but on the human interest stories that Lopez writes. Lopez was in a bicycle accident and afterwards meets Nathaniel Ayers, a street person who plays a 2 stringed violin. Lopez becomes interested in his story when he verifies that Nathaniel was indeed a child prodigy from Cleveland who attended Julliard for a time, and has an usual attachment to all music Beethoven. Homeless and on the streets of LA, Nathaniel seems to be at peace with playing his beautiful classical music with his 2 stringed violin to the open air, the traffic under his part of the freeway bridge, and the pigeons. Shopping cart in hand, Nathaniel roams the city streets, cleaning and playing.

Lopez, the great writer that he is smells a story and pursues it. His columns about Nathaniel leads one his readers to send a cello that she can no longer use. Ayres accepts the cello with some difficulty because there are strings attached; he must report to a homeless shelter to keep the cello and play for the residents. This takes as Ayres does report to the shelter, plays for the other residents and eventually, reluctantly accepts an apartment there. Nathaniel and Steve form a friendship in this process. Steve very strongly feels that if he can push Nathaniel in the right direction, get him medical/psychiatric help and medication, perhaps Nathaniel can resume a promising career as a professional cello player. Not that Steve is without need for some help himself; his life patterns follow a non-commitment trial where he was not able to commit to his ex-wife and child. (Ironically, in the film, Catherine Keener plays Lopez's ex-wife and also his editor at the Los Angeles Times). Steve nonetheless continues to push Nathaniel, taking him to a philharmonic rehearsal as the Walt Disney Center in Los Angeles, arranging for cello lessons from an expert, and coaxing Nathaniel into an aborted concert attempt. Lopez even manages to locate Nathaniel’s sister in an attempt to have someone manage his affairs. The pain and frustration in this film of trying to improve Nathaniel’s situation is well represented in the film.

But the big ticket item, psychiatric and medical treatment, perhaps a cure for the schizophrenic delusions and voices Nathaniel hears in his head eludes Lopez. As the counselor at the centers tries to explain to Lopez, maybe Nathaniel is not ready for help; maybe he does not want to be helped; maybe help has failed him before. Maybe Nathaniel is content with his situation. Maybe Lopez will just have to wait until Nathaniel indicates he wants to analyzed and medicated of his own free will.
Despite clearing the way for the mayor to help that area of center with a multi-million dollar commitment and winning both an award for his writing about Nathaniel and a book deal, Lopez is determined to get Nathaniel treatment and medicated. When he presents Nathaniel with commitment papers, it backfires and Nathaniel throws him out of the apartment, threatening his life.

This is where the true lesson of the story becomes apparent; Lopez has learned as much from the plight of Nathaniel about what it means to commit to another person as a true friend as Nathaniel has benefitted from his generosity. Following through on his friendship, he does bring the sister to LA to reunite with Nathaniel, this time with no strings attached. That is the real message of this film; friendship can overshadow all ills. True friendship is more important than manipulating our friends, it means listening to them and sometimes allowing them to exercise their freedom of choice, even if it seems to you not to be the best thing for them at the time.

This is a very good picture. It is poignant and touching, urban and gritty, and at times scary and eye opening into the plight of the more than 90,000 homeless people in Los Angeles. Robert Downey Jr gives a steely-eyed performance of the excellent writer who has his own issues in life outside of his work (the raccoon storyline of this piece is a reoccurring theme for human fatality we all suffer from). Jamie Foxx totally sells the homeless musician-prodigy suffering from delusions. I think the best performance in the picture was given by Catherine Keener. Her scenes are perfect, and she has the ex-wife, still in love with her man, but unable to live with him down to a science. If the film has a weakness it is in the direction. Nonetheless, I got what I paid for. This is an adult film about grown up people, with grown up themes. The plot did not settle for the flashy Hollywood ending. Some of the scenes taken in the LA ghetto are frightening and the plight of the homeless comes through screen in an earthshaking way. Disturbing and edgy, the film does a very, very good job of bringing home the plight of the poor and the difficulty in treatment when medical science either has failed them before or the patient does not trust them. The plight of the homeless is portrayed emphatically, without being patronizing or overly moralistic.

This film moved me. I enjoyed the picture. I was pleasantly surprised that the ending was not sappy. This is a grown ups film. Because of it’s portrayal of the homeless and it’s true to life exposition, this film deserves to be supported. It is a compelling, interesting film; a breath of fresh air and a disturbing revelation.

Movie Trailer: