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Here's Yet Another Rage-Inducing Scam in the American Health Care System

| Mon Sep. 29, 2014 1:03 PM EDT

Here is your statistic of the day:

The average salary of an emergency room physician was $311,000 in 2014, rising from $247,000 since 2010 — a period when many other types of doctors experienced declines in salaries, according to Merritt Hawkins, a physician staffing firm.

Why is this? A shortage of ER physicians? More emergencies? Higher standards for ER work?

Nope. Elisabeth Rosenthal's latest rage-inducing piece about America's health care system1 suggests the reason is far more corrupt. Apparently one of the great trends in American health care2 is to outsource ER staffing. This means that even if you're careful—possibly while in great pain or barely even coherent—to show up at an in-network ER covered by your insurance plan, there's a pretty good chance that the actual doctors who attend you aren't in your network. Naturally, this being American health care,3 you have no choice in this matter even if you're savvy enough to know about the whole in-network and out-of-network distinction. And as we all know, out-of-network docs in the American health care system4 are basically allowed to charge any prices they want. And they do.

This is a great scam for everyone. Presumably hospitals save money because freelance ER docs cost them less. And the ER docs cost less because they know they'll be able to run the ol' out-of-network scam on lots of patients, thus raking in the bucks. It's a win-win.

As a result, during a period of economic stagnation that produced zero wage growth for everyone else, ER docs are now making $64,000 more than they did four years ago. And they're doing this by preying on the most vulnerable, most easily scammable members of society: folks who are flat on their backs and almost by definition unable to understand what's going on around them. Not that it would matter if they did, of course. The law provides no recourse even if you don't like this system. That's the way things roll in the American health care system.5

If this kind of stuff doesn't make you pop a vein, I'm not sure what would. It's right on a par with the telemarketing ghouls who prey on senior citizens with dementia. Except that these guys wear white coats and are welcomed into all the best country clubs.

1Best in the World, Baby.™

2Best in the World, Baby.™

3Best in the World, Baby.™

4Best in the World, Baby.™

5Best in the World, Baby.™

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Watch John Oliver Call Out America for Blindly Supporting Obama's Drone War

| Mon Sep. 29, 2014 12:22 PM EDT

On the latest "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver looked into how Americans have come to widely accept President Obama's growing reliance on drone strikes, while knowing little to nothing about the administration's rules for using them.

"Because our rules for drone strikes are a little like Harvey Keitel's balls: We've all seen them in 'The Piano,' 'Bad Lieutenant, or on SnapChat. And from, from a distance you think, 'Well, I understand the contours of those.' But if you were to really examine them, you'd discover that they're actually lost in a haze of fuzziness and grey areas. Much like the rules for our drone strikes."

The comparison, which Oliver says has contributed to defining Obama's presidency as much as Obamacare and "receiving racist emails from distant relatives," perfectly illustrates just how little both the public and the administration knows exactly who and how many we're going about killing with such strikes ---  strikes that have waged on despite the continued lack of answers Obama seems quite intent on never sufficiently explaining to us.

"That is a little disturbing. Because the question 'how many people have you've killed in drone strikes' is not one of those questions where it's okay to say you don't know. It's not like asking someone 'who was the voice of Disney's Aladdin' or 'what are Skittles are made from.' It's different…And the crazy thing is it's literally always been like this."

 

Republicans Once Again Favored to Take Control of the Senate

| Mon Sep. 29, 2014 12:00 PM EDT

Remember my post a couple of weeks ago saying that Republicans were no longer favored to take control of the Senate? Well, recent polls have not been kind to the Ds, and now everyone—including Sam Wang—agrees that Republicans are once again favored. Here's the Vox aggregation of aggregators:

You may now either celebrate or else sharpen up your seppuku knives, depending on your partisan leanings. But keep one thing in mind: two weeks ago, only one pollster out of six thought Republicans were favored. Today six out of six think Republicans are favored. Things can change mighty fast, and there's still more than a month to go before Election Day. Your guess is as good as mine whether Joni Ernst can go five consecutive weeks without letting the crazy show.

Obama Needs to Learn How to Admit Error on National TV

| Mon Sep. 29, 2014 11:10 AM EDT

So President Obama was on 60 Minutes last night. Steve Kroft asked about the meteoric rise of ISIS in northern Iraq:

Steve Kroft: How did they end up where they are in control of so much territory? Was that a complete surprise to you?

President Obama: Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.

I can't find a full transcript to verify that this was the complete context surrounding Obama's remark, but I wonder what possesses him to do stuff like this? It's Management 101 that you don't throw folks under the bus (on national TV!) unless you have pretty convincing reasons for doing so. I mean, all he had to do was say that "we underestimated" what was happening in Syria.

This is really tone deaf. Even if the whole debacle really was Clapper's fault, it would still sound terrible to say so. Was this just a real-time flub? Or, after six years, does Obama still not understand how petty it sounds to try to deflect blame this way?

Bluesman Gary Clark Jr. Is the Guitar Hero for Our Time

| Mon Sep. 29, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Gary Clark Jr.
Live
Warner Bros.

Gary Clark Jr Live

A guitar hero for the modern era, Gary Clark Jr. plays bluesy rock with a blistering urgency that makes the hoariest conventions feel brand new. For all his flashy expertise, the muscular solos and buzzing riffs never feel gratuitous, while Clark's terse, tough singing nicely complements his fretwork. This 15-track, 97-minute feast is the perfect showcase for his brilliance, mixing versions of standards like "Three O’Clock Blues" (popularized by B.B. King) and "Catfish Blues" (also covered by Jimi Hendrix) with pungent originals, from sleek boogie ("Travis County") to tender soul ("Please Come Home"), with lots of fireworks in between. While it's tempting to view him as the next coming of Hendrix, especially in light of his take on Jimi's "Third Stone from the Sun," Clark is closer in spirit to Stevie Ray Vaughan: less an exotic, godlike genius than a gifted guardian of tradition who never fails to thrill.

Here Is A Video Of Sarah Palin Petting An Alligator

| Sun Sep. 28, 2014 1:52 PM EDT

Sarah Palin went down to Louisiana Saturday to help raise money for Republican US Senate candidate Rob Maness. Maness—who is challenging incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu—and Palin served alligator dishes to around 100 attendees, according to local CBS affiliate WWL.

Here is a video of Palin petting an alligator.

At press time it was not clear if the alligator she was petting was also the alligator she later served as a meal. We're guessing it wasn't.

 

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Obama Threatened Far More Often Than Any Previous President

| Sat Sep. 27, 2014 8:35 PM EDT

Carol Leonnig has a piece in the Washington Post today about a botched Secret Service response to a 2011 shooting at the White House:

The suspect was able to park his car on a public street, take several shots and then speed off without being detected. It was sheer luck that the shooter was identified, the result of Ortega, a troubled and jobless 21-year-old, wrecking his car seven blocks away and leaving his gun inside.

The response infuriated the president and the first lady, according to people with direct knowledge of their reaction. Michelle Obama has spoken publicly about fearing for her family’s safety since her husband became the nation’s first black president.

Her concerns are well founded — President Obama has faced three times as many threats as his predecessors, according to people briefed on the Secret Service’s threat assessment.

Gee, I wonder why?

How to Throw Shade

| Sat Sep. 27, 2014 10:59 AM EDT

Last night, PBS aired "America After Ferguson," a town hall about race in America. A lot of really interesting and intelligent things were said! You should watch the whole thing. In addition to the really interesting and intelligent things that were said, there were also very stupid and offensive things said. Dearly oppressed white conservative dumb dumb columnist for the American Spectator Ross Kaminsky's contributions to the evening could probably best be classified more the latter than the former.

Look, I am not going to address this dude's points in any serious way. (You can watch them for yourself if you're into that sort of thing beginning around minute 14 above.) It was all very much "blah blah reverse racism blah blah white people are the real victims blah blah."  And here's the thing: This is America. You can believe whatever stupid nonsense you want. It is quite literally the reason the pilgrims crossed the ocean. So, you do you, Ross Kaminsky. But know that whenever you spout off this insidious white man's burden bullshit, the rest of us are going to be throwing you the type of shade this amazing kid threw your way all night long.

 

Have a nice weekend.

(h/t to my friend @sobendito)

This Is the Cutest Video I've Ever Seen In My Entire Life

| Sat Sep. 27, 2014 9:17 AM EDT

Via Gawker, this video of some kids arguing about the weather is so adorable.

Look, I know this isn't hard-hitting journalism or anything but it's been a bit of a week so feel free to give this a watch and have a nice little Saturday morning cry.

Butterball Goes "Humane" for Thanksgiving. Really?

| Sat Sep. 27, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
This year, more humane?

It's becoming a Thanksgiving tradition as hoary as NFL football or the bloviations of your drunken uncle: days before the national feast, an animal-welfare group releases an undercover video documenting vile conditions within industrial-scale turkey facilities (see 2013, 2012, 2008).

This year, the largest turkey producer of all, Butterball—which churns out a billion pounds of turkey meat annually, a fifth of US production—has made a bold move to get ahead of these appetite-snuffing PR debacles. By fall 2014, presumably in time for Thanksgiving, all of its products will bear the American Humane Certified label, the company announced Tuesday.