Madison’s TV Weather Teams Do Important Job With Full Coverage

On Monday night I thought of another job I never want to do.

That would be answering phones at a TV station when callers are more upset about  some stupid reality show not being on the air so the weather department can report on the tornadoes and severe weather that is playing havoc with local citizens.

Such was the case in Madison on Monday night.

All three of the local TV stations in Madison are to be commended for the wall-to-wall coverage of the severe weather that blasted portions of southern and western Wisconsin on Monday night.  It is because of the professionalism and diligence from these men and women, both on-screen and off, that there  are not deaths and injuries that often result from these type of storms.  Constant and complete coverage allows for better informed citizens, and safer ones.

But it was mentioned again last night that there were some viewers upset that some lame (my word here) reality show was not aired so the real reality show (the tornadoes) could be broadcast.  I swear that I would have no patience with the mental dwarfs if I had to answer the phone and try to explain why these weather broadcasts matter.

As for me I can say that the new and dazzling radar and equipment that each of the stations has makes these weather happenings fun to watch.   Weather is exciting to watch unfold, and when Mother Nature has storm systems like it did on Friday, and again tonight, it is not hard to sit back and watch the three weathermen bring all their gadgetry to the task of explaining and predicting the weather.

I must say that Channel 27 (WKOW)  is perhaps my favorite.  But to he honest during these dramatic events I am watching them all, and going back and forth.  As James can attest at our home, there is as much charged energy in the house as in the skies above.  ( I wanted to be a weather forecaster at one time, and the love of  storms has never subsided.)   The WKOW weather department has the ability to look down into a storm and determine the height of the clouds.    If you have ever looked at the anvil-shaped thunderstorm clouds and wondered how high they are……well…..this equipment is awesome!  To be fair perhaps all the stations have this capability.  Regardless, they all have radars that I would love to own and play with!  (If any local station wanted to show a local blogger the inside look at the equipment, I would be most interested!)

While no wants damage from these storms I think we all are dazzled by the clouds, lightening, and intensity of them.    For  those who think that the ‘reality shows’ on TV are more exciting and important than the real thing taking place out the window or a couple counties away….well……..I feel sorry for you.

Democrats Compromise Away Health Care For Bipartisanship

It is as I predicted.

I have been very opposed to the idea of bipartisanship it it means gutting the principle goals of the larger policy.   To get a few Republicans to vote ‘yes’, and remove the core values that placed the Democrats in power is not leadership.  It is gutless politics.    With that said…..

After weeks of secretive talks, a bipartisan group in the Senate edged closer Monday to a health care compromise that omits a requirement for businesses to offer coverage to their workers and lacks a government insurance option that President Barack Obama favors, according to numerous officials.

Like bills drafted by Democrats, the proposal under discussion by six members on the Senate Finance Committee would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to any applicant. Nor could insurers charge higher premiums on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions.

But it jettisons other core Democratic provisions in a reach for bipartisanship on an issue that has so far produced little.

The effort received a boost during the day from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, normally a close ally of Republicans. In a letter to committee leaders, the business group called for the panel to “act promptly, preferably before” the Senate’s scheduled vacation at the end of next week. In doing so, the business organization dealt a blow to the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other GOP lawmakers who have called repeatedly for Democrats to slow down.

In yet another boost for the drive to enact legislation, PhRMA, which represents drug companies, has purchased more than $500,000 worth of television ads to air during the week in nine states.

Obama’s top domestic priority has suffered numerous setbacks in recent weeks, and Republicans have stepped up their criticism. A Senate vote has been postponed until September. Administration and Democratic leadershope to show significant progress before lawmakers begin their monthlong recess in hopes of regaining momentum.

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “We’re on schedule to do it now or do it whenever,” when asked whether the House would complete its bill before lawmakers leave at the end of the week. Democrats called a meeting of all their House members late Monday afternoon.

In the Senate, officials stressed that no agreement has been reached on a bipartisan measure, and said there is no guarantee of one. They also warned that numerous key issues remain to be settled, including several options to pay for the legislation. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss matters under private negotiations.

They said any legislation that emerges from the talks is expected to provide for a non-profit cooperative to sell insurance in competition with private industry, rather than giving the federal government a role in the marketplace. The White House and numerous Democrats in Congress have called for a government option to provide competition to private companies and hold down costs.

Officials also said a bipartisan compromise would not subject companies to a penalty if they declined to offer coverage to their workers. These businesses would be required to reimburse the government for part or all of any federal subsidies designed to help lower-income employees obtain insurance on their own.

Democratic-drafted legislation in the House includes both a penalty and a requirement for companies to share in the cost of covering employees.

Any measure along the lines under discussion could face difficulties on the Senate floor, where Democrats command a 60-vote majority.

Additionally, negotiators are likely to call for a commission to recommend long-term savings in Medicare that would take effect automatically unless overturned by Congress. Unlike some of the other provisions, that is an issue that unites the White House and business groups seeking to rein in the cost of medical care.

Among tax increases likely to be adopted is an excise tax of as much as 35 percent on insurance with very high annual premiums, perhaps over $25,000.

The senators involved in the negotiations are all members of the Senate Finance Committee, and include Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the senior Republican. Others participating are Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

They have met for hours in recent weeks in Baucus’ office, joined by aides and outside advisers such as actuaries summoned to explain arcane details of insurance. Douglas Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office, has also attended.

Baucus has been under intense pressure from the White House and Senate Democrats in recent weeks to convene the committee to vote out legislation to advance Obama’s goal of extending health care to millions who lack it while curbing the explosive growth of health care costs overall. He has so far declined to do so, opting to give the bipartisan negotiations as much time as needed to succeed.

Several Democratic officials have said he recently pledged to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that the committee would meet next week to vote on legislation, a timetable that implies time is growing short for the bipartisan group to wrap up its work.

Much of the cost of the proposal would come from curbing the growth in fees to insurance companies and other providers under Medicare.

But congressional aides in both parties as well as lobbyists said a proposal limiting Flexible Savings Accounts to $2,000 annually is also a strong possibility. FSAs permit the use of pre-tax income to pay for items such as health care and child care.

Negotiators also are considering fees on the manufacturers of medical devices and on the makers of both brand name and generic drugs coming onto the market.

To cut down on the cost of the bill, the bipartisan group may include only one year of a long-term plan to adjust reimbursement fees under Medicare.

Officials said the legislation under discussion in a series of private meetings would likely cost under $1 trillion, include an expansion of Medicaid, and provide federal subsidies for individuals and families up to 300 percent of poverty to spread health care more broadly.

Individuals would have a mandate to buy affordable insurance, but companies would not have a requirement to offer it.

It was not clear whether companies would be required to reimburse Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, for the cost of covering any employees enrolled.

Nor was it clear what, if any, provision the proposal would include to make sure companies did not simply withdraw insurance as a fringe benefit to millions of workers who now have it.

Senator Bunning’s Troubling Senate Career Over

Senator Bunning, how shall I put it, was not the most stable member of Congress.  While his retirment  is good news for the institution, I think it also good news for the GOP, as they are more able to keep the seat in their column with the exit of Bunning.

Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky says he will not run for a third term in 2010, citing a lack of campaign money.

In a statement issued by his office Monday, Bunning blamed fellow Senate Republicans for doing, quote: “everything in their power to dry up my fundraising.”

The 77-year-old Bunning has been considered the GOP’s most vulnerable senator. The latest election filings show that from April through June, Bunning raised less than half the total of Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, a 37-year-old potential Republican primary candidate.

Bunning and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell have traded barbs for months. McConnell is the Senate Republican leader and he has made it clear he would like his colleague to retire.

HIV/AIDS Another Reason For Health Care Reform In America

I heard about this on radio today, and found it troubling.  Not surprising especially, but very troubling.  Many of those who are not tested and not aware of their status undoubtedly, given the demographics, are without insurance.  Therefore the question has to be asked, what should we do with those infected with HIV to insure they are are tested, treated, and cared for?  If as the Republicans claim, there is no need for health care reform in the nation, then I am curious as to the remedy here.

Anyone care to offer a solution, if the Democratic one is wrong.

The Chicago Public Health Department estimates 17 percent of gay men in Chicago are HIV-positive, with half of them unaware they are infected.

Health officials also say although black men who have sex with other men have double the HIV infection rates of white and Hispanic men.

Public Health Department assistant commissioner Christopher Brown says it isn’t known why black men are disproportionately affected by HIV. He said the health department is working with social service groups to expand testing and increase contact with the city’s gay and bisexual population.

Health officials said Friday information in the report on HIV infection mark the first time Chicago health officials have used blood-testing to determine infection rates among men.

Senate To Hold Hearing On “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

One small step.  Very small.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has agreed to hold a Senate hearing on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The policy refers to gay men and women, who serve in the armed forces.

According to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the hearing will take place this fall. Since President Obama took office, 265 men and women have been released from the Armed Forces because of the policy, a report from the center for American Progress shows.

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is an unfair, outdated measure that violates the civil rights of some of our bravest, most heroic men and women. By repealing this policy, we will increase America’s strength – both militarily and morally,” Gillibrand says.

A recent Gallup Poll shows 69% of Americans approve of openly gay men and women serving in the armed forces.