Sunday, April 30, 2006

Department of Labor Abuses Rulemaking Authority?

In a story that has not received any press coverage, the Jackson Clinic is asking an administrative law judge to rule that the Department of Labor and Workforce Development violated the law by making changes to the workers' compensation medical fee schedule without providing notice or a hearing.

Last year, the department adopted provisions in the fee schedule that paid physical therapists treating workers' compensation patients less if they worked for a "physician affiliated" facility than they would be paid if they were independent. In February, the Department suddenly announced that it had adopted changes (effective May 1) to the physical therapy reimbursement rules. Under the changes, a physician could be fined $10,000 if he referred to a physician affiliated physical therapist. The Commissioner of Labor said that no notice or hearing was required since the changes were "minor."

Before: phsyician affiliated physical therapist gets paid for treatment, but less than an independent.

After: physician who referred to the physician affiliated therapist is fined $10,000.

Does anyone see this as minor?

On Friday, the department published further changes -- effective tomorrow -- granting some additional exemptions to the physician affiliated prohibition, but requiring preauthorization for any physical therapy visit. It is unclear from the revised rules whether therapists with patients scheduled for treatment on Monday -- neither health care providers or insurers had advance notice of this new preauthorization requirement -- can be paid for providing the treatment.

As I mentioned above, this story has not received any press, but if you would like more information, please e-mail me at the address listed under my profile.

If Cover Tennessee Fails, Blame the Governor

Tennessee state legislator and blogger Stacey Campfield, who is frequently criticized for his less than literary -- or literate -- writing style, nonetheless is exactly right in his criticism of Governor Phil Bredeson's Cover Tennessee health care coverage proposal. If the plan is defeated, the governor will not have Republicans to blame. Rather, the plan will have failed because the governor rushed out an incomplete proposal in advance of the elections.

I expressed similar thoughts here and here.

Joining Them

Local blogger Roger Abramson, who, like me, finds fans being quoted in the sports pages as though they know anything to be "annoying," has managed to become one of those fans. The Tennessean quoted Abramson's opinion that the Titans should have drafted Matt Leinart.

At least Roger says that he is only stating a personal preference. Another fan quoted in the story -- someone named Judy Meador -- claims to have insider knowledge of how the decision was ultimately made: Bud Adams made them do it.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Legislators Not Playing Nice

Tennessee state representative Stacey Campfield comments on the rough tactics being employed at the General Assembly:

Any one who sat through the committees on Tuesday and Wednesday will be hard pressed to say thing are done in a fair and reasoned manner or for the betterment of the state. Republican bills were killed wholesale....One legislator was told if they presented a bill ,not only would they kill it, but that they would not be allowed to pass any Bill's for two years! How much more blatant can they be?.

While it is not unusual -- either in Tennessee or in other states -- for bills sponsored by members of the minority party never to be allowed to see the light of day, I have heard both from government officials and from lobbyists at the capitol that this has been the most vitriolic legislative session in memory.

Moderation Pursuing Liberty

Ann Althouse asks an important question:

"Are we so partisan that we can't hear a moderate statement anymore?"

Judging from her commenters, the answer is, sadly, "yes."

Teacher Absences Hurt Students

The Tennessean reports this morning that McGavock High School Spanish teacher Erick Huth has missed 42 1/2 days of school this year. Those days have been excused due to Huth's responsibilities with the local teacher's union.

Those responsibilities have ranged from union lunches to contract negotiations.

When I began reading the article, my first question was why some of these events couldn't be held in the evening. Given the importance of a teacher being in class, why couldn't the lunches be turned into dinners? Substitutes, in the current world, are rarely trained or prepared to properly conduct a class. If the local union was concerned about the education of Huth's students, they wouldn't put him in the position of having to make such choices.

To Huth's credit, he also seems to regret the disruptions.

Nashville schools director Pedro Garcia also seems to have a reasonable idea: give teachers with union responsibilities annual paid leave. However, the school board is understandably resistant to the idea of paying a teacher to essentially work for the union.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Democrats for Hilleary?

JB at Blogging for Bryant warns that some Democrats, in the absence of competitive races in their own primaries for governor and U.S Senate, may seek to exert themselves in the Republican primary by voting for the perceived weakest candidate, Van Hilleary.

A few thoughts:
  1. Such tactics rarely work. Typically, there are not enough of those colluding in this fashion to make a difference.
  2. It is irresponsible to vote for a candidate who is not capable of holding the position and doing it well. If, God forbid, something were to happen to Ford prior to the election, then his opponent would likely be elected Senator. I have voted in the other party's primary under similar circumstances, but have always voted for the candidate I believed to be best qualified.
  3. The would-be saboteurs are correct that Hilleary is the weakest candidate. Republicans, one hopes, are aware that if Hilleary wins the nomination, that Ford will be the next junior senator from Tennessee. They had better vote accordingly.

One Day in Television News

For a long and interesting post on a day in the life of a television news department, see R. Neal here.

Through family connections, I have been around television studios a bit, but still found the account informative and interesting.

Ford Partly Right on Energy

Democratic senatorial candidate Harold Ford has issued a press release on the rise in gas prices that is partially right, but that partially misses the mark.

First the good part:

The long term answer is to invest in the clean development and safe use of bio-diesel, wind, solar, coal and nuclear energy to fuel the enormous energy appetite of our country. We need a new energy policy for America that rewards energy efficiency through innovation and conservation.

Ford's willingness to include coal and nuclear might even be considered courageous for a Democratic. More Americans are finally figuring out, as western Europeans did long ago, that nuclear power can be a safe and clean alternative fuel source.

However, Ford's suggestions offer no short term answers to the current problem. He is right in faulting the President for the lack of a meaningful energy policy, but one might add that we have not had a coherent energy policy in two decades or more. In addition, it should be said that Congress has been no help. The energy bill passed last year was a pork filled disaster.

Unfortunately, Ford also says this:

I believe a 30 day suspension of the 18.4 cent/gallon federal gasoline tax should be adopted. This temporary relief would provide much needed relief for the working man and woman in Memphis and our state....We can pay for this tax suspension with a temporary windfall tax on oil companies.

Well, if Mr. Ford is arguing that the oil companies have been profiting unduly at the public's expense, wouldn't he then think that they might just raise prices to cover the increased tax? Would that amount essentially to a transfer of monies from the federal government to the oil companies? And if they did not, would the lower price encourage more consumption of oil, thus aggravating the current supply problems?

Nonetheless, Ford deserves credit. He got the first part right.

Does Anyone Understand How Oil Is Priced?

Charles Krauthammer points to some personal history regarding President Bush's pandering call for an investigation into whether oil companies are price gouging:

Precisely 10 years ago (April 29, 1996) as gas prices reached a shocking $1.27 a gallon, President Bill Clinton ordered his Energy and Justice departments to launch investigations to find out why. In my column that week, I offered a wild guess as to why: "supply is down and demand is up." I offered Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary and Attorney General Janet Reno a $100 bet (I roll high on sure things) that their million-dollar probes would do nothing more than confirm my hunch.

Do any of the cynics and demagogues even have any idea as to how oil is priced? It would seem that they are imagining that a group of oil barons are sitting around throwing darts and declaring prices. Perhaps that could have been the case in the 1970's, but not in this century.

Oil prices are set by commodities traders reacting to fluctuations in supply and demand. Demand is continuing to rise as Americans keep moving farther from work and buying SUV's to get there, while also refusing to build nuclear plants to provide electricity. Demand is also rising world wide as developing countries continue developing.

Supply is restricted by a war in the Middle East, a civil war in Nigeria, and a despotic leader in Venezuela. It is also restricted by regulations that have essentially prevented any new refineries from being built in the United States since the 1970's and that have prohibited oil drilling in areas where we know there are vast reserves.

But, while some political leaders (mostly known as Democrats) stoke the fires of ignorance and pretend that there must be some kind of price fixing, Republicans cower over an issue that they are sure most people will never understand, and they are giving in to the demagoguery.

One keeps wondering if anyone can emerge in this country with the wisdom and the courage to really govern.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Flexing Muscles or Guarding against Irresponsibility?

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredeson is accusing senate Republicans of "a lot of posturing" regarding his Cover Tennessee state subsidized insurance proposal, but it would seem that they are asking legitimate questions.

At this point in time, the legislature is being asked essentially to give a blank check to a program that still has uncertain benefits and lacks a funding mechanism beyond three years.

Bredeson counters, “Let’s take some venture capital, if you will, out of TennCare and run this for a couple of years and see where we are.” However, that would appear to be an incredibly risky proposition for a program that would potentially be so critical to so many people.

Senate Republican, and all of the taxpayers of Tennessee, need more answers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chicken Little Was an American

Michael Barone excerpts a piece from a Times of London article that shows the strength of the American economy:

Historically speaking, indeed, America's economic hegemony has never been greater. However messy Iraq and Afghanistan get, it would be unwise to bet that the U.S. will not continue to be Top Nation for quite a while yet.

That is clearly the Times of London, not the Times of New York, that is putting present economic worries in perspective. Read more here.


Dave Winer says that Dan Rather told him that he has considered blogging, but that CBS discourages it. However, Power Line points out that CBS has a "good blog" discussing media issues.

Perhaps Rather didn't get the memo that CBS had a blog. Or perhaps he thought it was forged.

Caught in the Snow

Looking through liberal responses to the appointment of Tony Snow as White House press secretary, it is clear that those on the left have not managed to get their talking points straight. On the one hand, they want to joke that moving from Fox News to the White House doesn't even require a change of employers.

On the other hand, they want to point out that Snow has criticized the President so severely that it is difficult to imagine that he could ever represent the President with a straight face.

For examples, scroll down to the list of leftist blog comments here (hat tip: Instapundit) and see here.

So, which is it? One might surmise that neither Fox News nor conservatism is nearly as monolithic as its critics seem to claim. One might also figure out that Snow is an independent thinker who can both think critically and serve effectively in this administration.

Some will refuse to think either of those things. They don't fit their standard talking points.

Press Secretary Tony Snow

It is somewhat amusing to see misguided commentators criticizing Tony Snow's appointment as White House press secretary. Those critics are playing up Snow's connection with Fox News.

The real story has nothing to do with Fox. Snow is a distinguished and articulate journalist with a long track record, and it is unprecedented that someone with his standing would take this position.

In addition, Snow has never been a partisan hack. Dee Dee Meyers, who was Clinton's press secretary, sees the hiring more clearly. From the Washington Post:

"Tony has stature. He understands how the press works from both sides. He has a big personality, and that can be helpful." But she noted that Snow has "a long paper trail" and would have to defend policies he has criticized.

Just Trust Us

The Bredeson administration is resisting some changes that would reduce the role that partisan politics plays in promotions in the Department of Safety, according to a report in today's The Tennessean. Those changes are being sought in the wake of reporting by that newspaper of promotions within the state highway patrol of contributors to the campaign of Governor Phil Bredeson. Some of those were promoted in spite of personnel records that included criminal convictions and other disciplinary actions.

Appointed control commander Col. Mike Walker doesn't seem to think that new policies and procedures and statutory provisions are necessary to deal with the issue. He says, ""The governor has said it will not be done. The commissioner has said it will not be done, and it shall not be done."

It seems odd that in the face of scandal, that leadership in the Department of Safety seems to be telling the public just to trust them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Picky, Picky

Bill Hobbs makes a hasty decision not to apply for a job here.

An Economic Rollercoaster?

Irwin Stelzer believes the fog has cleared sufficiently to enable an economic prognosis for the remainder of 2006. He addresses, among other issues, the federal deficit, China, Federal Reserve monetary policy, housing and energy costs, and inflation. He sees the short-term ride as being bumpy and the longer term as promising.

Read it here.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Blogging and Journalism

The Philadelphia Inquirer published two outstanding pieces Sunday by Hugh Hewitt and Jonathan Last on blogging and journalism. They should be read by anyone interested in the possibilities and limitations of blogging, as well as of old media.

While Hewitt opines that the growth of blogging signals the end of print journalism, Last counters that most bloggers are involved in opinion journalism and give short shrift to fact gathering and reporting. While Last makes an important point, it is interesting that I read it on the same day that I noted Bill Hobbs praising Blake Wiley for a bit of reporting he did at his blog, and on the same day that Instapundit noted an interesting project by Michael Totten.

Bloggers are able to provide good opinion journalism because they frequently possess expertise and reasoning skills sometimes lacking among professional journalists. On the other hand, because at this point in time most bloggers have other employment, they frequently lack the ability to go out away from their keyboards and cover stories.

That may change over time. However, at this point it seems to me that new media will supplement and enhance, not replace, old media. There can be tremendous synergy for a media organization that figures out how to integrate its newsgathering and blogging components. I have hope that media organizations, including local media organizations, will figure out how to make that happen.

Hat Tip: Power Line

Immigration and Divided Baptists?

Southern Baptists are divided over immigration. That is a breathless announcement in today's The Tennessean.

The evidence presented of said Baptist division involves comments made by the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Richard Land that the denomination's members are "offended" at the Bush administration's failure to enforce immigration laws at about the same time that the denomination's North American Mission Board was giving an award to a minister starting churches in the United States reaching out to Hispanics, including illegal immigrants. The article seemingly overreaches, as it would be likely that Land would not consider his remarks to be inconsistent with the notion that those who are here should be ministered to.

Nonetheless, it is not surprising that Baptists would be divided over immigration (they manage to divide over nearly everything), as the issue divides nearly every other group in the country that considers it. While a hard line on immigration is widely thought of as a Republican position, it is shared by numerous on the left, particularly those connected with the labor movement. Republican disagreement has been more pronounced due to the fact that it has the duty to govern, and Democrats in the minority have shown no inclination to prove that they would be capable of fulfilling that duty.

Nonetheless, one wonders if Land should be claiming to speak for an entire denomination on a complex and multi-faceted issue.

Bredeson's Health Care Proposal Lacking Specifics

Republican lawmakers grilled Tennessee state finance director Dave Getz today over the lack of specifics regarding funding for Governor Phil Bredeson's Cover Tennessee health care insurance proposal. While Bredeson has suggested that TennCare reserves should be sufficient to cover the first three years of the program, he has left open the question of how the program would be funded beyond that point.

Getz, one of the more able members of Bredeson's cabinet, was in the difficult position of facing a legislative panel for the purpose of defending a proposal that continues to lack detail. Even so, his answers were disconcerting. Getz suggested, according to the report, that after three years legislators could either increase cigarette taxes, adjust budget priorities, or kill the program. If the Bredeson administration should have learned anything in recent years, it is that killing a health care entitlement creates serious financial, legal, and health care issues for government and the would be beneficiaries. Adjusting budget priorities would likely mean robbing money from other big ticket items, primarily education. Increasing cigarette taxes amounts to an added tax on the poor and leaves the state in the position of having another reason for hoping that more people continue to smoke in order to increase state revenues commensurate with health care costs that tend to grow at unpredictable rates.

The more cynical among us might also note that funding the program for three years will mean that it will be starting to become insolvent at the time that Bredeson will be leaving his office, and the problems he will have created, to someone else.

Bredeson's health care proposal is receiving scrutiny and praise across the nation, but there is still a great deal to be worked out.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

An Inconvenient Spokesman

Has Al Gore always been an extremist, and he just hid it well before, or did he become one after his loss in the 2000 election?

Jonah Goldberg, writing at NRO, referred to Gore's new documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, as "scaremongering." Knowing that Goldberg sometimes can be guilty of hyperbole, I wandered over to the official website for the movie. Goldberg is right.

I should say that I have never known quite what to think about global warming. I have read enough to think that there is reason to be concerned. I have also read the viewpoints of those who think that geologic factors and improved measuring devices account for global warming more than any human contributions. In trying to weigh these issues and looking at them based on logic and evidence, admittedly as a non-scientist, I encounter Al Gore.

It is hard to get excited about global warming when its leading political spokesman is a nut. At least, the material used to promote this documentary makes him look like a nut.

The introduction at An Inconvenient Truth's official website calls this "the most terrifying movie you will ever see." Move over, Alfred Hitchcock.

The trailer to the movie says that if you love your children, you will see this film. I normally don't like those conversations that start with the idea of, "What would the media say if a Republican...." But in this instance, I am going to indulge. What would the media say if a conservative movement leader or politician began a sentence by saying, "If you love your children, you will _________." Fill in the blank with anything you want. That person would be accused of every kind of arrogance and idiocy known to man. He would be accused of telling others they didn't love their children. And on and on.

The website's explanation of "the science" of global warming explains that the number of deaths due to global warming will double to 300,000 in 25 years. Really? That means that 150,000 people died due to "global warming" this year. What exactly constitutes a global warming death? One that occurred due to a heat wave or storm? There were those kinds of deaths prior to global warming. How can you give any number with any kind of certainty? Gore wants to make much of the number of storms in recent years, but what does a few years mean in terms of geologic time? Gore considers Katrina to have been a "tipping point," but was the devastation of Katrina more a factor of its size or of where the powerful hurricane reached landfall?

I could go on and on. It will be interesting to see if this movie gets a wide audience based on a felt need by some to identify with a cause. I guess I will have to remain on the fence. The main spokesman for one side is a nut.

Seen on a Bumper Sticker

"I would rather hunt with Dick Cheney than ride with Ted Kennedy."

Funny. Not very nice, but funny.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

With Apologies to Shakespeare

Friends, Nashvillians, Volunteers, lend me your ears;
I come to remember Hobbs, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft cached with their blogs;
So let it be with Hobbs.
The noble Kopp Hath told you Hobbs was insensitive:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Hobbs answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Kopp and the rest—
Spragens, the Scene, the cheerleaders at NIT
For Kopp is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak about Hobbs.
He and I have never met:
But Kopp says he was insensitive;
And Kopp is an honourable man.
He hath brought many bloggers to prominence
Whose traffic did the site meter fill:
Did this in Hobbs seem insensitive?
When that others have looked for advice, Hobbs hath provided it:
Insensitivity should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Kopp says he was insensitive;
And Kopp is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the internet
He has been given opportunities to attack his former employer;
Which he did refuse: was this insensitivity?
Yet Kopp says he was insensitive;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Spragens spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
Kopp, desperate to defend the indefensible;
Pushed Muslim children in front of him –
Smiling, waving, acting as rhetorical human shields.
Showing a cynical streak that will harden the work,
Of those who genuinely care for their plight.
But Kopp says Hobbs was insensitive, and Kopp was an honorable man.
In a moment of imperial hubris not exceeded by Nero himself;
Kopp declared he would delete any comment made by Hobbs –
On his blog, and “anywhere else.”
The one who deigns to control words worldwide says Hobbs was moronic.
Yet, indeed, Kopp proved a moronic man.
No doubt, an honorable man such as Kopp will find honorable suitors –
Democratic politicos desiring the service of such an honorable man.
Yet, should they turn to Kopp, they will dishonor the notion of honor—
Who in truth has defiled decency and sullied sincerity.
For Hobb, in truth, is flawed, but decent;
And Kopp is a most dishonorable man.