Archive for July, 2009

Wherein Senator Carroll Takes Offense

This comes along with a de-friending with extreme prejudice.  The main effect of which is to keep me from following the thread on her profile, and to check to see if indeed there were any Facebook invitations to the business members of the mutual assurance company to come testify.  However, far from being left out, all three parties are already, by the enabling legislation, represented on the committee:

(III) THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF PINNACOL ASSURANCE, OR HIS OR HER DESIGNEE;

(IV) A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF PINNACOL ASSURANCE DESIGNATED BY SUCH BOARD;

(VI) EACH OF THE FOLLOWING APPOINTED JOINTLY BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, MINORITY LEADER OF THE SENATE, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, AND MINORITY LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

(A) A POLICYHOLDER INSURED BY PINNACOL ASSURANCE;

(B) AN INJURED WORKER; AND

(C) A MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC WHO HAS KNOWLEDGE OF THE COLORADO WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SYSTEM.

Sen. Carroll’s posting said nothing about businesses or Pinnacol, the latter of which hardly needed an invitation to participate in a committee it already sits on.  What’s at issue here is the propriety of the chairman of the committee, on a Facebook page rather than on her private home page, and not on the committee page, issuing an invitation to one – and only one – of the three parties to come air their complaints.  The injured worker and the policyholder would, it would seem, be capable of handling that on their own.

In fact, yesterday’s Denver Post carried an article about the matter, suggesting that Pinnacol already sees the committee moving in one direction:

Ross was concerned about the direction the committee was taking, saying: “The focus or slant of this seems to not be an open study but more of Pinnacol under a microscope.”

Carroll has asked that injured workers whose claims were handled by Pinnacol contact her with their stories. She said she expected injured workers to testify during the hearings.

Asked about the proposal from Ross, Carroll said it was premature to be talking about any such deals.

“There’s a ton of data and a ton of questions all over the place,” Carroll said. “To argue for a conclusion on a committee that hasn’t even started its work yet” isn’t helpful, she said.

(Carroll’s claim that Pinnacol’s trying to put a solution on the table, “isn’t helpful,” is disingenuous to say the least, given her eagerness to solve the problem in her own way this Spring, without such a committee or any investigation.)

Her claims of impartiality are further undermined by the following press release, issued Tuesday:

Senate Chamber
State of Colorado
Denver

MEDIA ADVISORY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CONTACT
Abigail Vacanti (303) 866-4882
Jack Wylie (303) 866-

SEEKING INPUT FROM INJURED WORKERS!
Sen. Carroll asks for public testimony for Pinnacol Committee

DENVER-  Are you an injured worker or a family member of an injured worker who’s claim was handled by Pinnacol Assurance?  What was your experience like?  We’d like to hear from you!   If you are interested in telling us your story, please email the Committee Chair, Senator Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora), at morgan@senmorgancarroll.com.

The tone, the exclamation points, (the inability to distinguish “who’s” and “whose” are another matter), all point to an interest in attracting those with a negative story to tell.   It’s unlikely that very many people whose story amounts to, “I filed and claim and it was handled expeditiously and fairly,” are going to show up to defend an insurance company, those carpet-bombing villains, they.  I’m sure some will take the time to communicate with the committee.  I think it’s equally clear what Sen. Carroll’s level of interest in those letters will be.

Anyone with even brief experience knows how easily such hearings can be turned into parades of discontent.  No doubt there are some workers who have been treated unfairly by the company.  Likewise, there are either malingerers or those whose injuries were not work related who may use such a forum to play on the public’s natural sympathy.  One questions whether the committee will have the time or interest in re-playing those cases fully enough to screen them out.

In short, nothing that Sen. Carroll has done, from her snide email reply to a resident, to her tempermental behavior on Facebook, does anything to set one’s mind at ease about the intent of these hearings.

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Sen. Carroll Responds – Unpersuasively

Yesterday, we noted that State Sen. Morgan Carroll had been used her Facebook page to troll for complaints about Pinnacol’s claims processing.  That prompted the following Facebook exchange between Sen. Carroll and a Colorado resident (forwarded to me by the resident, who wishes to remain anonymous):

Resident: Today at 5:17am
I am dismayed at your continued attempt to destroy a valuable resource for Colorado. Your current witchhunt to find negative stories to paint Pinnacol in a negative light is nothing but a blatant political stunt and is clearly seen as such. The money accumulated as reserves of Pinnacol were paid into it for an EXPLICIT reason and not a simply pile of cash for you to spend on whatever causes you deem worthy.

Morgan Carroll: Today at 6:51am
This committee is a fact-finding committee. Your loyalty to this political subdivision of the State of Colorado is laudable and I am sure they appreciate it.

Resident: Today at 7:06am
What is the reason or a need for such “fact finding” exercise at this juncture?

Morgan Carroll: Today at 7:10am
It’s about about 15 years since the legislature that created this structure has reviewed it. Their surpluses (very high compared to national) have raised the question for some as to whether (a) policyolders (businesses) are being over-charged; or (b) whether claims to injured workers are underpaid. Neither or both may be the case. We don’t know yet. Likewise, they want us to consider privatizing them. That would require evidence and an act of the legislature to do.

Color me unpersuaded.  Aside from the snide response to somewhat aggressive questioning, it’s simply not credible that someone would use a social networking site – designed for self-selection of people with mostly consonant views – to find a diverse set of opinions about anything.  Especially when her official website, which would probably draw a broader range of readership, lacks any such appeal.

The senator makes a point of referring to Pinnacol as a “political subdivision,” which it surely is.  That permits the state to determinte by statute the disposition of its assets.  But the bill itself changes the law to permit that seizure.  And it basically lies in its preamble, saying, “…clarigying the laws governing Pinnacol Assurance’s funds.”  It doesn’t so much “claify” as ‘turn inside out.”  It eliminates its operation as a mutual insurance company, and specifically transfers control over the company’s assets to the state.  Here’s the relevant section as it reads now:

The moneys in the Pinnacol Assurance fund shall be continuously available for the purposes of this article and shall not be transferred to or revert to the general fund of the state at the end of any fiscal year. All revenues, moneys, and assets of Pinnacol Assurance belong solely to Pinnacol Assurance. The state of Colorado has no claim to nor any interest in such revenues, moneys, and assets and shall not borrow, appropriate, or direct payments from such revenues, moneys, and assets for any purpose.

Seems clear enough.  The reserve fund and any profits belong to the company, not to the state.  The legislation would have repealed that section in its entirely.

So let’s be clear here: the bill that Sen Morgan Carroll, supposedly neutral leader of a “fact-finding” committee, voted for, removes the fiscal independence of Pinnacol, seizes $500,000,000 of surplus premiums paid into that fund specifically to provide coverage, says nothing about reviewing anything that the interim committee is tasked to explore.

“Fact-finding” committees frequently find whatever facts they set out looking for.  There email exchange, in tenor and content, make it pretty clear what facts Sen. Carroll has in mind to uncover.

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Joe Biden, Take Two

I’ll see your Sarah Palin resignation speech, and raise you a Joe Biden commencement address:

I believe so strongly, as you may recall when I was here in October, not in you particularly but your generation…

…you’re about to graduate into a point in history where everything is going to change no matter what you do, but you can affect the change.

You’re going to walk across this stage without knowing for certain what’s on the other side.

…there’s not a single solitary decision confronting your generation now that doesn’t yield a change from non-action as well as action.

Non-action is action, unlike most generations.

There’s not a single issue on this President’s plate that will not yield a change — just merely by ignoring it, it will change.

They voted for change, not certain what it would mean, but convicted in the assumption that we cannot sustain the path we’re on.  (“convicted in the assumption?”)

And our own interpretive muse:

Joe Biden Take 2
By Tarzana Joe

Read the rest of this entry »

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Rally, Counter-Rally on Health Care

Just a couple of quick shots from last evening’s rally and counter-rally at the state capitol on health care.  (Sandoval has the pix on the lunch-time AFP rally.)  First, the rally.  It was organized by the Obama after-campaign and the SEIU, and it showed.  There were three signs in abundance: a purple SEIU-inspired sign, sheets that read, “Single Payer,” and those blue leftovers from last year’s campaign:

And the counter-rally, held down on Lincoln to frequent horn-honks:

For all that time, union muscle, and organization, the socialists managed about 200.  The counter, consisting mostly of different people from the afternoon AFP event, with only a few hours to publicize, got 100 people.  (Don’t try counting the people in this photo.  I shot a panoramic series and counted them individually at home, since I’m pretty lousy at estimating crowd sizes.)

The Channel 7 report, naturally, all but ignored the large AFP rally, showing only footage from this evening’s Obamafest.  Although they were eager to find someone from the “other side,” they probably could have found someone better.   Here’s the video report.

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Freeze It, Personalize It, Polarize It

Thus goes Rule #12 of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.  And thus goes Sen. Morgan Carroll, chairman of the Interim Study Committee for issues related to Pinnacol Assurance, the state’s largest Worker’s Compensation insurer.  Just moments ago, Sen. Carroll posted the following on her Facebook page:

There is no question in my mind that this is the beginning of an attempt to demonize the company, in order to gain public political support for confiscating its cash and subsidize the Democrats’ spending habits for another year.

This legislative session, the Democrats floated the idea of seizing $500 million of Pinnacol’s reserve in order to help meet the budget gap for this year and next.  The idea was mercifully laid over in the House.  But it passed the Senate 19-14, will Sen. Carroll voting in favor.

Pinnacol is more than capable of making its own case on the merits.  But it needs to avoid the mistake that many companies make, and realize that this is a political fight, not a policy argument.  There are far too many Democrats who see all that cash and immediately, their eyes fill with dollar signs like a character in a Warner Bros. cartoon.

Grabbing for the nearest pile of Scrooge McDuck’s gold may be viscerally satisfying to those who, well, don’t have it.  But it’s a horrifying idea for at least three reasons:

  1. It feeds, rather than cures, the state’s spending addictions. No need here to recount the sorry story of Referendum C.  If Ref C was a drunk running a tab, pillaging Pinnacol would be a smash-and-grab from the plate glass of the liquor store.  It provides barely a year to hobble by.  And at the end of that year, if it’s 1982 and not 1931, and if revenues, always a trailing economic measure, begin to recover and if we haven’t found those stimulus strings to be too onerous, then maybe we can survive through the next business cycle
  2. Argentina. This really is a smash-and-grab.  It’s almost certainly illegal, and it will certainly discourage business from locating here.  The money isn’t the state’s to take, and there’s no particularly good reason to stop at an insurance company.  Pretty much any business with a large pile of cash lying around could find itself threatened.
  3. It could ruin the company.  Oh, maybe not today.  But the whole point of a Black Swan is that you never see it coming, because it’s never happened before.  Unlike assembly lines, insurance companies like to have large pools of liquidity lying around the shop floor.  It’s not as though they’ve converted it into gold and visit the vault every once in a while to stare at it a la Jack Benny.  They’ve invested the money, so it’s out there working.  But it’s also available in case there’s a large claim.  Just suppose something more virulent than H1N1 infects a workplace.  Suppose that Swift plant up in Weld County gets sick, and the workers get sick because they were at work; if they’re insured through Pinnacol, guess who’s on the hook.

So Sen. Carroll has decided to try to turn the heat up on Pinnacol.  It’s dirty pool against a responsible company.

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Rockies Tumble

I never liked the intentional walk. I’ve always believed that the intentional walk messes up the pitcher’s rhythm. He’s trained and trained to throw pitches, and you’re asking him to interrupt that to play catch for four tosses. You’re also facing the next batter’s on-base percentage, as opposed to the first batter’s batting average.

But I especially don’t like the intentional walk when your pitcher nearly sends the first pitchout over the catcher’s head. If they guy’s that tired, and just hanging on, why on earth do you want him facing a power hitter – even a journeyman power hitter – with the bases loaded? Pretty much everything Jim Tracey has tries this season has worked, but he left Rincon in for exactly one pitch too long, and even I saw it coming.

CORRECTION: Franklin Morales came in to pitch, forcing the Mets to pinch-hit Tatis.  So Tracey didn’t leave Rincon in one pitch too long at all.  The hazards of multi-tasking.  That said, you’re still almost always making the odds against you worse by putting more men on base with the same number of outs.

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View From a Height – Version 4.0

So the layout isn’t done yet, but I’m back from hack-ware purgatory. I’ll be working on the design over time, and it’ll be a little different from before.

All told, from the initial baked-on-clay-tablets, to the blogspot, to the various incarnations of MT, and now to WP, this will be the fourth version of the site.

The archives are still available, starting here, but obviously the search won’t work, since MT needed to be taken out and burnt, with all of its clothes, “bring out your dead”-style, in order to get the malware police to believe the site was safe.

The email updates apparently require a plugin, so I’ll have to get that, and acquaint myself with the whole new world of WP plugins, as opposed to the Old World of MT plugins. And for the moment, I’ll keep comments and trackbacks off, since I think that may have been the back door for the first invasion.

In the meantime, welcome back to the View.

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