By trevchr on Thu, 03/23/2017 - 9:03pm
So many people like to talk about what a disaster the ACA (aka ObamaCare) was, however, it seems that people forget a few key points. First, it wasn’t implemented as designed. There were many detrimental compromises included and many partisan roadblocks thrown up.
And it seems that many people have also forgotten that the insurance companies are for-profit entities, responsible not to the ACA, not to their providers, not to patients. They are beholden to their shareholders. All the other stuff – laws to follow, people to satisfy, all come as side dishes to the primary objective – profit.
Aetna recently made a controversial decision that put profit before patient care, though few were able to hear about it in a news media so enthralled with the new president. These stories show just how important profit is to the insurance industry.
“How Aetna frittered away $1.8 billion on a merger destined to fail”. http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-aetna-merger-20170214-story.html
“U.S. judge finds that Aetna deceived the public about its reasons for quitting Obamacare” http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-aetna-merger-20170214-story.html
You can read them yourself, but the Cliff Notes version is this:
Aetna is a powerful force in the health insurance market and has been for decades. Many people on the east coast are likely familiar with the name. Humana is another giant, with more of a southern and western presence. In the modern spirit of “bigger is better,” these two behemoths had been working on a merger. Of course, they touted this as a benefit to consumers, although you know they wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t truly a benefit to themselves.
But the Justice Department was concerned about this merger and the impact it would have on costs and competition.
Aetna pulled a super sneaky stunt and got caught.
It turns out Aetna had threatened the Justice Department that if the merger wasn’t approved, the company would pull out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This is a big deal because Aetna is such a big player, and the ACA was still in the fragile early years of a new program.
Well, the Justice Department was not going to be bullied. They opposed the merger.
After Aetna had pulled out of the ACA, Justice did some investigation of their own and learned that there were so many deceitful actions by Aetna that the presiding judge cited malfeasance.
This was an expensive strong arm tactic that backfired on the insurer. I would expect the shareholders to be pretty unhappy about the whole incident.
The Business of Healthcare With Habanero airs alternating Fridays at 1:30 pm
By Angelo on Wed, 03/22/2017 - 3:04pm
THURSDAY, MARCH 22, 2017
Tyler Hubby, the director of Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present, will be Tom Needham’s special guest this Thursday at 6 PM on the Sounds of Film on WUSB.
For more information, visit: http://www.longisland.com/news/03-22-17/tony-conrad-tylyer-hubby-sounds-...
By Angelo on Mon, 03/20/2017 - 7:03pm
For Steve Martin, comedy and singing came first. Then he embarked on a career as an acclaimed banjoist. Though Noam Pikelny is very much still actively pursuing his interest in banjo playing, he’s also picking up on a few of Steve’s old tricks.
Early in Winter 2016, I had the pleasure of seeing Pikelny on his first solo tour on what had to be the coldest and windiest night in recent memory. At the very least it was the most brutal that I’ve attempted a walk from a train station to a theater. There in Bayshore, Pikelny filled the space between songs, including many on this album, with standup comedy. There were memories of senility at the Opry and an idea for using the slide guitar to prevent suicide. The crowd, including myself, thought he was consistently hilarious. When I spoke to him for the March 20 episode of Country Pocket on WUSB, Pikelny had a different theory.
“It’s possible that it was hypothermia that led you to enjoy my banter,” Pikelny said, deadpan. “Maybe that was all fueled by some sort of primal survival instinct that laughing would maybe keep you alive.”
While not touring and recording solo, Pikelny is the banjoist for Punch Brothers. The two roles have made him somewhat of a universal favorite in the world of progressive bluegrass, particularly since he released the incredibly titled Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe. His latest album, which happens to be called Universal Favorite, finds him singing on one of his records for the first time. Pikelny admitted he doesn’t have the most natural bluegrass voice.
“So much of bluegrass vocals kind of hinges on the high and lonesome sound and singing at the top of people’s ranges,” Pikelny said. “Well, the top of my range is still in the subterranean zone. I found music that seemed to fit my voice that I felt comfortable singing that would also be a springboard for instrumental playing.”
Pikelny chose exceptionally well when it came to which cover songs he sang on. “Old Banjo” worked exceptionally well thanks to Pikelny’s exception ability to convey dry humor while singing. “My Tears Don’t Show” and “Sweet Sunny South” benefited from the deep, glum notes not many other bluegrass singers could hit. “Folk Bloodbath,” a Josh Ritter tune, used a little of both of those traits. It’s only “I’ve Been A Long Time Leavin’ (But I’ll Be A Long Time Gone)” where Pikelny runs into the limits of his voice on a few stretched out notes and some fast spoken words.
As to be expected, the best part of Universal Favorite is the banjo playing. Pikelny is pictured standing alone on a small island on the album’s cover, which is appropriate considering he’s the only musician on the album. It’s hard to tell on lush tracks like “Hen Of The Woods” and “Moretown Hop,” both of which blend twang and classical music the way one might expect progressive bluegrass. “The Great Falls” is a serene track played on a slide guitar and the attention-grabbing “Waveland” is almost unrecognizable as a banjo tune but just as graceful.
He described his approach to this album as wanting to provide an “intimate glimpse of the banjo.”
“There are a lot of things that the banjo can do that don’t necessarily happen when there’s a five piece band,” Pikelny said. “The banjo can actually be very warm and can sustain when just played solo. It was a chance to write music in a different fashion and come up with tunes that would stand up without interpretation from a band. It delivered me to a spot where I was making music that was very direct, and I wanted that to be encapsulated on the record.”
It’s Pikelny’s ability to showcase the lesser known qualities of the banjo that will likely make this album a favorite among new grass fans.
Pikelny will be playing Bowery Ballroom at a seated show on Friday, March 24. There will be sublime banjo playing and probably more than a few laughs, preferably without any hypothermia. And listen below to Pikelny explain his history with “Old Banjo” before the show airs.
By Angelo on Sat, 03/18/2017 - 9:26am
A co-bill of two outstanding singer/songwriters with unique voices.
Antje Duvekot has achieved recognition for her songs with awards from the Boston music scene and the Kerrville Folk Festival, leading to appearances at The Newport and Philadelphia Folk Festivala. Her latest a;bum, Toward The Thunder, draws upon the talent of folk luminaries like Richard Shindell and Anais Mitchell to showcase her unforgettable voice and beautifully-crafted songs. (www.antjeduvekot.com)
Of Natalia Zukerman, The New Yorker says that “Natalia’s voice could send an orchid into bloom while her guitar playing can open a beer bottle with its teeth.” The daughter of classical musicians Eugenia and Pinchas Zukerman, Natalia is proficient on slide guitar, lap steel, and dobro, putting those instruments to good use in her grasp of folk, jazz and blues influences. (www.nataliazukerman.com)
Advance sale $23 through Friday, March 31st at www.sundaystreet.org with tickets at the door (cash only) for $28
By Angelo on Wed, 03/22/2017 - 9:57pm
by Trevor Christian, host of Country Pocket
Just about every song has multiple layers and meaning on Trophy, the latest from Sunny Sweeney, which turns name calling, regrets, and even gossip into country gems.
Trophy is the fourth record and second independent release for Sweeney, who became a Texas country favorite with 2014’s Provoked. The album’s title comes from a track that turns an attempted insult into an opportunity to brag. Sweeney delivers the lyrics with a taunting swagger: “Yeah, he’s got a trophy now/For putting up with you.”
“I heard that one of my husband’s exes was calling me names and I thought it would be funny to write a song about it instead of getting mad,” Sweeney said in a phone conversation for the March 20th episode of Country Pocket.
Sweeney teamed up with the influential Lori McKenna on that track and three others, including the uncharacteristically sentimental “Grow Old With Me,” which covers Sweeney’s relationship with her second husband.
“I don’t ever have love songs, but I really liked that one for some reason.”
Sweeney is one of the few songwriters who regularly acknowledges in her music that her husband is not her first.
“I think people don’t want to talk about their first relationships failing. They kind of pretend that it didn’t happen, but it did, and you wouldn’t be where you are if it didn’t.”
Sweeney captures the same energy as she did on her Texas radio number one hit “Bad Girl Phase” with “Better Bad Idea,” a rare song made better by a lack of detail. Wine and weed are specifically mentioned, but for the most part, the singer is only playing up her potential to be wild and challenging her companion to come up with the details. It’s as much a statement of rebellion as it is an over the top act of seduction.
“Unsaid” also leaves a few words out for emotional impact, this time while conveying the pain of being on bad terms with someone who unexpectedly passes away. The first three lines mention church bells and headlights in describing a funeral procession. We hear about a name written in stone early on, but the word “heaven” doesn't appear until after the second refrain. It’s a strong indicator that the singer is struggling to accept the death, just as the decision to end the song by leaving out the third note of a repeated three-note guitar part had the effect of conveying the suddenness of the tragedy. It's also Sweeney's strongest vocal to date.
“Pass the Pain” and the Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay penned “Pills” play around with the idea of judgment and self-awareness in satisfying ways. “Nothing Wrong With Texas,” which came from Sweeney’s move to New York City, is most notable for its fiddle work and the impressive rhyme scheme of perspective/respect is/Texas. The Jerry Jeff Walker cover “I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight” uses the title as a great double entendre.
“I’ve always wanted to record that song. I think it’s one of the greatest country songs ever written.” Sweeney said of the cover song.
“Bottle By My Bed” takes on even more meanings. The risky track is on its face about wanting a child, but also about reaching a new stage of maturity. Underneath is a feeling that perhaps a deeper, more heartbreaking problem exists for the singer. She says she only calls her husband baby “because I like the word” and describes watching the news at night alone with some beers while he suggests waiting to have a child. Her friends are all busy raising kids, so it’s easy to get the sense the singer feels little in the way of support and companionship.
It’s hard to imagine this review isn’t missing at least one layer of meaning on even the songs described in depth. As enjoyable as these songs are to listen to, Trophy is an album best thought about deeply and played repeatedly. Sweeney’s songwriting will undoubtedly hold up to that level of examination.