State of the Union News:
It's been a busy week for America. Senator Harry Reid stood in front of a microphone a few days ago and shocked the nation when he said that the health care reform bill would include a public option after all. I don't know about you, but I thought the hope for a public option was long dead. So we were pretty jazzed and amazed by the news in our house. Since then we've heard weird rumblings about states being able to opt out of the public option, the public option operating much like an HMO and so forth. But we're ignoring those for now and trying very hard to live optimistically, especially since, as I've said before, the health care reform when it finally rolls off the factory floor will most likely look nothing like anything being bandied about right now.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, there's been a bit of an uproar over a grossly misguided move on the part of Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Right on the heels of the news of customer's rates being raised 11 percent next year, customers received a slick, glossy, expensive looking note from Blue Cross telling them to oppose the public option and mail the enclosed, postage paid letter to their senator. Paid for by, you guessed it, the rates that they just raised. So they raised their customers rates to campaign against the public option and had the unmitigated gall to beg the same customers to oppose the public option. It is backfiring tremendously.
Also in America this week, news came out today that the Recession is over as there has been a slight fluttering rise in the GDP. As one wag on Twitter (@badbanana) noted earlier, the 15 million unemployed probably have the time to set up balloons and streamers to celebrate.
Cutesy, old timey videos aside, this is a small bit of good news. Economists still expect unemployment to hit 10 percent. President Obama told business leaders today, “The benchmark I use to measure the strength of our economy is not just whether our GDP is growing, but whether we’re creating jobs, whether families are having an easier time paying their bills, whether our businesses are hiring and doing well.”
Which I suppose indicates that the economy is a sparrow being sucked into a jet engine.
I'm reminded of when I was working and in the mornings I would hear the news about the housing bubble bursting and the great wave of recession washing over American industry. I heard all of the possibilities explained and I remember thinking very often "I wonder when this is really going to effect me personally." The answer was about 6 months. Which makes me really want to move on to much happier news.
NASA launched a new kind of shuttley rockety sort of space explorey thing today. It looks kind of like a Q-Tip with a needle sticking out the top of it. But as opposed to a Q-Tip with a needle sticking out of the top of it, turns out this is a very good thing. The Ares I-X is being tested as a viable replacement to the aged space shuttle design. This should serve to push space exploration (and space exploration safety) forward.
Now Who's The Dummy? News:
Disney announced this week that they will give refunds for the Baby Einstein series of videos (which include Baby Mozart, Baby Galileo and, my personal favorite, Baby Artaud.) This is an admission that the videos do not make babies smarter nor serve to educate them in any measurable way. In 2006, the people of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over claims that such videos were being marketed as "educational." As a result, the word "educational" was removed future advertising. Claiming that was not enough, the groups lawyers threatened a class action lawsuit. Disney will be offering full price refunds through March 10th on the products which do not make children smarter.
Classical Music News:
Michelle Obama will bring a classical concert to the East Room of the White House next week. superstar violinist Joshua Bell (who just returned from Warsaw after playing a benefit for a Polish Jewish Heritage Museum), guitarist Sharon Isbin, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Awadagin Pratt will play. The event is meant to highlight the importance of arts education and apparently to make me into a huge fan of Michelle Obama. In conjunction with the concert, over 120 music workshops will be sponsored by the White House at sundry junior high and high schools throughout the country.