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    • The murder of two NY policemen in retaliation—
      at least ostensibly for the police murders of Garner and Brown has ignited a frenzy.   The murderer, Brinsley, was a violent man who had committed other crimes. I will simply note that such tragic events are the inevitable result of systemic injustice.  Those who wish less murders, should work for justice. That includes police.   [...]
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Wednesday News

Good Morning Conflucians!!

A few interesting things happening in the news. First up, we have a cure for HIV infection, at least in one patient:

Doctors believe that they may have found one of the largest breakthroughs in the battle against HIV, the virus which leads to AIDS. The news broke today (December 14) out of Berlin, Germany when doctors confirmed that Timothy Ray Brown received a stem-cell treatment while battling leukemia. His doctors recently published a report in the journal Blood affirming that the results of extensive testing “strongly suggest that cure of HIV infection has been achieved.”

Here’s the abstract of the paper in question for any of you up on your hematology research. Here’s the salient point:

In conclusion, our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient.

There’s a lot of work yet to do, and this may not be an overall cure, but it’s a major breakthrough.


As reported yesterday by RD, a federal judge in VA ruled the mandate to buy a private product part of the health insurance company bailout bill is unconstitutional. Here’s a follow up article about the ruling and the VA district attorney’s winning strategy:

Virginia’s go-it-alone legal strategy to challenge the nation’s sweeping federal health-care overhaul – once questioned by both advocates and some opponents of the law – seems to be paying off for state Attorney General Ken T. Cuccinelli II after Monday’s court ruling, in his favor, that a key provision of the law is unconstitutional.

When Cuccinelli (R) filed suit in March against the federal law – rather than signing on to one filed jointly in Florida by 20 other attorneys general – Democrats said it was an exercise in grandstanding for political gain.

[…]

But his decision has undermined those who contend that constitutional challenges to the law are frivolous.

“There’s no question that this was a gamble in terms of how the litigation would have been perceived if he’s received the third strike in a row,” said Jonathan Turley, professor of law at the George Washington University Law School. “It’s certainly a gamble that’s paid off.”

Cuccinelli has maintained all along that filing his own challenge made more sense than signing on to the Florida effort.

The Virginia General Assembly had passed a law in March that made it illegal to require state residents to carry health insurance. The conflict between the state statute and the federal law gave Virginia unique standing to sue, he argued.

“You just don’t go to other states to protect your own laws,” Cuccinelli said in an interview Tuesday.

That being said, the real test will be the supreme court. Which at the earliest would be sometime next year, and likely the year after that. I think it’s an interesting issue and very worth a supreme court case. Clearly there’s gray area with being “punished’ for inaction with respect to having to buy a commercial product. And of course when the health insurance lobbyist wrote the bill, making that part not a tax was a big issue. Those calling the issue silly or frivolous were being silly.


And speaking of silly, Republicans that think the 2010 midterm elections were about them are of course not even close. A new poll out back up what everyone should know (again):

Republicans may have made major gains in the November elections, but they have yet to win the hearts and minds of the American people, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The midterm elections – in which Republicans gained 63 seats to take control of the House and added six seats to their Senate minority – were widely seen as a rebuke to President Obama. Still, the public trusts Obama marginally more than they do congressional Republicans to deal with the country’s main problems in the coming years, 43 percent to 38 percent.

The poll suggests that the election, while perhaps a vote against the status quo, was not a broad mandate for Republicans and their plans. The survey also underscores the degree to which Americans are conflicted about who they think is setting the agenda in Washington.

The president’s narrow advantage is a striking contrast to the public’s mood at this time in 1994 and 2006, the last two midterm election years when one or both chambers of Congress changed hands.

[…]

In the new poll, just 41 percent of respondents say the GOP takeover of the House is a “good thing.” About 27 percent say it is a “bad thing,” and 30 percent say it won’t make any difference. Most continue to say that the Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to compromise with Obama on important issues.

At this time in 1994, six in 10 Americans said the GOP had taken a stronger leadership role in Washington, while just one in four said Clinton was firmly in charge. In the new poll, Americans are about evenly split between Obama and the Republicans in Congress on this question.

Of course it’s idiotic comparing 2010 to 1994 for many reasons. One is that in ’92 Clinton won a three man race without  a majority. So his numbers were building up from a low point. Obama’s numbers in contrast have been steadily coming down from a high point. Also in ’94 Democrats got shown the door precisely because a large number of them were breaking the law. Whereas in this case, we have a supermajority Democrats in congress and a Democratic president elected in ’06/’08 to fix a majorly broken economy. And in the last 4/2 years respectively, it’s gotten worse. And for better or worse (or right or wrong), the voters wanted a new direction. That is, it’s the economy stupid. On top of that, Obama’s a real piece of shit and the congress that just does what he says (same as they just did what Bush II said before) were getting a bit tiring.

But what these numbers do indicate to me is that if things don’t get better economically, esp. with respect to jobs, then the Republicans will incur losses in ’12. If we’re around high 8% or higher in unemployment, there’s going to be some more changes. And they might just be dramatic.


The Commandant of the Marines says repealing DADT will result in casualties:

The Marine Corps’ top general suggested Tuesday that allowing gays to serve openly in the military could result in more casualties because their presence on the battlefield would pose “a distraction.”

“When your life hangs on the line,” said Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, “you don’t want anything distracting. . . . Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives.”

In an interview with newspaper and wire service reporters at the Pentagon, Amos was vague when pressed to clarify how the presence of gays would distract Marines during a firefight. But he cited a recent Defense Department survey in which a large percentage of Marine combat veterans predicted that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would harm “unit cohesion” and their tight-knit training for war.

“So the Marines came back and they said, ‘Look, anything that’s going to break or potentially break that focus and cause any kind of distraction may have an effect on cohesion,’ ” he said. “I don’t want to permit that opportunity to happen. And I’ll tell you why. If you go up to Bethesda [Naval] Hospital . . . Marines are up there with no legs, none. We’ve got Marines at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] with no limbs.”

I understand Commandant Amos’ concern for his marines and why he would want to move very slowly when it comes to any change that shakes things up. But it’s way past time for this change. We have women at most levels and in combat (though we pretend they’re not), and of course for a long, long time, we’ve had people of color in the armed forces, even though both of those were changes that shook things up and were distractions at the time. I have faith in the marines that they can handle such a change just fine. If memory serves, the previous commandant has similar issues. I hope he can take a lead from his boss, Adm. Mike Mullen, and move to deal with the new realities instead of throwing wrenches in the works.


In the latest news from the world of WikiLeaks, the Air Force has blocked WikiLeaks from it’s own networks:

The Air Force is barring its personnel from using work computers to view the Web sites of The New York Times and more than 25 other news organizations and blogs that have posted secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks, Air Force officials said Tuesday.

[…]

Cyber network specialists within the Air Force Space Command last week followed longstanding procedures to keep classified information off unclassified computer systems. “News media Web sites will be blocked if they post classified documents from the WikiLeaks Web site,” said Lt. Col. Brenda Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Space Command, a unit of which oversees Air Force cyber systems. “This is similar to how we’d block any other Web site that posted classified information.”

Colonel Campbell said that only sites posting full classified documents, not just excerpts, would be blocked. “When classified documents appear on a Web site, a judgment will be made whether it will be blocked,” she said. “It’s an issue we’re working through right now.”

The other armed forces are handling it differently:

Spokesmen for the Army, Navy and Marines said they were not blocking the Web sites of news organizations, largely because guidance has already been issued by the Obama administration and the Defense Department directing hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors not to read the secret cables and other classified documents published by WikiLeaks unless the workers have the required security clearance or authorization.

“Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority,” said a notice sent on Dec. 3 by the Office of Management and Budget, which is part of the White House, to agency and department heads.

A Defense Department spokesman, Col. David Lapan, in an e-mail on Tuesday night sought to distance the department from the Air Force’s action to block access to the media Web sites: “This is not DoD-directed or DoD-wide.”

The Air Force may have gone too far. We’ll see how that plays out. And in related news, Julian Assange paid bail, but is still in jail:

Sweden tonight decided to fight a British judge’s decision to grant bail to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent more than a week in prison over sexual assault allegations involving two Swedish women.

A dramatic day in and around City of Westminster magistrates court saw Assange win bail, but then be forced to return to what his lawyer Mark Stephens described as “Dickensian conditions” at Wandsworth prison while the international legal battle played out.

Sweden has decided to contest the granting of bail to Assange, who is being held pending an extradition hearing, on the grounds that no conditions imposed by a judge could guarantee that he would not flee, a legal source told the Guardian.


And speaking of crimes, it looks like the Senate will pass the near trillion dollar deficit increase and social security destruction bill today:

The U.S. Senate today is poised to pass President Barack Obama’s $858 billion proposal to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels, cut payroll taxes and extend expanded jobless benefits.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said last night on the Senate floor that the chamber will start debate at 11 a.m. on the measure. Before a vote on final passage, senators will take up three amendments, Reid said. Amendments require a two-thirds supermajority for adoption.

Senate passage will send the tax bill to the House, where Democrats — who threatened last week not to bring it to the floor — late yesterday discussed a plan to let Democrats vote on an alternative to estate-tax provisions many of them oppose.

We will see soon after that what happens in the House. Please write your congressman and tell them not to pass anything like this POS giveaway to the rich and obvious ploy to destroy social security and medicare.


Rahm “The Fish” Emanuel got a Chicago style grilling yesterday about his mayoral run:

The most serious attack on his candidacy came in the first 90 minutes of the hearing as the lead attorney challenging Emanuel bored in on the issue of whether the former White House chief of staff meets the requirement of being a Chicago resident for one year prior to the Feb. 22 election.

But after that, it was open season as a long line of citizens who object to Emanuel’s run for mayor quizzed him on everything from when and where he purchased a city sticker for his car to whether he played any role in the violent 1993 Waco, Texas, siege to if he has ever been a member of the Communist Party.

Sadly I think he’ll be able to run just fine. And sadly he’s still the front runner.


Interest rates have been inching up and the Fed has taken notice:

Interest rates are marching upward, making it more expensive to take out a mortgage or get a loan to expand a business, and diluting efforts by Congress and the Federal Reserve to strengthen the economy.

The rise is partly because of good news: The outlook for growth has improved, putting less pressure on investors to keep their money in ultra-safe bonds. When there’s less demand for bonds, their interest rates – or yield – go up to attract more investors.

And the better economic outlook could allow the Fed to pull back sooner than expected on the extraordinary steps it’s taking to keep rates low.

But bond investors are also spooked by the tax-cut deal between President Obama and congressional leaders, which if enacted would increase the budget deficit substantially over the next two years.

The climb in interest rates is confounding the Fed’s efforts as it tries to bring down rates by buying $600 billion in Treasury bonds. The central bank affirmed that it would stay on course with those plans Tuesday after a policy meeting.

Yes, it’s good and it’s bad and it’s messing up their efforts to make money cheaper. It’s all going to end in tears I tell you. Our economy as well as the world economy is fragile. The dollar is on the brink. It’s scary out there. The current worry about interest rates going a bit higher (as if things are getting better.. give me a break) reminds me of a small leak in a dam being plugged by a finger. Sadly we’re all living in the small village below the dam.

On that lovely note, let’s open the floor to more news. And some positive news please. Chime in with what you’re reading.

The Smartest President Ever? NOT!


I missed this part of Obama’s 60 Minutes interview on Sunday:

In an interview airing Sunday night on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Obama said the health care system itself is huge and complicated and that changing it eluded previous presidents because it was so difficult.

“I made the decision to go ahead and do it, and it proved as costly politically as we expected — probably actually a little more costly than we expected, politically,” he said.

Obama said he thought that he would find common ground with Republicans by advancing health care proposals that had been introduced by Republican administrations as well as potential presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.


What the fuck? That dumbass must be drinking his own Kool-aid.

So we get a Republican health care plan and the Democrats get blamed for it. Nice.

Continue reading

Thursday News: Downwind

That's right, lower that gas mask

We didn’t start the fire but we wouldn’t mind being downwind of one of the biggest marijuana bonfires the world has ever known.  134 tons of confiscated weed were set ablaze in Mexico yesterday.  We’re a little puzzled over the draconian steps to eradicate the pot before it makes its way across the border.  What this country needs right now is some tasty weed or a batch of brownies.  What a waste.

New Jersey Cablevision customers are downwind of a nasty dispute between their cable provider and News Corp, the company that shoves Fox down our throats.  For the last 5 days, Cablevision customers have been without Fox programming including Glee, House, and some major league baseball and football games.  I can’t find any evidence that Fox News was pulled, however, which is a shame.  News Corp is doubling the subscription fees for retransmission of Fox programming for Cablevision.  That’s $150,000,000 for Cablevision alone.  It looks like Cablevision customers who just get the broadband service were also affected.  They were unable to download programming from Hulu for a period of time but that seems to be restored.

News Corp is going up against Dish at the end of the month.  As a Dish customer, I’d like to encourage management to take a hard line with News Corp.  Take it all off the Dish lineup, including Fox News.  It’s extortion but maybe this latest move is a good thing. The more we can contain the Fox News contagion, the better.  I’ll download Glee from iTunes.  But more than that, this is just another example of a corporation thinking that the average Joe has unlimited disposable income.  We don’t.  The fees for every damn little thing are skyrocketing.  Enough already.  Try to make due with the billions you already have.

On the mortgages/foreclosure fiasco, the rule of law appears to be downwind of some very sketchy bank tactics for seizing what might not be theirs and throwing families out of their houses.  Atrios has been doing a really good job finding more and more evidence of bankster fraud.  In the latest article on the mess, Battle Lines Forming in Clash over Foreclosures, the New York Times reports:

Now those missing and possibly fraudulent documents are at the center of a potentially seismic legal clash that pits big lenders against homeowners and their advocates concerned that the lenders’ rush to foreclose flouts private property rights.

That clash — expected to be played out in courtrooms across the country and scrutinized by law enforcement officials investigating possible wrongdoing by big lenders — leaped to the forefront of the mortgage crisis this week as big lenders began lifting their freezes on foreclosures and insisted the worst was behind them.

Federal officials meeting in Washington on Wednesday indicated that a government review of the problems would not be complete until the end of the year.

“The misbehavior is clear: they lied to the courts,” she said. “The fact that they are saying no one was harmed, they are missing the point. They did actual harm to the court system, to the rule of law. We don’t say, ‘You can perjure yourself on the stand because the jury will come to the right verdict anyway.’ That’s what they are saying.”

Robert Willens, a tax expert, said that documentation issues had created potentially severe tax problems for investors in mortgage securities and that “there is enough of a question here that the courts might well have to resolve the issue.”

Ah, yes, the poor investor will have to sort through all of the tax issues.  So sad.  It’s so much worse for investors than the families that lose everything including the roof over their heads just because the documentation is screwed up.  I guess it never occurred to anyone that lowering the principle on some of the loans would allow some homeowners to stay in their houses and pay their mortgages.  At least the investors would get *something* for their investments.  Or investors could take it up with the banks who always seem to be in the middle of all these messes.  But banks seem to make money off of of foreclosures.  Hmmm, if I had been a congressman, I might have made foreclosure a lot less attractive for banks and avoided much of this mess.  Oh, well!  Not my problem.

It does appear to be a problem for those congresspersons, however, who appear to be downwind of voter anger over Congress’s complacency with the economy.  In A National Election, Like it or Not, E.J. Dionne reports on the experience of Democratic Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy from Ohio, who mistakenly keeps trying to tell her voters about the “accomplishments” of the last two years.  For some stupid reason, the voters aren’t paying any attention to the half assed Lily Ledbetter law or Health Care Reform or the financial bailout:

Kilroy recalls encountering a voter who told her: “I’ve voted for you throughout your career, but I’m not voting for you this year because I don’t have a job.”

She spoke to her constituent about what Congress had accomplished, and also about how the tied-up-in-knots U.S. Senate had blocked other House initiatives.

To which the voter replied: “Do you think I care they’re stuck in the Senate? I don’t have a job.”

Stivers, who lost to Kilroy in 2008 by just 2,312 votes, has had much happier doorstep experiences. “People were mad at George Bush two years ago and they were going to take it out on anyone with an ‘R’ after their name,” he said. This time, they’re eager to talk about — you guessed it — “the debt and jobs.”

Yep, it’s a mystery.

As Greg Sargent reports in The Enthusiasm Gap Remains just Awful for Dems:

But still, the enthusiasm deficit remains enormous, even though Dems have tried everything to turn this around: They’ve chanted Bush’s name in unison for months. They’ve raised the specter of foreign money rigging our elections. They’ve floated the possibility of GOP investigations that will make the 1990s look like a latter-day Era of Good Feelings. And they’ve relentlessly elevated the craziest of Tea Party crazies to iconic status. Yet Dems still aren’t goosed up about this election in anywhere near the numbers they need to be — mainly because the GOP enthusiasm levels are essentially steroidal at this point.

It’s like that Far Side cartoon where Einstein can’t figure out the famous relativity equation until his cleaning lady starts straightening up his desk.  “All squared away” The Democrats have tried everything but the stuff that actually works.  Denigrating the stupid hicks who join the Tea Party doesn’t work, Greg.  And I know a lot of Democrats don’t want to hear this but if the closest you’re going to get to having a liberal in the White House is Hillary Clinton, then you might just want to elect Hillary Clinton.  There’s no way in God’s green earth that Kucinich is ever going to get there.  Get squared away already.

Here’s a hint, Mary Jo and all you Democratic Congresspeople:  Congress didn’t do enough for the working class.  The best you can do is say, “I’m sorry.  I get it now. I’ll put pressure on Obama to kill the Catfood Commission.  Please don’t vote for Republicans.  They’ll only make it worse, er, faster than we will.”

Ed Potosnak can balance an equation and gets my vote.

And that goes for all the rest of you Democrats sending stupid emails to me, assuming I’m some low information, irrationally angry voter who doesn’t know what the heck is going on.  The destruction that ongoing layoffs have had on my friends and family is devastating.  I really don’t want to hear about some half assed health care reform bill or some lame Ledbetter bill that doesn’t guarantee me equal pay- now, this very moment without any legal hassles.  I want to hear about how you’re going to save my retirement and my job.  I guess it’s just irrational to want to be able to maintain my base caloric and shelter requirements.  As it happens, I have a Democrat , Ed Potasnak, to vote for this November but I’m not supporting a party that seems incapable of getting its act together when it had every possible advantage in the past two years.

And finally, Juan Williams is downwind of someone at NPR who has some scruples. Last night, NPR fired him.  After years of being the not-so-secret conservative mole at NPR, Juan finally took things too far on his other gig at Fox:

NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel.

NPR said in a statement that it gave Mr. Williams notice of his termination on Wednesday night.

The move came after Mr. Williams, who is also a Fox News political analyst, appeared on the “The O’Reilly Factor” on Monday. On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”

Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr. O’Reilly.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

I’ve been disappointed with NPR since the Bush administration when it went from National Public Radio to Nice Polite Republicans.  The consensus reality/perception bending by Williams, Mara Liason and Steve Inskeep got to be too much for me to take in the mornings.  It was nauseating to hear it on the program I had listened to faithfully since I was in college.  I’m glad that Williams got the boot because his remarks were designed to mislead viewers like my mother into believing that Muslims are going to go all jihad on helpless Americans.  The purpose of those remarks are to terrify people who will short circuit their risk assessment thought processes.  And studies have shown (damn, where is that reference?) that voters who are fearful of their own mortality will vote for conservative politicians who promise to protect them.  Those viewers of Juan Williams on Fox will not think about how most Muslim Americans have families and jobs and don’t have time to do terrorist activities.  They’ve got PTA meetings and shopping to do.  Besides, they’re so small in number, how the heck are they going to get away?  It’s a big country. Don’t get me started.  I have to deprogram my mom of this stuff every time I see her.

Yeah, Juan Williams is one of the bad guys and he’s been sitting on NPR like some big ugly insect that the NPR listeners are just supposed to ignore.  We’re supposed to believe that Williams was an unbiased journalist who just coincidentally has this other job on Fox News where he’s allowed to spew nonsense and deceive people.  But none of that could ever possibly spill over into Morning Edition.  Riiiiight.

Now, get rid of Liason and Inskeep and I’ll come back.  Maybe I’ll even write a check.

Pre-existing failure

ObamaCare


From FAUX News:

It’s a centerpiece of President Obama’s health care remake, a lifeline available right now to vulnerable people whose medical problems have made them uninsurable.

But the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan started this summer isn’t living up to expectations. Enrollment lags in many parts of the country. People who could benefit may not be able to afford the premiums. Some state officials who run their own “high-risk pools” have pointed out potential problems.

“The federal risk pool has definitely provided critical access, in some cases lifesaving access, to health insurance,” said Amie Goldman, chair of a national association of state high-risk insurance pools. “That said, enrollment so far is lower than we would have expected.”

California, which has money for about 20,000 people, has received fewer than 450 applications, according to a state official. The program in Texas had enrolled about 200 by early September, an official in that state said. Goldman, who runs the pool in Wisconsin, said they’ve received fewer than 300 applications so far, with room for about 8,000 people in the program.

That’s not how it was supposed to work.


Ayup. As Wonk the Vote would say, “Nobody could have foreseen.”

.


Friday Spaced-Out News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! TGIF!

I’m getting a slow start today. I’ve been surfing around, and there is quite a bit of news out there, but no overarching theme that I can see. I’m a little spacey though, as I always am at the end of a semester.

I usually get to the point where I’m running on adrenalin, and as I get close to the end, I can feel that my body and mind are just about ready to shut down for a couple of days. I still have a little work to do, so I’m trying to stay alert and keep that adrenalin flowing just a little bit longer.

The British election ended this morning in a “hung Parliament.” I don’t know too much about British politics, so I hope someone else may be able to explain what all this means.

Map of election results at the Independent

BBC: What next for each party in event of a hung Parliament?

The constitutional convention states that – in the event of no party winning a majority – the sitting prime minister remains in place until he decides he cannot form a government and chooses to resign.

After returning to 10 Downing Street, Gordon Brown has said it is his “duty to play his part” in securing a strong and stable government in the next few days.

He has asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell to arrange for the Civil Service to provide support on request to parties engaged in discussions on the formation of government.

It is likely he will approach the Liberal Democrats to try and agree some form of coalition deal – a stance backed by senior Labour figures.

But it sounds like the Libdems have already sided with the Tories:

Cameron has ‘first right’ to form government, says Nick Clegg

David Cameron was today offered the keys to 10 Downing Street, after Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that the Conservatives had the “first right” to seek to form a government in Britain’s first hung Parliament since 1974.

The Conservative leader will give his initial public response in a statement at 2.30 this afternoon, but it was thought far from certain that he would accept any deal with the Lib Dems which included reform of Westminster’s first-past-the-post voting system.

I’m clueless–someone please help me understand this.

Some creepy news related to the health care deform bill: Documents reveal AT&T, Verizon, others, thought about dropping employer-sponsored benefits

Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill’s critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.

That would dismantle the employer-based system that has reigned since World War II. It would also seem to contradict President Obama’s statements that Americans who like their current plans could keep them. And as we’ll see, it would hugely magnify the projected costs for the bill, which controls deficits only by assuming that America’s employers would remain the backbone of the nation’s health care system.

Hence, health-care reform risks becoming a victim of unintended consequences. Amazingly, the corporate documents that prove this point became public because of a different set of unintended consequences: they told a story far different than the one the politicians who demanded them expected.

The chairman of the Democratic Party in PA has issues a “stern warning” to party members, and says a win for Sestak in the primary would be “cataclysmic.”

As polls show Sestak, a second-term House member from the Philadelphia suburbs, cutting Specter’s advantage to single digits, Chairman T.J. Rooney told POLITICO in an interview that “if we want to keep this seat in Democratic hands, the only person capable of delivering that victory is Arlen Specter.” [….]

A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week showed Specter’s once formidable double-digit lead narrowing to only 8 percentage points, 47 percent to 39 percent. By midweek, the tracking poll sponsored by Muhlenberg College and the Allentown Morning Call showed Specter ahead by only 5 percentage points.

“Momentum is clearly on Sestak’s side at this point,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Well, I’m rooting for Sestak anyway. I just don’t see Arlen Specter as much of a Democrat.

Some interesting commentary on The New York Times’ biased coverage of the BP oil spill: A Gusher From the Newspaper of Record by Richard Ward at Counterpunch.

A couple of days ago I sent a comment in response to an article written by John M. Broder and Tom Zeller Jr. (“Gulf Oil Spill is Bad, but How Bad?” 5/3/10) that sounded like it could have come from the BP public relations department, downplaying the effects of the blowout in The Gulf of Mexico. Arguably the worst part of the article was a gross factual error stating that the Iraqis fleeing Kuwait in 1991 released 36 billion gallons of crude into the Persian Gulf. My comment: “Whoa! The Iraqis released nowhere near 36 billion gallons of crude in the Persian Gulf. The highest estimates are 500 million gallons. Somebody needs to activate the NYT’s fact checker. This is a real gusher. What’s going on here?”

The Times did not print this. A few hours later I tried again. Same comment, same result. Either they chose not to publish it or it wasn’t getting through. The next day I tried again, a sort of experiment, commenting on another article about the blowout, this time adopting a decidedly different tone: “Let’s all calm down and get a grip. In three weeks all this will be a memory. The best minds in the business are dealing with this. Relax people. Kudos to the Times for presenting us with a balanced point of view.” Not only did they print the comment, they put it in their highlight section, “a selection of the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views.”

Speaking of gushers: Actress Scarlett Johansson Gushes She’s Drunk the ‘Kool-Aid’ of ‘Amazing’ Obama. Johansson:

admitted on Wednesday night’s Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson that she was amongst those who “drank the Kool-aid” at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner last Saturday where she found him “amazing” and “hilarious.”

Obama administration continues its fight against the first amendment: Pentagon Bans Four Journalists From Guantanamo Bay for revealing name of witness.

The four journalists are Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Steven Edwards of Canwest, Paul Koring of the Globe & Mail and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald. They are not being thrown off the base, but, as of now, they are barred from returning. [….]

While the judge in the case, Col. Patrick Parrish, issued an admonition yesterday for reporters to respect the anonymity of the classified witnesses, he did not rule that any reporter here had violated the protected order. The decision to block the four reporters from returning to Guantanamo Bay is a matter of policy from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. And those four are not the only ones within the press corps here to have reported Interrogator #1’s name.

Those four reporters comprise much of the institutional knowledge of Guantanamo Bay and the military commissions, as their colleagues widely acknowledge.

Huffpo: Senate Votes For Wall Street; Megabanks To Remain Behemoths

A move to break up major Wall Street banks failed Thursday night by a vote of 61 to 33.

Three Republicans, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Ensign of Nevada, voted with 30 Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, in support of the provision. The author of the pending overall financial reform bill in the Senate, Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, voted against it. (See the full roll call.)

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), would have required megabanks to be broken down in size and capped so that their individual failure would not bring down the entire system.

I guess most Senators would rather bring down the system than give up their campaign contributions from Wall Street.

Newsweek: Why the Media Ignored the Nashville Flood

As you may have heard, torrential downpours in the southeast flooded the Tennessee capital of Nashville over the weekend, lifting the Cumberland River 13 feet above flood stage, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage, and killing more than 30 people. It could wind up being one of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history.

Or, on second thought, maybe you didn’t hear. With two other “disasters” dominating the headlines—the Times Square bombing attempt and the Gulf oil spill—the national media seems to largely to have ignored the plight of Music City since the flood waters began inundating its streets on Sunday. A cursory Google News search shows 8,390 hits for “Times Square bomb” and 13,800 for “BP oil spill.” “Nashville flood,” on the other hand, returns only 2,430 results—many of them local. As Betsy Phillips of the Nashville Scene writes, “it was mind-boggling to flip by CNN, MSNBC, and FOX on Sunday afternoon and see not one station even occasionally bringing their viewers footage of the flood, news of our people dying.”

Mike Allen at Politico says Obama will nominate Elena Kagan to SCOTUS next week, and he will also ask for a line-item veto (Dear God, no!)

NYT: Signs of Neanderthals Mating With Humans

Neanderthals mated with some modern humans after all and left their imprint in the human genome, a team of biologists has reported in the first detailed analysis of the Neanderthal genetic sequence. [….]

Scientists say they have recovered 60 percent of the genome so far and hope to complete it. By comparing that genome with those of various present day humans, the team concluded that about 1 percent to 4 percent of the genome of non-Africans today is derived from Neanderthals. But the Neanderthal DNA does not seem to have played a great role in human evolution, they said.

Experts believe that the Neanderthal genome sequence will be of extraordinary importance in understanding human evolutionary history since the two species split some 600,000 years ago.

The article also includes comments from a number of archaeologists and paleontologists who are skeptical of the conclusions of this study.

Here’s a new movie documentary that I’m really looking forward to seeing.

That’s all I’ve got this morning. What are you reading? Please share. And have a fabulous Friday!!!!

The Democrats are going to run on “results” in November??

Bart Stupak, poster boy for the "party of results"

I know, I know.  It took me awhile to stop giggling too.  They can’t possibly be serious.  But that’s what PoliticalTicker is claiming.   Swallow your coffee before you read it:

Washington (CNN) – When voters head to the polls in November, the Democratic National Committee would like them to remember Democrats with one word: results.

On Wednesday at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, chairman Tim Kaine revealed his party’s new message and strategy months ahead of the midterm elections. Kaine talked about the efforts with CNN Chief National Correspondent John King in an interview that aired on John King, USA.

Kaine told King that Democrats hope to convince voters they are the party of results. Part of their new strategy will involve pushing that message, helping local candidates, and convincing many of the new voters – that voted for President Barack Obama in the last election – to support Democrats in the midterms.

The DNC chairman said that while the economy still needs improvements, it’s moved from recession to recovery.

Kaine said, “I think the improvement will be noticed by our voters and we’ll be able to make the case to them, do you want to keep climbing or do you want to hand the keys back to the guys who put us into the ditch?”

Yeah, I’m sure that’s what they will be thinking as they head out the door today with their complimentary cardboard box for their stuff and their three month severance packages.

Actually, that’s not what I’ve been witnessing here in the heart of middle class suburbia.  What is happening is that the Republicans in NJ are stirring up an anti-tax rebellion and directing it against hapless teachers.  Why should THEY be getting decent bennies and a steady paycheck when the people footing the bill with their ridiculous property taxes are seeing their industries disappearing and their own lives on the brink of disaster?

Tim Kaine and the Democrats are utterly clueless.  They have no idea what is really going on out here.  Results?  What results?

Was the stimulus package big enough to stave off these drastic cuts in our school districts?

Did Democrats end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Did the Democrats fight hard for the entrepreneurs and small businesses to get the capital they need to start new ventures so people would have jobs?

Did the Democrats soak the rich bankers within an inch of their lives so that they would learn a valuable lesson and the financial catastrophe they brought upon us wouldn’t happen again?

Did Democrats put together an adequate bailout and mortgage restructuring package for strapped homeowners so they wouldn’t throw in the towel and walk away from their obligations?  Did they make it easier for mortgage owners to keep money flowing to the banks to keep them solvent?

Did the Democrats impose some emergency regulations so that bankers would stop gambling away our futures?

Have the Democrat done ANYTHING so far to make sure that no one touches Social Security and that we get our Trust Fund money back from the thieves who took it?

Did the Democrats give us actual health care reform that’s truly universal, affordable, with competition?

Did the Democrats protect womens’ rights and autonomy of her own body?

Did the Democrats fix gender paycheck inequalities for real or did they simply pass a law with no teeth?

Did the Democrats try to protect American workers’ jobs?

I haven’t seen any results.  I’ve seen them turn their backs on their own voters in 2008 in order to elect their lightbringer, an easy win for them.  All they had to do was change the roolz in the middle of the game and cudgel frantic American voters with false accusations of racism to guilt them into voting for one of the most unprepared but nakedly ambitious presidents since George W. Bush.  But it wasn’t enough to make him president.  No, the world had to give him a Nobel prize as well.  What’s next?  A MacArthur genius grant for curing cancer?  Where does he find the time??  The awards must be piling up on his little display etegere, like a bunch of 3rd place martial arts trophies.  Everyone who participates gets a prize for trying.

And the whining.  I can’t stand it.  We are now supposed to believe that a minority party, the Republicans, are responsible for all that has gone wrong.  They stand in the way.  They say no to everything.  Even when Democrats had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, the Republicans were responsible.  How can that be??  I am trying hard to wrap my head around this concept.  Here’s what I’ve got: 1.) Democrats had a filibuster proof majority in the senate.  2.)Republicans got what they wanted anyway.  3.) Soooo, maybe the problem is actually *in* the Democratic party.   Three names come to mind immediately: Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson and Bart Stupak.  You can throw Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu in there as well but at least they can be leaned on.  Who leaned on Nelson, Lieberman and Stupak?  Those three swaggered all over Congress and Stupak in particular got whatever the hell he wanted.  It was Bart Stupak vs the majority of voters in the USA and Bart won.  BART won.  The Democrats allowed Bart and Obama to screw millions of women out of their personal autonomy and Democrats have the nerve to blame Republicans?

I don’t think Democrats understand the impact of their cowardice.  Women are not a special interest.  Workers have to work to pay taxes.  The financial investment industry is out of control and wrecking havoc around the world.  Our current wars are pointless wastes of lives and money.  Sick children should never have to pass through a gauntlet to get affordable health care.  And we need teachers, even the mean ones who can’t be bothered to address the needs of the gifted.  If they do a good job with the other 98% of the students in their classes, we will have gotten more than our money’s worth.

You want to know what I want to see in the results category?  I want to see real passion on the Floor.  I want to see yelling and screaming.  I want to see the progressives and liberals eat some red meat and throw a fit until the Bart Stupaks in their own party back down.  I want to see eggs thrown and smoke bombs and bloody noses.  I want to see incivility.  I want to see so much fighting in Congress by Democratic representatives on behalf of Americans not in the bonus class that the editorial page of the New York Times faints before it can reach the smelling salts.  I don’t want two Republican parties.  I want to see Democrats actually ACT like Democrats. 

Shove your “party of results” meme until you have some results.  I own my vote.  I don’t give it away for social promotion purposes.  You can’t scare me with the Republican boogie man anymore.  I voted for downticket Dems in 2008 but they haven’t pulled their weight.  If Republicans win this fall, Democrats have themselves to blame and no one else.  It was their responsibility to get things done and they blew it.  They coasted.   This fall, I’m not voting for either party.  I’m voting for a party to be designated later.

And stop calling me for money.

Could you afford to fight?


“We have the best system of justice that money can buy. How much justice can you afford?”


I was over at Ian Welsh’s blog reading Recissions and Denial of Care Under Obamacare when I saw this:

‘‘SEC. 2712. PROHIBITION ON RESCISSIONS.
‘‘A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall not rescind such plan or coverage with respect to an enrollee once the enrollee is covered under such plan or coverage involved, except that this section shall not apply to a covered individual who has performed an act or practice that constitutes fraud or makes an intentional misrepresentation of material fact as prohibited by the terms of the plan or coverage. Such plan or coverage may not be cancelled except with prior notice to the enrollee,

What’s the most important word in that long-ass sentence? I’ll give you a hint: It starts with an “e” and ends in a “t” with “xcep” in between. That’s what known in legal terminology as a “big fucking loophole” and it’s one of the reasons people despise lawyers.

Now before I go any farther I want to correct a mistake many people (including Ian) make. Rescission is not the canceling of a contract, it is the legal term for the unmaking of a contract. When a contract is rescinded the parties are supposed to be returned to the positions they were in as if the contract was never made. In the case of an medical insurance contract that means the insured is entitled to a refund of all premiums paid and the insurance company gets back whatever benefits it paid out.

So now let me drop a hypothetical on you:

So let’s say your employer provides you with medical insurance through Heartless Bastards of California. You have had your share of the premiums deducted from your weakly paycheck for the past five years but other than a few routine check-ups you didn’t see your doctor.

You hadn’t been feeling well so you went to the doctor and he/she ordered tests which confirmed that you have cancer. The good news is that it’s treatable, but you will need surgery and a year of chemotherapy and you will be unable to work until the treatment is completed.

Left untreated the prognosis is bleak and time is of the essence so the doctor recommends the surgery take place as soon as he obtains pre-approval from Heartless Bastards.

Your doctor promptly sends the bean counters at Heartless Bastards the two reams of paperwork they require for pre-approval and the estimated cost of your treatment is over $100,000 even if everything goes right. This causes an immediate review of your account by the legal department at Heartless Bastards. The review includes comparing the answers on your original application to the ones you gave your doctor (he sent them a copy of your entire medical file) and there are some discrepancies between the two sets of answers.

Two days later you get a certified letter from Heartless Bastards stating that they have reviewed your account and are rescinding your coverage based on fraud and/or material misrepresentation. They have enclosed a $10,000 check for the refund of your premiums, and the small print on the back just above the place for your endorsement states that signing and cashing the check constitutes a waiver of all claims against them.

What would you do?

Depending on the discrepancies in your answers Heartless Bastards may or may not be able to justify rescission and they gave you prior notice as section 2712 requires. But what if they just ignored the law?

Let’s say you had a stroke that put you in the hospital for over a month and left you permanently disabled.

Your medical bills for just the first month after the stroke total over $100,000 and the meter is still running. You didn’t have the foresight to purchase a private disability policy and you only have modest savings so you have to rely on Social Security Disability. This means you will suffer a big drop in income even though your rent/mortgage won’t change and your creditors will still expect payment each month.

Then you get that certified letter from Heartless Bastards saying that they are rescinding your policy based on fraud because you got the dates slightly wrong about some minor illness you had two decades ago. You didn’t get prior notice and their reasons for rescission are specious, but they do it anyway.

Then you begin receiving bills from every doctor, hospital, lab, ambulance company, pharmacy and/or other medical service provider that participated in your care and treatment. Each of those bills states that your insurance company has rejected the provider’s claim for services rendered and refused payment and therefore you are liable and they want their money right fucking now.

You’re broke and disabled. Any attorney willing to represent you will want a hefty retainer up front – they don’t take contingency fees on cases like this.

What are you gonna do about it?

Many people will give up, which is what those Heartless Bastards are counting on. Oh, they don’t really want to see you die, they just don’t want to pay your medical bills. It’s nothing personal, they are only fucking you over because their incomes go up if they do.

The bean counters and shysters receive raises and bonuses based on how many claims they successfully avoid paying. There is no incentive for them to do what is just and moral. They tell their feeble consciences that you will qualify for Medicaid or that you can file bankruptcy or something.

If your bills do get picked up by Medicaid then the taxpayers will pay for your treatment. This is commonly called “socialized medicine” everywhere except for all the rest of the countries in the world.

If you successfully discharge your medical bills through bankruptcy or by dying then the cost of your treatment gets passed on to the patients who have money in the form of increased fees.

Until we are willing to treat health care as a privilege for those who can afford it the poor will keep incurring costs that they cannot afford to pay. Whether we pay via taxes or by increased fees, one way or the other society foots the bill.

Obamacare forces people to purchase medical insurance through private insurance companies. It doesn’t provide them with any assistance if they need to fight those companies in court. Most people don’t have a lawyer on retainer but every insurance companies has a whole bunch of them sleazebags on their payroll.

They know most people won’t hire an attorney and file suit. They use legal terminology in their paperwork that is intended to intimidate people and convince them they can’t win. It’s often a bluff – in many cases just a letter from an attorney can get them to reverse course and pay the claims. But how many people have an attorney to write that letter for them? How many will simply give up without a fight?

The insurance companies are gaming the system in order to maximize their profits. Bad faith rescission and denial of claims are two of the tactics that they use. They will keep using those tactics as long as they are effective, and they will only act morally if is more profitable than acting immorally.

We cannot rely on regulatory agencies because that merely encourages regulatory capture and/or bribery. As we already see with numerous government agencies the enforcement departments are underfunded and they are managed by former employees/agents of the companies being regulated. It doesn’t matter what laws and regulations are on the books if they are not enforced.

The best way to disincentivize bad-faith rescission and denial of claims is to fight fire with fire. Since we privatized the payment of health care we should privatize the enforcement of the laws and regulations governing health care insurance. What do health insurance company bean counters fear most?

Lawyers (aka “ambulance chasers”)

More specifically, lawyers who will collect their fees and/or exemplary (punitive) damages directly from the insurance companies if they win their cases.

Right now there is every incentive for the insurance companies to cheat and few negative consequences if they get caught.

In my original hypothetical the insurance company wanted to avoid paying $100,000 in claims so they returned $10,000 in premiums and rescinded the contract. Technically you could say the net to them is zero – they got nothing and paid nothing.

But they avoided losing $90,000 which is a lot more than zero. If they are unsuccessful in their attempt at rescission they are still no worse off than they were originally. IOW – they have nothing to lose and something to gain by cheating.

What if the insurance company was subject to punitive damages and would have to pay the attorney’s fees of the people unsuccessfully tried to fuck over? In that scenario if the insurance company acted in bad faith and was unsuccessful they would not only have to pay the $100,000 in medical claims but also as much or more again in attorney fees and possibly several times that amount as exemplary damages.

IOW – they have a little to gain but a lot to lose by cheating.

Attorney fee awards are a way to finance legal representation for those people whose cause is just but whose wallet is empty. They also force the bean counters to increase the weight of the “risk” portion of their “risk/benefit analysis.”

Exemplary damages are intended to punish civil wrongs, such as where an auto manufacturer discovers a dangerous defect in one of their cars but does not issue a recall notice because they calculated it would be cheaper to pay off the dead and injured victims than it would be to fix the defect.

I realize that this is all pie-in-the-sky dreaming on my part and it will never happen. We all know there is no way that Obama and the Democratic Congress are gonna bite the hands that feed them. The health insurance companies bought them fair and square and like all honest politicians they will stay bought.

Besides, nobody likes lawyers anyway.

But since I’m day-dreaming about wild and crazy ideas to solve our health care problems, let me tell you of one idea that’s even wilder and crazier.

It’s “single-payer,” or as some people call it “Medicare for all.”

Single-payer is health insurance for everyone through a single government run insurance pool out of which the fees for medical services and cost of drugs are paid.

Single-payer health insurance collects all medical premiums/taxes and then pays for all services through a single government agency. It IS NOT socialized medicine – health care providers and pharmaceutical companies remain private rather than public.

Crazy stuff, huh? That’s the kind of bizarre and twisted ideas you come up with when you have a cannabis card and use it regularly.

Unfortunately, single payer was taken off the table by the Democrats at the beginning of the health care reform process and the A-list bloggers sat silently when it happened.

The Democrats and their A-list shills decided to use the “public option” as a negotiating ploy and by doing so they were successful in passing an old Republican plan with zero Republican votes.

But old things are historic, right?


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