• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    tdraicer on We want answers from the pols:…
    katiebird on Word Crimes
    Sweet Sue on Word Crimes
    katiebird on Word Crimes
    Sweet Sue on Word Crimes
    katiebird on Word Crimes
    r u reddy on Obamacare subsidy rules overtu…
    quixote on We want answers from the pols:…
    Sweet Sue on Word Crimes
    Propertius on We want answers from the pols:…
    katiebird on Happy Pioneer Day
    riverdaughter on We want answers from the pols:…
    katiebird on We want answers from the pols:…
    riverdaughter on What’s in my Instapaper…
    riverdaughter on Obamacare subsidy rules overtu…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama big pharma Bill Clinton Chris Christie cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos debate Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean Joe Biden John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Keith Olbermann Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare occupy wall street OccupyWallStreet Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    July 2014
    S M T W T F S
    « Jun    
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    2728293031  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

    • And your bird can sing
      I still remember how excited I was the first time I really heard the intro guitar riff with EQ! (And how my shithead ex-boyfriend made fun of me when I called to tell him about it.) Beatles:
  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • Some actual serious sanctions proposed against Russia by the EU
      Not shabby: EU diplomats will weigh sweeping Russian sanctions on Thursday that include a proposal to ban all Europeans from purchasing any new debt or stock issued by Russia’s largest banks, according to a proposal seen by the Financial Times. The sanctions measure, contained in a 10-page options memo prepared by the European Commission and [...]
  • Top Posts

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?


Saturday Morning Musings on Corporate Control and Internet Freedom

Good Morning Conflucians!!

It’s so nice to wake up to sun pouring in my windows after the horrible rains of the past couple of weeks. I guess I should consider myself fortunate that all I had to deal with was some water in the basement. And since my ex-husband liked to buy every kind of tool and gadget, I happened to have a sump pump and a shop vac down there.

Yesterday it was 70 degrees here in the northwestern Boston area, and it looks like the nice, warm weather is going to stick around for the next week.

Ah…Spring! The forsythia is coming out and lots of green stuff is appearing in the yard. Soon the cherry trees will be blooming all over the place. Somehow it’s a little easier to be optimistic at this time of year than in the dead of winter.

In my Saturday morning ramble around the blogosphere, I came across an interesting piece by Cory Doctorow: Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either) I found it thought-provoking, not because I was agonizing about whether to buy an iPad–I’m not even slightly interested in it–but because the arguments Doctorow makes are relevant to innovation in every area of life, including politics. Doctorow’s main point is that “incumbents make bad revolutionaries.”

I’ve spent ten years now on Boing Boing, finding cool things that people have done and made and writing about them. Most of the really exciting stuff hasn’t come from big corporations with enormous budgets, it’s come from experimentalist amateurs. These people were able to make stuff and put it in the public’s eye and even sell it without having to submit to the whims of a single company that had declared itself gatekeeper for your phone and other personal technology.

Doctorow argues that once any entrepreneur, no matter how visionary and innovative, gets enough power and control over a market, that entrepreneur/corporation/politician/journalist will try to corner the market and become a “gatekeeper” for what the rest of us are allowed to do, see, read, and buy.

We become nothing to them but anonymous “consumers” who will fork over our money and time and take whatever the controllers want to dole out to us. He says these gatekeepers have contempt for us as consumers–they want to “infantilize” us, keep us dependent on them, and prevent us from sharing the products we buy with others and modifying those products in ways that work for us as individuals.

Doctorow uses the example of a new iPad app offered by Marvel Comics. Not being a “comics person,” I don’t quite understand what it is, but here is Doctorow’s explanation:

I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was — and is — huge, and vital. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. (It’s part of a multigenerational tradition in my family — my mom’s father used to take her and her sibs down to Dragon Lady Comics on Queen Street in Toronto every weekend to swap their old comics for credit and get new ones).

So what does Marvel do to “enhance” its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites.

Isn’t this what is happening in every area of our lives these days? The internet has changed how we get our information and form our opinions; and the mainstream media, politicians, corporations, and the entertainment industry don’t like that one bit. They are going to fight to death to maintain control over the populace–making every effort to keep us passive and willing to settle for less than what we really need and want. As Doctorow says,

I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff. The reason people have stopped paying for a lot of “content” isn’t just that they can get it for free, though: it’s that they can get lots of competing stuff for free, too. The open platform has allowed for an explosion of new material, some of it rough-hewn, some of it slick as the pros, most of it targetted more narrowly than the old media ever managed. Rupert Murdoch can rattle his saber all he likes about taking his content out of Google, but I say do it, Rupert. We’ll miss your fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the Web so little that we’ll hardly notice it, and we’ll have no trouble finding material to fill the void.

Politicians are in the same boat as corporations–no wonder they have joined forces with big business in their joint efforts to control us and keep us consuming all the crap they want us to buy from them! The health care reform debacle is certainly a case in point. Most Americans want a single payer health plan–just expand Medicare to everyone and be done with it. Medicare already covers 40% of Americans, why not all of us? Medicare has very low overhead, so why should we have to buy insurance from corporations with 30% overhead?

It makes no sense, but the politicians tell us not to believe the obvious evidence that Medicare for all would be the best plan for the American people. They are going to do their best to try to convince us that we want to be forced to buy crap insurance from whomever they tell us to buy it from and that it was a fair trade-off for women to lose their reproductive freedom so that approximately 25 million more people can have crap health insurance that probably won’t provide the health care they actually need.

In 2008, the Democratic Party, along with the giant corporations who control the mainstream media, decided to force voters to sit back and just be consumers of whatever crap they decided to force down our throats. They selected a candidate for us instead of listening to what we wanted in a President. They weren’t interested in listening to us, and the President they chose for us isn’t interested in listening to what we think either.

Clearly Barack Obama and his corporate backers saw the danger of a vital, rough-and-tumble liberal blogosphere, and they realized they would have to deal with the big liberal blogs in order to win the Democratic nomination.

David Axelrod had a long history of running astroturf campaigns, and he knew just what to do. First, he needed to get young people involved. They would be attracted to a candidate who offered hope of “transformative change.” He introduced him to the product, Barack Obama, as a “transformative leader” and “inspirational speaker,” a “messiah” would would save the country from the Bush/Cheney gang.

Younger people wouldn’t know the difference. They wouldn’t really remember John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, or even Bill Clinton, all of whom were better speakers and who implemented much more transformative policies than Barack Obama was offering–even the campaign before he reverse himself on nearly every issue.

Axelrod organized Obama camps where these enthusiastic young liberals could be trained to be “ruthless for Obama,” doing whatever was necessary to sell the new product on the internet and in person.

Then he sent these young people out to infiltrate the prog blogs, especially the biggest ones–Daily Kos and Democratic Underground. What the Obama crowd didn’t bank on was people like us who were a little older and/or wiser and just weren’t all that impressed with the packaging of the product. We wanted blueprints, details and specifics. We wanted to know what the guy really thought and believed. We looked past the packaging, and we decided not to buy the product.

Since, as Marcos Moulitsas likes to say, “it’s a big internet,” we headed out into the wilderness and started our own liberal blogs. No wonder they tried so hard to kill us off during the primaries. We weren’t interested in just being consumers of a product. We wanted to have a say in our own futures. We saw the government and the Democratic party as our employees, not our masters. We wanted freedom of choice.

Now that the banks, corporations and media have won the battle, now that they have their chosen front man and they have turned the “progressive blogs” into “access bloggers,” they are still doing everything possible to limit our choices so they can stay in control of the political system and keep us from gaining any real power over our lives. They are going to fight to the death to limit our control over our own internet experience, our choices of what media to consume.

We must be eternally vigilant in preventing the government and corporations from completely neutering the internet. Interacting with each other–with more and more people around the country and the world, freely exchanging ideas and information, is our best hope for saving what is left of democracy in America. They may have won this battle, but they have not yet won the war.

I’d love to get your take on this, but as always, please post links to what you are reading in the comments. Here are a few other stories that caught my eye this morning to get you started. Have a great Saturday everyone!!

Apple’s iPad hits store shelves


The Militia Man Next Door


Urologist Posts His Politics on His Florida Office Door


Terrifying Sea Critter Hauled from the Ocean’s Depths

Finally! Scientific proof that greasy breakfasts are good for us!

Friday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians! We had a brief two-day break in the gloomy weather, but the dank, foggy stuff is back and today we’re getting a mixture of snow and rain. I still have a cold and the worst sore throat I can remember having since I was a kid. But all that pales in comparison when I reflect upon what Barack Obama has managed to accomplish during such a short time in the White House.

More than 40 years ago, when I moved to Boston, the Catholic Church controlled the government of Massachusetts. Now, thanks to our “progressive” President, the Catholic Church controls our federal government! That Koolaid is some amazing stuff! In just a little more than a year, Obama and his Democratic Congress have managed to wipe out 40 years of advances in women’s rights! Now they are setting their sights on destroying Social Security–and accomplishing that will create new jobs too! We’ll need a lot of government workers to pick up and dispose of the bodies of elderly and disabled people who have starved and died on the street or in their homes.

What’s next? How about getting rid of DADT and restoring the old policy of no tolerance whatsoever for gays in the military? Let’s create more low-paying jobs by building debtor’s prisons, poorhouses, and orphanages where the unfortunate poor can be warehoused so the wealthy don’t have to look at them. The possibilities are endless! Ain’t it great living in a third world country?

I’ve decided to focus this post on Catholic Church news–because there is just so much of it. The Catholic Church that controls our government is embroiled in an slowly unfolding scandal that looks to be literally global. The abuse of children by Catholic priests is coming to light all over the world. Why are these people allowed to tell American women what we can do with our bodies?

NYT: Pope May Be at Crossroads on Abuse, Forced to Reconcile Policy and Words

“He is at a crossroads,” said Marco Politi, a veteran Italian Vatican journalist. “What’s extraordinary is that the scandal has reached the heart of the center of the church. Up to now it was far away — in the States, in Canada, in Brazil, in Australia. Then it came to Europe, to Ireland.

“Then it came to his motherland,” Mr. Politi added of Benedict’s native Germany. “Then it came to his diocese, and now it’s coming to the heart of the government of the church — and he has to give an answer.”


In Ireland

Irish Bishop John Magee has resigned.

Boston Herald: Irish bishop steps down amid pedophile scandal

DUBLIN – Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop yesterday for his failure to report child-molesting priests to police, amid ever-unfolding accusations that church leaders have protected child abusers for decades.

Bishop John Magee – a former papal secretary – apologized to victims of pedophile priests who were kept in parish posts during his 23 years overseeing the southwest Irish diocese of Cloyne.

“To those whom I have failed in any way, or through any omission of mine have made suffer, I beg forgiveness and pardon,” the 73-year-old Magee said.

And another Irish Bishop, Sean Brady, may have to resign next.

Yet another Irish bishop admits child abuse failure as Vatican may force Cardinal Brady to resign

Speculation is mounting that Pope Benedict may seek the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady as the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland as another Irish bishop admits he failed to handle a sex abuse case properly.

This comes amid fresh scandal in Ireland, with the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Dr William Lee, admitting he managed a sex abuse allegation case in the 1990s in a “seriously inadequate” fashion.

Lee waited two years before divulging the information he had about the priest to the relevant authorities.

Activist Irish pop singer Sinead O’Connor speaks out.

Sinead O’Connor: ‘There should be a full criminal investigation of the pope’

She shot to fame 20 years ago with her shaved head, chiseled cheeks and haunting rendition of the song “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Then she gained notoriety when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II on American TV, calling him “the enemy” and urging people to fight child abuse.

Sinead O’Connor is still singing. And she’s still speaking out against abuse — only now her 1992 stunt on “Saturday Night Live” almost seems prescient as the Roman Catholic Church faces a growing catalog of complaints about child sexual and physical assault by priests in her Irish homeland and across Europe


In the US

NYT: Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys

Top Vatican officials — including the future Pope Benedict XVI — did not defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys, even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.

The internal correspondence from bishops in Wisconsin directly to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, shows that while church officials tussled over whether the priest should be dismissed, their highest priority was protecting the church from scandal.

Boston Herald: Vatican halted trial for Wisconsin priest accused of molesting 200 deaf boys

On Thursday, a group of clerical abuse victims provided the documentation to reporters outside the Vatican, where they staged a press conference to denounce Benedict’s handling of the case. During the conference, a policeman asked for identification and they were subsequently detained, police said.

“The goal of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was to keep this secret,” said Peter Isely, Milwaukee-based director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

“This is the most incontrovertible case of pedophilia you could get,” Isely said, flanked by photos of other clerical abuse victims and a poster of Ratzinger. “We need to know why he (the pope) did not let us know about him (Murphy) and why he didn’t let the police know about him and why he did not condemn him and why he did not take his collar away from him.”

CBS News: Rome Detains U.S. Church Abuse Protesters

Four American victims of clergy sexual abuse say they were detained and questioned by Italian police in Rome after showing photos of the pope during a news conference outside St. Peter’s Square.

Barbara Blaine, one of the victims, said Thursday after emerging from a police station near the Vatican that officers told them a judge will decide if they will be charged. She says they were detained because they didn’t have a permit for the outdoor news conference.

Time: After U.S. Abuse Revelation, the Vatican Fires Back

As the Times posted its story on the accused priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, who died in 1998, the Holy See responded on the Web. In a statement linked on the Vatican’s brand new Twitter account, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Papal spokesman, declared, “By sexually abusing children who were hearing-impaired, Father Murphy violated the law and, more importantly, the sacred trust that his victims had placed in him.” But Lombardi defended the decision not to remove Murphy from the “clerical state,” saying the priest was “elderly and in very poor health” and that he was “living in seclusion, and no allegations of abuse had been reported in over 20 years.”

Grand Forks Herald: Priest in Irish church abuse scandal had ties to North Dakota parishes

A key figure and the most notorious abuser in the Irish clergy sex scandal served as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Fargo from 1979-83, where he was accused of sexually assaulting altar boys in St. Alphonsus parish in Langdon, N.D., and also served briefly in Park River and Ellendale, as well as other parishes.

The Rev. John Smythe, as he was known in North Dakota, was the Brendan Smyth who sexually assaulted boys over 30 years in Ireland and the United States and whose abuse and the cover-ups surrounding it was credited with bringing down the Irish government in late 1994.

Smyth died several years ago in prison.

In Germany

NYT: Pope Was Told Pedophile Priest Would Get Transfer

MUNICH — The future Pope Benedict XVI was kept more closely apprised of a sexual abuse case in Germany than previous church statements have suggested, raising fresh questions about his handling of a scandal unfolding under his direct supervision before he rose to the top of the church’s hierarchy.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope and archbishop in Munich at the time, was copied on a memo that informed him that a priest, whom he had approved sending to therapy in 1980 to overcome pedophilia, would be returned to pastoral work within days of beginning psychiatric treatment. The priest was later convicted of molesting boys in another parish.

Guardian UK: Pope implicated in allegations over sex abuse by second Catholic priest

Fresh revelations have been made directly implicating Pope Benedict XVI in mishandling the case of a paedophile priest in his former archdiocese of Munich. The allegations come a day after the Vatican responded angrily to the allegation that the former Cardinal Ratzinger had ignored an American diocese’s request that another predatory priest should be defrocked.

According to the New York Times, the former cardinal, as Archbishop of Munich, attended a meeting in January 1980 at which the transfer of Father Peter Hullermann from the diocese of Essen, where his parishioners had accused him of abusing boys, to Munich was agreed.

The move was meant to allow him to undergo therapy, but instead he was immediately posted to a parish in Bavaria, where he continued to abuse children.

And In Many More Countries

Swiss Catholic Church investigates 60 claims of sex abuse

The Catholic Church in Switzerland is investigating sixty claims of sexual abuse by priests, the Swiss news agency SDA reported.

Abbot Martin Werlen of the Benedictine Abbey of Einsiedeln told the newspaper Mittelland-Zeitung that the church is looking into the claims. The church itself will not press charges, Werlen emphasized, and intends to advise victims to do so themselves.

Swiss Catholic Church investigating 10 abuse cases

Vatican investigating 14 sex abuse cases in Spain

Abuse cases surface in Austrian Catholic Church

More on priest abuse in Austria

Dutch Catholic Church faces child sex abuse scandal

Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal goes global

Where will it all end? Many people think the pope should resign.

Should Pope Benedict Resign the Papacy?

Pope Benedict Should Do The Right Thing And Resign So Healing Can Begin

I am ashamed – the pope should resign

Good idea, but that won’t end the corruption, IMHO. It is systemic. I would much prefer criminal prosecution. Every state in the US should have required reporting of child abuse for anyone of authority within a church or religious school, with failure to report designated a felony. Furthermore, President Obama should be mandated to stop allowing the Catholic Church to control women’s bodies.

So what are you reading this morning? All rants about anything will be accepted in the comments. Have a fabulous Friday!

The GOP beats Obama and Emanuel at 11 dimensional chess

When you're so busy being awesome that you don't notice that Republicans checkmated you 10 moves ago.

The New York Times Magazine has a lengthy piece about poor put upon Rahm Emanuel.  He is so tired of all of the nasty things said about him.  He is so tired of the Republicans playing hardball.  He is so tired of Democratic activists acting retarded.  He is so tired.  Period.

He gets blamed for everything he does.

I almost feel sorry for him.  Really.  Because, ya’ know, he’s just doing his job.  There was a reason why Barack ” NOW with a WHOLE 142 days in the Senate!” Obama hired Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff.  It’s because Obama didn’t know what the hell he was going to do on legislation.  He didn’t have enough experience, er, legislatin’.  He spend the great bulk of his time in the Senate getting recruited, lining up sponsors and shmoozing the Old Boys Club who liked the cut of his jib and the whack of his mashie niblick.  If Obama has any political genius at all (and I have my doubts, big time), it’s being in the right place at the right time with the right genetic mutation for melanocyte expression.  But I digress.

I found this segment about Rahm particularly interesting because it shows his usefulness to Obama:

By the time Obama was headed for victory in 2008, Emanuel’s name was coming up as an obvious choice to run the new White House. But he had other ideas. Just a few weeks before the election, we met for one of those expense-account dinners, and he flatly rejected any suggestion that he might become chief of staff. He had set his sights on eventually becoming speaker of the House of Representatives, keenly aware that Nancy Pelosi was approaching 70, as were the two others ahead of him on the Democratic ladder, Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn of South Carolina. Emanuel, two decades their junior, could afford to wait them out and would still have a long tenure ahead of him in the speaker’s chair. The typical White House chief of staff, he knew all too well, lasted only two years or so. And then what?

There you go.  Obama needed someone to interface on his behalf with Congress and he needed someone who swung a big dick.  That was Emanuel’s job.  He serves at the pleasure of the president.  When he is no longer pleasuring the president, he’ll be out.  But then, Obama will have to find an Emanuel replacement.  Someone who knows who’s in, who’s out.  Someone who understands the legislative process because they’ve actually had to work it.

But replacing Rahm won’t make the legislation better or Obama more to our liking.  After all, Rahm is only carrying out what Obama wants to do.  And by the looks of it, it isn’t much.  If you read the piece, you get the idea that maybe Rahm wanted to approach health care incrementally by expanding medicaid and SCHIP.  Stuff like that might have been doable and a good stop gap measure while the Obama administration worked on more pressing issues like the economy.  Rahm would have known what this congress was capable of since he was one of the chief architects for bringing some nasty conservative actors into the Democratic fold.

(BTW, I am noticing a troubling tendency of the NYTimes to refer to these blue dog reactionary elements as ‘moderates’.  They’re not.)

The country voted in Democrats in 2008, or what they *thought* were Democrats anyway.  They could have voted in small government, tax cutting, hard hearted, authoritarian, rugged individualist, dog-eat-dog, Hobbseian, warmongering, Glenn Beck worshipping, Enron-esque Republicans instead but it appears the country was tired of them so they voted those types out in favor of the party who they thought would protect their   nest eggs, jobs, civil rights, reproductive rights and put the country back on the right track.

When it came to health care reform, Obama decided to go for comprehensive reform.  But he was more interested in the kill (enter Emanuel) than the policy.  He ordered Rahm to do the dirty work and just get it done.  So, Rahm did the bi-partisan thing and got a bill, any bill.  In it, the Republicans have gotten their pound of flesh.  They were never going to sign off on the thing anyway but like predators toying with their food first, they have been seeing just how far the Obama was willing to go to score health care reform.  Now they know and we know that Obama was willing to negotiate with insurance company terrorists, backstab their most fervent union supporters and betray everything Democrats ran for when it comes to women’s reproductive rights.  If the Democrats pass this bill, it will be a Republican triumph.

We have to wonder why Obama, and let’s put the blame where it belongs, it is Obama, was so eager and anxious to pass health care reform without really reforming health care.  Let’s put aside the fact that he didn’t really have a plan.  He was just crudely plagiarizing Hillary’s plan during the primaries, that is, when he wasn’t trying to stab her in the back with Harry and Louise ads.  I don’t think he really came to the White House with well developed policies on anything, and it shows.  So much for his political gifts.  In essence, here was a guy obsessed with winning at all costs but had absolutely no idea what to do once he got there.  So, he hires Rahm.

But why health care?  Why is it so important to score a win in that area above everything else?  Why does this POS legislation have to have his stamp on it before the 2010 elections?  If it passes and there is no meaningful reconciliation before he elections, there will certainly be none after the Democrats lose their majorities.  And Republicans will fight tooth and nail from now until November to keep Democrats from fixing the bill.  They like it just the way it is.  It’s going to disgust the Democratic base.

So, why would Obama and the Democrats walk into a trap like this, other than the obvious reason that Republicans can control the message and play this game so much better than they do?  Could it be because Hillary is still out there?  After all, Obama’s numbers took a dip in the past couple of weeks.  Right on schedule, the Washington Post writes about how Hillary Clinton runs the State Department.  Actually, except for the gratuitous bit of revisionist history at the beginning and generally negative spin such pieces are famous for, it sounds like she’s doing a pretty good job of winning her employees’ loyalty and staying on top of things.  She is practicing what appears to be a political version of Lemov’s rules, making cold calls, keeping everyone on their toes and engaging in debate with people who may not agree with her (she then rewards them).  Um, she sounds like the ideal boss, to be honest.  I want to work for Hillary.  I’m betting that if Rahm could ever get over his macho, testosterone fueled disdain for Hillary Clinton, he might wish he were working for her too.  And she’s still out there.  If Obama doesn’t put his stamp on health care reform, there’s always that remote possibility that Democratic moneybags who still have some Democrat principles will want to give Hillary a shot in 2012.

But enough wistful regret at what might have been.  This is the reality: Obama is out of his league, he’s naive at a  in our nation’s history when naivete is a phenotype we should be selecting against and he’s got a fricking pitbull for a Chief of Staff.  There is enough stuff in here about Rahm’s workouts in the House gym and pressure tactics he employs there that make Massa’s report of an encounter with him very credible.

The Republicans are taking the Democrats to the cleaners because, damn it!, they just play 11 dimensional chess better.  We don’t have to love their policies to admire their ability to adapt to their environment and survive.  Nancy Pelosi is smart enough to know the White House is playing the strategy badly but, hey, she was also stupid enough to buy into the “easy win with the first black president” idea back in 2008.  Nooooo, can’t have Hillary.  The press would savage her, like she wasn’t winning in spite of all the $%^& they hurled at her during the primaries.  What Pelosi and her ilk failed to realize is that the Republican tactics that have been so successful blindsided the Clintons in 1992.  But they adapted and Hillary had a much better chance of neutralizing them in 2008 because she learned from experience.  Obama ran on his advertised political gifts and newness but has no experience whatsoever.  In any area.  So, Pelosi is a very slow learner but now she has a clue, as do many other Democrats who were infatuated with Obama and assumed he was a demigod of political gifts.

Too bad they stuck us with a newbie against a party full of Gary Kasparovs.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 433 other followers