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      *One vial of insulin cost $21 in 1996, compared to $320 in 2018. The cost of Big Pharma’s outrageous greed is American lives. If they will not end their greed then we will end it for them.* —Bernie Sanders Corporations are bundles of rights. The most important right is a shield from liability. Corporation rights […]
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Your Breakfast Read, Lazy Saturday Edition

Sorry Conflucians, I’m completely exhausted and I have been unable to put up the news. Nevertheless, below are a couple of stories that caught my attention. I’m still working on a couple of items.

As always, you are invited to share what you are reading

Health Care Clusterf*@k

If you’re not confused by now, you are not paying attention.
Harkin: Final health care bill will have public option

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democrat who chairs one of the Senate committees tasked with developing health care legislation, promised Friday that a health care bill will be on President Obama’s desk before Christmas and will include a so-called “public option.”

“I believe we are in an irrevocable position,” Harkin said on a conference call organized by the health care reform group Families USA. “The momentum is there. We will not get stopped by the obstructionists. We will have the votes.”

Wow! Obama is shaking his fists.
Obama Threatens Insurers’ Anti-Trust Exemption

President Obama mounted a frontal assault on the insurance industry on Saturday, accusing it of airing “deceptive and dishonest ads” to derail his health care legislation and threatening to strip the industry of its longstanding exemption from federal anti-trust laws.


National Affairs

Democrats’ ethics problems spark GOP election hopes

Rangel, the powerful chairman of the tax-writing House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee, is feeling the heat from Republican efforts to make him a symbol of Democratic Party ethical wrongdoing, an issue that the GOP hopes will help it regain a sizeable number of seats in next year’s mid-terms elections.

I’ve always been bothered by Obama’s lack of compassion but I thought I was alone. This is coming from Eugene Robinson, yes you read it right.
The Biggest Disappointment of the Obama Presidency

[I]t was strange and disheartening that Obama would wait nine months to make his first visit to New Orleans as president. It was stunning that he would spend only a few hours on the ground and that he wouldn’t set foot in Mississippi or Alabama at all. But worst of all was the way he seemed to dismiss the idea that his administration could and should be doing much more.

Republicans seem to be doing rather well in fundraising these days. This is not surprising because the Democratic White House, Senate and House have successfully deflated their own base. Brilliant! Just Brilliant!
Cha-ching! Campaign cash tops and flops

In politics, money chases momentum. So the latest fundraising figures reported by congressional candidates provide a good measure of the progress of House and Senate campaigns across the nation.

Money isn’t the only thing that matters, of course, but the third quarter Federal Election Commission reports go a long way toward signaling which campaigns are going to be contenders in 2010—and which ones are likely to be pretenders

I don’t think this is what you call a “fundraising juggernaut”
Ensign pulls in less than $33K

The sex scandal surrounding Sen. John Ensign has had a devastating effect on his once-mighty fundraising machine.

According to newly filed campaign finance reports, Ensign pulled in just under $33,000 between July and September; that’s down from the $301,792 he raised in the previous quarter. He spent more than he raised last quarter, shelling out $46,000 on legal fees, meetings, political consultants and administrative expenses.


Around The Nation

What is it? Abuse? Love? Something in between?
A Mother, a Sick Son and His Father, the Priest

With three small children and her marriage in trouble, Pat Bond attended a spirituality retreat for Roman Catholic women in Illinois 26 years ago in hopes of finding support and comfort.

What Ms. Bond found was a priest — a dynamic, handsome Franciscan friar in a brown robe — who was serving as the spiritual director for the retreat and agreed to begin counseling her on her marriage. One day, she said, as she was leaving the priest’s parlor, he pulled her aside for a passionate kiss

I’ll leave this to our crime and conspiracy experts.
C.I.A. Is Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery

Is the Central Intelligence Agency covering up some dark secret about the assassination of John F. Kennedy?
Probably not. But you would not know it from the C.I.A.’s behavior.


Economy Watch

Give me a bunch of billion for free and I would look like Einstein
Bailout Helps Fuel a New Era of Wall Street Wealth

It may come as a surprise that one of the most powerful forces driving the resurgence on Wall Street is not the banks but Washington. Many of the steps that policy makers took last year to stabilize the financial system — reducing interest rates to near zero, bolstering big banks with taxpayer money, guaranteeing billions of dollars of financial institutions’ debts — helped set the stage for this new era of Wall Street wealth

This certainly doesn’t help.
$1.4 Trillion Deficit Complicates Stimulus Plans

The Obama administration said Friday that the federal budget deficit for the fiscal year that just ended was $1.4 trillion, nearly a trillion dollars greater than the year before and the largest shortfall relative to the size of the economy since 1945.

The number, while lower than forecast a few months ago, underscored the challenges ahead in shrinking the deficit even as the White House and Congress are considering more steps to stimulate an economy that is making a slow recovery. The political hurdles to finding a solution were evident on Friday as each political party immediately blamed the other for the growth of the deficit.


Around The World

Leaving the insane asylum.
“I Cannot Go Back to Iran”: Daughter Of Ahmadinejad Adviser Seeks Asylum In Germany

Young Iranian filmmaker Narges Kalhor is seeking political asylum in Germany after showing a film critical of the Tehran regime at a film festival. Kalhor, whose father is one of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s top advisers, says she will be seized by the secret police if she returns home.

Investigating drug related crimes in Mexico ain’t child play.
In Mexican Drug War, Investigators Are Fearful

Mexico has never been particularly adept at bringing criminals to justice, and the drug war has made things worse. Investigators are now swamped with homicides and other drug crimes, most of which they will never crack. On top of the standard obstacles — too little expertise, too much corruption — is one that seems to grow by the day: outright fear of becoming the next body in the street.

What took them so long?
Pakistan begins Taliban assault

Fierce fighting has broken out as Pakistan’s army launched an air and ground offensive against Taliban militants in the South Waziristan area.

Could a speech at the Brandenburger Tor make him change his mind?
Barack is Too Busy: Obama Cancels Plans to Attend Berlin Wall Anniversary

US President Barack Obama has shelved his plans to attend festivities marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will reportedly take his place at the Nov. 9 celebrations.


Odds & Ends

Rethinking the Older Woman-Younger Man Relationship

There is a new book out, and this one distinguishes the real cougar, a confident, strong, single woman over 40, from the comically desperate predator-seductress depicted in television shows like “Cougar Town,” one of the latest products of Hollywood’s obsession with the older woman.

Having fun, doing business during the recession and protecting the environment.
Sex discount for cyclists at Berlin brothel

A Berlin brothel is claiming the title of Germany’s first “green” sex establishment after offering clients eco-discounts if they can prove they arrived by bicycle or public transport.

I know many of you have seen this by now but what the hell… The whole thing is just so bizarre it’s good.

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Daggett wins second debate for NJ Governor

Daggett's Sea of Green

Daggett's Sea of Green

I got a call the other day from the Daggett campaign, the independent candidate for governor of New Jersey, to meet for a rally before the second and last debate in the race.  The debate was yesterday at William Paterson University in Totowa NJ.  All of the usual suspects were there.  Corzine’s crew brought in a lot of union guys.  The Republicans had their anti-choice crowd.  There were a surprising number of conspiracy theorists who turned out to protest childhood vaccinations and specifically the H1N1 vaccine.  Don’t even get me started.

And then there was the Daggett campaign.  We had about as many ralliers as the other two campaigns and some nifty bright green signs and T-shirts.  Green sort of speaks to Daggett’s environmental creds. He’s been endorsed by the Sierra Club. By the way, Daggett’s campaign staff is drop dead gorgeous.  His rally coordinator is so hot you could bake cookies on him.  One of his staff, a tall beautiful blonde, was wearing a very fashionable sweater minidress that showcased the most amazingly long, perfect legs.  Just before the debate started, she strutted across the loge, like Joan Holloway on a mission, right in front of a bunch of Corzine supporters.  Their jaws dropped and every pair of eyes, mine included, followed her shapely gams right up to her callipygian butt.  Well done!  You can be smart and smokin’ hot.  Too bad you missed it, myiq.

The debate was sponsored and obviously controlled by the local Fox affiliaate.  I managed to snag a ticket for the debate literally minutes before it began. (Thank you, hot cookie guy!)  I don’t know the criteria that was used to give out advanced tickets but it was clearly rigged in Chris Christie’s favor.  Like I said, there weren’t an overwhelming number of Republicans outside but, judging by the cheering and applause, Republicans inside Shea PAC outnumbered the other campaigns by about 2:1.  Bostonboomer, who liveblogged the debate last night, reported that the Fox commentators talked over Daggett’s responses and occasionally Corzine. allowing Christie to pontificate in his big beefy goodness without interruption.  As we were outside during the rally, one Republican operative approached our group and said, “How does it feel to be marginalized?”  He seemed disturbed.  We were cheerily unperturbed.  We know there are a lot of New Jerseyans who are registered ‘unaffiliated’. All they need is a good reason to vote for the third guy.  (Note to Daggett’s campaign: I know your poll position is crappy.  So, why not take a cue from Joe Lieberman’s senate campaign in 2006 and create and ad with a snappy mnemonic so that voters can find you?)

Now, onto the debate.  I was transfixed.  I’ve never been to a live debate before.  And while this wasn’t as high stakes as a presidential debate, I have to give a lot of credit to the organizers and the candidates for sticking to the rules.  There were no gotcha questions.  The Lightening Round was a chance for the candidates to reveal their personalities and turned out to be pretty funny.

In short, this should be a model for all debates going forward.  I learned a lot about all three candidates and their approach to fixing what ails New Jersey.  But it was Daggett who stole the show.  Seriously, guys, I could vote for this man for president.  He’s got that Hillary Clinton policy wonk thing down cold.  He was well prepared for most questions and for the ones where he didn’t have an immediate answer, I got the sense that his mental gears were clicking.

Daggett could have a lot of appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.  He is liberal on social issues, prudent and conservative on fiscal issues.  He emphasizes tax cuts for homeowners and corporations.  I’m a little worried by how he intends to pay for it but his idea of expanding the sales tax to items that the upper middle and upper class purchase is a step in the right direction.  In fact, he could go even further and impose a small sales tax on most consumer goods (2-4%?  It would still be lower than surrounding states).   In New Jersey, we don’t have a sales tax on food or most consumer items.  There is a restaurant tax but if you go to the grocery store, no tax on most products.  New York, by contrast, has up to a 9% tax on just about everything (See Ann’s comment for more precise details).  So, you can see why New Jersey is an attractive place to shop.  On the other hand, our property taxes are through the roof.  For example, I pay more than $500 on my little townhouse – per month.  Yep, after the ridiculous federal, social security and state income taxes are paid from my generous paycheck, reducing me to just average Jane Bagodonuts, I pay more than $500 per month on a house with no property.  Personally, I don’t mind shifting some to that tax to consumable goods.  Let the people who buy the luxury cars and high end consumables pick up the tab.  Daggett also proposes a tax on gas to pay for transportation infrastructure and mass transit.  I think this is a good idea, especially if it encourages more use of mass transit in a state as congested as New Jersey.

Where I had some issues with Daggett was his approach to health care.  His opposition to the public option is not necessarily a dealbreaker for me.  I think policy wonks are able to see permutations to solving these kinds of problems because they understand the mechanisms of government.  So, if we ended up with a German type of health care, ie private insurance but highly regulated, that would be Ok with me as long as everyone is covered, insurance companies and health care providers are held accountable with mandates  for basic policies  and public funds are used to provide subsidies for those individuals who can’t afford it.  I don’t think that’s what we’re getting with Obamacare where the mandates seem to be falling more heavily on the individual and choice of insurance company is limited.  While single payer would eliminate a lot of our administrative headaches and it works for other countries, it’s not the only answer.  There’s no reason to suppose it couldn’t work here but we can’t rule out other models that check the health care industry just as well.

Daggett also didn’t have an answer for how to fund state colleges and universities.  Well, he’s got a couple of weeks to come up with an answer.  To be fair, Corzine and Christie weren’t any better on this question.  Corzine points to state financial aid grants as a sort of bandaid on the problem. Christie got all sentimental about sending his four children to local schools but added nothing to the conversation.  Daggett at least acknowledged that there was a problem with the underlying structure of state aid to colleges and universities that needed to be addressed.  He just needs to find a funding mechanism.  Might I suggest one?  Ok, this is going to sound crazy and bring out the MADD crew but most New Jersey restaurants do not have liquor licenses.  Yep, if you want to go out to a nice, new restaurant for a special dinner, you’d better call ahead because you might have to brown bag it, and drink everything you bring with you.  There aren’t that many licenses available and most of them are bought up by big chain restaurants and, I suspect, the mafia.  If you go to New York or Pennsylvania, this is never an issue.  You can get a nice glass of chard just about anywhere.  So, sell more liquor licenses, license grocery stores to sell wine and beer and watch the revenue flow in.  This leftover from Prohibition is only benefitting organized crime.

The dynamics of the debate were also pretty interesting to watch.  After Daggett’s responses to questions, Corzine frequently agreed with him in response but never once referred to him by name.  Corzine continued to frame the debate as between two party representatives, him and Chris Christie.  I think that might have worked in any other year when there wasn’t such a strong, articulate, engaging third party candidate.  I’m not sure it will work this year.  In Daggett’s closing statement, he makes a point of reminding the audience that in spite of what Corzine and Christie’s wishful thinking, there *is* a choice this year.  There is a third party candidate who offers something new, different and positive.

Go, Daggett, GO!

PS:  This race is phenomenally expensive and Daggett has chosen to run on public funds.  Corzine has spent $20 million on ads attacking Chris Christie’s waistline.  Daggett is trying to run a positive campaign on limited funds.  Just sayin’.

Note: The second debate will be televised tomorrow.  I’ll try to do another live blog because I think it is important to think outside the box, especially when there is a viable third party candidate like Daggett.  These people need more attention and support to give voters more choices and keep the other parties on their toes.

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