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Friday Morning News and Views

Good morning Conflucians!!!! TGIF!


BREAKING UPDATE: Failed health talks set up another working weekend for Senate

I guess we’ll be live blogging again this weekend. I’m up for it! Maybe there’s still hope?
Unfortunately, there is more bad news out there about the forced health insurance bill this morning. It is sounding more and more like that is what it will be. Forced, costly health insurance that won’t cover as much as our current plans do. What a nightmare! From The New York Times: High Premiums in Senate Democrats’ Health Plan

According to the Congressional Budget Office, a family of four earning $54,000 in 2016, when the health legislation is fully in effect, would be eligible for a subsidy of $10,100 to help defray the cost of insurance under the health legislation being debated by the Senate. By then, one of the most popular federal plans, a nationwide Blue Cross and Blue Shield policy, is projected to cost more than $20,000.

That could leave the family earning $54,000, slightly more than the current median household income, with monthly premium costs of more than $825.

The Democrats’ proposal would also allow some people ages 55 to 64 to “buy in” to Medicare, starting in 2011. That could cost about $7,600 a year per person or $15,200 for a couple, according to a budget office analysis of an earlier version of the concept. No subsidies would be available until 2014.

I might as well get on the ice floe right now and get it over with.

I found this diary by Turkana at the big cheeto yesterday. Don’t click if you don’t want to go the the orange place. The Dirty Deadly Secret About Health Care Reform Hotlist I know SoD has already told us all this, but it was good to see it on the rec list so the Obots can see it.

Health care reform’s dirty deadly secret is denial of treatment. It’s one of the private insurance industry’s most insidious methods of protecting its profit margins at the expense of human lives. The real death panels. And nothing in any of the current health care proposals seems to address it.

For a concise explanation, I’ve previously linked an October article in the Los Angeles Times:

By requiring insurers to cover everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions, healthcare reform will make it more difficult for insurers to control their costs, or “bend the cost curve,” by avoiding sick people.

And given that any true reform will eat into the industry’s obscenely exorbitant profits, the obvious answer will be for them to compensate by covering people they previously wouldn’t have, but simply refuse to pay for expensive treatments, no matter how necessary. Pre-existing conditions would be acceptable, because paying for treatment of those pre-existing conditions still would be optional.

“There are going to be a lot of denials,” said insurance industry analyst Robert Laszewski, a former health insurance executive.

This is starting to sound really frightening. We will be forced to buy health insurance we can’t afford and will face stiff fines and even jail terms if we can’t cough up the money. And there won’t be any subsidies available until 2013 at the earliest, according to the Financial Times.

Washington insiders believe a historic healthcare act would give Mr Obama and the Democratic party a boost ahead of next year’s mid-term elections. But polls, which show mixed support for healthcare reform, suggest the reality may not be so simple.

“The big problem is that all the revenue-raising measures – the taxes and fees – come up-front, while the benefits don’t kick in until 2013 and 2014,” says Robert Blendon, the leading healthcare pollster. “My guess is that there would be an initial surge in support for this historic achievement, followed by quite a big backlash as the costs seep through.”

FT claims the bill will pass and be signed by Christmas. Oh goody goody! What a lovely present! {gag} So what’s next on the “Democratic” Congress’s agenda? You guess it:


From Dean Baker at Huffington Post:

Since the TARP escapade worked so well, the Wall Street gang is now trying another round of hostage taking, possibly for even bigger stakes. This time the plan is go after Social Security and Medicare. The Wall Street crew knows that members of Congress are not likely to vote to gut these two hugely popular programs under normal circumstances. These programs are essential to the economic well being of tens of millions of retirees, disabled workers, and their families. In fact, these programs are now more important than ever, since the collapse of the housing bubble has destroyed most of the savings of middle-income families.

Under normal circumstances, members of Congress who voted to cut these programs would be looking to an early retirement: hence the hostage-taking route. The plan is to hold up legislation for raising the debt ceiling unless a provision is included for establishing a commission for the purpose of cutting future deficits. This commission in turn would be stacked with people who want to cut Social Security and Medicare.

And to make it more likely that they get away with this, the report from the commission would not have to be debated or voted on and the report would not be made public until after the 2010 elections. The “lead culprits” behind this slimy plan are Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH).


White House wants suit against Yoo dismissed

Rights group says Obama creating torture impunity

The Obama administration has asked an appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing former Bush administration attorney John Yoo of authorizing the torture of a terrorism suspect, saying federal law does not allow damage claims against lawyers who advise the president on national security issues.

Such lawsuits ask courts to second-guess presidential decisions and pose “the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military’s detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict,” Justice Department lawyers said Thursday in arguments to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

In other words, we can’t question Bush’s torture policies, because that would lead to questioning Bush’s doctrine of “the unitary executive.” I don’t think I’m being unfair. The ACLU is outraged:

As Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, the ACLU, which has pursued nearly a dozen cases against the U.S. government since 2003 related to prisoner abuse, accused him of failing to provide accountability on torture.

“We’re increasingly disappointed and alarmed by the current administration’s stance on accountability for torture,” said ACLU National Security Project Director Jameel Jaffer. “The administration is actively obstructing accountability.”

At the Atlantic, Max Fisher tries to explain the Obama administration’s torture policy and ends up discouraged.

Here is a very good older piece on the torture issue from Huffpo: The “Torture Memos” and the Increasingly Indefensible DOJ

The dark saga of the Department of Justice “torture memos” took a disturbing turn for the worse last week. For five years, we’ve waited for the report from the Department of Justice’s internal ethics investigation of the government lawyers, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, who authored the infamous memos providing legal cover for abusive interrogation techniques that violated the absolute ban on torture under U.S. and international law. Just a few weeks ago, Attorney General Eric Holder said the report would be released by the end of November. Instead of releasing the report, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in support of John Yoo in the case Padilla v. Yoo currently before the Ninth Circuit, arguing that any DOJ lawyer who counsels and sanctions torture or other crimes against humanity is absolutely immune from suit. This is not what a restoration of the rule of law looks like.


The Blackwater/CIA story has reached the mainstream media:

Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.

Private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide participated in some of the C.I.A.’s most sensitive activities — clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees, according to former company employees and intelligence officials.

The raids against suspects occurred on an almost nightly basis during the height of the Iraqi insurgency from 2004 to 2006, with Blackwater personnel playing central roles in what company insiders called “snatch and grab” operations, the former employees and current and former intelligence officers said.

Several former Blackwater guards said that their involvement in the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred. Instead of simply providing security for C.I.A. officers, they say, Blackwater personnel at times became partners in missions to capture or kill militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, a practice that raises questions about the use of guns for hire on the battlefield.

Wapo also has the story:

Blackwater Tied to Clandestine CIA Raids

A former agency officer experienced in covert operations in the Middle East said it was common knowledge that military contractors would sometimes participate in missions alongside Special Forces and paramilitary teams. He said the arrangements were made locally and were “practical,” because the active-duty forces and contractors typically shared the same training and were used to working together.

For government employees, working with contractors offered ways to circumvent red tape, said the retired officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “There was no bench strength with either the CIA or Special Forces, so sometimes they would turn to contractors, who often had lots of the same skills,” the former operative said.

Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, said such informal arrangements would undoubtedly lead to problems because they short-circuit normal chains of command. “Once you cede your authorities, people are no longer restrained by regulations and federal law,” Baer said. “There have been abuses; there’s no question about it.”

Don’t tell me this isn’t still going on–I have not doubt that it is.


This deserving Nobel Prize winner from New Jersey was overshadowed by the war President and his peace prize:

Ocean County man accepts Nobel Prize in physics

Thursday was one of the most important days in George E. Smith’s life.

A resident of the Waretown section of Ocean Township in Ocean County, he was in Stockholm, Sweden, accepting the Nobel Prize in physics.

If not for a slow walking pace, he might not have been alive to see the day. Twelve years ago, he and his wife narrowly avoided a suicide bomb attack that killed 15 people in Jerusalem.

Ancient Tablets Decoded; Shed Light on Assyrian Empire

Meticulous ancient notetakers have given archaeologists a glimpse of what life was like 3,000 years ago in the Assyrian Empire, which controlled much of the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform, an ancient script once common in the Middle East, were unearthed in summer 2009 in an ancient palace in present-day southeastern Turkey.

The tablets provide information about the lives of women in the ancient world.

So far, the team has deciphered lists of names of 144 women on the tablets who were likely employed by the palace as agricultural workers or laborers at its granary.

Yet while the tablets were written in the Late Assyrian language, the women’s names are not Assyrian, Matney said.

That means the women may have been from local indigenous populations, or part of a mass relocation of people conquered by the Assyrians in another part of the empire, Matney said.

“The Assyrians deported large numbers of people—hundreds of thousands—from one part of the empire to another in order to break up local power structures and to move agricultural workers where they needed them,” he said.

“It’s an intriguing possibility that these women may have been one group that was involved in these deportations.”

Family Dog Survives 98 Days on Deserted New Jersey Island

Buddy after being reunited with family

Top Ten Holiday Gifts for Dogs, Cats, and their Owners

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