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    • How Gunpowder Ended the Middle Ages
      Some time back I read a book called The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559. One thread I picked out as particularly clear was their explanation of the effects of gunpowder. The first bit is what as known as pike and shot. Early gunpowder weapons were slow and inaccurate. But late medieval pike units had already changed warfare: not only could they […]
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Friday Morning News and Views

Good morning Conflucians!!!! TGIF!


HEALTH CARE REFORM

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:

GUTTING SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE

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).


OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AND TORTURE

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.


CIA, BLACKWATER AND THE SHADOW GOVERNMENT

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.


SOME MORE CHEERFUL NEWS

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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86 Responses

  1. “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.”

    BB – That makes me totally sick. Those guys have no idea how UNAFFORDABLE these plans are.

    • How much is the fine? Because if its cheaper, I may have to opt for that. I can’t afford to pay $20k+ for insurance and I earn more than that.

      • I think its supposed to be something like 2% of your income. So for that couple making $54,000 that would be $1080 I believe. I know that I read somewhere that it was up to $3800.

        Who knows at this point though. Theres been so much back door dealing and revisions that its impossible to tell.

      • I think they are counting on lots of people doing that, MMW. Think about it. The economy sucks, the tax base is disappearing, we’re trillions in debt, and lo and behold, those fines will be a nice new convenient stream of revenue for the Federal Govt!

        The govt will be happy as a clam if a lot of folks just choose to pay the fine. I think they’re counting on it.

      • The couple would have to pay about $10,000 per year with the government subsidy. But that’s still outrageous.

    • The Medicare buy-in might be worse. Medicare isn’t really good coverage unless buy buy a private Medicare supplement. Lord knows how much that will cost now.

      • Some estimates say it could be $7,000 per person — which is totally out of reach for most people. I think.

        • That’s the cost for the Medicare coverage. The supplement would be on top of that. When I was on Medicare, I paid about $1500 for the Medicare alone and another $2,000 for the Blue Cross supplement. And I could barely manage to pay that.

        • it’s certainly out of most people’s reach if they want us to invest in 401ks for our retirement as well….so hard to choose healthcare OR retirement. You would think our wall street overlords would want us to have real UHC cuz its cheaper and then we can buy stock with all that excess income.

    • Oh. My. God.

  2. I wonder if I’d like living in Mexico?

  3. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091211/ap_on_bi_ge/us_health_overhaul_senate_loophole

    This pretty much confirms what Turkana is saying. Looks like we’ll see a spike in the number of people with insurance having to file for bankruptcy.

    Congress is next to useless.

  4. Notice that they trumpet “cost containment” by lowering the reimbursements to docs and hospitals. But if the policies won’t be any cheaper, then where is that “savings” going? Into the pockets of the insurers.

    I have news for ya, folks – not only is healthcare going to be more expensive, it will also be less available. Word around hubby’s hospital from LOTS of the docs is that they are making bug-out plans. They are getting their financial houses in order, getting out of debt, socking away every dime they can, and will WALK AWAY from the practice of medicine within 3 to 5 years.

    That’s hubby’s plan as well – he’s sick of it, it’s not worth it. We are going to be facing a MASSIVE doctor shortage 10 years down the road.

    • Oh well, we can always go to India for health care–right?

    • WMCB, I’m in peds, its the same in our specialty. People who can afford to leave will go for it. We’ve been getting slammed for years with dwindling reimbursements. Add to that being on call nights and weekends, the overwhelming burden of paperwork to get things done that your patients need, fighting with insurers, rewriting prescriptions over and over because even the pharmacist can’t reliably tell you what meds are covered–and those are just what comes to mind right now.

      Most people have no idea what we deal with–like the fact that insurers will only give you a partial fee list before you sign with them. So you have no idea if you can run a decent business or pay yourself or your staff. How many people would take a job with no idea of the salary?? It is unethical and the playing field is completely controlled by the insurers.

      Practicing medicine is one of the joys of my life, yet the stranglehold of the insurers has sucked most of the joy out of it and added so much unnecessary stress to an already stressful (but it’s a good stress) profession. I am always on the lookout for other opportunities. It’s been twenty years, I’m at the top of my game, and if a good opportunity came my way, I would go for it. I need to take care of my family,and medicine, at least for generalists, is looking more like a road to ruin.

      But what is really surprising is that specialists are baling, too. When I stop in at the doctors’ lounge for a cup of tea for the road, I’ve been shocked at what I’m hearing. Exit plans are the big topic. You are right, our country is in for it. I’m brushing up on my adult medicine, I think I’m going to need it because I doubt the standard of care we have now will be maintained.

      And cost containment? Can’t contain costs when pharma and insurers are running the show. Can’t be done.

      • Same here, Erica – even the specialists are talking abut bailing, which surprised me as well. But the GP’s, and Family Practice and Peds and Internist docs, like you and hubby? Fuggedaboutit, they have about had enough, to a man/woman.

      • My husband and I are eventually retiring to a small island in the Caribbean. RIGHT now there are so many doctors who live on that island or who have bought homes or land and intend to move there when they retire. A whole lot of the doctors will be taking early retirement. For just the exact reasons mentioned by WMBC & Erica. The retired radiologist on the island does work for the government hospital — and says that most of the docs in the former practice are taking an early retirement.

        The reasons are that NO ONE knows what anything will cost until the insurance companies decide — patients don’t know what will be covered and how much of what will be paid out of pocket. Docs don’t know what meds or procedures will be paid. Every medical clinic in this area has a whole staff dedicated to dealing with the insurance companies. I’m sure that this pattern is repeated nation wide.

        Most docs in this area are NOT taking new patients — no Matter what insurance company you have. Many are winding down their practices/clinics. There are vacant buildings in the medical complex — that just a few years ago were occupied and busy. The population or need hasn’t decreased — but the docs etc. have been forced out or they are retiring early.

        It would seem that an individual could buy a whole lot of first class medical care for $20,000 or even $10,000 per year. And I expect that many people will be looking at how much money they have and figure that the cheapest “medical insurance” is to pay the fine. AND we all know that this will just be one more tax on the middle class. AND this tax means less money to spend on all the stuff which is supposed to “help” the economy.

        Congress apparently believes that Americans are super stupid and will believe anything.

  5. This seems just a bit tone deaf in today’s environment. Are they taking lessons from the banksters?

    For feds, more get 6-figure salaries

    The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal salary data.

    Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.

    Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector.

    • That’s just Obama taking care of his base. What, the Big Cheeto and the fauxgressives thought THEY were the base? SUCKAHS.

  6. Further from that article

    The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.

    When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.

    The trend to six-figure salaries is occurring throughout the federal government, in agencies big and small, high-tech and low-tech. The primary cause: substantial pay raises and new salary rules.

    “There’s no way to justify this to the American people. It’s ridiculous,” says Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a first-term lawmaker who is on the House’s federal workforce subcommittee.

    • Your stimulus dollars at work. And then they wonder why otherwise reasonable people turn uber-conservative and decide they want to slash Federal Govt to the bone. It is BULLSHIT like this that creates that backlash. Right or wrong, you can’t say it’s not understandable.

      Obama is playing right into every “Liberal = big wasteful govt” meme that we worked so hard to turn around in the Clinton years.

      • I think more of us need those “new salary rules” than just the Feds. They are living down to expectations.

      • On that note:

        For conservatives, a political surge
        NEW PACS AND FUNDRAISING

        The energized “tea party” movement, which upended this year’s political debate with noisy anti-government protests, is preparing to shake up the 2010 elections by channeling money and supporters to conservative candidates set to challenge both Democrats and Republicans.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/09/AR2009120904637.html

        • Yup. Instead of a REAL Democrat in the WH, we got someone who is bending over backwards to confirm every damn accusation ever leveled at “hogwild spendthrift” Democrats. If the deficit spending was actually going to create jobs, and to help the middle class, we could overcome the concerns. But with THIS shit going on?!! No way in hell.

          You think a decade from now anyone is going to remember Clinton’s surplus and sound fiscal policy? Nope. Obama will become the new image of the Dem Party, and the populace will JUSTIFIABLY run like hell from anything with a D after it.

  7. Good morning, everyone! While bostonboomer is collating more news, and since I’m so pissed off at Obama’s “just war” rationalization at Oslo (I used to teach political philosophy, and remembered the neocons invoking “just war” in justifying the Bush global war on terror), I thought I’d share this blog post on US policy towards the Taliban and Afghanistan — and its connection to Iran, Pakistan, oil and Russia. It was first published in January 2001 by a human rights activist, and evaluates US policy from Carter to Clinton. It’s quite a long read but well worth it, since it helps to make sense of Obama’s decision to escalate the war. As I think about it, my evolving thesis is that the current stand-off with Iran played a significant (though not the only) factor in the decision; it’s all about how and where to build that oil pipeline. The article also gives readers an idea as to why the UK — from Blair to Brown — have been sycophant-like in their support of US policy.

    http://www.mediamonitors.net/mosaddeq2.html

    Rightwing and neocon forces, along with oil companies, were already trying to get Bill Clinton to overthrow Saddam Hussein and the Taliban by the late 1990s, but the selection of Bush really opened the floodgates. Towards the end of 2000, there were last-minute negotiations between the Clinton admin and the Taliban to surrender bin Laden for the al-Qaeda bombings in Kenya and the USS Cole, but this was not concluded early enough and so it spilled over into the new White House. In February 2001, the Bush White House toled the Taliban they were not yet ready to take bin Laden. The plan for the oil fields of Afghanistan was already being crafted. Of course, bin Laden was no help at all. The decision to bomb Afghanistan was already made a month before 9/11, and bin Laden helpfully provided the “just war” rationale.

    http://realityzone-realityzone.blogspot.com/2009/10/unocal-and-west-had-trans-afghan-pipe.html

    Contrary to the Bush lie that the Obama administration is repeating, the Taliban thrice attempted to surrender bin Laden within a week of the bombing, but the Bush White House refused to accept the surrender and the cessation of bombing.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/oct/17/afghanistan.terrorism11

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bush-rejects-taliban-offer-to-surrender-bin-laden-631436.html

    Judging from how US policy is being worked out now, it is reasonable to expect that US military personnel and/or security contractors/mercenaries will remain in Afghanistan long after Obama has stepped down. . .unless US casualties approximate that of the Soviet Union. Not even a recession or a depression will stop US intervention in Afghanistan.

    • Thanks for the links!

    • Filipino–so glad to see you are delurking more often. You have a lot to offer 🙂

      • Thanks, Fif! I’m getting increasingly agitated because my leftwing Filipino friends all rooted for Obama because they thought he was a closet socialist and Hillary is a neoliberal, pro-globalization warmonger. I already thought Obama was Reagan lite — and now he’s Bush lite too.

        Full disclosure: I come from a generation of Filipino student activists that fought against the “US-Marcos dictatorship” and my ideological formation is classical Marxism (as I tell my students, I read Marx, not Stalin or Mao or their designated intellectuals: I was anti-USSR, anti-Maoist and anti-capitalist). Of course, age, political frustrations and seeing how many leftwing friends became corrupted or “pragmatic” when they joined government have a way of tempering my ideological predisposition, but Marx for me is still the best critic of capitalism and its systemic flaws.

        I look at US foreign policy from my country’s experience: regardless of who is in power in the US, developing countries should protect their own interests because US actions are always in its own interests — primarily military and business. Right now, US military personnel are deployed in various parts of my country (mostly in the south — Mindanao) purportedly for training and humanitarian action, but its an open secret that they join combat missions against both the Muslim secessionists and communist guerillas. And strife-torn Mindanao — which happens to be the biggest and richest island — is home to some of the biggest US corporations and provides easy access to oil and gas deposits that lie in the Pacific.

        Oh, and the .45 caliber pistol was invented by the Americans specifically for their war against the Muslims in Mindanao during the Moro wars of the early 1900s. (It may interest you to know that American commentators at the time referred to the Mindanao expedition as the second Indian war and sent many “buffalo soldiers” and veterans of the Indian wars to the island.)

        US deployment through the “Visiting Forces Agreement” of 1999 provided a cost-efficient way for the US to establish mobile and smaller missions in the Philippines after our own Senate refused to extend the stay of US military bases in 1991 (after a “lease” of 99 years — it was the biggest US installation in the Asia and home to the Seventh Fleet). The so-called training exercises became more frequent and involved bigger contingents after 9/11.

        Also, the top leaders of the notorious bandit group Abu Sayyaf and the Muslim secessionist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front cut their teeth in the CIA-financed mujahideen training camps in Pakistan.

        • You’ve been lurking way too long. Please keep posting comments!

          • Thanks, bb! I also have a stake in key US domestic policies because I have a lot of relatives in the US and they’re hurting too. And they all preferred Hillary because they experienced how it was being minorities under Reagan and what difference Bill made. And they will be hit hard by this fraudulent health reform, among others. So I’m with you on this.

    • Sounds like a good truther manifesto. Tin foil helps credibility. Was chatting online the other day with some people who had had enough of Obama, didn’t know if they were Dems or Independents. The name Puma came up which they characterized as a marginal group of birthers, truthers and racists. So fuck em, but perception is a nasty habit.

  8. I know, I know — it’s a diary on dKos — but, it’s a REALLY good introduction to that MS discovery, CCSVI for anyone interested: Hope for MS patients – CCSVI — it’s got all the right details and in understandable language.

    • There is more good stuff at the Cheeto these days. Pretty soon the Koolaid Krew may have to find another blog.

    • Back in the day when I frequented Cheeto, there were a variety of viewpoints and lively discussions of all sorts of topics.

      But even if they go back to being sane, I will never ever return. I am a grudge-holding bitch, and hope Markos goes fucking bankrupt. I won’t give him a single hit – ever.

      • I’m with you on that —

        Never forget — never forgive. Because if the jerks did it once the WILL stab you in the back again.

    • I agree it’s encouraging and in a different direction than other concepts of the etiology of MS. His numbers are small, though, (65) and he mixed RRMS, SPMS, and PPMS types. A confound is that MS relapses do not occur on a regular schedule — so having 50% of the group relapse-free for a year is a possibility regardless of treatment.

      Dr. Zavadinov (a leading MS & MRI research MD) has a study looking into the MRI evidence of the above idea, involving 500 patients, ongoing at the BNAC. So we can look forward to getting more info in the near future.

      http://nationalmssociety.org/news/news-detail/index.aspx?nid=2206

      http://www.bnac.net/?page_id=517

  9. There’s a Vanity Fair article on Prince (the owner of Blackwater) in this month’s issue with the lovely Meryl Streep on the cover. You can probably read it too at their online edition. It’s fascinating.

  10. and as far as dismissing charges against Yoo, I call shenanigans on that one

  11. The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston is being sued for desecrating the grave of a Malden woman’s grandmother

    http://www.myfoxboston.com/dpp/news/undercover/woman-suing-over-alleged-cemetery-desecration

    I hope she wins!

  12. Not only will they be able to deny coverage, they’ll be able to institute annual limits.

    Health care loophole would allow coverage limits
    WASHINGTON (AP) – A loophole in the Senate health care bill would let insurers place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses such as cancer, prompting a rebuke from patient advocates.

    Surely it was “just” an “oversight”.

    Carolyn Kay
    MakeThemAccountable.com

    • Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    • It’s just a matter of time before they make debt to pay for healthcare not dischargeable like student loans is my guess. That way so many people can’t go backrupt and still not owe their lives to the company store.

      • The purpose of having insurance is to protect yourself against being unlucky enough to have huge expenses from some catastrophic event or disease.

        But health insurance companies have shown time and time again that they don’t want to cover catastrophic illnesses.

        I’d rather have a single payer system, but since we obviously can’t, because we won’t elect leaders who have the courage to pass the legislation, why can’t we have a two-tiered system–one system for coverage of routine care, and another for catastrophic illnesses. If everyone were required to buy into catastrophic insurance, the cost per person would be minimal.

        Carolyn Kay
        MakeThemAccountable.com

    • I linked that up above. Yeah, from where I’m sitting the number of people filing for bankruptcy due to medical with insurance is about to go up. I don’ t think I’ve ever met an industry that didn’t take advantage of a loophole that puts more profit in their pocket.

  13. They use the term “hawk,” but basically they mean she is “strong.”

    Hillary Clinton: Obama’s foreign-policy hawk

    She’s smart. She speaks her mind. A lot of people love her and think she should be president. Sarah Palin? No, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Obama, at a recent cabinet meeting, singled out Clinton for special gratitude among officials “who have been traveling around the globe for us day in and day out and don’t know what time zone they’re in.”

    The secretary of State, with a china cup and saucer in front of her, just smiled.

    She has been at the diplomacy business now long enough to know that successful diplomats are splendidly adept at concealing their reactions and emotions under all circumstances.

    I do wonder what emotion was concealed by that little smile.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2009/1210/p09s02-coop.html

  14. OMG, this is hilarious! A diarist at the Cheeto who brags about his/her low user ID complains about all the “right-wing arguments” at dkos these days.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/12/11/813038/-Alert:-D-Kos-Invaded-by-Right-Wing

    They drove out all the liberals in 2008 and now they wonder why the place is teeming with right-wingers. That’s what the Obots always were, idiot!

    • Actually the real right winger is the diarist….

      • No, no, no, boomer. You need re-educating. All criticisms of Obama (even from the Left) are by definition “right wing”. Get with the NooDem program!

    • That brought back some bad flashbacks. 🙂 He even said, “Follow me after the jump.” Aaaagggghhhhhhhh! 😉

  15. Oh, I’ll check those dog gifts links!
    NYC tabloids create great Nobel commentary – mostly by contextual placement
    http://edgeoforever.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/tabloids-get-in-the-fight-against-evil-well-some/

  16. I meant to put this in the post, but I forgot.

    Obama’s Big Sellout, by Matt Taibbi

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/31234647/obamas_big_sellout/print

  17. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/31234647/obamas_big_sellout

    Check this out from Taibbi… yeah, right a little to late from him too

    What’s taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.

    How could Obama let this happen? Is he just a rookie in the political big leagues, hoodwinked by Beltway old-timers? Or is the vacillating, ineffectual servant of banking interests we’ve been seeing on TV this fall who Obama really is?

    Whatever the president’s real motives are, the extensive series of loophole-rich financial “reforms” that the Democrats are currently pushing may ultimately do more harm than good. In fact, some parts of the new reforms border on insanity, threatening to vastly amplify Wall Street’s political power by institutionalizing the taxpayer’s role as a welfare provider for the financial-services industry. At one point in the debate, Obama’s top economic advisers demanded the power to award future bailouts without even going to Congress for approval — and without providing taxpayers a single dime in equity on the deals.

    How did we get here? It started just moments after the election — and almost nobody noticed.

    Tinfoil hat hypothesis: CIA plant from the Bush family?

    my comment: I kept yelling about Penny Pritzker as his chief fundraiser and the Goldman Sachs connections and I must be the almost nobody along with the folks here!!!!

    • “CIA plant from the Bush family?”

      I’ll drink to that.

      Alternate theory:

      Jamie Dimon’s Muppet.

    • Yup. I saw that Goldman Sachs was his top fundraiser way back in Jan. ’08. Why was it so hard for these fools to read the writing on the wall? Along with all the obvious corruption that Obama had already been involved in in Chicago, what else could they expect?

    • I AM “ALMOST NOBODY”, you twit! Arrogant fuckers walking around bemoaning “Who knew? Who could have forseen?”

      We did. We knew. We foresaw. And got called racist Republican ratfucker bitter old harridan crones for our efforts to warn you.

      The Republican Ratfucker out to undermine the Democratic brand is THE GUY YOU PUT IN THE WHITEHOUSE, you imbeciles. Not us.

    • Taibbi has been making a career of blaming Bill Clinton for Bush’s economic failures.

      That piece is full of misrepresentations and irrelevancies.

      For example, Goolsbee, his big hero, was the person who told the Canadians not to listen to Obama’s anti-trade rhetoric during the campaign.

      And Jamie Rubin is no economics expert, not even close. He’s been a diplomat all along, an international affairs expert. And he is a good Hillary supporter, but he’s not in the government now at all.

      And he is not Bob Rubin’s son.

      Taibbi needs a fact checker, amidst all his innuendo and blame shifting.

      • Hey plural! Long time, no see!

        • Hi, BB.

          I’ve been lurking but haven’t found time or energy for commenting.

          But I don’t like to see Hillary supporters endorsing someone like Taibbi, just because he’s criticizing Obama.

          • oh, I am SO not endorsing Taibbi … i just find his turn around here to be opportunistic and hypocritical …

          • opportunistic is right… Taibbi turning on Obama after comparing Hillary to Nixon and Obama to Kennedy is like Tweety turning on Bush after saying he had a sunny nobility and all that crap.

      • That miserable SOB’s whole “Look over there, it’s Bob Rubin!” schtick is such complete bullshit it’s hard to read. Taibbi had such fun bashing Hillary with Bill Maher that he’s permanently on my shit list.

        If some folks want to take him in, like battered spouses, and give him another chance that’s OK but as for me, FUCK HIM!

  18. Voters over 55 years old strongly believe that they will pay more if the health insurance bill passes.

    Perhaps more important politically, Independents 55 and older now oppose health care reform by a 52% to 33% margin, view Republicans in Congress favorably (44% to 41%) and view Democrats in Congress unfavorably (52% to 31%).

    These voters over 55 rejected every key element of the Obama Administration’s arguments in favor of their reform effort, specifically concluding that enactment of health care reform now being debated in Congress would increase rather than decrease their health care costs (61%-14%), insurance and Medicare premiums (61%-13%), the federal deficit (68%-7%) and taxes (76%-3%) and would decrease rather than increase the quality of their health care (41%-22%).

  19. Oh, lord check this one out:

    http://www.arktimes.com/blogs/arkansasblog/2009/12/incumbent_protection_dem_versi.aspx

    The Arkansas Democratic Party announces that it has purchased air time to thank Sen. Blanche Lincoln for her superb work on health legislation. Details on jump.

    This mirrors, in a fashion, outsider Republican complaints about Republican Party official support for select congressional candidates. But it may be worse.

    There are many Democrats — probably a majority — who are decidedly unhappy with Blanche Lincoln’s work on health legislation. She’s been a persistent roadblock to universal coverage and a competitive public insurance plan. This advertising is nothing but thinly veiled response advertising to Republican-aligned attack ads. It is not a direct campaign expenditure under the law, but it is so closely similar to that purpose as to be nearly indistinguishable. It’s just wrong, when filing hasn’t even opened for the Democratic primary. What if a better candidate runs?

    The Democratic Party is buying the same media markets bought by that labor-funded group attacking Republican Gilbert Baker as a stratagem to discourage Lt. Gov. Bill Halter from getting in the Democratic race for Senate. Did the state party have that kind of spare dough on hand, or did they get a timely national infusion to help? And if they have a bunch of extra dough, might it be better used to prevent erosion of the party’s numbers in the legislature next year?

    None dare call this a coordinated expenditure. THAT would be very wrong.

    Cynics (or maybe simply realists) will see these ads as a down payment to Lincoln for a vote on cloture on the health bill.

  20. Apparently Al Franken has bought into the boondoggle. Here is a letter I received from him about this crap:

    Dear ,

    As you’ve probably heard, on Monday night progressives and moderates reached a compromise to keep health insurance reform moving through the Senate. After decades of talking about fixing our broken health care system, the Senate is poised to finally deliver for the American people – and it’s about time.

    I’ve said all along that health insurance reform must bring down costs and improve access to get my support. A public option would do that, so I was disappointed to learn that it’s not part of this agreement. However, there are reasons to be hopeful that this compromise will succeed at keeping premiums down for families.

    The plain fact is, we are one step closer to extending health coverage to 31 million Americans and giving some peace of mind to tens of millions more. If this compromise includes proposals I’ve been fighting for, like ensuring that a higher percentage of premium dollars are spent on health care rather than profits and wasteful administrative costs, we will achieve the end result that I want – high-quality, affordable health coverage for Minnesota families and small businesses.

    I’ll keep you updated as the bill progresses, as we’ve still got a ways to go. But there’s one thing you can be sure of – Republicans and special interests will be on the attack in Minnesota to make a last ditch attempt to distort, derail, delay, or flat-out kill the reform effort. If you can, please click here to make a contribution of $5 today to help us get our positive message out.

    Thanks for all you’ve done, and all you’ll do.

    Best,
    Al

    Hopefully this was sent out after being “briefed” on the legislation and before actually reading it. I’m waiting for a follow up on how this assessment was wrong and how we have to try to change it or defeat it. Waiting… {crickets}

    • I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’ve never really wondered whether Franken would vote for the final bill. I just had hoped he would help fight to make it better before he voted for it. Hopefully like you said that e-mail was sent out before Franken actually knew the details of the bill. There’s still time for him to fight, I suppose– but I’m done with this legislation, it is a POS and the PR has been all about co-opting all the universal healthcare ideas and destroying them.

      Medicare for All or open up the FEHB for all.

    • I wrote him a nice little letter on the back of his, and sent it back in their envelope. I was quite specific about why I no longer support the anti-Democratic party. Hope they read it, and change.

  21. OT but a follow-up to the guys in red dresses a couple days back:

    There’s a bill before the Ugandan Parliament to institute the death penalty for Breathing while Gay and to charge anyone who discovers another person is LGBT with a crime if s/he doesn’t inform on the LGBT person within 24 hours. This little fascist horror is being pushed by a Pastor Martin Ssempe, a prominent evangelical, and Parliament representative David Bahati, both of whom have ties to none other than Rick Warren and (wait for it) The Family, of which Uganda’s President is also a member. Worse, US legislators may be at least indirectly involved. Maddow cites Sen. James Inhofe as a person who has dealt directly with President Museveni. The Family itself, of course, is essentially Dominionist, and Dominionists favor the death penalty for homosexuality, adultery, practicing a non-Christian religion and a biblical range of other offenses. (One guy favors stoning because it makes punishment “a community project.) Uganda is overwhelmingly Christian, around 85%. The largest numbers and the strongest influence belong to the Catholic Church, though the anti-gay craziness is mostly–not entirely, but mostly–from the newly vocal evangelical community with close ties to the US.

    Handmaid’s Tale, anyone? This is what the religious right would do here if they could.

    http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/rachel-maddow-show-us-ties-ugandan-anti

  22. “President’s break with Nobel tradition ‘impolite’ ”

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2010477944_nobelmiffed11.html

    I believe the correct word is “rude.” But whaddya expect?

  23. Looks like FDLers are going Puma,:

    Mauimom December 11th, 2009 at 10:59 am

    I’ve been pondering since last night — when I wrote a depressed comment on one of Janes’ entries — how we can express our anger and disgust with the Democrats.

    I’ve come up with what I think is a possibility: a version of a “money bomb” — an “unsubscribe” bomb to be detonated against the DNC, DSCC, DCCC, OFA, WhiteHouse.gov and whoever else sends out those e-mails crowing over Dem achievements and begging for more $$$$.

    I propose scheduling this action for January 20, 2010, to “celebrate” one year since Obama’s inauguration.

    Shameless pimp: I’ve posted a diary on this @ the Seminal. I hope you’ll read & comment.

    • They seem to be going PUMA at the Cheeto too—-but IMO it’s more likely that Sarah will divorce Todd ‘n’ take up with Tiger than it is that any of them will admit it, or that we were right all along.

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