December 21, 2009
From the Guardian
Israel has admitted that pathologists harvested organs from dead Palestinians, and others without the consent of their families – a practice that it said ended in the 1990s, it emerged at the weekend.
The admission, by the former head of the country's forensic institute, followed a furious row prompted by a Swedish newspaper reporting that Israel was killing Palestinians in order to use their organs – a charge that Israel denied and called "antisemitic".
The revelation, in a television documentary, is likely to generate anger in the Arab and Muslim world and reinforce sinister stereotypes of Israel and its attitude to Palestinians. Iran's state-run Press TV tonight reported the story, illustrated with photographs of dead or badly injured Palestinians.
Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab MP, said the report incriminated the Israeli army.
The story emerged in an interview with Dr Yehuda Hiss, former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute near Tel Aviv. The interview was conducted in 2000 by an American academic who released it because of the row between Israel and Sweden over a report in the Stockholm newspaper Aftonbladet.
Channel 2 TV reported that in the 1990s, specialists at Abu Kabir harvested skin, corneas, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers, often without permission from relatives.
The Israeli military confirmed to the programme that the practice took place, but added: "This activity ended a decade ago and does not happen any longer."
December 16, 2009
Private contractors will make up at least half of the total military workforce in Afghanistan going forward, according to Defense Department officials cited in a new congressional study.
As President Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan unfolds, the number of contractors will likely jump by between 16,000 and 56,000, adding up to a total of 120,000-160,000, according to an updated study from the Congressional Research Service.
DOD officials who spoke with the study's author said contractors would make up 50-55 percent of the total workforce -- troops plus contractors -- in the future. This would actually be a significant reduction from the last two years, when contractors have averaged 62 percent of the total.
As we've reported, many questions about the army of contractors, which outnumbers the size of the U.S. troop force, remain unanswered and underexamined. We don't have up to date numbers on how much the United States spends on private contracts, and the DOD does not break down the services done by contractors in Afghanistan (it does for Iraq).
As of September 2009, contractors providing security, transportation, and logistical services numbered 104,100 in Afghanistan and 113,700 in Iraq, according to the military. Most of the contractors in Afghanistan are local nationals, according to the military. Here's a table looking at how much the numbers in Afghanistan will increase with Obama's surge:
Interestingly, it looks like military planners themselves -- not just the media and politicians -- find it all too easy to ignore the role of contractors in U.S. foreign policy. The most recent Quadrennial Defense Review, a key strategic overview of American defense and military policy, runs over 100 pages. Just five sentences of the QDR document addresses the use of private contractors, the CRS study notes.
Besides crunching the numbers, the study also looks at whether contractors can undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the issue of abuses of civilians by contractors.
Here's a graph we've shown you before, now updated through September 2009:
[so much more after the jump]
December 8, 2009
The Story of Cap & Trade is a fast-paced, fact-filled look at the leading climate solution being discussed at Copenhagen and on Capitol Hill. Host Annie Leonard introduces the energy traders and Wall Street criminals... er um, innovators.
December 7, 2009
Under Stupak, if you want to get an abortion, you can pay out of pocket, just like now. No change.
If you pay for your own private insurance, and your plan covers abortion, you can have an abortion. No change there either.
Since the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion has been illegal.
The problem isn't the Stupak amendment, it's the Hyde Amendment.
Why has the left-wing chosen NOW to get pissed off, when it's been on the books for years?
Why have they never made an issue about it before now?
The usual stuff:
December 6, 2009
Protests today are totally impotent...
Except there's an unpermitted protest coming up in March, that I didn't know about at the time of filming, which I hope proves me wrong:
The usual stuff:
December 5, 2009
December 4, 2009
The war in Afghanistan is like being caught in a brier patch-- once you're in far enough, every way you go is equally as bad. That's why the best way out is to simply wander in circles until you bleed to death. Obama clearly understands this strategy.
November 29, 2009
November 23, 2009
November 21, 2009
November 20, 2009
On Saturday night, the Senate will take a procedural vote to move debate on the current health insurance enrichment bill in Congress forward.
Democratic Senators like Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Chuck Schumer, through a project called Citizens for a Public Option, have been building support for the public option and encouraging Americans to write letters to the editor that debunk health care reform myths---myths that the conservative echo chamber have been propagating.
Senators (and representatives in the House and Obama) can champion this health insurance legislation all they want and claim it will “foster greater competition in the marketplace, create more choices for consumers, and lead to lower costs and better quality for all,” but doctors who have been on the front lines of America's sick care non-system do not believe many of the arguments that Democrats are using to create support for a public option.
Myth #1 – Public option will help control costs
Dr. Margaret Flowers with Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) explains that Americans have been led to believe that “the public option is going to keep companies honest and help control costs.”
Obama and Congress are taking an approach that has failed to control costs time and time again.
“We've already had states that have tried this type of approach over the past few decades,” says Flowers. “Every state that has tried this approach has had these grandiose hopes where they had said we're going to cover this many of hundreds of thousands of people in this time period and not a single one of them has succeeded. They've all fallen far short and then gone under financially.”
Self-employed doctor, Dr. Matt Hendrickson, who risked arrest in a MobilizeforHealthcare.org action at the Cigna Offices in Glendale, CA, cites examples “from the last 20 years of states that have attempted a public option.” He explains that Tennessee, Oregon, and Massachusetss (twice) have tried the public option.
“In each case, the number of uninsured went down briefly then returned to the baseline for one reason: cost,” said Hendrickson. “There's no way to control cost as long as you allow private insurance industry to add a 25% surcharge to all healthcare transaction and to continue divert money to avoiding the sick, marketing and advertising, to avoid the sick and try to dump them onto a public plan.”
Anesthesiologist Dr. Samuel Metz, who is with the Mad as Hell Doctors, explains, “Massachusetts has been held up as an example of a state that has come closest to providing universal health insurance. However, not only has it failed to provide universal health insurance. It is also now the most expensive place on the planet for healthcare. It leads the U.S. in annual cost per person.”
The public option, “will not reduce the cost of healthcare,” says Metz. “In fact, it's anticipated it will add $800 billion more into a system that's already twice as expensive as the average industrialized nation.”
Myth #2 – The public option is a "public" option
The public option that came out of the House, according to Dr. Flowers, is “even worse than we could have imagined because they're predicting that maybe 2% of the population will be able to go into that public option, that it will be run by private insurance companies, and that it will actually cost more than private insurance.”
What's so public about something only open to 2% of the population?
As Kevin Zeese from the Prosperity Agendaexplains, “No matter how much you hate your current insurance, no matter how much they've abused you with premiums, co-pays, denials of care, no matter what they've done to you, you can't leave your insurance and go to the public option,” said Zeese. “90% of Americans can't even choose it. So much for choices.”
Flowers adds the government would be subsidizing the purse of private insurance to try to help people buy their products. Government would be putting public dollars into the pockets of private insurance companies. And, a private corporation would be allowed to run the public option.
How many Americans really think putting reform in the hands of those who have created this crisis in health care in America will ultimately work or produce any favorable results?
Myth #3 – Public option will make single-payer possible
Doctors, nurses, and patients following the de-evolution of health care reform closely know that the public option (especially the idea of a robust public option) is a carefully calculated political carrot being offered to progressives so they will sit down, shut up about single-payer, and support this current corporate giveaway to private insurance companies, which is moving through Congress right now.
Hendrickson explains, “The reason why the public option was introduced, according to congress people that have spoken to the single-payer movement, was because of the single-payer movement. There was such an upswell in the progressive part of this country for single-payer that they opted for some compromise that would not have been given if there wasn't so much support for single-payer.”
If you ask Zeese, this won't do anything to get us closer to single-payer.
This bill will “enshrine and deepen the power of the insurance industry.” Hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue, according to Zeese, will now be available for corrupting and influencing Congress.
It will be even harder to get single-payer if a weak public option remains in the bill. And the money government gives away will help private insurance fight any additional reforms to legislation passed by Congress and Obama.
Metz concludes that the public option will make it impossible for us to achieve universal coverage for at least a decade.
“Every passing year we'll see more Americans with worse health and nobody will do anything because we will point to our legislation and say give it another couple years to work,” says Metz. “And in five years, we will have exhausted the financial resources of the government, we will have exhausted taxpayers, we will have exhausted the good will of voters, the patience of voters, and no one will want to attempt health reform again.”
# # #
Author's Bio: Kevin Gosztola is a trusted author who publishes his writing regularly to OpEdNews and Open Salon and he is a 2009 Young People For Fellow. He is a documentary filmmaker currently completing a Film/Video degree at Columbia College in Chicago. Currently, he is working on a documentary project on Renaissance 2010 and Chicago Public Schools. On Columbia College's campus, he helps organize events and programming with a humanities/social sciences group known as Critical Encounters. He is currently working with the group to plan a media summit for Chicago in April 2010 and is currently seeking speakers who are willing to participate in talking to artists and media makers about how they can use participatory or social media to create art & media that promotes conversation and action on political, social, and cultural issues.
Sorry that this took so long to upload. YouTube was refusing to allow me to upload it, so I uploaded it over at Blip.TV
November 14, 2009
Come back tomorrow for Part Two!
October 30, 2009
Democrat Led Health Insurance "Reform" might make things WORSE
by The Punk Patriot
So if you're a loyal Democrat, you're probably all riled up about the health insurance reform going on in congress. You're probably anxious for Congress to get something, ANYTHING passed. Not so fast there buddy. Health insurance reform, even if it's done by Democrats could end up making things WORSE, not better.
"What? How could this possibly be?" you might ask. Well...
It's old news by now that insurance giant Wellpoint, owner of Maine's Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, is suing the State of Maine, to increase their profits. But you may not know the entire backstory: Anthem Blue Cross, in anticipation of the individual mandate for health insurance, has jacked up their rates 18% from what they were previously, jacking many people's premiums through the roof.
What may surprise you if you're not paying close attention, is that the Health Insurance industry is actually in favor of health insurance "reform." How could this be? Did they suddenly grow a concience, and decide that letting people die to increase their profit margin was wrong? Are they crying out to Big Government to regulate them like Sinners calling out to Jesus? "Please, Government! Save us from our own wicked nature!"
Not a chance in Hell.
It's no surprise that Wellpoint has run television ads in favor of the health insurance "reform" being pushed by Democrats in Congress. If the individual mandate becomes a final part of the bill, whether you can afford to or not, we will all end up having to pay these new increased rates, or face federal fines of up to three thousand dollars, depending on which version of the individual mandate ends up in the final bill.
Maine's state government has the power to regulate insurance rates. In light of this 18% increase, the State of Maine stepped in, and reduced the increase from 18% to 11%. So people's rate are still going up, and health insurance is still becoming less affordable. But that wasn't enough for the private insurance giant.
Last year Wellpoint made $2 billion in profits. In Maine alone, they've paid out over one million dollars in CEO bonuses. Rather than cut CEO bonuses to reduce their overhead, they are increasing their rates. Let's call a spade a spade. Wellpoint is essentially suing to ensure not their profit margin, but their CEO bonus margin.
So what's the deal here? Why are Congressional Democrats so willing to pass a bill that will essentially screw us over to benefit of the Insurance Industry? Easy. Follow the money. The health insurance is a powerful lobby, and one can accurately predict the level of a politician's support for the mandate, and for the Public Option, based on how much money was contributed to their campaign from the health insurance industry.
"But the Democrats are supposed to be on our side! It's the Republicans who are corrupt corporate sleazebags!" You might say. And yes, while the Republicans are generally corrupt, with lots of corporate donors, the corporate lobbyists who really run the show don't care about party affiliation. They care about who is in power at the moment. Right now, that's the Democrats.
That's why you find the Democrats in the predicament they're in. They have to satisfy the Private Health Insurance industry while making it look like they're achieving meaningful reform. They're playing a balancing act, giving the insurance industry exactly what they want, while still trying to fool their constituents into thinking that they're doing what's right.
Well, have they done their job?
Who owns your congressperson? Find Out: OpenSecrets.org
October 29, 2009
U.S. regulators should consider breaking up large financial institutions considered “too big to fail,” former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said.
Those banks have an implicit subsidy allowing them to borrow at lower cost because lenders believe the government will always step in to guarantee their obligations. That squeezes out competition and creates a danger to the financial system, Greenspan told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
“If they’re too big to fail, they’re too big,” Greenspan said today. “In 1911 we broke up Standard Oil -- so what happened? The individual parts became more valuable than the whole. Maybe that’s what we need to do.”
[Read the Full Article After The Jump]
The Obama administration’s position that the government can force mobile carriers to hand over cellphone tower location information on their customers without a warrant is wrong, two legal scholars say.
"Because CSLI acquisition is hidden, indiscriminate and intrusive, and because it reveals information over a period of time, it should be subject to the highest level of Fourth Amendment oversight (the same procedures used for wiretapping and video surveillance)," the scholars wrote late Friday.
The scholars are Susan Freiwald, of the USF School of Law, and Peter Swire, of Ohio State University.
Their words, published by the American Constitution Society, came a month after the Justice Department made its claim in a little-noticed case that the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures did not apply.
Most Americans have or will carry a mobile phone in their lifespan, so the outcome could have wide-ranging privacy ramifications. Smartphones, like the iPhone, use cell-tower information to power geo-location applications like Google Maps.
In a case pending before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the government maintains it can require federal judges to order mobile phone companies to release historical cell-tower information of a phone number without probable cause — the standard required for a search warrant.
While judges have differed on the issue, the resulting evidence can be used in a criminal prosecution. The case on appeal concerns a Pennsylvania judge who rejected the government’s position in a drug prosecution that the new administration inherited.
Mobile-phone providers keep cell-site information for up to 18 months. Historical cell-site location information includes the tower connected at the beginning of a call and at the end of the call. The government does not claim a warrantless right to cell-site information for future calls, only for calls already dialed.
[more after the jump]
October 25, 2009
Los Angeles 10/15/09 – 12 arrested at the L.A. Anthem Blue Cross offices sit-in at as Maureen Cruise RN, public health care nurse, explains why single payer is not off the table. Along with a contingent of doctors at this recent sit-in, Cruise believes universal health care (a.k.a. single payer or medicare for all) is the only option. As Dr. Jo Olson told me, single payer is the only fiscal and moral solution. She has been working for a single payer system for the past five years. Nurse Cruise was an L.A. public health care nurse at numerous clinics until they all closed with the recent economic downturn. As she explains, 122 people die every day for lack of health care in the U.S. More die every day because they are denied health care from insurance companies despite paying their high premiums. People are forced into medical debt and foreclosure to pay for health care, unlike any other country. “What kind of country does this to it’s people?” she asks.
Nurse Cruise goes on to say that Pelosi’s announcement to the world that single payer is off the table was a ploy to make everyone forget about it and go for a public option instead, a public option written by and for the insurance industry, which spends over a million dollars per day lobbying Congress. The public option, as she says, is an insurance industry bailout, because with our economic downturn and the insurance industry’s annal retentive (my words) policy of raising rates to make up for losses, they are losing customers and so they look to the deep pockets of our government in the corporate welfare state we call America. But as long as we don’t have a viable health care system without the for profit insurance factor, and as long as we don’t have universal health care, people will continue to rally.
"Rape in the Ranks" a documentary film about the routine rape of women in the military has been effectively banned from screening in the US. It cannot get distribution here. However, it is showing at the New York Independent Film festival this week.
The anti-rape amendment introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) may be stripped from the defense appropriations bill by Appropriations chairman Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), the Huffington Post reports.
Multiple sources told reporter Sam Stein that the provision -- which would prohibit the Pentagon from hiring contractors whose employment contracts prevent employees from taking work-related allegations of rape and discrimination to court -- is being targeted by defense contractors. Their lobbyists have reportedly flooded Inouye's office, worried they may lose contracts or open themselves up to lawsuits.
One source said it "looks increasingly likely" that Inouye will remove the amendment.
Stein points out that Inouye has received $294,900 from the defense industry over the course of his career. His top two contributors are defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and he also receives money from General Dynamics and Boeing.
[>more after the jump]
The young Turks also have great coverage of this issue:
For more on this story, head on over to Republicans for Rape.org who have been following this issue very closely.
October 24, 2009
Defense Department Opposed Franken's Anti-Rape Amendment
From Huffington Post
When thirty Republicans lined up against an amendment that would have required defense contractors to allow their employees access to U.S. courts in cases of rape or sexual assault, Jon Stewart ripped them to pieces.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
"I understand we're a divided country, some disagreements on health care. How is ANYONE against this?" he wondered.
It's a question, it turns out, best addressed to the White House.
The vote against the amendment has sparked outrage at the all-male, all-white bloc of thirty Republican senators. HuffPost readers have been particularly infuriated by the GOP opposition and have regularly posted the names of the offending thirty in the comment section of even unrelated stories. A mock website - www.republicansforrape.org -- has sprung up.
The men had an ally in opposition that has so far gone unreported: the Department of Defense.
"The DoD opposes the proposed amendment," reads a message sent from the Obama administration to the Senate on October 6, the day the amendment passed by a 68-30 vote.
"The Department of Defense, the prime contractor, and higher tier subcontractors may not be in a position to know about such things. Enforcement would be problematic, especially in cases where privity of contract does not exist between parties within the supply chain that supports a contract," reads the DoD note. "It may be more effective to seek a statutory prohibition of all such arrangements in any business transaction entered into within the jurisdiction of the United States, if these arrangements are deemed to pose an unacceptable method of recourse."
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), is intended to address the type of Kafka-esque treatment Jamie Leigh Jones received from the U.S. justice system after she was gang-raped by fellow KBR workers. The defense contractor argued that her employment contract required that her claim be heard in private arbitration rather than in open court.
Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/19/defense-department-oppose_n_326569.html
October 23, 2009
I think "Firestarter" is officially this dude's themesong:
In a repeat performance of Dennis Kucinich's smackdown in the house, Sen Al Franken lay the smackdown on the bullshit of the private health insurance industry lobbyists. Watch the video here.
October 21, 2009
A Florida woman, who is a victim of sexual abuse, claims that rape was called a "pre-existing condition" by several health insurance companies, which would have disqualified her for care.
In 2002, Chris Turner, a health insurance agent from Tampa, Florida, was drugged and raped during a business trip. When she conferred with a doctor after her assault, Turner was prescribed preventative anti-HIV drugs, and she later entered counseling to help deal with the residual psychological effects of her rape.
[more after the jump]
That's your beloved Free-Market at work...
THE NEW CHANNEL: http://www.youtube.com/ThePunkPatriot
October 18, 2009
FUCK THE RICH! But wait! The Rich create all the prosperity in the USA right?
No. They don't.
Labor does. The rich survive off of our labor. Labor creates all wealth in society. Labor lays bricks. Labor builds buildings. Labor paves roads. Labor build vehicles. Labor farms food. Labor transports food. Labor repairs roofing. Labor fixes cars. Labor makes clothes. Labor makes everything in the economy that has value. Labor makes everything in our infrastructure, which enables the larger exchange of goods and services. The rich, or the investment class, on the other hand, are parasites. They make their money off our labor-- many times over.
Let's say that you work in a factory and you make widgets. The labor that you put into making that widget is worth MORE than the wages that you are compensated with. So you are paid LESS than what your labor is actually worth.
Why? Because the widget is sold back to you at a "profit." The management class makes money off your labor twice-- once in creating wealth (the widget) and a second time, by profiting from the sale of the widget. So when you purchase your labor back from yourself, you are paying more than you were compensated. But then the Management class needs all that profit to pay back the investment class.
Now the investment class. They contribute nothing in creating anything, and yet they have all the money. Why? Because they had enough money TO START WITH that they were able to put money into the Wall Street investment game. Their money does their work for them. They might say, invest in a company, but then that company is expected to pay them back-- with interest. So the rich make money off the money they already have. You only need to get rich once, and then you can profit infinitely by simply "investing" in the labor of others.
The investment class also profits in abstract ways off of the this process, and then again in even more abstract ways that profit from the profit of profit-- and even the profit of loss. These are things you might have heard about during the financial meltdown, things like short-selling, hedge funds, futures selling (essentially betting on labor or resources that doesn't even exist), etc.
Without the labor class making and buying all the shit that makes the economy go 'round, the whole system collapses. That's what you're seeing right now. People in the labor class are losing their jobs by the hundreds of thousands, we are losing all our money, and nobody has any money to put into the system to keep this crazy carnival ride going. Except the rich. They could stimulate the economy by paying for health care and paying unemployment insurance, and creating jobs. But they don't do that. They just play with their money on Wall Street, which creates no value, creates no material wealth, and provides no public services and does almost nothing to facilitate the flow of goods and services.
Fuck them. We don't need them. Do they really all want to go live on an island with John Galt? I hope they do, and I hope they leave the rest of us alone. We've been lied to and told that we need them. We don't. We really don't at all. We are the ones who create wealth. We are the ones who drive the economy. We are the ones who run the place. But we've been told we don't, to shut up, to sit down, to get in line. We are a nation of dogs that have been raised by ticks. The rich are parasites on society. They contribute absolutely nothing towards the greater good of society, yet they take everything in terms of monetary wealth.
October 10, 2009
Distinguished law scholar Elizabeth Warren teaches contract law, bankruptcy, and commercial law at Harvard Law School. She is an outspoken critic of America's credit economy, which she has linked to the continuing rise in bankruptcy among the middle-class.
October 9, 2009
White House Declares victory against Space Terrorism
WASHINGTON DC-- Press secretary Robert Gibbs announced today that the pre-emptive strike on the moon was successful in completely destroying the terrorist splinter cell known as "Al Quida in Space" and says that the administration is calling the entire mission a complete success.
"The White House wants to thank NASA's JPL, and the NASA press team for being so cooperative in working with the Department of Homeland Security and White House on this issue," Secretary Gibbs said. "No longer will Al Quida in Space be a threat to United States Security."
Gibbs went on to say that NASA has reported that all members of Al Quida in Space have been killed, including their much sought after ring leader, Osama Bin Laden.
When questioned about the deception leading up to the moon bombing, Gibbs declined to comment, other than to say that it was important that the terrorists not be allowed to know vital information about US strategies.
Meanwhile, anti-War protesters gathered outside accusing the government of bombing the moon for its natural resources.
"They're just bombing the moon for its water," said Andrea Goldsworthy of Code Pink. "They kept changing their story, first it was for science, then it was to eliminate terrorists, but it's clear what the motives have been all along. Water is a scarce resource, our sons and daughters and the people of the Moon don't deserve to be killed for the profits of Big Water," citing the campaign contributions by Nestle and other bottled water companies to Obama's election campaign.
President Obama is expected to make comments himself on the success of the mission later today. It's not known at present if there are plans to begin bringing troops stationed on the Moon back to Earth.
Artists rendering of the previously classified remote drone used to kill members of Al Quida in Space
October 6, 2009
Full Article at TrueSlant.com
"Goldman Sachs has developed a tradable index of life settlements, enabling investors to bet on whether people will live longer than expected or die sooner than planned. The index is similar to tradable stock market indices that allow investors to bet on the overall direction of the market without buying stocks.
Spokesmen for Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs declined to comment."
I’m sort of surprised that this didn’t get more attention. It looks like Wall Street is developing a new use for the securitization process — bundling life insurance policies and selling them as bonds to investors who would be betting, in essence, on when the policyholders will die.
The mechanism here is basically the same as the one used for mortgage-backed securities. Wall Street buys up life policies from elderly or ill people, who sell them for up-front cash that can be enjoyed before actual death (similar to those brokered arrangements with terminally ill HIV patients that received so much attention in the late eighties). They then take those policies and dump them into a securitized pool, where they can then be packaged as bonds and sold to investors who would get paid off when the policyholders die.
The mechanism works exactly the same as it did for MBS; in both cases the bank issuing the bond receives regular income in exchange for a promise to pay a lump sum when there is a “reference event,” which with mortgages is a default, but in this case would mean death.
What’s very amusing about this New York Times article is that, while describing this, there is no passage that reads anything like, “This utterly insane plan, which will condemn all those involved with it to an eternity of elaborate torment in the afterlife, is ironically being promoted by the very institutions that only just recently tried to destroy the world by creating similar casino-like gambits based on home ownership.”
The article does discuss the probable negative consequence that will come with a severe drop in the number of lapsed policies (until now, there were always a certain number of people who would let their insurance lapse either because they outlived their beneficiaries or could no longer afford the premiums; now, they will simply sell their policies instead of letting them lapse). The likely result here is higher premiums across the board for the ordinary person, which I suppose is an important point to consider.
But even beyond that… what the fuck??? This feels like financial innovation as practiced by Josef Mengele meets the Zucker Brothers; not just evil, but wacky evil. I don’t even want to think about what happens when Goldman Sachs suddenly has a large financial stake in the premature deaths of a bunch of old people. Where are the crazy police? Where is the crack federal crazy squad with the big butterfly net? I don’t know about betting on anyone’s life expectancy, but I think I’d like to bet on whether or not this idea ends well.
Full Article at TrueSlant.com
Netting $2.5 billion in profits last year wasn't enough for WellPoint, the nation's largest insurance company.
Now, WellPoint's affiliate, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, is suing the state of Maine for refusing to guarantee it a profit margin in the midst of a painful recession.
Forward this video to a friend in Maine!
October 5, 2009
The sexual orientation of adoptive parents does not play a significant role in the well being of their children, a new study contends.
More at link
October 3, 2009
That's right. It's legal, and it happens all the time.
And here's a clip from Capitalism: A Love Story:
And even though this story broke a long time ago, ABC is surprised to learn about it from Michael Moore:
October 1, 2009
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The grand old man of letters Gore Vidal claims America is ‘rotting away’ — and don’t expect Barack Obama to save it.
America should leave Afghanistan, he says. “We’ve failed in every other aspect of our effort of conquering the Middle East or whatever you want to call it.” The “War on Terror” was “made up”, Vidal says. “The whole thing was PR, just like ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It has wrecked the airline business, which my father founded in the 1930s. He’d be cutting his wrists. Now when you fly you’re both scared to death and bored to death, a most disagreeable combination.”
His voice strengthens. “One thing I have hated all my life are LIARS [he says that with bristling anger] and I live in a nation of them. It was not always the case. I don’t demand honour, that can be lies too. I don’t say there was a golden age, but there was an age of general intelligence. We had a watchdog, the media.” The media is too supine? “Would that it was. They’re busy preparing us for an Iranian war.” He retains some optimism about Obama “because he doesn’t lie. We know the fool from Arizona [as he calls John McCain] is a liar. We never got the real story of how McCain crashed his plane [in 1967 near Hanoi, North Vietnam] and was held captive.”
Vidal originally became pro-Obama because he grew up in “a black city” (meaning Washington), as well as being impressed by Obama’s intelligence. “But he believes the generals. Even Bush knew the way to win a general was to give him another star. Obama believes the Republican Party is a party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists.”
Another notable Obama mis-step has been on healthcare reform. “He f***ed it up. I don’t know how because the country wanted it. We’ll never see it happen.” As for his wider vision: “Maybe he doesn’t have one, not to imply he is a fraud. He loves quoting Lincoln and there’s a great Lincoln quote from a letter he wrote to one of his generals in the South after the Civil War. ‘I am President of the United States. I have full overall power and never forget it, because I will exercise it’. That’s what Obama needs — a bit of Lincoln’s chill.” Has he met Obama? “No,” he says quietly, “I’ve had my time with presidents.” Vidal raises his fingers to signify a gun and mutters: “Bang bang.” He is referring to the possibility of Obama being assassinated. “Just a mysterious lone gunman lurking in the shadows of the capital,” he says in a wry, dreamy way.
[more after the jump]
September 29, 2009
Listen near the end of this video: "I don't understand why they're expending so much energy just to get fucked up by cops."
The Sequel: Those kids laughing at the protesters are trapped and brutalized, and have a sudden change of opinion.
September 26, 2009
Light green text on dark green shirt, one of the many varieties available. You pick and choose your colors.
It's an HTML joke! In Helvetica! (for those who follow those things.)
Also, seriously, end war. Not just the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the idea that forcing people in one country to kill people in another country proves something.
Since these are handmade, they are available in a near infinite number of color combinations.
Many other color combos are available. Just ask. Also, be sure to include what SIZE you want in your order.
Light green text on dark green shirt again, but in poorer lighting.
T-Shirts, as always, are $10 per each, $5 shipping and handling.
September 23, 2009
Full Story after the jump
WASHINGTON - The FBI is investigating whether anti-government sentiment led to the hanging death of a U.S. Census worker near a Kentucky cemetery. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press the word 'fed" was scrawled on the dead man's chest.
The body of Bill Sparkman, a 51-year-old part-time Census field worker and teacher, was found Sept. 12 in a remote patch of the Daniel Boone National Forest in rural southeast Kentucky. The Census has suspended door-to-door interviews in rural Clay County, where the body was found, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Investigators are still trying to determine whether the death was a killing or a suicide, and if a killing, whether the motive was related to his government job or to anti-government sentiment. An autopsy report is pending.
Investigators have said little about the case. The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, said Wednesday the man was found hanging from a tree and the word "fed" was written on the dead man's chest. The official did not say what type of instrument was used to write the word.
FBI spokesman David Beyer said the bureau is helping state police with the case.
"Our job is to determine if there was foul play involved — and that's part of the investigation — and if there was foul play involved, whether that is related to his employment as a census worker," said Beyer.
Beyer declined to confirm or discuss any details about the crime scene.
Lucindia Scurry-Johnson, assistant director of the Census Bureau's southern office in Charlotte, N.C., said law enforcement officers have told the agency the matter is "an apparent homicide" but nothing else.
Census employees were told Sparkman's truck was found nearby, and a computer he was using for work was found inside it, she said. He worked part-time for the Census, usually conducting interviews once or twice a month.
Sparkman has worked for the Census since 2003, spanning five counties in the surrounding area. Much of his recent work had been in Clay County, officials said.
Door-to-door operations have been suspended in Clay County pending a resolution of the investigation, Scurry-Johnson said.
The U.S. Census Bureau is overseen by the Commerce Department.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our co-worker," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with William Sparkman's son, other family and friends."
Locke called him "a shining example of the hardworking men and women employed by the Census Bureau."
Full Story after the jump
September 22, 2009
Go Single Payer insurgents! Go!
September 18, 2009
September 15, 2009
MY NEW CHANNEL:
LYING CORPORATE CRONIES:
PUBLIC CITIZEN'S YOUTUBE CHANNEL (THE GOOD GUYS):
But since the conservatives have taken to just plain making shit up, and since nobody is calling them on their bullshit, I think it's time we stop being passive about this, and call them out when they're full of shit. Every single time. They're like children. If you give them leeway, they will think they can get away with it. So since I did the work once, I figure you should have the benefit of using this as information ammunition should you come across the same stupidity.
Now, today I got an email about the cash for clunkers program. I want to point out that this isn't in defense of the program. It's in defense of MATH.
So here's the email I got:
A vehicle at 15 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 800 gallons a year of gasoline.Ha ha ha. Except for one thing. Somebody might want to check their math:
A vehicle at 25 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 480 gallons a year.
So, the average "Cash for Clunkers" transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year.
They claim 700,000 vehicles – so that's 224 million gallons / year.
That equates to a bit over 5 million barrels of oil.
5 million barrels of oil is about ¼ of one day's US consumption.
And, 5 million barrels of oil costs about $350 million dollars at $70/bbl.
So, we all contributed to spending $3 billion to save $350 million.
How good a deal was that ???
They'll probably do a great job with health care though!!
A barrel of oil is 42 gallons of oil.
Depending on refining efficiency, the gasoline extracted can vary, but averages about 20 gallons per barrel, in reality, it's about 19.7 gallons, but rounding up for ease of math...
(from the Dept of Energy's website)
FIRST ERROR: 224million gallons a year doesn't equate to 5 million barrels of oil.
Check it out:
20/1 = 224,000,000/x
224 million gallons would come from 11.2 million barrels of oil.
That's more than twice the figure given.
SECOND ERROR: 5 million is NOT 1/4 of our daily petroleum consumption.
The USA uses 8,989,000 barrels of oil a day in transportation.
So even if the savings was 5million, it would be more than half of our daily consumption, not a fourth.
What's more, 11.2 million barrels (the actual savings in this hypothetical) is not 1/4 of 8.989 million either-- 11.2 million is roughly 120% of 8.989 million.
THIRD ERROR: 11.2 million barrels would cost $784 million at $70/bbl.
FOURTH ERROR: The average car has a lifespan of 20 years. Over twenty years, a savings of $784 million/yr = $15.68 billion
If all cars swapped out in the Cash for Clunkers deal were a swap of 15 to 25mpg, that means we spent less than $3 billion to save $15.68 billion dollars.
FIFTH ERROR: The most popular car purchased in the Cash for Clunkers program was the Toyota Camery, which gets 31mpg.
At 12,000 miles a year, that's 387 gallons a year, a fuel savings of 412 gallons over the 15 mpg car, per year.
If everybody bought a Camery, that's 288million gallons saved a year. That's $14.4 million barrels of oil. That's a little over one billion dollars a year.
And $20.16 billion dollars saved over the course of the lifetime of those vehicles.
A legitimate argument would have been that we're removing between $15-20 billion dollars from our GDP in petroleum sales.
September 12, 2009
A list of more crimes against decency you might want to look at.
September 11, 2009
I ran downstairs to see what was going on on the news. I sat there watching in disbeleif. I had become friends with the RD of the dorm, and I ran and got her, because I figured she ought to know.
She and I sat there watching transfixed as the towers burned. As the first tower fell, I was in total disbelief. I knew at that time that a steel structure building had never collapsed due to fire. Cookie was concerned that the buildings might burn down, and I mentioned that to her. Time was static, so I don't know how many minutes after that I was proven wrong. I imagined all the people's lives inside being extinguished in a horrible instant, and my could feel my heart, and my soul, fall to the floor with the tower. Felt completely empty.
Cookie, the RD turned to me and said, "I would hate to be president right now." I looked at her, and asked if she was kidding. I looked back at the television and said, looking into the smoke, "for at least a year after something like this, you could pass whatever laws you wanted to. If he wants to the Senate to declare war, he can declare war on whomever he wants. Nobody will question the President during a crisis like this."
Looking back, I don't know why I said that, or how I knew that's what would happen. I'm not a Machiavellian person. It was what little American history I'd studied, probably; knowing how we interned the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Knowing how we had the Red Scare during the 1950s. During the Gulf War I was too young to understand what was going on, but I knew enough by the time Clinton was in office that I was against Clinton bombing Iraqi aspirin factories during the Monica Lewinsky scandal as a distraction. I had followed the 2000 election quite closely as a Senior in high school, watched as it was stolen, and was convinced that G.W. Bush would, like his father before him, declare war on somebody. I even have a letter I was assigned to write myself in High School by myself as a College Sophomore writing to my self as a High School Senior about what the future holds for me. It scares me a little now, but I said in that letter, half joking, "with George W Bush in office, we're sure to be at war with somebody by now, for no good reason." There was an inevitability I felt about it. Perhaps I was just jaded.
Sitting there watching as the remaining tower burned, Cookie looked back at me after my comment with tears and bit of anger in her eyes, visibly upset by what I'd said, and understandably. She said then, what I would come to agree with in the following October, when the congress passed the USAPATRIOT act. She said then, sitting next to me, "I hope you're wrong."
I wish I had been too.
Back on the couch, watching the images of the one tower smolder, still feeling raw as I felt the souls of every person in tower two extinguished in an instant, I didn't know what the appropriate thing to do was. Everything felt out of place and inappropriate in light of recent events. At 10:00 or so, I went and got on the bus to go to the Portland campus.
English class was still held, and I thank my professor to this day for not canceling class. His example is exactly what was actually meant when they said, "If we change our ways, the terrorists have won." For an hour and a half, we did grammar and writing style, as if nothing had happened.
I don't think Mr Phillipson realized at the time exactly what was happening or how serious it was, and he apologized the following class period for not having canceled class, but several of us thanked him.
Those of us who came into class, looked around confused about what to do or feel. Then our professor came in, threw his books down on the table, and said, "so, crazy stuff going on huh? Okay, let's do grammar."
At the time it struck me as being cold and detached, but looking back, it was exactly what we needed. It was nice to leave the insanity that was going on outside and focus on "Strunk and White." That class that day was a sort of psychic haven, while people standing outside the classroom door watching the screens, talking to one another about the end of the world.
That night, there was a girl in my dorm whom like most kids in my building in the 2nd week of classes, I didn't know, she was on the phone that night in the hallway, calling over and over again, crying, trying to find out if a friend of hers was on one of those four flights.
The phone lines were still all completely jammed as everybody in the USA was calling their loved ones to find out if they were okay. I really wanted for her friend or relative not to have been on one of those planes. It turned out that her friend was indeed on one of those planes. She dropped out of school. I did not see her again after that.
Over the next couple days, as the list of names of those who were in the towers came in, I made a list, and printed it off, and hung it up in the hallway of my dorm outside my room. I made it a point to read every single one and imagine who they were, see in my minds eye the person attached to that name. Something inside of me broke, but for the better. The bubble of security that had come with being an American born in the 1980s, the end of the Cold War nothing but a fuzzy childhood memory, had been not popped but shattered. There was an entire world of people out there, and it mattered what our government did. We could die because people in our government were killing people somewhere else in the world. I hadn't been paying attention in much detail to what my government had been doing. It was time for me to start.
I remember watching over the next few days, as no clear case was built for Osama Bin Laden. They just started repeating that it was suspected to be him, and at some point, it shifted from being suspected to be him, to be unquestionably by him, without any supporting evidence to report confirming this. It was because of this that I became skeptical of the official storyline very early on. There just wasn't any evidence to support what they were saying, or if there was, they certainly weren't presenting it. They were just stating things as fact with no evidence. The Bush administration refused to investigate for nearly two years, despite the pleas of family members who had lost their loved ones. Documents released on the matter were few, and those that were were almost entirely redacted.
It seemed like the talking heads were just making it all up, and just expecting us to believe whatever they said because we were in a state of shock, and they were the NEWS.
I had become too cynical and skeptical to just believe whatever I was told. All I wanted was evidence. Apparently four women who had lost their husbands in the attacks felt the same way. The whole thing reminded me too much of George Orwell's "1984."
Later, on October 26th, 2001, I saw on the crawl at the bottom of the screen that the congress had passed a new "anti-terrorism" bill. I didn't understand the need. Terrorism was illegal already. They didn't need to pass a law against it. I wondered what it could possibly be about. With the help of Jefferson.gov and the New York Center for Constitutional Rights, I started reading through the USAPATRIOT act. Turns out it was something straight out of 1984. At that point, I became more skeptical of the official story. Especially as I then learned from the New York Center for Constitutional Rights that this bill had been prepared and drafted a year prior, but was introduced at the last minute, giving nobody a chance to read it.
And that's really when everything began to change. Our libraries were (and still are) subject to search at any time by federal agents, and librarians who spoke out were slapped with law suits and detaining orders, telling them that they could not speak to anybody not even a lawyer. The librarians started putting up signs saying that federal agents had NOT searched their records yet. Over time those signs disappeared, and the librarians couldn't talk about it, by law.
I checked Jefferson.gov to find out who'd voted against the USAPATRIOT act. Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. They became my heroes, even though I didn't know who they were at the time.
I became urgently interested in foreign affairs, history, and policy. I asked the questions that everybody was discouraged from asking, like, "why do they hate us?" I didn't want to go to the mall or go shopping or go to Disneyland, like Bush advised. I didn't want to "soak up the sun, and tell everyone to lighten up" as Sherly Crow's song, released just barely a year after, suggested. This was serious, and the responsibility was personal.
I researched our CIA's and Military's history in the Middle East and all around the world. It became clear to me through study why the USA was hated. 9-11 was, as Ron Paul said, "blowback."
For me, 9-11 was a wake up call, an alarm going off, calling me to civic responsibility. To personal responsibility. It seemed to me that most of the country hit the snooze button.
September 9, 2009
The details of the Public Option are not new, if you've done any research on your own, but since most Americans haven't, it was nice to see the details laid out in Obama's speech-- though I think that with some of the new compromises, such as the trigger mechanisms to cut spending if cost savings aren't realized, if adopted, would pretty much doom the plan to fail. Which I think is the point. Private insurance is scared shitless right now, and they are doing everything they can to kill this thing (just like they do with 12% their customers every year).
The details of the plan, more or less, are as follows: The Public Option will be a non-profit insurance company, like the Postal Service is for mail, and will NOT be subsidized by the tax payer-- directly. If you can't afford the plan, then you will get a voucher to assist you to buy one, either from a private insurance company, or from the public option. While that sounds nice, it's a contrived way of routing government money into private insurance subsidies via the consumer. It wouldn't be so bad if the government simply subsidized people who could not afford insurance, or if they just gave anybody who wanted to sign up for Medicare, a Medicare card.
But with the mandate on the individual to purchase health insurance, (which the Republicans also support), everybody has to buy a plan, and so every citizen effectively becomes a way for the government to funnel federal money, through your forced purchase of a plan, to the insurance companies. This is supposed to drive down costs by increasing the market and spreading the risk across the whole of society, but I'm highly skeptical that it will have any effect. Afterall, the profit motive in insurance IS the problem, which thankfully Obama recognized, when he talked about the former CEO of an insurance company who talked about how insurance companies are rewarded for denying claims and denying care to the ill. But without pushing for Medicare for All, it's just a rhetorical victory on the part of progressives, not anything useful as far as policy goes.
The key reforms sought by Obama are as follows:
1) Make it illegal to deny claims based on pre-existing conditions.
2) Make it illegal to change the terms of the plan you purchase.
3) Create a health insurance exchange, through which Americans can do what Wal*Mart and Sam's Club does, which is use collective purchasing power at large volume to reduce costs to the individual.
Obama hedged on the cost, rather than saying one trillion, over the course of ten years, he said "over 900 billion" which sounds less scary, but means the same thing, which also isn't scary.
It is, as Obama was smart to point out, less than we've spent in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I thought it was sad that, even though the President dispelled the myths and disinformation that the Republicans have been spreading, the Republican response speech held afterward was to repeat the very lies and disinformation that were dispelled not ten minutes prior. Claims like "Medicare is going to be cut by $200 billion."
While it is factually true that within Medicare there will be a cut of $200 billion dollars, the cuts are coming from subsidies to insurance companies, which is wasted money. Medicare doesn't need to hire an insurance company to pay out doctor's bills. Medicare can pay doctor's bills on it's own, without losing money to an insurance company skimming corporate profits off the top on the way there.
What's more, is that this cut money is then being redistributed and then spent within the medicare program, so that the net effect is that there is no cut, and that rather than going to corporate profits, more money is going to medical expenses-- which is what Medicare is designed to do. So it's not actually a cut, but a reallocation of funds.
Republicans claim that there were many misstatements in Obama's speech. On that point I can agree. Obama said, "health insurance CEOs aren't bad people."
That is false. To run such a business, and to know that your decisions to increase your profits would kill 18,000 people every year, would require a total divorce with any human decency or sense of morality. Such a person would not be a good person by any standard I can think of. A good person would have a sense of human decency and a sense of morals, of right and wrong.
Another thing that upset me quite a bit, was when Obama mentioned that young healthy people choose not to purchase health insurance because they are willing to take the risk. FUCK THAT-- I don't have insurance because it's fucking expensive, and I'm broke as shit. I would LOVE to have health insurance. Sign me up for Medicare right now! Just don't criminalize my poverty, because I won't be able to afford to purchase one. My car just died, and I can barely afford to fix that, let alone make additional monthly payments on some private plan that is going to overcharge me, and then won't even provide any benefits when I need them. And the individual mandate, in effect, criminalizes poverty. That really sucks.
Obama said that he intends to be the last president to take up the issue of health care reform. I don't know what that is supposed to mean. These reforms are timid, the mandates are wrong-headed, and what's been put forth so far is certainly a far cry from actually fixing what's wrong with our health insurance market here in America.
I know that this isn't an important part of the speech, but it was thrilling to see the joint session erupt with protests from the Republican members of congress when Obama addressed head on the lies that have been propagated. I think the president should be required to speak at the joint session more often, like once a month, so that it would be more like the British House of parliament.
It was certainly a stark contrast between the Republicans protesting the lies being confronted head-on and dismissed tonight, versus the joint sessions that the Bush administration held after September 11th, and then leading up to the Iraq war, where everybody in Congress was silent. The Democrats sat idly by and were very quiet. No boos or disruptions. And that was when we were talking about killing people. Now we are trying to save lives, and the Republicans are hooting and hollering in protest, with one Republican from South Carolina yelling and calling the president a liar. An interesting contrast to note.
Republicans also held up pieces of paper, which I thought was a stupid form of protest, if indeed that's what it was. It made no sense whatsoever on the home TV. I'm sure THEY knew what the significance of those papers were, but nobody at home on their couches did. With the protesting and the hooting and hollering, they came across as having totally lost it, which they probably have. They were from the House, after all. There was one congressperson with a sheet of paper in his lap with the words written, "What Bill?" in large black ink letters. This one protest I thought was valid and does bring up a good point; there are currently something like six different bills, one of which is HR 676, another-- and the one that Democrats are usually talking about, is HR 3200. There are others as well, but they propose the creating of small co-opts that wouldn't have the bargaining power to lower costs like the health insurance exchange proposed in HR 3200.
Obama did a great thing with the last ten minutes of his speech, calling into question the idea that government itself is somehow un-American. It was a rebuttal to the anarcho-capitalist philosophy of Reagan and Goldwater that though meek, has been LONG overdue. There once was a time when Republicans ran on a platform increasing welfare spending, like Richard Nixon, or Dwight Eisenhower, for instance. Obama made an emotional and philosophical appeal, but I think it's one that is much needed for the sake of the public debate. If those sound-bytes are the one that end up being repeated over and over in the 24 hour news cycle, health insurance reform will be a cinch, and it will hopefully mark the turn of the tide away from that anarcho-capitalist, nonsense. Or as Evo Morales calls it, "Barbarian Capitalism."