Monday, March 28, 2011

Headlines - Monday March 28

Aussie PM gives climate change speech Obama won't:
In case we need another reason to think two, three, 20 times before committing ground troops anywhere. "In February 2006, with roadside bombs killing more and more American soldiers in Iraq, the Pentagon created an agency to defeat the deadly threat and tasked a retired four-star general to run it. Five years later, the agency has ballooned into a 1,900-employee behemoth and has spent nearly $17 billion on hundreds of initiatives. Yet the technologies it's developed have failed to significantly improve U.S. soldiers' ability to detect unexploded roadside bombs and have never been able to find them at long distances. Indeed, the best detectors remain the low-tech methods: trained dogs, local handlers and soldiers themselves."

No-Lie Zone

Fixer: Since the Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Meltdown began, the world governing body of real football soccer has mandated a minute of silence before every match out of respect for the Japanese. Now, I probably see more soccer matches in a week than most Americans see in their lifetimes and I've seen the "minute of silence" a hundred times since the catastrophe. In every match, in Europe, in Asia, in South America, the referee had to blow his whistle to end the silence. Caught the US - Argentina match the other night from Jersey's Meadowlands. Let's just say I was somewhat embarrassed.
Sex consulting with Newt
Newt Gingrich: My Affair Clarified Why Clinton Needed To Be Impeached
When Newt Gingrich was getting non-wife blowjobs during Bill Clinton's blowjob hearings, he did so because his lust for the United States of America needed an outlet. But America should really have been thanking Newt Gingrich for having that affair. All the court proceedings he's had to go to for his divorces over the years taught Newt what it meant to lie under oath at one of those things, so he knew it (an opportunity to embarrass and score points against Clinton) when he saw it. And all this adultery expertise didn't cost the taxpayers any extra!

GINGRICH: No. Look, obviously it's complex and obviously I wasn't doing things to be proud of. On the other hand, what I said clearly — and I knew this in part going through a divorce. I had been in depositions. I had been in situations where you had to swear to tell the truth. I understood that in a federal court, in a case in front of a federal judge, to commit a felony, which is what he did, perjury was a felony. The question I raised was simple: should a president of the United States be above the law? [...]

WALLACE: I'll ask you man-to-man. did you think to yourself I'm living in a really glass house? Maybe I shouldn't be throwing stones?

GINGRICH: No. I thought to myself if I cannot do what I have to do as a public leader, I would have resigned.

Newt is pretty modest, but we're probably all of the opinion that he should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the brave sacrifice and consummate patriotism he showed in having sex with women who were not his wife. (And those mistresses should be given Purple Hearts for suffering what Newt did to them.) After all, impeaching Bill Clinton was necessary to protecting our country's—wait, no, there was no point to that. [Think Progress]

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
To cite just one example, the relationship between Barack Obama and GE Chairman, CEO and Artful Tax Dodger Jeffrey Immelt is so close, it's a miracle Michelle Obama hasn't filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Indeed, when Obama turns over in bed at night, one can imagine his elbow hitting Immelt in the face.
One of the major tenets of war 
"No plan survives contact with the enemy."-- Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke (the Elder), 1800-1891
I am keeping that maxim in mind when I read the statements being put out by the Administration, such as this from President Obama's Saturday address:
As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea. Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft. And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners.
Yeah. Sure. Assuming the Libyan rebels manage to topple the current regime, which as far as I can tell, will have to involve doing a Ceaușescu-type maneuver on Gaddafi, the Libyan Army will have to be completely rebuilt, which is going to require money, equipment and trainers. There may have to be stabilization troops on the ground for years (hello, KFOR).

Make no mistake about this, either: The crap about "we had to intervene to prevent a humanitarian crisis" is bullshit. We chose sides in an insurrection that has morphed into a civil war. In revolts, insurrections and civil wars, the losing sides generally get treated very harshly. There have been civil wars going on in sub-Saharan Africa for decades with millions of people getting killed. Those wars have included the use of rape and amputations as tools of terror. But other than some pissant interventions by the French in their former colonial regions, most of the world has only tut-tutted at it and confined its disapproval to trying the few warlords that have been arrested.

To quote a man I met this weekend: "If sand were a valuable commodity, we'd have intervened in Darfur years ago."

I don't object to the notion of Gaddafi (and his sons) being deposed. I imagine that the world will improve slightly when their oxygen-use permits are revoked. And I understand that much of this has to fall to us, because we are the only nation (for now) with the military and sensor capability to get this intervention started.

But it bothers me. In almost every state in this country, times are pretty grim. I don't know how we can ever to hope to remain a First World nation with deteriorating roads and shitty public schools. We have 1.5 political parties that regard education as maybe being a barely necessary evil.

In a world where it is becoming increasingly apparent that a basic business tool is the ability to access broadband Internet services, there are rural regions which don't have that and won't have that without government investment to at least help build the system. I don't understand why that is so hard to get going; the same exact point was true for rural electrification and telephone service in the last century.

We can't find money for better schools. We can't find money to improve our roads. We can't find money to use for developing businesses and industries. But we can always find money to go out and kill people around the world.

And that bothers me.

More protesters killed in Syria. "Twelve people were killed on Saturday during anti-government protests in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, the government has confirmed. It said civilians and security personnel were among the fatalities. Dozens of people have been killed in a week of protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. A presidential spokesman said a decision to lift decades-old emergency laws had already been taken. President Assad is expected to address the nation in the coming days. The government said at least 200 people were also hurt in Latakia and blamed the deaths and injuries on unidentified gunmen shooting from rooftops."

What gives? We'll take a wild guess and say greedy SOBs. They reject the idea of companies using profits to hire employees rather than already wealthy CEOs: "U.S. corporations continue to post strong profits quarter after quarter, even as the unemployment rate remains high and the U.S. economic recovery plods along in fits and starts. What gives? Corporate profits grew 36.8 percent in 2010, the biggest gain since 1950, according to Friday's latest report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. No sign could be more clear that U.S. companies see the so-called Great Recession in the rearview mirror. The strong profits, however, mask the continued difficult terrain for businesses. Yes, profits are high, but that doesn't mean business is strong."
Nailing these big insurance bastards would make up for a lot
I am so old I remember when Blue Cross and Blue Shield were - you better sit down - non-profit insurance companies.

One of them covered doctors and prescriptions and the other covered hospital care. They merged and turned into a for-profit HMO during the Reagan crusade to corporatize America.

Before Reagan, HMOs were weird little experiments, trying to bring down healthcare costs by covering preventive care and encouraging healthy habits.

After Reagan, HMOs were Giant Rapacious Monsters, making profits not by encouraging good health but by denying payments to anyone stupid enough to actually get sick or injured.

They've been getting worse every year since. It does not surprise me to learn that Blue Cross/Blue Shield finally crossed the line from behavior that should be illegal to behavior that actually is illegal.

The surprising part is that the Obama Justice Department may actually prosecute the bastards for it.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars:

If Eric Holder ends up indicting and convicting the Blues, I'll take back every snide comment I ever made about the Department of Justice:

The U.S. Justice Department is widening a probe into whether Blue Cross Blue Shield health-insurance plans are artificially raising premiums in several states by striking agreements with hospitals that stifle competition from rival insurers.

Federal investigators and some state attorneys general have sent civil subpoenas to "Blue" health plans in Missouri, Ohio, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and the District of Columbia, according to people familiar with the matter.

The investigation is examining whether dominant health plans around the country are forcing hospitals to sign anticompetitive contracts that unlawfully inhibit them from doing business with their rivals.

The Justice Department's investigation comes as the Obama administration seeks to rein-in rising health-care expenses that threaten to drive up the government's costs for expanding care under President Barack Obama's health-care plan. Congressional Republicans and others have said the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, won't lead to lower insurance premiums. Showing that the administration can counter rising premiums by encouraging greater competition could help win support for the law from a skeptical public.

The contractual provisions under scrutiny are known as "most-favored nation" clauses. They usually stipulate that hospitals must charge the insurers' competitors equal or higher prices for medical services.

Such clauses aren't in themselves illegal-they can simply be guarantees to get the best pricing available. But they can violate antitrust laws if used improperly by a dominant company to hobble competitors.

Blue plans tend to be state- or regionally-based and therefore have the market clout to strike such deals with hospitals. While national plans such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Aetna Inc. tend to be larger, they are more spread out and typically lack the concentration of a Blue plan in a given local market.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said: "The antitrust division is investigating the possibility of anticompetitive practices involving MFN clauses in various parts of the country."

These insurance contracts are written with all kinds of unfair and non-competitive restrictions. Did you know that when doctors sign an agreement with an insurance company to accept their users, they also agree that they won't offer lower prices to patients who don't have insurance? So even if your doctor wants to cut you a break, he can't.

Imagine, just for a minute, that your insurance company were motivated not by squeezing every last dime of profit out of you but by giving you financial incentives to get and stay as healthy as possible.

It actually does happen, right here in America:  At the socialist-medicine success of the Veterans Affairs health care system. For millions of seniors who rely on the single-payer Medicare system. And soon for every resident of the Great State of Vermont, whose legislators have just approved a single-payer system.

Have you talked to your Democratic neighbors today?

World's Governments Can't Decide How Radioactive Everything Is

Today is probably your last chance to finger-bang.

Extremely radioactive water has been discovered outside one of the Fukushima reactors, which means there's a good chance that radioactive liquid is seeping into Mother Earth right now as we are typing this. Tepco officials reported that radiation levels at Reactor No. 2 were "10 million times higher than normal before correcting that figure to 100,000." That doesn't sound fishy at all! (Nothing will ever sound fishy ever again, once all the fish die of radiation poisoning.) And while American Authorities promise that only trivial amounts of radiation have harmlessly trickled over to our continent, and that our precious anus burgers and plasma widescreens are still safe, four of eleven radiation detectors in California were offline for "repairs" last week. Oh, and now traces of radiation have been detected on the East Coast, on the other side of the world. So who knows? Maybe everyone will die today. Luckily there is already a plan to drain all the oceans and then use the radioactive saltwater to power spaceships to Mars. [BBC]


The Minnesota TimberMILF wants to punish single mothers economically. "Bachmann proposes implementing a tax system that would encourage "family formation." The context of Bachmann's remarks make it clear that she would like to either give tax credits, or lower tax rates to people who are married as opposed to those who are single. Given Bachmann's past statement on gay rights, the lower tax rates and/or tax credits would also only apply to heterosexual couples. If implemented, single mothers would likely be taxed at a higher rate than mothers who are married."
The free speech closet
No word if reporter imprisoned in a closet at Biden event was stripped naked

[Insert illiteracy/pissing on underage girls joke]

Though foreign reporters are still filing stories from Libya these days, such freedoms do not exist in the Landfill of Humanity on this side of the Atlantic, a place also known as "Florida." On Wednesday morning, Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers went to cover a Bill Nelson fundraiser featuring Joe Biden at one of those Florida death mansions made out of stucco and the corpses of sex offenders or whatever. But Biden hadn't gotten there yet, so his advance team put Powers in a closet and posted a staffer at the door so he couldn't get out and talk to the awful rich Florida people who showed up to this thing. "When I'd stick my head out, they'd say, 'Not yet. We'll let you know when you can come out,'" Powers said. He didn't, however, say if he was stripped naked and forced to live in solitary confinement for days on end, which is usually what people get when they aid and abet journalism these days. READ MORE »


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