Sunday, February 5, 2012

Headlines - Sunday February 5

Abby Zimet: Empathy Is A Wave
When Joe the Plumber Samuel Wurzelbacher announced he was running for Congress against Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur, the big question was why he'd bother. As David Nir wrote, Ohio's "new 9th District was drawn as a deliberate Democratic vote sink ... It's a clever gerrymander, which means any Republican who would try to run here just isn't very clever at all."

But it turns out Wurzelbacher had a solid plan, in the grand tradition of Republican grifters: He's paying himself a $5,000 monthly salary as a candidate. 

According to a campaign spokesman:

"The salary is significantly less than what he made as a plumber," Schroeder told The Plain Dealer. "The reason why candidates accept salaries from campaigns, particularly working-class candidates, is that they can't run unless they can support themselves."

Which would be a decent reason—you shouldn't have to be wealthy to run for office—except that Wurzelbacher wasn't a licensed plumber in 2008 when he became a semi-celebrity and given that he's spent the years since on the wingnut welfare circuit, writing books and making motivational speeches, it's unlikely he was doing a lot of plumbing in the weeks before he kicked off his campaign. But a run for office puts him back in the public eye just as his least last shred of relevancy was expiring, so the campaign should pay off beyond the salary it pays him.


Why Can't Romney be Attacked for Promoting Intolerance Through Mormonism?


Now if we could only get this kind of ruling here.

A French court has slapped a fraud sentence on the Church of Scientology, saying it targets vulnerable people for commercial gain. The ruling is a major setback for Scientologists in France, and it marks the first time here that the Church of Scientology has been convicted of organized fraud. The development puts its famous recruitment methods under a spotlight. Scientologists vehemently reject the conviction, saying that they are the victims of anti-cult organizations trying to destroy them. "Respect my religion," chanted several dozen Scientologists, braving sub-zero temperatures in the front of a courthouse in Paris.


Bill Maher: The Socialism Bowl


China's largest freshwater lake dries up


Watch Stephen Colbert's Defense of Planned Parenthood



Afghan civilian deaths hit a record high in 2011, making it the worst year for them since the U.S. invasion began, according to a United Nations study released Saturday. The report said 3,021 civilians were killed in 2011, an 8 percent increase since 2010—and the fifth consecutive year that the number of deaths increased. The insurgency was responsible for 2,332 of the causalities, and civilians were often the target of the attacks rather than merely collateral damage from attacks on military personnel. The report attributed 400 of the deaths to NATO and Afghan forces, a small decrease from 2010, and said aerial attacks were responsible for about half of those deaths. The news comes just days after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. would remove its combat forces from Afghanistan as early as mid-2013.

As you may have heard, Anonymous hacked into and released a conference call between the FBI and Scotland Yard discussing their efforts to crack down on the hackers' group.

What makes the hack all the more ironic is its release comes just days after Robert Mueller bragged of the FBI's cyber expertise at the Threat Assessment hearing on Tuesday (the actual call took place on January 17, which makes me wonder whether they have gotten subsequent calls as well). In response to MD (and therefore NSA's) Senator Barbara Mikulski's suggestion that the NSA was the only entity able to investigate cybercrime, Mueller insisted (after 2:01) the FBI can match the expertise of NSA. He even bragged about how important partnering with counterparts in other countries–like Scotland Yard–was to the FBI's expertise.


Man, if Leon Panetta doesn't get into trouble for revealing details of Anwar al-Awlaki's targeting or confirming that Pakistani doctor Shikal Afridi was working for the CIA when he collected DNA from Osama bin Laden's compound, I wonder if he'll get in trouble for (apparently) telling David Ignatius when Israel will attack Iran?

Panetta believes there is strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a "zone of immunity" to commence building a nuclear bomb.

Now perhaps this is another sanctioned leak meant to ruin Bibi Netanyahu's surprise (though I'm not sure how Iran would prepare to defend against an Israeli attack).

If so, Ignatius' article sure sends a divided message. On one hand, it suggests the US would not participate.

The administration appears to favor a policy of staying out of the conflict, unless Iran hits U.S. assets, which would trigger a strong U.S. response.

This U.S. policy — signaling that Israel is acting on its own — might open a breach like the one in 1956, when President Eisenhower condemned an Israeli-European attack on the Suez Canal.

Yet at the same time it lays out the circumstances under which the US would get involved.

Administration officials caution that Tehran shouldn't misunderstand: The United States has a 60-year commitment to Israeli security, and if Israel's population centers were hit, the United States could feel obligated to come to Israel's defense.

I'm sure the Israelis would never be able to cock up a Scary Iran Plot targeted at Tel Aviv.

What Ignatius doesn't emphasize–though he does hint at it–is the real reason for this schedule.

Complicating matters is the 2012 presidential campaign, which has Republicans candidates clamoring for stronger U.S. support of Israel.

Bibi Whatayahoo's biggest political donor, Sheldon Adelson, has already dumped $10 million into the GOP primary. To imagine that Bibi is not, at the same time, gaming out how the electoral schedule might play into the optimal time to pick a war with Iran is naive.

Which, I guess, may be why Panetta is blabbing this particular detail.

Margaret and Helen: The Race for Respect
Bill Maher: Atheism is not a religion.

Privatizing public services always - ALWAYS - costs more for worse service. And in Kentucky it's destroying jobs by killing small businesses.

From the Courier:

Kentucky legislators are threatening to subpoena three managed care companies after the state's 550 small pharmacies complained that they're being pushed out of business by the companies' low Medicaid reimbursements.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, a Lebanon Republican and co-chairman of the House-Senate Program Review Committee, said the panel has sent letters inviting officials from three managed care companies to appear at a meeting Feb. 13 to answer questions. If the committee doesn't get the information it wants, it is prepared to subpoena the companies to get it, he said.

"This is a drastic measure (issuing subpoenas), but they are putting our independent pharmacists out of business," Higdon said. "You can't sell things for less than they cost and stay in business."


The situation is bad enough that the Kentucky Medical Association says some doctors have discussed taking out short-term loans to offset delays in claims reimbursement from the companies.

Independent pharmacists have been among the most vocal critics because of the complicated pricing formula the managed care industry uses to pay for prescription drugs.

"This has hurt a lot of Main Street pharmacies," said Rosemary Smith, who operates eight Eastern Kentucky pharmacies with her husband, Luther. "We are the fabric of the economy in these small communities, and they are killing us."

The managed care system was implemented Nov. 1 by Gov. Steve Beshear's administration as a cost-saving measure.

Three months later it's a massive failure on all counts, as was completely predictable at the time.


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