Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, November 30, 2009 10:56 pm

Odds and ends for 11/30

Somebody make this guy a senator: Vermont’s Bernie Sanders on reappointing Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Fed: “No, I absolutely will not vote for Mr. Bernanke. He is part of the problem. (If) he’s the smartest guy in the world, why didn’t he do anything to prevent us from sinking into this disaster that Wall Street caused and which he was a part of?” Now all we need is 50 more just like him.

More Sanders, just because it’s so damn refreshing to hear someone standing up to banksters on behalf of taxpayers: “If the taxpayers of this country have spent $700 billion bailing out Wall Street because they are too big to fail, why is it that 3 out of the 4 largest financial institutions today are bigger than they were before the bailout, why is it ok that 4 large financial institutions write half the mortgages, two thirds of the credit cards, and control 40% of the deposits. The bottom line to me is that the middle class in this country is collapsing. We have seen this trend downward for many many years. We need a new direction. We need President Obama to take this country in a new way,new economic policies and you don’t appoint the same old guys if you’re going to do that.”

Relatedly: Fifteen questions the Senate Banking Committee should ask Bernanke but probably won’t.

Shorter McKinsey: The European commercial real estate market to the contrary, 2 + 2 != 5. Even shorter McKinsey: If you own a dime of European commercial real-estate financing, you’re so screwed.

Sex scandals can be/Grounds for excellent haiku/Enter this contest: Talking Points Memo is having a contest to see who can submit the best haiku about one (or more) of 2009’s political sex scandals. Send yours to

AIG? Is not, after all this talk of bonuses for its employees, out of the woods, which means taxpayers aren’t, either. Sigh.

Sarah Palin’s “bus” tour? Also included some trips by chartered private jet. Which would be fine if she’d just, you know, either said that up front or not even made mode of travel an issue. But no.

Even Republicans think Newsweek’s Jon Meacham is an idiot: Meacham said Cheney should be the GOP presidential nominee in 2012. But a WashPost poll of Republicans finds that only one respondent out of about 800 — 0.125% — thinks Cheney best represents Republican principles. And when respondents were asked an open-ended question about who the nominee should be, no one suggested Cheney.

Memo to John Harris of Politico: Explain to me again why thinking rationally about how to solve the country’s problems is a bad thing. Because we tried that whole deciding-with-the-gut thing already and look where that got us.

Reason No. 5,677 why Obama ought to do the right thing on Afghanistan, rather than what Republicans say he should do, courtesy of Andrew Sullivan: “If he ramps up Afghanistan and delays Iraq withdrawal, he will lose his base. If he does the full metal neocon as he is being urged to, he should not be deluded in believing the GOP will in any way support him. They will oppose him every step of every initiative. They will call him incompetent if Afghanistan deteriorates, they will call him a terrorist-lover if he withdraws, they will call him a traitor if he does not do everything they want, and they will eventually turn on him and demand withdrawal, just as they did in the Balkans with Clinton.”

Because if we don’t know about it, then we don’t have to do anything about it: The Supreme Court, overruling an appeals court, lets the Obama administration keep secret some photos of torture. Dammit. We will regret this ruling, and probably sooner rather than later.

Sunday, November 29, 2009 10:05 pm

Making it two in a row

War criminals in the Oval Office, that is.


KABUL, Afghanistan — An American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates, sometimes for weeks at a time, without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base.

The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.

“The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place,” said Hamidullah, a spare-parts dealer in Kandahar who said he was detained there in June. “They don’t let the I.C.R.C. officials or any other civilians see or communicate with the people they keep there. Because I did not know what time it was, I did not know when to pray.”

The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his stated desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, it did not also close this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces.

Military officials said as recently as this summer that the Afghanistan jail and another like it at the Balad Air Base in Iraq were being used to interrogate high-value detainees. And officials said recently that there were no plans to close the jails.


KABUL — Two Afghan teenagers held in U.S. detention north of Kabul this year said they were beaten by American guards, photographed naked, deprived of sleep and held in solitary confinement in concrete cells for at least two weeks while undergoing daily interrogation about their alleged links to the Taliban.

The accounts could not be independently substantiated. But in successive, on-the-record interviews, the teenagers presented a detailed, consistent portrait suggesting that the abusive treatment of suspected insurgents has in some cases continued under the Obama administration, despite steps that President Obama has said would put an end to the harsh interrogation practices authorized by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The two teenagers — Issa Mohammad, 17, and Abdul Rashid, who said he is younger than 16 — said in interviews this week that they were punched and slapped in the face by their captors during their time at Bagram air base, where they were held in individual cells. Rashid said his interrogator forced him to look at pornography alongside a photograph of his mother.

The holding center described by the teenagers appeared to have been a facility run by U.S. Special Operations forces that is separate from the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, the main American-run prison, which holds about 700 detainees. The teenagers’ descriptions of a holding area on a different part of the Bagram base are consistent with the accounts of two other former detainees, who say they endured similar mistreatment, but not beatings, while being held last year at what Afghans call Bagram’s “black” prison.

Mr. President, it was a crime when George W. Bush did it and it’s a crime now.

Jets 17, Panthers 6

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 10:00 pm

I suppose the Panthers’ game against the Jets today could have been uglier, but it was a double-bagger just as it was.

Jake Delhomme couldn’t keep his roster spot for next year now if he threw 4 TDs and no picks every game for the rest of the season, except for one thing (besides his contract): The Panthers have no one with whom to replace him and no first-round draft pick in 2010. He could still be gone, but getting rid of him and getting a replacement in will both be expensive.

Is Coach John Fox gone? I’m guessing probably so. He had a near-death experience after 2007 and responded by taking essentially the same team, plus Jonathan Stewart, to the playoffs in ’08. The problem is that owner Jerry Richardson expects the team to be a perennial contender — owners are funny like that — and this franchise, which has been to the playoffs three times under Fox, has yet to make the playoffs in consecutive years. It is mathematically possible that the Panthers could make the playoffs this year if they won out and got help, but a far likelier scenario is that they don’t win another game and finish 4-12. Realistically? I think they can beat Tampa Bay and maybe the Giants, but they could easily lose by 20+ to New England, Minnesota and New Orleans. Barring a miracle, I think they finish 5-11.

For sure, key injuries have played a huge role, and the team’s decision to give Julius Peppers the franchise tag, and the accompanying $16.67 million salary, meant there was no room under the salary cap to address the obvious depth problems at a number of positions. I’m sure Fox had input into that decision, but it was the responsibility of team management. It would be unfair of them to hold Fox responsible for the consequences, but the NFL ain’t always about fair.

Besides, this Panther team has the best running-back tandem in the league, one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league, a cohesive offensive line (until Jordan Gross’s season-ending injury) two former Pro Bowl wideouts and, in Dante Rosario, an up-and-coming pass-catching tight end. Even without Delhomme, it should have been able to score more than it has. And the blame for that does, in fact, belong at Fox’s feet. If Richardson hasn’t already called Bill Cowher, I’d be stunned.

Next year figures to suck as well: The team is even less likely to find a taker for Peppers if it puts the franchise tag on him again, and doing so would suck up money that’s badly needed to fill gaps elsewhere, including elsewhere on the D-line. And that’s to say nothing of what a quality QB would cost, whether obtained through the draft or via free agency.

So we’ll likely be looking at a team next year with a caretaker QB (Delhomme or otherwise), no first-round draft pick and a new coach with a new system. This team does have experience with consecutive losing seasons, and my guess is it’s going to get some more.

Odds and ends for 11/29

  • Policy misprescription: Switzerland has voted to ban construction of minarets. No good can come of this. In terms of confusing symptom with illness, it’s sort of like a doctor voting to ban coughing. And the Swiss are going to catch it both from the civil-libertarian community and from Muslims and their friends. There’s a real and growing problem here, but this ain’t the way you fix it.
  • I’ve got your stigma right here, pal: The National Review’s John J. Miller may be the world’s stupidest person with a keyboard.
  • Kinda hard to blame the guy who wasn’t in the room: I’m eagerly awaiting an explanation of how Dubai’s economic problems are the liberals’ fault.
  • Born in the ’50s: Somebody’s got a blacklist.
  • Economics 101: Some deficits are worse than others.
  • Memo to Obama: Keep on screwing your base over and see how you like Congressional Republicans with subpoena power.
  • Screwing the pooch: Gen. Tommy Franks and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld let Osama bin Laden get away at Tora Bora in 2001, a Senate report says. I think this is news only insofar as Franks has been claiming he didn’t even know whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora, but facts matter.
  • Not that it will make a lot of difference to the fact-averse, but MIT economists say Obama’s health-care plan actually will save money. Memo to Mitch McConnell: Bite me.
  • Memo to pundits: Having a clear position on issues does not automatically equate to having a beneficial position on those issues. WashPost’s David Broder and now Newsweek’s Jon Meacham somehow achieved their exalted status without having learned this.
  • Shocker: Lobbyists are lobbying to be able to keep on lobbying.
  • Shorter Devin’s Advocate: The movie version of Stephenie Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn” must be directed by David Cronenburg. (I heartily concur.) (NSFW) (h/t: Mel)

Saturday, November 28, 2009 9:38 pm

Best animation I’ve ever seen on YouTube

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:38 pm
Tags: ,

Someone with real money could make this a feature-length.

(h/t: Fred)

Exporting terror

There’s really no other way to describe this: The formerly secret Christianist nationalist group called the Family now has members in other countries who are doing real damage:

GROSS: Let’s talk about The Family’s connection to Uganda, where there’s a, really a draconian anti-gay bill that has been introduced into parliament. Uganda already punishes the practice of homosexuality with life in prison. What would the new legislation do?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the new legislation adds to this something called aggravated homosexuality. And this can include, for instance, if a gay man has sex with another man who is disabled, that’s aggravated homosexuality, and that man can be – I suppose both, actually, could be put to death for this. The use of any drugs or any intoxicants in seeking gay sex – in other words, you go to a bar and you buy a guy a drink, you’re subject to the death penalty if you go home and sleep together after that. What it also does is it extends this outward, so that if you know a gay person and you don’t report it, that could mean – you don’t report your son or daughter, you can go to prison.

And it goes further, to say that any kind of promotion of these ideas of homosexuality, including by foreigners, can result in prison terms. Talking about same sex-marriage positively can lead you to imprisonment for life. And it’s really kind of a perfect case study in the export of a lot of American, largely evangelical ideas about homosexuality exported to Uganda, which then takes them to their logical end.

GROSS: This legislation has just been proposed. It hasn’t been signed into law. So it’s not in effect yet and it might never be in effect. But it’s on the table. It’s before parliament. So is there a direct connection between The Family and this proposed anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda?

Mr. SHARLET: Well, the legislator that introduced the bill, a guy named David Bahati, is a member of The Family. He appears to be a core member of The Family. He works, he organizes their Ugandan National Prayer Breakfast and oversees a African sort of student leadership program designed to create future leaders for Africa, into which The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda.

GROSS: So you’re reporting the story for the first time today, and you found this story – this direct connection between The Family and the proposed legislation by following the money?

Mr. SHARLET: Yes, it’s – I always say that The Family is secretive, but not secret. You can go and look at 990s, tax forms and follow the money through these organizations that The Family describe as invisible. But you go and you look. You follow that money. You look at their archives. You do interviews where you can. It’s not so invisible anymore. So that’s how working with some research colleagues we discovered that David Bahati, the man behind this legislation, is really deeply, deeply involved in The Family’s work in Uganda, that the ethics minister of Uganda, Museveni’s kind of right-hand man, a guy named Nsaba Buturo, is also helping to organize The Family’s National Prayer Breakfast. And here’s a guy who has been the main force for this Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda’s executive office and has been very vocal about what he’s doing, in a rather extreme and hateful way. But these guys are not so much under the influence of The Family. They are, in Uganda, The Family.

Our tax code is subsidizing religiously driven state-sanctioned murder in other countries. There’s no pretty face you can put on this, and there’s no way, in hell or on Earth, you can sell this to any thinking person as Christianity.

Commenter YellowJournalism at Balloon Juice asks, “For his birthday, can we get Jesus some new followers?”

RIP: Mark Pittman

Once in a while, journalists come across stories they really, really hope to be wrong about but, unfortunately, aren’t.

Mark Pittman of Bloomberg may have dug up the mother of all such stories:

A former police-beat reporter who joined Bloomberg News in 1997, Pittman wrote stories in 2007 predicting the collapse of the banking system. That year, he won the Gerald Loeb Award from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, the highest accolade in financial journalism, for “Wall Street’s Faustian Bargain,” a series of articles on the breakdown of the U.S. mortgage industry.

“He was one of the great financial journalists of our time,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a professor at Columbia University in New York and the winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for economics. “His death is shocking.”

Pittman’s fight to make the Fed more accountable resulted in an Aug. 24 victory in Manhattan Federal Court affirming the public’s right to know about the central bank’s more than $2 trillion in loans to financial firms. He drew the attention of filmmakers Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, who gave him a prominent role in their documentary about subprime mortgages, “American Casino,” which was shown at New York City’s Tribeca Film Festival in May. …

“Who sues the Fed? One reporter on the planet,” said Emma Moody, a Wall Street Journal editor who worked with Pittman at Bloomberg. “The more complex the issue, the more he wanted to dig into it. Years ago, he forced us to learn what a credit-default swap was. He dragged us kicking and screaming.”

The American financial media in general, obsessed as they are with power and personalities, didn’t see this storm coming until it was too late. Mark Pittman did, and hundreds of billions of evaporated wealth might still be here if his colleagues had followed his lead sooner.

Pittman, 52, leaves a wife, three daughters, his parents and two brothers.



Friday, November 27, 2009 5:12 pm

Odds and ends for 11/27

  • Down in the desert: Dubai, whose potential sovereign-debt default is in today’s news, is messed up, economically and in other ways. Zero Hedge’s Marla Singer, who has spent time there, offers a pretty readable summary. Key takeaway: Dubai’s travails say a lot less about the pitfalls of capitalism than meets the eye.
  • Housing-market update: I’m not smart enough to know what to do about this, but more U.S. homes are in delinquency or foreclosure than are for sale.
  • The “deadbeat stimulus”: At least $160 billion a year.
  • Tim F. observes how the health-care reform bill is being set up to fail.
  • Martyrs: The people trying desperately to help Sarah Palin run her life are getting no help at all from the boss. I’m shocked.
  • The Obama-Bush Administration: The Obama Justice Department’s arguments against exoneration for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman are being prepared by the very same people involved in the original frame-up — the one in which Karl Rove was involved up to his eyeballs. So spare me all this talk about how much better things are in government now that Obama has replaced Bush.
  • So if we fire all the execs who ran the banking system into the ground, the banking system will crash and burn? Well, pardon me for agreeing with a former public official who barebacked a whore, but I’m thinking we should test that hypothesis.
  • Apologies are fine, but the Roman Catholic Church needs to take some of the time it’s spending on apologies and spend it on turning the guilty over to police. Also? Any institution with this kind of problem needs to get itself fixed before presuming to comment upon moral issues.
  • Relatedly, not only does a 2007 court filing by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, last seen denying communion to Rep. Patrick Kennedy because Kennedy won’t oppose abortion, admit the existence of more than twice as many accused priests as the diocese had admitted just three years earlier, it also cites that high number (~125) as a reason why court-ordered disclosure of documents would be excessively “burdensome.” Awwwww …
  • Unproductive speculation: If anyone has any ideas about how to end it other than by taxing financial transactions — an idea devised in 1972 by a Nobel winner, by the way — I’m all ears. But it needs to end.

Quote of the day …

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 2:50 pm
Tags: ,

… and maybe the year, from commenter ThatLeftTurnInABQ, at Balloon Juice: “We don’t have a memory hole, we have a memory blender, set to puree. Once it all goes into the cultural blender, nobody makes it out alive.”

Why so many siblings grow up hating each other

Filed under: Fun,Hooper,Victoria — Lex @ 12:38 pm
Tags: , ,

That said, Victoria still giggles about the time, shortly after we brought Hooper home from the hospital, when we were changing his diaper and he peed on her.

(h/t: Jill)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 8:41 pm

Odds and ends for 11/25

  • Roots: Here’s one good reason not to go looking for your birth parents.
  • Coincidence?: On Tuesday, Obama’s top Pentagon official for detainee affairs, who had long and publicly opposed military commissions for terrorism suspects, quits. Today, late in the afternoon on the day before a four-day holiday weekend (for those who work in or cover the government), the government announces it is filing new charges against a terrorism-conspiracy suspect under the Military Commissions Act of 2009.
  • Thanks for that, Tipper: The jackass lawyer who unsuccessfully sued Judas Priest for supposedly causing a kid’s suicide is running for Congress in Nevada — as a Democrat.
  • The master has learned from the student: Charles Lane, best known (if known at all) as the New Republic editor who oversaw serial fabulist Stephen Glass, has taken a page from the Glass notebook and just made crap up about the recent government report on hunger. To quote a commenter elsewhere, I hope his turkey has tapeworms.
  • Piling on: Connecticut joins Ohio in suing the financial-ratings agencies. Woohoo!
  • Memo to Pete Peterson: We know the difference between being concerned about the deficit and being a concern troll, and we know which one you are.
  • It’s working, at least somewhat: The people who prepare economic forecasts for private, paying clients say Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package has helped.
  • The public: “Stop covering Sarah Palin!
  • I wonder who will be disciplined for this screw-up: Former Bush White House spokesbot Dana Perino tells Fox’s Sean Hannity, “We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.” Forget 9/11 (she obviously did); what about the anthrax attacks, the Virginia Tech shootings and the D.C. sniper(s)?
  • Why does Rush Limbaugh hate America?: Rush Limbaugh calls for overthrowing the government. This would not be the first time he has done this.
  • Maybe it’s because of his philosophy*: “But if you live in the universe of lies, the last thing that you are governed by is the truth. The last thing you are governed by is reality. The only thing that matters to you is the advancement of your political agenda. And you tell yourself in the universe of lies that your agenda is so important the world will not survive without it and therefore you can lie, cheat, steal, destroy whoever you have to to get your agenda done because your opponents are evil, and in fighting evil, anything goes. There are no rules when you’re in a fight with the devil.”

*Yes, I understand that he thinks he’s not talking about himself.

Thanksgiving WIN

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:02 pm
Tags: , , ,

Bacon-wrapped roasted turkey.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 10:21 pm

Odds and ends for 11/24

  • Memo to college football’s Bowl Championship Series: Hiring Ari Fleischer to improve your image is like hiring Jenna Jameson to be the spokesbabe for abstinence.
  • Just a few questions for the global-warming deniers who claim the recent hacked scientist e-mails prove global warming is a hoax: “Which studies were compromised, how? Be specific. Cite papers and data sets. What is the evidence? Where is it? What work is affected? How? Show me the evidence that says so. This supposed scandal involves perhaps a half dozen people; how does it affect the work of the 3,000+ others whose work makes up climate science? How does it affect the work that was done before the alleged culprits graduated from university? The work from before they were born? Of the 30,000(ish) studies that make up climate science, which ones are undone? Where is the evidence? Be specific … show us exactly how and why?”
  • BONUS: Newtongate: the final nail in the coffin of Renaissance and Enlightenment ‘thinking’
  • And relatedly: “The number of Americans who believe global warming is occurring has declined to its lowest since 1997, though at 72 percent, it’s still a broad majority. The drop has steepened in the last year-and-a-half — almost exclusively among conservatives and Republicans.” And this Republican invites you deniers to just go right on fooling yourselves.
  • Did I see that right in the paper this morning — that Detroit’s 80,000-or-so-seat Silverdome was sold for $583,000? Yup. I saw that right. Wow. There are more expensive houses within two miles of mine. The thing cost $55.7 million ($222.7 million in 2008 dollars) to build back in the 1970s. I don’t think Detroit real estate can go much lower.
  • Robert Reich, in a nutshell, on what’s wrong with health-care reform without a real public option: “Our private, for-profit health insurance system, designed to fatten the profits of private health insurers and Big Pharma, is about to be turned over to … our private, for-profit health care system. Except that now private health insurers and Big Pharma will be getting some 30 million additional customers, paid for by the rest of us.”
  • Your stupid: Let me show you it: A Democratic Senate aide suggests that people who favor a public option are being “stupid” by criticizing Democratic senators who don’t. With support for a public option at 72%, BuggyQ at First Draft explains who’s really being stupid.
  • Your stupid: Let me show you it, The Sequel: Ezra Klein points out a basic flaw in the argument that the health-care reform bill will increase the deficit so we shouldn’t pass it: “I’m confused by the budget hawks who that take the line: ‘This bill needs to cut the deficit, and I don’t believe Democrats will cut the deficit, but since the actual provisions of the bill unambiguously cut the deficit, then I guess Congress won’t stick to it.’ People who want to cut the deficit should support this bill, and support its implementation. The alternative is no bill that cuts the deficit, and thus no hope of cutting the deficit.(Emphasis added for the C students out there.)
  • Asked and answered; or, Your stupid: Let me show you it, Reloaded: Michele Bachmann, the batsh*t insane congresscritter from Minnesota, asked the other day why Democrats didn’t support her. Because she seemed genuinely puzzled, the kids at TPM put together a photo essay.
  • Strange: I don’t know what’s stranger — that Lincoln, Nebraska, is the second-strangest city in the country or that Nawlins didn’t even make the top 75. (Raleigh was #34, not all that far behind LA at #28; Florida was the strangest state, which will surprise no one who has ever read Carl Hiaasen; and N.C. came in 48th out of the 50 states plus D.C.)
  • Stranger: If Santa got drunk and started Twittering, the results might look like this.
  • I’ve got your newspaper war right here. (Photo NSFW) As my friend Jon Lowder, who tipped me to this, said, “Somehow I don’t see this kind of action breaking out in the heated battle between the N&R and the W-S Journal, but we can dream.”

In fact, I think that’s what I’m going to go do right now. I may or may not blog again anytime soon this weekend, so if I don’t, Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Inaction has a cost — in lives and money

But don’t take my word for it. Take The New England Journal of Medicine’s:

There is clear evidence that the way we pay for health care stimulates cost growth. A “no” vote in Congress will leave these policies undisturbed. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that under existing approaches to payment, federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid will exceed $10 trillion over the next decade. In 2017 — the year the Medicare trust fund is expected to be exhausted — the CBO estimates that Medicare and Medicaid will drain $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.

Adults who can’t get coverage through work, are too young for Medicare, and don’t qualify for Medicaid have only one option — individual health insurance. Consumer Reports describes the individual insurance market as a “nightmare” for consumers: “more costly than the equivalent job-based coverage, and for those in less-than-perfect health, unaffordable at best and unavailable at worst. Moreover, the lack of effective consumer protections in most states allows insurers to sell affordable plans whose skimpy coverage can leave people who get very sick with the added burden of ruinous medical debt.”5 In recent years, several states have attempted to reform the individual health insurance market, with little success.

Coverage matters. On average, uninsured Americans get about half the preventive services and medical care that insured Americans receive. Studies have shown that uninsured people with cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, and other conditions are more likely to have poor health and to die prematurely than similar people with coverage. Existing safety-net services are insufficient to overcome the gap between those who have health insurance and those who do not.

The economic consequences of a lack of insurance are equally grim. If even one family member lacks coverage, the entire family is exposed to the financial burden of severe illness or injury. In 2009, 20% of uninsured adults used up all or most of their savings paying medical bills.

When many people lack insurance, everyone’s access to care is compromised.

For better or worse, we basically have two choices left right now: The current health-care reform bill, or something almost identical to it; and doing nothing. There’s no third plan out there, no Republican alternative; the only big questions left are will the bill have a public option and will it restrict women’s right to obtain an abortion.

And doing nothing will take more lives and cost more money than enacting the plan we’ve got. That’s not me talking, that’s the docs. And it really is that simple.

Because why not?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:06 pm
Tags: ,

Shifting the burden of proof — in the wrong direction

I haven’t read Cass R. Sunstein’s new book, “On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done,” so I’m withholding judgment. But I want to read it, soon. Because if this is true, Obama has gone a czar too far and Sunstein never should have been confirmed. As Marla Singer writes, “‘Prove the content is not libelous’ is rather a troublesome contention.” To say the least.

(I confess I hadn’t heard that he had been confirmed. Apparently it happened last month while everyone was running around talking about health or something.)

Marvin Gaye fired as head of Fox News

New memo to Fox News employees: “It is more important to get it right, than it is to get it on.”

Yeah, I’m sure they’re gonna get right on that. I notice that Beck, O’Reilly and Hannity still have jobs, so apparently it’s only the unintentional errors that can land you in hot water. This is, after all, the network that basically claims it has a constitutional right to lie to its viewers.

Monday, November 23, 2009 10:28 pm

You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you

Matt Taibbi tells Sarah Palin that, yes, the media really are out to get her. But it ain’t just the media. And it ain’t for the reasons she probably thinks. And it ain’t just her they’re out to get:

What the people who are flipping out about the treatment of Palin should be asking themselves is what it means when it’s not just jerks like us but everybody piling on against Palin. For those of you who can’t connect the dots, I’ll tell you what it means. It means she’s been cut loose. It means that all five of the families have given the okay to this hit job, including even the mainstream Republican leaders. You teabaggers are in the process of being marginalized by your own ostensible party leaders in exactly the same way the anti-war crowd was abandoned by the Democratic party elders in the earlier part of this decade. Like the antiwar left, you have been deemed a threat to your own party’s “winnability.”

And do you know what that means? That means that just as the antiwar crowd spent years being painted by the national press as weepy, unpatriotic [wimps] whose enthusiastic support is toxic to any serious presidential aspirant, so too will all of you afternoon-radio ignoramuses who seem bent on spending the next three years [exploiting] white resentment now find yourself and your political champions painted as knee-jerk loonies whose rabid irrationality is undeserving of the political center. And yes, that’s me saying that, but I’ve always been saying that, not just about Palin but about George Bush and all your other moron-heroes.

What’s different now is who else is saying it. You had these people eating out of the palms of your hands (remember what it was like in the Dixie Chicks days?). Now they’re all drawing horns and Groucho mustaches on your heroes, and rapidly transitioning you from your previous political kingmaking role in the real world to a new role as a giant captive entertainment demographic that exists solely to be manipulated for ratings and ad revenue. What you should be asking yourself is why this is happening to you.

I don’t know, but I’ll hazard a guess: With the Religious Right in decline, The Powers That Be are trying to replace it with the teabaggers. That would mean they would use the teabaggers for their votes while marginalizing them enough so that they don’t feel obliged to actually do anything for them.

But that’s just a guess. I could be wrong.

Odds and ends for 11/23

  • Critics of the health-care reform bills complain that the government will start paying for it years before people actually begin to receive services. And that’s a valid complaint. But if it all started together, wouldn’t they be complaining about that, too, because that would represent a failure to get the money in place first?
  • House Appropriations Chairman David Obey warns the president that if the U.S. wants to send more troops to Afghanistan, he won’t approve funding (which could be $40B) without a “war surtax” to pay for it. Obey absolutely opposes sending more troops, so that’s what this is really about for him, but the fact is, we shouldn’t be paying for wars off budget, as we have been doing.
  • There’s a huge bloc of voters out there for the grabbing for any politician willing to champion consumers’ rights and fight stuff like this.
  • A couple of months old but still noteworthy: Almost 1 in 4 U.S. households has suffered a layoff during the current recession; 44% have either lost a job or had their wages or hours cut; 53% of those polled (including majorities of both Republicans and Democrats) call unemployment the nation’s top problem; 51% said this year’s stimulus bill was the right thing to do and 81% said Obama has not done enough to help the economy.
  • How did I miss this — and when did Muammar el-Qaddafi go to work for The Onion? (h/t: Jill)
  • Some people just flat shouldn’t be allowed to be cops. Joe Apaio is definitely one of them.
  • Yet more on how the Fed, and Tim Geithner in particular, screwed up its handling of AIG. If it seems like I’m harping on this subject, it’s because I think it contains important lessons that I’m terrified we’re not going to learn.
  • Sewage? You’re drinking it, and there’s almost a 1-in-10 chance it made you sick last year.
  • Congresswoman and raving lunatic Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., says she can’t understand “why the Democratic Party would be opposed to me.” The appropriate question is why any sentient life form would not be opposed to her.
  • And, finally, advice for journalists, from Athenae at First Draft: “Mourning the death of hard news? Go do some.”

Stuff Phred says

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 9:14 pm

“I finally opened a bottle of 18-year-old Glenlivet tonight. … I’m on my second one, and Sandra just called up and said dinner’s ready, so now, darn it, I’ve got to stop drinking for a while.”

Hate it for you, my friend. ;-)

Efficient allocation of resources

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 9:04 pm
Tags: ,

Warren Buffett: “The idea that people that move money around are some favored class—and they are in this country, even in terms of taxes—strikes me as getting pretty far away from where we should be.”


TO: Bishop Thomas Tobin
DATE: 11/23/09
RE: Priorities

Dude. You need to worry a lot more about people without adequate food and health care, and about bringing pedophile priests to justice, than you need to worry about the voting habits of one politician.

Just sayin’.

Most concise explanation I’ve seen …

… of why Tim Geithner ought not be on my payroll.

Sunday, November 22, 2009 4:29 pm

Jason Linkins serves on the lonely outposts …

… of reality and sanity, defending us from Teh Stoopid with his mega-Patronus Charm of Barbed Humor & Mockery, as he liveblogs the Sunday morning talk shows (which you should never watch without a condom, latex gloves or both). Some of his jokes fall flat, but in the main this is a column full of WIN, including but not limited to a wonderful Mission of Burma video.

Some samples:

  • “[Chris] Wallace wants [Arlen] Specter to name another Congress that has cut Medicare by such a significant amount. He can’t! BURN!”
  • “Then [Wallace says]: ‘David Broder wrote a great column.’ Wrong. David Broder never writes great columns. A David Broder column about a Quinnipiac poll is the most awful piece of writing that anyone can imagine. David Broder is long past the day where he should have been shipped off to some lonely tundra to be eaten by ice wolves. Seriously, anyone who respects Broder needs to be trepanned.”
  • “Ann Kornblut is staring at Bill Kristol, thinking, “I can fix him!” YOU CAN’T, ANN! Hold out for someone who loves you for you.”
  • “[Brit] Hume says that we need to be a lot more unreasonable and bellicose so that we can threaten foreign powers into accepting a position of burden on our behalf for nothing in return.”
  • “Tom Coburn is on [This Week with George Stephanopoulos], today? The Senate is literally mounting a Sunday morning charisma offensive. This panel is Marsha Blackburn, Ben ‘Ralph Wiggum’ Nelson, Tom Coburn, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. So, that makes ONE person who thinks all Americans should have health care. Great! Nelson leads things off: ‘FIRE IS BURNY AND IT MAKES ME SAD.’ GS asks about filibustering, and Nelson replies: ‘SOMETIMES KITTY IS BITEY!'”
  • “Marsha Blackburn is blonde and pretty and has a voice that sounds like sloe gin fizz as she lies and fearmongers.”
  • “Liz Cheney, of course, says that the stimulus package emboldened terrorists, and we will all soon die when KSM unleashes his hypnobeams upon New York City.”
  • “Fun fact! Last night, I led a discussion about what ‘pony play’ is, over drinks, and you really cannot convince me that it would not have garnered higher network ratings than this show [Meet the Press], which is now the only thing standing in the way between me having a Thanksgiving break from David Gregory.”
  • “Anyway, Dianne Feinstein is a big fan of the bill, and voting for the bill, and debating the bill, and reconciling the bill, and most of all getting re-elected.”
  • “This panel is filibustering my life! David Gregory thinks it is significant that Americans think it won’t cut costs than the fact that experts in the field say it will. Someone, somewhere, in the world is always gathering together to say something dumb or uninformed or half-assed … it isn’t always ‘an interesting point of view.’ SOMETIMES IT IS JUST STUPID.”
  • “If this panel died in a plane crash, Don McLean would write a seven minute song about how rock music was awesome again!”
  • “Did you know that somehow, more people are watching this show than any other Sunday Morning talk show? It’s true. And I am one of them, and for that, I am very sorry. The Nielsen people really should have a calculation for ‘conscientious objectors,’ like me, who have to watch the show, but wish the Vogons would come and destroy it to build an interstellar highway.”

OK, that’s about all the WIN I can handle. Seriously. I laughed out loud so much that I’ve started hacking and wheezing again, so I’m going back to bed. But y’all go read the whole thing.



I’m not a huge fan of Washington Post writer Dana Milbank, but this piece of his on Saturday’s health-care reform debate and vote captures just how incredibly messed up the U.S. Senate is. “World’s greatest deliberative body,” my butt.

I guess my favorite part is where he gets Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu to claim that the additional $300 million in Medicaid funding for her state was “not the reason” for her “aye” vote. She had to say that, because if she didn’t, she’d be publicly admitting to taking a bribe. Fact is, I’m not sure how the arrangement doesn’t constitute bribery regardless of what she says.

That said, the vote never should have been this close in the first place. The arguments for this measure, flawed as it is, are compelling when it’s compared with the status quo and the nonexistent “alternatives” offered by the Republicans.

His judgment cometh, and that right early not a damn second too soon

We wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now without the credit-rating agencies — Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. And people are beginning to figure that out:

Already facing a spate of private lawsuits, the legal troubles of the country’s largest credit rating agencies deepened on Friday when the attorney general of Ohio sued Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, claiming that they had cost state retirement and pension funds some $457 million by approving high-risk Wall Street securities that went bust in the financial collapse.

The case could test whether the agencies’ ratings are constitutionally protected as a form of free speech.

The lawsuit asserts that Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch were in league with the banks and other issuers, helping to create an assortment of exotic financial instruments that led to a disastrous bubble in the housing market.

“We believe that the credit rating agencies, in exchange for fees, departed from their objective, neutral role as arbiters,” the attorney general, Richard Cordray, said at a news conference. “At minimum, they were aiding and abetting misconduct by issuers.”

He accused the companies of selling their integrity to the highest bidder.

Remember, we’re dealing with a setup in which companies pay the ratings agencies to rate their stuff. No conflict of interest there.

And I’d like to think that this will be a slam dunk for the plaintiffs. But the system is so rigged that I suspect it won’t. Hell, if a TV station can’t be held liable for broadcasting false news, what makes you think a bankster is going to have to pay a dime for screwing people?

Grand theft

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:45 am
Tags: ,

There’s a music Ph.D. thesis in here somewhere: an entertaining 5-minute video on how the I-V-VIm-IV chord progression has so thoroughly infiltrated pop music:

This progression is a/k/a “The minor fall, the major lift,”  as it’s called in Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which uses it in places (and which inspired a blog, now defunct but formerly here, of the same name), as does the Police’s “So Lonely” and God alone knows how many others, including roughly 2/3 of the songs currently in Radio Disney’s heavy rotation. Sigh.

I suspect the only chord progression that’s been stolen more often is “Louie, Louie.” And a book has been written about that.

(h/t: Ann Sheaffer Gibert on Facebook)

Saturday, November 21, 2009 10:49 pm

Oh, NOW we know what we’re talking about

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 10:49 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve been more or less involved in the issue of paperless touch-screen voting machines for — wow — coming up on seven years (how time flies when you’re having fun). From the outset, I never saw this as a partisan issue, if for no other reason than if machines can be manipulated or can malfunction during general elections, the same thing can happen during primaries. But for most of this time, there has been a pretty clear division between the two major parties regarding this subject: Democrats have tended to be more concerned about the dangers than Republicans.

Unlike a lot of activists, I never saw “black-box voting” as a Republican plot, and to this day I know of no conclusive proof that anyone has ever used these machines to manipulate an American election. I simply acknowledge that the possibility that it could happen is too great to be tolerated.

But I find it interesting, though not entirely unpredictable, that Republicans should start to get religion on this issue only after one of their own goes down in a high-profile, nationally watched election:

GOUVERNEUR, NY – The computerized voting machines used by many voters in the 23rd [Congressional] district [election on Nov. 3] had a computer virus – tainting the results, not just from those machines known to have been infected, but casting doubt on the accuracy of counts retrieved from any of the machines.

Cathleen Rogers, the Democratic Elections Commissioner in Hamilton County stated that they discovered a problem with their voting machines the week prior to the election and that the “virus” was fixed by a Technical Support representative from Dominion, the manufacturer.  The Dominion/Sequoia Voting Systems representative “reprogrammed” their machines in time for them to use in the Nov. 3rd Special Election. None of the machines (from the same manufacturer) used in the other counties within the 23rd district were looked at nor were they recertified after the “reprogramming” that occurred in Hamilton County.

Once again: Vote security is not a partisan issue.  It goes to the heart of our system of government and everyone ought to care.

Carrots, either

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:08 pm

My friend Sally Buffalo, with whom I worked at the N&R and who now lives in California, gives her baby son his first taste of carrots. Hilarity ensues, if, by “hilarity,” I mean “frowny faces, gestures of discomfort and sounds of protest”:

Why tuna is not standard equipment for law-enforcement officers

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 5:51 pm

(h/t: Mel on Facebook)

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