Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:17 pm

Tom Daschle, Barack Obama, health-care reform and the public option

Filed under: We're so screwed,Weird — Lex @ 8:17 pm
Tags: ,

So according to a new book by former Sen. Tom Daschle, President Obama gave up on the so-called “public option” as part of any health-care reform package no later than July 8, 2009:

In his book, Daschle reveals that after the Senate Finance Committee and the White Houseconvinced hospitals to to accept $155 billion in payment reductions over ten years on July 8, the hospitals and Democrats operated under two “working assumptions.” “One was that the Senate would aim for health coverage of at least 94 percent of Americans,” Daschle writes. “The other was that it would contain no public health plan,” which would have reimbursed hospitals at a lower rate than private insurers.

I asked Daschle if the White House had taken the option off the table in July 2009 and if all future efforts to resuscitate the provision were destined to fail:

DASCHLE: I don’t think it was taken off the table completely. It was taken off the table as a result of the understanding that people had with the hospital association, with the insurance (AHIP), and others. I mean I think that part of the whole effort was based on a premise. That premise was, you had to have the stakeholders in the room and at the table. Lessons learned in past efforts is that without the stakeholders’ active support rather than active opposition, it’s almost impossible to get this job done. They wanted to keep those stakeholders in the room and this was the price some thought they had to pay. Now, it’s debatable about whether all of these assertions and promises are accurate, but that was the calculation.

Daschle later “clarified” his comments by saying, “I did not mean to suggest in any way that the President was not committed to it. The President fought for the public option just as he did for affordable health care for all Americans. The public option was dropped only when it was no longer viable in Congress, not as a result of any deal cut by the White House.” That’s some clarification: It means that Daschle either was lying when he wrote his book or he’s lying now. For the purposes of this discussion and because I see no reason to do otherwise, I’m going to presume that the book is accurate and the “clarification” was issued only because he’s getting some blowback from the White House.

OK.

I get that whether or not it actually was necessary to trade the public option to get some kind of reform passed, the Obama team might have thought it was necessary … and acted accordingly.

But if that were the case, why didn’t they just say so at the time? Why did they keep so many other people in the dark, both in and out of Congress? Because as late as December 2009, some prominent House Democrats were publicly stating that they wouldn’t sign off on any House-Senate health-care reconciliation that did not include a public option.

Did Obama’s people honestly think no one would ever find out? Or did they just not care that people (including prominent congresscritters of their own party), once they found out, would be furious about having gone to a lot of trouble to fight for something that was never going to happen and thus having been made to look like fools?

Seriously, I absolutely do not get this. What is the upside in this approach? What policy or political gain could possibly be derived from it — for Obama, for congressional Dems, for consumers?

Meanwhile, the White House, which badly needs its base voters in this midterm election, has been telling them publicly to shut up and be grateful for what they got, when what they got was a little bit of progress mixed with a lot of continuation (and, in some cases, worsening) of Bush policy and constant dismissal. No damn wonder the Dems have an “enthusiasm gap.” If I were a base Dem voter and had been treated this way, I’d be telling the president right now to Foxtrot Oscar Alpha Delta.

Am I missing something here? Because the only scenario in which this makes any sense is if Barack Obama is on Karl Rove’s payroll.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010 8:40 pm

“Your lyin’ eyes” is not an option

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:40 pm
Tags:

Kevin Drum asks: Whom ya gonna believe?

Republicans are loudly proclaiming right now that they want to eliminate the part of the [health-care reform] law that forces everyone to buy insurance. But that’s exactly the part of the law that insurance companies like. In fact, they want to see it strengthened. At the same time, they want to get rid of the popular parts of the law that keep insurance companies from figuring out ways to screw patients. But those are the provisions that Republicans say they’ll keep if we turn over Congress to them.

And yet, the insurance companies are massively funding Republicans this cycle anyway. Why would that be? It’s almost as if they’re sure that Republicans are just blowing campaign smoke and will support their agenda once they’re safely in office. They’re so sure, in fact, that they’re willing to put their money where their mouths are to the tune of millions of dollars.

So which do you believe? Republican mouths or insurance industry money?

Here’s a hint.

Monday, June 21, 2010 5:22 pm

The Washington Post should just die already

Yesterday the Post apparently published an article by the Fiscal Times. The Fiscal Times is published by Pete Peterson, the billionaire raising such hell about the deficit because his agenda is cutting social spending as an end in itself, not just as a means to long-term deficit reduction, a fact the Post didn’t see fit to share with its readers.

That’s bad enough. What’s worse is that U.S. deficits have far less to do with social spending per se than they do with our absurdly high-cost and inefficient health-care system. Adopting any of a number of other Western health-care financing systems, which run the gamut from total socialization to private, nonprofit funding, would generate long-term surpluses rather than deficits even before we touched other social spending, let alone military spending or our absurdly regressive tax system.

This information is readily available to the public, so we must presume that the editors of The Washington Post are either idiots or corrupt. And call me crazy, but I’m going to presume further that they’re not total idiots.

UPDATE: Peterson is also behind the group America Speaks, which will be holding meetings across the country this weekend to discuss what to do about deficits. As you might expect, the group’s framing has been constructed to try to build consensus around cutting Social Security and Medicare.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:28 pm

The health-care problem in a nutshell

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 10:28 pm
Tags: ,

Jon Walker at Firedoglake:

We pay nearly twice as much as most countries, and our health care cost problem is, at its core, almost exclusively a political corruption and corporate influence crisis. We know by looking at examples from other countries how to reduce health care costs for consumers, and we know how bringing down those costs can reduce our federal deficit. Many of the ideas, like drug re-importation, even have broad popular support. The only obstacle is Washington politicians completely beholden to the powerful health care lobbies that make huge donations to their campaigns. Our elected representatives have and continue to actively shape legislation to help large health care corporations charge us way more than necessary, and way more than should be allowed.

This year’s health care reform was written, supported, and sold to Americans by PhRMA and the for-profit hospitals. Until Congress is actually willing to take on these groups directly, we regular Americans will continue to get ripped off. . . and our deficit will continue to increase.

In a separate post, Walker explains how, with the enactment of health-care reform, private insurers have become superfluous middlemen who serve no purpose, create no value and cost us all money. Many of them were that before health-care reform, but they could at least argue that they were serving the useful purpose of managing risk, even if what they were actually doing was frequently much more insidious. Now, they simply have no excuse to exist.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 12:31 am

What was at stake

Filed under: I want my money back.,We're so screwed — Lex @ 12:31 am
Tags: ,

Roll Call is reporting that the health-care bidness spent $876 million to lobby Congress during the debate over health-care reform — roughly from when Congress convened in January 2009 to March of this year, when a bill was enacted.

I think I’ve said before that the most profitable investment a corporation can make in this country is buying politicians. Jon Walker explains why:

After watching the health care reform fight, I can assure you that the money was well spent. Proper reform that would have provided for true universal health care and brought our health care costs down to a level similar to the rest of the industrialized world would have reduced the revenues of many health care industries by roughly 20-50%.

Just take, for example, the drug makers and their powerful association, PhRMA. They spent $253 million on the health care fight according to the article. As a result, they managed to keep out drug re-importation and direct Medicare drug price negotiation, and were able to add very long exclusivity periods for biologics. A very conservative estimate would be that any of these three changes alone would have saved the government and consumers — in other words, cost the drug makers — $100 billion over the next decade. You could safely conclude that the drug makers will probably get roughly 100,000% return on their lobbying investment.

If you don’t think corporate money has a corrosive effect on our politics and public policy, the medical industrial complex has successfully placed a nearly billion-dollar bet that you are wrong.

This is why the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling was so horribly misbegotten.

Thursday, April 29, 2010 8:48 pm

They just lie

After the Republican-controlled Congress passed a Medicare prescription-drug benefit several years ago, the news broke that a report saying the benefit would cost a lot more than Congress had been told had been suppressed.

I figured it was entirely possible that we’d learn the same thing about cost estimates for the Democrats’ health-care plan, so I was not surprised to read this:

The economic report released last week by Health and Human Services, which indicated that President Barack Obama’s health care “reform” law would actually increase the cost of health care and impose higher costs on consumers, had been submitted to the office of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius more than a week before the Congressional votes on the bill, according to career HHS sources, who added that Sebelius’s staff refused to review the document before the vote was taken.

“The reason we were given was that they did not want to influence the vote,” says an HHS source. “Which is actually the point of having a review like this, you would think.”

There’s only one problem: They lied.

1. The Office of the Actuary didn’t receive the language of the reconciliation bill until March 18 (when the legislation was posted), so the Spectator’s assertion that HHS had a copy of the Actuary’s score a week before congressional passage — on March 22 — doesn’t make sense.

2. Past scores from the Office of the Actuary came out AFTER passage of the legislation. For the House bill that passed on Nov. 7, 2009, the Actuary’s score came out on Nov. 13. And for the Senate bill that passed on Dec. 24, 2009, the Actuary’s score came out on Jan. 8, 2010. This most recent Actuary report is dated April 22.

3. Given points #1 and #2, it’s hard to see how the Actuary’s score was available before the CBO’s, which came out on March 18.

Monday, April 26, 2010 8:42 pm

“You have to wonder about a movement that lies to its base to motivate them.”

Why you can’t be “pro-life” and oppose health-care reform:

In a reality-based world, in order to earn the moniker “pro-life”, one should support life, and few things do much better at achieving that goal than demanding inexpensive, efficient, universal health care.  Even if you’re just pro-birth, you should love universal health care, since having it is the major reason most other industrialized nations have lower infant mortality rates than we do. If you’re motivated by loathing for sexually-active women, it’s hard to say why you should care much about health care reform in any direction, since the amount of health care dedicated to protecting the sexual health of women is a small amount of overall health care spending.  If you’re a single issue voter on abortion, health care reform shouldn’t really matter to you one way or another.

Yet you have the anti-choice movement working as a single beast to attack Democrats who, by and large, give anti-choicers all sorts of support in their “forced childbirth/punish the sluts” goals. …

..l how “pro-life” and “pro-woman” is it to support a system where getting breast cancer means getting kicked off your insurance?  Can you really continue to front like you’re pro-life if you’re supporting a system where small children can’t get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, where many infants and mothers die unnecessarily because of gaps in maternal care, where thousands die every year from lack of health insurance?

Most importantly, if you think that insurance company profits are more valuable than the lives of living, breathing people, then your enthusiasm for stripping women’s rights away looks cruel indeed.  It’s clear then that this is the ranking in your mind: profits, embryos, real people, women’s rights.

I realize that I’m relying on facts and logic here against people who are either deeply cynical liars or batsh*t insane. It’s a failing. I admit it.

Monday, April 12, 2010 11:13 am

Sad

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 11:13 am
Tags: ,

The late Alex Chilton, lead singer of the Boxtops and Big Star, had no health insurance, a fact that may have contributed to his death:

At least twice in the week before his fatal heart attack, Chilton experienced shortness of breath and chills while cutting grass. But he did not seek medical attention, [wife Laura] Kersting said, in part because he had no health insurance.

On the morning of March 17, she went to work. Chilton called her after suffering another episode; she arrived home before the ambulance, and drove him to the hospital. He lost consciousness a block from the emergency room, after urging Kersting to run the red light.

UPDATE: And right on cue:

Monday, March 22, 2010 10:22 pm

Unsolicited political perspective and advice, worth perhaps quite a bit more than it is costing you

Over at Sadly, No!, HTML Mencken (and boy, do I wish I’d thought up that nom du Web) wraps up the long political season just ended:

That even this crappy version of HCR — which is better than nothing and is worth fighting for — passed at all was because of Nancy Pelosi. I’m sure this will make D.A. cry, but Hopey Changey, who has managed his own political capital with the same skill neocons managed the occupation of Iraq [OUCH!! — Lex], deserves negative credit for its passing. When elected, he had a mandate to kick Republicans in the teeth; he wouldn’t have lost a single supporter had he immediately demonized and demagogued the [expletive] out of insurance companies and Wall Street, two of the most hated groups in American history. But he didn’t; he sucked-up, he kissed-up, he [messed] up. And it almost ruined everything. …

Also, spare me the crap about Republicans’ tying Obama’s hands. Their head are exploding, they voted as a disciplined anti- bloc, they are inciting teabagger violence, they are totally freaking the [expletive] out over this tepid, Romney-esque HCR, because they were gonna do that no matter what; that is how they are. Only a total fool — a bipartisan fetishist, perhaps? — would think otherwise …

Word. If Obama had actually fought this battle, he could have won much, much more than this. (UPDATE: If you compare the piece above with this embarrassingly inept David A. Sanger “News Analysis” in The New York Times — “Mr. Obama proved that he was willing to fight for something that moved him to his core.” … “… he showed that when he was finally committed to throwing all his political capital onto the table …” — as if! — you understand just why the Times is barreling toward oblivion at rates that must be scaring its high-interest major creditor and inducing infarctions among the stockholders.)

If I were a Democratic incumbent running this year and I voted for the health-care bill, I would read this and plan my campaign strategy accordingly:

At least this once a workable majority in the government has stood up to the forces of cruelty and injustice, and whatever else happens to us in the course of this long emergency, it will be a good thing if the party of fairness and justice identifies its adversaries for what they are: not “partners in governing,” or any such academical-therapeutic bull—-, but enemies of every generous impulse in the national character.

I hope that Mr. Obama’s party can carry this message clearly into the electoral battles ahead, painting the Republican opposition for what it is: a gang of hypocritical, pietistic sadists, seeking pleasure in the suffering of others while pretending to be Christians, devoid of sympathy, empathy, or any inclination to simple human kindness, constant breakers of the Golden Rule, enemies of the common good. In fact, the current edition of the Republican party has achieved something really memorable in the annals of collective bad intentions: they have managed to create a sense of the public interest whose main goal is the destruction of the public interest.

This is exactly what the Republican majority on the Supreme Court did earlier this year by deciding that corporations — which are sociopathic by definition in being answerable only to their shareholders and nothing else — should enjoy the same full privileges in election campaign contributions as human persons, who are assumed to have obligations, duties, and responsibilities to the common good (and therefore to the public interest). This shameful act by the court majority only underscores the chief defining characteristic of Republicans in their current incarnation: an inability to think. And so, naturally Republicans gravitate toward superstition and the traditional devices of improvident religious authorities — persecution of the weak, torture, denial of due process, and dogmas designed to spread hatred.

I hope the American public begins to understand this, because they have been manipulated in their own pain and hardship by these dark forces, and their thrall to the likes of John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush, Hannity, and the rest of these vicious morons could easily increase as their economic hardships deepen. We’re facing a comprehensive contraction of wealth and economy that is going to challenge every shared virtue in our national soul, and we’re not going to meet these difficulties successfully without a sense of mutual obligation and sympathy for each other. The Republican party is just itching to turn a giant thumbscrew on the US public — that is, before they try to start burning their enemies at the stake. We understand that the Health Care Reform Act is a first stand against that.

That’s right. I would take this legislation and I would beat my opponent over the head with it like a rented mule. Let them be the ones to campaign for denying health care to children. Let them be the ones to campaign for medical bankruptcy. Let them be the ones to campaign for insurance companies that fatten their bottom lines by ginning up “pre-existing conditions” and tossing people off their rolls. Let them be the voice for the guys that take 30% off the top. Let them be the candidate of “I’ve got mine; f— you.”

They want to campaign on a platform of repealing some real, positive (if inadequate) changes? Man, I’d be begging to be thrown into that briar patch. The only thing I’d like better than that would be to campaign against the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

The perspective-impaired heard from

I supported the health-care reform bill, but only because the only other option on the table was the status quo. Every serious idea the Republicans have had in the last 20 years was already in the bill by the end of last year, and the corporate whores who control Congress — and, to be clear, I’m talking about Democrats here — refused even to consider single-payer and only kinda sorta pretended to consider a public option. So, no, I’m not jumping for joy that the bill passed because I realize we still have a long, hard slog ahead of us before we have a health-care system that’s both equitable and efficient.

Still, some of the opponents made such asses of themselves that it’s tempting to celebrate, and even to rub their faces in it, on the basis of the notion that if it enrages jackasses like them, then it’s probably much better than I think it is.

One such jackass calls himself “Confederate Yankee,” by which name I guess we’re supposed to assume that although born in the North, he supports secession. His idea of pithy political humor runs along the lines of, “Every time I try to watch Congress on TV, I soon find myself wishing a disgruntled JAL 747 pilot was nearby.” His assessment of Sunday’s vote is, “I stand by my comment that the Democrats who crammed this unwarranted bill down the throats of the American people who clearly and overwhelmingly opposed it deserve to be drawn and quartered.”

So, we’ve got a guy who is proud of wanting to not be an American. He thinks joking about a terrorist wiping out Congress is funny. He believes the bill, which was enacted by a majority vote of a duly elected Democratic majority in Congress, led by a president who campaigned specifically on health-care reform and won by one of the larger majorities in decades, was not only “unwarranted” (I’m not even sure what he means by that) but also “crammed down the throats of the American people,” by which I guess he must mean “enacted according to law and the Constitution after 15 months of vigorous public debate.”

(And forgive my Freudianism, but with regard to the whole drawn-and-quartered thing, what is it with wingnuts and male genitalia?)

Elections have consequences, as my fellow Republicans were kind enough to remind the country after they stole one, and this Republican, naturally seems to have conveniently forgotten that. Dude, you wanna secede? Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, because honestly? When it comes time to take care of the country’s serious business, pants-wetters like you are only going to get in the way.

But as bad as CY is, some of his commenters are positively drama queens. My favorite comment was from some guy calling himself “Odin’s Acolyte”: “We have a war now, should this become law. The little liberal weenies who have been crying about illegal wars over seas are about to have a real reason to cry. This shall not stand in my land. Never.”

So. Many. Targets.

So, OA, are you declaring war on the United States? Because if so, I’m pretty sure there’s a nice mesh cage in Gitmo with your name on it. I wish there weren’t, but unfortunately for you, son, I’m not the president.

“I’m gonna give you a real reason to cry.” What, are we 14 here? Or are you going to go around with your big manly-man firearm and start shooting random supporters of health-care reform? There’s a word for that, dear: terrorist.

“This shall not stand in my land.” Which land is that, dear? Marvel Comics Land?

“Ever”? As opposed to, like, next Tuesday?

(And forgive my Freudianism, but I simply must ask: “little weenies”? And what is it with wingnuts and things that “shall not stand”?)

UPDATE: Some 7-year-old shapeshifter has disguised himself as John McCain:

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year. They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”

Well, try as I might, I can’t find anything Freudian in that. (I must be slipping.) But I must say I’m very concerned about how the Democrats are going to get anything done once they have to give up all the John McCain’s Mighty Big Truckloads of Cooperation they’ve gotten so addicted to.

UPDATE: John Cole points out something very interesting about media coverage of McCain — something I bet wouldn’t be allowed if a Democrat in the minority in Congress had behaved this way:

What is amazing is that a Senator is openly saying “F— the nation’s business, we’re a bunch of kids,” and no one in the media will point out how worthless and childish the Republicans are. Even worse, no one is even surprised.

UPDATE: OK, one last bit (!) of Freudianism, but I’m just the delivery guy:

You can’t make this stuff up.

Why something had to be done

Quote of the day …

Filed under: Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 8:02 pm
Tags: ,

… from James Howard Kunstler, on health insurers’ reaction to passage of the health-care reform bill: ” … we’ll see how they cope with the idea that being alive in a treacherous world is the fundamental pre-existing condition.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010 10:49 pm

Another urban legend sussed out; American civic discourse goes to hell

A Facebook friend who opposes the health-care bill now being debated in Congress sent me the following:

COMPARE THE MEDICAL RESULTS OF NATIONS WITH UNIVERSAL HEALTH COVERAGE AND THE UNITED STATES

Some interesting statistics from a survey by the United Nations International Health Organization.

% Men & Women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis:
U.S. 65%
England 46%
Canada 42%

% Patients diagnosed with Diabetes who received treatment within six months:
U.S. 93%
England 15%
Canada 43%

% Seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six months:
U.S. 90%
England 15%
Canada 43%

% referred to a medical specialist who see one within one month:
U.S. 77%
England 40%
Canada 43%

Number of MRI Scanners (a prime diagnostic tool) per Million people:
U.S. 71
England 14
Canada 18

% of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in “excellent health”
U.S. 12%
England 2%
Canada 6%

It sounded bogus to me, primarily because although I’d covered health care as a journalist, I’d never heard of anything called the United Nations International Health Organization. So I Googled it. Didn’t find the organization, but I found a lot of mentions of it, most in the same context as you see here. A couple claimed this report had appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, but I ran a Google search of various phrases pulled at random from this piece against that site but didn’t get a single hit.

I suppose it’s only fitting that even on the eve of the vote, lies are still making their way around the world.

Relatedly, the Rev. Julie Peeples of Congregational United Church of Christ here in town had a nice piece in the N&R today in support of the health-care reform bill. As you would expect, the IGMFY crowd jumped on it. And at a rally in Washington today, opponents were calling Rep. John Lewis “nigger” and Rep. Barney Frank “faggot.” (And as you would expect, the wingnuts are either silent, in denial or blaming the victims.)

I get that they’re angry. What I don’t get is what they’re angry about. I further get that when people are angry, it’s usually because they’re, at bottom, afraid. But, in this case, afraid of what? Afraid of socialism? The majority of health care is in private hands now and will remain so if this bill is enacted. Afraid of higher costs? The CBO says it’ll reduce the deficit by $130 billion over 10 years and $2.2 1.2 trillion* the 10 years after that. Afraid that 30 million currently uninsured people will now have some kind of insurance? Scary.

We’ve had some truly scary stuff happen in this country in the past decade — terror attacks; illegal invasions; torture; warrantless wiretapping; theft of national wealth from the middle class to benefit a tiny, hyperwealthy elite. And this is what brings the spittle-spraying crowds to the steps of the Capitol?

Y’all oughta be ashamed. Thomas Jefferson would dopeslap every last one of you.

*Rather significant typo fixed. Savings are still huge, however.

UPDATE: The Facebook friend who originally sent me this asked some follow-up questions, which I figured might be of interest to those interested in this post. Here’s what I told her:

Comparing quality of health care among different countries is, as I learned while covering the medical beat, a complicated subject that’s measured in complicated ways. There’s no single link that will give you “the answer.” Moreover, systematic efforts to do so are barely 15 years old, so there’s not a ton of reliable data yet. (A generation from now we should be in better shape to draw some meaningful conclusions.)

The two most heavily used indicators of quality of health care are infant mortality rate (that is, number of deaths of children younger than 1 year per 1,000 live births) and average life expectancy at birth. In fact, infant mortality has been found to be a reliable indicator of not just health care but the effectiveness of national government in general.

But even those basic stats aren’t always reliable. For example, the former Soviet Union fudged infant mortality by not counting a lot of neonatal deaths as “live births”.

Still, those are starting points and most people can understand them without any special education or training, so let’s look at them.

The 2009 CIA Factbook’s ranking of 224 countries by infant mortality rate is at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html

You’ll find the U.S. with the 180th highest infant morality rate out of 224 countries, with 6.22 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Countries with significantly lower rates — say, under 5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births — include pretty much all of Europe, along with such other countries as Israel, Macao, Hong King, Singapore, Japan and Bermuda. (Canada’s rate is 5.04.)

The life-expectancy-at-birth ranking is here: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2102rank.html

The U.S. ranks 49th out of 224 countries. We lag not only the usual suspects but also such places as Bosnia & Herzegovina, which not that long ago was one big shooting gallery.

And remember, we pay more than twice as much per capita for our health care as do citizens of anywhere else on the globe. If the care we were getting were twice as good — or even, by professional consensus, the best — that’d be one thing. Instead, we’re paying beyond top dollar for, comparatively speaking, mediocre care. So while no one could rationally claim that we have the worst health care system among industrialized countries, one can certainly claim rationally that we’re getting the least health care for our money of anyone. Indeed, it would be hard to argue rationally otherwise.

One reason this is so is because we place much more emphasis on treatment than prevention. And I mention this because the biggest public-health care problem of the next 20 years is going to be obesity, the best way to treat obesity is to prevent it, and we do an abominable job of preventing obesity.

A good overview of the subject of comparing nations’ health care, with some interesting examples, is here: http://www.rwjf.org/files/research/qualityquickstrikeaug2009.pdf

One thing I recall reading back in my newspaper days is that the gap between the U.S. and other countries gets a lot narrower when you look just at people older than 65, starting with the simple statistic of remaining life expectancy at age 65. Why? Simple: Medicare.

Also: here’s some interesting commentary on that report I linked earlier: http://www.thestatisticaltruth.com/BestinWorld.html

UPDATE: My friend replies:

I guess I’m listening to too much FoxNews. How come that is the only network that seems to bring up the uncomfortable issues like: the how the IRS will be involved and why I should be concerned about intrusion of the feds:

From The Washington Examiner, Byron York:

In short, health care reform, as currently envisioned by Democratic leaders, would be built on the foundation of an expanded and more intrusive IRS.
Under the various proposals now on the table, the IRS would become the main agency for determining who has an “acceptable” health insurance plan; for finding and punishing those who don’t have such a plan; for subsidizing individual health insurance costs through the issuance of a tax credits; and for enforcing the rules on those who attempt to opt out, abuse, or game the system. A substantial portion of H.R. 3200, the House health care bill, is devoted to amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in order to give the IRS the authority to perform these new duties.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Health-care-reform-means-more-power-for-the-IRS-56781377.html#ixzz0iq0AJBDg

P.S. This is not “stoopid.”

And I replied:

This is one of a number of aspects of the bill with which I do not agree. Like I said, the bill is not perfect, it’s just preferable to the status quo, which is the only other option on the table.

And Fox is far from the only outlet that objects to this provision. A lot of people far to my left objected to it as well. (Example.)

That said, most people who already have health insurance through their employers aren’t going to notice any much difference. (Update: premium changes are in the range of 1% in most categories; some go down, some go up.) Fox is simply trying to use the IRS to scare people because appealing to them on the basis of factual argument wasn’t getting them anywhere.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 11:37 pm

Health care: Doing nothing doesn’t mean we just keep what we have

It means we waste even more lives and money than the already-considerable number of lives and amount of money we’re wasting now.

Some people profess bravery in the face of other people’s suffering. In our national governance and our mainstream media, the ability to do so is considered the mark of a Serious Person. Contrary to their misimpression, however, this behavior is not a virtue.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 9:12 pm

But Rush isn’t a racist. Really.

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 9:12 pm
Tags: ,

Sorry, dude, but when you call a health-care reform bill that isn’t a civil-rights bill a “civil-rights bill”* AND call health-care reform “reparations,” you’re a racist. Even humans can hear that dog whistle.

*Yes, health care should be a civil right in the U.S., as it is in most other industrialized democracies. But it isn’t, and no legislation now in Congress would make it so.

Thursday, February 25, 2010 5:50 am

Offered without comment …

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 5:50 am
Tags:

… a comparison of the health-care reform proposal offered Monday by President Obama with the Republicans’ proposal from 1993, from Kaiser Health News, a service of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

OK, one comment: Today’s Republicans differ from 1993 Republicans in that they have a purity test so strict Ronald Reagan would flunk it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010 3:02 pm

Why conservatives/free-marketers cannot deliver health-care reform

Filed under: Y'all go read this — Lex @ 3:02 pm
Tags:

ReaderofTeaLeaves offers an interesting piece at The Seminal, basically drawing a distinction between commodities (e.g., cars, shoes, diamonds) and such noncommodities as health and wellness. The gap in the piece is where he/she doesn’t examine the spot on the spectrum between where providing medical services equates to other kinds of service businesses and the “end product” (i.e., health/wellness) that the consumer is supposed to wind up with.

Context

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 2:56 pm
Tags:

Health insurers’ parent companies are making record profits, and they’re knocking customers off their rolls to do it. Just something to remember whenever they whine about what health-care reform might do to them.

Friday, February 12, 2010 11:40 pm

Best health care system in the world

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 11:40 pm
Tags:

No changes needed here, folks:

In the midst of a deep economic recession, America’s health insurance companies increased their profits by 56 percent in 2009, a year that saw 2.7 million people lose their private coverage.

The nation’s five largest for-profit insurers closed 2009 with a combined profit of $12.2 billion, according to a report by the advocacy group Health Care for American Now (HCAN). …

The industry’s response is beyond lame. First, they try to change the subject by pointing out that health-plan profits make up less than 1% of the cost of health care. And they totally bypass the fact that their profits increased because they reduced the percentage of revenue they spent on actual health care, in part by booting a bunch of people off their rolls. (Not everyone who lost coverage did so because of insurers’ actions; some, for example, lost coverage along with their jobs.)

Meanwhile, in a down economy, some of these same insurers are jacking their rates up as much as 39%.

But, hey, we have the best health care system in the world! USA! USA!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 8:54 pm

“It will all make eminent sense! And experienced theatergoers will immediately recognize that this is why it will fail miserably.”

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:54 pm
Tags:

The Reduced Shakespeare Co. Jason Linkins explains, in five short acts, why we ain’t getting health-care reform. Oh, sure, that means thousands of people will die prematurely who didn’t have to, most Americans will continue paying more for health care (their own and other people’s) than they should and our health-care quality markers will continue to fall somewhere in the Marianas Trench of industrialized countries, but at least he’s funny when he explains it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 12:00 am

Odds and ends for 2/2

Punxsutawney Phil weighs in on this whole Groundhog Day thing. Spoiler: He is, profanely, obscenely, NSFW-ly not a fan.

Bestest snow in a decade: The night we moved into our current house in January 2000, we got what likely will be a strong contender for snowstorm of the century. This past weekend’s storm, which dumped better than 6″ on us and close to a foot not far north of here, was almost as good. Got to go sledding and have a snowball fight with the kids — they killed me. Enjoyed Cajun crab-corn chowder and other good eats with good friends. Settled into a warm armchair Sunday night with a great novel and some Nattie Greene’s Red Nose winter ale. Ahhhhh.

Bad news, worse news for banking: The current commercial real-estate bubble could take down the banking system when it pops. And CRE ain’t the only potentially lethal problem out there. I’ll say one good thing about the free-marketeers: They can certainly f\/(% up a banking system.

Goldman Sachs to tell THE president to get bent, pay ITS president a $100 million bonus: Someone explain to me again why we don’t want to punish the banksters.

More insider trading that the SEC somehow manages to overlook.

While Jim Bunning does the taxpayers a few favors on his way out the door, Chris Dodd is throwing Molotov cocktails: Dodd, along with Richard Shelby and Paul Kanjorski, has pretty much killed the proposed ban on proprietary trading by banks. Because the one thing we desperately needed was even more taxpayer money at risk. Or has he? Goldman Sachs’ stock price seems to think Dodd hasn’t killed it after all.

Has prop trading really killed even one bank? Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker asked that question today. The answer is yes: Merrill Lynch, which the Fed bribed Bank of America to take over. (That transaction itself has raised all manner of, for BAC officers/directors, ugly questions about what stockholders were and weren’t told about the ML takeover.)

The Fed: One big counterfeiter, basically. Which, honestly, is sort of what I had thought, except that I figured there were important distinctions that were eluding me on account of I’ve got the economic skillz of a cinder block. Turns out I was more right than I knew, which does NOT make me feel as good as you’d think.

Not that what people want actually matters, but health-care reform with a public option is more popular even among Republicans in swing districts than the current Senate bill, which lacks one. And to no one’s surprise, although at least 51 Democratic Senators are on record as supporting a public option, now that reconciliation (i.e., simple majority vote) could make it happen, some of those “backers” are backpedaling, lest they upset their corporate overlords.

As is often the case, The New York Times’ David Brooks is guilty of slopping thinking. Matt Taibbi dopeslaps him back in the direction of reality and, in the process, puts in a shout-out for factual journalism over the false equivalence of “objective” journalism.

If you believe this, 26 states, including North Carolina, are insolvent. I don’t know whether to believe it or not, but, lord, it wouldn’t surprise me at this point.

I suppose it’s possible that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” will disrupt some military units … which is what desegregation opponents in the military warned Harry Truman 60 years ago. And as the fictitious Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on “The West Wing” observed, “You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it.” More to the point, so, basically, did all the senior witnesses who testified before Congress on the matter today.

Why the hell isn’t someone under indictment for this?: The CIA is allowing some of its personnel to moonlight for private, for-profit corporations. This isn’t bad only because it divides CIA staffers’ focus/attention, although that division is, indeed, a bad thing; it’s bad because it gives certain corporations access to government secrets they’re not entitled to have.

Why, it’s almost as if someone’s looking out for the taxpayers’ interests: Defense Secretary Robert Gates has fired the head of the $350 billion F-35 program because of cost overruns and performance issues. He also has withheld hundreds of millions in payments to Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the fighter jet. There’s gotta be a catch; I just haven’t figured out yet what it is.

I personally think Khalid Sheikh Muhammad should be tried in New York City, and I think people who think otherwise for any reason other than the cost of security are incontinent. And here’s what I would call a conservative argument in favor of trying KSM in, if not in New York City proper, at least in a civilian federal court elsewhere within the Southern Judicial District of New York. And here are some other reasons why letting the White House, Congress and local officials butt into this is a bad idea.

Colorado Springs tries an interesting social experiment: Rather than raise taxes, the city is letting a third of its streetlights go dark, letting dozens of police and firefighter positions go unfilled, not paving any streets and cutting all kinds of other services. I am sincerely interested in seeing what happens with this.

The NFL may well be the most popular sports operation in America, but they still desperately need competent public-relations counsel.

As do Senate Democrats, who spent the weekend schmoozing with bank lobbyists in Miami. No way that could go wrong for the taxpayer.

Supposedly we now have a study that says abstinence-only sex education works: Except for the part where the program studied — which might, in fact, work, although I’d say more study is needed — was not, in several important ways, abstinence-only. More details here. This isn’t just apples to oranges, it’s apples to mountain oysters.

As does Sarah Palin, whose PAC spent more money in the last half of 2009 on copies of her book than it did in contributions to other political candidates, ostensibly the PAC’s primary purpose. For those of you following along at home, this is a way of funneling political contributions to her PAC straight into her own pockets.

Question of the day, from Eli: “… if only one political party’s base gets to be taken seriously, does it really have to be the one that parades around with pictures of the President Of The United States dressed as a witch doctor?”

What could possibly go wrong? A Michigan man with a sled tried to fashion a rocket pack out of an old car muffler, gasoline and gunpowder. Police say he had been … wait for it … drinking. (h/t: Nance)

Saturday, January 30, 2010 12:29 am

Odds and ends for 1/29

I’ve already called for impeaching Obama. Looks like we can now add Holder to the mix: A draft report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility that originally found that Bush officials Jay Bybee (now a federal judge) and John Yoo (now a “law” “professor” at Berkeley) committed professional misconduct (which would constitute grounds for impeaching Bybee), the final version was cleaned up to say they showed “poor judgment” only. Granted, fabricating a legal justification for torture out of whole cloth does show “poor judgment,” but it shows criminal intent as well.

Well, OK, it’s a first step: Pravda, of all places, reports that Francis A. Boyle, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law in Champlain, Ill., has requested arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court in The Hague for the arrests of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Rice and Gonzalez for “crimes against humanity” under the Rome Statute, which established the court. For all I know this is an Eastern Hemisphere version of an Onion article, but, hey, a citizen can dream.

Well, this bites: More than 30% of Triad mortgages will be under water by 1Q2011, Deutsche Bank estimates.

Historians finally weigh in Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism.” Only two years after the fat, lying putz laughed his way to the bank. Thanks a ton, guys.

Banksters organize protest of their treatment … indoors, because it was too cold to go outside. Power to the people!

Bloomberg’s David Reilly asks a good question about this week’s bankster-related developments: Where’s the anger? (Besides Chez Blog on the Run, of course.)

Major-league media?: The Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm keeps using the phrase “discretionary spending.” I do not think that phrase means what he thinks it means.

Every little bit helps: Somali “pirates” pledge aid to Haiti. (Somali pirates’ est. 2008 income: $150MM+).

Possibly the most entertaining appeals court ruling of the year, and it’s still only January: Gender discrimination in the workplace as manifested by rude language (Oh, so NSFW, by the ruling’s own standards).

What’s stopping the Senate from ramming through a public option in reconciliation? I’m just askin’, on account of 51 breathing senators are on records as supporting one. Seriously, Joe Lieberman can go to hell.

Party of fiscal responsibility, my butt: Every single Republican senator voted Thursday against a new pay-as-you-go rule. Every single Democratic senator voted for it. Remind me again, please, who the grownups are. Quoth commenter Chad N. Freude at Balloon Juice: “They are opposed to pay-as-you-go because they are opposed to go.”

Whoux Dat?; or, There’s a reason they call it the No Fun League: Because you can’t abbreviate No Brains League as NFL. No Frontal Lobe, maybe. (h/t: DivaGeek)

The U.S. economy shrank 2.4% in 2009, the worst calendar-year performance since 1946.

California Senate approves single-payer health-care system; the Governator vetoes it on the laughable grounds that the state “can’t afford it.” Dude, you pay either way, and with single payer, there’s an excellent chance you’d pay less.

Terrorist convicted: The jury deliberated only 37 minutes before finding Scott Roeder guilty of first-degree murder for shooting abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in the head at point-blank range. Roeder admitted the shooting and also testified that he considered only chopping off Tiller’s hands instead of killing him. What a great humanitarian. Memo to New York: If Wichita can try a terrorist, so can you. Memo to the Republicans: Americans are beyond tired of government by incontinence.

I’m probably the last person to find this out, but the free audio-editing program Audacity can record streaming audio from, apparently, any Web site. This makes me insanely happy.

So Obama got together with some Congressional Republicans today. And it’s John Cole of Balloon Juice, who, despite humerus- and-clavicle- and scapula-scraping surgery a couple of days ago, is flying without painkillers, For The Win: “If Mike Pence really is regarded as one of the deep thinkers for the GOP, I’m beginning to understand why they refused to admit Terri Schiavo was brain-dead.” Although the prez himself does nicely with the runner-up: “I would have implemented those ideas had I found a credible economist who agreed with them …”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 11:06 pm

Odds and ends for 1/27

And people think I’m crazy for suggesting that Obama is as bad as Bush: Marcy flags something that the Washington Post’s Dana Priest wrote down but apparently failed to grasp the significance of: “Somewhere there’s a list of Americans who, the President has determined, can be killed [by their own government] with no due process.” OK, I’ll say it: Impeach him. I’m dead serious. Because if what Priest reports is true, the president has illegally and extraconstitutionally conspired to commit murder.

Think George W. Bush will watch on teevee?: Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair testifies Friday in the inquiry into that country’s decision to join the war in Iraq. Even if he escapes indictment — and that is far from certain — Blair’s place in British history appears sure to fall into the Brit equivalent of Warren Harding country.

Cue ominous music: The SEC voted 4-1 today to suspend automatic redemptions from money-market funds. People who value these investments for their liquidity now have no reason to value them. Let the stampede begin. What’s the larger meaning? I have no idea, but I’m about 98% sure it ain’t good.

The banksters screw us again: Citi temporarily tamped down some of the criticism of its big bonuses by announcing that every part of anyone’s bonus over $100,000 would be paid in stock, not cash. The idea is, you tie employees in to the company’s goal of long-term growth and profitability. Which would be great if the stock weren’t redeemable for a couple or three years. But this stock? Will be redeemable in April. As stock bonuses go, that’s practically cash.

How the banksters screwed us the first time: The so-called “Schedule A,” the list of crap mortgage-backed securities that the New York Fed took off AIG’s hands at 100 cents on the dollar when they were actually worth around half that, has finally been made public. Not sure exactly what it will mean, but inasmuch as the NYFRB tried to keep this list secret until 2018, you can be reasonably sure it’s nothing good.

Smoking gun: Goldman Sachs could and should have had to eat some of its bad investments in 2008, but the New York Fed let it off the hook, documents show. That’s the same New York Fed then run by our current SecTreas, who REALLY needs to be returned to the private sector posthaste. Oh, wait: He has been a “public servant” his whole life. Well, that’s OK. After what he appears to have done for Goldman, they should pay him a princely sum for life and not even require him to show up for work. Then they’d have a slight taste of how we taxpayers feel, except for the part where they NEVER ACTUALLY DID ANYTHING FOR US, not that I am bitter.

Cops bumping into each other: Joining the House Oversight Committee in looking into the New York Fed’s bailout of Goldman Sachs and AIG is Neil Barofsky, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as the bank bailout program, who testified today before Congress.

Oh, and lookee what Mr. Barofsky had to say: “According to these [Federal Reserve Bank of New York] executives, then-President [Tim] Geithner ‘acquiesced’ to the executive’s proposal. When asked by [Barofsky’s office]  if the executives felt they had received their ‘marching orders’ from then-FRBNY President Geithner to pay the counterparties par [instead of the roughly 48 cents on the dollar they actually were worth], one FRBNY official responded ‘yes, absolutely.'” But … but … Geithner and the White House both say Geithner wasn’t involved in the decision to screw taxpayers by paying AIG customers (including Goldman Sachs) more than they should have. So somebody’s lying. And Barofsky’s the one under oath.

And the hits just keep on coming: A report from Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, nails Tim Geithner’s butt to the wall.

Memo to commenters on this article: Genocide is not a contest. There is no prize.

If Steven Pearlstein were president, he’d say the state of the union sucks.

Mixed blessing: In his article “Appalled in Greenwich Connecticut [sic],” downloadable (.pdf) from his site StumblingonTruth.com, Clifford Asness of AQR Capital Management, whom I have not read before, combines grossly unfortunate metaphor (“Unfortunately for this President, he will, I hope, find the financial community not cowering from his Cossacks on a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement (Greenwich, CT), but meeting his accusations with logic and patriotism.”) with both an entitlement mentality AND common sense (“So, how do you fix too-big-to-fail? Well, this is complicated, give me a moment. I got it. You let them fail.”). For a quant, he manipulates words real purty. I may return.

The problem with cutting Medicare and Medicaid: Abe Sauer explains.

Tax the rich! Tax the rich! Oregon’s doing it. Sort of. A little. For the first time in 80 years. But the media is all Scott “Our Next President” Brown, so if you don’t hear about this, that’s why.

Wrong AND lame: President Obama’s proposed 3-year freeze on domestic discretionary spending is not only exactly not what the economy needs in a time of depressed consumer demand, it’s also almost meaningless in its effects on the budget deficit, given that it doesn’t affect big-ticket items like defense, wars, interest on the national debt or entitlements. It’s one more example of trying to appear to people who believe you incapable of doing the right thing that you’re doing the right thing. You will never win those people over, so you ought to just go ahead and do the right thing. Simpler. More effective. Pisses off the people who are wrong. Everyone’s a winner.

Rhodes Scholar tackles spending freeze, president loses.

Related: A roundup of amusing reactions to the quote freeze unquote.

And if you want to look for budget savings, here’s a suggestion. Even George W. Bush’s last Defense Secretary thinks we’re spending too much on defense, and spending it the wrong way. Observes Spencer Ackerman, who covers this stuff for a living, “Everyone in Washington who studies the Pentagon budget quickly finds gobs and gobs of wasteful spending. Not some people. Not dirty hippies. Every. Single. Defense. Analyst.”

Can we like ACORN again? Reminder: O’Keefe’s videotapes were doctored. And August J. Pollak’s commentary on the case is short enough and good enough for you to hie thee hence and read it in its entirety. Go on. I’ll wait.

(pause)

Oh, good, you’re back. Moving on, then …

Conflict of interest: Tyler Durden points out reason to believe that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a quite personal reason for wanting to see Bumbling Ben Bernanke reconfirmed as Fed chairman as early as Thursday.

Whoops! Not so fast, there, Fast Harry: Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., claims to have documents showing that Bernanke overruled his advisers in approving the AIG bailout. And here we thought Harry Reid was just venal. Y’know, nothing is becoming Jim Bunning’s Senate career like his leaving of it. Maybe the old guy is going senile, but he’s actually, at long last, acting in the public interest here. Or maybe he just hates Democrats. Either works for me.

Hard cases make bad law, and this hard case has led a judge to make some awful case law.

You might want to put down the knife, Ms. Quinn, because the Secret Service does NOT mess around: Obama has been advised to make sure the bunny is secure. Commenter El Cid at Balloon Juice adds, “I think it’s kind of funny that Sally Quinn goes to the trouble of asking her readers to ‘indulge [her] for a moment’, as if that woman spends the tiniest femtosecond of her life not being indulged.” And this would be funny if every other Washington journalist weren’t just like her.

The teabaggers are “good Republicans even if they don’t know it.” That’s about the best description I’ve seen.

Speaking of good Republicans, the ones doing PR for the party are just top-notch: The GOP response to the State of the Union tonight was given in — I am not making this up — the hall where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated.

The public option: C’est popular. Corporations: pas tellement: In a Research 2000 poll in 10 swing congressional districts whose seats are currently held by Democrats, a majority of Republicans favor a public option, and a plurality of Republicans, 43%, say Democrats need to do more to fight big corporations.  In the single N.C. district polled, Larry Kissell’s NC-08, voters overall favor a public option by 73% to 16%, with 11% undecided, and a 59% majority of voters, the biggest majority of any of the 10 districts, said Democrats need to do more to fight big corporations. It’d be interesting to see the results if the vague “big corporations” was changed to “banks” or “health-insurance companies” or both.

Against it for all the wrong reasons: Polling ace Nate Silver points out that part of the reason health-care reform isn’t polling as well as its supporters wish is that sizable chunks of the population believe (bad) things about the bill that are objectively untrue.

Why wouldn’t a combination of high-deductible health-insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts fix the problem? That’s pretty much the question one of my cousins asked me in an e-mail the other day. Well, Nancy, here’s your answer.

It would be funny if these people didn’t effectively control the entire U.S. school textbook market: The Texas Board of Education [sic] bans Bill Martin Jr.’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? from its third-grade reading list after confusing its author with that of the book Ethical Marxism.

Afghanistan Fail: The guy who once held Stanley McChrystal’s job running the U.S. military in Afghanistan and is now ambassador to Afghanistan says McChrystal’s anti-insurgency effort in Afghanistan is doomed.

Good news, for a change, for vets: Iraq and Afghanistan vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder but denied monthly disability benefits from the VA can join a class-action lawsuit to get their disability ratings increased to the level required by law, which will make them eligible for benefits. The relevant law was quite clear on what disability rating vets with PTSD are supposed to be assigned, so the fact that someone even had to sue over the issue is a disgrace and an outrage.

CBS: Morons: They won’t let people run factual advertisements about George W. Bush’s war crimes, but they’ll let Christianist wingnuts Focus on the Family run a forced-pregnancy ad during the Super Bowl. I think maybe I’ll just skip the game, then — all the best parts (i.e., the other commercials) will be on YouTube next day anyway. Also, I hope all the fans of Tim Tebow, who’ll star in the commercial, read this. The money quote comes from “an NFC South talent evaluator” who is most likely with the Bucs, since the Saints and Falcons are fixed for starting QBs and the Panthers have neither the money nor the draft pick to go after a potential first-round QB.

Don’t don’t-ask-don’t-tell: That well known military-hater, retired Gen. John Shalikashvili, who implemented “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says it’s time to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay people. I’d say that time actually was 1775, but I’m happy to welcome J-Shal to the bandwagon.

The lessons of Stuyvesant Town: But by all means, let’s re-confirm Ben Bernanke. Jesus wept.

Rush Limbaugh confesses that he AND the world would be better off if he killed himself: Only on The Onion, unfortunately.

Why Howard Zinn and not Rush Limbaugh?: Zinn, who came up with the radical idea that the history of a democracy shouldn’t be by and for aristocrats only, is dead at 87.

Would it be irresponsible to speculate that since he’s getting a divorce, Karl Rove is now free to woo and wed Jeff Gannon? It would be irresponsible not to.

OK, this is just weird:

You’re looking at the performance of Apple stock earlier today. That big dip came right around the announcement of the iPad. I’m not sure what it means, but I’m pretty sure it ain’t what the Apple board expected.

Best. Apple. Humor. Ever.: The Wikipedia Entry for the iPad (until today): “iPad was a prototype for a feminine hygiene product that purported to digitize a woman’s menstruation cycle and store it on a password-protected Web server.[1]” More iPad humor here, but guys may want to give it a miss.

Keith Richards, sober? Because he was so upset by how hard Ron Wood fell off the wagon? I think The Awl says it all: “If Keith Richards stops drinking because he thinks you have a problem, well, you have a problem.”

This cannot possibly end well: George Lucas is producing a computer-animated musical.

And you thought Blog on the Run was minor-league: I’ll have you know this blog has just 35 fewer paying customers than Newsday.com, so there. And that’s after spending $4 million less on my site design than Newsday spent on theirs!

And you thought my carpal-tunnel syndrome happened because I type a lot.

How Japan intends to win the World Cup (this one goes out to my friend Beau):

(Note that the numbers on the radar are kph, not mph.)

And, finally, things journalists should know about polls:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 12:17 am

Odds and ends for 1/25

Enron may be dead, but its ghost continues to mess with us: “White House and Congressional Democratic leaders say they now believe that they have the 60 votes needed to block a filibuster of Mr. Bernanke’s reappointment.” … “… strategy on the Bernanke confirmation was being led by former Enron lobbyist Linda Robertson, who is viewed as an effective advocate for the banking chief on Capitol Hill.” But don’t worry — the president’s going on TV Wednesday night to assure us he feels our pain.

Heckuva job, Bernanke: The Fed is required by law  (12 U.S.C. § 225a) to manage monetary policy so as to create jobs for as many people as possible. True story. It also is required to report semiannually on what steps it has taken to comply with this and other requirements. What did its most recent report say about creating jobs? Not bloody much. So explain to me again why this guy should get another four years in the job.

You can pay me now or pay me (a lot more) later: Cutting early-childhood programs hurts jobs now, costs society more later, research shows. My experience covering politics leads me to believe that the kind of people who oppose this sort of spending are not, in general, the type who tend to be convinced by science/research, but, what the hell, I’ll post it anyway.

Yo, Pat, it wasn’t the devil who cursed Haiti. It was Thomas Jefferson. (h/t: Jill)

How could we help Haiti long-term? Cancel its debt, for one thing.

If anything more progressive than the Senate health-care bill is politically dangerous for Democrats, then why is the guy charged with getting Democrats elected to Congress telling Obama and the Senate to shove it?: Maybe because he has seen this polling. Retiring Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., on the other hand, clearly has not.

Memo to HuffPo: Your games are no fun when you let the irony-impaired play. (h/t: Beau)

Holy crap: December existing-home sales, expected to be down 10% (or, per Goldman, 15% at worst), were in fact down 16.7% from November, the biggest one-month decline in history.

Speaking of real estate, the biggest real-estate transaction in history has gone into default. Corollary: Apparently it’s OK for real-estate giant Tishman Speyer to walk away from its debts, but don’t try this with your underwater home, kids.

Prisoner’s dilemma, in that everyone who doesn’t work for Goldman Sachs is kind of a prisoner of everyone who does: Goldman Sachs’s chief bull, Jim O’Neill, has gotten somewhat ursine. So does that mean that they know the economy’s going to get worse because they’re running it, or does it mean they want us to think they think it’s getting worse so that they can bet on improvements, engineer those improvements, and win? Decisions, decisions.

Priorities in a post-peak-oil reality, from James Kunstler: “The money that went into propping up the automobile companies could have been used to rebuild the entire railroad system between Boston and the Great Lakes, and the capital squandered on AIG and its offshoot claimants could have rebuilt everything else the rest of the way to Seattle. Is it really so hard to imagine what history requires of you?”

Classifying information to cover up a crime is, itself, a crime. So it makes me very curious to know not only what about the New York Fed’s plans to bail out AIG was kept secret from the SEC on “national-security” grounds, but also why that was done.

Health-care reform: a pictorial timeline (w/generous dollops of snark).

Shorter Michael Barone: How DARE we let the people who actually know what they’re doing decide things? Bonus Stoopid: He talks about knowing how to “manipulate words” like it’s a BAD thing.

We are a polarized nation, and because that’s the case, anyone hoping to prevail in an off-year election probably needs to forget about trying to appeal to the “broad middle” because there ain’t one.

Question for Sen. Bill Nelson: What, exactly, does “the left” control? Because it sure ain’t the White House, Congress or the Supreme Court.

Memo to Andrew Breitbart: Insisting that your questions are serious is no substitute for asking serious questions.

Memo to Harold Ford: Hell, no, we’re not going to cut taxes for you and your rich friends. In fact, jackhole, you’re lucky this country does not tax Stoopid. Hey, do me a favor, dude: PLEASE run for Senate from New York with that platform. I could do with a laugh.

The stimulus saved 1.2 million jobs, but the government needs to do even more, according to a USA Today survey of 50 economists.

They say hope is not a plan, but apparently, for the Obama administration (shorter WaPo), hope was a plan. Oy.

Which is more of a plan than Congressional Democrats have on finance reform.

If you’re going to believe Hitler was a leftist, then you also have to believe … Oh, the places you’ll go!

How to steal a trillion (and a half): John Hussman explains how it’s done.

Pity the rich and their oh, so difficult lives.

Prince Charles is part switchblade. Almost literally.

Sunday, January 24, 2010 12:08 am

Odds and ends for 1/23

Insider trading at the Fed?: Or tied to the Fed, anyway. Yet one more reason to audit the thing, and I don’t mean just routine annual audits, either.

Meanwhile, over at the New York Stock Exchange, one can also find hinky goings-on.

Prop-trading ban will hit Goldman Sachs a lot harder than Goldman says, according to an independent credit analyst. In the immortal words of Al Capone, I’ll send flowers. If you own Goldman stock, you should consider the strong probability that you’re being lied to.

Roundup of stories on the prop-trading ban and related issues, here.

Whose Kiss of Death is deadlier, Fred Mishkin’s or Alan Greenspan’s? I don’t care as long as at least one of the two works as advertised and Ben Bernanke slithers back off to the private sector.

So if Bernanke doesn’t stay as Fed chair, who should get the job? Zero Hedge nominates John Taylor, whose thoughts on the roots of the current crisis can be found here. I do not agree with everything Taylor believes, but I believe that on balance he would be a substantial improvement on Bernanke. I’d like to know whether someone else might be even better.

Paul Volcker’s rise from exile to the president’s right hand helpfully resurrects a short (well, compared with Barney Frank’s 1,100-page bill) paper on restoring security and stability to the U.S. financial system.

Rx from Ezra Klein: “If Democrats abandon health-care reform in the aftermath of Brown’s victory, the lesson will be that they can’t govern. … A plumber and I both agree that my toilet should work. But if he can’t make it work, I’m not going to pay him any money or invite him into my home. Governance isn’t just about ideology. It’s also about competence and will. That’s where Democrats are flagging.”

Another Rx: The California Supreme Court ruled this week that people with prescriptions for medical marijuana can have/grow all they need, not subject to arbitrary state limits. Yeah, that increases the likelihood of abuse, but there was no medical basis for the old limits. Let doctors make that call.

My BS meter just pegged: The same Lord Hutton who certified, despite questionable evidence, that British weapons inspector David Kelly committed suicide has ordered all records in the case sealed for 70 years.

My BS meter just pegged again: Walter Isaacson reviews the new book by John Yoo in today’s NY Times without ever using the word “torture.”

S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer says we need to stop feeding poor people because they breed: I am not making this up: “You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior.” He also called for drug testing for the parents of the 58 percent of S.C. schoolkids who receive free or reduced-price lunch. I think I know who needs the drug test.

Obama adopts another trick from the Bush bag: This time, it’s having the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel retroactively legalize illegal surveillance. So that’s why the Senate never took up Dawn Johnsen‘s confirmation as head of OLC: There’s no way she’d have signed off on this crap.

The pope says priests should blog. I think that’s a great idea, but I think they’ve got other things to do first.

And finally, DJ Earworm’s annual remix of the Billboard magazine Top 25 pop songs of the year, for 2009. This year’s is called “Blame it on the Pop”:

Friday, January 22, 2010 8:21 pm

Odds and ends for 1/22

Double dip: There were 482,000 new unemployment claims for the week ending 1/16, which was 36,000 more than the previous week and 42,000 more than expected. Worse, new emergency unemployment claims, for those who’ve exhausted regular benefits, were up 652,364 to 5,654,544. If this is a green shoot, it’s the kind of green you see when things are rotting.

Theft of a lifetime: The chief strategist for a major international bank accuses the U.S. and U.K. central banks of conspiring to steal wealth from their respective countries’ middle classes. It’s actually a little more complicated than that, but only a little.

Risky business: President Obama has proposed ending proprietary trading by bank holding companies to reduce the level of risk in the market and, therefore, the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out more banks, something Paul Volcker supports. Banks have protested that this is unnecessary on the grounds that prop trading really isn’t a big part of their business (Goldman Sachs puts its prop-trade revenue at 10% of the total). However, observes Zero Hedge with a nice little chart, “the market begs to differ.” Goldman’s own analysis suggests that while prop trading accounts for perhaps 10% of Bank of America’s revenues, because of prop trading’s high margins it accounts for up to 45% of BAC’s earnings. If that’s true, BAC stock, which is supposed to double in price by the end of 2011, could fall 50% instead.

Related: Real conservatives like Obama’s proposal. American “conservatives,” however, not so much.

So, will Goldman Sachs stop being a bank holding company so that it can continue its proprietary trading?: Probably, although it’s kind of in a pickle because currently it has almost 21 billion reasons not to.

Best health-care reform political analysis. Ever: I don’t think it’s correct on the substance, but whether it is or not, I just love the pretty words: “The only path to national health care reform is to pass the Senate bill. Unless Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership can herd three distinct groups of cats — the Blue Dogs, the Stupak coat-hanger crowd and the progressives — HCR is going down in flames, quite possibly for another generation. This is where we’re at. It sucks. It also blows, a seemingly self-canceling phenomenon that is only witnessed in the rarest, most [rear-end]-tasting conditions. And we are witnessing such conditions this very day — a perfect storm of sucking and blowing. That said, if passing the Senate bill verbatim is a once-in-a-lifetime Suckicane meeting a Category 5 Blowphoon head-on, then NOT PASSING ANYTHING AT ALL takes us into the Bruckheimer-Emmerich territory of summer blockbuster-class suckstinction-level blowvents.”

Quote of the day, from Matt Taibbi, on the prop-trading restrictions: “Obviously this is good news, but what I find irritating about it is that the government only starts listening to its voters once the more corrupt option turns out to be untenable.” Yo, Matt, that ain’t true only about banking, either.

The New York Fed and AIG: A timeline, by Bloomberg. Nice.

People thought Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t ruin the Wall Street Journal. People were wrong, although the author concedes the problem is a bit more nuanced than he first claimed.

So if Glenn Beck isn’t talking about going after progressives through the political process, then what’s he talking about? Because when you say you’re going after your political opponents like the Israelis went after Eichmann, you probably know your audience understands that what awaited Eichmann was a gallows.

Barney Frank may actually have a good idea: Blowing up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and creating a new system of housing finance. F&F didn’t cause as much of the current housing-bubble crisis as most of their critics claim, but they did contribute, oh, yes, they did.

And they say this like it’s a bad thing: ABC thinks there may not be enough votes in Congress to reconfirm Ben Bernanke. Let’s hope they’re right. Bernanke is a big reason we’re in as much trouble as we are right now.

They’re the Christian Taliban, they’re stone (no pun intended) killers, and they’re based in Newark: Yeah, that’s right: Read about the connections between the PrayforNewark social-action group, the bill in Uganda to execute gays, and the Dominionist movement in the U.S. These are scary people.

If this had been my daughter, the lawsuit would’ve been filed before the sun went down: TSA employee plants bag of white powder in college student’s carry-on luggage. Plenty of witnesses — who were afraid to speak up. Excellent! Just what you want when you’re trying to prevent terrorism — people who see something hinky but are afraid to speak up for fear of being arrested!

Apparently they can use lasers to zap away fat!: Which sounds cool, and I am so on board (assuming I can find the money) … just as soon as they figure out where the fat goes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 10:20 pm

Odds and ends for 1/20

Guantanamo homicides update: Col. Michael Bumgarner, the officer at the center of Scott Horton’s article in Harper’s about the “suicides” of three Guantanamo detainees on the night of June 9, 2006, issues a non-denial denial, including denying ever knowing the same witness whose Army Commendation Medal certificate he had signed less than three weeks before the deaths. If that’s the best he can do to cover something up, he’d better get a lawyer.

And speaking of homicides, a memo to the president: Inviting Rick Warren to pray around your inaugural, misguided as it was, is one thing. But attending an event sponsored by the Christofascist anticonstitutionalists The Family is just ridiculous. And sitting down to eat At. A. Freakin’. PRAYER BREAKFAST with a guy who is trying to legislate homicide (a fact that the article in the Ugandan paper, whose Web site claims it offers “truth every day,” conveniently forgot to mention)? Completely, flatly, absolutely unacceptable.

What you don’t know can hurt you: Did you know that the EPA has not banned asbestos despite its clear causal relationship to lung cancer? Did you know that it can’t? I didn’t. But apparently the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act makes it impossible. Fortunately, some changes to the law — which endangers the health of not only consumers and chemical workers but also the medical personnel who treat the latter — are in the works.

Things you should know about Afghanistan: Bribery is 23% of GDP, and the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says that about three-fourths of its investigations involve at least one Westerner.

Things you should know about banks, courtesy of David Stockman, once Ronald Reagan’s budget director: “The baleful reality is that the big banks, the freakish offspring of the Fed’s easy money, are dangerous institutions, deeply embedded in a bull market culture of entitlement and greed. This is why the Obama tax is welcome: its underlying policy message is that big banking must get smaller because it does too little that is useful, productive or efficient.”

Things you should know about the fault line that caused the Haiti earthquake, particularly if you live in the Dominican Republic: “It is important that the world takes [Purdue seismologist Eric] Calais’ warning about the Septentrional Fault, with a great deal of Urgency. The fault, which runs through the Northern Dominican Republic is due for a quake even larger than that which occurred in Haiti. The Dominican Republic should learn all that it can from Haiti’s experience, as they are proverbially walking down a geological hallway with a large kick me sign affixed to their back.” With very cool, very scary maps.

Professionals face the threat of the amateur: This article focuses specifically on certain types of musicians, but it makes clear that the boundary delineating amateur from professional is growing thinner and grayer in a wide range of areas (including my former bidness, journalism). This tension has been manifest since the medieval rise of craft guilds and informs today everything from blogging to labor law.

And bloggers are killing journalism: Jeffrey Birnbaum, a journalist who has done more to expose the malignant effect of lobbyists on Congress than perhaps any other, is leaving journalism to become a lobbyist. This is not unlike the Mafia luring away the nation’s best FBI agent. Actually, it’s worse: Lobbyists are a bigger plague on society than the Mafia in terms of dollar value of the damage they cause, and there were already far fewer journalists of Birnbaum’s caliber and expertise than there are FBI agents. Sigh.

Opposition to gay marriage faces the threat of the McCains: Sen. John McCain’s wife Cindy has joined the “NoH8” campaign in California to repeal Prop 8, which banned gay marriage. (Their daughter Meghan joined last summer.) Good for her.

Interesting poll results you probably haven’t seen on TV: By a 3-2 margin, people who voted for Obama in 2008 AND who voted for Republican Scott Brown in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts oppose the current health-care bill — not because it goes too far, but because it doesn’t go far enough.

Marrying insight and brevity, Brad at Sadly, No! sums up the meaning of Tuesday’s election: “People will support you if they see that you’re making their lives better. If you don’t do that, then they’ll get [angry] and vote for whatever else is around. And guess what? ‘Whatever else is around’ is, sadly, the [expletive] GOP.”

And after Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing corporate contributions to politicians, the U.S. will look like Italy: Italian lawmakers have preliminarily approved a bill that would retroactively limit the length of criminal trials, which would have the entirely incidental and coincidental (I’m sure) effect of making pending corruption and tax fraud charges against prime minister Silvio Berluscone just … go away.

Great moments in editing, via my friend Alex Johnson at MSNBC.

And, finally, the Quote of the Day, from Jon Walker — it’s long, so I put it at the end:

Let me put this as simply as possible. Democrats control everything in Washington right now [except SCOTUS, but for legislative purposes, yeah — Lex]. They control the White House. They have huge margins in the House and in the Senate. Democrats have larger margins in both chambers than any party has had for decades. They have zero excuses for failing to deliver. Americans will not find some nonsense about having only 59 Senate seats as an acceptable excuse for failing to accomplish anything. If Democrats think they can win in 2010 by running against Republican obstructionism, they will lose badly.

Not only will Democrats lose badly if they adopt this strategy, but they will be laughed at. Republicans never had 59 Senate seats, and that did not stop them from passing the legislation they wanted. Trying to explain to the American people how, despite controlling everything, Democrats cannot do anything, because a mean minority of 41 Republican senators won’t let them, is a message that will go over like a lead balloon. If you try to use that excuse, people will think elected Democrats are liars, wimps, idiots, or an ineffectual combination of all three.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 10:05 pm

The Massachusetts Senate election, thoughts on:

(in no particular order)

  • If you’re a lousy candidate, you deserve to lose.
  • If you run a lousy campaign, you deserve to lose.
  • If you adopt an entitlement mentality toward elective office, you really deserve to lose.
  • It’s OK to pose nude for a magazine if you’re a Republican male.
  • I’m still trying to find in the Constitution where it says that 41 votes constitutes a Senate majority.
  • The banksters just got another ally in Congress. Like they were running out.
  • Health-care reform may or may not be dead. But, as Jon Stewart pointed out, if the Democrats want to pass it, they’re first going to have to go to the school nurse and get their testicles unglued from their thigh. (Stewart actually said “again,” but they haven’t done it since 1965.)
  • If health-care reform really is dead for another generation, then so, over that generation, will be hundreds of thousands of Americans who didn’t have to be. But y’all over at Fox News just party on, yo, cuz I know that’s how you roll.

Monday, January 18, 2010 8:53 pm

Odds and ends for 1/18

Memo from the NY Times to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission: Public hearings are good, but subpoenaing documents is better. Yup. Banksters committed fraud on a massive scale. This commission isn’t a law-enforcement agency, but what it finds can help Justice and SEC investigators do their jobs. In fact, it may force them to do their jobs, which a mere sense of duty has not, so far, sufficed to do.

More from the FCIC: The head securities regulator for the state of Texas testifies about how the feds have kneecapped state investigators/investigations, not because they would do a better job but to protect the very people they’re supposed to be regulating. Biggest. Fraud. In. History.

Memo to right-wing nuts (and anyone else, although I suspect only the wingnuts would be stupid enough to try this): Do not invite journalists into your home, sit for an interview and then demand their tapes at gunpoint, because your ass will go to prison and your wallet will go to the journalists. Having once covered the Klan, I’m taking particular satisfaction in the outcome of this case.

The Fed elides oversight and political meddling because it thinks you and I are too stupid to know the difference. Stupid Fed.

Darrell Issa wants Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson to testify about the AIG bailout. So do I, but Issa has a little more leverage than I do. Uh, Democrats, that slamming sound you hear is Issa walking out the back door with your populist mandate for 2010.

More fraud uncovered: This time, short-sale fraud. And wonder of wonders, it’s CNBC that has uncovered it. Memo to Mary Schapiro: When CNBC looks both more honest and more industrious than the SEC, then you are officially Teh Suck.

For once, J.P. Morgan outperforms Goldman Sachs … if, by “outperform,” you mean, “directs an even more inexcusably large percentage of its total revenues to banker bonuses”64 percent of revenues. Not of profits, of revenues. Remember, Morgan, like the other 37 banks reviewed by the WSJ, has significant amounts of crap disguised as assets on its balance sheets, and even more crap off the sheets that soon will have to be moved onto the sheets. And are the banks setting aside capital to cover the inevitable write-downs? No, they’re buying helicopters and Hamptons houses.

If voters could vote on Obama’s financial appointments they way they can vote on Chris Dodd, Obama would be paging a lot of empty offices. For good reason.

Liberal academia? Yes — because conservatives choose disproportionately not to become college professors. These findings, albeit not yet published, are consistent with some earlier research.

Who killed Pat Robertson? Why, it was Lily Coyle, in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (2nd letter down), with a clue.

Freedom’s just another word for no one left to screw: Retiring Sen. Chris Dodd could be scrapping the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency before he goes.

Well, it’s a step: The U.S. releases the names of 645 detainees at Bagram. Good. But some  of those people have been held for years without even being told why. Not good.

PhrMA theatens to blow up health-care reform. A friend of mine has proposed that any attempt to make a profit off health care should be made a crime. I think that’s extreme, but when stuff like this happens, I understand the anger that gives rise to such suggestions.

Dawn Johnsen might say torture is illegal. Therefore, she cannot possibly be allowed to run Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, or else the terrorists win.

Memo to special prosecutor John Durham: In the marathon investigation of the destruction of CIA torture videos, the DFHs are eating your lunch. Bet they aren’t charging the government as much as you, too.

All of a sudden, “conservatives” are in favor of privacy. And it’s interesting how the kind of privacy they favor dovetails neatly with protecting them from being held accountable for their actions. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

If you’re following Perez v. Schwarzenegger and it sounds awfully like Dover v. Kitzmiller, well,  there’s a reason for that: In both cases, science is/was under siege. Science won in Dover. Let’s see what happens in Perez.

Republicans, having fed off the productive among us for so long, are now simply outraged that one of their own is doing it to them. More specifically, their cynical selection of Michael Steele as national chairman to try to appeal to African American voters now means that even though he needs firing and is daring them to fire him, they can’t do it.

Why does Rush Limbaugh hate the troops? And why do the troops continue to air him on Armed Forces Radio when he hates them?

More map pr0n! Geocurrents has created a map blog tied to news events.

Thought for the day: Requiring drug tests for welfare recipients makes sense only if we also drug-test recipients of federal earthquake relief, tax credits and bank bailouts. Despite what you may have been told, your odds of getting into Heaven do NOT increase in direct proportion to the number of times you kick poor people.

“Never (annoy) a walrus.” Because if you do, the bucket is the least of your problems.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:57 pm

Odds and ends for 1/14

First, the important stuff: Links where you can contribute to Haiti earthquake relief:

Oxfam
American Red Cross
AmeriCares
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders

As in most other major disasters, the main thing these organizations need right now is money.* Their experts will know how best to spend it, what’s needed where, etc. In other words, right at the moment, rounding up clothing or canned food or bandages or what-have-you, although certainly well-intentioned, is less helpful than giving these groups the resources to do what they know best how to do. As they identify particular needs, they’ll publicize them.

Anything you can give will help. And please give something. The suffering there is already horrendous, and it will quickly get even worse than most of us can possibly imagine.

*Unless you have a helicopter.

OK, then …

HUNGRY vampire squid: Goldman Sachs didn’t get just 100 cents on the dollar on its exposure to AIG, courtesy of the taxpayers. No, by reselling its AIG credit-default obligations while knowing the taxpayers were going to bail out AIG, but before that info became public, it effectively got more. About $1.2 billion more.

Which is a big part of the problem: Pat Robertson is far more important than you will ever be.

Remember, she reads every newspaper, too: Glenn Beck: Who’s your favorite Founding Father? Sarah Palin: All of ’em.

Which dinosaur?: A shark described as “dinosaur-sized” attacked and apparently ate a swimmer Tuesday off Cape Town, South Africa. But they didn’t say whether they meant this dinosaur or this one.

Lighter backpacks: Obviously, colleges are going to switch to electronic textbooks to save students money. That move now has a deadline in California: 2020, which seems a bit far off considering that almost two-thirds of the roughly 13,000 textbook titles published by the six largest U.S. publishers already are available electronically.

“If you are watching this video, then I have been murdered by the president of Guatemala hit men I hired myself”: A UN commission concludes that the “assassination” of a lawyer, alleged in a posthumous video to have been ordered by Guatemala’s president, actually was arranged by the lawyer himself in an attempt to destabilize the government. Dude, if you wanted him out, why not just run against him?

You know that scene in “Waterworld” where Kevin Costner drinks his own pee?: The astronauts are feeling his pain.

China vs. Google: Is it really China vs. the U.S.? And was this hack attack, if not a cyber-Pearl Harbor, at the least a dangerous breach of national security?

Senate health-care bill: “A teacher tax, not a Cadillac tax.”

Related: Who needs Republicans when the unions are just as willing to screw the middle class?

Um, ‘cuz they’re, I don’t know, WHORES?!?: Retiring Republican Rep. John Shadegg, asked whether he supports a public option: “Well, you could better defend a public option than you could defend compelling me to buy a product from the people that have created the problem. America’s health insurance industry has wanted this bill and the individual mandate from the get go. That’s their idea. Their idea is, ‘Look, our product is so lousy that lots of people don’t buy it. So we need the government to force people to buy our product.’ And stunningly, that’s what the Congress appears to be going along with. Why would they do that?”

Except it wasn’t hindsight, jackass: I could’ve told you this on Jan. 20 and saved everyone a lot of time: Harry Reid has just now figured out that Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, was never going to vote for health-care reform.

AIG tick-tock: Firedoglake, which has published valuable analysis on such issues as torture and the Scooter Libby case by means of creating documented timelines, applies the technique to the federal government’s bailout of AIG (and its use of AIG to indirectly bail out Goldman Sachs), working with a cache of e-mails obtained and posted online by The New York Times. FDL cautions that it ain’t complete, and I haven’t even begun reading it yet, but if you’re interested in the subject, this is sure to be a valuable resource.

Speaking of torture: The brother of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates is caught on videotape torturing and attempting to murder a guy he thought had screwed him in a business deal, but the court let him off anyway after he claimed he was too whacked on medication to know what he was doing. I’ll just say he must have been pretty damn whacked to run over a guy repeatedly without actually quite managing to, you know, kill him.

SCOTUS vs. the U.S.: As I suggested on Monday, the Supreme Court isn’t going to sign off on anything that could be a basis for its having to allow itself to be televised someday. Jackasses. Go ahead and keep talking about how this court’s majority is so strict-constructionist and all, but speak up: I’m going to have trouble hearing you over my own laughter.

Allegany County, Maryland, needs more alligators: Andy says so, and he’s there so he should know.

The Internet — the greatest collection of knowledge in history: How can I make my chicken taste just like the junk they serve at school?

Rupert Murdoch: plagiarist.

Teddy Pendergrass: RIP.

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