Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, June 27, 2010 10:33 pm

How to figure out the right thing to do

Filed under: Deport these treason monkeys! — Lex @ 10:33 pm
Tags: ,

Find out what Joe Lieberman wants to do, and then do the exact opposite. For example, Joe thinks giving the president of the United States a kill switch for the Internet would be just peachy! And why?

“Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too,” said Lieberman.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 12:36 pm

If Joe Lieberman gets any stupider, we’ll need to water him twice a week.

Sen. Joe Lieberman has proposed that people on a terror watch list be stripped of their citizenship — unilaterally, by the State Department, with no trial and no appeal.

That’s dumb enough, and anticonstitutional enough, on its own. And, certainly, we have learned over the years that expecting Lieberman’s proposals to be neither dumb nor anticonstitutional is like waiting for Godot when Godot has been buried in potters’ field for a couple of decades.

But wait! There’s more! The reason Lieberman wants to do this is to make it easier from a legal standpoint for President Obama to use drones to call in Hellfire missile attacks on people we think are terrorists. See, assassinating U.S. citizens without due process is illegal and unconstitutional and therefore almost as bad as lying about receiving oral sex from someone to whom one is not married. But if the victim isn’t a citizen any more, then the killing becomes simply Another Bold Strike in the War on Terror.

Of course, were Obama ever to be impeached on these charges, Lieberman, being All About Joe and a hypocrite besides, would no doubt vote to convict.

UPDATE: People on the terror watch list may be stripped of their citizenship, but it’s still OK for them to buy guns:

According to new statistics compiled by the Government Accountability Office and exclusively obtained by the Huffington Post, individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,228 times in the past six years — and 1,119 of those transactions were allowed to proceed.

Less than 10 percent — only 109 — were denied.

Three of those matches involved the purchase of explosives, and all of those sales were allowed to proceed.

So: People on the terror watch list should be stripped of their citizenship. And a lot of people who support this think the Bill of Rights should not apply to noncitizens. Except for the Second Amendment. Wait … what?

Friday, January 15, 2010 7:15 pm

Odds and ends for 1/15

Why Haiti is so poor: Because it’s an abused nation, David Brooks, you staggeringly stupid person.

The Fort Hood Shootings: DOD’s official report, out today. Haven’t had time to read it.

But Fox News is cracking down on inaccuracy! Really!: The author of a study that Fox claims proves we’re entering a “mini ice age” says, “I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.”

Relatedly, global-warming denialism is becoming (surprise!) big business.

The Politico has a scoop! “GOP leaders have privately settled on a strategy to win back the House by putting the vast majority of their money and energy into attacking Democrats — and turning this election into a national referendum on the party in power.” Because Wow! They’ve never done that before! [headdesk]

“I want uninterrupted expertise.” Who cares what the public thinks?

For God’s sake, no one tell David Broder: The public thinks bipartisanship is less important than principles. Richard Burr gets this. Does Kay Hagan?

The National Center for Counterterrorism? Has serious problems.

Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Plan: The Pentagon is preparing for the likelihood that DADT will be repealed. Good. Whether they like it or not, Obama certainly campaigned on repeal, so they at least ought to be prepared.

If Joe Lieberman doesn’t like being called “untrustworthy,” maybe he should stop acting, you know, untrustworthy. Because otherwise, a blog not predisposed to liking Joe very much might throw an impromptu contest to see who can come up with the best synonym for “untrustworthy” (oh, so NSFW), and that would be simply awful.

“The costs of imprecision” are staggering and growing.

One of history’s biggest arguments, settled. (I win.) (h/t: Fred)

ZOMG! Real-life “Calvin & Hobbes” snowmen!

Reason No. 4,298 why I love FailBlog (h/t Jill, who had to be a student in sex-ed classes taught by her mom at both school AND church, which must be, like, a preadolescent’s worst nightmare):

Thursday, December 31, 2009 2:13 am

Odds and ends for 12/31

Enough already: GMAC wants another $3-4 billion from the taxpayers. Just. Say. No.

Our arrogant national culture is letting our soldiers/marines die unnecessarily: “Indeed, off-the-shelf solutions [to military problems in Iraq and Afghanistan] were there for the asking within Coalition partner states, but no one asked.”

Some good news for a change:Q: Obama says America will go bankrupt if Congress doesn’t pass the health care bill. A: Well, it’s going to go bankrupt if they do pass the health care bill, too, but at least he’s thinking about it.” So we’ve got that going for us.

A question: If the guy accused of being the pants-on-fire would-be terrorist on Flight 253 is “cooperating” with investigators, as investigators say, then why are people calling for him to be tortured?

News flash: U.S. corporate governance sucks, at least at publicly held companies.

Another news flash: Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., send the president a letter asking him not to release six Guantanamo detainees to Yemen. Just one problem: too late. A big deal? Of course not. But imagine how this would have been played if three Democratic senators had done this with George W. Bush still in the White House.

The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein, unlike McCain, Graham and Lieberman, is NOT too late. Not that it helps: Indeed, he warned us a year ago that Obama’s choice of Mary Schapiro to run the SEC would suck. And it has come to pass as it was foretold.

Well, at least we’re going to have a national election contested on a clear issue: Newt Gingrich has been calling on Republican Congressional candidates in 2010 to pledge to repeal health-care reform (should it finally pass) if elected. Now the White House is double-dog-daring them to do it, too.

How to keep your recently deregulated, greedy, rapacious, out-of-control industry from being intelligently re-regulated: First, get the majority party to assign a bunch of politically vulnerable rookies, who will therefore be desperate for lots and lots of re-election campaign cash, to the committee that oversees you.

Worst financial footnote of the year: By the time this post sees the Interwebz, results should be posted.

Dennis Kucinich may see flying saucers, but he also sees some incredibly bad policy (if not actual crime) and is calling it out.

From the banksters’ own fingers: Some internal AIG e-mails are finally being made public. We need many, many more, and we need many, many people to go through them looking for evidence of crime.

Sigh. More Calvinball*. Better journalists, please.

Newt’s getting predictable.

Memo to Andrew Sullivan: There’s a difference between accountability and kabuki, and John Cole, being smarter than you, explains the difference. Pay attention; this will be on the exam.

*Term explained here.

Monday, December 28, 2009 9:09 pm

Odds and ends for 12/27

Hmm, what else can we screw up in a way that screws poor people worst? Hey, I know! The estate tax!

John Fox can have another year if he wants: So say the Panthers, although they’re not talking any kind of contract extension with him now (he has a year left). I have mixed feelings about this, upon which I’ll elaborate in a separate post.

Utterly un-self-aware: Jonah Goldberg presumes to pass judgment on someone else’s competence.

Utterly un-self-aware, cont.: Before Republicans criticize Democrats on national-security issues, they need to take a few history lessons, starting with the 9/11 commission report.

Related memo to Joe Lieberman, on the off-chance that he can read: How ’bout before we start a third war, let’s take a minute and figure out how this would-be airplane bomber got a visa? (Newsweek offers the strong beginning of an explanation.) Because the purview of the Senate Homeland Security Committee you chair does not extend to foreign policy or strategic (let alone tactical) military planning. You ass.

At least one legitimate criticism can be leveled at the Department of Homeland Security, and John Cole levels it.

One thing liberals applaud Obama on: Tightening restrictions not only on lobbying, but also on when and how ex-industry officials can go to work for the government, so that agencies aren’t “captured” by the companies they’re supposed to regulate. Watch that change get undone the second a Republican retakes the White House.

Which is fine, except that I haven’t heard them come up with an alternative solution to the problem: Blue Dogs Bayh, Landrieu and Conrad say cap ‘n’ trade is DOA. Relatedly, chemicals from power plants in their states are killing trees in the mountains of mine.

Your tax dollars at work: Despite the recent removal of caps on taxpayer assistance to Fannie and Freddie, which already totals $111 billion, they’re resuming foreclosures next week. You’re welcome, guys.

Not just no, but, hell, no: Not content to throw women’s rights under the health-care bus, the evangelistas are now trying to get the failed policy of abstinence-only sex education incorporated into health-care reform. Guys, we tried your flavor of Teh Stoopid once already and got a big jump in unwed pregnancy to show for it. Go. Away.

Tremors: The last time Iran got this shaky, the Shah was ousted. That may or may not mean the current regime will fall. But it almost certainly means blood in the streets, much of it likely innocent. Great.

Antiterrorism 101, which means most current and former government officials probably haven’t read it: Spencer Ackerman: “It’s never sufficient just to observe that a terrorist group has a presence in Country X. We have to ask ourselves: what are the conditions that allowed for said terrorist group to take root? If we don’t, we simply can’t devise an effective strategy against the terrorist group; and we come close to guaranteeing that we’ll flail and make the situation worse.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009 11:28 pm

Odds and ends for 12/20

How do you surge?: McClatchy’s Nancy Youssef talks about some of the logistics issues, primarily the strain being put on facilities at Bagram and Kandahar that were never meant to handle as much as they’re handling now, let alone what they’ll be asked to handle as the surge begins. One issue among many: sewage. Ew.

Poetry corner: “Joezymandias”

Worst ideas of the decade, per the WaPo. Ed adds Invading Iraq without a Plan, Market Worship, and Vampire Saturation. I think Vampire Saturation wasn’t an idea so much as something that just sort of happened. However, I think a Zombie Apocalypse is a fabulous idea, and I’ll keep you posted as to my progress in that regard.

Best U.S. political analysis by someone too young to remember Nixon and too drunk to make sense, from commenter R-Jud at Balloon Juice: “To answer the question, ‘Were people this stupid before Nixon?’: of course. They just didn’t have a huge, completely subservient, instantaneous multimedia complex capable of giving them airspace or feeding them the latest catchphrases. Another thought: you could say that the people cynically manipulating the crazies, as Nixon did, have died off or faded away over the last 40 years, and in their place we’ve been electing a bunch of the true-believing crazies, who’ve grown up on the Republican groupthink their entire lives. The crazy just keeps boiling down and down to its pure essence.”

Oh, is THAT all?: I blogged on the day it happened that the Supremes had refused to grant cert in Rasul et al. v. Myers et al., in which some Guantanamo detainees had sued Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military officials for having been tortured. At the time, I was hoping that SCOTUSblog, usually the go-to source for interpretation and analysis of high-court decisions, would fill in the contextual gap. As of this writing, that hasn’t happened. But the detainees’ attorneys — who, to state the obvious, have an interest — and Empire Burlesque say the Supremes, agreeing with the Obama Justice Department, which, unconscionably, agreed with the Bush Justice Department before it, have effectively decided that military detainees abroad “are not persons” and therefore “have no right not to be tortured.” Now, aren’t you glad you voted for change?

Before you praise Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., as a “fiscal conservative,” note this.

“I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier”: Way-cool video from Airventure 2009, to the tune of The Killers’ “All These Things I’ve Done” (h/t: Fred):

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 1:12 am

Who lives, who dies?

Filed under: Sad,We're so screwed — Lex @ 1:12 am
Tags: ,

Under our current system, by every objective standard the worst in the industrialized world, roughly 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of lack of health insurance. Will the current bill, flawed though it might be, save enough of them to make it worth supporting?

I haven’t been watching the Senate debate on health-care reform tonight, so I may put a bunch of energy into this post only for it to be overtaken by events by the time I wake up in the morning. But I think Congress and we the people have arrived in the past day or so at a point we’re going to look back at 30 years from now and recognize for better or worse — quite likely worse — as historic.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, who won re-election in his last race as an independent after getting beaten in the Democratic primary, has managed to strip out of the bill the things its most fervent backers wanted most, primarily a public option and, as a fallback from that, expansion of Medicare to include some (paying) people between the ages of 55 and 64. Keep in mind that as recently as September, Lieberman was publicly supporting the Medicare expansion.

As it now stands — and, again, I realize, this could change at any time — the bill gives the powers that be in the current health-care status quo a lot of goodies. And it doesn’t come anywhere close to achieving universal health-insurance coverage.

There are other specifics I’ll get into in a second, but right now, things boil down to this: Under our current system, by every objective standard the worst in the industrialized world, roughly 45,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of lack of health insurance. Will the current bill, flawed though it might be, save enough of them to make it worth supporting? Or, put another way, how many people does it need to save before all the goodies, both up front and over time, that private health insurers and pharmaceutical companies will be getting are justified?

I don’t think there’s a right answer. For damn sure, there’s no good answer.

* * *

Just how bad has Joe Lieberman crapped all over the whole debate on health-care reform? Bad enough that right now, I think it’s time he not only gets no health care, it’s time he gets intestinal cancer in a part of the world where morphine is as yet undiscovered. I mean, really, what kind of sociopath do you have to be to disregard those 45,000 annual deaths and singlehandedly chop up a bill to create something that:

  • Mandates that every American buy expensive insurance from private companies without the choice of a public option and lets the IRS fine you if you don’t
  • Severely taxes middle-class health care plans, rather than wealthy individuals
  • Increases insurance premiums about $1,000 a year
  • Increases health care costs
  • Continues to exempt health-insurance companies from antitrust laws, inhibiting competition
  • Provides a sweet deal for pharmaceutical manufacturers while denying the government the ability to negotiate for lower drug prices for Medicare, something Democrats actually promised three years ago.
  • Apparently won’t let the government import drugs from cheaper foreign sources. I’m told my own junior senator, Kay Hagan, was arguing tonight that this was a “safety” issue, which must come as a surprise to the dozens of other countries that do this every day.
  • Grants monopolies on new biologic drugs so they will never become generics
  • Offers NO public option
  • Offers NO Medicare expansion, even in return for payment, for 55- to 64-year-olds.
  • Limits insurance-company payouts, contrary to President Obama’s promise in September
  • Raises taxes in January while not beginning benefits until 2014.

It’s as if private insurers, Big Pharma and their water-carriers on Capitol Hill are trying to see how bad they can make the bill and still get “reform” supporters to vote for it. As I noted in an earlier post, Ezra Klein of The Washington Post has suggested (and there is some evidence for this view) that Joe Lieberman has done all this simply to piss off progressives. Well, congratulations, Joe — you’ve not only pissed off progressives, you’ve also pissed off me.

It’s also as if Republicans got together and created a bill that they wanted Democrats to run on in 2010 because they knew it would do little or no good while also pissing off people all across the political spectrum, from angry defenders of the status quo to people who wanted far, far more change than this bill can offer.

But it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who are doing this. Republicans, having pledged to oppose any Democratic bill unanimously and lacking the numbers to defeat a bill on their own, have become irrelevant to the debate. This is happening because of the seriously undemocratic structure and operating rules of the Senate and because of conscious choices on the part of Lieberman and other prominent Democrats who ought to know better and whose motives must therefore be called into question. And it’s happening with the approval, if not at the order, of Barack Obama, who has been lying pretty shamelessly about what the bill will and will not do.

* * *

In addition to screwing tens, if not hundreds, of millions of Americans on the substance, this situation also creates an interesting political dilemma for Democrats. Enough progressive House Democrats have pledged to oppose any health-care reform that lacks a public option that anything that can get 60 votes in the Senate, needed to overcome a filibuster, will not pass the House if all those now on record as demanding a public option hold firm.

So it’s not just people who need health care who must choose between a crappy bill and no bill. It’s Congressional Democrats, a bunch of whom must run for re-election next year with whatever happens to this bill as the most important backdrop besides jobs and national security (two other areas where Democrats aren’t exactly shooting out the lights). What makes it really interesting is that if health-care reform is either seen as inadequate or fails entirely, the most vulnerable incumbents aren’t going to be the ones who pushed for far more sweeping changes. It’s going to be the Blue Dogs who are hewing close to Lieberman.

I don’t see 2010 being as bad for Democrats as 1994 was. But I bet the Republicans take back the Senate.

* * *

As you might imagine, there’s a significant split among people who’ve been following this issue over whether this bill is better than nothing. And generally speaking, the policy wonks argue that this bill, while bad, is better than nothing, while the political activists say this thing needs to be killed.

Blogger Jane Hamsher argues that it’s worse than nothing:

Instead [of reducing costs by allowing importation], the “bend” [a reference to the need to slow the growth of health-care costs, often called “bending the cost curve” — Lex] comes from taxing middle class insurance benefits, which makes them worse. According to the CSM report released last week:

In reaction to the tax, many employers would reduce the scope of their health benefits. The resulting reductions in covered services and/or increases in employee cost-sharing requirements would induce workers to use fewer services. Because plan benefit values would generally increase faster than the threshold amounts for defining high-cost plans (which are indexed by the CPI plus 1 percent), over time additional plans would become subject to the excise tax, prompting those employers to scale back coverage.

The cost curve gets “bent” by making the insurance you have through your employer worse. Remember Harry and Louise? They killed health care reform during the Clinton administration by making this claim. Well, now it’s actually going to be true.

Howard Dean, the physician and former governor and presidential candidate, also says this bill must be killed. Digby agrees, saying that the bottom line is that this bill isn’t going to save any lives:

Nobody’s “getting covered” here. After all, people are already “free” to buy private insurance and one must assume they have reasons for not doing it already. Whether those reasons are good or bad won’t make a difference when they are suddenly forced to write big checks to Aetna or Blue Cross that they previously had decided they couldn’t or didn’t want to write. Indeed, it actually looks like the worst caricature of liberals: taking people’s money against their will, saying it’s for their own good. …

What this huge electoral mandate and congressional majority have gotten us, then, is basically a deal with the insurance industry to accept 30 million coerced customers in exchange for ending their practice of failing to cover their customers when they get sick — unless they go beyond a “reasonable cap,” of course. (And profits go up!)

Emptywheel calls it “neo-feudalism”, and my only argument is that she’s being too kind. This is nothing more or less than using government as a mechanism to transfer wealth from the middle class to corporations just as feudal peasants had to pay to the nobles — and the peasants actually got a promise of protection in return, while these corporations, which supposedly will protect us from medical bankruptcy in return, aren’t even legally required to do that:

Consider a family of four making $66,150–a family at 300% of the poverty level and therefore, hypothetically, at least, “subsidized.” That family would be expected to pay $6482.70 (in today’s dollars) for premiums–or $540 a month. But that family could be required to pay $7973 out of pocket for copays and so on. So if that family had a significant– but not catastrophic — medical event, it would be asked to pay its insurer almost 22% of its income to cover health care. Several months ago, I showed why this was a recipe for continued medical bankruptcy (though the numbers have changed somewhat). But here’s another way to think about it. Senate Democrats are requiring middle class families to give the proceeds of over a month of their work to a private corporation — one allowed to make 15% or maybe even 25% profit on the proceeds of their labor.

It’s one thing to require a citizen to pay taxes — to pay into the commons. It’s another thing to require taxpayers to pay a private corporation, and to have up to 25% of that go to paying for luxuries like private jets and gyms for the company CEOs.

Forget whether this will actually make health care cheaper or more available. How is this even constitutional?

I’m no closer now to knowing what we ought to do, or even what I would do were I in the Senate, than I was when I started this piece almost three hours ago. I just know that after all this time and effort, tens of millions of Americans are still going to be uninsured, and tens of thousands will still die next year because of it. And the fact that tens of millions of other Americans think this is acceptable makes me tremble for my country.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 10:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/15

A way to balance the budget?: For the second straight month, the U.S. Treasury auctioned 1-month T-bills at 0.0% interest. The national budget gets significantly smaller if you whack out interest on the national debt, y’know.

All I want for Christmas is a repeal of Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

BOHICA: As part of “paying off” its multi-billion-dollar loan from the taxpayers, technically insolvent bank holding company Citigroup gets to keep $38 billion in tax credits that regulations normally would require it to give up. That figure will easily overshadow any profit the taxpayers may get from selling Citigroup shares. Merry. Freaking. Christmas.

But maybe Christmas is coming early; or, Who are you and what have you done with Sen. Jim Bunning?: Remember those 15 questions that the Cunning Realist suggested should be asked of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke during his reconfirmation hearings? Unbelievably, a senator asked them. Even more unbelievably, the senator in question was Jim Bunning, heretofore a leading candidate for the title of Biggest Waste of Carbon in the U.S. Capitol.

You may now kiss the D.C. City Council: The District of Columbia has legalized gay marriage. Congress, per the Constitution, gets 30 legislative days to review the law once D.C.’s mayor has signed it, but the Democratic leadership will keep that puppy bottled up until the deadline has safely passed.

No room to talk: Panthers defensive backs Chris Harris and Chris Gamble need to STFU about Patriots WR Randy Moss. While they are having good years, and they did shut Moss down on Sunday, they apparently chose to ignore Wes Welker’s presence on the field. And what really matters is that yet again, the Panthers have failed to achieve consecutive winning seasons, while the Pats almost certainly are going to the playoffs.

Wardrobe police: Is Roy Williams gonna have me thrown out of North Carolina for wearing a Panthers jersey in Chapel Hill?

Shorter Janet Tavakoli: Except for Paul Volcker, the bankers don’t get it.

Brother can you spare your Visa card?: The Miami Herald, which recently laid off 199 people, is now attaching to each article a link through which people can contribute money online … to the paper, not the laid-off employees. The last time I can remember anything like this happening was when I was a kid and Ted Turner went on the air in Charlotte to ask people to send him money to keep Channel 36 on the air. (Yes, that’s Turner Broadcasting’s Ted Turner, and, yes, he repaid it.)

CBS Sports: “If any of our announcers talk about Tiger Woods, we’ll shoot this dog fire them.”

Best banking idea I’ve heard in a while: If Barney Frank has his way, only retail banks will be able to borrow from the discount window. At worst, this gets some banksters off the federal teat. It may even significantly ease the current credit crunch.

Quote of the day: “You’re either part of the solution or you’re a tool of ACORN.” — Conservative Brown, Boy Detective, by Tom Tomorrow.

Smarter Washington Post, please: The Post publishes a bunch of contextually challenged nonsense regarding the national debt. Economist Dean Baker rips them a new one. Yes, the national debt is too high and rising, but the bigger and more urgent problem is joblessness. The Post wants to scrap Social Security and Medicare but just doesn’t have the stones to say so.

Smarter Washington Post, please, cont.: Charles Lane criticizes colleague Ezra Klein’s criticism of Joe Lieberman … while also conceding that Klein’s factual claim is correct. Idiot. All you need to know about Lane is that he was Stephen Glass‘s editor. All you need to know about Klein is that Joe Lieberman finds him bothersome. (But here’s useful background on the contretemps.) Also, I posted the one-word comment “FAIL” on Lane’s blog post earlier; as of 10:30 p.m., it had been deleted, which fact I shortly thereafter commented upon. We’ll see if the 2nd comment stays up.

Smarter judges, please: U.S. District Judge William Duffey tells two Muslim defendants at a sentencing, “I’ll say this, our Gods are very different.” Uh, no, infidel; Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

If you like what Joe Lieberman is doing to health-care reform, wait’ll you see what he has planned for Social Security and Medicare.

Terminated; or, Cue the Limbaugh smears in 3 … 2… 1 …: Arnold Schwarzenegger throws Sarah Palin under the (hybrid?) bus.

Jerome “Swiftboat” Corsi asks,”Could it be that President Obama intends to bankrupt the USA in order to destroy free-enterprise capitalism itself?” Sounds like fun! Let’s play! Could it be that Jerome Corsi is a paranoid psychotic? Could it be that Jerome Corsi wouldn’t recognize the destruction of free-enterprise capitalism THAT’S NOW GOING ON, LED BY INVESTMENT BANKS, if it bit him in the ass? Could it be that Jerome Corsi has a financial motivation to misrepresent what the president is trying to do? Hey, this is fun! I could do this all day!

Paying for your wars: The Greatest Generation, so revered by conservatives, had no problem with this concept; indeed, they inculcated it in their children. So why do today’s Congressional leaders have such a problem?

Why is private health insurance such a bad idea? Let me the Main Street Alliance draw you a picture:

Back from the dead and ready to incriminate?: Some 22 million White House e-mails from the first Bush 43 administration have been “found,” four years and change after they “went missing.” In a perfect world, Karl Rove will be going to prison as a result for having 1) outed undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame and 2) obstructed a criminal investigation into the outing thereof. In the world we live in, we’ll probably find out that the missing $12 trillion in U.S. wealth, much of it sucked out of the home values and retirement savings of the middle class, is now in some Nigerian barrister’s bank account.

Math: About fifteen times as many people die in the U.S. every year as a result of lack of health insurance as died in the 9/11 terror attacks.

No methaqualone for you, says the Methaqualone Nazi!: The new Republican Party-sponsored Web-link shortener, GOP.am, includes this in its terms of use: “If you use it for spamming, illegal purposes or to promote lude content, your GOP.AM URL will be disabled.” Earlier, bloggers and commenters for Balloon Juice were using the site to provide links to bondage sites. Hee.

Monday, December 14, 2009 10:02 pm

Odds and ends for 12/14

Kabuki: President Obama talked tough to the bankers today, but don’t be misled: If he 1) knew what he was doing and 2) were serious about it, a lot of the executives he’s talking to would have been jobless by now and the U.S. taxpayer would be substantially better off.

Heck of a job, Bushie: The Bush administration’s birth-control policies helped fuel a population boom in Africa, which also means a poverty boom. Nice.

Tony Blair: We were gonna remove Saddam, and if he didn’t have WMDs, then we’d come up with some other reason. No, that’s actually pretty much what he said. If we don’t put these people in prison, our grandchildren are going to be calling us “good Germans.”

Rumsfeld, 10 military officials skate on torture liability: The Supreme Court declined today to hear an appeal of an appeals-court ruling that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 military officials are immune from civil claims of torture filed by four now-released Guantanamo prisoners from Britain. Even the normally reliable SCOTUSBlog hasn’t elaborated on this ruling, so I’m not sure what it means, but any time the word “immunity” appears close to Rumsfeld’s name, my gorge rises. (So, yeah, in case you’re wondering, I’ve spent the last five years throwing up in my mouth a little bit.)

“The bill is a hodgepodge. And it should be.”: Physician/journalist Atul Gawande, author of this groundbreaking article on why medical costs are rising so fast, says there’s actually a century-old historical precedent for measures in the health-care reform bill to improve efficiency, and a successful precedent at that: agriculture. It’s an unexpectedly optimistic piece. Check it out.

Burn in hell, Joe Lieberman: Ezra Klein says it best: “At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals. That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score.”

“You have toyed with me for the last time!”: Fully a third of Democratic voters say they’ll be less likely to turn out in 2010 if Congress doesn’t pass a public option. Also, 81% say Joe Lieberman should be punished if he filibusters health-care reform. I think Lieberman should be punished in any event, just for being an ass.

Not so fast with that cover-up, there, mate: Also related to the Iraq invasion, six top physicians in Britain have launched legal action to have the purported suicide of government bioweapons expert Dr. David Kelly re-investigated. Kelly died in 2003, supposedly a suicide, just days after he was exposed as the source of a news report that a dossier of evidence regarding Iraq’s WMD program had been “sexed up” to justify invading Iraq. The physicians credibly claim that the investigation was, in technical terms, screwed six ways to Sunday.

Not so fast, the sequel: The Russian Supreme Court has overturned the acquittals of four suspects in the 2006 slaying of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. All four were accused of being accomplices. The actual triggerman, who evidence in the trial said was paid $2 million, is believed to be still at large. (Earlier.)

What’s going on in southern Russia? In August, 20 people died in a suicide bombing, described in Russian news reports as the latest in a series of attacks in the republic of Ingushetia. Then early today in that same area, a large bomb on an above-ground natural-gas pipeline was defused. Insights, anyone?

Ho-ho-home: Authors Stephen and Tabitha King are paying $12,999* so that 150 members of the Maine National Guard, currently in training in Indiana before shipping out to Afghanistan in January, can come home for the holidays. Glad they’re getting to go home. Wish they didn’t have to go overseas.

*Because he thought $13,000 was an unlucky number. One of King’s personal assistants kicked in the remaining buck.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 10:23 pm

Odds and ends for 10/28

ECONOMY

HEALTH CARE

  • I’ve said before that the cost of malpractice insurance isn’t enough of a factor in health care to justify damaging the legal system with “tort reform” (read: limits on the only real way to punish a lot of actors in the health-care field). At least one doctor agrees with me.
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman represents a state, Connecticut, where 68% of voters favor a public option in health insurance. So, naturally, Lieberman supports it, too — if, by “supports it,” I mean “intends to filibuster it.” This would be the same Joe Lieberman who told his state’s voters in 2006, “[W]hat I’m saying to the people of Connecticut, I can do more for you and your families to get something done to make health care affordable, to get universal health insurance, to make America energy independent, to save your jobs and create new ones.”

AFGHANISTAN

  • The report the outgoing Bush administration prepared on Afghanistan for the incoming Obama administration was put together in one hour. “The upside is that this was one more hour than was spent reviewing the ‘Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside The U.S.’ memo.”

CULTURE WARS

SCIENCE

  • Two years ago, while no one was paying attention, two German scientists broke the speed of light. Or so they say. If true, then Einstein is a putz our whole understanding of time and space will change.

CRIMINAL INSANITY N.E.C.*

There’s a word for such people: sociopaths. I hope there’s soon another word for them: defendants.

*Not Elsewhere Classified

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