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Archive for May 13th, 2009

Wanda Sykes Brings Down the (White) House

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

Wanda Sykes Brings Down the (White) House

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Wanda Sykes stirred controversy at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday, taking a jab at Obama’s nipples, Dick Cheney’s creepiness, and calling for Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys to fail. The White House is now distancing itself from the comedian’s comments. Watch as Wanda brings down the house!

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U.N. Denounces ‘Blood Bath’ in Sri Lanka

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U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband declared themselves appalled by the “blood bath” that took place over the weekend in Sri Lanka. An estimated 430 civilians—of whom at least 100 were children—have been killed in fighting between Tamil Tiger rebels and government forces on the country’s northeastern coast. The question of whether Sri Lanka should receive a loan from the IMF is now on the table.

BBC News:

[Ban] urged Sri Lanka “to explore all possible options to bring the conflict to an end without further bloodshed” and asked the rebels to agree to a halt in the fighting.

The UK foreign secretary was in New York for a Security Council debate on the Middle East but he and Mr Kouchner also conducted a meeting on Sri Lanka with 10 of the 15 countries on the Security Council and aid workers and advocacy groups.

Russia, China and Vietnam were not there, arguing that say there is no need for the Security Council to take action as what is happening is a civil war, not a threat to international peace and security.

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David Sloan Wilson: Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection XII: Multilevel Selection Theory, Salsa Style

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:41 am by HL

David Sloan Wilson: Truth and Reconciliation for Group Selection XII: Multilevel Selection Theory, Salsa Style
Meet Athena Aktipis–evolutionist, mother of two, and salsa dance instructor in her spare time. Perhaps it was the dancer in Athena that caused her to…

Lee Stranahan: Memo To John Edwards; Start Telling The Truth And End This Circus
Enough already, Mr. Edwards. Your wife and mistress are in the early stages of fighting it out in public. It’s not exactly newsworthy at this…

DNC Plays Whack-A-Mole With GOP In Latest Web Ad
The latest in DNC mockery of the Republican Party was released on Tuesday night in the form of a Web ad playing off of the…

Youth Radio — Youth Media International: Youth Poets Bust for the Obamas
Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe. Young people are bringing spoken word to the White House. Two…


MSNBC ignores Galen Institute’s reported health care industry ties

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:40 am by HL

MSNBC ignores Galen Institute’s reported health care industry ties

During the May 12 edition of MSNBC Live, MSNBC featured Galen Institute president Grace-Marie Turner to discuss a tax proposal that host Contessa Brewer said lawmakers are considering in order to finance health care reform. However, MSNBC described the group only as “a public policy research organization,” failing to note that according to biographical information included with a number of Turner’s opinion pieces, her group is “funded by the pharmaceutical and medical industries,” which obviously have an interest in the outcome of Congress’ deliberations.

For instance, biographical information included with Turner’s May 11 opinion piece (registration required), distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Media Services, notes that Galen is “funded by the pharmaceutical and medical industries.” Similarly, the bio accompanying Turner’s February 27 op-ed, distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service, noted that the group is “funded in part by the pharmaceutical and medical industries.”

Additionally, MSNBC did not note that the Galen Institute explicitly advocates free-market principles for the health care sector. According to the group’s website, “[t]he Galen Institute was founded … to promote a conversation over free-market ideas in the health sector.” The group’s “Mission & History” page also describes the current direction of health care reform as a “march toward government-controlled medicine.”

From the 2 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on May 12:

BREWER: While the U.S. may desperately need health care reform, lawmakers also desperately need a way to pay for it. One possibility they are looking at: taxing sugary soft drinks. The idea faces backlash from the beverage industry and from Americans who would have to pay several cents more for a soft drink. Joining me now live from Washington, D.C., is Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, which is a public policy research organization.

Why doesn’t that make sense? Because, after all, people who drink a lot of sugary soft drinks and alcohol end up being the ones who are more prone to obesity, and obesity causes a lot of health care costs to skyrocket. So why doesn’t that make sense?

TURNER: Well, where do you stop? After you do soft drinks, then do you do candy bars, and then do you do fast food restaurants? Are we going to tax french fries? It starts to become a real game to figure out who’s going to get taxed or who is not. So it’s a very difficult thing — just as trying to figure out how you’re going to cut any health expenditures in the health system. Who is going to take the first hit?

It’s very difficult when you start to do it on this kind of piecemeal basis, rather than saying, how could we bring more efficiency into our health care system? How can we make sure we’re getting better value for all the dollars we’re spending and make sure that consumers actually have control over those choices? That seems to me a very different direction than this picking winners and losers.

BREWER: The senator we were just hearing from, Max Baucus [D-MT], who happens to be the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says he’s considering limits on the tax-free status of the health insurance you get at work. In other words, perhaps it should be that if you get health insurance, whatever your company pays for that, you’re taxed on that like you would be on income. Do you think that’s a good idea?

TURNER: Well, there’s a lot of evidence and a huge amount of research that shows that the way we currently provide health insurance — by allowing any amount of health insurance that your employer provides for you to be completely free of taxes — has encouraged people to take more of their compensation in the form of health insurance. That actually suppresses wages and take-home pay. So maybe putting a cap on that — saying that if your employer provides you with $15,000 a year in health insurance for you and your family — maybe that’s all that should be exempt from taxes, and anything above that could be taxed.

Apparently there was unanimous agreement on the health panel that spoke before the Senate Finance Committee today that that would be a good idea to begin to bring some rationality to really cap this open-ended tax break —

BREWER: Yeah. Let me just ask you —

TURNER: — and use some of that money to help people get health insurance.

BREWER: We have just 30 seconds left or so. So if you were going to advise the president and Congress on the best ways to create efficiency — which I know that’s, like, the key word — but how does that really happen? And if it was so important, then why hasn’t it happened already?

TURNER: Well, it actually is happening, but it’s not something politicians can take credit for. When you look at companies that are really structuring their benefit packages to engage employees as partners in managing their health care costs and spending, they’re the ones who have been able to hold their health care expenditures down more than companies that simply give employees a blank check.

BREWER: Well, something —

TURNER: So engaging consumers is crucial.

BREWER: Something has got to be done, though, broadly —

TURNER: Absolutely.

BREWER: — and more specifically for the government. I just have been handed a note here that the U.S. Treasury says the Medicare trust fund is going to become insolvent in 2017 —

TURNER: That’s right.

BREWER: — now versus 2019, so they’ve lowered that date where they’re expecting it not to have any money left. We’ll have to see whether Congress can get this together and do something about it. Thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

TURNER: Thank you so much.


The Daily Muck

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:39 am by HL

The Daily Muck
Dollar Dominatrix and TIME 100 member Meredith Whitney on the recent stress test-inspired stock market rally: “Even though I said it was gonna happen, I couldn’t believe it with my own eyes. Because the underlying core earnings power of these…

Yoo Must Be Joking! Bush Torture Architect Used Philly Inquirer Column To Attack Political Opponents
So we told you earlier today that the Philadelphia Inquirer has signed up Bush torture guru John Yoo as a columnist. But it gets worse. Greg Sargent points out that in March, Yoo used his new perch to attack civil…

New Afghanistan Commander Had Role In Tillman Friendly-Fire Episode
It looks Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the man taking over as the new top commander in Afghanistan, was a key player in one of the more shameful episodes of the Bush administration’s war on terror — though it’s unclear exactly…


Gullibility Test

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

Gullibility Test
At the same time that John Demjanjuk has been extradited from Cleveland to face trial for things he did as a German soldier during World War II, Americans believe it when the news media reports that due to the statute of limitations, time is running out as far as indicting and prosecuting George W. Bush […]


Anti-Mexican Media Hysteria Makes Life More Dangerous for Latinos in the U.S.

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

Anti-Mexican Media Hysteria Makes Life More Dangerous for Latinos in the U.S.
Mexicans have recently been the prime target of the most rancid typecasting in the media — can more racist violence be far behind?

Why the Press Is on Suicide Watch
Newspapers are a self-destructive retreat from innovation — what’s going to stop them from total collapse?

How to Make the Neocons Crazy About the Middle East: Tell Them the Truth
Hamas has long endorsed a two-state solution, but when the NY Times reported it, kooky neocon Charles Krauthammer went unhinged.

Would You Call 60,000 Cows Fenced Together on a Dirt Patch a "Farm?"
Between 2002 and 2007, the United States lost 43,603 real farms — we can’t let agribusiness control our food supply.


Combating Wage Theft

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

Combating Wage Theft
It is great to see Kim Bobo’s book on wage theft drawing attention on TPMCafe and elsewhere. It is outrageous that millions of workers have their earnings stolen from them by their employers. Hopefully, this book will help to…

Health Care and Student Loans: The Bad Guys Are on the Run
Progressives should be feeling good right now. There is clear evidence that we are winning on two really big issues. Starting with the smaller of the two, Sallie Mae, the largest private issuer of student loans, is now proposing to…






Vitter lifts hold on FEMA director nominee.

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:32 am by HL

Vitter lifts hold on FEMA director nominee.
On May 1, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) announced — with almost no explanation why — that he had put a hold on President Obama’s nominee to head FEMA, Craig Fugate. Last week, the White House responded by calling Vitter’s hold “political posturing,” while Vitter continued to insist that he had “not received the information he […]

On May 1, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) announced — with almost no explanation why — that he had put a hold on President Obama’s nominee to head FEMA, Craig Fugate. Last week, the White House responded by calling Vitter’s hold “political posturing,” while Vitter continued to insist that he had “not received the information he has requested about how FEMA would treat certain issues of importance to Louisiana.” Today, however, Vitter announced that he’s lifting his hold. He said a letter he received Monday from FEMA officials assured him that the agency was working hard to resolve an issue related to reconstruction delays that resulted from the agency’s “interpretation of rules that prohibit federal financing of construction projects in flood zones.”

House Republicans: Look How Many Layoffs We Helped Create
Today, the Washington Post reported that “eleven weeks after Congress settled on a stimulus package that provided $135 billion to limit layoffs in state governments, many states are finding that the funds are not enough and are moving to lay off thousands of public employees.” Washington state will be forced to layoff several thousand educators […]

Today, the Washington Post reported that “eleven weeks after Congress settled on a stimulus package that provided $135 billion to limit layoffs in state governments, many states are finding that the funds are not enough and are moving to lay off thousands of public employees.” Washington state will be forced to layoff several thousand educators and Massachusetts which “cut 1,000 positions late last year, just announced 250 layoffs, with more likely to come soon.”

Apparently missing the article’s point — that the stimulus should have included more budget stabilization funding for states — the House GOP featured the article on their website today, suggesting that the report vindicated their unanimous opposition to the recovery act. Later in the day, they linked to the article on twitter and gleefully quipped, “Look how many layoffs the stimulus created“:

In reality, of course, the economic recovery didn’t “create” layoffs at the state level. Had the recovery plan included no money at all for state level budget stabilization — as the House Republicans proposed — layoffs of public servants at the state level would have been far more widespread.

Further, as the Post makes clear, it was members of the Republican party and several conservative Democrats sympathetic with the Republican line on the recovery package that actively lobbied for reductions in state budget stabilization funding by $40 billion:

But in the Senate, the stabilization funding was cut by $40 billion to secure the support of the three Republicans who were needed for a filibuster-proof 60 votes — Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvaniaas well as to gain the support of conservative Democrats such as Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska

Susan Collins (R-ME) defended her efforts to slash the state stabilization funding, saying, “The fundamental purpose of the stimulus bill is to save and create jobs and help get our economy moving again. … The bloated House-passed bill stood no chance of passing the Senate.”


At Hill Hearing, Details Sought On Afghanistan-Pakistan Policy

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:31 am by HL

At Hill Hearing, Details Sought On Afghanistan-Pakistan Policy
Some Democratic senators joined Republicans yesterday in questioning whether the Obama administration had adequately explained its strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan as Congress considers a supplemental appropriations bill that includes billions of dollars for military and economic assistance …


In Filling Supreme Court Vacancy, Obama Looks for a Jurist With Empathy
CHICAGO — When President Obama talks about the traits he admires in a Supreme Court justice, he ticks the predictable boxes — intellect, integrity, respect for the Constitution and the law. And sometimes he talks about Lilly Ledbetter and the quality he defines as empathy.


Obama Aides Debate Role Of Proposed Cyber Czar
The nation’s top military, intelligence and homeland security officials are recommending that President Obama establish a new White House cyber czar under the National Security Council with broad policy-setting authority for protecting both public- and private-sector computer networks, according to…



What Makes Us Happy?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 13th, 2009 4:29 am by HL

What Makes Us Happy?
Joshua Wolf Shenk, The Atlantic

Obama’s Energy Triangulation
Joel Kotkin, Politico

Elizabeth Edwards & ‘Oversharing’
Froma Harrop, Providence Journal

The Deadly Sins of the Chrysler Bankruptcy
Richard Epstein, Forbes

Does Petraeus Have All the Answers?
Dexter Filkins, The New Republic