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Archive for January 20th, 2011

Privacy is for the Gated Community only

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:47 am by HL

Privacy is for the Gated Community only
Your right to privacy is going to require you to not need a job…or benefits. Well, so much for that penumbra.

Too many duels and silver noses for you…pic via lilspikey at flickr.com

The long-standing fevered dreams of the right are ever coming true, and providing the propellant is the Supreme Court:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday to allow sweeping background checks of JPL scientists and other government contract workers, ruling that privacy rights do not prevent officials from digging into employees’ medical, financial and sexual histories.

JPL’s virtually exclusive mission is planetary exploration. So it’s obvious why such intrusions are necessary. We cannot have someone who once declared bankruptcy or likes the occasional shocker selling research to Jupiter before it can be broadcast on Nova; or telling Saturnians, “we’re going to enjoy probing your moons!”. Science is clearly best served when it is performed only by the most politically sanitized of people, like Tycho.

But have no fear, just because the decision was unanimous doesn’t mean it applies to fields filled by non-scientist types:

…the decision, which holds JPL researchers to the similar standards as government workers with access to classified information, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the justices were not ruling on whether citizens had a constitutional right to informational privacy.

Oh, well, thank goodness…uh, what?

“We reject the argument that the government, when it requests job-related personal information in an employment background check, has a constitutional burden to demonstrate that its questions are ‘necessary,’” Alito wrote.

Well, so much for being limited. Seeing as how the Constitutional Right-to-Privacy only applies to, you know, the government, that doesn’t sound so limited at all.


House Huffs, Puffs, Blows Health Care Down

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:46 am by HL

House Huffs, Puffs, Blows Health Care Down
House Republicans, joined by three Democrats, finally got around to passing their repeal of President Obama’s health care law. Were the measure to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate and be signed by President Obama, it would be a development as miraculous and inexplicable as John Boehner’s tan.  —PZS BBC: Republicans in the US House of Representatives have passed a bill to repeal President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, in a symbolic move demonstrating their gains in Congress. The vote fulfils a top promise made to Republican voters in the November’s mid-term elections. Senate Democrats, who hold the majority in that chamber, have signaled they won’t allow a vote on the repeal bill. Read more

House Republicans, joined by three Democrats, finally got around to passing their repeal of President Obama’s health care law. Were the measure to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate and be signed by President Obama, it would be a development as miraculous and inexplicable as John Boehner’s tan.? —PZS

BBC:

Republicans in the US House of Representatives have passed a bill to repeal President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, in a symbolic move demonstrating their gains in Congress.

The vote fulfils a top promise made to Republican voters in the November’s mid-term elections.

Senate Democrats, who hold the majority in that chamber, have signaled they won’t allow a vote on the repeal bill.

Read more

Related Entries


WikiLeaks Banker Fined by Swiss Court
A Swiss judge fined the former banker who gave confidential files to WikiLeaks roughly $6,250, but spared the whistle-blower a prison sentence. Rudolf Elmer was found guilty of violating Switzerland’s confidential banking laws, which have protected such people as tax-dodging Americans and the Nazis. BBC: Judge Sebastian Aeppli fined Rudolf Elmer, 55, more than 6,000 Swiss francs ($6,250; £4,000). But he rejected prosecution demands to give Elmer an eight-month prison sentence. Elmer also said that he had handed confidential Julius Baer banking files to tax authorities, and later the Wikileaks website run by Julian Assange, because he had wanted to expose tax evasion by businessmen and politicians. Read more

A Swiss judge fined the former banker who gave confidential files to WikiLeaks roughly $6,250, but spared the whistle-blower a prison sentence. Rudolf Elmer was found guilty of violating Switzerland’s confidential banking laws, which have protected such people as tax-dodging Americans and the Nazis.

BBC:

Judge Sebastian Aeppli fined Rudolf Elmer, 55, more than 6,000 Swiss francs ($6,250; £4,000).

But he rejected prosecution demands to give Elmer an eight-month prison sentence.

Elmer also said that he had handed confidential Julius Baer banking files to tax authorities, and later the Wikileaks website run by Julian Assange, because he had wanted to expose tax evasion by businessmen and politicians.

Read more

Related Entries



Joan Z. Shore: What Obama Should Have Said

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:45 am by HL

Joan Z. Shore: What Obama Should Have Said
The memorial event in Tucson last week was not especially memorable — except for the fact that Obama himself gave a lengthy speech that was lavishly praised by nearly everyone. Not by me.

Mexico’s Ex-President: Legalize Drugs
As Mexico drowns in drug related bloodshed — suffering almost 12,000 murders in 2010 — it is perhaps unsurprising that government critics turn up their…

AlaskaDispatch.com: The 13th Regional, Alaska’s ‘ghost’ Native corporation
The 13th Regional Corp. has come under investigation by Alaska’s Division of Banking and Securities. But why and what might come of the inquiry remains…

HuffPost TV: WATCH: Arianna On Why Obama Should Embrace ‘The Vital Center’
Arianna visited “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell” Wednesday evening to discuss Obama’s recent bump in polling and where she hopes to see the president…


O’Reilly Pretends Emergency Health Care Is Free

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:44 am by HL

O’Reilly Pretends Emergency Health Care Is Free

Bill O’Reilly downplayed concerns about Americans not having health insurance, saying, “Hospitals are mandated to treat uninsured people.” In fact, uncompensated care shifts the burden of providing care to the insured and to government budgets.

O’Reilly Cites Emergency Care To Dismiss Concerns About Uninsured Americans

O’Reilly: “Good Grief! Hospitals Are Mandated To Treat Uninsured.” Responding to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s concerns about the possibility of uninsured Americans dying if health care reform is repealed, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said:

Good grief! Hospitals are mandated to treat uninsured people, even if they’re in the country illegally. Also the feds already subsidize medical insurance for the poor. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 1/19/11]

Paying For Uninsured Care Increases Insurance Premiums, Burdens Government Budgets

Uncompensated Care Leads To Higher Premiums For Insured. A study by Families USA found that:

Because of the high cost of health care, uninsured people are less likely to get the care that they need when they need it, and they are more likely to delay seeking care for as long as possible. When a health problem becomes so serious that treatment can no longer be delayed, the uninsured seek care. Then, they struggle to pay as much of their bills as they can: In 2008, the uninsured paid an average of 37 percent of the cost of care that they received out of their own pockets. However, they cannot usually afford to pay the whole bill on their own, and a portion goes unpaid (this is called “uncompensated care”). To cover the cost of this uncompensated care, health care providers charge higher rates when insured people receive care, and these increases are passed on to those who have insurance in the form of higher premiums, known as a “hidden health tax.” In 2008, for example, this “hidden health tax” increased premiums for family health coverage by an average of $1,017, and, for single individuals, by $368.

If nothing is done to reduce the number of uninsured and the uncompensated care that is provided to them, premiums will continue their rapid ascent, and evermore people will be priced out of coverage. This vicious circle can be stopped, and the price of coverage can be stabilized–but only if we expand coverage.

As coverage is expanded under the House bill, the amount of uncompensated care for the uninsured will fall, and doctors and hospitals will no longer have to pass on the cost of this care to insurers. Insurers, in turn, should then be in a position to slow the rate of increase in the premiums they charge. [Families USA, July 2009]

Shifting Costs Of Uninsured Strains State And Local Government Budgets. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured reported:

More uninsured puts pressure on state budgets because states often finance uncompensated care at local hospitals and clinics. Uncompensated care is also financed by Medicaid and Medicare disproportionate share hospital payments, some indirect graduate medical education payments, state and local appropriations, and a variety of other programs such as the Veterans Administration, the Indian Health Service and Community Health Centers. There is also some “shifting” of costs to the privately insured. Most of these revenue streams are not likely to increase in the current environment in response to a larger uninsured population, thus most of these costs that we project are likely to borne by providers, states and or their localities or the uninsured will have less access to care. At a 7 percent unemployment rate, the increased costs of funding additional uncompensated care costs at current levels would be $3.2 billion and $7.2 billion at 10 percent unemployment. [Kaiser Family Foundation, January 2009]

Uncompensated Care Estimated To Have Cost Federal, State, And Local Governments $42.9 Billion In 2008. The Kaiser Family Foundation also reported that the primary source of funding for uncompensated care of the uninsured is federal and state governments:

Federal and state government dollars are the primary source of funding for uncompensated care of the uninsured.

Combining federal, state, and local funding streams, $42.9 billion dollars will be used for uncompensated care for the uninsured in 2008 – which will cover at least 75% of the total uncompensated care amount this year.

Federal dollars, largely flowing through the Medicare and Medicaid programs, account for 60% of these government dollars.

Two-thirds of government spending for uncompensated care goes to hospitals–paying for nearly $29 billion of the $35 billion they will incur. [Kaiser Family Foundation, August 2008]

Uninsured Have Higher Mortality Rates Than Insured

Study Found Lack Of Insurance Was A Factor In Almost 45,000 Deaths Each Year. A study entitled “Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults” concluded that those without insurance had a higher mortality rate than those with insurance. By applying that ratio to 2005 census data, the study concluded that lack of insurance was a factor in almost 45,000 deaths every year. The report concluded that “[u]ninsurance is associated with mortality. The strength of that association appears similar to that from a study that evaluated data from the mid-1980s, despite changes in medical therapeutics and the demography of the uninsured since that time.” [American Journal of Public Health, Vol 99, No. 12, December 2009, via Media Matters]


FBI: MLK Day Parade Bomb Is ‘Domestic Terrorism’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:43 am by HL

FBI: MLK Day Parade Bomb Is ‘Domestic Terrorism’
A bomb found on the route of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, Wash., was left in an act of “domestic terrorism,” an FBI spokesman said today.


Allen Stanford’s Lawyers Say Alleged Ponzi Schemer Needs Luxury Rehab
Lawyers for Allen Stanford say the billionaire allegedly Ponzi schemer is addicted to an anti-anxiety medication and needs to be released from prison and sent to an upscale rehabilitation facility in Houston, Texas.


The Uncivil Enquirer On Sarah Palin

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:40 am by HL

The Uncivil Enquirer On Sarah Palin


Palin Puts Out Feelers in Iowa

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:39 am by HL

Palin Puts Out Feelers in Iowa
Sarah Palin “has tasked her aides with quietly gauging her level of support for a potential presidential campaign by making inquiries to a select pool of likely allies and grassroots activists in Iowa,” according to RealClearPolitics.

“Key Republican officials and operatives in the nation’s first voting state had begun to assume that Palin would not run for president in 2012 since most of them have not heard a word from her or from her small circle of aides, even as other likely candidates have begun jockeying more forcefully behind the scenes. But a Palin adviser confirmed that although the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee’s footprint has not been as heavy as that of other possible candidates, her political action committee has indeed been taking discreet steps in Iowa that would help her build a credible campaign here if she decided to launch one.”

Said SarahPAC adviser Andy Davis: “The idea that we’re not in Iowa is inaccurate.”


Why Are the Pundits Ignoring the Influence of Violent Right-Wing Rhetoric in Tuscon’s Tragedy?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:38 am by HL

Why Are the Pundits Ignoring the Influence of Violent Right-Wing Rhetoric in Tuscon’s Tragedy?
There’s a witch hunt going on for those who dare to question the spin masters’ claim that there’s no connection between language of violence and acts of violence.

Sorry Tea Partiers — The GOP Only Cares About Their Corporate Paymasters and Wealthy Elites Like the Kochs
While tea party regulars are giddy with the thought that their movement took over the U. S. House, they were actually a Trojan horse for powerful corporate interests.

The GOP’s 5 Most Absurd Lies About Healthcare Reform, Debunked
Now is the time to brush up on the facts about healthcare reform so we can keep the latest crop of Republican lies from taking hold.

Isn’t Free Speech Important Enough to Tolerate Fred Phelps Screaming ‘F*ggot’ at the Funerals of Dead Soldiers?
More, rather than less speech remains the best way to combat the kind of bile peddled by Phelps and his ilk.

Are Older Women More Sexually Adventurous Than 20-Somethings?
A new study reveals the somewhat surprising information that older women are more likely to have sex on a first date than younger ones. Why?


What To Say? [updated]

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:37 am by HL

What To Say? [updated]
Before stepping into this thicket, I’ll begin by reviewing the apparent ground rules for discussing political rhetoric and whether it has anything to do with the tragedy in Tucson. The acts of a mentally unbalanced man bear no connection to…


Top 10 Reasons to Stop the Blood Libel Schmear Campaign against Honorary Jew Sarah Palin
Governor Palin, or Sarahla, I hope you don’t mind if I call you Sarahla, do you? As we all know, Schlameals from the left to the right getting their yarmulkes all up in a bunch because you accused the…


Rep. Peter King?s Hearings On Radical Islam To Call On Critic Who Believes ?There Is No Moderate Islam?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on January 20th, 2011 5:36 am by HL

Rep. Peter King?s Hearings On Radical Islam To Call On Critic Who Believes ?There Is No Moderate Islam?

Politico offers some new insights into Rep. Peter King’s Homeland Security Committee hearings next month on radical Islam in America:

In a move that will come as a relief to Muslim leaders, King told POLITICO that he’s not planning to call as witnesses such Muslim community critics as the Investigative Project on Terrorism’s Steve Emerson and Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer, who have large followings among conservatives but are viewed as antagonists by many Muslims.

Typically, Politico doesn’t bother to explain why many Muslims — and many non-Muslims — might view Emerson and Spencer as problematic figures: because they’re not so much “experts” as they are entrepreneurs whose product is fear of Muslims and Islam.

It will still be important to watch for whether the more presentable affiliates of the “Creeping Sharia” crowd are called to testify — people like Claire Lopez or Andrew McCarthy. This, however, is troubling:

Possible witnesses, according to King, include Dutch critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali and M. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of Arizona-based American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Jasser is a sharp critic of leading American Muslim groups, whose agenda he calls “Islamist.”

Hirsi Ali — a Somali Dutch immigrant and activist — believes, among other things, that “Islam is a cult,” that “there is no moderate Islam,” and that “we are at war with Islam.” What will Ali add to the hearings, other than general hostility toward Muslims and their faith?

Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.

ThinkFast: January 19, 2011

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will announce today that he will retire from the Senate at the conclusion of his current term, ending a career marked by a record of both promoting and abandoning progressive causes. The Connecticut Mirror says that a source told them Lieberman decided to retire after being told by senior staff that “re-election as an independent was nearly impossible.”

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) also announced yesterday he will retire at the end of his current term. It’s not the first time Conrad retired, however — he lived up to a 1986 campaign pledge by refusing to run in 1992 because the federal deficit was not under control. Within months, he announced he was running for the state’s other seat following the death of Sen. Quentin Burdick (D).

Alabama’s new GOP governor Robert Bentley told a church crowd this week that non-Christians are not his brothers and sisters. “Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother,” Bentley said. The Anti-Defamation League called his comment “offensive.”

A new poll released Tuesday found that only 18 percent of Americans “are in favor of completely ejecting the health care overhaul passed last year.” Of the 50 percent that opposed the law, only 33 percent favored flat-out repeal, 35 percent favored a partial repeal, and 30 percent voted for a “wait-and-see approach.”

In search of themes for his State of the Union address on Jan. 25, President Obama held a series of meetings last month with his economic team, outside economists, labor leaders, and business CEOS to find both a “short-term patch” and “a durable system with a stronger set of rules” to improve the economy. Frustrated by failure to define the depth and solutions to the economic recession, Obama will “explain his new approach” and focus on “jobs and competitiveness” during his address.

President Obama is expected to announce today an agreement between the U.S. and China to establish a “Center of Excellence” in China to promote effective nuclear security and safeguards. The jointly funded project will reportedly allow technology sharing, offer training courses, and promote collaboration on nuclear security.

Sarah Palin’s unfavorable ratings are at an all-time high, according to a new CNN poll, with 56 percent of Americans expressing an unfavorable opinion of the former governor and current reality television star. Among women, Palin’s unfavorable rating has increased by 10 points, and it’s gone up a “whopping” 14 points among independents.

The FCC voted 4-1 to allow the NBC-Comcast merger, which will become one of the country’s largest media conglomerates. Democratic Commissioner “Michael Copps voted against the merger arguing that ‘it confers too much power into one company’s hand.’”

The EPA is “confident” that its upcoming regulations dealing with global warming will not be affected by President Obama’s newly-announced review of federal regulations. An EPA official said current and future rules under the Clean Air Act “comfortably pass muster under the sensible standards the president has laid out.”

And finally: Trying to understand Americans’ fascination with Sarah Palin, Donny Deutsch, a regular on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” had a compelling theory: Palin “is Snooki.” Deutsch noted the former Alaska governor and the Jersey Shore cast member share many traits. People “want to watch this character with big hair, who’s funny, you don’t know what she’s going to say.” “[S]he’s campy, she’s kitschy. It’s telegenic, it’s television, it’s entertainment.”

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