America's newest community organizer, Lady Gaga, will hold a rally in Portland, Maine today, specifically targeting two Senators who may be the difference between breaking a filibuster on the defense authorization bill and letting it slip away, along[...]
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Last week, I pointed to the challenges facing Switzerland and Japan’s currencies. As for the yen, I said that nothing short of actual intervention would relieve the pressure on its exporters. I also said that I expected it to happen.
And it did.
Japan intervened this week to stop the ever-rising yen, its biggest one-day intervention on record. But many in the foreign exchange market believe the effort will fail — and ultimately a strong yen will win out.
First, I can’t think of one fundamental argument that would support the case for a stronger yen.
Second, Japan has every incentive to keep intervening.
Remember, this is a country attempting to weaken its currency, not save it…. . . → Full Story: Biggest Ever Yen Intervention ? and What It Means for You!
There is a meme out there in the radical Republican Party about Shariah (Islamic law based on the Qur?an and other works) being imposed here in the United States. It has so much acceptance that a supposed 2012 Republican Presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, could call for a Federal law banning it, at the Value Voters summit in Washington and get a standing ovation. To say that this kind of crazy gets right up my nose is an understatement on the level of saying the razing of Carthage was a minor property dispute.
"Originally posted at Squarestate.net"
It is hard to know where to start in on the stupid on this issue, but let?s begin on a point near and dear to my heart, the Constitution. The First Amendment makes it clear when it says:
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
That means all religions, not just one. There is also the Article VI, Clause 2, the Supremacy Clause which makes the Constitution, Federal Laws and Treaties the supreme law of the land. No other law can supersede these laws, whether they be religious laws or State laws.
This whole ?their going to try to impose Shariah!!? hysteria is just that, fear mongering to whip up the base of the increasingly insane Republican Party. What is particularly galling about all of this is the level of unselfconscious hypocrisy that goes along with these fears of religious law being established in the United States.
The very same people that are shrieking about Shariah are the ones who insist that we are a so-called ?Christian? nation and want to be sure that the Ten Commandments are displayed everywhere. They are the ones that worry incessantly that there is war on Christmas (a holiday for the birth of their messiah). They are the ones who insist that we can not allow our gay, lesbian and transgendered citizens full rights because their god has said that they are bad people for their sexuality or mis-assigned gender.
As an Atheist I actually have a little sympathy for them. If you are on the outside of a religion it is very easy to see the beliefs as more than a little demented and sinister. The believers don?t have to have logic or reason to support their initial position, it is based on faith, then they may or may not proceed from logic but that initial belief is what allows any outsider to say ?Just look at what those fuckwits think is the ?right? thing to do!?
It is entirely possible that for people of faith in one deity to have even a stronger reaction to other religions proscriptions. After all the Abrhamic religions all have gods which tell their believers that they are the one true god and that they shall not subject their deity to market forces. When you have this as a core item of faith then the sinister nature of another?s oppressive beliefs are brought into even sharper contrast.
When religion and politics ride in the same cart, it is almost always a disaster. The important doubt that restrains politicians is removed and then the cart tends to plunge headlong, faster and fast, driven by people who are sure that their god will not let them crash. This is the one of the dangers of the radical Republicans,. People like Delaware Republican Senatorial Candidate Christine O?Donnell are filled with religious zeal and will use that zeal as the basis of their policy. When we are talking about someone who thinks masturbation is equal to adultery, is that so different from Shariah?
The good news is that the trend is away from laws based on religious bigotry. The finding of fact in recent LGTB cases has shown the opposition to full rights to be based on nothing more than base fear and religious based intolerance. The blue laws which kept places like my home state from selling alcohol on Sunday?s until just this year are slowly being repealed as people find that they don?t really care what their neighbor does if it does not affect them. Even the push to legalize marijuana, the Just Say Now campaign is gaining steam and credibility because the idea of real personal freedom is one that Americans like.
So in the end if whether it is our own homegrown folks who want to impose religious law, or the faux ones they use to keep their base in a constant state of fear, the reality is there will be no religious law in the United States. It is one of the things the Founders and Framers were very clear that they did not want. They had the chance at the start of our Republic to make a national religion or to outlaw other religions and they resisted the temptation. We honor that choice by reaffirming it. Whether you have no faith or believe in a present and vengeful god you have the right to have and express that position in this nation. It is part of what makes us great and we should not play politics with it.
The floor is yours.
The most depressing part of this McClatchy article on the corrupt USAID contracting in Afghanistan by the construction company, Louis Berger, are six-year old quotes calling for an alternative to Berger. Either we've become a banana republic sooner than[...]
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Monday opinion. Start the week with some hot air.
Even aboard the Development Driller III - the ship that drilled the relief well and allowed crews to pump in the cement for the plug - celebrations were muted.
"It's kind of bittersweet because we lost 11 men out here," said Rich Robson, the offshore installation manager on the vessel. "There isn't going to be any real celebration. To a lot of people, the water out here is a cemetery."
Up in the air, still (actually, under the water) is the goo on the bottom of the Gulf.
Don't tell Forrest Travirca that you've heard Louisiana dodged the bullet on environmental damage from the BP oil disaster. You might find yourself eating those words.
"Smell this!" Travirca demanded as he grabs a handful of brownish sand from this beach just west of Grand Isle and pushed it at the nose of a reporter. "That's right -- it's oil."
The field inspector for the local property owner shook his head in disgust and pointed down the beach where tiny yellow and red flags mark oil deposits that must be removed.
"All the brown spots and patches you'll see on this beach for the next nine miles is oil, too," he said. "And if you dig down a few inches or a few feet, you'll see oil, too. And if you walk into that marsh back there, you'll find oil.
Republicans are promising to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's health care overhaul if they win control of Congress. But with what?
Not even they know.
So what else is new? Just add it to the list of 'not ready to govern'.
There is no great affection for the Republican Party in this country, a senior Obama administration official said last week. That creates the opportunity for competitive races district by district.
The official noted that the GOP's unpopularity marks a critical difference between the election this November and 1994, when the party's sweep of more than 50 seats won it the majority in the House for the first time in 40 years. Then, the official argued, Republicans had been out of power for more than four decades and voters were ready to try something different. This time, voters know what they would be getting with Republicans in charge and don't like it, the source said.
People are frustrated with Democrats but they don't like Republicans.
Aaron Belkin on DADT:
On the long path to regulations that treat all troops equally, a number of myths have cropped up surrounding the law.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), often referred to as a "kingmaker" for Tea Party candidates, said that it's because of that slate of candidates, and not in spite of it, that Republicans would get to a 60-vote majority in the upper chamber.
"The quickest way to 60 votes in the Senate is to have candidates who stand on principle," DeMint said on CNN's "State of the Union."
For Democrats, the growing debate over how to vanquish the Tea Party movement is analogous to a family fracas over how to best get rid of your sister’s latest crummy boyfriend.
Do you repeatedly point out all the perceived flaws of the new suitor, hoping that they resonate? Or do you insist that the new guy is just like the ex, and suggest that repeating the pattern will only lead to misery?
Either way, your sister's still going out with a loser.
It also may help Democrats that the Tea Party, while attracting the enthusiasm of many Republican primary voters, may lack broad support. In a New York Times/CBS poll released last week, only 19 percent of respondents said they considered themselves supporters of the movement.
It'll help more in DE than AK.
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Earlier this weekend I asked this question on Twitter:
Are we really that cold, that there is an acceptable percentage of people we're willing to allow to be sick, destitute, hopeless?
I posed it in response to Media Research Center VP Dan Gainor's comment to me about my revulsion at the standing ovation in the video above when Mike Pence practically spat the words "repeal Obamacare, lock, stock and barrel". The crowd went absolutely wild over that. Wild. This is a crowd, by the way, of self-proclaimed "values voters." What Gainor said was this:
We had a relatively small number of people w/o insurance. Crazy and power mad to get govt involved in health care for all
I realize that we all have different perspectives on health care, but frankly, his remark sounded so Dickensian that it was like a double slap after seeing the craven hordes in that video. Here is someone saying with complete clarity that it was perfectly all right for a certain percentage of our populace to live without dignity, to be denied access to health care. In the system we have, no insurance means no access unless one has a lot of money. 51 million people (at last count) do not have a lot of money. Only a very few have the means to go without health insurance and survive financially.
Dan Gainor aside, Mike Huckabee's comments at this same conference were equally mind-boggling. Here's what he said about the uninsured:
"It sounds so good, and it's such a warm message to say we're not gonna deny anyone from a preexisting condition," Huckabee explained at the Value Voters Summit today. "Look, I think that sounds terrific, but I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective. Suppose we applied that principle [to] our property insurance. And you can call your insurance agent and say, "I'd like to buy some insurance for my house." He'd say, "Tell me about your house." "Well sir, it burned down yesterday, but I'd like to insure it today." And he'll say "I'm sorry, but we can't insure it after it's already burned." Well, no preexisting conditions."
Permit me a short rant here from my own Christian perspective. Huckabee's remarks here are bald, naked hypocrisy couched in folksy non-logic. They also prove the utter lack of human values these 'values voters' hold and make a strong argument for why the health insurance paradigm is so flawed, even if it is what we've got.
A house is not a life. A house is a collection of wood and drywall and pipes and wires that's put together in a way that shelters the humans who live in it. A house is a thing, an inanimate object. It serves a purpose, a purpose which serves those who live in it. Insuring a house is insuring a thing.
Health is something entirely different. If one were to apply Huckabee's pure argument, there would be no life insurance market, because death is inevitable. No one is immortal. Everyone dies. Therefore, loss is an expected component of a life insurance policy and so there just shouldn't be such a thing. If loss is inevitable, then why bother to insure anyone?
Health "insurance" is really not insurance at all in the sense that Huckabee presents. It is a risk pool, one that benefits everyone who participates by allowing them to pay before the need arises to benefit from it. It isn't a hedge against fire or earthquakes or tornadoes or hurricanes, because each and every participant will need to use it at some point.
If Huckabee and the Values folks were true to their "values", they would heed the words of Jesus, who called his followers to share what they had with others, to feed the poor, care for widows and orphans, to look out for their neighbors as if they were their own. But instead, they rise in a frenzy of hate and bitterness and some other selfish driving force and call for their fellow citizens to be deprived of one of the most basic needs of mankind.
"Save the babies!", they cry. Bloated with righteous indignation over aborted babies, they agitate and cry for the children, the 'precious children', the future of our land, but nowhere do they acknowledge that saving the babies goes farther than shutting down Planned Parenthood. It means giving the babies access to health, and a home, and an education, and a start in life, or at least a toehold.
Here's a fact: Christians are no more likely to reach out and help those in need than non-Christians, despite the call of their God to do so. No. more. likely. Christians are as morally bankrupt as anyone else. Equally. Christians do not have any right to claim moral superiority or higher-minded values because it is not what anyone says, it is how we choose to live.
Right now, this minute, while millions of Christians across this country are sitting in church crying "Amen" to the preacher's diatribe, people are hungry, living in poverty, doing without. More people than ever are in need. Food banks across this nation have empty shelves. Children are living with their parents in the back seat of the family car, which may be the next thing they lose. Right now. This minute.
Right now, this minute, while millions of Christians across this country are sitting in church silently applauding their pastor's subtle condemnation of gays or the President or the stimulus or health care reform, someone is not receiving a cancer, diabetes or heart disease diagnosis because they have no money to go to the doctor and find out what it is that's causing their fatigue, breathing difficulties, or dizziness. Right now. This minute.
Right now, this minute, while millions of Christians across this country are sitting in church silently thanking God that there's a Mike Pence coming to save this nation from the black guy in the Oval Office with the weird name and the Kenyan father, other people are doing whatever they can to help the family living in their car, the undiagnosed sick patient, the hungry and the homeless. They don't call themselves "values voters." They call themselves human beings. Right now. This minute.
So to the Mike Pences, Mike Huckabees, Dan Gainors, and the rest of you who think it's perfectly righteous to stand in united opposition to "Obamacare" and deny your fellow citizens the right to access and pay for health care they need, I ask you which of these statements is more representative of your "values"?
"In God We Trust"
"In Wellpoint We Trust"
Finally, consider this: Mike Pence, that wild-eyed Obamacare-spitting dude in the video won the 2012 Presidential straw poll among these so-called values voters. That's the same Mike Pence whose highest contributors include Blue Cross/Blue Shield, banks and investment companies.
In oligarchs they trust. In Wellpoint they trust. In war they trust. In money they trust. In compassion and love, not so much.
A few small fry and lone wolf perps, like Duke Cunningham (R-CA), William Jefferson (D-LA) and Bob Ney (R-OH) allowed greed to run away with itself, cast caution and prudence to the winds, and wound up in prisons, but, generally speaking, our political elites are virtually never held accountable for even their worst and most societally-costly mistakes. There are few better examples than this year's political battle in Ohio. Three Ohio Republicans are looking for big promotions. John Kasich wants to be governor; Rob Portman wants to be senator, and John Boehner wants to be Speaker of the House. Yet it would be impossible to find three politicians more culpable for Ohio's economic decline than these three. Each was a mover and shaker in the battle to deregulate Wall Street and each was a powerful advocate for the disastrous trade policies than virtually shipped the state's entire manufacturing base to low wage countries, leaving Ohio with staggering unemployment rates. And yet all three are currently favored in their November election races. Are voters masochists? Ignorant? Or just sick of a Democratic Party that prides itself on being a little tiny bit less bad than the Republicans?
If there's one politician this cycle with a great sense of entitlement for himself and a greater dependence on voters' inability to hold anyone accountable for anything than the Ohio trio of corporate shills, it's got to be Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, a multimillionaire pirate who managed to buy the GOP nomination by swamping a weak establishment candidate with a $50 million flood of self-funding. Yesterday's St Petersburg Times laid out the whole sordid case of how Scott systematically defrauded Medicare... as a business model! And now he expects to be elected governor!
Scott is fond of trying to blame his underlings and claim he didn't know nothin; about anything. Turns out this was clearly untrue. As journalists Marc Caputo and Scott Hiaasen pointed out in their article yesterday there exist:
? Securities and Exchange Commission filings signed by Rick Scott prove he knew about massive, systemic fraud he was overseeing at Columbia/HCA
? A note about those auditors Rick Scott likes to talk about
? How the FBI tried to question Rick Scott
? And "Federal investigators also said Scott knew about the doctor payments, court records show."
Scott signed his last SEC report as a hospital executive on March 27, 1997-- eight days after the FBI raided two El Paso, Texas, hospitals in what became the largest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history, spanning six states during a seven-year criminal probe. Scott resigned from Columbia/HCA four months later and he was never charged with a crime.
In the end, Columbia/HCA paid a record $1.7 billion in fines and pleaded guilty to 14 felony charges for a variety of transgressions. About $30 million in fines stemmed from illegal payments to doctors, a practice federal investigators traced back to El Paso, where Scott and a partner began Columbia in 1987 with the purchase of two distressed hospitals.
The payments in question-- alleged sham loans and stock deals - are largely forbidden by federal antikickback laws, because the financial incentives can tempt doctors to refer Medicare patients to their own hospitals and labs. That can potentially stick taxpayers with bills for unnecessary treatment.
As part of its business strategy, Columbia offered ownership shares and other inducements to local doctors, hoping physicians would in turn send more patients to Columbia hospitals. This became one of Columbia's hallmarks, helping the company grow rapidly and ultimately take over the larger HCA in 1994.
In the last year of Columbia's stand-alone existence, its stockholder report gave no indication that the arrangements with physicians could run afoul of federal law. In fact, the report lauded the arrangement as a way to reduce costs, improve health outcomes and increase profitability.
...Hospital expert James Roberts, now general counsel with Gainesville-based Shands Healthcare, said Columbia/HCA was playing a "roulette wheel," betting that the risk of fines was lower than the profitability of the physician arrangements.
Roberts agreed that the language about physician payments was "boilerplate" but said Scott - a lawyer as well as a hospital chief executive - should have known better.
He said the law is tough to comply with but pretty clear: Anything beyond giving "mugs and pencils" to doctors risks trouble. He said hospitals now spend a considerable amount of time and money on compliance.
"What the company didn't have an appreciation for was all the restrictions and the compliance issues," Roberts said. "They established a draconian set of rules designed to maximize profit and that inevitably led to a culture where rules were bent for the almighty dollar."
"He built a company that was based on, as I understand it, maybe providing doctors with kickbacks for referrals. Things that are not permitted in the Medicare system," said Sink, the state's chief financial officer.
So far, his wealth has been more of an asset than a liability. Scott overwhelmed his primary opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, by spending a record-breaking $50 million, nearly three times as much as McCollum and his allies.
But a steady drumbeat of questions about Scott's past kept the victory margin to less than 3 percentage points.
Sink and her allies have picked up where McCollum left off, badgering Scott to release his tax returns and unseal a deposition included as part of a lawsuit against a newer venture of Scott's, a chain of health care clinics.
Last Friday, Lisa Murkowski announced that she would be launching a write-in campaign to keep her Senate seat. Her next official act was to resign as part of the Republican leadership. They had told her that if she ran against Joe Miller, they would not support her. (And folks, remember that little tidbit the next time someone says "oh....ALL the Republicans aren't teabaggers...." Remember that they ousted Lisa, after ousting Charlie, and basically ousting Arlen last year.)
The question is: can she win? If not, does her write-in candidacy help McAdams or Miller? One of the things that helps her is that the Secretary of State has said that she will take a liberal view of the write-ins. Alaska uses Diebold optical scan ballots, and all write-ins need to be hand tallied. I've counted votes off optical scan ballots here in Pennsylvania, and the process is that when there is a write-in, it shows as a write in count, and then that ballot is pulled and the information written is transferred to a special sheet listing all the candidates whose name is written in. Here in Pennsylvania we take a hard line on write ins, so "Lisa Murcowski" and "Lisa Murkowski" would be two separate candidates for the count. It's been announced that the different spellings of Murkowski, as well as "Lisa M" and "Senator Lisa" and other variations would all count for Murkowski. Thus, even if people cannot spell, and don't know the name "Murkowski" (and they should, since before Lisa was Frank, her dad, who was both Alaska Senator and Governor), her votes will count sotto voice.
There was one three-way poll that indicated Murkowski hurt McAdams more than Miller. The other polls show Miller winning, but close enough that McAdams could pull it out. It should be noted that the PPP poll assumed she'd actually run on the ballot as a Libertarian, not a write-in candidate, and votes will tamp down as a write-in as opposed to an on-the-ballot candidate. That is, most voters are idiots. If they don't see a name on the ballot, they assume the person is not running, and don't really know that they can write-in a name. (As an aside, with Lisa running write-in, that has encouraged two other Alaskans to run as write-ins, one for Governor, and one for a state house position. The latter candidate lost the Republican primary by 4 votes, so it seems like a reasonable thing to do.)
But back to the Senate.
Joe Miller believes that unemployment is unconstitutional, along with all the other teabag ideals. Murkowski shares a lot of these ideals, but isn't quite as bad. Her benefit to the people of Alaska is her seniority and her ability to bring home the dollars. Alaska, more than any other state, depends on the Feds for financial support. Without it, it would become incredibly impoverished. The benefit to electing McAdams is that both Senators would be Democratic, and if Ethan Berkowitz can pull off the guberantorial race, things could really work well. It wouldn't matter for redistricting as Alaska only has one House district, but it would be possible to work together on issues like health care and education which are sorely lacking in Alaska, a state which is mostly concerned with oil and gas and tourism. The education and health care and poverty issues in the hinterlands are incredibly severe, especially amoung indigenous populations, but that rarely gets any press and so flies below the radar.
If I were giving advice to Scott McAdams, I'd say to run as an actual Democrat: bringing home dollars, working to improve Alaska, and working with the administration so that Alaskans get everything to which they're entitled. I'd also run on Mark Begich's record. Point out that both Miller and Murkowski want to do away with Social Security and Medicare, deny all other benefits, and discriminate against anyone who isn't a white guy. Get out and drum up support outside of Anchorage and Juneau. It's a strategy that can win.
If you believe there is an "enthusiasm gap" right now between a demoralized progressive base and a[...]
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