Friday, June 02, 2006

Low Payments by U.S. Raise Medical Bills Billions a Year - New York Times

Low Payments by U.S. Raise Medical Bills Billions a Year - New York Times:
"Employers and consumers are paying billions of dollars more a year for medical care to compensate for imbalances in the nation's health care system resulting from tight Medicare and Medicaid budgets, according to Blue Cross officials and independent actuaries."

Gee, and all this time I thought it was those annoying malpractice suits. NOT!

It's about time the media started reporting the true costs of the tax cuts for the rich, and who is really paying for them!

Bush Appeals To Homophobic Base

Bush To Promote Gay Marriage Ban, President Will Push For Amendment Banning Same Sex Marriage - CBS News: "(AP) President Bush will promote a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on Monday, the eve of a scheduled Senate vote on the cause that is dear to his conservative backers."

He can't win on war or the issues that really matter, so Rover has him join the bigots in demanding a law against Jewish gay rights. It may play with the white supremacists Fundies, but I'm betting even they are getting tired of being duped. I'm also betting that it won't really matter, but I've been wrong (yes, it's true) before.

Are We Reaching Critical Mass?

Freakoutonomics - New York Times:
Before the Civil War, America was perhaps the most egalitarian society in the world. But the unbridled entrepreneurialism of the 1870's gave rise to the robber barons. Even if ordinary people were doing better in the 1870's, the yawning gap between the very rich and everybody else fanned resentments. Interestingly, wealth inequality in today's America is roughly the same as in the Gilded Age.

The sharply increased social and geographic mobility of the 1870's set people adrift from traditional sources of security in families and villages. In our own day, the destruction of employer-employee relationships, the erosion of pension protection and employee health insurance may be creating a similar loss of moorings.
I've said over and over to anyone who will listen that once all the marbles are in one hand the game is over. There comes a time when the rich have to get poorer (or at least not as much richer), and the poor richer, or the whole system falls apart. Joe and Joan Workingclass are beginning to wake up to the fact that, even in suburbia, they are getting closer to the fate of the inner-city poor rather than that of the gated-community rich. Sooner or later, the sleeping giant's gonna' wake up and smell the gasoline. At that point, it only takes a spark to start a conflagration.

Labor lost it's grip on the wheel when management was able to drive a wedge between the whites and the blacks and, later, the white collars and the blue collars. Maybe it's getting time to rejoin and recombine....

Pork 1, Antiterrorism 0 - New York Times

Pork 1, Antiterrorism 0 - New York Times:
There appear to be serious problems with the department's evaluation process. Rather than having impartial antiterrorism experts make recommendations, it relied on anonymous 'peer reviewers' recommended by governors, mayors and local homeland security departments. The panels appear to have been too focused on politics, and not enough on safety. The resistance to financing operating costs, like police overtime, ignores the fact that day-to-day groundwork does the most to combat terrorism.

Some of the specifics of the decision process are downright bizarre. New York City's evaluation found that it had no 'national monuments or icons.' The department concedes that omitting the Statute of Liberty was an 'oversight,' but it still seems unaware that to many would-be terrorists, the biggest American icon of all is simply — New York.
Typical of BushCo to ignore the lessons of the past (even the recent past) and put its money where its mouthes are, so to speak. It's easier to understand their dissing New York (hey, we're in the Northeast and you know how we vote), but D.C.? I guess they figure Cheney's bunker is unassailable, so why bother spending more on the city? Maybe the Capital would have fared better if W's approval ratings weren't in the sewer. The Repugs probably see the writing on the wall and don't see the need to protect a lost cause. Just wait until next year!

Army Builders Accept Blame Over Flooding - New York Times

Army Builders Accept Blame Over Flooding - New York Times: In a sweeping new study of the causes of the disaster in New Orleans last year, the Army Corps of Engineers concludes that the levees it built in the city were an incomplete patchwork of protection, containing flaws in design and construction and not built to handle a storm anywhere near the strength of Hurricane Katrina.

Be still my heart! A national-level organization that takes responsibility, even if after the fact, is so unique as to be a shock to the system! Now, if it would only make a damn bit of difference....

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Spitzer One Step Closer

The Next Governor of New YorkTM wins party endorsement

Man Saves Best Friend From Jaws Of Death!

Man Frees Puppy From Gator's Jaws, Determined Owner Uses His Fists To Get 7-Foot Alligator To Give Up - CBS News:
'I thought she was dead. But at that point I wasn't going to let him have my dog.'
Michael Rubin

This story made me happy, and that's not easy these days. Thank you, Michael Rubin, for being the dog-lover and hero that you are!

Times Editor Agrees With Cosmogenium

Blow the Whistle, Loudly - New York Times:
The Supreme Court whittled away at the First Amendment yesterday, ruling against a prosecutor who raised concerns about the validity of a search warrant. The court made the law in this area messy, and even illogical. It suggested the attorney would have had more protection if he had embarrassed his office publicly than by working quietly through the system. But the bigger problem is that the ruling rolls back government workers' rights to speak out against possibly illegal actions.
This is why Scalito should have been stopped.
The Supreme Court has long held that the First Amendment bars the government from retaliating against workers for speaking out on matters of public importance. In a landmark 1968 ruling, it held that a school board acted unconstitutionally when it fired a teacher for writing a letter to a newspaper criticizing the allocation of school funds. In 1979, in an opinion by Chief Justice William Rehnquist for a unanimous court, a teacher's comments to her supervisor were held to be protected. Mr. Ceballos's actions should have fallen under these precedents.

By a 5-4 vote, however, the court ruled that they were not. (The newly appointed Justice Samuel Alito provided the deciding vote, while former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor might well have sided with the dissenters.) What mattered for the majority was that Mr. Ceballos spoke "pursuant to his duties" rather than as a "citizen." It is an odd distinction, and one that seems designed to explain away the court's departure from its past decisions, rather than reflecting any principled reading of the First Amendment. Bizarrely, the majority would apparently have given Mr. Ceballos more rights if he had held a press conference to denounce his supervisors.

The First Amendment should not protect employees from discipline for every statement they make at work, clearly. But as the dissenters point out, it should protect them in a case like this one, where an employee was bringing to light information that advances the public interest in honest government and the rule of law.
Expect more cognitive dissonance as time goes on and this schizo, wingnut court makes more embarassing and dangerous decisions.

I wonder. Can SCOTUS justices be impeached?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Don't Hold Your Breath

Energy Shortage - New York Times:
The legislative outlook is brighter in the Senate, which has before it the Enhanced Energy Security Act of 2006. The bill has impressive bipartisan sponsorship and incorporates the best features of an earlier (and more cumbersomely named) vehicle called the Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act. Its stated purpose is to reduce oil dependency, but the strategies and technologies it encourages would also do much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The bill would require the president to figure out ways to cut oil consumption by 2.5 million barrels — 12.5 percent of current use — by 2016, and cut it in half by 2031. It offers a menu of loans, direct subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives that would encourage the production of fuel-efficient cars as well as gasoline alternatives like cellulosic ethanol. It does not mandate specific improvements in fuel economy standards — a Congressional red flag — yet the goal it sets would get us to the same place.
A bill that actually does something to address the problem? Get real! The minions of special interest and big oil will dilute or kill this before it gets out of committee.

If You Can't Win With Cheating, Cheat Harder

Block the Vote - New York Times:
In a country that spends so much time extolling the glories of democracy, it's amazing how many elected officials go out of their way to discourage voting. States are adopting rules that make it hard, and financially perilous, for nonpartisan groups to register new voters. They have adopted new rules for maintaining voter rolls that are likely to throw off many eligible voters, and they are imposing unnecessarily tough ID requirements.

Florida recently reached a new low when it actually bullied the League of Women Voters into stopping its voter registration efforts in the state. The Legislature did this by adopting a law that seems intended to scare away anyone who wants to run a voter registration drive. Since registration drives are particularly important for bringing poor people, minority groups and less educated voters into the process, the law appears to be designed to keep such people from voting.


These three techniques — discouraging registration drives, purging eligible voters and imposing unreasonable ID requirements — keep showing up.
And this is on top of all the gerrymandering that's already taken place at the state and local levels. If people of conscience don't take back the country in November, it may never happen. It may already be too late.

Meanwhile Conditions In Afghanistan Deteriorate

U.S. and Afghan Forces Patrol Streets of Kabul After Rioting - New York Times

A Checkpoint In Need Of Checking

Journalist Wounded in Iraq Arrives in Germany - New York Times:
"The three members of the CBS team had stepped out of their armored Humvee to accompany troops inspecting a checkpoint manned by the Iraqi Army, a report on the CBS News Web site said today. They were wearing protective glasses, flak vests, and helmets when the bomb went off, killing the two CBS journalists at the scene as well as an American soldier and an Iraqi interpreter."

Since the Iraqi Army happens to be severely compromised by insurgents and militias, what sense does it make having them "man" checkpoints? The fantasy idea that Iraqi forces will ever be dependable for security is patently absurd regrettably flawed, to say the least. Yet BushCo keeps pushing the dogma. The whole thing's a trainwreck.

European Court Bars Passing Passenger Data to U.S. - New York Times

European Court Bars Passing Passenger Data to U.S. - New York Times:
Opponents cited Congressional testimony in February by the director of the federal Transportation Security Administration, Kip Hawley, who said his agency could not yet guarantee that the privacy of passengers' personal information was fully protected and announced an audit of its system for screening passenger information against a terrorist watch list.

Sophie in 't Veld, a Dutch member of the European Union Parliament and a vocal opponent of passenger data transfers, added that the first evaluation of the agreement's effectiveness in fighting terrorism was completed in March of this year but that the report has been kept confidential by mutual agreement of the union and United States.

'The one question that has never been answered is, does it actually work?' said Ms. in 't Veld. 'How many terrorists did they catch? How many international criminals? How many attacks did they prevent? And how many mistakes were made? We do not know because this information has never been made public. It is outrageous.'
Looks like the Left on this side of The Pond aren't the only ones concerned about how DHS does business. I especially like the point the Dutch woman makes about effectiveness and secrecy.

New Justices Help SCOTUS Take First Step Toward Fascism

Justices Set Limits on Public Employees' Speech Rights - New York Times:
'We hold that when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline,' Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court.

The court's newest justice, Samuel A. Alito Jr., was in the majority as were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Next will come the private sector, then any individual without sufficient accreditation, managerial approval, executive privilege,....


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