Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Last Call

This pisses me off.

Yeah, America's first black President needs to come groveling humbly on bended knee before Republicans like Georgia's Saxby Chambliss here or...or what exactly? They might vote against the President's agenda?

Did the Republicans not get their damn clocks cleaned? Do Democrats not control sixty percent of Congress and now the White House too? Do election not have consequences?

Suck it, Saxby. Y'all lost.

Naked Lunch

Lunch with Sarah Palin! Also!
If you've ever wanted to eat dinner with Sarah Palin, now's your chance.
Well now...I can honestly say I don't fall into that category.
With bids starting at $25,000, eBay is auctioning off a dinner for five with the former Alaska governor and her husband, Todd. The proceeds will go to "Ride 2 Recovery," a charity that provides wounded veterans with bicycles and organized rides to help in their mental and physical recovery.

"The Governor is excited to have been asked to honor our nation's veterans in this way," said Palin spokesman Meg Stapleton.

The auction opens on Tuesday and will last for ten days. Also up for grabs: Lunch with Karl Rove. Bidding on a meal with the former Bush presidential adviser starts at $7,500.

So for $32,500 can I force them to eat lunch with each other? I'm sure THAT would be worth the money, charity or not.

What Digby Said

Yet another episode, this one on the Baucus plan.
The problem is the politics. Any plan that forces the uninsured to pay their hard earned money to wealthy private insurance companies under penalty of law is a huge political risk. These are the same companies that have brought us to this place where people are routinely denied the care they were promised, lied to about what was covered, scammed into paying huge sums of money for no security and no guarantee. Health insurance companies have dealt with their customers in bad faith for years and years and now we are being told that everyone must pony up and pay them even more. For all the talk of reform, when you whittle this down, that one fact comes roaring back at you and it sticks hard in the craw of anyone who considers themselves progressive.

The Democrats simply do not understand that as much as many people mistrust the government and believe it is inept and malevolent, just as many mistrust the private sector and believe it is greedy and malevolent --- and those beliefs don't break down as neatly between right and left as one might think. What they are going to do is force the currently uninsured to write a check to a private company for a large sum of money every month, the subsidies for which will show up as some kind of "credit" on their tax returns. How do you think most people are going to mentally and emotionally process that expense? As a good deal or a bad one?
Any plan where my first response is "and this is better than the current system how?" is not a good plan. Oh, but it gets even worse:
The proposal has serious flaws, including the following:

Biasing Hiring and Firing Decisions Against Low-Income Workers

* The proposal would make it considerably more expensive for employers to hire workers from lower-income families than workers from higher-income backgrounds to do the same job. As a result, it would distort hiring decisions. Employers would have strong incentives to tilt hiring toward people who have a spouse with a good income (or have health coverage through a family member), teenagers whose parents make a decent living, and people without children (since the eligibility limit for the subsidies in the new health insurance exchanges will increase with family size). Low-income women with children in one-earner families would be particularly disadvantaged.
As I've said before, there is a wide gulf between not passing anything at all and passing a bill that would be worse than the existing system.

The Baucus plan? Worse than the current system. Really. Tax credits to pay for a system you have to pay for yourself, instead of having it taken out of your paycheck off the top each month. That'll go over well. Everybody will love that.

But that's what the plan does.

Giving The Game Away

Josh Marshall theorizes as goes Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, goes the Senate.
There's a lot of storm and confusion right now. And no one's going to put their cards on the table until after Obama speaks. But the biggest tell I've seen over the last few days was Ben Nelson's announcement yesterday that he'll support a 'triggered' public option.

The question for the White House right now isn't what's ideal from a political or policy standpoint. It's finding some way to thread this needle. Because at this point, most of the pathways on the right and the left of this question seem firmly blocked. And this is the one, maybe the only one, that might not be.

Obama has to sell "robust public option" to the Democrats and "robust public option" to at least a couple of the Republicans. If Ben Nelson is willing to go along on the trigger however, that's the out Obama is looking for. However as I said last week, the trigger is there to make sure the public option never gets activated. The progressives in Congress aren't going to buy that and the Republicans aren't going to ever allow a situation where the trigger happens.

So how does he get out of this one? I don't see the path going through the trigger either.

Reports Of These Various Demises Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

The Telegraph's Matthew Moore has "50 Things That Are Being Killed By The Internet". Some are accurate:
1) The art of polite disagreement
While the inane spats of YouTube commencers may not be representative, the internet has certainly sharpened the tone of debate. The most raucous sections of the blogworld seem incapable of accepting sincerely held differences of opinion; all opponents must have "agendas".
Birthers, anyone?

...And some are not.
16) Hoaxes and conspiracy theories
The internet is often dismissed as awash with cranks, but it has proved far more potent at debunking conspiracy theories than perpetuating them. The excellent Snopes.com continues to deliver the final, sober, word on urban legends.
Birthers, anyone?

Another Mickey Mouse Operation

Just a week after buying Marvel Comics, Disney has set its sights on video game developer Alex Seropian, one of the guys behind Bungie Software's Halo franchise.
Alex Seropian, the founder of Bungie Software and co-creator of the "Halo" franchise has joined the company to oversee creative development across Disney’s in-house video game development teams.

"We're really trying to be a magnet in this industry for talent, as we are in so many other parts of the entertainment world," says Graham Hopper, executive vice president and general manager of Disney Interactive Studios. "Having someone of Alex's caliber join us is a tribute to the great people we have here already."

Disney is in the midst of tripling its investment in video games. The studio has 1,200 employees working on games, which is notably bigger than Microsoft's internal game-building team.

As a publisher, though, the company has been firmly stuck in a mid-level position, lacking a breakout hit beyond the studio's core products (such as "Hannah Montana," which come with a built-in audience).

The addition of Seropian (as well as 2007's recruitment of industry veteran Warren Spector) helps put Disney on the radar of core gamers, which could help it expand its gaming interests.

Disney's most successful serious gaming project was the Kingdom Hearts games for the PlayStation 2, but that was a collaboration with major Japanese game developer Square-Enix. Disney's clearly looking to leverage its brand into the gamer market with some serious firepower, and not just crappy games based on Disney movies and TV shows. Alex Seropian definitely gives them the chops to start making a serious attempt at a gaming studio.

We'll see how this turns out.

In Which Zandar Discovers He's Full Of It

Potential stem cells, that is.

Scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that the millions of fat cells removed during liposuction can be easily and quickly turned into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, more easily than the skin cells that researchers used when the first iPS cells were created in 2007.

These iPS cells, like stem cells derived from embryos, can be turned into many different kinds of cells, and researchers believe they eventually could be used to regenerate tissue for organs and repair damage.

Embryonic stem cells are controversial because the embryos are destroyed when the stem cells are removed for research. The iPS cells, which have many of the same basic properties, do not raise the same ethical questions as embryonic stem cells because they come from skin or now fat cells that have been reprogrammed to go back in time, so to speak, and have the ability to turn into any other kind of cell in the body.

No matter what you think about my crappy blog, I know that I now have a purpose in life as a repository of future stem cells that might someday cure cancer or something nifty like that. So, why did we have the huge argument over fetuses and stem cells when it turns out you can just suck them out of big guys like me, anyway?

Zandarmom will be proud of me.

Out Of Manpower

Manpower's latest quarterly hiring survey shows future hiring at the worst levels in the survey's 47 year history. It has never been negative before, not even last year. In 12 months we've gone from 9% to negative 3% net firms planning to hire in 4th quarter.
For each industry, here are the figures for the net employment outlook for the fourth quarter, not seasonally adjusted, in order of most negative outlook first.

Construction, -10%, down from 2% for the third quarter

Mining, -9%, flat from -9%

Transportation and utilities, -9%, down from -3%

Government, -8%, down from -4%

Manufacturing, durable goods, -8%, down from -6%

Information, -5%, down from -4%

Manufacturing, nondurable goods, -3%, down from 0%

Other services, -1%, down from 0%

Financial activities, 1%, down from 2%

That's right, the only sector of the entire economy planning to hire in the fourth quarter? Financial sector.

What recovery?

Having Your Cake And Eating It Too

The lesson of Speech To Childrengate: wingers can keep their kids home from school while talking heads go on record and praise the President's speech at the same time. This counts as a win-win by the Village.
GINGRICH: My daughter Jackie Cushman just wrote a column in which she said, “if the president gives a speech as a parent to students to encourage them to learn and stay in school, it is a great thing for him to do.” It was a good thing for Ronald Reagan to do. It was a good thing for George H. W. Bush to do. And I’ve been communicating with Arne Duncan and the team at the Department of Education. I believe this is going to be posted, people are going to be able to see it in advance, it’s going to be a totally positive speech, and if that’s what it is, then it is good to have the president of the United States say to young people across America: Stay in school, study and do your homework. It’s good for you and it’s good for America.
So, Republicans get to support the President's positive message, and the winger nutjobs get to attack the messenger by keeping their kids home or simply demanding schools not carry the speech at all. The Village nods their heads and says that the Republicans are right to praise the speech, and that the wingers are right by exercising their rights not to have their kids hear it, and isn't it unfortunate that the President politicized all this in the first place...

Keep capitulating, Barack. It's working great so far!

Shooting Yourself In The Foot

And no insurance to cover it.
Rescission -- the technical term for canceling coverage on grounds that the company was misled -- is often considered among the most offensive practices in an insurance industry that already suffers from a distinct lack of popularity among the American public. Tales of cancellations have fueled outrage among regulators, analysts, doctors and, not least, plaintiffs' lawyers, who describe insurers as too eager to shed patients to widen profits.

Those sentiments have become central to the health-care debate, as President Obama tries to tap into dissatisfaction with the insurance industry to build support for reform efforts. Each of the bills pending in Congress would prevent insurers from rejecting clients because of preexisting conditions.

No one claims to know how often policies are canceled -- in large part, congressional investigators say, because insurance companies are regulated by a patchwork of state laws and policies. But the practice is common enough to spur lawsuits and state regulatory action.

In the past 18 months, California's five largest insurers paid almost $19 million in fines for marooning policyholders who had fallen ill. That includes a $1 million fine against Health Net, which admitted offering bonuses to employees for finding reasons to cancel policies, according to company documents released in court.

"This is probably the most egregious of examples of health insurers using their power and their resources to deny benefits to people who are most in need of care," said Gerald Kominski, associate director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California at Los Angeles. "It's really a horrendous activity on the part of the insurers."

Insurance company officials say they need to be able to cancel policies to control fraud, which by some estimates reaches $100 billion annually.

"We do not rescind a policyholder's coverage because someone on the policy gets sick," said Peggy Hinz, a spokeswoman for Anthem Blue Cross, a subsidiary of WellPoint. "We have put in place a thorough process with multiple steps to ensure that we are as fair and as accurate as we can be in making these difficult decisions."

Americans are mostly satisfied with their health care coverage because they've not had to use it. In America, if you actually have to use your health insurance policy to the point where you're no longer profitable to the health insurance company, they have people whose job it is to find a reason to deny payment because you have committed fraud. You get bonuses if you find candidates for rescission.

Nobody ever loses their health insurance because they got sick. They lose it because the health insurance company calls it "fraud". This happens to the tune of $100 billion a year apparently. Poor insurance companies! How dare you get sick and use their money to pay for it. They have a right to make a profit you know!

Why, what harm can come from putting a profit motive on health insurance?

The good news is insurance companies continue to do stupid things like this that will eventually give President Obama's plan the win. People hate "government health care". They hate insurance company rescission practices more.

Kentucky Blue

Here in the Bluegrass State, turns out only just over half of us believe the President was born in the U.S. while 20 percent are firmly in the birther category, 29 percent are unsure.
“While 94 percent of black respondents said they think Obama was born in the United States, only 45 percent of white respondents were certain that he was born here.” The Lexington Herald-Reader reports, “Investigations by numerous media outlets, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact service of the St. Petersburg Times, have determined that Obama was born in Hawaii.”

Among Democrats, 72 percent said Obama was born in America. Nine percent answered no and 19 percent weren't sure.

Among Republicans, 30 percent said they think the president was born in the United States, 36 percent said they think he was born elsewhere and 34 percent were not sure.

Yep, that means we've actually got worse overall birther numbers than North Carolina, but the state's Republicans are slightly better informed, there's just a lot fewer Democrats to raise the average. There's a cheery thought.


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