Monday, January 3, 2011

Last Call

BOSTON – A blood test so sensitive that it can spot a single cancer cell lurking among a billion healthy ones is moving one step closer to being available at your doctor's office.
Johnson & Johnson is going to market the test, and hope to have it available to the public sooner than later.  This is not only a target breakthrough for detecting cancer in those who don't know they have cancer, but it is a giant step towards identifying the cells for destruction and to monitor progress of treatment.

Called a liquid biopsy, this is a non-invasive procedure that would be far more comfortable than the mammograms and colonoscopies that are far from popular.  This would bring in patients who may not be tested otherwise.

This is a major discovery on a lot of fronts, and will advance many discoveries that have been waiting for a moment like this.

Crossing The Rubin Con, Or WaPo On WaPo Violence

My problems with Jennifer Rubin, recently of Commentary Magazine and now promoted upward to the Washington Post, are well documented.  Adam Serwer is apparently as sick of Rubin as I am, and today he uses his own spot on Greg Sargent's Washington Post column to demolish Rubin's latest claim about the New Black Panther Party and Eric Holder, and does so with considerable skill.

Republican congressmen Lamar Smith and Darrell Issa are literally accusing the Obama administration of favoring "a political ally -- the New Black Panther Party." Think about that for a second: Republicans are casually suggesting, with a straight face, that the Obama administration is "allied" with members of an anti-white hate group. Never mind that one of the men charged in the 2008 incident, King Samir Shabazz, once described Obama as "the next slavemaster" and a "puppet on a string." The thinking seems to be that because the attorney general and the president are black, and black people -- or black Democrats -- all are filled with seething hatred for whites and an unquenchable thirst for vengeance over past wrongs, they must be in alliance. It's idiotic on its face.

Furthermore, the Justice Department did not "dismiss" the case. Rather, it decided -- in the absence of any evidence of a nationwide plot by the NBPP to intimidate white voters -- to narrow the civil charges and obtain an injunction against the one NBPP member that actually had a weapon.

Rubin mentions the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report -- without noting that then-President George W. Bush gamed the system to stack the panel with Republican partisans. The one actual voting rights expert on the panel, Republican Abigail Thernstrom, has called the entire issue a right-wing effort to "topple" the Obama administration.

Rubin also asserts as fact that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes "instructed Department attorneys not to pursue cases against African American defendants," but the two conservative former Justice Department attorneys who leveled those charges give completely different accounts of the incident, with one saying that Fernandes said the Civil Rights Division was in the business of doing "traditional civil rights work," which he interpreted as "helping minorities." Rubin also neglects to note that the voting section has already intervened on behalf of white voters against a black defendant.

She calls the case a "blatant case of voter intimidation," but no actual voters have come forward to complain, even after the deluge of coverage. Let's face it: If the OPR/IG investigations of the case come back without evidence of politicization, conservatives won't drop the subject -- they'll simply argue that this proves the Obama DoJ is politicized and they'll demand further investigations.

Rubin is not the real target of Serwer's indignation, but she certainly set him off with this sloppy column and Rubin's screed so perfectly encapsulates the winger talking points on the column that it turns into a deconstruction of the larger NBPP issue quite nicely.  Do yourself a favor and read the entire Serwer post. 

The NBPP/Obama/Eric Holder conspiracy triangle is such mind-numbing garbage that it's borderline racist and more than a little stupid, and yet to see Rubin still pushing this nonsense is insulting across the board.  Good for Serwer to step up and deal with her continued hackery, and in the Post itself, no less.

There's no "there" there.

Huckleberry Hound Lays Down The Law

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham has decided to support holding the debt ceiling vote hostage in March in order to get Social Security cuts.

GRAHAM: This is an opportunity to make sure the government is changing its spending ways. I will not vote for the debt ceiling increase until I see a plan in place that will deal with our long-term debt obligations starting with Social Security, a real bipartisan effort to make sure that Social Security stays solvent, adjusting the age, looking at means-tests for benefits. [...]
GREGORY: That’s a big condition just on Social Security alone.
GRAHAM: Yeah, it is!
GREGORY: You think Republicans are prepared to follow you and two things you said: raise the retirement age and means-test benefits for older Americans?
GRAHAM: I would suggest that if we’re serious about taking America in a new direction and you’re not putting entitlement reform on the table, you’ve missed a great opportunity to change the course of America’s future.

A future where my generation maybe gets to retire at 70, and maybe at 80% of the benefits now.  And if the Republicans don't get those changes, they'll destroy the economy and cause another financial crisis with a sovereign debt default.

This is called "compromise".  You do what the GOP wants, they won't wreck the country.  And this from a supposed "moderate".

Let's review what happens if the GOP fails to raise the debt ceiling in March.   Short version:  the country is screwed with a chainsaw in the gonads.  Long version, we default on our debt.  Treasury bonds disintegrate.  Interest rates go through the roof.  Everything loan-wise tied to those rates also goes through the roof.  Hedge funds and other massive institutional investors lose trillions of dollars overnight.  We end up in another financial crisis with no real way out and the entire global banking system locks up, catches on fire, and then explodes, taking our economy with it and everyone else's too.

It's like strapping a nuke to an orphanage and pressing the big red button.

Lindsey Graham is warning he will help do this unless he gets massive Social Security cuts for starters.  This is why it's so damn important for the Democrats to stand up right now and say "The Republicans are going to destroy the economy in order to get what they want."

Because I swear if the Dems fold on this one, it's over.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Steve M. makes a beautiful point.

Look, I'm not defending any New York City sanitation workers who shirked work during the recent blizzard by calling in sick -- the New York Post breathlessly reports that approximately 700 sanit workers called in sick on Monday and Tuesday, twice as many of the department's 6,000 employees as would normally do so. And I'm certainly not defending the plow crew that (again according to the Post) bought beer on the job and refused to plow. (Though I question whether it's physically possible for four sanitation workers to, in the Post's words, "get blitzed" on two six-packs of beer; mildly buzzed and unable to drive safely, but blitzed? Really? I wouldn't get "blitzed" on three beers, and I weigh 140 pounds.)

However, it strikes me as quite odd that right-wingers are disgusted by this. Aren't these the same folks who keep telling us that Ayn Rand is the most profound philosopher of modern times and that, according to her teachings, universal selfishness is the key to paradise on earth? 

These guys are going Galt.  They are indeed withholding their productivity to protest an employer and a city that can't operate without them not treating them what they believe they are worth.  The Tea Party should be thrilled about them exercising their liberty against a government that does not value their work.

Of course, that would mean that the Tea Party is intellectually consistent in their rhetoric, which is where the entire theory breaks down like a '77 Gremlin X hatchback.

And you can bet anyone else in this country that tried an organized walkout like this in any industry, unionized or not, public or private sector, would be pilloried by the right in the exact same way.  That universal selfishness would be raising your costs for the products and services you buy!  Shun the Galties!

Only the rich are allowed to do this.  Regular, "Real Americans" are supposed to work until they die to serve the rich Puritan work ethic ideal.

Stupidinews! In The Workplace

Dollar General is going to create 6,000 new jobs.  They have grown steadily, and are expanding into new states.  They expect to open 550 stores.

In New York, officials are looking into whether the crew cleaning up after the blizzard was told to work slower, or if they even worked at all.  Rumors are circulating that some workers sat in their car and drank beer, called in sick or were instructed to work slower by some supervisors

But hey, be glad if you got to work on time today.  I hope your iPhone alarm went off, after a glitch caused the alarms to fail.  Several of those who know how to par-tay found themselves running behind.  The good news is, if this happened to you, there is a Yahoo article you can show your boss while you plead for mercy.

New tag: WTH.

Hey! You! Get Offa My Cloud!

Despite raging privacy concerns, Microsoft is continuing their campaign to get in ahead of competitors and lock in their grip on cloud computing.  Cloud computing has multiple benefits, including allowing people to share and back up data safely.  The biggest problem is privacy.

By choosing which cloud you use, you are putting your full trust in the provider to protect your data and your privacy.  Those pesky terms and conditions in many instances tell you that data is backed up and saved.  What if you were to remove your data, but the backup could still be used against you?  Hackers are not the only real concern here, I am far more worried that the Obama administration, in its epic failure to protect our privacy, will sign off and allow our shared information to be shared beyond our control. And if you do not continue to store data online, then what you have already shared may still be out there... floating in the cloud.

For most people, this is of trivial concern.  But for the people who store serious work online (no offense to the cute grandkid pics), this is a potential problem.  The cloud premise itself is brilliant.  It allows multiple users to share, collaborate and revise work.  But the old saying "if you don't have something to hide you have nothing to worry about" doesn't apply here.  Information mining and social engineering means any detail about you, however small, could help someone earn your trust or access your data.  We all know the password rules, but still "password" and "123456" are the most common ones in use.  Are we ready for the cloud?  And if so, are we really going to hand the scepter to the company that has stuck it to us for a solid 20 years?

Shutdown Countdown, Part 6

Here's 15 minutes that should leave every American looking for the exits on our little roller coaster of fun here.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said on "Face the Nation" Sunday that she is not in favor of raising the government's debt ceiling, which if not dealt with could shut down the government as early as March.

The government is authorized to borrow up to $14.3 trillion, but that limit is expected to be reached in a few months. Congress must vote to increase the borrowing ceiling before the capacity is reached, or the U.S. could be forced to default on its debt, which would shut down government operations.

Bachmann told moderator Harry Smith that at this point she would not vote for raising the ceiling.

"Congress has had a big party the last two years. They couldn't spend enough money. And now they're standing back, folding their arms, saying, oh, taunting us - ‘How are you going to go ahead and solve this big spending crisis?’” Bachmann said about the Democrats. She said that she has started a petition on her Web site urging voters to tell their representatives to oppose raising the debt ceiling.

Republican Representative-elect Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania went further.

"Raising the debt ceiling to me is absolutely irresponsible. We've been spending money for so long that we don't have and keep saying, 'Well, it's OK, we'll just raise taxes, we'll find it somewhere,'" Kelly said.

Rep. Andrew Weiner, D-N.Y., rebuked Kelly and Bachmann for their positions.

"The first thing the Republicans did when they took back the House the last time is they drove the government to a shutdown," Weiner said. "I guess from what I've heard Michele say and you say, that's what's going to happen again."

Bachmann accused Weiner of maligning the Republicans: "You've got it exactly wrong. That is not what we're looking to do. You're stating it falsely. We are not looking to go shut the government down. No one benefits. But at the same time we're not looking at wanting to continually raise the debt ceiling. That's something that the Democrats want to do," she said.

"I don't know what you call it, but that's shutting down the government," Weiner retorted. 

It is.  And Dems have a winning issue here and are beginning to push it, like Rep. Weiner there and inthis clip with White House econ point man Austan Goolsbee.

President Obama's top economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, warned today against "playing chicken" with raising the country's debt ceiling, saying it would cause "a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008."

"This is not a game. The debt ceiling is not something to toy with," said Goolsbee, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in an exclusive interview on "This Week."

"If we hit the debt ceiling, that's ... essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history," he said. "The impact on the economy would be catastrophic."

As I have said two months ago, there's no way corporate America is going to risk the bond market going up in flames for the sake of the Tea Party making a point.   They will be made to heel on this and many more issues, and the Tea Party is going to find out just how little power they truly have.

Which is funny, because that's what the Republicans said about progressives in 2006, I know.  Believe me, the parallels are obnoxious...but they are there.

Going Gentry Into That Good Night

Less than 24 hours after I noted Gentry Collins was the long-shot Tea Party choice for replacing Michael Steele as RNC chair, Collins has dropped out for the simple reason that Tea Party support at the RNC resulted in just three of 168 votes.

Former Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins dropped his bid to become chairman of the RNC Sunday night, explaining in an interview that members of the committee preferred to have one of their own lead the party.

Collins won the support of only three members of the 168-member committee and it was clear that he faced long odds heading into the final weeks before the party holds its vote for chairman. 

Tea Party's getting a crash course in political reality here.  Maybe some GOP-controlled states are going to go the full Galt's Gulch, but at the national level it's the same old country club Repubs that are running the show.  If anything, 2010 proved just how much for granted the Republicans can take the Tea Party right:  unlike progressives, the GOP figures they'll show up and vote Republican no matter what crap sandwiches they are forced to eat.

Exactly what the cynical GOP is counting on.

Janet! Brad! Janet! Gov. Scott! Rocky!

The Gov. Rick Scott Galtian Utopia Tour 2011 warms up the opening aria of anarchy as the former CEO of Florida's largest for-profit hospital chain (busted for billions in Medicare and Medicaid fraud) of course says state run public hospitals need to go.

Florida's government-owned hospitals will be in the political cross hairs after Tuesday's inauguration of Rick Scott, once leader of the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain.

The governor-elect's transition team has recommended creation of a panel to study whether government-owned hospitals -- Miami-Dade's Jackson Health System and Broward's two hospital districts among them -- are necessary.

"This is going to be a very hot topic during the legislative session,'' said Barney Bishop of Associated Industries of Florida, lobbyists for the state's large businesses.

The new focus on public hospitals comes as a related crisis looms: Because the state has failed so far to deliver promised Medicaid reforms, Florida stands to lose $350 million in special funding from the federal government unless it can get an extension of a waiver.

These funds, called the Lower Income Pool, are crucial to Jackson, which received $258 million from the pool last year.

Jackson -- with its record of financial troubles -- may face particular challenges in the new administration, according to Alan Levine, who chaired the committee that made the healthcare recommendations to Scott.
"Make no mistake,'' Levine said. "The governance of Jackson has historically been very poor. . . . They're going to find that the Legislature is going to be increasingly unwilling to fund the infamous misadventures of Jackson.''

Scott and his buddies want to convert all the state's government run public hospitals to non-profits, which means they'd be able to turn away patients without insurance...and leaving those who can't pay the option of expensive ER trips or no health care at all.

But Ricky there says it's time to pull the plug on the poor who don't have insurance or Medicaid, and if you think the state's going to play ball with the Affordable Care Act over the next four years, you need to be admitted yourself.

Rick Scott is going to dismantle as much of the safety net for Florida's poor as he can.  He figures they'll probably leave for other states and become somebody else's problem...while he pockets the difference.


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