Thursday, December 15, 2011

Last Call

It says volumes how easily Ron Paul can trick Sully into thinking that he doesn't despise minorities or especially President Obama.

And I see in Paul none of the resentment that burns in Gingrich or the fakeness that defines Romney or the fascistic strains in Perry's buffoonery. He has yet to show the Obama-derangement of his peers, even though he differs with him. He has now gone through two primary elections without compromising an inch of his character or his philosophy. This kind of rigidity has its flaws, but, in the context of the Newt Romney blur, it is refreshing. He would never take $1.8 million from Freddie Mac. He would never disown Reagan, as Romney once did. He would never speak of lynching Bernanke, as Perry threatened. When he answers a question, you can see that he is genuinely listening to it and responding - rather than searching, Bachmann-like, for the one-liner to rouse the base. He is, in other words, a decent fellow, and that's an adjective I don't use lightly. We need more decency among Republicans.

Let me again remind you of exactly what "decency" Ron Paul would bring to the table.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society.

Oh yeah, he's a decent guy alright. No racially-motivated Obama Derangement Syndrome stuff at all.

There has been controversy over Ron Paul’s ties to racism for some time now. Many people have pointed to Ron Paul’s Newsletters as proof of his racism. Paul has previously admitted to writing the newsletters and defended the statements in 1996, then blamed them on an unnamed ghostwriter in 2001 and then denied any knowledge of them in 2008. He has given no explanation, for how the racism entered his newsletter. If we are to take Paul at his word, he is guilty of at least promoting racism on a large scale. Paul earned almost a million dollars a year from the racist, conspiracy theorist newsletters.

But you know, the hipsters love him. And so does Sully. Saying he's the best of the Republicans is like picking the most humane way to be tortured because it's not so bad.

Wyden Load Sign Ahead

By enlisting Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon to go along with the latest iteration of his plan to privatize Medicare, Paul Ryan has the Centrist Daleks in an absolute tizzy today.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is teaming up with Paul Ryan, the House’s top budget guy and the author of the GOP’s controversial budget which proposes phasing out traditional Medicare and replacing it with a private plan. The two announced via The Washington Post that they’ll be teaming up on a different version of that Medicare plan — one that closely mimics plans offered by leading GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, and a proposal authored by former Sen. Pete Domenici and former Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin, which loomed large in the Super Committee’s failed negotiations.
The move makes Wyden the first elected Democrat to endorse creating a premium-support system to compete with traditional fee-for-service Medicare, and for Ryan represents a de facto admission that his own plan was too radical to ever gain bipartisan support. That’s bound to affect how congressional and presidential candidates approach the issue, which will feature prominently in next year’s elections. But it raises a number of other questions, both about the merits of the policy and of the political calculus behind it.

Two things here:  one, I don't want to hear how President Obama is the one "putting Medicare on the block" anymore with Wyden buying into this cockamamie scheme.  Backing a Paul Ryan plan -- any Paul Ryan plan -- is what the end of Medicare as we know it looks like.

Secondly, the plan is basically turning Medicare into the PPACA.

The policy itself allows insurers to compete with traditional Medicare turning Medicare essentially into a public option on a private insurance exchange. Wyden and Ryan would give patients subsidies that could be applied to either private insurance or fee for service Medicare. It has features of both a “defined contribution” and “defined benefit” program. All plans including Medicare would have to meet a high benefit standard. But if seniors were to choose plans that exceeded a benchmark cost they would be required to pay the difference out of pocket. If Medicare itself were to come in below the benchmark, it would function no differently than Medicare does right now. If Medicare were to exceed the benchmark, though, seniors would have to pay more out of pocket to enroll in it

And here's where we get into all kinds of ugly problems:  the odds of a for-profit insurer being able to provide something as good as or better than Medicare's benefit standard for less money is, well, a complete and utter fantasy.  That's going to leave Medicare as the only option to buy into for a huge percentage of seniors.

And it's a moot point anyway:  no Baby Boomer will ever have their Medicare or Social Security benefits touched.  My generation on the other hand, well, let's just say we're going to be told to accept this new plan or something like it or else.  There's not going to be any cost savings for the next twenty years or so out of the Medicare end of things, which means the only serious question is "What will await my generation when I'm supposedly ready to retire in 35 years?"

Most of us are convinced it will be "nothing".  The way the Tea Party is going, government itself will be outlawed by then and we'll all live in anarcho-capitalist city states like 21st century Spartans. 

Pit-kicking will be on Thursdays.

The Holder Doctrine: Register All Eligible Americans To Vote Automatically

And for such a brilliant,elegant, and simple idea, and being the logical endpoint of all the voter ID laws that Republicans are putting into place, they will scream FASCISM at any such efforts to make the following into law as Eric Holder's speech this week in Austin at the LBJ library will be ignored.

All eligible citizens can and should be automatically registered to vote. The ability to vote is a right — it is not a privilege. Under our current system, many voters must follow cumbersome and needlessly complex voter registration rules. And every election season, state and local officials have to manually process a crush of new applications – most of them handwritten – leaving the system riddled with errors, and, too often, creating chaos at the polls.

Fortunately, modern technology provides a straightforward fix for these problems – if we have the political will to bring our election systems into the 21st century. It should be the government’s responsibility to automatically register citizens to vote, by compiling – from databases that already exist – a list of all eligible residents in each jurisdiction. Of course, these lists would be used solely to administer elections – and would protect essential privacy rights.

And so I look forward to the Republican Party, after having spent years saying that only government-issued IDs could possibly prevent fraud and protect the sacred rite of voting in America through databases and strict adherence to them, immediately tell us that the notion of the government collecting this information is part of Obama's police state and that the government has no right to register people to vote.  It'll be great.

17-Year-Old Designs Cancer Breakthrough

Younger than most high school graduates, Angela Zhang has won a $100,000 prize in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology for a breakthrough that has several applications in medicine, but most notably in treatment of cancer.

Her creation is being heralded as a “Swiss army knife of cancer treatment.” Zhang managed to develop a nanoparticle that can be delivered to the site of a tumor through the drug salinomycin. Once there it kills the cancer stem cells. However, Zhang went further and included both gold and iron-oxide components, which allow for non-invasive imaging of the site through MRI and Photoacoustics.

As to why she chose this as her project, Zhang explains that she was surprised when looking at the survival rates of patients receiving cancer treatment. As cancer stem cells are resistant to many forms of cancer treatment, it seemed like an area worth focusing on. Her nanoparticle is award-winning due to the fact it has the potential to overcome cancer resistance while offering up the ability to monitor the effects of the treatment in real-time using existing imaging techniques.

Zhang’s achievement is impressive considering she is only 17 years old, but also due to the level of understanding required to create such a nanoparticle in the first place. She has spent over 1,000 hours since 2009 researching and developing the particle, and wants to go on to study chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, or physics. Her dream job is to be a research professor.

NASA Missing Several Samples

It's a little funny that when NASA finds out they are missing hundreds, if not thousands of samples and materials from space, they don't take the report seriously, including recommendations for better tracking and organization.

NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said the agency will continue to lend out material to scientists and for educational display but will adopt the specific recommendations the inspector general made to improve its tracking.
"NASA does not consider these national treasure assets to be at high risk," he said.
Yet it was enough of a risk that a sting went down at a Denny's, where NASA shook up a 74-year-old woman so badly she was traumatized.  She was trying to sell a tiny bit of moon rock and heat shield that had been given to her late husband by Neil Armstrong.  NASA's inspector general was all over that one, yet we find out now untold treasures have walked out the door never to be seen again.

Maybe, just maybe, they should listen to those tips on tracking.

All-American Stupid

Travel discount website is the latest advertiser to pull all ads from TLC's All-American Muslim (neatly dodging the OUTRAGE of having Muslims in America on TV at all without the caption "Gitmo Detainee" underneath the video) using the "logic" of A) blaming TLC for having a show about Muslims on TV in the first place and B) the show sucks anyway, so it was a financial decision.

When we decided to give our money to TLC for this program, we deemed the show a worthy topic. When we received angry emails regarding our decision to advertise, I looked into the show more thoroughly.

The first thing I discovered was that TLC was not upfront with us about the nature of this show. As I said, it’s a worthy topic, but any reasonable person would know that this topic is a particular lightning rod. We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn’t let us know their intentions. That’s not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us. I also believe that it did this subject a grave disservice. Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy.

Bonus Verbatim Stupid from Kayak's marketing head, Robert Birge:

Lastly, I watched the first two episodes. Mostly, I just thought the show sucked.

And just like that, Kayak gets to have it both ways. It didn't pull ads because they buy Michelle Malkin's idiotic claim that Muslims should all be rounded up and put in camps, the show is just bad, so you can't possibly give us any crap for this, people!  We win!

So by dumping all of this on TLC for "picking a fight" by daring to show Muslims in America being American and not blowing things up, Birge and Kayak show the world their uncommon courage in freely admitting that the company is run by douchebag weasels with the intellectual honesty of Vogon Constructor Fleets.

What a great company.  And by "company" I mean "colossal aggregation of assholes".

Back To The Drawing Board For Plan B, Part 2

Over a dozen Senate Dems have developed enough of a spine to call out HHS Secretary Sebelius's awful Plan B decision and want an explanation.  Now.  Greg Sargent:

This letter — which is signed by Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillilbrand, Maria Cantwell and 10 male senators — is strongly worded stuff, particularly when directed at a Democratic president. It stops just short of accusing the Obama administration of deliberately ignoring science in making this decision. It also puts the administration in an awkward spot. Either it produces a scientific rationale that’s acceptable to these Senators, which will will be extremely difficult at best, or it will face more criticism for failing to justify its policy, reinforcing the sense that this Democratic administration abandoned science and put politics first.

It will also be interesting to see where these Dem Senators take this next. Hearings, anyone?

I don't think it will get that far, but it's pretty clear that a healthy chunk of Senate Dems think that America's women deserve a much better explanation for the Obama administration punting on Plan B than was given.

Unfortunately, there's not a better, more acceptable explanation than the truth:  Making Plan B available without a prescription to kids as young as eleven when the President has eleven and thirteen year old daughters in an election year risked making Sasha and Malia Obama into political lightning rods, and the wingers would have gleefully gone after them.  As K-Drum says in the link there, it was a policy decision.  Admit it, move on.

And yes, it was a lousy decision.  I don't support it.  I can understand why the President did it, but I do not agree with it.  I'm not a father of pre-teen girls, I'm not a woman, my perspective on this is limited as I've said before.  But it's still a policy decision.

I also don't think Dems in the Senate publicly calling out the President is a really smart idea either, but what's done is done.  We'll see what happens.


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