Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 2009

Wow! Coleman concedes!

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Welcome to DC, Senator Franken.

UPDATE: The Eldest suggests that we begin referring to Norm Coleman as “the quitter.”

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 3:56 pm

GOP: Party of the Double Standard

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One of the characteristics of the authoritarian mind is that it readily includes double standards. Here’s an example of a double standard, by Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress:

On a conference call organized by the right-wing Judicial Confirmation Network, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told a group of conservative activists that he needed their help to prevent Judge Sotomayor from being confirmed to the Supreme Court in a timely manner. “We need you involved in this process,” Thune told the call’s listeners, because Senate Democrats “are going to jam through this lifetime appointment rather than provide a full and fair review of her record.”

But Thune sang a different tune when President Bush was in office. Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) modeled Sotomayor’s 72-day confirmation schedule after the exact same 72-day schedule that was used to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts. Back then, Thune thought this schedule was more than adequate for him to make up his mind:

“Today marks the beginning of a historic and revered process. As we pay tribute to the legacy of former Chief Justice Rehnquist, we see many of the qualities that marked his tenure of excellence mirrored in Judge Roberts,” Thune said. “Judge Roberts brings with him a brilliant legal mind and a profound respect for the Constitution and the Court.

I urge Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to put politics aside and allow a fair and efficient confirmation process to work. I look forward to hearing from Judge Roberts and have full confidence his experience and character will carry him swiftly through these important hearings.”

Perhaps Thune is simply having trouble understanding how Sotomayor’s confirmation schedule compares to Roberts’. To help explain this difficult concept to Sen. Thune, ThinkProgress has prepared this helpful chart:

confirmation-graph

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

Deaths caused by US torture

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This is important to know. Glenn Greenwald writes:

After numerous delays sought by the Obama administration, it is expected that a 2004 CIA Inspector General’s Report — aggressively questioning both the efficacy and legality of Bush’s interrogation tacticswill be released tomorrow.  A heavily redacted version of that document was already released by the Bush administration in response to an ACLU lawsuit and it remains to be seen how much new information will be included in tomorrow’s version.

In anticipation of the release of that report, there is an important effort underway — as part of the ACLU Accountability Project — to correct a critically important deficiency in the public debate over torture and accountability.  So often, the premise of media discussions of torture is that “torture” is something that was confined to a single tactic (waterboarding) and used only on three “high-value” detainees accused of being high-level Al Qaeda operatives.  The reality is completely different.

The interrogation and detention regime implemented by the U.S. resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in U.S. custody — at least.  While some of those deaths were the result of “rogue” interrogators and agents, many were caused by the methods authorized at the highest levels of the Bush White House, including extreme stress positions, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and others.  Aside from the fact that they cause immense pain, that’s one reason we’ve always considered those tactics to be “torture” when used by others — because they inflict serious harm, and can even kill people.  Those arguing against investigations and prosecutions — that we Look to the Future, not the Past — are thus literally advocating that numerous people get away with murder.

The record could not be clearer regarding the fact that we caused numerous detainee deaths, many of which have gone completely uninvestigated and thus unpunished.  Instead, the media and political class have misleadingly caused the debate to consist of the myth that these tactics were limited and confined.  As Gen. Barry McCaffrey recently put it:

We should never, as a policy, maltreat people under our control, detainees. We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.

Journalist and Human Rights Watch research John Sifton similarly documented that “approximately 100 detainees, including CIA-held detainees, have died during U.S. interrogations, and some are known to have been tortured to death.”

* * * * *

The ACLU has posted online numerous autopsy reports of detainee deaths in U.S. custody.  These are documents prepared by the U.S. military, and they are as chilling as they are reflective of extreme criminality.  Here are just a few illustrative examples (click on images to enlarge):

Autopsy ME-4309 — 27 y/o male civilian – Mosul: …

Continue reading. The details are both important and staggering. Some of thus murdered by torture were totally innocent—for example, the member of the Afghan Army (on our side, you know) who was mistakenly picked up.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 2:01 pm

Unlimited corporate campaign spending?

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With no limits on campaign spending by corporations, Congress would be completely in the hands of business—at least so many that it doesn’t matter. Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

That’s what Rick Hasen, the uber-election lawyer and blogger is predicting.

Instead of ruling on Citizens United v. FEC, a case that questions the legitimacy of corporate funding that supported an anti-Hillary Rodham Clinton documentary released just before the 2008 primaries, the court on Monday ordered reargument of the case in September.  The court will then have to decide whether to overrule two previous decisions that upheld limits on corporate spending in federal elections.

Predicts Hasen:

Given the dynamics of the court, there is a great chance the justices will use the opportunity to overrule limits on how much money corporations can spend supporting candidates—whether or not Judge Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed in time to hear the case in September.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Business, Congress

Investigating the financial crisis

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Mary Kane of the Washington Independent has an interesting article titled "Who Will Investigate the Causes of the Financial Crisis?". It’s well worth reading, and the answer to the question is important, as another article in the Washington Independent, this one by David Weigel, shows what sort of answers the investigation will deliver, depending on who’s tasked with the investigation:

Jonathan Turley points to a resolution introduced by State Rep. Sally Kern (R) in Oklahoma, into a state legislature that flipped to the Republicans in 2008 and has become a petri dish for wingnuttery.

The “Oklahoma Citizen’s Proclamation for Morality” includes this language about the Democrats and the president:

WHEREAS, we believe our economic woes are consequences of our greater national moral crisis; and

WHEREAS, this nation has become a world leader in promoting abortion, pornography, same sex marriage, sex trafficking, divorce, illegitimate births, child abuse, and many other forms of debauchery; and

WHEREAS, alarmed that the Government of the United States of America is forsaking the rich Christian heritage upon which this nation was built; and

WHEREAS, grieved that the Office of the president of these United States has refused to uphold the long held tradition of past presidents in giving recognition to our National Day of Prayer; and

WHEREAS, deeply disturbed that the Office of the president of these United States disregards the biblical admonitions to live clean and pure lives by proclaiming an entire month to an immoral behavior;

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 12:58 pm

Excellent movie: Everything’s Cool

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I’m watching it now, thanks to Terry B., and it’s wonderful. It’s an entertaining history of the global warming controversy, but much more fun than that sounds. Watch it: Everything’s Cool. I think this is one that skeptics might enjoy, since it shows the ultimate source of their skepticism.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Global warming, Movies

Ignore GOP hysteria on Waxman-Markey

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Dean Baker, an economist, writes:

The House’s passage of the Waxman-Markey bill raises the possibility that the United States will finally do something on global warming. This prospect has the industry hacks screaming at top volume about the horrible fate that awaits the economy. Everyone should know not to take them seriously, as I will explain in a moment.

    First, we should acknowledge the obvious: The bill is awful. It gives away permits to greenhouse gas emitters that should instead be auctioned. As a result, money that could be rebated to taxpayers or used to fund the development of clean technologies instead goes to the industries that are the source of the problem.

    Second, the use of tradable permits rather than a tax is a rather questionable policy. Permits will almost certainly require more government enforcement bureaucracy than a system of taxes and subsidies. And, incidentally, permits will allow Goldman Sachs and our other Wall Street friends to make tens of billions of dollars on trading fees in the coming decades, a high priority for all Americans.

    But a bad bill is almost certainly better than no bill. If Waxman-Markey doesn’t get through, it is very difficult to see another bill getting through this Congress. And there is no reason to believe that the Congress that gets elected in 2010 will be any less indebted to the corporate lobbyists.

    The Waxman-Markey bill should be viewed as a foot in the door. It is a modest first step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions that both demonstrates a commitment and provides an opportunity to show the public that emissions can be lowered without imposing an enormous economic burden on the country.

    Of course, the only reason that so many people believe that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will impose an enormous burden on the economy is that the oil and coal industry, and their friends in the media, have been pushing this tripe for more than a decade. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the cost of the Waxman-Markey bill at $22 billion a year in 2020. That will be equal to less than 0.1 percent of projected GDP in that year, or about $70 out of the pocket of each person in the country.

    The coal and oil companies are greatly anguished over this prospective burden on American families, but let’s compare this burden to the burden posed by Iraq war levels of defense spending. Two years ago, the Center for Economic and Policy Research commissioned Global Insight to use its model to project the economic impact of Iraq war levels of military spending. They projected the effect on the economy of a sustained increase in defense spending equal to 1.0 percent of GDP, an amount slightly less than the increase sustained in the years following the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

    Global Insight was selected because it is one of the oldest econometric forecasting firms in the country. Its model has been widely used for a wide variety of analyses and it certainly is not associated with progressive or anti-defense politics. Its model is also very much in the mainstream of the economics profession. It will not produce results that are qualitatively different than any other mainstream model.

The model projected that after 10 years of higher spending, GDP would be down by about $17 billion from baseline levels. After 20 years (2021 if defense spending stays high), GDP would be down by more than $60 billion from baseline levels, approximately three times CBO’s projection of the cost of the Waxman-Markey bill.

    Of course, these projections don’t show the full loss to households, since they don’t include the money that must be diverted from taxes or obtained by borrowing to support the higher level of defense spending. These figures are just the lost output.

    Global Insight projected that after 20 years of higher defense spending, annual car sales would be down by more than 700,000. Housing starts would be almost 40,000 lower. Exports would be 1.8 percent lower and imports would be 2.7 percent higher, leading to a trade deficit that would be almost $200 billion larger. The model also projected that there would be nearly 700,000 fewer jobs as a result of the higher level of defense spending.

    In short, the economic harm projected from high levels of military spending is far larger than the damage projected from the Waxman-Markey bill. Given this situation, we would have expected that all the oil and coal industry folks, who are now so concerned about the average family’s well-being, would have been screaming about the economic pain that would result from sustaining the Iraq war levels of military spending.

    Did anyone ever hear them raise this issue? Does anyone recall members of Congress giving speeches about how the job loss from the Iraq war levels of spending would be devastating? Does anyone recall any newspaper columns or editorials making this point? How about a news story that analyzed the economic impact of higher levels of military spending?

    For some reason, job loss and economic pain associated with the military are just not worth mentioning…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 11:10 am

Cheney Predacted

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more about "Cheney Predacted", posted with vodpod

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 10:45 am

Posted in Daily life

Public health option views of Nate Silver

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Very good post at FiveThirtyEight.com:

I’ve gotten a few e-mails asking whether I’m going to weigh on on the latest Greg MankiwPaul Krugman feud on the public health care option. Suffice it to say that I frequently find Mankiw both disingenuous and somewhat intellectually circumspect, and occasionally even ungentlemanly. Although Mankiw’s New York Times column is much better argued than George F. Will’s piece was, it pulls Mankiw’s typical Unfrozen Caveman Economist trick when it blithely asserts that "We don’t need government-run grocery stores or government-run gas stations to ensure that Americans can buy food and fuel at reasonable prices" when (i) the cost of premiums are not particularly reasonable for working-class families, and (ii) the level of competition is inadequate, with near-monopolies in many states. Krugman is right that Mankiw ought to know better.

With that said, and as strongly as I’ve argued for the public option, I do ultimately think it’s a means to an end, the end being lowering health care costs relative to the quality of service provided. I think the public option would be the best way to achieve this because I don’t think the insurance industry is ultimately doing anything to "earn" its profit margins and administrative costs: it’s mostly just economic rent resulting from barriers to entry within the industry. But if there are plans that can remove market distortions and lower costs without a public option, those deserve a fair hearing. Namely, this would mean removing the taxpayer subsidy for health care benefits and having some mechanism to induce competition in the market. The Wyden-Bennett bill that Mankiw mentions would do the former, and would hope to accomplish the later through increased transparency and giving consumers a more direct choice of their insurance provider; indeed, it’s the only plan on the table that would strive to end the illogical regime of employer-based health care, except for Pete Stark’s single payer-ish alternative. (This doesn’t mean you’d lose your insurance — it just means you’d be buying it directly rather than having your employer buy it for you).

But the insurance industry, I’m guessing, doesn’t …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 10:34 am

"Clean" coal and its dangerous waste sites

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Renee Schoof in McClatchy:

Coal Ash

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday released a list of 44 coal-fired power plant waste sites in 10 states with a high hazard potential, including 12 sites in North Carolina, seven in Kentucky and a large storage pond in Pennsylvania.

The list is the result of an investigation that the EPA ordered after the failure of a Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash pond in Kingston, Tenn., flooded more than 300 acres of land in December. After the spill, the EPA required electric utilities that store coal ash in surface impoundments to respond to mandatory questionnaires about their sites.

The EPA initially refused to disclose the location of the high-hazard sites to the public, saying it would share the information only with members of Congress and their staffs. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, pressed the agency to release the list, saying the public had a right to know.

Coal combustion waste stored for many years in impoundment sites at power plants contains toxins such as arsenic, selenium, cadmium and chromium. Even so, national regulations for coal ash are less strict than those for household trash. The EPA is working on new regulations for coal ash waste that are expected by the end of the year.

The next step is …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 10:18 am

Our business-owned Congress

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It’s sad to see Senators who cry about the cost of this and that go out of their way to spend $1.75 billion on planes we do not need and have never used in combat. David Lightman and Nancy A. Youssef write in McClatchy:

Congress and the White House are heading toward a showdown over the future of the F-22 jet fighter, as the Senate plans to consider adding seven more of the planes while the Obama administration warns that a veto is likely over the issue.

"If the final bill presented to the president contains this provision, the president’s senior advisers would recommend a veto," said a "Statement of Administration Policy" last week that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reiterated Monday.

Senate Armed Services Committee members, who also defied their own congressional leaders on the question, are moving ahead anyway, however. The panel on Thursday narrowly approved $1.75 billion for seven F-22s in the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill, which the full Senate is expected to take up when it returns in July.

"It is regrettable that the administration needs to issue a veto threat for funding intended to meet a real national-security requirement that has been consistently confirmed by our uniformed military leaders," argued Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a committee member.

Pentagon Secretary Robert Gates’ effort to end production of the F-22 at 187 planes is part of an ambitious overhaul of military spending practices that he unveiled this spring.

The Senate’s action was the second rebuff to that plan in recent days. The House of Representatives voted last week on a fiscal 2010 defense-authorization bill that included a down payment to build a dozen more planes.

The Pentagon reacted sharply Monday.

"There is simply no military need for F-22s above and beyond the 187 Secretary Gates has recommended and President Barack Obama has requested," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

He also questioned the inclusion of a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, contained in the House and Senate versions of the bill, saying that Gates "views attempts to add any of those items to the department’s budget as a big problem."

While the F-22 is an Air Force favorite and a staple of its fleet, Gates has dubbed the plane "a niche, silver-bullet solution required for a limited number of scenarios." He prefers the F-35, which has more advanced stealth and air-to-ground capability.

The secretary is up against strong local interests, however. Contractors have estimated that halting the planes now ordered could cost 95,000 jobs in 46 states, figures that Gates disputes. [As does the GOP, which has said repeatedly that government spending does not create jobs. The GOP thus maintains that cutting out the F-22 would cost NO jobs. – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 10:13 am

Should the government fund police protection?

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Excellent article at Salon by Michael Lind, which begins:

Now that the president and the Democrats in Congress have set a fall deadline for legislative action on universal police protection for all Americans, battle lines are being drawn on Capitol Hill. On the right are conservative defenders of America’s system of for-profit, private mercenaries. The Democrats are divided among progressives who favor universal, publicly funded police who would protect all citizens against crime, and moderate and conservative Democrats who argue that any citizen security reform should leave America’s existing system of soldiers for hire in place.

"Do we want long wait times when we call for the police, like people in countries with socialized police forces?" Sen. Russell Flack, R-Ga., asked during a floor debate yesterday. "Under our system, we can choose our own police officers, as long as we pay for protection out of our own pockets. Do we want some government bureaucrat choosing the police for us?"

Progressives, however, argue that the American system of privatized policing is no longer affordable. They point to data showing that the U.S. spends twice as much per capita on police protection as countries in Europe and East Asia, where police are public servants paid out of taxes. Although the U.S. pays twice as much for police as the average developed country, more than 40 million Americans remain without police protection because their employers do not pay for crime insurance and they cannot afford to purchase it on their own.

"We could save enormous amounts of money if we had a public police system," argues Caroline Zeal, director of the nonprofit Citizens for Public Police Protection. "Our present crime prevention and punishment system is divided among 50 states with different rules and thousands of private crime insurance companies. And when you look at the mercenaries hired by the crime insurance companies, they come in all shapes and sizes — commandos, samurai, Vikings, centurions and ninjas."

Zeal and other progressives argue that a single-payer, universal police plan would not only standardize methods and uniforms but also allow the government to use its dominant market power to negotiate for prices with police weapons suppliers. In Canada, which has a completely public police system, guns, tear gas, billy clubs, rubber truncheons and brass knuckles cost only half as much as in the U.S.

Other analysts argue that the fee-for-service payment system associated with America’s for-profit police protection industry also contributes to the uniquely high costs of personal security in the United States. Unlike in countries where police officers are on a public payroll and have no incentive to maximize shootings, beatings and arrests, American police mercenaries get reimbursed by tax-favored crime insurance plans every time they chase or apprehend a suspect. Many analysts argue that this perverse incentive structure accounts for what is called "overbeatment" — the high number of Americans who get the living daylights beaten out of them on the streets by soldiers of fortune.

Many progressives claim that quite apart from arguments over costs there is a moral argument for providing universal police protection…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 10:02 am

The Obama birth certificate

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This post at FactCheck.org settles the argument for those who are not authoritarian. As noted in an earlier post:

The third chapter of The Authoritarians (free copy at the link) covers research findings on how authoritarian followers think:

… Research  reveals that authoritarian followers drive through life under the influence of impaired thinking a lot more than most people do, exhibiting sloppy reasoning, highly compartmentalized beliefs, double standards, hypocrisy, self-blindness, a profound ethnocentrism, and—to top it all off—a ferocious dogmatism that makes it unlikely anyone could ever change their minds with evidence or logic.

The author then goes through the research findings that support each of these statements. The unfortunate result is that authoritarians will continue to clamor that the Obama birth certificate is false, in spite of the facts.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 9:53 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Hope for the public option

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From the Center for American Progress:

Yesterday, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Center for American Progress (CAP) President and CEO John Podesta promoted a budget-neutral plan to finance health care reform, advocated for a strong public option as the best way to control health care costs, and urged Democrats to "not hesitate" in using budget reconciliation to push through legislation if Republicans opt to obstruct real reform. Both noted that any discussion of whether the Senate Democrats should use reconciliation or not is premature, but Daschle called reconciliation a "viable fallback option," and Podesta said "there is a point at which you have to move on" with reform. Obstructing reform would make Republicans "less and less relevant," Daschle warned, as Democrats move forward with reconciliation, which "would probably have a pure public option just because most likely it will only involve Democrats deciding what that reconciliation package will be." Responding to President Obama’s call that reform should not add to the deficit, Daschle and Podesta endorsed a Center for American Progress report that says "taxing some employer-provided health benefits" should be considered to pay for reform. The report, by CAP fellow Judy Feder and Harvard Economist David Cutler, offers a series of "failsafe" proposals to pay for reform, such as "a ‘pay or play’ requirement for larger employers to either provide health benefits or pay toward employees’ coverage through private plans or from the government" and higher taxes on "tobacco products, alcoholic beverages and sugar-sweetened drinks." Both Podesta and Daschle were optimistic that health care reform will pass this year, with Podesta declaring that a "better than 50-50 chance is maybe even a little bit understated."

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 9:47 am

Horseradish potato salad

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Take a look at this recipe—absolutely beautiful. And I do think one should make the horseradish sauce from scratch.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 9:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

When tests are unfair

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People do not understand that Sotomayor was following binding judicial precedent in her decision re: the firefighters. From the Center for American Progress:

Dividing along familiar ideological lines, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Ricci v. DeStefano yesterday, overturning 25 years of lower-court precedent that gave employers discretion to reconsider a promotion test whose results favor one race over another. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Ricci creates new law; from now on, employers may reconsider an already administered promotion test only if there is a "strong basis in evidence" showing that the test engaged in illegal discrimination. Despite the fact that Sotomayor did nothing more than follow a binding precedent when she decided Ricci, conservatives are pouncing on Ricci as evidence that Sotomayor is unfit for the Supreme Court. Wendy Long of the right-wing Judicial Confirmation Network claimed that "Sotomayer’s" decision in Ricci was "the equivalent of a pilot error resulting in a bad plane crash. And now the pilot is being offered to fly Air Force One." The RNC claimed, falsely, that Sotomayor has been reversed in six of seven cases before the Supreme Court. (In reality, of the approximately 380 opinions Sotomayor has written as an appeals judge, the Supreme Court has reversed only five.) Although these attacks may be heavy on rhetoric, they are light on facts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 9:42 am

Posted in Congress, Government, Law

Competition in healthcare

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Zachary Roth makes a very good point:

As Congress gets set to take up health-care reform, there’s a crucial piece of data that hasn’t received nearly the prominence in the debate that it deserves.

Defenders of the status quo on health care like to point out that a public option will destroy the system of robust free-market competition that currently exists.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), speaking earlier this month on Fox News, called President Obama’s plan the "first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known." A public option, Shelby added, would "destroy the marketplace for health care."

But the notion that most American consumers enjoy anything like a competitive marketplace for health care is flatly false. And a study issued last month by a pro-reform group makes that strikingly clear.

The report, released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as "highly concentrated," according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that’s led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

Far from healthy market competition, HCAN describes the situation as "a market failure where a small number of large companies use their concentrated power to control premium levels, benefit packages, and provider payments in the markets they dominate."

So extreme is the level of consolidation, in fact, that one former top Federal Trade Commission official working with HCAN has sent a letter to the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, asking for an investigation into the health insurance marketplace.

The problem is most acute in …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 9:37 am

The US today

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Torturing young boys and keeping them imprisoned even after they’re proven innocent. (Formerly, the government had to prove guilt—innocence was presumed. Those days are gone.) Bob Herbert in today’s NY Times:

No one seems to know how old Mohammed Jawad was when he was seized by Afghan forces in Kabul six and a half years ago and turned over to American custody. Some reports say he was 14. Some say 16. The Afghan government believes he was 12.

What is not in dispute is that he was no older than an adolescent, and that since his capture he has been tortured and otherwise put through hell. The evidence against him has been discredited. He has tried to commit suicide. But the U.S. won’t let him go.

The treatment of the young captive was so egregious that the decorated U.S. Army officer assigned to prosecute him — a man gung-ho to secure a conviction against a defendant he believed had committed a serious crime against the American military — ended up removing himself from the case and declaring that he could no longer “in good conscience” participate in the military commissions set up to try accused terrorists.

Jawad was accused of hurling a hand grenade into a vehicle occupied by two American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter in December 2002. All three occupants of the vehicle were seriously injured.

Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld of the U.S. Army Reserve, a recipient of the Bronze Star, among other commendations, was named the lead prosecutor on the case in 2007. By then, Jawad had already been held for nearly five years. Colonel Vandeveld assumed that the case would be uncomplicated and that a conviction could be easily secured.

Jawad had confessed to the attack and, according to the charges against him, had acted as a member of an insurgent group called Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.

As Colonel Vandeveld began a diligent effort to assemble what he assumed would be the evidence that would convict Jawad, he became increasingly distressed and ultimately dismayed. It turned out, as a military judge would later rule, that Jawad’s Afghan captors had obtained his confession by torturing him. Then the boy was taken by U.S. authorities to Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, where he was held before eventually being transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Colonel Vandeveld — “by sheer happenstance,” as he put it — came across a written summary of an interview of Jawad by a special agent of the Army Criminal Investigation Division. The summary, which was part of the official record of an entirely different case at Bagram, detailed extensive abuse that Jawad said had been inflicted on him at Bagram.

In a sworn affidavit, Colonel Vandeveld said, “This abuse included the slapping of Mr. Jawad across the face while Mr. Jawad’s head was covered with a hood, as well as Mr. Jawad’s having been shoved down a stairwell while both hooded and shackled.”

Continue reading and you’ll come across this gem:

On Dec. 25, 2003, Jawad tried to kill himself by repeatedly banging his head against a wall of his cell.

There is no credible evidence against Jawad, and his torture-induced confession has rightly been ruled inadmissible by a military judge. But the Obama administration does not feel that he has suffered enough. Not only have administration lawyers opposed defense efforts to secure Jawad’s freedom, but they are using, as the primary basis for their opposition, the fruits of the confession that was obtained through torture and has already been deemed inadmissible — without merit, of no value.

Obama’s been a big disappointment in some areas.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 9:27 am

Quick, easy, delicious meal

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I’ve been making this recipe for white beans and tomatoes fairly often lately. The changes I’ve made:

  • leave the garlic in the oil
  • use canned cannellini beans, one can (drained and rinsed) to one pint of cherry tomatoes
  • use sage (as noted in the original post)
  • cut the cherry tomatoes in half so the juice can escape
  • sometimes add chopped kalamata olives and/or pine nuts
  • add a pinch of crushed red pepper

The result is, as noted, delicious. Give it a go.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Sign up to get your Senators’ and Representative’s votes by email

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This is cool: enter your ZIP code and your email address and you’ll be sent how your elected representatives vote. Do it here. Now.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2009 at 8:52 am

Posted in Congress, Daily life

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