Daily Archive: 03/05/2014

Mar 05 2014

Obamneycare Insurance Won’t Save You from Hospital Price Gouging Forever

Here's a small example of the criminal price gouging at hospitals that should require a RICO investigation if we were serious about controlling health care costs brought to you from US Uncut:

Mar 05 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Want a Feisty Way to Fight Foreclosures?

The difference between a sweet victory and a dubious one is often a matter of perspective. Take the housing market which, we’re told, is recovering, albeit slowly and in fits and starts. This represents a trend, an upward-heading line on a chart, and a victory of sorts for the economy. But is it really a victory for the people?

The “housing market” that’s represented by that upward-heading line still comprises millions of underwater mortgage-holders (between 6 and 16 million, depending on who you ask), many of whom are now locked into a David-versus-Goliath battle against creditors that are trying to foreclose and evict them. On this level-where “housing” becomes “houses,” where rates of foreclosure become, for victimized families, “foreclosures”-an overall victory for the market doesn’t mean a whole lot. A trend, that is, has trouble enumerating the individual data points and stories that make it up. To make this dubious victory for the housing market a sweet victory for homeowners, the Home Defenders League, using an innovative concept called Local Principal Reduction, is fighting to write happy endings to some of those stories.

Zoë Carpenter: Obama Administration Takes a Step Toward Drilling in the Atlantic

The Obama administration recommended on Thursday that private companies begin searching for oil and gas reserves off the Atlantic Coast, an area that has been closed to drilling for decades. More than 3 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 312 trillion cubic feet of natural gas may lie in the area, which extends from Delaware to Cape Canaveral, Florida. [..]

The prospect of new activity in the Atlantic, even if years or decades away, raises a question that environmentalists have found themselves asking often lately: How does the administration reconcile its commitment to fighting climate change with its long standing support for expanded oil production? Obama’s approach to climate is largely focused on reducing demand for fossil fuels, by promoting investment in renewables and tightening emissions standards for power plants and motor vehicles. (If Congress could ever put a price on carbon, that also would affect demand.) The implicit assumption of Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy is that policies intended to discourage consumption will be effective even if fossil fuels become more readily available.

Ana Marie Cox: Don’t ban the ‘n-word’ in the NFL – broadcast every word of trash talk

Here’s one solution to the league’s fumbling of race and free speech: replace incognito on-field secrets with a giant hot mic

Lately, I’ve been following an NFL rules-change proposal to dock a team 15 yards – the league’s harshest yardage penalty – should officials hear its player use the word “nigger” or other racial slurs. This proposal, like so many attempts to curb “hate speech”, comes from a place of genuine concern and legitimate grievance. It originates with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, named for the league’s first black coach, and John Wooten, who heads the group, has argued passionately for it as a way to peel back some of the more gruesome attitudes that characterize the modern industrial-sports complex.

But backlash against the idea has been swift, fiery and disproportionate. ESPN devoted an hour-long special to the issue. It’s spawned countless op-eds and been weighed in on by pretty much every player or sportswriter with a Twitter account and an opinion. Those responses run a spectrum from compassionate doubtfulness and raised-eyebrow irony (the league will consider punishing “nigger” but not “Redskins”?) to angry dismissal. Media critic, cornerback and Super Bowl champion Richard Sherman turned the intent of the rule on its head, reasonably concluding that actual enforcement of the rule would penalize black players and itself be “almost racist”.

Holly Baxter: It’s time to kick the high-protein diet habit – before it kills you

Veggies, tuck into your hummus with glee – it’s now almost impossible to deny that eating too much meat, dairy and eggs is unhealthy

According to the latest study into protein consumption, it turns out that this theory may well have something to it. The National Health and Nutrition Survey has been collating data on 6,381 people across the US, and found that diets rich in animal protein (as opposed to protein routinely taken from plant sources) could be as harmful to health as other vices such as smoking. Those under the age of 65 who regularly consume a lot of meat, eggs and dairy are four times more likely to die of cancer or diabetes – although it’s worth noting that, if you make it to 66, beginning to eat a high-protein diet for your remaining years is a better shout than sticking with the steamed kale. [..]

Ultimately, it makes no difference whether you did it for the love of fluffy lambs in spring or deep-seated narcissism combined with a fierce survival instinct: the fact is you should probably eat less meat. You may well have to face a couple of awkward questions over a bowl of hummus, but hey, we all have our crosses to bear. And so, for the love of the NHS, please consign your well-thumbed paleo book to the dustbin. Because it turns out that you may be taking its simpering promises to make you thinner literally at your own peril.

Leslie Savan: MSNBC and Its Discontents

Lately, MSNBC seems to be waking up every few mornings to find a celebrity rattlesnake in its boot. First, Bill Maher said MSNBC was obsessed with Chris Christie and that Bridgegate had become its Benghazi. Then Alec Baldwin took to the cover of New York magazine to denounce his former network for running “the same shit all day long.” “The only difference” between shows, Baldwin wrote, “was who was actually pulling off whatever act they had come up with.”

MSNBC killed Baldwin’s Friday night talk show after only five weeks when the actor made a homophobic remark, which he contends in New York wasn’t homophobic at all. He also calls Rachel Maddow, whom he suspects was behind his ouster, a “phony.” But such Hollywood hairballs, coming on the heels of a series of apologies, anchor defenestrations and schedule rejiggering, could make a casual viewer wonder, Could there be buried in Baldwin’s bruised ego a critique of the network worth listening to? And is Maher right that MSNBC is in danger of becoming the Fox News of the left?

Mar 05 2014

On This Day In History March 5

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 5 is the 64th day of the year (65th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 301 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1770, a mob of angry colonists gathers at the Customs House in Boston and begins tossing snowballs and rocks at the lone British soldier guarding the building. The protesters opposed the occupation of their city by British troops, who were sent to Boston in 1768 to enforce unpopular taxation measures passed by a British parliament without direct American representation.

The Incident

The event began on King Street, today known as State Street, in the early evening of March 5, in front of Private Hugh White, a British sentry, as he stood duty outside the Custom house. A young wigmaker’s apprentice named Edward Gerrish called out to a British officer, Captain Lieutenant John Goldfinch, that Goldfinch had not paid the bill of Gerrish’s master. Goldfinch had in fact settled his account and ignored the insult. Gerrish departed, but returned a couple of hours later with companions. He continued his complaints, and the civilians began throwing rocks at Goldfinch. Gerrish exchanged insults with Private White, who left his post, challenged the boy, and struck him on the side of the head with a musket. As Gerrish cried in pain, one of his companions, Bartholomew Broaders, began to argue with White. This attracted a larger crowd.

As the evening progressed, the crowd grew larger and more boisterous. The mob grew in size and continued harassing Private White. As bells, which usually signified a fire, rang out from the surrounding steeples, the crowd of Bostonians grew larger and more threatening. Over fifty of the Bostonian townsmen gathered and provoked White and Goldfinch into fight. As the crowd began to get larger, the British soldiers realized that the situation was about to explode. Private White left his sentry box and retreated to the Custom House stairs with his back to a locked door. Nearby, from the Main Guard, the Officer of the Day, Captain Thomas Preston, watched this situation escalate and, according to his account, dispatched a non-commissioned officer and seven or eight soldiers of the 29th Regiment of Foot, with fixed bayonets, to relieve White. He and his subordinate, James Basset, followed soon afterward. Among these soldiers were Corporal William Wemms (apparently the non-commissioned officer mentioned in Preston’s report), Hugh Montgomery, John Carroll, James Hartigan, William McCauley, William Warren and Matthew Kilroy. As this relief column moved forward to the now empty sentry box, the crowd pressed around them. When they reached this point they loaded their muskets and joined with Private White at the custom house stairs. As the crowd, estimated at 300 to 400, pressed about them, they formed a semicircular perimeter.

The crowd continued to harass the soldiers and began to throw snow balls and other small objects at the soldiers. Private Hugh Montgomery was struck down onto the ground by a club wielded by Richard Holmes, a local tavernkeeper. When he recovered to his feet, he fired his musket, later admitting to one of his defense attorneys that he had yelled “Damn you, fire!” It is presumed that Captain Preston would not have told the soldiers to fire, as he was standing in front of the guns, between his men and the crowd of protesters. However, the protesters in the crowd were taunting the soldiers by yelling “Fire”. There was a pause of indefinite length; the soldiers then fired into the crowd. Their uneven bursts hit eleven men. Three Americans – ropemaker Samuel Gray, mariner James Caldwell, and a mixed race sailor named Crispus Attucks – died instantly. Seventeen-year-old Samuel Maverick, struck by a ricocheting musket ball at the back of the crowd, died a few hours later, in the early morning of the next day. Thirty-year-old Irish immigrant Patrick Carr died two weeks later. To keep the peace, the next day royal authorities agreed to remove all troops from the centre of town to a fort on Castle Island in Boston Harbor. On March 27 the soldiers, Captain Preston and four men who were in the Customs House and alleged to have fired shots, were indicted for murder.

The Trial of the Soldiers

At the request of Captain Preston and in the interest that the trial be fair, John Adams, a leading Boston Patriot and future President, took the case defending the British soldiers.

In the trial of the soldiers, which opened November 27, 1770, Adams argued that if the soldiers were endangered by the mob, which he called “a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes, and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs,” they had the legal right to fight back, and so were innocent. If they were provoked but not endangered, he argued, they were at most guilty of manslaughter. The jury agreed with Adams and acquitted six of the soldiers. Two of the soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter because there was overwhelming evidence that they fired directly into the crowd, however Adams invoked Benefit of clergy in their favor: by proving to the judge that they could read by having them read aloud from the Bible, he had their punishment, which would have been a death sentence, reduced to branding of the thumb in open court. The jury’s decisions suggest that they believed the soldiers had felt threatened by the crowd. Patrick Carr, the fifth victim, corroborated this with a deathbed testimony delivered to his doctor.

Three years later in 1773, on the third anniversary of the incident, John Adams made this entry in his diary:

The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.

“This however is no Reason why the Town should not call the Action of that Night a Massacre, nor is it any Argument in favour of the Governor or Minister, who caused them to be sent here. But it is the strongest Proofs of the Danger of Standing Armies.

Mar 05 2014

The Rule of Law

U.S. appeals court says BP bound by Gulf spill accord

By Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

Tue Mar 4, 2014 2:20pm EST

By a 2-1 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans late Monday upheld a December 24 ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, authorizing the payments on so-called business economic loss claims. It also said an injunction preventing payments should be lifted.



Barbier ruled that BP would have to live with its earlier interpretation of a December 2012 settlement with businesses and individuals harmed by the spill, in which certain businesses claiming losses were presumed to have suffered harm.



“The settlement agreement does not require a claimant to submit evidence that the claim arose as a result of the oil spill,” Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick wrote for the majority.

Terms of the settlement “are not as protective of BP’s present concerns as might have been achievable, but they are the protections that were accepted by the parties and approved by the district court,” the judge added.



Steve Herman and Jim Roy, who represent the business claimants, said in a joint statement: “Today’s ruling makes clear that BP can’t rewrite the deal it agreed to.”

Juneau, in a statement, said the decision “appears to clear the way” for the resumption of payments on business economic loss claims, and that he will resume making such payments upon a formal direction from the district court.

Mar 05 2014

Alan Grayson’s Keystone XL Letter

(h/t Gaius Publius)

Forty-one years ago, when I used to get up at 5 a.m. to get on gas station lines with my parents, I started hearing about “energy independence” – a secure source of supply for our energy needs. Today, energy independence soon will be a reality.

For China. Thanks to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Q. Cui bono? (“Who benefits?”) A. China.

The Chinese economy consists of taking raw materials and energy, making that into stuff, and then selling that stuff – a/k/a “manufacturing.” Chinese leaders understand that in order for that model to work, China needs steady supplies of raw materials and energy. [But] how do you get a steady supply of energy, in a world where those supplies are dominated by a cartel, and are concentrated in a part of the world prone to war? In America, we’ve been trying to puzzle that out for four decades, without success.

Well, the Chinese have figured it out. They’re going to get their energy from Canada, a stable country, and pass it through the United States, another stable country. They will pay the Canadians the world price for oil. They will pay us nothing, or next to nothing. So Uncle Sam is Uncle Sucker.

And not for the first time. For the past decade, China has pursued an utterly unscrupulous and incredibly successful strategy in “trade” with the United States. China has been importing from the United States roughly $50 billion in goods each year, much of it food, raw materials and energy. China has been exporting to the United States roughly $350 billion in goods each year, mostly manufactured goods. And China has been buying roughly $300 billion in U.S. assets each year, mostly U.S. Treasuries. So we buy their stuff, putting their people to work. And they buy our assets, driving us deeper and deeper into debt. America loses – twice.

Now China has peeled off a tiny portion of that trade surplus, just $30 billion, and audaciously is trying to parlay that into permanent energy independence. China has put that money into Canadian tar sands.

Canadian tar sands are easily one of the dirtiest energy sources on Planet Earth. Does China care? No. As Deng Xiaoping used to say, “it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” China’s leaders are so indifferent to environmental concerns that they have no problem with 8-year-olds in Beijing contracting lung cancer from pollution – but they get upset when the U.S. Embassy in Beijing puts an air quality monitor on the roof, and posts the readings on the internet. Canadian tar sands are a very, very black cat, but China’s leaders care only about catching mice.

Chinese leaders have seized key elements of the world industrial supply chain, like rare earths. According to our government, they engage in pervasive industrial espionage. They have threatened American companies like Apple, Google and Walmart. In short, they know how to play the game.

All of the oil that passes through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline has to be sold in the United States. Why not the same rule for the Keystone XL Pipeline? But instead, we allow a tax-free zone, to facilitate Chinese energy independence at the expense of our own. Why does Uncle Sam have to be Uncle Sucker?

There are plenty of reasons to be against the Keystone XL pipeline. Environmentalists recognize it as the ultimate “bonfire of the vanities” – planet-wide carbon bonfires. The pipeline passes through an active earthquake zone. One bad spill could permanently poison the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water to millions of people, and 30% of our irrigation.

Here is another reason, perhaps the best reason of all: It doesn’t do us any good. China, yes. The Koch Brothers (who own the refining capacity that would be used), yes. Us, no.

When are we finally going to have a government with the courage to ask that simple question: Does it do us any good? Cui bono?

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson

Mar 05 2014

Kappa Beta Phi

Transcript