Daily Archive: 03/24/2015

Mar 24 2015

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

Leaders in Congress, particularly John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi are preparing another bipartisan fiasco in order to reward a particularly powerful constituency and stop them from engaging in their annual screamfest.

Every year, due to the structure of Medicare created by previous legislation, doctors and healthcare providers face an adjustment of their pay from the government for services to Medicare recipients. There is a provision in the current Medicare law that creates a “Sustainable Growth Rate” (SGR) for Medicare payments based upon economic growth. Since medical costs have far outpaced economic growth for years, this means that doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers face a cut in their pay for services to Medicare patients every year.

Because doctors and the healthcare industry have incredibly powerful lobbies working for them, Congress hears their screams loud and clear.

This has resulted in congressional action:

On 17 occasions in the last 12 years, Congress has passed legislation to block such cuts without fundamentally changing the payment formula.

The screaming for Congress to fix this has got Congress’ attention:

Removing the threat of future cuts has been a top goal of lobbyists for the American Medical Association and other doctor groups.

David Dayen has a really good article up on Fiscal Times explaining what Bipartisans Pelosi and Boehner have come up with:

There would reportedly be more means-testing for Medicare beneficiaries, increasing premiums for seniors showing income over $133,000 and couples over $266,000. These seniors would have to pay 65 percent of their total costs under the new plan. This would go up at higher incomes. Means-testing historically dips lower and lower as budgeters try to get more out of beneficiaries, so this continues that ratcheting process for Medicare. It’s not necessarily where this line is set now but where it might go in the future that should cause concern.

Under the deal, new Medigap policies – privately sold but publicly managed plans which fill in spaces in Medicare coverage – would need a $250 deductible starting in 2020. Virtually every senior I’ve ever spoken with says that they need supplementary coverage because Medicare doesn’t stretch far enough. But this would raise out-of-pocket expenses on all 9 million seniors with a Medigap plan, including the 86 percent of these beneficiaries who have incomes under $40,000, and almost half with incomes below $20,000. So this cut hits those who can’t really afford it. (This idea, along with the means-testing, was in President Obama’s budget, incidentally.)

See who gets to pay the bill for this?

The proper term for this is cost-shifting, pushing funding for a public program onto those who get the benefits. Medigap was created to deal with cost-shifting in Medicare, and now Congress may look to shift costs within it as well. And like means-testing, cost-shifting is prime terrain for double-dipping over time.

And look at who doesn’t have to take a haircut:

All of this is being done to protect doctor salaries, which are among the highest in the industrialized world.

Dayen links to this article in the New England Journal of Medicine that shows the majority of healthcare spending goes to salaries:

Of the $2.6 trillion spent in 2010 on health care in the United States, 56% consisted of wages for health care workers. Labor is by far the largest category of expense: health care, as it is designed and delivered today, is very labor-intensive. The 16.4 million U.S. health care employees represented 11.8% of the total employed labor force in 2010. Yet unlike virtually all other sectors of the U.S. economy, health care has experienced no gains over the past 20 years in labor productivity, defined as output per worker (in health care, the “output” is the volume of activity – including all encounters, tests, treatments, and surgeries – per unit of cost). Although it is possible that some gains in quality have been achieved that are not reflected in productivity gains, it’s striking that health care is not experiencing anything near the gains achieved in other sectors. At the same time, health care labor is becoming more expensive more quickly than other types of labor. Even through the recession, when wages fell in other sectors, health care wages grew at a compounded annual rate of 3.4% from 2005 to 2010.

Those doctors must have a really effective union representing them!

Dayen also points out one other less obvious way that the bipartisans will be robbing patients to reward the screaming healthcare industry:

Doctor payment rates are tied to Medicare premiums, as the Congressional Budget Office has explained: “Beneficiaries enrolled in Part B of Medicare pay premiums that offset about 25 percent of the costs of those benefits.” This means that any permanent change to a new doctor payment formula will likely result in a hike to Part B premiums.

Those folks that aren’t represented by powerful lobbies apparently have a couple of days to scream at their “representatives” to stop this monstrosity that will likely cause people with lesser incomes to forego needed medical care. The bipartisans are feeling good about their prospects for getting the doctors off their backs and sticking us with the bill:

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Tuesday that prospects were good for passage of a permanent fix to Medicare’s flawed doctor-pay formula that would spare physicians from impending steep pay cuts. …

Earlier on Tuesday, Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that bipartisan legislation had been introduced to change the way doctors are reimbursed for Medicare costs. A vote is expected on Thursday.

Thursday. Hey, that’s not too far away!

Better call your congressperson and share the Secret Word with them. The secret word is “Medicare.”

You know what to do when somebody (even you) says the secret word – scream real loud!

Mar 24 2015

Who says I don’t report good news?

US to stop collecting bulk phone data if Congress lets law expire

Reuters

Monday 23 March 2015 18.26 GMT

Congress’s efforts to extend the law so far have proved fruitless, and congressional aides said that little work on the issue was being done on Capitol Hill.

There are deeply divergent views among the Republicans who control Congress. Some object to bulk data collection as violating individual freedoms, while others consider it a vital tool for preventing terrorist attacks against America.

Ned Price, a national security council spokesman, told Reuters the administration had decided to stop bulk collection of domestic telephone call metadata unless Congress explicitly reauthorises it.

Some legal experts have suggested that even if Congress does not extend the law, the administration might be able to convince the secretive foreign intelligence surveillance court to authorise collection under other legal authorities.

But Price made clear the administration now has no intention of doing so and that the future of metadata collection after 1 June was up to Congress.

Price said the administration was encouraging Congress to enact legislation in the coming weeks that would allow the collection to continue.

But Price said: “If Section 215 [of the law which covers the collection] sunsets, we will not continue the bulk telephony metadata program.”

“Allowing Section 215 to sunset would result in the loss, going forward, of a critical national security tool that is used in a variety of additional contexts that do not involve the collection of bulk data,” he said.

Last year the administration proposed that if collection does continue, the data should be stored by telephone companies rather than NSA itself, but that approach was rejected by the phone companies.

US officials have said metadata collection had helped important counter-terrorism investigations.

However, a review panel appointed by Obama to examine the effectiveness of surveillance techniques Snowden revealed found that not a single counter-terrorism breakthrough could be attributed to the practice.

Thank goodness for a dysfunctional Congress!

Mar 24 2015

Oh yeah, this worked.

Yemen in Crisis: U.S. Closes Key Drone Base & Withdraws Forces as U.N. Warns of Civil War

Democracy Now

Out of Yemen, U.S. Is Hobbled in Terror Fight

By ERIC SCHMITT, The New York Times

MARCH 22, 2015

The evacuation of 125 United States Special Operations advisers from Yemen in the past two days is the latest blow to the Obama administration’s counterterrorism campaign, which is already struggling with significant setbacks in Syria, Libya and elsewhere in the volatile region, American officials said Sunday.

The loss of Yemen as a base for American counterterrorism training, advising and intelligence-gathering carries major implications not just there, but throughout a region that officials say poses the most grievous threat to United States global interests and to the country itself.



Even after the withdrawal of American troops, the Central Intelligence Agency will still maintain some covert Yemeni agents in the country. Armed drones will carry out some airstrikes from bases in nearby Saudi Arabia or Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, as was done most recently on Feb. 20. Spy satellites will still lurk overhead and eavesdropping planes will try to suck up electronic communications.



About 2,000 of the approximately 10,000 troops that the United States is likely to carry over into 2016 – more than originally planned – are assigned to counterterrorism missions, mainly along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The C.I.A. relies on the American troops to provide security for its covert counterterrorism operations, including drone strikes in Pakistan.



The Islamic State began attracting pledges of allegiance from groups and individual fighters after it declared the formation of a caliphate, or religious state, in June 2014. Counterterrorism analysts say it is using Al Qaeda’s franchise structure to expand its geographic reach, but without Al Qaeda’s rigorous, multiyear application process. This could allow its franchises to grow faster, easier and farther.

It is a trend that American counterterrorism officials say they are struggling to understand and defeat. Indeed, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, voiced deep concerns this month over “the emergence of a terrorist threat that is increasingly decentralized, difficult to track and even more difficult to thwart.”

With the Islamic State and its supporters producing as many as 90,000 Twitter posts and other social media responses every day, American officials also acknowledge the difficulty of blunting the group’s digital momentum in the same way a United States-led air campaign has slowed its advances on the battlefield in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, in Syria.

“We have an effective counternarrative, but the volume, the sheer volume, we are losing the battle today,” Michael B. Steinbach, the F.B.I.’s top counterterrorism official, told a House panel last month. “The amount of use of social media and other Internet-based activities eclipses our effort.”

What?  You mean a group of people who live there has become revolutionary and is kicking the ass of the best military in the world and its paid mercenaries?

Hmm…

Mar 24 2015

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

Chris HedgesL Journalism as Subversion

The assault of global capitalism is not only an economic and political assault. It is a cultural and historical assault. Global capitalism seeks to erase our stories and our histories. Its systems of mass communication, which peddle a fake intimacy with manufactured celebrities and a false sense of belonging within a mercenary consumer culture, shut out our voices, hopes and dreams. Salacious gossip about the elites and entertainers, lurid tales of violence and inane trivia replace in national discourse the actual and the real. The goal is a vast historical amnesia. [..]

As the mass media, now uniformly in the hands of large corporations, turn news into the ridiculous chronicling of pseudo-events and pseudo-controversy we become ever more invisible as individuals. Any reporting of the truth-the truth about what the powerful are doing to us and how we are struggling to endure and retain our dignity and self-respect-would fracture and divide a global population that must be molded into compliant consumers and obedient corporate subjects. This has made journalism, real journalism, subversive. And it has made P. Sainath-who has spent more than two decades making his way from rural Indian village to rural Indian village to make sure the voices of the country’s poor are heard, recorded and honored-one of the most subversive journalists on the subcontinent. He doggedly documented the some 300,000 suicides of desperate Indian farmers-happening for the last 19 years at the rate of one every half hour-in his book “Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories From India’s Poorest Districts.” And in December, after leaving The Hindu newspaper, where he was the rural affairs editor, he created the People’s Archive of Rural India. He works for no pay. He relies on a small army of volunteers. He says his archive deals with “the everyday lives of everyday people.” And, because it is a platform for mixed media, encompassing print, still photographs, audio and film, as well as an online research library, it is a model for those who seek to tell the stories that global capitalism attempts to blot out.

Katrina vnaden Heuvel: Adolescents Do Not Belong in the Adult Legal System

Currently, only New York and North Carolina automatically treat 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults in the criminal-justice system. This means that New York is one of just two states in the country that has failed to recognize what research and science have confirmed-namely, that adolescents are children, and that placing them in the adult criminal-justice system doesn’t work for them and doesn’t work for public safety. Not only is it immediately cruel to incarcerate children along with hardened adult offenders, it also destroys their future prospects: children who go through the adult system are more likely to reoffend and less likely to go on to a productive life.

Acknowledging New York’s exacerbation of the problem, Governor Cuomo included in his 2015-16 Executive Budget juvenile justice reform recommendations from his Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice. In a comprehensive plan that would reform New York’s system, Governor Cuomo outlined reforms that will ensure that the state’s legal process provide children with age-appropriate consequences and treatment and thereby improve outcomes for youth, communities and the criminal-justice system as a whole. He must get this proposal passed in the budget this week. There is no time to waste.

Gary Younge: Who’s Accountable for Ferguson’s Crimes? No One, It Seems

Here’s another reminder that “personal responsibility” is a principle relevant only to the poor and the black.

In the wake of the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly had some advice for black America: “Don’t abandon your children. Don’t get pregnant at 14. Don’t allow your neighborhoods to deteriorate into free-fire zones. That’s what the African-American community should have on their T-shirts.” (That’s either a very big garment or very small lettering.)

Whenever black kids get shot, black parents get lectured about personal responsibility. If you raised your kids better, goes the conservative logic, we wouldn’t have to shoot them. Arguments about systemic discrimination and racist legacies are derided as liberal excuses for bad behavior. Neither history nor economics nor politics made Mike Brown grab Darren Wilson’s gun-that was his choice. Individuals, we are told, are responsible for their own actions and must be held accountable for them.

The vehemence with which this principle is held is eclipsed only by the speed with which it is abandoned when it becomes inconvenient. Discussions about choices and accountability change tenor when we shift from talking about the black and the poor to the powerful and well-connected.

Paul Buccheit: How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives

The Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 of 35 cases the federal government spent more on private contractors than on public employees for the same services. The authors of the report summarized, “Our findings were shocking.”

Yet our elected leaders persist in their belief that free-market capitalism works best. Here are a few fact-based examples that say otherwise. Broadcast Journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1955: Who owns the patent on this vaccine?

Polio Researcher Jonas Salk: Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?

We don’t hear much of that anymore. The public-minded sentiment of the 1950s, with the sense of wartime cooperation still in the minds of researchers and innovators, has yielded to the neoliberal winner-take-all business model. [..]

Privatization places profits over people. Average Americans are the products, and few of us see any profits.

Juan Cole: All the Wars and Coups of President Ted Cruz

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, one of three Cuban-Americans in the Senate, is throwing his hat into the ring for the 2016 presidential race today. Cruz has made a career out of slamming President Obama for being weak and presiding over the collapse of countries like Yemen (as though Cruz could have done anything about that if he had been president. I figure if you total them all up, Cruz has called for six or seven strong US interventions abroad, whether in the form of invasions, air strikes, or covert coups d’etat. It is hard to tell exactly, since he doesn’t typically demonstrate any detailed knowledge of the situation and just wants to take a “strong posture” rather than detailing any practical steps. [..]

In a way the most dangerous Ted Cruz war of all is on the earth’s environment, since he favors increasing the carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere by humans burning fossil fuels and is a global warming denialist. Given that humanity has only a couple of decades to make the changes necessary to keep warming in the 3.5 degrees F. range (already pretty bad), a Cruz presidency would probably be enough in and of itself to drive us to a five degree increase.

Robert Fisk: Stephen Harper Should Arrest Himself

And while he’s at it, he can lock up all the other Western leaders who have savaged the Muslim world too

Is Stephen Harper off his rocker? Forget his trip to Jerusalem last year when the Canadian prime minister said that criticism of Israel was a “mask” for anti-Semitism. Ignore his utter failure to bring home to Canada al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, whose retrial was staged by the Egyptian government to give him the chance to leave for his country of adoption. Cast aside Harper’s Blair-like contention that the Islamist murders of Canadian soldiers had nothing – absolutely zilch – to do with his decision to send Canada’s F-18 jets against Isis.

Now Harper, the man with the choir-boy good looks whose pro-Israeli policies might win him a seat in the Knesset, is about to push a truly eccentric piece of legislation through parliament in Ottawa. It’s called – and I urge readers to repeat the words lest they think it’s already April Fool’s Day – the “Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”. Yup, when I first read the phrase “Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”, I felt sure it was a joke, a line from the “Big Bang Theory” or a Channel 4 mockudrama about Nigel Farage’s first premiership.

Nope. It’s all real. But let me quickly explain that the “Barbaric Cultural Practices” in question are polygamy, “gender-based” family violence, “honour-killing” and forcing children under 16 to leave Canada for marriages abroad. I’ve no problem with legislation against this, of course. Nor have most Canadians.

Mar 24 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 3.24.15

I have 4 things for your perusal this morning.

First, on the FISA Court:

To Protect Our Privacy, Make the FISA Court Act Like a Real Court

The expiration of key surveillance authorities this spring will force Congress to grapple with the sprawling spying activities exposed by Edward Snowden. Defenders of the status quo sound a familiar refrain: The National Security Agency’s programs are lawful and already subject to robust oversight. After all, they have been blessed not just by Congress but by the judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court.

When it comes to the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, however, the FISA court is not acting like a court at all. Originally created to provide a check on the executive branch, the court today behaves more like an adjunct to the intelligence establishment, giving its blanket blessing to mammoth covert programs. The court’s changed role undermines its constitutional underpinnings and raises questions about its ability to exercise meaningful oversight.

Jump!

Mar 24 2015

On This Day In History March 24

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 24 is the 83rd day of the year (84th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 282 days remaining until the end of the year.

March 24th is the 365th and last day of the year in many European implementations of the Julian calendar.

On this day in 1989, Exxon Valdez runs aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

The worst oil spill in U.S. territory begins when the supertanker Exxon Valdez, owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, runs aground on a reef in Prince William Sound in southern Alaska. An estimated 11 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the water. Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and currents spread the oil more than 100 miles from its source, eventually polluting more than 700 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds and animals were adversely affected by the environmental disaster.

It was later revealed that Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the Valdez, was drinking at the time of the accident and allowed an uncertified officer to steer the massive vessel. In March 1990, Hazelwood was convicted of misdemeanor negligence, fined $50,000, and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. In July 1992, an Alaska court overturned Hazelwood’s conviction, citing a federal statute that grants freedom from prosecution to those who report an oil spill.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, when the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California, struck Prince William Sound‘s Bligh Reef and spilled 260,000 to 750,000 barrels (41,000 to 119,000 m3) of crude oil. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters. As significant as the Valdez spill was-the largest ever in U.S. waters until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill-it ranks well down on the list of the world’s largest oil spills in terms of volume released. However, Prince William Sound’s remote location, accessible only by helicopter, plane and boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing plans for response. The region is a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds. The oil, originally extracted at the Prudhoe Bay oil field, eventually covered 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, and 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of ocean. Then Exxon CEO, Lawrence G. Rawl, shaped the company’s response.

Timeline of events

Exxon Valdez left the Valdez oil terminal in Alaska at 9:12 pm on March 23, 1989, bound for Long Beach, California. The ship was under the control of Shipmaster Joseph Jeffrey Hazelwood. The outbound shipping lane was obstructed with small icebergs (possibly from the nearby Columbia Glacier), so Hazelwood got permission from the Coast Guard to go out through the inbound lane. Following the maneuver and sometime after 11 p.m., Hazelwood left Third Mate Gregory Cousins in charge of the wheel house and Able Seaman Robert Kagan at the helm. Neither man had been given his mandatory six hours off duty before beginning his 12-hour watch. The ship was on autopilot, using the navigation system installed by the company that constructed the ship. The ship struck Bligh Reef at around 12:04 a.m. March 24, 1989.

Beginning three days after the vessel grounded, a storm pushed large quantities of fresh oil on to the rocky shores of many of the beaches in the Knight Island chain. In this photograph, pooled oil is shown stranded in the rocks.

According to official reports, the ship was carrying approximately 55 million US gallons (210,000 m3) of oil, of which about 11 to 32 million US gallons (42,000 to 120,000 m3) were spilled into the Prince William Sound. A figure of 11 million US gallons (42,000 m3) was a commonly accepted estimate of the spill’s volume and has been used by the State of Alaska’s Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Some groups, such as Defenders of Wildlife, dispute the official estimates, maintaining that the volume of the spill has been underreported. Alternative calculations, based on an assumption that the sea water rather than oil was drained from the damaged tanks, estimate the total to have been 25 to 32 million US gallons (95,000 to 120,000 m3).

Identified causes

Multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the incident:

   * Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for Exxon Valdez. The NTSB found this was wide spread throughout industry, prompting a safety recommendation to Exxon and to the industry.

   * The third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue or excessive workload.

   * Exxon Shipping Company failed to properly maintain the Raytheon Collision Avoidance System (RAYCAS) radar, which, if functional, would have indicated to the third mate an impending collision with the Bligh reef by detecting the “radar reflector”, placed on the next rock inland from Bligh Reef for the purpose of keeping boats on course via radar.

In light of the above and other findings, investigative reporter Greg Palast stated in 2008 “Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate never would have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his RAYCAS radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker’s radar was left broken and disabled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was (in Exxon’s view) just too expensive to fix and operate.” Exxon blamed Captain Hazelwood for the grounding of the tanker.

Economic and personal impact

In 1991, following the collapse of the local marine population (particularly clams, herring, and seals) the Chugach Alaska Corporation, an Alaska Native Corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It has since recovered.

According to several studies funded by the state of Alaska, the spill had both short-term and long-term economic effects. These included the loss of recreational sports, fisheries, reduced tourism, and an estimate of what economists call “existence value”, which is the value to the public of a pristine Prince William Sound.

The economy of the city of Cordova, Alaska was adversely affected after the spill damaged stocks of salmon and herring in the area. Several residents, including one former mayor, committed suicide after the spill.

Mar 24 2015

The Daily/Nightly Show (Starbucks)

Batman was always Black

Like my coffee.

Tity Boi, Rosie Perez, Kenneth Cole, and Phoebe Robinson are our panel tonight.

Continuity

Chess News Roundup!

This Week’s Guests-

Have you ever read Rational Wiki? you might give it a try.  Here’s some of what it says about Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that…there comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

-Ayaan Hirsi Ali, replacing the word “Communism” with “Islam” in Joseph McCarthy speeches

Whet your whistle (TMC told me never to do that, she has an ex who whistled and besides it hurts her ears)?  There’s more-

She is married to wingnut historian Niall Ferguson, with whom she has one son, Thomas.

Ali is a rabid critic of Islam and multiculturalism, going so far as to advocate amending Western constitutions to make it possible to shut down all Muslim schools because “the jihadi genie is out of the bottle”. Her books, columns and talk-show appearances helped pave the way for the rise of Dutch populist wackaloon Geert Wilders.



Ali was elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003, but had to resign in 2006 because she had given some false information to obtain citizenship. She then moved to the United States and now works for the American Enterprise Institute, a neoconservative think tank.

Ali has authored several books: Infidel, her autobiography; The Caged Virgin, a set of essays on the role of women in Islam; and Nomad, the story of her life after leaving Somalia. In the Netherlands, her main impact came from her criticism of the country’s diversity policies, and her openly hostile attitude to Islam. The fact that she was a refugee, a woman, an African, and an ex-Muslim atheist lent political credibility to her views. She worked with other Dutch critics of multiculturalism, such as Paul Scheffer and Paul Cliteur, and was to some extent their spokesperson. She advocated a rigorous policy of ‘integration’ (cultural assimilation) for immigrants, insisting that they must abandon their identity, or actually not their identity, but rather those traditions being practiced by Muslim immigrants that ran contrary to the beliefs and practices of the established community.



Ali is perhaps unique in that unlike many wingnuts she splits her time fairly evenly between having genuine critiques of Islam and being a raving Islamophobe. She is probably one of the best examples of “Your mileage may vary” when it comes to her writings on the subject.

To be fair she was subjected to female genital mutilation under the influence of her traditionalist Grandmother and received a death threat pinned with a bloody knife to the chest of the assassinated Theo van Gogh.

While a famous critic of religious and societal norms, van Gogh wasn’t really the most eloquent writer in the business. He was well known for consistantly calling Muslims ‘goatfuckers’, dubbed Jesus the ‘rotten fish of Nazareth’ and apparently found the Holocaust hilarious, joking about ‘copulating yellow stars in the gas chamber’ and ‘the smell of caramel because they’re burning diabetic Jews’. While these are of course extreme examples, Theo van Gogh often expressed himself in this confrontational style and there is still much discussion over whether he should be seen as a ‘martyr’ for free speech or someone who willingly made those statements to piss people off.

I wonder what she will talk about?

The real news below.