Archive for January 5th, 2010

Have a spare $15,000?

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

… because if you do (and remember, serious inquiries only), you can snatch this gold mine right out from under World Net Daily’s nose:

Hello there…

I am an internet marketing consultant that is the owner of the domain name. is going to come out with a book of the same name and is offering to purchase my domain name.

I will gladly sell it to you, if you can pay more than

This would be a great opportunity to control the message for this domain, refuting anti-obama claims as well as the book with the same name.

Any serious inquiries, need to be sent to:

If you are interested, or know someone who is please let them know that I need to be contacted ASAP.

Asking price is $15,000.

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MI-Gov: Pete Hoekstra misses his 3:00 a.m. call

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

Now this is embarrassing:

Someone other than Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra appears to have purchased the URL and the results aren’t exactly promising for the Michigan Republican.

Hoekstra, who stakes a large chunk of his political reputation on a hawkish and elevated understanding of foreign policy and national security matters, is pilloried at the eponymous website over his handling of these very topics. In particular, the site’s authors lash out at the lawmaker for fundraising off the bungled airline bombing that took place on Christmas Day. They also take glee in reminding Hoekstra that he failed to register the website they now run.

This barely a week after Hoekstra’s blatant attempt to cash in on terrorism? The joker can’t even protect his own name and he expects the people of Michigan to trust him to protect them from radical jihadists?

Update: Having given this a little more thought, I realize that perhaps it’s not fair to judge Hoekstra so harshly. After all, what do we really know about the man? I would urge everyone to visit his website and learn all about this self-described “leader on National Security and at the forefront of the war on terror.”

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Late Afternoon/Early Evening Open Thread

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

What you missed on Sunday Kos ….

  • The recent health care debate has led the traditional media to fixate on the meme of “Democrats Divided”. Steve Singiser thinks that the divide on the other side of the partisan coin is deeper, and may well have bigger implications for the 2010 elections.
  • DemFromCT looks back at health, health reform, and public health stories for the year. What did we see coming in 2008? What didn’t we? And what can we see for 2010?
  • We may never know what to call them, but that doesn’t mean we should forget them — no matter how great the temptation.  Devilstower says Remember the Naughts.
  • With 2009 now in the rearview mirror, Steve Singiser reviewed the year in voter sentiment, using our own Daily Kos State of the Nation Tracking Poll.
  • David Waldman looked at the Senate’s end-of-session executive calendar maneuvering.

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Corporate Health Insurance Fraud

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

While the House is almost certain to capitulate to the Senate in the non-conference conference by abandoning the public option, there are some damned good reasons for Pelosi to put up a fight for it.

In a report documenting these alleged abuse . . . researchers from George Washington University claim that the “most serious health care fraud is not the result of small schemes, but instead flows from large-scale misconduct by major industry actors.” Earlier this month, for instance, the American Medical Association was awarded a “50 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group, having accused the company of using a database that was intentionally rigged to allow insurers to shortchange out-of-network reimbursements to doctors—which would also force patients to pay more in out-of-pocket expenses. The AMA lawsuit was closely linked to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s yearlong investigation into UnitedHealth, which paid out $50 million in January to settle allegations that it manipulated its Ingenix database….

But while public programs like Medicare and Medicaid are subject to strict reporting requirements—making it easier to detect abuses—private companies aren’t subject to the same oversight. And though the current reform bill imposes new regulations on private insurers, as well as anti-fraud prevention and enforcement measures across the system, private industry still won’t be required to disclose the same data designed to keep public programs honest. (The public insurance option in the House bill is subject to the same anti-fraud and abuse protections as Medicare, but the legislation doesn’t apply these requirements to the private plans inside or outside of the exchange.)

According to GWU Professor Sara Rosenbaum, one of the co-authors of the report, the government would ideally adopt a “uniform approach” toward measuring and combating fraud, imposing the same disclosure requirements on both public and private entities. “It’s the same health-benefits companies that are selling to different markets…whether it’s an employer-sponsored or government-sponsored,” Rosenbaum told TNR. In the absence of such uniform requirements, it’s easy for fraud and abuses within programs like Medicare to capture the most attention, as there’s a disproportionate amount of data that public programs must make available.

So while some industry defenders claim that private companies don’t experience “anywhere near the volume of fraud or waste” as Medicare, such abuses may not be unique to the public sector. Under the current reform bill, corporate actors also stand to expand their reach in an increasingly complex system as millions more people are covered. And their recent track record suggests that greater oversight may be in order.

That oversight would be made significantly easier if the conferees also adopted the House’s national exchange rather than the complicated, bifurcated Senate state-based exchanges, and if they came up with a more effective regulartory scheme than relying upon state insurance commissioners. Mississippi or Idaho isn’t going to have the same resources, or perhaps the political will, to fight UnitedHealth Group as New York has.

The insurance industry and its Congressional lackeys would never agree to having the same disclosure requirements that are imposed on public programs. It’s why they worked so hard to kill the public option–that would have been the most effective check, in the form of competition, on these practices. Cleaning up industry abuses is going to be a long-term project, yet another reason why the likely product of the “conference” won’t actually be reform, just the start of it.

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Congress looks to avoid conference on health insurance reform

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

It’s not news anymore, but it’s worth noting. Word is that the Congress will be looking to avoid a formal House-Senate conference committee on the health insurance reform bill. Discussion is already well underway in this diary by mark louis.

But like I said, it’s not exactly news. Or maybe it’s just another case of how reading Daily Kos (or Congress Matters, of course) is like getting the newspaper a week early. Because we talked about how likely this was on December 23rd, and then again two days later.

That’s not stopping TNR from reporting it like news, right down to the somewhat questionable use of the “EXCLUSIVE” label. Though I suppose it’s only fair to say that while I was describing it as one of the most likely of several scenarios, TNR now has it “exclusively” that some anonymous Hill aides say it’s a little more likely now than it was about two weeks ago when I said it was pretty likely.

And if anonymous quotes aren’t your thing, you could always go with David Dayen at FDL, who has Henry Waxman on the record about it:

Discussions are beginning early on the health care bill, although the House is not returning to session until January 12, and the Senate not until a week later. This will not be a traditional conference committee, Waxman said, because the motions to select and instruct conferees in the Senate “would need 60 votes all over again.” Instead, whatever agreements made could be packaged in an amendment to the bills passed by the House and Senate.

Why would you need 60 votes all over again? Check back with the stories from the 23rd and 25th, linked above, if you didn’t before.

Won’t the Senate need 60 votes again anyway, no matter what they do? Sure. But only once, if they opt to take care of business this way, as opposed to up to four more times if they go the conference route.

Does this mean the House is being frozen out of negotiations? Or that Progressives are? Or that something undemocratic is happening? Or non-transparent? Or that everyone who thought the bill could be “fixed in conference” was wrong?

No, not really. At least, no more so than they would have been with a formal conference. And that’s because there’s nothing magical about a formal conference. They’re not open forums where all cards must be laid on the table with the television cameras rolling. They’re just an “accountability pit stop” along the way to finishing a bill — a moment taken along the path to validate deals almost always hatched in private, anyway.

So again, as with most things involving the Congress (or any complex dealings of any kind between two or more people), the answer to all the above questions is, “Well, yes and no.”

Yes, the House will be negotiating (once again) from a position of profound weakness relative to the Senate, where cloture rules continue to allow hostage taking. But no, the House will not be shut out of the process, and its representatives in the negotiations will be responsible for striking a deal they believe can get 218 votes from their colleagues.

Yes, Progressives will likely be in an even weaker position than the House at large, because their colleagues know that few if any of them are likely to dig their heels in to put a stop to any provisions they might otherwise reject on principle. But no, they won’t be prohibited from trying to convince people they’re really, totally serious this time. Just a bit… hamstrung.

Yes, something “undemocratic” is happening — in that there won’t be the intermediate “accountability moment” where members of the conference committee go on record with their approval or disapproval of the conference report. But no, it’s not really “undemocratic” in that both the House and Senate will in fact vote openly and on the record about the product of the informal compromise, just as they would with a conference report.

Yes, something “non-transparent” is happening — in that the negotiations will not be open (much less televised, as was once promised). But no, it’s not really likely to be any less transparent than even a televised conference would have been, since it’s virtually certain that no one would have wanted to go before the cameras without knowing a deal was already in place.

And finally, yes, there will likely be no conference where whatever flaws people thought might be “fixed” there can indeed be “fixed.” But no, there probably wasn’t much chance of “fixing” any of the things that raised major objections from the grassroots in the first place. And then again, if any “fixes” are possible, nothing about the lack of a formal conference precludes such “fixes” from being adopted. The same procedural hurdles exist that existed before, and this agreement has to clear the 60-vote barrier just as surely as any conference report would.

So that’s that. Neither the House nor the Senate are back in session yet. The House returns on January 12th and the Senate on the 18th. But since the negotiations are informal, that won’t stop the key players from trying to hammer out deals beforehand — a process which probably began well before today’s news, and possibly even before we talked about it last month.

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Buy More, Get Less, Die Sooner?

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

Via Nate, here are two pretty striking representations of the same data on the costs of healthcare, versus one measure of effectiveness of a system–life expectancy.

Spending/Life Expectancy

Scatter graph

The first one, originally from National Geographic’s NGM Blog Central demonstrates perhaps even more graphically how much of an outlier the U.S. is when it comes to spending per person on health care. The width of each of the lines, representing various countries, shows utilization of care, in terms of average doctor visits per year. That same statistic is represented by the size of the bubble for each country.

So we spend more, use less, and have worse outcomes. The low life expectancy in the U.S. is also a factor of the huge number of uninsured we have in this country, accounting for as many as 45,000 deaths annually. What these graphs ultimately show is that the existing system is severely out of whack, and the dollars being poured in are largely misdirected.

Gearing a “reformed” system toward reinforcing low utilization, as the Senate bill does with its high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, might not be the silver bullet to reducing costs in the overall system after all.

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The Face of a Teabagger

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

Here’s one teabagger who came up for air long enough to have his picture taken at a tea party last year:


But that’s not just your typical, nameless, racist teabagger, that’s the face of Dale Robertson, the head of, and the man who is devoted to “developing strategy to bring the Republic back under the control of ‘We The People.’”

We the people presumably being white — and probably male.

And this is the perfect place to note Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) most recent pander to the teabaggers:

Well, it’s embrace the tea party movement with full arms and hold as many open forums as they possibly can to bring people in and listen to them because the leadership right now is truly coming from the tea party movement  … there’s no question that the heartbeat of the tea party movement would be more in line with the mission state of the Republican party certainly than that of the Democrat party. So if the Republican Party is wise, they will allow themselves to be re-defined by the tea party movement. And I hope that that will be the case.

Some might suggest that ship has already sailed.

For more discussion, see Steaming Pile’s diary.

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Midday Open Thread

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments
  • It begins today:

    The Census Bureau kicks off its $300 million campaign Monday to prod, coax and cajole the nation’s more than 300 million residents to fill out their once-a-decade census forms.

  • Now they’re calling them book tours?

    Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will make two stops in Iowa in March as part of his nationwide book tour, following visits by fellow 2012 GOP hopefuls Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty.

  • Was Senator John Kerry (D-MA) refused entry into Iran by the Iranian government?
  • Look for Rush Limbaugh to put a positive spin on this:

    About one in 50 Americans now lives in a household with a reported income that consists of nothing but a food-stamp card.

  • Good news for Jimmy Carter — Republicans seem to hate President Obama even more than they hated Carter.
  • She may or may not be the first, but she’s the first I’ve heard of, so let’s file this under, it’s about damn time:

    President Obama recently named Amanda Simpson to be a Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department.

    In a statement, Simpson … said that “as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others.”

    While Simpson is clearly one of the first transgender presidential appointees, Democratic officials say they’re unsure if she is the very first one.

  • Good catch by Matthew Yglesias, commenting on a New York Times article about the President’s counterterrorism policies:
    A half-dozen former senior Bush officials involved in counterterrorism told me before the Christmas Day incident that for the most part, they were comfortable with Obama’s policies, although they were reluctant to say so on the record. Some worried they would draw the ire of Cheney’s circle if they did, while others calculated that calling attention to the similarities to Bush would only make it harder for Obama to stay the course. And they generally resent Obama’s anti-Bush rhetoric and are unwilling to give him political cover by defending him.

    It’s really staggering what this says about the ethical caliber of the people we’re talking about. These are the toughest issues out there. Obama is, they think, doing the right thing. But some of them don’t want to say he’s doing the right thing because that might make Dick Cheney mad and they’re timid, gutless careerists? And others don’t want to say he’s doing the right thing because their feelings are hurt that a Democrat said bad things about his grossly unpopular Republican predecessor? For this they’re going to undermine support for policies that they themselves believe are keeping the country safe?

  • Apparently Parker Griffith’s (R-AL) staff doesn’t like turncoats.
  • A tsunami has hit the Solomon Islands, “laying waste to at least one village.” As of yet there are no reports of casualties, although that may be because there’s no one there to make the report.
  • An investigation has begun into the security lapse at a New Jersey airport that made life miserable for the thousands of other travelers trying to get home on the last day of the holiday weekend.

In the Fear on Terror, Strip Searching Not Enough

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

The Transportation Security has modified its stepped-up security measures in the wake of the failed crotch bombing attempt. Now, instead of everyone, only travelers from or passing through 10 “countries of interest” (Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen), and four nations “known to be sponsors of terrorism” (Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria) will be given extra scrutiny at airport security checkpoints, including enhanced pat-down searches.

Naturally, this isn’t enough for right-wingers. For instance, on Sunday, Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney told Julie Banderas:

McInerney: Because I believe that in the next 90 to 120 days, there is danger, a very high probability that a U.S. airliner will come down because of one of these bombers. And so, we’ve got to go to more than just the normal process that they’re talking about now, we have got to go to very, very  strict screening, and we have to use profiling. And I mean be very serious and harsh about the profiling. If you are an 18 to 28-year-old Muslim man, then you should be strip searched. And if we don’t do that, there’s a very high probability we’re going to lose an airliner.

Banderas: That’s a bit strong, though. I mean, really. Racial profiling, first of all, is extremely controversial and it would be essentially singling out people because of a religious group, because of an ethical background. That…That’s just not going to go over, not in this country, anyway.

McInerney: Julie, I agree. That’s the problem. But if you lose 300 Americans, and then people are going to say, “why didn’t we do this?” The fact is, if that age group doesn’t like it, then what are they doing to stop this jihad against the West? What is Saudi Arabia, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina … why aren’t they putting out a fatwa that says that his jihad against the West is an unholy war. …

Banderas: God forbid we actually did that, and we actually did profile every Muslim that tries to enter this country within a certain age group, that would just, I would imagine, generate more violence and hatred toward the West. …

What are people in that age group doing, General? You might want to check out just one example, that of Libya, where as Britta Sandberg at Der Spiegel reported 18 months ago and Borzou Darahagi at the Los Angeles Times reported last month, former militants are turning against al Qaeda:

A nation the West once considered a major sponsor of terrorism may have pulled off a groundbreaking coup against Al Qaeda: coaxing a group once strongly allied with Osama bin Laden to renounce its onetime partner as un-Islamic.

Libya’s government is trumpeting its success in persuading leaders and foot soldiers of the extremist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group to reject Al Qaeda’s brand of violence. The decision, recounted by former members of the group and Libyan officials, offers a unique example of reconciliation between a government and a violent Islamic group once devoted to overthrowing it.

“The government learned to sit with people who were opposed to them and have dialogue and understand them,” said Abubakir Armela, a leader of the group who returned from exile in 2005.

The general didn’t explain how he expects to determine which 18 to 28-year-olds are Muslims since people of all races embrace Islam. If you’re a Christian Arab, as are the majority of Arab Americans, or a Hindu Indonesian, or a Sikh or just somebody who officials think looks like a Muslim, up with your hands and down with your pants. If you’re black, and have a funny name, like, say Barack Hussein Obama, off with your Hanes.

Next up, strip searching Muslim and Muslim-looking women of a certain age. Plus body-cavity searches. Because, some Lt. Gen. Wet Underpants will in a month or a year be fear-mongering us with more “high probability” talk.        

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Fact-Checking the Sunday Talk Show Circuit?

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

A couple of wild and crazy ideas for holding politicians and pundits accountable for the crap they peddle on the Sunday talk show circuit:

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen tweeted an idea about improving the Sunday morning talk shows. He says the programs, rather than letting politicians get away with distortions, should offer an online fact check each week of exaggerations and lies. For the guests, says Rosen, the format beckons them to evade, deny, elide, demagogue and confuse, but then they pay for it later if they give into temptation and make that choice. I happen to think that makes a lot of sense toward holding officials accountable.


Naked assertions from politicians are the stuff of these shows. Why can’t some of them be checked in real time? Surely it’s possible to have a small army of fact-checkers at the ready during the broadcasts of these shows. Network news divisions already employ reporters and researchers (all of whom are likely passively watching their network’s program anyway) who can be deployed to assist the overall journalistic enterprise. Moreover, I’m reliably informed that technology now allows for people to send “instant messages” to one another. Why not use it? Why not open up these lines of communication between the backroom and the moderator, and bring the full force of a news gathering organization to bear as the cameras roll live?

Personally, I prefer the second option — call these people out in real time.

But I won’t hold my breath for either option to be implemented. After all, if today’s television “journalists” didn’t allow their guests to spew their garbage on Sunday, what would they have to breathlessly report on for the rest of the week?

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