Saturday, October 31, 2009



Main Entry: in·ex·o·ra·ble
Pronunciation: \(ˌ)i-ˈneks-rə-bəl, -ˈnek-sə-, -ˈneg-zə-rə-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin inexorabilis, from in- + exorabilis pliant, from exorare to prevail upon, from ex- + orare to speak — more at oration
Date: 1542

: not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped : relentless

— in·ex·o·ra·bil·i·ty \(ˌ)i-ˌneks-rə-ˈbi-lə-tē, -ˌnek-sə-, -ˌneg-zə-\ noun

— in·ex·o·ra·ble·ness \-ˈneks-rə-bəl-nəs, -ˈnek-sə-, -ˈneg-zə-\ noun

— in·ex·o·ra·bly \-blē\ adverb

Bing Learn more about "inexorable"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Obama frustrated with companies over flu vaccine

By Ross Colvin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A quarrel between the U.S. government and swine flu vaccine makers reached the highest level on Friday, with President Barack Obama expressing frustration at the slow pace of production.
Federal officials have slashed their initial estimates of how much H1N1 vaccine would be available -- from 40 million doses by the end of October to 26 million doses available as of Friday.
Originally the Health and Human Services Department had predicted 20 million doses would roll out every week, but just 10 million have been produced in the past seven days.
HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said she relied on estimates from the five contracted vaccine makers for the U.S. market -- MedImmune, a unit of AstraZeneca, Sanofi-Aventis, Australia's CSL, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis.
"I think we certainly had hoped that their predictions on this would be correct," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Friday.
"I think it's accurate to say the president has been and is frustrated with ensuring that this vaccine is delivered on time and won't be satisfied until those that want to be vaccinated from H1N1 have the opportunity through the vaccine to do so," Gibbs told reporters in a briefing.
Two senators -- Susan Collins and Joseph Lieberman -- have asked Sebelius to explain why the projections were so far off.
The vaccine makers say it has been harder than anticipated to make the vaccine using the current 50-year-old technology based on chicken eggs. Despite the difficulties, doses have been rolled out in less than six months -- quicker than is usual for seasonal influenza vaccine.
"Not only did we complete our commitment to provide seasonal vaccine ahead of schedule, we are making every effort to make as much H1N1 vaccine available as quickly as possible," Novartis vaccines chief Andrin Oswald said in a statement on Thursday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fuzzy Areas In Financial Reform Bill

Fuzzy Areas In Financial Reform Bill

Joshua Zumbrun, 10.29.09, 06:11 PM EDT

Does the proposal allow bailouts? Can we say who would be Too Big To Fail? And has anyone actually read it yet?

WASHINGTON -- As new financial reform proposals begin to worm their way through Congress, a number of sticking points have emerged. New laws to monitor firms that could pose risks to the whole financial system, create a council of regulators and shut down flailing financial institutions--it all sounds nice on the surface. But you know what they say about the details.

Here's a look at some of the early criticisms of the financial reform bill that emerged in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday. (See "Familiar Flavor To Financial Reform Bill.")

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Does the bill allow bailouts or not?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner insists that the legislation does not give the government the authority to bail out companies. Under the legislation, any high-flying financial institution that gets in trouble would be forced into a new resolution process under which the FDIC would shutter it, as the FDIC currently does with normal banks.

But the bill as written would seem to also allow the government to provide liquidity to solvent institutions. Since these are nebulous concepts, it seems the government could declare that a bank is illiquid but not failing, and lend it money in a fashion quite similar to a bailout.

Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute says, "The draft proposes nothing more or less than a permanent TARP." Phillip Swagel, a professor at Georgetown and a former assistant Treasury secretary under Henry Paulson, said he does not think it is Geithner's intention to do this, but the legislation would allow it.

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Is the proposed resolution process the same as failing?

The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers ( LEHMQ - news - people ) and the catastrophic fallout is cited as Exhibit A for why bankruptcy court is inadequate for dealing with major financial institution failures. The administration argues that the resolution process would create a system where nobody is "Too Big To Fail." No matter how big you are, you will get taken to resolution if you screw up.

CEOs would be likely to lose their jobs, a bit of added incentive for them to not wreck their companies, but what about the firm's bondholders? If bondholders believe that the resolution process is preferable to bankruptcy, then they could enable the same sort of mistakes seen in the past year.

In the event of a failure, the rest of the financial industry would be assessed a fee to cover the costs. The idea is to protect taxpayers. But couldn't this also end up being a punitive assessment, even against financial institutions that had absolutely nothing to do with a particular failure?

Who is "Too Big To Fail"? What firms are even financial institutions?

This question matters for two reasons: First, who gets special oversight and will end up in special resolution; and second, who will have to pay for the resolutions after. The legislation gives the government discretion in determining who is "Too Big To Fail," and even which institutions can be considered financial institutions.

This is a trickier question than it ought to be. After all, the TARP was written to rescue financial institutions, but after intense lobbying from the automotive industry, the Treasury decided the law could be interpreted to bail out General Motors and Chrysler as well. Sheila Bair, the chairman of the FDIC, agreed in questioning that the law probably needed to be clarified, to prevent the scope from getting out of hand.

Can we say who is "Too Big To Fail"?

One provision requires that the government will not keep a public list of firms who have been designated as systemically risky. But under questioning, Geithner said it would not be secret, because the firms would be held to different standards. What is the point of this charade where the designation of "systemically risky" is public, but the government does not keep a public list of the firms? Geithner says it strikes the proper balance between transparency, and not overhyping expectations of Too Big To Fail.

Should the Fed have more power?

In the original version of the legislation, the Federal Reserve would have had sole responsibility for monitoring systemic risks and systemically risky institutions. Monitoring risks is now the job of the proposed council, but the Fed still gains the authority to regulate new institutions. After doing such a crummy job of regulation running up to the financial crisis, a lot of Congress still balks at the idea of giving the Fed more authority.

Can we have time to read the bill?

An irritated Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, complained that the draft legislation (253 pages of it!) was released Tuesday evening. The testimony of witnesses was due 48 hours before the hearing--the experts and regulators who came to testify about the bill had to turn in their testimony before having a chance to read the bill. A poor process for possibly "the most important legislation this committee will ever consider in our lifetimes," says Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.

When asked if they'd had enough time to actually read and consider the legislation they had been called to discuss, all 10 witnesses on the final panel said "no." Several times witnesses responded that they could not answer questions from Congress because they were not sure what all the legislation said.

The legislation still faces, at minimum, markups in House and Senate committees, votes in the committees, votes on the House and Senate floor, then a conference to resolve the differences between House and Senate versions, and another vote. There's plenty of ironing yet to occur. Careful wording may fix some of the problems, but some sticking points are far from resolved.

Google finds voice to respond to FCC

Google finds voice to respond to FCC

It's only 100 numbers, so stop being mean

Free whitepaper – The business value of SIP VoIP and trunking

Google has responded to accusations that it blocks calls to certain numbers by reducing the quantity of blocked numbers to around 100, rather missing the point of network neutrality.

In a letter to Sharon E. Gillett, Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau, Google asserts that blocking calls to certain numbers is necessary as such calls were eating up 26 per cent of Google Voice's US running costs. It continues that Google has now reduced the list to around 100 numbers, which is all very well, but misses the point that a neutral access service should treat all destinations equally - an argument Google endorses vocally when applied to the internet.

Google reckons that it is only blocking calls to "traffic pumping" services, such as adult chat lines and "free" conference-call services. It says that it shouldn't be obliged to connect such calls - as other telecommunications companies are - as it's not a "telecommunications service" at all: its an "information service" instead. That argument is obviously bollocks; Google Voice is a telephony service and should be regulated as such, but Google reckons it has no obligation to connect such calls. It argues:

"We still believe the Commission needs to repair our nation's broken carrier compensation system. The current system simply does not serve consumers well."

It's quite possible that most of the numbers Google is blocking are dodgy services, and that such services interfere with Google's business model of giving away free calls within the USA. However, that doesn't alter the fact that Google is running a telephony service without being subject to telephony regulations, and that gives the competition every right to call foul. ®

Free whitepaper – The business value of SIP VoIP and trunking

NY state deficit up, governor seeks special session

state budget balanced by blind man

NY state deficit up, governor seeks special session

Thu Oct 29, 2009 7:50pm EDT
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By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's two-year deficit has climbed to $10 billion from approximately $8.7 billion and the state cannot pay all the bills that come due in December, Governor David Paterson said on Thursday.

The Democratic governor said in a webcast meeting with top lawmakers that the state must slice an extra $200 million -- in addition to the $5 billion he already has proposed -- and vowed he would not allow the state to miss its December payments.

New York must not take the same road as California, whose rating was cut to one notch above junk at BBB, and Michigan, which has had to shut 90 percent of its libraries, he said.

Much of New York state's economy rests on Wall Street's shoulders and Paterson also lowered his forecast for Wall Street bonuses.

Paterson proposed linking property tax breaks to a spending cap, saying he was wrong to have spurned a cap when he was a senator. If enacted, his plan would return future budget surpluses to home owners who earned as much as $300,000 a year in the richer, downstate area, and up to $200,000 a year upstate, he said in a statement.

A $100 million to $500 million surplus, for example, would give 868,000 home owners an average tax credit of $589; with a $2 billion to $3 billion surplus, 2.1 million home owners would get an average tax credit of $1,405.


Though both the Democratic conference leader in the senate, John Sampson, and the Democratic Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, said they were prepared to act, neither has accepted all of the governor's proposed cuts.

"I would say we're at least a third of the way there, but we've got to make those tough decisions," Paterson said.

He called for a special session on November 10, and wants to address a joint session about the state's financial crisis on November 9.

Both the state Assembly and the Senate have held budget hearings and resisted his earlier requests to return to Albany.

Political analysts said this showed how Paterson's low approval ratings have reduced his influence, though Thursday's meeting had few of the sharp exchanges of previous gatherings.

Sampson said the Senate hearings were not a "delaying tactic" but an effort to involve the public.

Rejecting tax and fee increases, Sampson also objected to Paterson's deep cuts in health care and education, saying they would hurt families today and "future generations."

The Assembly issued its analysis of Paterson's cuts and noted that personal income-tax collections fell $1.8 billion or nearly 22 percent from April to September.

Sales-tax revenues have slipped for four quarters in a row -- "the longest period of decline since the State implemented a statewide sales tax in 1965," said the report, which can be seen at: here

(Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Jan Paschal)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Peter Pandemic

The Peter Pandemic

Peterpan Three days ago, I felt like crap. Sudden onset aches, chills, and nausea with a 100 degree plus fever.

I didn't go home because I did not want to expose my family to Mexican pig flu. I had not been south of the border recently, but plenty of people around here have been, so I figured my exposure was not zero.

I called my doc from the car and headed to the hospital. He called back and persuaded me to go home. Without respiratory symptoms, he wasn't worried about swine flu. I slept in a separate part of the house anyway, just to make sure. And felt better the next day.

A flu scare is not a trivial thing. In sight of my office is one of the largest wards of the disastrous 1918 flu pandemic -- Oakland's Kaiser Convention Center.

But 2009 is not looking like 1918. We do not know what course the H1N1 virus will take but it is hard to build a bad scenario out of the numbers we have seen so far.

An unfortunate toddler hauled to Texas from Mexico is the only US casualty of this wimpy epidemic. Imagine if instead of one death this week, we had seen 1,400 people dead from flu -- 200 a day. The media would be in a panic -- and so, trust me, would everybody with a fever caused by dodgy seafood.

But 1,400 deaths per week from flu is normal during flu season in the United States. Tragic and worth fighting -- but normal. Some 36,000 people die during the six cold months of each year that we call flu season.

How big a threat is H1N1? It looks like an outbreak that refuses to grow up. Last Wednesday, as I recovered, there were about 85 confirmed swine flu cases in the US. On Thursday, there were 109. Today there are 141. Mexico, which last week thought several hundred people had died from swine flu now believes that the number is 15 -- and in many of those cases nobody figured out what the disease was until too late. In general, swine flu has caused very mild symptoms.

Nobody should ever turn their back on a potential pandemic virus. I keep six weeks food and water for my family in my basement, along with an assortment of emergency supplies. We have disaster plans, go bags on our cars, back up phones, and rendezvous plans. I never miss a flu shot and have faithfully issued paranoid warnings about flu risk here, here, and here. I live on an earthquake fault, trained as a paramedic, and frankly bow to nobody in my disaster preparedness. When I came home sick Tuesday, I asked my wife to scrub with alcohol any surfaced I had recently touched.

I may be a barking certifiable disaster crank (sue me, I sleep better), but as disasters go, H1N1 is not looking all that disastrous. Exponential growth of the sort that a truly contagious virus brings would have added a zero to the number of incidents every few days. Keep your fingers crossed, but if the US does not see 1,000 flu cases by this time next week, this thing is a goner. H1N1 will Peter out -- at least from the headlines. Even the CDC decided not to interrupt normal seasonal vaccine production to crank out emergency H1N1 vaccines -- the epidemiological case for doing so is way too weak, even if the political pressure is not.

This turns out to be an odd virus -- so odd, that I wonder if the smart move is not to deliberately become infected. The disease is trivial at this stage -- less lethal than seasonal flu -- but the risk is that it mutates over the summer and comes back lethal in the fall. If exposure to the H1N1 now conferred immunity later in the year, I'd consider the risk carefully. By the way, one reason that H1N1 may not be so lethal is that the virus has been circulating, thanks perhaps to bugs that got out of a germ warfare lab.

Even though health officials are calling this new virus H1N1, that's also the type of virus that's in wide circulation today. And it has an interesting history. It was the dominant flu virus through the 1920s, '30s and '40s. (John Oxford of the Royal London Hospital) says it disappeared in 1957, when it was displaced by another flu virus. But then a strain of H1N1 suddenly reappeared in 1977.

"Now where could it have come from?" he asks. "We reckon now, in retrospect, it was probably released accidentally from a laboratory, probably in northern China or just across the border in Russia, because everyone was experimenting with those viruses at the time in the lab."

It was nothing malicious, Oxford believes, just some flu vaccine research that broke out of containment. The descendants of this virus are still circulating. He notes that most people who have encountered the newly emerged H1N1 virus seem to have developed only mild disease, and he speculates that's because we have all been exposed to a distant cousin, the H1N1 virus that emerged in the 1970s.

"That escaped virus perhaps will provide some benefit now in the face of this pig thing," Oxford says.

If the virus dies off over the summer, many will bow and take credit. Applaud, but don't believe it. The 1917 flu died out and came back lethal a year later. So in spite of a really impressive national (CDC) and global (WHO) response to H1N1, if the virus turns out to be too weak to spread efficiently or fails to mutate to a more viral form, our day will have been saved not by heroic human efforts but by the force of nature that shields more people than vaccines ever will -- dumb luck.

Rosehips - ideal treats for pets

Rosehips - ideal treats for pets

10/9/2009 10:48:35 AM

Foraged rosehips

If you've got pets, now is the time to go and forage some treats for them from the hedgerows or your garden. Rosehips are easy to find and pick (just watch out for the thorns) and are a brilliant source of Vitamin C.

Just spread them out on some newspaper in a dry/warm place until they're good and dried and they should keep fine for months. Our little critters love them - even the dog will eat them!

You can even make rosehip cordial if you're feeling braver. We made some this year and it was easy/very tasty.

Liberal reporter smears Justice Scalia, falsely claiming he would have upheld segregation

Liberal reporter smears Justice Scalia, falsely claiming he would have upheld segregation

October 27, 1:30 PMDC SCOTUS ExaminerHans Bader
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Liberals are busy Twittering each other with the false claim that Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the more conservative members of the Supreme Court, said that he would have voted to uphold school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

There’s just one problem: he never said any such thing. He said the very opposite! (Scalia has long agreed with the Supreme Court ruling banning segregation).

A liberal reporter for Capitol Media Services, Howard Fischer, made the claim that Scalia said he would have voted to uphold segregation, in a story carried in the East Valley Tribune. But as even liberal law professor Jack Balkin, who was initially fooled by the story, now admits, it’s pure bunk: a video recording of the event shows that Scalia actually said he would have voted to strike down segregation.

Before the error was uncovered, the story circulated all around the internet, including at CQ Politics’ Political Wire, and as a result, we can expect to see the false claim repeated for weeks in the press. (Political Wire, for example, contains a commentary by Taegan Doddard entitled, “Scalia Would Have Voted to Keep School Segregation“).

This sort of reporting is typical for liberal court reporters, who routinely make false claims that make conservatives or businesses look bad or politically-correct constituencies look good. A classic example is the Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision, which Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times deliberately distorted to make it seem like the Supreme Court had created a rule that discrimination plaintiffs have to sue even before they could have learned about pay discrimination. (In fact, the plaintiff in the Ledbetter case had known of the pay disparity she later claimed was discriminatory for at least 5 years before complaining to the EEOC. By distorting the facts of the case, and what the Supreme Court actually held, the press also created a political weapon for the Obama campaign to use against McCain in the 2008 campaign).

Another example is the Duke Lacrosse case, where the prosecutor was later jailed for misconduct for pressing a baseless interracial rape case against innocent Lacrosse players. DNA evidence proved the players were innocent, and North Carolina’s attorney general admitted that they were in fact innocent. But the New York Times’ Duff Wilson claimed that a substantial “body of evidence” pointed to the defendants’ guilt.

CBS News legal “analyst” Andrew Cohen repeatedly denounced the Duke Lacrosse players, calling for the gagging of their attorneys. At a time when few journalists dared question the rape claim for fear of being seen as politically incorrect, Cohen absurdly claimed that the media had rushed to the “defense” of the players and that “there is no balanced coverage in the Duke case. There is just one defense-themed story after another.” He demanded for prosecutor Mike Nifong “the privilege of seeing the case unfold at trial” against the players, rather than dropping the prosecution.

Sadly, both Wilson and Cohen still have their jobs, suggesting that liberal bias is viewed as a plus when it comes to employment with the “mainstream” media. (Cohen’s “evidence-free” commentaries denouncing Justice Scalia are a self-parody of left-wing bias).

I don't agree with Justice Scalia on everything. (See my law journal article criticizing the ruling he and the "conservative" justices issued in Morse v. Frederick). But the liberal bias of press coverage of the Supreme Court is obvious to me.

UPDATE, Oct. 27, 4:12 p.m.: the reporter who made the false claim about Scalia (Howard Fischer) has now deleted his claim that Scalia would uphold segregation from the online version of his story, tacitly admitting that he was wrong. But he did not disclose the error in his original story for readers. As a commenter to his story, jayr23, notes,

"Sorry Scalia. I disagree with you in general but it looks like you were terribly misquoted here. The only hack is the reporter.

Mr. Fischer should probably correct this and then apologize.

BTW, a correction is not simply a deletion of the offending material! Sheesh. Journalism has sunk to an all time low."

SECOND UPDATE, Oct. 27, 6:22 p.m.: The erroneous story's internet version has now been revised to contain a vague reference to its error, in a passage that reads:

"Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story that was originally posted Oct. 26. It removes an incorrect reference to Brown v. Board of Education in the initial version."

Are Democrats Anti-American?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Are Democrats Anti-American?

On October 26, Human Events published an article by Deroy Murdock, titled "Terrorists: Vote Hillary; Kill Rudy." The article purports to quote several figures from officially-designated terrorist organizations expressing support for the campaign of Hillary Clinton for US president. The quotes are apparently drawn from's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Aaron Klein's book Schmoozing with the Terrorists, which claims to have interviewed around three dozen leading terrorists.

According to Klein, Ala Senakreh, West Bank chief of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, said, "I hope Hillary is elected in order to have the occasion to carry out all the promises she is giving regarding Iraq.... President Clinton wanted to give the Palestinians 98 percent of the West Bank territories. I hope Hillary will move a step forward and will give the Palestinians all their rights."

Abu Jihad of Al Aqsa's Nablus unit reportedly said, "We see Hillary and other candidates are competing on who will withdraw from Iraq. This is a moment of glory for the revolutionary movements in the Arab world...." Al Aqsa's Nasser Abu Aziz reportedly agreed, considering it "very good" that there are "voices like Hillary and others who are now attacking the Iraq invasion." So did Islamic Jihad's Abu Ayman, who reportedly felt "emboldened" by Clinton's demands that America retreat from Iraq, saying, "It is clear that it is the resistance operations of the mujahideen that have brought about these calls for withdrawal."

Jihad Jaara, an exiled Al Aqsa agent, who commanded 2002's siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, is quoted as saying, "All Americans must vote Democrat."

Ooo, scary.

Murdock asks the rhetorical question, "Why do these hardened butchers have a soft spot for Hillary Clinton?" He then provides the answer: "because the New York Democrat is soft on terrorism."

First, "Clinton rejects robustly interrogating terrorists even in 'ticking time bomb' scenarios." Taking the author's word for this claim, this would mean that (probably because Clinton is not a right-wing authoritarian) she does not support torturing human beings. (Frankly, if you believe that it is appropriate to torture human beings under any circumstances, then you should immediately check yourself into a hospital for the criminally insane.)

Second, "Clinton opposes the US Terrorist Surveillance Program, calling it 'a secret program that spies on Americans.'" One wonders why anybody would find this offensive. The US Terrorist Surveillance Program is a secret program that spies on Americans. This is true by definition. And while I recognize that conservatives change the definition of things so that they can continue supporting policy that goes against the (ideal) foundations of our society, this one is so self-evident that one really has to have concern about the cognitive state of the person who denies it. In truth, Clinton's opposition to the US Terrorist Surveillance Program should be applauded by conservatives as a patriotic defense of the Constitution of the United States of America. (The truth is that, while conservatives are always talking about the Constitution, they don't really agree with the principles embodied in the Bill of Rights. But that discussion is for another essay.)

Murdock appears to be upset that, to quote him, "Clinton's campaign has not responded to my request to list her counterterrorist accomplishments." I don't know what her list would look like (I don't really care, frankly), but why should she bother with drawing up a list for Deroy Murdock? Her record is a public one. Presumably the man has brains enough to look it up for himself.

Of Giuliai, Ramadan Adassi, a West Bank Al Aqsa leader, said, "If I had the occasion to meet him I would hurt him.... For the sake of the American people, Giuliani shouldn't be elected." While I wouldn't hurt Giuliani (he's a little old man), I do agree that, for the sake of Americans (and the world), he shouldn't be elected. Not only are Giuliani's political views wrong, but he's a dunce and a clown. We have endured seven years under an idiot president. Please, no more!

Senakreh's view was more extreme than Adassi's. "Giuliani doesn't deserve to live or even to be mentioned," he said. "He hates Palestinians and we hate him." (It would be nice if Murdock would request from Giuliani a list of all the things he has done for Palestinians.) Al Aqsa's Abu Hamed said that Giuliani "can hate Arafat and the Palestinians, but he knows that nobody is hated in the world more than his leadership, his party, his president, and his Zionist friends." This is likely true. It's hard to imagine a group of people more hated in the world today than the Republican Party.

Murdock then shills for Giuliani: "Why the hard feelings? Perhaps because Giuliani has snipped terrorists' bomb wires for 31 years." He goes on to list the former NYC mayor's accomplishments. The list is shamefully weak, so I will spare Giuliani the embarrassment of repeating it here (but you can read it for yourself: Vote Hillary; Kill Rudy).

Murdock ends his essay with a quote from Klein: "I don't believe Americans should base their votes entirely on what the terrorists think, but it's certainly telling that our enemies are rooting for the Democrats, particularly Hillary." Murdock adds, "As the War on Terror continues, Americans should study our foes' political preferences - and then pull the lever the other way."

Murdock has produced a classic propaganda piece. The fascist says, "Communism is Jewish." The Republican says, "Liberalism is Arab." This is demonizing the opposition by linking it to groups that the masses unquestioningly fear or believe are evil. In Germany society, anything Jewish was viewed by a majority of Germans as being un-German. In the Weimar Republic, new forms of architecture (reflecting the liberation of creativity in this period), where said to be "un-German" and "Jewish." The fascists picked up on this and linked all sorts of things to Jews. In the United States, the majority of Americans, overwhelmingly Christian, are suspicious of Arabs and Muslims. When a Muslim politician wanted to take the oath on the Koran, there was outrage among conservative Americans that paralleled the outrage of conservative Germans to things said to be Jewish. By linking things to Arabs - such as linking Clinton to terrorists, who are in the American minds Arabs - Murdock is demonizing Clinton.

(Now, I know conservatives will read this and say, "But, Andrew, you are doing this very thing when you link conservatives to fascists." Alas, the conservative would be wrong. First, while Jews and Arabs are not unquestioningly bad, fascism unquestioningly is. Second, there must be a clear distinction between conservatives and fascists in order to make that charge stick. If you think about the argument I am making, I am not comparing conservatives to fascists. I am discussing the continuity over time in propaganda tactics used by authoritarians, subspecies of which are US conservatives and German fascists. The modern US conservative is a fascist. Finally, I would not be able to show how the propaganda tactic worked historically if I felt forbidden to make historical comparisons by accepting a false charge of hypocrisy. In other words, save your breath; you don't have a point to make.)

While the men quoted in Murdock's essay are alleged to be terrorists by US and Israeli authorities, they are defined as such because of the tactics they purportedly use and their justification for the use of those tactics. At the same time, they have political opinions that should be judged on the basis of rightness and wrongness independent of their tactics and justifications. A terrorist, while being many things, can also be a person who makes a valid point. When a man says that Israel is causing the Palestinian people to suffer and that he opposes that, he is right whether he is a terrorist or not. When a man says that the invasion of Iraq was illegal and wrong, he is right about that whether he is a terrorist or not. I can agree with an argument made by anybody if that argument is correct. That doesn't make me a terrorist. And a terrorist can agree with Clinton on any number of things and this makes her neither a terrorist nor a supporter of terrorism. All you have to do is use logic and such matters become very clear and Murdock and Klein's attempts to demonize Clinton become obvious. (The same type of attack was used against Norman Finkelstein by Zionist individuals and organizations.)

See, I don't attack George Bush because he is like a person who attacks, invades, and occupies Arab and Muslim countries. I attack him because he is a person who attacks, invades, and occupies Arab and Muslim countries.

Finally, Democrats are anti-American and anti-Israeli? On the contrary, Democrats are extremely pro-America and pro-Israel and have contributed mightily to the terrorism perpetrated by the US and Israeli states against Arabs, particularly in Iraq and Palestine. If these quotes Klein has produced are even true, what they signal is that Arabs recognize that, with Democrats in power, at least there is a chance for rational US policy in the Middle East. Arabs and Muslims can't be expected to side with those forces who aggressively invade and occupy Arab lands. And the same politicians are moving to extend their aggressions into Persia. An Arab, like any rational person, knows that, of the two major US political parties, only one is not almost exclusively peopled by warmongering fascist lunatics.

Fate of oil-rich Kirkuk stalls Iraq election law

Fate of oil-rich Kirkuk stalls Iraq election law

BAGHDAD — A long-sought political consensus in Iraq over how to conduct crucial upcoming elections fell apart Tuesday over the thorny issue of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, an Iraqi lawmaker said.

The new snag came as an al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for the twin suicide bombings in the heart of Baghdad Sunday that killed at least 155 people.

Many fear the political deadlock over the new law will delay elections, now slated for January, and open the door to renewed violence in Iraq after it stepped back from the brink of civil war two years ago.

Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, told The Associated Press that an emergency proposal by the nation's leaders to break the deadlock over the election law had fallen apart over the fractious northern city split between Arabs and Kurds.

Othman said the vote over the election law would not take place Tuesday. There was no information about when the matter would be addressed.

Just one day after the massive security failure in the capital, there appeared to be quick progress on the election law. With Iraq's public already angry over the bombing and the resurgence of violence, the politicians appeared to not want to risk further angering people by delaying the elections with their internal wrangling.

On Monday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and others agreed on a compromise over voting in Kirkuk as the Shiite-dominated government pushed to smooth over differences in the divided parliament and wrap up the law so elections could proceed on time.

In Kirkuk, which is claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkomens, the dispute focuses on whether all the people living there should be allowed to vote in the election.

During the Saddam era, tens of thousands of Kurds were displaced under a forced plan to make Kirkuk predominantly Arab. Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, many of these Kurds have returned. Now other groups claim there are more Kurds than before — which could sway the vote in their favor and bring Kirkuk and its oil fully under Kurdish control.

Arabs and Turkomen would like the city to be divided into four districts in which they would have some plurality, while the Kurds want the whole city to be a single district that they could dominate with their swelling numbers.

There is also a dispute about how to count voters. Arabs favor a plan that would use the 2004 voter registry, likely meaning Arab voters would be much more represented than Kurds.

The Kurds favor a proposal by the United Nations that would use voter records from 2009, but only for a four year period till the Kirkuk issue can be further clarified.

"The subject could not be settled today and we in the Kurdish alliance, we support the U.N. suggestion," said Othman.

Iraqi politicians have continually delayed discussing how to resolve Kirkuk as the Arab-dominated central government and the Kurdish politicians of the northern autonomous region cannot agree on its future.

It has been during periods of political deadlock like these that Iraq becomes particularly vulnerable to renewed violence.

In 2006, months of political wrangling over the country's first permanent post-invasion government allowed al-Qaida linked insurgent groups to provoke Shiite militias into a near-civil war that tore the country apart.

The last few months have seen an upsurge in violence by al-Qaida in Iraq.

Sunday's car bombings, targeting the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad provincial government building, were the worst in more than two years and came a little more than two months after another series of bombs targeted government buildings in Baghdad and also killed more than 100 people.

Late Monday, the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq said in a statement posted on the Internet that claimed responsibility for this week's attacks. It said its "martyrs ... targeted the dens of infidelity."

The posting said the group's suicide bombers targeted the "pillars of the Safawi and rejectionist state in the land of caliphate," referring to the Shiite government in Baghdad and its close ally, Iran.

"One of these selected targets that were hit this time was the 'Ministry of Injustice and Oppression,' the so-called Ministry of Justice, along with the Baghdad Provincial Council," the statement said.

The authenticity of the statement, which appeared on a Web site commonly used by militants, could not be independently confirmed. The same group also claimed responsibility for the August.

Linked to the wider terror network, the Islamic State of Iraq is an umbrella group within the Arab country that comprises a militant coalition with al-Qaida as a leading member.

The attack Sunday raised more fears about the country's ability to protect itself as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw.

Among the dead were two dozen children, killed on a bus that was leaving a daycare center inside the Justice Ministry, said a local police official and an official at the hospital where the bodies were brought. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Some sort of agreement over the law that will allow elections to proceed could mollify public anger over the government's performance on security and other critical issues.

The other big sticking point over the electoral law is whether people would vote on individual candidates or simply by party names. The so-called "open list" is perceived by many voters as being more transparent, and has the support of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who fared well under a similar system used during provincial elections earlier this year.

Kurdish parties prefer closed, party-list voting, which plays into their organizational strength across the autonomous region.

French Branch of Scientology Convicted of Fraud

French Branch of Scientology Convicted of Fraud

Published: October 27, 2009

PARIS — The French branch of the Church of Scientology was convicted of fraud and fined nearly $900,000 on Tuesday by a Paris court. But the judges did not ban the church entirely, as the prosecution had demanded, saying that a change in the law prevented such an action for fraud. The church said it would appeal.

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Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

Patrick Maisonneuve, the lawyer of the French branch of the Church of Scientology, spoke to the media after the sentence at a Paris court on Friday.


Times Topics: Scientology

The verdict was among the most important in several years to involve the group, which is registered as a religion in the United States but has no similar legal protection in France. It is considered a sect here, and says it has some 45,000 adherents, out of some 12 million worldwide. It was the first time here that the church itself had been tried and convicted, as opposed to individual members.

The case was brought by two former members who said they were pushed into paying large sums of money in the 1990s, pressed to sign up for expensive “purification courses” and harassed to buy a variety of vitamins and other forms of pharmaceuticals, plus electronic tests to measure spiritual progress. One woman said she had been pressured into spending more than $30,000.

The major fines were rendered against the Scientology Celebrity Center in Paris and a Scientology bookstore. Six group leaders were convicted of fraud, with four given suspended sentences of 10 months to two years. One of them, the group’s leader in France, Alain Rosenberg, was given a two-year suspended sentence and fined $44,700. Two others were given only fines, of $1,490 and $2,980.

The judges said the individuals had avoided jail in part because of efforts by the church “to change its practices.”

There have been other cases brought against individual Scientologists in France, but this is the first time the organization was charged for its methods of functioning.

Olivier Morice, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said: “This is an historic decision. It’s the first time in France that the entity of the Church of Scientology is condemned for fraud as an organized gang,” as opposed to simply individual members. He said that the tribunal “expressed its will to maintain the structure of Scientology in order to make it easier to control,” adding that “it gave this decision a national and international dimension so that potential victims can be warned of the methods of Scientology.”

Catherine Picard, who runs an association to help victims of sects, called the verdict “subtle enough and intelligent,” saying that it would help control Scientology in France, and expressed the hope that the state would be “more vigilant.” She said that “Scientology can no longer hide behind freedom of conscience.”

A spokeswoman for the church, Agnès Bron, called the verdict “an Inquisition for modern times.”

The Church of Scientology is based in Los Angeles. It was founded in 1954 by the writer L. Ron Hubbard. Belgium, Germany and other European countries have been criticized by the State Department for labeling Scientology a cult or sect and enacting laws to restrict its operations.

Medicare Fraud Raises 'Troubling Questions About Our Government's Ability to Manage a Medical Bureaucracy

'60 Minutes': Medicare Fraud Raises 'Troubling Questions About Our Government's Ability to Manage a Medical Bureaucracy'

Photo of Noel Sheppard.

"60 Minutes" did a fabulous exposé Sunday on Medicare fraud that should be required viewing for all people who support a government run healthcare program in this country.

The facts and figures presented by CBS's Steve Kroft were disturbing as were the details concerning how shysters bilk the system for an estimated $60 billion a year.

As Kroft warned viewers in the segment's teaser, "We caution you that this story may raise your blood pressure, along with some troubling questions about our government's ability to manage a medical bureaucracy" (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript, h/t Marc Sheppard):

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STEVE KROFT, CBS: Of all the problems facing the United States right now, none are more important than healthcare. President Obama says rising costs are driving huge federal budget deficits that imperil our future, and that there is enough waste and fraud in the system to pay for health care reform if it was eliminated.

At the center of both issues is Medicare, the government insurance program that provides health care to 46 million elderly and disabled Americans. But it also provides a rich and steady income stream for criminals who are constantly finding new ways to steal a sizable chunk of the half a trillion dollars that are paid out each year in Medicare benefits.

In fact, Medicare fraud - estimated now to total about $60 billion a year - has become one of, if not the most profitable crimes in America.

We caution you that this story may raise your blood pressure, along with some troubling questions about our government's ability to manage a medical bureaucracy.

Kroft spoke with FBI special agent Brian Waterman and Kirk Ogrosky, a top justice department prosecutor:

BRIAN WATERMAN, FBI: There's a healthcare fraud industry where people do nothing but recruit patients, get patient lists, find doctors, look on the Internet, find different scams. There are entire groups and entire organizations of people that are dedicated to nothing but committing fraud, finding a better way to steal from Medicare

KROFT: Is the Medicare fraud business bigger than the drug business in Miami now?

KIRK OGROSKY, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: I think it's way bigger.

KROFT: What changed?

OGROSKY: The criminals changed...

WATERMAN: Sophistication.

OGROSKY: They've figured out that rather than stealing $100,000 or $200,000, they can steal $100 million. We have seen cases in the last six, eight months that involve a couple of guys that if they weren't stealing from Medicare might be stealing your car.

WATERMAN: You know, we were the king of the drugs in the '80s. We're king of healthcare fraud in the '90s and the 2000's.

Kroft also spoke to Attorney General Eric Holder:

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have to understand this is a major fraud area. [...]

KROFT: Why do you think it's been so attractive for the criminals?

HOLDER: Because I think it's been pretty easy. I think that they have found a way in which they have been able to get pretty substantial amounts of money with not a huge amount of effort and at least until now, without the possibility of great detection.

KROFT: With much fewer risks.

HOLDER: Much fewer risks. You'll see some of these people and they'll say "You know there is not a chance that you are going to have some other drug dealer shooting at you." The chances of being incarcerated were lower, the amount of time that you would spend in jail was smaller. All of which is different now.

Kroft then spoke to a man who claimed to have defrauded Medicare out of $20 million, after which Kroft said, "According to the FBI, all you have to do to get into this business is rent a cheap storefront office, find or create a front man to get an occupational license, bribe a doctor or forge a prescription pad, and obtain the names and ID numbers of legitimate Medicare patients you can bill the phony charges to."

WATERMAN: There's a whole industry of people out there that do nothing but provide patients.

Kroft narrated, "Once the crooked companies get hold of the patient lists, usually stolen from doctors' offices or hospitals, they begin running up all sorts of outlandish charges and submit them to Medicare for payment, knowing full well that the agency is required by law to pay the claims within 15 to 30 days, and that it has only enough auditors to check a tiny fraction of the charges to see if they are legitimate."

Later, Kroft asked Waterman, "There's something I don't understand. I mean, you're saying essentially people just fill out the phony paperwork, they send a bill to Medicare and they pay it."

WATERMAN: That's why you have companies that can run for 60, 90 days, and bill for ridiculous things. Because there are very few checks and balances to even determine whether these things a, were medically necessary, b, were ever given, or c, even physically possible for a patient with the kind of conditions they have.

A bit later in the segment, Kroft spoke with Kim Brandt, Medicare's director of program integrity. After he shared with her some of the scams he'd previously witnessed or been told about, he asked how crooks get away with it:

KIM BRANDT, MEDICARE DIRECTOR: We're as frustrated by that as the law enforcement officials that you went out with. And in fact, our primary focus over the past years has been to tighten our enrollment standards to make it so it's much harder for people like that to be able to get in the program, and to be able to commit that kind of fraud.

KROFT: Look, I'm sure that you're aware of these problems. But it doesn't seem like you're doing a very good job. I don't mean you personally, but I mean, the government. This is still like a huge problem, and getting worse, right?

BRANDT: Well, it really does come down to the size and scope of the Medicare program, and the resources that are dedicated to oversight and anti-fraud work. One of our biggest challenges has been that we have a program that pays out over a billion claims a year, over $430 billion, and our oversight budget has been extremely limited.

Just imagine what the fraud will be like if the government is responsible for everyone's healthcare.

As the segment drew to a close, Holder told Kroft something that should scare the heck out of everyone who wants government run insurance for all Americans: "I think people I don't think necessarily thought that something as well intentioned as Medicare and Medicaid would necessarily attract fraudsters. But I think we have to understand that it certainly has."

Yes we do.

Yet, shortly after this marvelous segment came to a close, "60 Minutes" concluded this installment with Andy Rooney telling viewers:

I'm not much interested in hearing anymore talk about health care.

President Obama wants to overhaul what they call the "health care industry." Well good, but I hate that phrase the "heath care Industry." I just don't like to think of my health as an industry.

The fact is though being sick is often the least of our health problem. Even if you're insured, what hospitals charge now is ridiculous. I had what they call "an outpatient procedure" recently and it cost my insurance company $9,361. I say it cost my insurance company but let's face it. In the end, I'm the one who pays.

The U.S. spends more than any other country on Earth on its health: $2.5 trillion. And what do we get for $2.5 trillion? Well, we're 50th in the world for life expectancy, below the Polynesian French Island Territory of Wallis and Futuna, wherever Wallis and Futuna are.

As Steve Kroft said earlier on 60 Minutes, we are losing billions of dollars on health care fraud. Not on healthcare - on healthcare fraud.

Everyone cheats - companies, hospitals, patients, doctors, drug companies, and government agencies. Cheating goes on everywhere in the get well business.

During my recent outpatient procedure a doctor came into my room, asked how I was doing and said, "By the way I love your work on television." He left without touching me and a couple of weeks later when the bill came, it turned out his visit cost my insurance company $250.00.

I mean who knows what he would have charged if he didn't like my work.

There's just no doubt we need healthcare reform because the way it is now, makes me sick.

Makes you wonder if he even watched Kroft's segment, doesn't it?

—Noel Sheppard is the Associate Editor of NewsBusters.


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