Links 3/28/12

Dolphin society ‘is run by gangs’ BBC. And that makes them like people!

1 of Japan’s damaged reactors has high radiation, no water, renewing doubts about stability Washington Post. Godzilla is coming!

Gray whale rescued from discarded fishing net off California coast Raw Story

A national sex strike! Spain’s ‘high-class hookers refuse to sleep with bankers until they open up credit lines to cash-strapped families’ Daily Mail

‘It’s like a flea market for airport employees': More than 200 items stolen every DAY from checked baggage at JFK airport Daily Mail (hat tip reader May S)

European finance: The leaning tower of perils Financial Times. The first part of this article is scary, in that the writers don’t seem to get the real point of LTRO: it’s a backdoor monetization of government debt (they treat the feature as a bug). So the issue isn’t bank/government interdependence per se, it’s that the LTRO exposes the banks to interest rate risks. Ulp!(Oh, and there is also the related risk that the ECB gets worried about inflation too early and quits supporting periphery country debt before adequate growth takes place, which looks likely given the refusal to abandon failed austerity policies. So that change in stance would lead to interest rate rises on sovereign debt and squeeze the banks). But the second concern is valid, that the LTRO is being used also to prop up the weaker banks and no one seems to be moving to clean them up.

Neil Heywood: Why The Death Of A British Businessman Suddenly Matters In China IBTimes (hat tip reader May S)

WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL KICKSTARTER PAGE FOR GREECE! Timothy McSweeny. Wish this had been circulated to everyone in Congress before the Jumpstart Obama’s Bucket Shops act went to vote.

Greece’s Fringe Parties Surge Amid Bailout Ire Wall Street Journal

Afghan villagers live in fear of another massacre DW

Costs of a policy of profligacy with foreign lives Japan Times

U.S. leaders had better heed Israel’s warnings on Iran Haaretz (hat tip reader May S)

Apologies to the Next Generation for the Turmoil to Come Chip Ward, TomDispatch

US acted to conceal evidence of intelligence failure before 9/11 Guardian (hat tip reader May S). Quelle surprise!

Calling Dr. Strangelove Consortium News

Women bankers riskier – Bundesbank study Financial Times (hat tip reader Swedish Lex). Crap research. Correlation is not causation.

Gender diversity on company boards VoxEU

The Critiques Against Jim Young Kim, Both Good and Bad Dave Dayen, Firedoglake

Breakthrough Leadership for the World Bank Jeffrey D. Sachs, Project Syndicate. Sachs is being a very good sport about this. Good for him.

Conservative Justices Challenge Government Over Health Law Wall Street Journal

Toobin: Health law ‘looks like it’s going to be struck down’ Politico. I am one of the few people who really would benefit from Obamacare (most of the uninsured don’t get that what they will receive is overpriced insurance that won’t cover much, particularly the serious stuff) and I’m nevertheless enjoying the prospect of Obama being handed a loss on his insurance/Big Pharma enriching scheme.

EXECUTIVE ORDER NATIONAL DEFENSE RESOURCES PREPAREDNESS (hat tip Lambert). From earlier in the month, but still germane Just imagine how bad an executive order could be. Then read this. I guarantee this is worse.

Democratic mayor of Boston refuses chance to endorse Warren The Hill (hat tip reader Kevin E). Not news, we discussed this before Warren announced her candidacy.

Time to set banking regulation right VoxEU

When privatisation doesn’t work Guardian (hat tip reader May S)

Prosecutors allege Gupta had co-conspirators Financial Times

MF Global’s Shortfall No Surprise, Some Say New York Times versus MF Global won praise for risk handling Financial Times (hat tip Joe Costello)

Goldman Bows to Pressure on Board Wall Street Journal. Mirabile dictu.

Obama Mortgage Deal Frontman Sounds Off The Street (hat tip Buzz Potamkin). Tom Miller is either even stupider than I thought or just trying another round of PR.

Home Prices in U.S. Cities Fell at Slower Pace in January Bloomberg

Former Chillicothe couple found dead in Athens Chillicothe Gazette (hat tip April Charney). A foreclosure-induced murder/suicide.

Foreclosure Deal Credits Banks for Routine Efforts New York Times. Dave Dayen and yours truly, among others, pointed this out.

Antidote du jour. This blog has really beautiful outdoor photos, not very many animals, but worth a look. Hat tip reader Martha R.

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124 comments

  1. YankeeFrank

    Yeah, it would be fun to watch Obama’s “signature” legislation fall to pieces. But seriously, I want it to fail because the idea that the government can order us to buy products from private companies is more than I want them to be able to do. Car insurance is one thing, but you can’t choose not to have a body. And I also don’t want to have to pay for garbage insurance, my finances are stretched already. Of course, if Obama fails here he will take away all the wrong messages. Instead of kicking himself for not forcing the public option, etc., he will say to himself — “see, I should’ve been more of a reactionary! Its all the fault of those damned progressives and their whining over people dying!”

    1. bmeisen

      Health insurance only works if everyone is required to buy it. For a national system to make sense economically, i.e. reduce the impact of health care on the treasury and provide quality service, then everyone has to be in. Theoretically providers can be private or public or both. And you know it’s OK to be in! I don’t have to put my leukemia chemo on my credit card!

      1. tom allen

        You mean like opening Medicare up to everyone? But that idea is too popular and economically sound to even be brought up for a vote, on account of it would put lots of wealthy insurance companies (and valued campaign donors) out of work.

      2. scott

        Unfortunately, Obamacare is not insurance. Insurance is for rare and unexpected expensive occurances.

        Obamacare if implemented would be like being forced to buy car insurance that covers gas, tires, oil, etc., from Exxon-Mobil. Insuring maintanance and consumables is just stupid. It forces Prius owners to subsidize the gas used by huge SUVs.

        I did like the comment from one of the judges about exercise. We’d probably save more money by making everyone exercise than by having everyone insured. Maybe that’s what the FEMA camps are for…manual labor.

        1. bmeisen

          Insurance is not uniform. The US has learned the hard way that risks generated by significant numbers of uninsured residents constitute a societal liability of enormous proportions. Beyond a certain demographic threshold health insurance cannot be seen as a personal option, just as beyond a certain number of cars on the road society as a whole is exposed to unacceptable risks, and therefore we require individual car owners to get insured. Insurance is an option when the risk is mine and mine alone. If it’s directly or indirectly society’s risk then the individual must be compelled to get insured.

          And many health insurers reward customers for maintanence.

      3. Eureka Springs

        Oh good grief. Health Insurance works for health insurance. Either way, Obama Romney care or not. Health of a nation works when for profit insurance and mafioso big pharma are treated with an iron fist or eliminated/ignored altogether.

        We are the most expensive in the world by far for the worst health stats from cradle to grave in the developed world. Obama Romney care increses those costs, albeit slower, and still leaves tens of millions without care.

        If insurance worked as you claimed, American health industrial complex with it’s huge amounts of money compared to anywhere else in the world would give us ALL red carpet treatment. Pouring more money on it is not the solution… in fact it asks us all to ignore the fundamental problems.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Yeah, insurance is a way to pool and manage risk–and it’s not a very good way to do it.

          As applied to the risk we collectively face from bad health, insurance is not a very good tool. The middle man makes a huge profit for not providing any added value. In fact, the middle man actually takes value away by forcing health providers to engage in unnecessary paperwork, for instance.

          The evidence suggests that a national health care system, either single payer or socialized medicine, or a combination thereof, is a better way to pool health risk than insurance is.

          Obama is expanding the insurance model and cutting the single payer/socialized medicine model because he is a fascist tool.

          1. bmeisen

            With all due respect, in my opinion the single payer/socialized medicine model is health insurance. The model would require all Americans to pay into a fund (premium amounts would be income based) and it would draw from the fund to pay for the cost of health care for participants, i.e. all Americans. This model, in operation in many parts of the world, is one of the hallmark achievements of civilization, a textbook example of the many together doing something for individuals that the individual alone cannot do for herself, e.g. pay for years of weekly dialysis. It is insurance in the best sense of the word.

            The model differs from the current system of health insurance in the US to the extent that it would require all Americans to participate, and it would restrain if not forbid insurers from prioritizing profit.

          2. Walter Wit Man

            As I noted, all three plans involve an attempt to pool and manage risk: the private insurance model, the single payer model, and the socialized model. So “insurance” is a way to manage risk, just like a nationalized health care system is. But they are not the same thing.

            In fact, what makes the insurance model unique is the huge profit motive the middleman makes. Plus, the risk doesn’t seem to be managed very well under the insurance model. We pay a lot for not much security, and the security is disproportionately distributed.

            Also, neither single payer nor socialized medicine require a “fund.” Although I suppose it could be set it up that way. We already pay a Medicare tax and these funds are “earmarked” for Medicare, right? This is really just a way to transfer the cost of the system to those that make under $100,000–rather than taxing all incomes proportionally which would require the wealthy to pay more.

            My preference is actually a hybrid single payer/socialized system, with the government spending greenbacks directly. The private insurance industry should wither and die.

      4. Eureka Springs

        Oh good grief. Health Insurance works for health insurance. Either way, Obama Romney care or not. Health of a nation works when for profit insurance and mafioso big pharma are treated with an iron fist or eliminated/ignored altogether.

        We are the most expensive in the world by far for the worst health stats from cradle to grave in the developed world. Obama Romney care increases those costs, albeit slower, and still leaves tens of millions without care.

        If insurance worked as you claimed, American health industrial complex with it’s huge amounts of money compared to anywhere else in the world would give us ALL red carpet treatment. Pouring more money on it is not the solution… in fact it asks us all to ignore the fundamental problems.

      5. MontanaMaven

        Health care should be non-profit whether it is private or public. It should be handled as a public utility. In some countries there are choices between private insurers, but those companies are still non-profit. They can pay there CEO a good wage, say $350,000 a year. Pay their staff a good wage. So overhead is not much different than Medicare at 3%. Great Britain has a system like our Veteran’s Administration. The government owns the hospitals and pays the doctors. Other countries like Germany pay the bills, but our Medicare system but they don’t own the buildings or directly have doctors on a salary. There are variations on these. Good book is investigative reporter T.R. Reid’s “The Healing of America” where he goes to several countries and compares the systems.

      6. YankeeFrank

        The problem that you are missing throughout this thread is that the “insurance” in question is the high-deductible kind that means most (probably 90-95%) of Americans won’t be able to afford to “use” it, unless and until they suffer a catastrophic illness or accident. So we’ll have to pay for “coverage” that doesn’t really cover us. That is the problem. All of your comments where you don’t differentiate between real coverage and what is being offered is either disingenuous or clueless.

        The other problem you are missing is that the gubmint is not allowed to force me to purchase a private product. They can make me pay taxes and make me pay for government services. But private services are a serious overreach. The broccoli analogy sounds dumb, but it is not: the response is that “health insurance is different”… until it isn’t. Its just another chip off the few protections we still have against predatory fascist government.

    2. Yearning to Learn

      Obama’s greatest failing was abandoning a Public Option and instead cobbling together a plan that tried to appease many especially BigPharma and BigHealth. the only way a universal health plan can work with private companies is to include an individual mandate. But the individual mandate is clearly unconstitutional, AND fraught with problems.

      A more eloquent solution has already been found by every other industrialized nation on Earth: a public option.

      let the Supreme Court strike this down, and then we can move towards an honest discussion about a Public Option.

      many don’t want it now… but the trajectory of American Health Care is clear, and can’t survive without a Public Option. The Private model is just way too inefficient and costly.

      1. scott

        Obamacare will have everyone begging for single-payer when it gets fully implemented. It was written by the health insurers to maximize the wealth they could steal before their business model implodes.

      2. bmeisen

        Clearly unconstitutional is a little strong. As I understand it, Obamacare requires Americans to buy coverage from private insurers. The current Court might find this unconstitutional to the extent that it forces Americans to buy something tooth paste from a non-public source. They might argue that the next step is to force us to buy a drug from a non-public source. But if the constitution allows the government to force Americans to pay the government for services that arguably enhance the public good, then it allows the government to force Americans to pay a public insurer for health services that unquestionbly enhance the public good.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          With all due respect, you have this wrong.

          The government can force people to “buy” public services all day. That’s called taxation and spending.

          That is not at all the same as forcing people to buy services from private companies. The only exception to this is cars, and you have the option of not owning a car (i’ve never owned a car and intend never to own one). As someone above said, you don’t have the option of not having a body.

          1. John L

            Worker’s compensation insurance. If you’re an employer you have to buy it. Another scam.

          2. hermanas

            Good point Yves, I wonder why taxes aren’t prioritized for citizen health before the MIC’s killing program.

      3. Lambert Strether

        Obama never “abandoned” the public option; he intended to betray its supporters from the beginning.

        “Public option” was and is nothing more than a marketing slogan, drawn from the work of academic entrepreneur Jacob Hacker, is shown by its history: There was never a clear draft of a proposal that its proponents could point to, and it started as a “Medicare-like” proposal covering 47 million people, dwindled to covering only 9 million, and eventually disappeared altogether. It’s continuing effectiveness as a marketing slogan is shown by its continuing, zombie-like presence in the discourse, where it’s still impeding discussion of proven alternatives.

        In fact, the public option was a ‘bait and switch’ operation run by career “progressives,” which had the intended effect of sucking all the oxygen out of discussion of health care reforms that could be actually shown to work (like single payer).

      4. Lambert Strether

        Adding: You write: “A more eloquent solution has already been found by every other industrialized nation on Earth: a public option.”

        No, no, no. Another effect of the vile and pernicious “public option” meme (and the equally vile and pernicious career “progressives” who ran interference for Obama shilling for it) is to confuse the public mind between a market with a government player (the public option) and a program where the government plays a universal and not optional role (like single payer in Canada and other nations, or the NHS in the UK).

        Check this chart. The winners aren’t “public option” players at all.

      5. citizendave

        We should be able to articulate – and achieve consensus on – an ideal solution. Without regard to how it should be funded, my view is that every body who needs help with health care should receive it. In a phrase: universal health care.

        The private health insurance protection racket is absurd. All bow to Mammon. Almost one third of the cost of care is insurance – and that doesn’t factor in the lack of downward pressure on prices. Medicare can do it for 3% overhead. I would gladly send my private health insurance premium (and my employer’s portion) to the FICA tax instead – and I believe we would have more money in our pockets in the bargain. Medicare is already in place and working. Surely it can be relatively easily adjusted to encompass the entire population.

        Give the doctors a generous salary. Take out the profit motive. Anyone who wants expensive private care should be free to establish their own market. Their desire for a private market should not be imposed on the rest of us who care about each other.

  2. vlade

    @dolphins – that sounds very much like pre-settlement human behaviour.. Now, I wonder, is there a reasonable way how dolphins could “settle” (I guess not, with humans around… )?

    1. aet

      Unlike people or other primates, a dolphin has no bottom to sit on.

      Constant movement is their nature.

      They only “settle” when they die; and even then, they settle to the bottom of the sea, having no bottom of their own.

  3. El Taco

    Can anyone explain why the executive order is, as editorialized, worse than I could have imagined? I was actually imagining an EO declaring a Presidential Orgy involving horses.

    1. Richard Kline

      This is a ‘defense’ industry mobiliation preparedness directive. Much of it is boilerplate, and by it’s own terms it supplants the most recent in doubtless a long line of such directives, the last from 1994. Since at the time the Deptarment of Homeland Insanit– ahh Security didn’t even exist, and the present woeful incapacity of the USA in rare earth production hadn’t even been thrust to the foreground, it’s not hard to see how the present directive might have been deemed appropriate. The Act says, more or less in words of one syllable, “It’s the Prez Sez (via his minions) if the bombs start bursting in air, until the Congress opens its big fat mouths.”

      One wonders aloud, however, at the perceived need of such a revision c. March, 2012. The US has just withdrawn from Iraq; is building down it’s odious footprint in Afghanistan with a view to like withdrawl, and has plans in motion for a major across the board reduction in manpower and equipment in boots-on-the-ground branches of the armed forces. Why then a sudden issuance of said order three+ years into the Obummer Administration? Unless some concern was a-foot regarding the potential eruction of a resource interdicting, world economy collapsing, your prosperity sure as hell isn’t OUR prosperity accusation wagering war of indefinite duration? Say if some I for an I poking, grossly illegal, offensive war-mongery adventurism changed from bombastics to bombs away between now and Inauguration Day, 2013.

      If anyone actually believed that a war of the scale and locus to disrupt international resource commerce and delivery might happen, this is just the Executive Sanction that would be lawyered up. Don’t think if the oil stops flowing and Big Ones start being plopped on the Designated Perpetrators by the Usual Instigators that China is going to make available any of those rare earths without which American electronically hyper-intensive combat assets can neither be sustained nor replaced. I mean, to read this one gets the sense that Somebodies Big have their ears burning and it’s Lucifer’s Brother-in-law who’ll be on the telephone ere long. I’m just sayin’ . . . .

      1. aet

        As Commander -in – Chief for the Armed Forces of the USA, and as head of the Executive Branch of the US Government, I would have thought that “issuing Orders” is what a President DOES.

        Isn’t it?

        So what’s the big deal?

        Is this Order so outside the usual run of these things?

        “The President can issue executive orders pursuant to a grant of discretion from Congress, or under the inherent powers that office holds to deal with certain matters of foreign policy.”

        Quote from:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_federal_executive_orders

        1. Anon

          It’s the scope of the order that is so f/king scary:

          (m) “Strategic and critical materials” means materials (including energy) that (1) would be needed to supply the military, industrial, and essential civilian needs of the United States during a national emergency, and (2) are not found or produced in the United States in sufficient quantities to meet such need and are vulnerable to the termination or reduction of the availability of the material.

          So when do we start bombing China, if the WTO fails to rule in the “right” direction in the rare earths case?

          China itself claims the placing of restrictions on the mining of rare earths in Chinese territory is about the environmental damage caused:

          http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/opinion/2012-03/15/content_14838548.htm

          IMHO we are already in an undeclared global war for the control of oil and gas reserves; the addition of another front, in the form of a strategic minerals war, doesn’t bear contemplating.

          A phone? A laptop? Are these the great needs of our age? What we’ve been reduced to? What we put blood on the floor for? Some days, it just all seems beyond pathetic.

        1. Richard Kline

          This order is just the CYA language that presidential deciders make. But it hints that maybe somebody near the President’s elbow is worried that a mid-level war might bring international trade to a halt, and wants to be prepared; like, NOW.

      2. Walter Wit Man

        But now it’s not just when the bombs are bursting in the air, right? The president is claiming emergency powers without war. Before the powers were only allowed in the case of war or insurrection, no?

      3. Mark P.

        Despite their name, rare earths are not scarce and are all available to be mined here in the US, as far as I know.

        It’s just that Chinese production of them has been cheaper, so that they took over 95 percent of the world market over the last two decades, while US companies closed down their facilities and got out of mining those substances. Typical near-term-orientated commercial thinking, in other words.

        See this TECHNOLOGY REVIEW story for more —
        http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/37344/

        **The above said, it’s questionable whether there’s enough of these substances to meet the global demand for them in the context of projected growth rates of clean technologies like electric cars and wind power.

        But there are other reasons to believe that those particular technologies are not going to sustain the growth rates that many assume. (LNG already powers 10 million vehicles worldwide and is cheaper; wind power has been a boondoggle EROEI-wise everywhere its been deployed so far, though the Germans are welcome to prove me wrong.)

    2. Walter Wit Man

      My understanding is that it contains broad emergency powers for the president, that are possibly unconstitutional. These laws have been on the books since our secret government was first instituted, during and after WWII.

      The laws must be similar to the emergency powers in Syria, that were ended last year after some 4 decades or so. The U.S. used the existence of emergency laws in Syria to argue they are a dictatorship and police state.

      Also, some claim the U.S. is operating under a secret law implemented by Bush after 9/11 and still in effect under Obama.

      1. hermanas

        We grew up with, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”, now knowledge of the law is illegal. Hand it to Pres. Bush ’43 to expose the sham our gov. has become.

    3. Jackrabbit

      On it’s face, the Presidential Order seems to be worthy, but the devil is in the details.

      I imagine the need for such an order was prompted by China’s strangle-hold on rare earths. It was then broadened into a comprehensive policy. And delegating the authority seems intended to remove action taken under the authority from political pressures. That progression is understandable and good intentioned but there seems to be an onerous side effect that is not addressed: removing (many/most) actions taken under the Order from public review and oversight.

      If recent history is any guide, this order can be abused in many ways. I think it is fair to question why this boondoggle ($billions of discretionary spending) wasn’t tied in some way to effective regulation? Any company and any project, good or bad, seems to qualify as long as a few govt officials can make a reasonable case. Controversial projects like the Canadian pipeline or off-shore drilling could happen without public debate (though that may not be the best example since it is too big to escape notice).

      The Order is also flawed because it creates a new category of too-important-to-fail (TITF) – have we learned nothing from TBTF Banking? Future Solyndra’s will never come to public notice because they will not be allowed to fail. This seems like a fundamental policy mistake that results from a reluctance to publicly call out China on its bad behavior.

      It is important to consider the historical perspective. This Order seems to be, in part, a reaction to the systemic failure of allowing the “free market” to move our industrial base to China. Oligarchs…er “enterprising capitalists” profited handsomely in that “trade,” and now they can profit again via sweetheart deals that recover some of that lost capacity with little, if any pubic review).

      It seems that a national industrial policy that gives workers a seat at the table is not in the cards. But will unions take issue with this flag-draped Order by a Democratic Party President in an election year? I’m not going to hold my breath.

      1. securecare

        Future Solyndra’s will never come to public notice because they will not be allowed to fail. This seems like a fundamental policy mistake that results from a reluctance to publicly call out China on its bad behavior.

        Why would China give a rats rear end what the U.S. government says ?

        They have the upper hand now that Reagan, Bush I & Bush II have done their 5th column work for them. One result of this COULD remove organizations like Solyndra from the clutches of the curreny manipulators.

        (do you really believe that China did what it did that resulted in Solyndra going bankrupt by accident ? If so you need to go back to grade school cause you have NO clue how the world has worked and is working. Think Currency Wars as the main battlefield these days.)

    1. Neo-Realist

      My feeling is that until Murdoch’s right wing media propaganda machine is broken and or the pieces sold to people who create a real equal time journalistic media resource out of the remnants, he’s doing just fine.

  4. Swedish Lex

    On the LTRO.
    A question that I has been swirling around my mind for a while;
    “Weak banks buy weak sovereigns”. Thus, Italian banks are forcefully encouraged to buy Italian paper en masse.
    Is there a hidden agenda to use the LTRO as a tool to un-spagetti the holdings of Club Med paper and to ensure that national debt is to the maximum extent possible held by national banks. The purpose being that if/when the euro implodes and one or serveral euro states leave, the damage can be contained within the exiting states to a larger extent. If there is any merit to this thinking at all, then the LTRO would have the effect to allow German, French, UK and Dutch banks to exit Club Med papers (the banking systems in Greece etc. will have to be nationalised anyhow in an exit scenario).
    Perhaps a lot of muddled thinking in there, I know.

  5. René

    RE: A national sex strike! Spain’s ‘high-class hookers refuse to sleep with bankers until they open up credit lines to cash-strapped families’ Daily Mail

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

    Prostitution is a racket -> Marriage is a racket -> Religion is a racket -> Banks are a racket -> War is a racket -> Empire is a racket -> All is a racket.

    Holy trinity in this world = sex, money, power.

    Good luck escaping from the sex swamp… especially when you are a man and when you have your Eyes Wide Shut.

    This system of ours if the opposite of love, wisdom and truth.

    It is a system of hate, knowledge and LIES.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The last time I brought an ancient idea here, I was told it had become obsolete by the Middle Ages.

      So, it may be the same with this too as Lysistrata would say she and her friends already tried the idea these Spanish working girls are implementing now and yet, wars have raged on nonstop after her play was first shown in Athens more than 2,000 years ago.

  6. rjs

    in re foreclosure suicides:

    Facing foreclosure, Georgia ‘chicken man’ blows up own home – A Roswell, Georgia man who fought with the city over his right to keep chickens on his suburban property blew himself up at his house today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The home of the man, Andrew Wordes, was in foreclosure. Investigators believe he poured gasoline all over the house and set it on fire rather than get evicted. A body was found in the house after the fire.

    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheRawStory/~3/AgmuBxjY7cw/

  7. Pat

    I listened to the full SC session yesterday. The government’s argument was a complete mess. And that is mainly because the law itself is an incoherent mess – a Skinnerian behaviorist scheme grafted onto a Univ. of Chicago law and economics carcass. All the government side could argue was that you must have an all-in insurance pool, that insurance is a special situation, and that anything the government chooses to do is justifiable under the Commerce Clause.

    Finally – finally – someone called this law what it is – a subsidy by those who don’t need insurance, to those who can’t pay for it. Or, essentially, a tax on younger healthy people to pay costs of poor people, so that older people don’t have to pay for the treatment of poor people themselves, in the form of higher premiums.

    The government could have achieved its aims by any number of alternative arrangements, as the SC righties pointed out, for instance, by having the government pay for emergency room non-payers and then raising taxes a little on everybody. But noooo…. the government didn’t want a general tax hike, and refused to face down insurance companies or confront the problem of excessive medical costs.

    A radio station said that out of the 40-50 million uninsured, that only 7 million would actually have to buy health insurance out of pocket. That’s not so many, I suppose, but it is still singling out a portion of society to pay for a problem that they had absolutely no role in creating. And those 7 million are among those least able to pay for it. (Who are these 7 million? Probably lower middle class gen-Xers who work at Walmart or cobble together various part-time jobs.) Why not single out those who own yachts or second homes?

    I’m a lefty and dislike the SC Gang of 5 fascists, but this health insurance law really does stink and I’ll be happy if it gets booted.

    1. Yearning to Learn

      I couldn’t agree more with you.
      Some additional pesky issues
      1) sure, anybody can buy insurance… but what if insurance companies ramp up the prices to unimaginable levels? This law creates a mandate to buy insurance… Thus you have a captive audience. What happens to captive audiences? Higher prices (think of the cost of a hot dog at a Stadium or cost of popcorn at a movie theater vs on the street).

      2) we don’t only have a problem with uninsured people. we have a problem with UNDERinsured people. I see this every day in my practice. People don’t come in until the last minute when they’re at death’s door because their copays or their deductibles are too high. For instance, I just admitted a kid to the Intensive Care Unit for Diabetic Ketoacidosis. The bill will be around $20,000.
      The kid had been having symptoms for months, and bad symptoms for weeks, but the family’s deductible is $5,000 so didn’t come in until he fell into a coma.
      Had they come in anytime before Sunday the bill would have been a few hundred bucks.


      in the end Public health plans are SO much cheaper because
      -people get routine general medical care, much of which is proven to lower costs AND increase citizen productivity (healthy workers are more productive)
      and
      -it’s much cheaper to run one system than to run many systems.
      one system = one set of rules. as opposed to what we have now with countless systems and countless rules.
      -the CEO class in American Health Care just costs so much. For instance, just one guy, UHG CEO, makes $50-100M PER YEAR. How much does the State Employee who oversees Medicare make? (The head of MN Dept of Human Services as example). About $120k. so the cost of one CEO is about the same as the cost of 1,000 heads of State Medicaid programs.

      not only that:
      CEO of UnitedHealthGroup: $100M/year.
      Total Salary of every single employee of the MN Department of Human Services $332M.
      (DHS does a lot more than just run Medicare. They also do child protection, disability services, food stamps, welfare, etc).

      and then we wonder why costs are so high in American Medicine (or we jump right away to “Doctors make too much”, which I am not arguing pro or con in this post).

      1. aet

        reading your- and similar – comments about this,I feel that this fact ought to be kept in mind:

        The idea a perfection impossible to achieve can serve as an effective block to the realization of improvements which are possible to achieve.

        1. aet

          Oops, previously imperfect, now corrected:

          The idea of a perfection which is impossible to achieve can serve as an effective block to the realization of improvements which are possible to achieve.

        2. aletheia33

          @aet
          medicare for all is no ideal perfection state.
          it is just simple to achieve, on the practical level.
          the passage of obamacare was far from being a practical, incremental step taken in the face of a political stonewall.
          it was an act that set back progress in a very large way in the guise of making progress in a half-a-loaf way.
          where guile and looting enter into the political process as thoroughly as they do in this one, in what sense is it helpful to hew to the principle of half a loaf being better than none, or the best being the enemy of the good?

    2. Walter Wit Man

      I’m a lefty and I dislike ALL 9 of the fascists on the SC.

      Good analysis of the law. It’s a clusterfuck. No one that truly wanted to expand health care for the benefit of the majority of the people would have chosen this policy. It’s meant to enrich the fascists that control our government. Full stop.

      My guess is it passes because it is so important to the fascists. This is a big part of their austerity plans and this locks our country in a fascist hell for a while.

      There is no justice in this country and I would be willing to bet that Kennedy comes up with some convoluted rationale that upholds the law. I once was sucker enough to think the Supremes were sincerely finding the law . . . no longer.

      Kennedy rolls over and votes with the “liberals” (ha, ha, ha ).

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks for the summary. The hearing sounds entertaining in a sick way (and this also sounds like a bit of karma for Obama having an Attorney General who has been missing in action….when the Administration tries to argue something, it can’t make it look coherent!).

      The emergency room issue is a biggie and not talked about enough. It is a hugely expensive way to administer care. I’ve never seen anyone parse out how much of our bloated health care costs are due to that, but I bet it’s not trivial.

      The other thing that is not even remotely discussed enough is that our current model is crap. For middle and upper income people, being insured is terrible. You get OK coverage of routine care and the insurers do everything in their power NOT to cover what you really need, the big ticket care (accidents, cancer, etc). And Obamacare does NOTHING to improve the latter. Insurers use a “fraud” out, and not informing them of pre-existing conditions, no matter how trivial (like acne) is defined as fraud under case law. So they go over the records of anyone who suddenly is submitting big bills and cancels the coverage. I read (and failed to keep a link on it) a story based on Congressional testimony that parsed some factoids presented by an insurance exec, and the denial rate is 50%!!!!

      You lose money with insurance on routine coverage (regular exams, tests, routine medicine). We’d be much better off with a model of catastrophic coverage only for people who could afford the premiums, and subsidized coverage (both of catastrophic coverage and routine care) for everyone else.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        The denial rate is 50%? Crazy.

        If the health insurers were subject to bad faith insurance torts they would not be engaging in this behavior. They are obviously making up reasons to deny coverage in many instances they know they have to pay. I wonder how many of these policies are un-canceled after they have been canceled when the insured patient fights back.

        But Obamacare left intact antitrust exemption for the industry and the exemption from bad faith torts. So they get the gift of the mandate and still get to keep their preferential treatment of antitrust exemption and exemption from bad faith torts. Also, there is no real mechanism in Obamacare for regulating the services provided or the price charged (there is some, but it’s woefully inadequate).

        I too firmly believe we would be much better off if this fails and we have to start the reforms all over. Expanding Medicare is an incremental step forward, for instance. Obamacare is a trap. It appears to be a step forward but as you take that step you fall into shark infested waters.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It sounds like an additional insurance-business opportunity to sell you a coverage that will reduce your denial rate from 50% to say 40%.

          1. Walter Wit Man

            Yeah, would be interested in looking at the accurate numbers–but I’m sure these are obscure proprietary numbers.

            Most people have employer-based insurance so the pre-existing condition thing doesn’t apply to them. So cutting out the “fraud” excuse may mean that insurers are denying 40% instead of 50% of claims.

            In exchange for this slight benefit, we all will pay much more to these insurers.

      2. PQS

        Amen. One of the major, major failures of messaging during the entire ACA debate was the Administration’s failure to connect reform with how it affects middle class, paying customers of the insurance companies. (Beyond things like accepting pre existing conditions, which the President trumpeted AND is HUGELY popular.)

        I recall tons of handwringing about the Uninsured, which is all fine and great, but the RW is correct on this point: the Uninsured DO get care, just very expensively, and not quickly enough, via the ER. And the very poor have Medicaid, which isn’t great, but it is more than a person making over the limit in money without insurance can access.

        If you want middle class people to support a policy ostensibly designed to help them, you must inform them of how it will benefit them. Like so much else, the Admin didn’t do this effectively.

      3. barrisj

        Here is yet another example of the consequences of having a large portion of the US population out of any sort of healthcare scheme, and this is only ONE state…extend this the other other 49 and one will understand the breadth and depth of the current dilemma:

        Washington’s ’93 health overhaul faltered with loss of mandates

        Washington state is no stranger to the debate about the individual mandate now under way in the U.S. Supreme Court. In the early 1990s, the state created a comprehensive package using mandates and incentives to get all state residents insured. But when the package was dismantled, a spiral began that led insurers to stop selling individual policies.

        As the U.S. Supreme Court tackles the question of whether individuals can be required to buy health insurance — a key provision in the federal health-care overhaul — some in Washington state are battling a strong sense of déjà vu mixed with dread.

        They remember 1993, when state lawmakers passed a comprehensive state law aimed at insuring everyone and spreading the health-care expenses of the sickest throughout a large pool of policyholders.

        But the law, which relied on both mandates and incentives, was soon dismembered, leaving only popular provisions, such as prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to sick people or making them wait many months for coverage.

        Without any leverage to bring healthy people onto insurance rolls, insurers, left with the priciest patients, began a financial death spiral.

        Ultimately, companies pulled out of the individual market and almost no one in Washington could buy an individual policy for any price.

        For those involved, the lessons learned remain sharp as a scalpel.
        [more…]
        http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2017852301_insurancemandate28m.html

        And, even more appurtenant:

        Health-care freedom can be costly

        When it comes to health care, the price of freedom is turning out to be incredibly expensive

        With the U.S. Supreme Court debating Obamacare, talk of freedom has been ringing in the land.

        In a related story, this freedom of ours sure is getting expensive.

        Unnoticed as the debate rages over the mandate in the health-care reform, this state just passed a grim milestone. The amount of “charity care” delivered at state hospitals reached, for the first time, the $1 billion mark.

        The state hospital association reported last month that for 2011, the total medical bills not collected because people were judged too poor to pay was $1.1 billion in Washington. Five years ago, the figure was only half that.

        Another $895 million went uncollected in 2011 due to “bad debts” — which is when patients don’t pay their bills but are considered capable of doing so.

        Combined, the two figures mean local hospitals now face $2 billion in unpaid bills every year. And rising fast
        [more…]
        http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/dannywestneat/2017852188_danny28.html

        No “mandate” – no private health insureance, and any way that the Congress or Obama tries to finesse this truism in order to keep the “private sector” front-and-center in (universal) healthcare delivery will continue to flounder.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Good. That’s like saying slavery as an institution will falter unless the masters can use the whip.

          Fuck this corrupt system. We are better off having the existential fight right now. Delaying the fight against our fascist masters will simply give them the advantage. Obamacare is a trap to lull people down the merry road of neoliberal austerity. Obama is already cutting Medicare! He’s trying to cut Social Security! And now he’s doubling down on a corrupt insurance model!

          Of course he needs the whip of a mandate! Why would people like a system that is intended to harvest them for profit? Because the middle class also has a whip held above them they are tricked into applying the whip to those that aren’t as well off (those on Medicaid and those that can’t afford insurance). That’s what the mandate is.

          We are being whipped into being harvested by insurance companies. Companies whose business model is to suck unjust profits from the system and then hold hunger games style death panels, where they decide who lives or dies bases on your position in society.

    4. lambert strether

      “it is still singling out a portion of society to pay for a problem that they had absolutely no role in creating”

      So, you feel individuals should pay a weight surcharge on airline flights?

      I agree that the law is a mess, but that’s because health care isn’t amenable to market-based solutions — assuming that the goal of a health care system is health care, as opposed to the extraction of rents. That’s the real problem with Obamacare — it reinforces the rentiers, in this case, the health insurance companies, who add no value to any transaction, skim $350 billion a year, and kill a lot of people through denial and delay of care.

      The centrist solution is single payer, as in Canada.

      The “lefty” solution is a national health service.

      (TROLL PROPHYLACTIC No anecdotes, please. Here are the aggregregates you need.)

      It’s not surprising that Obamacare reinforces the rentiers. Obamacare originated in a plan written by the Heritage Foundation. Obamacare was first implemented as Romneycare. Obamacare was crafted as Federal Legislation by a Wellstone VP, Liz Fowler, operating on secondment to Max Baucus’s office. That history should tell you something about both legacy parties: On one of the greatest public policy issues of the day, they come down in more or less the same place. It should also tell you something about the career “progressives” who ran interference for Obama on the issue by censoring single payer advocates, and imposing a news blackout on single payer stories in their blogs. (PNHP’s Dr. Margaret Fowler got herself arrested in Max Baucus’s hearing room for civil disobedience because he wouldn’t hear from single payer advocates either, and she couldn’t buy a link from this guys.) The moral and intellectual collapse of the political establishment on health care, across the spectrum from so-called left to right, would be funny if people weren’t, like, dying.

    5. Lidia

      What radio station is this, that said only 7 million would have to pay out-of-pocket? A figure I read said that only 45% of people have health insurance through their employers.

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/11/us-usa-healthcare-insurance-idUSTRE7AA4AI20111111

      As a self-employed person (now living abroad but planning to relocate back to the US for family reasons), I would be paying out of pocket. And I’m 52. So I’d probably risk the penalty, frankly.

      1. aletheia33

        another option is to move to vermont.
        if you can possibly move your work here
        or work remotely.

        quality of life here is great–
        partly because the state makes decent
        health care coverage available to the self-employed
        at a decent price.

        you will get an honestly warm and F2F welcome
        from your interesting new neighbors.

        as for the winters, with all the beautiful snow,
        well they seem to be getting warmer …

  8. Max424

    re: Dr. Strangelove

    A pretty good primer piece. Some basic things should be cleared up, though.

    Our 450 land-based ICBM’s are not first strike missiles. The Minutemen Threes and their other, land based ICBM brothers, exist to handle the mystical retaliatory function. They represent the MAD principle –Mutual Assured Destruction. If you attack, we retaliate with the BIG BOYS, and all living things then die* –especially you.

    Our FIRST STRIKE nuclear missiles are located on our subs and surface ships. The reasons are; they get there quick (super quick when they’re close enough), they surface skip (furtively slip under easy radar detection), and they pack less punch (in other words, they don’t kill us while they’re killing them).

    Our FIRST STRIKE anti-ballistic missile systems are located everywhere. We are building out their killing capacity not only stateside, but in Eastern and Western Europe, in Japan, Taiwan, Iceland, Greenland, the Philippines, etc.; and in all the oceans and all the seas.

    The plan is this; without warning, we launch seaborne surface to surface mini-nukes augmented by every conventional weapons system we have in our arsenal. The Russians don’t have half an hour to respond, they have minutes.

    To make matters worse, the Russians are drawing their most vital information –and trying to make brutally hard decisions based on– a rundown, unreliable, archaic … oh let’s face it, an almost pathetically worthless radar network.

    Boom. Russian command and control centers everywhere are eviscerated. Boom. Dozens and dozens of Russian cities disappear. Boom. All across Mother Russia our nuclear bunker busting nukes and conventional sh*t strikes home. Boom. Before they know what hit em, not much of the former Soviet Union is left.

    But something survives! A few truck/mobile ICBM missile batteries in Siberia are still active, and they are aware the Motherland is under attack. They patriotically believe in MAD, so they launch!

    Sorry, Russkies. That’s why we have been surrounding you –at close range– with our SM III, THAD, and Patriot anti-ballistic missile and X-band radar early detection systems.

    We are going to know the precise moment and location of each of your handful of launches; and we’re going to shoot down whatever ICBMs have survived our initial attack, and we going shoot them down like clay pigeons over YOUR own territory (giggle!).

    *Except for the noble cockroach.

    Note: You want to do something about the “nuclear weapons problem,” then you need to address the anti-ballistic problem. AGAIN.

    The Bush administration scrapped the most important treaty ever signed, the 1973 ABM missile treaty –which made a first strike by either side unthinkable. Why? Why do you think? To make the unthinkable thinkable. To achieve the 50 year quest of Pentagon’s Missile Boyz, and to realize Holy Grail of Right Wing f*cktards everywhere, First Strike Capabilities Uber Alles.

    Until ABM proliferation is addressed, ideas involving dramatic and realistic nuclear draw downs are pointless fiction, or more probably, involve Fascist Americana blowing smoke up somebody’s ass –namely Russia and China (the smoke provided by the North Korean and Iranian “threat,” of course).

    1. Max424

      That should read

      “…namely Russia, China and the American press…

      The American press being the dumbest and most gullible sons-of-a-bitches that every existed on this planet.

      Remember Mikey from the old Life cereal commercials? The American press is the exact opposite. They’ll eat anything.

      They’re also full of boloney.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow5cHJx43i0

    2. Dave of Maryland

      Hello Max,

      It’s a nice fantasy and I have no doubt a lot in the Pentagon believe and hope and wish and pray for the day, but it’s entirely dependent on orbiting military satellites. And those satellites, I assure you, are under overall Russian control. As has been glimpsed from time to time, most recently with the Iranian capture of a US drone. (That drone should have known it was being compromised and self-destructed.)

      And it’s a very simple system. The US is overrun with dual-national US-Israeli spies. Israel, for its part, is overrun with dual-national Israeli-Russian spies. What sort of dual-national spies Russia is overrun with, I do not know. Old boy English chaps, perhaps?

      It is not a great leap of the imagination to guess that the software that actually runs US military satellites was written in Moscow, slipped to the Israelis, who then slipped it into NASA. The result: Russia doesn’t need its own military. It has ours, and we are determined to spend ourselves to death on it.

      There’s got to be somebody in the Pentagon – some 33rd degree Mason, more or less – who lies awake at night, scared shitless, that the US will eventually cross some red line, whereupon the Russians will shut down the US military wholesale. Meanwhile the quest to find and eliminate backdoors must be roughly similar to Microsoft’s eternal quest to keep Windows from self-imploding, except that Pentagon software was expressly built with unknown backdoors already in place. Not only are the Russians eager to keep them there, they employ compromised Israeli programmers to do just that. For their part, the Israelis are eager to keep their own backdoors and employ compromised programmers here in the US, all with top secret clearances. A complete, dynamic, mess.

      You want more? US/Israeli government hackers wrote and released code expressly designed to find and disable Iranian military software. We have heard the Chinese are hacking away at the Pentagon. What do you suppose the prize really is? Military satellites are the weak link in the whole system.

      Now do you understand?

      1. Max424

        Do I understand? I think so. I just smoked a nice spleefer. The fog is lifting and the picture is becoming clear.

        The Russians hold dominion over the thoughts and actions of the Generals and Admirals in the Pentagon, as well as all the minds of our upper echelon military personnel (including the brain of our Fascist-in-Chief).

        They do this by blasting subliminal signals at our Top Leader People via our own “captured” satellites.

        And any day now, the Russkies are going to have us attack ourselves. We will believe we have made a decision to attach them, but we will really be reverse-attacking us; and we will be destroyed.

        The old counter-flashback-self/attack! Brilliant! Pass the J bar, WebSpinner, so I may ponder the complexities a little more.

        1. ambrit

          Good Fiends;
          Golly gee! What a load of fertilizer! Does anybody here still believe in the ‘Monolithic Communist Threat’ anymore? Man, even the Russians don’t. Look what happened to their country, er, empire, recently. It fell apart! Just like our country, er, empire, is starting to fall apart now! In conditions like these, prudent commanders plan for errors and screw ups, lots of them. Any, I repeat, any resort to thermonuclear weapons is the essence of MAD. “What me worry?” If you are a strategic planner, in any nations government, you worry about this all the time. It only takes one ‘incident’ to screw us all, or haven’t you studied up on the after effects of the Chernobyl and Fukushima civilian disasters?
          Seriously now, anyone who brings up the first strike option in government or ‘think tank’ circles should be declared a terrorist and whisked off to Gitmo. Finally, a just use for the Patriot Act! “We’ll Meet Again,” come on, everybody sing!

  9. Jim Haygood

    Joe Nocera of the New York Times-Titanic beats his little ‘good government’ tin drum:

    Charlie Peters is a supreme idealist who believes deeply in the good that government can do. Now 85, Charlie still believes that that government can make a difference in people’s lives.

    As Charlie spoke, it occurred to me that there is one agency in today’s government where you can still see that passion: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Last week, I went to Washington to spend some time with some of the bureau’s new employees.

    The last person I spoke to at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was Holly Petraeus, the wife of David Petraeus who leads the agency’s office for the military and their families. “I think there are still idealists in Washington,” she said. “And they work in this building.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/27/opinion/nocera-governments-not-dead-yet.html?_r=3&ref=opinion

    Never mind the shameless nepotism of a general’s wife getting a plum government job — an abuse that would be obvious to anyone but naive americanos. So much for ‘idealism’ — let’s use connections to line our pockets!

    No, the larger point is that permanent unwinnable wars led by people like David Petraeus are the single largest factor in draining the U.S. middle class of its assets and living standard.

    A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau salted with Washington insiders will ‘protect’ Americans like foxes guarding a henhouse.

    Dishing out mindless swill like Nocera’s article is what has made newspapers the fasting-shrinking business in America. I’m sure we can find something else to wrap fish with, after the Times-Titanic goes glub-glub-glubbing beneath the waves!

    1. dSquib

      Nocera might even be the most reliably trite regular NYT contributor going.

      Also, I’m unsure as to how the CFPB needs a “special” military office? (other than for good publicity, that is) Vets get ripped off in special ways?

    2. aletheia33

      @jim haygood

      unfortunately i fear the shrinking is mainly due to people preferring to get their mindless swill for free on the internet.

    3. Bill C

      @jim haygood:
      “Never mind the shameless nepotism of a general’s wife getting a plum government job…”

      This means that the Petraeus family will be drawing THREE government retirement pensions: General P’s top of the line military pension, his Civil Service pension, and his wife’s Civil Service pension, not to mention the top level health insurance that both will carry into retirement.

      Hopefully they’ll do a lot of “good” for us too.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Petraeus/Santorum 2016–the Roman Resurrection.

          Think of the campaign ads–I’m picturing a lot of military togas and swords and flames in the background.

          Two man gods of biblical proportions.

          1. Lambert Strether

            I’m betting on “a government of national unity to deal with the current crisis” with one D and one R on the national ticket (they could alternate, like Roman consuls).

            And rest assured that the necessary “crisis” will be prepared.

  10. Jim Haygood

    Yet another milestone achievement by Argentina’s wacky president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, early in her second term:

    (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Monday he was suspending trade benefits for Argentina because of the South American country’s failure to pay more than $300 million in compensation awards in two disputes involving American investors.

    Obama suspended Argentina, effective in 60 days, from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which waives import duties on thousands of goods from developing countries.

    It is first time a country has been suspended from the GSP program for failing to pay an arbitration award.

    “We urge the Government of Argentina to pay the subject awards,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement. “This would allow us to consider reinstating Argentina’s GSP eligibility and promote the growth of a mutually beneficial U.S.-Argentina trade and investment relationship.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/26/us-usa-argentina-trade-idUSBRE82P0QX20120326

    Getting kicked out of GSP is like being permanently expelled from school — it really takes some pretty bad behavior to incite such a drastic remedy.

    A rational government would go to considerable lengths to maintain its GSP benefits, particularly when it lacks access to international financing. But Fernandez de Kirchner’s political heritage is a swaggering, bloody-minded stripe of Peronist populism. Peronism achieved a global first: making Argentina the world’s only formerly developed economy.

    1. Walter Wit Man

      Isn’t this like a parent telling a child that its her fault that the parent has to beat the child? And the parent is an arbitrary and capricious brute?

      Sounds like blaming the victim to me. There is good reason for independent states not to participate in a rigged U.S. system.

    2. Walter Wit Man

      Plus, you’re incorrect about Argentina being the first formerly developed state falling into hell.

      Iraq performed the world’s first heart surgery and was a modern advanced state before the U.S. spent 2 decades killing more than a million people and bombing it back to the stone age and crippling it with sanctions. Sounds like the U.S. is simply adopting some of these economic warfare strategies with Argentina to get her in line.

      Hillary Clinton and other politicians are also threatening to do the same to another advanced civilization–the Persians. And in fact, the U.S. is attacking another advanced and ancient society, Syria, right now. As we speak.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        Actually, I’m trying to fact check Iraq pioneering open heart surgery and I may have misremembered this factoid. But I’m having trouble finding information on google.

        In any case I’m pretty sure Iraq had an advanced health care system before the U.S. attacked. Same thing in Libya. Sounds like Libyan health care under Ghaddafi was better than U.S. health care. Bet Libya will undergo neoliberal reforms and they will get to discover the joys of health insurance now.

    3. BondsOfSteel

      Wow… so the US goverment decided to slap Argentina to get it to pay Bank of America in full. Must be nice to have that kinda a collection agency.

      BTW, I’ve been to Argentina recently. Their ecconomy seems to be doing just fine. They kept enough of their industrial base that most products everyday Argentinian’s use are produced in Argentinia or regional trading partners.

    4. ginnie nyc

      Cristina Kirschner is not ‘wacky’, or any other pejorative in her management the Argentine economy. She is following the Latin American model of hoeing her own row. Your seem to have swallowed a load of, shall we say, State Department-sponsored conventional wisdom, being spread liberally throughout the media in defense of Bank of America.

  11. MacCruiskeen

    Re: Thefts at JFK. I’ve heard stories like that about other airports, so it does not seem so farfetched. I recently came back from Paris with a few hundred euros worth of chocolate and macarons in our carry-on bags (and my camera bag as well). No way I’d put that in checked baggage. What part of “an unlocked bag is not a secure place for valuables” don’t people understand?

  12. Don Levit

    An earlier commenter said that health insurers reward you for good health.
    Could you provide specific examples, particularly those that are significant?
    It is the healthy people that make the system work for the unhealthy.
    The typical, effective insurance system is one in which people do not want to ever collect on.
    Unfortunately, If the ACA passes, we will get 4 levels of plans, ranging from
    “actuarial equivalences” of 60% to 90%.
    What will the typical participant think when he buys the 90% plan?
    He will think he will be getting back 90 cents for every dollar he puts in.
    Unfortunately, the 90 cents per dollar is for the group, not per individual.
    If too many people get payouts, the premiums either will skyrocket, or the insurer goes bankrupt.
    Don Levit

  13. tyaresun

    Theft of checked baggage at JFK has been happening for at least 2 decades now. Nothing new. Also, unfortunately, I do not expect anything to be done either.

    1. aet

      Thefts from baggage are as ancient as the practise of hiring – or forcing – others to carry your bags.

      “An age-old problem.”

  14. Here we go again

    High end spanish hookers refusing banking clients?

    Don’t they know this will force bankers to deal with complex packaged street transvestites?

    This can only end badly.

  15. mk

    re: dolphins article, “Only humans and Shark Bay dolphins have multiple levels of social groups”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ hard to believe anyone actually knows and can prove this to be true. It’s like saying only humans use tools.

    Love the fly pic! Insects are beautiful and interesting close up.

    1. Walter Wit Man

      Nice try Obama ‘truth’ brigade member.

      Wrong!

      This new order applies to ’emergencies’ short of war or insurrection, as the constitution requires.

      Plus, the previous iterations of this law should have been held unconstitutional–but we have a fascist supreme court and government.

      This is a Supreme Court that okay-ed concentration camps for hell’s sake.

      Like most things about Obama, he took long standing illegal U.S. policy, like extrajudicial assassinations, spying on citizens, and the right to declare martial law beyond what the constitution allows, and expanded it. Sure, we have been fascist in this country since the great wars of last century, but Obama is taking us to a whole new hell.

      I’m sick of his apologists trying to sell his fascism.

      1. ohmyheck

        Yup. This is some info from another site:
        “This executive order may also be a way of superseding the sale to other countries of our lands and resources and bringing them all back under the President and Homeland Security.”

        Excerpt:

        Sec. 201. Priorities and Allocations Authorities. (a) The authority of the President conferred by section 101 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071, to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense, is delegated to the following agency heads:
        (1) the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer;
        (e) “Food resources” means all commodities and products, (simple, mixed, or compound), or complements to such commodities or products, that are capable of being ingested by either human beings or animals, irrespective of other uses to which such commodities or products may be put, at all stages of processing from the raw commodity to the products thereof in vendible form for human or animal consumption. “Food resources” also means potable water packaged in commercially marketable containers, all starches, sugars, vegetable and animal or marine fats and oils, seed, cotton, hemp, and flax fiber, but does not mean any such material after it loses its identity as an agricultural commodity or agricultural product.
        (f) “Food resource facilities” means plants, machinery, vehicles (including on farm), and other facilities required for the production, processing, distribution, and storage (including cold storage) of food resources, and for the domestic distribution of farm equipment and fertilizer (excluding transportation thereof).
        They can take charge of all aspects of food production and processing.
        control energy:
        PART II – PRIORITIES AND ALLOCATIONS
        Sec. 201 …
        (2) the Secretary of Energy with respect to ALL FORMS of energy; …
        ——————–
        PART VIII – GENERAL PROVISIONS
        Sec. 801. Definitions.
        (b) “Energy” means all forms of energy including petroleum, gas (both natural and manufactured), electricity, solid fuels (including all forms of coal, coke, coal chemicals, coal liquification, and coal gasification), solar, wind, other types of renewable energy…
        control working for no money:
        Sec. 502. Consultants. The head of each agency otherwise delegated functions under this order is delegated the authority of the President under sections 710(b) and (c) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2160(b), (c), to employ persons of outstanding experience and ability without compensation and to employ experts, consultants, or organizations. The authority delegated by this section may not be redelegated
        PART V – EMPLOYMENT OF PERSONNEL
        Sec. 501. National Defense Executive Reserve. (a) In accordance with section 710(e) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2160(e), there is established in the executive branch a National Defense Executive Reserve (NDER) composed of persons of recognized expertise from various segments of the private sector and from Government (except full time Federal employees) for training for employment in executive positions in the Federal Government in the event of a national defense emergency.
        (b) The Secretary of Homeland Security shall issue necessary guidance for the NDER program, including appropriate guidance for establishment, recruitment, training, monitoring, and activation of NDER units and shall be responsible for the overall coordination of the NDER program. The authority of the President under section 710(e) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2160(e), to determine periods of national defense emergency is delegated to the Secretary of Homeland Security.

        Sorry for the long comment, but this person felt that this info was worth culling from the Executive Order and for people to be aware of it. I’m hoping people alot smarter than me might be able to dissect it better.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Here’s the full order: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/16/executive-order-national-defense-resources-preparedness

          It’s confusing.

          It discusses implementing “authorities”, which I basically read as the organization of the government. So basically it is setting up an alternative government in a time of crisis, that doesn’t follow the normal rules. It seems to anticipate this being done at the agency levels, giving the head of agencies more power.

          The order also says the “authorities” will be implemented by further order, I guess, (sec. 104, “Implementation”) after feedback from the agencies, like Homeland Security.

          So this is layer upon layer of obfuscation. It’s confusing on purpose. Who knows what our secret government is set up to do. This is just there half-assed public explanation for their secret fascist government.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        Now that’s a better way of describing it.

        But it looks like an enabling order of an enabling act (Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (50 U.S.C. App. 2061 et seq.), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code)), with the final rules or orders or ‘authorities’, either vague or left to be determined.

        Very confusing.

        I’m very suspicious that all the mainstream descriptions simply say “nothing to see here, move along.”

  16. rcyran

    Yves, doesn’t the study show that male bankers take more risks when they are in a mixed sex environment? (it doesn’t say women bankers are riskier).

    There’s some evidence this may be true….from skateboarding. (I certainly noticed this, and umm, was guilty of similar behavior when I was a teenager). See abstract below.
    ———————————————-

    The authors report a field experiment with skateboarders that demonstrates that physical risk taking by young men increases in the presence of an attractive female. This increased risk taking leads to more successes but also more crash landings in front of a female observer. Mediational analyses suggest that this increase in risk taking is caused in part by elevated testosterone levels of
    men who performed in front of the attractive female.

    http://www2.psy.uq.edu.au/~billvh/R&vH.SPPS.10.pdf

    1. joel3000

      “Another day in June, we’ll pick eleven for football
      We’re playing for our lives, the referee gives us fuck-all
      I saw you in the corner of my eye on the sidelines
      Your dark mascara bids me to historical deeds”

      -Another Sunny Day – Belle & Sebastian

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      From the experiment and analyses, it seems:

      A man can not do what he wants with his body.

      Women decide what he will do.

  17. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Mega Millions lottery jackpot: $476 million.

    Another wealth-concentration scheme – taking money from the 99.99% to make a new addition to the 0.01%.

    1. Walter Wit Man

      And my local news is all over it.

      Interesting to me to see the division of labor between the national media and the local media as far as delivering our propaganda.

      1. Maximilien

        Jackpot $500 million (before taxes). After taxes, what, $300 million? Odds of winning 1 in 176 million. So, mathematically speaking, a rational bet.

        Realistically however, always an irrational one, since no bet that will only pay off once in ten thousand lifetimes can be rational.

      2. ambrit

        Maam;
        Forget the wagering side of this transaction. Let’s talk about the deeply regressive taxation aspect to it. (When the Lottery was first sold to Louisianians, it was crafted as a revenue stream for the states educational system. The very first year it delivered any funds to said system, the State Legislature decreased the states budget for education a suspiciously similar amount, and sent the ‘saved’ revenue back to the general fund. Suddenly, the state had ‘excess’ funds, which, in true ‘Politico’ fashion, were graciously ‘given back’ to the suffering taxpayers as lowered tax rates.) And so it goes.
        In some respects, the Puritans had it right.

  18. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Dolphin society is run by gangs –

    It reads more like armies than gangs, but out there in the wild, sorry, nature, does it matter what you call them?

    By the way, it’s interesting that when one group of dolphins runs into another, no male dolphins ‘migrate’ (legal or otherwise, voluntarily or otherwise) into another group. Only female dolphins are captured. These intelligent animals entertain no human notion of immigration. Roaming yes, immigration no. Maybe they are just smart but not wise.

  19. Hugh

    Reading Haaretz is like wandering into a Hall of Mirrors at an amusement park. It’s all weird distortions. Jeffrey Goldberg is insightful and to be cited as an expert??? In what universe? The Haaretz article is just part of the same noise machine. The Israeli leadership is really, really serious about attacking Iran. It never seems to occur to the author to point out that not just this government but most of the Israeli political spectrum is filled with fascist warmongerers. It seems more than a stretch that the author is shocked that they would act any differently than they are.

    If anything this should serve as an object lesson to the rest of us. Our political spectrum is filled with corporatist kleptocrats. It is just as bizarre for us to think they will act like anything else.

  20. Hugh

    Kim was chosen as a sympathetic “ethnic” face for the World Bank who will not challenge the Bank’s neoliberal policies nor its American domination.

    1. Walter Wit Man

      Yeah, that is maddening propaganda.

      That guy is amazed that that he can’t find good help after he literally locks his doors on the days unemployed people come looking for jobs and only hires temporary workers. He runs his plant 24 hours a day 4 days a week rather than more normal hours–which sucks for the employees that have to work night shifts. And he probably doesn’t provide medical or other benefits.

      And looking at the location, a car or personal ride is required to get to work.

      $10/hour a full time work is roughly $20,000/year.

    2. PQS

      My favorite was the last guy:

      “Elsewhere in the world, workers have a survival mentality. They know they have to give 110% to keep their jobs. In this country, we give public assistance and unemployment. That allows us not to be as driven.”

      Yeah, baby! What we really need in America are more sweatshops to keep everybody motivated! Oh, and no more public assistance or unemployment (which is insurance that I pay into as a worker) just to keep everybody on their toes! That’ll do it! We’re No. 1!

      And he brags about hiring people at $30K a year in New York City. You can’t even live in Seattle on $30K a year.

      That little slice of American Bidness Acumen was startling in its narrowmindedness and slavish adherence to the Bootstrap Mentality Bullshit.

      1. World Traveler

        I regularly go to a motivated dentist in one of our Mexican border towns. The ones we have here are lazy as hell.

        But every time I’m there I just can’t help meeting a young, good looking gal just by walking down the street. Must be my rugged Aryan good looks and toned physique, is all I can think of.

        I don’t speak Spanish and they barely speak English, but last time I was there, she was able to get the message across that we should go for a drink at the best hotel in town. Normally I balk at this but, I already new the Cokes are $1 there (I have numerous border agents, checkpoint personnel and police to get by on my drive home) and drinks are $2. So I say sure, might be fun and lets get to know a local.

        So the conversation in Spanglish, drawing pictures on a napkin, and asking the waiter for translation ensued.

        I found out she works at one of the many pharmacies that sprung up on the border where gringos, er Americans, can get drugs at world prices, maybe, if they don’t screw you too. She makes about $4 and hour which is only a little below the official the minimum wage in Mexico. But there is the cost of living. As is so typical, she was married with two kids, but hubby disappeared. She lives with mom who has a house way far away on the other side of town from her border job. She takes a bus, $3
        each way, and also a taxi the rest of the way. $5 min for the taxi each way. I do the math in my head. $32 gross income a day, $16 transportation cost to work.

        My jaw drops. I say “How do you make ends meet?”

    3. PQS

      Oh, and I checked – apartments in Manitowoc start at around $500/month for a 1 bedroom. And I’m pretty sure in Wisconsin you’re going to pay the heating bill in the wintertime.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        So our hypothetical worker makes roughly $18,500 before taxes for the year.

        Let’s say he takes home $15,500 after taxes.

        Rent= $6,000
        Heat/electricity/utilities= $1,000
        phone/internet= $600
        Food=$4,000
        Car=$5,000
        clothes=$250

        Oops, on those basic assumptions our worker is spending more than he is taking in–by at least $1,250 and we haven’t even included health care! Not to mention entertainment, gifts, vacations, or anything fun.

        On top of all that you probably have to work the graveyard shift.

    1. Maximilien

      I checked out the RI. One question:

      When significant numbers of non-fundamentalists link to the RI, does that affect it in any way? Cuz that’s gotta be a sign, a portent, an omen of some kind.

  21. different clue

    I predict, based on the most simple-minded mechanistic theory imaginable, that the Roberts Court will rule that the Forced Mandate is comPLETEly constitutional, thank you very much.

    Roberts will vote for the Forced Mandate. He will round up 4 others to drag Forced Mandate over the finish line. Thomas and probably Scalia will vote against Forced Mandate.

    I don’t know how the court will vote on all the rest of it.

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