Friday, November 09, 2007

"You Can Take the Oath in Your New Office, Mr. Attorney General"

Mister "I-Can't-Tell-You-If-Waterboarding-Is-Torture" is now officially the highest ranking "law enforcement" officer in the land.

OK, OK, I confess...just make it stop!

Is there room in the new circle for insurance company executives?

One of [California's] largest health insurers set goals and paid bonuses based in part on how many individual policyholders were dropped and how much money was saved.

Woodland Hills-based Health Net Inc. avoided paying $35.5 million in medical expenses by rescinding about 1,600 policies between 2000 and 2006. During that period, it paid its senior analyst in charge of cancellations more than $20,000 in bonuses based in part on her meeting or exceeding annual targets for revoking policies, documents disclosed Thursday showed.

The revelation that the health plan had cancellation goals and bonuses comes amid a storm of controversy over the industry-wide but long-hidden practice of rescinding coverage after expensive medical treatments have been authorized.

These cancellations have been the recent focus of intense scrutiny by lawmakers, state regulators and consumer advocates. Although these "rescissions" are only a small portion of the companies' overall business, they typically leave sick patients with crushing medical bills and no way to obtain needed treatment.

Original graphic work here.
GOP Love Beads

"How ya feeling, Condi...huh-huh..."

Rethuglican family values--date rape drugs in children's toys. But hey, the market will correct itself--right?

Seven more U.S. children were sickened after ingesting Chinese-made toy beads that were recalled earlier this week because of a toxic chemical coating, the government said Friday.

The reports of the sickened children, six of whom were hospitalized, came from at least five states: Texas, Delaware, New Hampshire, Illinois and Utah, according to a spokeswoman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The agency recalled the Spin Master Aqua Dots toy Wednesday after two children were knocked unconscious, and then hospitalized, by eating beads covered with a chemical that metabolizes into the compound gamma hydroxy butyrate -- the so-called date-rape drug.

The compound can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.
War Game Boy in Chief

I'm not sure who created the picture above (I first saw it here), but I never expected it to be a more or less accurate illustration to a straight news story.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son...

I'm not kidding: Chuck Colson (yes, THAT Chuck Colson) asserts a religious justifcation for waterboarding...WWJT: Who Would Jesus Torture?

And who would know the effects of torture better than Jeeeesus?
Friends Don't Let Friends Take Perp Walks

And that's really a damned shame.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Giving the Surge Time

Just playing through...

Here's a surge that's "working," so to speak--the surge in homeless veterans:

More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead.

Experts who work with veterans say it often takes several years after leaving military service for veterans’ accumulating problems to push them into the streets. But some aid workers say the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear to be turning up sooner than the Vietnam veterans did.

Well, that's showing support for the troops, wingnuts.

And just wait till they start REALLY showing symptoms of PTSD...and actually, that's no joke. I've posted before about this, and no doubt will again at some point. If Tim McVeigh and John Allen Mohammed reacted so insanely to a relatively easy (emphasis on "relatively"--no war is genuinely easy)--anyway, if that's a reaction to Gulf War I, well, the sequel might well be an even greater horror story...
George 'n Jeeeesus

Thanks to Holden at First Draft for pointing to an, um...entertaining series, to be sure, regarding how Shrub got his soul saved, if you can imagine such a thing. (correction: ok, I'd only read part II when I posted this--my bad. The series is actually an excerpt from a book by Craig's still worth a look, though)

Part I.

Part II.

I'll be watching for Part III tomorrow.
Give & Take

OK, to be sure, it's not like Vic Svec, Peabody’s senior vice president for investor relations and communications (pictured above with his good buddy Chairman Mao) is actually going to see or read this post...but if he's going to imply that Kathleen Sebelius is somehow playing comsymp to wingnuttia's latest über-villains, then maybe he should be reminded that if "the global energy markets are interconnected," (his words) then pushing for coal-fired plants directly aids and abets coal the People's Republic of China.

Or maybe he should grow up and adopt a more mature tone when it comes to lobbying for his cause...just sayin.'
Democracy, Central Asian Style

All those in favor of Musharraf, please raise your foot!

And, maybe it's just me, but after a year or so of reading about weird GOP fetishes ranging from the likes of Mark Foley to Richard Curtis to Ted Haggard to Larry Craig to "Reverend" Gary Aldridge, hearing Shrub insist that Pervez "take off his uniform" sounds, I don't know, just a little...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Toxins for Thee, But Not for Me...

Not fit for FEMA

Personally, I'd take this whole assclown administration and lock 'em in FEMA trailers until they demonstrated some focus and/or commitment to rebuilding a city lost because of their incompetence. Goddamned shits:

CBS News has learned that while telling the residents of its trailers that it is still working on the formaldehyde problem, it appears it prohibits its own staff from even briefly stepping inside trailers once residents have moved out.

We obtained these exclusive emails that show the reason why: It is just too dangerous, Keteyian reports.

In an Oct 19 email, a worker asks if there is "any safety reason you know of that says we can't go into a [deactivated or previously used] trailer quickly to shut a vent."

The response from the director of the Baton Rouge office, Jon Byrd, said, "the issue is formaldehyde."

FEMA's response/defense is that this only applies to trailers "in storage." if trailers "in storage" either haven't been used or won't be. This latest excuse is about as valid as Shrub insisting that Iraq isn't a quagmire. This latest sorry episode underscores the fact that this administration isn't merely the worst ever, but also the most far.

Here's the Bush administration, keeping us safe:

Air travelers are asking for trouble if they show up for a flight with 3.5 ounces of shampoo in their carry-on bags. But the Department of Homeland Security has decided that the government should not even trouble chemical plants to account for the storage of anything under 2,500 pounds of deadly chlorine. The department’s new rules on reporting stockpiles of toxic chemicals, issued last week, have certainly made the industry happy. They should make the public worried...

The Bush administration has shown repeatedly, however, that it does not want to impose reasonable safety requirements on chemical plants. That may have to do with its general opposition to regulations, or it could be connected to the enormous amount of money the chemical industry spends on lobbying and campaign contributions. The industry does not want to bear the expense of serious safety rules, and it fights them furiously. In a recent study, Greenpeace reported that the chemical industry spent more money in a year lobbying to defeat strong chemical plant legislation than the Department of Homeland Security spent on chemical plant security.

The rules the department issued last week are far too lax about when facilities need to report stockpiles of chemicals like chlorine, fluorine and hydrogen fluoride to the government. According to the new rules, which watered-down proposed rules that the department had released in April, a chemical plant does not have to report the storage of 2,499 pounds of chlorine, even if it is located in a populated area -- or across from an elementary school.

If 450 pounds of chlorine are stolen, enough to cause mass casualties, the theft need not be reported. Chlorine has been used by insurgents in Iraq, and it is high on the list of chemicals that should be kept out of terrorists’ hands.

It is troubling that these industry-friendly rules were developed in part by Department of Homeland Security employees who previously worked for the chemical industry -- and who may one day work for it again. Rick Hind, the legislative director of the Greenpeace Toxics Campaign, contends that such employees have had an "undue influence." The department says it draws on former chemical industry workers simply because of their "relevant prior experience."

And if there is a disaster, well, the idea of equal protection--not to mention common defense and general welfare--is so out of touch with a modern, global marketplace:

Mills said that Sovereign Deed is focused on helping people in urban areas plan to survive a major disaster.

Mills said that Sovereign Deed would offer planning and rescue services to subscribers who pay a "country club type membership fee." Basic service, he said, would involve a one time $50,000 fee and $15,000 per year.

"The reality of FEMA is that is has no infrastructure, and a lot of our National Guard is elsewhere fighting the war," Mills said. "You never know what could happen. A hurricane, a terrorist attack, a nuclear power plant going bad -- it doesn't matter, you make concentric circles, you get a plan."

Well, that certainly implies freedom of choice--you want a country club membership or do you want your sorry assed saved should apocalypse day come? least if you've actually GOT fifty grand plus yearly dues lying around...
Today's Lesson...

Is distinguishing between a Loonie and a Loon. all The Wrong Places

You just can't make this stuff up:

The FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists.

The idea was that a spike in, say, falafel sales, combined with other data, would lead to Iranian secret agents in the south San Francisco-San Jose area.
Actually More of a Horror Movie

Starring Rudy as the waterboarder-in-chief.




And here's bonus coverage of Ms. Tiara.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fit for Duty

A arrest record for minor offenses--or, as the military recruiters say, "youthful indescretions" ( too, Hyde)--is no longer an impediment to military service.

But I'd hate to serve in a unit with Shrub and Dick. One's so stupid, and the other so evil...bad things...
Fun Times at DHS

The prize winning costume goes to...

Julie Myers demonstrates her maturity and qualifications for the position of Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement at DHS...which had nothing whatsoever to do with her being Richard Myers' daughter (correction) niece. Nope. Not at all.
Bring Your Visa Card

I thought we were entering the era of designer oil when it was only around $80 dollars a barrel. Yeesh.
What You Paid For...

Of course, it's embarrassingly obvious that "the Iraqi people" in the eyes of wingnuttia have never been more than an abstract construct designed to justify revenge and aggression fantasies. That said, you'd think some of these assclowns might be shamed enough at the sheer volume of dollars being bandied about to, oh, I don't know, actually build something decent as well as profiteer on a literally unprecedented scale.


More than a year after the Parsons Corporation, the American contracting giant, promised Congress that it would fix the disastrous plumbing and shoddy construction in barracks the company built at the Baghdad police academy, the ceilings are still stained with excrement, parts of the structures are crumbling and sections of the buildings are unusable because the toilets are filthy and nonfunctioning.

The article notes the contractor used "bad pipes" for the sewage system, a reflection of a similar concession to abject greed in New Orleans...which demonstrates a consistency in Team Bush vanality as well as incompetence.

And, back to the topic at hand, there are plenty of reports and blog posts noting that 2007 has been the most dangerous year for US service personnel in Mesopotamia. So much for surge, not to mention Baker-Hamilton (remember that?).
Sinn Féin, Indeed

First, credit for the title where it belongs--with Dr. Morris, of course.

Today's Pravda-Upon-Hudson has another NOLA update (and definitely take a look at the slide show). While politicians and their hired scumsuckers like Ed Blakely alternately preen and dither when not devoting themselves to gluttony, literal or otherwise, the citizens of New Orleans, on their own, continue the fight to rebuild:

This city has always been known for its eclectic housing styles — Greek Revival, Italianate, Creole. Now emerging is what could be called a posthurricane vernacular, wide-ranging architectural responses to what everyone here refers to simply as the Storm.
(note: The Storm? More like "the flood")

There is what could be called the Defensive style, houses jacked up so high on pilings that they look as if they might teeter over or take wing.

There is also the Defiant style: pristine houses with columned porches painted in storybook pastels. These are surrounded by houses with boarded-up windows and padlocked doors; FEMA trailers still in the front yard; arrested construction because of a shortage of contractors; or empty lots with nothing left but corroding concrete foundations...

Michelle Stroud’s husband took four months off from his job installing security cameras to add a front porch to their new traditional-style home in Lakeview (a badly damaged area in the northwest section of the city), move the entrance from the side to the front to make the house more welcoming and install lighting and fans.

Still, Ms. Stroud, 39, says she gets a little nervous at night when her husband works late, and she is alone with her two daughters. The street is still largely uninhabited, and there are no services nearby. "It’s kind of eerie," she said. "After two years, some houses haven’t even been knocked down. It would be nice to have a gas station or a food store."

Despite Alzheimer’s disease and a post-Katrina divorce, Bob Murphy, 65, managed to renovate his traditional home on Hidalgo Street in Lakeview. "I’m pretty good with a crowbar now -- I know how to knock out Sheetrock," he said. His house’s columns, now longer-lasting tin instead of their former wood, came from Lowe’s; the kitchen countertops and bathroom tile from Home Depot; the cleaning supplies from Wal-Mart. "You name it, we hit it," Mr. Murphy said.

Kathleen Mayer, 42, moved her family into a 1,525-square-foot modular cottage on Vicksburg Street in Lakeview while the 5,100-square-foot stucco-and-brick house that she and her husband are building a few streets away is under construction. Their temporary home, where the Mayers are living with their three children and a dog, is eight feet above the base flood mark. "Better safe than sorry," Ms. Mayer said.

Gilbert St. Germain, 66, raised his home on Louis XIV Street, also in Lakeview, three feet, plowing $300,000 into a slab brick house he paid $58,500 for in 1977. His contractor, Arthur Virgadamo, said New Orleans was getting a bum rap for dragging its heels.

"Everybody says we’re going slow, but how many metropolitan cities have been wiped out?" said Mr. Virgadamo, 51. "I think we’re doing pretty good."

Pretty good is an understatement, if you ask me.

Monday, November 05, 2007

If It's Monday...

Another Rethug operative is guilty.
Toture--a LONG History of NOT Working

Surburban Guerrilla reminds us that today is Guy Fawkes Day. Check out the Harpers article she links to.
Rising Above Groveling for Cash

Krugman notes something I've long considered a real problem for any sort of genuine progressive change, that is, the reliance of Democrats on the same corporate donor base as the Rethugs, which kind slams the door shut if you think about it...

To be fair, he notes that, even still, there certainly are differences vis-a-vis the major parties on some issues...for example, Democrats want to fund S-CHIP, Rethugs prefer money going to death and destruction, with of course a substantial portion diverted to the wallets and coffers of their golf-buddies. Nonetheless, it's telling that progressives really have to settle for the lesser of evils, while on the flip side, supporters of evil have a veritable smorgasbord of options.

Of course, having a media that consists of one flat-out Rethug tool plus a handful of large corporations pushing--duh--a corporate line, doesn't add up to a lively debate. Indeed, I find it interesting that these days we've got both a government and media marching in lockstep virtually 180 degrees from the positions of a majority of the public...though right in line with those passing out the paychecks.

Then again, considering the outright contempt they're showing for "democracy" in Central Asia, I guess it's not all that surprising they display a rather substantial contempt for the same right here...
Two of a Kind

The Decider and the Democrat.

So much for this...