Category Archives: Vile Commerce

I drink because I’m worried, people; I don’t drink because I’m dry

Updated 11.22.2013

I know that there are millions of Americans who are content with their health care coverage — they like their plan and, most importantly, they value their relationship with their doctor. They trust you. And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. (Applause.) If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. (Applause.) No one will take it away, no matter what. My view is that health care reform should be guided by a simple principle: fix what’s broken and build on what works.”

          — Barack Obama

I’ve seen a number of Obamacare supporters arguing that the President’s promises about keeping plans and doctors carried a silent qualifier to the effect of “if they’re compliant with the new regimen.” Somewhat less frequent but still common are remarks to the effect that people whose plans have been cancelled should have known better, or that they’re stupid to want to keep their crappy plans. Probably they should have known (although Obama supporters who are ordinarily incensed with people who don’t take the President at his word are now incensed with people who did). Maybe they are stupid. Regardless, we wouldn’t be having this discussion if the President hadn’t lied — and it was a lie — repeatedly. Supporters of the legislation thought that the illusion of choice was critical to the success of the effort. The promises were an epic bait-and-switch, rivalled only by the disappearance of the vaunted “public option.”

In the excerpt from Obama’s 2009 address to the American Medical Association, the line about keeping one’s health care plan, period, is, I suppose naturally, subordinate to the line about keeping one’s doctor, period. Can you spot the silent qualifier in that clause? Yeah, me neither. And with the furor over the cancelled plans on temporary hiatus, awaiting the verdict on the state of the federal exchange in nine days and the verdict of insurers and regulators on extending the plans, the problem of losing one’s doctor is about to take center stage.

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I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore

Updated 11.20.2013

“I think we probably underestimated the complexities of building out a website that needed to work the way it should,” [President Obama] told the annual meeting of the Wall Street Journal CEO Council.

The [security] experts said the site needed to be completely rebuilt to run more efficiently, making it easier to protect. They said HealthCare.gov runs on 500 million lines of code, or 25 times the size of Facebook, one of the world’s busiest sites.

One of the most important repairs remaining deals with the information pages that the system provides to insurers about coverage applicants. These so-called “834s” have been riddled with erroneous information and, despite weeks of repairs, they continue to spit out incorrect data.

The enrollment, to give you a general sense of what’s happening, for a health plan that might have to sign-up 100,000 people in order to get their share of the 7 million Obama administration’s national enrollment objective, has grown from perhaps 10-15 enrollments a day a few weeks ago to 40-50 a day now … Backroom error rates being committed by Healthcare.gov, when enrollment data are transmitted to the health plans, are still far too high to transition to high volume processing without serious customer service issues.

The last quote is from an insurance industry insider, so take that into account in whatever fashion you think appropriate. I was too lazy to google the security experts cited in the bit about that aspect of the site, but 500 million lines of code? Holy crap. Can that be true?
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We can do better than this

Below the fold you’ll find the first in a series of “Medicare for All” graphics I’m developing. At the moment they’re just to look at, but they’ll include a call to action as soon as The Search Committee finds an appropriate one.

The ongoing Obamacare drama presents an opportunity to raise the visibility of single-payer and to draw new adherents to it from a variety of positions. Everybody everywhere likes them some Medicare, except the people whose profits are diminished by it. Nobody likes insurance companies, except the people whose profits depend on them. This is one of those rare moments when just about everybody is talking about health care and 90% of the people who are talking about it are saying “lord god this is fucked up.”
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All across America, insurance company executives and insurance commissioners are doing spit takes

(Updated 11/14/2013)

Obamacare: despise it or hate it, it’s now the law of the land and we all need to accept it and make it … wait, what’s that? The President just changed the law? Okay then.

As you know, people and Republicans have been making a big noise, first about the continuing web site enrollment woes, and then about insurance company customers who are getting cancellation notices for their insurance policies after the President emphatically said for three years that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” (You most likely couldn’t keep your plan but in fairness to the President, he probably thought nobody would want to.) In response to this less than joyful noise, the administration has come up with an administrative fix that they think will put the screws to the insurance companies they blame for the mess, but is almost certain to backfire: they’re allowing insurers to reinstate the cancelled plans if the various state insurance commissioners permit it.
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From Newtown to Kabul, the sounds of freedom

Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. doesn’t say what sounds “close-air support overhead” resembles, probably on the assumption that his audience, readers of the American Forces Press Service, do not need a description. He does say that the sounds “are often referred to as “the sounds of freedom,”” although he doesn’t say by whom.

A number of the accounts of the mass murder in Newtown featured descriptions of the sounds of the attacks. One parent said his son told him the shots sounded like “cans falling.” The office intercom was on, so teachers and children heard the murder of the school principal — screams and such. Children hidden in one classroom reportedly heard their teacher tell the killer that all her students were in the gym, and then they heard him shoot her and leave the room. Children heard doors slamming, locks sliding home, the janitor running through the halls warning of the killer.

“Cans falling;” “pop-pop-pop;” “big bangs;” “really loud pots were banging.” The New York Post is featuring a “compilation of sounds from the scene at the Newtown school shooting” derived from television news reports and raw footage in the immediate aftermath.

Probably people being bombed or strafed or missiled have their own language for what close air support sounds like, what the attacks from any source sound like, but afterward we know they will have sounded like death and doom. So Death and Doom sound like cans falling or pots banging, or thunder, or doors slamming, or some noise so loud you can only feel it.

The sounds of freedom.

Along with whatever we spent on whatever tonnage of bullets and bombs and missiles we shot at or dropped on people, the US last year sold $63 billion worth of weapons to variously questionable actors in the world to use in variously questionable activities. Second-place Russia only managed $5 billion. Americans spent more on weapons, ammunition and accessories for personal use than did Russia’s international clientele. Russia has some work to do; perhaps they should market more to Americans.

Americans — normal, generally well-regarded ones, careerists — routinely blow up children, and sometimes their schools. This is at the behest of the President — acting on behalf of the people — who said in response to the murders in Newtown that “each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would — as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”

Although there have been a number of US drone strikes and manned air strikes in which mostly women and children were killed, the President has never said about them that “[t]he majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

Typically the administration denies that what happened, happened; sometimes they’ll allow as how it did but was an accident. We regret the accident. The administration now says anyone old enough to hold a gun and young enough to walk with it is a valid target unless proved otherwise after we’ve killed them. More recently, more specifically, a US Army colonel in Afghanistan said that “[i]n addition to looking for military-age males, [we’re] looking for children with potential hostile intent.” He described this as an opening of the aperture. Possibly this isn’t all that different from the thought process that went into Friday’s killings; an aperture was clearly opened.

The story from Sgt. Marshall ends with a comment from the commander of the Kyrgyzstan base (which is not a base but a “transit center,” with not a commander but a “director”) that is his subject. Of the US personnel there, the commander says “They are very impressive,” he said. “Our airmen, every day, are interacting with Kyrgyz nationals … they are great ambassadors for the U.S. and help the Kyrgyz people see what democracy means.”

Yes, very likely. Very likely we’re teaching them both the sights and the sounds of freedom.

In which we use prison labor to make body armor to sell overseas

I like to read the contract notices issued by the Pentagon. On a good day you can watch billions and billions of dollars go out the door in support of blowing various things and people up. Among the beneficiaries of today’s contracts is UNICOR, the government corporation that contracts prison labor to make stuff for the federal government.

Federal Prison Industries Inc. (UNICOR), Washington, D.C., was awarded a $75,000,000 firm-fixed-price contract. The award will provide for the modification of an existing contract to procure outer tactical vests in support of Foreign Military Sales. Work will be performed in Yazoo, Miss., with an estimated completion date of Aug. 25, 2013. The bid was solicited through the Internet. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is the contracting activity (W91CRB-08-D-0045).

The Foreign Military Sales program is the government’s weapons-dealing branch, which did some $66 billion in business last year under the Nobel Peace Prize president, up almost 300% from the previous year. Why are we selling so many weapons and support equipment to people, often of questionable moral character? Let’s let the government explain.

The Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program is the government-to-government method for selling U.S. defense equipment, services, and training. Responsible arms sales further national security and foreign policy objectives by strengthening bilateral defense relations, supporting coalition building, and enhancing interoperability between U.S. forces and militaries of friends and allies. These sales also contribute to American prosperity by improving the U.S. balance of trade position, sustaining highly skilled jobs in the defense industrial base, and extending production lines and lowering unit costs for key weapon systems.

I hadn’t really thought of the US gulag as part of the “defense industrial base,” but I suppose there’s no reason it shouldn’t be, nor any reason we shouldn’t be using slave labor to make things to sell to the likes of Qatar and other human-rights scofflaws who send billions of dollars back our way; indeed, there’s a pleasing symmetry to it. And no doubt the skills the prisoners learn will help them find a job on the outside with one of the many defense contractors who don’t consider federal felony convictions any bar to employment.

UNICOR doesn’t seem to get a lot of war department contracts — a very superficial look only turned up one previous award in the past year, $15 million for camouflage pants to be made at an unspecified Kentucky prison, and only about 10 in the past decade, less than a billion all told (again, that’s a very superficial search; could be more). Clearly our leaders are not fully exploiting the resources at their command.

Embargoed until release: President Obama’s Labor Day address

Disclaimer: this is not actually Barack Obama speaking at the site of the Loray Mill in Gastonia, North Carolina on Labor Day in 2012.

Thank you all for coming to Gastonia today.

When I delivered my Nobel Lecture in acceptance of the Nobel Committee’s prize for peace on December 10 of 2009, I did so in the knowledge that I had not earned it and did not deserve it. I told the assemblage that among those more deserving, “there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.”

In retrospect, I should have ended my speech there and left the stage. Because just as I did not deserve that prize, those people, “jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice,” did not deserve to be subordinated to my cause that night, which was not justice but justification of state violence applied to an inexcusably wide range of situations. And I stand before you today to make some small amends, to celebrate and justify our own who across the years have been and still are jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice, and I ask you all, and all other Americans, to celebrate and justify them with me.
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An epitaph for Obama: “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.”

Not long after the big Republican win in the 2010 elections, the Obama administration’s best and brightest gave up on explaining that putting people to work is really good for both the economy and for people who need work. The concept was too complicated for voters, they thought, so instead the president went off to negotiate with a crew of irresolute drunks and psychotic killer termites over how best to tighten the belt of government around the necks of the poor, the sick, the old and the unemployed.

This is according to David Corn’s new book, Showdown, which is apparently meant as a generous portrait of the administration.

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What do you do when somebody begs to be hunted down by a pitchfork mob?

I like to think of myself as a more than ordinarily empathetic guy, but this …

People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress.”

… smacks the gob in atomic fashion.

Schiff, 46, is facing another kind of jam this year: Paid a lower bonus, he said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex.

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

And all across the fucking country, people are thanking their lucky fucking stars that their lives are stress fucking free because they don’t have any fucking money. Pitchforks. Torches. Cleanup on Isle One.