just in case there was any doubt...

...about who would profit from the proposed elimination of a public option from the healthcare "reform" proposal rumored to be coming from the Senate Finance Committee, yesterday the major insurance company stocks "soared":
Shares of U.S. health insurers rose broadly on Tuesday on hopes a health reform bill would not include a government-run option, which has drawn strong opposition from insurers who fear it would destroy the private marketplace.

The S&P Managed Health Care index of large U.S. health insurers closed 6.5 percent higher.

Aetna rose 12.6 percent, Coventry was up 12.7 percent and Cigna was 7.7 percent higher, all on the New York Stock Exchange. Centene rose 7.9 percent.
As Teddy Partridge points out over at FDL:
Health insurance executives who have poured money into the campaign coffers of Blue Dogs, Max Baucus, Chuck Grassley, Kent Conrad, Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins (as well as their political action committees) likely made all their money back in the one day rise in stock prices. The companies themselves, which hold huge amounts of their own stock, surely recouped all of their PAC investments on Tuesday alone.
As complicated as this all is, you can always count on one easy-to-comprehend principle: if it's good for the insurance companies, it sucks for us.


we won't get fooled fucked again

I'm sure that you all remember my writing a few days ago that:
We are going to get exactly the national healthcare program that the insurance and medical industries want us to. Which is to say, whichever one will continue to maximize their profits.
Well, as we all learned today, it looks like that $1.4 million dollars a day that the insurance and healthcare industry has been spending on lobbying has turned out to be a great investment.

I am so infuriated by all this that I was planning on something of a rant here. But then I read today's post by The Rude Pundit and realized that anything I wrote on the subject would barely qualify as sloppy seconds. And yes, I know it is extremely bad blogging form to quote someone else's entire post, but fuck it, I'm going to do it anyway. (Frankly, I'm guessing that in the astronomically small likelihood that the rude one happens by, he probably wouldn't be too upset. And you should read him everyday as a matter of course.) A warning: true to his nom de blog, this is, in fact, extremely rude. Read it anyway.
Health Care Reform: The Baseball Bat or the Spooge Spray?
It doesn't really help matters when there's a half-dozen power-brokering Senators esconced in an office, having secret meetings that will, in all likelihood, determine the way the health care system in this country is "reformed." Let's be honest: at this point, when a scumfucker from an insurance company is confronted by a crawling middle-aged woman who can't afford the hip replacement she needs because of her years waiting tables at Waffle House, the insurance bastard has a choice: beat her with a baseball bat or jack off on her. Under the current system, he'd be wailing on her skull with that Louisville Slugger that reads "pre-existing condition." Under the reform being squeezed out like a hard turd in Max Baucus's office, that poor short order waitress would have a back warm and sticky with Blue Cross semen.

It is the usual way for Democrats, thinking that bipartisanship means giving Republicans what they want. It's as if the Democrats were a family inviting a Republican family over for the Democratic daughter's My Little Pony birthday party, but the Republican family won't come unless the Democratic family changes it to a Bakugan party so the Republican son can feel welcome. Instead of telling the Republican family to go fuck itself, the Democratic family makes sure that every cute plastic pony is facing down some horrible mutating machine. It's okay for bipartisanship to mean that Democrats invite Republicans to play. If they don't wanna, then the hell with 'em.

The right wing actually believes that any kind of health care reform is some Ernst Blofeldian nefarious plot (and, seriously, even though it's a "bipartisan" group in Baucus's office, it just doesn't help) to destroy the country. Here's Hugh Hewitt, whose picture looks like he's touching himself, thinking about how to fuck your child while your dog licks his asshole, doing one of those "I don't know what the fuck to write about today" columns, wherein the writer imagines the presumed thoughts of someone else and speaks in his or her voice. In the Washington Examiner, Hewitt gets inside Congressman Henry Waxman's head on health care reform, giving the mustachioed bald man the evil designs and voice of Montgomery Burns, as if his efforts to get poor people health insurance are actually just part of some Machiavellian megalomaniacal machinations to destroy America:
"But we are not there yet. Deep breaths and calm down. So close, and I have to deal with this yokel from Arkansas and this turnip from Louisiana. Why do those states even get to vote?...Blue dogs? Dead dogs when this is over. Another chapter for the memoir: 'Sucker punching the suckers from the South.' We really ought to have a literacy test for the House. But stay calm now. Stay focused. Thirty-five years to get to this precise moment --at the center of the rewriting of the American Constitution through the administrative state."
Does Hewitt actually imagine that that's what supporters of a state health insurance plan think? Even subconsciously? Let's put aside that it's shabbily written. Howzabout the fact that now Hewitt, who was like a high school cheerleader with a soaked pussy ready for team captain George W. Bush to fuck under the bleachers whenever he was between scrimmages, is concerned about the Constitution?

Who, exactly, are the Blue Dog Democrats (and the Republicans) trying to please here? Fucking Hugh Hewitt and the other conservative drones aren't gonna nuance this shit out. They're not gonna sit there and think, "Well, at least they didn't pass a public plan financed by a tax on rich people" and then accept whatever comes down the pike. If even the mildest health reform passes, the one that says one-legged American orphans with TB must get coverage, Rush Limbaugh will scream like someone at McDonald's told him they couldn't batter his Big Mac and put it in the deep fryer.

In the push to be able to say they got something passed when they had majorities in both Houses of Congress, the Democrats are shifting the organizing principle of the argument from universal coverage to keeping costs for the already-insured down. And you can bet that, even then, the vast, vast majority of Republicans will vote it down because it's not bipartisan enough.

the golden state

Honestly, I much prefer hot girl-on-cat action to all this depressing and infuriating political crap, but jeeze...

Here's the indispensable digby, after describing some of the deep cuts to the California budget made by Gov. Schwarzenegger via his line-item veto (mostly in health services and education, including cuts in the Office of Aids Prevention and Treatment, elimination of state funding for community health clinic programs, $80 million cut from child welfare services, and lots more):
I sure hope the wealthy won't have reason to tread beyond their gated communities for the next few years because it's going to be a disease riddled, environmental hellhole out here for the rest of us. I suppose they can have supplies helicoptered in and bring their "concierge medicine" behind the fences. They're going to need to.

It's going to be expensive, but at least the losers won't be getting things they don't deserve.


summer of love

Personal work by artist Saiman Chow (via kox patrol)


same as the old boss...

As I write this, you can still go to Barack Obama's campaign website and read about all of the wonderful things he promised his administration would do if elected. In addressing the power of lobbyists to shape public policy, you'll find the following:
The Problem

Lobbyists Write National Policies: For example, Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force of oil and gas lobbyists met secretly to develop national energy policy.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Plan

Bring Americans Back into their Government

Make White House Communications Public: Obama will amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public.

Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public: Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.
Additionally, as the L.A. Times reports, as a candidate he also promised that "in devising a healthcare bill he would invite in TV cameras -- specifically C-SPAN -- so that Americans could have a window into negotiations that normally play out behind closed doors."

So how's that working out? Yesterday the L.A. Times reported that:
Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss the massive healthcare overhaul.

The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency also said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the "presidential communications privilege."

Having promised transparency, the administration should be willing to disclose who it is consulting in shaping healthcare policy, said an attorney for the citizens' group. In its letter requesting the records, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics asked about visits from Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans; William Weldon, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson; and J. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Assn., among others.
We are going to get exactly the national healthcare program that the insurance and medical industries want us to. Which is to say, whichever one will continue to maximize their profits. In exactly the same way that the financial industry got exactly the bailout program that would ensure that our taxes fueled their "blow out" profits and billions of dollars in bonuses. While any attempts to "bail out" any of the victims of their exploitive (and in many cases illegal) lending practices are derided for attempting to benefit "losers" who should have to take their lumps for their irresponsible choices.

These people own this country. They own our government.

Everything else is just pretty (but, with every passing day, plainly empty) rhetoric.



"we came in peace for all mankind"

As anyone who has been exposed to practically any news media lately has been reminded, 40 years ago tomorrow the first humans set foot on another world (loony conspiracy theories aside). There have been a lot of awesome photos of the Apollo 11 mission appearing around the web, and we're all (at least those of us old enough to remember) familiar with the blurry video of the first moon walk. But personally, the most inspiring Apollo 11 photo I've seen is this one, taken just a few days ago by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC):

See that little white dot just above the center of the photo? The one with the thin straight shadow extending to its right? That's the Apollo 11 Lunar Descent Module. Sitting on the moon's surface exactly where it has been since 1969.

The LROC is imaging each of the Apollo landing sites, and thanks to particularly advantageous lighting conditions, its photo of the Apollo 14 site resulted in a number of additional details. As the labeled photo below shows, not only can we see the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package that was placed at some distance from the Lunar Module, but the trail left by the astronauts' footprints as they walked back and forth from the module to the experiment package over 38 years ago.

How fucking amazing is that?


pleats please

To say that I'm not really into fashion is something of an understatement. Even as a fan of photography, I find that fashion photography tends to cycle through periods of everyone having to do the same style du jour, which rarely does anything other than leave me cold. There are, of course, exceptions, but for the most part it's just not my thing.

That being said, one designer that I've found intriguing over the years has been Issey Miyake. Many of his creations appear to straddle the line between clothes and art objects. One of his signature lines is Pleats Please, garments that are based on a technologically novel method of manufacture where the fabric is first cut and sewn and then sandwiched between layers of paper and fed into a heat press, where they are pleated.

Recently, Miyake introduced a new print advertising campaign for Pleats Please that is simply sublime. Examples below.

(via Gradient)


unabomber cabin (sacramento)

I was originally thinking about posting this over on 404, but it's really one of those cases where context is critical. In fact, trolling for pics for 404 has gotten me thinking quite a bit about context. A topic for a future post. In the meantime, amazing photo.


the lovers

One of my hobbies is collecting tarot decks. Not out of any sense of their having any sort of divinatory power (quite the opposite), but as fascinating examples of the myriad approaches to creating art within an existing structural framework. Unfortunately, most of the tarot web resources have traditionally been dedicated to the more woo-woo aspects, but a couple of years ago Adam McLean, a well-know collector in Scotland, started a forum focusing specifically on collecting tarot as art. I immediately joined, and some months later was banned from the forum, the only time in over 20 years online I have ever been banned - but that's another story. (I was eventually invited back.)

Anyway, the point of all this is that the forum members organize a yearly (so far) collaborative tarot deck. I missed the first one because of my exile, but rather blithely signed up for a card for this year's deck. Of course, when I signed up in February the July due date seemed so far away. Now, not so much. So this weekend has been pretty much entirely dedicated to this:

(As always, click on the image for a larger version.)


"presidential post-acquittal detention power"

Jesus fucking christ.

I go away for a couple of days, and look what happens.
(painting by feroze13)


on the road again

Descending into the southland for a few days. Back later in the week.

"health-care industry spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying"

From today's Washington Post:
The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.

Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers, including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), debating whether to adopt a public insurance option opposed by major industry groups. At least 10 others have been members of Congress, such as former House majority leaders Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), both of whom represent a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm.

The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records.
But I'm sure we're going to get a great plan. Those lawmakers would never let a measly $1.4 million dollars a day outweigh their responsibility to their constituents.



"i saw it with my own eyes!"

Take a close look at the color pattern below:

What you most probably see are spirals of three colors: green, blue and an orangish magenta. Looking closer, you'll notice that there are narrow bands of orange running though the pattern (that's why the magenta spirals look orangish). So, four colors total?


There are only three colors in the pattern.

"How can that be?" you might reasonably ask.

And the answer is that what appear to be green and blue spirals are actually the same color.

"No fucking way!" you might reasonably reply.

Well, my friend, fucking way.

If you want to confirm this for yourself, open the image in Photoshop or other image editor. You'll see that both the apparent green and blue colors are exactly the same (RGB values of 0, 255, 150). A detailed explanation of how this illusion works can be found on Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy Blog. The source of the image itself is Akiyoshi Kitaoka's endlessly amazing optical illusion web site. Another astonishing Kitaoka illusion, too big to fit here, can be seen at this link.

Pretty cool, huh? But, in addition to just sharing something seriously cool, I want to make the same point Phil does. You can't necessarily believe your eyes. And by extension, you can't necessarily trust your other senses either. Our brains can be fooled. Easily. So when someone tells you about how they heard their guardian angel talking to them, saw Bigfoot, Jesus, or a big-eyed grey alien, spoke to a dead relative though a medium, or just know vaccines cause autism because their "mommy sense" tells them so, don't be reluctant to call bullshit. Personal anecdotes are not proof. That's what the scientific method is for. It's why Richard Feynman so famously stated that "Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves."


happy 4th

Everything great about America, wrapped up in one stunning photograph.



Honestly, is any comment really necessary?


quote of the day

"Science is basically an inoculation against charlatans."
And it seems like fewer and fewer people in the USA are getting the vaccine.