Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on April 4, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 2 Comments »

Why health care costs are rising more slowly

Posted by Charles II on April 3, 2014

I always thought it was because the insurance companies had grabbed all the money in the world, but I guess I am wrong.

LIVE WEBCAST: The Future of U.S. Health Care Spending

For several decades health spending in the United States rose much faster than other spending. Forecasters predicted the health sector, already 17% of GDP, would soon exceed 20 to 25% of GDP, driving out other necessary public and private spending. However, in recent years health spending growth dropped dramatically and surprisingly, to a record slow pace for the fourth straight year in 2012. It is not clear why this turn around occurred or how long it will last.

On Friday, April 11th the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings will bring together several experts to discuss three questions that will also be addressed in a forthcoming series of Brookings papers. The discussion and papers will address the causes of the slowdown and the likelihood it will continue; its impact on federal and state budgets, and private spending; and identify reforms that will ensure slow cost growth while improving health.

Over a dozen economic and health policy experts will participate in panel discussions, including Harvard’s David Cutler, American Action Forum’s Douglas Holtz-Eakin, University of Southern California’s Paul Ginsburg, and Altarum’s Charles Roehrig. Speakers will take questions from the audience.

April 11, 2014
8:30 AM – 2:15 PM EDT
Brookings Institution
Falk Auditorium
1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Apparently the topic is popular, since i sold out before they let plebes like me know. But we can listen over the Interwebs

Posted in health care | Leave a Comment »

“Religious Pro-Lifer” Hobby Lobby Company Invests In Abortion Pill Makers

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 1, 2014

Ahem:

The owners of Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned craft supply chain, were so offended by the idea of having to include emergency contraceptives and intrauterine devices in their health insurance plans that they sued the Obama administration and took the case all the way up to the Supreme Court. But Mother Jones reported on Tuesday that the company’s retirement plan has invested millions of dollars in the manufacturers of emergency contraception and drugs used to induce abortions.

Hypocrites.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Chris Christie Apologizes For Using The Correct Term

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 30, 2014

This is ridiculous:

Invoking a 2012 trip he and his family took to Israel, Christie recalled “I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day.”

While the story was intended to forge common cause with Adelson and the several hundred donors to the Republican Jewish Coalition to which Christie was speaking, his use of the term “occupied territories” set off murmurs in the crowd.

The term refers to lands in which Palestinians live where Israel maintains a military presence, including the West Bank.

But the term is rejected by some conservative Zionists like Adelson who see it as validating Palestinian challenges over Israel’s presence.

Christie almost immediately abased himself before Adelson for the horrid crime of using the correct term — and the term favored by the US news media for decades. But the damage was done, and cannot be undone. You can almost hear the wallets slamming shut.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Is Al Qaeda winning the long war?

Posted by Charles II on March 28, 2014

DemocracyNow:

PATRICK COCKBURN: The Saudis have got rather nervous at the moment that—having supported these jihadi groups, that are all either linked to al-Qaeda or have exactly the same ideology and method of action of al-Qaeda, so they’ve introduced some laws saying that—against Saudis fighting in Syria or elsewhere. But it’s probably too late for this to have any effect. The al-Qaeda-type organizations really control a massive area in northern and eastern Syria at the moment and northern and western Iraq. The largest number of volunteers fighting with these al-Qaeda-type groups are Saudi. Most of the money originally came from there. But these people now control their own oil wells. They probably are less reliant on Saudi money.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010. In a December 2009 memo, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton identified Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. She writes, quote, “While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority… donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to move onto a segment next on Iraq. And earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the Sunni Muslim insurgents in western Anbar province.

PATRICK COCKBURN: …these declarations of victory, I think, just divert attention from the fact that you look at the map, that al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-type groups, that are no different from those that followed Osama bin Laden, now control a large territory. They have large revenues from oil wells. They have lots of experienced people. At the moment, they’re fighting against Assad and the Iraqi government. But they don’t like the governments of the West anymore. They’re not ideologically committed to only one enemy in their home countries. So if they do want to start making attacks in the West again along the lines of 9/11, they’re far better equipped militarily and politically, financially and any other way than they were when the attacks of 9/11 were originally made.

Beau Barnes, Small Wars Journal, describing the late Syed Saleem Shahzad’s book:

These new leaders—with both strong local ties and loyalty to Al-Qaeda—will then render the broader jihadist movement inextricable from organizations like the original Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Somalia’s Al Shabaab. According to this logic, if every Muslim militant organization in the world is “part of Al-Qaeda,” then Al-Qaeda itself will never be defeated.

I’ve been reading the book and, while I think that Shahzad got caught up with the romance of rebellion, what he describes is a great intensity and focus by the Taliban… unlike certain US generals who are focused on affairs and self-enrichment.

The Taliban, who are the water in which Al Qaeda swims, strengthened itself by establishing a system of justice in an area of Pakistan where government incompetence and corruption was the rule. The long war is the war to establish genuine representative government. When we have so done, our cause has usually prevailed. When we have not, it has generally failed.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan | 1 Comment »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on March 28, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Weisbrot Goes To Caracas, Sees Improving Nation

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 26, 2014

Mark Weisbrot went to Caracas earlier this month, and here’s some of what he saw:

Major media outlets have already reported that Venezuela’s poor have not joined the right-wing opposition protests, but that is an understatement: it’s not just the poor who are abstaining – in Caracas, it’s almost everyone outside of a few rich areas like Altamira, where small groups of protesters engage in nightly battles with security forces, throwing rocks and firebombs and running from tear gas.

Walking from the working-class neighborhood of Sabana Grande to the city center, there was no sign that Venezuela is in the grip of a “crisis” that requires intervention from the Organization of American States (OAS), no matter what John Kerry tells you. The metro also ran very well, although I couldn’t get off at Alta Mira station, where the rebels had set up their base of operations until their eviction this week.

So who are these rebels with their burning-tire barricades and oil-slick roadway impediments? Venezuela’s 1%, who ironically enough have done well under the Chávismo they so bitterly hate:

These people are not hurting – they’re doing very well. Their income has grown at a healthy pace since the Chávez government got control of the oil industry a decade ago. They even get an expensive handout from the government: anyone with a credit card (which excludes the poor and millions of working people) is entitled to $3,000 per year at a subsidized exchange rate. They can then sell the dollars for 6 times what they paid in what amounts to a multi-billion dollar annual subsidy for the privileged – yet it is they who are supplying the base and the troops of the rebellion.

The class nature of this fight has always been stark and inescapable, now more than ever. Walking past the crowd that showed up for the March 5 ceremonies to mark the anniversary of Chávez’s death, it was a sea of working-class Venezuelans, tens of thousands of them. There were no expensive clothing or $300 shoes. What a contrast to the disgruntled masses of Los Palos Grandes, with $40,000 Grand Cherokee Jeeps bearing the slogan of the moment: SOS VENEZUELA.

So why is John Kerry running around poor-mouthing Maduro and Company? Many reasons, among them the still-powerful Cuban exile presence in Miami; these people hate Castro and anyone allied with Castro, so Chávez and now Maduro have made it to their permanent Poop List.

But if Kerry or the Miami Cubans pushing him around think that the Bolivarian revolution is going down anytime soon, they have another think coming:

Perhaps Kerry thinks the Venezuelan economy is going to collapse and that will bring some of the non-rich Venezuelans into the streets against the government. But the economic situation is actually stabilizing – monthly inflation fell in February, and the black-market dollar has fallen sharply on the news that the government is introducing a new, market-based exchange rate. Venezuela’s sovereign bonds returned 11.5% from 11 February (the day before the protests began) to 13 March, the highest returns in the Bloomberg dollar emerging market bond index. Shortages will most likely ease in the coming weeks and months.

Of course, that is exactly the opposition’s main problem: the next election is a year-and-a-half away, and by that time, it’s likely that the economic shortages and inflation that have so increased over the past 15 months will have abated. The opposition will then probably lose the parliamentary elections, as they have lost every election over the past 15 years. But their current insurrectionary strategy isn’t helping their own cause: it seems to have divided the opposition and united the Chavistas.

That’s that.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Minnesota Minimum Wage Whip Count: The Tally Continues

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 23, 2014

Minnesota Minimum Wage Whip Count: The Tally Continues

You know what to do.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Suhprahz, suhprahz!

Posted by Charles II on March 21, 2014

Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani:

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. …

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.

We are supposed to believe that the unnamed country is not the United States of America.

Posted in NSA eavesdropping | 3 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on March 21, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging | 2 Comments »

 
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