Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for February, 2009

Saturday Morning News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 28, 2009

Michelle Obama supports the right to bare arms, and probably also to bear arms. However, I suspect she doesn’t support the right to arm bears.

The Republican candidate for NY-20 doesn’t want to admit he’s a Republican. And this in a CD where Republicans hold a 70,000-plus registration advantage.

Sheldon Whitehouse, preparing the nation to discover what horrors were done in our names.

The global hunt for tax dodgers is shaking up several tax havens around the world.

Posted in Barack Obama, big money, Republicans, taxes, torture, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Crucifying America on a Cross of Paper

Posted by Charles II on February 27, 2009


JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the Massachusetts plan has been held up in recent years as a model. What are the main problems that you see with how the plan has operated there?

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: Well, I see them day to day. I’m a primary care doctor here in Massachusetts, and my patients still can’t afford the care they need. They’ve given some people insurance, but they’ve actually given them insurance, in most cases, that has such holes in deductibles, co-payments, that people still can’t afford care. And there are still hundreds of thousands uninsured.

And meanwhile, the thing is costing much more than they said it would….in order to keep the insurance industry in business, they’re actually having to slash care and leave it unaffordable to people who have coverage.

AMY GOODMAN: Len Nichols, are you for preserving private health insurance industry?

LEN NICHOLS: Well, like I said, Ms. Goodman, I’m for getting everybody covered and for enabling that coverage to let us buy high quality care that we can sustain over time.

I think the way to think about what’s being talked about down here is, I think Massachusetts is something of an example, but you want to be careful about how to interpret the implications of it. The first big problem is that Massachusetts tried to cover people without being able to do anything serious about cost growth containment over time, so that, as a nation, we know we have to do both.

But I would also say that while David’s right—there has been an underestimate of how much it would cost in Massachusetts—that was because of, I would say, a technical error over the estimation of the number of people who were uninsured. There were two different surveys that were done. The government, a combination of then-Governor Romney and the legislature, chose to go with the survey that was basically saying there were half as many uninsured as a different survey suggested. The national experts thought the latter was the better. That had the right number of uninsured. The legislature budgeted for the lower number of uninsured, and that’s why they’ve hit a budget constraint.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Himmelstein?

DR. DAVID HIMMELSTEIN: Well, first of all, we don’t have everyone covered. In fact, there are lots of uninsured people left in Massachusetts despite this massive spending, and more and more every day. We’ve lost 85,000 jobs in our state in just the last year, and the coverage hasn’t expanded to take those 85,000 people in. So, that’s a myth.

And we told them off—right off the bat it was going to cost more than they said. They refused to believe us. And we’re telling the Obama people that the plan they’re talking about costs much more than what they are saying. The cost containment they’re claiming in their plan, the Congressional Budget Office has told them won’t work. They’re saying computers are going to save massive amounts of money. There’s no evidence for that at all. The Congressional Budget Office says there’s no evidence for that at all.

The efficiencies Mr. Nichols is talking about, we could get those efficiencies, but only if we get the insurance companies out of the system. We do $400 billion each year in useless paperwork in healthcare, and there’s no way of getting rid of that unless you get rid of the private health insurance companies.

Posted in health care, health issues | 2 Comments »

The High Cost of Overtime

Posted by MEC on February 27, 2009

Many employers are cutting costs by firing workers and shifting the workload onto surviving employees.

The employers call it “increased productivity”, but the workers only manage to produce the same total amount of work by working longer hours.

A medical study reported by the BBC suggests there is more cost than benefit to strategy: working long hours diminishes mental function.

It found that those working more than 55 hours a week had poorer mental skills than those who worked a standard working week.

The American Journal of Epidemiology study found hard workers had problems with short-term memory and word recall.


The effects were cumulative, the longer the working week was the worse the test results were.

That would mean that the quality of work suffers as a direct result of requiring fewer people to do more work. How low can the quality go before it affects revenue? Just as cutting taxes is not the way to boost the economy, cutting the workforce is not the way to boost a company’s viability.

Posted in wrong way to go about it | 3 Comments »

Friday Cat Blogging

Posted by MEC on February 27, 2009


Posted in Alexander the Great, Friday Cat Blogging, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Harry Reid: Franken Will Be Seated By April 1. Period.

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 27, 2009

This actually is not unreasonable — Coleman can only take his appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court and that should happen sometime early next month.

Posted in Al Franken, Harry Reid, Senate | Comments Off on Harry Reid: Franken Will Be Seated By April 1. Period.

Fox “News” Is Fomenting Armed Insurrection

Posted by MEC on February 26, 2009

Fox News talker Glenn Beck is providing a forum for fomenting armed rebellion against the government.

Robert Parry of Consortium News sees the danger in not taking such talk seriously:

Such insurrectionist musings on Fox News are not likely to be taken seriously by most people. Indeed, many Americans may find it amusing that Fox has developed a heartfelt concern about disenfranchising voters after its enthusiastic embrace of Bush’s undemocratic “election” in 2000 or that Fox now feels a sudden reverence for the Constitution after eight years of defendin Bush as he trampled it.

But this sort of Fox chatter runs the risk of feeding the well-nursed grievances of angry white “bubbas” and possibly inspiring a new Timothy McVeigh.

It’s Wingnut Whack-a-Mole. We bash down a cartoon that’s generally interpreted as portraying President Obama as a berserk chimpanzee who must be killed by officers of the law, and up pops a portrayal of President Obama as an enemy of the Constitution who must be overthrown, by violence if necessary. We can’t dismiss these things as either too stupid or too isolated to take seriously.

Posted in rightwing moral cripples | 14 Comments »

The Other Stimulus Plans

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 26, 2009

Al Giordano has not been one of the folks to worry about whether the stimulus package just passed is big enough to stimulate the economy all by itself, for this simple reason: “If there are worthy things that don’t make it into the final form of this Stimulus Bill, they’re mostly things for which the votes exist in Congress to pass them in other legislation later on.”

And, sure enough, while the media was busy yammering about whether or not America really did invent the automobile, some other de facto stimulus plans have been in the works:

— The $75 billion lifeline Obama threw to homeowners whose mortgages need saving.

— The $634 billion ten-year health care reserve fund.

— The $410 omnibus spending bill to cover fiscal year 2009, an increase of roughly 8% over FY 2008. And it comes with over $7 billion in economy-stimulating earmarks that weren’t allowed onto the stimulus package.

There are some other plans in the works, but they haven’t yet come out of the shadows.

Posted in big money, economy, President Obama | Comments Off on The Other Stimulus Plans

Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 26, 2009

Lots of people have said that Bobby Jindal looks, sounds and acts like Kenneth the Page from Thirty Rock. And it’s absolutely true — frighteningly so, in fact.

Posted in parody, satire, Silly Republicans | Comments Off on Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

Really Good News

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 26, 2009

Believe it or not, the various parts of the Pentagon are big fans of renewable energy and energy-saving devices — and since they can command enormous budgets, it’s a very good thing in this age of otherwise-nonexistent venture capital that they’re interested in this device being developed at MIT:

A team of MIT undergraduate students has invented a shock absorber that harnesses energy from small bumps in the road, generating electricity while it smooths the ride more effectively than conventional shocks. The students hope to initially find customers among companies that operate large fleets of heavy vehicles. They have already drawn interest from the U.S. military and several truck manufacturers.

Senior Shakeel Avadhany (pictured in lead image, top left) and his teammates say they can produce up to a 10 percent improvement in overall vehicle fuel efficiency by using the regenerative shock absorbers. The company that produces Humvees for the army, and is currently working on development of the next-generation version of the all-purpose vehicle, is interested enough to have loaned them a vehicle for testing purposes.


In their testing so far, the students found that in a 6-shock heavy truck, each shock absorber could generate up to an average of 1 kW on a standard road — enough power to completely displace the large alternator load in heavy trucks and military vehicles, and in some cases even run accessory devices such as hybrid trailer refrigeration units.

They filed for a patent last year and formed a company, called Levant Power Corp., to develop and commercialize the product (pictured below, right). They are currently doing a series of tests with their converted Humvee to optimize the system’s efficiency. They hope their technology will help give an edge to the military vehicle company in securing the expected $40 billion contract for the new army vehicle called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV.

The shock absorber also provides a smoother, safer ride, making it possible for vehicles to move faster over rough terrain than would otherwise be advisable. And if the electrical part fails for whatever reason, it’s still a perfectly good conventional shock absorber.

I figure that this will be on civilian vehicles within ten if not five years, as an aftermarket mod if nothing else. I can easily see current owners of big trucks being interested in this device.

Posted in automobiles, energy, environment, Good Things, Pentagon | Comments Off on Really Good News

I Had To Share This

Posted by Phoenix Woman on February 25, 2009

Auckland, New Zealand woman Nadya Vessey lost both her legs below the knee when she was a child. Yet, thanks to a functional prosthetic tail developed by the local film-industry visual-effects company Weta, she can now fulfill her dream of being a mermaid:

Weta costumer Lee Williams, who worked on the suit between film projects with seven other staff, told Close Up she “wanted [Nadya] to be beautiful and sexy”.

After seeing Ms Vessey test the tail in Kilbirnie pool then frolic in the harbour, Ms Williams was stoked. “It was absolutely amazing. It’s beautiful to watch Nadya swim and to see that dream come true and to be a part of that. I feel quite blessed.”

One door closes, another opens.

Posted in Good Things | Comments Off on I Had To Share This

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