Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Great censored "Schoolhouse Rock"-style clip from 1998

This cartoon "Conspiracy Theory Rock" by Robert Smigel was shown on "Saturday Night Live" during the March 14, 1998 broadcast but edited out of reruns. For that broadcast, the host was Julianne Moore and the musical guest was the Backstreet Boys.


18 super-wealthy families behind the estate tax repeal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to repeal the federal estate tax has been aggressively led by 18 super-wealthy families, according to a report released today by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The report details for the first time the vast money, influence and deceptive marketing techniques behind the rhetoric in the campaign to repeal the tax.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Slackers rejoice!

Saying surfing the web is equivalent to reading a newspaper or talking on the phone, an administrative law judge has suggested that only a reprimand is appropriate as punishment for a city worker accused of failing to heed warnings to stay off the Internet.


Friday, April 21, 2006

From the mouths pens of babes

Oh, just click it!


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Open-source version of Commercial Advance, for AVI files

Great stuff, but it may violate some patents.


Vanity Fair calls for impeachment hearings

The first fundamental question that needs to be answered by and about the president, the vice president, and their political and national-security aides, from Donald Rumsfeld to Condoleezza Rice, to Karl Rove, to Michael Chertoff, to Colin Powell, to George Tenet, to Paul Wolfowitz, to Andrew Card (and a dozen others), is whether lying, disinformation, misinformation, and manipulation of information have been a basic matter of policy—used to overwhelm dissent; to hide troublesome truths and inconvenient data from the press, public, and Congress; and to defend the president and his actions when he and they have gone awry or utterly failed.

I'll give them a hint:



Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Wall Street Journal doctor comes out in favor of single-payer healthcare

It took me a while to conclude that a single-payer health system was the best approach. My fear had been that government would screw up medicine to the detriment of my patients and my practice. If done poorly, the result might be worse than what I'm dealing with now.

But increasingly I've come to believe that if done right, health care in America could be dramatically better with true single-payer coverage; not just another layer -- a part D on top of a part B on top of a part A, but a simplified, single payer that would cover all Americans, including those who could afford the best right now. Representatives and senators in Washington should have to use the same system my patients and I do were they to vote it in.

Doctors in private practice fear a loss of autonomy with a single-payer system. After being in the private practice of family medicine for 8 1/2 years, I see that autonomy is largely an illusion. Through Medicare and Medicaid, the government is already writing its own rules for 45% of the patients I see.

The rest are privately insured under 301 different insurance products (my staff and I counted). The companies set the fees and the contracts are largely non-negotiable by individual doctors.

The amount of time, staff costs and IT overhead associated with keeping track of all those plans eats up most of the money we make above Medicare rates. As it is now, I see patients and wait between 30 and 90 days to get paid. My practice requires two full-time staff members for billing. My two secretaries spend about half their time collecting insurance information. Plus, there's $9,000 in computer expenses yearly to handle the insurance information and billing follow up. I suspect I could go from four people in the paper chase to one with a single-payer system.

It would be simpler and better for the patient, and for me, if the patient could choose a doctor, bring their ID card with them, swipe it in a card reader at the time of service and have the doctor get paid on the spot with electronic funds transfer.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Taibbi gets around to Abramoff

Lots of great juicy and ludicrous details in this one.
It is not easy to find anyone who actually encountered Abramoff during his South Africa experiences, although one source who was involved with South African right-wing student politics recalled "Casino Jack" as a "blue-eyed boy" who rubbed people the wrong way with his arrogant demeanor. On his first trip to Johannesburg in 1983, Abramoff met with leaders from the archconservative, pro-apartheid National Students Federation, which itself is alleged to have been created by South Africa's notorious Bureau of Security Services. Together with NSF member Russel Crystal -- today a prominent South African politician in the Democratic Alliance, an anti-African National Congress party -- Abramoff subsequently, in 1986, chaired the head of a conservative think tank called the International Freedom Foundation.

The creation of the IFF officially marked the beginning of the silly phase of Abramoff's career. According to testimony before Democratic South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995, the IFF was not a conservative think tank but actually a front for the South African army. Testimony in sealed TRC hearings reportedly reveal that the IFF was known by the nickname "Pacman" in the South African army and that its activities were part of a larger plan called "Operation Babushka," designed to use propaganda to discredit the ANC and Nelson Mandela at home and abroad. Among other things, Abramoff managed during this time to funnel funds and support from the IFF to a variety of stalwart congressmen and senators, including Rep. Dan Burton and Sen. Jesse Helms, all of whom consistently opposed congressional resolutions against apartheid. These members of Congress would deny knowing that the IFF's money came from the South African government, because that, of course, would have been illegal; Abramoff himself denied it too, although he has been largely quiet on the subject since the TRC testimony in 1995.

In a hilarious convergence of ordinary workaday incompetence and pointlessly secretive cloak-and-dagger horseshit, Operation Babushka's grand opus would ultimately turn out to be the production of the 1989 Dolph Lundgren vehicle Red Scorpion, in which American moviegoers were invited to care about an anti-communist revolutionary targeted for execution by a sweat-drenched jungle version of Lundgren's overacting Ivan Drago persona. The film, which Abramoff wrote and produced, was instantly derided by critics around the world as one of the stupidest movies ever made.

Veteran character actor Carmen Argenziano, who played the heavy, Col. Zayas, in Red Scorpion, recalls the "Cimino-esque" film shoot in Namibia as one of the most surreal experiences of his career. "It was pretty weird," he says. "What was going on was fishy, and then in the middle of production the word spread that there was some kind of weird South African/CIA connection. And that bummed everyone out."

Argenziano, whom history will likely absolve for being, with Lundgren, one half of the film's only memorable scene, which also perhaps represents the apex of Jack Abramoff's literary career (Argenziano: "Are you out of your mind?" Lundgren: "No. Just out of bullets"), laughs almost nonstop as he recalls his Namibia experiences.

"We were all staying in this hotel called the Kalahari Sands in Windhoek, the capital," he says. "There was this huge new escalator in the hotel. I guess it was the only one in the country, because little African kids kept coming in to stare at it. But the South Africans we had on the shoot [Abramoff was reportedly provided free labor by the South African army] kept shooing them away, literally pushing kids off the escalator, shouting these racist words at them. Wasn't exactly good for morale."


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What if we nuked somebody and nobody cared?

Billmon asks the question our pathetic media seems unwilling to contemplate.
What I'm suggesting here is that it is probably naive to expect the American public to react with horror, remorse or even shock to a U.S. nuclear sneak attack on Iran, even though it would be one of the most heinous war crimes imaginable, short of mass genocide. Iran has been demonized too successfully – thanks in no small part to the messianic delusions of its own end-times president – for most Americans to see it as a victim of aggression, even if they were inclined to admit that the United States could ever be an aggressor. And we know a not-so-small and extremely vocal minority of Americans would be cheering all the way, and lusting for more.

More to my point, though, I think it's possible that even something as monstrously insane as nuclear war could still be squeezed into the tiny rituals that pass for public debate in this country – the game of dueling TV sound bites that trivializes and then disposes of every issue.

We’ve already seen a lengthy list of war crimes and dictatorial power grabs sink into that electronic compost heap: the WMD disinformation campaign, Abu Ghraib, the torture memos, the de facto repeal of the 4th amendment. Again, why should a nuclear strike be any different? I can easily imagine the same rabid talk show hosts spouting the same jingoistic hate speech, the same bow-tied conservative pundits offering the same recycled talking points, and the same timid Beltway liberals complaining that while nuking Iran was the right thing to do, the White House went about it the wrong way. And I can already hear the same media critics chiding those of us in left Blogostan for blowing the whole thing out of proportion. It’s just a little bunker buster, after all.

Why should anyone or anything change? When a culture is as historically clueless and morally desensitized as this one appears to be, I don’t think it’s absurd to suppose that even an enormous war crime – the worst imaginable, short of outright genocide – could get lost in the endless babble of the talking heads. When everything is just a matter of opinion, anything – literally anything – can be justified. It’s only a matter of framing things so people can believe what they want to believe.

It's so horrifying. Can we talk about impeachment yet?

Sweet Japanese Rube Goldberg contraptions

Google vid:

The "geed" is coming to the Bay Area

Michelin will expand its exclusive hotel and restaurant guide series in North America to include San Francisco and the Bay Area. The Michelin Guide San Francisco and the Bay Area 2007, the first-ever Michelin Guide for a West Coast city, is scheduled to arrive in stores October 2006. The Guide will cover hotels and restaurants in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Berkeley, as well as the Wine Country including Napa and Sonoma.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

HIV "magic bullet" found?

Researchers, including a BYU scientist, believe they have found a new compound that could finally kill the HIV/AIDS virus, not just slow it down as current treatments do.

In addition to being a potential checkmate to HIV, the compounds show indications of being just as effective against other diseases plaguing humankind - among them influenza, possibly even the dread bird flu, along with smallpox and herpes.



Will this article finally make it cool to wear a suit (ironically, of course!)?


Feingold a real straight-talker

Maybe "straight" isn't the right word, but Feingold is right for doing this.


Boot Camp!

If you can't beat 'em...


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Even a broken clock...

Executive director of Ayn Rand Institute, on the study that showed prayer doesn't help the sick:
Dear Editor:

The Harvard medical study showing that prayer has no effect on recovery from heart surgery is shocking. It is not shocking that prayer has no medical effects--what's shocking is that scientists at Harvard Medical School are wasting their time studying the medical effects of prayer.

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