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One World Order — evil twin version

I see this: “Experts said [Putin] is also promoting “Putinism” – a conservative, ultra-nationalist form of state capitalism – as a global alternative to Western democracy.”

And this (pdf) which amasses enough data to make even Serious People sort-of-admit that the US is an undemocratic oligarchy.

So we’ve achieved one world order. Not quite like the founders of the League of Nations had hoped.

Captain Picard of Star Trek transformed into a Borg

Captain Picard of Star Trek transformed into a Borg

 
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Gently shout disaster

I don’t envy the IPCC. The International Panel on Climate Change studies looming calamity, and has to talk about it in polite, soft, encouraging tones. Otherwise they’re called “alarmist.” “Unrealistic.” Or (eeeek) “pessimists.”

So we’re facing flooding over coasts where billions of people live, people who won’t be able to farm any more so they and others will starve, people who will move to higher ground where nobody will want them and will try to push them out. We’re facing droughts and floods and freezes and fires due to climate forcing. We’re facing pests and diseases moving into new areas where there’s no resistance to them. We’re facing the triggering of feedback loops like the release of greenhouse gases from the formerly frozen Arctic and the release of methane from icy deposits on continental shelves. At that point we can push our puny human contribution down to zero and it won’t matter. The build-up will continue and there will be exactly nothing we can do about it. And that’s only the beginning of what we’re facing. Our grandchildren, your grandchildren, are the ones who’ll find out just what it is that we’ve done.

But God help you if you say that THIS IS A FREAKING DISASTER AND OUR LIVES DEPEND ON DEALING WITH IT.

That would be rude. And depressing. Unless you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. If you don’t have a solution, stop being a problem. Oh, and don’t tell us to change anything.

(That’s why it’s also rude to point out the real world evidence: we could be using 100% sustainable renewables by 2050(pdf) with less dislocation than the Great Recession. Or take it from the IPCC itself. Also a summary of options in 2011, before recent improvements.)

So the IPCC is doing its best. They’ve said, “Um. I hate to interrupt or anything but, uh, we really, really, really, really, really need to do something. But, ah, if that’s too harsh, you can also tell yourself you’ll try geoengineering.”

There aren’t enough swear words in the English language to do justice to the idiots who want that kind of “optimism.” As I said in one of my many earlier posts on this topic, we’ve been so good at controlling planetary processes, our best alternative is to mess with them.

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Not so cynical about Afghanistan

You know, mostly the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket. Afghanistan, I would have said, has been fasttracked.

And then today I saw this.

Afghani man backpacking a ballot box up a mountainous trail in the rain

Ballot boxes were carried by hand and by donkey all over Afghanistan
(Ahmad Masood / Reuters)

Sure, Afghanistan is corrupt and war-torn and sexist and poor. They know that. They know that no election is going to make a big difference all at once. And yet they carry ballot boxes up mountains to small villages because they can see a better world even if they don’t live there.

They may make it.

Which means there may be hope even for the rest of us.

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What’s the US problem with a Crimean referendum?

I hear Kerry is making barking noises about the Crimeans daring to vote on their national affiliation, and I just don’t get it. I mean, of course I understand that the real agenda is to stick it to Russia and interfere with that country getting a bit of prime real estate. That’s not why I’m puzzled.

I’m puzzled that the US no longer even seems to feel the need to find an excuse for anti-democratic power politics. We’re not even getting lip service anymore. What’s up with that?

This country is supposed to be all about the voice of the people and self-determination and all that good stuff. What possible (official!) reason could they have for objecting to people deciding on their own future?

Surely, the only objection to a referendum would be if the situation was so rigged that the voice of the people didn’t stand a chance. But Kerry doesn’t say that. I don’t know that anybody has said popular feeling is against it and the vote is rigged. The US just seems to be saying “Don’t you dare have a referendum to find out what people want.”

Say whuuuuut?

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This is how our world ends

Not with a bang, but with brain-shattering neurotics who vote.

Via Suburban Guerrilla:

Conspiracy theorists think government planted ‘fake snow’

[W]eather across the south of the U.S. has raised a controversial question online: was it just a light snow, or a nefarious government conspiracy? … [T]he last few days have seen scores of videos like this from skeptics [Ed. note: "skeptics"] who claim the snowflakes aren’t the real deal.

“I have a sample of ‘snow’ … leaving the snow unmelted.” Via YouTube / sugar magnolia

The conspiracy reasoning goes like this: the snow is unusual in Georgia and other southeast areas and doesn’t melt when burned. Therefore, it must be fake snow, distributed by the government, as a diversion from big government tyranny. Via YouTube / Div9neImages

And no, much as I believe in citing sources, I’m not making live links to those youtube clips. I’m worried about teh stoopid cooties.

Basic chemistry/physics: a solid exposed to high enough heat does not become liquid. It goes straight to gas. So, duh, when you put a butane flame to snow you don’t get liquid water. And the butane is a hydrocarbon. If the flame cools fast enough — by the proximity of snow, for instance — the carbon will precipitate out as nice black soot instead of floating into the atmosphere. (Congratulations. You’ve reduced the amount you contributed to climate change by many molecules of carbon. Just like a liberal!)

I laugh so as not to cry.



Update, next morning. It’s worse than I thought. We’re not just talking about voters. The actual legislators in what passes for the actual government have less comprehension than your average sea cucumber. (Example of average sea cucumber below.) Sea cucumber at Sydney Aquarium. Photo: Erin Silversmith. From Wikimedia. Via Slashdot: “The bill, dubbed the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 (HR 4012), would prohibit the EPA’s administrator from proposing or finalizing any rules unless he or she also discloses “all scientific and technical information” relied on by the agency in the regulations’ development.” Um, hello? It is all published. That’s part of what makes it science. Once the Honorable Congresscritter learns how to read, he’ll be able to discover all that wonderful data! Except the bits corporations want to keep confidential. Oh, and are we going to make sure science is equally respected at the DOD? The CIA? The NSA? I think that would be a good idea.

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Search and social: You are for sale

Part of a series on who owns you and what it means.

“Free!” and “ad-supported” don’t belong together in the same breath. They’re mutually exclusive. The web isn’t free any more than the supermarket is free for the cake of soap on the shelf. The soap isn’t paying to be there, and you’re not paying for the web for the same reason. You’re the product. If you mattered at all you’d be getting a cut of the proceeds.

Google made $60,000,000,000, 60 billion, sixty billion-with-a-b, last year. Eighty eight percent of that is estimated to be from advertising. You are the eyes that advertising is buying. Are you seeing royalties from Google for your essential role in this? How about from Dataium ($2 billion profit per year)? Or BlueKai, Acxiom, or Omniture (now part of Adobe)? How about Splunk? (Don’t you just love the cool, we-juggle-at-the-office names?) Or any of the hundred other hidden internet tracking companies all making profit off you? There’s a Firefox extension called Lightbeam that shows just how many dozens, even hundreds, of sites are involved. Forbes had an article that showed an estimate of how much somebody is getting for shoving one banner ad at you. Not what you’re getting. You get nothing. You’re just a thing for sale.

It’s true that the search and social sites make life easier. But they’re under no obligation to make it better.

We’ve lost control over our own lives so completely that most people’s only response is to apply the pragmatism of the damned and ask “Whatchya gonna do?”

I don’t know what to do either. Tactics are never my strong suit. I’m just here to say that we better start realizing that privacy is absolutely essential to any kind of free or comfortable life where rights are respected. Unless you’re okay with a world where your boss knows you’ve been constipated recently, where you see higher prices because of the browser you happen to use, where you find yourself not even looking for information in case you get put on a list somewhere, unless you’re okay with what total surveillance means, privacy — an individual’s right to control her or his own data — is not optional.

There are some tools to help in the fight. A collection of anonymity extensions, useful tips at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Just today I saw this: Privacy Tools: opting out from data brokers. It shows just how much of a career it is to claw back even partial privacy from the leeches.

I know the tips don’t amount to much. They either do little or take too much time. But we have to start somewhere. We have to stop being pragmatic about how little there is we can do and just start doing it.

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Now can we be outraged over apartheid?

More than 30 universities have introduced new rules banning female students from almost 80 different degree courses.These include a bewildering variety of subjects from engineering, nuclear physics and computer science, to English literature, archaeology and business.

The BBC headline for that was Iranian university bans on women causes consternation.

Consternation? Consternation? Consternation? Are you farking kidding me?

This is de jure segregation. This is apartheid. This is shutting down the civil rights and lifetime potential of HALF THE GODDAMN POPULATION.

And what do we get? Consternation.

Then there’s the ongoing hate killings of health workers in Pakistan. The price of prevention. Three more polio workers shot in Pakistan; eight dead in 48 hours. Vaccination workers shot.

All women. All executed for being outside the house while female and doing “Western” stuff.

The only problem mentioned is that Pakistan’s war on polio is imperilled. That is a big problem. No question about that. But it hardly seems like the only one that needs mentioning.

Then there was the atrocity committed against the medical student in India. The headline: Death of India rape victim stirs anger, promises of action. There have since been several more publicized abominations and, I have zero doubt, hundreds not even considered worth mentioning.

So. Lynching. And what do we get? A “struggle to respond.”

Really?

Half the human race is deprived, starved, terrorized, and murdered and the problem is that it’s hard to figure out how to respond?



(Update 2014-01-29. I’ve had these links stacked up over a year. More of the same horrors keep piling on top. There will never be a time when somehow I’ll be able to say something intelligent about it. There is nothing intelligent about destroying female human beings.)

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The nanny, the Indian diplomat, and the US authorities

Here’s what I don’t get about this event. I gather the diplomat was accused of some kind of visa violation in underpaying her nanny. Okay. So the State Department looks into it, determines if there was an underpayment and fines the diplomat (or whatever the law says) if there was. Right?

Devyani Khobragade

Consular official Devyani Khobragade
(Wikimedia commons)

No. She gets arrested in a snatch and grab raid on the street in Manhattan, as if she was a drug boss on the run, hauled off to the cop shop, and strip-searched.

I mean, WHUUUUT? Did they think she was hiding the nanny’s money in her underwear? If underpaying your foreign household help brings out the anti-terrorism swat team, most members of Congress will go into hiding.

And the US, instead of falling all over itself to apologize, says they’re talking to India and stressing how important bilateral trade is. Again, whuuut? Translated from the bureaucratese that sounds to me like, “Hey, you get lots of money/weapons/whatever from us. So shut up.”

Does the US really not understand that testerical overreaction like this is stupid?

In the past when I’ve seen people spreadeagled on the hoods of cars for minor traffic stops I’ve thought that the cops were having too much fun playing with their equipment and barking to care how stupid it looked.

After this event, I think it’s worse than that. I think they’ve been doing it so much for so long they’ve really forgotten that normal responsible adults show restraint. Somewhere in the dim corners of what passes for the authorities’ minds, they know that this is what they do to people hundreds, thousands of times a day. They do it to people who’ve run stop signs or stood still on a street corner listening to their ear buds or maybe trundled a shopping cart too far from the supermarket. Almost always brown people.

The US should be apologizing to the diplomat, and also to everybody else to whom they’ve been jackbooted thugs.

That would be a lot of people. Apparently the US has gone so far down that road, they either can’t stomach the size of the apology they have to make or, worse, they don’t even remember anymore that thuggery is bad behavior which requires an apology. [Update: Well, that would be B. "The arresting authority, the U.S. Marshals Service, characterized the strip search as a routine procedure imposed on any new arrestee."]

There’s a final little ironic postscript to this sorry tale. A good part of the Indian reaction has been outrage that a person of high rank has been treated like a nobody. Not realizing, of course, that in the US being brown is enough to make you a nobody.

The real solution is for everybody, Indians, people in the US, everybody to treat people like somebody even if (they think) they’re nobody.

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The roots of war

I was reading an article about Syria’s civil war, and sentences kept jumping out at me.

The white Horseman of war

For three men in northern Syria, the second civil war started shortly after the first staggered into a quagmire of sectarian violence. …

Like many others, the three men are bewildered at what has become of their war. Their alliances – and their goals – are shifting. …

They are a businessman, a smuggler and an army defector who became respectively the political officer, treasurer and military commander of a once-formidable battalion in northern Syria. …

“Maybe in 10 years we will all be bored with fighting and learn how to coexist.” He paused, then added: “In 10 years maybe, not now.” …

He opened Google Earth on his phone, zooming in closer and closer until the screen showed a small grey square: the house where his family used to live. “Before, all my family was in Syria, and I worried about them. Now, they’ve got out but I have lost my land. I have reached a point of despair,” he said. …

“I was in the revolution at the beginning, and I used to think that was going to be progress – but now we have lost everything. We don’t talk about military plans and hitting the regime – now the plotting is against each other.”

“I can’t defeat them [the jihadis] and the army. I am about to collapse. I can hold out for a month or two at most. Isis [jihadis] are expanding in a fearful way.” …

When they reached the base, the lieutenant sank down in a corner. He seemed weary. “I have been fighting for two years and a half. Tell me: what have I achieved? All I think about is attacking this checkpoint, getting that tank – maybe using the tank to attack another checkpoint.

“In all this time did I ever think of establishing governance? Did I consider working with the civilians in the areas under my control to get electricity or provide anything? …

He sighed. “… I want to get away from here and forget the absurdity of war. The liberated areas are in chaos: there is more purity on the frontlines.” …

“For three days I’ve been attacking this checkpoint,” said the lieutenant “I ask myself why, but I don’t know. Maybe because I can. Maybe because I need to keep my men busy. But honestly, I don’t know the purpose of all this. In Syria, everyone has lost. No one is winning.” …

The next day, the lieutenant decided he needed a break from war. A few days later, the smuggler, the lieutenant and another rebel officer were walking in an Istanbul shopping centre packed with Arab tourists. After two and a half years, the two men said they had finally decided to leave Syria and the war for good. …

Later, in the food court upstairs, the smuggler and the lieutenant ate lunch with another man, a people-smuggler, who told them how they could be spirited across the border into Greece and from there into Italy, where they could start a new life with their families. …

By now, the excitement of being in Istanbul had waned: the three men walked the streets aimlessly and sat for hours in cafes. … One evening, he admitted that he had tried to leave once before: he had stayed away for 25 days, but found he could not live in the world of peace: he missed the excitement, the combat, the camaraderie. …

The lieutenant left the cafe, and there was no news of him for weeks. Nobody knew if he was still in Turkey, or if he had gone with the people-smuggler and made his way to Italy.

When he finally called, he sounded relieved and almost cheerful. “I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “I couldn’t leave, I went back to Syria, to fight.”

People who go to war always say they do it to serve — their country, an ideal, their way of life, always something outside themselves. But then when the fighting is destroying what they care about they would stop, wouldn’t they?

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There’s a new definition of “Affordable”

At least there seems to be in the “Affordable Care Act.” Charles Ornstein writing for ProPublica:

“[I]n much of the country people have yet to really see what the cost-sharing will look like in these plans, and they may be surprised for find out that the deductibles and co-pays in bronze and silver plans are higher than what one would find in typical employer-provided health benefits,” Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an email. [Note: subsidies are based on silver plans. People who want better coverage pay the difference themselves. Also note: many doctors and hospitals are not in-network and out-of-network care costs more and has no cap on out of pocket costs.]

“I think it remains to be seen whether people see these plans as offering them good protection against catastrophic health expenses — which they do — or are disappointed that they won’t generally provide much coverage for occasional visits to the doctor or prescriptions,” Levitt added.

Chris Jacobs, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, brings up another point. The sequester law, which calls for spending cuts in the federal budget, requires reductions to the cost-sharing program. But the Obama administration has not said how it will carry those out — whether it will cut the cost-sharing subsidies or make insurers absorb the cuts.

“Someone (either carriers, consumers, or both) isn’t being told by this administration that they’re going to have to pay more — billions of dollars more,” Jacobs wrote to me.

Ken Wood, a senior adviser to Covered California, [said that] … “Even with high deductibles, consumers stop paying retail for health care since they get the advantage of the health insurer’s negotiated rates, and no plan has a higher out-of-pocket maximum [for in-network costs] than $6,350 (per person) [in addition to premiums],” he said. “That is a lot of money, but it probably will not drive people into bankruptcy. “

Let’s hope that the “Patient Protection” part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act hasn’t likewise changed its meaning. If it has, “Patient Protection” means “the kind of care you get under PPACA probably won’t kill you.”

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I realize I’m tilting at windmills

… but then my avatar’s name is Quixote. It’s just what I do.

Don Quixote by Picasso

Which windmill is it this time? Obamacare, of course. Let’s get one thing straight right here. It’s a disaster because its purpose is to funnel money to insurance companies. It is not to provide health care.

Anybody in power who wants to provide actual health care knows how to do it. There are only about twenty other wealthy countries that know how: you have some form of single payer / Medicare for All which is transparent to the user, tightly regulated, and provides actual care. It’s cheaper by nearly 50% and it provides better outcomes.

Instead, the US of A has to be special. We get this corporate handout where the last priority is the person who needs the service.

So what’s the narrative coming up on websites? Government can’t do anything right. Let’s have free market health care!

The major media will pick that up in a few months (weeks? days?). “Is The Answer To Give Consumers The Freedom To Pay Their Own Bills? Here’s Dr. Bigman to tell us!”

That didn’t work so well in the Dark Ages, which this country apparently wants to relive. The answer is staring everybody in the face, has been tried all over the world, and is cheaper, faster, better. Medicare for all. Medicare for all. Hello-o? Medicare for all!

But no. The US of A is special. We can find another wrong track to take even though it looks like we’ve tried them all by now.


If you’d like more information about the problems with Obamacare, besides the textbook disaster of a website, Lambert and friends have been doing a lot of the heavy lifting at Corrente and Naked Capitalism. They discuss:

  • The website rollout problems before they happened.
  • “Affordable” premiums that don’t buy much.
  • Deductibles in the thousands of dollars, not hundreds.
  • Big co-pays. Huge out of pocket maximums. Maximums only for in-network costs.
  • Exclusion of quite a few hospitals providing care for expensive diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. (So, for instance, your pre-existing condition now has to be covered, but you can’t actually get help without paying for it yourself. Rather a neat loophole, yes?)
  • And then we haven’t even started on the fact that the “subsidies” are tax credits. That means they’re based on your income, which means you have to correctly estimate all changes that affect your income (divorce, death of a dependent, for instance), or remember to report them immediately. Otherwise you must pay back the overpaid tax credit at tax time.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has a handy calculator to get some idea of subsidy amounts in individual situations.

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Government shutdown: my small loss

So the shutdown isn’t doing much to me. No missing checks, no cancer therapies withheld. Not even a thousand dollar vacation ruined.

No, my problem is much smaller. I have the Astronomy Picture of the Day as my home page. That way when I start up my browser the first thing I see is galaxies of light or maps of the whole universe or our planet shining with auroras. When the news comes along in due course with its not-new examples of people making problems, my mind has a bit of a harbor, a memory that it’s not like that everywhere.

Well, NASA is part of the government. It’s shut down. Its servers are down. My home page is now a blank white nothing:






.

I know it’s a very minor thing. And yet I feel like I’ve lost a friend, a very good friend who took me to new worlds and showed me wonders unknown.

I am surprised at how sad it makes me.

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If you’re calm, you have no clue

I can’t stop boggling about an article I just read in the NYTimes. Its gist is that how much we want to spend now to stop climate change depends on how much we think it’ll cost in the future. You guess about that part. And then you get super-precise about which interest rate you’ll accept on it.

Think of it this way: Demanding a 5 percent return means that a dollar invested today should become at least $1.05 next year after inflation, and a little more than $1.10 the year after that. In 200 years it should be worth at least $17,292.58. Turn the logic around and we should spend $1 today to prevent climate-related damage only if it prevents damages of at least $17,292.58 two centuries down the road.

[If a lower return is acceptable, at] 2.5 percent, spending $1 today would be justified if it prevented merely $139.56 worth of damage in 200 years.

I’m just floored. Sitting here, opening and closing my mouth like a fish out of water.

Are you telling me that people capable of putting on their own socks in the morning honestly think they can figure out all the expected and unexpected consequences of global warming? The costs of the water wars, the costs of cracked foundations due to drought, the costs of new pests, new molds, new diseases, the costs of acid oceans wiping out world fisheries, the cost of runaway feedback loops that dump more and more greenhouse gases into the air no matter what we puny humans do at that point. And that list barely scratches the surface of what will happen on a warming Earth.

But these beaks sit there and think they can make a fine and dandy accounting of the complete unknown? That their only problem is deciding which interest rate to slap on it?

What is wrong with these people?

 

(Illustration: Punch, Oct. 4, 1884)

 
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If you want to send a message to Syria, use the Post Office

Just for the record, I’m not much of a pacificist. Self-defense is the least-bad option after an attack. And I do believe that everybody has a duty to stop crimes against humanity wherever they occur. On my planet, the UN has a militia ten times the size of any nation’s army, because those are all so small, and stops criminal nations.

But we don’t live on my planet. We live here, where the rhetoric about Syria has so many layers of hypocrisy it looks like a sedimentary rock.

Governments tolerate all kinds of dictators. No way we’re suddenly all hot and bothered about Assad.

Chemical weapons are horrible. No question about that. But death by shrapnel is no picnic either. Nor is being buried alive in fallen masonry. Around 100,000 children, women, and men have died in the Syrian war. A recent 1500 of those were the awful chemical weapons fatalities. Now suddenly senseless painful civilian deaths are unacceptable? Where have we been the last three, four years?

While we’re on the subject of bombs, I’d just like to mention how badly they work as envelopes. Any messages they’re carrying get all shredded and come out unrecognizable at the receiving end. If you’re trying to communicate, bombs don’t.

And then there’s the Israelis and Saudis expressing chagrin about the US lack of action. They’d prefer to have that mess near their borders cleaned up. As a purely practical matter with no ethical dimensions, I can understand that. I can also understand wanting the 600-pound gorilla on your side. But shouldn’t they at least be saying, “We’ll send so many tens of thousands of soldiers and so many tens of billions of dollars. We know it’s our fight, too.” Instead it’s all about what a spineless piece of cheese Obama is because he hasn’t already done it with US lives and cash.

So, if I’m so smart, what’s my solution? Well, one, we (meaning people, humanity) go back some sixty years and don’t get rid of Mossadegh in Iran. After that, we don’t do another million and a half idiotic things in the intervening decades. We transition to solar power and energy efficiency. We provide scholarship money to every remotely qualified woman in the whole Middle East. If there even was an effective Taliban in that world, and if the US did have to go after them in Afghanistan, then afterwards the US would have concentrated all its energies on the “nation-building” Rumsfeld had no use for.

I know. We don’t have time travel. (Although we may get it sooner than peace in the Middle East.) In this world, I have no idea what I’d do if I was handed the current crap on a plate. There are no good choices because too many idiots have made bad ones. So, do I want military dictatorships or religious ones?

No.

 

—————————-
Update, Sept. 5. The Saudi government reads this blog? I just saw this: Kerry says Arab countries offer to pay for invasion. (Now, if only they’d take on board some of the other, more important messages I keep pushing here. Equality, for instance.)

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Larry Page wants to see your medical records


But of course. What’s good for Mr. Larry is good for everybody. He’s quite clear on that. Why aren’t you?

From ITWorld:

A day after breaking an almost year-long silence on a medical condition that had affected the way he speaks, Google co-founder Larry Page said Wednesday that people should be more open about their medical histories.” …

“At least in my case I feel I should have done it sooner and I’m not sure that answer isn’t true for most people, so I ask why are people so focused on keeping your medical history private?”

Then the icing on the cake:

The Google CEO guessed most people are guarded about their medical history because of insurance reasons. [Or he could, maybe, guess that he could ask people what their concerns are.]

“You’re very worried that you’re going to be denied insurance. That makes no sense, so maybe we should change the rules around insurance so that they have to insure people,” he said to a round of applause.

Wow. Thanks, Larry. Where were you during the whole Obamacare bullshit? When not a single powerful anything came out in favor of Medicare For All, the only way to just “insure people.” At your rate of breakthrough insights, I’ll be waiting for the flash of inspiration sometime in 2020.

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Republicans are okay with internet taxes? Say what?


The Senators slay me. They do nothing (useful) since forever, then they restore funds to air traffic control in half an hour. They finally twigged to the fact that their personal flights could be delayed by this sequester thing.

The Republican ones have also since forever been staunchly refusing to fund government. They’ve shut down or nearly shut down the whole damn thing several times over refusals to raise taxes even a penny.

And now, suddenly, a quite hefty tax increase on internet sales goes through in a matter of seconds. At least it feels like seconds compared to their usual pace. One day you hear they’re talking about it. The next day there’s this:

The Senate … [passed] a bill that would widely subject online shopping — for many a largely tax-free frontier — to state sales taxes. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 69 to 27.

Gee willikers whiz. It’s almost like the only thing they mind is taxes on millionaires. Making you pay hundreds of extra dollars a year is A-OK.

(Apparently the House of Reps. has realized that this thing could be construed as a tax increase. Whodathunkit? They seem to be backpedalling on passing it. The gods have a hideously twisted sense of humor when they make Tea Party loons and Norquist knobs the only thing between us and total kleptocracy.)

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