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I have a fairly liberal co-worker who is on Medicare and just got notice that his Medicare Advantage premiums are skyrocketing in 2015, along with his "out-of-pocket" costs, his deductibles and co-pays. He received an email from AHIP claiming this is all the result of the ACA, and that these premiums will continue their dizzying upward ascent in the years to come.

Now I know AHIP is skeezy group, but what is the deal with these increases? They are WAY out of line from what I would expect, but I am not an expert on Medicare and its various programs. This particular plan is sold by Blue Cross of NC, and the increases are:

Monthly Premium: $18.90 increasing to $64.40
Out of Pocket: $3,400 increasing to $4,500
Doctor's Visits: $10.00 increasing to $20.00
Specialists: $35.00 increasing to $40.00
In-Patient Stays: $170 increasing to $250

What is going on here? Is the ACA causing these hikes or is there another explanation?

Discuss

Ads eat up a LOT of money and have a debatable effect on elections. What does work, and I don't know anyone who disagrees with this, is this simple strategy:

1) Identify the people who will vote for you.

2) Make sure they are registered.

3) Get them to the polls to vote.

Stop wasting millions of dollars running ads the consultants tell you you need to run. They are telling you this because their paycheck depends on you running ads. I have spoken to a broad cross-section of people over the years and they all tell me that ads don't move them. If they hate the one candidate, nothing that candidate says about themselves or their opponent will move them. If they agree with candidate, they are preaching to the choir.

Now some people will tell you that they are targeting the "undecided", i.e. voters so utterly disengaged from reality they will believe what they hear in a political ads. This makes up 2-5% of most races, and the break in those voters is a coin toss. Why worry about a guy who might vote for you rather than doing your utmost to get a voter who WILL vote for you registered and voting on election day?

Discuss

Words fail...

During the Cold War, America’s bipartisan commitment to protecting and expanding a community of nations devoted to freedom, market economies and cooperation eventually proved successful for us and the world. Kissinger’s summary of that vision sounds pertinent today: “an inexorably expanding cooperative order of states observing common rules and norms, embracing liberal economic systems, forswearing territorial conquest, respecting national sovereignty, and adopting participatory and democratic systems of governance.”

...

Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state. He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels. Though we have often seen the world and some of our challenges quite differently, and advocated different responses now and in the past, what comes through clearly in this new book is a conviction that we, and President Obama, share: a belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.

This tells me she is one of three things:

1) A rightwing admirer of Kissinger.

2) Someone too stupid to know Kissinger is a monster.

3) A slime ball who will curry favor from anyone, no matter how criminal, if she thinks it will get her elected.

None of these possibilities incline me to vote for her.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

Discuss

(Please note: I am not part of this project I am just posting the story and request for help)

We're Compiling Every Police-Involved Shooting In America. Help Us.

 The United States has no database of police shootings. There is no standardized process by which officers log when they've discharged their weapons and why. There is no central infrastructure for handling that information and making it public. Researchers, confronted with the reality that there are over 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the country, aren't even sure how you'd go about setting one up. No one is keeping track of how many American citizens are shot by their police. This is crazy. This is governmental malpractice on a national scale. We'd like your help in changing this.

Here, we're going to take a cue from Jim Fisher, who as far as we can tell has compiled the most comprehensive set of data on police shootings in 2011. Fisher's method was simple: He searched for any police-involved shooting every day for an entire year. By our lights, this is the best way to scrape this information—any time a police officer shoots and hits a citizen, it will almost certainly make a local news report, at least. However, this is a time-intensive process, and our manpower is limited. Having gathered some of the data, we can say it will take the few of us here a very long time to do this on our own. So, we're setting up a public submission form and asking for help with this project.

Follow this link for access to the submission guidelines.

Discuss

Presidential debates are boring and other than political junkies, few pay attention to them until they are cut up into "gotcha" sound bites for political ads.

I think it is time to make debates "must see TV". I propose a series of debates with the following people as panelists moderators:

Stephen Colbert - Moderator
Jon Stewart - Panelist
John Oliver - Panelist
Lewis Black - Panelist

Tina Fey - Moderator
Whoopi Goldberg - Panelist
Liz Winstead - Panelist
Margaret Cho - Panelist

Dave Chappell - Moderator
Chris Rock - Panelist
Aasif Mandvi - Panelist
Larry Wilmore - Panelist

George Takei - Moderator
Wanda Sykes - Panelist
Dan Savage - Panelist
Rachel Maddow - Panelist

These are four debates I can guarantee would not only have record-smashing viewership, but would have a worldwide audience as well. Hell, you could sell tickets to the live event for a $100 a pop (for charity) and sell out any venue.

And finally, my absolute fantasy panel that, sadly, can never happen:

George Carlin - Moderator
Sam Kinison - Panelist
Robin Williams - Panelist
Bobcat Goldthwait - Panelist

Discuss

Tue Aug 19, 2014 at 02:48 PM PDT

Alea Jacta Est

by plan9pub

I have argued repeatedly that the U.S. is now, and has been for some time, a de facto police state. I will not rehash my reasons at this juncture (other than to point out that the 1st and 4th-8th Amendments of the Constitution are functionally null and void), but I will indicate that the current situation in Missouri is the "point of no return". People act all shocked that things like this are happening, completely forgetting that similar things happened nationwide with complicity of the Federal government during the Occupy movement three years ago. So, we had a preview of this in 2011 and still we did NOT act.

If the police in Missouri are allowed to keep their jobs (I have ZERO confidence in any of them going to jail) then we will officially be a police state.

Either we do something about this, or we are done.

Discuss

I mean, obviously, if they are the same sex, they can't get married. But what sex is a corporation?

Also, shouldn't the government disallow expenses incurred in unsuccessful takeovers/mergers (corporate abortions) since this would mean that taxpayer money was involved in the subsidizing of abortion?

When corporations act willfully in a manner which results in someone's death, do we execute the whole corporation or just the board of directors, the CEO, and all senior management (VP and higher)?

I am sure you folks can come up with other questions.

Discuss

It all boils down to the fact that the Supreme Court will remain in conservative hands for the next 20-30 years. The Scalia 5 will undo any reform we manage to pass, if we ever manage to pass it. Even if we retain the White House, we will never be allowed to appoint anything vaguely resembling a "liberal" justice to the court.

Conservatives are going to dismantle this country one decision at a time. Abortion will soon be functionally illegal, and marriage equality will be next in the crosshairs. I know plenty of people who believe Kennedy is a cinch vote on gay rights, but Kennedy has let us down MANY times in the past and it's a coin flip as to whether he will vote to let states decide on marriage equality issues.

The Scalia 5 should have been impeached for Bush v. Gore (staunch Nixon defender and Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi made a great case for it, but the spineless Dems refuse to fight, or simply collaborate.

Discuss

Today's 9-0 ruling that the police need a search warrant to look at your cell phones seems like a big win at first, but the devil is in the detail. Politico is a good case in point. The headline is:

SCOTUS rules warrants needed for cellphone search
But in the very first sentence of the story, a weasel word comes into play:
The Supreme Court struck a major blow in favor of digital privacy Wednesday by ruling unanimously that police generally need a warrant before searching the cellphone or personal electronic device of a person arrested.
The qualifier "generally" pops right out of that sentence. It means that special circumstances exist where a warrant is NOT required. So, when would that be?
The court’s opinion explicitly leaves open the opportunity for police to search a cellphone without a warrant in “exigent circumstances,” such as a ticking-bomb scenario or when there’s reason to believe evidence is about to be destroyed.
So, we have two examples of when they can search without a warrant. Everybody's favorite TV/movie trope, the "ticking bomb scenario" which happens a lot in conservative documentaries like 24, and when there's a reason to believe evidence is about to be destroyed.

Please note the absence of an adjective such as "plausible" in front of "reason".

So, to search a phone without a warrant, you simply have to have a "reason to believe" evidence is about to be destroyed.

Any reason will do.

And before anyone tells me how any "sensible" person would parse that ruling, I would point out that it is now legal to torture people in this country and to assassinate American citizens without trial.

Discuss

Given that you do not believe in the U.S. government:

1) Do you receive social security?

2) Are you on Medicare?

3) How do you pay for your living expenses without resorting to federal banknotes?

4) How have your remarks been taken out of context?

Discuss

Despite an decent record on progressive issues, this has got to be the most tone-deaf political statement to come out of a Democratic politician since Joe Lieberman jumped ship. Since he is retiring, it is no skin off his nose to say something imbecilic like this, but he sure as hell is not helping the Dems keep this seat.

Congressman: We’re underpaid!MSNBC

Virginia Democratic Rep. James Moran thinks members of Congress aren’t getting paid enough.

Moran and his colleagues make $174,000 a year, but he says that’s not enough money to live comfortably in the nation’s capital.

“Our pay has been frozen for three years and we’re planning on freezing it a fourth year. … A lot of members can’t even afford to live decently in Washington,” Moran told CQ Roll Call.

Moran is looking to do something about it. He plans to introduce an amendment to raise members’ salary to an unspecified figure, according to the report. He’s not optimistic the bill will go anywhere – “this is wholly quixotic,” he told the paper – but he hopes it will highlight what he sees as a hardship for elected officials.

Moran isn’t the first to complain about congressional pay. In 2011, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Sean Duffy was criticized for complaining about his salary to an underemployed construction worker.

“I struggle to meet my bills right now,” Duffy said, commenting that he drives a used minivan and struggles to pay his bills and mortgage.

Seriously? You make more than three times the national median salary and you whine about being "underpaid". You have your every whim catered to by a platoon of paid (by the taxpayer) and unpaid staff and you are "underpaid"? You have a better healthcare plan (which footed the bill for your daughter's chemo) than the majority of Americans and you are "underpaid"?
Discuss

Headlines in just the last few days:

Cox Communications and Sony Electronics cutting 900 local jobs
Best Buy to lay off 2,000 U.S. managers
IBM Union Expects Mass Layoff to Hit Workers (15,000 possible jobs gone)
Layoff Bells Toll at JPMorgan Again (8,000 jobs)
Teachers, students protest potential layoff of 1,000 educators at meeting
Indiana Limestone Co. to close, lay off 166 workers
Boise call center to lay off 1,600 workers in April
What will KentuckyOne layoffs mean for patient care?
Poland's Alior Bank to lay off 4% of staff (Poland, but still)
Westside manufacturer to lay off 133 workers
Sikorsky announces 600 layoffs over next several weeks
PHH Mortgage to lay off 135 workers in Amherst
Cenveo to lay off 133 in Jacksonville
U.S. Steel announces layoffs at Lorain Tubular Operations
GenCorp to lay off 61 in Rancho Cordova
City layoffs loom in Poughkeepsie (25 jobs)
Budapest Transport Company To Lay Off Over 900 Bus Drivers
City of Lebanon to layoff employees (10 jobs)
Endomines to lay off 18 employees
PepsiCo in Abilene to Lay Off Workers

Layoffs from earlier this month:

UNO to lay off as many as 30 employee
Deere to lay off 120 in East Moline
Mass layoff at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii (100 jobs)
Windstream to lay off 67 in Arkansas, 400 nationwide
Falling enrollment for online classes leads Everest to lay off 105 in Colorado Springs
Novartis to lay off 92 from East Hanover office, among hundreds nationwide
Eastern Michigan University layoffs: Majority of full-time education lecturers get notices
Disney Interactive expected to begin layoffs
Layoffs could happen at Detroit Metro as Delta switches work contractors
Challenger Report: Layoff Announcements Soared 47 Percent in January
Rumor Has It Dell Is Planning To Lay Off 15,000 Employees (Some layoffs, but probably not that high but Dell won't say)
OfficeMax, Specialty Foods (Nathan's Hot Dogs), and many more announce layoffs (1,000+ jobs)
Sony to sell PC business, reform TV arm, layoff 5,000 employees
Sprint to lay off 91 in Bellevue, Kirkland
500 layoffs expected today at Time Inc.
East Cleveland, on notice to cut spending, sends police layoff notices
Kodak to lay off 35 employees (Yes, I was amazed that Kodak was still in business too)
Barclays Stock Hammered, Bank Will Lay Off 820 Managers

Maybe it is just me, but this does not sound like a healthy economy. In fact, the fact that no one in government is commenting on this torrent of layoff is VERY scary

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