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Rumbles under the Ice [Dynamics of Cats]


Ruh-roh.
Katla is rumbling a bit.

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LG Revolution review

The army of high-speed broadband phones is actively seeking new recruits to join its rapidly-growing force, and the LG Revolution is the latest to graduate from boot camp. We've witnessed the emergence of three Verizon LTE handsets in as many months, beginning with the HTC Thunderbolt and the Samsung Droid Charge a few weeks later. As if this wasn't enough choice to tempt your tastebuds already, the LG Revolution -- the entertaining climax to the classic 4G trilogy -- was born one full moon after that. With three options, all so close to each other in dimension and features, it's natural to compare all of 'em and make the call on which one is the best of the bunch. Is LG's first crack at Verizon's LTE network truly a game-changer, as its name suggests? Or does this Revolution fail to even get its feet off the ground? Read on after the break to find out.

Continue reading LG Revolution review

LG Revolution review originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 17 Jun 2011 16:54:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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The temptation of McKinsey

Greg Sargent has been closely following this emerging scandal over the McKinsey study I wrote about here. I was as credulous as anyone, and not just because McKinsey studies are often cited and I had no reason to doubt it. But it was also because it tracked with my gut feeling about what will happen when the system changes so that employers can opt out of offering health coverage. Obviously it's always tempting to jump on something that validates your gut feelings, but in this case it is becoming clear that there's something drastically wrong with the study and any credence I put into it must be withdrawn.

Having said that, I still think this is a weakness in the plan, regardless of what employers say now about what they plan to do in the future. It's only logical that if they feel there is an alternative to paying for or even administering this benefit many of them will take it. (I've dealt with human resources departments over the years and one thing that's patently obvious is that they fall on the "expense" side of the ledger.) Therefore, if the job market and rules of the road allow, I doubt very much that those who can opt out won't see it as a viable alternative. This won't be a problem if workers are compensated for the price of a comparable policy in the exchanges. But if they aren't this would end up being a net loss for working people.

I'm hopeful that won't happen. (It's possible that I misunderstand the various mechanisms that make it even feasible.) But it's always been something that seemed a little bit "off" about the ACA's promise that "nothing would change" if you already have insurance. However, what seems to be even more "off" is McKinsey's study, so that certainly doesn't offer any validation of those concerns and anyone citing it at this point is basically citing bullshit.

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Getting what they wanted all along

Ezra's well connected to this debate so I'm assuming he knows what he's talking about:
Michael Gerson describes what top Republicans are saying will be in the final budget deal
A package of immediate and specific budget cuts; budget caps reaching out five years to reassure conservatives that tough budget decisions will be made in the future; Medicare reforms short of the House approach; no tax increases — a Republican red line — but perhaps additional revenue from the elimination of tax expenditures.

I’m hearing mostly the same thing. The debt-ceiling deal looks like it’ll be almost entirely composed of cuts and caps. Whatever revenues are in it will be token contributions, at best. There won’t be structural reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and there won’t be a pass at tax reform. The budget caps will make automatic cuts to spending if we’re not on a path to primary balance by 2014. The big question with the cap is whether it just makes automatic cuts to spending or it also raises taxes. It’s not obvious to me why the Democrats would fold on that last point, but they might.

What this means is that Democrats and Republicans have agreed that the “grand bargain” isn’t spending cuts for tax revenues, but entitlement reforms for tax revenues.

Excellent. Except we have no idea what those tax revenues are except for some symbolic cuts of a few easy corporate subsidies. But I guess the idea is that if the Democrats put "entitlements" on the menu then surely the GOP will meet them halfway. What could go wrong?

Knowing as we do that the outcome of the debt limit "fight" was pre-ordained (they were always going to raise it) what this really means is that the Democrats wanted to make the parameters of the 2012 budget fight around entitlement cuts and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled. And apparently they want to be forced to cut spending radically in the second term. In other words, a big win for the austerity fetishists. I hope the confidence fairy is duly impressed.

As for the politics, I'd guess the Democrats think this will "take deficit reduction off the table" so they can start talking about #winningthefuture, but I think that may be just a little bit delusional. After all, the Republican electoral argument is that deficit reduction is the key to growth and jobs. They aren't going to let it go, especially since they now know how to play it.

Obama will say that he's shown great leadership by being willing to rein in spending and will run on allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as the Democratic "win" in the Grand Bargain --- but only if he's re-elected. The Republicans will say that Obama's profligate spending has exacerbated the unemployment crisis and that raising taxes when the economy is sputtering will make things even worse. Who knows what people will believe? I suspect they'll see Obama as the better bet. That's the beauty of having the opposing party be batshit insane.

So, whichever jersey you wear, and whatever problems you have with the policies, you'll be told to clap louder --- to drown out the sound of the plutocrats' laughter.

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Professional Left Podcast #78


The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
-- Saint Augustine
On the road with the Professional Left.

Pictured above is Blue Gal editing the component parts of the podcast you are listening to into a confection that pleased our ears (her PC with all of her magic tricks took a hit before we arrived here, so we are making-do with a hand-held tape recorder and the software she downloaded onto my ancient...Old Timey... vintage machine.)

Pictured also are my giant feet nude body parts. Please feel free to tweet the hell out of them. With any luck, the Democratic Party will ask me politely to leave grin



Having fun and meeting fellow travelers.

More later.







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CSI Brookhaven: 500-year-old Hair Tells Story of Royal Mercury Poisoning [Brookhaven Bits & Bytes]

Hair breaks. It singes. It falls out. It might not be the strongest feature of living human bodies, but hair is one of the best-preserved tissues of dead ones, providing a record of diet, age, metabolism, and, sometimes, even the cause of death.

Ferdinand.jpg

Ferdinand II

With intense beams of x-rays at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), a team of researchers is using hair samples collected from the decomposed bodies of two 15th century Italian royalty to determine how they really died.

The subjects: Ferdinand II (1452-1516) and Isabella (1470-1524) of Aragon, a medieval kingdom of what is now modern Spain.

Ferdinand was once the king of Aragon, Sicily, Naples, Valencia, Sardinia, and Navarre. His death followed a spat with recurrent fever, malaise, fatigue, and bloody diarrhea.

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Isabella

Isabella, the Princess of Naples and Duchess of Milan is thought by some to be the subject of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. She suffered from recurrent fevers, malaise, and died with dropsy, a general swelling of the body.

There's a common link between the Aragonese's late lives: both were treated with mercury, a cure-all skin disease remedy of the 15th century used to care for everything from itch to ulcers. It's also a neurotoxin that's especially harmful to the nervous system.

Historical accounts suggest that Ferdinand was using the heavy metal to treat syphilis. And based on Isabella's blackened teeth, researchers can tell that she also received mercury treatment.

Isabella_teeth_2.jpg

Black patina composed of mercury found on Isabella's teeth

But were the they exposed to enough mercury to kill them?

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AARP joins the Grand Bargain

So the big news today, aside from apparent shock by some observers at Netroots Nation that people there aren't totally satisfied with the President (he lifted DADT after all)is that the head of AARP made the statement that the organization wants to be at the wheel when the government rams the Social Security Titanic right into that iceberg. Seriously:

"The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens," said John Rother, AARP's long-time policy chief and a prime mover behind its change of heart.

This article is in the Wall Street Journal which obviously has an agenda. But the quotes are direct and what the story lays out is a big fight within the organization --- with Rother winning the argument.

Now, I don't know if this is true but it tracks with everything else we know about the specious arguments going around:

 

His argument: Tax increases wouldn't be enough to make the program solvent. The leading proposal for raising taxes—increasing the amount of income subject to payroll taxes, the central financing mechanism for the program—would fill less than half the hole. Moreover, Republicans were not going to accept a plan that didn't include benefit cuts. The idea that both tax increases and benefit cuts were needed dovetailed closely with plans put forward by several separate commissions in Washington seeking to ease the U.S.'s long-term fiscal woes.

"There was good, healthy discussion," said John Penn, chairman of Intek Plastics Inc., a member of AARP's board. "Healthy tension usually results in better answers, but sometimes it's painful in the process."

When Mr. Obama considered making a Social Security proposal early this year, Mr. Rother indicated he would be supportive, said two people familiar with the matter. But the White House opted to hold off.

I'm guessing there's a reason why he's gone public now.

He claims they don't want this to be in the "context" of deficit reduction, but that's just silly. If the conversation is taking place right now, it's in the context of deficit reduction. And interestingly, the only conversation that seems to be seriously discussed is cuts to the safety net -- I certainly haven't heard much about tax hikes or defense cuts. (Oh wait, that's right, the GOP agreed to reduce a couple of subsidies to hugely profitable corporations so everybody now has "skin in the game" and it's even-steven.)

Moreover, the Grand Bargain was always about a major deal involving the two parties coming together under the guiding hand of the post-partisan president. The Republicans laughed at the notion but they did see an opportunity to get a whole lot of concessions from the Democrats for next to nothing in return.(#didn'ttakeapoliticalgenius)

And they have been extremely good at working the various levers of power in ways that Democrats simply refuse to do. This shot across the bow a couple of months ago, for instance, probably had an effect:

[T]he two committee chairmen leading the hearings insist their investigation is neither a form of political payback nor an effort to sully the organization's reputation. Says Wally Herger, chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommitte on Health:

This hearing is about getting to the bottom of how AARP’s financial interests affect their self-stated mission of enhancing seniors' quality of life. It is important to better understand how AARP’s insurance business overlaps with its advocacy efforts and whether such overlap is appropriate.

Not that AARP doesn't deserve some scrutiny for these arrangements, but the Republicans didn't bother to ask such questions when the organization was backing their play on prescription drugs. They play this sort of hardball when they want something. In this case, I think everyone knew that both parties want to cut Social Security but they have this little problem with the people they represent not wanting them to do it. AARP has been enlisted to try to smooth that out.

 

AARP claims they are going to hold a series of townhall meetings to explain their position to their members. I'm not one of them, having dropped my membership after a year when I realized that it was mainly an insurance and investment broker. But for those who are members, I would think these meetings would be a great place for people to stand up en masse and rip up their AARP cards. If the organization is willing to be used, at the expense of their members, by those who seek their own aggrandizement and agenda, then they are pretty damned useless.

It's sadly ironic that on the same day Anthony Weiner finally acquiesced to the demands of his party leadership that he step down for having embarrassed them with icky pictures, the GAO released this report:

A report issued today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds little to support the charges that led to the demise of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a grassroots consumer advocacy organization driven out of existence by Congressional critics.

The GAO found that monitoring of awards to ACORN by government agencies generally consisted of reviewing progress reports and making site visits. Of 22 investigations of alleged election and voter registration fraud, most were closed without prosecution, the report found.

One of eight investigations of alleged voter registration fraud resulted in guilty pleas and seven were closed without action due to lack of evidence.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) reported five closed matters – one resolved, one dismissed and the others dropped after FEC "found no reason to believe the violations occurred."

[...] In 2009, conservative activists released selectively edited videos claiming to show ACORN employees giving advice on hiding prostitution activities and avoiding taxes.

The videos created a nationwide controversy that resulting in Congress passing laws that prohibited federal funds from being awarded to ACORN. The group disbanded in March 2010 In December 2009, New York U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon ruled that Congress had violated the Constitution by singling out ACORN and banning it from receiving federal funds but the ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court, which found that federal funds amounted to only 10 percent of ACORN's funding and therefore Congress' action did not amount to punishment, even though it may have been unjustified.

The GAO report identified about $48 million in federal grants and contracts that had been awarded to ACORN and its affiliates from 2005 to 2009.

The ACORN and Weiner scandals, different as they are (although the common thread is the sexy, obviously) have a similar lesson in them for all Democrats inside and outside the beltway: it doesn't matter if you committed a crime or broke any rules or even were the victim of a hoax --- once you've embarrassed the Democratic political class, you will be cut loose.

I'm sure Breitbart's got his next set of victims all lined up. And remember, it won't do you any good to just be "smarter" or "more moral" than anyone else because it doesn't even have to be true.

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Will There be A Congressional Frenzy Next Year as the Music Stops?

With the draft redistricting maps, all of the members of Congress are busy trying to figure out where they will run.  The musical chairs as Reps. shift down the street or to another area entirely won't really be complete until we get a real map.  At this point, it looks like the commissioners are working pretty well together, and may actually get a map. (Oh, and if that happens...well, I was wrong about them not being able to agree. But I'm still waiting to admit anything yet.)

But as the musical chairs progresses, a few folks who didn't have a seat before are looking for one now.  And the Top-2 system might play in here.  In an area mainly represented by Ken Calvert (R-Corruption and Riverside Cty.), who is looking towards shifting to a different district, a sitting Supervisor thinks it might be time to launch a campaign from the center:

Five-term Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione said Thursday he would run for Congress in a newly proposed district that overlaps much of his current territory. ... As currently drawn, that seat would contain slightly more Democrats than Republicans and Gov. Jerry Brown bested his Republican challenger, Meg Whitman, by 6 percentage points last year.

Tavaglione, who lives in Riverside, described himself as a moderate Republican with a record of working across party lines.

"I believe we need to see balance -- and strong balance -- within our legislative offices in order to get things done," he said. "That takes strong leadership and I've proven myself in that regard." (Riverside P-E)

Now, that district could, and really should, be a Democratic district.  If the presidential election is a blowout for Obama in California, this seat will probably ride the coattails.  Otherwise, who knows.  However, it is no sure thing that a "moderate" like Tavaglione will be the GOP standard bearer, and Dems are likely to find somebody with a similarly "moderate" record. But there are so many variables here with Top 2.  How many Dems run, how many Republicans run?  The Dem bench is a little thin in this area, so it would be surprising to see more than a couple competitors.  However, at least one other Republican, Asm. Jeff Miller, who is not a "moderate" announced he is in for the seat.  Expect others.

Of course, this process is playing out in other districts across the state.  The North Coast will likely be looking for a new Congress member, and the rumors of Noreen Evans running might not work as her Santa Rosa base is now in a seat that Mike Thompson will likely pursue.  Norman Solomon and a Jared Huffman are also looking at that one.

With the Top-2 system, both June and November will carry much weight as these races sort themselves out.  Now we just wait on the Commission...


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Earthquakes, Climate Change and Oil Spills Are Just Part of the Job for Marcia McNutt at USGS [USA Science and Engineering Festi

Marcia McNutt Photo.jpgOverseeing the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) - the country's largest water, earth and biological scientific and civilian mapping agency -- seems a natural fit for Marcia McNutt. She's a Navy Seals-trained underwater demolition and explosives expert, earthquake scientist, avid lover of the ocean -- and a leading geophysicist who brings vast academic and scientific background to her post.

As the first woman director of the USGS in the agency's 131-year history, Marcia was nominated to the post by President Obama in 2009 and later approved by the Senate to head USGS's mission of serving as the key scientific advisor to the government and other decision makers on a wide range of conditions, issues and problems related to natural resources and geology -- including climate change, water supply, seismic activity, fossil fuels and environmental issues associated with renewable energy. USGS scientists collect, monitor and analyze data in these areas to provide a further understanding of the problems and issues at hand.

In her post, Marcia also serves as scientific advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Says Marcia: "Scientific information from the U.S. Geological Survey is crucial to solving the most important problems facing society--including sufficient supplies of fresh water and clean energy and providing accurate information that allows citizens to prepare intelligently for climate change. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead such a respected institution given the importance of USGS science to our quality of life."

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the USGS at this time?

Read more about Marcia here.

And watch Marcia's Scripps Day address in which she discusses facing the BP Oil Spill and other crises that kept hitting her "like a machine gun" just 2 months after joining the USGS.

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Democrats Allocate $2.2 Billion


for Ally-crushing Superbus.

They say "Boo".
DLC says "Run".

Boo.

Run.

Boo.

Run.

Quit waiting for the cavalry kids.

The cavalry ain't coming and

God's Away on Business.

There's just us.

And when they say "Boo" we say "Is that all you've got, fucko?"

From the late Steven Gilliard:

I'm a fighting liberal

...
It was the liberals who opposed the Nazis while the conservatives were plotting to get their brown shirts or fund Hitler. It was the liberals who warned about Spain and fought there, who joined the RAF to fight the Germans, who brought democracy to Germany and Japan. Let us not forget it was the conservatives who opposed defending America until the Germans sank our ships. They would have done nothing as Britain came under Nazi control. It was they who supported Joe McCarthy and his baseless, drink fueled claims.

Without liberals, there would be no modern America, just a Nazi sattlelite state. Liberals weak on defense? Liberals created America's defense. The conservatives only need vets at election time.

It is time to stop looking for an accomodation with the right. They want none for us. They want to win, at any price. So, you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you?

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