Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Soon after that time, a gentlemen by the name of Wendell Potter, Cigna's VP of Corporate Communications, left Cigna after it became clear to him that the company wanted him to wage a spin campaign to make it look like they didn't essentially kill Nataline. He couldn't take it any more. And now he has book out about the entire experience. A book, incidentally, that answers (again) how private corporations harm people or, in this case, kill them.
Generally, there are two parts to the strategy. One is what they’re doing publicly, what you can see. The other is what they’re doing behind the scenes — working with PR firms like APCO and through the think tanks.
They approach this very strategically. It’s important to note that the committee that I was on for quite a while, the Strategic Communications Committee, they’ve been working on this for a long, long, time well before the elections were held in 2008. They see all these organizations as ways to communicate with public opinion.
Think tanks are particularly important because they have good connections. The Heritage Foundation, CATO, the American Enterprise Institute and the Galen Institute and a few others that issue reports and commentary and people from those organizations themselves have connections to the media, can get op-eds placed in the Wall Street Journal and other places.
Insurers also work through their PR firms with T.V. producers, in particular, the conservative talk shows like Fox. They see that as a very very important place to go to get their point of view across and the producers are probably on speed dial.
Insurers also worked for a long, long, time, as I did when I was with Cigna, to develop relationships with reporters in the mainstream media. I certainly had very good relationships with reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today.
It's as simple as that, folks. Even easier when the place you start from is having a large group of people that have a pathological distrust of government to help you along. So it becomes the government that has the death panels, they say, not them, knowing full well that they are the actual death panel and the government could stand in their way by actually enforcing the law. And just like that, a family who has paid their premiums and expected coverage watches a loved one die. Worse, the family is at fault, not the insurance company, and blaming the victim is the icing on the cake.
I'm trying to imagine what kind of people think it's alright to spend a quarter of million dollars on a party as opposed to saving a person's life. It makes me sick to think about it but that's our society today...driven by insatiable greed and supported by anti government fervor that enables it.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit. Thus, educating good critical thinkers means working toward this ideal.
First, I agree completely with this statement. This is the framework I use to instruct young people. Second, this is an ideal and it would be very difficult to achieve it in one's lifetime. I know that I fall short of this ideal. We all do.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Tom has provided the soundtrack to over 30 years of my life. I saw his video for “Refugee” before MTV had even launched. I love all of his records but Mojo is massively good. I played it nearly every day this summer and was magically connected to all summers past in which, not surprisingly, I was listening to Tom Petty.
This would be one of those glimpses back to the 70s I yearn for on a daily basis…courtesy of the man who gave us many a great tune during the time. Take this line from the track "Let Yourself Go": “Got a blond headed woman that likes to come around…cute little hippy girl lives in town…brings a bag of records and she plays ‘em ’til dawn…give me little lovin’ then she got to go home.” I yearn to live in that world again…
Monday, December 27, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Probably best not to hang out with the poor, the sick, the meek or the peacemakers either. Before you know it, you'll be branded a social justice lover who wants to redistribute wealth and (gasp!) take away Joe Cassano's second vacation home. Yeah, I know he got that house from breaking the 8th commandment but those millions of folks who would get nervous if you were on a plane with them think that you said, "Go forth and worship the unregulated derivative."
Take heart, though, my Lord and savior. We are only human, after all, and maybe someday everyone down here will actually read and understand your words.
And understand the meaning of your birth.
Friday, December 24, 2010
For the entire text, click here.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Senior executives at large companies typically receive not just a salary but bonuses, grants of stock, and stock options. They may have the ability to defer some of their compensation until future years, which can help with tax planning.Corporate leaders may also get help with tax preparation, along with free medical care and valuable insurance benefits.
We've talked about this one before. One very clear advantage the wealthy have over everyone else is they are able to structure how they are paid so they pay less in tax. This is why you never hear any talk of flat taxes any longer--something I would be in favor of today. The wealthy would end up paying more than they do now if there was a flat tax. The wealthy also enjoy the advantages of being able to hire accountants and lawyers--something your average Joe can't do. I had many clients who would regale me with stories of how they were going to save money while passing it on to their customer.
The topic for discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January is "shared norms for the new reality." Sound sleepy? For most of the rich and powerful in attendance, the real payoff is an opportunity to network with other rich and powerful individuals.
Sounds great, right? But honestly this new reality is simply adjusting the market to sell more to each other as opposed to the vanishing middle class. I can only imagine the tittering and guffawing that goes on Bill Clinton shows up at this event (as he has in the past) and talks about the engine of the middle class.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Fewer fuel convoys in theater can mean saving the lives of soldiers, said Katherine Hammack, the new assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment. Last week -- at the start of October's energy awareness observance -- the word "energy" was added to the name of that office. It's a reflection of the Army's new focus on energy.
There was one casualty for every 24 fuel convoys in Afghanistan in fiscal year 2007, according to a 2009 Department of the Army study.
"Going green is about combat capability and assuring Navy's mobility," said Rear Adm. Philip Cullom, director of the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division, which leads the Navy's Task Force Energy. "It is not just about natural security; it also strengthens national security. By having reliable and abundant alternate sources of energy, we will no longer be held hostage by any one source of energy, such as petroleum."
We are moving towards alternative fuels in the Navy and the Marine Corps for one main
So strategically there’s a compelling case to be made for changing the way we get and the way we use energy. Tactically you can make the same case, every time you cut a ship away from an oiler, every time you produce the energy where you are you’ve made us better war fighters.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Hedge funds, which are also restricted to accredited investors, use a variety of often complex strategies, such as high-tech, proprietary trading platforms that buy and sell stocks in milliseconds. There were more than 8,000 hedge funds at the end of 2009, according to Hedge Fund Research.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Under U.S. law, certain investment products are only available to accredited investors, who must have a household net worth of $1 million or more. A key advantage of many of these so-called "alternative investments" is that, at least in theory, they help diversify a portfolio because they don't move in lockstep with traditional stock and bond investments, and so help balance out returns. Alternative investments include venture capital funds, private equity funds, direct investments in commodities such as timber, and stakes in private companies.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat|
I wonder if Stephen Colbert has voices in his head as well.
More importantly, a goal of mine has finally been achieved: "Jesus would've probably been a liberal Democrat." I've toyed with the idea of saying this but after some thought realized He wouldn't be either a Democrat or a Republican.
But the simple fact that Bernie Goldberg said it on Fox News pretty much makes my day. Recognizing the contradiction in the way Christ lived his life and the obsession the right has with the free market is the first step in realizing that being a Christian, as defined by Christ's words, and being a conservative (libertarian, evangelical or otherwise) today are mutually exclusive.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The American Principles Project is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to preserving and propagating the fundamental principles on which our country was founded - universal principles, embracing the notion that we are all, "created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
At first glance, I think we would all agree with this. But take a look at the first article in their news feed.
A response to a response - The Argument Against Gay Marriage: And Why it Doesn’t Fail
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
On the social safety net
The liberal view
• There are people in this world who need help. They struggle to put food on the table, or can’t afford medical care—and many of them live in the United States. A civilized society would try to help them, instead of leaving them to fend for themselves. (Someday, the one who needs a helping hand may be you, or someone you love. All it takes is a serious illness, an injury, a lay-off, or a death in the family.)
The conservative view
• People are responsible for themselves—and, given the chance, they’re capable of supporting themselves and their families. If the government makes a practice of providing for people (with welfare, for example), they become weak and dependent, and lose their will to work. Nothing could be more destructive to the health of our society.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
“The Jews have certain traits,” he said. “The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.”Nixon continued: “The Italians, of course, those people course don’t have their heads screwed on tight. They are wonderful people, but,” and his voice trailed off.
It's taken less than 40 years for a black man to attain the highest office in the land, not 500. But, some will argue, Nixon was right after all: Obama is the son of a Kenyan and a white American. He had been "inbred."At another point, in a long and wandering conversation with Rose Mary Woods, his personal secretary, that veered from whom to invite to a state dinner to whether Ms. Woods should get her hair done, Nixon offered sharp skepticism at the views of William P. Rogers, his secretary of state, about the future of black Africans.“Bill Rogers has got — to his credit it’s a decent feeling — but somewhat sort of a blind spot on the black thing because he’s been in New York,” Nixon said. “He says well, ‘They are coming along, and that after all they are going to strengthen our country in the end because they are strong physically and some of them are smart.’ So forth and so on.“My own view is I think he’s right if you’re talking in terms of 500 years,” he said. “I think it’s wrong if you’re talking in terms of 50 years. What has to happen is they have to be, frankly, inbred. And, you just, that’s the only thing that’s going to do it, Rose.”
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
“We are not a nobody,” said Sanjay Kannambadi, chief executive of BNY Mellon Clearing, a subsidiary created to get into the business. “But we don’t qualify. We certainly think that’s kind of crazy.”
The real reason the bank is being shut out, he said, is that rivals want to preserve their profit margins, and they are the ones who helped write the membership rules.
Mr. Kannambadi said Bank of New York’s clients asked it to enter the derivatives business because they believe they are being charged too much by big banks. Its entry could lower fees. Others that have yet to gain full entry to the derivatives trading club are the State Street Corporation, and small brokerage firms like MF Global and Newedge.
The precise amount that banks make trading derivatives isn’t known, but there is anecdotal evidence of their profitability. Former bank traders who spoke on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements with their former employers said their banks typically earned $25,000 for providing $25 million of insurance against the risk that a corporation might default on its debt via the swaps market. These traders turn over millions of dollars in these trades every day, and credit default swaps are just one of many kinds of derivatives.
The secrecy surrounding derivatives trading is a key factor enabling banks to make such large profits.
And the profits on most derivatives are masked. In most cases, buyers are told only what they have to pay for the derivative contract, say $25 million. That amount is more than the seller gets, but how much more — $5,000, $25,000 or $50,000 more — is unknown. That’s because the seller also is told only the amount he will receive. The difference between the two is the bank’s fee and profit. So, the bigger the difference, the better for the bank — and the worse for the customers.
It would be like a real estate agent selling a house, but the buyer knowing only what he paid and the seller knowing only what he received. The agent would pocket the difference as his fee, rather than disclose it. Moreover, only the real estate agent — and neither buyer nor seller — would have easy access to the prices paid recently for other homes on the same block.
Mr. Griffin said last week that customers have so far paid the price for not yet having electronic trading. He puts the toll, by a rough estimate, in the tens of billions of dollars, saying that electronic trading would remove much of this “economic rent the dealers enjoy from a market that is so opaque.”
Tens of billions. Staggering. So where is the government again? Oh, that's right...neutered in the corner by Tea Party hysteria.
Under the Dodd-Frank bill, the clearinghouses were given broad authority. The risk committees there will help decide what prices will be charged for clearing trades, on top of fees banks collect for matching buyers and sellers, and how much money customers must put up as collateral to cover potential losses.
There is so much anti-government fervor out there that conservative Democrats, feeble minded wankers that they are, are succumbing to zillions of falsehood riddled with paranoia. People like Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown are painted as Nazis...choking the "poor and helpless" derivatives market out of their money and giving it to a lazy, lower class useful idiot with a flat screen. The more we fail to recognize that men like Sanders and Feingold are our last line of defense, the more our country decays.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Do you have some way of quantifying the gouging that you are talking about?
When I answer a question like this with figures and commentary (by myself and others), they dismiss it all as illogical and the sources as biased...ironically falling into the genetic fallacy trap of which I am so often accused. An example of this was a challenge that was recently issued to demonstrate a counterpoint to a recent study which showed the stimulus and TARP programs to be successful. I have to see such a model.
Still, the questions persist.
Ripped off HOW? How does someone else getting richer rip me, or you, off?
A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Derivatives Trading
Clubby Clearinghouses Limit Competition and Consumers Face Higher Prices.
The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.
Banks’ influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer’s home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City.
This fall, many of Mr. Singer’s customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher.
But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices — and his customers’ prices — could be, he says, because banks don’t disclose fees associated with the derivatives.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know if I got a fair price, or what they’re charging me,” Mr. Singer said.Seems pretty straight forward to me. Any of you getting it now? Or we going to fall back into the "winning the argument-want him to fail-never be wrong" pathology again?
“When you limit participation in the governance of an entity to a few like-minded institutions or individuals who have an interest in keeping competitors out, you have the potential for bad things to happen. It’s antitrust 101,” said Robert E. Litan, who helped oversee the Justice Department’s Nasdaq investigation as deputy assistant attorney general and is now a fellow at the Kauffman Foundation. “The history of derivatives trading is it has grown up as a very concentrated industry, and old habits are hard to break.”
And I'm the one that gets ripped for not having any depth, economically speaking.
But how exactly do these clearinghouses keep people out? And why is that relevant? More on that tomorrow.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
One of the main reasons why I am a Democrat is because they seem to understand (in giant leaps and bounds) that helping people is a good thing. And that it's OK when the government does it. Apparently, the only "help" that the government is allowed to do in GOP Land is related to guns and blowing things up. Certainly, I have no problem with this if the situation presents itself where that is necessary but their mindset seems awfully narrow.
Friday, December 10, 2010
What I love about this one is how he doesn't actually say that Scott is wrong. Just another fine example of shamelessly playing to the bigots in the base. Check out this photo (left) of Scott. Could he BE any more obvious?
A leaked document from Fox News managing editor Bill Sammon also has the Internet buzzing. I have no idea why. Are there people out there that are still surprised by the fact that Fox News manipulates language in order to sway people to think a certain way?
Here is the memo.
1) Please use the term "government-run health insurance" or, when brevity is a concern, "government option," whenever possible.
2) When it is necessary to use the term "public option" (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation's lexicon), use the qualifier "so-called," as in "the so-called public option."
3) Here's another way to phrase it: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
4) When newsmakers and sources use the term "public option" in our stories, there's not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.
Yeah, and? Why is this a shocking revelation? I suppose it is very interesting to see how Fox uses the word "government" and how insistent they are that is mentioned a great deal. Since we have been discussing this recently, I thought at least worthy of a note. This is yet another fine example of how marketing manipulates people into acting against their self interest. The word "government" is a code word specifically used to control thought.
In many ways, it's a trigger word (see: The Manchurian Candidate) used to activate somewhere between 30-40 million Americans. Clearly, it's very successful.
Hell, they don't need to kill anyone anymore. When you have that many people so nicely controlled, who needs assassins?
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
People like me do this every day. It's called reflection.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
In fact, Jesus probably looked at lot more like this.
Saturday, December 04, 2010