Saturday, November 30, 2013

(Inequality Is Driven By Greed - Not Technology) John Kenneth Galbraith said, “The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.” Larry Summers Wants US To Go Back for Another Helping of Poor!

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John Kenneth Galbraith said, “The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.”

It's not only nearly nil, it's self-aggrandizing, oily and mendacious as well.

Saturday, Nov 30, 2013

Sorry, Neoliberals: Inequality Is Driven by Greed, Not Technology

A new study shows low wages are really caused by low minimum wage, weakened unions and the effects of globalization

Sean McElwee

Sorry, neoliberals: Inequality is driven by greed, not technology

Billionaire Tom Friedman pretends to feel empathy for poor people as he writes columns for The New York Times decrying their ignorance, stupidity and unluckiness.

Inequality may be the greatest economic challenge of our generation. Yet despite extensive academic debate, there is still no consensus as to its causes. Earlier this year, Tyler Cowen sparked a debate on the subject with his book Average is Over, in which he argues that inequality is driven by new developments in technology that give some workers who can capably use the technology a wage premium over those who can’t. Future innovations in technology, he argues, will contribute to hyper-meritocracy and further inequality.

. . .  The problem, then, is not machines, which are doing a great deal to boost productivity; the problem is that the benefits from increased productivity no longer accrue to workers. In a provocative paper earlier this year, Josh Bivens and Mishel argued that the gains for the richest 1 percent were due to “rent-seeking” behavior by CEOs and financial professions, not competitive markets. As John Kenneth Galbraith said, “The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.”

The newly minted rich want to blame robots for declining wages at the bottom and their innate superiority for their disproportionate share of the income. But these excuses mask their theft of productivity gains that rightfully belong to the rest of us.

If inequality were inevitable, as many on the right believe, we would expect to see inequality rising internationally. But, in truth, different societies have responded to inequality in different ways. I talked to Janet Gornick, professor at the Graduate Center at CUNY and director of Luxembourg Income Study Center, about her work in the field of inequality.

She tells me that “these transnational factors matter — globalization, technological change, neoliberal reforms — but what matters, perhaps more, is national-level policies and institutions. What is our evidence for that? Stark variation across relatively similar countries.” She tells me that some two-thirds of OECD countries have faced rising levels of inequality, however “the increase in inequality in OECD countries has been modest. The rise in the U.S. has been greater; there is something clearly going on at that national level, that is absolutely certain.”

This chart should wake you up and encourage you to start reading graphs more carefully from now on.

If inequality were the result of economic fundamentals, it would not matter who was in the White House, but rather inequality would be correlated to underlying economic trends. This is not true either. Larry Bartels finds in “Unequal Democracy” that income growth is more equal under Democratic presidents than it is under Republican presidents, pointing to the possibility that political systems drive inequality.

Since inequality is “man-made,” it can be ameliorated by changing our institutions. As Mishel said, “My interpretation that the outcomes we see are the products of policy decisions made or not made — not raising the minimum wage, not reforming labor law — is optimistic. We have it in our power to shape the future.”

A recent article by Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect echoes this sentiment: “The extinction of a large and vibrant American middle class isn’t ordained by the laws of either economics or physics. Many of the impediments to creating anew a broadly prosperous America are ultimately political creations that are susceptible to political remedy.”

Blaming technology is an excuse to abdicate responsibility. Calling for more education and upward mobility, while noble, is useless when wages are falling for college graduates and will still leave many workers behind. Social mobility is good, but it shouldn’t supplant the goal of reducing inequality (and it’s unlikely that high levels of upward mobility can co-exist with rampant inequality).

As Terry Eagleton writes in “Across the Pond,” “As long as you have enough willpower and ambition, the fact that you are a destitute Latino with a gargantuan drink problem puts you at no disadvantage to graduates of the Harvard Business School when it comes to scaling the social ladder. All you need to do is try.”

Workers must exercise political power to change the institutions that shape their lives. Walmart doesn’t have to pay its workers starvation wages and could easily pay them more. There is no celestial law that the richest 1% can plunder our common inheritance.

We don’t have to crush workers when we globalize and we don’t have to destroy the environment in the pursuit of profits. Just as inequality is a choice, equality is a choice. By shifting the discussion away from the policy changes that have caused inequality, we legitimate it. As Eugene Debs said, “the class which has the power to rob upon a large scale has also the power to control the government and legalize their robbery.”

Sean McElwee is a writer and researcher of public policy. His writing may be viewed at Follow him on Twitter at @seanmcelwee.
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Did you have much trouble while trying to interpret Larry Summers' latest seppuku, er . . . maze, labyrinthal sudoku, or Seven Bridges of Königsberg desperately needed money fix for the banksters?

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts didn't.

When a person becomes a Treasury official it is made clear that the choice is between serving the banks and becoming rich or trying to serve the public and becoming poor. Few make the latter choice.

As Michael Hudson has informed us, the goal of the financial sector has always been to convert all income, from corporate profits to government tax revenues, to the service of debt. From the bankers standpoint, the more debt the richer the bankers. Rubin, Summers, Paulson, Geithner, and now banker Treasury Secretary Jack Lew faithfully serve this goal.

The Federal Reserve describes its policy of Quantitative Easing — the creation of new money with which the Fed purchases Treasury debt and mortgage backed securities — as a low interest rate policy in order to stimulate employment and economic growth. Economists and the financial media have parroted this cover story.

In contrast, I have exposed QE as a scheme for pumping profits into the banks and boosting their balance sheets. The real purpose of QE is to drive up the prices of the debt-related derivatives on the banks’ books, thus keeping the banks with solvent balance sheets.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal (“Confessions of a Quantitative Easer,” November 11, 2013), Andrew Huszar confirms my explanation to be the correct one. Huszar is the Federal Reserve official who implemented the policy of QE. He resigned when he realized that the real purpose of QE was to drive up the prices of the banks’ holdings of debt instruments, to provide the banks with trillions of dollars at zero cost with which to lend and speculate, and to provide the banks with “fat commissions from brokering most of the Fed’s QE transactions.” (See: )

This vast con game remains unrecognized by Congress and the public. At the IMF Research Conference on November 8, 2013, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers presented a plan to expand the con game.

Summers says that it is not enough merely to give the banks interest free money. More should be done for the banks. Instead of being paid interest on their bank deposits, people should be penalized for keeping their money in banks instead of spending it.

To sell this new rip-off scheme, Summers has conjured up an explanation based on the crude and discredited Keynesianism of the 1940s that explained the Great Depression as a problem caused by too much savings. Instead of spending their money, people hoarded it, thus causing aggregate demand and employment to fall.

Summers says that today the problem of too much saving has reappeared. The centerpiece of his argument is “the natural interest rate,” defined as the interest rate at which full employment is established by the equality of saving with investment. If people save more than investors invest, the saved money will not find its way back into the economy, and output and employment will fall.

Summers notes that despite a zero real rate of interest, there is still substantial unemployment. In other words, not even a zero rate of interest can reduce saving to the level of investment, thus frustrating a full employment recovery. Summers concludes that the natural rate of interest has become negative and is stuck below zero.

How to fix this? The way to fix it, Summers says, is to charge people for saving money. To avoid the charges, people would spend the money, thus reducing savings to the level of investment and restoring full employment.

>Summers acknowledges that the problem with his solution is that people would take their money out of banks and hoard it in cash holdings. In other words, the cash form of money provides consumers with a freedom to save that holds down consumption and prevents full employment.

Summers has a fix for this: eliminate the freedom by imposing a cashless society where the only money is electronic. As electronic money cannot be hoarded except in bank deposits, penalties can be imposed that force unproductive savings into consumption.

Summers’ scheme, of course, is a harebrained one. With governments running huge deficits, who would purchase bonds at negative interest rates? How would pension and retirement funds operate? Would they also be subject to an annual percentage confiscation?

We know that the response of consumers to the long term decline in real median family income, to the loss of jobs from labor arbitrage across national borders (jobs offshoring), to rising homelessness, to cuts in the social safety net, to the transformation of their full time jobs to part time jobs (employers’ response to Obamacare), has been to reduce their savings rate.

Indeed, few have any savings at all. The US personal saving rate is currently 2 percentage points, about 30%, below the long term average. Retired people, unable to earn any interest on their savings from the Fed’s zero interest rate policy, are being forced to draw down their savings in order to pay their bills.

Moreover, it is unclear whether the savings rate is an accurate measure or merely a residual of other calculations. With so many people having to draw down their savings, I wouldn’t be surprised if an accurate measure showed the personal savings rate to be negative.

But for Summers the plight of the consumer is not the problem. The problem is the profits of the banks. Summers has the solution, and the establishment, including Paul Krugman, is applauding it. Once the economy officially turns down again, watch out.

This column first appeared as a Trend Alert, Trends Research Institute

It's almost funny, isn't it? The banks refuse to lend to mere consumers (not enough profit there, you know) unless it's the new subprime car loans, but want to penalize us for actually putting money in their rip-off banks and then not spending it fast enough. So much for Economics 101.

Friday, November 29, 2013

(96 Billionaires in NYC) Thanksgiving Slashes To the American Heart and Bill Ayers on Heartland Strategy

(Please consider making a contribution to the Welcome to Pottersville2 Holiday Season Fundraiser or at least sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. We are in a real tight spot financially right now and would sincerely appreciate any type of contribution. Anything you can do will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive.)

Joe 'I'm not going to become a lobbyist' Lieberman becomes a lobbyist

Let the games begin?

If you ask me, this capitalist game ended some time ago.

And our (rational) world is in shreds.


A Sheriff’s department in western Virginia confirms this morning that a scuffle over a parking spot at a Walmart in Tazewell County resulted in a stabbing, which is, of course, how we know that the holiday shopping season is upon us.

Ah, Thanksgiving.

A time of sharing, of caring for those without, and love and comfort for those within.

Family time!

Get back, Jojo.

Thanksgiving in America

By Andre Damon and Barry Grey

November 28, 2013

This year’s Thanksgiving holiday, coming more than five years after the Wall Street crash, highlights the devastating impact of mass unemployment and budget cuts on tens of millions of Americans. It underscores as well the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny elite.
Even as food banks across the country report increasing demand and dwindling supplies, the US media is obsessed with snowstorms, travel delays and Black Friday sales. There is barely a mention of the intractable unemployment, poverty, hunger and homelessness that impact millions.
Judging by the media coverage, one would never suspect that the United States is a country where, according to a July 2013 report by the Associated Press, “Four out of five US adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.”
In cities throughout the country, people have lined up by the hundreds for Thanksgiving food distributions, recalling the bread lines of the 1930s. Food banks are reporting rising demand not only from the unemployed, but also from the growing ranks of the working poor.
The dire conditions created by years of economic slump have been compounded by cutbacks in food stamp benefits that took effect at the beginning of this month, eliminating the equivalent of two days of food every month. Extended unemployment benefits are set to expire for millions of people on December 31, throwing them even further into destitution.
Amid such shocking poverty and misery—and incessant claims that there is no money to do anything about it — the stock market is setting new records every day. Over the past week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has hit 16,000, the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index has reached 1,800, and the NASDAQ has once again topped 4,000.
The giddy — and unsustainable — rise of stock prices, which is propelling the personal fortunes of the rich and the super-rich to ever more astronomical heights, is being deliberately engineered by the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve Board.
Near-zero interest rates and $85 billion a month in cash infusions from the Fed into the financial markets are facilitating an accelerated transfer of wealth from the bottom to the very top of the social ladder.
This week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported that US life expectancy has sunk below the international average, dropping below that of Greece, Portugal, South Korea and Slovenia. One of the starkest indices of the social crisis is the rise in the number of Americans receiving food stamps from 28.2 million in 2008 to 47.7 million this year, an increase of 70 percent.
The response of the political establishment to the growth in need has been to slash benefits in advance of the holidays. The $5 billion in food stamp cuts implemented at the start of November are only the beginning, with the Democrats proposing to cut an additional $4 billion in food stamps as a “sensible” alternative to more than $40 billion in cuts proposed by the Republicans.
The social chasm in America is reflected in a concentrated manner in New York City, the country’s largest metropolis and the home of Wall Street. Ninety-six billionaires live in the city. On average, they own four homes, each one worth nearly $20 million, as well as one or two yachts, a private jet or two, and a small army of domestic servants. Their combined wealth is more than three times the city’s annual budget.
Across the Harlem River from Manhattan lies the Bronx, the poorest of New York’s five boroughs. There, half of all children live in households that do not have enough to eat, according to a report issued this week by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
In America’s second-largest city and the center of the film industry, Los Angeles, the City Council is debating whether to follow the lead of Philadelphia and Seattle and ban the distribution of food to the homeless in public places.
Detroit, the historical center of American manufacturing, has been thrown into bankruptcy by an unelected emergency manager, who is using his emergency powers to rip up the pensions and health benefits of tens of thousands of city workers and sell off the city’s assets, including the world-famous art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The billions stolen from the working class are to be handed over to the banks and major holders of city bonds.

The decline in living standards of broad sections of the population is not even raised as a significant issue by the Obama administration, the political establishment as a whole, or the corporate-controlled media. There is hardly a pretense that the present situation is a temporary aberration.
Nor are any policies proposed to improve the conditions of life of working people.

Instead, mass unemployment, growing poverty and increasing social inequality are casually described as the “new normal.”

This social reality is an indictment of the entire political order and the capitalist system it serves. It is, moreover, the rule, not the exception, all over the world.
For the working class, things will only get worse so long as political and economic control is left in the hands of a parasitic financial aristocracy and its political representatives. Social opposition is mounting and will take explosive forms in the US, as it has begun to do in Egypt, Greece and other countries.
The defense of the most basic social rights — to a job, a decent wage, health care, education, a decent retirement, access to culture and art — requires a struggle against the two corporate-controlled parties and the financial oligarchy. The critical issue is the building of a new leadership in the working class — the Socialist Equality Party — to arm the coming struggles with an independent socialist program.


What's most titillating to me is how people (famous people, in this instance) are misrepresented by the MSM as idiots or psychotics operating outside of the norms of regular people in order to minimize their message, which is actually very normal and quite sane in the face of the sheer insanity moving the financial world's levers now. I sadly grokked the mention of how the powers-that-be (yes, all of them) are ignoring Fukushima as it and all the affected areas suffer from the meltdown (and its forever-lasting effects) even more rapidly. And although I disagree that no one knows exactly who the trusted spokespeople are, we do know who the ones who are pushing people around in uniform are.

Bill Ayers states seriously at a bookstore gathering here that we must build from the bottom up to bring justice and a better world for those who follow.

He says not to wait for others to do things that will improve the lives of people caught in these bad choices brought to us by those who benefit from them. It's what we do that will bring real change, he intones.

Give it a moment. You just may be rather impressed.

Vivian Kubrick, Stanley's daughter, had more than a little difficulty believing what the Dallas police are now capable of. Poor deluded Alex Jones seems completed bumfuzzled.

Shades of A Clockwork Orange?

Vivian Kubrick, daughter of Stanley, appears with Alex Jones at a march in protest of Dallas’ official events to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy when they are attacked by the Dallas police.

The Money Changers Serenade - Paul Craig Roberts

Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, a protege of Treasury Secretaries Rubin and Summers, has received his reward for continuing the Rubin-Summers-Paulson policy of supporting the "banks too big to fail" at the expense of the economy and American people. For his service to the handful of gigantic banks, whose existence attests to the fact that the Anti-Trust Act is a dead-letter law, Geithner has been appointed president and managing director of the private equity firm, Warburg Pincus and is on his way to his fortune.

PBS show on JFK assassination “rigged” and “biased,” says author who participated

NSA collected info on sex activity of non-terrorist Islamic radicals

Major newspaper publishes rare critique of Warren Commission

Ex-LBJ aide Bobby Baker tells all about “real Senators of Washington”

Neo-Nazis buying land near Area 51

$15 minimum wage passes in Seattle suburb

Everything you own can be hacked—and what to do about it

Thursday, November 28, 2013

(Not In Your Lifetime) Anthony Summers Has Revised His JFK Findings Based On Newly Released Govt Documents (No House Is Safe) Especially Wal-Mart!

"Not in your lifetime" was what Earl Warren, Chairman of the Warren Commission, responded with when asked when would all the details of JFK's assassination be made known.

"I only kill professionals."

No house is safe.

(Please consider making even a small contribution to the Welcome to  Pottersville2 Quarterly Fundraiser happening now ($5.00 is suggested for those on a tight budget) or sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. We really appreciate it. Anything you can do will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive in these difficult economic times.)

Terrible bad reviews/reviewers. I'll be so pleased when they start employing knowledgeable adults again.

Pretty good "black-listed" script by a relative unknown.

And all my favorite actors.

Give it a look. And then look again.

Happy Thanksgiving!

William Kelley comments on Anthony Summers' new book about the JFK assassination, Not In Your Lifetime, that this is "the best, most objective, thorough, and definitive account . . . ."

As I'm a fan of James Douglas’ book, Who Killed JFK and Why It Matters, which he calls the second most important book on the assassination, I think this one deserves some attention. If you believe this coup d'etat has anything to do with the empire's decline we are suffering through today.

And that knowledge of it could increase our ability to change the consequences for the better.

“ Everyone will know who I am now,” Lee Oswald remarked while still alive and under interrogation, but as Summers puts it, “Fifty years on…Oswald remains ill defined, a figure in the fog of incomplete investigation and the absence of real official will to discover the full truth.”

Rather than withhold them, it is now in the interest of our national security to release the records. Now is time for the government to release the remaining sealed assassination records, not in 2017, or never, but now, in our lifetime, so everyone who cares can know the truth as to what happened at Dealey Plaza fifty years ago.

I agree. If not now, why not?

And why ever then?

As for the Clinton incidents, if all eight of the witnesses were lying when they testified under oath before the New Orleans Grand Jury that Oswald was in Clinton in a black Cadillac with David Ferrie and Clay Shaw, that Oswald tried to register to vote and applied for a job at the hospital there, if they all lied then that proves a conspiracy, at least among those who perjured themselves.

While Summers has dropped the Clinton stories from this edition, he leaves in the fact that a nearby Louisiana telephone operator came forward after the assassination to report that she put in a person-to-person long distance call from a women in Louisiana to Lee Harvey Oswald at the Texas School Book Depository two days before the assassination. Who was this anonymous Louisiana associate of the accused assassin? And is it the same person who changed Oswald’s mailing address in New Orleans weeks after he had left the city?

Summers still has a hard time putting Oswald on the Sixth Floor of the Texas School Book Depository at the time of the shooting, and implies that based on the available evidence, he could have been framed for the assassination. But the Tippit murder remains the “Rosetta Stone” of the case.

Apparently convinced by Dale Myers (With Malice) that Oswald may have killed Tippit, Summers still left in the new edition the eyewitness account of two men being seen leaving the dead Tippit on the street, one running away and the other escaping in an old Plymouth. Also in the new edition is the fact that just after the Tippit murder a man identified as Oswald was seen nearby acting suspiciously while driving a 1956 Plymouth that was registered to Carl Mather, a close friend of the murdered police officer. 

While Dale Myers discounts these incidents entirely, they are important clues to the Tippit murder that reflect directly back to the assassination at Dealey Plaza.

Carl Mather’s alibi, it turns out, is that he was at work at Collins Radio, the company that provided cover for the CIA Cuban raider ship The Rex, and also made and serviced the radios for Air Force One. Mather himself worked on the radios in the Vice President’s plane. Oswald’s friend George deMohrenschildt introduced Oswald to a Collins’ executive and tried to get him a job there.

But when researchers requested the file on Collins Radio at the JFK Records Collection at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), it contained a single piece of paper that read: “Removed for Reasons of National Security.” 

There it is - the “not in your lifetime,” response to requests for government assassination records, which begs the question that Summers asks: “What sort of national security concerns prevent us seeing all there is to see about the Kennedy assassination, a supposed random act by a lone nut, all these years later?” It is, he says, “a question to ponder as you read this book.”

Hope you're enjoying the company and comfort of loved ones.

And that you're not shopping at Wal-Mart!

From my buddy Marc at Beggars Can Be Choosers:

Black Friday Protests at Walmart: What You Can Do To Help


Are you fed up with the ongoing immoral, unethical behavior from Dick Cheney's favorite corporation, Walmart?

As one of our favorite progressive sites,, points out:

"Walmart reported a profit of $15.7 billion last year, yet Walmart workers must rely on food stamps, Medicaid and other anti-poverty programs to put food on the table and keep the lights on."

Do you think this doesn't affect you personally? Think again. As notes:

"Taxpayers subsidize this worker exploitation to the tune of $900,000-$1,750,000 per store, and there are over 4,700 Walmart and Sam's Club stores in the U.S."

During the eight horrific years of the Bush/Cheney's corporatist regime, no action was taken against Walmart. Today, however, it's a different story.

From As

"Fed-up workers have walked off the job at Walmart stores in Dallas, Seattle, Chicago, Miami and Southern California. And Walmart is facing federal prosecution for its pattern of illegal firings and threats to workers across at least 13 states."

Would you like to help, or participate in the upcoming Black Friday Walmart protests? Go here.

Be sure to also check out the essential progressive Web site,

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

CBS Sacrifices Lara Logan for Sins of Benghazi, and for Decades, Republican Conservatives Have Constructed and Carried Out Extensive, Well-Planned, Long-Term Communication Campaigns to Change Public Discourse and the Way the Public Thinks - Surprise!

It's either reaaaaallllly close to the end game of closeted right-wing control of all media information (nyaa, who could believe that one?), or that some of the main players have decided to stop being ever-so-secretive about some of their Machiavellian moves to suppress public knowledge (and eventually indignation) about what's been going on for over 30 years to the detriment of what's left of the remnants of the remaining democratic values in the USA USA USA!

Or it's all a mistake.

And nothing's really changed.

As usual.


(Please consider making even a small contribution to the Welcome to  Pottersville2 Quarterly Fundraiser happening now ($5.00 is suggested for those on a tight budget) or sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. We really appreciate it. Anything you can do will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive in these difficult economic times.)

CBS Strikes Back

CBS: Lara Logan, Producer Ordered To Take Leave

Nov 26, 2013

By David Bauder
(AP) In this Jan. 12, 2013 file photo, "60 Minutes" reporter Lara Logan takes part in a panel...
Full Image
NEW YORK (AP) - CBS ordered "60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan and her producer to take a leave of absence Tuesday following a critical internal review of their handling of the show's October story on the Benghazi raid, based on a report on a supposed witness whose story can't be verified.

The review, by CBS News executive Al Ortiz and obtained by The Associated Press, said the "60 Minutes" team should have done a better job vetting the story that featured a security contractor who said he was at the U.S. mission in Libya the night it was attacked last year.

Questions were quickly raised about whether the man was lying - something "60 Minutes" should have better checked out before airing the story, the report said.

The report also said Logan should not have done the story in the first place after making a speech in Chicago a year ago claiming that it was a lie that America's military had tamed al-Qaida.

CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, who is also the "60 Minutes" executive producer, said he had asked Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, to take a leave of absence of an undetermined length.

Fager said he prides himself on catching almost everything, "but this deception got through and it shouldn't have." There was no word about whether Fager will face any repercussions for his role.

"The 60 Minutes" journalistic review is concluded, and we are implementing ongoing changes based on its results," said CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair, not making clear what those changes were. 

The "60 Minutes" piece relied on testimony by Dylan Davies, a security official who was given a pseudonym in the report. The newsmagazine believed his account that he was at the scene even after informing CBS that he told his employers that he wasn't there - something that Ortiz said should have raised a "red flag" about his story.

A few days later, The Washington Post said that Davies had filed a report with his employer, Blue Mountain, that he was at his villa on the night of the attack and not at the mission. CBS went back to Davies, who insisted he had been at the attack scene and had told that to the FBI, so Fager defended the "60 Minutes" story.

A week later, The New York Times reported that Davies had told the FBI that he was not on the scene. Within hours, CBS confirmed the Times story, which was later corroborated by a State Department source, and said that a correction would be issued.

Ortiz said the FBI report "was knowable before the ('60 Minutes') piece aired." He said Logan and McLellan did not tap wider resources at CBS to try and track this information down. Ortiz mentioned no names, but CBS News reporter John Miller is a former law enforcement official with deep sources in the community.

Ortiz said that Logan's claims that al-Qaida carried out the attack and controlled the hospital in Benghazi "were not adequately attributed in the report."

Logan's Chicago speech in October 2012 before the city's Better Government Association urged the U.S. to take action in response to Benghazi. Ortiz said it represents a conflict to take a public position on Benghazi and do the "60 Minutes" report.

Ortiz said CBS also erred in not acknowledging that Davies' book telling his Benghazi story, which has been pulled from the shelves, was published by a fellow CBS Corp. company. In correcting the report, CBS had already made note of this oversight.

Ortiz's report also said that questions have been raised about the authenticity of photos in the report, including one that displayed the schedule of the U.S. ambassador killed in the attack. Ortiz said those photos appear to be genuine.

"When faced with such an error, we must use it as an opportunity to make our broadcast even stronger," Fager wrote to his staff. "We are making adjustments at '60 Minutes' to reduce the chances of it happening again."

Congressional Republicans have insisted that the Obama administration misled Americans about the Benghazi attack, playing down a terrorist assault in the heat of the presidential campaign. Five GOP-led House committees have investigated, demanding documents and witnesses from the administration while complaining that the Obama team has been stonewalling.

A day after the CBS report, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he would block President Barack Obama's nominees for Federal Reserve chairman and Homeland Security chief until the administration allowed survivors of the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission to talk to members of Congress.

The liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America had attacked CBS' Benghazi report from the start. The group's founder, David Brock, said he had urged appropriate action and "the network has done that. We hope this serves as a lesson learned to CBS about the danger of misinformation."

NY Times Exposes Propaganda but Still Spreads It

By George Lakoff,

26 November 13

he NY Times has many virtues and some important flaws. Both were evident on the paper's front page this week and there is a lot to be learned by what did and did not appear there.

For decades, Republican conservatives have constructed and carried out extensive, well-planned, long-term communication campaigns to change public discourse and the way the public thinks. It has been done very effectively and, for the most part, not secretly. The NY Times finally began reporting on this effort on Thursday, November 21, 2013 in a fine piece by Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

The Times reported on the House Republicans' memo on how to attack the Affordable Care Act through a "multilayered sequence assault," gathering stories "through social media letters from constituents, or meeting back home" and a new GOP website. The Times also reported on the "closed door" strategy sessions, going back to last year.

It's a start, and it's about time. What the Times missed was the far deeper and systematic efforts by conservatives extending back four decades and the nature of the underlying general ideology covering dozens of issues that have been served by these efforts. The Times also missed the reason why the attack on the ACA is more than just anti-Obama politics, but rather part of an attempt to change the idea of what America is about.

The Times missed the think tanks, the framing professionals, the training institutes, the booking agencies, the Wednesday morning meetings on both national and state levels, and the role of ALEC in the states - all set out in the Lewis Powell memo more than four decades ago and carried out since then as part of seamless system directed at changing the brains of Americans.

I do mean changing brains. Because all thought is physical, carried out by neural circuitry, every change in how we understand anything is a brain change, and conservatives are effectively using the techniques that marketers have developed for changing brains, and they've been using them for decades, at least since the notorious Lewis Powell Memo in 1971.

Full disclosure: I began writing about conservative framing in my 1996 book Moral Politics, and about the conservative brain changing machine in my 2004 book Don't Think of an Elephant!, p. 15 (click to see the discussion here. For the Powell memo, just google "Lewis Powell memo."

At least, the Times did get an important part of it right on Thursday, and we should be grateful.

Then, on Sunday, November 24, 2013, the Times published on its front page what looked like a news story, but was a conservative column called "White House Memo" by John Harwood, who is CNBC's Chief Washington Correspondent, and who previously worked as the Wall Street Journal's political editor and chief political correspondent. It's one thing to publish a blatant conservative attack on President Obama in a column on the op-ed page or in the Sunday Review, and another to publish it on the front page, as if it were a news story.

The Harwood column is illuminating in its attack mode, which is quite artful and an excellent example of conservative attacks. To appreciate it, we should begin by discussing some basic cognitive linguistics. As the great linguist Charles Fillmore discovered in 1975, all words are cognitively defined relative to conceptual "frames" - structures we all use to think all the time. Frames don't float in the air; they are neural circuits in our brains. Frames in politics are not neutral; they reflect an underlying value system. That means that language in politics is not neutral. Political words do not just pick out something in the world. 

They reflect value-based frames. If you successfully frame public discourse, you win the debate.

A common neuroscience estimate is that about 98 percent of thought is unconscious and automatic, carried out by the neural system. Daniel Kahneman has since brought frame-based unconscious thought into the public arena in what he has called "System 1 thinking." Since frames carry value-based inferences with them, successfully framing public discourse means getting the public to adopt your values, and hence winning over the public by unconscious brain change, not by open discussion of the values inherent in the frames and the values that undergird the frames.

I have always suggested to progressives to know their values and state their real values clearly, using frames they really believe. Values trump mere facts presented without the values that make them meaningful. Honest values-based framing is the opposite of spin - the deceptive use of language to avoid embarrassment.

The reason that those of us in the cognitive and brain sciences write so passionately about framing issues is that unconscious thought and framing are not generally understood - especially in progressive circles. Most progressives who went to college studied what is called Enlightenment reason, a theory of reason coming from Descartes around 1650 - and which was historically important in 1650. The Cartesian theory of how reason works has since been largely disproved in the cognitive and brain sciences.

The Cartesian theory assumes that all thought is conscious, that it is literal (that is, it fits the world directly and uses no frame-based or metaphorical thought), that reason uses a form of mathematical logic (not frame-based logic or metaphorical logic), and that words are neutral and fit the world directly. Many liberal economists have been trained in this mode of thought and assume that the language used in economic theory is neutral and just fits the world as it is.

They are usually not trained in frame semantics, cognitive linguistics, and related fields. The same is often true of liberal journalists as well. Both often miss the fact that conservatives have successfully reframed economic terms to fit their values, and that the economic terms in public discourse no longer mean what they do in economics classes.

Part of what the Cartesian theory of reason misses is the real brain mechanism that allows the conservative communication theory to be effective. By framing language to fit conservative values and by getting their framing of the language to dominate public debate, conservatives change the public's brains by the following mechanism. When a frame circuit is activated in the brain, its synapses are strengthened. This means that the probability of future activation is raised and probability of the frame becoming permanent in the brain is raised. 

Whenever a word defined by that frame is used, the frame is activated and strengthened. When conservatives successfully reframe a word in public discourse, that word activates conservative frames and with those frames, the conservative value system on which the frames are based. When progressives naively use conservatively reframed words, they help the conservative cause by strengthening the conservative value system in the brains of the public.

Liberals, in adhering to the old Cartesian theory of reason, will not be aware of their own unconscious values, will take then for granted, and will think that all they have to do is state the facts and the public will be convinced rationally. The facts are crucial, but they need to framed in moral terms to make moral sense and a moral impact.

To those who have a liberal Cartesian theory of reason, the attempt to warn the public and other liberals about the way language really works and to warn liberals not to use conservative framing will be seen as hiding the facts and misleading the public. That is what the Times columnist and CNBC Chief Washington correspondent, John Harwood used in his manipulative NY Times column.

The word at issue is "redistribution." The subject matter is the flow of wealth in the society and what it should be. This is a fundamentally moral issue, and the major political framings reflect two different moral views of democracy itself.
The liberal view of democracy goes back to the founding of the nation, as historian Lynn Hunt of UCLA has shown in her book Inventing Human Rights. 

American democracy was based on the idea that citizens care about other citizens and work responsibly (with both personal and social responsibility) through their government to provide public resources for all. From the beginning, that meant roads and bridges, public education, hospitals, a patent office, a national bank, a justice system, controlling the flow of interstate commerce, and so on.

Nowadays it includes much more - the development of the internet, satellite communications, the power grid, food safety monitoring, government research, and so on. Without those public resources, citizens cannot live reasonable lives, businesses cannot run, and a market economy would be impossible. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require all this and health care. Unless you can get health care, your life is in jeopardy, as well as your freedom: if you have cancer and no health care, you are not free; if you break you leg and have no access to health care, you are not free, and so on. And if you are injured or sick and cannot maintain health, your life, liberty and happiness are all in jeopardy.

Under this view of democracy, the flow of wealth should guarantee the affordability of health care as a basic moral principle of democracy. If wealth has flowed in violation of this principle, that flow of wealth has been immoral, unpatriotic, and needs reform. So when liberals point out that productivity has risen greatly while salaries have not, they are talking about fairness in the flow of wealth: If you work for a living, you should earn a fair salary, that is, you should earn a living wage, which should be enough to guarantee adequate health care. 

Pensions are delayed payments of wages for work already done, and taking away pensions is theft. Employment is the purchase of labor by an employer with a negotiated price for the labor. Since corporations have more power in those negotiations than employees, unions are necessary to help make negotiations fair for the price of labor. When it is observed that most of the wealth in the past decade has flowed to the one percent, that means that fairness and the most fundamental of American principles have been violated and salaries and public resources have been inadequate and unfairly low.

The Affordable Care Act, from this perspective, is a move toward reform - toward a moral flow of wealth in line with the founding principles of the nation. I believe that President Obama, and most liberals, understand the intentions of Affordable Care Act in that way.

Conservatives have a very different view of democracy. They believe that democracy gives them the "liberty" to pursue their own interests without the government standing in their way or helping them. Their moral principle is individual responsibility, not social responsibility. If you haven't developed the discipline to make it on your own, then you should fail - and if you can't afford health care, so be it. Health care is seen as a "product" and citizens should not be paying for other citizens' products. Rudy Giuliani, as a good conservative, likened health care to flat- screen TVs. Conservatives say that no one should be paying for anyone else (except their children and family members). 

Using public resources is seen as making you weak, taking away incentives for you to work for yourself. And they see it as making hard-working moral citizens pay for immoral slackers. This is the conservative frame for redistribution: it is taking away money that you hard-working Americans have earned and deserve, and "redistributing" it to those who haven't earned it and don't deserve it. For conservatives, this happens whenever there are public resources paid for by taxpayers. Therefore they believe that all public resources should be banned - and the affordable Care Act is a major special case and just the start.

That's why John Boehner said, in explaining why the House has scheduled only 113 days to meet out of 365, said "We need to repeal old laws. Not pass new ones." That is why the House conservatives saw it as moral to shut down the government and to let the sequester happen. They are ways to cut public resources.

Under this view of democracy, money previously made was made properly and using tax money for public resources is "redistribution." "Using my money to pay for someone else" is inherently unfair in the conservative tradition. Conservatives over the past four decades have framed the word "redistribution" that way. Use of the word activates the conservative framing in general, not just the framing of the Affordable Care Act, but of the nature of democracy itself.

Because most liberals, including liberal economists, still believe in and use the inadequate Cartesian theory of reason, they do not comprehend that the word "redistribution" has been redefined in terms of a conservative frame, and to use the word is to help conservatives in their moral crusade to undermine progressive values and the traditional view of liberal democracy.

At this point we turn to the NY Times story, "Don't Dare Call The Health Law ‘Redistribution'"on the front page, and inside "The economic policy that dare not speak its name." John Harwood writes the following:

"These days the word is particularly toxic at the White House, where it has been hidden away to make the Affordable Care Act more palatable to the public and less a target for Republicans, who have long accused the Democrats of seeking "socialized medicine." But the redistribution of wealth has always been a central feature of the law and lies at the heart of the insurance market disruptions driving political attacks this fall."
Note that he uses the word "redistribution" without quotation marks, as if it were simply a fact and as if the Republican attacks were just true and the White house was trying to hide the truth. He later calls the Affordable Care Act a "semantic sidestep" on this issue.

Harwood goes on to cite the president's misstatement that if you like your insurance you can keep it. I suspect that the president assumed that no one would like inadequate insurance if they could get much better, and adequate, insurance for the same price, which they might have been able to if the website had not failed. The president knew that no company was forced to cancel inadequate insurance, and incorrectly assumed that they wouldn't. Yes, the president made those incorrect assumptions. But here is how Harwood comments:

Hiding in plain sight behind that pledge - visible to health policy experts but not the general public - was the redistribution required to extend health coverage to those who had been either locked out or priced out of the market.
Now some of that redistribution has come clearly into view.

The law, for example, banned rate discrimination against women, which insurance companies called "gender rating" to account for their higher health costs. But that raised the relative burden borne by men. The law also limited how much insurers can charge older Americans, who use more health care over all. But that raised the relative burden on younger people.

And the law required insurers to offer coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions, which eased costs for less healthy people but raised prices for others who had been charged lower rates because of their good health.

"The A.C.A. is very much about redistribution, whether or not its advocates acknowledge that this is the case," wrote Reihan Salam on the website of the conservative National Review.

Here again, the "redistribution" word is used in a conservative frame without quotation marks as if the frame were simply true, and the citation is from a major conservative publication, where the word is used with a conservative frame.

The issue is what democracy is about and what health care in a democracy is about. For liberals, democracy is defined by equality, and by the "self-evident" "inalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness," where health is inherent to those values. Under such a conception of democracy, health should never be denied because one belongs to a demographic group that fate had given more ailments and injuries.

Conservatives are helped when "redistribution", which they have successfully reframed their way, is used by certain liberal economists, who naïvely believe that the word is neutral because economists use it as a technical term.

Harwood begins framing his piece by discussing the case of Rebecca M. Blank.

Ms. Blank is a noted academic economist, having been one of three members of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers. From 2009 to 2013 she served as Deputy Secretary of Commerce in the Obama Administration, and has since left for the grand opportunity to become chancellor of the University of Wisconsin.

In 2011, she was considered for Obama's Council of Economic Advisers while serving in the Commerce Department. Harwood reports that she was passed over for the post because of something she had written in 1992:

"A commitment to economic justice necessarily implies a commitment to a redistribution of economic resources, so that the poor and the dispossessed are more fully included in the economic system."
Harwood quotes William Daley, Obama's chief of staff at the time, as saying, "Redistribution is a loaded word that conjures up all sorts of unfairness in people's minds." The Republicans wield it "as a hammer" against Democrats, he said, adding, "It's a word that in the political world, you just don't use."

Daley is right that it is a loaded word, in just the sense noted above, namely, that it has been framed by conservatives to fit their ideology and using it activates their frame and their ideology in people's brains, thus helping conservatives. In 2011, Obama was up for re-election and Daley judged that having Republicans dig up that quote would help them launch an unfair attack against the president.

Harwood reports the affair as if Obama had something to hide, rather than not wanting a conservatively framed concept to be falsely attributed to him. Harwood is clever. First, he quotes another liberal economist, Jonathan Gruber, who uses the word naively as a neutral technical economic term. Then at the end of the article, he reports an Obama slip at a talk in Elyria, Ohio 18 months earlier. The slip involved Obama's use of a negative. In Don't Think of an Elephant!, I pointed out that negating a word, activates the meaning of the word. If I tell you not to think of an elephant, you will think of an elephant. 

Here is the Obama slip that Harwood cites, "Understand this is not a redistribution argument … This is not about taking from rich people to give to poor people." That was the slip, and Harwood searched back 18 months to Elyria, Ohio to find it. But then the president caught himself and said positively what he meant. "This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody's got a fair shot."

Here's the take-away from these two pieces in the Times this week. First, there was a tiny glimpse of the huge conservative Republican communication system, with no account of its history, it's extent, or how it works to change people's brains. I hope the Times will go on to do more and better in the future. Second, the Times printed on its front page a classic example of how the conservative system works, naively presenting it at face value without any serious framing analysis

The Times missed the conservative reframing of the word "redistribution," missed the difference in the views of morality and democracy that lie behind the framing difference, missed the use of the conservatively reframed word as neutral by liberal economists, missed what it means for a word to be "loaded," and succumbed like other journalists trained on Cartesian reason in helping conservatism keep its hold on public discourse.

Harwood is a smart political operative. His technique is a classic example of the Republican message machine reported on in Thursday's Times, and is well worth serious study. The Republican brain change mechanism is not only worth a front-page discussion of its own, but deserves itself to brought into public discourse and reported on regularly.

Why We Still Think of Al Gore fondly.

Technology Didn't Kill Middle Class Jobs, Public Policy Did

By Dean Baker

The story is that innovation rapidly reduced the need for factory workers and other skilled labor. The data just doesn't support it.

Did The CIA Murder US Journalist?

Security Experts Saying Michael Hastings Car Was Hacked!


Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke told The Huffington Post that what is known about the single-vehicle crash is "consistent with a car cyber attack."

Pope Slams Capitalism As 'New Tyranny'

By Reuters

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"

Why We Need To Replace Every Member of Congress

Author Unknown

The Parable Of The Five Monkeys.

Gently lifted from Avedon's Sideshow:

Sam Seder interviewed Diane Ravitch about Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools about the myth of the education crisis and where the real problem is for our schools, on The Majority Report.

. . . Found a nice quote from Bob Perillo on FB: "I regularly get called things like "a friend of Ted Cruz" for opposing the ACA from the left - which is kind of funny, since it was invented by Republicans in the first place. But of course I've just failed to appreciate liberal alchemy: policies made of lead become golden by the mere fact that they have been adopted by Democrats."

This is an interesting take on the guy who is funding Glenn Greenwald's new venture: "The Extraordinary Pierre Omidyar [...] Since its founding in 2004, Omidyar Network has committed nearly $300 million to a range of nonprofit and for-profit "charity" outfits. An examination of the ideas behind the Omidyar Network and of the investments it has made suggests that its founder is anything but a "different" sort of billionaire. Instead, what emerges is almost a caricature of neoliberal ideology, complete with the trail of destruction that ensues when that ideology is put into practice. The generous support of the Omidyar Network goes toward "fighting poverty" through micro-lending, reducing third-world illiteracy rates by privatizing education and protecting human rights by expanding property titles ("private property rights") into slums and villages across the developing world.

In short, Omidyar Network's philanthropy reveals Omidyar as a free-market zealot with an almost mystical faith in the power of "markets" to transform the world, end poverty, and improve lives - one micro-individual at a time.[...] So brace yourself, you're about to get something you've never seen before: billionaire-backed journalism taking on the power of the state. How radical is that? In other words: look out Government, you're about to be pummeled by a crusading, righteous billionaire! And corporate America? Ah, don't worry. Your dirty secrets - freshly transferred from the nasty non-profit hands of the Guardian to the aggressively for-profit hands of Pierre Omidyar - are safe with us." There is a distinction between fighting state power and fighting the power. Will Omidyar be happy if his new news project goes after all of it?

Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations: This report is an effort to document something we know little about: corporate espionage against nonprofit organizations. The entire subject is veiled in secrecy. In recent years, there have been few serious journalistic efforts and no serious government efforts to come to terms with the reality of corporate spying against nonprofits. Much of what we do know about this subject has been uncovered by accident. So the picture we have is fragmentary at best: just a few snapshots, taken mostly at random, arising from brilliant strokes of luck, giving a mere inkling of the full range of espionage activity against nonprofits. There are, however, a few things we can say for certain." (.pdf)

"Workplace Climate of Retaliation at Hanford" - More whistleblower punishment. Honestly, bosses who do this should be put in jail anyway, but there is no earthly reason why any private company should be hired to do the public's business when they can easily profit by failing.

"Bob Woodward Disappointed That Snowden Didn't Go To Him" - Poor old Bob could have had a whole new Deep Throat to play with. Except, you know, he couldn't, because he wasn't trustworthy.

Unexpected quotations: "America is way too quick to trade freedom for the illusion of security,' he told The Daily Beast. 'Whether it's allowing the NSA to go way too far in what it intercepts of our personal data, to our government monitoring of everything domestically and spending way more than we should. I don't know if I want to live in a country where lone wolf and random terror attacks are impossible 'cause that country would look more like North Korea than America." - Blackwater founder Erik Prince, noticing that the policies that made him rich are bad when done by a Democratic president.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why We Can't Have Good Health Insurance Nationwide (ObamaCare Is Scary To These Guys)

Obamacare (ACA) is quite scary to those who make big money by denying coverage and/or care to the healthy, sick, injured or dying.

There is no argument about this.

Not in the US anyway.

If you'd like to know why "Obamacare" is failing, just read these few paragraphs (and click on the link if you'd like the whole schmear).

The readers' comments are just too informative to be ignored.

If you want to know about the health insurance situation in the USA USA USA!!!

(Please consider making even a small contribution to the Welcome to  Pottersville2 Christmas/Holiday Season Fundraiser happening now or at least sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. We are in a real tight spot financially right now and would sincerely appreciate any type of contribution. Anything you can do will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive during this holiday.)

Published: November 24, 2013 \  Comments

It goes without saying that the rollout of Obamacare was an epic disaster. But what kind of disaster was it? Was it a failure of management, messing up the initial implementation of a fundamentally sound policy? Or was it a demonstration that the Affordable Care Act is inherently unworkable? 

We know what each side of the partisan divide wants you to believe. The Obama administration is telling the public that everything will eventually be fixed, and urging Congressional Democrats to keep their nerve. Republicans, on the other hand, are declaring the program an irredeemable failure, which must be scrapped and replaced with ... well, they don’t really want to replace it with anything.

At a time like this, you really want a controlled experiment. What would happen if we unveiled a program that looked like Obamacare, in a place that looked like America, but with competent project management that produced a working website?
Well, your wish is granted. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you California.

Now, California isn’t the only place where Obamacare is looking pretty good. A number of states that are running their own online health exchanges instead of relying on are doing well. Kentucky’s Kynect is a huge success; so is Access Health CT in Connecticut. New York is doing O.K. And we shouldn’t forget that Massachusetts has had an Obamacare-like program since 2006, put into effect by a guy named Mitt Romney.

California is, however, an especially useful test case. First of all, it’s huge: if a system can work for 38 million people, it can work for America as a whole. Also, it’s hard to argue that California has had any special advantages other than that of having a government that actually wants to help the uninsured. When Massachusetts put Romneycare into effect, it already had a relatively low number of uninsured residents. California, however, came into health reform with 22 percent of its nonelderly population uninsured, compared with a national average of 18 percent.

Finally, the California authorities have been especially forthcoming with data tracking the progress of enrollment. And the numbers are increasingly encouraging.

For one thing, enrollment is surging. At this point, more than 10,000 applications are being completed per day, putting the state well on track to meet its overall targets for 2014 coverage. Just imagine, by the way, how different press coverage would be right now if Obama officials had produced a comparable success, and around 100,000 people a day were signing up nationwide.

Equally important is the information on who is enrolling. To work as planned, health reform has to produce a balanced risk pool — that is, it must sign up young, healthy Americans as well as their older, less healthy compatriots. And so far, so good: in October, 22.5 percent of California enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34, slightly above that group’s share of the population.

What we have in California, then, is a proof of concept. Yes, Obamacare is workable — in fact, done right, it works just fine.

The bad news, of course, is that most Americans aren’t lucky enough to live in states in which Obamacare has, in fact, been done right. They’re stuck either with or with one of the state exchanges, like Oregon’s, that have similar or worse problems. Will they ever get to experience successful health reform?

The answer is, probably yes. There won’t be a moment when the clouds suddenly lift, but the exchanges are gradually getting better — a point inadvertently illustrated a few days ago by John Boehner, the speaker of the House. Mr. Boehner staged a publicity stunt in which he tried to sign up on the D.C. health exchange, then triumphantly posted an entry on his blog declaring that he had been unsuccessful. At the bottom of his post, however, is a postscript admitting that the health exchange had called back “a few hours later,” and that he is now enrolled.

And maybe the transaction would have proceeded faster if Mr. Boehner’s office hadn’t, according to the D.C. exchange, put its agent — who was calling to help finish the enrollment — on hold for 35 minutes, listening to “lots of patriotic hold music.”

There will also probably be growing use of workarounds — for example, encouraging people to go directly to insurers. This will temporarily defeat one of the purposes of the exchanges, which was to make price comparisons easy, but it will be good enough as a short-term patch. And one shouldn’t forget that the insurance industry has a big financial stake in the success of Obamacare, and will soon be pitching in with big efforts to sign people up.

Again, Obamacare’s rollout was a disaster. But in California we can see what health reform will look like, beyond the glitches. And it’s going to work. 


  • Karen Garcia  New Paltz, NY
If the botched rollout of the ACA proves anything, it's that public-private partnerships are deals made in free-market hell. Corporations whose motives are profits over people have shown that they can't be trusted with either our wallets or our well-being. Let the problems with a law that is essentially a mass giveaway to predatory private insurance be the death knell of neoliberalism.

But let us also rejoice that John Boehner is now the proud owner of an ACA policy himself. Kinda puts the kibosh on their whole government-is-the-problem canard, doesn't it? Even a few GOP governors appear to be tiring of their roles as Scrooges for refusing to cover their most vulnerable citizens under expanded Medicaid. The political reality is that even sadists have their limits when their own jobs are at stake.

And speaking of success stories -- what about Vermont? Having just announced plans to cover 100% of its citizens under true single payer by 2017, this is the real state to emulate. People will be green with envy when they look at the Green Mountain State and notice the plummeting medical costs and great service and democracy in action.

A website is the least of it. Because even had it worked perfectly from Day One, some 30 million people were still going to be left out of any coverage at all. And that is unacceptable.

Medicare for All would save $592 billion in the first year alone, as well as millions of lives. So what are we waiting for? Single payer, here we come!  Nov. 24, 2013

  • Anthony \  London
Um, the whole point of a Federal Government is to ensure that all citizens enjoy the same rights and privileges of citizenship. If California is working great, but Texas is still leaving millions of people uninsured, we need a national health program. How about Medicare? Eligibility age: 0. Nov. 24, 2013

  • bookmanjb  \ Munich
We moved to Germany from the US 8 years ago to start a now-thriving business. At the time we only vaguely were aware of the German health insurance system. In 2005, at the time of our departure, being self-employed, my annual premium increases were 50% - 75%, in spite of the fact that I made no claims. In order to get the increases down a few percent, I kept raising the deductible into the low thousands. Suddenly, in Germany, I had much better coverage at about 20% of the cost and NO DEDUCTIBLE (& I am privately insured here; that's right, there's a private option), better quality of care, and the intangible value of living in a society where health care is taken for granted as a right instead of a perquisite of wealth.

No one here - left, right, or center - understands the debate in the US. When we explain that a large minority of Americans are concerned about "losing their freedoms," our German friends simply think we are joking. No one, they say, even the stereotypical poorly educated, ill-informed, simple-minded American, could hold an opinion THAT ludicrous. From here, the purposeful sabotage by the Right of the ACA's implementation, along with the unintentional sabotage of the Obama administration, looks like a kind of social suicide.  Nov. 25, 2013

  • RLS  \  Virginia
Other than staging publicity stunts, attacking the ACA and other plans put forth by the Democrats, what are Republicans doing to improve the lives of the American people?

(1) What is the Republican plan for health care?

Tens of millions of Americans are uninsured and millions more are underinsured. 700,000 families face medical bankruptcy each year. More people than we lost on 9/11 – 45,000 Americans – die each year because they lack coverage. What does the GOP propose to do about these third world statistics?

(2) What is the Republican plan for creating jobs?

John Boehner and the GOP promised jobs, jobs, jobs in the 2010 election. The real unemployment rate is nearly 14 percent when the underemployed and those who have stopped looking for work are counted.

(3) What is the Republican plan for addressing growing inequality?

Corporate profits are their greatest percentage of GDP in history, while workers’ wages have fallen to their lowest share of GDP.

46.5 million Americans (21.8 percent of children) lived in poverty in 2012.

The minimum wage was last increased in 2009. Before 2007, the minimum wage was stuck at $5.15 for “ten years.”

The median wage was $27,519 last year, the lowest level since 1998.

The top 1 percent owns 38 percent of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 60 percent owns 2.3 percent.

Since 2009, 95 percent of new income went to the top 1 percent. The gap between the top 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it has been since the 1920s.  Nov. 24, 2013

  • Ron Zaudke  \  Prescott, Wi.
California has a working website, and it also has a moderate Democratic governor and legislature. For some reason, that combination seems to work better than John Boehner's Tea Party sabateurs with their 43 separate votes to kill Obamacare, including one to shut down the entire federal government. Of course, Mr. Boehner is the same guy who as recently as last week was still referring to US health care as the "world's best" when statistically it ranks below thirty other developed nations. And is twice as expensive as other countries who manage to have universal health care. Of course, most of those are functioning democracies.   Nov. 24, 2013

  • Aaron Walton  \  Geelong, Australia
"Will they ever get to experience successful health reform?"

I reckon they will. I have a friend in Virginia who once had a six-figure job with the International Monetary Fund but in recent years has been unable to secure anything other than short-term project work with no health insurance. He emailed me the other day to say that for the first time in years he has health insurance--and dental!--at a price he can afford. He signed up using (Virginia lacks its own exchange) and completed the process is less than one hour.

My worry is that stories like my friend's will not be told. Things working smoothly as planned just isn't seen as being newsworthy.  Nov. 24, 2013

  • patti  \  california
Not only that, but we voted a tax increase a 3.5% on the top earning voters that I will gladly pay this year. We got rid of our 10 billion dollar deficit, sliced and cut the budget across the board, but refunded the university system. Thank you Governor Moonbeam Brown! Oh, and the California Obamacare website works just fine because the state cooperated with the Federal government rather than fought it every step of the way. Can we please secede now? I am really tired of sending our tax dollars to other states with small populations and overblown voting power.    Nov. 24, 2013

  • pgp  \  Albuquerque
I have an individual plan and, before accepting the ACA-compliant plan my current provider was offering me, I just used the website to comparison shop.

With regard to the website, it worked fine and allowed me to do a very thorough comparison of all competing plans very quickly.

With regard to the plans, what I found is that as of January 1, I'll be paying about 33% more for my individual health care coverage. I will, however, have a plan I can actually dare to use without fear of receiving a cancellation notice. I will also have an annual out-of-pocket cap low enough that I will no longer be one accident or serious illness away from medical bankruptcy. I'll also have a membership in a very nice fitness club and dental insurance. And if that's not enough, I know that while I will be paying more for my own insurance, several people in my extended family who could not afford insurance before today will be able to buy insurance and several others who are uninsurable due to pre-existing conditions will be insured.

All in all, a very successful trip to the Obamacare mall.   Nov. 25, 2013

  • iamcynic1  \  California
I have a small manufacturing business with 42 employees in rural California.I am a single payer advocate and was not happy with the way the insurance companies virtually wrote the ACA. I decided to run the numbers rather than retreat in bitterness and came away encouraged by what I found. I had only been able to insure 6 employees because of the high cost of private insurance. Amazingly with the ACA I am able to insure all 42 employees for less than I have been paying for 6.Part of this savings is due to the expansion of Medicaid in California.Another factor is that we have relatively unskilled employees who are not highly paid although they do make a very livable wage.I think that these are the type of people the ACA was supposed to help in the first place.

I have commented on various blogs recounting my experience and have gotten quite a few angry responses from people living in other states(Florida,Texas) stating that their insurance premiums have gone up dramatically.Of course they are in much higher income brackets than most of my employees and this may explain part of the apparent difference. In most cases the states they reside in have not accepted the Medicaid expansion which ,I think,could also affect premiums. Overall I have come away with the impression that the conservative strategy is to turn middle income wage earners against low income workers and it seems to be working.But I am curious why the premium prices seem to differ so much from state to state.    Nov. 25, 2013

  • John F. McBride  \  Seattle
. . . This country is rich. The argument about helping, and opposing Affordable Care, is posed by a relatively small minority who haven't wanted to help since FDR and actively seek to shrink government to the point that it provides only those services they support, i.e., corporate subsidies and defense.

And they control the Republican party.

Software can be fixed. Many software releases, most, have problems. The Federal site will eventually be healed.

Yelling about it is simply a feint to divert attention from the real cause which is to do away with all of these programs.

That's always been (the) intent. Allowing Affordable Care will only impede the minority's progress since Ronald Reagan in starving government to kill it.    Nov. 24, 2013

  • joel  \  oakland seems to do its similar job just fine. Makes one wonder if maybe Medicare for all... oh, never mind.  Nov. 24, 2013

  • Dagmar20  \  Los Angeles
Can Cadillac-Plan Ted Cruz and the 1% Koch brothers please explain what part of the Heritage-Foundation-Romneycare-Obamacare-ACA they don't approve of?

Is it that insurance companies can't deny insurance to people with pre existing conditions?

Is it that poor people will receive health coverage (500,000 have been enrolled under Medicaid)?

Is it that loopholes are closed in Medicare?

Is it that children under the age of 26 are covered by their parents?

Is it that they would rather have Americans pay more per capita for health care than people in any other industrialized country and in return, be sicker, die younger and be unhappier with the system?

Is it that 23% of U.S. adults either had serious problems paying medical bills or were unable to pay them, compared to fewer than 13% of adults in France and 6% or fewer in Britain, Sweden, and Norway, you know, socialist countries?

Is it that the U.S. has more patients than anywhere else using the emergency room driving up costs, with 48% of Americans using the ER in the past two years, compared to 31% in France and 22% in Germany and Australia?

Is it a report from the U.S. Institute of Medicine saying tens of thousands of Americans die every year from medical errors and drug overdoses, with the system wasting $750 billion in 2009?

Please explain, Cadillac-Plan Cruz and 1% Koch brothers, and tell us your solutions to these problems and why you don't like the ACA. Oh, and just complaining about the website won't cut it.  Nov. 25, 2013

  • Netwit  \  Petaluma, CA
I visited some Republican friends recently who had signed up for Obamacare in California despite having deep reservations about the program. They reported that their coverage had improved and their premiums had gone way down.

As a Democrat, I restrained myself from saying "I told you so," only to discover that they, too, were restraining themselves. It turns out that the great deal they got validated their worst fears about Obamacare. They viewed the savings as a pure subsidy that (a) they didn't ask for, and (b) taxpayers can ill afford.

I tried to explain that much of the savings comes from increased competition among health-care providers, and more efficient delivery of services, but they were not convinced. It was impossible for them to believe that the government is capable of making any market more efficient.  Nov. 25, 2013

  • Bob Brown  \  Tallahassee, FL
Our 57 year old housekeeper pays about $1000/month for basic catastrophic health insurance on the private market. She cleans 40 houses per month at $50 apiece, so insurance consumes fully half of her effort, before taxes. She is a classic illustration of the need for Obamacare. We live in Florida where the governor and legislature have adamantly opposed forming a state exchange, so the success of is critical. She has no computer, so I volunteered to go onto for her. It was frustrating for nearly six weeks, but recently I succeeded in getting through the website without much waiting, and here's what I found. Without federal subsidies, she can get a basic Bronze plan for $467, comparable to what she has now for $1000; with subsidy, that plan is $358, so she would save about $600/month. At the opposite end of the scale, a Platinum plan would cost $723 without subsidy, or $554 with subsidy. So for about half of her current insurance cost, she would have adult dental coverage, a group total deductible of $850, and maximum out-of-pocket of $2500, with copays of $15 primary, $20 specialist, and $10 generic prescription.

The Republicans who continue to try to destroy this program are bullies, liars, and little short of evil. We must work every day to run them out of office and regain sanity and humanity to our government.
Nov. 25, 2013

  • Robert Watson  \  New York
Republicans have been standing in the way of universal healthcare for over 75 years. It's a bankrupt party that has nothing to offer the country. The rollout is a glitch that will be solved. The major problem to healthcare remains what it has been all along: Republicans.

Republicans will come regret calling the healthcare Obamacare. It time the media starts referring to Social Security and Medicare by their proper names: Rooseveltcare and Johnsoncare. The uncaring Republicans deserve it.  Nov. 25, 2013

  • Anetliner Netliner  \  Washington, DC area
There's a second important story here, of course: that your friend in Virginia once had a six figure job with the IMF, but is now subsisting on short-term project work. The U.S. economy has shed many workers with strong skills. I'm glad that your friend has procured health insurance. Now he needs a stable job, as do so many others.  In reply to Aaron Walton  Nov. 24, 2013

  • Salman  \  Fairfax, VA
The sooner Americans realize that they are paying a massive tax to the private sector in the form of health insurance premiums and deductibles, the sooner they may realize that their money is better spent without the middle man in the picture.

Direct insurance through taxes (single payer) with the option to buy supplemental private plans (a la Medicare) will provide what will amount to be the most cost-effective and comprehensive option for Americans who want health insurance.

I understand why Americans hate paying higher taxes. I don't understand why they don't mind paying even more money to the private sector for less comprehensive returns on their investment.  Nov. 25, 2013

Wouldn't it be simply beyond words if that last comment was from Salman Rushdie?