Some quick takes for your general edification and amusement, and disgust…
Too many people have not learned this essential 21st C.E. lesson: corporations are not really people, and thus cannot really “like” you…
A downside of any emotional relationship that can bring such joys is that it can also bring anguish if things go sour. A 2004 BusinessWeek analysis found mergers were a common cause of that anguish: Measures of customer satisfaction tended to decline significantly and persistently after them. Just ask anyone who was a Flickr super-user before Yahoo! bought the photo sharing service. Or the shoppers who protested in downtown Chicago streets when the beloved local department store Marshall Field’s turned into Macy’s.
That may seem like an argument for resisting the urge to fall in love with a company. After all, companies don’t really love their customers. They love profits. And they see gaining customers’ affection as a good way to make profits. They will let that affection wilt if it stops being an effective tool for making money.
(click here to continue reading Sorry, but Your Favorite Company Can’t Be Your Friend – The New York Times.)
Jon Stewart is starting to get bored not being on the teevee, methinks
That’s when Stewart got down to business by bringing da Trump with a thick New York accent, wagging shoulders and wild gesticulations we’ve come to love about his classic impressions. “These 9/11 first responders, let me tell ya’ something, hey, these 9/11 first responders are the most top-notch, first-class, diamond-encrusted heroes America can produce,” Stewart said. “Don’t let Congress play politics with this necessary bill. If I’m elected, and I will be elected, I will build a wall around politics and I will make politics pay for it. Tweet at your Congressman #WorstResponders. Tell them Donald said ‘pull up your big boy pants and make America Great again. Pass the Zadroga Act, or I will glue Congress together, dip them in gold and wear them around my freggin’ neck!”
Stewart is hoping with enough public pressure on Congress they will add the Zadroga Act to the upcoming omnibus bill that has so many riders it’s not as if anyone would notice.
(click here to continue reading Jon Stewart plays Trump in riotous reunion with Stephen Colbert – Salon.com.)
Like a food court maybe? Seriously, how long before Scalia says something so vile that impeachment talk begins to rumble in Congress? Within the year?
A new study conducted by legal scholars indicates that Justice Antonin Scalia would fare better if he served as a judge at a court that was “less advanced” than the United States Supreme Court.
According to the study, Scalia’s struggles to perform his duties in a competent fashion stem from his being inappropriately placed on a court that is “too demanding” for a person of his limited abilities.
“Forcing Justice Scalia to weigh in on complex legal issues that he lacks the background or aptitude to comprehend is, at the end of the day, cruel,” the study said.
(click here to continue reading Study: Scalia Better Off in “Less Advanced” Court – The New Yorker.)
Sign me up!
Icelanders opposed to the state funding of religion have flocked to register as Zuists, a movement that worships ancient Sumerian gods and – perhaps more importantly – promises its followers a tax rebate.
More than 3,100 people – almost 1% of Iceland’s population – have joined the Zuist movement in the past two weeks in protest at paying part of their taxes to the state church and other religious bodies. Followers of Zuism will be refunded the tax element earmarked for religion.
Icelanders are required to register their religion with the state, with almost three-quarters of the population affiliated to the established Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland. There are more than 40 other registered religious bodies that qualify for “parish fees” paid through the taxation system. The amount set in next year’s budget is the equivalent of about $80 (£53) per taxpayer over a year.
“There is no opt-out. Those who are unaffiliated or belong to unregistered religions effectively just pay higher taxes,” said Sveinn Thorhallsson, a Zuist spokesperson. An opinion poll published in September showed 55% of respondents want an end to the system.
(click here to continue reading Icelanders flock to religion revering Sumerian gods and tax rebates | World news | The Guardian.)
Our premiums have jumped, our insurance broker says it is most certainly due to this change: Feds promised money to insurance companies, then reneged…
Nine days later, the New York Times’s Robert Pear broke some news to readers. “A little-noticed health care provision that Senator Marco Rubio of Florida slipped into a giant spending law last year has tangled up the Obama administration,” he wrote. “Mr. Rubio’s efforts against the so-called risk corridor provision of the health law has hardly risen to the forefront of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but his plan limiting how much the government can spend to protect insurance companies against financial losses has shown the effectiveness of quiet legislative sabotage.”
A paradox emerges. A “quiet” sabotage would seem to be one the saboteurs do not discuss. Rubio, by contrast, went after risk corridors with all the subtlety of Auric Goldfinger talking to a captured James Bond. Two years ago, when Democrats controlled the Senate, Rubio introduced a stand-alone bill, the “ObamaCare Bailout Prevention Act,” to end risk corridors altogether. Rubio’s talking points have hardly changed since then; letting HHS make up the difference in cost for insurers amounted to “Washington picking winners and losers.” When the CRomnibus passed, health care wonks rang alarm bells about the risk corridor amendment.
(click here to continue reading The ‘quiet victory’ that Marco Rubio can’t stop talking about – The Washington Post.)
Rubio is responsible for the premium hikes, basically
What he calls a bailout is the idea of risk corridors. That was a cushion created, paid into by health insurance companies, to help out companies who took on a disproportionate number of sicker, more expensive Obamacare patients. In the early going, companies couldn’t predict what their customer mix was going to be to help them set premium levels. For those who ended up paying out more in coverage than premiums brought in, the risk corridor gave them a safety net of funds to draw on. At the same time, the companies who paid out less than predicted and had higher profits paid into the fund.
But in the first year, “claims to obtain money from the program equaled $2.9 billion, while insurers’ payments into the system came to $362 million.” Health and Human Services would have transferred departmental funding—taxpayer money—to the fund to cover the shortfall, but Rubio blocked them from doing so. The result has been that a bunch of smaller insurers have had to drop out of the exchanges, and a dozen or so health insurance cooperatives that started up under the law have folded. Because they’re the ones who couldn’t recoup losses.
(click here to continue reading How Marco Rubio might be responsible for higher Obamacare premiums.)
A new round of testing by The Associated Press shows the city’s Olympic waterways are as rife with pathogens far offshore as they are nearer land, where raw sewage flows into them from fetid rivers and storm drains. That means there is no dilution factor in the bay or lagoon where events will take place and no less risk to the health of athletes like sailors competing farther from the shore.
“Those virus levels are widespread. It’s not just along the shoreline but it’s elsewhere in the water, therefore it’s going to increase the exposure of the people who come into contact with those waters,” said Kristina Mena, an expert in waterborne viruses and an associate professor of public health at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “We’re talking about an extreme environment, where the pollution is so high that exposure is imminent and the chance of infection very likely.”
Now, the AP’s most recent tests since August show not only no improvement in water quality — but that the water is even more widely contaminated than previously known. The number of viruses found over a kilometer from the shore in Guanabara Bay, where sailors compete at high speeds and get utterly drenched, are equal to those found along shorelines closer to sewage sources.
“The levels of viruses are so high in these Brazilian waters that if we saw those levels here in the United States on beaches, officials would likely close those beaches,” Mena said.
(click here to continue reading AP test: Rio Olympic water badly polluted, even far offshore – Yahoo News.)
Speaking of viruses and pathogens…
Republican party officials are now actively preparing for the prospect of a contested convention in Cleveland as front-runner Donald Trump continues to draw strong support from the GOP base. The scenario was discussed by more than 20 party stalwarts Monday at a Washington, DC, dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, the Washington Post reported. A person familiar with who attended the dinner confirmed to Bloomberg that it took place, and that Priebus, members of congress, establishment lobbyists and others have held similar discussions for weeks. Should Trump continue to dominate the nomination race in the coming months and amass the required number of delegates to become the official Republican nominee, members of the establishment told the Post they would be forced to contest his nomination on the convention floor in Cleveland from July 18–21.
(click here to continue reading Republicans Discuss Brokered Convention as Trump Leads – Bloomberg Politics.)
…and worse, Ted Cruz:
In no particular order, Texas senator and Republican presidential aspirant Ted Cruz has: said acts of Christian terrorism stopped centuries ago, forgetting the Ku Klux Klan and the shooting in Colorado last week; claimed he has never met an anti-abortion activist who advocates violence, despite being endorsed by one just days before; dismissed the need for Planned Parenthood because there isn’t a shortage of “rubbers” in America; and made an offhand comment that Colorado mass shooter Robert Dear could be a “transgendered leftist activist.” All this in just the last week.
Ted Cruz is far from crazy, which is the essential Ted Cruz problem. Crazy you can deal with, even forgive a little, often ignore. Ben Carson is a bowl of Froot Loops floating in a sad lethal pond of gasoline. Donald Trump went warp speed into the Trumpiverse decades ago. Both men have conducted their campaigns and recent years on perpetual tangents. But Ted Cruz knows exactly what he’s doing. He doesn’t even hide it particularly well. Not only is his intelligence one of his favorite selling points, his book undermines any notion that he misspeaks. He is gaffe proof because the gaffes are not arrived at by error. Ted Cruz does awful things by intelligent design.
(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz Isn’t Crazy – He’s Much Worse | Rolling Stone.)
I’m sort of interested in watching The Man in The High Castle, even though it is one of my favorite PKD books, especially since fascist ideology seems to be on the rise
They basically stole Phil Dick’s pitch — and then deployed it in their own inimitable style. I find the show fairly compelling to watch. But I also find myself saying, “I don’t know that this is what Dick was getting at.”
It seems much morally simpler, less ambiguous. There were some suggestions in [the novel] that America and Nazi Germany were not all that different — that’s not a particularly P.C. idea, but it is important. While the Germans were extinguishing Jews, we were excluding black people from the lunch counter. It was a matter of degrees.
We had [racial] superiority here … The Nazi fantasy of the blond, blue-eyed book and how it overlapped with California dreamin’ … The idea of the blond, perfect teeth, riding on the wave like some übermensch. It’s not without its resonance, and to leave all those out and make it a simple good vs. evil — that’s a travesty. A betrayal of Dick’s intention. But probably works better on TV.