Mojo - October 2009

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 28, 2009

Wed Oct. 28, 2009 6:30 AM EDT

Sgt. Gregory Opoien, a Bloomington, Minn., native and an information assurance officer with the 34th Infantry Division, skates on a box Oct. 13, in Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq. The box was given to him by a member of "Bikes Over Baghdad," an extreme sports group that toured Iraq recently. (US Army photo via army.mil.)

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Need To Read: October 28, 2009

Wed Oct. 28, 2009 6:28 AM EDT

Today's must-reads are brought to you by the letters C, I, and A:

Get more stuff like this: Follow me on twitter! David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets, as does MoJo blogger Kate Sheppard. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

Is Obama Plotting to Shut Down the Internet?

| Tue Oct. 27, 2009 11:15 PM EDT

The world is full of a lot of conservative anti-Obama craziness these days—Glenn Beck, the Birther movement, etc. But anti-immigration activist William Gheen might take the prize as this week's most paranoid Obama critic. On Tuesday, Gheen circulated an email claiming that the Obama administration may intend to use the swine flu epidemic as an excuse to shut down the web and thus silence his critics. Gheen’s source for his claim? A small Reuters story about a recent GAO report suggesting the Department of Homeland Security doesn't have a backup plan should millions of bored Americans, home with swine flu, overload the Internet with too many games of XBlaster. He writes:

“Ironic that Obama's DHS is telegraphing a desire to shut down 'certain websites' and civilian access to the Internet in response to this weak strain of flu, considering the fact that civilian Internet communications are the primary information sharing channels of his political opposition. The Internet combined with talk radio is the biggest threat to Obama's globalist open borders amnesty agenda. The White House clearly has resentments towards any media not under the control of their masters.”

Fortunately for immigrant bashers everywhere, Gheen’s North Carolina-based Americans for Legal Immigration PAC is going to set up alternative channels to help get its message out in the event of an Internet blackout. Gheen says, “ALIPAC is moving to create a phone bank that can be staffed with employees and volunteers to reach our supporters during such an emergency and attack on free speech.” The phone bank, naturally, will need donor support.

 

The Public Option Redux: Carper's Folly

| Tue Oct. 27, 2009 4:45 PM EDT

While;proponents of health care reform celebrate Majority Leader Harry Reid's pledge to support a public option in the Senate bill, nobody—journalists or politicans, advocates of opponents—seems to know what it is he's supporting. It's quite possible that the latest reincarnation of the public option will simply lay out one more circuitous route back into the insurance industry, with a a public entity subcontracting the actual insurance back to a private insurer in something akin to an outsourcing scheme.

Apparently, the Senate plan is likely to follow the lines of an idea originally suggested by Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. Earlier in October, Carper talked to reporters and, according to an account in TPM, set forth his ideas in some detail.

I think at the end of the day there will be a national plan probably put together not by the federal government but by a non-profit board with some seed money from the federal government that states would initially participate in because of lack of affordability.

How would it work? First, this won’t be a government run, government funded enterprise. Two, there should be a level playing field so that this non-profit entity that would be stood up would have to play by same rules basically as for-profit insurance companies—the idea that secretary of Health and Human Services [will be] running or directing the operation of this—no way.

We ought to have a non-profit board—it could be appointed by the President but a non-profit board. They’d have to retain earnings, create a retained earnings pool, so that if they run into financial problems later on the financial needs of the plan could be met by the retained earnings.

Carper’s plan begins to sound very much like Blue Cross-Blue Shield, long ago launched as a non-profit cooperative that over time turned into a hellish health insurance conglomerate that includes both for-profit and non-profit franchises. (The huge—and hugely loathed—WellPoint is now the largest member of the network.)

Carper and other designers of weak-assed public options;like to say “non-profit” over and over again, as if this were some cure to all the ills of the private insurance industry. This is far from the case: As I wrote back in June:

Almost half of Americans with private health insurance are currently covered by non-profit plans. As a whole, they haven’t proven themselves much—if any—better or cheaper than the for-profit insurers. The giant Kaiser Permanente is a non-profit. And while some of them have privatized, many of the Blue Cross-Blue Shields are still non-profits as well—and, in fact, got started as co-ops. Some of these non-profit insurers are well known for paying huge executive salaries and hoarding huge reserves, while charging the same high rates and offering the same rationed care as private plans—and enjoying tax exemption to boot. One report by the Consumers Union found the non-profit “Blues” stockpiling billions in cash even as they raised premiums and co-pays.

Obama Admin Announces $3.4 Billion for Smart Grid

| Tue Oct. 27, 2009 1:04 PM EDT

Barack Obama on Tuesday announced $3.4 billion in funding for smart grid technology, the largest investment in energy grid modernization in history.

"There's something big happening in America in terms of creating a clean-energy economy," Obama said, adding that there is much more to be done.

The funds will be used to deploy "smart meters," a digital technology that delivers information on energy usage to both customers and to utilities. For homeowners, this would be a display in the house that gives a readout on electricity use, which is in turn connected to the electricity providers so they can better coordinate their energy delivery.

The investment was announced during Obama's visit to Florida Power and Light’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Florida. FPL received a $200 million grant, which will be used to install 2.6 million smart meters and other technologies designed to cut energy costs for customers. This kind of investment will help build a "smarter, stronger and more secure electric grid," Obama said.

Grants were awarded to 100 different companies as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, for projects in every state except Alaska. They're matched with $4.7 billion industry funding, so the total investment is worth more than $8 billion. The White House also released a map of the locations for the smart grid projects.

The Bad News About the MRAP-ATV

| Tue Oct. 27, 2009 11:42 AM EDT

Today's war photo of the day is of a brand-new mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles (MRAP-ATV or M-ATV) sitting at Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan. The very first M-ATVs designated for use in Southern Afghanistan arrived last Thursday, October 22. (The first batch of M-ATVs arrived earlier this month.) Think about that for a minute. It's taken eight years to start getting US soldiers in Afghanistan vehicles that can both protect them from roadside bombs and maneuver on the country's rough terrain. The good news, according to defense secretary Robert Gates, is that thousands more M-ATVs will arrive in theater over the next year. But you have to wonder how many lives could have been saved if the military had prioritized fighting the current war (instead of building F-22s for the next war) back in 2001, and you have to wonder whether all this effort is coming too late.

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Chamber Sues the Yes Men

| Tue Oct. 27, 2009 8:15 AM EDT

The Chamber of Commerce is suing the Yes Men over the parody press conference the group pulled off last week.

The Chamber has filed a civil complaint in the US District Court of Washington, DC, accusing Yes Men Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos (also known as Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, respectively) of trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising. The Chamber's suit also lists several members of the DC-based activist group the Avaaz Action Factory as co-defendants. The conduct of those who organized the event was "destructive of public discourse," the Chamber argues.

As the Yes Men have a new film in theaters currently, The Yes Men Fix the World, the Chamber also alleges that the prank was part of a "comprehensive scheme to promote their movie by wrongdoing against the plaintiff"—rather than an event meant to call attention to the organization's views on climate change.

"The defendants are not merry pranksters tweaking the establishment," said the Chamber in a press release issued with the suit. "Instead, they deliberately broke the law in order to further commercial interest in their books, movies, and other merchandise."

 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 27, 2009

Tue Oct. 27, 2009 7:48 AM EDT

A new mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicle, built specifically for the mountainous Afghan terrain, parks next to a larger MRAP, MaxxPro Dash. The first M-ATVs designated for Southern Afghanistan arrived at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, by air transport, Oct. 22, 2009. (US Army photo via army.mil.)

Need To Read: October 27, 2009

Tue Oct. 27, 2009 7:36 AM EDT

Today's must-reads:

Get more stuff like this: Follow me on twitter! David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets, as does MoJo blogger Kate Sheppard. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

Chamber Uses Yes Men 'Attack' to Fundraise

| Mon Oct. 26, 2009 7:54 PM EDT

The US Chamber of Commerce is turning their run-in with the Yes Men last week into a fundraising opportunity.

TPMMuckraker got a hold of a fundraising email sent to Chamber supporters late last week, calling on them to send money because the "U.S. Chamber is under attack."

Help us fight back!As you probably have seen in the news -- the U.S. Chamber is under attack.

MoveOn.org and other extremist groups are harassing our members...

A group of pranksters held a fake news conference falsely claiming to be the U.S. Chamber...

They're attacking us for having the audacity to oppose legislation that would be harmful to American employers and cost vital American jobs.

The letter is signed by the Chamber's senior vice president and national political director, Bill Miller. It takes supporters to a webpage where they can make a donation to the Chamber. "Don't let them muzzle us. Stand up for free speech by making a contribution below," it urges.

Meanwhile, the Chamber has unleashed their lawyers on the Yes Men in order to get their parody Chamber site yanked from the interwebs. Because they truly believe in free speech, of course.