Senate Calls State Department Moron not Liar in Benghazi Attacks

With astounding 20/20 hindsight, the Senate Intelligence Committee has called the attacks on the US Embassy in Benghazi 16 months ago preventable if they had beefed up their security. They also confirmed that the attack was “opportunistic” and involved multiple militants including some from terrorist organizations.

While most Americans are thinking “No shit, Sherlock”, there are some nuances that finally give some real answers to the attack which burnt the embassy and CIA annex and left 4 dead. What is quite impressive is they were quite willing to throw our late diplomat Christopher Stevens under the bus, blaming him for repeatedly denying extra security measures in the face of overwhelming intelligence from the CIA, months before the attacks. They also point to the perpetrators of the attack, who are still at large.

*Whoosh* If you weren’t in a bubble, think back to Sept 2012 when our National Security Advisor went on TV claiming that a retarded internet video called “Innocence of Muslims” caused the attacks on the embassy. Obama came out and downplayed the role of terrorism (even though he technically mentioned it). Many of us with absolutely no knowledge of the events on the grounds asked a few simple questions and weren’t given answers for the longest time. It went something like this:

Old me: Okay, You’re telling me this extremely poorly produced internet clip that was released more than SIX MONTHS AGO, caused a SPONTANEOUS mob of AK-47 and RPG wielding protestors that were NOT TERRORISTS, to decide on SEPTEMBER THE ELEVENTH to make a concerted attack on the embassy and MORTAR a SECRET CIA compound?

Administration: Yes.

Old me: Do tell.

Administration: That’s our best intelligence at this time. We will update you as soon as people starting forgetting.

For the people who stopped to think for a second, the mind-numbing “talking points” crusade which espoused those exact sentiments from the Administration and the subsequent mind-numbing “talking points” crucifixion led by Senate republicans and straight up lying FOX news (see below), left a substantial number of Americans saying wtf? and srsly?

According to the Senate report now, these talking points were not lying per say but were quite unintelligent coming from the intelligence community. The report states that the attacks had nothing to do with the youtube video in contrast to the months long NYT investigation which says that it did. Also they claim that there were links to terrorist organizations, which the NYT claims is true, but is only somewhat related to the attack (New headline: NYT Calls Senate Intelligence Committee Stupid?)

Apparently, the old me was only partially an idiot, and there is a reasonable answer for all the sarcastic remarks in caps.

1) Terrorist kill Americans (and other less important people) over all sorts of stupid stuff. Case in point those Danish Cartoons with the bomb in mohamad’s turban. It is best to criticize ourselves instead criticizing the guys who do this stuff, because we don’t really expect anything better from the middle east. Plus they would probably try to kill us.

2)The surprisingly high quality internet clip (if poorly scripted, acted, thought out etc) was translated into Arabic only in early Sept 2012 and had already created discontent when it was publicly aired. Riots erupted in Cairo following the movie. Heres a map of all the riots that occured seemingly due to the internet clip:

3) Everybody in the Middle East has a machine gun. Libya in particular, since the fall of Gaddafi, is run by many militant factions, many of which are friendly with the West and tried to help the diplomatic staff (if only after they had been evacuated the next day). Some are decidedly anti-West, and it appears that 20-30 of these militants initially started the attack, which was probably preplanned due to the rising anger over the internet clip.  The poor security at the Embassy quickly retreated in face of these militants and the mob only grew with breached security and false rumors that peaceful protestors were being shot.

4) The escaping diplomatic mission went to more well guarded CIA compound, which led the mob there. The attack on the CIA compound was uncoordinated and slow, further leading to evidence that it was a mob.

5) Various Jihadi elements were at play, some terrorist, but none from Al-Qaeda and none appeared to be organizing the whole thing.

So leaving politics aside two things remain – someone needs to take the blame, which is going to be the dead diplomat for deciding to rely on Libyan guards and the extremely lax security on Sept 11, 2012. And not Hillary Clinton, who the republicans still accuse. Some also point to Patrick Kennedy whose office oversees diplomatic security since he failed to approve requests for extra security. He had a similar post during the embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998. There are allegations that he also was protecting a Belgian diplomat for ditching his security detail to solicit sex with prostitutes and children, by quashing and investigation.

And secondly the guys who did this need to be caught.  The US issued a warrant for the arrest of Abu Khattala who is a prime suspect and a somewhat insane Islamic extremist, allied with the group called Ansar Al-Shariah. There were plans for his capture by the US military but Obama chickened out due to the highly volatile situation in Libya. Since then, fierce gun battles have left militants scattered and loyalty to Khattala is undiminished. Some people view him and Ansar Al-Shariah as boyscouts doing everything good for the community. For instance after bombing all the police stations in the city, apparently some people were angry at him and there were threats to his life. His neighbors quickly rallied to protect him with AK-47s, grenade launchers, artillery and even an tank.

We probably dont know the real story, given that different news sources say different things which can be at odds with the Senate Intelligence Report. One thing is for certain though – there is plenty of blame to pass around

GW Bridge Revenge Traffic Front Page News because Nothing Else Going On

gty chris christie ll 130225 wblog Chris Christie Not Being Invited to CPAC

With nothing else happening in the world, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been catapulted into the media spotlight for causing political revenge traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

Practically all major networks were super happy that something finally happened, and immediately made it front page news. This does not bode well for the fat governor who has aspirations of being a fat president. (I only mention his weight because its actually impossible for the media not to poke fun at him and now I feel its my obligation to do so as well. You’ve been forewarned)

For the bubble readers out there who only have access to this blog and nothing else or for the people trying to get to for all their Tallahassee commercial printing needs, let me explain.

Chris Christie, caused big trouble by not by sitting on the bridge as many had come to believe, but because members of his staff caused a massive traffic jam on the GW bridge, by shutting down 3 lanes in the district of a non-supporting mayor in Fort Lee,NJ. This ultimately caused 4 mornings of large delays starting September 9th last year. Christie vociferously denied his office having anything to do with the lane closures for months. Then after some subpenas and an investigation, they found pretty damning evidence that top Christie aides were involved saying stuff like “Time for some traffic problems at Fort Lee”.

Christie then came out and profusely apologized for 2 hours, adding to the impression that with him you never get a little you always get alot. He explained he was apalled that his aides would lie to him and had fired the people involved. But people are suspicious because they assume his large than life domineering micromanaging style would lead him to know about all this. Also he happened to say “I am not a bully” drawing comparisons to Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” speech

Basically thats it and all sorts of people are enjoying watching Christie sweat, because conservatives and liberals alike hate him for being moderate. And the liberals are accusing him because the “buck stops with him” even though he may have had no knowledge of the affair…although the buck doesn’t stop with Obama during the ridiculous obamacare roll out, or Benghazi. But it did when he got Bin Laden.

Now bridgegate is giving Christie a huge headache because theres nothing else going on. And as for his presidential ambitions…people are already saying fat chance.

States still up in arms over gun control

Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary which left 20 children and 6 adults dead, a total of 109 new state gun laws have come to pass. And as you probably just guessed , 70 out of 109 of these laws actually loosen gun restrictions. Obviously, stupid; this is America.

As probably envisioned by our infallible founders, our right to bear big ass arms also includes machine guns, flame-throwers, rocket propelled grenades, tanks, nuclear armaments and this ridiculous (-ly awesome?) auto-aiming sniper rifle. – Unfortunately, these bleeding heart activist liberals say no for the most part. And these typical gun toting southern states (which I’ll leave a complete mystery unless you click the very informative chart below) are simply asserting this constitutional right to bear arms. They are also apparently asserting their right to violate the constitution in some cases.

Nullification, or the idea that a state has the right to determine if laws are constitutional and not the supreme court (which according to the constitution is unconstitutional) has become a big hit among the uneducated. In 37 states, nullification of federal gun laws has been proposed, of which 4 currently have been inducted into law. Kansas for example has made it a felony to enforce federal gun laws in the state. Far more states have passed laws which are slightly less stupid, but deem locally manufactured guns as out of the purview of regulating interstate commerce and thus federal law has no precedence.

This has a historic and unconstitutional precedent in the form of nullifying de-segregation laws. Basically states (I’ll let you guess what region) tried to avoid de-segregation by declaring the federal law illegal. The supreme court eventually made nullification unconstitutional in 1958.

Also, currently the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobbaco and Firearms  recommends not flouting federal law because despite popular belief, you will go to jail.

One heartening thing to see, is among the 39 laws that tighten gun control, a fair number have been to prevent crazies from obtaining weapons very easily. That is background checks and mental health gun laws were passed in both red and blue states. Somehow 91% of Americans are all for background checks, but it couldn’t be passed in congress nationally. And somehow it doesn’t strike me as reasonable to be able to drive across state lines, get a gun and avoid any in-state gun-control measures.

Anti-gun control legislation is fueled by a few factors 1) the not so unreasonable paranoia that the evil government is coming to take your guns (see below), 2) the paranoia that the King of England might barge into your home and start pushing you around (slightly unreasonable) and 3) the far more reasonable paranoia  of being on a government “list”. Forget for a second in order to pay taxes, drive, join the military, travel outside the country or collect social security/obamacare among a number of careers private or not, you are already on a government list. And forget for a second, that the NRA gun-owner list, which includes 10 million+ people , is definitely not being trolled by the NSA.

In addition to the 2nd amendment, the government has a constitutional mandate to protect and keep its citizens safe. And with some 300 million guns on the streets and some 60% of homocides attributed to guns, something has to give. While it makes total sense that the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun, isn’t it about time we stop giving bad guys guns? As long as its super easy to get a gun legally, semi-legally (through gun shows/private sales) or illegally expect more bad things to happen. The only way is a federal law to expand universal background checks and make all gun deals go through a federally licensed dealer. Make it illegal to sell a gun to someone who would not clear a background check and track all sales. That would hopefully curb private sales.

I sure as hell don’t want to be on that list when it happens, which is why I should probably buy a gun now. But I also sure as hell want everybody else on that list.

Markets Not Correlated to Anything; Only Goes Up

The markets finally believe Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke as he is leaving and won’t believe Janet Yellen until she leaves.

There is some good news for investors. A new theory shows that you don’t have to worry about stocks going down because they only go up and are not correlated to anything. “Just keep on buying. If everyone keeps buying stocks my analysis shows that the stock market won’t ever go down,” says NK, the theorizer of the theory, who wishes to keep his identity private to prevent too much media attention.

*Disclaimer for our bubble readers: For the love of God please do not use this article as investment advice*

He says he first realized it when Ben Bernanke announced that he was going to start the taper, cutting bond purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion, while keeping interest rates at 0%. This amounts to easing his foot off the gas pedal which has propelled the market to new highs and hasn’t done much for the economy. Bernanke, starting a year ago, had repeatedly informed the public about the taper, indicating that interest rates would be kept at 0% for the foreseeable future as long as inflation remained low (<2%) and and unemployment remained high(>6.5%) for the past year. The only thing he hadn’t mentioned was when the tapering would start and so when he announced the taper, markets on a high from easy money should have taken heed that they would now be inhaling a little less nitrous oxide. In fact, the opposite happened and the markets rallied, stoked that the taper was not a step function. Apparently they missed that day in pre-school when you learned the difference between a wedge and a block.

Since then, the market refuses to stop inhaling its stash, going for bigger and bigger highs, which is not likely to cause any problems according to market pundits, gurus, swamijis and high priests. Cramer is currrently all “buy, buy, buy”.

Yesterday, Bernanke came out with a upbeat view on the economy and for the first time seemed more relaxed and actually jovial. This was probably more due to the fact that he’s leaving and he can stop listening to the idiots on wallstreet and congress bark about high inflation for the last 4 years (i dont think it ever went above 1.2%). Now thats Yellen’s job, which everybody admits won’t be easy.

Screen Shot 2014-01-04 at 7.30.07 PM

And after the fed press meeting yesterday, the CNBC talking heads were at it furiously, Liesman actually claiming “who knows why the market does what it does”, a far cry from the last time he speculated after the fed minutes and “nailed it”… everyone circle jerking each other and patting themselves on the back on live TV, to finally eat crow when they all lost their pants at the end of the day. For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to watch that piece of comedic gold, heres the video and recap:

Amazingly, after 4 years of gently guiding the US economy, the market actually appeared to believe Bernanke, roughly remaining flat. This was in contrary to most other times he came out and spoke about the improving state of the economy. Those days the market would take a hit, fearful of him starting the taper. The opposite also proved true, when the economic indicators sucked, the market did relatively well. The recent bucking of this trend led NK to his theory.

The S&P 500 this year has been on a tear, up a lot in percentage terms and is at 1831.37 according to the picture I posted. Go find out for yourself on some real website.


US gov ready to take lots of Tylenol in Indian Diplomat Headache

The US government appears ready to take lots painkillers with continued prosecution of Indian Diplomat Devyani Khobragade.

For most of our readers who live in bubbles (forced or of your own accord), I’ll break down the story for you. Devyani Khobragade, a no-name Indian consular something or other (deputy consul general whatever that means), came into the headlines a month ago after being arrested in the US in front of her kid, then strip searched and confined with drug addicts, for paying her indentured servant less than minimum wage .

I know what you’re thinking, “I wouldn’t even pay my indentured servant anything at all”. My thoughts are with you, my friend and so is the rest of the Indian population. The diplomatic faux-paux polarized the two countries into two fractious camps split along nationalistic lines – the Indian populace, who are rallying behind their “disgraced” and “undignified” “diplomat” and the Americans, who have no idea whats going on and nor do they give a damn.

I use the word “disgraced” and “undignified” since she was stripped of her dignity in the cavity search and NOT I repeat NOT because she’s a liar and actually also corrupt which I’ll get into later. And “diplomat” because when she was arrested she was some consul type thing and not a “diplomat”. The two are distinguished by immunity applicability for various crimes for in the UN’s Vienna which nobody really cares about at the end of the day apparently (see links below).

Back to the story, the Indian government needing a rally cry in an election year, went into high gear despite not really caring when Abdul Kalam, the Indian ex-President, was detained and patted down in 2011. Nor did they care when Georges Fernandez, India’s Defense secretary got strip searched twice at IAD. But this was an election year, so all the road-blocks were pulled out (literally at the US embassy in Delhi). US diplomats lost their special airport privileges; the salaries of any Indian workers at the embassy was questioned as it was technically US soil. And in a bold and if not completely obvious bluff, they said that gay US diplomats should be arrested, since the supreme court had recently refused to strike down an archaic british law banning gay sex.

The Indian media was having a field day, publishing everything thats generally not fit to print and taking up 23 hours of the 24 hour news cycle. Eventually, it came out that the US government had informed them several months earlier that she was paying well under minimum wage and had lied on a her visa application, both which constituted felonies. The Indian consulate replied, in typical indifference to the law, that they didn’t think that the US would actually care.

In a bout of furious paperwork Delhi tried promoting her to the UN mission which would give her full diplomatic immunity, to which the US replied it would be after the fact and didn’t count. But wait (Palm on forehead)… Devyani suddenly realized that she had already been given status and credentials at the UN mission and didn’t even know about it after putting in some paperwork months earlier, thereby giving her full diplomatic immunity. Furthermore, the Indian diplomatic mission didn’t even know, solidifying the belief that the Indian bureaucracy has no idea what the hell they are doing. At this point the US government was now undoubtedly wishing they could get a redo on this one.  Not because they wished to redo the strip search, but I believe so they could avoid it altogether and don’t have to deal with this crap.

During this time, the media decided it wasn’t actually important that the arrested Indian consular deputy whatever cum diplomat was actually implicated in the infamous Adarsh scam. (Other palm on forehead) Long story short the scam had allocated prime real estate in Mumbai to various heads of state and government bureaucrats at artificially reduced prices over the course of 10 years, when actually it was meant for the welfare of active duty/retired military personnel. India’s favorite diplomat was not only a liar and a cheat, but not a very good one because now she got caught twice. She likely wouldn’t see jail time in India because that’s not how it operates, but with any luck the US will do India’s job for it.

Now the two countries are in for the long haul with both sides bunkered down in order to save face in this diplomatic headache. In the US with cases of Vicoden and in India with hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen.


Why no one cares about the Vienna conventions on consular relations:


AAP Delivers on Election Promise of Fiscal Imprudence in Delhi

Arithmetic proves very very difficult for Arwind Kejriwal, Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi’s 4 day old chief minister; his PhD from IIT Karaghpur and former position as Joint Commisioner of the Income Tax Department nonwithstanding.

For our readers who live in bubbles, the AAP swept 28 seats of 70 in Delhi, routing the governing Congress party and achieving nothing short of a mandate for the brand new political party borne out Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade. Along with their staunch anti-corruption stance they promised a handful of populist measures such as 700 liters of free water per day per household and a 50% cut in tariffs along with a number of totally reasonable changes to improve governance. Winning a huge fraction of seats but no majority (BJP won 32 and Congress won 7 I think), the usual political comedy/drama/tragedy unfolded, which resulted in the BJP hounding them to form the government with Congress, and Congress making overtures to the AAP for unconditional support. The democratic extremists in the AAP, feeling the pressure, asked the millions of Delhi residents to text in whether they should form the government. Then in an amazing bout of short term memory loss for the entire political and media establishment, the AAP formed an alliance with the much-hated and corrupt Congress party and the BJP immediately started criticizing the AAP for being traitors to Delhi and forming the government.  The hilarity in all this easily deserved another article, but I was on vacation.

Back to the present:

Ramming through populist measures, Kejriwal has been trying to do maximum damage on the exchequer before the confidence vote on Jan 2, which he himself called and which could potentially dissolve their own government.

“We are not bothered whether the government survives or not. We are running the government assuming that we have just 48 hours with us. We want to do the maximum good to the people [maximum damage to the exchequer], if we can in this time.” (Words in brackets are mine not his)

Keeping good on their promise (at least to 1 sigfig which is the max Mr. taxman can handle apparently), the AAP is providing a free 667 liters of water per day (thats like 35 buckets) to households with a metered connection. Consumption of even 1 more liter than this will result in the consumer paying for all the water consumption with a 10% increase in rate. The normal rate for this much water per month is about 220Rs and will cost an estimated 200 crore ($33 million) in subsidies per year. Of course this also benefits the rich and middle class, so expect to see alot of households just under the max allowed with the help of their friendly water-meter-fixing agent. And alot of poor households are bound to use excess water up to their alotted amount, adding to the already critical water deficit.

Of course the AAP has rationalized this by saying that the Delhi Jal Board has made a surplus of 446 crore in 2012-2013, so naturally it is their duty to fritter it away. Its their duty to forget the 30% of Delhi households do not even have piped water, and live on <4 liters of water per day per capita. And its also their duty to forget the DSIIDC (Delhi Something Industrial Investment Something) has 15/32 sewage plants working well below capacity – something that 200 crore could actually help fix. So far nothing has been said about unmetered connections and illegal colonies – and actually I dont quite understand how connections were unmetered in the first place, but its still their problem.

Additionally the electricity tariffs are being cut by 50% for up to 400 units of energy. I actually measure my units in Giga- cm^(-1) but it is not specified what unit this refers to. However I do know that the tariffs have gone up by 45% in the past 2 years alone, and inadequate tariffs have led to a loss of 20,000 crore. In India as a whole, state run distribution companies are mired in 246,000 crore of debt due to a number or ridiculous policies and subsidies. The 50% rate cut will add another 200 crore in subsidies that the Delhi government must pay for.

What is most ironic about these subsidies is that it is shouldered by the poor and middle class…With any subsidy somebody eventually has to pay for it – in this case by tax revenue. Unlike the central government which receives a majority of tax from corporations and rich people (at least the ones who are actually willing to pay taxes), state governments like Delhi are almost entirely dependent upon the valued-added-tax (VAT) for the bulk of its revenues and taxes practically all commodities. And this sales tax is regressive in nature mainly because the poor have to spend more of its income just to live. So much for the aam admi.

Amidst all of this the AAP is still fairly transparent, bringing down the government’s VIP status to the common man. If nothing else this is indicated by the Delhi Chief Ministers tweets about his bowel movements.  For an amusing history of “Delhi Belly” and its world politics see – Further transparency is needed of the Jal water board for the obvious reduction of theft and corruption, enhancement of tracking, adequate pipeline construction, retention and recycling of water etc. This however takes more than a few speeches and a stroke of a pen, so time will tell if they are serious about fixing problems rather than adding layers of bandaids, thats political expedient.

The BJP is busy confusing itself – supporting these populist measures and a recent attack on FDI, somewhat antithetical to its reputation of a pro-business party.

And Congress feels really bad for itself for being such corrupt losers. They still haven’t named Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministeral candidate, despite the obvious and also because of the obvious.


Development, Anti-corruption activism and ‘Likes’ – What does the future hold?

An aggressive anti-corruption movement, the rise of a pro-development leader who inspires confidence- this is supposed to be an awesome period for India. Congress and corruption are finally going away and development and clean politics is coming. Every one should be all pumped up. India! India!..But is that really the case? These days one only sees people bickering over politics on the internet. My leader is better than yours – no you suck – no you suck more..
The pro-development guy, who once brought 24×7 electricity to every single village in his state, made the state a power surplus state, tried to stabilize/increase ground water levels in a semi-desert state by building 1,00,000 check dams and canals(well he tried and mostly succeeded..) and consistently showed astounding growth in both agriculture and industry now keeps on going from place to place, giving the same speech over and over again, bashing the ruling party and boring everyone to death. Meanwhile, his party is in the doldrums in most of the states in the south, east, north east and UP and is acting like an idiot in Delhi and making everyone loose confidence in him. Will he ever stop catering to the facebook whiners and start doing real stuff?
The other guy who championed the anti corruption movement and was supposed to rid India of all corruption has now become a populist who promises free water and cheap electricity to the people – just like the congress.  weren’t the free water and cheap electricity going to be a result of reduced corruption? what happened? why the need to give subsidized electricity and water to one of the richest city/state in the country and put the burden on taxpayers? Is it so important to please the media and generate likes on facebook that you forget your ideology and try to fulfill promises at the speed of light by hook or by crook? seriously dude, what are you on?
This is the price we pay when the people on the streets loose their voice and the internet using junta becomes the mouthpiece of the nation. maybe like 20% of the population is on the internet and the internet junta has a thirst for instant gratification, fulfill your promises right now, cater to our demands or we start crying on facebook..Sadly, the leaders of tomorrow are listening to these non-contributing zeroes..
With the elections six months away one can only  hope that the two leaders realize that it is time they stop pandering to whims and impulses of the internet idiots, stop being populist, stop the propaganda and start being awesome again – for the country..Jai Hind..
 - from a die hard supporter of both NM and Anna Hazare/AK
References :

GM CEO gives finger to country and peaces out

The CEO of GM, Dan Ackerman, yesterday claimed that the $10 billion loss to taxpayers from the bailout was in fact a success, and they would not be attempting to pay it back. And also he’s retiring, so goodluck. “We’ve been trying to fix this airplane while in the air”, he said. Too bad the private jets of the auto execs did not require in flight repair when they flew to Washington rattling their tin cans 5 years ago.

2008: Claiming that 3 million jobs would be lost in an automotive apocalypse (keep in mind GM employs only 77,000 Americans), GM, Ford and Crysler successfully rallied a public still seething over bailing out wallstreet instead of mainstreet. That is until their blatant apathy towards the worsening economic situation by arriving in private jets, reminded the public that years of selling stupid cars, poor planning and inefficiencies got them into this mess. Ford didn’t actually need anything, but showed up for some free money due to their concerns about competing automakers getting money. Honda, Toyota and Nissan stood by while Hyundai-Kia actually recorded strong growth.

GM eventually went bankrupt and sold its assets to the new-GM with the US government being a 60% owner coining the term “Government Motors” and using  $49.5 billion of tax-payer money. The $10 billion loss amounts to a $130k check they could have written to each of the workers, and underscores Obama’s penchant for picking losers (thanks Romney for making that so quotable).

The real story here is not the fact that Dan Ackerman is a dick, because thats his legal right and quite honestly I wouldn’t return any money either if i didn’t have to. Its that people wonder why we bail out wallstreet and not mainstreet. I will settle the matter right here – Its because wallstreet pays us back. Of all private companies bailed out, GM has lost the most amount of taxpayer money. Guess who’s 2nd with a $4 billion loss? Ally financial, or before the bailout GMAC (General Motors Acceptance Corporation).

And with the government at the helm, it was a guaranteed loss. Earlier this year, during the government shutdown, the administration said that the government could not distinguish between its liabilities in the event of a default- that is they had to pay bond holders and social security recipients the same. However, in its managing of the GM bailout, they had no problem requiring GM to fund 100% of pension liabilities and maintaining the highest labor cost in the auto industry (theirs is $56/hr where as the industry is $47/hr) to the benefit of their cronies the UAW, while bond holders got 10 cents on the dollar and shareholders got nothing; happily passing on their 2 biggest problems to the new GM.

In a unobstructed bankruptcy proceeding everyone would split the sales of assets and get share in the new company, hopefully  this time profitable and agile enough to be worth something. Its good for the new company and productive assets, workers and organization can be put to use, while shedding its former baggage. And well, sorry to the creditors, you bet on the wrong horse.

So thanks government for screwing up as usual.

And good for you Dick Ackerman for giving the government what they deserve…or in this case taking what they don’t deserve.


Big Pharma GSK to Stop Bribing Doctors out of Goodness of heart

GlaxoSmithKline, after pleading guilty to illegal promotion of drugs and with holding safety data in the US last year and accused of corruption in China this year, has out of the goodness of their hearts decided to stop bribing doctors.

This means that they will stop paying sales representatives based on how many prescriptions doctors give and stop giving doctors vacations conferences in Hawaii.

Completely unrelated to their new non-bribery stance, they were fined $3 billion, the largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the US last year. Specifically they were charged with the following: 1) Paxil, an potentially addictive anti-depressant for adults, was marketed to children as “non-habit forming” to which the WHO reported that it was one of most difficult anti-depressants to withdraw from. 2) Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant, was marketed as a weight-loss pill and  3) They willfully suppressed serious side-effects from Avandia, a diabetes drug.
Furthermore, despite GSKs good-will over the years, they have repeatedly been the target of government “do-gooders”:

2003 – Overcharging for medicaid, paying a penalty of $88 million and owing the IRS $7.8 billion – the largest in history.

2004 – 273 employees of GSK charged by the Italian government for with bribery amounting to 152 million pounds for promises of electronics, vacations and of course cash. Similar charges were made by the German government in 2002. At this time internal documents reported about about Paxil, “It would be commercially unacceptable to include a statement that efficacy [in children] had not been demonstrated, as this would undermine the profile of paroxetine.”

2010 – Criminal charges of $150 mil, and civil penaltys of $600 mil for adulterated products – lack of sterility, clean water supply, contaminated air, lack of dose control and also storage of inventory in warehouse vans due to lack of space. The FDA warning had only warned them in 2002 and after 3 years  in 2005, $2bil was finally seized – the largest in history

2012 – The $3bil largest in history case I mentioned earlier. They also agreed to for a 5 year period  suspend company executive bonuses  for misconduct *horror*.

So they learned their lesson and as you can see here many were the largest lessons in history. $3 billion is alot of money even compared to the $11.6, $5.9 and $10.4 billion of sales these drugs over the settlement period.

Apparently though US lessons are different from Chinese lessons, and the Chinese are now after them for allegedly bribing doctors, pharmacists and government officials to the tune of $500 million.

GSK is fully cooperating.


Walk a Mile in their Shoes

Ever since its inception, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or the ACA, or Obamacare, or whatever you want to call it) has been extremely controversial. Misinformation about the law’s content is rampant, and the rollout has been rocky. The ACA is a less than ideal solution to America’s broken healthcare system, but to those calling for its repeal, I have one thing to say: clearly you have never been uninsured. I work at a large inner-city hospital that primarily serves poor and uninsured patients.

Every day I see how lack of insurance puts people into a vicious cycle of declining health, which feeds into lost productivity, which then makes it even harder to afford medical care. Like the self-employed handyman who fell off a ladder and broke his wrist, but couldn’t afford the thousands of dollars needed to get it surgically repaired; his right hand is now stiff and painful, and he can no longer work because of it. Or the working single mother of three who has had a lung infection for weeks but can’t afford the antibiotics needed to treat it. Instead, she struggles to complete her work and home duties and transmits the infection to her children. Or even the man whose diabetes could have been caught early at a primary care appointment instead of in the ER when he arrived in a coma. This could all be prevented by better access to care, something which is easy to come by when you have health insurance.


The ACA also helps those who already have insurance by making sure that insurance companies do not price people out of care when they need it most. Like my 27-year-old friend who died of brain cancer because she hit the lifetime maximum on her insurance plan and the company stopped paying for her chemo. Before she died, however, her family went into financial ruin trying to keep paying for her treatments at $50,000 a pop. Or my professor with multiple sclerosis whose insurance, before the ACA, cost six times as much as mine because he actually needed insurance to pay for his medications and specialist appointments.


When I see people like this, who are struggling to get help for themselves but have the entire system against them, my natural human instinct is to want to help. I don’t mind paying an extra few hundred bucks a year if it means that I can help others safeguard everyone’s most important resource, good health. To those of you who don’t feel this way, I challenge you to try to navigate the healthcare system without insurance. See how much it costs to visit a doctor when you are paying out of pocket. Try to fill a prescription for Augmentin, a common antibiotic. Experience how frustrating it is to know what you need to do to get yourself feeling better, but to also know that this care is out of reach. Maybe then you will have some new perspective on why health insurance is
so important.



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