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Price fixing

by Susie

As a writer, I’ve been following this. They basically got together to fix prices to prevent Amazon from dominating the ebook market. As far as I can tell, they’re all breaking the law:

The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five publishers on Wednesday, claiming collusion over the pricing of e-books, Bloomberg reports.

Sources familiar with the matter tell Politico and Reuters that several of the publishers are expected to agree to a settlement in the case before the end of the week. There has been no indication, however, that Apple will strike a deal to avoid what could be a highly-publicized and costly court battle.

Federal officials had reportedly previously warned Apple and the publishers that a lawsuit was potentially forthcoming. The five publishers named in the suit are: Hachette SA, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster.

Under a traditional book selling model, publishers had previously sold books for half the cover price, allowing retailers to set their own store price. But around the time Apple introduced its first iPad in 2010, the company moved to an “agency” model, where publishers decide the book price and Apple takes a 30-percent cut. As part of that move, Apple also reportedly stipulated that publishers couldn’t let rival retailers like Amazon sell the same book for less, in effect making the agency model the new standard for much of the industry.

Justice Department lawyers say that Apple and the publishers violated federal antitrust laws by enacting their e-book plan. The publishers, meanwhile, deny they acted jointly to hike up the prices.

Americans expect a political ruling

by Susie
I’d say that the Roberts court has a serious credibility problem, since more Americans believe they will make a political ruling on the health care act than not. I believe that, too – I just don’t know which constituency they want to placate. They’ll either toss out the individual mandate, making the Tea Party and Mrs. Clarence Thomas very happy, or they’ll figure out a way to keep it, thus making insurance companies and their Wall Street backers very happy. So either way, it’s a win for them. Just maybe not so much for the rest of us:

More Americans think Supreme Court justices will be acting mainly on their partisan political views than on a neutral reading of the law when they decide the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Half of the public expects the justices to rule mainly based on their “partisan political views,” while fewer, 40 percent, expect their decisions to be rooted primarily “on the basis of the law.” The rest say both equally or do not have an opinion.

The court held a historic three days of oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last month, and its ruling probably will come just before the court adjourns at the end of June. The poll shows little enthusiasm for the Obama administration’s position that the law, passed by the Democratic Congress in 2010, should be upheld in full.

Only a quarter of Americans choose that as the desired outcome. Thirty-eight percent would like the entire law thrown out; 29 percent would like the court to strike the requirement that individuals obtain health insurance and to keep the rest of the law.

Only 39 percent of Americans support the health-care overhaul in general, the lowest percentage since the Post-ABC poll began asking the question.

The public’s perception of the court is closely tied to partisan and ideological leanings. Almost twice as many conservative Republicans think the court will decide on the basis of the law rather than politics, 58 to 33 percent. Liberal Democrats are more skeptical, saying by an equally wide margin that the court will put politics first.

Not to beat a dead horse, but back when Alito and Roberts were nominees, I was on a conference call with Harry Reid and Democratic abortion activist groups. I told them they were crazy to make the nomination fight about abortion. “Why pick the single most divisive issue, the one where the Republicans have an emotional activist base, when you can get more working people on your side by pointing out their consistently pro-corporate rulings?” I said then. (I really wish I wasn’t saying “told you” about this. I really do think those fights were winnable on those grounds, especially with Alito.)

Dopey the congressman

by Susie

I used to have a friend who sold malpractice insurance to doctors, and she said that as a group, they weren’t all that smart. This little town hall meeting in Michigan seems to bolster that argument as Rep. Dan Denishek, the Republican who replaced Dem Bart Stupak, proves he’s a really big dope:

Rep. Dan Benishek’s (R-MI) embrace of the Republican Party’s platform ran into stiff opposition at a town hall meeting in Saulte Sainte Marie, Michigan when at least a dozen constituents, many of them senior citizens, pushed back against Benishek’s claims on Medicare, Social Security, oil subsides and health care reform.

Benishek couldn’t even get through his opening remarks before attendees began criticizing his support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed budget that would increase the cost of health care for seniors by providing “premium support” vouchers to eligible senior citizens.

“If you have a better idea as how to keep Medicare sustainable over the long term, I’d be happy to hear it,” offered Benishek.

I love that he said that. That’s the “killer” conversation stopper the GOP passes around in their daily talking points, assuming that all voters are as dumb as they are. Ha, ha!

He may have regretted those words after the event, because for half an hour, Benishek fielded several suggestions on how to increase funding for Medicare, ranging from ending oil subsidies to increasing taxes on the wealthiest two percent, suggestions that Benishek summarily dismissed.

Benishek also displayed a shocking lack of self-awareness about his level of knowledge of some key facts. “There are no government subsidies for oil,” he told one woman who suggested ending the very real subsidies given to oil corporations to help defray the cost of Medicare.

At one point, the discussion turned to health care reform. Benishek, who served as a medical doctor before he was elected to Congress in 2010, was thrust onto the national stage after his predecessor Bart Stupak cast the deciding vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. He told the audience that the United States has the best health care system in the world, before he was literally laughed at by several attendees.

“We have the highest life spans in the world,” argued Benishek. Several women in the audience quickly pointed out that in fact, many countries with universal health care place higher than the United States in terms of life expectancy, including Canada, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. The United States ranks 50th, just behind South Korea and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” said Benishek.

“How can you not know that, you’re a medical doctor?” one woman replied.

Because like most conservatives, he doesn’t believe it’s true unless he experiences it himself. And since he’s alive and has great government health care, what’s the problem?

Gotta love them GOPers. This guy’s about as smart as a can of paint.

Driving up oil prices

Imagine that. Maybe someone should do something?

There are growing indications that Wall Street speculators are driving up the price of crude and Americans are paying for their profits at the pump.

“Americans overpaid $10 billion dollars for gas at the pump in the last month alone,” said Gene Guilford, president of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association, speaking at a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing  held on April 4. Guilford estimated that speculation is adding roughly 75 cents per gallon of gas.

The high price of gas is not simply due to supply and demand mechanisms, but insteadperceived supply and demand. Currently, a majority of oil trades are made by Wall Street speculators rather than commercial end users of oil. There is increasing evidence that these traders are having a powerful influence on the price of petroleum.


CJR talks to two experts on problems with Freedom of Information Act requests:

It’s hard to figure out how to say this, but it often feels like the way that the Obama administration is handling FOIA requests is worse than the Bush administration. And it’s hard to know if that’s because we were so excited by Obama’s and Holder’s statements on transparency at the beginning of the administration—then it was business as usual. In my opinion, there definitely hasn’t been any change. It hasn’t gotten any better. The Obama administration has held on to a lot of the justifications that the Bush administration used to withhold records. The agencies are still applying the exemptions pretty liberally to try to withhold as much information as they can.


By Susie
Just last week, Hidden City Philadelphia warned that this property in East Kensington was in danger of being burned down.

On Monday, a massive fire at the property claimed the lives of two firefighters.

Learn the rest of this sorry story here.


So the good news is, not being able to afford dental care has an upside!

A study published Tuesday in the American Cancer Society journal Cancer reported a link between certain kinds of dental X-rays and the most common brain tumor, one that is almost always benign but can still be debilitating.

The study found at a general level that people with meningioma were more than twice as likely as people without the brain tumor to have had a bitewing X-ray sometime in their life. For a bitewing X-ray, the patient holds the film in place by biting down on a tab.

The exposures to dental X-rays in the study took place in the 1960s, when dental X-rays delivered higher doses of radiation than today’s do. The study compared the self-reported dental X-ray histories of 1,433 adults who had been diagnosed with the tumor with 1,350 who had not.

The study also found an association between the less commonly used panorex X-rays, which are taken outside the mouth and deliver a panoramic view of the full set of top and bottom teeth, and meningioma risk.

People who reported having had a panorex exam before they turned 10 were 4.9 times as likely to develop meningioma as those who had them at any other time, and those who had had them most frequently (but not necessarily at that young age) were about three times as likely to do so as those who had never had a panorex exam.

‘Paternalistic entitlement society’

As part of his strict fitness regime, exercise fanatic Chris Christie does pushups on the Wailing Wall.

I think Gov. Christie is hoping to become Mittens’ VP, but that would require national amnesia and more than just verbal energy on his part.

NEW YORK — Gov. Chris Christie said the country is becoming a “paternalistic entitlement society” this morning in a speech at a conservative conference headed by former President George W. Bush.

Just in case you didn’t know, Chris Christie was a Wall St. lobbyist with zippo prosecution experience who rather coincidentally, became the U.S. Attorney in N.J. only after he, his wife and brother bundled together a large cash contribution to George Bush. I’d euphemistically say he shot to the top of the appointee list, but he wasn’t even on the list until he coughed up the cash. Why, some people even say he bought the position! One might infer a certain sense of entitlement there — but then, that’s why Carl Jung was a genius.

Addressing Bush and other national Republicans, Christie said he hasn’t seen a less optimistic period in the country in his lifetime.

“Government’s telling them stop dreaming, stop striving, we’ll take care of you,” he said at a theater at the New York Historical Society. “We’re turning into a paternalistic entitlement society. That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally.”

I wonder if giving fat government contracts to your friends will bankrupt them morally? Nah! Not in Bizarro Republican World! And I’m sure it had nothing to do with your brother not being prosecuted, either.

“We’ll have a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check,” Christie said.

More friends of yours, Governor? And from what I hear, you’re the one who’s sitting on a couch – or being driven in a limo, because you can’t walk to your kid’s ball field. (And let’s not forget, taking helicopter rides to meet with Republican donors!)

And Governor, there would be a lot fewer New Jerseyans sitting on the couch if you hadn’t been posturing and preening over turning down a train tunnel project that would have relieved a lot of congestion. Turns out your reasons were, like so much else about you, all bluster.

Christie and Bush kicked off a day-long conference on pro-growth tax policy run by the President George W. Bush Institute, a group that Bush said allows him to engage in public policy issues behind the scenes.

Speakers throughout the day include Steve Forbes, Congressman Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and several governors. In addition to Bush, Henry Kissinger was in the audience for Christie’s 30-minute speech.

Steve Forbes, who worked hard for every cent he has by selecting Very Lucky DNA; Lyin’ Paul Ryan, who only passes as a Republican intellectual in Beltway circles because in the valley of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; Karl Rove, war criminal; and Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Prize-winning war criminal. Yes, these are the role models to which more Americans should aspire — at least, in the World According To Chris.

Worst farm bill ever

If only someone would do something!

I’m alright

by Susie

Kim Richey live:

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