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I'm in limbo, I'm in a Catch22, I'm in no-man's land (and I've got lots of company) and all I want to do is buy health insurance. Healthcare.gov is a nightmare that never ends.

And no one will help me. I called their help number 1-800-318-2596 and they said sorry, there's nothing we can do at this time, we'll report your problems to the website.

No wonder people are so angry.

To get insurance, to even see the plans in detail with exact pricing for your age and location, you have to become a member first. Lots of luck with that.

When I finally got on the site--it's constantly going down--I followed instructions and filled  out the application. The last step is that they send you an e-mail with a link to confirm your e-mail address.

That link took me two days to get through. It was down, baby, down. Yes, someone suggested clearing my browser cache. It didn't help.

I finally get through and follow all the steps. It says your application is complete, check your eligibility (not for a subsidy or tax credit which I don't qualify for, but just eligibility to buy a plan or even look at the plans being offered.)

I check my eligibility and it says I qualify but I need to answer a few more questions. But it won't direct me to where to find those questions. I go back and review all the information I've given them. It's complete. But somehow, somewhere, there are more questions I need to answer.

I call the phone number 1-800-318-2596. They say sorry, we can't help you complete your membership. Sorry, we can't tell you about the plans or sign you up without you having a membership. Sorry, you can't cancel your application so you can start over and get a new membership. All they said that they would do is notify the website of the  problems--of course it's been down most of the day today, so I can't even go back to try again to fix things.

So I'm in limbo and they told me on the phone that many people are having similar problems.

It's infuriating. This is why people are so angry. It's not Fox News and it's not the republicans that are getting people so riled up. It's experiences like mine that are getting people so pissed.

Unfortunately, this just reinforces everything the rightwing says about government messing everything up. Obama says that the ACA itself is fine. But I and millions of others can't get through to determine if that's true.

I keep trying to get through to the website. It keeps going down.

We Democrats downplay the seriousness of this at our own peril.

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The latest bombshell revelations from Edward Snowden's leaked documents show that the NSA bugged, spied on and even cyberattacked European Union institution offices allowing them to "access discussions in EU rooms as well as emails and internal documents on computers" claims Der Spiegel based on a "top secret" document  obtained by Snowden and seen by Spiegel.

The NSA, reports Spiegel, planted bugs in EU Washington, DC offices and infiltrated the EU representation's computer network.

Spiegel also reports that the NSA cyberattacked the Justus Lipsius Building in Brussells where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council is located.

These are potentially explosive revelations.

UPDATE: Strong EU reactions to these latest revelations are coming fast and furious. According to Reuters:

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said that if the report was correct, it would have a "severe impact" on relations between the EU and the United States.

"On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the U.S. authorities with regard to these allegations," he said in an emailed statement.

UPDATE: It's now reported that the top secret documents seen by Der Spiegel also reveal massive US spying in Germany, the most in any EU country, to the tune of a half-billion phone calls, emails and text messages a month monitored by the NSA.

The US classifies Germany as a "third class" partner and says "We can attack the signals of most foreign third-class partners, and we do it, too."

This is a level of spying that the Stasi secret police could only dream of back in the day.

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The NRA claims that the way to prevent gun violence in schools is to arm teachers, but a recent incident at an Indiana school in which a teacher has a reported "meltdown" and writes the following on the chalk board is a frightening indication of why this is a very bad idea:

                                           A) You are idiots!!!!!!!!
                                           B) The guns are loaded!!!
                                           C) Care to try me ?????????
Would you want this teacher authorized to carry a gun to prevent gun violence in the schools?

I can think of three or four teachers from my k-12 education who would sometimes have "meltdowns" and rage out of control. Thank god they weren't armed.

                                                               

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The good news is that according to the latest PPP Poll,, voters in Illinois support same-sex marriage in the state by a margin of 47% to 42%. But that's only because of the overwhelming support same-sex marriage gets from Black and Latino voters. (The majority of white voters oppose marriage equality by a margin of 51% to 40%.)

By 60% to 16%, Black voters approve the legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois. By a whopping 70% to 23% Latino voters in Illinois support same-sex marriage. Note that both groups support marriage equality by more than 3 to 1 margins. Compare and contrast that to white voters 40% support vs. 51% opposition to marriage equality.

These findings explode conservative right-wing myths about minority voters.

With 70% approval of same-sex marriage in Illinois, Latino voters are at the forefront in support for LGBT rights. (And these findings are born out nationwide, with 2012 election exit polls showing 59% of Latino voters in favor of legalization of same-sex marriage (compared to 48% of all voters supporting legalization)

So much for the conservative republican meme that Latinos are cultural conservatives who are ill at ease with liberal Democratic stands on social issues and therefore easy pickings for republicans if they would only talk nice to them and ease up a bit on immigration reform.  (And this same poll shows that Latino voters in Illinois give Obama an 84% job approval rating--remember back in 2008 when republicans maintained that Latinos would never support a Black president?)

And with Black support of marriage equality at 60% in Illinois (And at 52% nationwide according to 2012 election exit polls), it shows that republican attempts to play Black and LGBT voters against each other in an attempt to weaken the Democratic coalition have failed.

The Democrats have put together a winning coalition that is cohesive, mutually supportive, and culturally liberal, with much of that cultural liberalism coming from minority voters.

Republicans just don't get that, and all their attempts to appeal to what they fantasize to be a pervasive cultural conservatism among minorities (that doesn't in reality exist--kinda like having a conversation with an empty chair) are doomed to failure.  

 

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According to the latest Pew Research Center Poll, the viewing public rated Clint Eastwood's rambling rant to an empty chair as the highlight of the RNC, beating out Romney's acceptance speech by 3 percentage points and Paul Ryan's speech by 11 percentage points.

Yes, you heard it right. Romney lost to an empty chair.

What does it say when this is the highlight of your convention?

In an "open-ended question based on those who watched at least a little convention coverage," 20% rated Eastwood's speech the highlight of the convention compared to 17% for Romney's acceptance speech. 10% chose Ann Romney's speech and 9% Paul Ryan's speech.

Among Republicans, Romney did slightly better, beating out Eastwood by 26% to 17%. Among Democrats, a plurality, 40%, said there was no highlight.

 

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According to Scott Gold of the Los Angeles Times, struggling hip-hop artist Adair Lion had run through the money his grandmother had lent him (a big chunk of her savings) to help establish his career (making pro-grade videos, recording costs and traveling to gigs for exposure don't come cheap these days), and yet his career had failed to take off. He was tired and ready to pack it in.

But then some of his songs started to gain traction, especially "Ben" his "Gay is OK" song calling for acceptance of gays in which he raps:

The Bible was wrong this time...Gay is OK--the No.1 thing a rapper shouldn't say. I said it anyway
And instead of committing career suicide with his pro-gay song, as some of his friends had warned him, he reinvigorated it, says Gold.
Then "Ben" helped put him on the radar — what would have been career suicide not long ago effectively saved his career.
This just shows how rapidly the rap, hip-hop world is changing in its attitude toward gays. Gold quotes rapper Murs who credits President Obama's announcing his support of same-sex marriage and the subsequent enthusiastic support of rapper Jay-Z as a one-two punch helping transform attitudes.

And then, of course, there's Frank Ocean's recent (and very successful) release of his new album, "Channel Orange" in which he sings about his love for another man, and the subsequent outpouring of support from a number of prominent hip-hop artists, including Jay-Z.

It's beginning to look like pro-gay rap songs are a smart business move these days.

As they say, the times they are a changing--and fast.

                                                     "Ben"

 

Discuss

Politico Reporter David Catanese has now been removed from covering Todd Akin as a result of a series of tweets in which he defended Todd Akin, causing a firestorm of controversy and offending even many of his colleagues at Politico.

(Catanese has not, however, been fired, as Joe Williams had been after making comments about Mitt Romney being "very comfortable" around white people--nor has Catanese been temporarily suspended.)

In a memo , John Harris and Executive Editor Jim VandeHei state:

From: John Harris Subject: Twitter
We have had newsroom conversations about the importance of good judgment on social platforms like Twitter and the perils of letting that slip.

 Unfortunately, today offered a good example. David Catanese crossed a line a reporter shouldn't cross on Twitter when he seemed to weigh in on the merits of Todd Akin's comments -- especially in a way many people, including many POLITICO colleagues, understandably found offensive.

 Dave's tweets on Akin created a distraction to his own work, and to the newsroom as a whole. They also made himself part of the story, requiring us for now to remove him from Akin coverage.

 Today's episode is a reminder that we need to be paying more attention to the ongoing issue of the right way for POLITICO journalists to be using social media. We have raised this issue before, and if you have questions about how this applies to your own work please speak with your direct editor.

 John
 Jim

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Oh, boo hoo. But lucky for poor Todd Akin who's being called just awful names, he has yet another flat-footed "journalist" coming to his defense (to defend the indefensible).

And in a Daily Beast article, here's David Frum's reasoning of why Akin is being so unfairly called a moron:

Akin's view of abortion—no exception for rape, incest, and life of the mother—is not his belief alone. It is also the view of Rick Santorum, the second-place finisher in the 2012 Republican nomination contest. On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, it became the position of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. It is the stance of Ken Connor, former president of the Family Research Council. Plainly, it is the position of a significant faction within the pro-life movement.
So, gee, if Rick Santorum and Rick Perry and a significant faction within the pro-life movement agree with you, then you can't be a moron.

Frum goes on to explain that since these views derive from "first principles"--the belief that life begins at conception--then they cannot be "stupid" since they are very tightly woven logical outcomes from these "first principles."

He asks, How can a doctor know if a woman coming to him for an abortion has truly been raped? (the justice system being so pokey, it's unlikely there'll be a ruling in time), so again it is logical to deny all women abortions if you believe life begins at conception.

And since you have reached these conclusions through logic, they can't be stupid and you can't be a moron.

Got that? Nothing derived logically from first principles can be stupid. (But what if your first principle is ,say, that all gays should be put to death?) Well, as long as you are logical about it, it may be shocking according to this reasoning, but it isn't stupid. (And no one dare call you a moron.)

But what's most astounding about Frum's defense of Akin and why we dare not call him a moron, is that nowhere does it address the fact that the main reason people are calling Akin a moron is because he stated that women who are "legitimately" raped don't get pregnant, that their system shuts down to prevent it.

What first principles does that belief derive from, David Frum? By what logic do you defend that? But Frum's way of dealing with it is just to be obtuse. (But we dare not call Akin a moron, nonetheless--why it's just not fair!)

To accuse Frum of sophistry would actually be too kind, too complimentary. It would be an upgrade from what he is actually doing.

What he's doing is moronic.

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It's not everday that a 92 year-old WWII veteran and former North Dakota District Judge becomes a YouTube sensation and goes viral but that's what's happened to Ralph Maxwell thanks to his stand-up performance of his poem that he admits is "sort of derogatory of the republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney" (and that's an understatement).

 

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Is it possible to defend the indefensible? Erik Wemple in The Washington Post reports that Politico reporter Dave Catanese has attempted to do just that, in several tweets:

Ok, I'm gonna (ask for it) & defend @toddakin for argument's sake.We all know what he was trying to say . . .

— davecatanese (@davecatanese) August 20, 2012
Then this:

Poor phrasing, but if you watch the intv @toddakin meant to convey that there's less chance of getting pregnant if raped.

— davecatanese (@davecatanese) August 20, 2012

Why would a reporter do this? Why would a reporter attempt to aid Akin and defend the indefensible and bring on a flood of angry tweets in response?

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post speculates:  "Catanese’s open-air riffing appears to stem from a sense that everything in the political realm welcomes a point-counterpoint exchange. That perhaps some more expertly chosen words would resolve this mess."

But not in this case, Wemple rightly concludes.

That a reporter would even attempt to, in effect, perform PR work for Akin is a new low for Politico.

They should be ashamed.

 

Discuss

According to Reuters, researchers in Spain used a huge archive known as the Million Song Dataset, which breaks down audio and lyrical content into data that can be crunched (with the use of complex algorithms), to study pop songs from 1955 to 2010 and found that pop music has indeed become progressively blander, louder and more homogenized.

The study was done by a team led by artificial intelligence specialist Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council.

"We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse," Serra told Reuters. "In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations - roughly speaking chords plus melodies - has consistently diminished in the last 50 years."
According to Reuters they found that the timbre palette has also become poorer and that intrinsic loudness has also increased (which can make a song sound louder than others played at the same volume level, leading to a kind of cold-war type loudness escalation)

Hank Campbell at SCIENCE 2.0  explains that engineers have been making the music louder because it makes it sound newer and that the effect is achieved through dynamic range compression.

I once asked an old recording engineer why some older music (Toto, Asia) still sounded new (assified, but new) while other songs of the period sounded like they were being played through a tube, and he said it was all dynamic range compression.  Engineers discovered music was much 'hotter' the more it was compressed so it went from being a benefit, like in placing a maximum sound level so distortion does not happen or to give an instrument some sustain, to overused for effect and it leaves all the sound flat and just really, really loud.
.

For me this report is timely, for just last weekend I watched a cable channel countdown of the week's top music videos and thought I was listening to elevator music, and thought about how poorly it compared to the top-forty stations I grew up with. Every song sounded the same and every song was so bland and boring.

 (Oh how I miss WLS of that era when you would hear a Rolling Stones rock tune, followed by a motown tune, followed by the Monkees, followed by an Elvis Presley ballad, followed by a Joan Baez folksong...)

But then I thought, oh man, Williston, you're beginning to sound just like your parents when they complained about the music you listened to.

Have I become a grouchy out-of-it old geezer who just doesn't "get it" (whatever that "it" may be) wanting to cling to the past, I asked myself?

Thank god science, through the use of complex algorithms (what could be more hip and modern than that) has proven that I was not just imagining things, that I was right, and that I might just have a few more years before settling down into hard-core geezerdom.

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In this era of Homeland Security, when using the wrong word in an e-mail can get you picked up by a "sniffer," when checking out the wrong book at the library can get you investigated, How in hell can you buy six thousand rounds of ammunition and not get noticed?

It's no secret that we have given up too many of our freedoms and too much of our privacy in the so-called war on terror (Have I been picked up by a "sniffer" for using these words? Will I be investigated?)

Way too many of our phone records are being turned over, way too many of our e-mails are being monitored.

Yet you would think that the most obvious thing that would be monitored in looking for terrorists would be sales of weapons and sales of ammunition.

How can someone buy six thousand rounds of ammuntion and not get noticed?

Apparently they're too busy monitoring our DailyKos comments to bother.

This is kind of scary.

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