This Better Not Be True

Whispers of Surrender in Afghanistan?

It comes to our attention that the MEMRI Blog highlights an article from the Saudi al-Watan in Arabic that – according to an Afghan source – the United States is talking to the Taliban seeking to trade control of 5 provinces in exchange for the cessation of attacks on US bases. MEMRI summarizes:

An Afghan source in Kabul reports that U.S. Ambassador in Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry is holding secret talks with Taliban elements headed by the movement’s foreign minister, Ahmad Mutawakil, at a secret location in Kabul. According to the source, the U.S. has offered the Taliban control of the Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan, Kunar and Nuristan provinces in return for a halt to the Taliban missile attacks on U.S. bases.

Kunar province borders the Khyber Pass region where the majority of US and NATO supplies pass enroute from Pakistan. And the remaining four provinces constitute fully the southern 25% of Afghanistan’s territory.

This, if true, is a disturbing development.

See also:
Afghan Source: The U.S. Has Offered the Taliban Control in Return for Quiet
Taliban at the table
US Recognition of Taliban Rule in Return for Ceasefire Against US Forces
US-Taliban talks?
More talk of Taliban talks
US in back-channel talks with Afghan Taliban
In Afghanistan, A Plan To Woo The Taliban

Well, this could certainly explain why Obama keeps blowing off the decision on more U.S. troops for Afghanistan.

/if this turns out to be true and Obama is running his underwear up the flagpole and surrendering to the Taliban, it’s beyond disturbing, it’s absolutely disgusting

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Weekly Watch List

NEU
PCLN
MELI
BUCY
BIDU
GMCR
SIRO
ASIA
ISRG
ATW
SHOO
BVN
BWY
GES
BCSI
PWRD

Additions:
None

Subtractions:
CERN
GOOG
VRX

Last week all the indexes, except for the Dow, were down. This negative action tacked on even for distribution days and pushed the IBD outlook over to “uptrend under pressure”. Stay defensive for the time being.

Once again this week, no watch list stocks are in a proper buy range.

/as usual, your mileage may vary, always do your own homework

One Step Closer To Socialized Medicine

Health Care Bill Moves Forward

Sweeping health care legislation has cleared its first hurdle in the full Senate on a party-line vote.

The 60-39 vote clears the way for a historic debate after Thanksgiving on the legislation. The measure is designed to extend coverage to an estimated 31 million Americans who lack it and crack down on insurance industry practices that deny benefits.

The White House released a statement saying, “The President is gratified that the Senate has acted to begin consideration of health insurance reform legislation. Tonight’s historic vote brings us one step closer to ending insurance company abuses, reining in spiraling health care costs, providing stability and security to those with health insurance, and extending quality health coverage to those who lack it. The President looks forward to a thorough and productive debate.”

The rare Saturday session amounted to a first round in the fight to pass the bill in the full Senate, with the remaining Democratic holdouts announcing they would support at least the measure to open debate on the bill, avoiding an early knockout by Republicans.

Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana waited until Saturday to say they would vote yes for a floor debate. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska announced Friday his support for moving the bill forward.

All three cautioned that their votes to start debate should not be construed a support for the bill in its current form.

“It is a vote to move forward to continue the good and essential and important and imperative work that is under way,” Landrieu said on the Senate floor. “I’ve decided that there’s enough significant reforms and safeguards in this bill to move forward but more work needs to be done.”

Lincoln said she still would support a filibuster if the so-called “public option,” a government-run insurance plan, remains in the health care bill.

“I along with others expect to have legitimate opportunities to influence the health care reform legislation that is voted on by the Senate later this year or early next year,” she said.

While the vote is only a procedural one, Republicans haven’t backed down.

“This is a vote about whether or not you want to fundamentally change the way health care is delivered in this country in a way which massively expands the size of government, the role of government and significantly increases the tax burden, especially for small businesses and cuts Medicare by a dramatic amount of money,” Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., told Fox News before Saturday’s session began.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill “monstrous” and, citing the Congressional Budget Office, said it would not bring down costs.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, now Harry Reid’s passing out taxpayer funded bribes to jam this health care travesty through.

Sen. Landrieu flaunts purchased vote: “It’s not $100 million; it’s $300 million!”

Facing fallout from an apparent sale of her health care vote to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Democratic Caucus, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) took a shocking approach in response to the payoff allegations: she flaunted it!

To help secure her vote, Reid included a provision in the bill sought by Landrieu to provide increased Medicaid funds for states recovering from major disasters such as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. When the bill is closely examined, however, the provision provides immense financial support for only one state: Landrieu’s Louisiana.

Landrieu defended the inclusion of the provision and said Republican critics who accuse her of selling her vote for $100 million are wrong and that she has the support of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Then, in a statement sure to be repeated by Republicans endlessly over the coming weeks of Senate health care debate, the senator flaunted the inclusion of the provision. “I will correct something. It’s not $100 million, it’s $300 million, and I’m proud of it and will keep fighting for it,” Landrieu told reporters after her floor speech. “But that is not why I started this health care debate; I started this health care debate for all the reasons I just mentioned in my statement” on the floor.

The apparent purchase of the senator’s vote is already garnering significant response from Republicans as well as taxpayers footing the bill for this provision. The nickname for the provision? “The Louisiana Purchase.”

Unreal, this is just out of control. Never in U.S. legislative history have so many been screwed by so few, at such a high cost.

See also:
Historic health care bill clears Senate hurdle
Senate Health Care Reform Bill Vote, 60-39 Brings Reform Bill to the Floor
Healthcare bill advances in Senate, in 60-39 vote; it got ‘failing grade’ from healthcare experts
Biden says Senate handed Obama a big victory
Senator Corker Reacts to Senate Health Care Vote
Senate moves health care bill forward for debate
FACTBOX: Details of Senate healthcare reform bill
Landrieu votes in favor of health care debate
GOP hits Landrieu for $100 million ‘new Louisiana Purchase’
Thanks to100 million dollar bribe, Healthcare reform cloture passes Senate!

/trillions of taxpayer dollars, added to the national debt, so we can all pay more, to wait longer, for less health care, whee!

Watch Out For Black Holes!

Large Hadron Collider in process of restarting

Scientists are in the process of restarting a giant particle collider built to reproduce the conditions of the big bang, Europe’s CERN physics research center said Friday.

After a year’s delay, the scientists hope to have beams of protons circulating all the way through the Large Hadron Collider’s 17-mile-wide (27-kilometer-wide) underground ring in both directions by early Saturday, and then accelerate them this weekend, CERN spokesman James Gillies said.

“At the moment they’re putting beams down in the Large Hadron Collider, and as the night goes on they’ll take the beams through and start circulating them,” he told Reuters. CERN reported that beams were fully circulating in the clockwise direction, and that preparations were being made to send beams counterclockwise as well.

The experiment will not be properly under way until January when the LHC is operating at a higher level, Gillies said.

Technical problems forced CERN to shut down the $10 billion collider just nine days after it was started for the first time in September 2008.

The problem was a faulty splice in the super-conducting cable connecting two cooling magnets in the underground ring, which smashes particles at a temperature of just above absolute zero to re-create conditions believed to exist at the start of the universe 13.7 billion years ago.

As the particles smash into each other at nearly the speed of light — once the collider is operating at full throttle, which will take several weeks — they will explode in a burst of energy which scientists will monitor for new or previously unseen particles which they predict could help explain the nature of mass and the origins of the universe.

CERN said last year’s accident never posed any danger. The Geneva-based institution has had to rebuff suggestions that the experiment would create millions of black holes that would suck in the Earth.

See also:
Large Hadron Collider fully armed and operational
Large Hadron Collider fires up after $40M repairs
Proton Beams Are on Track at Collider
Large Hadron Collider restarts after 14 months of repairs
Beam sent around Large Hadron Collider
In pictures: Cern Large Hadron Collider restarts
Large Hadron Collider ready to restart
Science: Large Hadron Collider ready to restart
The Large Hadron Collider
Large Hadron Collider
Higgs boson
Saw This In a Movie Once, Pretty Sure It’ll Work

Okay, so the object of this exercise is to produce a particle collision with enough energy to produce previously theoretical sub-particles, most notably the infamous Higgs boson. Now, my question is, if these sub-particles are, by definition, smaller than anything currently known to man, capable of moving through mass unimpeded, what’s going to contain them as they fly off at the speed of light?

/pardon me if I don’t volunteer to stand next to this thing while it’s operating

Does Not Compute

Obama warns on US public debt pile

US President Barack Obama warned that the US economy could head into a “double-dip recession” unless urgent steps were taken to rein in mounting public debt.

The US president’s remarks – in an interview with Fox News in Beijing on Wednesday, towards the end of his eight-day tour of Asia – marked his strongest language yet on the necessity of putting public finances back on a sound footing.

It is important though to recognise if we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery, that at some point, people could lose confidence in the US economy in a double-dip recession,” said Mr Obama.

See also:
UPDATE 1-Obama: Too much debt could fuel double-dip recession
Obama warns on US public debt pile
Obama harbours fear of ‘double-dip recession’
Obama warns of debt-inspired double-dip recession
First Roubini, Now Obama Warns of “Double-Dip” Recession
Obama Warns Of ‘Double-Dip Recession’; Says Afghan Decision Is Weeks Away
President Obama cautions against double-dip recession

Excuse me, now Obama is suddenly concerned about our national debt? Is this the same Obama that makes George Bush look like a piker when it comes to deficit spending, the same Obama that quadrupled the annual U.S. budget deficits and has the U.S. national debt on track to double to $20 trillion in less than ten years?

/there’s some serious cognitive dissonance happening here

And In The Senate Corner . . . Weighing In At 2074 Pages . . . The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

From behind the closed doors of Harry Reid’s office, submitted for your perusal . . .

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Put on your hip waders, this jabberwocky assault on American health care is longer than the first four Harry Potter books combined, only without the magic or entertainment value.

Senate Health Bill Is Outlined by Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid outlined for Democrats Wednesday a ten-year $849 billion bill that would overhaul the nation’s health-care system and extend insurance to 31 million Americans without coverage.

The legislation represents the Nevada Democrat’s first attempt to build consensus among Senate Democratic liberals and centrists, as well as the two independents allied with the party.

A senior Senate Democratic leadership aide said the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill, after it is implemented, would ensure that 94% of those living in the U.S., not counting unauthorized immigrants, have insurance coverage. CBO has previously estimated that about 83% of Americans now have insurance.

The aide said the CBO estimated that the Senate measure would reduce the federal budget deficit by $127 billion over the next decade, and by $650 billion over the second ten years of the program. In part, the bill achieves that reduction through new taxes on Medicare and high-value insurance plans.

The 10-year price tag comes in below the $900 billion limit set by the White House and below the $1.055 trillion cost of the health-overhaul passed by the House earlier this month.

The $849 billion figure and the prospect of deficit reduction cheered Democrats. But the figures aren’t likely to win over Republicans, who say the bill adds costly new benefits for some Americans when the federal budget deficit is reaching new heights.

“We’re going to do everything we can to defeat this monstrosity,” said Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.).

Among other things, the Senate legislation would create a new government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurers, while allowing states the option not to participate. That is a nod to centrists worried about the federal government’s growing footprint in the private sector.

The bill would also create government subsidies to help individuals and families comply with a mandate to buy insurance, and would sharply expand Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor.

Mr. Reid’s decision to unveil a bill sets the stage for a pivotal vote, perhaps Friday or Saturday, that will determine whether the Senate can formally open debate on the bill. Mr. Reid, who met Wednesday with Vice President Joseph Biden, has voiced optimism that he can secure the votes needed to overcome Republican opposition and move to the debate. But with the outcome uncertain, the coming vote looms large as the first of several over the next month that will test Mr. Reid’s ability to hold together liberals and centrists.

See also:
Senate Democrats introduce $849 billion healthcare reform bill
Reid Unveils Senate Healthcare Bill
Senate Democrats’ Health Care Bill Will Cost $849 Billion
Senate’s health care bill cost: $849 billion
Senate health bottom line: $849 billion overhaul
Senate healthcare bill hits Obama cost target
Reid bill would cost $849B, expand coverage to 31 million people, aide says
Senate Health Plan Seeks to Add Coverage to 31 Million
$849 billion health bill sets up historic debate
Johnson, Thune On Senate Health Care Reform
New Senate Healthcare Reform Bill Features Public Option With Opt-Out
US Senate health plan includes public option-senator
Senate Health Care Bill: $370+ Billion Tax Hike
2,074-page health bill includes surgery, payroll tax hike
Stupak Abortion Measure Stopped…for the Moment
Senate Democrats backing down on tough anti-abortion measure
Senator: Pro-Life Side Lacks Votes to Stop Abortion Funding in Health Care
Stupak: I have votes to defeat health bill
DeGette says Stupak won’t have the votes to keep his amendment
Senate, House Democratic health bills compared
In The House Corner . . . Weighing In At 1990 Pages . . . The Affordable Health Care For America Act

/here we go, pass the popcorn

Pardon Me While I Cringe

Just in case you ever wondered why Apple has always enjoyed that “cool kid” aura compared to Microsoft, well, here’s why.

Microsoft employees assault customers (with a dance)

Spontaneity doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Neither is it welcomed by everyone.

So please imagine how those who visited the new Microsoft store in Mission Viejo, Calif., a few days back must have felt when store employees suddenly decided to drop their trousers, wave their Zunes in the air, and sing a couple of Maria Callas’ greatest hits.

No, it really wasn’t quite like that. However, I feel sure that one or two people might have preferred the trouser-dropping and Zune-waving over the spectacle that actually occurred.

As the Black Eyed Peas were forced to propel some of their entirely commercial stimulation down the sound system, the employees performed their own version of the line dance for the one-legged. Because I am consumer-focused at every moment of my waking day, I found myself concentrating more on the reactions of the customers than on the techniques Spike Jonze might have used to make this an MTV VMA winner.

As the employees line up for this troubling, tourettesy Texas One-Step, one already feels a strange squeezing sensation on behalf of some of the customers.

Around the 1.15 mark, a little girl, her hair ponytailed with a yellow scrunchy, makes as if her vicinity has not been invaded by dancing, clapping, or stray employee sweat. She sits. She stares into her screen. The adults make fools of themselves.

Yes, this is the Microsoft store version of “The Ice Storm.”

Two minutes of constricting visual constipation are temporarily saved by three ladies who rush in from the mall to join in. These women, their purses held in place by a determined gravity, begin to show the employees just why Fergie’s tunes are precursors to a fiery personal life.

Look, I’m lying. But they are definitely better than the tall, blond string bean of a chap whose twisted movements are rather too similar those of certain people who bought Vista and couldn’t make it work.

I want to like this microcosmic flash mob of dance. I really do. However, once the balding chap holding the Brookstone bag joins the shifting knee-lifting, I find myself searching again for the little ponytailed girl staring into a very fine PC. She has not turned her neck one degree to observe these escapees from reality. She seems to have decided that this is not Miley Cyrus, this is not even Cyrus Vance, ergo this is not happening.

But it did happen, spontaneously, in Mission Viejo. That’s the place where the mission is old, right?

See also:
Hey, Microsoft: Please Stop Trying So Hard
Microsoft Dances Its Way Into Shoppers’ Hearts
Lines Of Code? No, Line Dancing, Microsoft Style
I never want to visit a Microsoft Store after seeing this
Microsoft Reduces Store Employees to Dancing Fools
Microsoft Store Employees Cruelly Forced To Dance For The Internet
Microsoft Retail Store Employees Break Out Into Dance And It’s Really Creepy

Of course, this latest Microsoft dancing debacle doesn’t hold a creepiness candle to the all time cringe classic.

/pass the knitting needles, my eyes and ears hurt