Proud to be a War Criminal

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The war criminals have been crawling out of the woodwork lately. Boasting about being part of the Bush administration Ministry of Torture seems to be the thing to do lately. First there was former VP Dick Cheney in a speech at American University (who must be really desperate for guest speakers) on March 28 making the claim that I would expect from any demented sociopath, that torture isn’t really torture and that given the chance he would “do it all over again.”

Now the Washington Post (which must be equally desperate for opinion page contributors) runs an op-ed written by Jose Rodriguez Jr., the former head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, denouncing the recently de-classified Senate Intelligence Committee report on terrorist interrogation practices, aka torture–which he hasn’t yet read.

Rodriguez gives three justifications for the program which he oversaw and now defends.

The first is an oldie but still a Bush administration stand by. Because 9/11. Because 9/11, the Bush-Cheney catch-all as a reason for torture, the invasion of Iraq, the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretaps, and extraordinary rendition, among many more. Because 9/11, the flag under which a whole host of nefarious activities flew.

The second is one Cheney also like to fall back on–torture worked. Well no it didn’t, and there’s no credible evidence to prove that it did. Zero Dark Thirty is a movie, not a documentary. But let’s indulge the war criminals for a moment. So what if it did work? Robbing a bank is an effective means of solving one’s financial problems. Carjacking is an effective means of solving one’s transportation issues. Doesn’t matter, it’s still against the law Torture is illegal, effective or not.

The third and final reason is one that goes back to the days of Nixon and Watergate. Torture was “approved at the highest levels of government” and “judged legal by the Justice Department.” The old “if the president does it…” rationale.

Earlier in the piece, Rodriguez accuses the Senate Intelligence Committee of starting with a conclusion and then chasing supportive evidence in regards to the effectiveness and management of the torture program. Isn’t that exactly what the Bush administration did? Yes, it is. They started with the conclusion that waterboarding wasn’t really torture (never mind that members of the Japanese military were found guilty and punished following WWII for using the same tactic) and then had a corrupt Attorney General and his equally corrupt, morally/ethically challenged underlings in the DOJ concoct memos with twisted legal justification for it.

Rodriguez should have a room reserved for him in Leavenworth. Right next door to the big Dick.

Drug Testing Welfare Applicants Struck Down in Florida

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The Republican Party’s War on the Poor took a hit on Tuesday:

“A federal judge on Tuesday struck down as unconstitutional a Florida law that required welfare applicants to undergo mandatory drug testing, setting the stage for a legal battle that could affect similar efforts nationwide.

Judge Mary S. Scriven of the United States District Court in Orlando held that the testing requirement, the signature legislation of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who campaigned on the issue, violated the protection against unreasonable searches.

“The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” she wrote. The ruling made permanent an earlier, temporary ban by the judge.”

Governor Scott promised to appeal:

“Mr. Scott, who had argued that the drug testing was necessary to protect children and ensure that tax money was not going to illegal drugs, said that the state would appeal the ruling.”

What about the tax money being wasted on unconstitutional drug testing, Governor Medicare Fraud?

“Only 108 out of 4,086 people tested — 2.6 percent — were found to have been using narcotics. State records showed that the requirement cost more money to carry out than it saved.”

Rocky Mountain High

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Bloomberg:

“Toni Fox plans to open the doors of her Denver marijuana shop at 8 a.m. tomorrow to a line of customers including some who camped overnight to be the first in the U.S. to legally buy pot for recreational use.

…Fox’s shop is among 14 in Denver that got state and local licenses in time to sell marijuana to anyone 21 or older starting Jan. 1, just over a year after Colorado and Washington voters made their states the first to legalize recreational use. Washington’s shops are expected to open later in the year.

Colorado projects $578.1 million a year in combined wholesale and retail marijuana sales to yield $67 million in tax revenue, according to the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly. Wholesale transactions taxed at 15 percent will finance school construction, while the retail levy of 10 percent will fund regulation of the industry.”

Let’s go:

Strip Searches for Everybody!

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Same song, different verse:

“Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that…”

This time it’s about driving another nail into the coffin of the Fourth Amendment and the protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Strip searches for everybody!

“Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed,” Justice Kennedy wrote, adding that about 13 million people are admitted each year to the nation’s jails.

The procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states and are at odds with the policies of federal authorities…The federal appeals courts had been split on the question, though most of them prohibited strip-searches unless they were based on a reasonable suspicion that contraband was present.”

Anybody still think this Court gives a damn about precedent and would hesitate for one minute before overturning the entirety of the Affordable Care Act? Dream on.

“Justice Breyer said that the Fourth Amendment should be understood to bar strip-searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs or violence, unless officials had a reasonable suspicion that they were carrying contraband.”

But this is what passes for reason on the Roberts Court:

“Justice Kennedy responded that “people detained for minor offenses can turn out to be the most devious and dangerous criminals.” He noted that Timothy McVeigh, later put to death for his role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was first arrested for driving without a license plate. “One of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before hijacking Flight 93,” Justice Kennedy added.”

So let’s take the most extreme examples we can think of and use it as justification to strip search everybody who has an expired license plate or inspection sticker. Who knows, law enforcement might accidentally stumble onto one those “devious and dangerous criminals” who drive around with a burned-out tail light. And if the hijacker had been strip-searched on September 9 are we to assume that he had the plans for 9/11 shoved up his ass?

I’m convinced more and more every day that we’d be better off with the Diana Ross Supremes making decisions rather than this group of 5 Barnum and Bailey rejects in black robes.

While We Wait, a Prediction

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Now that the Supremes have finished hearing arguments and begin to deliberate the fate of the Affordable Care Act it seems to be the time for predictions on how they’ll rule, so I’ll throw in my $0.02 worth.

I see a 5-4 decision to not only throw out the individual mandate but the entire law. The reason being that without the individual mandate the entire law collapses. Justice Scalia said as much when he remarked about the “cruel and unusual punishment” which would be forced upon the Court if they had to go through all 2,700 pages of the ACA and decide what stays and what goes.

Some of the so-called “experts” who have been following the proceedings have opined that the Supreme Court would be overstepping its bounds and ignoring precedent to make such a sweeping move. I would ask those who hold this belief if they were asleep when the Citizens United decision came down. That’s exactly what the Court did in that instance. They ignored 100 years of precedent in campaign finance law and expanded the scope of their decision well beyond the parameters of the original case in throwing out almost all limits and restrictions on contributions and doing away with transparency concerning those contributions.

So what will result from overturning the ACA? I would like to think it would be a starting point for Democrats to begin a push toward some kind of a single-payer system, but that would require backbone, something I haven’t seen much evidence of, so I doubt seriously it will happen. The more likely outcome will be that reforming our broken system will be viewed as politically toxic and one will want to touch it for the foreseeable future. Until the foreseeable future meaning the time when the entire for-profit health care system collapses, which it inevitably will.

We’ll go back to the pre-ACA system where premiums skyrocket and coverage decreases every year until health insurance will become one more thing that is limited to those privileged few who can afford it. Those who can’t are just SOL. Insurance will become so costly that employers will stop providing it, the premiums will be so expensive that employees who are dropped won’t be able to purchase it, and those with pre-existing conditions won’t be able to get coverage at any price. The only care available to most people will be by way of the ER, and those will be so swamped with patients and so burdened by the costs that they will be forced to close. That may sound like gloom and doom but I don’t see any other alternative.

With the demise of the ACA and its Medicaid requirement on the states, conservatives and their ‘drown government in a bathtub’ pied pipers will also use the Court decision as a jumping off point to not only do away with that program but Medicare, Social Security and any number of other government programs as well. They will argue the constitutionality of anything that contains any form of government mandate, and if those cases come before this Court I don’t have much doubt that the outcomes will be similar.  Again, sorry to be so pessimistic but I don’t see much reason for optimism.

In closing, I have to make a comment on something James Carville said that just pisses me off, and makes for a sad commentary on the state of partisan politics in this country:

“I think that this will be the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic party because health care costs are going to escalate unbelievably,” said Carville. “Just as a professional Democrat, there’s nothing better to me than overturning this thing 5-4 and then the Republican party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe that. That is not spin.”

No, that’s not spin, it’s stupidity. And it’s not said as a “professional Democrat” but as a professional ignoramus.  It may or may not be a good thing for the Democratic party, Mr. Carville, but will it be “the best thing that ever happened” to the millions who are going to join the ever-increasing ranks of the uninsured because of those escalating costs? What about for those young adults who can no longer be covered by their parents policies or the people for whom Medicaid is their only access to health care?

No matter who “owns the health care system” and who gets the blame sick people won’t be able to get treatment and some will die for lack of care. But who cares about that, it’s more important that political points are scored. That sounds like something John Boehner or Mitch McConnell would say.

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Membership Has Its Privileges

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As they say in the American Express commercials, membership has its privileges. Membership in the Big Club is no different. It allows you to do things like ignore six subpoenas from the Feds:

“U.S. securities regulators accused Wells Fargo & Co on Friday of repeatedly ignoring its subpoenas for documents in connection with a probe into the bank’s $60 billion sale of mortgage-backed securities.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s filing in a San Francisco federal court seeks to compel the fourth largest U.S. bank to hand over documents. The SEC said it has issued several subpoenas since September…According to the SEC’s Friday filing against Wells Fargo, the agency has issued six subpoenas to Wells Fargo since September 30.”

Try that one time and see what happens to you. Membership also allows you to lie to Congress without any fear of repercussions:

“Jon S. Corzine, MF Global’s chief executive officer [also former CEO of Goldman Sachs as well as New Jersey’s former governor and senator], gave “direct instructions” to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in a brokerage account with JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to a memo written by congressional investigators.

Edith O’Brien, a treasurer for the firm, said in an e-mail quoted in the memo that the transfer was “Per JC’s direct instructions,” according to a copy of the memo obtained by Bloomberg News. The e-mail, dated Oct. 28, was sent three days before the company collapsed, the memo says.

[..]

Corzine, 65, in testimony in front of the House panel in December, said he did not order any improper transfer of customer funds. Corzine also testified that he never intended a misuse of customer funds at MF Global, and that he doesn’t know where client funds went.

“I never gave any instruction to misuse customer funds, I never intended anyone at MF Global to misuse customer funds and I don’t believe that anything I said could reasonably have been interpreted as an instruction to misuse customer funds,” Corzine told lawmakers in December.”

Anybody think Corzine will be held accountable? If you do I’ve got a bridge for sale. Cheap.

Useful Idiots

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AFP (Americans For Prosperity) sponsored a rally attended by AFP (Astroturf Fools and Pawns) yesterday across the street from the Supreme Court. The speakers at this gathering of people against government interference in health care included Rep. Michele Bachmann, Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Steve King, Rep. Allen West, Sen. Ron Johnson, and Sen. Pat Toomey. Notice a pattern there? They all receive government health care.

Here’s a photo of the crowd.


Seems to be quite a few grey hairs in that shot. How many do you suppose are on Medicare?

Much of what the speakers had to say dealt with freedom and liberty:

Allen West: “Thanks for coming out on a beautiful Washington D.C. for liberty, democracy and freedom.”

Michele Bachmann: “We will not wave the white flag of surrender when it comes to liberty and our healthcare.”

Rep. Steve King: “This American liberty is a precious thing, it doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Ron Johnson: “This isn’t about healthcare, it’s about freedom.”

Yes it is all about freedom and liberty. The freedom and liberty of insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. The freedom and liberty of insurance companies to cancel your policy when you get sick. The freedom and liberty of insurance companies to jack up your rates 20–30% a year. Your freedom and liberty to be bankrupted by medical expenses.

Idiots. Useful idiots.

Desperately Seeking Attention

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Not that there was ever anything admirable about Newt Gingrich, but this desperate attempt at remaining relevant is just despicable and pathetic:

“Why does the president behave the way that people would think that [he’s Muslim]?” Gingrich said. “You have to ask, why would they believe that? It’s not cause they’re stupid. It’s because they watch the kind of things I just described to you.”

[...]

“I have said publicly several times that I believe Obama is a Christian,” Gingrich told reporters. “He went to a Christian Church for over 20 years. He was listening to the sermons. The fact is I take him at his word but I think it is very bizarre that he is desperately concerned to apologize to Muslim religious fanatics while they are killing young Americans while at the same time going to war against the Catholic church and against every right to live Protestant organization in the country. I just think it’s a very strange value system.”

As is this:

“While campaigning ahead of Saturday’s primary in Louisiana, Gingrich spoke with the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios about the recent Washington Post story on Rick Santorum’s association with Opus Dei, a devout Catholic group. Rios, who disapproved of the Post’s story, asked Gingrich if he thought the media would similarly “hold their powder” on Mitt Romney for his Mormonism.

Gingrich said the media, which he believes is “in the tank for Obama,” will “do anything that helps re-elect” the president.

“It is just astonishing to me how pro-Obama they are,” Gingrich told Rios. “Do you think you are going to see two pages on Obama’s Muslim friends? Or two pages on the degree to which Obama is consistently apologizing to Islam while attacking the Catholic church?”

Go away, Newt. Your time is up, just go away.

It’s Not About JOBS, It’s About FRAUD

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If there’s one thing you can take to the bank, so to speak, in these times of political polarization in Washington it’s this-any bill that passes the House and Senate with margins like 390-23 and 73-26 isn’t, in the words of John Nance Garner, worth a warm bucket of spit. The recent passage of the so-called JOBS Act is no exception. The FRAUD Act would have been a more appropriate title. Facilitating Rampant And Unchecked Deceit.

(Just as an aside, giving bad legislation names with catchy acronyms like JOBS Act is a little trick the crooks in Congress have also learned. See PATRIOT Act.)

Under the pretense of being about making it easier for small businesses and startup companies to access capital, the JOBS Act is just another round of Wall Street deregulation that was such a rousing success leading up to the collapse of 2008. It weakens investor protection, eases SEC oversight and transparency rules, and guts much of Sarbanes-Oxley, which was passed in 2002 to prevent future Enrons from happening. Happy days are here again!

Here’s what Sen. Bernie Sanders had to say about it:

“At best, this bill could make it easier for con artists to defraud seniors out of their entire life savings by convincing them to invest in worthless companies. At worst, this bill has the potential to create the next Enron or Arthur Andersen scandal or an even worse financial crisis.”

Bloomberg has more. Lynn Turner, former SEC accountant:

“It won’t create jobs, but it will simplify fraud. This would be better known as the bucket-shop and penny-stock fraud reauthorization act of 2012,” he said, referring to practices banned under securities law.”

Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America:

“You don’t increase jobs growth by rolling back regulatory protections, and it’s frankly bewildering that the Democrats have been so willing to buy into the traditional Republican argument.”

Representative John P. Sarbanes of Maryland, one of 23 Democratic opponents in the House, warned colleagues in a letter that the bill could lead to an “Enron-Type fraud,” invoking the accounting scandal that led Congress to enact the law named for his father, former Senator Paul Sarbanes.

Bill Black:

“The JOBS Act is something only a financial scavenger could love. It will create a fraud-friendly and fraud-enhancing environment. It will add to the unprecedented level of financial fraud by our most elite CEOS that has devastated the U.S. and European economies and cost over 20 million people their jobs.”

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) proposed an amendment which would have limited corporations from making an end-run around SEC regulations, but the cowards in the Senate wouldn’t even go on the record against that, killing it with a voice vote.

Oh by the way, that amendment was opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and the American Bankers Association.

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