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.

Guys are Guys, Regardless of Species


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I feel your pain, my little winged brother:

“They were young males on the make, and they struck out not once, not twice, but a dozen times with a group of attractive females hovering nearby. So they did what so many men do after being repeatedly rejected: they got drunk, using alcohol as a balm for unfulfilled desire.

Fruit flies apparently self-medicate just like many humans do, drowning their sorrows or frustrations for some of the same reasons, scientists reported Thursday.


Fruit flies as a rule will, like many humans, develop a taste for alcohol and, in time, a preference for the 15 percent solution. But the rejected flies drank a lot more on average, supping from the spiked mixture about 70 percent of the time, compared with about 50 percent for their sexually sated peers.

The researchers conducted several additional experiments to rule out other explanations. The flies were apparently using the alcohol as a way to compensate for their frustrated desire.”

FYI, fruit fly. A little country music also helps:

A bug in his margarita? Must have been a fruit fly.

Somebody’s Watching Me



The new National Anthem:

Because they are, or soon will be:

“Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.

The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”

It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted.

According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”


[F]or the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.”

Who Cares If It’s True, It Sounds Scary


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At something called the American Heartland Forum, held just before the Missouri Republican primary in February, Rick Santorum made some incredible claims during an interview with James Dobson. Santorum alleged that people in the Netherlands wore bracelets that read, “Do Not Euthanize Me,” that 10% of all deaths in the Netherlands were the result of euthanasia, and that half of those were forced euthanasia. The point of these assertions was that “Obamacare” would lead America down the same road. From Right Wing Watch:

Sounds pretty scary, right? Never mind that none of it is true. Jonathan Turley debunks Santorum’s “facts”:

“Clearly people can wear bracelets with their blood type or other instructions like do not resuscitate — as they do in this country. However, such bracelets are not needed in the Netherlands and Santorum’s comments appear to come as a surprise to people in that country.

[T]he number of people choosing euthanasia remains small and less than 3%. In 2010, 136,058 people died in the Netherlands and only 3136 did so through euthanasia. That is roughly 2.3% of the total deaths…In 2009, the annual report on euthanasia showed 2,636 cases of euthanasia — or 2 percent of all Dutch deaths.

As for those 50% of cases dispatched against their will, the Dutch law is extremely strict. It now only requires consent but a waiting period. If a doctor dispatches someone without their consent or satisfying the tight controls, he is charged with murder.

The doctor must document that he or she confirmed that the patient requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide is making a voluntary and informed request. The record must also show that the patient was suffering unbearably and was fully informed about the prospects. Then a second doctor must examine the patient and supply a second written opinion on the satisfaction of the criteria.”

Oops. Santorum’s press secretary was asked recently by a Dutch television reporter to explain the remarks:

Well that clears that up.

You Know…Morons


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New York Magazine reports on Public Policy Polling results:

PPP asks Republicans in Alabama, “Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim, or are you not sure?” Guess how many say Christian? 14%! Among the remaining 86%, “Muslim” slightly leads “not sure,” 45%-41%.

But the Alabama Republicans are a thoroughly trusting lot in comparison with their Mississippi brethren. Among Mississippi Republicans, just 12% say Christian, 52% say Muslim, and 36% aren’t sure.

The poll also finds that two-thirds of the Republicans in both states do not believe in evolution. Two-thirds of Alabama Republicans also believe interracial marriage ought to be legal, compared with 54% of Mississippi Republicans.”

Why do I hear banjos playing?


Can We Leave Now?


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The Afghanistan quagmire just gets uglier and uglier:

“Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan early on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said.

Residents of three villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar Province described a terrifying string of attacks in which the soldier, who had walked more than a mile from his base, tried door after door, eventually breaking in to kill within three separate houses. The man gathered 11 bodies, including those of 4 girls younger than 6, and set fire to them, villagers said.


The officials said the suspect was an Army staff sergeant who acted alone and then surrendered…A senior American military official said Sunday evening that the sergeant was attached to a unit based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a major Army and Air Force installation near Tacoma, Wash., and that he had been part of what is called a village stabilization operation in Afghanistan…Another senior military official said the sergeant was 38 and married with two children. He had served three tours of duty in Iraq, this official said, and had been deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in December.”

Republican hawk and supporter of starting yet another war in Iran, Lindsey Graham, shrugged it off as ‘oh well, shit happens’:

“While this is tragic and will be investigated that soldier will be held accountable for his actions under the military justice system, unfortunately these things happen in war,” Graham said on ABC’s “This Week.” “You just have to push through these things.”

“The surge of forces have really put the Taliban on the defensive. The Afghan Army is better equipped and better trained than ever….I hope that the strategy partnership agreement between the United States and Afghanistan will stop the narrative we’re leaving,” Graham said on ABC. “We can win this thing. We can get it right.”

Yes, the Afghan armed forces are well equipped and trained, and are turning that equipment and that training on NATO forces at an increasing rate:

“Afghan security personnel have killed “around 70 members of the NATO force … in 42 insider attacks from May 2007 through January 2012,” Reuters reported, based on statistics provided by the US Department of Defense. Fifteen of the ISAF soldiers, or more than 20 percent, have been killed in the last seven weeks, according to press releases issued by ISAF.”

John McCain, advocate for military intervention in Syria, called the shootings just “one of those things”:

“It’s one of those things that you cannot explain except to extend your deepest sympathy to those victims and see that justice is done,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Cannot explain? Not to in any way excuse the actions of this sergeant, but this is the result of decade long wars requiring repeated deployments by an all-volunteer military. We seem to lose sight of the fact that our men and women in uniform are human beings, not robots. They are subject to human failings, like the psychological toll war takes on those who face death day after day after day, tour after tour after tour, and the actions that can result from that kind of constant stress.

Very few of us know because the burden of war is borne by a very small percentage of our population. Which explains things like this recent Pew poll showing 58% of Americans favor military action in Iran. Of course they do. It doesn’t cost the vast majority of them one dollar or one sleepless night worrying about the well-being of a loved one.
Two points. First, we need to get out of Afghanistan ASAP. Two more years or ten more years there won’t matter. Al-Qaeda is gone, bin Laden is dead. Mission accomplished, time to bring our soldiers home.

Second, a proposal for Sens. Graham, McCain and the 58% polled by Pew. Any US military intervention in any country from this point forward will be accompanied by a draft and a 10% income tax surcharge to pay for it. Let’s see how hot they are to go to war then.