“A Critical First Step”

March 31, 2010

As difficult as it was, passing the health care bill is only “a critical first step” in overhauling the system so that it “works for all Americans,” President Obama told NBC’s Today show. “It is not going to be the only thing,” Obama told Matt Lauer. “We are still going to have adjustments that have to be made to further reduce costs.”

The Today Show

So there you have it: Better than 1000 pages of law that no one really understands; shameful deals made in back rooms (the rooms used to be smoked-filled but, in today’s more health-conscious environment, congressmen just shot up some meth before going to meet with Reid and/or Peolsi); a vast health care bureaucracy of over 100 new agencies, boards, and commissions; 19 new taxes—and Mr. Obama says this is only a “critical first step.”

What’s next, an animal health-care plan, an army of boy guides to help little old ladies across the street, safety seminars on the danger of running with scissors?

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government’s role in health care too far…

USA Today

Two thirds say it costs too much and expands the role of government too much? Where’s the consensus; where is the will of the people?

Surgical team tests to determine how many copies of Obama's thousand-page health care bill can be inserted in patient's rectum before he is tempted to register as a Republican.

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Obamacare Discriminates Against White Women

March 29, 2010

One of the first changes America will see from the health care bill that recently limped through congress is a provision that clearly discriminates against a portion of the population based on race, sex, and age.

I am speaking of a 10% tax on indoor tanning due to be implemented on July 1, 2010.  This tax clearly is discriminatory as it applies, by the very nature of the service taxed, almost solely to white people, particularly white women, who comprise about 70% of the customers of tanning parlors. Almost all the rest of the tanning parlor customers are, of course, white males. The great majority of tanning bed users are under 30.

I am trying to imagine the cries of outrage that would echo across the land if a similar tax had been imposed on, say, hair relaxers or skin lighteners.

Advocates of the tax say that the use of tanning beds, particularly by young women, increases the risk of skin cancers. Ergo, this is a health hazard, like tobacco, from which we can somehow be insulated by increased taxation.

No one has published data that show the 10% tax will cover the cost of treating additional skin cancers caused by tanning beds. It may be way too much, it may not be enough. The point is, it is a harbinger of things to come—directing our health choices by taxation, as has been done already with tobacco.

Under the same logic (protecting the health of the public), hair relaxers and skin bleaches also should be subject to taxation.

Many skin bleaches contain toxic mercury compounds such as mercury chloride or ammoniated mercury. Hair relaxers often contain sodium hydroxide (lye) or other metal hydroxides. Introduced into the eye, any of these compounds can cause severe corneal damage, even blindness.

Here’s hoping the Indoor Tanning Association files suit on the basis of  discrimination according to race, sex, and age.

I’ve already bought my popcorn in anticipation of the show.


A Broken Republic

March 25, 2010

The headlines on Monday said congress passed Obamacare by the thinnest of margins. The headlines on Tuesday said there were already 32 state-initiated lawsuits challenging all or part of the bill and that there still were parliamentary maneuvers (mostly by Republicans) and procedural questions that might mean the health care law is not the law of the land even though congress and the president say it is.

Set aside your opinions about whether this law is the right thing or the wrong thing for America. Instead, focus on how it has exposed the corruption, power-mongering, deal-making, shameless way in which our 535 elected representatives have behaved over the past year. There is hardly a member of either house who is not waist-deep in filth over an issue that has consumed a year of our lives—a year in which the jobless rate has hovered at 10% with forecasts that it could stay near that level for another 5 years.

Apparently we now are on our way to becoming the healthiest lot of unemployed or underemployed people in the history of the world.

Forget the Tea Party, the Coffee Party and the other well-meaning fringe groups who claim they can fix congress. They can’t. Congress is rigged so that, regardless of which party is in power, there is a handful of lifers from both parties who really are calling the shots.

Think of a freshman congressman, Republican, Democrat, Independent who tries to do the right thing by his country. He objects to some questionable bill that curtails civil liberties or wastes the public treasury. He plans to vote no until the “leadership” comes to him and says, “Get in line on this bill or we’ll see to it your district doesn’t get shit.

Our country is no longer a republic. It is run by a legislative Cosa Nostra, dominated by two major crime families. Neither gives a shit about you. It’s nothing personal, it’s strictly business. Like the citizens of Kandahar or Baghdad, we are but innocents caught in the crossfire. Our only saving grace is that no one has yet resorted to bullets.

I propose no sagacious path out of this mess, no solution other than a careful reading of the Constitution.

For my own part, I intend to cast my votes against the incumbent, no matter his quality, character, or dedication. The longer any one is in office, any office, from city councilman to senator, the more corrupt, conniving, and self-serving he becomes. You should holler “BULLSHIT!!” at the top of your lungs every time you hear that tired shibboleth “Dedicated Public Servant.”

Throw ALL of the bastards out and do it again and again and again. We always have had the power to set term limits, regardless of the constitution. It’s time we began exercising that right with extreme prejudice towards any and all incumbents.


It’s Your Fault, Not God’s, Says Pope

March 23, 2010

Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel.

Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Benedict XVI

Pedophilia and general sexual misconduct by Irish Catholic clergy have become such issues that the pope felt compelled to write a letter to the Irish Faithful in an effort to explain things and, perhaps, stay them from burning down the odd cathedral here and there.

The Irish are pissed, and well they should be, as day after day brings new revelations of misconduct by ordained Roman Catholic clergy. Most of these cases involve priests sexually molesting minor males and, if discovered, using the broad influence of the Church to keep the victims quiet while an errant clergy escaped unmolested (bad pun fully intended).

Careful reading of the pope’s dissembling statement above makes it clear that His Holiness blames the Irish people for failing to participate fully in the life of the Church (attendance has dropped by half over the past 20 years). The rest of the problem he blames on clergy who adopted “secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel.”

This is religion-speak for “the Devil made me do it.”

The pope and his church are on the horns of a significant theological dilemma here. According to the teachings of the Church, God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. In simpler language, the Church holds that God is everywhere, that He knows everything, and that He has power without limit.

And yet God allowed countless priests in dozens of countries to betray the sacred trust with which they were endowed by the Church. The real question which His Holiness should try to answer is “How could God allow this to happen?” Is He indeed, as the Church teaches, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent or is God a fraud conjured and inflated by the Church over the past 2000 years?

The pope’s 20-page missal to the Irish is full of semantic sleight of hand with His Holiness on the one hand proclaiming the Power and Truth of the One True Church and, on the other, giving God and Jesus a free pass.

It is in Part 9 of the pope’s letter, addressed to “the children and young people of Ireland” that the theological wheels finally come entirely off the popemobile:

But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb 13:8). He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his Church, for he will never betray your trust! (emphasis added)

Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Benedict XVI

Is not the betrayal of trust the whole issue here Your Holiness? Yes, perhaps you can get your priests and bishops off the hook by proclaiming their mortality, their human vulnerability to the wiles of the Evil One, but how can you exhort the children of Ireland (or anywhere else) to place their faith in ‘Jesus Christ who will never betray your trust?’

The magician rises into a position of much influence and repute, and may readily acquire the rank and authority of a chief or king. The profession accordingly draws into its ranks some of the ablest and most ambitious men of the tribe, because it holds out to them a prospect of honour, wealth, and power such as hardly any other career could offer. The acuter minds perceive how easy it is to dupe their weaker brother and to play on his superstition for their own advantage. Not that the sorcerer is always a knave and impostor; he is often sincerely convinced that he really possesses those wonderful powers which the credulity of his fellows ascribes to him. But the more sagacious he is, the more likely he is to see through the fallacies which impose on duller wits. Thus the ablest members of the profession must tend to be more or less conscious deceivers; and it is just these men who in virtue of their superior ability will generally come to the top and win for themselves positions of the highest dignity and the most commanding authority.

The Golden Bough
Sir James Frazer


Get Rid of the Foreign Devils

March 22, 2010

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

It’s been a month since the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) began Operation Mushtarak, an effort to drive the Taliban out of Marjah in Afghanistan.

ISAF consists of mostly US troops, aided by NATO and Afghan forces, who all must be wondering, “What’s the point?”

Though classed as a “town,” Marjah is really a 100-square-mile collection of small farms. It is part of Helmand province, 22,600 square miles in southern Afghanistan that are securely under the control of the Taliban. Operation Mushtarak injected 10,000 or 15,000 ISAF troops into Marjah, with plenty of advance warning. Apparently, ISAF leader U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal thought that advance warning of the ‘invasion’ would scare the Taliban off, thus ensuring a swift and easy victory. It didn’t. The Taliban took the time between the warning and the invasion, not to run for the hills, but to harden their positions, set up sniper and ambush positions, and plant plenty of IED’s.

ISAF forces spent about three weeks sweeping through an area that should have been cleared in three days. Reports of casualties among ISAF forces, Taliban, and civilians conflict and vary widely. The lack of frank information coming out of Marjah indicates the operation was largely a failure.

The Taliban still are in Marjah, though in smaller numbers, planting bombs, assassinating government sympathizers, and doing what terrorists generally do. Unless ISAF leaves a division permanently to guard this inconsequential settlement, the Taliban will drift back in over the next few months. By May, it will be as though they never left.

Think of a truck driving down a road in a heavy rain. As the truck rumbles by, the water on the road is pushed away and you can see bare, damp, pavement. Within a few seconds, the water returns and it’s as if the truck had never been there. That’s what’s happening almost anywhere the US, the Afghan government, or ISAF go. As soon as they pass through, the Taliban flows in and it is as if they had never left.

The British and the Russians previously experienced this phenomenon in Afghanistan and the French, Japanese, British, then French again, then Americans saw the same thing happen to them in Viet Nam. Why? Because underlying all of this is the issue of foreign occupation. No matter how nasty the Viet Cong or the Taliban, they are at least locals. They are not the foreign devils, the imperialists demonized in nationalist and xenophobic propaganda.

You’re an Afghan opium grower, drinking tea outside a café in Marjah. On the street you see an American Marine and a guy you know is in the Taliban. “Which of these guys is going to be here in the long run,” you ask yourself? “Which is most like me? Which is most likely to marry my daughter? Which understands me, my religion, my hardships, my life?”

“Sure the Taliban guy is a prick and, as soon as that American gets bored, or goes off duty, the Taliban guy probably will shake me down for a few bucks (he doesn’t trust the local currency any more than I do). But I’ve got to live with him for a long time. I’ll bet that American has about 3 months left on his rotation here.”

Or consider the opinion of former Helmand Gov. Sher Mohammed Akhundzada. “The Taliban are not gone. They have only gone to the other districts of Grishk and Sangin. The administration of Helmand is generally corrupt and nothing is changing in Marjah, no signs of reform with the latest appointment. It doesn’t matter if you have thousands and thousands of NATO troops, you will still have Taliban in Helmand.”

We went to Afghanistan to get bin Laden. We couldn’t find him. Let’s go home.


Sneaking Past the TSA

March 21, 2010

Airport security is a stupid idea, it’s a waste of money, and it’s only there for one reason: to make white people feel safe.
George Carlin

You may find the contents of the below story a bit alarming. It may appear to you that I’m tipping terrorists off to the gaping holes in our airline passenger screening system. Believe me, the terrorists know all about this. You probably don’t.

There are 4000 people on the government’s No Fly list; there are another 14,000 on the Secondary Security Screening Selection list; and, another 1,000,000 or so on the Terrorist Watch List.

Let’s say you’re a bad guy, or a good guy whose name accidentally wound up on one of these lists. You need to fly but you don’t want the extra scrutiny. How do you get around it?

Buy a ticket in advance on line. Obviously, you can’t buy the ticket under your own name—you’re on a watch list—so you have a friend or accomplice (of the same sex) buy the ticket in his/her name. Go online and print the boarding pass a day or two in advance of the flight. The boarding pass has your friend’s name on it. Make a copy of the boarding pass and put YOUR name on it. (If you can’t do this, ask any high school kid). You now have two boarding passes; one with your friend’s name and one with a name that matches the name on your “valid government issued ID.”

If the boarding pass has SSSS or *S* in the lower right corner, it’s a good idea to obliterate those symbols. It means the holder of the pass was tagged for random screening. You’ll be given LOTS of extra attention by the nice TSA folks. In fact, if you get these symbols on a legitimate boarding pass, it’s worth the time to redo the pass. SSSS screening is a pain in the ass, constitutes a warrantless search and, if they find something like (god help us) marijuana, they can bust you. You’ll probably beat the rap, but your legal bills will be significant.

Go to the airport at the appointed time, but do not check any luggage. Go directly to the gate area and get in the TSA line. When the nice TSA lady asks for your ID and boarding pass, pull out your real ID and the doctored boarding pass. Notice that the TSA lady will scrutinize your ID, maybe even with an ultraviolet light, to see if it’s bogus. It isn’t. And, conveniently, the face on your ID card is a nice match to your face because it’s really you. Now she looks at your doctored boarding pass and sees that the name on the pass matches the name on your ID. Notice that she never checks anywhere or anything to see if the name on your ID or your boarding pass is on a “hot list.” (The airline turned your reservation in to the feds when you made it and the name was checked against their databases. Since the ticket was booked in your friend’s name, no red flags went up).

Since boarding passes are produced by all sorts of non-standard equipment and practices, your forged boarding pass only has to be reasonably good. Unless you are a total screw-up, a TSA agent would never be able to tell your doctored boarding pass from the real thing. Once you get past the TSA inspection, pitch the forged boarding pass and pull out the real one in your friend’s name. Board the plane, showing the gate agent your friend’s boarding pass. Take your seat and enjoy (to the limited extent possible) your flight.

So why go through all this government ID checking and TSA scrutiny? George Carlin was right  but the real reason is that it’s the airlines, not the government, who want this ID check done. Why? So that you can’t sell unused portions of your ticket to strangers at discount prices. Twenty years ago newspapers (remember them?) were filled with ads selling unused airline tickets, as in “Boston/Ft Lauderdale March 21 male $125 617-555-5555.” The airlines hated this because, for example, people who needed to make a one-way trip would buy a round trip ticket (for very little more than the one-way price) then sell the return portion. The airlines couldn’t legally force you to identify yourself so they got the government to do it for them in the name of safety.

Does the TSA ID check make you any safer when you fly? No way. They know it, the airlines know it, the terrorists know it and, now, so do you.

The Government Accountability Office has just released a report saying that the advanced imaging technology (AIT) full-body scanners now being deployed at airports in the US probably would NOT have detected the 80 grams of explosives in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underwear. No matter, the government is going to buy 1800 of these things at $170,000 each. It takes three people to run each machine. Must be some sort of a new jobs program.


News McNuggets

March 20, 2010

“Even less information than you get from USA Today!”

______________________

“Only 300 priests were actual cases of pedophilia… it is not as widespread as has been believed. ”
Monsignor Charles Scicluna

Only 300? Gee and here we thought there might be a problem… Honey,  it’s OK, the boys can going camping with Father Sicola…

______________________

Every year, 48,000 Americans die of infections they caught while in the hospital.

Probably safer to have your next surgery done in  the back of one of those vans that brings illegals in from Mexico

______________________

The number of US troops to die in the Afghan war hit 1,000, according to a tally kept by the independent icasualties.org website.

Isn’t it great when our country hits another milestone?

______________________

A report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life notes that 79 percent of Americans believe in miracles.

Pew failed to note that believers expect the other 21% to pay for the miracles.

______________________

The embattled liberal group ACORN is in the process of dissolving its national structure, with state and local-chapters splitting off from the underfunded, controversial national group.

Hallelujah! I believe in miracles, too!

______________________

Sixty-four per cent of British people think the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable, a BBC poll suggests.

Smart lot, those Tommies.

______________________

In a move that could force President Obama to break his vow to get all combat troops out of Iraq by August of this year, his top commander in Iraq recently officially requested keeping a combat brigade in the northern part of the country beyond that deadline.

Wait a minute. You mean there are people who actually took Obama seriously when he said we’d be out by August?

______________________

A vast iceberg that broke off eastern Antarctic earlier this month could disrupt marine life in the region, scientists have warned.

And there’s no evidence it’s our fault, although experts say it may cut the penguin-hunting season short by two months.

______________________

Toyota Motor Corp. said it would extend free alternative transportation to owners nationwide while their recalled vehicles are being repaired.

In other news, Schwinn stock is up 57%.

______________________

During the month of January, Citibank sent over 600,000 mailers to customers with their social security numbers printed on the outside of the envelopes.

Thanks, Citibank. I can never remember that god-damned number.

______________________

Afghanistan has announced a ban on news coverage showing Taliban attacks.

Their concern is not video of the Taliban attacking; it’s the video of the Afghan soldiers hastily retreating.

______________________

Federal regulators said Wednesday that they had received 10 reports of Toyota vehicles accelerating unexpectedly after they were repaired at dealerships.

All of them, however, were able to come to a controlled stop in front of an attorney’s office.

______________________

Pursued by a Florida trooper, an 18-year-old motorcyclist was clocked at a stupefying 186 m.p.h.

We need these kids. Do you know how many people are awaiting organ transplants?

______________________

Two women were stopped from boarding a plane at Manchester Airport after refusing to undergo a full body scan. The women forfeited their flight and left the airport.

Now if we could just get fat people and babies to refuse body scans, flying might once again be tolerable.

______________________

The Somali government is preparing a major offensive to take back the capital of Mogadishu block by crumbling block.

Why?

______________________

Since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan drug production has surged in the country, making it the source of 90 percent of the world’s heroin.

It’s part of our stimulus package for faltering economies. Look how well it’s working in Mexico.

______________________

An adviser to Pope Benedict, Cardinal Walter Kasper, has told an Italian newspaper that the Church needs to clean up its act over child abuse, by compensating victims and punishing the perpetrators.

Funeral services for Cardinal Kasper, who died mysteriously just hours after his press conference, are pending.

______________________

Some Scientologists say they have paid as much as $1 million so they can proceed up the “bridge to total freedom.”

Scientologists can build a bridge for a million bucks? That’s a lot less than the DOT is charging.

______________________

The General Assembly Virginia became the first state legislature to approve a measure that bucks any effort by President Obama and Congress to carry out a national health care overhaul in individual states.

Sic semper tyrannis

______________________

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing an ambitious 10-year plan that will reimagine the nation’s media and technology priorities by establishing high-speed Internet as the country’s dominant communication network.

Gosh, we might catch up with the Koreans!

______________________

Evelyn Boyd told her husband, a preacher at a Pentecostal church in the city of Bartow, not to disturb her when she locked herself in a room Feb. 7 to fast and pray with only water to drink. Family members forced open the door March 5 and found her dead.

Apparently caught in a bad marriage, Ms. Boyd did not believe divorce was an option.

______________________

In addition, President Obama would replace the law’s requirement that every American child reach proficiency in reading and math, which administration officials have called utopian, with a new national target that could prove equally elusive: that all students should graduate from high school prepared for college and a career.

Sorry, this one was so stupid, I just had to repeat it.