Monday, May 28, 2012

Last Call

Ladies and Gentlemen, my senator, Rand Paul:

Mr. President, today I'm offering an Amendment to the FDA. I'm troubled by images of armed agents, armed FDA agents raiding Amish farms and preventing them from selling milk directly from the cow. I think we have bigger problems in our country without sending armed FDA agents onto peaceful farmers land and telling them they can't sell milk directly from the cow.

My Amendment has three parts, first, it attempts to stop the FDA's overzealous regulation of vitamins, food and supplements by codifying the First Amendment's prohibition on prior restraint. What do I mean by that? The First Amendment says you can't prevent speech, even commercial speech, in advance of this speech. You can't tell Cheerios that they can't say that there is a health benefit to their Cheerios.  Under our current FDA laws, FDA says if you want to market prune juice, you can’t say that it cures constipation.

You can’t make a health claim about a food supplement or about a vitamin, you can do it about a pharmaceutical, but you’re not allowed to do it about a health supplement.

I think this should change. There have been several court cases that show this goes against not only the spirit but the letter of the law of the First Amendment. So this amendment would change that.
This amendment would stop the FDA from censoring claims about curative, mitigative effects of dietary supplements. It would also stop the FDA from prohibiting distribution of scientific articles and publications regarding the role of nutrients in protecting against disease. Despite four court orders condemning the practice as a violation of the First Amendment, the FDA continues to suppress consumers’ right to be informed and to make informed choices by denying them this particular information. It’s time for Congress to put an end to FDA censorship.

In other words, if the food giants and the drug giants want to lie and say their product cures cancer, they should be allowed to.  If the product doesn't do what the claims say they do and actually ends up killing you, well then the free market will step in and consumers will put that company out of business.  Furthermore, the FDA saying "But these claims aren't true, you can't use them" is robbing our precious mega-corporations of the Founder's God-Given Right(tm) to bilk you out of billions with false data and misleading studies.  After all, if you're not smart enough to be able to judge the claims on your own, you deserve to have the Invisible Hand take your wallet.

Freedom to be fleeced for everybody!  What's more American than that?

Olympic Sized Tool

The pressure on Syria is ratcheting up since this weekend's awful massacre in Houla by the twisted al-Assad regime.

The killings of more than 100 Syrian civilians, including nearly 50 children, provoked outrage around Syria and worldwide Sunday as horrific images of the bodies in Houla spread across the internet.

Videos posted Sunday on YouTube show demonstrations in cities around the country, including Damascus, Daraa, Idlib, and the suburbs of Hama.

"Oh Houla, we are with you until death," protesters chanted in Daraa. And a demonstration in Idlib showed a U.N. vehicle among protesters. In the Hama suburbs, demonstrators called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

The UN Security Council condemned the massacre on Sunday, and now the UK is strongly considering barring Syrian officials from the 2012 London Olympics.

[Deputy PM] Nick Clegg has said that the government would stop Syrian military figures accused of human rights abuses from visiting the UK during the Olympics.

He said on Sunday that the government had recently changed the rules so that there was now a presumption that those individuals “shown to have abused human rights” would be banned.

Clegg was speaking after a Syrian general close to President Bashar al-Assad told the Times that he was determined to come to the Olympics in his capacity as president of the Syrian national Olympic committee. General Mofwaq Joumaa, who is hoping to lead a 31-strong Syrian delegation at the Games, said that it would be unfair if he was blocked because of his military background.

That's a pretty big move on the part of Clegg and the UK and the least they can do to make it clear that Syria's bloodthirsty goons won't be tolerated by the rest of the world.  Something's going to have to happen about Syria and soon.  I think it will.

Greek Fire, Part 57

And as the problems in Spain are accelerating, the biggest risk of collapse right now in Europe remains Greece.  Spain's economic disintegration would be far worse, but Greece's is far more likely, measured now in possibly weeks, not months before the Troika has to step in yet again or risk eurozone meltdown...and a global crisis.

Greece's public finances could collapse as early as next month, leaving salaries and pensions unpaid unless a stable government emerges from the June 17 election, according to Lucas Papademos, the technocrat prime minister who left office after this month's inconclusive vote.

Mr Papademos warned that conditions were deteriorating faster than expected with cash flow likely to turn negative in early June amid a sharp fall in tax revenues and a loosening of spending controls during two back-to-back election campaigns.

Mounting anxiety that Greece is headed for further political instability and a possible exit from the euro has prompted many Greeks to postpone making tax payments, and has also accelerated outflows of deposits from local banks.
Athens bankers estimate that more than €3bn of cash withdrawn since the May 6 election has been stashed in safe-deposit boxes and under mattresses in case the country is forced to readopt the drachma.

That's terrifying news.  The slow-motion bank runs in Greece are well underway, and people are simply putting off tax payments with no real government in power right now.  There's no reason to believe June's elections will break the deadlock, either.  None.  The Greek Fire is now burning through the country's cash on hand reserves.  It's not going to be able to pay employees within weeks.  That's only going to increase the bank runs and delay more tax payments.

I don't see a way out of this now other than Yet Another Bailout.  And this time, I think Germany will say "nein".

On the other hand, Spain is in real trouble too:

Why has this piece of bad news terrified global elites? In the first place because it demonstrates that in addition to huge costs in bailing out its banking sector the insolvent Spanish central government is going to get hit with massive bills from not only Catalonia but its other regional governments. It is going to have to go to the financial markets hat in hand to borrow more money than expected — this is going to drive interest rates up in Spain (and probably in Italy and Belgium) just at the time when Europe’s financial markets were trembling on the brink of yet another panic. And it means that Spain is likely to come to the EU much sooner than expected with a much bigger bailout request than anybody thought.

It's a race as to which country will need that bailout first.   But Spain's day joining the rest of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Greece) in the Bailout Club is now a guarantee, folks.

It's getting scary.  Real bad.  And the Greek Fire is now picking up speed.

Dario Diary: I'm A Winner

Memorial Day weekend in this part of the country means the Indianapolis 500, arguably the most famous auto race on Earth, and Mr. Ashley Judd, Dario Franchitti, took home his third career trophy.  SI's Bruce Martin:

Before the start of Sunday's 96th Indianapolis 500, Dario Franchitti stood under an umbrella held by his wife -- actress Ashley Judd -- to shield himself from the scorching sun. He then leaned against the left-front tire to steal a moment of solitude amid a crowd of 350,000 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Judd's last words to her husband were, "I'll see you in Victory Lane."

Franchitti kept his date with his wife, driving into the history books with his third career Indianapolis 500 victory. He is just the seventh driver to complete that feat, and he did so in one of the most competitive Indy 500s in history.

There were 17 cars on the lead lap with a record 35 lead changes between 10 different drivers. The race was contested in 91-degree heat, which fell one degree shy of the all-time record (92 degrees) set in 1937.

As the laps dwindled, it appeared to be a two-man race between Franchitti and Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon. The two traded the lead several times over the final six laps before Japan's Takuma Sato passed Dixon for second place. Sato went for the lead on the final lap, attempting to dive beneath Franchitti during the first turn, but his move didn't work. He lost control on the apron and crashed into the outside wall in Turn 1.

"I was going for the win, of course," said Sato, who was attempting to become the first driver from Japan to win the Indy 500. "I don't think Dario gave me enough room so I'm really disappointed. It was the very last lap and I drove in, but he didn't move up. I had nowhere to go, so I'm a little disappointed."

Franchitti crossed the finish line with the yellow and checkered flags waving. His two closet friends in the series, Dixon and Tony Kanaan, finished second and third respectively.

Give that man his milk bottle.  And Ashley Judd.  Yeah, there's a guy who won the lottery in this here universe.

Not Your Greatest Moment

MSNBC host Chris Hayes stepped in it Sunday when he said the following about Memorial Day and the US armed forces as "heroes":

“I feel… uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.”

It's a valid concern from a technical and word usage point of view, but as BooMan says, it's a pretty thickheaded thing to say on Memorial Day weekend on national TV.

 Now, some might say that calling all our dead soldiers 'heroes' is rhetorically proximate to legitimizing whatever they've been asked to do. If we call them 'heroes' then we are somehow making it more likely that we'll fight more stupid and unnecessary wars in the future. This is overwrought hand-wringing. We do have a problem when we make it taboo to criticize our soldiers or their missions. But we can segregate discussions of policy from maintaining some solemnity and respect for the dead

And Hayes did say he meant no disrespect to our men and women in uniform, true.  Choosing to say so on Memorial Day weekend, kind of a bad time to make that point.  Just saying.

On the other hand, if you want to be truly angry at someone who absolutely means disrespect for our fallen troops, there's freelance author and anti-war activist Charles Davis.

There is nothing honorable about serving in the US military. Good people join the armed forces, no doubt. But that's tragic, not heroic.

So on further analysis, Chris Hayes is off the hook, and Charles Davis is a complete asshole.  What a surprise, not all of the douchenozzles on the internet are conservatives.

If You Can't Steal A Presidential Election...

...suppress the vote beforehand to make sure the results will never be in doubt.

Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida's voting rolls, a Miami Herald computer analysis of elections records has found.

Whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal, the analysis of a list of more than 2,600 potential noncitizens shows. The list was first compiled by the state and furnished to county election supervisors and then the Herald.

The numbers change by the day. The state's Division of Elections says it initially identified roughly 180,000 potential noncitizens by performing a search of a computer database that doesn't have the most-updated information.

About 58 percent of those identified as potential noncitizens are Hispanics, Florida's largest ethnic immigrant population. They make up just 13 percent of the overall 11.3 million active registered voters.

Those who have been flagged as potential noncitizens by the state are being contacted by county election supervisors. Many legitimate voters aren't happy with what they see as a needless hassle from a government using bad data.

"I'm upset, because if someone is an American citizen, it is his right to vote. How can they be asking for this?" said Juan Artabe, a 41-year-old Democrat from Cuba who said he became a citizen in 2009.

"Very poor job by the elections department," Artabe said. He said he was contacted last week by the Miami-Dade elections office and sent in a copy of his citizenship papers so he wasn't struck from the voter rolls.

Working as intended, folks.   Florida's Republican party has complete dominance over the state legislature and Gov. Rick Scott signs whatever he wants to.  There's literally nothing Democrats can do to stop this variation on voter caging,  assuming that tens of thousands of eligible Florida voters are in fact ineligible to vote unless they respond to the state's inquiry.  If you don't respond to the letter by the deadline, you're off the rolls and can only cast a provisional ballot.  And of course, these responses and provisional ballots are not only voter harassment, but could potentially be "misplaced" by Florida election officials.

"Oh," but you say, "states purge voter  rolls all the time."  Not like this, they don't.  Think Progress:

According to data from the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections obtained by ThinkProgress:
- 1638 people in Miami-Dade County were flagged by the state as “non-citizens” and sent letters informing them that they were ineligible to vote.
- Of that group, 359 people have subsquently provided the county with proof of citizenship.
- Another 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county.
- The bulk of the remaining 1200 people have simply not responded yet to a letter sent to them by the Supervisor of Elections.
You can see a similar letter sent to alleged “non-citizens” by the Broward County Supervisor of Elections HERE. (“The Supervisor of Elections… has received information that you are not a citizen of the United States.”) If recipients of the letter do not respond within 30 days — a deadline that is mere days away — they will be summarily removed from the voting rolls. The voters purged from the list, election officials tell ThinkProgress, will inevitably include fully eligible Florida voters.

In short, an excess of 20 percent of the voters flagged as “non-citizens” in Miami-Dade are, in fact, citizens. And the actual number may be much higher.

Knock out a hundred thousand or so minority voters in Florida and Mitt Romney wins the state without having to lift a finger.  Republican Secretaries of State gave the election to Bush twice, once in Florida in 2000, and again in Ohio in 2004.  After Barack Obama's big win in 2008, they're not taking any chances now that they have control of even more state election boards, governor's mansions, and state legislatures.  The fix is in, and it starts in swing states controlled by the GOP at the state level.  There's no bigger single prize in that category this year than Florida.  Now that the state is fully under GOP control, they plan to permanently disenfranchise Democrats in the state so they remain in control unopposed for the foreseeable future.  And it starts with Gov. Rick Scott's "voter purge" of eligible minority voters.

We bemoan Egypt's rigged elections and say "Why don't they have a democratic process like we do?"  They do.  That's the problem.

The Moustache Of Freedom Rides Again

Tom Friedman's lack of self-awareness is nearly criminal.  On Sunday, Friedman bemoaned this unfortunate state of affairs:

Barack Obama is a great orator, but he is the worst president I’ve ever seen when it comes to explaining his achievements, putting them in context, connecting with people on a gut level through repetition and thereby defining how the public views an issue

Think about this: Is there anyone in America today who doesn’t either have a pre-existing medical condition or know someone who does and can’t get health insurance as a result? Yet two years after Obama’s health care bill became law, how many Americans understand that once it is fully implemented no American with a pre-existing condition will ever again be denied coverage? 

You know how most Americans get their news?  From the Village media.  From, you know, PEOPLE LIKE TOM FRIEDMAN.  Does Tom Friedman then think the positive benefits of the Affordable Care Act are worth repeating in order to help define to the public how vital it is?

Not really.

Within both education and health care, we need grand bargains that better allocate resources between remediation and prevention. In both health and education, we spend more than anyone else in the world — without better outcomes. We waste too much money treating people for preventable diseases and reteaching students in college what they should have learned in high school. Modern capitalism requires skilled workers and workers with portable health care that allows them to move for any job.  

The Affordable Care Act of course addresses those concerns through state exchanges, waste reduction, and the mandate, but of course we still need a "grand bargain".  Gosh, if only somebody had passed a law and the media would tell people about it.  You know, like Friedman here.

Jesus wept.

StupidiNews, Memorial Day Edition!

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