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the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 11, 2012
by John Wilcock

“Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic parties have become expert at presenting themselves as moderates and telling the West what it wants to hear while they gradually ensnare societies in the sharia web, as slowly or quickly as conditions on the ground permit….Once in power they are sure to make virulent anti-Americanism their official policy and to contribute materially to the pan-Islamic goal of destroying Israel.” --from ‘Islam is Islam, and That’s It’ by Andrew C. McCarthy in the National Review

MEDICARE FRAUD has reached such stupefying levels that the estimated losses of about $80bn each year is just about equal to the budget cuts that the Obama administration feels it must make in the program. CMS (the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) paid out around $500bn last year ostensibly to qualified recipients. “But CMS has been a thieves' piñata for more than a decade” declares Fast Company. Rip-off HQ is apparently Florida which leaks hundreds of millions of dollars to criminal rings. One former prosecutor suggested to FC’s Tristam Korten that Miami’s economy would grind to a halt” if all Medicare fraud stopped overnight. “This is drug-cartel level profits, but without the gunfights”.
    Prompting the joke that Florida is where New Yorkers go to visit their parents, the state has five times as many Medicare clients than the rest of the country, but now the problem is spreading to other states. The ease with which fraudsters can rent an empty office, buy a list of prospects and hire somebody to pick up the checks, has proved to be irresistible, yet CMS has apparently done little to deter it. They have been willing to accept losses of 10% each year whereas more tightly-run credit card companies accept less than half of that.

IN A CONTEST for The Golden Flannel Award for Utter Gibberish, the award went to Manpower Group which describes itself: “Our $22bn company creates unique time to value through a comprehensive suite of innovative solutions that may help clients win in the Human Age”.

AMERICANS ELECT, the organization that plans to allow anybody to vote for presidential candidates chosen on the internet, is striving to get on the ballot in all 50 states and so far claims to have almost 2.5 million signatures. Its declared goal “is to nominate a presidential ticket that answers directly to voters—not the political system” offering participants “a greater voice for all Americans, no matter their party”. Understandably it is prompting suspicion, as well as non-disclosure about approval. It was funded initially by wealthy investor Peter Ackerman whose son Elliott (chief operating officer) has answered critics that large donations would be scaled back with later funds so that nobody would have contributed more than $10,000. AE’s platform, he told TV host Steven Colbert, would be whatever its delegates wanted it to be. The Washington Monthly’s Charlea Peters expressed the most common dissent: “(AE’s) threat from the center could end up doing to Obama what Ralph Nader from the left did to Al Gore in 2000”. And New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait adds: “I would love to reform the system in order to make influential third parties possible. But without reforming the system, third parties can badly distort election outcomes’.

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from The Villages of Florida newsletter.

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BEATLES OR STONES? I still like to rock, still like to cruise in my Camaro on Saturday nights and still like to play the guitar. If you were a groovy chick, or are now a groovy hen, let's get together and listen to my eight-track tapes.

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THOSE MISNAMED POWER BALANCE bracelets should be regarded as a sort of rabbit’s foot, meant to boost the wearer’s confidence rather than being some kind of cure-all maintains The Skeptical Inquirer. The magazine tested the $30 item—which has been endorsed by Shaquille O’Neal and other sports stars—and concluded that the bracelets “have no discernible effect when the wearer doesn’t know whether he or she is wearing one with a hologram”. The company’s pitch has been that when the hologram comes in contact with the body’s energy field “it allows your body to interact with the natural, beneficial frequency stored within the hologram”. This, supposedly, “optimize(s) the body’s energy field to improve strength, flexibility and balance”.

“I’ve never, never just gone out and sung a song. I go out and try to breathe life into an original creation and I try to do it every night, and I think that’s what it takes. There’s no point in doing it if you can’t create some kind of moment, a very special moment of connection between the performer and the audience. And that’s what I go for.” --Neil Diamond talking to Sandy Cohen in the Los Angeles Times

RIDICULOUS LAWS NEVER seem to get repealed but new ones are constantly added writes James Lileks in National Review, revealing that California just added hundreds of new ones. They include an ordinance that bans beer with caffeine (“It would never occur to anyone to order a tap and a cup of coffee and alternate sips”). Other new laws include requiring professional photocopiers to get a license, prohibiting the sale of live animals on public streets and cyber bullying on social network sites. Laws repealed? None. “The only laws that get repealed these days are the sodomy laws because we want to get the government out of certain bedrooms clucking in disapproval so it can be hustled into other bedrooms”

THE WILCOCK WEB: Why the surprise about Romney saying he doesn’t care about poor people, seeing as the statement specifically defines Republicans.?...What kind of crazy law is it that allows billionaire CEOs to walk away with millions when they declare bankruptcy?…. In democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism it's your count that votes…. Seeing as California is incapable of constructing that high-speed railroad why not turn it over to the Chinese or Japanese who at least have proved they can handle such a job?….And if California legislators get paid almost $100,000 for doing their job why do they deserve an extra $142 “daily allowance”? .....Being murdered by marines apparently doesn’t count if you’re an Iraqi…..Turkey angrily refutes that it killed one million Armenians in the alleged genocide; claims it was only 500,000… Fascist supporters of Spain’s long-gone dictator Francisco Franco have managed to railroad judge Baltazar Garzón who once indicted Chile’s Pinochet (until Britain’s despicable Jack Straw let him go)…… "If you get to thinking you’re a person of some influence” says The Old Farmer, “try ordering somebody else’s dog around”…….William Tomicki’s travel newsletter Entrée reports that guests at London’s Rubens at the Palace can book a hotel staffer as an opponent for most sports and if you’re traveling in a group you can challenge the luxury resort’s five-man soccer team… It would save a ton of money if we let the people in outer space (if any) search for us…Seeing as it’s the Palestinians who run Jordan, why do they need a second country?.... “Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once” quipped Woody Allen….…. Smelly films have surfaced again, this time in the chain of movie theaters where aromas are matched to screen action. They plan to open similar theaters in the US later this year….Neither perfume nor music greet visitors to the Harley Davidson store in downtown Orlando, FL, but a permanent soundtrack blasting the noise of a Harley V-twin-engine accelerating which motor-cycle fans crave….Because some Catholic colleges imagine themselves (incorrectly) to be above the law on administering birth control information, they plan to appeal to the (Catholic) Supreme Court to bolster their case…..It’s about time that religions were taxed…….There was a time when, if the New York Times had ten successive full page ads, they would have interspersed them with a bit of editorial copy…..With 30 Paris Hilton stores (shores, handbags etc) around the world having generated $1.3bn in revenues, the publicity-crazed heiress now plans to open beach clubs in the Philippines…. …Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond movies, an exhibition at Britain’s National Motor Museum is exhibiting 50 cars in which OO7 performed…. A short fortune-teller escaped from prison to become a small medium, at-large…..New York City is apparently run by lesbian lobbyists…Anheuser-Busch is planning a chain of Belgian Beer Cafes (where hopefully it might sell the highly superior European brand of Budweiser)….. Parisian baker Jean-Louis Hecht has been selling thousands of hot baguettes a month from a vending machine which he loads with the frozen, half-baked bread that customers finish off for themselves…. As people who take up meditation boast, it's better than doing nothing.….”Humankind cannot bear too much reality”—T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)


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nytimes.com: Frugal Traveler

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John Wilcock at the New York Times

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