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Isn’t it romantic?

The Valentine’s Day ad aired during the Super Bowl, to make sure it reached the maximum number of sophisticates. The girl in the ad is a famous foreign model — “super-hot,” as they say on the sports radio stations. You know she’s hot stuff because the background music sounds like someone is having sex, or shooting meth. More here.


So I have multiple incisions from the surgery, and because I’m a big believer now in myofascial therapy, I’ve been kind of working the areas around the wounds to keep everything moving freely.

Last night, I pushed down gently on one of the incisions and felt this little “pop” — you know, like bubble wrap? Then I pushed on another one and got another pop. Anyone ever experience anything like this? Not complaining, mind you – just curious.

Anyway, had my last visit with the surgeon yesterday. He was surprised that I really did have shingles, and that the antivirals got rid of it. “But you didn’t have a rash,” he said, turning to explain to the resident he was training.

“I did have a rash. I just had that one blister,” I reminded him. “When my kids were little and both had chicken pox (ed. note: shingles are a later incarnation of chicken pox), the one whose rash covered him from head to toe had no other symptoms. The one who only had three or four blisters was the one who was as sick as a dog.”

“Hmmph,” he said. You could almost see the “old wives tale” thought balloon above his head.

Anyway, so I’m feeling close to normal again. No severe pain and even got to sleep on my right side for the first time last night. My sleep’s a little screwed up, so I have to get back to a saner routine, and I’m still a little tired. But I’m planning to go back to the gym next week.

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Screwing veterans

Matt Stoller has an absolutely stunning expose over at Republic Report. How cynical do you have to be to fire veterans to allow politicians to give patronage contracts to their pals – especially when it’s for the Veterans Benefits Administration?

One of the basic pay to play schemes we see in most states and in the Federal government involves the privatization of government services to third party contractors who then kick back money through campaigns or lobbyists for increased privatization. It’s a transfer of state power from the public, which elects the government, to private actors, who increasingly control the data, the hiring standards, and the purchasing decision of the Federal bureaucracy.

Sometimes the kickback scheme is direct, and that’s illegal. But more often than not, it’s indirect. A firm, through subsidiaries or parent companies, hires a bunch of lobbying firms staffed by ex-officials. Then those ex-officials go to work to get the government to award contracts to the firm doing the hiring. The money flows in a nice circle of corruption.

This is just the latest example of indirect and legal bribery. Federal Computer Week reports:

In November, President Barack Obama signed into law the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act,” which included language to set up an expedited process for hiring returning solders for federal jobs.

But the VA’s own outsourcing, which began to grow under the Bush Administration and are continuing to expand, are abolishing many federal jobs currently held by veterans, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), an AFL-CIO union, said in a Feb. 8 news release.

For example, the Veterans Benefits Administration recently entered into a $54 million three-year contract with ACS Government Systems to perform claims processing work.

That work currently is being performed by “large numbers of veterans,” the union said. “To add insult to injury, the VBA employees are being asked to volunteer to train the contractors to do their work.”

“Contract claims processors working for profit will now handle the most personal information of our veterans.” AFGE National President John Gage said in the release.

In several other outsourcing contracts in recent years, the VA also has gotten rid of many government jobs historically held by veterans, AFGE said…

The VA also has failed to comply with a 2009 law that requires the agency to do a cost-benefit analysis before each outsourcing contract is awarded, to determine whether the contract is cost-effective for taxpayers, the union said.

“The agency continues to violate federal law by contracting out work that has been traditionally performed by veterans,” the union said. “The outsourced jobs include many entry level jobs that disabled veterans rely on to get back on their feet after returning from the battlefield.”

ACS Government Systems spent $900,000 on lobbying in 2010, and the company itself is a subsidiary of Xerox. Xerox spent $1.25 million on lobbying in 2011. Lobbying firms hired by ACS include the BGR Group, Federal Advocates, B&D Consulting, Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson, and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

Valentine’s day

Steve Earle with a song he wrote about forgetting to get his wife a present while he was under house arrest. Oh well. He divorced her eventually and been remarried once or twice since then, but it’s still a great song!


Martina McBride:

All you need is love

The Fabs:


“Our task is not to seek love, but to seek and find all the barriers within we have built against it.” – Rumi


Stevie Wonder:

NATO: We found dead kids after bombing

Being an American requires a strong stomach and a knack for cognitive dissonance:

Last Wednesday, a NATO air strike against the Kapisa Province ended with eight children dead and the Afghan government deploying a team including a number of MPs to try to figure out how it happened.

NATO, incredibly, is just getting around to officially comment on the killings, and would insist only that its officials “found” the dead children at the site of the attack, and that they can’t “confirm nor deny” that the air strike is what killed them.

NATO’s denials are usually a bit behind the game, but in this case it seems doubly absurd, as the Afghan government had already confirmed that an informant in the area had told French occupation forces that the children were “terrorists” planning to attack the village, which led to the strike on them.

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