Saturday, October 25, 2014

Will To Glower

When George F. Will is parroting right-wing blog inanities about Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin being the "victim of liberal fascism and judicial activism", you know an election is just around the corner.

From the progressivism of Robert La Follette to the conservatism of Gov. Scott Walker (R) today, Wisconsin has been fertile soil for conviction politics. Today, the state’s senators are the very conservativeRon Johnson (R) and the very liberal Tammy Baldwin (D). Now, however, Wisconsin, which to its chagrin produced Sen. Joe McCarthy (R), has been embarrassed by Milwaukee County’s Democratic district attorney, John Chisholm. He has used Wisconsin’s uniquely odious “John Doe” process to launch sweeping and virtually unsupervised investigations while imposing gag orders to prevent investigated people from defending themselves or rebutting politically motivated leaks.

According to several published reports, Chisholm told subordinates that his wife, a teachers union shop steward at her school, is anguished by her detestation of Walker’s restrictions on government employee unions, so Chisholm considers it his duty to help defeat Walker.

Please note that all this is coming from a right wing blog in Wisconsin that's leaking the John Doe proceedings, where the real problem is Scott Walker has abused the power of his office in order to pressure political foes, attack unions, and take cash outside of the law.

Besides, can Walker possibly be a victim if he has the multi-billionaire Koch Brothers financing his campaign?  He's the best governor you can buy, after all.  He's run Wisconsin's economy into the ground, completely failing on his promise to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the state continues to languish at the bottom of the pile in growth.  Profits for Koch related industries in the state, well, those are up big.

Who knew.

Don't cry for Walker, Wisconsin.  You can rid yourself of him for good in less than two weeks.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Last Call For Cincy's Last Abortion Clinic

It looks like the Planned Parenthood surgical center in Cincinnati has finally been cited for lack of a hospital transfer agreement, and has until next week to come up with a solution or risk being shut down for good.

The Elizabeth Campbell Surgical Center was last inspected in June, but the health department waited until last week to notify the clinic that it was out of compliance with acontroversial state law passed last year. That could be the first step in moving to revoke the clinic's surgical license, which would make Cincinnati the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. without an abortion clinic, according to an Enquirer analysis.

Abortion clinics in Ohio now must have agreements with private hospitals willing to take abortion patients in an emergency. Many private hospitals are religious and have declined to form agreements with abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood found itself in such a situation and asked the health department to grant an exception to the rule -- a so-called "variance," which is allowed by law. 
The clinic placed the request more than a year ago and has yet to receive a response, Planned Parenthood spokesman Rick Pender told The Enquirer. 
"We have received the letter, and it is accurate in its statement that we do not have a transfer agreement," he said. "But what we have pending, for more than a year, is our variance request, which the health department has not acted on."

The other two clinics in southwest Ohio are in the same boat.  Mercy Health, formerly Catholic Health Partners (I bet you're seeing where this is going) is the largest hospital chain around.  They've basically bullied everyone in the area to revoke their transfer agreements or face their wrath, and everyone folded, most notably the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Now it's looking like the Campbell Center has until next week to come up with a plan or risk being shut down.  In fact, it's looking really, really grim for all three clinics.

But Ohio keeps electing Republicans, and the horrific anti-choice bill "moderate" Gov. John Kasich signed into law may get rid of all Ohio clinics.

Which of course was the point.

Getting Away From It All

Greg Sargent argues that Ebola allows Senate Dems to attack President Obama on something that's not going to hurt them with their base, and with a new case of the disease in NYC, the last week and change before the midterms may be defined by that response.

As I’ve reported before, Democrats are using Ebola to achieve distance from the President, who continues to be deeply disliked by constituencies who still are populated by voters who remain undecided, and could be tipped towards Republicans by a feather-push from something like Ebola remaining in the news. At the same time, this sort of criticism is unlikely to alienate the core Democratic voters whose turnout will be crucial, and who might feel less motivated if candidates break with Obama on core Democratic issues. Either way, the politics of Ebola may now be back.

The fact that America's fate may be decided by such self-pissing fear is insane, but there you have it. The reality remains that if Dems turn out, they'll win.  If they don't, Republicans will win big.  And out media has neutered, trivialized, and drenched our political process in such banalities that the voters don't give a damn any more which party destroys the country at this point.

This seems to be especially the case with my generation, older Millennials who've been around the block enough to recognize the problems with our country, but have been kidney punched relentlessly by politics to the point of apathy. "Why vote, they're all going to screw us over anyway" is something I hear a lot these days.

I respond "If you don't vote, that becomes a certainty, now doesn't it?"

Ebola shouldn't be deciding this election. Voters should.

Privilege 101 In Iowa's Senate Race

It's not that Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst said the following a couple years ago in Iowa at an NRA event:

"I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere," Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. "But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it's from an intruder, or whether it's from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."

It's the fact that, as Steve M. points out, it's a perfect example of privilege.

Ernst feels free to make this reckless statement, to a crowd that didn't find it the least bit objectionable, because she feels pretty safe in the assumption that she'll never be called to back those words up with actions. That's because she lives in a country where, regardless of all the hotheaded rhetoric, the government never really tyrannizes people like her and her audience, i.e., heartland white people of some means
If Ernst and the crowd she was addressing were African-American, and had to get used to staggeringly high incarceration rates, as well as routine stop-and-frisk episodes and traffic stops for themselves and their children, they'd have to ask themselves if they were really so damn brave that they'd take up arms against the government. But they don't have to worry about that. So Ernst can just let loose this way with a barrage of irresponsible talk about insurrection.

So yes, it's a perfect example.  As a veteran, Ernst should know better than to so blithely treat firearms as a propaganda piece instead of something that can, if necessary, kill.  But that's not what the NRA crowds want to hear.  They want red meat.

Oh, sure, there was that crazy David Koresh a generation ago, and there was Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge shortly before that. But in this century there's been one situation of this kind involving conservative white people: the standoff at Cliven Bundy's ranch. And in that situation, Bundy and his pals didn't actually have reason to put a bullet in anyone because the Bundyites were conservative heartland whites, and a government run by a widely despised black guy, and with an even more loathed black guy as attorney general, was never really going to risk messing with them.

Whether they'll admit it or not, white right-wing heartlanders know that the jackbooted government thuggery they have Walter Mitty fantasies about resisting happens to them only after they engage in the most extreme provocation. So they talk the talk, knowing they won't ever to have to walk the walk.

They pick a fight knowing it won't come, because it fulfills the lizard-brain need to lash out.  It's precisely because Joni Ernst can say things like this and still be in the running for a Senate seat that proves everything she says is idiotically wrong.  If Barack Obama really were the tyrant they said he was, and Eric Holder was his bag man, Joni Ernst would have been dealt with in a rather permanent fashion, yes?

Of course the barbaric yawp response to this is "And it's because we're ready to use these weapons that keeps the government from going after us" like somehow, the US armed forces that Ernst belonged to wouldn't wipe the floor with a bunch of average guys with guns if that what Barack Obama wanted to happen.

Now imagine that black protesters in Ferguson, Missouri told the cops "I do believe in the right to carry...I believe in the right to defend myself and my family...from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important" and see how long before that same government executes them on the streets like dogs for daring to exercise that right.

Black people get killed for picking up a BB gun in Wal-mart, remember?  I don't hear Joni Ernst saying anything about the right to resist government when it comes to government brutality suffered for centuries by black people.

Funny how that works.

No wonder Ernst is spending the last days of the race dodging the press.  Somebody might ask her questions, and we can't have that.  But she seems to think this might hurt in a close race, because ten days before the election she's already taking steps towards getting a recount motion started.

You think she'll lose gracefully?

Not this person.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Last Call For The Gas Face, 2014 Edition

TNR's Danny Vinik argues that since you can't really blame Obama for when gas prices were $4 a gallon two years ago, that you can't really credit Obama for when gas prices are below $3 a gallon now.

Remember in early 2012, when gas prices were approaching $4 per gallon? Republicans were eager to blame President Obama for consumers having to pay more at the pump. “[Obama] gets full credit or blame for what’s happened in this economy, and what’s happened to gasoline prices under his watch,” then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney said. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed. “This president will go to any length to drive up gas prices and pave the way for his ideological agenda,” he said in February 2012. House Speaker John Boehner made similar comments
Those comments never made any sense, because Obama has very little control over gas prices, which are determined by global supply and demand. In 2012, as the economy recovered, demand for gas rose as consumers decided to drive to work and take more weekend vacations. That pushed gas prices higher. The president isn’t entirely powerless to affect prices, since he can approve drilling permits and pipelines to increase the supply of oil. But his influence is still limited. Even after the recent explosion in U.S. oil production, the country still produces just 10 percent of global crude.

Except that's an easy way to let Republicans off the hook for their mendacity in the first place.  It's easy to say that the GOP's comments weren't deserved, but it won't stop them from saying patently false garbage like this anyway.

Governor Kitzhaber Of Ore-Gone

Don't look now, but something unexpected happened on the way to Oregon Dem governor Jon Kitzhaber fourth term:  his fiancee Cylvia Hayes (yes, Cylvia with a goddamn "C") is about to wreck Kitzhaber's career and hand over the state to raging Tea Party asshole Dennis Richardson.

First there were conflict of interest allegations. Then came the admission of a sham marriage with an immigrant. And now it appears a farm was purchased in order to grow a great deal of marijuana. 
But the scandals don’t center on Kitzhaber himself. Instead, the main character in Oregon’s October Surprises is Kitzhaber’s fiancĂ©e, Cylvia Hayes, who the governor elevated by bringing her on as an adviser and calling her the state’s “First Lady.” 
The latest revelation about Hayes is that she planned to farm marijuana on 60 acres of land in rural Washington back in 1997. Hayes told reporters Monday that while she “planned” to use the expansive property to grow pot, the operation “never materialized” and the land went into foreclosure. 
Also in 1997, Hayes entered a sham marriage with a Nigerian immigrant, for which she was paid $5,000. The fraudulent marriage was revealed [in early October]. 
The story was sparked by retired real estate broker Patrick Siemion, who found marijuana trimmings on the property after it was foreclosed. Siemion told The Oregonian that it was clear to him Hayes was the leader of the operation. 
“She did all the talking, all the negotiating,” he said. Siemion did not return a call from The Daily Beast. 
Hayes told reporters that she was “not proud of that brief period” in which she and a “dangerous man” who abused her lived on the property near the Canadian border. She also insists she was not “financially involved” with the down payment or mortgage payments on the property.

That's the bad news for Kitzhanber.  This is the horrific, possibly career-ending news for him.

A dramatic shift in poll numbers has taken place since Governor John Kitzhaber’s campaign became riddled with scandal. A poll commissioned by KATU has Dennis Richardson with a surprising double-digit lead
Even Dennis Richardson himself is surprised by the new numbers “It was just amazing to see that kind of a flip,” Richardson told KXL. “People finally have figured it out, that with cover-ups, waste, investigations, sweetheart deals, and pay-for-play they finally decided that’s not going to work for Oregon’s future.” 
Kitzhaber, who was up 13-points before a steady dose of negative press is now down 17-points. With 18% of those polled saying they have shifted allegiances, and were once voting for the governor but are now voting for Richardson. 
Richardson says he has met some of those 18% who have switched sides “I met some in the grocery store who said ‘I have been a Democrat all my life and I never thought I would vote for a Republican, but this isn’t about party, this is about integrity, honestly and honor.” Richardson said. “They all have different reasons, but they said ‘we’re voting for Richardson, we want to give him a chance.”

A 30-point swing in the space of a month?  Here's hoping Oregon survives Richardson, whose record in the state legislature paints him pretty squarely as an anti-choice, anti-gay Tea Party bigot who thinks sexual orientation is a "behavior" that doesn't warrant any "special protections" and that he would have personally stopped the Sandy Hook school shooting massacre if he was an armed teacher.

His number one goal?  The end of Medicaid expansion in Oregon, which will leave 200,000 plus without health insurance coverage.  Richardson called Medicaid expansion "delusional" last year.

So think carefully before kicking Kitzhaber to the curb, Beaver State.  You're about to give yourself a much worse problem.

It Was Always About Voter Suppression

Bloomberg News doesn't pull any punches in the headline of this piece: "Republicans Set to Gain From Laws Requiring Voter IDs".

Republicans are poised to gain next month from new election laws in almost half the 50 U.S. states, where the additional requirements defy a half-century trend of easing access to the polls.

In North Carolina, where Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan’s re-election fight may determine the nation’s balance of power, the state ended same-day registration used more heavily by blacks. A Texas law will affect more than 500,000 voters who lack identification and are disproportionately black and Hispanic, according to a federal judge. In Ohio, lawmakers discontinued a week during which residents could register and vote on the same day, which another judge said burdens lower income and homeless voters.

While Republicans say the laws were meant to stop fraud or ease administrative burdens, Democrats and civil-rights groups maintain they’re aimed at damping turnout by blacks, Hispanics and the young, who are their mainstays in an increasingly diverse America. Texas found two instances of in-person voter fraud among more than 62 million votes cast in elections during the preceding 14 years, according to testimony in the federal case.

“You’re seeing the use of the election process as a means of clinging to power,” said Justin Levitt, who follows election regulation at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “You have more states passing laws that create hurdles and inconveniences to voting than we have seen go into effect in the last 50 years.”

The bottom line is that over the last several years, Republicans at the state level are making it harder for people to vote in order to keep Democrats from voting.  Texas's law was found to be a modern "poll tax" by a federal judge, but was reversed within days by the conservative-dominated 5th Circuit, stacked with Republican appointees.

The Republican Party wants fewer people voting.  That will help them in races across the country, and they know it.  Laws forcing people to buy IDs are illegal unless the state provides those who can't pay IDs free of charge, but of course the process for signing up for that requires the Board of Elections to approve such waivers in a bureaucratic nightmare that takes months, if not longer.  Voter ID laws in all these states specifically eliminate state college IDs as valid, so students can't vote.  Instruction for getting these IDs in Spanish are curiously difficult to locate.  Early voting is being eliminated in states like Ohio for no good reason other than arbitrary decisions by Republican Secretaries of State, especially Sunday voting, to stop black churches from bringing people to the polls after service.  The list goes on and on.

You have to admit, the GOP really thought this one through.  They know that if they can keep adding requirements they can lower turnout across the country.  It'll help them cling to power just long enough to do some real damage.

Remember, none of this "rampant voter fraud" was a problem with a Republican president.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Last Call For Prime Time For Subprime Again

Guess what's back in a big way, kids?  Our old friend, The Subprime Loan is running rampant, and thanks to Republicans, it's even easier for big banks to rack up the green with ridiculous interest rates. Being poor in America is very, very expensive.

Lenders have come under fire in Washington in recent years. Yet one corner of the financial industry — lending to people with poor credit scores — has found sympathetic audiences in many state capitals. 
Over the last two years, lawmakers in at least eight states have voted to increase the fees or the interest rates that lenders can charge on certain personal loans used by millions of borrowers with subpar credit. 
The overhaul of the state lending laws comes after a lobbying push by the consumer loan industry and a wave of campaign donations to state lawmakers. In North Carolina, for example, lenders and their lobbyists overcame unusually dogged opposition from military commanders, who two years earlier had warned that raising rates on loans could harm their troops. 
The lenders argued that interest rate caps had not kept pace with the increased costs of doing business, including running branches and hiring employees. Unless they can make an acceptable profit, the industry says, lenders will not be able to offer loans allowing people with damaged credit to pay for car repairs or medical bills. 
But a recent regulatory filing by one of the nation’s largest subprime consumer lenders, Citigroup’s OneMain Financial unit, shows that making personal loans to people on the financial margins can be a highly profitable business — even before state lending laws were changed. Last year, OneMain’s profit increased 31 percent from 2012
“There was simply no need to change the law,” said Rick Glazier, a North Carolina lawmaker, who opposed the industry’s effort to change the rate structure in his state. “It was one of the most brazen efforts by a special interest group to increase its own profits that I have ever seen.”

It's nice being able to charge 40% interest on a $4,000 loan, huh?  Most people would call that legalized loan sharking.  Let's keep in mind Republicans have done everything in their power to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and at the state level, allow lenders free reign to gouge people.

Need that two grand to fix you car so you can still get to work and keep your job?  Be ready to fork over hundreds in interest payments, so much so that as with subprime and rent-to-own, you'll need to take out another loan to pay off the first one.

Blessed are the moneylenders, right?

Sure, He's A Turtle, But He's Our Turtle!

It's saying something that in Kentucky, where African-Americans make up only about 8% of the population (well under the national average of 13% and waaaaaay under other Southern states like Mississippi, Alabama, or Georgia) that the Senate race here is close enough for Mitch McConnell to even care about the black vote.

As such, Mitch McConnell's pitch to black voters like myself here in Kentucky is really simple:  As Senate majority leader, I'll get you the green.

As the latest Bluegrass Poll poll shows, the Kentucky Senate race remains tight between GOP leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and the campaigns are battling for every last vote in the home stretch. 
McConnell goes on the radio Tuesday in an ad targeting African-American voters following a negative ad aired on Louisville-area radio last week that criticized the minority leader on voting rights. In his response ad, McConnell again leans on Noelle Hunter, an African-American woman and community college professor, to make the case for his re-election. 
Alison Grimes won’t say she voted for President Obama, but I will. I voted for President Obama — twice. So you might be surprised to hear that I’m also voting for Mitch McConnell,” Hunter says in the ad.. “As an African American I know from personal experience that Mitch fights for our community and cares about us.”

Vote for Mitch.  He has black friends, unlike that mean ol' white girl who hates President Obama.

Of course the reason Mitch is deigning to admit the black vote exists in the first place is because Alison Grimes knows damn well what Republicans really mean for the black vote.

The Grimes campaign is seeking to motivate black voters with a radio ad suggesting their voting rights are at risk if McConnell is re-elected. “Worst of all, Mitch McConnell has been leading the Republican effort to take away our voting rights,” the man says in the Grimes ad. “Just like he blocked everything from getting done in Washington, he’s blocking the ballot box and trying to silence our voices.”

Still, Grimes attacking Obama has hurt her among black voters.

The latest Bluegrass Poll gives Grimes a 38-point lead, 60%-22%, among black voters, with 17% undecided two weeks from Election Day.

You'd be hard pressed to find any other Republicans running this year who's getting 22% of the black vote.  In a state like Alabama, that would be a landslide GOP win.  In Kentucky, well, that's more like 2% of the total vote, but in a race that will probably be decided by a couple of points, the margin may be enough.

We'll see.

BREAKING: O(h No), Canada

Our friends to the north have suffered what appears to be an attack by multiple shooters in at least two locations in the capital of Ottawa, Parliament Hill and a nearby hotel.

Parliament Hill came under attack today after a man with a rifle shot a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa,before seizing a car and driving to the doors of Parliament Hill's Centre Block nearby. 
MPs and other witnesses reported several shots fired inside Parliament, and a gunman has been confirmed dead inside the building, shot by the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms, according to MPs' eyewitness accounts. 
The soldier's condition has not been confirmed. 
MP John Williamson tweeted that the Conservative caucus has been told "one CAF soldier was killed," adding "a moment of silence followed." CBC News has confirmed the soldier is a reservist from Hamilton.

One shooter is dead, as the story says, but another appears to be on the loose in downtown Ottawa. Not a good day at all.

Here's hoping that the RCMP and Ottawa Police can get this under control without any more casualties.

Weather Or Not We Do Anything About It, Well...

No big deal, the 12 month period from October 2013 through September 2014 was only the hottest 12 months in recorded history.

2014 is turning into a superlative year for global temperature. September was the warmest such month on record, according to the monthly climate report by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. This follows the warmest August on record, and the warmest summer on record, as well. And year to date, 2014 ties with 1998 and 2010 — two of the warmest years in recorded history — with a temperature departure of 1.22 degrees above average. 
If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest year on record,” says the report
While we still have three months to see whether the calendar year will set a record, the past 12 months — October 2013 through September 2014 — was the warmest 12-month period on record, at 1.24 degrees above the 20th century average temperature. 
September’s average global temperature was 1.3 degrees above the 20th century average, according to NOAA. And global sea surface temperature was an astonishing 1.19 degrees above average — making September 2014 the warmest on record for any month over the oceans.

But there's nothing to worry about because the science isn't settled and there's nothing we can do about it anyway, why bother.  Meanwhile, one case of Ebola is the end of America!

Well I take that back.  We should probably cut taxes on energy companies so they do more drilling and fracking.

Because science.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Last Call For Getting Your Priorities Straight

The latest monthly Gallup poll on Americans and the issues important to them finds Ebola now outranks racism, crime, and poverty as top concerns among We The People:

Recent Trend for Most Important U.S. Problem

These results come from an Oct. 12-15 Gallup poll, conducted while dozens of people in the U.S. were still being quarantined after coming in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who died earlier this month from the virus. Two of the nurses who cared for Duncan have now been diagnosed with the virus. Most others who had contact with Duncan were quarantined for three weeks, which ended Monday. 
Separate Gallup polling about Ebola specifically finds more than one in five Americans saying they worry about getting the Ebola virus.

We're so very, very screwed.
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