Saturday, February 21, 2009

Reid Was Right For Once

My views on Harry Reid are legend, but for once the old man was right: the Senate should never have seated Roland Burris, as Jesse Taylor reminds us over at Pandagon.
So, a month and a half ago, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and other Democratic leaders stood staunchly opposed to Roland Burris’ seating. The Chicago Tribune then said there was no good reason not to seat Burris, smirking at Democrats’ impotent rage and declaring that Burris would be a fine, competent Senator.

Now that Burris is pretty much confirmed as the asshole we all thought he was, the selfsame Chicago Tribune is asking why Democrats are silent on the issue, and why they have no moral compass to oppose the most terrible man who’s ever held any office...ever.

I’m not the biggest fan of Harry Reid, but the guy steadfastly opposed Burris taking the seat, as did Obama. It’ll be interesting to see how the media handles this, by which I mean it’ll be interesting to see how long it is until we get a special segment on how Harry Reid let the fox walk into the henhouse and even pointed the way to the tastiest hens.

I'm hoping both Obama and Reid will tell Burris to go to hell and resign next week...but he won't. And for once, something stupid the Democrats in the Senate did won't be Harry Reid's fault.

The Lie That Won't Die

Feeling ignored by the Republican Party? Not taken seriously by the GOP anymore? Viewed as a has been? No problem! Just go on a totally crazy rant about Obama's birth certificate! (h/t BooMan):


Jindal's Last Stand

Man, this weekend keeps getting better. The "Begala Trap" has caught its first victim, folks. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is playing with fire by actually turning down Obama's stimulus money for unemployment benefits...and he's going to get burned by this. (h/t Think Progress)
When President Obama signed the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act last week, it included three different provisions to benefit unemployed workers. The first provided funding to states that allowed for a $25 per week increase in benefits. The second extended the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program which gives 20 weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits to individuals “who had already collected all regular state benefits,” while the third provision widened the pool of people eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

Today, however, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced his intention to oppose changing state law to allow his Lousiana citizens to qualify for the second two unemployment provisions. Jindal said the state would only be accepting money to increase the unemployment insurance payments for those who currently qualify for unemployment insurance.

Now, let's stop and think about it. Jindal is taking the extra $25 a week for people who already get state unemployment benefits. He's not a complete idiot and turning down all three provisions would have been political suicide.

But he turned down 20 weeks of additional unemployment benefits from Washington for people who have already exhausted their benefits...and this is Louisiana, a state still reeling from Katrina and neglect. Ran out of unemployment money searching for a job? Counting on that additional 20 weeks of benefits to feed your family? Sorry, Bobby Jindal's trying to run for President, and he can't help you in 2009 if he's running in 2012.

Even better, he turned down expanding unemployment benefits to more Louisianans, for the same reasons: he's arguing that it will increase taxes on businesses. Jindal's saying the taxes on small business owners will exceed the unemployment benefits on the jobless, so he's bravely saying no.

So, bottom line, Bobby Jindal is putting his bid for 2012 ahead of unemployed people in his own state during an economic crisis. Unemployment bennies are for poor people! Screw THEM, they don't count.

I didn't honestly think they would do it, but now that Jindal has drawn the line, we're now going to see GOP governors like Rick Perry, Mark Sanford, and good old Sarah Palin now have to up the ante and reject even MORE stimulus cash, putting even more burden on their people in order to fuel their own Presidential ambitions.

In all, Jindal turned away nearly $100 million in federal aid for his state’s unemployed residents. Further, as the National Employment Law Project projected on Febuary 13, EUC extension alone would have benefited 24,981 Louisiana residents. Jindal justified his decision by claiming that expanding unemployment benefits would result in tax increases for businesses. In a press release, the governor’s office explained:

The Governor said the state will not use a portion of the stimulus package that requires the state to change its law to expand unemployment insurance (UI) coverage to qualify for up to $32.8 million of the federal stimulus funding because it ultimately would result in a tax increase on Louisiana businesses.

But it is not clear why participating in the expanded unemployment insurance program would result in tax increases for business. By Jindal’s own estimate, the recovery package would have funded his state’s unemployment expansion for three years, at which point the state could — if it chose to do so — phase out the program.

I love it. They're already lining up and killing themselves.

Big Idiot Is Watching You

As I mentioned below in today's StupidiNews, Republicans are looking to force another draconic surveillance measure down our throats. This one promises to be dead on arrival for a number of reasons, but I'm just shocked at how bad the bill is to begin with. It mandates not only that ISPs log every web site customers visit for two years and have them available to police, it also says that Wi-Fi access point owners must do the same thing...including small businesses and home wireless router users.
The legislation, which echoes a measure proposed by one of their Democratic colleagues three years ago, would impose unprecedented data retention requirements on a broad swath of Internet access providers and is certain to draw fire from businesses and privacy advocates.

"While the Internet has generated many positive changes in the way we communicate and do business, its limitless nature offers anonymity that has opened the door to criminals looking to harm innocent children," U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said at a press conference on Thursday. "Keeping our children safe requires cooperation on the local, state, federal, and family level."

Joining Cornyn was Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the senior Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who said such a measure would let "law enforcement stay ahead of the criminals."

Two bills have been introduced so far - S.436 in the Senate and H.R.1076 in the House. Each of the companion bills is titled "Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act," or Internet Safety Act.

Each contains the same language: "A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user."

Translated, the Internet Safety Act applies not just to AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and so on, but also to the tens of millions of homes with Wi-Fi access points or wired routers that use the standard method of dynamically assigning temporary addresses. (That method is called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, or DHCP.)

"Everyone has to keep such information," says Albert Gidari, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm in Seattle who specializes in this area of electronic privacy law.
In other words, this law makes you responsible for keeping detailed records of every web site that not only you visit while surfing the net at home, but everyone who uses your broadband router. You also must make those records available for police to view and use. Even worse, this law also may cover VOIP (Voice Over IP) services like Vonage and Skype phones, meaning you would have to track every phone call you make on them and have those records available too...not just your IP, but you because you own a router.

Since you basically need a router to have a home network, wired or wireless, under this legislation you become responsible for all data retention of every website that is accessed through it. Not your ISP. You. If you don't have these records, under this law you are in violation of the law and can face Federal charges.

This is such a shockingly bad law that I cannot believe this would ever pass Congress, let alone be signed into law by Obama. But I have to wonder why the Republicans would even bother to write such a moronic bill to begin with, a bill that has zero chance to stand up in court.

But the sad fact is both side of the aisle keep writing stupid bills like this. They died even in the Bush administration, but then again, they just decided to secretly track all this stuff at the source and not tell us about it. This bill would not only legalize what Bush was doing behind our backs (and frankly, what Obama is continuing to do) but would make millions of us complicit in the record-keeping apparatus as deputized I-SAFETY Act cops.

And you know what? From that angle, I can certainly see Obama signing this bill into law covering his own ass for the illegal surveillance apparatus that he has inherited...and has yet to shut down.

However, I think common sense will win out...not to mention I can see every ISP, every tech company, every PC maker, and millions of Americans all going "Are you KIDDING me?" Look, fix the bill, protecting kids from porn is one thing. Punishing the 99.99% of us who aren't involved in that is another.

But let's look across the chessboard for a minute here. Perhaps the GOP is trying to force Obama's hand. The GOP knows Bush's surveillance program is now Obama's surveillance program. Obama can't publicly lambaste this bill without getting blowback on the fact the NSA's already collecting all internet traffic. Either Obama has to end the program...or he has to sign this bill into law.

If he vetoes it, the leaks we'll see on the surveillance program will rightfully make Obama look like a hypocrite. He'll be attacked by the GOP as being weak on protecting America from internet threats. If he passes the bill, his own base will rightfully turn on him.

There is a way out...and that's to renounce the surveillance program now. Get rid of it, then laugh this bill off the floor. Obama's got to see the trap coming, but it only works if he plays into the GOP's hands.

Once again the easy way to beat the Republicans here is to simply do the right thing.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition

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