Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Last Call

New Hampshire is now well on its way to becoming the 5th state to legalize gay marriage.

Mexican Standoff

MSNBC is reporting Mexico is basically going into shutdown mode to fight the spread of Swine Flu.
Mexico on Wednesday suspended nonessential services at government offices and private businesses in an attempt to fight the widening swine flu epidemic.

The decision came as global health authorities warned Wednesday that swine flu was threatening to bloom into a pandemic, and the virus spread farther in Europe even as the outbreak appeared to stabilize at its epicenter. A toddler who succumbed in Texas became the first death outside Mexico.

Health Secretary José Angel Córdova Villalobos announced the move to shut down most of the country’s government and economy shortly after his department reported that confirmed cases of infection with the new strain of influenza had risen. The death toll in Mexico is believed to be 160.

This seems well over the line. If Obama tried this here, the cries of "fascism!" would almost certainly lead to an armed revolt across the country. On the other hand, if people somehow start dying from this in the US, the exact same thing could easily happen.

Imagine Obama getting on TV across the country and closing schools and businesses like this until further notice. You'd have riots within days. Imagine too that people are dying and Obama doesn't close businesses and schools. The riots would come, only it would take longer.

I don't like where this is going. As it is this country is a powderkeg. I'm honestly worried, not about the Swine Flu, but the response to it.

I don't like it at all. Thousands of people die from flu each year. Why is this a global emergency?


So, no border closing with Mexico because of Swine Flu, state secrets are overbroad(!!!), yes, he's read Cheney's documents and doesn't buy the legal argument for torture but doesn't quite call it criminal (and didn't say he was never going to do it again), Iraq's not so bad, Pakistan is very bad, and Arlen Specter's an okay guy.

Something of a tap dance job, but then again he's got a lot of damn stuff to deal with and that's just this week. Still...Obama did give solid answers on a lot of things (just not torture). I do like the reduction of state secrets...especially since the courts are kind of killing him on it.

Also, wash your hands.

(Could Dubya have kept even a quarter of all that straight?)

And what's with nobody asking a question about the economy until the Telemundo and the BET reporter do it?

Why The GOP Keeps Losing

This, and:

This. As Think Progress points out:
Hate crimes laws go after violent crimes, not thoughts. In fact, the law specifically stipulates that "evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense."

Apparently unbeknownst to House Republicans, a federal hate crimes law already exists: Passed in 1968, it allowed federal investigation and prosecution of hate crimes based on race, religion, and national origin. The new law would simply add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected groups, and allow local governments to get needed resources from the federal government for investigations and prosecutions. The need for such parity was made starkly clear more than a decade ago, in 1998, during the investigations of two different murders:

The Laramie, Wyoming Sheriff’s Office had to furlough five deputies in order to cover the more than $150,000 that it cost to investigate Matthew Shepard’s murder. Yet when Jasper, Texas investigated the lynching of James Byrd, Jr., it received $284,000 in federal funds because Byrd’s murder was motivated by race, rather than sexual orientation.

Since then, members of Congress have sought to pass an expanded hate crimes law. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed both houses in 2007, but was stripped from a larger bill after President Bush vowed to veto it.

More than thirty states already have hate crime legislation that includes anti-gay crimes -- and in none of those states has notorious gay hater Fred Phelps been arrested for his speech. It's clear what the GOP is really concerned about is any perceived infringement on their right to discriminate against gay people.

The bill passed the House easily...18 House Republicans even voted for it.

Head-Scratchingly Racist

That's the only conclusion I can come up with from Byron York's idiotic implication that Obama's positive poll numbers are inflated by African-Americans like myself, thus rendering them somehow meaningless.
On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.
Wait, what?

Excuse me? It sounds like you just said that the political views of African-Americans should not be included in the overall political analysis of an African-American President because those views are not representative of "America" somehow.

Now, I can understand the logic of African-Americans representing about 12% of the US population not being fully representative. But Byron here seems to be suggesting that we should in fact be penalizing the President's approval numbers, if not politically ignoring African-Americans' views of Obama altogether to arrive at some sort of "valid" approval figure.

But why are we breaking this down by race anyway? What exactly does the exercise accomplish other than trying to sweep the political relevance of African-Americans under the rug? Why write an entire article based on this?
In the final count, 62 percent of whites approve of the job Obama is doing as president. Among blacks, the number is 96 percent. Together, the two groups give Obama an overall job approval rating of 68 percent.
So, what are you saying again? That Obama's "real" approval rating should be counted as 62%? That African-American approval of Obama should be 62%? What, exactly?

I'm honestly confused, because not only is my first reaction "What a racist asshole" but on the deeper analysis, it only makes Byron York seem like even more of a racist asshole. Somebody explain to me why he's not. I'd really like to know...and I'd like to know even more what this is doing in a Washington newspaper...even if it is the Examiner.

I mean does this mean it's okay to say that Obama's negative five billion approval rating among racist assholes is lowering what his "real" approval rating should be?

Has somebody told Pat Buchanan this yet?

Epic Come On Get Down With The Sickness Fail

This broke by head. (h/t LG&M)
The outbreak of swine flu should be renamed "Mexican" influenza in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork, said an Israeli health official Monday.

Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and "we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu," he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel.

Both Judaism and Islam consider pigs unclean and forbid the eating of pork products.


Close All Shops In The Mall! Cancel The Three Ring Circus!

WHO's Swine Flu Alertcon is now level FIVE!
The World Health Organization raised its pandemic alert for swine flu to the second highest level Wednesday, meaning that it believes a global outbreak of the disease is imminent.

WHO Director General Margaret Chan declared the phase 5 alert after consulting with flu experts from around the world. The decision could lead the global body to recommend additional measures to combat the outbreak, including for vaccine manufacturers to switch production from seasonal flu vaccines to a pandemic vaccine.

"All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans," Chan told reporters in Geneva. "It really is all of humanity that is under threat in a pandemic."
Also, relax. Really, there's not a heck of a lot you can do. Wash your hands. Carry Germ-X. Do not pick up your neighbor's snot-ridden babies and cuddle them, that kind of thing.

It's like the flu, only it's more likely you'll get sick from it because it's a new strain. That's all. You've gotten the flu before, people. Deal with it like a grownup. Lie on the couch, watch Mythbusters, and drink Gatorade.

Oh, Well Now Here's The Problem

Current headline on Yahoo Finance: Wall Street up 3 percent on economy bets.

And that pretty much sums up everything.

Republicans At 100 Days

Obama has a long way to go, but keep in mind these guys have been losers since January 21.

[UPDATE] Guess how many House Republicans (desperately trying to shed the "Party of No" label) voted for the President's budget today?

Here's a hint. It's a nice round number, and it also represents the chances the GOP has of taking control of either chamber of Congress in 2010, and is also the number of Republican Senators currently from the state of Pennsylvania.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The only thing that exceeds the Wingnut hate for Snarlin' Arlen is the Wingnut love for the guy that was going to purge Specter in the primary and will assure that the GOP will lose the seat in the PA general election anyway.

But remember, it's the Democrats who are going to screw this up.

Oh now they will eventually, guaranteed, Democrats are still Democrats. But not before we get some phat Socialist nanny-state lewt, beyotches!


[UPDATE] Almost forgot, how's that internal party civil war going, boys?

I Dunnae Get It, Lad

GDP in the toilet, multiple banks have failed the stress test, Swine Flu continues to affect the tourism industry, BoA's Ken Lewis about to get fired by pissed shareholders...

Naturally, stocks are up 2 percent.

I give up. At this point investors don't care anymore about bad news and everyone is just looking for any excuse to get back into the market. Dow 15,000 is just around the corner, right?

An Olympian Effort

Maine Republican Olympia Snowe lets the GOP have it in the NY Times op-ed section today.
I could have hardly imagined then that, in 2009, we would fondly reminisce about the time when we were disappointed to fall short of 60 votes in the Senate. Regrettably, we failed to learn the lessons of Jim Jeffords’s defection in 2001. To the contrary, we overreached in interpreting the results of the presidential election of 2004 as a mandate for the party. This resulted in the disastrous elections of 2006 and 2008, which combined for a total loss of 51 Republicans in the House and 13 in the Senate — with a corresponding shift of the Congressional majority and the White House to the Democrats.

It was as though beginning with Senator Jeffords’s decision, Republicans turned a blind eye to the iceberg under the surface, failing to undertake the re-evaluation of our inclusiveness as a party that could have forestalled many of the losses we have suffered.

It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of “Survivor” — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe. But it is truly a dangerous signal that a Republican senator of nearly three decades no longer felt able to remain in the party.
I smell another flip coming, frankly. To go public in the "liberal paper of record" to attack the GOP (if she was privately grousing, it would have been in the WSJ's opinion section) to me says she's looking for somebody to try to talk her out of joining Arlen. But I think she's made up her mind. This has all the hallmarks of somebody writing the political version of a jumper note: She's going to take the plunge unless somebody on the right stops her.

And I don't think any of them will.

On the other hand, psychoanalyzing a Republican politician is like herding Jell-O with a tennis racket: it's messy and counterproductive, and in the end who knows what the hell good you're doing even trying. If you're going to switch parties woman, do it already.

The Domestic Product Is Indeed Gross

First quarter GDP numbers will be out today. The target number is a 4.7% rate of contraction, anything smaller then that will make big three digit green numbers on the Dow all day.

We'll see at 8:30 AM EDT.

[UPDATE] And man is it gross. 6.1% drop, well over estimates.
Gross domestic product, which measures total goods and services output within U.S. borders, dropped at a 6.1 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said, after shrinking 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast GDP falling at a 4.9 percent rate in the January-March quarter. Output has declined for three straight quarters for the first time since 1974-1975.

The advance report from the Commerce Department showed business inventories plummeted by a record $103.7 billion in the first quarter, as firms worked to reduce stocks of unsold goods in their warehouses. That sliced 2.79 percentage points from the overall GDP figure. Excluding inventories, GDP contracted 3.4 percent.

Q1 2009 was just as bad as Q4 2008, and there's a chance it may be revised later to where it may actually end up being worse.

Still no light at the end of the tunnel, folks.

No Limit Poker Time

Over at Big Orange, David Waldman says it's now time to seat Al Franken, and Arlen Specter has just given the Dems the leverage to squeeze the GOP with: Specter's current committee seats.
Seat Al Franken and give him his committee assignments now, or we'll block a new organizing resolution that would let you reassign Specter's previously Republican committee seats to one of your own.

Until a new organizing resolution is adopted, Specter's committee seats (Appropriations, Judiciary, Veterans' Affairs, Environment & Public Works, Special Aging) are locked in. He'll be caucusing and (sometimes, anyway) voting as a Democrat, but will be occupying Republican seats.

Democrats should demand Republican agreement to seat Franken and give him his committee assignments now, or they'll just block a new organizing resolution until he arrives, and change it as they see fit later on. After all, with 60 Democrats (once Franken is finally seated), they can give themselves any ratios they want, whether they opt to remain true to the 60/40 split in the Senate or not, since there won't be enough votes to filibuster an unfair organizing resolution.

But we wouldn't want it to come to that, would we?

Until there's a change, Appropriations goes effectively from 17-13 in favor of Democrats to 18-12. Judiciary to 12-7. Environment to 12-7. Veterans' Affairs to 10-5. Special Aging to 12-7.

Now of course I can totally see Evan Bayh trying to scuttle this, but even he can't complain too much about getting the legitimately elected Franken seated without bringing the hammer down from Rahmbo up top.

Still, it's an effective plan. It's nasty and stooping to the level of the GOP over the last 8 years, and they were made to pay for it (and the Dems must keep that in mind). But it's an option.

Epic Epidemiological Perspective Fail

As Zandarmom (a hospital nurse for 25 plus years) keeps reminding me, regular good ol' seasonal flu has already killed thousands of Americans this year and will continue to do so every year. Influenza kills 36,000 every year just in the US. The trick with Swine Flu (and the pork industry really, really wants people to STOP CALLING THAT ALREADY) is that there's no vaccine for this stuff yet, and it has shown the ability to kill otherwise healthy people in Mexico.

Making an effective vaccine may take until September at the earliest.
Experts say that even if cases of the new swine flu disappear with warm weather, the virus may return — perhaps with a vengeance — next winter.

In light of that threat, the Obama administration appears close to announcing a decision to make a vaccine against swine flu as early as this fall.

Normally it takes six months to make a regular flu vaccine. An effective vaccine protects most people from getting the flu. It would be the primary weapon against a flu pandemic — if it can be made, distributed and gotten into people's arms in time.

Bruce Gellin, the nation's top vaccine official, says the plan is to make enough swine flu vaccine for all 304 million Americans by September — only five months from now. Gellin is deputy assistant secretary for Health and Human Services for vaccinations, immunizations and infectious diseases.

Gellin says the first decision points on whether to go ahead will be in early June. That's when manufacturers would be told to switch over from making regular seasonal flu vaccine to a special swine flu vaccine. Fortunately, he says, the nation's flu vaccine makers will be finished by then with making all the components for next season's regular flu vaccine.

After swine flu vaccine production begins, Gellin says, "as you continue to watch the situation, the question would be whether you tell them to keep going or to turn it off sometime."

"If they kept going, you would expect that vaccine to be available … by early- to mid-September," Gellin predicts. That's when it would be ready to ship to doctors, hospitals and clinics.

So relax...regular flu is 36,000 times more deadly, and you've been living with that for how long now? Best case scenario, this stuff goes dormant as the weather warms up and by the time the next flu season rolls around we'll have a vaccine.

Don't panic...down that road is EPIC FAIL.


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