Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Last Call

Here's a nice bedtime story for you.
A new report says more than 1,000 counties across the United States are at risk for potential water shortages by midcentury as warmer temperatures deplete supplies and demand for water rises.

The report, released Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council, says some regions including the Northeast could see a boost to water supplies as climate change shifts weather patterns.

But for much of the rest of the country, the group paints a sobering picture of warm temperatures further taxing aquifers already stressed by heavy agricultural and consumer use.

The report did not factor in future improvements to water supply systems.

Fourteen states were highlighted as being most at risk: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
Gotta love that one. Mississippi under a water shortage with that massive river right there. And yet with population growth and strain on infrastructure and water tables, that's entirely possible. What happens when all the rivers that feed into the Mighty Missisip are drained dry to provide water for residents? Unless Florida's going to invest heavily in desalinization plants, they're going to come up well short as the heat rises. And Western states are in dire trouble already in the water department.

It's not going to get any better, folks.

Another Dem Gets The GOP Plan

And isn't afraid to call them on it.
"I think there are some Republicans that want to vote for it who don’t, because [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is putting so much pressure on Senate Republicans for President Obama and the Democrats to fail," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told Raw Story and other reporters on a conference call late Monday afternoon.

"And it’s too bad that McConnell does that on the backs of … people that are really, really hurting," he added.
The call was part of a targeted effort by White House and Democrats to sharpen their attacks on Republicans ahead of a tough midterm election climate, in which Democrats are widely projected to lose seats in both chambers of Congress.

Brown accused Republicans of duplicity for arguing that unemployment benefits must be paid for in order to win their support.

"They voted for Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, charged it to our grandchildren, didn’t pay for it," he said. They "voted for the giveaway or bailouts to drug and insurance companies in the name of Medicare privatization, charged it to our grandchildren, didn’t pay for it.

"And now they’re saying, because these are laid off workers who have done the right thing for most of their lives and now need some help, that we can’t provide it for them. It’s terrible public policy."
Let's hear from more Democrats on this message, guys.  Republicans have no place saying word one about fiscal responsibility after the last 30 years.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal asks:

Why hasn't Israel bombed Iran yet?

Then he goes on to cite a number of fairly good reasons why it would be a stupid idea, then complains about those reasons and declares that Israel's allies (hint OBAMA hint) should probably save them the trouble and do it for Israel.

That's pretty much the entire article.

It's still an amazingly stupid idea, of course.  Which is probably why Israel hasn't done it.  But if the WSJ is running articles like this openly, bitterly complaining that somebody needs to get off their ass and start killing some raghead sunzabitches in Tehran, well...gosh, maybe that's the point.

Same Imaginary War, Different Real Battlefield

Apparently the Wingers have decided that Real Americans are forgetting to hate Islam as the Source Of All Evil as much as they should be, so they are taking the battle to mosques themselves.  President Bush's message that Islam is not evil (one of the few things he got right), or the idea of American religious freedom in general, well that no longer applies to Muslims in the United States.  TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro:

Frankly, the New York story is probably enough to prove the point that fear of Muslims is the new, well, black among the right-wing crowd. But the Ground Zero site is far from the only Muslim construction project to cause a 5-alarm panic among conservatives. Over near the other shining sea in California, a Baptist congregation and a group calling itself the "Concerned Community Citizens" is ramping up opposition to the construction of a mosque and community center in Riverside County.
The proposed building has been in the works since 2000 and has the unanimous support of the area's interfaith council. But area conservatives are starting to get antsy at the idea, worrying that unless some free exercise of religion is prohibited in California stat, the mosque could turn the county into "a haven for Islamic extremists," as the Los Angeles Times reports:

"The Islamic foothold is not strong here, and we really don't want to see their influence spread," Bill Rench, pastor at the Calvary Baptist Church, told the paper. "There is a concern with all the rumors you hear about sleeper cells and all that. Are we supposed to be complacent just because these people say it's a religion of peace? Many others have said the same thing."
There's a clear political bent to all of this hand-wringing about Muslim cultural centers and mosques on American soil. After all, there are quite a few Islamic houses of worship in the country already, and no Muslim fanatic has blown up a suicide bomb in Riverside County, California yet. This push to attack mosque construction has gone hand-in-hand with the uglier side of the tea party movement and other conservative resurgences following the election of Barack Obama to the White House. (Indeed, CAIR -- the Muslim civil rights group -- embraced the NAACP's resolution about bigotry in the tea party movement shortly after the NAACP passed it.)
For another example of the ultra-right's newest brand of fear politics in action, one need only look to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a small college town about an hour away from Nashville. In the contested 6th Congressional district Republican primary, Lou Ann Zelenik has attacked the other two Republicans running for not being incensed enough about the Muslim community's plan to build a community center in the town. (There's already a mosque in Murfreesboro, so Zelenik is stuck with being outraged over just the after-school programs and classrooms part of the equation here.)
In a web ad for her campaign, Zelenik makes no bones about what she's running on -- it's fear, plain and simple. "Stand with Lou Ann against Muslim extremists," the ad reads. And in a statement to the press about the community center, Zelenik make clear how far she's willing to go to win with by fomenting intolerance toward Muslims:
"Until the American Muslim community find it in their hearts to separate themselves from their evil, radical counterparts, to condemn those who want to destroy our civilization and will fight against them, we are not obligated to open our society to any of them," she said.
Hey, collective punishment decrying all Palestinians as evil works for the Israelis.  And how can we forget Malkinvania's book length call to round up all US Muslims in internment camps?   The teabagger nutjobs at the federal level are bad, but the local ones are the folks who will find a zoning board excuse to prevent mosques being built, or deny them permits, or do everything they can to shut down existing ones, to label Muslim-Americans as the Enemy, and to do everything they can to harm them "before they harm us."

Won't it be great when they take over your city, county, state and country when you refuse to vote on Election Day and grumble about there being no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans?

Hey Buddy, Get A Job!

The Rand Paul/Sharron Angle answer to fixing the economy isn't so simple.

That's the offical Bureau of Labor Statistics graph of the average length of a job search in America. As of this month, it stands at 35.2 weeks.  It's been at least 16 weeks since America never actually recovered from the post 9/11 recession in 2002.  It now takes almost 9 months to find a job.  Any job.  The notion that this is just another vanilla recession and that America is recovering is complete hogwash.

The notion that we don't need unemployment benefits, or that unemployment benefits themselves are causing people to unemployed longer is also complete idiocy.  But it sure is nice for the Republicans to try to turn Americans who still have jobs against those who are suffering without one for nine months.

That's how they roll in 2010.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Tyler Durden wins the Economics Internet today with his review of what he's hearing about the coming European bank stress test results showing surprise...everybody passed.  Just like our stress tests.
The farce will continue until bullshit flows freely.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tactics Versus Strategy

The Dems are winning on tactics but losing on strategy, and the GOP knows it.  Today's unemployment filibuster vote is a prime example as Ezra Klein explains:
Democrats are set to pass an extension of unemployment benefits today. The presence of Carte Goodwin, Sen. Robert Byrd's temporary replacement, gives them the 60 votes necessary to break the Republicans' -- and Ben Nelson's -- filibuster of the bill.
But victory obscures defeat. Republicans managed to take a jobs bill, weaken it to an unemployment benefits and state and local relief bill, weaken that to an unemployment benefits bill, and then weaken that bill. Annie Lowrey -- unmarried partner, etc. -- reports:
The bill does not include an extension of the $25-a-week Federal Additional Compensation funds, tacked onto many unemployment checks. It also does not include any of the other provisions originally included in or proposed for the jobs bill or extenders package: It does not close tax loopholes, or provide Medicare funding to states, or include funds to keep teachers and other state employees working. It also does not create an additional fifth tier of benefits; federal extensions only continue in states with higher than an 8 percent unemployment rate, and the maximum weeks of state and federal benefits remains ninety-nine.
Republicans in the Senate, in other words, have won the fight over further spending on job creation. The argument has narrowed to unemployment benefits, and Democrats can't even reliably win those votes.

9.5%+ unemployment, and the argument is on the national debt, not on helping people.  Voters know full well that this is a complete crock in an ecnomic picture like this, but the Democrats are going along with the Republicans and allowing them to not only frame the argument in Republican terms, but then they are agreeing with the damn GOP.

The GOP has beaten a $100 billion plus jobs plan down to $33 billion, and even that has been almost impossible to pass.  The Republican plan to scuttle the economy and blame Obama is a strategy, and it's working.

Meanwhile the Democrats look like they can't pass a damn thing without Republican help...because that's true.  The even larger problem than the deficit garbage is the refusal to do anything about filibuster rules that are forcing every vote to be a 60-vote supermajority.  And under the rules, the Republicans are well within their rights to stop any legislation from ever passing.

There's something wrong with the rules.

They've Got A Ticket To Ride, And They Don't Care

What are the odds somebody's going to ask British PM David Cameron today about Josh Harkinson's big MoJo story this morning about BP's top-secret ticket giveaway hotline?
For more than a decade, BP has operated a hush-hush phone line that California lawmakers can call to request box seats to NBA games and concerts at the Sacramento stadium named after its West Coast subsidiary.

In the past five years, BP has given state officials more than 1,200 complimentary tickets to the Arco Arena, hosting them in its corporate suite to see Sacramento Kings games, World Extreme Cagefighting matches, and Britney Spears and Lil Wayne concerts. Getting the tickets is as easy as calling the BP ticket request line, an exclusive, unpublished phone number that appears to exist for the sole purpose of granting freebies to lawmakers, regulators, and their staffs.

"You make a request, leave it on the voicemail, and at some date the tickets either magically appear or they don't," says a legislative consultant who gave me the ticket line's number and spoke on condition of anonymity. "They don't talk to you; you just see 'em or you don't." The ticket line's message was taken down sometime in the past week, shortly after I began my reporting. You can still listen to the original recording below.

BP has given away roughly $300,000 worth of tickets over the past 10 years, handing them out to everyone from lowly assembly clerks to top lawmakers. In March 2002, when the Sacramento Kings were locked in a playoff battle with the Los Angeles Lakers, 9 state senators and 12 state assembly members, including the speaker, pumped BP for the coveted seats. While serving as assembly speaker in 2006, Los Angeles Democrat Fabian Núñez and his family watched the Kings beat the Chicago Bulls on BP's dime. During Democrat Karen Bass' tenure as speaker between 2008 and 2010, 13 members of her staff tapped BP for tickets to see Disney on Ice, Tina Turner, and Madea's Big Happy Family. Núñez and Bass did not accept requests for interviews.
This is shaping up to be a very, very big story covering a large number of California pols in both parties, but it's the high ranking Dems in the state machine who will suffer the most blowback here.  Hanging BP around their necks is not going to help them come November.

The bigger problem is of course how easy it is to bribe our politicians off the books like this.  BP ran this little game for a decade and the Supreme Court this year made it even easier to pump corporate money into races at all levels, especially down the stretch towards October and November.  If you think BP's the only outfit giving out freebies like this, you're crazy.

Charlie In Charge

I still have a problem with Obama backing Charlie Crist in Florida over Kendrick Meek.  Crist is running against his own party at this point and continues to take an increasingly larger slice of the voter pie from both Marco Rubio and Kendrick Meek.  I understand that Obama's doing this with the expectation that Crist will caucus with the Dems.

I'm just saying he shouldn't count on it.
Nearly three months after losing his Republican allies and campaign staff by leaving his party, Mr. Crist has rebuilt his political machinery and gained a footing among many general-election voters as he runs as an independent. One reason: He has used the Republican-led state legislature as a conservative foil to increase his appeal among centrist and Democratic voters.

Mr. Crist has shored up some conservative positions, such as his support for gun rights, while shifting to the left on core issues like abortion, education and gay rights. And he has successfully courted top Democrats—including some with close ties to President Barack Obama and the White House—to work on his campaign, even though two Democrats are making serious bids for the Senate seat.

"So many of the elected politicians in Washington seem to be shackled by the fear of a primary," Mr. Crist said in an interview last week in this seaside city, where he attended a briefing on the effects of the Gulf oil spill. As an independent, Mr. Crist said, he is free to speak his mind without worrying about the most ideological voters.

"It's liberating," Mr. Crist said. "It's a lot of fun, and I'm convinced it's what the people want."

Mr. Crist believes he has stumbled on a political sweet spot, amid polls showing voters are angry at incumbents and disenchanted with both political parties. 
I'm wondering if the Dems have learned anything from having Joe F'ckin Lieberman play the kingmaker card time and time again in the Senate, and here they are again setting themselves up for Crist to do the same type of damage to bills and be the enfant terrible raging across the airwaves saying "I'm voting my heart" while demanding deals.

What's Crist's price for sticking with the Dems?  Will he flip too should the Republicans get close enough that they could get control of the Senate if Lieberman and Crist jump ship?  What's to stop Crist from being a complete prima donna?

Short term I can see why you'd do this, but I think the Dems throwing Kendrick Meek under the bus like this is even worse than what they did to Ned Lamont.  Meek's been a solid vote in the House, but that shows you when a Senate seat in a state like Florida is up for grabs, hope and change only matters if you can win, I guess.

The Black, White, And Bluegrass State

John Cheves's Sunday piece in the Lexington Herald-Courier is a good read if you haven't caught it, as he explores the reasons behind why Kentucky remains one of the only states to never have elected a minority to any statewide or federal office.
This is where black visitors aren't welcome in all private establishments. For example, the Kentucky Human Rights Commission in 2008 settled a complaint with an American Legion post in Franklin after it refused to allow a black television repairman onto the premises. Under the terms of the settlement, the post paid the repairman $6,500 and agreed to civil-rights compliance training.

Kentucky politicians don't address race because they don't think they need to, said University of Kentucky historian Gerald Smith, who writes and teaches about black life in the state.

Ninety percent of Kentucky is white, and especially in rural areas, whites tend to have limited contact with people of other races, Smith said. Kentuckians often aren't so much racist as racially oblivious, Smith said.

"There are many places in Kentucky where you can live and work and not ever see black people at all. The closest to black people they're going to get is watching UK basketball on television," Smith said.

Smith said he wasn't surprised that Paul's criticism of the Civil Rights Act did him little harm in Kentucky. A Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll in May found that one-third of Kentucky voters agreed with Paul, that businesses should get to decide whether to serve customers of different races.

"There are things that political candidates can say and do here in Kentucky that just wouldn't fly in other parts of the country," Smith said. "And at the same time, there are things they don't have to say or do."
Having lived here for several years just across the river from Cincy,  I can tell you that NKY and the I 64-71-75 triangle is pretty normal as far as minorities go in an increasingly urban setting.  But if you stray too far from the Louisville-Lexington-Florence area by even a county or two, you're going to find yourself back a couple of decades.  The high counties along the river stretching down the West Virginia border to the northeast and along the Indiana border to the northwest are scenic and beautiful, but you want to be real damn careful before stopping at say, the local Legion post for a beer.

I grew up in the 70's and 80's in the foothills of North Carolina and I'm used to operating in that kind of environment, but even I was a little taken aback.  It's the 21st century and this kind of thing still goes on here.  Watching African-Americans on the SEC Network playing UK basketball and football really is the closest some people will get to seeing any minorities, and not just African-American.

Racially oblivious is a good term.  Even in 2010, if everyone you see, work with, play with, and know is white, race isn't an issue.  And that's a reality in several parts of Kentucky as well as several places in the United States.

Hillary Clinton would have beaten John McCain by double digits if she was running for President in 2008.  I can assure you of that.


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