Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Last Call

Some good news on the stem cell research front after quite a bit of bad news over the last three months.

An appeals court has lifted an injunction imposed by a federal judge, thereby allowing federally-funded embryonic stem-cell research to continue while the Obama administration appeals the judge's original ruling against use of public funds in such research.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed Tuesday to stay the injunction and allow the National Institutes of Health to continue research.

"President Obama made expansion of stem cell research and the pursuit of groundbreaking treatments and cures a top priority when he took office," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement. "We're heartened that the court will allow NIH and their grantees to continue moving forward while the appeal is resolved."

Once again, this is going to eventually be decided by the Supreme Court.   If anything, a Republican governor or AG will sue, or a GOP Congress will simply defund all stem cell research and dare Obama to veto the budget.

That's Bush's real legacy, his Supreme Court picks that lurched court to the edge of rolling back the last 60 years of civil and social rights.  In the case of campaign finance reform, this court has already done incalculable damage to our political system as well.

Gold Rush, Part 15

Gold hit $1,310 an ounce and continues to rise.

Data earlier this session showed U.S. single family home prices dipped in July while the Richmond Fed's composite manufacturing index sank in September.

The dollar hit fresh five-month lows versus the euro after the confidence data, making dollar-priced gold cheaper for European investors. 

Many traders expect the dollar's downtrend to continue on a view that any future quantitative easing, even in a modest form, would probably still be more aggressive than moves by other central banks. 

"The growing realization that ultra loose monetary policies may debase currencies is leading to continuing safe haven demand for gold. Gold is the only currency that cannot be debased and its value is not dependent on the performance of politicians and central bankers," said analysts at GoldCore in a note. 

As the dollar falls, gold will continue to go up along with silver and other commodities.  The exception:  oil.  Oil's value is denominated in dollars, so as the dollar weakens, oil will continue to tread water around the $75 per barrel mark as it has for the last year now.  Oil was at about this same point a year ago if not a tad lower.

Meanwhile, stocks continue to rise as well as the trading algorithms continue to bid up up up and the automated systems follow.

Gold was around $750 an ounce just two years ago.  Five years ago it was at $475.  Food for thought.

The Bad Guys Are Having A Really Good Chuckle

Thanks to our new police state.

"It's an indication you've embezzled these checks," she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn't before that moment, she says.

She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. "That's my money," she remembers saying. The officer's reply? "It's not your money."

At this point she told the officers that she had a good explanation for the checks, but questioned whether she had to tell them.

"The police officer said if you don't tell me, you can tell the D.A."

So she explained that she and her husband had been on vacation, that they'd accumulated some hefty checks, and that she was headed to her bank's headquarters, where she intended to deposit them.

She gave police her husband's cell-phone number - he was at her mother's with their children and missed their call.

Thirty minutes after the police became involved, they decided to let her collect her belongings and board her plane.

"I was shaking," she says. "I was almost in tears."

When she got home, her husband of 20 years, John Parker, a self-employed plastics broker, said the police had called and told him that they'd suspected "a divorce situation" and that Kathy Parker was trying to empty their bank account.

And what prompted this search and seizure of her checks and invasion into her personal life?  Was she marked by the FBI?  Was she under investigation for a possible financial crime?  Did she have a record of fraud?

No.  You see, all this was generated from her crime of going through an airport screening while seeming "nervous".  The woman, Kathy Parker, was flying from Philadelphia to Charlotte.  She works for a bank. 

That was it.  An airport screening led to her being held for embezzling money from her own joint bank account with her husband.

But all of this is okay because she might have been a terrorist, right?  All of us are Kathy Parker.  Expect to be treated as such at the airport.

Winning The Early Battles

In an increasing number of states, unrestricted early voting is changing the face of elections.  People can vote early without having to prove they will be absentee on Election Day in states like Ohio, and here in Cincy people are certainly taking advantage of it.

Here in Ohio, an election period that now stretches over 35 days is one of the few things lifting the spirits of Democrats. Two years ago, the party overwhelmed Republicans in early voting. John McCain received more votes on Election Day, but Barack Obama carried the state, because many Democrats and independents voted early.

“We have more than 30 days to find our supporters, get them out to vote and win this election,” Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio, a Democrat, told a crowd at a weekend rally, where he rolled up in a bus with an early-voting message emblazoned on the side. “Are we going to do it?”

A group of Republican voters filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court in Cincinnati challenging the practice of a few Ohio counties — Democratic-leaning ones — that provide postage-paid envelopes for absentee ballots. Voters in most counties across the state have to provide their own stamp, a disparity they argue created unequal access to vote.

One of the biggest elements of the Democratic Party’s effort to persuade first-time voters from the last presidential race to vote in the midterm election comes through early voting. Organizing for America, the party’s network of Obama supporters, is focusing much of its effort on important Congressional races in states that allow early voting. 

Early voting laws favor Democrats, and the Republicans know it...but they have been unable to shut down the process and turn elections into arenas where retirees and the wealthy have the time to vote on a Tuesday when the rest of us have to work.

That's why there's been such a push to try to de-legitimatize Democratic party GOTV operations.  If the only explanation for Democrats winning is "voter fraud" then Republicans can start making it more difficult for ordinary people to vote.  In many ways they already have.

Many states have passed voter ID laws which do far more for disenfranchising younger, urban voters than protecting the "integrity" of voting.  Republicans know the demographics of the United States are working against them as the years progress and more minority voters make up the population.

At the same time, they are trying to do everything they can to restrict voting to those who can afford the time and money to do so.  It's a good plan if you're a cynical Republican.

And it will make all the difference in battleground states like Ohio.

Carter Hospitalized

Former President Jimmy Carter was taken to a hospital in Cleveland after arriving there by flight.  Not much else is known at this hour, so I'll be following this we find out more.

[UPDATE]  Looks like President Carter is going to be okay, just had a nasty stomach flu.  That's still potentially serious at age 86 however.

Biblical Levels Of Irony

Want a lesson on religious dogma?  Ask an atheist or an agnostic. Turns out in a new survey they scored the highest on knowledge of religions in general, which actually makes a lot of sense.

American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

"These are people who thought a lot about religion," he said. "They're not indifferent. They care about it."

Atheists and agnostics also tend to be relatively well educated, and the survey found, not surprisingly, that the most knowledgeable people were also the best educated. However, it said that atheists and agnostics also outperformed believers who had a similar level of education.

The groups at the top of the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey were followed, in order, by white evangelical Protestants, white Catholics, white mainline Protestants, people who were unaffiliated with any faith (but not atheist or agnostic), black Protestants and Latino Catholics.

Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists were included in the survey, but their numbers were too small to be broken out as statistically significant groups.

Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University and author of "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't," served as an advisor on the survey. "I think in general the survey confirms what I argued in the book, which is that we know almost nothing about our own religions and even less about the religions of other people," he said.

Faith and knowledge can be two very different things, but I've always subscribed to the notion that they don't have to be.  I understand that's a personal choice that everyone has to make, but then again that makes me something of a libertarian on religion.

My problem is imposing those beliefs, that faith, upon others, effectively replacing knowledge with the tenets of a belief system that you may not believe in or worse, may completely contradict it.

That's when you get into trouble.

Just something to think about.  Remember, we don't all believe the same things...nor should we.

Climate Of Chaos

What do Republicans plan to do should they retake the House?  Start the investigations of President Obama and his policies, of course.

Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner wants to keep the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming alive so it can investigate climate science and police President Barack Obama’s green policies.

The 16-term congressman said he’s well-positioned to take on that leadership role, touting credentials as a former chairman of the Judiciary and Science and Technology committees, where he pried information out of the Clinton administration without ever signing a subpoena.

“I’ve had a reputation of really being a tiger on oversight,” he told POLITICO.

Any decisions on the future of the select committee, where Sensenbrenner is the top Republican opposite Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), won’t be made until after the midterm elections.

But Sensenbrenner’s remarks foretell a power struggle among top Republicans primed to lead other investigatory committees, namely, Rep. Darrell Issa, the media-hungry Californian who would like to comb through Obama’s policies as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“There’s going to be plenty of oversight to do, and all the committees should be doing oversight, not just Government Reform and Oversight, or whatever it’s going to be called,” Sensenbrenner said. “When I ran for, and was named chairman of, Judiciary, I said I’d have exclusive oversight staff, nothing to do with legislation. With this committee, since it’s not legislative in nature, everybody on the majority side is going to be working on oversight if it’s maintained.”

Republicans at this point are publicly arguing over who will be able to grandstand and lead oversight investigations into the most Obama policies and get on the news the most rather than worry about the problems that are affecting America's economy.  These are the same Republicans who ignored oversight during the Bush years, now lining up to throw as many wrenches into Obama's policies as possible and obstruct, slow down, and roll things back.

Won't that be fun?  Republicans really have America's priorities straight in this economy, huh.

A republican victory in 2010 will make every House Committee and Subcommittee become Obama Derangement Syndrome kangaroo courts.  Count on it.

Unleash Joe Biden, Firebagger Edition

Biden Versus The Firebaggers, and you know what?  I totally agree with the guy.

Liberals need to "buck up" in preparation for November's elections, Vice President Biden said Monday night.

The vice president didn't back off the notion that disillusioned supporters should "stop whining," a sentiment he uttered on Monday in New Hampshire, and which drew heavy criticism from liberals in the party.

"And so those who -- didn't get everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better, continue to move forward," Biden said during an appearance on MSNBC, "but not yield the playing field to those folks who are against everything that we stand for in terms of the initiatives we put forward."

Biden was asked by MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell, in the debut of the host's new program, "The Last Word," whether he'd like to retract his admonition to liberals to stop complaining.

"There are some on the Democratic base, not the core of it, that are angry because we didn't get every single thing they want," the vice president said.

"They should stop that," Biden explained. "These guys, if they win, the other team, they're going to repeal health care and I I want them to tell me why what we did wasn't an incredibly significant move that's progressive and helping people?"

Finally, somebody in the White House comes out swinging against the lefties who are wanting to dump Obama and stay home and cry because he hasn't fixed anything yet.

I will be the first to admit that Obama has failed on civil liberties.  The Republicans would have done the same.  In the balance of the whole, he's better that the alternative.

The reality is Democrats don't have the luxury of a sane, intelligent Republican party to fall back on should the Democrats come up short in some areas...and they have.  But they have also gotten so much done.  They've gotten things moved forward.  We all know the Republicans will only take things backwards.  They've promised as such.  They've promised to eliminate practically everything Obama has done in the last 20 months.

How will that help things?

So yes.  Somebody has to step up and say "Stop acting like spoiled brats and get the big picture."  Glad Biden has the balls to do it.

The End Of Net Neutrality

It's looking more and more like promises made by Democrats to preserve Net Neutrality and level the playing field among internet content providers has run into big money provided by Google and Verizon.  Now, the same Democrats who promised to keep the internet regulated for all to use are now effectively killing the idea.

Legislative text put forward by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) under the banner of mandating network neutrality would instead prevent the government from requiring broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally.

Waxman, who has vowed that he would support the so-called 'Net Neutrality' policy proposals favored by most Democrats and progressives, has instead put forward an as-yet-unsettled legislative framework that explicitly prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from regulating broadband Internet under Title II of the Communications Act: a caveat key to implementation of what's been called the Internet's First Amendment.

Should the president sign a bill containing Waxman's language, it would effectively kill 'Net Neutrality' efforts and make key parts of a hotly contested proposal by Google and Verizon the law of the land.

While the bill [PDF link], first published by National Journal blog Tech Daily Dose, carries language that speaks of preventing ISPs from "unjustly or unreasonably" discriminating against "lawful traffic," the spirit of the rule is completely undermined by text that follows.

For today's fast-growing wireless networks, largely seen as the future dominant mode of Internet access, it makes a provision allowing for "reasonable network management," but prohibits blocking "lawful Internet websites".

The bottom line is that wireless networks would be exempt from the provisions, and with a $2 million fine for blocking sites or choking traffic, companies could make much more money by charging an extra monthly fee for "premium" wireless access.   Any any traffic that comes from sites critical of the practice, say, bloggers who write about tech companies who limit access, could in turn be limited or eliminated.

Have a bad review of Verizon's newest product on your blog?  Poof, nobody on a Verizon network will ever see it at anything higher than dial up speeds.

Google and Verizon have a deal?  What if you're using a non-Verizon phone to access Google maps?  Good luck with that...and for individual internet users, it'll be impossible to prove.

Gotta love it.  Making money with robbery on the information superhighway.  And it's the Dems leading the way.


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