Sunday, October 17, 2010

Last Call

Not sure how much to trust Saudi intel, but they say Al Qaeda is going after Europe and specifically France.

"Several days ago the Saudi services alerted their European counterparts that there was a terrorist threat on the continent, notably in France, coming from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," Hortefeux told RTL Radio. The message indicated the branch of al Qaeda was active or about to become active in Europe.

"The threat is real and our vigilance is intact," he said. France's terror alert level is at Reinforced Red, the second-highest level below Scarlette Red. "Vigilance is total," Hortefeux said.

At least two attacks were foiled in France in the past year, and 61 people are currently jailed for suspected involvement in terrorism, the interior minister said.

The new warning comes at a time of heightened security in Europe. Earlier this month, France warned its citizens about travel to the United Kingdom, saying British authorities believe a terrorist attack is "highly likely." Neither the U.K. nor France raised its threat level, but each issued warnings about travel elsewhere on the continent.

The United States also warned Americans to be careful about traveling in Europe because of the risk of terror attacks. Sweden and Japan also warned their citizens.

Europe remains on edge after the warnings, based at least partly on intelligence about a plot obtained from a German-Afghan in U.S. custody in Afghanistan.

I guess AQ has decided we're about to do ourselves in here on this side of the pond, so breaking ethnic tensions in countries like France and Germany wide open seems like a logical next step if your goal is to sew chaos and paranoia.  France says the UK is the target, the Saudis say France is the target, and the US says everyone's a target.

And the bastards don't actually have to do anything.  That's the best part.  We're terrorizing ourselves and now each other to boot.

A Cup Of Cold Comfort Tea

Via BooMan, Tim Rutten figures there are simply too many competing factions in the Tea Party right now to allow them to remain coherent should they ever gain significant political power, and the more power they should gain, the faster they will fly apart.

The problem, as political analyst and George Mason University professor Bill Schneider has pointed out, is that it's "not just that tea partyers are anti-government.... They are anti-politics. They believe that politics is essentially corrupt — that deal-making and compromise are an abandonment of principle. The tea party is a political fundamentalist movement. Like religious fundamentalists, its members do not tolerate waverers (like Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah). They drive out heretics (like Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida). They punish unbelievers (like Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware). And they believe in the total inerrancy of scripture — in this case, the U.S. Constitution as originally written in 1787."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's epoch-changing New Deal coalition survived only so long as its constituent groups agreed not to discuss the one difference between them they could not reconcile — race. When the civil rights movement made that silent, and shabby, accommodation impossible, the coalition shattered.

The tea party's internal contradictions are so numerous, it's difficult to see its coalition of discontent surviving a single Congress.

That's a point I've made before, but the larger problem is that the amount of damage the Tea Party can do during that single Congress, and it's significant.  Best case scenario is that simply no real legislation is passed, and Democrats have to consistently fight off efforts to undo everything Obama has accomplished in the last two years.  Worst case scenario, well let's see, endless investigations, government shutdown, Obama actually signs into law crazy Tea Party legislation, you name it.

I'm hoping that the Republicans, should they gain power, completely overreach.  It's cold comfort, but let's be honest here:  the Republicans are going to gain at least some seats in the House and Senate.  And as Blue Texan reminds us, anyone who thinks a booming economy would placate the Tea Party has forgotten Clinton's second term completely, where a President who listened overwhelmingly to the Centrist Daleks (TRIANGULAAAATE!) and cut spending to not only balance the budget but give us a budget surplus, "reformed" welfare according to the wishes of the right and gave us such social conservatism gems like DADT was still impeached for the crime of being a Democrat.

What will Obama do?  There is literally nothing he can do that will stop the Republicans from trying to remove him from office, roll back the last two years, and attack him relentlessly.  Clinton was put on trial in the best economy we've had since WWII.  What hell will Obama face with Republicans in charge?

Let's remember why America threw these lunatics out in the first place.

Jacking Up Rand, Part 3

In a pretty huge blow to Rand Paul, the Lexington Herald-Leader has chosen to endorse Jack Conway for US Senate with some glowing praise.  The real story here is how the editorial board holds nothing back in reaming Paul a new one in a devastating column:

Since riding the Tea Party wave to victory in the Republican primary as a relatively unvetted candidate, Paul has spent the summer and early fall revealing himself to be quite the ideologue who's long on simplistic slogans but short on understanding the drastic consequences of adhering to those slogans.

What came across as refreshingly candid in the spring proved to be distressingly extremist when Paul was pressed on issues ranging from civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

As a senator, his mission would be a chain-saw massacre of federal government that lays waste to farm subsidies, education spending, mine-safety regulations, federal aid in fighting the scourge of drugs and numerous other programs of significant benefit to Kentuckians.

Which brings us to another disappointing post-primary revelation about Paul. As far as Kentucky is concerned, he is a drive-by candidate — a transplant who, despite living here for the better part of two decades, never stopped to smell the bluegrass and learn about his adopted state's history, culture, problems or needs.

The sole focus of his campaign involves his antipathy for federal government. If he mentions Kentucky at all, it is almost as an afterthought.

Yeowch.  That's pretty ruthless.  Granted, Louisville is Conway's turf (and I'm unable to find out who the Courier-Journal has endorsed, but I would think it would be Conway as well), but that's still a pretty thorough thrashing of Paul by the Lexington paper, and one I think is spot-on correct.  Rand Paul really has defined himself by what he's against and not what he's for.   In a close race, an editorial like this may very well make a difference.

And Do You Get Chips For Being Straight?

Greggers actually asked a decent question of a Republican today on Meet The Press.  Republican Senate candidate for Colorado, Ken Buck, was asked about if he still believed being gay was a "choice".  He didn't just dig himself deeper into the hole, he dropped a couple tons of TNT in there, lit the fuse, and stood there covering his ears.

GREGORY: In a debate last month, you expressed your support for don’t ask, don’t tell, which we talked about with Mr. Gibbs. And you alluded to lifestyle choices. Do you believe being gay is a choice?

BUCK: I do.

GREGORY: Based on what?

BUCK: Based on what?

GREGORY: Ya, do you believe that?

BUCK: Well, I guess you can choose who your partner is.

GREGORY: You don’t think it’s something that’s determined at birth?

BUCK: I think that birth has an influence over it, like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice

Now, correct me if I'm wrong here, but it seems like Ken Buck believes that homosexuality isn't just a lifestyle choice, but a disease with a genetic predisposition that has to be treated with a 12-step program.  The first is bad enough, but the second is truly horrible.

Being gay is something you have to battle all your life against like alcoholism or drug addiction?  That's idiotic on its face.  Ignorance like this not only begets bigotry but adds to the frightening tragedy that is the rising epidemic in suicides of young people who discovered they were gay.

Folks like Ken Buck are telling millions of Americans that "hey, you have an incurable genetic disease that you need to be treated for and if you give into it we'll treat you like a second-class citizen at best and there's a lot worse we can do to you."  It's incredible.  They're our friends, family, loved ones, co-workers, classmates, neighbors...and we should treat them like disease vectors?

That's incorrigible.  And this man thinks he deserves to be a US Senator equating millions of Americans to alcoholics?  Douchebag.

It's All Coming Back To You

Here's your stat of not just the day, but of the year:

Getting a degree used to be a stepping stone to limitless career opportunities. Now it's more of a hiatus from living under your parents' roof.

Stubbornly high unemployment -- nearly 15% for those ages 20-24 -- has made finding a job nearly impossible. And without a job, there's nowhere for these young adults to go but back to their old bedrooms, curfews and chore charts. Meet the boomerangers.

"This recession has hit young adults particularly hard," according to Rich Morin, senior editor at the Pew Research Center in DC.

So hard that a whopping 85% of college seniors planned to move back home with their parents after graduation last May, according to a poll by Twentysomething Inc., a marketing and research firm based in Philadelphia. That rate has steadily risen from 67% in 2006.

Eighty-five percent.  That's staggering.   The 15% unemployment for college grads is bad enough, but 85% of grads are planning to move back in to their old bedrooms?  Really?  It was bad enough in the mid 90's when I was in college.  Now it's not only expected, but almost guaranteed.

So what we have here are college grads with six-figure debt, struggling to find an entry level job anywhere, not just one they're depressingly overqualified for.  And that's if my generation, who has been in the workforce for 10-15 years now, hasn't taken that job first in order to get back on the horse.  And my generation is still knocking around the low end because of all the baby boomers still working in the middle and upper management ranks, because they've got no hope of retiring at 60.

So even if these kids do manage to find a decent job, they're still $120,000 in the hole from college.  That's the equivalent of a second mortgage these days.  No wonder they're camping in the basement until "something comes along."  And keep in mind, unemployment for college graduates is still far less than the average for the rest of America.  So yeah, at this point these kids can't settle for 35 grand to learn the ropes, because just about every penny of that is going to end up going to debt servicing.

Welcome to the new normal.  You're not working hard enough, citizen.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Segregate

Via the excellent Pam Spaulding we learn this morning what the Pentagon is planning for a post DADT military, and that apparently means more "separate but equal" nonsense as the NY Times editorial board chews out the President and the Pentagon, and rightfully so.

As justification, the administration made overheated claims that a precipitous change in wartime would have adverse effects on morale, good order, discipline and unit cohesion. Those are the same specious arguments used to justify the benighted policy in the first place. The administration wants to leave it in place while it finishes a study on how to carry out a repeal.

Clifford Stanley, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said in a court filing that ending the antigay policy would require training, and reworking regulations on issues like housing, benefits and standards of conduct. He said the Army had to consider the “rights and obligations of the chaplain corps.”

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the military had to consider whether barracks should be segregated and whether partners of gay soldiers should have benefits. 

This sounds disturbingly like the creation of a “separate but equal” system. The armed forces do not need to be protected from their gay and lesbian personnel. The military has always had its own culture and rules of behavior, but it has not been living in a cave.

Judge Phillips has hit on a simpler, more equitable solution: just stop enforcing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It has done more to harm military readiness than her injunction possibly could. 

Which is crap.  Look, every other federal employee in the US has to handle the concept of the LGBT workplace, as does a vast majority of the American private sector.  We don't have separate cubicles for gays, folks...and as far as the "unit cohesion and trust" argument goes, we have been repeatedly told that our volunteer military is the best trained, most honorable military in the world, that the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces are the best our country has to offer.  We ask them to put their lives on the line in order to defend America, but you're telling me they can't handle the end of DADT?

Ahh, but we're told "we can't make these kind of changes in wartime".  We've been fighting in Afghanistan for nine years almost.  We're always in wartime.  What the hell happened to "adapt, improvise, overcome"?  This policy was created in peacetime anyway.  Our military is better than that.

Look, just get over it, guys.  The rest of America operates on a pretty functional level most of the time.  Time for you guys to get with it...and hey, aren't my tax dollars paying your salary, etc?  Well alright then.  Let's not forget that LGBT Americans are part of the Americans you have sworn to defend, too.

And stay safe.

Battle Inside The Neutral Zone

Next time somebody tells you there's too much government oversight these days on the internet, recall this week's little spat between News Corp. and Cablevision.

News Corp. and Cablevision are currently stuck in a classic cable vs programming "we pay too much, you pay too little" fight. But this time around News Corp. is flexing more muscle by banning Cablevision Internet users from accessing Hulu too.

When the clock struck midnight on Saturday, Cablevision customers could no longer watch FOX on their TV. That's because News Corp. (which owns FOX) and Cablevision couldn't come to an agreement on the fees that Cablevision should pay News Corp. It's something that's happened before with other networks and other cable providers but the new twist is that News Corp. is using their stake in Hulu to ban Cablevision Internet users from accessing FOX content on Hulu as well.

Yeah, arbitrarily cutting off web sites to cable customers just because they have a dispute with the cable company.  That's a disturbing new trend there, but we're being told that if we put in any sort of rules that protect customer access to the net, content providers will go out of business and there will be no internet.  Does it look like content providers like News Corp. and FOX are worried about losing revenue here to you?  Or are they happily throwing around their muscle in order to win higher fees from cable companies who then pass those fees along to you anyway?

Sounds like there should be some basic consumer protections for the internet given its increasing importance in our lives. Sadly, Republicans and even a few Democrats are doing everything they can to see that nothing like this ever gets done.  Too much money in blackmailing customers, you know.
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