Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last Call

Nancy Pelosi and the Dems have finally gotten the message on tax cuts, passing them just for people making less than $250,000.  All but three Republicans voted against middle class tax cuts, America.

Using a wily procedural maneuver to tie Republican hands, House Democrats managed to pass, by a vote of 234-188, legislation that will allow the Bush tax cuts benefiting only the wealthiest Americans to expire.

Democrats were not united on the issue. Twenty voted with Republicans to kill the tax cut bill, as they hold out for extending additional cuts to wealthy Americans -- though 3 Republicans, including Reps. Ron Paul (TX) and Walter Jones (NC) voted for the tax cut extensions. However the outcome will (and was designed to) allow Democrats to draw distinctions between themselves and Republicans during the 2012 election cycle.

President Obama endorsed the plan many months ago, and continues to support it. But divisions within his party, the White House's soft push, and the new political reality after the November election have made it highly unlikely that this legislation will become law. It would need to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, and Democrats lack the 60 votes they'd need to do that.

So force the Republicans to actually kill tax cuts, then make your own tax cut bill and dare the GOP to kill it.  Really is that simple.  168 Republicans voted against this.  Will the Dems make them pay?

What do you think?  Me?  I'm not holding my breath.

There Are No Racists In The GOP

And boy, do they get really, really mad when you point out to them that this isn't true.  When Iowa Republican Steve King isn't calling our President "very, very urban" he's assuming black people are "city-dwelling drug addicts."

But it's not racist to assume that an entire class of people are junkies.  Iowa must be proud of this man.

To recap, this man is a United States Congressman, duly elected as such.  Go Republicans.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

FOX is paying Juan Williams $2 million a year to tell you that the greatest threat to personal hygiene in America is unemployment benefits.

"To me it's crazy because the longer that person is unemployed the more difficult it is then for them to get a job," Williams said. "Because employers, potential employers, will look and see that gee, they've been out forever, it doesn't make sense. And I think that's partly playing in to this cycle. And at some point then it becomes a matter of you lose your work ethic, your values are impacted, you know, getting up, showing up, dressing well, all that good stuff."

Therefore, we should really stop helping the unemployed.  They'll wake up on time, presumably to their daily being poor activities.  Nice of the millionaire TV guy to let us know millions of Americans are all lazy people who don't practice bathing.  He gets paid to do that.

Tax Break Raiders Of The Lost Ark

On a day where NASA announces that they've discovered brand new arsenic-based lifeforms (that you know, EVOLVED), I'm reminded of just how frigging stupid my state of Kentucky can be in the science department as Gov. Beshear (a Democrat, mind you!) has announced the state is giving up nearly $40 million in tax breaks to build...a creationist theme park.  Joe "Media Czech" Sonka over at Barefoot and Progressive went to Beshear's presser on this yesterday.

The rest is history.

Once question and answer time began, I asked if there would be dinosaurs on the Ark. Beshear was at the podium and gave me a blank stare. Finally, the AiG guy spoke up and gave a "well, you know what we believe" answer. After other reporters prodded him, he finally stepped up to the mic and said yes, there will be dinosaurs on the ark, because there WERE dinosaurs on the ark. Of course.

There were some other good questions about the separation of church and state, but mostly questions about the dimensions of the Ark, which couldn't have been more useless considering that the governor of our state was up on stage presenting his endorsement of a theme park devoted to intellectually molesting children. Steitzer asked if he believed in Creationism, and Beshear gave a sanctimonious defense of his faith.

I asked the last question, which was "do you support the Young Earth Creationism of Answers in Genesis being taught in public schools?" Beshear said that this isn't the time and place for questions like that. Get me off of this stage.

I'd die laughing except this thing is going up in spitting distance of where I live, meaning that once again Kentucky is a national frigging embarrassment that I have to apologize to the rest of the country for.  Once again, the creationist theme park people are getting some $37.5 million in tax breaks to build this thing, and as a Kentucky taxpayer this makes me want to repeatedly hit somebody with a hammer.  The great part is that the jobs this will create will all be based on sucking the critical thinking skills out of America's kids, creating the next generation of science-hating Tea Party voters.  Whee!  Go Kentucky!

I can't wait for the official Kentucky: The Yabba Dabba Doo State license plates.

PZ Myers has a field day with this one, it goes without saying.

Russian Home To Play Qatar Hero

FIFA has selected Russia over England for the 2018 World Cup, and the US gets skunked again as the 2022 World Cup will be played in Qatar (and yes, I know it's pronounced "cotter" as in cotter-pin, but it's my post title dammit.)

In a stunning pair of decisions Thursday, FIFA, world soccer's governing body, voted to award the 2018 Men's World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

It was a case of FIFA boldly going where FIFA has not gone before. The World Cup has never been staged in either the former Eastern bloc or in the Middle East.

England and the U.S. originally had been favored to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, respectively, but they fell by the wayside earlier in the voting in Switzerland by the 22 memebers of FIFA's executive committee.

The twin decisions were announced in Zurich by Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, FIFA's president, and were greeted by spontaneous celebrations in the winning countries.

"We go to new lands," Blatter said.

Seems fair to me.  There are stadiums in the world outside the Rose Bowl and Wembley, guys.  And hey, I'm looking forward to 40,000 vodka-drunk people playing balalaikas as loudly as possible just to annoy people.  It'll be like Fiddler On The Roof meets Stomp.  How can you not like that?  Time to brush up on my Russian from high school.

(Qatar might not be as much fun, admittedly, but good for them.)

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Ask Ollie North

I really do have to wonder about Oliver North's complete disreagard for the integrity of our military forces.

Did retired Lt. Col. Oliver North really just say that a repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell could mean a return to the draft? Yes, in an appearance today on Fox News' Happening Now, North said DADT repeal could mean a loss of 30 percent of military personnel, and that an all-volunteer force could not survive such a loss.

Really?  Even as the military's own extensive study of the repeal indicated some 70% of the military was completely okay with it there Ollie?

There's no doubt. In all of my trips overseas, Briana and Jenna, and everyone else out there, in now almost two years of covering this war for Fox News on the ground with U.S. units, I have never - there's very few always and nevers in life -- I have never talked to a staff noncommissioned officer or a mid-grade officer with combat experience who believes this is a good thing to do. And if we're relying on the fact that 30 percent have already expressed their concern about this, don't leave the military and get replaced, then we've got a problem because you can't live with an all-volunteer force that loses 30 percent of the best-educated, trained, led, militarily equipped and combat-experienced force the world ever has known. It could be very, very dangerous in the long-term. 

Yes, he's saying that the 30% of the military that isn't okay with DADT (which is true) but that the notion that will leave and that we can no longer have an all-volunteer military because of that is ridiculous enough to be insulting to our troops.  They are better people than that.  He's saying every single one of them will leave because a gay or lesbian person might give them cooties, and that's something that the most highly-trained, most lavishly-equipped, most intesively-trained military in the history of Earth cannot handle.

To recap, multiple tours of duty serving your country in a war zone is something our men and women in uniform can handle.  Gay cooties on the other hand will completely destroy our armed forces.

That is such a massive insult to the integrity of the people who serve in our military that North should be completely ashamed of himself.

No surprise then this idiocy is on FOX, the Channel Of No Shame.

Epic Arsenic And Old Lakes Win

So NASA's big announcement is apparently the discovery of life-forms on Earth not based on carbon, but...arsenic.  Gizmodo:

At their conference today, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

But not this one. This one is completely different. Discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California, this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible. While she and other scientists theorized that this could be possible, this is the first discovery. The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding beings in other planets that don't have to be like planet Earth.

All the sci-fi books say alternate life forms are made out of silicon.  But freakin' arsenic?  Truth really is stranger than science fiction.  This is nifty stuff, folks.  Biology just got a shot in the arm here.

I wonder what the no-science arm of the GOP has to say about this.  Probably that we need to cut NASA's funding before arsenic terrorists turn all our kids gay or something.

Still, for the scientists at NASA?  You'd better believe this is an EPIC WIN of evolutionary proportions.

[UPDATE] Some clarification from the NASA press conference today:

According to Wolfe Simon, they knew that "some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we've found is a microbe doing something new—building parts of itself out of arsenic." The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding organisms in other planets that don't have to be like planet Earth. Like NASA's Ed Weiler says: "The definition of life has just expanded."


Facing The Replacements

Makes sense that the Tea Party caucus wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with absolutely nothing, because it's not like any of them are interested in health care problems anyway.  They just want to kill the President's signature legislation.  The problem is that the GOP leadership selling the "repeal and replace" snake oil can't even convince their own people that they ever had a plan either, and it's making things a mite uncomfortable.

Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) say Republicans should repeal the law without attaching a proposal to replace it.
Bachmann, a founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, told The Hill on Wednesday, “We need to have a full-scale repeal of ObamaCare, then from there …what we need to do is to have a debate on how are we going to offer the greatest-quality healthcare to the widest swath of people at the lowest possible price. We need to make that argument why free-market healthcare is a good thing.”

To recap, Shelly's "free-market health care" system that she believes in is the same massively expensive system before the health care debate:  full of insurance company rescission, coverage limits, denial of coverage for any reason, and millions of folks losing insurance every year as a result.

They don't want to replace it, because they're fine with exploding health care costs and unaffordable insurance and millions of ordinary people filing for medical bankruptcies, because members of Congress get free health care anyway (and insurance companies make billions.)

If the public figures this out, it would be kind of bad for the Republicans, hence the smoke and mirrors about replacing it with basically the same plan.  The Tea party caucus is making that problematic for the GOP.

Should be an interesting fight.  I wonder if Bachmann has given up her government health care yet?

Calling Out The Elephant

Via Steve M, it looks like Sully is quite fed up with the Adams College chapter of Alpha Beta GOP as they block everything just to keep the Nerds Democrats from being able to address any of the problems that we're facing.

What we've observed these past two years is a political party that knows nothing but scorched earth tactics, cannot begin to see any merits in the other party's arguments, refuses to compromise one inch on anything, and has sought from the very beginning to do nothing but destroy the Obama presidency. I see no other coherent message or strategy since 2008. Just opposition to everything, zero support for a president grappling with a recession their own party did much to precipitate, and facing a fiscal crisis the GOP alone made far worse with their spending in the Bush-Cheney years. There is not a scintilla of responsibility for their past; not a sliver of good will for a duly elected president. Worse, figures like Cantor and McCain actively seek to back foreign governments against the duly elected president of their own country, and seek to repeal the signature policy achievement of Obama's first two years, universal healthcare.

I know it is the opposition's role to oppose. But the sheer scale and absolutism of the opposition, and its continuation in the lame duck session, even over such small but integral reforms such as the new START and DADT repeal, is remarkable.

The two parties are evenly spread in this 50-50 country, but only one can brook no compromise in its accelerating rush to the far right. And that is what it seems we have to contemplate for the next two years - total paralysis in the face of urgent problems as part of a game of cynical partisan brinkmanship. They simply cannot bear that another party might actually have a role to play in government

It's that last sentence that expertly sums up the modern Republican Party.  They literally cannot fathom why, how, and through what means that anyone other than the Republicans themselves be allowed to pass legislation, issue executive orders, or even have a voice in the way this country is run, because these Republicans honestly don't believe that anyone other than hard-core Tea Party Republicans in this country should even have a say in how the country is run.

That's the logical endpoint of all this "we're Real America and you're not" tribalism.  If you're not one of them, you don't count.  Only their opinions do.  They believe they are doing "the country's" work by blockading everything they can and they don't give a pile of elephant dung about what anyone else thinks, because they really do not care.  Anyone who's not a Republican voter doesn't exist to these guys, so why should anyone else even get an opinion on how America should operate?

Our way or we all burn together.  This is "compromise."  If Sully can see it, it has to be evident to the rest of the country.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 46

Just as the banks are under legal assault on multiple fronts in Foreclosuregate, they are fighting back on these multiple fronts as well.  The latest airstrike on behalf of the banks is coming from Helicopter Ben as the Fed wants to change the Truth in Lending Act to require homeowners stuck in a predatory home loan to have to pay off the entire balance of the loan before they can get out of it, rather than being able to refinance what's left to pay on more favorable terms.  The "rescission clause" which allows homeowners to challenge predatory loans is under attack.

Critics say the proposed change by the Fed would render the rescission clause useless. The Fed proposal would require homeowners who seek a loan rescission through the courts, to pay off the entire loan balance before the lender cancels the lien.

"This, of course, would be almost impossible for most consumers to do because they can't come up with the money until they get out of the loan. And they can't get out of the loan until the lien is released," said Barry Zigas, director of housing and credit policy at the Consumer Federation of America. "None of us are quite sure what purpose is being served by this proposal or what prompted it."

The answer to that is simple, actually.  Given the sheer number of foreclosures out there of questionable legal status (perhaps millions), this move is directly designed to make it impossible to get out of a squirrely mortgage loan and to make it much easier to foreclose.  Banks after all are going to need all the provable assets they can get here as the MERS lawsuits pile up.  Making it much easier to foreclose on a bogus or predatory loan strongly favors the banks, and the Fed is choosing to do this now because they know exactly how ugly Foreclosuregate is going to be for the banks.

If in the end all the foreclosures go through and there's no way to redress or challenge the bank's mortgage rights, the banks win.  This is being set up now to give the banks that win later as the legal proceedings grind on in the meantime.  The plan clearly indicates the Fed believes that some sort of congressional or executive action will absolve MERS and the banks of all liability by retroactively making their fake paperwork into legal magic.  This Fed action would be the other half of the process, allowing the banks a speedy mechanism to then foreclose on those homes without being able to be slowed down by homeowners (correctly) claiming the loans were predatory.

This one's crafty as all hell.  Keep an eye on this.

The Last Cyber-Nail In The Cyber-Coffin

Although the FCC's net neutrality rules aren't officially out until December 21, the preliminary news on the rules indicates that net neutrality is officially dead, and the tiered internet is here to stay.

Internet providers will not be subjected to so-called "Net neutrality" rules and may experiment with tiered, usage-based pricing and "network management" practices, according to new rules being considered by the Federal Communications Commission this month.

Advocates of Net neutrality had hoped the regulatory agency would mandate Internet service providers treat all traffic equally: one of the Web's founding principles.

Instead, the FCC's Internet regulations adopts many proposals by search and telecom giants Google and Verizon, with the caveat that wireless telephone providers not block competing voice applications.

In a speech, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski specified that the FCC would permit ISPs to charge heavy bandwidth users even more, creating a tiered pricing structure. ISPs would also be able to charge fees to businesses serving large quantities of data.

The announcement is a victory for Comcast, the nation's largest cable Internet provider, which recently forced a bandwidth toll upon Netflix partner Level 3. The company called Comcast's move "extortion" but agreed to their conditions to prevent any service interruptions. 

And of course they will.  Meanwhile, Comcast can throttle Netflix traffic or charge extra for all of its customers who use it while allowing traffic from its soon to be acquired Hulu streaming service through as part of its merger with NBC/Universal.

And now that Comcast controls a major chunk of TV and movie content, controls distribution through cable and internet, and is now big enough with millions of customers to extort fees from other content providers and backbone network services, there's really nothing stopping it from charging whatever it wants.

Bend over, America.  You're about to get some applied free market as the FCC has completely caved on the issue.


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