Saturday, December 31, 2011

Zandar's 2012 Predictions

Well, let's see what's ahead for 2012:

  1. President Obama wins re-election.  I just think whomever the GOP candidate is, they'll be driven so far to the right they'll get stomped in the general.  And a grand total of none of these clowns can handle Obama in debates.
  2. But...the GOP retains one, if not both chambers in Congress.  The most likely scenario is that the Dems lose control of Congress and enough GOP redistricting nonsense locks down their control of the House for two years.  If that happens, the GOP may very well eliminate the filibuster in order to force shutdown/hostage scenarios approximately every 37 seconds, and their demands will not be small in 2013.  I'd love to be wrong about this.
  3. The Eurozone finally blows up.  Austerity economics in Europe are finally going to cath up with them in 2012.  European countries will be in recession, and if things get bad enough, it's Global Financial Crisis time again.  It could weigh very heavily on the economy.
  4. At least one GOP candidate, somewhere in America, will refer to President Obama with the N-word.  It will happen.  It just has to.  Most likely it will be some state-level douchebag, but I wouldn't be surprised if it slips out at a Congressional or even GOP Oval Office candidate level staffer.  But this, I feel confident of.
  5. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be driven from power.  There's just too much bloodshed and anger at this point.  I'm not sure how long the road will be, and over how many Syrian corpses it will travel, but it will happen.  He has lost the right to rule.
  6. There will be a military incident on the Iran-Iraq border.  No brainer, especially with US fighting troops gone.  And the Saudis and Israelis will have kittens when it happens.
  7. The GOP will shut down the Federal government.  It may be just a partial one, but it'll happen, especially if there's good economic news and/or POTUS starts pulling ahead in the polls.  They will literally go for broke.
  8. 2012 will be a record box-office year.  Just too many good films out for 2012, and a lot of people will be looking for an escape.
  9. The push for Sarah Palin as the GOP VP candidate will be massive, but she won't be the choice.  I still think it'll be Chris "Bag O Donuts" Christie, but if the GOP were smart, it would be Huntsman on the ticket for anyone but Romney, and Romney will take Christie.
  10. We'll still here end of next year.  Bon and I have been busy as hell this year, and we're both writing for other blogs (and Bon has an awesome side project in Dead Shuffle).  But ZVTS is our baby, and we're going to raise the little tyke right through year four.
We'll see how I manage.  Into the Future files you go.

Parent Of The Year: Epic Fail

Two northern Arizona parents were arrested after photos of their young children allegedly being abused were posted on Facebook.

An anonymous Facebook user reportedly alerted authorities on Wednesday after seeing two children, an infant and a toddler, bound with duct tape around their wrists and ankles in photos posted to the social networking site, Fox affiliate KSAZ-TV reported.

The children's mouths were taped shut, and one of them was hung upside down by some exercise equipment, according to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office in Flagstaff.

"They did indicate that they were simply joking, however, it is apparent through the photographs that this was not a joke. The photos depicted the children's faces in sheer terror," Gilliland said. "Clearly, you can't tape another person's hands and mouth shut -- especially small children. It is clearly child abuse, and they were charged appropriately."

The children, a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old infant, are being taken care of by family members while the investigation continues, according to the station.
You have people so stupid they would do this to kids.  Then they are so stupid they post it on Facebook.  Then they are so stupid they say it was a joke.  The obvious concluison is that these people are too stupid to have kids forced to depend on them for food and shelter.

I had a relative who was nearly this stupid.  He also duct taped my mouth, hands and feet and tickled me until I passed out.  Not from mirth but from lack of freaking oxygen.  I'm grateful for law enforcement, because this brought out a violent "beat some sense into them" reaction from me.  I would beat these people nearly to death, then let them have a break and go at it again.

The Bon is pissed.  Let's hope local law enforcement feels the same way.

My Favorite Time Of Year

So it's time to say goodbye to 2011. It was a good year, for the most part. It was one of the few times I not only met but exceeded my resolutions. That makes me want to up the ante a little, and list my resolutions here where I can compare them a year from now, the eve of 2013. You know, provided the world doesn't end or anything silly like that.

1. I will lose 30 pounds. Oh sure, we always have the weight goal to get out of the way. I'm keeping this modest, because a medicine change will make it likely that I will gain weight. This year I crossed the 100 lb mark, so to keep that off and make any movement towards a loss is a big deal.

2. I will submit no fewer than two query letters or article pitches each week. This is my attempt to increase my productivity in a measurable way. I usually go on benders of progress followed by valleys of Facebook laziness. I have made progress with baby steps, now it's time to be consistent. I will allow two weeks off to be cashed in as needed.

3. I will be published in four different publications. To make this possible, I will actually clarify this to mean accepted rather than published, because some mags publish six months after initial acceptance.

4. I will do one significant or three minor good deeds per month, done in total secret. The good deeds must be something that will actively make someone happier or better off, and I cannot claim any benefit from it but the good deed itself. I accomplished that last year, so to ramp up the difficulty, money cannot be involved directly and no more than ten dollars indirectly. I will have to be creative.

5. I will get through all the scales and test out on them. Meaning, my teacher can say any scale and I will be able to play it in tune, immediately, and instantly know what sharps and flats are part of that key signature. It will not only be a good practice technique, but it will help me master third and fifth position as well and free me up to work on my bowing. I am making a conscious effort to build my musical foundation in solid theory.

6. This year I want to dig into regional history. I will visit six museums or sites that tie into that theme. Fantastic Caverns and the Heavener Rune are among my intended destinations.

As a child I wasn't that into New Year's Day. It was an excuse to order pizza and stay up late. As an adult, I became less enchanted with religious and traditional holidays, and found the new year to be a really exciting thing. It's a chance to set new goals. It's a chance to drop any remaining baggage from the year before and make a clean break. I like the double-sided fun of celebrating the year I am putting to rest while looking forward to the one coming up.

Here's hoping you are all with us a year from now when we compare notes and look back on 2012.

Zandar's 2011 Scorecard

Welp, this is the day of the year I open up my Future Stupidity files and get depressed over how terrible I am at predicting said future.

This year I wasn't even close on my ten.  The GOP didn't shut down the government and allowed DADT to be repealed without a huge fight, unemployment got better, not worse, POTUS technically didn't veto anything, Julian Assange didn't get disappeared, and the Dow ended the year not only above 10k, but 12k.

I was only right on 3 of 10:  California did ask for federal money for a number of programs to close its budget hole, despite the Kindle Fire, the iPad 2 continues to dominate (for now) and I did manage to call the GOP embracing birtherism in fact every single candidate did with the exceptions of Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.

My SCOTUS predictions were a wash as those cases, California's Prop 8 and the PPACA's individual mandate will be taken up in 2012.

At best, I'm 3 for 9.  Still pretty bad.  We'll see how I do with my predictions later today for 2012.

StupidiNews, New Year's Weekend Edition!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Last Call

This week's "Obama is DOOOOOOOOOOMED" article comes from CNN, where commentator Brad Chase accuses the President of ignoring the youth vote...and in turn, America's twenty-somethings will completely abandon the Democrats and stay home in 2012 unless the President tackles the student debt crisis.

The sobering reality:  just 55.3 percent of Americans between 16 and 29 have jobs.  And earlier this year, Americans’ student loan debt surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever.

Rather than develop a lasting initiative to help young unemployed Americans, the President launched “Greater Together” – a campaign tool that offers community forums rather than jobs.  Rather than provide a bailout to those crushed by the burden of educational loans, his student debt relief program was pathetic – only reducing interest rates by a measly 0.5 percent.

No wonder less than half of Americans 18-29 approve of Obama.

In other words, candidates in both parties are so busy buying off the Boomers that the broke-ass Millenials simply fail to count.  Chase goes on to say that student debt relief would go a long way in getting voters under 30 back into the big blue tent, along with jobs jobs jobs.

But here's the thing: the Democrats did just that with student loan relief bills in the House and Senate...which are still sitting in committee and have no chance of passage because Republicans immediately vowed to block the legislation in the Senate and have no intention of bringing the bill out of committee in the House.  And the Republicans happily killed the American Jobs Act.

And for this, Millenials should stay home and not vote, nor should they care about what happens because Washington's just going to screw them over anyway, right?

Let me ask you a question.  How does the youth vote staying home get more and better Democrats in Congress?  Answer:  it doesn't.  And the last time the Republicans had control of Congress and the White House?  They passed a law specifically designed to screw over Millenials on student debt, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which classified student loans specifically as debt that cannot be forgiven by bankruptcy and made it harder to declare bankruptcy anyway.

That's what Republicans did for the Millenials.

Now tell me again why attacking President Obama and staying home on Election Day is such a smart idea as far as getting this law fixed, guys.  I'm all ears.

The Reason Behind Mitt's Latest Dodge

Mitt Romney's run into more than a bit of trouble this week trying to dodge the issue of releasing his tax return, something pretty much every presidential hopeful has done during campaign season since Nixon.  He's even gotten his son Matt in on trying to change the subject guessed it...President Obama's "real" birth certificate.

Josh Marshall makes a pretty damned good educated guess as to why Mittens is jumping through any hoop he can find in order to prevent any squinting at his tax numbers:  It's because Romney would prove the Buffett Rule.

This is Romney’s problem. While we don’t know the specifics of Romney’s tax returns, we know enough about his finances and sources of incomes to know that he is the poster-boy for the Buffett Rule. As Romney likes to say, he’s unemployed. He doesn’t draw a salary. But he seems to still be making big big money off capital gains which are currently taxed at a very low rate. He doesn’t seem to have drawn a salary at any time recently. So he likely pays no payroll taxes. And that’s before you get into legal but aggressive tax-sheltering. It seems virtually impossible that Mitt Romney doesn’t pay the sort of effective tax rate that would make people’s eyes pop when compared to middle income and even relatively wealthy (by normal standards) people who pay considerably higher rates.

That might cause a little problem in any election year. But issues of income inequality and particularly tax policy are right at the top of the political agenda in 2012. And that dictates keeping those tax returns under wraps as long as possible. 

And Mitt's big issue, the plaid shirts, the hokey family stuff, the "unemployed" jibes at campaign stops, all are focused on selling him as an ordinary guy.  His tax return would all but annihilate that illusion, and it would be in a way that Romney couldn't equivocate about:  numbers don't lie (or at least, they sure had better not lie on a tax return for a presidential candidate.)

If America figures out that Mitt paid less of an effective tax rate than Americans who really are middle-class, salt of the earth types, then he's done.  Millionaire Mitt would get squashed in the realm of Occupy Wall Street, Inequalistan and Republicans fighting to empty the pockets of working Americans.  He knows it would be the final flip that he couldn't flop on, and he'd be on the record.

If Mitt was smart, this would have been the perfect Friday to dump this news on, just before a holiday weekend and the Village bound and determined to declare Mitt the winner no matter what happens in Iowa on Tuesday.  As it is, the longer he draws it out, the worse it's going to be when he finally has to do it.

Fire Walker Chronicles, Part 7

Looks like not only will Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker get his day in court to argue that the state's recall process is unconstitutional, but that Democrats will be locked out of the case, unable to present arguments to defend the recall.

A judge in Wisconsin has ruled that Democratic recall organizers cannot challenge a lawsuit brought by the state GOP against election officials — a suit that claims Gov. Scott Walker’s constitutional rights are being violated by the state’s petition review process.

This means that barring a hypothetical appeal, any continuing litigation in this matter will be conducted exclusively between the state GOP and the election board’s attorney, without the Dems themselves being able to participate and present legal arguments.

“I was a little surprised,” said Jeremy Levinson, the attorney for the recall committee, in an interview with TPM. “It’s the first time I can recall — let me rephrase — it’s the first time I’m aware of a recall-related lawsuit where only the official who is being targeted for recall gets to be a party, and the folks who are working to recall that official are shut out of the process.”

It does seem rather pointedly ridiculous that Walker's argument is that the burden of challenging recall signatures is "unconstitutional" abridgement of his rights, but being able to challenge that very argument in court is apparently completely unnecessary, and that the rights of the people of Wisconsin to exercise their free speech in a state-mandated recall process doesn't actually matter so much compared to being Governor.

No wonder that the GOP filed the lawsuit in their home turf of Waukesha County to get a friendly judge, in this case a former GOP State Senator.  The case will proceed forward next week with that same judge hearing Walker's arguments and the motion to dismiss the case on January 5th.  Meanwhile Walker and his allies are pushing to win the battle of public opinion, having already spent over a million bucks in ads fighting the recall petition in just the last six weeks.

We'll see how that goes.

Breaking Celebrity Gossip: Russell Brand Files For Divorce

Russell Brand is filing for divorce from Katy Perry, TMZ just broke the story.

I'm a Katy Perry fan because I admire her honest and down to earth approach to her lifestyle.  I think she has a long career ahead of her once she breaks free of Teenage Dream and all that comes with it.  Brand... well, he has no talent.  He plays the same schmuck over and over which makes me think he isn't acting at all, and to blindisde your spouse with a divorce announcement through TMZ is just plain chicken.  As of right now, that seems to be the story.

Maybe old Russ will have a new reason to show his skanky smirk in photos.  He was clearly the non-talent of the marriage and I hope Katy leaves him broke and depressed.  Hey, there's always Arthur: On The Rocks to look forward to, right?

Best And Worst Video of 2011

My favorite is short, sweet and hilarious.

... and now we have the worst.

In "Republican Wisdom" this old lady shows us exactly why we must never vote for the GOP.  It's a bit dated, the Herman Cain reference is hilarious.

Legalizing Marijuana: You're Doing It Right (Finally)

According to the Huffington Post, Colorado has become the third state to ask the DEA to reschedule marijuana as a Schedule II drug.  This means it could be prescribed, but would be controlled by the same methods used to regulate morphine and other powerful painkillers.

Regardless of what one might think about recreational marijuana use, the reality is it has some medical applications.  I have known two men from two completely different backgrounds benefit from marijuana during their final weeks battling cancer.  It helped them eat, it raised their spirits a little, and there was no harm done to them whatsoever.  Marijuana does have medical benefits, and a little work could make it to patients could enjoy the benefits without the risk of smoking it.  Right now it is classified as Schedule I, which means it has no medical use, no positive effects.  That is incorrect.

Sixteen states have legalized marijuana and are fighting the sudden decision to enforce laws that have been on the books and ignored.  Rhode Island and Washington have started calling for reclassification.  It would make sense to hear it out and get a new understanding.  In a perfect world, both sides would speak truthfully and let the DEA come to a logical and scientific ruling.  In reality there will be a mess, and any decisions will be appealed and stalled while the losing side refuses to acknowledge their loss.  Giving the dying any relief at all is good enough for me, but any attempt to rob us of the chance to openly debate and explore is unfair and unethical.

Was it right for the states to operate in opposition of federal law?  No.  Calling for an evaluation based on new evidence is fair and ethically sound.  They deserve our support.

Rick Rolling The Country

Rick Santorum has a frothily exciting plan to solve poverty:  get hitched and graduate, poor people!

“Do you know if you do two things in your life — if you do two things in your life, you’re guaranteed never to be in poverty in this country? What two things, that if you do, will guarantee that you will not be in poverty in America?” he asked the crowd.

Number one, graduate from high school. Number two, get married. Before you have children,” he said. “If you do those two things, you will be successful economically. What does that mean to a society if everybody did that? What that would mean is that poverty would be no more. If you want to have a strong economy, there are two basic things we can do.”

I'm sure that's news to the millions of married working poor in this 2004 study and these latest figures showing that some 8-10% of married couples with kids are in fact below the poverty line.

Sure, you're more likely to be in poverty in a one-income family headed by a single mother.  But the notion that a high-school diploma and marriage prevents poverty completely as Santorum claims is pretty ludicrous.  The real issue with poverty is jobs and education, and Republicans are pretty keen on cutting the social net in order to "force" people to take jobs, like cutting medicine will force people to stop being sick.

And yes, there are people with advanced degrees on food stamps. It happens.  How does Santorum explain that away?  Also, he's completely against same-sex marriage, which would increase the number of married couples in the country.

He's Rick rolling voters.

Mutual Admiration Society

Once again, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton top Gallup's most admired list in 2011.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama continue to be named by Americans as the Most Admired Woman and Most Admired Man living today in any part of the world. Clinton has been the Most Admired Woman each of the last 10 years, and Obama has been the Most Admired Man four years in a row. Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, and Condoleezza Rice round out the top five Most Admired women, while the top five Most Admired men also include George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Billy Graham, and Warren Buffett.

Most Admired Woman, 2011
Most Admired Man, 2011

President Obama wins by a pretty big margin there, as does Hillary Clinton. And it's really saying something that Mitt Romney is nowhere near that list, while Newt, The Donald, Moose Lady and the Bachmanniac are.  I'm betting if you take a look back at this list the year before each Presidential election, you'd find some pretty embarrassing people on that list.

It also has to really piss off the wingers that this is year number 20 Hillary Clinton is on the list, now officially passing Nancy Reagan's 19 times in the top 10.  The Reverend Billy Graham has been on this list a staggering 55 times now...but has never finished first.

Number 11 this year for the men?  Tim Tebow.  Mitt is 13 behind The Dalai Lama.  McCain, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, John Kerry, and Chinese Premier Liu Xiaobo all down the list too.

For the ladies, Angelina Joile is 11, followed by Princess Kate.  Gabby Giffords is 15, and Nancy Pelosi edges out Nancy Reagan at 21 and 22, respectively.  Somehow, J-Lo is 17, but I blame that damn Fiat commercial.

Oh, and this is the first year Michelle Obama has edged out Sarah Palin since the two of them appeared on the list in 2008.  Palin was in the double digits the last three years.  Oops.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Last Call

Meet the new employee/boss relationship involving Keith Olbermann, same as the old employee/boss relationship involving Keith Olbermann.

Keith Olbermann, who came to Current TV this year to remake the channel and compete against his old home, MSNBC, is sitting out the biggest political nights of the season.

Despite being the biggest star on the fledging channel, Mr. Olbermann is not scheduled to anchor Current’s coverage of the Iowa caucus or the New Hampshire primary in January. Instead, Current’s other prime time anchors, Cenk Uygur and Jennifer Granholm, will be joined by the channel’s chairman, the former vice president Al Gore, according to the channel’s TV schedule.

Mr. Olbermann also was noticeably absent from two special reports that Current produced after Republican debates in mid-December. Those, too, were anchored by Mr. Uygur.

These absences suggest that there may be new tension between Mr. Olbermann and the managers at Current, who are trying to create a progressive-oriented cable news channel. 

I don't get Current TV on my cable provider...and I'm not too particularly broken up over it either.  But if Cenk is Al Gore's new golden boy, I can't wait for the fireworks to begin...especially when Cenk's extracurricular activities at HuffPo involves telling people not to vote for President Obama on Tuesday in Iowa in order to "teach him a lesson".

I follow politics for a living; I'm not unaware of how hideous the Republican choices are. But that doesn't mean that we should pretend that President Obama has been brilliant because we're scared of the big, bad Republicans. That would be fundamentally dishonest.

And to be honest, I'm really disappointed that he does not have a primary opponent. This country is dying for someone who is going to take on the establishment. Who is that going to be on our side -- Barack Obama? On that, I know whether to laugh or cry. Every time I think about the idea that President Obama might be against the establishment, I laugh and laugh and laugh. There is never been a guy who was this enamored with the establishment. If he had wrestling nickname it would be The Establishment.

Hey Current?  Your new host is openly advocating weakening the President, ostensibly because walking out on "establishment" Dems and handing the House to the Tea Party in 2010 worked out so very well for progressive legislation in 2011.  It'll be good for Cenk's ratings so he can continue to rail at the horrible Dems while the GOP wrecks the country, or so he thinks.

Then again, HuffPo has no problem espousing the greatness of Ron Paul and saying Dems need to insist on dumping Biden for Hillary as soon as possible, so nobody should be surprised at Cenk's antics.  Works for HuffPo, doesn't it?

Perhaps Olbermann has noticed the ratings swirling down the drain. Things are certainly...interesting over there.   On the other hand, maybe there's a reason why people are dumping Current with analysis like this:

The agenda of the president sucks and is deeply Republican.

Boy, that sure makes me want to switch over from "fake progressive" MSNBC and watch "true progressive" Current, huh.

All For States' Rights Until He Gets States Wrong

Rick Perry is all for states' rights and taking power away from the "unelected" evil federal courts...unless he needs them to smack around a state who doesn't recognize his awesome hair.

"Because of the overly burdensome and unconstitutional requirements" of the state's election law, they argue, he was "unable to obtain a sufficient number of signatures from qualified voters to qualify for the Republican Party presidential primary ballot in Virginia. If either the state-residency requirement for petition circulators or the threshold amount of signators is constitutionally unenforceable, plaintiff should be certified for the March 6, 2012 Republican Party primary ballot."

The state requires that those who circulate petitions must be either registered to vote in the state or qualified to do so. Such a rule, however, prevents candidates from using out-of-state volunteers to gather signatures. And Perry points out it prevents even presidential candidates themselves from gathering signatures on their own petitions, unless they happen to be from Virginia.

Please note the massive hypocrisy of the man who calls Social Security an unconstitutional "Ponzi scheme" and says as President he would eliminate hundreds of thousands of government jobs in order to give states the power to "do what they should" and that he would ignore Supreme Court rulings he disagreed with now needs the federal courts to immediately be "activist judges" and step in to put him on the Virginia ballot because he refused to follow their primary rules.

On second thought, I don't see Perry making it much past March anyhow.

Brought To You By The Letters "F" And "U", Once Again

Mitt Romney enters the inevitable self-parody phase as he seeks to "fix" public broadcasting.

Explaining his plan to slash the federal budget by billions in order to reduce the deficit, Romney targeted a (minuscule) part of the federal budget Republicans have wanted to do away with for years: taxpayer subsidies for children’s programming on PBS.

“I like PBS,” Romney told a town hall in Clinton, Iowa Wednesday. “We subsidize PBS. Look, I’m going to stop that. I’m going to say PBS is going to have to have advertisements.”

So it's actually a good plan, force PBS to take ad money, then FOX and the Tea Party boycotts and destroys any company that actually does it.  Repeat until PBS goes under, claim victory.  Problem is, plenty of companies already underwrite a number of PBS shows quietly.  It won't be quietly much longer, I suspect.

Republicans do so very much loathe an educated populace.  But remember, Mitt Romney's a moderate, not one of those crazy Tea Party Republicans or anything.  Keep telling yourself that.  Also, there's no difference between Romney and President Obama.  None at all, so your vote is meaningless.  Apathy will solve America's problems, right?

Not Punishment Enough

Here is an update and a quick recap regarding the "Chair Lady."  It's one of the worst stories I heard from the whole year, it still haunts me.

Independence, MO — Prosecutors filed charges Wednesday in the death of an elderly Independence woman found in squalid and filthy conditions whose primary caretaker was her son.

James E. Owens, 52, faces a charge of first-degree involuntary manslaughter. His mother, Carol F. Brown, 74, died Nov. 1 after emergency crews removed her from her home five days earlier on Oct. 27.

Court records describe conditions so deplorable that the home had to be condemned. First responders had to don breathing masks due to the overwhelming stench of human waste. They called Brown a “living corpse.”

Owens told police he had not fed his mother in four days, when he gave her soup. He also told police that he believed his mother had suffered a stroke days earlier but had not contacted medical personnel because Brown did not like doctors or hospitals.

When paramedics arrived, Brown had not moved from a chair in the living room in four days. She had been sitting in a vinyl recliner for so long that her legs had become fused to the footrest. Medical staff found an open, maggot-infested wound on her ankle.

I say again: there is a special place in hell waiting for this man.  There is no way you can make his actions noble or caring.  At best he's a danger to people for gross inability to make judgments about right and wrong.  At worst he's a pitiful man who let his mother rot alive and cashed her checks.  I hope to post about this one more time, when he's sentenced to decades of hard time.

Two Sides Of The Same Stupidity

ROSWELL, Ga. -- A Roswell man is accusing police of keeping his cancer-stricken wife from medical care by pulling him over on their way to the hospital.

Johnny White told 11Alive's Blayne Alexander his wife complained of chest pains Tuesday afternoon, so he rushed to make the 10-minute drive from their home to North Fulton Hospital. White was driving through a school zone on Hembree Road when he says a Roswell Police Officer pulled him over.

"He didn't care about whether my wife was gonna expire there or whether she was having a heart attack," White said. "He didn't care about that."

Roswell Police Lt. James McGee said White was clocked at 44mph in a 25mph school zone. The stop occurred between 2:30 and 3:00pm.

We have a lot going on here.  First, you have a medical emergency ten minutes from a hospital.  Then you have a cop who doesn't know how to properly call a bluff.

Stupidity #1: You call an ambulance.  You do not put innocent people at risk because it gives you warm fuzzies to be in control.   You do not speed through a school zone at Prime Going Home Time.  If White had been determined to drive his wife, he could have avoided the school zone.  Let's make no mistake however, letting professionals drive while tending to his wife was the right answer.

Stupidity #2: As for the cop, he should have acted in the interest of the sick woman because he cannot prove or disprove the statement.  He must therefore err to the safe side.  He could have been faster on that instead of trying to demand proof of an appointment.  As it happened they were telling the truth about her condition and every second counted.  He didn't act inappropriately, but he could have been faster and better about it.

The Best Of 2011: The Jon Swift Roundup

Over at Vagabond Scholar, Battochio continues his tradition of honoring blogging legend Jon Swift with the best posts of 2011 from smaller blogs, as chosen by the bloggers themselves.  Do check out some of the better pieces there from friends of mine, Tbogg, Kay, Tom Levenson, Sarah Proud And Tall, Blue Gal, and bjkeefe.

I was asked to contribute again this year, but, well, I'm shy.  If there's one piece I could have decided on for Bats, it would have been this one.

Nuked Gingrich, Part 13

With just 5 days until the Iowa Caucuses, Team Newt is "managing expectations" for Gingrich's crash and burn.

On Wednesday evening around 6:30 ET, Newt Gingrich strategist Joe DeSantis declared the Gingrich surge in Iowa officially over.

“Oh I think anywhere in the top five would be surviving Iowa,” DiSantis told CNN.

Just a couple weeks ago, Gingrich was riding high in Iowa, leading by huge margins. DeSantis acknowledged that his candidate is no longer in “the top tier” however, chalking up the decline to the blanket of negative ads that have been run against Gingrich since he surged.

“I don’t care what candidate’s in the race, if they get $9 million in negative advertisements against them they’re going to drop in the polls,” he said. “Considering we’ve been outspent 30-1 on the air, that still being very competitive for fourth place right now and, frankly, really not that far off from being in the top tier in Iowa still is pretty impressive.” 

The latest polls find Romney having regained the lead, with Ron Paul now dropping to second, Gingrich dropping to fourth rapidly, and if anything, Rick Santorum gaining a bit of momentum as he's now in third.  Gingrich has disintegrated, going from 33% to 14% and falling.

But Mitt can't seem to break that 25% mark.  That means a vast majority of Republicans still want him to jump off the nearest pier.  That probably explains why Newt is talking about sticking around after finishing fifth or so:  whoever does drop out after Iowa would end up giving their votes to, well, anybody but Mitt.  And it's not going to take much to beat Mitt's weak showing down the road.

And for now, that may be enough.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Breaking News: Bwahahahaha Edition

It seems Michele "Crazy Eyes" Bachmann has lost one of her advisors.  He appeared with her this morning, and later in the day announced his plans to join Ron Paul's camp effective immediately.

"It's difficult, but it's the right thing to do. Because he fights for the values that I hold dear as well. And I just want to tell you guys I'm going to do everything in the next few days to help in Iowa and beyond. And we're going to take Ron Paul all the way to the White House 2012."

Bazinga, you crazy beeyotch!

Last Call

President Obama and the Democrats are winning the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefit extension fight in the polls...but not by much.

Americans have slightly more confidence in President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress (41%) than in the Republicans in Congress (34%) when it comes to the looming debate on what the government should do about a more permanent extension of payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits.

These findings, collected on Dec. 27 in Gallup Daily tracking, also show that about a quarter of Americans either don't have an opinion on the issue (10%) or say they have confidence in neither (15%) or both (1%) of the two partisan groups.

Everything's split pretty evenly along partisan lines, but Independents are very much split, 35% back the Dems, 27% the Republicans, and 21% say "neither".  Apparently, the Republicans blinking hasn't hurt them much with the American people...and hasn't helped the President, either.

We'll see what round 2 brings in February.

A Second Take On Ben Nelson

I gave my reasons as to why the Dems will miss Ben Nelson yesterday, mainly because his replacement will almost certainly be a Tea Party nimrod.  The Nation's Jamelle Bouie disagrees.

During the Obama presidency, Nelson turned his loathsome behavior up to eleven, as he obstructed the stimulus bill and worked with Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to needlessly strike tens of billions in aid to state governments. As a marginal vote in the Democratic caucus, Nelson was key to the passage of healthcare reform in the face of unified Republican opposition. True to form, he used that power to extract ridiculous concessions from President Obama and in the process nearly scuttle the bill. Since then, he has done everything he could to undermine liberals in Congress, from coming out against provisions in financial reform (that he voted for), to dragging his feet on “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal (he eventually voted for it), to acting as a constant deficit scold, urging President Obama to ignore unemployment and sluggish growth in favor of austerity.

With his parochialism and narrow concern for his own influence, it’s no exaggeration to say that Ben Nelson represented the worst of the Senate. His retirement is a good thing for Congress and a good thing for the country.

Don't get me wrong, Ben Nelson is a complete douchebag who in many ways was the worst Democrat in the Senate, and Bouie does list many of those ways.  He has hurt the Democrats time and time again.  But his replacement will be worse, and by retiring now he's all but assured that Republicans will easily win the seat.  It's a final dick move of epic proportions, and the only thing Nelson had going for him was the D after his name.

Now?  Enjoy your even worse Republican Senator, I guess.  Lemme know how that works out six years from now.

POTUS Plays The "You Mad, Bro?" Card

Republicans are preparing to go into full OUTRAGE MODE over the Obama Administration's request to the Treasury to raise the debt ceiling another $1.2 trillion.  The debt ceiling deal worked out earlier this year gives the Republicans a chance to pass a resolution of disapproval, but the President would have to sign the resolution after it somehow passed a Democratically-controlled Senate in order to stop the debt ceiling hike.  In other words, there's nothing the Republicans can really do other than complain loudly.

Except President Obama has outfoxed the elephants once again:  the GOP may not even get the chance to do that much, because they're on winter break until January 17.  Brian Beutler explains:

The key issue is the 15-day deadline Congress has to vote on a resolution of disapproval of the President’s request to raise the debt ceiling. The timing of the administration’s planned certification implies that the 15 days would be up before Congress returns in January from its holiday recess. Whether this was an accident or not, we’re told that the calendar issue created a behind-the-scenes mess — with Republicans threatening to return early from recess — and that the administration is trying to figure out a way to keep it from spilling out into the public.

I’ve reached out to the administration for further guidance on both questions. It’s still unclear whether this was a hardball political move, a dumb mistake, or just a misunderstanding — or what, if anything, can be done to avoid a public clash with the GOP over the timing.

The size of the debt hike -- easily getting the country through 2012 without having to bring it up during the election -- and the timing seems to indicate to me that A) this was done on purpose, B) it was done to pants the GOP, and C) most importantly the Obama administration understands full well that raising the debt ceiling was going to be portrayed by the GOP as an impeachable offense no matter what the President actually did about it.   So the White House is looking to get this out of the way.

Pretty sure this was the plan all along, and the GOP is now facing having to blow their vacation or miss their big chance at portraying the President as the most vile of all villains when of course previous Presidents jacked up the debt limit all the time, including Dubya's seven times and Reagan's 18 times.   Your move, Republicans.  You already lost that fight once.

You mad, bro?  If you ask me, President Obama's got them by the short hairs.  Again.

That's A Mighty Fine Blind Spot You Have There

They got thisclose to solving the problem and then they blew it.

Slate ran an article talking about the failure of school lunch programs.  It's not what you think.  Sure, money comes to mind but nope... they managed to find a way to make it work after encouragement and aid from the First Lady and a growing movement to teach kids healthy eating habits.  No, the problem is that the kids won't participate.  No surprise, they are bringing chips from lunch or refusing to eat the healthier food.

Here's the stupid part: they are getting away with it.

The complaints?  Stomach pains.  Headaches.  What-the-hell-ever-itis.  It's all bunk, and any mother worth a darn would call out those lies.  Or maybe they are true.  Stomach pain can occur when someone introduces fiber into their diet.  Headaches happen when blood sugar has been extraordinarily high and comes down (trust me, I know).

To give them credit, Slate calls out the "snotty-nosed brat" behavior.  They are ruthless when they explain that our little Snowflakes might just have to suck it up.  Research was done, the food was too watery or without enough flavor.  Study groups have isolated what kids hate, and much expense has been put into making the choices more attractive to kids.  Then, right when they were building towards the final solution, the grand finale as it were, they screwed up.  They called it a loss.  They proceeded with the false assumption that the kids hold the power.  Who could possibly back up these efforts and make them work?

Nobody mentioned the parents.  Why?  Why do we assume it's all up to the school and the kids to fight this battle?  Why aren't we enlisting the parents in the drive to have healthier kids?  You know, those guys who are actually legally responsible for the welfare of their kids.  Our kids have all the food they want but are not getting adequate nutrition, and the people with the most influence are not mentioned even once.  I find that strange and yet completely in line with everyday expectations.  Maybe we should teach our kids that when someone goes through a lot of effort and expense to do something nice, the least you can do is show reasonable appreciation.

Michelle Obama has her work cut out. I wish her the best of luck.

Cheesy Moon Theory Makes A Whole Lotta Sense

Now, two prominent scientists have published a paper suggesting that although we have an entire universe to seek out the proverbial alien needle in a haystack, perhaps looking in our own backyard would be a good place to start.

Paul Davies and Robert Wagner of Arizona State University have suggested a crowd-sourcing effort to find artificial structures on the moon. After all, lunar missions like NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are returning some dazzling, high-resolution imagery of the moon's surface. If aliens have been there, perhaps we could spot evidence of their presence.

They raise perfectly logical points. The moon is close enough to be reached, evidence would be preserved because of the lack of atmosphere. If aliens decided to check us out, the moon would make an excellent place to play peek-a-boo. Unless they went through extraordinary lengths to cover their footprints something would remain.

It's intriguing, and I would happily donate processor time to lend a hand. As it sometimes happens, the logical starting place was right in front of us all along.

Iran, So Far Away, Part 3

With the US and western countries ready to hit Iran with oil export sanctions and Saudi Arabia and other OPEC allies ready to boost production to make up for Iranian shortfall, the Iranians aren't about to simply roll over, as they do have one major piece of leverage left:  oil tanker traffic in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran's threat to stop the flow of oil from the Gulf supported crude prices on Wednesday and put world shares on the back foot, while looming Italian debt auctions hampered the euro.

Tehran said on Tuesday it would stop oil transiting through the Strait of Hormuz if sanctions were imposed on its crude exports over its nuclear ambitions, a move that could conceivably trigger military conflict with economies dependent on Gulf oil.

Brent crude oil steadied above $109 a barrel after climbing more than a dollar in the previous session. Prices have surged over 5 percent since Dec. 16.

European shares dropped 0.4 percent and Asian stocks also slipped, pushing the MSCI world equity index down 0.25 percent on the day.

"The only way Iran would actually close Hormuz is when it is attacked and war breaks, but such a possibility appears low as no country would want to take the risk when growth worldwide was likely to slow down," said Naohiro Niimura, a partner at research and consulting firm Market Risk Advisory Co.

But he added the tensions would be a major source of volatility in 2012 along with the euro zone debt crisis. He expected Brent to trade between $105-$110 in 2012.

If all Iran has to do in order to force $110 a barrel oil is look crosseyed at the Strait of Hormuz, and can boost what exports it can make by jacking up prices through zero-cost saber-rattling, it seems like somebody hasn't quite thought these oil sanctions through all the way. You won't hear OPEC countries complaining too loudly either.  Iran doesn't have to actually do anything in order to keep oil in the triple digits for the foreseeable future.

I'm betting Iran thinks it can cause just as much economic damage to the US through higher oil prices than the US can cause to it through sanctions...and considering the sanctions may end up benefiting Iran in the long run if it can keep oil prices high and sell less oil for more money, it's the rest of the world that gets hurt through more expensive fuel.  Iran may actually come out ahead.

We'll see who wins.  It's the American consumer who stands a fair chance of being the loser, however.

Capitalism: Working As Intended

Chris Hayes mentioned this Steve Waldman post at Interfluidity on banking, capitalism, and the game theory behind why proper investment, the lifeblood of any capitalist system, requires good ol' fashioned lying to really work well:

Like so many good con-men, bankers make themselves believed by persuading each and every investor individually that, although someone might lose if stuff happens, it will be someone else. You’re in on the con. If something goes wrong, each and every investor is assured, there will be a bagholder, but it won’t be you. Bankers assure us of this in a bunch of different ways. First and foremost, they offer an ironclad, moneyback guarantee. You can have your money back any time you want, on demand. At the first hint of a problem, you’ll be able to get out. They tell that to everyone, without blushing at all. Second, they point to all the other people standing in front of you to take the hit if anything goes wrong. It will be the bank shareholders, or it will be the government, or bondholders, the “bank holding company”, the “stabilization fund”, whatever. There are so many deep pockets guaranteeing our bank! There will always be someone out there to take the loss. We’re not sure exactly who, but it will not be you! They tell this to everyone as well. Without blushing.

And instinctively, we understand that capitalism is a zero-sum game:  as Guy sang it in the theme from New Jack City, "Somebody's gotta win, somebody's gotta lose."   We get that.  We don't want to actually believe that, as Doug J and Charles Pierce remind us.  But we instinctively get that.

Waldman goes on to explain that the occasional Gilded Age/Depression is a feature of the system, not a bug.

This is the business of banking. Opacity is not something that can be reformed away, because it is essential to banks’ economic function of mobilizing the risk-bearing capacity of people who, if fully informed, wouldn’t bear the risk. Societies that lack opaque, faintly fraudulent, financial systems fail to develop and prosper. Insufficient economic risks are taken to sustain growth and development. You can have opacity and an industrial economy, or you can have transparency and herd goats.

A lamentable side effect of opacity, of course, is that it enables a great deal of theft by those placed at the center of the shell game. But surely that is a small price to pay for civilization itself. No?

In other words, the dynamic connection between "It takes money to make money" and "A fool and his money are soon parted" is the real engine of American growth.  When the winners are winning this much, you have to have a proportionally massive number of losers losing badly, that's what zero-sum game means.

The cynic in me agrees with Waldman.  The optimist in me remembers that eventually all systems break down completely and are replaced with other systems, and yes, that qualifies as "hopeful" in this situation.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Last Call

We com not to praise Nebraska's Ben Nelson and his Senate career, but to bury it as he screws over the Democrats one last time.  Steve Benen:

Democratic leaders from the White House and Capitol Hill pleaded with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), asking him to run for re-election for one main reason: the party is desperate to keep its Senate majority and it has no one else to run in Nebraska.

As is often the case, Nelson is letting his party down.

Oh, it gets worse.  Nelson chooses now to retire, after the Dems had bought six figures in ads to help him keep his seat, and well too late to find a replacement.  And let's not forget what he leaves behind:

Nelson has voted with the right many times over the last couple of years — even on filibusters — offering Republicans cover on a wide range of issues. When pressed, Nelson would often tell his Democratic allies the votes were necessary to bolster his re-election bid. Now that he’s leaving, Nelson’s votes with Republicans appear to have no value at all.

That said, Nelson’s record wasn’t all bad. In 2009, after nearly balking many times, he stuck with his party on the Affordable Care Act and the Recovery Act. Those proved critical, and both measures would have failed without his vote. As exasperating as Nelson has been, he never drifted so far to the right that he was more conservative than Republicans.

He was a Democrat...barely.  His replacement will almost certainly be a teabagging mouth-breather who will vote with the Democrats a grand total of zero times. This makes Ben Nelson, as rotten as he was, an improvement over, well, this guy.

I'd prefer Ben Nelson, thanks.

Moving Forward At Your Own Perry-il, Part 13

I'm not 100% sure I have the gist of things here, but it looks to me that Rick Perry is trying to energize his all but dead campaign for President by saying "Vote for me, I'll remove the checks and balances on the Oval Office!"

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s latest campaign advertisement in Iowa calls for a part-time Congress and knocks four fellow GOP presidential hopefuls who’ve served there.

“If Washington’s the problem, why trust a congressman to fix it? Among them, they’ve spent 63 years in Congress, leaving us with debt, earmarks, and bailouts. Congressmen get $174,000 a year and you get the bill,” an announcer in the 30-second ad says.

A recent Gallup poll found that more Americans are dissatisfied with Congress than ever before. The governing body is now set to end 2011 with the lowest one-time approval rating in its history: 11 percent. Their annual average for 2011 came to a whopping 17 percent, which is also the lowest ever recorded.

“Gov. Perry is the only Washington outsider in this race. He has never served in Washington or been an establishment favorite,” Perry campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan explained in a statement. 

Sure, Congress has the approval rating somewhere between that of breeding velociraptors next to hospital nurseries and setting your own genitals on fire, but it doesn't mean we should basically eliminate Congress.

On the other hand, as I said yesterday all the Republicans are more or less running on a platform of getting rid of the federal government.  Rick Perry certainly is no different in this respect, and in many ways he and Newt Gingrich (who wants to all but rid the country of the Judicial branch) are almost running for dictator.

On the gripping hand, Congress is full of a lot of people whose job apparently is getting richer for being on Congress while their constituents get poorer.  Something does need to be done about Congress and Washington DC politics in general, but giving more power to the Executive Branch isn't the solution.

Still, "Washington doesn't work, let's complete the transition to the Imperial Presidency!" is ludicrous, and yet these jokers keep screaming that President Obama is just waiting to take over the country and round us up into FEMA camps.  Funny how that works.

See A Need, Errm, Fill...A Need

If you can't spice up the relationship with a trip to the Côte d'Azur in this economy, you can always try Walgreens as sexy goes mainstream for one California company, Justin Ross and Keith Caggiano's growing business, Screaming O.

Screaming O's desire now is to sell through mainstream channels while maintaining its racy branding. In late 2009, Walgreens signed a licensing deal to sell one of Screaming O's brands in 7,000 drugstores. Their products, with bright, explicit packaging, are also sold through,, and, as well as stores in 27 foreign countries. “We stand right at the edge. We want to market and brand ourselves as a company that sells fun,” Ross says, “without becoming so demure" that customers overlook the products.

It’s a tricky balance to achieve. Trojan, which has sold condoms for more than eight decades, first introduced vibrators to its product line a year ago. It’s taking a low-key approach, with television commercials that feature girlfriends chuckling knowingly over their “personal massagers” and packaging designed to disappear on the grocery store conveyor belt. In contrast, with a name like Screaming O, Ross, 38, and Caggiano, 44, can hardly be accused of subtlety.

“When people see our brand, the barriers go down and we melt their defenses,” says Caggiano, who developed the company’s online advertising and offline promotions, which mostly center on sponsoring international sporting events, spring-break hot spots, and safe sex forums on college campuses. “We want to find a way to help people be comfortable with themselves and their sexuality,” he says. 

I honestly think we're seeing this because of the economy, frankly, and more than a little backlash against the prudes...oh yeah, and the internet.  Let's face it, there's no way you're putting that genie back in the bottle.  Today's folk are more than happy to experiment safely with sex in the privacy of their own home, because let's face it, it's cheaper than dinner and a movie these days.

More power to you, gentlemen.

Teacher Dating Student AND Mother

Gerard Cassidy, a physical-education instructor at a Queens middle school, was caught in a love triangle and fired for having an “inappropriate relationship” with an ex-student — while dating her mom, The Post has learned.

Cassidy, 44, who taught at MS137 America’s School of Heroes in Ozone Park, lost a fight for his $83,600-a-year job even though the 16-year-old student recanted her claim that she had sex with the teacher, according to city Department of Education documents and court records.

When questioned by Condon’s office, the teen denied any sexual contact with Cassidy, saying he only held her hand “for support and encouragement” and kissed her hello and goodbye.

She said Cassidy helped her with family problems, the way she dressed and her vocabulary.

But the DOE still charged Cassidy, a teacher for 18 years, with misconduct after Condon’s office obtained records showing that he called the girl’s cellphone 553 times between March and July 2009 and sent 383 text messages to her iPhone. About 125 calls occurred between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

In his DOE hearing, Cassidy said he was only motivating the girl to do her homework and get up to go to school. The girl’s mother insisted that she permitted Cassidy to call her daughter any time.

The mother testified Cassidy’s mentoring helped her daughter rocket to an “A” average. But records show she was still failing

It's a pretty nifty trick to get both mom and daughter to life for you.  This guy sounds like a real piece of work, but he couldn't have done any of this without the mother's knowledge and consent.  She claims to have known how often he was contacting her daughter, and seems fine with it.  Except for that whole statutory rape thing, it might have worked out just dandy for the couple.

But seriously, we must stop allowing teachers access to kids like this.  There are thousands of honest teachers who keep a respectable distance from students so they cannot be accused of something like this.  Then you have jackasses like this, and jackass mothers who pimp their kids out with full knowledge of what could happen.  This is disgusting and does nothing but damage innocent teachers and students right along with those who work against the system.  There can be healthy relationships (not the dating kind) between student and teacher, but after stupidity like this nobody would dare take the risk.

Bonus Goodness: Helping Hand Edition

Time for a gratuitous fun kitty video! The helping hand is the best, but the cautious glance beforehand makes it funnier. Enjoy!

Follow Up On Austic Boy Bagged Up At School

We have a follow-up on the autistic boy who wsa tied up in a bag as punishment, and it doesn't look good. The school is dodging saying much and in absence of a loud denial, that means it probably went down as described. The full article is here, but I included the school's response so your bullshit detectors will scream.

The head of Mercer County public schools did not directly address Baker's accusations in a statement, but Superintendent Dennis Davis acknowledged that, "The Mercer County School District is aware of recent reports of conduct directed by staff toward a student in one of our schools."

Citing federal and state confidentiality laws regarding students, David said the district could not confirm or deny "the specific allegations which are being raised in the public."

But he added, "Upon learning of the allegations, the school system reviewed the incident immediately, and the matter is being handled consistently with School District policies and with State and Federal law."

"The employees of the Mercer County Public Schools are qualified professionals who treat students with respect and dignity while providing a safe and nurturing learning environment," the statement added.

Baker, meanwhile, said Monday that she was stunned to arrive at the school to find her son trapped in a bag.

Meanwhile In Afghanistan

In that other war we've been fighting for ten years now, the Afghan government is trying to get the Taliban to engage at the table rather than at the firefight.

Afghanistan will accept a Taliban liaison office in Qatar to start peace talks but no foreign power can get involved in the process without its consent, the government's peace council said, as efforts gather pace to find a solution to the decade-long war.

Afghanistan's High Peace Council, in a note to foreign missions, has set out ground rules for engaging the Taliban after Kabul grew concerned that the United States and Qatar, helped by Germany, had secretly agreed with the Taliban to open an office in the Qatari capital, Doha.

U.S. officials have held about half a dozen meetings with their insurgent contacts, mostly in Germany and Doha with representatives of Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban's Quetta Shura, this year to prepare the way for face-to-face talks between the group and the Afghan government.

At some point, peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government were going to have to happen.  It's pretty depressing that it took this long for the talks to even get started, but at least it's a beginning.  Most of all, the final talks had to exclude the US.  I'll give both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton credit:  they both understand that any final peace deal has to be between the Afghan government and the Taliban, not the US and the Taliban.  Most of all, President Obama gets this, which is why the talks are happening.

Still a tremendous distance to go in any sort of peace deal in Kabul, but the fact we're even talking about it, and our withdrawal from Iraq proving our word is good has gone a very long way in facilitating that, well that's something that could never have happened even six months ago.

If anything, Iraq and Afghanistan were our country's lost decade, something we'll be dealing with for the rest of my lifetime, minimum.  One really does have to wonder where America and the world would be right now if 9/11 had been stopped and neither war had been fought.

Some Unfortunate Perspective

Just because GOP nutjob Peter King of New York thinks every Muslim in America is our enemy doesn't mean that there aren't truly insane and dangerous people who happen to be Muslim out there, as one deadly example showed over the holiday weekend.

A Muslim woman who allegedly sent “suspicious” packages to New York Rep. Peter King and New York state Sen. Greg Ball in November was shot to death by police on Christmas morning in Marietta, Georgia, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

Jameela Cecila Barnette allegedly attacked a Cobb County police officer who had knocked on her apartment door after responding to an alarm. She was armed with a knife and a handgun, and the officer fired his weapon at Barnette in response to the assault, according to Cobb Police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce. Barnette died at the scene.

Rep. King, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has set a controversial series of hearings on Muslim radicalization in the United States. Critics have accused King of unfairly targeting Muslims in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes, and ignoring other radical groups.

Upset with the hearings, Barnett allegedly mailed King a bloody pig’s foot and an anti-Semitic message earlier this year. The message referred to King as a “Jew,” even though he is Catholic.

Speaking to Politico on Monday, King blamed the media for their “hysterical coverage” of the hearings and said that the incident had “nothing to with the fact that she was Muslim.”

“I feel sad for the woman, she was obviously deranged and had serious mental issues,” King said.

And for arguably the first time I can recall, Peter King is telling the truth there on both accounts.  It's unfortunate that she basically committed suicide by cop, but coming at a police officer armed is a bad move in any case.

It makes King's inflammatory rhetoric on America's Muslims all the much more tragic and awful, as he's clearly capable of treating American Muslims like human beings when it's good politics.  Go figure.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Last Call

The Washington Post engages in serious mountain-creation from the Solyndra "scandal" molehill in a piece that accuses the administration of playing politics with the issue of solar power and green job creation, declaring the entire green jobs initiative "a political liability".  There's only one problem with this latest "Obama is doomed!" narrative, and that's the fact that Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu put the issue to rest weeks ago with his testimony before Congress.

The reality here is that the Washington Post has been especially bad at trying to make Solyndra into a massive, administration-breaking scandal when it at best was the continuation of a Bush-era program that made bad choices.

Also, when a green energy investment causes a international war of choice like Iraq, wake me up.  Until then, if we're criminalizing bankruptcy, well, let's not go there.

Pulling Some Weeds

One of my favorite comedies in recent years is Showtime's Weeds, the adventures of a recently-widowed California housewife and her family who turns to selling pot in order to make ends meet, and it turns out she's pretty good at it (and so are her two sons and brother-in-law).  But in California and other states as 2012 rolls around, the notion of the neighborhood pot dealer isn't far-fetched, and as MoJo's Tony D'Souza explains the recession has a lot of people you wouldn't expect looking at the "growth" industry.

For some time, I'd been hearing stories from my sources in the interstate marijuana racket about law-abiding "civilians" turning to the game because of the recession, and so, armed with introductions, I hit the road to meet some of these unlikely criminals face to face. That's how, on a hot evening in June, I found myself in Dan's Northern California kitchen.

Dan isn't his real name. Nor are any of the names in this story, for obvious reasons. But his situation is a familiar, harsh reality for many Americans, as I learned while doing research for my recent novel on this subject. Dan is in his early 40s, a slim, soft-spoken former short-haul trucker who once owned all the toys: a used Mercedes, snowmobiles, Jet Skis. When they were both employed, he and his wife—a retail manager—easily cleared $100,000 a year. "We ate out breakfast, lunch, and dinner," Dan, now a minimum-wage laborer, tells me with folded arms. "That's the way life was for 17 years."

Today, Dan's toys are gone, sold to support an underwater mortgage. His wife, who kept her job, left him three years ago, driving away in the Mercedes. "She didn't like the fact that I sat at home and she was going to work," he tells me. "There were no jobs. I filled out a thing for the city, and 400 people were there for one opening—a garbage truck driver."

Dan goes on to say he played by the rules all his life, and he ended up so far underwater it wasn't funny as a result.  A friend got him into the growhouse business, and now Dan's head is above water...for now.  There are several other stories in the article, all about suburban white folk who get into the game and make enough money to keep them in it.

It's a bit on the depressing side, especially when you realize pretty early that these folks are all in the game because they are indeed upstanding suburban white people, making them all but anonymous in the criminal world.  They're supposed to not be suspected, and it works.

And yet with one party in politics doing everything they can to all but encourage this behavior -- because this demimonde black market economy is basically what the entrepreneurial class up in Washington wants out of work Americans to engage in -- who can blame Dan and others like him?  Leverage what you have to make a living.  It's the American Way, we're told.

You do what you have to in order to put food on the table.

Like A Blimp, He's Full Of Hot Air, Part 3

The NY Times finally gets around to taking down Ron Paul, something that should have been done years ago.

But a look at the trajectory of Mr. Paul’s career shows that he and his closest political allies either wittingly or unwittingly courted disaffected white voters with extreme views as they sought to forge a movement from the nether region of American politics, where the far right and the far left sometimes converge.

In May, Mr. Paul reiterated in an interview with Chris Matthews of MSNBC that he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing segregation. He said that he supported its intent, but that parts of it violated his longstanding belief that government should not dictate how property owners behave. He has been featured in videos of the John Birch Society, which campaigned against the Civil Rights Act, warning, for instance, that the United Nations threatens American sovereignty.

In the mid-1990s, between his two stints as a Texas congressman, Mr. Paul produced a newsletter called The Ron Paul Survival Report, which only months before the Oklahoma City bombings encouraged militias to seek out and expel federal agents in their midst. That edition was titled “Why Militias Scare the Striped Pants Off Big Government.”

An earlier edition of another newsletter he produced, The Ron Paul Political Report, concluded that the need for citizens to arm themselves was only natural, given carjackings by “urban youth who play whites like pianos.” The report, with no byline but written in the first person, said: “I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self-defense. For the animals are coming.” 

As Dave Weigel points out, this is not news.  Ron Paul has been taking support from white supremacists and various and sundry other assclowns for years now, and mobilizing them as the base of the "new libertarianism" has been the key for a very, very long time.

The most detailed description of the strategy came in an essay Rothbard wrote for the January 1992 Rothbard-Rockwell Report, titled "Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement." Lamenting that mainstream intellectuals and opinion leaders were too invested in the status quo to be brought around to a libertarian view, Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an "Outreach to the Rednecks," which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes. (Duke, a former Klansman, was discussed in strikingly similar terms in a 1990 Ron Paul Political Report.) These groups could be mobilized to oppose an expansive state, Rothbard posited, by exposing an "unholy alliance of 'corporate liberal' Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America."

Ding ding ding!  If that sounds like that's exactly what the FOX-ified media and the GOP has been doing ever since Barack Obama burst onto the national political scene as a primary candidate, then congratulations, you've figured out the Republican path to "victory" in 2010 and 2012.  Rothbard's ideas have been turned into the Tea Party of today in direct response to President Obama some 20 years later.

The real question is not "How did Ron Paul get a pass on this" but "How did the entire GOP get a pass on this?"  No matter who the candidate is for the Republicans in 2012, the GOP strategy is corning the white vote through racism, pure and simple.  Ron Paul is too overt for it to work.  Romney on the other hand, well he might be able to sell it.

But either way, it's all the GOP has left, and they're going for broke.  And it's vitally important that we recognize that the Rothbard/Paul/Rockwell "50 State Southern Strategy" is now in full force.

StupidiNews! Purple Heart Edition

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A decorated Army soldier recovering from injuries suffered in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan has been shot at his homecoming party, and family members say he's paralyzed and in critical condition.

Christopher Sullivan, 22, was shot late Friday while trying to break up a fight between his brother and another man at a San Bernardino, California, residence.

"My son didn't deserve this. He served his country," his mother, Suzanne Sullivan, told the San Bernardino Sun newspaper.

Suzanne Sullivan said her son suffered two gunshot wounds to his back, which shattered his spine. Family members told the newspaper that the shooting late Friday left Sullivan paralyzed and in critical condition.

Over football. Because of a few idiots, a soldier who managed to survive life-threatening injuries will never walk again.  Because one man chose to pull a gun, this man may die after coming home to his family.  Over freaking football.

Police said Sullivan's brother and a partygoer got into an argument over football. When Sullivan moved to intervene, the man pulled a gun and opened fire.

Family Shot After Christmas Celebration

After receiving a 911 call with nobody on the other end, the city of Grapevine, Texas sent officers to check out the house in a relatively quiet neighborhood.  They found seven people, all shot and killed in the apartment.  USA Today reports the killers are suspected to be among the dead.

Right now, little is known about the victims.  They are all believed to be related, and nothing offhand to suggest they aren't like any other family.  It seems unusual that there aren't a lot of neighbors who can confirm the sound of gunshots.  In the end it doesn't change the tragedy, but it does seem strange that so many gunshots wouldn't have sparked called from neighbors or witnesses.

There will surely be a lot of follow-up on this, I will likely wait until a lot more is sorted out before running it here.  In the meantime, I'll go hug a few folks and be grateful I still have my loved ones around me.

The Disunited States Of America

Over at the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne argues (correctly, I believe) that the GOP Clown Car Cavalcade's central tenet is to run for head of a government they insist cannot work, a Disunited States of America in a very real sense, freed from oversight, responsibility, and oversight from Washington, shades of Goldwater's 1964 run.  What it does is leave President Obama as the classic conservative in the race, fighting to defend the advances in social welfare and the safety net made over the last three generations.

The GOP is engaged in a wholesale effort to redefine the government help that Americans take for granted as an effort to create a radically new, statist society. Consider Romney’s claim in his Bedford speech: “President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people who truly enjoy any real rewards are those who do the redistributing — the government.”

Obama believes no such thing. If he did, why are so many continuing to make bundles on Wall Street? As my colleagues Greg Sargent and Paul Krugman have been insisting, Romney is saying things about the president that are flatly, grossly and shamefully untrue. But Romney’s sleight of hand is revealing: Republicans are increasingly inclined to argue that any redistribution (and Social Security, Medicare, student loans, veterans benefits and food stamps are all redistributive) is but a step down the road to some radically egalitarian dystopia.

Obama will thus be the conservative in 2012, in the truest sense of that word. He is the candidate defending the modestly redistributive and regulatory government the country has relied on since the New Deal, and that neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush dismantled. The rhetoric of the 2012 Republicans suggests they want to go far beyond where Reagan or Bush ever went. And here’s the irony: By raising the stakes of 2012 so high, Republicans will be playing into Obama’s hands. The GOP might well win a referendum on the state of the economy. But if this is instead a larger-scale referendum on whether government should be “inconsequential,” Republicans will find the consequences to be very disappointing.

Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann all join Perry in calling for the wholesale elimination of government Cabinet departments.  And as Dionne points out, Romney has now joined the group of Republicans who are running to dismantle as much of the federal government as possible, to leave us in an era where the states and cities fight amongst themselves for the favor of the "job creators" in a race to the bottom, each location offering more incentives than the last at greater and greater expense of their least wealthy constituents.

If you believe that states should be engaging in Hunger Games style combat and brutal competition not to create new jobs, but to strip them from other states in order to "win", then the GOP is your party in 2012.

If you believe that America is in this together, and that there's a role for government in a federal system, then yes, President Obama seems to be the only one keen on going that particular route.

Who's Running Pyongyang?

With the death of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, the power brokers inside the country are least the ones that North Korea wants us to see.

North Korean television Sunday showed power-behind-the-throne Jang Song-thaek in the uniform of a general in a sign of his growing sway after the death of Kim Jong-il, and Japan's prime minister said the region faced a new phase with Kim's demise.

Footage that North Korean television said was shot on Saturday showed Jang on the frontrow of top military officers who accompanied Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of Kim Jong-il and his anointed successor, paying their respects before Kim's body.

The choreography around Kim's death is one of the secretive North's few, opaque clues to the emerging configuration of power in this poor and isolated state that has rattled neighbors with nuclear tests and military brinkmanship.

A Seoul official familiar with North Korea affairs said it was the first time Jang has been shown on state television in a military uniform. His appearance suggested that Jang has secured a key role in the North's powerful military, which has pledged its allegiance to Kim Jong-un.

So what do we know about Jang?  He's married to Kim Jong-il's younger sister, making him Kim the younger's uncle. He's been rumored to be the guy running the show since Kim's stroke in 2008, and this latest appearance seems to be removing the "rumored" part and emerging as regent behind the throne, as he's managed to work his way up in the ranks of the inner circle of power.  A lot of analysts are hanging their hat on Jang being the man right now, which makes me wonder if it's really true.

Everyone is officially keen on Kim the younger being in charge however.  I don't buy it for a second, but we'll soon see how much power Jang actually wields.
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