Monday, February 28, 2011

Last Call

The Tea Party honeymoon in Wisconsin is officially over.

We'll have our full poll on the Wisconsin conflict out tomorrow but here's the most interesting finding: if voters in the state could do it over today they'd support defeated Democratic nominee Tom Barrett over Scott Walker by a a 52-45 margin.

The difference between how folks would vote now and how they voted in November can almost all be attributed to shifts within union households. Voters who are not part of union households have barely shifted at all- they report having voted for Walker by 7 points last fall and they still say they would vote for Walker by a 4 point margin. But in households where there is a union member voters now say they'd go for Barrett by a 31 point margin, up quite a bit from the 14 point advantage they report having given him in November.

It's actually Republicans, more so than Democrats or independents, whose shifting away from Walker would allow Barrett to win a rematch if there was one today. Only 3% of the Republicans we surveyed said they voted for Barrett last fall but now 10% say they would if they could do it over again. That's an instance of Republican union voters who might have voted for the GOP based on social issues or something else last fall trending back toward Democrats because they're putting pocketbook concerns back at the forefront and see their party as at odds with them on those because of what's happened in the last month.

That's right folks...not every union employee is a die-hard Democratic party operative.  Plenty of blue collar workers and public employees like cops, firefighters and teachers have Republican party registrations, and they belong to unions.  It's these folks who are feeling burned by Walker the most.

Does anyone think patrolling a city beat, running into a bruning building, or dealing with 35 fourth-graders all day is an easy job?  These folks work damn hard and they know it, and now folks are discovering the Tea Party message of "work hard and keep what you earn" doesn't apply to workers in jobs a generation ago we called heroes.  They're the ones being made to sacrifice, far more than the CEOs and corporate types.

They're figuring out what Democrats and and increasing number of independents already know:  Republicans don't give a damn about workers.

What's Next In Libya

No matter what happens in Libya, odds are extremely good that the situation there will deteriorate very quickly from civil war into humanitarian nightmare.

Rebel-held eastern Libya will start to experience serious food and medical shortages within three weeks, a public health volunteer said on Monday.

East Libya has fallen to protesters against leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who is clinging to power in the face of mounting protests in Tripoli in the west of the country.

The unrest is disrupting imports, the local supply of fresh food and domestic manufacturing, people in Libya's second city of Benghazi say, with many shops and factories there still closed since the city fell to protesters a week ago.

"We will have serious shortages of food, drink, medicine and medical equipment in two weeks, three weeks maximum. We need outside help," said Khalifa el-Faituri, a volunteer with qualifications in public health and pharmacology.

It's already bad enough that thousands have been killed, but many more could die before Libya's conflict is resolved.  Meanwhile, the instability continues to spread.   Imagine what a supply disruption like this could do to people in the desert Middle East.

There is a growing sense of unease in Benghazi over food supplies, and some people complained of not being able to find bread and other goods.

"I'm struggling to find basics for my family. Bread, vegetables. Prices have gone up by 75 percent," said restaurant waiter Ayman Ahmed, 50.

It was the same story outside the city.

"Since the uprising there's been no sugar, no pasta, no rice, no fruit. We've got enough to keep us going for a week, but God knows after that," said shopkeeper Naji Othman, in the village of Sultan. His shelves were poorly stocked with mainly packet and tinned food, the fresh produce corner empty.

Things will get worse before they get better.  International aid organizations need to be ready to react now.

Bad For Business, My Butt

3M CEO George Buckley is furious with what he sees as President Obama's "anti-business" practices.

The head of industrial conglomerate 3M (MMM, Fortune 500) blasted the president as being "anti-business," claiming Obama has not done anything to improve the White House's relationship with Corporate America.

3M CEO George Buckley called Obama's policies "Robin Hood-esque" and told the Financial Times that manufacturers like 3M may have to shift production to other countries in order to stay competitive.

"We know what his instincts are ... he is anti business," Buckley said in an interview that ran late Sunday.

Yeah.  Major corporations threatening to send US jobs overseas, knowing full well Obama will take the blame for that because the media continues the "Obama is anti-business" schtick.

Meanwhile 3M stock since Obama took office has more than doubled from a March 2009 low of $42 a share to $90 a share now.  Boy, Obama's policies sure have been absolutely awful for this company.

Funny how that works.  Most people would call that blackmail.  Not our corporate owned media.

A Tantastic Problem

For Hessel, appearance was important. "I wanted to look good and have that darker skin color," said the student at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. "I think society makes you feel being tanned is prettier than being pasty white."

Hessel, who has porcelain features, started tanning during her freshman year of high school. By the time she was a freshman in college, Hessel had melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer.

"It felt so surreal," she said. "I'm healthy. I was 19. I couldn't understand. How could I be so young and deal with this?"

We have our usual circus because of cases similar to this.  We have people trying to ban tanning for minors.  We have young adults blaming society, while they endorse the very behavior they denounce in the next breath.  We have parents saying they heard once upon a time that tanning helps with vitamin D.  Okay, they heard that but missed the ten gazillion warnings that tanning is linked to skin cancer?  The kids they are trying to indulge are going to pay a hefty price later, and nobody is speaking up.  I see high school seniors who look like they are in their 30s because they are tanned to leather.

My heart goes out to anyone who is diagnosed with cancer, or finds themselves fighting for their life.  I do not mean to diminish that.  I'm just saying there is a time to teach our kids common sense and priorities, and how to weigh risks.  Denial is not the answer, or you end up with a four inch scar that you are grateful to have.

Up In Smoke: I Couldn't Say It Better Myself

In my local newspaper, I read an editorial from Roger Ray, a pastor who regularly contributes to the Opinion section.  It pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter, and set off the predictable rant one would expect from a Midwest city discussing legalization of marijuana.

I am referring to the growing practice of selling cocaine and methamphetamine substitutes as plant fertilizers and bath salts. A tiny package of bath salts, clearly marked, "Not for Human Consumption," can pack the wallop of street quality cocaine and even though it sells for the same price as street cocaine this ruse goes on in Springfield with no legal impediment. Arresting pot smokers while allowing businesses to legally sell meth under the guise of plant food is a nearly insane misdirection of resources.

Through a loophole, K2 and other drugs are legally destroying people, while we clog our jails with people who smoke a joint.  It doesn't make sense, and the change has to stop somewhere.

Tomb Raider: Peruvian Style

LIMA (AFP) – Archeologists have discovered a group of ancient tombs in the mountainous jungle of southeastern Peru they say is as important as the discovery of the lost city of Machu Picchu.
"It is an impressive Wari find in the Cuzco jungle that opens a new chapter on archaeological research and forces us to re-write history," said Juan Garcia, the cultural director for the Cuzco region, as he announced the discovery late Wednesday.

"The discovery is one of the most important ever, and is comparable to Machu Picchu... and the Lord of Sipan," said Garcia, referring to the 1987 discovery of the tomb of an ancient Moche lord.

Archaeology has seen several advances in the past few years, and we are constantly updating our knowledge of ancient peoples.  In the scope of human history, five hundred years doesn't seem like long enough for entire cultures to go from flourishing to forgotten.  We seem to have vastly underestimated the people of history, and it's interesting to watch the changes.  These discoveries are exciting, and I hope that this yields answers and new information about our ancestors.  

Shutdown Countdown, Part 10

With news that Republicans may agree to a two-week extension of government funding, a new poll at The Hill shows 43% of Americans would equally blame both parties if there was a shutdown.

The Hill’s survey, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, comes as lawmakers are heading into high-stakes spending negotiations that will seek to avert a shutdown.

Republicans have a substantial edge among independents: Thirty-four percent would blame Democrats, while only 19 percent would blame the GOP.

However, there are dangers for both parties, the poll indicates. A plurality of voters, 43 percent, would blame both Republicans and Democrats if the lights go out at midnight on March 5. Forty-five percent of respondents said neither party would benefit politically from a shutdown.

This compares to 14 percent who think Democrats would benefit and 18 percent who said Republicans would.

These numbers are fairly consistent when just Republicans, Democrats or independents are asked. Forty-seven percent of Republicans think that neither party would benefit, while 42 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents agree.

Some 29% of voters would blame solely the Democrats and 23% solely the Republicans if a shutdown happened.   That seems to indicate that whichever party looks like the adult in the room wins, and whichever party (or parties) look like spoiled kids will lose big time heading into 2012.  That situation favors Obama initially, but he's going to have to make his case instead of trying to stay out of the fight and leaving it to Dems in Congress without any backup.

It also indicates that the GOP's message that it's "Washington's fault" is clearly winning, unlike 1995-1996 where it quickly became the Republican's fault, specifically through Newt Gingrich.

But the bigger issue is that the forces of austerity have clearly won here.  Deep draconian cuts are coming in the federal budget, ones that will have a maximum impact on the poor and the elderly, and have minimum impact on the deficit.  If both sides get blamed for that, Obama's in real trouble.

Going Off Hacked Koch In Wisconsin

Hacker group Anonymous is focusing its firepower on the Koch Brothers think-tank arm, Americans For Prosperity.

It has come to our attention that the brothers, David and Charles Koch--the billionaire owners of Koch Industries--have long attempted to usurp American Democracy. Their actions to undermine the legitimate political process in Wisconsin are the final straw. Starting today we fight back.

...Anonymous cannot ignore the plight of the citizen-workers of Wisconsin, or the opportunity to fight for the people in America's broken political system. For these reasons, we feel that the Koch brothers threaten the United States democratic system and, by extension, all freedom-loving individuals everywhere. As such, we have no choice but to spread the word of the Koch brothers' political manipulation, their single-minded intent and the insidious truth of their actions in Wisconsin, for all to witness.

...Anonymous hears the voice of the downtrodden American people, whose rights and liberties are being systematically removed one by one, even when their own government refuses to listen or worse - is complicit in these attacks. We are actively seeking vulnerabilities, but in the mean time we are calling for all supporters of true Democracy, and Freedom of The People, to boycott all Koch Industries' paper products. We welcome unions across the globe to join us in this boycott to show that you will not allow big business to dictate your freedom.

More power to them. Indeed, they took down the AFP website with denial of service attacks and I'm sure this is just the beginning of this fight.  The fight in Wisconsin is spreading across the country and the internet now, and a whole hell of a lot is at stake here.

Stay tuned.  The revolution will be hyperlinked.

It's A Gas Gas Gas In Ohio

Gas prices have jumped nationwide, but here in the Midwest they have skyrocketed in the last week.  Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana have seen gas prices jump more than a quarter a gallon in five days.

Ohio gasoline prices have shot up nearly 30 cents in the last week due to a jump in oil prices sparked by the violent power struggle in Libya.

A survey from auto club AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express puts the state's average price for regular-grade gas at about $3.38 a gallon, up from $3.09 last Monday. The year-ago average of $2.62 for regular now seems like a relative bargain.

Gasoline nationwide rose 4% last week to an average $3.29 per gallon. That's the highest level ever for this time of year, when prices are typically low.

Analysts say it's likely pump prices will go even higher as the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa raises questions about the stability of oil supplies.

Which is to say "Libya! Boo!  Scared you!" and jack up gas prices ten percent in a week, even though A) the United States gets precisely zero oil from Libya and B) we were at a 20-year high of gasoline stockpiles in the country last week.  Nope.  "Supply concerns" enough to cause a ten percent spike in gas prices.

ExxonMobil and BP are laughing all the way to the bank, and every driver around here just got $5-10 added to the cost of filling up the tank.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Last Call

I seem to recall Republicans spending the last two years saying Obamacare meant rationing of health care, and death panels, and the government deciding who lives and who dies, and other "fascist" nonsense.  So of course when Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels suggests that "we can't always pay for the most expensive technology" in our "aging society" to extend lifespans to "the very very last day", Republicans are going to disown him and shriek DEATH PANELS as loudly as possible, yes?

Democrats continue to be pilloried by the right for even suggesting anything in the ballpark of what Daniels is saying here, attacked by hacks like the WSJ's James Taranto.

"Government takeover," like "death panel," is a true description of ObamaCare's essence. These phrases are "inaccurate" only in that they cut through formal distinctions designed to deceive the public. (We wish we could use a barnyard vulgarity in place of the unwieldy clause "formal distinctions designed to deceive the public," but The Wall Street Journal is a family newspaper.)

"Death panel" was especially effective at cutting through the hockey. Lots of people warned about rationing, but, as PolitiFact grudgingly acknowledged, it was Palin's vivid language that "launched the health care debate into overdrive. The term was mentioned in news reports approximately 6,000 times in August and September, according to the Nexis database. By October, it was still being mentioned 150 to 300 times a week."

Many of these media mentions were disparaging, "raising issues," as PolitiFact prissily puts it, about "the bounds of acceptable political discussion." In other words, Palin's statement was widely propagated by journalists who thought it "unacceptable." Americans recognized the essential truth of Palin's words and strongly opposed ObamaCare.

Palin got the truth out with the help of journalists determined to bolster the deceptions at the heart of ObamaCare. She was instrumental in winning the political argument that looks increasingly likely to render ObamaCare's legislative victory a Pyrrhic one. Sarah Palin outsmarted the formerly mainstream media simply by being blunt and honest. That is why they burn with a mindless rage against her.

Palin's "blunt honesty" of course meant calling what Daniels here calls for -- families to have the option of end-of-life planning -- as "government death panels."

So will Daniels now be attacked by Taranto for agreeing with what President Obama was saying we need to do about health care costs?  Considering half of America thinks the PPACA has been repealed already, of course the Republicans will get away with it.  And they'll get the credit when they suggest "common sense health care solutions"  -- which will of course consist of what's still actually in the bill -- that will go into effect between now and 2014.

And hey, Republicans will have "fixed" Obamacare just like they ended slavery, passed civil rights legislation,

Pay attention to the plan, please.

The Ghost Of Moosemas Past

How bad is it for the GOP right now in finding somebody who can win in 2012?

This bad.

As Sarah Palin wonders whether to run for president, she might want to talk to people in places such as South Carolina.

She'd find her star fading, and her prospects daunting.

Republicans still like her, but now they openly question whether she could or should be nominated for president, let alone elected.

At a recent gathering in South Carolina, the site of a crucial early presidential primary next year, party activists said the former Alaska governor didn't have the experience, the knowledge of issues or the ability to get beyond folksy slang and bumper-sticker generalities that they think is needed to win and govern.

Many are shopping for someone else. They're looking at Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., for example, and seeing what they call a smarter, more experienced candidate who's equally as conservative.

"Sarah Palin with a brain," said Gail Moore, a Republican from Columbia.

Remember when openly questioning Palin's qualifications made you a misogynist because if she wasn't qualified, she never would have been picked as McCain's running mate so the only possible reason to think she couldn't handle the job was because you hate women?

You know, couldn't possibly be she wasn't actually qualified or anything.

So now, Michele Bachmann is.  Scary.

Somebody FOXed Up

So, late last week David Corn reported on the story that publisher Judy Regan was told to lie to the Feds about her affair with Bernie Kerik, the police chief Dubya originally tapped for Homeland Security Director.  The motive:  to protect Rudy Giuliani.  The party who supposedly convinced Regan to lie?

Fox News boss Roger Ailes.

Yeah, I know it's like All-Star Bush's first term mania, right?  So I didn't think anything of this story other than the trashy factor...until this morning.

Big Barry Ritholtz is reporting that Ailes may be getting a visit from the Legal Fairy very soon.  Well, here's your news item for the rest of forever

Here’s what I learned recently: Someone I spoke with claimed that Ailes was scheduled to speak at their event in March, but canceled. It appears that Roger’s people, ostensibly using a clause in his contract, said he “cannot appear for legal reasons.”

I asked “What, precisely, does that mean?”

The response: “Roger Ailes will be indicted — probably this week, maybe even Monday.”

Now keep in mind Roger Ailes has an entire news network to go to bat for him, so if you think this story is going to turn into how the evil Obama administration is holding a witch hunt like I do, batten down the hatches.

This is going to get insane.  Ahead Obama Derangement Syndrome Factor Infinity.

Trouble On The Verizon

(CNN) -- The iPhone 4 is now 0-for-2 with Consumer Reports.
After declining to recommend the popular smartphone after its original release last June, the influential product review publication is now giving a thumbs-down to the new model for Verizon's network.  According to Consumer Reports, the phone has the potential for problems with dropped calls and poor reception, just like its predecessor.
Verizon is banking on this to solidify their place in the mobile provider rankings.  However, it looks like this new product is going to cause them more problems than bring in customers.  It's not too late to turn it around, but with the failure to earn consumer trust and correct known issues, this isn't looking good for Verizon.  Customers aren't wanting to switch for the same thing, but for something better.  I'm not impressed with the quality or procedures they have shown, and the phone still doesn't work on their 4G network.

Thanks for playing, guys.  Sprint is making a real run for growth, as is T-Mobile. This might be the beginning of the end for yet another communications giant that failed to expand and roll with the changes, and lost the race.

Gay Old Time At Church

COLORADO SPRINGS — The guard hailed as a hero after the December 2007 shooting at New Life Church says the church indicated she was not welcome there after she informed church officials that she is gay.
The Denver Post goes on to explain that Jeanne Assam, a guard who stopped a gunman firing at the congregation, is no longer welcome at the church after coming out as a lesbian. The church denies this, but their denial doesn't ring true to me.  It's a little ironic, but I'm just watching and thinking about this. I can see many sides here, but in the end it doesn't feel like the church took the high road in how they handled it, regardless of what one feels about their position on the subject of her lifestyle. 

I admit, I get touchy on the subject of religion.  A lifetime in the Bible Belt has taught me a healthy fear faith and what people do in its name.  Still, how is that any different than the sinner right next to her, on either side?  What merit is it for a church only to save people that already follow their ways?

What do you guys think?

Mad Time In Mad Town

Estimates of a 100,000 plus in protests yesterday in Madison, as well as much smaller numbers in state capitals around the country.

People are beginning to notice that they made a mistake last November.  Maine's Tea Party GOP Gov. Paul LePage says he wants to take the Imperial Walker approach in Maine to eliminate unions and make the Pine Tree State "right-to-work".

Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Saturday he would push forcefully ahead with right-to-work legislation in his state, even if it means a Wisconsin-style fight with unions.
In an interview at the National Governors Association, the Republican praised Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and couched his own proposal in the language of liberty loved by tea partiers.
"He's got a big challenge, and quite frankly, once they start reading our budget they're going to leave Wisconsin and come to Maine because we're going after 'right to work,'" LePage told POLITICO.

They're not just going after public unions folks, they are going after all unions, all collective bargaining, all worker's rights to serve their corporate masters.  Whatever you personally think about unions, keep in mind what they have accomplished in this country over the decades.  The GOP wants to get rid of labor laws, period.

Why should workers have any rights, they figure.  If you're a good worker, you can go where you want to and people will fight over hiring you.  If that's not the case, then why haven't you started your own small business yet?

You're next.  Remember that.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Last Call

The UN Security Council has made a unanimous 15-0 vote to slap heavy sanctions on Libyan strongman Qaddafi.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to impose sanctions on Libya amid Moammar Gadhafi's escalating attacks on anti-government protesters.

The approved resolution includes an arms embargo, asset freeze and travel bans for Gadhafi and several of his key associates. It also refers the violent crackdown to the International Criminal Court.

"The text send a strong message that gross violations of basic human rights will not be tolerated and that those responsible for grave crimes will be held accountable. I hope the message is heard, and heeded, by the regime in Libya," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations who earlier voiced opposition to Gadhafi's government, said after the vote the resolution would provide moral support to the people resisting in Libya. He urged officers in the armed forces to renounce Gadhafi.

One point of contention revolved around language in the resolution that referred to adopting "all necessary measures to enable the return to Libya of humanitarian agencies and to secure the prompt and safe delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need."

There was concern that the language could be interpreted as including military intervention.

That section of the resolution was softened in the approved version to call on member states to work together to "facilitate and support" the return of humanitarian agencies.

With President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton now calling for Qaddafi to go, it's looking like the guy doesn't have a friend in the world.

Well, except for Hosni Mubarak.

Those Who Can't Do, Teach

Col. Mustard figures the Buffalo Beast editor who tricked Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker into believing Walker was addressing billionaire conservative Scott Koch should be prosecuted for...wait for it...identity theft.

There does not seem to be any doubt that the blogger used Koch's name without authority or consent.  The blogger thereby used Koch's "personal identifying information."

The purpose of the use of Koch's name also was to obtain a "benefit" for the blogger, namely access to Gov. Walker, and to obtain something "of value," namely a recording to be used by the blogger. 

Additionally, it appears that there also was the purpose of harming the reputation of Koch, both through the inflammatory statements by the blogger acting as Koch and by creating the appearance of some improper influence by Koch on the political process. 

In sum, there certainly seems to be enough evidence already known at least to justify an investigation by the Madison police as to the possible theft of David Koch's identity, a felony under state law.

Probably enough here to justify an investigation into Col. Mustard here as a practicing law professor, too.   Best part?

Instead, the Madison Police Chief wants an investigation of Gov. Walker, even though there were no statements made by Walker which could constitute a crime.  If the Madison Police Chief wants someone and something to investigate, it is not Gov. Walker.

Yeah, how dare we apply the first amendment selectively while a state governor is openly talking about the fact "we thought about" planting agents provocateur in the anti-Walker demonstator crowds or about soliciting and coordination of campaign money while on state property.

Identity theft is the crime here that Wisconsin voters and citizens should be worried about?  That's like going after Luke Skywaker for trespassing on the Death Star.

StupdiNews! The Good, The Bad, The Stupid

From recent news, we have the good, the bad and the stupid:

The good:

NEW YORK — A homeless man who hadn't seen his daughter in 11 years was reunited with her this week, thanks to a tweet.

Three weeks ago, Daniel Morales was given a prepaid cell phone as part of a project documenting the lives of homeless people. He and three other men were asked to share their experiences on the street through 140-character updates.
Morales, 58, quickly amassed more than 3,000 followers. On Wednesday, he tweeted, “Hi thi is to let yo people know that in lookin eoq my daughter her name is sarah m rivera.” He posted his phone number and a picture of his daughter, Sarah Rivera, who was 16 when he last saw her.

The Bad:

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida authorities say a 26-year-old man raped a 2-year-old girl at SeaWorld Orlando and saved pictures of the crime on his cell phone, local media reported Friday.

The Stupid:

A 14-month-old girl spent hours trapped inside a Conyers bank vault Friday evening after wandering off from her mother and grandmother, an employee at the Wells Fargo branch.

Police and firefighters were helpless, unable to reach the toddler who had walked into the open vault as the bank was closing for the day. Before the girl, whose name was not made available, could be found, an employee of the branch closed the vault.

O. Henry wrote an awesome short story based on this. It's just surprising to me that this could happen, with the precautions one imagines is in place.

Peekaboo! I Stall You!

The Wisconsin Assembly early Friday passed a bill that would strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights — the first significant action on the new Republican governor's plan.
The vote put an end to three straight days of punishing debate, but the political standoff over the bill is far from over.
The measure now goes to the Senate, where minority Democrats have been missing for a week, preventing a vote in that chamber.
Crazy times call for crazy measures.  I'll be following this and posting updates as they come.

Two And A Half Stupidity

I'm a fan of the show, I admit. It took a while to grow on me, but it's amazing that all those years of work can be derailed by one crazy drunk guy.

After a day of unhinged and unsolicited comments ripping his show's executive producer Chuck Lorre and assorted enemies -- Alcoholics Anonymous and Thomas Jefferson, among others -- the star finally went further than CBS and Warner Brothers Television could take.

The network and TV production company announced Thursday that they had pulled the plug on television's top-rated comedy, "Two and a Half Men," which was scheduled to restart production on Monday.

"Based on the totality of Charlie Sheen's statements, conduct and condition, CBS and Warner Bros. Television have decided to discontinue production of "Two and a Half Men" for the remainder of the season," the companies said in a joint statement.

Maybe next year, sorry Charlie.

Oh, Why Hello There Other Shoe, Glad You Could Drop In

GOP Rep. Chris "Check my abs on Craigslist" Lee resigned immediately in the wake of his shirtless ad soliciting fooling around on his wife.  Politicians *never* resign that fast without a reason.  I've been wondering what it was, and now it looks like we know.

"In the past 10 days, two D.C.-area transgender women contacted us, each with a separate story about exchanging emails with the ex-congressman. One sent us an ad that Lee allegedly posted on Craigslist in search of trans women; the other sent us a never-before-seen photo that she says Lee sent her after they started chatting by email. Taken together, they present a possible explanation to those who have wondered why such a tame 'sex scandal' forced Lee's hand so quickly."  You really can find anything on Craigslist, can't you.


Not Quite As Stupid As Once Thought

Dubya may be a dimwit, but he's smart enough not to be in the same town at the same time as Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange.

George W. Bush said Friday he will not visit Denver this weekend as planned because WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was invited to attend one of the same events as the former president.

Bush planned to be at a Young Presidents' Organization "Global Leadership Summit" Saturday but backed out when he learned Assange was invited, Bush spokesman David Sherzer said.

It was unlikely that Assange would have attended in person. The Denver Post reported he appeared at the conference Friday by video link.

Assange has been in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden in a sex crimes inquiry, and his lawyers have raised fears that he could be arrested by U.S. authorities investigating whether Assange and WikiLeaks illegally distributed secret government documents.

WikiLeaks has released tens of thousands of U.S. military documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and on U.S. diplomatic efforts worldwide, deeply angering U.S. officials.

Sherzer said Bush doesn't want to be part of a forum that invited someone who has "willfully and repeatedly done great harm to the interests of the United States."

And as awesome as this would have been to see for us, Bush is smart enough to know that nothing possibly good for him would have come from this.  At all.  Give your handlers a raise, Dubya.  They're smarter than Palin's crew, at any rate.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Last Call

Just...really, Newt?

Newt Gingrich knows a thing or two about presidential impeachments. And after the Obama's administration's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, Gingrich says the smell impeachment is in the air once again.

Speaking with Newsmax, the former House Speaker and oft-rumored 2012 presidential contender said that the Obama administration's decision to no longer defend DOMA in federal court is a "a violation" of President Obama's "Constitutional oath and clearly it is something which cannot be allowed to stand."

The host asked Gingrich "is what Obama's doing impeachable in your view?"

Gingrich: "I think that's something you get to much later."

Something about all this government shutdown and impeachment crap seems awfully familiar.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Wondering what $100 plus per barrel oil means to you?  Here's your chart of the day from Zero Hedge.

Bottom line, on average every $10 rise in the price of oil costs Americans $185 per year, per car.

The price of oil has jumped $15 a barrel since the unrest in Libya started late last week. For the average two-car family, that's about $50 in disposable income per month that will vanish starting now. If oil goes back up to the record nominal price of $135 a barrel where it was in July 2008, that $50 a month becomes $163 a month in additional gas expenses for a two car family (which would quickly make it a one-car family again.)

This is just the gasoline impact. This chart doesn't even begin to factor in the additional cost of items trucked into stores and food grown with petroleum-based pesticides. The total additional cost to the average family would be even higher.

If we saw $150 a barrel oil and $5 a gallon gas, you would see a massive social change in the country. If truckers went on strike to protest $5+ per gallon diesel, all bets would be off where you live.

A $10 to $15 per barrel spike in oil is not a good thing for our economy. Any higher than $100 and we're looking at a trip back into Recessionville. At $150 that becomes Depression City.

Food for thought.

All Oiled Up, Bend Over

As oil prices continue to rise and the Obama administration considers dropping subsidies to an industry that made tens of billions in profits in 2010, Big Oil would like to remind you just who the hell is in charge here:  the American Petroleum Institute.

API President and CEO Jack Gerard sharply criticized President Obama proposal to cut billions in subsidies to energy companies, saying it would eliminate thousands of new jobs.

"It’s no surprise the administration is proposing yet again to raise taxes on the U.S. oil and natural gas industry," he said. "But it’s still a bad idea and comes at one of the worst times in our economic history."

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for investments into clean energy, declaring they should be paid for in part by cutting federal subsidies and tax breaks for the oil industry.

Obama said the United States should get 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, though he included nuclear power, "clean coal," and natural gas as part of that standard, in addition to wind and solar.

On Thursday, Richard Ranger, a senior policy adviser at API, called on President Obama to lift drilling restrictions on Alaska's outer continental shelf.

In July 2010, Greenpeace obtained an internal memo from the API that showed the institute funded and developed a fake grassroots campaign to attack environmental legislation.

"API will provide the up-front resources," the email said. "This includes contracting with a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns."

Remember, Big Oil gets tax breaks of $4 billion plus a year. Exxon Mobil, by itself, made $30 billion in profit last year.

But ending these subsidies will cost "thousands of jobs".  Meanwhile, we have to cut teachers and firefighters and bridges and cops and public safety because "we can't afford it."

Insert StupidiFilter(tm)

(CNN) -- An Indiana deputy attorney general lost his job Wednesday after commenting online that authorities should use "live ammunition" to run off the throngs of protesters railing over union collective bargaining rights two states away in Wisconsin.

This isn't the worst thing I've heard all year.  But it's among the dumbest.  In the age of the Internet, where our stupidity can be captured and stored for eternity, don't Tweet or Facebook without thinking it over.  Seriously.

Iowa Wonder What The Hell Is In That Corn, Anyway

It so happens that in Northwood, Iowa, there is a major porn distributor hidden quietly above a flower shop.  What was thought to be an unused office is a mailing and storage house for adult films.  Considering Iowa is miles from tolerant, this is amusing.  But the best thing of all is the article itself.  And one hilarious quote.  Oh yes, I have to share this with you in full:

"Oh, Lordy," Hickle [the flower shop owner] said. "I had no idea. I am not OK with this. I don't believe in pornography, and, oh, my, I just don't see Northwood as the sex capital of the world. We have all these Norwegians here. Can you imagine that?"

You can't make up stuff like this. Coming soon: Iowa believe I'll stay the hell away from those crazy corn-loving folks.

The Real Deal On Repeal

We now see the fallout of the Village's coverage of the GOP efforts to repeal the bill and all the attention given to Florida federal judge Roger Vinson's decision.

In a new Kaiser Health poll, just 52% of Americans knew that the health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama is still in place. Meanwhile, one fifth -- 22% -- of all Americans believe that the law has been overturned, while another 26% aren't sure what's up with the law.

Barely half of Americans believe the PPACA is still in effect.  The other half thinks it's gone or aren't sure if it's still in effect.  The Village has made no effort to correct this misconception, either.

Boy, that liberal media sure does lean left.

Making A Killing In The Cornhusker State

Well, if you thought South Dakota's bill that could have potentially made killing an abortion provider justifiable homicide in defense of a fetus was a legal misunderstanding, please note the version of the bill put forth by Nebraska GOP state Sen. Mark Christensen removes the "potentially" part completely.

The legislation, LB 232, was introduced by state Sen. Mark Christensen, a devout Christian and die-hard abortion foe who is opposed to the prodedure even in the case of rape. Unlike its South Dakota counterpart, which would have allowed only a pregnant woman, her husband, her parents, or her children to commit "justifiable homicide" in defense of her fetus, the Nebraska bill would apply to any third party.

"In short, this bill authorizes and protects vigilantes, and that's something that's unprecedented in our society," Melissa Grant of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland told the Nebraska legislature's judiciary committee on Wednesday. Specifically, she warned, it could be used to target Planned Parenthood's patients and personnel. Also testifying in oppostion to the bill was David Baker, the deputy chief executive officer of the Omaha police department, who said, "We share the same fears...that this could be used to incite violence against abortion providers."

Baker's concern is well-grounded: Abortion providers are frequent targets of violent attacks. Eight doctors have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists since 1993, and another 17 have been victims of murder attempts. Some of the perpetrators of those crimes, including Scott Roeder, the murderer of Wichita, Kansas, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, have attempted to use the justifiable homicide defense at their trials. Several of the witnesses at Wednesday's hearing cited Tiller's murder as a case where a law like the one Christensen introduced could have come into play.

For his part, Christensen insisted that his measure is not intended to target abortion providers. Like Jensen, Christensen claimed that his bill is merely meant to allow pregnant women to defend their unborn children without fear of prosecution. "LB 232," he said, "is really nothing more than an attempt to make sure a pregnant woman is not unnecessarily charged with a crime for using force to protect her unborn child from someone who means to bring harm to her unborn children."

But, as other lawmakers pointed out during the hearing, Christensen's bill, as currently written, would not only apply to pregnant women but to anyone who attempted to prevent harm to a fetus. "I think it opens the door to something unintended," said state Sen. Steve Lathrop. "I don't think you came in here intending to make those who provide abortions a target of the use of force," he told Christensen, "but I think it may unintentionally do that or at least provide somebody with an argument that they were justified in that."

All pretense has been removed of self-defense in this bill, and Republicans in the state know it.   None of this "but a crime has to be committed" crap either, the bill is specifically written to give anyone a "put a bullet in the abortionist free" card to stop anyone who "causes harm to a fetus".

Best part?

"I don't know how anyone knows my intent," Christensen fired back in an interview with Mother Jones.

Yeah, nobody can possibly know what the intent of this bill is.

Dead Bang Situation

What, you thought with Libya and Egypt and post-Tuscon that this kind of crap went away in America?

At Rep. Paul Broun’s town hall meeting on Tuesday, the Athens congressman asked who had driven the farthest to be there and let the winner ask the first question.

We couldn’t hear the question in the back of the packed Oglethorpe County Commission chamber, but whatever it was, it got a big laugh.

Oh?  What's so funny there?

According to an outraged commenter on the article, the question was, when is someone going to shoot Obama?

Yeah, that's hysterically funny, especially since the Giffords shooting.  That couldn't have actually happened, right?

Broun’s press secretary, Jessica Morris, confirmed that the question was indeed, who is going to shoot Obama? “Obviously, the question was inappropriate, so Congressman Broun moved on,” she said.

But everyone had a good laugh over it.

[UPDATE]  Anyone still think the guy wasn't deadly serious with insanity like this flying around the internets?

Fortunately, this diabolical plan has been exposed by an American-born Israeli named Avi Lipkin, who says he once was a translator for the Israeli government, and an outfit called Special Guests, which books conservative commentators and advocates on popular television and radio talk shows. Lipkin's website claims that since 1990 he has lectured on various topics—including the threat of Islam and Israel—in over 1000 churches and synagogues in the United Sates, Canada, England, Greece, Israel, and other countries. His bio notes that he heads the Judeo-Christian Bible Bloc party in Israel. (The party's Facebook page listed 103 members yesterday.)

This week, Lipkin and Special Guests sent an email to television and radio bookers pitching the biggest story of all time:
According to Arabic language broadcasts intercepted and interpreted by Lipkin and his team, "The Moslem world is saying that President Obama wants amnesty for the current Hispanic 12 million illegal immigrants in the US in order to pave the way for the next wave of tens of millions of illegals from the Middle East to the United States, leading to 50 to 100 million Muslims living in the US before the end of Obama’s second term, which will be brought forth by these new US citizens voting for their savior, Obama."
Lipkin, who also goes by the name Victor Mordechai, claims to have "a source with a senior United Nations official" (whatever that means) who says that the United States "will be a Muslim country by the end of Obama's second term." This grand plan is so organized that it even has three parts. Phase One: Obama foments unrest in "each Middle East country" so that these regimes are toppled and replaced by "fanatic" Sunni Mulsims, who go on to "overthrow the competing Shiite regime in Iran without involving American troops." Phase Two: A massive exodus of Muslims heads toward Europe, Canada, and the Unites States, turning all of these Western nations into Muslim countries. Phase Three: The nations now controlled by Islamic extremists "march on Israel in an effort to destroy it" and Obama "keeps his promise…to destroy Israel."

But everyone had a good laugh over it.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Last Call

Goldman Sachs says straight up that the GOP's planned budget cuts will wreck the economy and cut GDP growth in half.  Suddenly Republicans have a new enemy in their sights, and I'm laughing my ass off.

A spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said the Goldman Sachs report represented "the same outdated Washington mind-set," comparing it to the thinking behind the 2009 Recovery Act that released federal funds to counter the effects of the recession.

But Democrats seized on the report as a validation of their arguments against the Republican cuts.

"Just as the economy is beginning to pick up a little steam, the Republican budget would snuff out any chance of recovery," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are near deadlock on the spending issue, with their positions hardening this week.

Democrats have rejected the $61 billion in reductions, which would affect every state and virtually every domestic aspect of federal government operations, as too severe. Instead, they have proposed a temporary spending freeze as they negotiate deeper cuts.

Congress must pass a spending bill by March 4, when a stop-gap funding measure expires, to avoid a shutdown. But House Republican leaders are under pressure from their conservative base not to give in.

And it's Orange Julius's lack of leadership that Jonathan Bernstein says will assure a long-term government shutdown.

But, when it comes to the policy fights over health care reform, environmental regulations, Planned Parenthood, and other issues, there aren’t partial victories available. Democrats won’t give in, and House Republicans won’t either, at least not easily. To take just one example: If you’re a Republican congressman, once you’ve said that allowing funds to go to Planned Parenthood is basically just funding abortion (even if it’s not), how do you reconcile a “yes” vote on a compromise bill that allows funding for that organization? (Indeed, will strongly pro-life members of Congress even be willing to vote for a two-week extension if it fails to prohibit Planned Parenthood funding?)

Boehner had the chance to make this battle about just spending levels. In that case, a shutdown could still have happened. But, instead, the speaker allowed the fight to become about so many policy issues that it’s hard to keep track of them all. He can neither win nor abandon the amendments he let pass, meaning an ugly shutdown is all but certain.

Republicans are literally willing to wreck the country in order to "win".   And come a week from tomorrow, we'll all be losers.

Rhode Island's School Of Hard Knocks

Providence, RI officials don't know how many teachers they'll have to cut at the end of the school year, so just be safe they're notifying every single one of them that they could be fired.

Each one of the 1,926 teachers working for the Providence School Department was sent a dismissal notice this week, in a move officials say was necessary to deal with a projected deficit of almost $40 million next year.

According to The Providence Journal, "[s]chool and city leaders said they were forced to issue the mass dismissal notices because of a state law that says teachers must be notified about possible layoffs or terminations by March 1." In a statement, Mayor Angel Taveras said that because the deadline for informing teachers about employment changes came before the budget for next year could be determined, the move was necessary.

"Providence faces significant challenges in getting its financial house in order," Taveras said in the statement. "Spending reductions are inevitable. It is also inevitable that some portion of cuts will come from the school budget. This is why we faced the difficult decision of sending letters to all teachers: we do not yet know what actions will be required and believe it was only fair to let all teachers know about the severity of the situation."
Taveras told the Journal that there would be fewer schools open, and fewer teachers teaching, in Providence next year -- he just couldn't yet say how many.

"To be clear about what this means," Superintendent Tom Brady wrote in an email to teachers, "this action gives the School Board the right to dismiss teachers as necessary, but not all teachers will actually be dismissed at the end of the school year."

Not all of them, of course.  Just enough that it was safer to threaten all 1,926 of them with pink slips.

If even a hard blue union state like Rhode Island is saying "screw it" and serving up public employees on a platter to satisfy voters, then there's really not too much hope left in this country.

Didn't you know taxes are unconstitutional?

From Badgers To Buckeyes

Wisconsin's public employees continue to fight the good fight with Wisconsin Dems continuing their 24/7 filibuster of the bill to strip most public employees of most bargaining rights.  A bill in Indiana to do the same has been defeated, but Ohio now faces a similar measure.  When faced with protesters, Ohio Republicans locked the people out.

Yesterday I was in Columbus to join in the rally against SB 5, the Ohio GOP’s implementation of the assault on collective bargaining. Even before we got there it was clear Republicans were trying to discourage attendance: as the bus approached Columbus we were told the doors to the Senate building had been locked.
The trooper presence was overwhelming; far beyond what public safety required. There was a riot truck, canine, and a couple troopers were actually wearing full riot gear.
Since our trip was sponsored by the county Democratic party our trip coordinator was in contact with a few of the state senators. Getting inside from the front was not going to happen, so we were directed to the parking garage. Once we got there we were turned away by state troopers. Phone calls ensued; we were told to go to the rear of the building for admittance.
We slowly started up the stairs, and as the first of our group got to the top we were greeted by security. This was in an outdoor area; it was on the way from the parking garage to the outdoor entrance of the building. Yet we were stopped on a single flight of outdoor concrete steps and told we would have to turn back. When we got to the top of the stairs there was another delay as troopers told us no one was allowed to go in. More phone calls, this time around fifteen minutes.
Finally State Representative Teresa Fedor, the most fabulous person in the world, showed up, opened the doors, and told the troopers “This is the people’s house. Lobbyists use this door. Arrest me if you want.”

Republicans are doing everything they can to break Democratic party power for good.  They know they can do whatever they want to if there's no organized opposition against them.  It doesn't matter if they burn the country to the ground if there's only one party to run.

GOP Misogyny For You And Me

Our friend Georgia Republican state Rep. Bobby Franklin (who already thinks drivers licenses are too much of a government imposition) is back, this time with a bill so terribly written that under the legislation a woman who has a miscarriage could face the death penalty.

As Bon would say, I kid you not.  MoJo's Jen Phillips:

Under Rep. Franklin's bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was "no human involvement whatsoever in the causation" of their miscarriage. There is no clarification of what "human involvement" means, and this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly what causes miscarriages. Miscarriages are estimated to terminate up to a quarter of all pregnancies and the Mayo Clinic says that "the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn't even know she's pregnant. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally."

Holding women criminally liable for a totally natural, common biological process is cruel and non-sensical. Even more ridiculous, the bill holds women responsible for protecting their fetuses from "the moment of conception," despite the fact that pregnancy tests aren't accurate until at least 3 weeks after conception. Unless Franklin (who is not a health professional) invents a revolutionary intrauterine conception alarm system, it's unclear how exactly the state of Georgia would enforce that rule other than holding all possibly-pregnant women under lock and key.

It's crazy.  This bill shows complete disregard for logic, medicine, and more importantly a complete disregard for women as anything more than birthing tanks, a bill that simultaneously says "We must do everything we can to protect our precious fetuses" and then treats women as potentially faulty equipment that must be repurposed if they fail at their only duty of reproduction.

Pro-life (because all abortions are murder and murder is bad) and the death penalty (because a miscarriage is a sin and you must pay with your life) in the same bill, a healthy dose of tenth amendment nullification nonsense!

The bill contends that Georgia is exempt from upholding Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade because the Constitution's Article I only governs five crimes: counterfeiting, piracy, high seas felonies, offenses against the law of nations, and treason. According to the bill, since murder is not one of those five crimes, it should be solely governed by the state.

It's the perfect wingnut bill.   Perfectly insane, that is.

Local Celebrities Huffin' And Puffin'

Sometimes, it's fun to do this job.  While looking up another topic, I became familiar with Patrick Tribett.  This man is a regular with the cops, and his record for arrests for huffing fumes is a legacy that will forever remain on the WTOV Channel 9 website.

Parents (or if you know parents) who want to scare their kids should click that link.  Don't be that guy.  This public service message was brought to you by ZVTS.

Follow Up: About That Kidney...

In a Last Call a while back, I posted about two sisters who were released from jail for an $11 robbery on the condition that one sister donate a kidney to her sister.  It's a pretty cool story, click here to refresh your memory.

MSNBC has updated the story, explaining that the sisters have to lose a combined 160 pounds and one sister must quit smoking before they will be considered as candidates for the surgery.  The judge doesn't seem to be concerned.  Even though he gave a year's deadline for the transplant, he acknowledges this is a medical call and discussion of a return to jail is "purely hypothetical" for the sisters.  Meanwhile, the two women are by all accounts turning their life around and appreciating the second chance they've been given.  Illness has hindered one sister, but at least they are together, and with family.

All at once, now.  Awwwww.

Anarchy On Your TV Screen, Part 3

Yesterday's article by Townhall blowhard Terry Jeffrey called public employee unions and in particular teacher's unions "parasitic" and that Wisconsin citizens should demand the firing of all unionized teachers because of lousy test scores.

Well, if Jeffrey is right, then states without unionized teachers should have much better test scores.  Luckily, there are five states where teachers are denied collective bargaining rights:  NC, SC, VA, TX and GA.  So, if we take a standardized national test like, say, the SATs and ACTs and compare those scores, these non-union teacher states should come out on top.

Only...reality is a harsh mistress.

Those states and their ACT/SAT rankings are as follows:

South Carolina – 50th

North Carolina – 49th

Georgia – 48th

Texas – 47th

Virginia – 44th

Oh, well certainly Wisconsin is down there with its evil teacher's union, right?  I mean clearly Scott Walker is fighting to break unions in Wisconsin because of their terrible national scores.

If you are wondering, Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is ranked 2nd in the country.

Gosh, you mean the states without collective bargaining for teachers are the states with the worst ACT/SAT scores, including all 4 bottom states.  Yeah I know correlation does not equal causation, but damn that's a pretty crushing argument against removing collective bargaining for Wisconsin teachers, is it not?

Class dismissed.

If It's Thursday...

Jobless claims back under 400k again, that's some good news.

First-time applications for jobless aid dropped to 391,000 in the week ended Feb. 19, down from 413,000 a week earlier.

The four-week moving average of claims, which smooths out volatility, dropped to 402,000, the lowest since mid-2008, before the financial crisis took a turn for the worse.

Claims have been bouncing around 400,000 for several weeks, having retreated sharply from peaks above 650,000 seen in early 2009.

The number of Americans remaining on the jobless rolls after the initial week of benefits declined by 145,000 to 3.79 million. The total number of overall benefit recipients, including those receiving assistance under an emergency federal program, edged down in the latest week but remained around 9.2 million.

However with oil prices up sharply, I don't expect the good news to last.   In worse news, capital goods took a nosedive too.  Deflation at the high end of prices, inflation at the low end, not a good sign at all.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter Part 62

All of a sudden, the mortgage industry just got an exit pass from Foreclosuregate.

The Obama administration is trying to push through a settlement over mortgage-servicing breakdowns that could force America's largest banks to pay for reductions in loan principal worth billions of dollars.

Terms of the administration's proposal include a commitment from mortgage servicers to reduce the loan balances of troubled borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth, people familiar with the matter said. The cost of those writedowns won't be borne by investors who purchased mortgage-backed securities, these people said.

If a unified settlement can be reached, some state attorneys general and federal agencies are pushing for banks to pay more than $20 billion in civil fines or to fund a comparable amount of loan modifications for distressed borrowers, these people said.

Now keep in mind the $20 billion number is the industry-wide settlement figure.   In other words, this is the number the banks are supposed to take because the alternative is going to be much, much, much worse for them.  And hey, guess who would in charge of giving out the principal reductions?

The deal wouldn't create any new government programs to reduce principal. Instead, it would allow banks to devise their own modifications or use existing government programs, people familiar with the matter said. Banks would also have to reduce second-lien mortgages when first mortgages are modified.

Oh yeah, I see this working beautifully.  For the banks.

Under the administration's proposed settlement, banks would have to bear the cost of all writedowns rather than passing them on to other investors. The settlement proposal focuses on pushing servicers who mishandled foreclosure procedures to eat losses, by writing down loans that they service on behalf of clients. Those clients include mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as investors in loans that were securitized by Wall Street firms.

Bank executives say principal cuts don't necessarily improve payment patterns, and have told other parties involved in the talks that principal reductions could raise new complications. First, it will be difficult to determine who gets reductions and who doesn't. And even if banks agree to a $20 billion penalty, the number of mortgages that can be cured with that number is limited, one of these people said.

If a single settlement can't be reached, different federal agencies could seek smaller penalties through regular enforcement channels, and banks could face the prospect of separate civil actions from state attorneys general.

Any settlement could be one of the largest to hit the mortgage industry. In 2008, Bank of America agreed to a settlement valued at more than $8.6 billion related to alleged predatory lending practices by Countrywide Finance Corp., which it acquired that year. 

Yeah, you are beginning to see why the banks might actually jump at the $20 billion to forever be off the hook on these faulty mortgages.  This is the Obama administration bulldozing the mess under the carpet.   "Oh please don't make us pay $20 billion split among 14 servicers when each one of us would easily be facing that number or much more separately!"

Pretty smooth plan.  10 million homeowners get $2,000 off their mortgage, the banks get legal indemnity from the mess, and Obama looks like a hero.  Of course, when you're $50,000 underwater, two grand isn't a lifeline, it's only a slightly better toss of the life preserver that's now a 245 yard swim away rather than a 250 yard one.

I honestly hope the banks get all huffy on this and pass, because this is about the worst idea I've seen the Obama administration come up with so far.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Last Call

Everything you need to know about America's economy in one chart:

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

The top 0.01% earns, on yearly average, about 900 times what the bottom 90% earns on average. To put in another way, Wall Street's average employee took home 4 times that in 2010.

In just bonus money.

You, my friend, are a serf. So am I. Egypt and Libya have more equal wealth distribution than we do. Those guys are in the streets fighting for every scrap of their democracy.

Meanwhile, we're too busy watching season 3 of Lost on our iPad Netflix streaming app and congratulating ourselves on how things are so much better here.

Anarchy On Your TV Screen, Part 2

It's generally accepted that Wisconsin is trying to bust state employee unions in order to bust private sector unions and all collective bargaining.

You're misinformed if you think the game stops there.  Townhall blogger Terry Jeffrey shows his cards.

With the entire nation watching, Wisconsinites are now debating whether the state's public school teachers ought to be required to pay 5.8 percent of their wages to support their own retirement plans and 12.6 percent of their own health-insurance premiums, and also whether their union ought to be able to negotiate a pay increase on their behalf that exceeds the rate of inflation without letting voters approve or disapprove that raise in a referendum.

What Wisconsin ought to be debating is whether these public school teachers should keep their jobs at all.
Then every state ought to follow Wisconsin in the same debate.

It is time to drive public schools out of business by driving them into an open marketplace where they must directly compete with schools not run by the government or staffed by members of parasitic public employees' unions. 

 You guys do realize that the endgame here is corporate rule, yes?  I mean, we're 75% of the way there already, but the goal here is to directly put all the powers and duties of government into private sector hands, and to then get rid of those who are dragging down profit margins, yes?

That's not "libertarianism" folks, that's The Grim Darkness Of The Future.  Give it 10 years at this rate.  Maybe 20.

Gone Off Half Koch-ed, Or An Epic Koch And Bull Story

Steve M. figures this prank phone call from Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast to Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker in which Murphy pretends to be billionaire conservative David Koch will be nothing more than a footnote.  That's arguable.  But when you say stuff like this:

Koch: We’ll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.

Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that —because we thought about that. The problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I’ve talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this…[explains that planting troublemakers may not work.] My only fear would be if there’s a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems…[something about '60s liberals.]…Let ‘em protest all they want…Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.

I have to say that Walker's in real trouble here.  More on this as it develops.

[UPDATE]  Yeah, I'd say Walker's in a lot of trouble.  Me, early this morning:

Does anyone think that when Walker releases his budget plan next week that those thousands of state employee layoffs won't be part of his plan to close the gap?

Walker, today on his little prank call:

Five minutes into the call, Governor Walker says he is planning to issue between 5,000 and 6,000 "risk notices" to state workers announcing that they are at risk of being laid off. He makes this statement in the context of what he is planning to do to put pressure on Democrats to cave into his demands, not what is necessary due to the budget crunch. "If they want to start sacrificing thousands of public workers to be laid off," he says, "sooner or later there's gonna be pressure on Senators to come back. We're not going to compromise."

Hell, laying off thousands of state workers is Walker's Plan "A".  Purely punitive, too.  This guy's career just plummeted into the Fox River near Appleton.

Welcome To The Pleasure DOMA

A major decision coming down from the President and AG Eric Holder today on the Defense Of Marriage Act means that the President and the Department of Justice have found that Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman at the federal level, is unconstitutional and will therefore no longer be defended in court by the Justice Department.  Holder's statement in part (and emphasis mine):

In the two years since this Administration took office, the Department of Justice has defended Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on several occasions in federal court.   Each of those cases evaluating Section 3 was considered in jurisdictions in which binding circuit court precedents hold that laws singling out people based on sexual orientation, as DOMA does, are constitutional if there is a rational basis for their enactment.   While the President opposes DOMA and believes it should be repealed, the Department has defended it in court because we were able to advance reasonable arguments under that rational basis standard. 

Section 3 of DOMA has now been challenged in the Second Circuit, however, which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated.   In these cases, the Administration faces for the first time the question of whether laws regarding sexual orientation are subject to the more permissive standard of review or whether a more rigorous standard, under which laws targeting minority groups with a history of discrimination are viewed with suspicion by the courts, should apply.

After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny.   The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional.   Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases.   I fully concur with the President’s determination.

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit.   We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.   I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option.   The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.

This one's big, folks.  It certainly means DOMA itself and the question of state gay marriage bans will go before the Supreme Court and relatively soon.  I'll keep an eye on this one.

[UPDATE]  Usual suspects are pissed off across the board.  Col. Mustard calls it a "massive power grab" (wonder what he thinks about the Patriot Act then), but the best reaction is from National Review's Shannen Coffin.

What puzzles me, however, is White House press secretary’s Jay Carney’s suggestion at today’s presser that President Obama is still “grappling” with the gay-marriage issue. If today’s letter from the attorney general to Congress is any indication, the administration has now fully committed to the idea that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage benefits to homosexuals. According to the letter, it is the administration’s position that discrimination against homosexuals is subject to strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause and that all sorts of proffered rationales not borne out by “modern social science” — such as the procreative function of marriage — are categorically unreasonable or simply moral bigotry.

Anyone who thinks that the "procreative function of marriage" is the best argument against gay marriage and that Eric Holder and the DoJ should pursue that avenue of attack shouldn't be allowed anywhere near, say, couples infertility counseling or an adoption agency.

We Kid You Not ran an amusing and painful article that I had to share.

Here are nine of our favorite proposals that are -- we kid you not -- actually pending in state legislatures today.

Some are downright funny, others are downright awful.  I'm curious which ones will start the discussion.  I've placed a silent bet with Zandar on which one will get the comments popping.


This Week's WTH

Giovanni Di Stefano -- known as "The Devil's Advocate" -- tells TMZ, he wants the Prez to set Manson free.

Di Stefano -- who has also repped the likes of Saddam Hussein -- says Manson was nothing more than a cult leader, not a murderer -- Manson didn't do the killing.  Di Stefano says at worst, Manson is guilty of telling his followers to "do something witchy" -- never specifying murder.

Di Stefano complains, "Manson has been made out in America to be the Satan of the criminal justice system. He does not deserve the title."

Reprinted in its complete and pitiful entirety.

I can't imagine existing in a universe that Charles Manson and everyone involved with that night didn't spend a lifetime in jail.  But this guy is either delusional or nuts himself to think Charles Manson isn't exactly where he needs to be.  There is so much more than the murder of Sharon Tate, including dozens of missing girls that disappeared while in his circle.  I hope Obama had a nice laugh.

Three Games To Two, Your Serve

A federal judge yesterday found the insurance mandate in the PPACA to be fully constitutional, but of course our liberal media didn't say word one about it.  D.C. Judge Gladys Kessler tore apart the logic that a Florida and Virginia judge had used to attack the mandate as unconstitutional, saying the arguments "ignore reality".

"It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not 'acting,' especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice," Kessler writes. "Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality."

That's three to two in the Obama administration's favor now.

The Justice Department welcomed the ruling, which was the "third time a court has reviewed the Affordable Care Act on the merits and upheld it as constitutional," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

"This court found -- as two others have previously -- that the minimum coverage provision of the statute was a reasonable measure for Congress to take in reforming our health care system," DOJ's Tracy Schmaler said. "At the same time, trial courts in additional cases have dismissed numerous challenges to this law on jurisdictional and other grounds. The Department will continue to vigorously defend this law in ongoing litigation."

Once again, this will come down to SCOTUS.  But the ruling is pretty clear on the Commerce Clause:

For all these reasons, the Court finds Plaintiffs’ arguments
against dismissal of their constitutional claim unpersuasive. The
crux of Plaintiffs’ arguments is that § 1501 is an unprecedented
attempt by Congress to regulate individual behavior, and therefore
threatens individuals’ freedom of choice. Appealing as this
emotionally charged argument may sound, the ACA is not as
unprecedented as Plaintiffs claim: as already discussed, Congress’s
broad power to regulate individual behavior under the Commerce
Clause is well established.

However, Judge Kessler did not buy the argument that the penalty imposed by the PPACA mandate was a "tax", actually citing Judge Vinson in Florida on the matter.  I happen to think that both Kessler and Vinson are right there, the penalty was never intended to be a tax but a fine. 

The third point is the argument in this particular case that the PPACA mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that forcing people to buy insurance places a burden on those who may object on religious grounds.  Judge Kessler had this to say:

Accepting these allegations as true, the conflict alleged
between § 1501’s requirements and Plaintiffs’ Christian faith does
not rise to the level of a substantial burden. First, Plaintiffs
have failed to allege any facts demonstrating that this conflict is
more than a de minimus burden on their Christian faith. Second, it
is unclear how § 1501 puts substantial pressure on Plaintiffs to
modify their behavior and to violate their beliefs, as it permits
them to pay a shared responsibility payment in lieu of actually
obtaining health insurance. See 42 U.S.C. § 5000A(b). In fact,
Plaintiffs specifically allege in the Amended Complaint that they
view this shared responsibility payment as “the lesser of two
evils” and therefore intend to pay it rather than purchase health
insurance. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19, 33, 46. Finally, as Defendants point
out, Plaintiffs routinely contribute to other forms of insurance,
such as Medicare, Social Security, and unemployment taxes, which
present the same conflict with their belief that God will provide
for their medical and financial needs

In other words this argument has been tried before and has failed, if you buy this third argument, you could use it to object to any government activity under the General Welfare clause:  Defense spending, public safety, infrastructure spending, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, basically that you can conscientiously object to all forms of taxes and programs that directly help people.  Kessler booted that right out the window and rightfully so.

Still, that's yet another Federal judge who has directly ruled that the PPACA mandate is legally sound making three, and dozens more suits tossed as frivolous.  In the end, SCOTUS will have the final say...right around the 2012 elections.

GOP Warriors On Climate Science Try Not To Shoot Own Feet

House Republicans vow to crush the international conspiracy on climate science...if they were smart enough to understand it, that is.  Our old friend Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli is getting the attention of Capitol Hill for all the wrong reasons.

Even dedicated opponents of climate action concede that hauling climate scientists before Congress and challenging their findings could easily backfire, as many representatives lack a sophisticated grasp of climatology and run the risk of making embarrassing errors.

“It’s a trap for a lot of members,” said Marc Morano, a former Republican staff member on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee and publisher of Climate Depot, a Web site that advances the arguments of climate skeptics. “They’re apt to make mistakes.”

Meanwhile, a planned investigation by Representative Darrell Issa of California into alleged instances of manipulation and fraud by climate scientists — broadly similar to those cited by Mr. Cuccinelli in his legal complaints — has been indefinitely postponed.

Yet as the Republican leadership puts the brakes on a climate science confrontation, Mr. Cuccinelli has forged ahead.

In the process, his critics say, he has not only made mistakes, but also twisted facts to bolster his case against the climatologist, Michael E. Mann, now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Sherwood L. Boehlert, a retired Republican congressman from New York and a former chairman of the House Science Committee, is among those who have sharply criticized Mr. Cuccinelli’s tactics.

“I find no logical explanation for spending taxpayer dollars on this politically designed, headline-grabbing pursuit of his,” said Mr. Boehlert, whose panel in 2006 investigated nearly identical charges by climate skeptics that Dr. Mann had falsified results but found no evidence of wrongdoing.

More than 800 professors and scientists in Virginia have petitioned the attorney general to abandon his pursuit of Dr. Mann. As the university fights the investigation, a state judge has ruled substantially in its favor although a final decision has yet to be made. 

So Republicans have a problem.  They want a witch hunt against science and all its pesky consequences that would hurt the bottom lines of energy companies that donate millions to Republicans, but they don't know how to make it not look like a witch hunt against science.   Granted, it's difficult trying to avoid looking like an uninformed moron in front of the cameras when you're actively choosing to be ignorant of the situation, and even Republicans have figured out that they are in over their heads here.

"Because I say so" isn't going to cut it in a congressional hearing and they know it.  Cuccinelli is on his own.
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