Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last Call

So, how's that Libya thing going?

One of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's sons -- Saif al-Arab Gadhafi -- was killed after a NATO airstrike, a spokesman for Libya's government said Sunday at a press conference.

Moammar Gadhafi and his wife were in their son's house when it was targeted, spokesman Musa Ibrahim said. Both of them are in good health, according to the spokesman.

The victim is one of two of Gadhafi's sons whose names begin with Saif. The other is Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who had previously touted reform but has emerged as one of his father's most visible defenders in recent months.

Ibrahim said several of Moammar Gadhafi's grandchildren also died in the attack.

The house in Tripoli was destroyed by the strike, with a massive crater where the house used to be. At least one unexploded bomb could be seen at the scene.

Several of Qaddafi's grandchildren?  That's unconfirmed right now but if true, yeah this is bad, folks.  We're not exactly "winning" anything if we're bombing houses full of Qaddafi's grandkids, ya know?

This Week In GOP Pants On Fire Lies

I almost missed this bald-faced Pants on Fire lie earlier this month from RNC chair Reince Priebus, and it's a doozy.

During an interview on NBC’s Today show on April 5, 2011, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy.

Asked by host Meredith Vieira whether the recent run of job growth and falling unemployment numbers "throw a real monkey wrench" into his party’s argument, Priebus said, "No, not at all. Under this president, he’s promised millions and millions of jobs. We’ve lost 26 million jobs, Meredith, since he’s been president. He promised under an $850 billion stimulus program that we’d be on a path to recovery. We’ll none of that has come true. … I think that pointing out a snail’s pace in the job (growth) numbers is not going to be enough to undo 26 million jobs that are lost, Meredith."

Twenty-six million jobs lost under this President?  Priebus should be laughed off every network on TV.

We turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official arbiter of U.S. employment numbers. We found that in January 2009, when Obama was sworn in, 133,563,000 Americans were employed. Today, that number is 130,738,000. That’s a significant decline -- but of 2.8 million jobs, a number roughly a tenth of what Priebus cited.

Gosh, you mean he flat out lied on TV about the President?  Shocking.  Republicans can't help themselves.  Even Michael Steele was smarter than this idiot.

Perhaps Priebus simply misspoke, or perhaps he misplaced a decimal point and ended up wrong by a factor of 10. Whatever the reason, the 26 million figure he cited on the Today show was ridiculously wrong. We rate it Pants on Fire.

Or he figured he could lie and nobody would care.  You know, like those awesome guys at NewsBusters.  Did these bastions of journalistic integrity catch Priebus's outright lie?

What do you think?

On Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Meredith Vieira grilled Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on GOP criticism of the massive spending of the Obama administration: "...sixth consecutive month of job growth, unemployment numbers lowest in two years, it certainly appears that there is a recovery. So doesn't that throw a real monkey wrench into your argument?"

Priebus pointed out: "Under this president – he's promised millions and millions of jobs –  we've lost 26 million jobs, Meredith, since he's been president. He promised under an $850 billion stimulus program that we'd be on the path to recovery. Well, none of that has come true." Undeterred, Vieira followed by declaring: "And yet, even some Republican economists have said that in criticizing these numbers, the Republicans run the risk of looking like they're cheering for an economic reversal."

Nope.  They glossed right over attack Today host Meredith Viera for daring to question Priebus.  But they completely missed Priebus's massive lie.

Yeah, those NewsBusters guys...they're on the ball.

The Social Issues Truce Just Took A Rocket To The Face

Some ten months ago Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels famously (or infamously) told the Weekly Standard that the country's next leader needed to call a "truce" on social issues until America's economy was stronger.

And then, he says, the next president, whoever he is, “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until the economic issues are resolved. Daniels is pro-life himself, and he gets high marks from conservative religious groups in his state. He serves as an elder at the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, in inner-city Indianapolis, which he’s attended for 50 years. In 1998, with a few other couples from Tabernacle and a nearby Baptist congregation, he and his wife founded a “Christ-centered” school, The Oaks Academy, in a downtown neighborhood the local cops called “Dodge City.” It’s flourishing now with 315 mostly poor kids who pursue a classical education: Latin from third grade on, logic in middle school, rhetoric in eighth grade, an emphasis throughout on the treasures of Western Civilization. “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in,” he told me. His social-conservative credentials are solid.

But about that truce .  .  .

“He might be one guy who could get away with it,” said Curt Smith, head of the Indiana Family Institute, who’s known Daniels since the 1980s. “He has a deep faith, he’s totally pro-life, and he walks the talk. And in an acute situation, like the one we’re in now with the debt, he might get away with a truce for a year or two. But to be successful in office he’s going to have to show those folks he shares their vision.”

This week, Daniels just lined his truce against the wall and shot it.

Republican Governor Mitch Daniels released a statement Friday afternoon saying he will sign legislation stripping federal funds from Planned Parenthood in Indiana, the first state to make such a move. 

Some truce.  Not even the most vile GOP governors have gone this far.  Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Snyder of Michigan, John Kasich of Ohio...not even these hard right class-warriors have decided to punish their state's poor women and take away their health care options.

But unlike any of them, Mitch Daniels wants to be President.  And to be the GOP candidate in 2012, you have to declare war on your own constituents to be considered "serious".

Once he signs the bill, it will go into effect immediately, and would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any public dollars -- including Medicaid payments, which are crucial to the group's patient population.

"We do around 500 pap tests a week," Indiana Planned Parenthood President Betty Cockrum told TPM in an interview earlier on Friday. "We will be making phone calls to Medicaid patients all over the state and telling them, either you have to pay for that pap test out of pocket, or you need to find someone else who can take you as a Medicaid patient. We can't do it anymore."

There are 28 Planned Parenthood centers in the state. Almost 60 percent of patients seen last year were living under the poverty line.

The announcement was met shock by Planned Parenthood in Indiana, who had earlier expressed confidence that Daniels would weigh the bill's consequences carefully before signing.

"The signing of HB 1210 into law is unconscionable and unspeakable. We will now suffer the consequences of lawmakers who have no regard for fact-based decision making and sound public health policy," said Cockrum in a statement.

"As many as 22,000 low-income Hoosiers will lose their medical home. Countless patients will find themselves without access to lifesaving tests to avoid the tragic outcomes of cervical and breast cancer and epidemic sexually transmitted disease here in Indiana."

She said Planned Parenthood would be filing an injunction immediately to try to halt "this alarming erosion of public health policy" in Indiana. 

But they're all evil harlot sluts, right?   So it's okay to single them out and make them pay, and restrict their basic health care.  That's what being a "compassionate Republican moderate" is all about.

In the end, they are all wingnuts.

Follow Up On Cell Phone Privacy

The director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's Project on Consumer Privacy has written an article for CNN explaining the importance of information on our devices.  He rightly points out that we need a public and universal privacy code to operate by, so people can have an understanding of what they can expect regarding privacy.  This would also give programmers an outline to go by when developing enhancements or apps.  The FTC is investigating the privacy issue and Congress has shown interest in the data and why it was collected.  It is still unclear what steps will be taken, if any.

Apple has kept their response to a minimum, but they have given a brief outline of some steps they plan to take to correct the information, including encrypting the file and updating it less frequently.  This lapse is a good reason to set some policies in place and define (and protect) our right to privacy.

Ubuntu 11.04 Review

So far it's a raging success in most ways.  Here are some of the first things you will notice:

The desktop interface, also known as Unity, gives it a look and feel unlike any operating system ever.   Some will like it, some will hate it.  I like it a lot, but it takes some getting used to.  There is a lot to learn about Unity, and I will be posting some basic information along the way.  It is very intuitive, and once you get the hang of navigating it is efficient and clean.

Programs run smoothly and are pared down. The response time is excellent.  My modest laptop runs it with full graphics easily, and I had twelve programs running at the same time and suffered no impact.  Unity makes it easy to switch work spaces and stay organized.  The new office software, called LibreOffice, loads much faster than OpenOffice and seems to have zero issues when transferring to traditional Microsoft  Word, including formatting and special characters.  Even with the most recent version of OO, this was a major challenge.

You can switch easily between different desktops to keep your work separate.

A few opportunities for improvement are with the boot loader.  Grub had a difficult time loading, and there are several known bugs with booting up the computer.  There are tricks around this, but complete newbies to Ubuntu or Linux may want to hold off a few weeks until those problems are taken care of.  The Ubuntu community is excellent about fixing issues quickly.

This is the first time I had to add some control features as though they were options.  The tweaks and settings category gives you instant access to settings that used to be built into the Administration toolbar. Sure, you can set them the hard way, but Ubuntu is supposed to be easy and pretty.  Rest assured, it is.

This new release has surpassed the hype.  Developers did a great job of keeping a lid on this and releasing a stable beta.  A lot of careful work went into this, and the glitches are few and far between.  However, as one can expect from such major changes, there are some glitches and they can be a little difficult on this first day of use.  Ubuntu is still easy to install and update, but for the first time I would recommend casual or new users hold off just a bit until they get the first round of fixes in.  That would guarantee a positive experience, because if you haven't worked with Linux it can be a little intimidating when it doesn't work out of the box and give you some time to adjust.

But pretty?  Oh my God, yes.  I've never seen anything like it, and I am in love.  The graphics are advanced and effortless, and the navigation is both logical and pretty.  Ubuntu has finally arrived, and reinvented themselves.  They have gotten rid of any bloated processes, and the result is a beautiful but lean and mean operating system.  This is a complete improvement over any previous Ubuntu flavors, and in both design and performance they have leapfrogged all other operating systems, at least in my book.  Because of the enormous scope of the changes, it will take some adjusting.  Still, despite the glitches I discovered, I had so much fun that I was up for a full 24 hours because I couldn't bear to put it down. A complete and utter newbie could pick this up and find their way, and a longtime Linux user is going to enjoy it for the elegant and powerful beast that Nat has proved to be.

My initial review is a full five stars out of five.  There is a lot of updating and testing to do but the bar has been set very high.

It's A Gas Gas Gas In Ohio, Part 3

Gas prices here in the Cincy/Tri-State area are now $4 a gallon a rising (Well OK, $3.999) and we still have a month until the summer driving season begins.  Breaking our local record of $4.25 a gallon here seems like a no-brainer.  John Wasik at Reuters argues actually enforcing the commodity speculation rules created by the Dodd-Frank legislation might take the steam out of speculator's sails, but the Republicans will never allow that to happen.

Commodity traders know the sky’s the limit because the key safeguards in Dodd-Frank that would rein in speculation are still mired in the rule-making process with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.

Traders know they can also freely bet against a falling dollar. Oil, gold and other dollar-denominated commodities move inversely to the buck.

Speculation policing, however, is not on the books. The GOP budget plan even calls for cutting the CFTC’s staff by two-thirds, so even if the more stringent Dodd-Frank rules emerged, the agency may not have the cops to enforce them.

Congress has known for a while that speculators rule the roost and force oil prices higher. For years, political shaming sessions would be staged in front of key energy committees, but these wet-noodle floggings of oil company moguls never resulted in any meaningful investigations or tougher laws.

Meanwhile, oil companies and traders gorge on obese profits. Exxon-Mobil even had the cheek to post a recent blog noting “…it’s really not credible to suggest that we are responsible for world oil prices.” Sure, and Donald Trump has never made a dime in real estate and hates publicity.

Washington has already seen the evidence for speculative abuses. A long-forgotten 2006 report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, showed that not only were speculators buying oil contracts for petroleum they would never use, their trades were run through opaque, unregulated exchanges.

The subcommittee faulted what it called the “Enron loophole,” (yes, that Enron) which Congress inserted in an infamous 1999 law deregulating commodities trading that permitted unpoliced over-the-counter exchanges. These devilish enterprises allowed derivatives such as credit default swaps to grow into a $60 trillion market — and we know what happened with those monsters in 2008.

Although the Senate probe concluded that speculation put oil prices on steroids two years before Wall Street’s massive meltdown, the money trust still wants to let speculators have their way. As a result, gasoline is above $4 a gallon in many urban areas with no ceiling in sight as politicians blame each other.

Of course the big Wall Street firms are making piles of cash off commodity speculation.  "Helicopter Ben's wrecking the dollar, all major central banks are trying to devalue their currency!  The flight to commodities is his fault!"   But when it comes to regulating commodities speculation and derivatives, we're met with nothing but silence.

Derivatives are the multi-trillion dollar Cloverfield monster in the room, folks.  Until they are reigned in (and Republicans and even some Democrats will make sure that never, ever happens) we'll continue to get screwed by these speculation cycles.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Last Call

The only thing better than the winger conspiracy theories about the President's long-form birth certificate are the winger meta-conspiracy theories that Obama and the media kept the birther thing going as long as they could and that Donald Trump is all Obama's fault.

No, really. Clifton at Another Black Conservative:

I think Obama kept the birther issue going on for so long, is because it was politically advantageous to him. He, with the help of the media, was able to discredit anyone who asked questions about the birth certificate. Had the media simply been curious as to why Obama wouldn't do a simple thing like releasing the document, the nation might have been spared the whole birther thing and the rise of Donald Trump.

If only birthers were smarter and didn't fall for Obama's super double reverse fakeout Kenyan gambit, the GOP wouldn't be considered a bunch of racist assholes.  Clearly that has to be it, right?

Man, I needed a good laugh.  Thanks, Cliffy.

Rent Asunder

The housing depression is now leading to millions of Americans being priced out of affordable rental housing just when America needs it most.

The number of renters paying more than half of their income towards rent has hit record levels, according to a new study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) of Harvard University.

Rental affordability is a critical issue for seniors, who live on fixed incomes and already are coping with low yields on their savings, fast-rising healthcare expenses and stagnant Social Security benefits. Yet the struggle with affordability is found most often among low-income Americans; JCHS found that 75 percent of renters in the lowest quartile of income are spending more than half of their income on housing. JCHS also found that lower-middle class renters also are having trouble finding affordable rental housing.

For example, 33 percent of renters with annual income of $14,500 to $30,000 are facing “severe burdens” in finding affordable rent. And the problem is growing most rapidly among demographic groups traditionally less likely to have affordability problems, including younger households, married couples with children and renters with some college education.

“These are astounding numbers,” says Eric Belsky, managing director of JCHS. “If you are spending half of your income on housing, you have very little to spend on everything else.”

Seniors are moving back in with their kids because the rent is, well, too damn high.  And more and more Americans are finding that because mortgage lenders now want up to a 20% down payment on a house, that renting is the only option.  That's driving the demand for apartments up, and that's driving rent up too, in some cases substantially.

Like all housing matters, federal programs and policy loom large in matters of affordable rentals. But federal housing policy hasn’t kept pace with the changing rental market. The most significant existing federal program is the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which aims to stimulate availability of capital for the purpose of replenishing affordable housing stock. An array of vouchers and other subsidies also help some renters.

But the JCHS study notes that the federal programs are focused mainly on the lowest-income renters, so won’t address the growing need in higher income brackets.

So Americans who are making it now in their apartments are finding a raft of new fees and higher rent to pay, and wages are going down.  You can imagine where this is going next.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Atrios flags down today's sign that Republicans are trying to slowly destroy the country:

The Philadelphia school district may have to cut 3,800 positions in order to close a $600 million deficit. Another proposal to make up for the loss of almost $300 million in state funds this year includes eliminating free transportation to and from school.

That means no busing or free SEPTA transpasses for any students except those in special education students and those attending charter schools.

That's because state law requires the district to provide transportation to and from charter schools. But students who attend public and parochial schools next year could have to pay their own way.

So if you take buses away from the public school students, and state law requires charter school students to have buses...well, you do the math.

McLovin' The McEconomy

Tyler Durden caught these numbers on McDonald's national hiring day last week:

This is what the US economy has been reduced to: McDonalds reports that as part of its employment event to hire 50,000 minimum wage, part-time (mostly) workers, subsequently raised to 62,000 it received a whopping 1 million applications, or a Tim Geithner jealousy inducing 6.2% hit rate (h/t X. Kurt. OSis). Alas, the US economy is now so pathetic that the bulk of the population will settle for anything. Literally anything. And the saddest part: over 938,000 applicants were turned away. Here's hoping to Burger King needs a few million janitors in the immediate future too. And yes, aside from reality, things in America are really recovering quite nicely. 

Yep, that's right:  62,000 McWorkers were hired...and 14 times as many were turned away.   One job for every 15 applicants:  that's how bad things are for American workers in this economy.  But Republicans will tell you Americans are too lazy to work McJobs and there are plenty of jobs out there if people would just lower themselves to apply for them.

Clearly if we cut unemployment benefits, we can have 2 million people turned away from McDonald's national hiring day next spring.  That's progress!

StupidiNews! Potpourri Edition

A new invention allows you to keep your coffee warm for hours.  Simple metal beans are made from a material that "is designed to melt at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and absorbs a lot of energy as it melts. This is how Joulies cool your coffee down three times faster than normal. Once it reaches this temperature, the special material begins to solidify again, releasing the energy it stored when it melted. This is how Joulies keep your coffee warm twice as long."  If it works half as well as advertised, this is the new Hot Thing.  Pun intended.

The Netflix Conundrum continues: according to one article, Netflix now has more subscribers than Comcast.  The scrappy and innovative business has flourished and forged a place among the big boys.

Young Song, a visual effects artist for Dreamworks, is looking at four years in prison for beating his neighbor's puppy to death with a hammer.  Song also allegedly shot the dog with a pellet gun before killing it.  The neighbor claims to have caught the act on video.  If he did it, I hope they get PETA on his ass while he is put away.

Spaced Out

(CNN) -- Interstellar radio has lost one of its most avid listeners.
A collection of sophisticated radio telescopes in California that scan the heavens for extraterrestrial signals has suspended operations because of lack of funding, a spokeswoman said Monday.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute operates the Allen Telescope Array, the field of dish-like scopes some 300 miles north of San Francisco. The telescopes are a joint effort of SETI and University of California-Berkeley's Radio Astronomy Lab and have been funded largely by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who donated more than $25 million to the project.

I have followed SETI for a  long time, and have enjoyed running the Seti@Home screensaver, which lets users donate CPU time while their computer is idle and process the unbelievable amount of data that is gathered through the organization. I sincerely hope that they are up and running again soon.  In the meantime, I have a couple of computers gobbling up information and helping catch up on the data gathered so far.  While I don't expect to find aliens, I do think watching and listening will allow us to make important discoveries and build a foundation of information and statistics.  

How Long Will Lawrence Last?

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell ripped into his employer this week over the Trump/birther angle, and I'm openly wondering how long he has before he gets Olbermanned.

He argued that Trump’s line during today’s news conference that he couldn’t announce his candidacy until after the season finale of his television show was an incorrect reading of equal-time laws, since these laws don’t apply to entertainment programs. He also argued that NBC executives likely knew well whether Trump has re-upped for next season, since many of NBC’s other shows have already been announced for that year.

In the past, NBC executives have been coy about their knowledge of Trump’s plans, with one “who asked not to be identified to avoid any conflict with Mr. Trump" telling The New York Times that “this is Donald being Donald” when asked how Trump’s presidential ambitions were affecting the network’s plans for his highly successful show.

“NBC can no longer avoid conflict with Mr. Trump,” O’Donnell said. “NBC has a conflict with Mr. Trump. NBC has created a monster who is using his NBC fame to spew hatred, reeking with racist overtones and undertones about the president of the United States. NBC can no longer stand idly by, not for one more day. The NBC entertainment division could not possibly have created a worse conflict with the NBC News division. The NBC entertainment division is now in possession of news that the NBC News division would [like to have]. An NBC paid performer, the most deranged egomaniac in the history of NBC entertainment division has spewed lies to the point where he provoked this.”

NBC is certainly feeling the heat on Trump this week.  Already Groupon has pulled its ads from Trump's Celebrity Apprentice website.  They won't be the last advertiser NBC or loses, either.

But O'Donnell?  Will he be canned before Trump is?  That question remains.

Judicial Activism Goes Unnoticed

Don't look now, America...but you've just lost the ability to form class-action suits.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday handed businesses such as AT&T Inc a major victory by upholding the use of arbitration for customer disputes rather than allowing claims to be brought together as a group.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that an AT&T unit could enforce a provision in its customer contracts requiring individual arbitration and preventing the pooling together of claims into a class-action lawsuit or class-wide arbitration.

The plaintiffs, Vincent and Liza Concepcion, filed their class-action lawsuit in 2006, claiming they were improperly charged about $30 in sales taxes on cellphones that the AT&T Mobility wireless unit had advertised as free.

AT&T, the No. 2 U.S. mobile service, was backed in the case by a number of other companies and by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business group, while consumer and civil rights groups supported the California couple.

Companies generally prefer arbitration as a less expensive way of settling consumer disputes, as opposed to costly class actions, which allow customers to band together and can result in large monetary awards.

Customer arbitration agreements are widely used by cellphone carriers, cable providers, credit card companies, stock brokerage firms and other businesses.

Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick said it may be the most important class action case ever decided by the Supreme Court.

"Because companies can ask all of their consumers, employees, and perhaps even shareholders to sign arbitration agreements, this decision has the potential to permit companies to escape class action liability in almost all of their activities," he said.

In other words, American companies are now scrambling to put arbitration clauses in everything they can involving either employees or customers, because doing so now completely absolves them from class-action suits according to this ruling.  The class-action suit, the little guy versus the big guy, has pretty much been permanently decided by the big guy.

Where's the Tea Party to tell us that our rights are being stolen by judicial activists?

The Lone Star State Of Emergency

Texas's Republican governor Rick Perry is complaining quite loudly that Alabama is getting federal help because of this week's deadly tornadoes, but Texas is seeing nothing as a result of deadly wildfires that have ravaged the state.  And of course, it's all Obama's fault.

Perry had requested a federal declaration of emergency for Texas as the wildfires began to rage across the entire state. The request has not been answered, although several federal agencies, including the National Park Service, are supplying firefighters to help the state's effort.

"They watch TV, they know what's going on here, they can recognize that there is going to be a request for assistance, a request for help," Perry said.

Two volunteer firefighters have died battling the Texas wildfires, which have destroyed more than 900 buildings or structures.

A federal major disaster declaration could reimburse Texas and local governments 75 percent of the cost of their response. Local departments and the Texas Forest Service have spent more than $60 million since September 1 responding to wildfires, forest service spokeswoman Linda Moon said.

In the past Perry has frequently charged that the Obama administration is punishing Texas. The Republican governor has been an outspoken opponent of the federal health reform law, and the state is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a proposal to end Texas' independent air quality permitting program for factories and refineries.

Obama took a shot at Perry in an interview last week with the Dallas/Fort Worth TV station WFAA.
"Governor Perry helped balance his budget with about $6 billion worth of federal help - which he happily took - and then started blaming the members of Congress who had offered that help," Obama told WFAA, referring to 2009 federal stimulus funds.

Perry has some stones on him, I'll give him that much.  This is a guy who complains as loudly as possible about how Texas doesn't need federal help, saying the state should opt out of Social Security, the state should opt out of Medicaid, and even opt out of the United States of America.

But now it's "we're not getting our federal handout fast enough because President Blackington Blackman The Black hates Texas."  What an asshole.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Last Call

John Cole notes Rep. Paul Ryan is now calling for an end to oil company subsidies, something that means that A) Ryan isn't as stupid as he looks, and B) the Republicans will just create some other sort of back door to pay off the oil companies should subsidies go the way of the dodo.  Cole adds:

As a side note, every time I get frustrated with Obama and some of the things he is doing that I adamantly disagree with, I usually will pop off at the mouth here on the blog, and then a short while later cool down and realize the environment he is operating in. Only in our truly screwed up times could Ryan suggesting we end subsidies to oil be somehow considered courageous. Oil companies are wildly profitable, will remain so, all the while creating catastrophic disasters to our environment, and doing so producing a product we should be discouraging and will eventually be replaced. In no sane world would they ever be subsidized- it’s simply insane. And smarter folks have been pointing this out for quite some time, and are simply ignored.

But now that a Republican has suggested it, I guess it is “serious” enough that something might happen.

The something being point B) up there.  Same as it ever was, same as it always will be.

It's Not About Race, They Tell Me

You can call wingnuts who have a serious problem with the nation's first African-America President just about anything you want, but never, ever, ever call them racists.

Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said minorities earn less than white people because they don’t work as hard and have less initiative.
“We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.
Kern said women earn less than men because “they tend to spend more time at home with their families.”

Never call them racists...

Yesterday during his press conference in New Hampshire –- after the cable news networks cut to President Obama’s remarks regarding the release of his long form birth certificate — potential GOP presidential candiate Donald Trump spent some time extolling infrastructure investments made by China and other countries, suggesting the U.S. should follow suit. This prompted Les Trent, a reporter for Inside Edition, to ask Trump: “Isn’t that what President Obama tried to do with his stimulus package?”

Trump’s response to Trent, who is African American, was “Look, I know you are a big Obama fan.” Trent replied, “Why do you say that?” 

...never call them racists.

The head of Orange County's Republican Party is vowing to keep up the pressure on a local GOP official to resign for sending an offensive email about President Barack Obama.

"This issue will not go away until she has taken 100 percent responsibility for sending out a racist email that offended millions," Chairman Scott Baugh said.

He commented by telephone on Wednesday after Marilyn Davenport, speaking for the first time, said she will not resign and had no racist intentions when she sent the email.

The message depicts Obama's face superimposed over a baby chimp's. The text under the image reads, "Now you know why — No birth certificate!"

 But it's not about race.

And if you think it's about race, you're the racist.

Trump said of Obama and race: "And he did it with (former President Bill) Clinton. Clinton was made into a racist by Obama, and he's never forgotten it. And there's nobody that's less of a racist than Bill Clinton… He did it with Bill Clinton, and with Hillary. He made them into racists. That's why I was amazed that Hillary went to work for him." He added that “the President is ‘probably’ trying to do the same to him, ‘and there's nobody who's less of a racist than me.’” More from Trump: "Here's two people, Hillary and Bill Clinton, who really devoted a lot to African-Americans. They did probably as much as anybody, and he made them into racists."

Because in the end, it's all the black guy's fault.

It's About Suppression

How bad is Florida's new voter identification suppression bill?  This bad.  Kay at Balloon Juice:

When I reached this section of the linked article, I went to the text of the bill because I honestly did not believe it (pdf):
A new provision added last night would now require voters whose legitimacy is challenged by poll watchers to cast provisional ballots with no opportunity at the polls to defend themselves and cast a regular ballot.
Yup. It’s in there.
The clerk or inspector shall immediately deliver to the challenged person a copy of the oath of the person entering the challenge, and the challenged voter shall be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.
Alternatively, a challenge in accordance with this section may be filed in advance with the supervisor of elections no sooner than 30 days before an election. The supervisor shall promptly provide the election board in the challenged voter’s precinct with a copy of the oath of the person entering the challenge. The challenged voter shall be allowed to cast a provisional ballot.
A simple sworn statement that the voter is not eligible is enough to force any voter to accept a second-class ballot. Wow.

And as Kay points out, the determination cannot be challenged by the voter themselves.  As a matter of fact, the elections board can basically pre-challenge anyone up to 30 days before the election and force those voters to take a provisional ballot.  Do not pass Go.  Go straight to second-class voter status.  Florida Republicans are basically going to lock in the right to disenfranchise any voter they choose to with a simple sworn statement that your right to vote is in question.  That is all it takes to remove your right to vote in Florida if this bill passes...and it will.

Count on it.  Adam Serwer has a smart discussion on the history of voter identification as voter suppression.

The unfounded rumors regarding the president's citizenship that lead to demands for his papers, and the Arizona-style immigration laws that would force Latino Americans to retain theirs at all times, reflect a creeping suspicion among some whites, at a time of job loss and austerity, that non-whites are gaining at their expense in a zero-sum battle for political power and resources. Hardcore birthers, (as opposed to those who have simply been misled by sources they trust) can't be sated because they believe Obama has no such claim. Likewise, for many Arizona-style immigration laws are an attempt to restrict access to American abundance to those who are "truly deserving," but their effect on those who genuinely are American citizens but are not white is minimized because their claim is believed to be weaker anyway. This is deeply frustrating because of how a sensible immigration policy could lead to mutual gain both for Americans and immigrants, but that realization has yet to take hold. As a country, we are increasingly demanding that non-whites literally prove that they "belong here," that they have a legitimate claim to American prosperity.

This thread runs throughout history. When America wants to restrict opportunity and remind minorities to stay in their place, it asks for their papers. 

It's been done before, and Republican-controlled states are simply taking it into the 21st century with the straw man of "voter identification".

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Exxon Mobil posted its 1Q 2011 numbers today:  $10.65 billion in profit off of $114 billion in revenue.  They want you to know that Exxon's not such a terrible company, either.

In a blog post Wednesday, company Vice President Ken Cohen asks people to look past the “inevitable headlines and sound bites about high gasoline prices,” think about world oil market disruptions and the falling U.S. dollar and remember ExxonMobil’s investments in renewable energy.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that higher crude oil prices in the first quarter are expected to lift ExxonMobil’s earnings by about 50 percent.
But it’s only natural that ExxonMobil would make money because oil prices are through the roof, Cohen said. And ExxonMobil is an oil company.

“Here’s a simple fact of economics that’s getting everyone in Washington pretty excited this week: When prices increase for a commodity like oil, companies that produce and sell that commodity earn more money,” Cohen wrote.

In one instance, Cohen reminds readers that “ExxonMobil doesn’t set oil prices,” noting the company produces less than 3 percent of the world’s daily oil supply, “so it’s really not credible to suggest that we are responsible for world oil prices.”

Maybe.  But you guys are responsible for getting billions in taxpayer subsidies when you make billions in quarterly profit.  We'd like our money back, please.

Missouri Makes Sense (I Was Shocked, Too)

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I checked out my local paper and saw this:

The Senate version of the bill would allow welfare recipients to continue receiving benefits if they complete a drug treatment program. Sen. Jolie Justus, a Kansas City Democrat, said Tuesday that the provision would help people overcome the problems that had made them ineligible.
The legislation would require that the state use a less sophisticated drug test to lower the cost from a projected $300,000 per year. It would also require that electronic benefit cards include a photo of the recipient and be renewed every three years.
The bill still needs a second Senate vote before returning to the House.
Normally, I am against drug testing, but this is an exception to my rule.  Drug testing to work at a hobby store or file papers?  Stupid.  Drug testing before allowing someone to sit on their privileged ass while I work for a living?  I dig it big time.  The thing that makes it fair and effective is it gives the people who are addicted a chance.  What they do with it is up to them, but the working poor are given the ability to decide which is more important to them.  It's this sort of tough love that will reach the people who put forth the effort while denying benefits to those who do not.  I realize addiction is a disease, but I also see the stupidity in our welfare system supplying the drug dealers that victimize the poor.  Something has gotta give, and in this case it has to start with the people funding the problem.  It's not ideal, but nothing about this situation is ideal. Meth is ravaging our country like a cancer, and this is a way to cut the abuse of financial aid and hit the manufacturers in the wallet where it hurts the most.

StupidiNews: Weather Edition

Lightning doesn't have to strike twice, especially if it does a good job on the first try.

(CNN) -- At least nine people were injured Tuesday evening when lightning hit a soccer field in Portage, Michigan, authorities said.
The injured were a mix of adults and students, said Charles Wellman, the Portage battalion chief.
Seven people -- one with serious injuries -- were transported to area hospitals, with two others seeking medical treatment on their own, he said.
Not to be outdone, Ecuador has its own natural disaster brewing.  The Tungurahua volcano started spewing ash again, more than for miles high.  Schools are closing and residents in the most danger are being evacuated.

An Atlanta news article points out that we have experienced more tornadoes than usual this year, breaking a record set in 1974.  The bad news is that May traditionally has twice as many tornadoes than April. They ran this article two days before the tornado in the video below hit Tuscaloosa.  The death toll is in the teens, but I don't believe they have a real count yet, and there are many critically injured.  I live smack in the middle of tornado alley, and I have never seen a tornado this massive.  

2012 is starting to look like less of a threat and more of a goal.

Saving Face

Some investors in social networking giant Facebook are looking to cash out now while the getting is good, and I can't blame them:  a group of them are looking to sell their privately-held shares of the company that would rate Facebook's total worth at, oh, some $70 billion and change.

It would represent one of the largest transactions of Facebook shares to date and points to a growing wariness among early-stage investors and employees who fear Facebook's growth cannot keep pace with its market valuation.

The sellers have lowered their price after previously trying to offload shares at a price that valued the company at $90 billion, which would make Facebook more valuable than Time Warner Inc and News Corp combined. But buyers balked.

"At the current valuation where it is, it is really hard to justify the investment," said Sumeet Jain, partner at venture capital firm CMEA Capital, who has examined Facebook deals recently and has taken a pass. "It's hard to imagine it will turn into a $270 billion company in the next few years."

The current deal, which includes stock held by Facebook employees, is awaiting approval from top Facebook executives including Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman, according to two sources.

Is Facebook the future of ubiquitous communication in the internet age, or is it the ultimate dot-com bubble stock?  Time will tell, but I'm personally going with the notion that the company's not going to really be worth hundreds of billions anytime soon.

Or ever.  Not without Facebook starting to charge money for it.

Going On The Record For Medicare Coupons

Harry Reid has summoned enough intestinal fortitude to hold a vote on the Ryan Unicorn Plan in the Senate to see how many Republicans want to go on record as wanting to replace Medicare with some sort of coupon program which probably won't give seniors health care anyway, as insurance companies will simply stop offering health insurance to the elderly altogether.

"We're going to have an opportunity in the Senate to vote for the [Paul] Ryan budget," Reid told reporters, to "see if Republicans in the Senate like the Ryan budget as much as their colleagues [in the House] did."

That budget, which passed in the lower chamber with near-unanimous GOP support, includes a policy agenda that would phase out Medicare, dramatically slash Medicaid, while reducing the tax burden on the wealthiest Americans. It has become the source of significant heartburn for vulnerable House Republicans, who have had to face down angry constituents in their districts during the current two-week recess.

Reid's strategy leaves Senate Republicans two unenviable options: link arms and vote unanimously (or nearly unanimously) for the politically controversial House budget, or take political cover and expose divisions within the party over the direction GOP leaders want to take the country.

One GOP senator, Susan Collins (R-ME), has already publicly stated her opposition to the House Republican plan.

So we'll see how many of them sign up for it.  The ones up for re-election next year?  I'm thinking they won't profess too much support for it. However if they don't, the Tea Party wing will try to primary them out of existence.  If they do, they get killed in the general election.  It's a nasty trap, and frankly it's smart politics for Reid to do this.

The Kroog Versus Helicopter Ben's Presser

Paul Krugman wasn't too impressed with Ben Bernanke's first ever Federal Reserve press conference yesterday afternoon.

So Bernanke did get asked why, given low inflation and high unemployment, the Fed isn’t doing more. And his answer was disheartening.

As far as I can tell, his analytical framework isn’t too different from mine. The inflation rate to worry about is some underlying, inertial rate rather than the headline rate; the Fed likes the core personal consumer expenditures deflator; and this rate has actually been running below target, indicating that inflation isn’t a concern:

So this says that there is no tradeoff: more expansionary monetary policy is good in terms of both unemployment and achieving the Fed’s inflation target.

But then, when asked why no further expansionary policy, he replied that he’s concerned about the “tradeoff”, that inflation might rise.

This doesn’t make any sense in terms of his own expressed economic framework. I think the only way to read it is to say that he has been intimidated by the inflationistas, and is looking for excuses not to act.

Krugman's onto something here.   Food and energy prices are up substantially.  But overall inflation isn't.  As I've said before the number one indicator of actual inflation is rising wages...and if anything, wages for most Americans have been falling as hours worked, overtime, and hourly rates have dropped as higher paying jobs have been replaced with lower paying ones.

But it's clear that the austerity hysterics have gotten to Helicopter Ben and that he plans to end QE2 in June, on schedule.  If the Fed won't do anything, then the game is over, and the economy will grind to a halt as the last buyer of record is taken out of the picture.

2012 is going to be ugly.


Geek Speak: Hellooo, Natty

Ubuntu's latest release is finally here.  Today Natty Narwhal will be available for download.  There are some very exciting changes with this edition, including the look and feel as well as under the hood functions.  I insist on downloading on release day, it's been a tradition of mine since Dapper Drake.

What is Ubuntu?  You can give it a test drive or read more about it on their website.  Ubuntu is always free, and can be copied and shared freely. had some exciting teasers:
Additional enhancements to Ubuntu 11.04 include a "global menu" that contains most preinstalled apps in one place at the top of the display. Menus are displayed only when needed. Switching between multiple screens (or workspaces) is even easier, and new keyboard shortcuts simplify navigation between windows and workspaces. Volume adjustments, queuing and playing files, and other music functions may be accessed from the volume indicator, without having to enter the music player. Users of the Ubuntu One cloud file-sharing service may now also access files via their Android devices, import contacts from Facebook and sync them with Gmail, and take advantage of improved music streaming with better playlist management and a wider range of supported file formats.
Google, Ubuntu and Android are coming together into a seamless creation.  This is a major win for computer users for many reasons, and an overdue death blow to Microsoft's reign of pompous and overpriced bloatware.  The tipping point has been reached, and Linux has finally found a true mainstream niche. My little penguin has grown up, and is a big boy now.

With any release, there is always a quick fix on the fly period.  I'll be testing Natty on desktops and laptops, and will give a more informed review once that first inevitable round of patches are checked.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Last Call

David Frum is shocked...shocked!!!...that there are racists in the GOP.  Shocked, he says!

Now the more haunting question: How did this poisonous and not very subtly racist allegation get such a grip on our conservative movement and our Republican party?

I know there will be Republican writers and conservative publicists who will now deny that birtherism ever did get a grip. Sorry, that’s just wrong. Not only did Trump surge ahead in Republican polls by flaming racial fires – not only did conservative media outlets from Fox to Drudge to the Breitbart sites indulge the birthers – but so also did every Republican candidate who said, “I take the president at his word.” Birthers did not doubt the president’s “word.” They were doubting the official records of the state of Hawaii. It’s like answering a 9/11 conspiracist by saying, “I take the 9/11 families at their word that they lost their loved ones.”

Yet even now, the racialist aspect of the anti-Obama movement has not subsided. Trump has moved from the birth certificate to questioning the president’s academic qualifications for the Harvard Law School. Trump himself was a troubled student (at one point he attended a military school) who nonetheless gained admission to Wharton. His father’s wealth and business success cannot have hurt with that application. Yet he feels himself qualified to pronounce on who is and who is not smart enough to attend Harvard Law. Barack Obama graduated magna cum laude. (And to anticipate a new line of attack – yes, Harvard Law School exams were blind-graded.) He was elected editor of the law review. And his classmates, left and right, universally admired his abilities.

I wish it were otherwise, but it does seem that these racialized attacks on Obama have exacted a toll on him. But they also have exacted a toll on the opposition to Obama. The too-faint repudiation of birtherism by regular Republicans has shaped not only the Obama brand, but also the Republican brand. It was not only white people who heard the implied message about who counts and who does not count as a “real American.”

David Frum would have a more valid point if the members of the set of "Republicans guilty of too faint opposition to the birthers in the GOP" didn't include David Frum.  He's been banging this "Gosh you guys should stop with the birther stuff" gong now for a couple of years.   Naturally, the worst criticism Frum could come up with about this idiocy is that it's probably the internet's fault:

Or maybe all this reflects an even more basic trouble in modern media democracy: With cable blaring 24/7 and the Internet distributing rumors faster than thought and Facebook creating digital enclaves of like-minded networks across the planet — maybe we’ve all lost some of our immunity to lunacy.

Which is hysterical, because Frum's been part of that "modern media democracy" for a very long time now.  If it took until now for him to realize that yes, the GOP has been trading on white fear about Obama for a good three years, I wouldn't count on him to correctly analyze a light bulb being burnt out.  What's different now than three years ago about where Obama was born, David?

Methinks the Frum doth protest too much.  Sorry, Village.  You don't get a pass on this.  Frum is looking for absolution, and I'll be damned if I give him the pleasure.  Meanwhile, the rest of the GOP is just as crazy as they were yesterday.

Seniors Want Their Unicorn Plan

And the rest of America can go to hell.  Steve M. flags down this Gallup poll story that tells the tragic tale:  America's seniors are more than happy to throw everyone under 55 into the volcano if it means they keep their government health care.

Preferred Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan, by Age, April 2011 Preferred Long-Term Deficit Reduction Plan, by Age, April 2011

Why yes, creating a class war and pitting America's current seniors against the rest of the country in order to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for those under 55 is working out pretty damn well for Republicans if half the country is willing to say "Sure, you can take my social programs away to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans."  But here's the real killer:

Party Better Able to Deal With Federal Budget, April 2011

Independents, by a pretty large margin, trust the Republicans on the budget and not the Democrats.  I can see why Obama maybe wants to get the subject off birtherism and talk about the budget.  But the media conglomerates have a massive interest in pushing the Ryan Unicorn Plan, and push it they will.  Now we're seeing the results.

Democrats have a long road ahead.

Assembling A Hit

Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" is officially filming and will hopefully be out next year.

"The Avengers" officially begins filming today, according to a letter posted yesterday by writer-director Joss Whedon at Whedonesque.
"Tomorrow we start shooting," writes the geek auteur, before adding, "I THINK I'm legally permitted to say that."

Whedon doesn't offer any hints about the plot of the movie, although he does say that they'll be shooting "the pivotal death/betrayal/product placement/setting up the sequel/coming out scene," which is probably a joke, but a boy can dream, can't he? (Elsewhere in the letter, Whedon says that he's pretty sure the movie is about the Justice League.)

"The Avengers," currently slated for a May 4 release next year, will unite the lead characters from Marvel's "Iron Man," "Captain America," "Hulk," and "Thor" into one mega-adventure. (And remember: If everything goes according to plan, "The Avengers" will also inspire a few franchises of its own.)

We'll have both Thor next month and Cap gets his movie in late July, and next year all four heroes get together under Whedon's direction for...well pretty much the most hyped comic nerd movie ever.   Very excited for all three films.

Epic Fail: PlayStation Style

Last week, Sony’s online network for the PlayStation suffered a catastrophic failure through a hacking attack. And since then, the roughly 77 million gamers worldwide like Mr. Miller who have accounts for the service have been unable to play games with friends through the Internet or to download demos of new games.
Then, on Tuesday, after several days of near silence, Sony said that as a result of the attack, an “unauthorized person” had obtained personal information about account holders, including their names, addresses, e-mail addresses, and PlayStation user names and passwords. Sony warned that other confidential information, including credit card numbers, could have been compromised, warning customers through a statement to “remain vigilant” by monitoring identity theft or other financial loss.
And then it gets worse.  A security consultant brings up the real problem with Sony's actions.  It reeks of guilt and realization of a major flaw, one so serious they had no choice but to pull the plug and pray for the best.  This could escalate a simple mistake or an inevitable win for a hacker into a painfully public Shame-A-Thon.
“It is very unusual for Sony to completely rebuild a system after a security breach, rather than just stopping the bleeding and going back to some kind of restricted network,” said Mark Seiden, a longtime information security consultant. “The fact that two separate networks are involved in this security breach suggests Sony discovered a major underlying problem that already existed.”
It remains unclear who the hackers were. Anonymous, a well-known hacking group that has been blamed for previously attacking the Sony and PlayStation Web sites, denied any responsibility; the group’s Web site stated, “For once we didn’t do it.”
There will surely be more coming over the next several days.  I'll update as details are cleared up.  Right now all that we know is Sony has a PR nightmare and access to some accounts has been compromised.  The rest could be the tip of the iceberg or exaggerated speculation.  I don't think this is a death blow for Sony by any means, but this could do damage to online gaming as a whole.  Some of that is going to depend on how far this goes.

This Week's WTH - Moose & Squirrel Matinee

What happens when a bigoted old fart has a long, stuttering brain fart on television?  One minute and six seconds of YouTube so-awful-it's-good hilarity. 

Robertson: Well, it’s the left; it’s this culture of death. The far left is livid about killing babies. They want to kill to do this, they want to destroy. You go back, and I don’t want to play all this psychological stuff but nevertheless, if a woman is a lesbian, what advantage does she have over a married woman? Or what deficiency does she have?
Meeuwsen:  [pause] Well, she can’t have children.
Robertson: That’s exactly right. And so if these married women don’t have children, if they abort their babies, then that kind of puts them on a level playing field. And you say, nobody’s there to express that? Isn’t that shocking, well think about it a little bit ladies and gentlemen.
He wants us to think about it a little bit?  Okay, but he better take his turn first.

Am I the only one who thinks he has something in common with a certain someone we know?  Robertson's comments about the "culture of death" and Palin's "culture of life" statement make me wonder if they share the same speech writer.  An auctioneer on peyote is easier to follow than these two.

Obama's Birth Of An Error

Whichever White House advisor or staffer or member of President Obama's inner circle talked the President into releasing his "long form" birth certificate?  Fire them.  Immediately.

The White House released President Obama's original birth certificate Wednesday.

The surprise release follows recent and sustained remarks by businessman Donald Trump, among others, that raised doubts as to whether the president was born in the United States.

Obama's birth certificate [PDF]

"This whole birther debate has been really bad for the Republican Party," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said.  But the discussion is "crowding out the debate" on more important issues and is a distraction, he added.

The so-called "birther" debate is "good politics" but "bad for the country," said Pfeiffer.

Let's go over the reasons why this was a completely idiotic move:

1)  It's not about the birth certificate, it's about raceSee yesterday's Mike Signorile show post.  Birthers will not believe the certificate.  They will claim it's a fake.  The controversy will continue unabated because it was never about the validity of the certificate, and has everything to do with a several million insecure white folks needing justification to explain away how we have an African-American man in the White House.

2)  Obama, now playing along, will be attacked for this.  Would he have been attacked for not releasing it?  The last two years proved he would be, yes.  But Obama has now justified the Birthers by responding to them again some 28 months after releasing his birth certificate the first time.  This whole "controversy" is now newsworthy because somebody talked Obama into doing this.  Instead of starving the fire in the room and letting the GOP fall on its face over this, Obama has made this a "earth is flat, views differ" story.  It's Obama's word against Trump's now.

3)  Obama is now on the defensive.  By acknowledging this stupidity as something the White House has to deal with some two years into the presidency, he's assured that this is all the Village will be talking about.  Once again, the GOP lunatics are allowed to frame the issue as legitimate, and now there's literally nothing Obama can say or do now to get back on the offensive here against this.  The birther issue will now dog him for the rest of the Presidency.  Worse, now the GOP birthers will be rallying around this for a very long time.  It was a trap and somebody talked Obama into walking right into it.

4)  The Village will now never let this go.  So Obama had a nice little presser just now where he got up in front of the press and said "You know, I want to talk about the budget, you guys wanted to talk about my birth certificate, so here you go, now knock it off."  This now absolutely guarantees that the press will talk about nothing but how mean ol' Obama really shouldn't be dictating to them what not to talk about, and guarantees they will be talking about the birth certificate and not the budget either.

Bottom line is whoever talked Obama into this, well that person needs to be fired.  But in the end, Obama greenlighted this, and it's going to suck all the oxygen out of the room on real issues.  This is one of those times where calm, cool, "No Drama Obama" would have waited Trump and his idiot buddies out and Obama would have won.  Trump immediately responded that he's talking full credit for the White House's move.  Oh, and Trump now wants Obama's college records.  Surprise!

Now it's a guaranteed circus from the "carnival barkers" in the GOP all the way through 2012.  Dumb, dumb, dumb move.

[UPDATESteve M. argues the other side of the coin, and I can see his point.  But this is one of those situations where all the logic in the world won't help:  racist assholes will get their dog whistle "He's not one of us and you'll never convince me otherwise" issue no matter what Obama releases, and our stupid, irresponsible media will continue to treat their "concerns" about the President's past as a "real story that real Americans care about" rather than admit it's nothing more than idiotic, racist bullshit...because doing so would mean the Village press would have to admit their complicity in selling it to millions of Americans.

Not going to happen.  They'll just push the "both sides do it, we're covering the story" crap to their heart's content.

The Target Is Roe

In Ohio, the GOP is rallying around the "Heartbeat Bill" that's advancing through the state legislature, that would ban abortions as soon as the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, basically ending abortions in the state.

Not to be outdone, Louisiana is aiming to take out the "basically" qualifier and to criminalize abortion altogether in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.  MoJo's Kate Sheppard:

Anti-abortion lawmakers in state legislatures around the country have already drawn national attention—and outrage—for pushing bills that would drastically limit access to abortions. But in Louisiana, one "unapologetically pro-life" lawmaker wants to go even further. State Rep. John LaBruzzo, a Republican from Metairie, has introduced a bill that would ban all abortions in his state—with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother—and charge women who seek abortions and the doctors who perform those abortions with "feticide."

Louisiana state law calls for jail sentences of up 15 years, with hard labor, for the unlawful killing an unborn child. LaBruzzo told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the inclusion of the line subjecting women to "feticide" prosecution for seeking abortions was a "mis-draft," and including it "would make [the bill] too difficult to pass." He promised the provision will be removed from the bill before it goes to a committee vote. But while LaBruzzo doesn't expect to punish women who seek abortions, he would still like to see doctors working on the chain gang for providing a constitutionally protected medical procedure.

The Constitution, of course, is exactly what LaBruzzo is targeting. He admits his proposal is intended as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional right to privacy included the right to abortions in some circumstances. LaBruzzo says he'd like his bill to become law and "immediately go to court," and he told a local paper that an unnamed conservative religious group asked him to propose the law for exactly that purpose. When contacted by Mother Jones, LaBruzzo's secretary said he would "prefer not to do an interview" on the bill but would possibly answer written questions. As of press time, he had not responded to our inquiries.

The point here is to get a 5-4 vote overturning Roe and criminalizing abortion procedures in the US.  Nothing short of that will be acceptable.  So they will try and try until it happens, period, wasting the people's time with clearly unconstitutional laws until they can get another conservative on the court and end it.

You would think Republicans would be worried about jobs right now, but people aren't as important as the unborn.

Planned Obsolescence

The Republican crusade to rid the country of abortion providers may have hit a snag on the national level (as Republicans were unable to defund Planned Parenthood nationally) but a number of Republican-controlled state legislatures are pushing to shut down Planned Parenthood clinics at the local and state level.  The man in the middle (and it's always GOP men leading the charge to defund women's health services) is Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is about to have either his called truce on social issues ended...or his Presidential aspirations.

Though he says he is firmly anti-abortion, Daniels has repeatedly made the case that Republicans should put aside such issues in 2012 to focus on economic problems. “We're going to need to unify all kinds of people, and we're going — freedom is going — to need every friend it can get," he explained in a recent interview.

Daniels has already taken heat from rivals and Republican activists for his approach. If he vetoes a law that takes on one of social conservatives’ biggest targets, he could make it much harder for himself to navigate the 2012 primary field. And even as he talks of a truce, Daniels has a legacy to preserve as an abortion opponent in his state.

But family planning in Indiana is a fiscal as well as a social issue. Half of all births in the state are covered by Medicaid. If Daniels signs the Senate version of the bill, he would likely be giving up $4 million in federal dollars and bringing the state into a costly legal battle.

Because federal law blocks states from choosing which organizations can provide family planning services to Medicaid patients, the measure could cost the state all federal funding for family planning. Planned Parenthood is prepared to sue if the proposal is signed into law. They also estimate that the move would cost the state $68 million in Medicaid expenses for unintended pregnancies by reducing birth control access.

But Indiana Republican wingnuts are more than happy to have this legal fight, and even happier to see the Federal government strip all family planning Medicare money from the state.  After all, only evil poor people with evil, evil vaginas would suffer here, so why would that matter to a group primarily composed of wealthy men?

Besides, if Indiana doesn't pass the bill (and Mitch Daniels decides to end his political career in the GOP) Sam Brownback will in Kansas.

"We have the prospect of being the first state in the nation to enact that kind of law," said Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.

Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, proposed eliminating the Planned Parenthood funding in his proposed budget for fiscal 2012, which begins July 1.

"Gov. Brownback, along with the overwhelming majority of Kansans, opposes taxpayer subsidy of abortions," said Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag.

The money that goes to Planned Parenthood is sent to clinics in Wichita and Hays. They are among nine health clinics run by the organization in Kansas and mid-Missouri.

The money pays for family-planning services for low-income women. It also helps pay for contraception, pap smears and cancer screenings, among other things. It's against federal law to use the money for abortions.

The Planned Parenthood money is among $2.9 million that the state receives in so-called federal Title 10 funds, which go toward family-planning activities.

Brownlie called the plan to eliminate Planned Parenthood funding "bad policy, bad health care and bad politics."

But it doesn't matter.  Given the kind of state power the GOP now has in the backlash against Obama and Washington, the Republicans are more than happy to throw millions of women under the bus to keep the rabid tea party Christian Objectivist base happy.  That's all that matters to them, at least.  That and getting elected.
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