Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last Call

Looks like the Breitbart right is tripling down on Weinergate.

Here's the Post hit piece:

Such statements notwithstanding, those on the left trying to paint this as a conspiracy must deal with an array of odd elements that an increasingly tech-savvy public may find suspicious:

* Not just the offending picture but most of the congressman’s pictures were removed from the site.

* Not only did the young lady’s Facebook and Twitter accounts disappear from the ’Net (she’s apparently since started a new Twitter account, and may go back on Facebook), but also her bylines on articles in her college paper.

* The congressman made it a point to tweet what time an East Coast interview would be shown in Seattle, where the young lady’s from.

* Cordova reportedly wrote in the college paper in March about Twitter’s verifiable accounts giving access to celebrities.

Coincidences all, but there’s one more that millions of Twitter users will understand best:

On Twitter, famous people tend to have tens of thousands to millions of followers — but they themselves follow only a fraction of that amount.

Rep. Weiner is a man of national prominence, a rising star in the Democratic Party, frequently on TV, a past and likely future candidate for mayor. He knows and is known by thousands of movers, shakers, members of the press and politicians on the city, state and national levels.

Yet, as of yesterday, he was following fewer than 200 others — and, with all those famous folks to choose from, one of the few he followed was Cordova, a 21-year-old college student who lives nearly 3,000 miles away in Bellingham,Wash.

Oh well Anthony Weiner is following somebody on Twitter.  It must be nefarious.  That's proof that this was all true, she's his mistress, and Weiner should resign immediately.

Look, politicians are by and large scumbags, period.  But if the new standard is "famous people are following you, it must be an affair" then really, we as a people are screwed.  And if this all sounds like much ado about nothing in order to distract the press and hit Weiner for being an outspoken critic of the right, you're on to something.

Oh and Breitbart is all over the news again, just like his last hoax.  One has to wonder what he has to do in order to be considered a joke and ignored.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Proposed:  the rise of the Winger theory that people only voted for Obama out of white guilt is in fact projection quite neatly explaining Herman Cain's poll numbers.


Tea'd Off At Sen. Rubio

The Tea Party is turning their ire on GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, saying he hasn't done enough to stop illegal immigrants from entering Florida, and they want to know why the Latino senator has not cracked down on the Latino community.

“We’ve been waiting for him to come up with something and to be a leader on this issue,” said Danita Kilcullen, founder of Tea Party Fort Lauderdale.

When President Barack Obama traveled to Texas recently to call for a renewed immigration debate, Rubio said the borders need to be secured before anything. He demanded action on an employment background check system called E-Verify.

But Rubio has not made an effort to sponsor immigration legislation or even highlight the issue — it is not listed on his website, tea party members note. And he remained on the sidelines as E-Verify was narrowly defeated this month in the Florida Legislature, where Rubio is held in almost holy regard.

Jobs, the national debt and Medicare are dominant themes on Capitol Hill now, not immigration. Still, the flicker of activity, including a U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday upholding part of Arizona’s controversial new law, exposes the pressure and pitfalls facing Rubio.

He is being torn in opposite directions by his base: Washington’s Republican elite and Florida’s grass-roots activists who propelled him into office.

The establishment is eagerly positioning the charismatic 40-year-old son of Cuban exiles as the Hispanic face of the party. The Latino population in the United States has grown 43 times faster than the non-Hispanic white population, rising from 35.3 million in 2000 to 50.5 million in 2010.

Last week, former Republican Party of Florida chairman Al Cardenas, now head of the American Conservative Union, boasted in Politico that Rubio’s inclusion on a presidential ticket would “almost guarantee” a GOP victory.

The safe route, then, is to avoid being drawn into a serious immigration debate. “If anything, they’re saying [to Rubio] ‘Let’s not talk about this,’ ” said Patrick Davis, a national Republican consultant. “It motivates Hispanics to look at Democrats and Obama.” 

Rubio is not a stupid man, but he's in an untenable situation.  The millisecond he comes out for the GOP's crackdown on anyone who might speak a second language, his political career is over.  The problem is, if he doesn't, his political career is over (it just may take longer).

He's opting for choice number two right now, but that will only buy him so much time.  Maybe he's hoping he can duck the issue long enough to get a 2012 veep bid.  He won't make it to 2016, however.  He'll have to take a tough stand on immigration or be pegged as a RINO and thrown out of the party in the next few years.  Look at Scott Brown's precipitous fall and the all but assured primary of the Ladies From Maine as well as Dick Lugar scrambling to the right.  I foresee none of these Senators in Congress in 2016.

Marco Rubio appears to be next on the RINO list.

Right To (Take) Life

Here's a story that got relatively spiked by our "liberal" media:  A Wisconsin man confessed to planning to kill abortion providers in Planned Parenthood clinics in that state, and was only stopped when the idiot accidentally fired his gun last week in a Motel 6 and the cops were called.

The Marshfield man who told authorities he came to town with a gun, bullets and plans to kill an abortion doctor was charged Friday with attempted first-degree intentional homicide in Dane County Circuit Court.
Ralph W. Lang, 63, said that after shooting an abortion provider at a Planned Parenthood in Madison, he was next going to go to an abortion clinic in Milwaukee, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.

A portrait of Lang emerged as an unemployed loner who grew up on a farm with 10 siblings. He has strong anti-abortion convictions and had previously protested — and in 2007 been arrested — at the same Planned Parenthood on the Far East Side that he appeared ready to attack on Thursday.

“He definitely stood out,” said Kat Wagner, a reporter for the Catholic Herald, Madison’s diocesan newspaper, who met and interviewed Lang when he would hold graphic anti-abortion signs, often standing alone outside the clinic in 2008 in events organized by Madison-based Vigil for Life. “He seemed very gentle but very convinced that abortion was wrong.”

Officials with Vigil for Life couldn’t be reached for comment. Another anti-abortion rights group, Wisconsin Right to Life, issued a statement condemning what it described as a “heinous act which is in total opposition” to the group’s mission.

The leader of a national abortion rights group said that Lang’s progression is not unusual among the small number of anti-abortion protesters who turn violent.

“This fits a pattern,” said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, describing “the escalation of activities from perhaps just protesting to making threats to carrying out threats.”

To recap, this guy was fully planning to kill people at abortion clinics in Madison and Milwaukee last Thursday, and was only stopped because the cops were called on him last Wednesday when he fired a bullet through his motel room door.  When the cops showed up, apparently he confessed to the plan.

But hey, not news, right?  Guess it only when he got as far as murdering an abortion doc or two does it matter.

Move Over Bob, There's A New Dillon In Town

(CNN) -- Prison-issued toilet paper is what musician William Michael Dillon used to write down most of his songs, including "Black Robes and Lawyers," which has just been released on iTunes.
"I was arrested for murder on August 26, 1981, for a crime I didn't commit," Dillon tells his audience as he starts strumming his guitar. "I was released on November 18, 2008. Thank you to the keepers of justice."
According to Dillon, justice prevailed when he was released from prison after 27 years. He is now on the Innocence Project of Florida's list of 13 prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence.
It was Dillon's life story and not his music that moved Grammy Award winning music producer Jim Tullio to invite Dillon to his Chicago studio to record the songs he wrote in prison.

Some interesting things to know include the fact that Dillon did not qualify for the $50k per year reimbursement, so he is starting over from scratch.  Second, Tullio is so impressed with Dillon that he is talking major production.  Third, the reason Dillon doesn't qualify for money to start over is because "When I was 19 years old I got caught with a Quaalude and a joint in my pocket with nine college kids coming from a bottle club at 4 o'clock in the morning," he says.  Still, after 27 years in prison, he can only be relieved by his release.  Maybe his story can bring him some artistic satisfaction and draw attention to a real problem we have in our prisons.  Once upon a time, the courts had limited tools in their possession.  That is not the case now.  Imagine, 27 years knowing you were innocent and suffering the punishment of the person who walked away free.  That's worth a little extra caution and research on behalf of the accused, and a reminder that we are innocent until proven guilty.

Hong Kong 3-D Erotic Comedy... Whaaa?

HONG KONG – A hit Hong Kong 3-D erotic comedy that has wowed viewers in Asia has secured U.S. and Canadian distribution, as the pioneering film's international rollout gains momentum.
China Lion Film Distribution said in a statement Wednesday that it bought the North American rights to "3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy" at the film market at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival.
"Sex and Zen," a remake of a 1991 Hong Kong movie by the same name, follows a sexually frustrated Chinese scholar who loses his way in the harem of a duke he befriends. The morality tale stars Japanese porn stars Hara Saori and Suo Yukiko and Hong Kong actress Vonnie Liu.
It has been a smashing success in other countries.  I don't know if I'm horrified or amused yet, but at least it's mostly original. I admit I am curious to see how it is marketed and released, but some headlines simply demand a reposting.  Somehow the 3-D is the part that cracks me up.  Illusion-based erotica may be one door we wish had remain closed.

Home, Home I'm Deranged Part 22

The official Case-Shiller numbers are in for April and they show that we're now in a housing double-dip depression, the April index coming in at 138.16, under the April 2009 low of 139.29.

"This month's report is marked by the confirmation of a double-dip in home prices across much of the nation," David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices, said in a statement. "Home prices continue on their downward spiral with no relief in sight."

Eight cities fell 1 percent or more in March, while Washington was the only city where prices increased on both a monthly and yearly basis. Prices in the 20 cities fell 3.6 percent year over year, topping expectations for a decline of 3.3 percent.

"The declines sustained in the last 12 months have almost erased the gains of the previous 12 months. The housing market is treading backward, but not drowning," said Cary Leahey, economist and managing director at Decision Economics in New York.

In the first quarter, the national index fell 1.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, compared to a decline of 1.8 percent in the previous quarter. On a non-adjusted basis, they fell by 4.2 percent in the quarter. Nationally, home prices are back to their mid-2002 levels, the report said. 

What this means is that the "bottom of the housing market" that was predicted in summer 2009 is now officially and completely busted by any and all metrics, and given the sheer number of foreclosures in the system, working through to the true bottom of the housing depression may take several years, let alone the housing recovery.

But nobody in Washington seems to care much about this.

Big Bird Gets Mickey Moused In Orlando

Gov. Lex Luthor Rick Scott is back in the news, this time for vetoing all state PBS funding, all but assuring that Orlando, Florida now becomes the first major US city to lose access to a public broadcasting station.

Just as a deal came together late last week to keep PBS programming on the air in Orlando, Florida’s public broadcasters suffered a financial blow when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the state’s nearly $4.8 million appropriation for public broadcasting.

That figure had already been reduced by 30 percent from the amount broadcasters received last year. With the cuts, each of 13 public radio stations will lose $87,287 in state funds compared with last year, and each of the 13 public television stations will lose a subsidy of $434,837. Stations receive the same subsidy, regardless of size.

“For me, it is critical; for a small station it might be catastrophic,” said Rick Schneider, president and chief executive of Miami’s WPBT-TV. He said there was “no doubt that people are going to have to look at layoffs” and that he would not be surprised if some stations were shut down. The broadcasters will work to get the funds reinstated, he said.

Orlando’s WMFE-TV had already decided to leave public broadcasting, citing financial strain in its decision to sell itself to a religious broadcaster, which would have left the city without PBS programming on July 1.

But, on Thursday, the University of Central Florida in Orlando said it reached a partnership deal with WBCC, at Brevard Community College in nearby Cocoa. U.C.F. will invest up to $1 million in the college station, which had been the market’s secondary PBS station (and already offered some U.C.F. programming on a digital subchannel) and will now become the primary station, pending PBS approval. It will be renamed WUCF.

But now with the state's PBS funding gone, the WUCF deal is in real trouble.  That will leave Orlando with no PBS station.  But remember, Rick Scott insists that Florida must cut corporate taxes to zero on top of all of the financial mess they are in.  What a great guy.  No wonder his approval ratings just five months into his term are in the basement, and for the Republican-controlled legislature are even worse, both now in the upper 20's and falling in the latest Miami Herald state poll (yes, this means we've reached the Twenty-Seven Percent Solution already.)

No wonder Democrats are feeling increasingly confident in Florida, calling Gov. Scott their "secret weapon" in the state.

A Whole Lot Of Hot Air Can Still Burn

The International Energy Agency says 2010 set a record for carbon production into our atmosphere, all but assuring that the global temperature goals set in Cancun last year will not be met.

"Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, according to the latest estimates," the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a statement.

After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 gigatonnes (Gt), a five percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt, the IEA said.

Moreover, the IEA estimated that 80 percent of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in, as they will come from power plants that are currently in place or under construction today.

"This significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than two degrees C," said Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist.

Global leaders agreed a target of limiting temperature increase to two degrees C (3.6 Fahrenheit) at UN climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico last year.

For this goal to be achieved, the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must be limited to around 450 parts per million of CO2-equivalent, only a five percent increase compared to an estimated 430 parts per million in 2000.

The IEA has calculated that in order to achieve this level, based on emissions targets countries have agreed to reach by 2020, that global energy-related emissions in 2020 must not be greater than 32 Gt.

Considering we'll most likely break that 32 Gt rate next year, and by 2020 be heading for 35 Gt or more, that goal looks to be dashed.  The consequences of climate change include water and food scarcity, and Oxfam is already warning about the future of food security in the next 20 years.

"The food system is pretty well bust in the world," Oxfam Chief Executive Barbara Stocking told reporters, announcing the launch of the Grow campaign as 925 million people go hungry every day.

   "All the signs are that the number of people going hungry is going up," Stocking said.

   Hunger was increasing due to rising food price inflation and oil price hikes, scrambles for land and water, and creeping climate change.

   Food prices are forecast to increase by something in the range of 70 to 90 percent by 2030 before taking into account the effects of climate change, which would roughly double price rises again, Oxfam said.

   "Now we have entered an age of growing crisis, of shock piled upon shock: vertiginous food price spikes and oil price hikes, devastating weather events, financial meltdowns and global contagion," Oxfam said in a report. 

That's bad news.  A global quadrupling of food prices over the next 20 years would almost certainly lead to riots long before we ever got to 2030.  Recall how food prices have played a role in the Arab Spring uprisings and those increases were much much smaller.  This is why the Pentagon keeps warning that climate change (and its effects on food and water availability) is the number one threat to US security in the future.

And it will only get worse from here.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Last Call

Brian Mooney's piece in the Boston Globe about Mitt Romney and the MassCare program is definitely worth a read, if only to witness Mittens refusing to throw the plan under the bus.

Some of these critics maintain that Romney must disavow the Bay State health reform to have any chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
He will not.
“Overall, it was a positive approach,’’ Romney said in a Globe interview for this story. “I’m proud of the fact we took on a real tough problem and moved the ball forward.’’
“I know this is going to get a lot of conversation,’’ he said, “but the health of the people in Massachusetts is more important to me than the health of my political prospects.’’
During a 51-minute interview, he used a variation of that line three times.

Mitt can't disown the program, frankly.  But that is the reason you can 100% count Romney out of the 2012 race.  He never had a chance, because for the GOP to accept it is for the GOP to accept the PPACA, and that will never happen.  It's nice of the Globe to try to sell the plan to the Republican primary voters, but they will never go for it.

But by all means, he should consider running still.  Nothing I like to see more than Republicans wasting political donations and news column inches on folks like Mitt Romney.

The Institution Leaves The Institution

The big sports news here in Ohio is legendary Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel resigning his position.

Jim Tressel, head coach of The Ohio State University football program, has resigned, the school said in a press release.

“After meeting with University officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach," Tressel said in a statement.

Assistant coach Luke Fickell will serve as interim coach next season, the school said. The search for a new head coach won't begin until after the 2011-2012 season ends.

The school fined Tressel $250,000 in March and suspended him after learning he failed to acknowledge that some of his players may have violated NCAA rules.

“In consultation with the senior leadership of the Board of Trustees, I have been actively reviewing matters attendant to our football program, and I have accepted Coach Tressel’s resignation,” President E. Gordon Gee said in a statement. “The University’s enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions.”

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said the school had been investigating Tressel since January.

"Obviously I'm disappointed that this happened at all," Tressel said in a press conference in March. "I take responsibility for what we do at Ohio State tremendously seriously ... and obviously I plan to grow from this. I'm sincerely saddened by the fact that I let some people down, and that I didn't do some things as well as I could possibly do."

Tressel brought the Buckeyes seven Big Ten titles in ten years, as well as a national championship.  But the truth of the matter is that he bent the rules to the point of fracture doing it.  His guys were selling Ohio State championship merchandise under the table, and Tressel was clearly looking the other way.

The larger problem is the NCAA itself and the billion dollar business of college football, of which the athletes see basically nothing.  Tressel's sacking is only a symptom of a much deeper infection in the sports world.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

I've stayed out of the whole Anthony Weiner's fake underwear picture on Twitter nonsense, mainly because it looks like Andrew Breitbart is behind it.  Daily Kos has a pretty good rundown of the hoax and how it was pulled off, and Gawker notes that all the evidence points to a massive hoax that surprise!  Andrew Breitbart fell for/ran with.

Gennette Cordova, the Seattle-area student who received a picture of an erection covered in underwear from the Twitter account of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D - N.Y.), released a statement on Sunday, categorically denying she is Weiner's "mistress" and cataloging the harassment she received from jeering conservatives on Twitter.

Cordova's account, published in the New York Daily News, would seem to corroborate the theories of DailyKos user Stef, who tracked down the original source of the allegations against Weiner, Twitter user "patriotusa76" (real name Dan Wolfe).

As Stef notes, Wolfe appeared to have "foreknowledge that something was going to go down," and Tweeted obsessively about Weiner and "young girls." Cordova writes that she had been "harassed" by a Twitter user ever since Rep. Weiner had started following her; it seems clear that Wolfe was that Twitter user, and may be the person responsible for the congressman's errant Tweet.

Cordoba identifies this website as "suggesting" that she is the congressman's "mistress"; we believe we treated the claims being made with fairness, and regarded BigGovernment's sources with the proper amount of skepticism. Frankly, given the horrible journalistic track record of Andrew Breitbart and BigGovernment.com (which broke the story), we're inclined to believe her. But her statement doesn't necessarily vindicate Weiner, either — the Tweet still came from his account, and it's unclear how or why.

But the idiots on the right ran with this story all weekend, and Andrew Breitbart was at the head of the pack.  And yet, this assclown is still treated like a legitimate journalist.  At absolute best-case, Breitbart totally dedicated his website and resources to smear Weiner with a fake scandal.  At worst, he created the hoax in the first place.

Somebody explain that to me how he's still employed at CNN.

Oh and ABL makes the very, very good point that Gennette Cordova is the real victim here all because Andrew Breitbart doesn't give a good god damn about who or what ends up destroyed in the collateral damage of his steaming pile of internet bullshit.  Yes, the target was Weiner, but he's a public figure and there are laws and resources that he has to protect himself.  Gennette Cordova?  Innocent.  Happened to be on Twitter.  Now her life is turned upside down, being accused of being Weiner's mistress.  The right wing assholes are circling around her like sharks in the tank, and who's going to stand up for her against this deluge of harassment?

Who is going to put her life back together?  Breitbart?  Why is it okay for him to do this and walk?

The Kroog Versus Structural Unemployment

Paul Krugman argues that both our political parties have largely surrendered to the unemployment issue and he's right:  Republicans refuse to do anything about it other than believe in the fantasy that cutting corporate taxes for companies that already pay no taxes thanks to loopholes will magically create jobs, and Democrats are too weak to stand up to the Republicans.  Krugman points out that there are things our political leaders could do...but Democrats will not do them, and Republicans will make sure those things don't get done...at least until Republicans are back in charge.

Bear in mind that the unemployed aren’t jobless because they don’t want to work, or because they lack the necessary skills. There’s nothing wrong with our workers — remember, just four years ago the unemployment rate was below 5 percent.

The core of our economic problem is, instead, the debt — mainly mortgage debt — that households ran up during the bubble years of the last decade. Now that the bubble has burst, that debt is acting as a persistent drag on the economy, preventing any real recovery in employment. And once you realize that the overhang of private debt is the problem, you realize that there are a number of things that could be done about it.

For example, we could have W.P.A.-type programs putting the unemployed to work doing useful things like repairing roads — which would also, by raising incomes, make it easier for households to pay down debt. We could have a serious program of mortgage modification, reducing the debts of troubled homeowners. We could try to get inflation back up to the 4 percent rate that prevailed during Ronald Reagan’s second term, which would help to reduce the real burden of debt.

So there are policies we could be pursuing to bring unemployment down. These policies would be unorthodox — but so are the economic problems we face. And those who warn about the risks of action must explain why these risks should worry us more than the certainty of continued mass suffering if we do nothing.

In pointing out that we could be doing much more about unemployment, I recognize, of course, the political obstacles to actually pursuing any of the policies that might work. In the United States, in particular, any effort to tackle unemployment will run into a stone wall of Republican opposition. Yet that’s not a reason to stop talking about the issue. In fact, looking back at my own writings over the past year or so, it’s clear that I too have sinned: political realism is all very well, but I have said far too little about what we really should be doing to deal with our most important problem.

As I see it, policy makers are sinking into a condition of learned helplessness on the jobs issue: the more they fail to do anything about the problem, the more they convince themselves that there’s nothing they could do. And those of us who know better should be doing all we can to break that vicious circle. 

It's jobs, stupid.  But nobody in Washington seems to care.  And that's a massive problem for both parties and an even bigger one for America itself.

Practical News: Plate Replaces Food Pyramid

(CNN) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning to swap in a plate icon for the food pyramid this week, an individual familiar with the new guidelines told CNN Saturday.
The new image, expected to be unveiled Thursday, is meant to help remind Americans to make healthy food choices.
"We presume that it will be divided into sections that will show you how much of different types of foods you should be eating," said Elizabeth Cohen, CNN senior medical correspondent, about the plate image.

That's actually a really good idea.  Visual reminders with symbols reminding us to exercise are pretty useless, but to demonstrate what a plate should look like and give a visual reminder of what a balanced meal should look like is a step in the right direction.  For those who need help with portion control, neither visual tool is a deterrent.  For those who tend to starch up or neglect proteins, this is a chance to compare and see what changes can be made.

Welcome Back, Paget

Paget Brewster is returning to Criminal Minds.  She had a role on the pilot for another series, but it was not picked up and she is returning to the role of Emily Prentiss.  I'm happy to see her return, and A.J. Cook will continue her role as well.  The only contract still being negotiated is that of Thomas Gibson, but there has been no mention of trouble.

Does this mean they will finally tie up some loose ends?  I admit it's one of few series I watch, and I hate to see a good team fall apart.  I'm glad I'm not alone.

Correct Him If He's Wrong

Calling the TSA's policy of random screening "political correctness" that "won't save any lives" GOP Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia went on FOX News yesterday to demand that the TSA focus on catching "real terrorists", a.k.a. Let's Go After The Arabs.

Broun goes on to argue that the TSA is wasting billions of taxpayer dollars screening people, and that instead we need more human intelligence to "inflitrate" terrorist groups.  Odd, I thought it was the GOP who said we needed the create the TSA to keep us safe and that human intelligence was suspect ("Hey, some of our Arabic translators are gay, let's fire them!" or "Well, we can't really trust any American Muslims") but now that there's a Democrat in the White House, the TSA is "wasting billions of dollars" and it's "all about human intelligence".

Funny how that works, huh.

Greek Fire, Part 30

The unquenchable conflagration continues to engulf Europe as EU officials are now scrambling to come up with a second Greek bailout in order to prevent a default as the country's austerity measures have failed miserably to turn the Greek economy around.

The European Union is working on a second bailout package for Greece in a race to release vital loans next month and avert the risk of the euro zone country defaulting, EU officials said on Monday.

Greece's conservative opposition meanwhile demanded lower taxes as a condition for reaching a political consensus with the Socialist government on further austerity measures, which Brussels says is needed to secure any further assistance.

Moves to plug a looming funding gap for 2012 and 2013 were accelerated after the International Monetary Fund said last week it would withhold the next tranche of aid due on June 29 unless the EU guarantees to meet Athens' funding needs for next year.

Senior EU officials held unannounced emergency talks with the Greek government over the weekend, an EU source said.

Greece took a 110 billion euros ($158 billion) rescue package from the EU and IMF last May but has since fallen short of its deficit reduction commitments, raising the risk of a default on its 327 billion euro debt -- equivalent to 150 percent of its economic output.

Here's the problem:  austerity measures aren't going to fix the issue.  It's trying to fight a fire with halon to suck all the oxygen out of the room, only the firefighters are still inside.  Here's the bigger issue however:

EU officials said a new 65 billion euro package could involve a mixture of collateralized loans from the EU and IMF, and additional revenue measures, with unprecedented intrusive external supervision of Greece's privatisation program. "It would require collateral for new loans and EU technical assistance -- EU involvement in the privatisation process," one senior EU official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Yeah, folks, that means Greece will have to agree to having the EU take over the Greek economy and start making the decisions for them.  Somehow, I don't see that happening.  The price tag for Greece getting a second bailout is awfully high, and I don't see them paying it.  If they don't, and they default, the Euro is done.  If they do, Greece is done.  If you were Greece, what would you do?

Twisted Sister City: Cleaning Up

President Obama visited Joplin, Missouri yesterday to honor those who gave their lives to save others in the massive tornado that obliterated the city, and to promise that the country will help rebuild.

Those who have survived a devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri, should do their utmost to live up to the example set by those who died while helping others escape the storm, President Barack Obama said Sunday at a memorial service for the victims.

Obama spoke about two of the heroes from the twister, which barreled into Joplin packing 200-mph winds a week ago Sunday.

One of them, Dean Wells, directed his co-workers and customers at Home Depot to safety, returning again and again for more people until a wall of the store fell on top of him, the president said.

And Christopher Lucas, 26, a manager at a Pizza Hut, herded employees and customers into a walk-in freezer, finding a bungee cord to hold the door shut from the inside and wrapping the other end around his arm. Lucas held on as long as he could, Obama told the crowd Sunday, "until he was pulled away by the incredible force of the storm. He died saving more than a dozen people in that freezer.

"There are heroes around us all the time," the president said. "And so, in the wake of this tragedy, let us live up to their example, to make each day count, to live with a sense of mutual regard, to live with that same compassion that they demonstrated in their final hours. We are called by them to do everything we can to be worthy of this chance we've been given to carry on."

The service was pretty sobering, and it was the right thing to do to honor the dozens who fell in the tornado's devastating path.  But equally as important is the promise the President made to help rebuild Joplin.  Some 75% of the city's buildings are gone, along with most of the city's infrastructure.  It's going to take a long time to get Joplin back to where it was just ten days ago, but it's the right thing to do.

That's why it's confusing to me to see Republicans like Eric Cantor insist that to help Joplin, we must make cuts elsewhere in America.

In an appearance on "Face the Nation," Cantor (R-Va.) emphasized that, in dealing with the devastation, "there is an appropriate federal role" - but that, like any family, the government doesn't have unlimited resources.

"Congress will find the money," Cantor told CBS News senior correspondent Harry Smith. "And it will be offset."

"I know that America is just stunned by the scope of devastation and loss and the horrific tragedy that the people of Joplin and other places across the country really are experiencing this tornado season," Cantor said.
But, he added, comparing the federal government to a family on a tight budget, the government would have to make cuts somewhere else to compensate for the expenditures.

"When a family is struck with tragedy - like the family of Joplin ... let's say if they had $10,000 set aside to do something else with, to buy a new car ... and then they were struck with a sick member of the family or something, and needed to take that money to apply it to that, that's what they would do, because families don't have unlimited money.

"Neither does the federal government" have endless resources, he continued.

Idiotic comparisons like that aside, can you recall Democrats ever saying after a massive disaster like this that "We don't have the resources to help you so we'll have to make cuts elsewhere"?  And I surely can't recall Republicans saying that before.  That's the second time in less than a week Cantor has promised that the only way Joplin will get any money is for it to come from spending cuts.  I'm sure that's news to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, also a Republican.

Nixon noted that the state government had already put aside $25 million in funds to begin that process - and said that the state would "make our case" to the Obama administration "to make sure we get the dollars that other regions have gotten."

"I'm confident we'll find the resources to get this done," he said. "Whatever method it takes. I mean, we've had an unbelievable outpouring of private donations already and I have a great deal of experience with our federal partners. I fully expect that we will have the resources to rebuild here." 

Might want to call Eric Cantor's office there, Jay.  He's holding your state hostage for more budget cuts.  Please note the difference between the President's response and Eric Cantor's response, too.

StupidiNews, Memorial Day Edition!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Last Call

To recap, Mitch Daniels is confident he could have beaten Obama, but he didn't want to put his family through the opposition research wringer.

“Yes, I think so,” Daniels said when asked whether he could have beaten Obama on ABC’s “This Week.” “I mean no one can know.”

Daniels said that his decision to not run was based on his family’s desire for privacy and security, which he said would inevitably have been lost in a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

“We've got young women, three of them that have been married not too long,” Daniels said. “They're looking forward to building lives, starting families and this was just a - a disruption that - that they were very, very leery of. And who wouldn't understand that?”

The interesting part is his fellow Republicans would of had the first crack at him and not Obama or the Dems.  Wonder what he's afraid he'll find?  It's an interesting story.  Gov. Daniels fooled everyone into thinking he was going to run when he singed a bill banning public funding for Planned Parenthood in his state of Indiana last month. Alas, he fooled me as well, bowing out of the race last weekend.

There's a story there, but I wonder honestly if it was his wife and three daughters who figured out their husband and father were willing to screw over thousands of Indiana women just to score points with the GOP.  Could it be possible that his young, relatively newly married daughters perhaps visited a Planned Parenthood clinic at some point for a low-cost basic checkup?  Could it be that his daughters or wife objected to their father signing the bill as a down payment to get into the big race in 2012?

Something sure as hell changed Mitch's mind in the space of a couple of weeks.  I'm curious as to what it was.

Heimdall Has A Ridiculous Spot Score Before He Touches The Dice

Saw several movies over the course of my vacation, so we'll start with Thor.


Thor, played by Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, is very very large. He's also a completely self-absorbed jagoff, but his dad being Odin (Anthony Hopkins, devouring entire cubic parsecs of screen when he's on it) means he gets to get away with it.  His emo-tastic brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) really despises him, but Thor is too busy to hear this important plot point over the deafening sound of how completely awesome he is.  They all live in Asgard, which is like Mt. Olympus, only in space and with Heimdall (Edris Ilba), a really big dude with a Spot skill score and feats all blown on Spot score, who is relegated to doorman. (Thanks, Marvel.)

When Thor and his buddies are manipulated into declaring war on the Frost Giants in the realm next door, and breaking Odin's peace with their leader King Laufey, it ruins everyone's week and he is banished to Earth along with HIS MIGHTY HAMMER MJOLNIR until he Learns Something(tm).  He meets Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and has wacky adventures involving drinking and fighting, which are apparently the top, bolded points on his resume'.

Meanwhile, the shock of just how much of a muscle-brained meathead his son is has put Odin into some sort of Asgardian Space Coma, and Loki takes over.  Thor then has to save Asgard and Earth and everything, completely predictable but actually amusing and fun due to the fact Chris Hemsworth is really, really perfect for Thor (even better than Robert Downey Jr. was as Tony Stark) and that Natalie Portman really does try hard to be an actress and not an arm accessory for the big guy.  Tolstoy this ain't, but as far as a matinee popcorn flick, it's a good time.

Do stay for the credits and the obligatory Nick Fury scene afterwards.

This Is Starting To Become A Trend

Dave Weigel's interview with freshman Republican Rep Joe Walsh of Illinois is very, very illuminating.

On MSNBC, after the State of the Union, asked whether there should be a social safety net:

"No. It's not in the Constitution."

On ABC News after voting for the House GOP's funding bill—the one about three times larger than the compromise that passed:

"Keep cutting, baby."

How come he's on TV more than any other freshman?

"I think it goes to this," he says. "A big freshman class comes to D.C., and here you've got one guy that said a lot of things during the campaign and he's doing everything he said. He's doing things that strike some people as unusual. Sleeps in the office. Turns down health benefits. Turns down pension benefits. Believes in term limits. Comes home all the time, holds more town halls than anybody. And then he's not at all afraid to talk about these things he believes in. So he's not afraid to go on MSNBC or CNN and get into a good jostling." He racks his brain for any more reasons he's on TV. "I mean, I'm a white male freshman congressman. There are a lot of those! I don't know."

If it seems like Joe Walsh is nothing more than a walking GOP talking point, that's his entire schtick.  That's why he's been on TV weekly at this point, because he feels part of his job as a Congressman is to go on TV and spout the party line:  Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are welfare, and they're not promised to anyone.  I'm here to cut trillions from government.  Oh, but the real meat here is Walsh's opinion of the President.

If Walsh gets a few more lucky breaks, and he gets a district to campaign in next year, he'll have to confront another problem. President Obama will be on the ticket. Obama has never won less than a landslide in Illinois. He's always carried the Chicago suburbs. I ask Walsh why he thinks that's true.

"Look," he says, "I don't think this is complicated. He doesn't really have a history. I say all of this respectfully—he is the least well-known guy we have ever put in the presidency, and there's no one even close. He's probably got easily the lightest résumé of anybody we've elected."

Yes, despite the largest opposition research effort in political history, first by Hillary Clinton, then by the Republicans, an opposition research effort that laid to bare everyone he had ever talked to as "proof" he was a terrorist sympathizer and secret Kenyan communist, his life dissected literally from birth to the present moment, he's the "least well known guy we have ever put in the presidency."

That's patently false, of course.  But why does Joe Walsh keep this facade that Obama is an unknown running?  He has to to justify his next theory.

Walsh leans forward and taps me on the knee with a bumper sticker.

"Why was he elected? Again, it comes back to who he was. He was black, he was historic. And there's nothing racist about this. It is what it is. If he had been a dynamic, white, state senator elected to Congress he wouldn't have gotten in the game this fast. This is what made him different. That, combined with the fact that your profession"—another friendly tap of the bumper sticker—"not you, but your profession, was just absolutely compliant. They made up their minds early that they were in love with him. They were in love with him because they thought he was a good liberal guy and they were in love with him because he pushed that magical button: a black man who was articulate, liberal, the whole white guilt, all of that."

The only reason Barack Obama got elected was because of massive white liberal guilt and massive anti-white racism in America.  Everyone who voted for him must be a racist, because we know  "nothing about him. "  His election was 100% the product of massive racism plied upon the American public by the evil liberal media.  Do you see why Walsh needs the "mystery man" theory on the President now?

It's jarring to hear a congressman say that, but there are a lot of people who agree with him. Walsh has a gift for saying out loud things that many Republicans believe but won't say, and he says them because he's worried. He'd been hoping Mitch Daniels got into the race. He wanted someone who offered voters the complete opposite of what they'd gotten from Obama.

"I pity the candidate running against him, because it will continue," he says. "That profession will protect him, and they will crucify whoever the Republican nominee is."

No wonder Joe Walsh is on TV all the time.  And if this sounds familiar, it's exactly what Shelby Steele said in the Wall Street Journal not more than a few days ago.  And yes, Republicans are now officially playing the race card against Obama in 2012.
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